The Nippert tax investigations

Media is widely criticised for it’s shallowness, it’s obsession with trivia, and it’s lack of investigative reporting.

Last year Matt Nippert showed that there is still some old school investigation going on. He has detailed his series on articles on tax last year – 19 articles at NZ Herald on the topic were published through the year, in what he calls “a deliberate effort to dig into the opaque world of corporate tax avoidance and the growing Tax Gap.”

Not the most popular of topics, but far more important than much of the news we are now dished up.

The series started with package on the front page of the Herald on March 18. This included:

A pre-planned series of stories followed, including

Nippert then looked at government policy on the issue, including

Some further drilling down:

Nippert: “Throughout all this, the opinions of the public and policy-maker and even the business community appeared to shift.”

And finally “late in the year, the government finally reacted”:

In a year that the Herald was heavily criticised for it’s click-bait headlines and increasing reliance trivia we should acknowledge that they retain a commitment to some in depth investigative reporting, albeit with reducing resources.


NZH bio on Nippert:

A Fulbright scholar with a masters from the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, Matt has spent the past decade in newsbreaking roles at the New Zealand Listener, National Business Review, Herald on Sunday and the Sunday Star-Times before joining the Herald in 2014. His work has won numerous awards and he is the reigning Canon reporter of the year.

His stories include horrific abuse at a state-run boys home on Great Barrier Island, malfeasance at South Canterbury Finance, systematic tax avoidance by multinational companies, and the sudden resignation of justice minister Judith Collins.

Nippert has a regular sideline as a broadcast commentator and is one of only a few journalists who honestly enjoys numbers and spreadsheets.

Last year Nippert won Canon media awards for his efforts:

  • Reporter – Business Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald
  • Reporter of the Year Matt Nippert – The New Zealand Herald

Derek Handley on doing business better

‘Tech entrepreneur’ Derek Handley was interviewed on The Nation on Saturday.

He talked about significant changes in approaches to doing business over the past twenty years, with a focus on doing good for society and the environment rather than just making money.

You’re involved in a project with Richard Branson called the B Team, now it’s aimed at getting companies to tackle social problems, isn’t it, through business. But I’m wondering why should companies focus on doing good in the world as well as doing well financially? Why is that beneficial?

Well, first of all it’s not just social it’s also environmental. I think the overall vision is that business is a stakeholder in the whole of the community and the whole society, and if you just silo making money and not worry about how you make it and how it impacts society and how it impacts the environment, that’s a very last century view on the world.

The view that we have with the B Team is that the way you make money, the way you create wealth, must have positive impacts for society and at the same time, given the challenges we have with the environment, help innovate and solve those issues.

And that in fact will become the new way of competing, the new way of differentiating yourself.

So we think that it’s not like an either/or, it’s like an and/and, and actually that that’s the way that people want to lead and the way that young people want to work.

While capitalism has never solely been about making money regardless of any social or environmental cost it is evolving towards promoting a greater good for society.

There will always be some who see wealth-seeking as all important. There will always be some who like to display their wealth via  trinket status symbols like large houses and expensive cars.

But there is more personal satisfaction or prestige for some in demonstrating social and environmental responsibilities.

But is it a problem convincing other people that that’s a good idea?

I think in the last 20 years it’s been building, right. But if you look at the last year we’ve already had an enormous amounts of traction.

So if you look at Apple for example, Steve Jobs never really worried about these things, but Tim Cook has come out very strong, he came out a few months ago asking any investors, any hedge funds who didn’t believe in their environmental policies to sell their stock. That’s really bold leadership.

We have more and more CEOs and global leaders who are doing that in business because they understand you can’t just leave your values at the door, go to work, screw up the planet, not worry about the impacts on society or the workers you have in China, make money and be happy.

So I think the more Tim Cooks that come out of the woodwork, the more this movement will start to pick up.

Peer pressure to be more than selfishly rich can work amongst rich and successful business people.

In saying that, you have described capitalism as a teenager that’s just figuring itself out, so I’m wondering, how do you think that will look when it’s all grown up?How will it look and behave when capitalism’s grown up?

I think it looks like a merger of the things that we currently silo. So we currently silo politics, civil society, non-profits, business and we think of them as discrete things.

And I think the future looks like a hybrid – if you’re going to be an entity in the world you need to do it sustainably, you need to create revenue that will keep you alive, you need to address social issues and make money.

So what’s happening is these sectors are starting to merge and they’re starting to play together. So business will look more and more like different sectors that we traditionally think are not business. And that’s what I think, you know, is currently happening.

It’s not new but there seems to be good growth in doing business better.

Market regulations and state imposed socialism are necessary parts of the modern capitalism-socialism mix but common sense promoting common good on a voluntary basis could become a powerful factor in getting a better balance.

A better society and a healthier environment are good for business.


Dunedin needs growth and positive change – vote for it!

It is critical that Dunedin votes for a mayor and council best able to promote business and job growth – if you haven’t voted yet you can help lift the city out of the economic doldrums by voting for positive change.

We’re stuck with high debt so fiscal prudence and keeping discretionary spending to a minimum are critical for the council finances, but it’s still critical that economic growth and jobs are high priorities.

