from Simon Watts, National Party spokesperson on Local Government

Mahuta is defensive about wasteful Three Waters spending

Our efforts to stop Labour’s Three Waters reforms continue, while the Select Committee goes over almost 100,000 submissions on the Government’s legislation. I’ve been travelling the country holding public meetings and holding the Government to account over its wasteful spending and failure to bring reform Kiwis can get behind.

Here’s what has been happening over the past few weeks…

Overwhelming majority of mayoral candidates oppose Three Waters

Local elections are in full swing, and one of the most important questions being put to candidates is whether they support the Governments’ Three Waters proposals. It’s not good news for Labour though, as survey data shows that over 75% of mayoral candidates oppose Three Waters. In the entire South Island, only two candidates support the reforms. Local Government representatives from the far north to the deep south have sent a clear message to the Government on behalf of their communities: we don’t want Three Waters.

It is incredibly encouraging to see people from all over the country stand united against Three Waters, and together I believe we can send a strong message to the Government that these reforms are unwanted and unworkable.

Labour may be happy to ignore this overwhelming opposition but they won’t be able to ignore the results at the ballot boxes.

Mahuta on the defensive about wasteful spending

When I last wrote I talked about how I had exposed even more of Labour’s wasteful spending, including $15,000 on a job description and over $100,000 on a virtual roadshow. Last week, I took those concerns directly to the Minister so she could answer for the waste of money that is her reform program.

Shockingly, the Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta, vigorously defended her spending, falling back on excuses like Three Waters being a complex piece of work. Kiwis are struggling right now in a cost-of-living crisis that’s made worse by inflated government spending. Mahuta’s unwillingness to take accountability for her wasteful spending is a slap in the face for those New Zealanders doing it tough and living week to week while the Government spends it up on high paid consultants and virtual roadshows.

This Government is addicted to spending, and Kiwis are paying the price.

Listening to you

There are problems with water infrastructure in this country, and nobody is denying that. However, while Labour’s solution is to centralise and control, National takes a different approach. We know that your voices are the most important, and that the solutions to our problems can’t just be found in Wellington, but in the communities these reforms affect.

That’s why I’ve been travelling the country holding public meetings about Three Waters, to hear your concerns, answer your questions and hear solutions that come directly from the people on the ground. The overwhelming response from these meetings is against Labour’s reforms, which won’t surprise you.

Recently, I hit the road in Canterbury with Waimakariri MP Matt Doocey and Kaikōura MP Stuart Smith. On 14 October, I’ll be with Southland MP Joseph Mooney in Te Anau, Winton, Gore and Alexandra. Details about these events will be going out soon, so if you’re in the area, it would be great to see you. 

Caitlin Johnstone condemns Comrade Jacinda

on her call for Online Censorship for the War In Ukraine. Many NZers know she is a recidivist liar and anything but trustworthyher censorship of anything at all must be resisted

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern continued her crusade for the expansion of internet censorship during a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, this time using the war in Ukraine.

“Whether it’s climate, trade, health crises or seeking peaceful solutions to war and conflict, New Zealand has always been a believer in multilateral tools,” Ardern told the assembly, adding that “without reform, we risk irrelevancy.”

“There is perhaps no greater example of this than Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Ardern said. “Let us all be clear: Russia’s war is illegal. It is immoral. It is a direct attack on the UN charter, and the international rules-based system and everything that this community should stand for. Putin’s suggestion that it could at any point deploy further weapons that it has at their disposal reveals the false narrative that they have based their invasion on. What country who claims to be a liberator, threatens to annihilate the very civilians they claim to liberate? This war is based on a lie.”

Later in her speech, Ardern returns to the theme that Russia’s war is “based on a lie” to argue for the censorship of online speech which supports the idea that Russia is fighting for legitimate reasons in Ukraine.

Using the 2019 Christchurch terrorist attack as a segue to talk about the perils of online radicalization, Ardern then smoothly transitions to the subject of “mis- and disinformation” on the internet.

“This will also be important in understanding more about mis- and disinformation online: a challenge that we must as leaders address,” Ardern said.

“As leaders, we are rightly concerned that even those most light-touch approaches to disinformation could be misinterpreted as being hostile to the values of free speech we value so highly,” Ardern added, an acknowledgement of the grave human rights concerns inherent in having ‘leaders’ participate in the regulation of public speech. “But while I cannot tell you today what the answer is to this challenge, I can say with complete certainty that we cannot ignore it. To do so poses an equal threat to the norms we all value.”

