Taxpayer' Union Annual Review (web version)

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Your Money, Your Voice Promoting sensible restraint of government expenditure

BY THE NUMBERS $33.9 billion $3.9 million


2.9 million 215,000 $100,000 2,060 1,531 146

is the total cost of all spending promises assessed as part of the election costing ‘Bribe-O-Meter’. is the amount of taxpayer money the Council of Trade Unions won’t receive thanks to our work. is the number of readers of the Fairfax newspapers our Ratepayers’ Report was mentioned in. is the number of voters our election costing ‘Bribe-O-Meter’ figures reached. is the amount Auckland Council spent on a silk curtain for Devonport’s new library. is the number of subscribed members and supporters. is the number of times our ‘Sky High’ report on passports was downloaded on the day it launched. is the number of radio interviews we did on taxpayers’ issues.


is the average number of newspaper stories we appear in every month.


is the number of TV interviews we did on taxpayers’ issues.


is the number of newspaper editorials supportive of a piece of our work or campaign.


is the amount of government funding the Taxpayers’ Union accepts.

Dear Supporter,

Our first year brought our first major campaign successes. Our work to expose the ACC health and safety training deal between ACC and the Council of Trade Unions (and later Business NZ) saw the plug pulled on a scheme that had funnelled $19 million of taxpayer money since 2003 into the CTU. Another policy victory is imminent, with the Government set to reintroduce 10-year passports and put an end to profiting from the fees it charges citizens for the basic right to travel. We’re establishing the Taxpayers’ Union as the primary independent voice for fiscal conservatism and are receiving more media coverage than any other pressure group on the centre-right. Despite our relative small size, small budget, and a crowded political year, our energetic team has attracted to the organisation to more than 2,000 members and supporters. While much has been achieved in or first 12 months, it doesn’t stop wasteful spending or high taxes. The only victories that interest us are the actual policy changes that benefit you, the taxpayer. That’s why our reports, our activities, and our campaigns are to draw attention to the fact that you spend your money better than the politicians and bureaucrats sitting in Wellington and your local town hall. The following pages detail our most recent achievements, including the 2014 Election ‘BribeO-Meter’ – our biggest project to date. Despite a media determined to cover anything but policy issues, our election costing website attracted more than 25,000 unique visitors and, on Facebook alone, put the cost of the political party promises in front of 220,000 users. We hope you are as proud of our achievements as we are because they couldn’t have happened without your support. We hope you will continue to support us in the year ahead, and ensure that we grow our army of 2,000 into an army of 20,000 plus, fighting for lower taxes. Thank you for making our work possible,

New Zealand Taxpayers Union Incorporated 04 282 0300


We founded the Taxpayers’ Union to stand up for hard-working taxpayers like you. We represent your interests to Ministers, MPs and the media to stop your taxes being squandered by bloated government.

Jordan Williams Co-Founder / Executive Director

David Farrar Co-Founder

The Taxpayers’ Union publicly launched on 30 October 2013. This report covers activities in the Union’s first 12 months.


We operate an office in the heart of Wellington with two full time staff, and a number of part time contractors and interns. In addition to the team listed here, we couldn’t do what we do without the behind the scenes support of experts and insiders who point us in the right direction.

BOARD John Bishop Chairman*

David Farrar Co-founder*

John has a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Canterbury and Diplomas in Management from Henley College in the UK, and from the Institute of Corporate Managers in New Zealand.

David is the owner and director of Curia Market Research which he founded in 2004. Curia is a specialist opinion polling and research agency.


John has extensive experience in broadcast journalism and corporate communications, and was Chief Parliamentary Reporter for Television New Zealand in the mid 80s, reporting on the fall of Sir Robert Muldoon and the rise and fall of the Lange government.

Jordan Williams Executive Director & Co-founder

Gabrielle O’Brien Director*

Jordan launched the Taxpayers’ Union last year, and has since left Wellington law firm Franks Ogilve to lead the day-to-day operations of the Union full time.

Gabrielle is an executive at a global software company. She has worked in the industry for over 10 years helping customers manage and gain insights from data. She spent 5 years in Wellington working with government departments and now manages the financial sector accounts focusing on fraud, risk and

Jordan has bachelor degrees in law and accounting from Victoria University of Wellington, is a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. In 2011 Jordan was spokesperson for Vote for Change, a lobby group that campaigned against the retention of the MMP electoral system.


