“It’s Not Hypocrisy When We Do It” – The National Party’s All-Out Attack On Michael Cullen Chairing Labour’s Tax Working Group

By   /   November 27, 2017  /   7 Comments

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Now here’s a curious thing … right now the National Party is going absolutely hammer-and-tong attempting to attack the Labour Party’s Tax Working Group – for, among other things, the fact it’s set to be chaired by former Labour Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen.

Now here’s a curious thing … right now the National Party is going absolutely hammer-and-tong attempting to attack the Labour Party’s Tax Working Group – for, among other things, the fact it’s set to be chaired by former Labour Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen.

On the face of it, I suppose some might agree with the notion that appointing a well-respected linchpin of the previous Labour government might seem a *little* less than strictly impartial. But from where I’m sitting, Cullen’s record as Finance Minister [which, let’s remember, was sufficiently glowing that even *National* were singing his praises a few years ago – to the point of awarding him a Knighthood for “services to the state” in this role in 2012] probably means that the competency he brings to the role outweighs concerns he might be “partisan”.

Certainly, National seemed to harbour no such concerns when they appointed him to head the review of our intelligence agencies two years ago

And yet, such a potentially “bipartisan” approach from National is pretty inconsistent with their own previous record when it comes to Working Groups, Task Forces, and other such beasts of political-policy-oversight burden. 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 over the last nine years. 
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.
In both of these above-cited cases, Rebstock basically managed to produce the “correct” outcome from the perspective of the Government of the day …. and was subsequently castigated by other authority-figures who wound up having to review her efforts for getting things wrong, or even presiding over outright illegal conduct.

Clearly, there is a bit of a risk when a Government appoints its own people to what’s supposed to be an impartial body – although I would respectfully contend that there’s quite a gulf of difference of both degree and kind between empowering a well-regarded former Finance Minister to preside over a taxation working group [which is, after all, an advisory organization set up entirely at the Government’s behest to provide potential detail and projections on its own policy] …. versus a Government ‘slotting in’ its own pugnaciously-construed “enforcer” to Inquiries into Government (mis)actions that are supposed to, by their very nature, be above the petty politics of the day.

As we can see … the results of National’s perfidy were for those aforementioned Inquiries to wind up repeatedly warred-over and iniquitously conducted bun-fights rather than august and impartially-regarded efforts at discerning the truth of important matters


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…?

I am sure there are a litany of other examples – but that’s just a few off the top of my head.

It appears at this point that the National Party knows they can’t meaningfully criticize the Tax Working Group on substance [after all – rightly or wrongly, the only thing we know at this stage about their prospective output are a list of the things the Labour Party have pre-emptively ruled *out* of consideration] … and so are instead resorting to that old favourite of theirs, going for the man – the personality – instead.

And, as is frequently the case where National is concerned, criticizing the hell out of Labour et co for doing something that, arguably, they themselves regularly and relentlessly engaged in when in Government.

Although I maintain as I said at the outset of this piece, that it is difficult indeed to draw a meaningful comparison between the appointment of Sir Michael Cullen to the chairmanship of this Tax Working Group, and any of the previously-cited instances of National staffing legal proceedings or advisory panels with its own bully-boys and flunkies.

After all … given Sir Michael Cullen literally wound up being knighted in no small part for his sound economic management as the previous Labour Government’s Finance Minister, it would appear rather unquestionable – even by National, who knighted him, one presumes – that when it comes to these sorts of matters, Cullen (still) has a meaningful and informed contribution to make.

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7 Comments

  1. XRAY says:

    Jacinda should open her weekly press conferences, preempting National, by telling anyone who’s listening that the sky is NOT going to fall in, the inclement weather is NOT the government’s fault and just a heads up, National are OUTRAGED!

    That should save a lot of hot air.

    • CLEANGREEN says:

      Jacinda should sack TVNZ chair and use a Government appointed Chair to get TVNZ to cover all uses important to Labour’s policies now, as when this morning the Rail report came out on Newshub breakfast “AM show” and the NZ Herald report covered the same report on rail policy of labour’s Phil Twyford discussing it, absolutely nothing came out on either Radio NZ or TV one, so our public media is not reporting on labour coalition Government policy at all—bloody disgusting to see this as my taxes go to this errant public service that is working against our interests.
      Sack the board and chair of RNZ/TVNZ.

  2. Samwise says:

    Another excellent expose on Nat’s outrageous hypocrisy. Curwyn, you and Frank should team up for your stories. You’re both on the nail with your assessments.