Then it gets even creepier.

“After all, how do you successfully end a war if people are led to believe the reason for its existence is not only legal but noble?” asks the prime minister. “How do you tackle climate change if people do not believe it exists? How do you ensure the human rights of others are upheld, when they are subjected to hateful and dangerous rhetoric and ideology? The weapons may be different, but the goals of those who perpetuate them is often the same. To cause chaos and reduce the ability of others to defend themselves. To disband communities. To collapse the collective strength of countries who work together. But we have an opportunity here to ensure that these particular weapons of war do not become an established part of warfare.”

Ardern’s remarks are currently getting a lot of criticism in right-wing circles due largely to her suggestion that online discourse about climate change needs to be regulated so that the issue can be properly addressed. And to be sure that is an absolutely insane thing for her to say; I believe climate change is real and anthropogenic and I find the idea of silencing people who disagree with me about that unthinkably nightmarish. This is a line of thinking that can only arise from a profoundly tyrannical mind.

But what isn’t getting enough attention at this time is the fact that Ardern is calling for an increase in the already outrageous amount of online censorship we are seeing with regard to the war in Ukraine. She explicitly said the war is “based on a lie”, and then went on to argue that people need to be stopped from circulating speech which lends credibility to that lie, even if such freakishly authoritarian measures may be “misinterpreted” as being hostile to free speech.

Ardern argues that online speech claiming that the Russian invasion of Ukraine is legal and noble makes it harder to attain peace, but of course she doesn’t really believe that, and neither does anyone else. The idea that free speech about the war could somehow hamper peace negotiations between governments is self-evidently absurd and completely nonsensical.

In reality, this war is just the latest in a string of excuses we’ve been given by the western political/media class to censor the internet, with earlier justifications including Covid-19, election security, domestic extremism, and Russian propaganda again after the 2016 US election. But asserting that it’s important to stop people from thinking wrong thoughts about a war is a major escalation from all those other justifications, because they’re no longer pretending that it’s being done for our own good. Our wrongthink is the justification, in and of itself.

Which is a problem, because this is in fact an extremely dangerous proxy war being waged against Russia by the US and its imperial member states. It was absolutely deliberately provoked, it’s showing no sign of ending anytime soon, and its continual escalation threatens the life of everyone on this planet. The US has lied about every war it has ever been involved in, and if ever there was a war to bring scrutiny and skepticism to, it’s the one that is bringing us closer to a nuclear exchange than at any other time in history.

This notion that it is the job of “leaders” to involve themselves in regulating the ideas and information we’re allowed to share with each other online needs to be stomped out, dissolved in acid, and flushed down the toilet. That’s not their place. They shouldn’t even be looking in that direction, much less talking amongst themselves at the United Nations about how best they can go about doing it. It’s a profoundly dangerous notion that needs to be rejected with unadulterated aggression.

Free speech is not a “weapon of war”. It’s free speech. Either let us have it or stop pretending you value it.

Finland tells Russian tourists to Stuff off

According to Politco.eu, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said the border would be closed to Russians traveling to Finland for tourism or for transit purposes “until further notice.” The border closed at midnight on Thursday [midday Friday NZ time].

Entry to Russians for family visits, as well as for work and studies, will still be permitted, as will the transporting of essential materials.

The government said the decision was taken following talks with Ukraine, fears that Russians were circumventing the EU’s flight restrictions, and because of Finland’s relations with the Baltic states and Poland.

The inflow of Russians could endanger Finland’s international relations, Haavisto said, according to public broadcaster Yle.

Finland cut the number of tourist visas issued to Russians by 90 percent in early September.

Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have already started to implement entry restrictions for Russian citizens travelling solely for the purpose of tourism or leisure.

Discriminating against people because of their national origin is illegal under NZ law, but clearly that’s not the case in EU countries.

Taxpayers Union news: Public Service probe Mahuta’s husband’s receipts | $300k for Anime | Ram Raids

Public Service Commission to probe Government contracts issued to Nanaia Mahuta’s husband

Mahuta and husband

For months, we’ve been highlighting the complex web of family and commercial interests the current Government’s cabinet ministers seem to have with companies and individuals winning (without tender!) contracts with various government agencies.