In 2009 The Listener ranked David Farrar as the fourth most powerful person in the New Zealand media. He is well known as the editor of the popular Kiwiblog which started in 2003. Kiwiblog receives around 600,000 visits a month. David also is a frequent political commentator on TV1, TV3, Radio New Zealand, Newstalk ZB and Radio Live.

reserving. Gabrielle attended Auckland university where she studied New Zealand Politics and Maori.

*The Chairman and board are volunteers

STAFF & INTERNS Jonathan Brown Research Assistant

Ben holds a Bachelor’s Degree in political science and philosophy from Victoria University of Wellington.

Jonathan has a Postgraduate Diploma in Biotechnology and a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Ecology & Biodiversity from Victoria University of Wellington.

Ben has previously worked as a Parliamentary researcher for the New Zealand First Party and has worked in several public sector advisory roles.

Jonathan previously worked at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research both as a Researcher and a postgraduate student.

Jordan McCluskey Research Intern

Amy Richardson Research Intern

Jordan holds an Honours Degree in History from Victoria University of Wellington.

Amy holds a Bachelors Degree in Psychology and a Honours Degree in Religious Studies from Victoria University of Wellington. She is currently working on a Graduate Diploma in Economics and Public

Jordan was previously a public servant and a politics columnist. He is currently studying towards a Masters in History.

Madeleine Harris Research Intern Madeleine is a student at Victoria University of Wellington. She is studying bachelor degrees in law and commerce (economics major). Madeleine’s focus at the Taxpayers’ Union has been on local government and areas of research which involve legal history.

Did you know? The Taxpayers’ Union has attracted more than 2,000 members and subscribed supporters in its first 12 months


Ben Craven Campaigns Coordinator

Policy. Amy’s academic research includes work in political psychology and behavioural economics.


Business model: The media is dominated by groups whose policies demand more spending funded by taxpayers and ratepayers. The Taxpayers’ Union challenges this political environment and reduces public tolerance of low quality and unnecessary government spending. We do this by relentlessly championing the interests of those who fund central and local government. Our objects are to:


• scrutinise government spending; • publicise government waste; • provide taxpayers with an effective voice in the corridors of power; • educate New Zealanders against excessive and wasteful government spending; • promote an efficient tax system; • promote discussion on the balance of activities best undertaken by the private and public sectors; and • promote public policies seeking to advance New Zealanders’ prosperity. The Taxpayers’ Union remains independent of all political parties and will never become one. Our ‘Waste Watch’ campaign highlights examples of wasteful spending and provides comment on proposed spending initiatives from the Government, councils, political parties and other lobby groups. We operate a 24-hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues.


We also operate a ‘Tip Line’ for members of the public to submit examples of wasteful government spending – some of our best exposés have come from insiders and bureaucrats. Due to an absence of other groups campaigning fiscal conservatism, many of these stories would not have become public without our efforts.

The purpose of our campaigns are to expose government waste, resist groups that constantly demand more spending for their pet causes, and create a public climate that demands less wasteful spending and lower taxes. We rely on the good work done by traditional think tanks but communicate their ideas to a wider audience. We’re not a think tank. Our target market isn’t the intellectual elite in Wellington – we’re here to capture the talkback audience. Our value is our ability to influence the public debate, and the politicians who must respond to it.

“We balance the debate, against the thousands of organisations

“Think tanks are in the

that want more spending for

business of ideas. We’re in the

their pet causes”

business of promoting them”

John Bishop

David Farrar

1. Tipline – every day we get tips from members of the public who have seen public money being wasted. Our researchers get to work, confirming examples using the Official Information Act and working with our partners in the media to expose the waste.

2. Solid research – our experts are among the best. In our first twelve months, we have worked with a former Deputy Commissioner (Policy) of the IRD and the economist we engaged for our high profile “Bribe-O-Meter” election costing project previously led the team at IRD that costed social policy under both National and Labour led governments.

Our staff and interns use the Official Information Act every day to support our campaigns and keep local councils, the Government and bureaucrats accountable.

3. Strategic communications – we work closely with journalists, sometimes working together on stories, or offering exclusives to maximise exposure for our message. Our board and staff are regular guests on all of New Zealand’s major radio networks. Our 24hour media line is to ensure that we are always on call to react to breaking news with a fiscally conservative message.

