National whines about Cullen’s appointment – they should know about cronyism




When it comes to a repulsive cocktail of double standards, self-interest, and hypocrisy, National is the party that just keeps on giving…


from: Frank Macskasy <>
to: Listener <>
date: 25 November 2017
subject: Letters to the editor


The editor
The Listener


On 23 November, the Coalition government fulfilled another of it’s election pledges. Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash announced that Michael Cullen would head the planned Taxation Working Group to look into issues surrounding a fairer taxation system.

National’s political strategist and former minister, Steven Joyce responded with a predictable jerk-of-the-knee;

“Sir Michael is many things but a politically independent voice on taxation policy he is not. Let’s face it, he was Labour’s last Finance Minister and one of the key coalition negotiators for the Labour Party.”

Joyce’s reprehensible swipe at Cullen’s appointment was hypocritical for two reasons.

Firstly, it was National that appointed Cullen  as deputy chairman of NZ Post in April 2009. By November 2010, then SOE Minister, Simon Power, had promoted Cullen to Chair of NZ Post, saying;

“I look forward to working with Dr Cullen to develop NZ Post’s strategy to accommodate declining mail volumes and a challenging financial environment.”

Secondly, when it comes to cronyism, National is hard to beat. Just some of their political appointees include Jackie Blue, Wyatt Creech, Mervyn English, Sir Wira Gardiner, Catherine Isaac,  Judy Kirk, Richard Long, Wayne Mapp, Stephen McElrea, Jim McLay, Belinda Milnes,  Ravi Musuku, Brian Neeson, Kerry Prendergast, , Katherine Rich, Jenny Shipley,   Ken Shirley, Roger Sowry,  and Penny Webster.

One of National’s worst instances of cronyism was the hugely wasteful, so-called “Rules Reduction Taskforce“, which produced it’s “loopy rules report”. Half the “Taskforce”, appointed by Paula Bennett in 2014, consisted of former National MPs such as Tau Henare, John Carter, and former party candidates Mark Thomas and Ian Tulloch. They were each paid $500 a day.

Eventually the “Taskforce” reported that many of the contentious bureaucratic regulations  did not exist in reality. They were urban myths.

Thank you Steven Joyce for reminding us how National excels at cronyism.

-Frank Macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]


Further on the issue of the so-called Rules Reduction Taskforce”, Green Party MP, Julie-Anne Genter,  said at the time;

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“We’re getting to that point where the National government is losing all perspective or sense of touch with reality – when they think it’s okay to pay their former MPs or candidates and donors to undertake what’s ostensibly some sort of taskforce work, it’s really just an exercise in PR and spin.”

That little exercise cost taxpayers a cool $750,000.

Around the same time, the Wanganui Chronicle reported that community NGOs were suffering badly, with several such as Relationships Aotearoa and the YWCA, closing entirely;



Fellow blogger,  Curwen Rolinson, was also less than impressed at  Joyce’s naked hypocrisy, pointing out on Facebook;

But hold on just a moment. I’ve literally lost count of the number of consultative bodies and even straight-up *Inquiries* that the National Party *quite pointedly* staffed the chairing of with their own people, flunkies, and other such questionable appointments.

I mean, as an example of this – their placing of John Shewan at the head of the group convened to look into slash “dispel” the perception of New Zealand as a tax-haven, for instance, was quite directly a case of placing a fox in charge of a hen-house [Shewan’s private sector activities including quite a spate of tax-“consultancy” and linkages to a series of potentially dodgy international firms in this regard].

Or, worse, the series of appointments of [now Dame – guess why she got the gong, eh?] Paula Rebstock to head Inquiries into everything from Peter Dunne’s ‘alleged’ leaking of materials around the GCSB’s illegal conduct through to the ‘Leask’ affair concerning MFAT information being anonymously passed to the Labour Party.

Curwen continued to strip away National’s faux outrage;

Further, if I recall correctly, the previous National Government’s “2025 Taskforce” on pensions and the like was convened to be *chaired by* none other than arch-neoliberal [and former National Party Leader] Don Brash. I don’t seem to recall the National Party raising any issue with “politically tied” appointments to policy working-group style arrangements THEN…?

What’s different about Cullen on the Tax Working Group, I wonder…?

But when it came to cronyism mixed with  commercial self interest, Judith Collins’ involvement in the Oravida milk company scandal was hard to top, as political commentator, Bryce Edwards put bluntly;

Justice Minister Judith Collins has revealed she had a dinner with the head of Oravida and a senior Chinese government official while in China last year and admits she was wrong not to disclose the dinner last week. Mrs Collins has been under pressure to explain her dealings with the milk company Oravida, where her husband is a director.

Perceptions of corruption, cronyism and conflicts of interest can be incredibly damaging to any government, and National will be very wary of a narrative developing that this administration is infected with political sleaze.

Nothing makes a government look more tired, out-of-touch, and arrogant than scandals that suggest governing politicians are ethically compromised and governing in the interests of the powerful rather than the public.

Judith Collins’ milk endorsement scandal is beginning to have a serious impact on the Government’s reputation. But unfortunately for National, there are a number of similar stories dogging it at the moment, and they all come on the back of previous allegations of cronyism related to the scandals over John Banks as well as the SkyCity convention centre procurement process.

The scandal over Judith Collins and her allegedly favourable treatment of the milk company that her husband helps run has allowed National’s opponents to make some strong attacks on the character of, not only the Minister of Justice, but the whole National administration

By August 2014, the allegations of sleaze, corruption, conflicts of interest became over-whelmingly and Collins was forced to step down from her ministerial roles.

