A Week of It: Tax Cuts, Brownlee and The Wananga
A Week of ItTax Cuts, Brownlee and The Wananga
In This Edition:
National Party Explains Tax Cuts Will Only Cost A Billion Dollars - In 2004
Are Current MPs And Former Teachers About To Become The Subject Of A McCarthyesque Witch-hunt?
Unanswered Questions Remain Regarding Te Wananga O Aotearoa
Dignity Takes A Back Seat During Rural Protest
In a bold attempt to flush out the National Party’s tax cut agenda in 2004, Progressive Party MP Matt Robson issued a press release entitled National wants both tax cuts for rich & more military spending. This press release cunningly accused the National Party of planning to reduce Government spending by up to $4 Billion dollars per year. After a hard day’s work opposing the Government, a possibly tired National Party MP John Key fell straight into this cunningly-laid trap when he decided to set Mr Robson right on his projected figures. Mr Key, on 6 April 2004 at exactly 11:44 PM, sent this email to Mr Robson:
I am sure it wasn't intentional but in your Press Release you talk about Nationals Tax cuts costing 4 billion. This number is in correct by a number of multiples, a more accurate number is 1 billion (max).
Whether or not Mr Key’s 2004 prediction turns out to be true is at the moment anyone’s guess. The National Party’s tax policy, which Mr Key explained in late May would be announced in due course, has yet to see the light of day.
Two weeks ago ACT’s email publication, The Letter, accused Gerry Brownlee of contacting the Labour Party following allegations in Parliament about another former teacher - David Benson-Pope
“After the Benson-Pope issue was raised in parliament, former woodwork teacher Gerry Brownlee rang Labour and offered a deal, National would ask no questions about Benson-Pope provided Labour did the same about other school teachers,” wrote Richard Prebble in early June.
Initially, the allegations relating to Mr Benson-Pope and his time as a teacher at Bayfield High School were fronted under parliamentary privilege by ACT Party Leader Rodney Hide and National MP Judith Collins. After Ms Collins had questioned Mr Benson-Pope in the House regarding putting tennis balls in miscreants’ mouths, Labour MP Jill Pettis accused the National Party of having sat on these allegations for months. Now rumours swirl through the draughty scaffolding-filled halls of Parliament that other former teachers may be fair game.
A Week of It contacted a number of those who had attended St Bede’s College at the same time that Mr Brownlee was instructing young men in the arts of woodwork and technical drawing. As far as A Week of It can ascertain, no-one received any corporal punishment from Mr Brownlee as he was not in fact one of the discipline masters. Mr Brownlee had sent one miscreant from his technical drawing class to receive some wooden chastisement. The guilty pupil stated that they probably deserved to be sent out of the class by Mr Brownlee but fortunately escaped a couple of licks from the discipline master (not Mr Brownlee).
One pupil, who did not wish to be named, pointed out to A Week of It that if one was looking for a bullying teacher who used corporal punishment then “There were far worse teachers [at St Bede’s] than Mr Brownlee– particularly the priests!”
This week, the besieged tertiary institution Te Wananga o Aotearoa was briefly back in the news. Education Minister Trevor Mallard announced that he had taken further steps towards the appointment of a commissioner to the besieged tertiary institution.
For many, the first time that anyone had heard about any problems at Te Wananga O Aotearoa was when ACT MP Ken Shirley made a number of claims under parliamentary privilege about it in February 2005 . However, late last year a Financial Review Inquiry into the Wananga was completed by the Education and Science Select Committee which contained a number concerns, some of which were not mentioned by Mr Shirley.
An area of particular concern to the Select Committee was Oma Investments Limited. The select committee had particular concern about the lack of transparency in the arrangements between Oma Investments and Te Wananga O Aotearoa, which the Select Committee considered ‘could give rise to a perception of a conflict of interest.’
The Select Committee would no doubt have been concerned by a report dated 2 July 2004 from the Auditor-General’s office regarding Oma Investments.
According to the Auditor-General’s report, Oma Investments ‘sold its inventory consisting of stationery packs, sports clothing and tools back to Te Wananga O Aotearoa. Oma Investments had previously purchased this inventory from Te Wananga O Aotearoa during 2002. Oma Investments continued as the suppliers, managers and distributors of inventory on behalf of Te Wananga O Aotearoa. Oma Investments also acts in this same capacity with MO1 Limited.’
The Auditor-General’s report also found that ‘Oma Investments was a subsidiary of the Aotearoa Institute and its board consisted of numerous executive staff members of Te Wananga O Aotearoa. The issue was further complicated by the fact that Oma Investments procures inventory on behalf of Te Wananga O Aotearoa and sells it back at a marked up price.’ The Auditor General’s report concluded that these arrangements brought about numerous operational difficulties and complexities as well as leading to severe conflicts of interest.
A paper dated 12 October 2004 in the Select Committee’s papers showed the membership of the relevant entities. Oma Investments’ board consisted of Rongo Wetere, Joe Arrell, Harold Maniapoto William Wetere and Bruce Bryant. Rongo Wetere and Harold Maniapoto were shown to be on the Te Wananga O Aotearoa council. Mr Bryant, who was a ministerial appointment, had left the council in August 2003.
Under parliamentary privilege in late March this year Labour MP John Tamihere accused the ACT Party of protecting Mr Bryant, who Mr Tamihere considered had been working with ACT Party leader Rodney Hide and TV3 to engineer his downfall.
In the House on 30 March 2005 Mr Tamihere asked the questions;
they [the ACT Party] know that Bruce Bryant designed the
company known as Oma Investments, which the ACT party
- And did they know that Bruce Bryant resigned from Oma Investments only this month—March 2005?
As of yet these questions remain unanswered.
This week Wellington felt the wrath of New Zealand’s rural heartland on not one but two occasions. On Wednesday angry New Zealand apple growers protested the fact that their yummy apples were being shut out of Australia. This protest drew some consternation from those in the Beehive who considered New Zealand was already fighting for the plucky kiwi apple growers. One mused aloud ‘What do they [the protestors] expect us to do -declare war on Australia?’
The second protest saw a brightly-coloured but very small crowd converge on Parliament to advise the Government of some in rural New Zealand’s displeasure at proposals that would allow public access to waterways. Newstalk ZB reporters described the number of protestors as several hundred, leading to A Week of It strongly urging New Zealand’s 24-hour news radio service to invest in staff health - namely a quick visit to the optometrist. At the protest, National and ACT Party MPs decided it would be more fun to abuse each other than the Government. ACT Party leader Rodney Hide continued his tirade against his potential coalition partners later that afternoon in the House, when he asked the Hon Jim Sutton this question
Has the Minister given any consideration to the member’s bill of National’s Nick Smith, which takes riparian-strip land outright, or is Nick Smith’s bill considered too draconian a measure even for the Labour Party, notwithstanding that the bill has the full support of National?
Mr Sutton replied that Dr Smith’s Bill was too draconian for the moderate, centrist Labour Party.
Whilst the ACT MPs were certainly vigorous outside Parliament and seemed the only people willing to rark up a remarkably placid crowd, the orange wigs worn by Rodney Hide and Ken Shirley made it somewhat difficult to take their message seriously. The more traditionally-dressed ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff’s tweed jacket was altogether more dignified.
Mr Eckhoff had earlier that day been denied the chance to ride his horse onto Parliament’s grounds. Green MP Nandor Tanczcos later offered Mr Eckhoff the use of his skateboard as a means of transport. A Week of It does not expect to be bowled over by the ACT Party’s rural affairs spokesperson in the foreseeable future.