“The Taxpayers’ Union is changing the political weather”

4. Media events – the left are very good at drawing attention to their causes with stunts. We emulate our international partners, using media events like ‘Waste Awards’ and ‘Fuel Tax Refunds’ to draw media attention to what are serious underlying messages.

5. Building coalitions – joining forces with other groups provides a powerful opportunity to build broader support for our policy objectives. For example, we partnered with Age Concern, Consumer NZ and the Financial Services Council to promote the Fair Tax for Savers campaign.

Sir Roger Douglas



6. Targeted material – we tailor our media releases with local content for provincial media. We find the payoff high - local issues tend to lead to more engagement, membership and support, than national media. For example, the Ratepayers’ Report (our local government league tables) featured in more than 40 community newspapers, with our commentary and analysis based on regional data.


Our Waste Watch campaign is the backbone of our activity. Its objective is to regularly remind the public that they are better stewards of their hard earned coin, than politicians and bureaucrats.


Over the 2013/14 summer break, we generated more media stories than all the opposition parties combined (we achieved nearly one national newspaper story per day).

“You sound like you’re spending like a left wing party.” Radio NZ’s Katherine Ryan to John Key - 17 September 2014

“They want people to ding dobb in dodgy spenho w on a tip line - that’s y” they found this stor

n - Seven Sharp

Heather du Plessis-Alla

“I actually think it has all the hallmarks of a rort.” Minister for ACC

Our work put the CTU, which had received the bulk of the money, on the back-foot. All major TV, print and radio outlets covered the story. On Radio NZ’s Morning Report the ACC Minister labeled the scheme a ‘cozy deal’, a ‘rort’ and said it had ‘all the hallmarks of a scam’. Shortly after our exposé, the scheme was pulled.

“Council of T rade Unions secretary Pete r Conway has defended the contracts.” Radio NZ


According to internal ACC documents the Taxpayers’ Union uncovered, a deal between Business New Zealand, the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and ACC, cost ACC-levy payers $19 million since 2003. They show ACC knew that millions paid to the groups to provide health and safety training did little, if anything, to reduce workplace accidents. ACC analysis concluded that even with optimistic assumptions, for every dollar spent on the training, 84 cents was wasted.



We worked with Fairfax Media to produce New Zealand’s first interactive online league tables for local councils. Ratepayers’ Report, hosted by, allows users to compare local council metrics including average residential rates, debt per ratepayer and even CEO salaries. The report was based on a series of information requests to all territorial authorities and their 2013 annual reports. It shows that average council liabilities are $4,386 per ratepayer while Auckland Council is the highest at $15,858 per ratepayer. Through Fairfax’s network of two national weeklies, nine dailies and more than 60 community newspapers, we tailored material, comparisons and commentary for news editors across the country to hold their local councils accountable.

eed to n s r lo il c n u o “All c t we are a h t d e d in m be re r people’s e h t o f o d r a stew money.” Mayor , Ray Wallace

Hutt City

The report received the support from Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, and Hutt City Mayor Ray Wallace both of whom provided a foreword. To generate discussion about how councils can do more with less, we included suggestions that were deliberately provocative. As a result, we received a considerable positive talkback radio response, coverage in the NBR, on Radio NZ and a full-page spread in the Herald on Sunday.


Jono Brown’s Rate Saver Report pulled together 101 suggestions and examples of best practice to save money in local government. Many of the best suggestions came from a request to all of New Zealand’s mayors to highlight good local initiatives.

should “In my view wem never flinch fro criticism” vercargill City Mayor Tim Shadbolt, In


“But for The Taxpayers’ Union Bribe-o-meter revealing that Winston Peters had promised more spending then Labour and the Greens put together it is likely New Zealand First would be holding the balance of power today.”


Our 2014 election costing ‘Bribe-O-Meter’ armed Kiwi voters with the facts. It tracked the cost per household of the political bribes as the politicians vied for their votes. For too long politicians got away with plucking numbers out of thin air when announcing policy and the associated costs.

Did you know? Our online targeted advertising ensured the per household cost of election promises were brought to the attention of more than 215,000 voters in the lead up to polling day.