So it is great news to see that, finally, Nanaia Mahuta will face scrutiny over her husband’s government contracts.

Public Service Commissioner Peter Hughes has announced an investigation into the many Government contracts obtained by Minister Mahuta’s husband, William Gannin Ormsby.

We are under no illusions that this is the end of the matter, but as the leftwing campaigner Max Rashbrooke, with whom we seldom agree, wrote last week, “by and large, we shouldn’t manage conflicts of interest, we should avoid them.” 

I can also tell you that there is more to come on questionable and undisclosed connections between another Minister and government contracts that our research team has dug up. Watch this space…

Your taxes paid for hospitals and schools *anime videos*

anime video

The Ministry for Youth Development must not have much to do. Even our student interns were at a loss to explain the purpose of spending $299,500 on three “Gotcha Girl” youth anime videos telling kids not to use Google, and to hang out with friends.

Two of the three videos have been released and have totally flopped. With barely one hundred views between them, your humble Taxpayers’ Union have republished the videos – but with a cost to taxpayers clock…  

The first episode warns teens about the dangers of using Google to find information before juxtaposing this with the Prime Minister at a Covid-19 press conference as the source of truth. If this is a video meant to warn against misinformation it seems odd that the world’s most used search engine should be the target.

The second video is even more confused. It appears to simply be encouraging young people to hang out with their friends. That’s nice, but not $100,000.00 of taxpayer funds to make it nice.

I’m sure someone will forward this newsletter to the Ministry of Youth Development and/or Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan and ask for an explanation. You might have better luck than us figuring it out.

Something more useful for the Ministry to do

Surely a focus on the current issues would be a better use of the Ministry’s time and (our) money?

If the Ministry wasn’t too busy making creepy videos, it would be focused at tackling the spikes in youth crime and ram raids. The latter are up 500% since 2018 (with the vast majority being committed by kids).

In May this year, the Government announced what is called a “Crime Prevention Package” costing $6 million and aimed at preventing ram-raids and other forms of retail crime. But other than the press release almost nothing has happened. No one bothered to roll out the fund.

One of our Student Interns, Alex, is doing what the Ministry of Youth Affairs isn’t: taking a look and has written a blog post on the so-called fund and the impact on communities caused by the Government’s lack of action.

alex

Public sector pay gap growing: Nearly a third of public servants now paid over $100K

Wage Gap report cover

A few years ago we published a report with wage data exposing that the public sector unions’ claims that mandarins in Wellington are underpaid simply isn’t true.

But since then, it’s got a lot worse. Since 2017, there has been explosion in the number of highly paid public servants – with Stuff reporting that the number of public servants earning, sorry, being paid, more than $100,000 is 28%.

The increase has coincided with an increase in the number of workers, from 48,000 to 62,000 between 2017 and 2021.

[National MP, Simeon Brown] said some agencies had “substantial growth” in the proportion of workers earning $100,000 and more, such as the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, that increased from 29.3% to 65%.

Those who defend government spending often say that the government needs to pay a lot to attract doctors, nurses, and those who provide public services. But the figures above are only for the “core public sector agencies” – that doesn’t include Police, teachers, doctors, or nurses, rather just those in the Ministries (which is basically administration and policy wonks in Wellington).

Of course we should strive for a high-wage economy, but that should be driven by demand for expertise and skills. When taxpayer-funded public servants’ wages are inflated beyond comparable incomes in the private sector, our economy suffers.

This week on Taxpayer Talk with Peter Williams 🎙️🎧

tt_crampton

Peter Williams is joined by Eric Crampton, Chief Economist at the New Zealand Initiative, to discuss the Government’s Three Waters reforms and his alternative proposal for how local councils can finance long-term infrastructure investment more effectively. Peter and Eric also discuss the Emissions Trading Scheme and outline why additional emissions reduction measures beyond the ETS are costly regulations that will not reduce emissions any faster.

Also this week, Peter sits down with retiring Hutt City Councillor, Chris Milne, to discuss the state of local government in New Zealand. Chris is a member and financial supporter of the Taxpayers’ Union and sits on our Board.

Listen to the episode | Apple Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeart Radio

Thank you for your support.

Jordan
Jordan Williams
Executive Director
New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union