There were many other instances of cronyism revealed during National’s nine years in office. Several resulted in ministerial resignations.

If the appointment of a former Finance Minister to a working group focused on Finance issues (ie, taxation) is the worst that National can throw at the new Coalition government – then it is lobbing damp squibs.

Considering National’s own recent murky history, the issue of cronyism is one where it might be wiser to keep a very, very, very low profile.



A roll call of some of National’s cronies – ex-members of Parliament appointed to various government bodies, organisations, NGOs, working groups, etc;

Blue, Jackie

Creech, Wyatt

English, Mervyn

Gardiner, Sir Wira

Isaac, Catherine

Kirk, Judy

Long, Richard

Mapp, Wayne

McElrea, Stephen

McLay, Jim

Milnes, Belinda

Musuku, Ravi

Neeson, Brian

Prendergast, Kerry

Rich, Katherine

Shipley, Jenny

Shirley, Ken

Sowry, Roger

Webster, Penny

This list is not complete.





Fairfax media:  Sir Michael Cullen to head tax working group, GST changes possible

NZ Herald:  Cullen leaves politics for NZ Post role

NZ Herald:  Cullen to replace Bolger at NZ Post

Fairfax media:  Cullen appointed NZ Post chairman

Radio NZ: National accused of cronyism over ‘loopy rules’ report

Wanganui Chronicle:  Concern over lack of funding for NGOs

Facebook: Curwen Ares Rolinson – 24 November 2017

NZ Herald:  Bryce Edwards – The National Government is looking sleazy

Radio NZ: Collins resigns after ‘smear campaign’

Frankly Speaking: Cronywatch


Radio NZ:  National accused of cronyism over ‘loopy rules’ report

NZ Herald:  Bryce Edwards – The National Government is looking sleazy

Other Blogs

AmeriNZ Blog:  Is John Key’s government corrupt?

The Standard:  Cabinet Club

Previous related blogposts

The Fletcher Affair – a warning for Labour

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Crony Watch!







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  1. Well stated @Frank. The crony appointments have been so numerous, it’s hard to keep track of them. See also my comment of Chris Trotter’s post on the Judiciary:

    Some of them have been so blatant with their jobs for the boys, they end up having to be challenged in the courts.
    Paula Rebstock was a real doozy, but of course there are others just as bad.

    • Brilliance again Frank;

      Case made here, SS Joyce is the most deranged man in politics today, he is simply suffering from delussuion and the loss of power of control in opposition now.

      years ago SS Joyce custigated Kiwirail for their operations, and threatened hell out of them all over the press., saying “pull up your socks or else”

      SS Joyce is now exhibiting a sense of “instability and extremism” the preclussion towards dictatorship. He is the most dangerous man today in politics.

      “Let’s face it, he was Labour’s last Finance Minister and one of the key coalition negotiators for the Labour Party.”

      “Joyce’s reprehensible swipe at Cullen’s appointment was hypocritical for two reasons.

      Firstly, it was National that appointed Cullen as deputy chairman of NZ Post in April 2009. By November 2010, then SOE Minister, Simon Power, had promoted Cullen to Chair of NZ Post”

  2. Frank, Collins was thrown under a bus by Key in 2014 after the meltdown had started when Nationals smear and disinformation machine aka Dirty Politics dept was outed by Nicky Hager. Collins featured regularly in that book.

    It took weeks of decision making by the Nat strategists to stop the bleeding and quarterise the wound and that quickest way to achieve that was to banish the supremely unlikeable Collins to nowhereville.

    Furthermore Winston had been starring rumours that he had heard a whisper or two that Collins was up to something. We never heard what that was but undermining Key leapt off the page.

    Anyway it wasn’t her reprehensible behaviour that saw her gone to Nationals limp time out corner, there was enough sleaze for all to share in National at the time led ably by the PM himself. It was the fact she was causing problems in National itself and they needed a sacrificial goat for a bigger problem and she proved her worth!

  3. Given the co-operation between National and Cullen during the previous administration it is obvious that national will have no problem at all with Cullen in this capacity. Their economic philosophies are perfectly compatible as history shows.
    The rhetoric emanating from Joyce on the appointment is purely for public consumption. He couldn’t have chosen anyone he would be more comfortable with as head of the tax working group himself.

  4. Not to forget ex MP Bob Simcock, clearly totally inadequate for his job as Waikato DHB chair, appointed by Tony Ryle, now ensconced at Simpson Grierson.

  5. So National are shameless liars and hypocrites….it is well known and understood, however we continue to waste energy defending our decisions….don’t!

    Whenever National (or neolibs in general) claim a position simply invert it….we all know “Honest John ” the used car dealer is sure to be the contrary

    • We don’t need to defend them, we just need to continually state them (in whatever venue is available).
      Frank M has had a ‘crony watch’ running for quite some time. Many on its roll of dishonour coincide with my own experiences.
      But did any in the MSM pick it up? (And by pick it up, I don’t mean did they know/not know about it).

      MY pick is that many of them might have to start worrying about such things (going forward).
      Many have ridden on that majic carpet of arrogance, self-entitlement, and born-to-rule attitude that they didn’t even realise a) how pathetic they actually are/were, and b), that the plebians, and the Winnies, and their democratically elected opposition MP’s were keeping tabs.
      Shudda Coulda Woulda
      Now they want to scream blue murder and claim victimhood.

      • If Joyce wishes to claim cronyism,partiality and pre determined outcomes all we need to point to his estrangement from the truth…Dildo Baggins has no credibility left to lose.

  6. Pure hypocrisy on National’s part but don’t expect your letter to be published Frank. It’s too close to the bone for pro-National media management.

Comments are closed.