Richard Prebble

By election day, the cost of spending promises were: National: $1.397b ($824 per household) Labour: $5.805b ($3,423 per household) Green: $6.542b ($3,858 per household) ACT: $-11.66b ($-6,876 per household) United Future: $2.124b ($1,253 per household) Conservative: $400m ($236 per household) New Zealand First’s policies were so lacking in detail even our expert couldn’t cost them!

We engaged Dr Michael Dunn to undertake the economic research for the project. Dr Dunn, a former Principal Economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, once led the team of financial analysts at the Inland Revenue Department that forecast government tax revenues, and costed social policy through 30 budget, half-year and pre-election economic and fiscal updates.

The briefing paper showed that the New Zealand passport is the most expensive in the world on a per year basis. We exposed the Passport Office’s operational surplus resulting from charging more than is necessary for too long. We explained why New Zealand is swimming against the tide, with Canada, China and the Netherlands all recently increasing their passport validities to ten years. Our briefing paper was cited in questions by journalists put to the Prime Minister John Key, and Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne. The Government is currently reviewing the cost of passports with, according to Mr Dunne, “a view to returning to 10-year passports”.


Our briefing paper on the cost and validity of New Zealand passports was released at the same time as our presentation to the Parliamentary Select Committee considering a petition to return to a ten year regime.


Our focus is to keep the pressure on the taxpayer funded groups that use activist science and scare mongering to promote higher taxes and more regulation.


Too many not-for-profits and ‘charities’ are, in reality, state funded political campaign operations. Others are reliant on taxpayer money but sidestep the constitutional safeguards that apply to government entities. In 2015 we will fight for an amendment to the Official Information Act which would mean not-for-profits that are majority funded by taxpayers would have the same transparency as government departments. That would bring our freedom of information law into line with various Australian jurisdictions.

“We resist the taxpayer funded groups that promote higher taxes, less choice, and costly regulation.”


Gabrielle O’Brien

If corporate welfare was abolished, enough money would be saved to reduce the corporate tax rate from 28% to 22.5%, or if applied to personal income tax rates, would allow the 30% and 33% rates to be lowered to 29%.

seldom “Corporate welfareor fair represents a good payers’ use of tax and rate money.” “I welcome the Taxpayers’ Union efforts in this area”


Labour MP, Stuart Na


Jim Rose’s report ‘Monopoly Money - The Cost of Corporate Welfare Since 2008’ attracted considerable coverage in the National Business Review and on talkback radio. The report shows that since National took office, corporate welfare has cost taxpayers $1-1.4 billion ($600 - $800 per household) per year.

ber of Commerce Auckland Cham CEO, Michael Barnett Jim Rose is a former principal advisor at the Treasury and former senior analyst at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.



Andrew decided to give to the Taxpayers’ Union and here’s why: “I personally don’t waste my money, therefore I believe the money I put into the taxation system shouldn’t be wasted. Someone needs to let the public know what is happening.”

Raj decided to give to the Taxpayers’ Union and here’s why: “It’s a counter to the unions and busy-body organisations that seem to fill the airwaves demanding more.”

“In just one year the Taxpayers’ Union has established itself as an essential component in the never-ending war against corporate welfare and other forms of egregious government waste.” - Matthew Hooton

“I’ve been really impressed with how far the Taxpayers’ Union have come in the past year. They have served the taxpayers of New Zealand well by focusing on exposing wasteful spending and holding politicians to account. At the TaxPayers’ Alliance in the UK, we’re proud to have such an effective sister organisation on the other side of the globe.” - Matthew Elliott, Founder, the TaxPayers’ Alliance

“There’s so many lobby groups for all these different types of extra spending, but there wasn’t one group for the poor old taxpayer.” - Ali Mau

“I have watched in admiration as the Taxpayers’ Union has become the automatic “go-to” organisation when the media want a reaction to some public sector extravagance. It’s great to see a voice clearly arguing against the waste of taxpayers’ resources.” - Don Brash “Prolific” - National Business Review

“A breath-taking inaugural year” - Gregory Thomas, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation “To achieve New Zealand’s edge we need campaigns that chip away at edging public policy and practice to higher quality settings. The shout out for smaller and smarter government matters and the Taxpayers’ Union has found its voice in a short time.” - Ruth Richardson

“I like it” - Leighton Smith

“Outrageously stupid” - Hone Harawira


Revenues: Donations 95% Membership fees 5%

Membership fees

Other income < 1%

Operating expences (not including establishment costs)

Technology and website

Fundraising costs (including travel)

Administration 23%

Fundraising costs

Communications and campaigns



Technology and website



Communications and campaigns


Financial statements

Supporters* 2,065

Full financial account are available on request, tabled at each AGM and filed with the Registrar of Incorporated Societies (our financial year is January to December).

