Further to an earlier blogpost where I emailed Jordan Williams, at the Taxpayers Union, regarding Judith Collins’ taxpayer-funded trip to China, where she visited a milk importer (Oravida) of which her husband is the sole Director…
FROM: "f.macskasy" SUBJECT: Judith Collins DATE: Wed, 12 Mar 2014 10:39:48 +1300 TO: "Taxpayers Union" <email@example.com>
.Kia ora, I am aware that your Union recently condemned the cost incurred by Green MP, Ms Mojo Mathers, in a trip she made to Masterton to participate in a radio interview on disabilities. Accordingly, will you be investigating and commenting on the trip made by National MP and Minister, Judith Collins, for her recent taxpayer-funded trip to China? Ms Collins' portfolios include Minister for Ethnic Affairs; Minister of Justice; and Minister for ACC. It is unclear what purpose was served by a trip to China as none of her portfolios relate directly to foreign affairs or trade. Will you also be investigating and commenting on the conflict of interest posed by her visit to Orivida - a Chinese company of which her husband is a Director? This appears to be little more than a tax-payer funded 'junket' and I await your response to this in the light of your critical stance taken regarding Ms Mathers' trip to Masterton. Regards, -Frank Macskasy
Mr Williams, from the so-called Taxpayers Union, responded on the same day;
Several commentators on my previous blogpost suggested that blogs are a part of the media (or “new media”) and that Mr Williams should, accordingly, be responding to my query as if the NZ Herald had contacted him for a comment.
I took note of the suggestions and wrote back to Mr Williams,
FROM: "f.macskasy" SUBJECT: Re: Judith Collins DATE: Sun, 16 Mar 2014 12:37:51 +1300 TO: "Jordan Williams" <firstname.lastname@example.org> . Kia ora Jordan! Thank you for taking the time to respond to my query, and in such a timely fashion. That was greatly appreciated. Regarding your point on the Mojo Mathers issue; I understand that you stated you did not initiate contact with the Herald, and that you responded to their query. As you may be aware, I blog on various issues, including covering public activities such as Select Committee hearings; protests; etc. I am therefore part of the so-called "new media" of citizen journalists/bloggers, as your colleague, Cameron Slater also maintains. Accordingly, I seek a response from you, on behalf of the Taxpayers Union, on National MP and Minister, Judith Collins' recent taxpayer-funded trip to China. It is unclear what purpose was served by a trip to China as none of her portfolios relate directly to foreign affairs or trade. Ms Collins' portfolios include Minister for Ethnic Affairs; Minister of Justice; and Minister for ACC. Considering that none of her portfolios relate to foreign affairs or trade, was this trip necessary? What purpose did it serve, and for who? What is the Taxpayers Union's response on the perceived/actual conflict of interest posed by her visit to Orivida - a Chinese company of which her husband is a Director? Does the Taxpayers Union view Collins' trip as little more than a tax-payer funded 'junket'? Does the Taxpayers Union consider the $36,000 spent by Collins on this trip "value for money"? I look forward to the Taxpayers Union's statement on this issue. Regards, -Frank Macskasy Blogger
As at 11.59PM, on 18 March, I have received no further correspondence from Mr Williams, nor from any other representative of the Taxpayers Union. Not even a simple acknowledgement of having received my 16 March email.
It is interesting to note the circumstances surrounding this issue.
I emailed the Taxpayers Union because it had commented – and roundly condemned – Mojo Mathers’ flight from Christchurch to Masterton, to attend a radio interview on the issue of disabilities.
On 2 March, Jordan Williams made this statement on the resulting furore surrounding his remarks on Ms Mathers’ travel;
This morning there has been some criticism of my comments in a story on the Herald website about a trip Mojo Mathers took to Masterton from Christchurch apparently just for a short interview on a community radio station.
- The Taxpayers’ Union did not seek media attention on this story. There is no associated press release. The Herald called yesterday evening asking for comment, as happens often.
- The Taxpayers’ Union operate 24 hour media line for comment on taxpayer issues. Yesterday’s call came through to me and I was asked whether it was value for money for an MP to fly 800km for a radio interview on a small community station. I said it was not value for money when the interview could have been done on Skype as well as the comments that are quoted in the story.
- I’ve made no comment about Ms Mathers disability. In fact, if the travel was necessary I would not criticise the spending. But answering questions posed by the Herald, on matter which as far as I know are completely unrelated to her disability, is legitimate.
