Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 15 July 2005 15 July 2005

15 July 2005 (#213)

15 July 2005 (#213): A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully MP for East Coast Bays

Marian’s Slush Fund

Regular readers may recall the recent revelation that the very aggressive opponents of the Western Springs Speedway had a rather strange financial backer – the Minister for the Environment, Marian Hobbs, no less. Struck by the obvious loopiness of the situation, the worldwide headquarters of put its best super-sleuths on the case only to discover that much more loopiness was to be found.

Back in 2001, the Sisterhood established the Environmental Legal Assistance Fund. A cool million bucks of taxpayers’ cash (each year, that is) have been allocated to the Fund, to make grants to incorporated societies engaged in undertaking cases under the Resource Management Act. Like shutting down the Western Springs Speedway, for example. And like funding opponents of the Ngawha Prison while the Department of Corrections was spending squillions of taxpayers’ money against them in the Environment Court.

Questions are, as they say, now being asked about just who has benefited from the munificence of said Fund, and for what good public purpose. Further reports on this matter will be provided as they come to hand.

Another Sisterhood Special

Readers will, no doubt, be delighted to hear that the Ministry for the Environment conducted a review of the Fund after its full year of operation. And the Review proclaimed that the Fund had been successful in dispensing $972,000 of taxpayers’ cash to 65 groups. "We funded 8 out of 16 applications received from Maori groups" the report trumpets, in the spirit of political correctness which infests such Ministries.

So what did the Ministry learn after the first twelve months of operation of the Fund? Well, first it learned that the Advisory Panel, which hands out the cash, contained "no specific representation for the Maori community." And the report recommends broadening the criteria beyond funding only incorporated organisations. "Maori groups have been particularly affected," by that restriction, the reports tell us.

"An added frustration," the report says, "is that third parties use the Official Information Act", with two complaints to the Ombudsman requiring management in the Fund’s first year. (Well, hello. This does happen to be public money. And the only reason for the Ombudsman’s involvement could have been the Fund’s refusal to hand over information that enquiring taxpayers were entitled to.)

Oh. Then there’s the small matter of administration costs. Just how much bureaucracy would it take each year to give away $970,000 in grants? Precisely $470,000 worth of bureaucracy, according to the report. That’s right. Marian’s little brainchild spent nearly a dollar in bureaucratic overhead for every two dollars it gave away. Yes, folks. Looks like we have a real Sisterhood Special on our hands here.

Put Up or Shut Up Time

Remember the ruckus when it was divulged that TV One presenter Judy Bailey was being paid a cool $800,000 a year for services rendered? To stop her accepting offers from rival channels, we were told. Except that no such offers actually existed. Well, the issue of Bailey’s salary is going to the next TVNZ board meeting. And questions are about to be asked of one Helen Elizabeth Clark, who was on the record in a most assertive fashion when the matter was last in the public arena.

In fact, it was Clark’s Beehive minions who leaked the original Bailey story. Aware that the issue would inevitably drift into the media eventually, they leaked the story to the Dominion Post. This provided a platform for much Prime Ministerial huffing and puffing of the variety which serves to distance one from such unseemly matters.

A "culture of extravagance" existed in our state broadcaster. The board of TVNZ had made “a spectacular mistake” and they should “go and fix it.” And Bailey only did “four minutes on air a day” anyway, asserted our most offended Prime Minister.

Well, Helen. Here’s your chance. The Bailey deal is going to the next TVNZ board meeting. So this is put up or shut up time. If you were really serious about any of your Bailey comments last time round, then this is time to have a chat to your TVNZ directors – every one of them Sisterhood appointees. And if you were serious about the public cautions (not to mention ritual humiliation of the chair, Craig Boyce) last time round, then surely you would need to sack the lot of them for any repeat offence.

So this is going to be an interesting test for our Prime Minister. Can we believe a word she said on the issue last time it was raised? Or were her words on the Bailey affair just the traditional Sisterhood posturing before deciding to “move on” in the now time honoured fashion.

Wisdom from Sir Tony

Present in the country for the Lions matches was former Lion Sir Tony O’Reilly. The Irish magnate is a huge fan of New Zealand. And he had some very clear advice in the NZ Herald for New Zealanders who want to see their country get ahead based on the Irish experience. Ireland managed, in a 10-year period, to lift its GDP per capita from 65% to 108% of New Zealand’s. A key component in the Irish formula: lower company taxes (currently 12.5%).

“Of course, no one is going to say publicly it is tax – there is no point in attracting attention that way.

“You say it is due to the skills of the workforce – improving infrastructure – great education system – they speak English – but actually basically it is tax.

“New Zealand has to figure out how to use its current limited tax flexibility to start making an exciting new future for your country…Inward-bound investment will create unprecedented prosperity in this country as it has in Ireland and remedy greatly the location to the rest of Asia.”


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