The current mayor seems to be conflicted with his Green leaning ideology at odds with what the city requires. Cull’s lukewarm and vague comments on seeking jobs and business is damning of his actual priorities.

Voting for a mayor and councillors who believe business performance is crucial and who know how to lobby Government effectively is of critical importance. There is still time to select a council that wants to grow Dunedin, and a business savvy dedicated mayor is essential.

Vote Pete George 1 for mayor and 1 for council, and look for other business savvy candidates.

See (and ‘Like’) my Facebook page.

Supporting Darien Fenton supporting business

Darien Fenton posted in Red Alert on The migrant worker exploitation morass. I was a bit half cocked and snarky in a comment and she called me on it – fair enough. I didn’t think things through, assumed too much, and as Darien said it was”an irrelevant political shot “.

I need to look more into the migrant worker issue and may comment on that later.

In response to one of my assumptions Darien explained her support for businesses:

Just so you know, I always defend good employers and businesses. We need them. That was one point in my post – much of the contact I’ve had has been from small business who are concerned that they can’t compete with employers who break the law. They were supporting the comments I have made in the media and asking me to keep at it.

I’ve been hearing quite a bit of “workers good, employers bad” in other places, I let that influence my comments too much.

It’s good so see that people like Darien who actually get involved in problems have a better understanding of the good and the bad of any group. That often doesn’t come across well in the media.

David Clark: more (or less) on the minimum wage

David Clark (Labour MP for Dunedin North) has come up with a number for the likely cost of increasing the minimum wage, and also makes some more statements in Views split on minimum wage in the ODT.

The Clark points:

  • $427 million as the most likely cost

I’m seeking clarification on whether that just covers wages increasing to $15, or if it also takes into account wages currently on $15 that would get pushed up.

  • Increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour would ensure hard-working families could put healthy food on the table.

There’s no doubt increasing the minimum wage would help some families (and some single people and childless couples) but “hard-working” and “healthy food on the table” is waffle.

  • Making the minimum wage $15 an hour will be a big help to about 264,000 workers and their families.

The amount of help will vary as those already earning close to $15 will only get a small increase. There is no indication of the average increase.

  • The $13.50 an hour was well below Australia’s minimum of an equivalent $NZ19.92.

That’s an issue and one of the reasons for a Kiwi exodus to Australia. But increased costs may lead to job losses, so Australian wages may be even more enticing.

  • A higher minimum wage encourages employers to engage in industries with high productivity.

Does that mean employers pull out of industries with lower productivity? And less productive workers become unemployed non-workers?

  • It means employers can’t get wealthy off the back of cheap labour.


  • An economist could be eligible for a Nobel prize if he or she could establish a direct link between putting up the minimum wage and increasing unemployment.

You don’t need to be an economist nor a Nobel prize winner to see the distinct possibility that forcing business costs up in very difficult economic times is likely to lead to job losses.

  • The proposed change will not affect most employers and smart employers who already pay a living wage will be better off as it will stop less scrupulous firms undercutting them.

More union-speak.

Clark’s response to business group concerns:

He dismissed the arguments put forward by John Scandrett (Otago-Southland Employers Association chief executive) and John Christie (Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive), saying BusinessNZ was running the “same line” throughout New Zealand.

Clark is running a few lines too, some of which seem to be well rehearsed union lines. He doesn’t seem to have a good understanding of business realities.

It seems very unlikely the minimum wage bill will get past it’s first reading in parliament.

But  Clark’s dissing of Dunedin business leaders and his anti business rhetoric does not look good for MP-business relationships in Dunedin. Nor New Zealand.

Government spoon-fed, or the spoon business?

Bill English spoke via Skype to an Otago Chamber of Commerce post-budget lunch yesterday.

Most of what he said was fairly routine and unsurprising, describing the financial situation and National’s approach to dealing with it.

The Global Financial Crisis was inflicted on New Zealand (although we were headed towards financial problems of our own in 2008 when that hit). We are still at the mercy of a international events. But ultimately we need to make our own good fortunes.

Zero budget or Stimulus?

Much has been said about the budget being a zero. English pointed out that the Christchurch earthquake was a major stimulus for the South Island (and the whole country which will supply many goods, services and people).

It is a significant cost to Government (us), but these costs were committed to before this budget.

It also involves a large injection of capital from overseas as insurance payouts.

Due to continued quakes the Christchurch recovery has been slow to get going, but it does offer many business opportunities.

Business needs to drive recovery

The emphasis on National’s approach is to create a sound economic framework to enable business to thrive. Government can reduce red tape and cost of business impediments, and it can offer some incentives by structuring tax and encouraging research and development.

But that’s only footwear. The recovery will only get legs when businesses recover confidence and invest in more jobs and more production.

Business generates business. Government can help a bit, but they will never be a fix-all solution. It’s up to us.

New Zealand  business will grow and thrive when New Zealand businesses decide that’s what they want to do. That’s us, out here in the cities and provinces.

We shouldn’t sit back expecting to be spoon-fed by government. It’s up to us to design spoons, manufacture spoons, sell spoons, and use spoons in our businesses as tools to generate more business.