- Accusations that I (or the Union) sought to go after Mathers are ridiculous. To repeat, we were asked for comment by the Herald who were running the story. The comments would have been the same whoever the MP.
- Accusations that the Taxpayers’ Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare. Seehttp://info.scoop.co.nz/New_Zealand_Taxpayers’_Union
On reflection, I wonder why an MP from a party that prides itself for having a low environmental footprint choose to fly to a radio interview that could have been done on Skype. Perhaps Ms Mathers had other engagements in Masterton. If so, that was not the information provided to me at the time by the Herald reporter.
Note Mr Williams’ statement;
Accusations that the Taxpayers’ Union are partisan are also silly. I am proud that the Union has gone after National MPs and the current government for expenses, wasteful expenditure and corporate welfare
Aside from a handful of press releases aimed at National Minister, Steven Joyce, most of the Taxpayers Unions public comments seemed to target Auckland mayor Len Brown; government departments (whilst not mentioning their Ministers); and strangely, the Labour Party – which is not even in government.
The Taxpayers Union has not commented on Judith Collins’ trip to China, despite there being glaring questions which demand to be asked. Questions such as why a Minister of Justice/Ethnic Affairs/ACC felt the need to spend $36,000 of taxpayers’ money on a junket overseas.
Mr Williams has not deigned to respond to my queries with a comment.
Yet, he was only too happy to launch into a savage excoriation of Green MP, Mojo Mathers, for spending an estimated $500 to speak on an issue that was actually her portfolio – and which, because of her disability, is a matter she is intimately familiar to speak on.
One can only assume that Mr Williams does not wish to be drawn into this issue. The reason is quite apparent.
Jordan Williams is closely connected to the likes of David Farrar, Cameron Slater, and Simon Lusk – all of whom are hard-Right National/ACT supporters and apparatchiks.
Right-wing blogger, David Farrar, is one of the Board members of the Taxpayers Union. His ‘bio‘, however, mentions nothing about his close links to the National Party,
“David is a well known political blogger and commentator. David also owns and manages the specialist polling agency Curia Market Research and has an active involvement in Internet issues. He is an experienced political campaigner and former parliamentary staffer.
“I helped form the New Zealand Taxpayers Union because I believe that New Zealand needs a lobby group to stand up for the rights of taxpayers and ratepayers, and fight against those who treat them as a never ending source of funds”.”
David Farrar’s Disclosure Statement on Kiwiblog;
“Since I joined Young Nationals in 1986, I have been affiliated to, and a member of, the National Party. I do not regard National as always right, but it is the party which I believe gives me the greatest opportunity to achieve the New Zealand I want.
As a volunteer, I established National’s initial Internet presence in 1996 and have held various roles in the party up until 2005. I have three times been a temporary contractor to National HQ, helping out with the campaign in 1999, and also between staff appointments – in 2004 and 2007 for a total of ten months.”
Other Board Members are;
John Bishop; businessman; columnist for the right-leaning NBR; and authored a “puff piece” on National’s Deputy Leader, Bill English; Constituency Services Manager, ACT Parliamentary Office, April 2000 – August 2002, “developing relationships with key target groups and organising events”.
Gabrielle O’Brien; businesswoman; National Party office holder, 2000-2009.
Jordan McCluskey; University student; member of the Young Nationals.
None of this is mentioned even in passing on the Taxpayers Union ‘Who We Are‘ page.
By now, it should be patently obvious that the Taxpayers Union is little more than a thinly-disguised, right-wing, front organisation for the National Party.
In which case, it would be “counter-productive” of the Taxpayers Union to be criticising Judith Collins’ trip to China. It would be a case of attacking one of their own.
Taxpayers Union: A question of value for taxpayer money
Fairfax Media: Anti-MMP plan leaked
Taxpayers Union: Who we are
Kiwiblog: Disclosure Statement
Finda.co.nz: John Bishop Communicator
Johnbishop.co.nz: Bill English – Minister of Infrastructure
Advisoryboards.co.nz: Curriculum Vitae: John Bishop – Advisory Boards NZ
LinkedIn: Gabrielle O’Brien
LinkedIn: Jordan McCluskey
LinkedIn: Jonathan [“Jono”] Brown
Newswire.co.nz: ‘Not up to church to dictate on gay marriage’
NZ Herald: John Drinnan – High-risk PR strategy flies
Previous related blogposts
Above image acknowledgment: Francis Owen
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