Donations < $1,000


Donations > $1,000


• Don’t let our loud voice fool you - our budget is smaller than even the smallest trade union. • More than 2,000 subscribed supporters in the first 12 months • Working hard to provide value for money


Year ended 31 October 2014

* A supporter is anyone who voluntarily signs up as a supporter of the Taxpayers’ Union. There is no cost associated with being a supporter however many become members for $5 or make other financial contributions.


Will you invest in us? The success of the Taxpayers’ Union is directly related to our continuing ability to raise funds.


Unlike our international counterparts, we do not use professional fundraisers nor do we pay commissions. With a few exceptions, every large donation comes from our Executive Director taking the time to raise funds. And that takes him away from other work. In May, the board had enough confidence about our future to employ him full time. Jordan leads a team of volunteers, part timers and contractors in our Wellington office managing daily media, correspondence, our online presence, and membership. We are very grateful to those who have dug deep, and particularly those donors who committed to the cause, even before the group launched and proved itself possible.

Every extra dollar donated is used to bring more public attention to our causes and hold government to account.

Right now an incredible 42% of the economy is absorbed by government. Bill English is doing his best to get that level down – but unfortunately the growth in local government spending is undoing much of the good work. Mr English needs all the political help he can get to trim the fat. Our work will be to identify low priority spending, to question the status quo and expose rorts. We need to give those in Wellington the political headroom to reprioritise, reduce expenditure, and to be firm about cutting programmes that don’t deliver measurable results for the taxpayers’ investment. Who knows when National and ACT will next have a majority in Parliament? We cannot let the Goverment miss this opportunity to push through important and much needed reforms to cut taxes across the board. The Board has resolved that the focus for the next 12 months will be to ensure that the public understand how prudent tax cuts can be achieved earlier than 2017 and without risking the surplus. Meaningful tax relief will also give the economy a useful boost – and that could be important if, as expected, the economy starts to slow down a bit. The best way to cut taxes is to cut spending – our work to expose government waste will continue. In addition our work to increase the accountability of groups receiving taxpayer funding, and keep shining light on the local government sector will continue. We have a menu of campaign projects that are set to launch with your support. All of them are important and most of them can be undertaken as standalone projects. They won’t happen without you, and people like you, digging deep and making the work of the Taxpayers’ Union possible.

John Bishop Chairman

A donation to the Taxpayers’ Union is an excellent investment. If we can successfully eliminate even just the most wasteful one per cent of government spending this will save taxpayers $800 million per year.

Our 2014 ‘fuel-tax cash give-away’ cost less than $1,000 but resulted in more than 450,000 Seven Sharp viewers learning that 43% of the pump price is tax.

How we can use donations:

Ways to donate:

$20,000 Producing league tables comparing the performance of local councils

We need supporters like you giving generously to continue our campaigns that stand up for taxpayers.

$15,000 Producing a major research project ivestigating government waste $10,000 Annual conference to launch a new campaign and host international speaker $5,000

Making a hard-hitting YouTube video


Producing a briefing paper to draw media attention to an issue


Research and analysis to cost a spending proposal


Hosting a media event to launch a campaign


Distributing a major report to MPs

If there a specific project you would like to sponsor, please contact our Executive Director on (04) 282 0301

Here’s how you can donate: • Via internet banking deposit to: NZ Taxpayers’ Union Inc. 03-0539-0390321-00 • By sending a cheque to: ‘NZ Taxpayers’ Union Inc.’ Freepost for Lower Taxes PO Box 10518 The Terrace Wellington 6143


The Government is budgeting to spend over $73 billion next year and local government around $8 billion, meaning a total government spend of more than $80 billion.

• By debit or credit card by calling us on 04 282 0300 (option 2). • Online at: All donations are confidential and are not required to be publicly disclosed.


The Taxpayers’ Union mascot, Porky, enjoys the $20,000 ratepayer funded temporary sandpit built by the Wellington City Council in the shadow of the red-stickered town hall, the future of which is uncertain.

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