  3. Michelle says:

    the national parties new name should be the negative party

  4. Michelle says:

    What is wrong with utilising the man now Sir who delivered us 8/9 surpluses and set up the Cullen fund the negative party are just jealous and need to reflect more on all their own mistakes. Our country didn’t get into the mess we are in by ourselves we had 9 years of spin and sell and now we have the pot calling the kettle black.

  5. debsisdead says:

    There is considerable informed speculation that the new government intends to support the previous partial attempt by TVNZ to get out of news and current affairs by diverting the current NZ on Air funding for news and current affairs completely away from TVNZ.

    Instead they plan on giving it all to RNZ, enabling them to fully beef up the RNZ website with Vid streaming coverage of news stories.

    The current model isn’t working. Even putting to one side TVNZ news & current affairs’ penchant for employing Natz spruikers like Hoskings to cover political stories, there is also considerable evidence there is little or no intersection of the audience for stories about what brand of coffee/t shirt/phone is favoured by hairdressers to the rich and famous, and the audience who want to know what the beehive trough guzzlers have been up to for the last 24/7.

    Since (according to TVNZ ‘research’) the first audience – those with a jones for bourgeois gossip, are chiefly contained within the under 45 demo, but the political junkies are spread right across the spectrum, from 20+ to the dreaded, unwanted and worthless to advertisers, 65+ age demographic, there is no doubt that the derps at TVNZ are happy to forgo the latter for the former.

    Anyone in any doubt about the stupidity of having a public service broadcaster sell advertising, should sit in on a TVNZ marketing meeting.
    Yep, even RNZ will require considerable ‘cleaning up’ after the last 3 years of editorial subjectivity, but TVNZ would require a complete top to bottom clear out – a huge expense, for what? To support a dying medium?
    It makes much more sense to run video news off a streaming site where people can watch what they want to, when they want to.
    In addition turning the job over to RNZ performs another important function – it lets those who so willingly supported a partisan approach to news gathering by the state public service broadcaster know that even protected media darlings can be called upon to face the consequences of their mendacity.

    • Sam Sam says:

      The AdPocalypse started with a Youtuber named PewDiePie around a year ago.

      He made a bunch of controversial videos that got picked up in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). Instead of asking him for a comment, the WSJ Journalists brought their ‘findings’ of his jokes to Disney studios who proceeded to cancel his YouTube Red series and dropped him from Maker Studios. Sensing a story, more journalists starting piling in and found that there was a bunch of other questionable content that is featured alongside ads.

      They then took those screencaps, such as anti-Semitic YouTube channels featuring ads from Coke, Nike, etc. and brought them to the attention of these large corporations. This began many big companies pulling all of their ad revenue from YouTube. Without advertisements, YouTube is getting less money and with YouTube getting less money, they’re paying less to everybody who had active AdSense.

      Most people talk about the reduction being around 70%. This means that a great many of ‘mid-tier’ YouTubers had to switch to Patreon, Twitch, merch or other revenues – if not outright quit. Also, with further flagging now enacted, a bunch of YouTubers who have more ‘mature content’ are unable to produce content they would be paid for.

      To put this most into perspective, the channels that I would say have lost the most amount of ad revenue are those that have been tagged with words that are considered potentially “sensitive;” essentially, any news and politics channel. The David Pakman Show, Jimmy Dore, Secular Talk, etc, have lost around 60-90% of their ad revenue, and have resorted to using Patreon in order to make up for this massive decrease due to the reaction from a WSJ, which you might remember, but the effects have rippled out far further than what I would personally consider reasonable.

      The largest effect, beyond these somewhat established channels taking a hit, is on up-and-coming news/politics channels, also on the mainstream channels, due to the fact that this is acting as a form of censorship; the channels I listed above have seen a decent return on their income through fans of their shows (literally hundreds of thousands giving $1-$10 a week donation), but lesser known channels do not have the fan-base to match their losses. It got so wild PewDiePie had to comment in a couple of debunk videos, albeit it’s mostly in praise of the method by which his fans supported him and the YouTube community. IMO, the larger issue that I feel should have been highlighted more in the article is the effect on mainstream commercial networks like TVNZ, which have marginally less viewers and subscribers than PewDiePies 50+ million subscribers and viewers and therefore less support.

      All of this prior to YouTube TV launching, which is expected to feature news channels like CNN, MSNBC, etc. Weird timing, if y’all ask me. Still you have to laugh.

      Heres some of what PewDiePie had to say: https://youtu.be/aQVMnW6LGfM

      Rip TVNZ