BusinessNZ misses the point

January 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Vernon Small at Stuff reports:

today broke its silence on the issue, with a press release quoting its chief executive, Phil O’Reilly.

“For the record, Business NZ utterly rejects mistaken allegations made by lobbyist Jordan Williams since repeated by the minister,” O’Reilly said.

“The BusinessNZ family’s involvement has been completely ethical at all times, and I am confident that this is also the case with the involvement of the CTU and Impac Services.”

The CTU has also strongly rejected the criticisms by Collins and Williams.

O’Reilly said it was “unfortunate that important debate on workplace safety has been undermined by intemperate media comment”. …

O’Reilly said claims about the training scheme had been “regrettable and BusinessNZ had so far refrained from commenting on them because it has not been possible to have constructive dialogue in the context of overblown media comment”.

“Key issues are that New Zealand’s health and safety has just been changed and more stringent focus is needed on the goals of improving workplace safety,” O’Reilly said.

“The ACC and the Government are central to this goal, and BusinessNZ and the CTU as the largest representatives of people in the workplace also have a critical role to play.

BusinessNZ does have a role to play. That role should be representing the interests of businesses to ACC. When it sticks its hand out for effective taxpayer (or levy payer) funding, it becomes hopelessly compromised. How can it advocate for (for example) a reduction in levies when those levies help fund it?

Instead we have BusinessNZ defending ACC, themselves and the CTU, rather than sticking up for its members who I am sure the vast majority would like to see ACC more cost effective.

The goals and outcomes of the ACC courses appeared to have been misunderstood, O’Reilly said.

“The training part-funded by ACC is being run according to the brief set by ACC and is achieving the outcomes it was set up for. The objectives include ensuring that health and safety reps are able to reduce and remove workplace hazards, co-develop safety plans for their workplace, promote safety management among their co-workers, and train others to do the same.

“The course objectives are clearly specified and are being successfully delivered according to specifications.”

Contrary to claims by Williams, who is the spokesman for the anti-waste lobby group the Taxpayers’ Union, the training objective was not set in terms of reducing the number of workplace accidents in New Zealand, O’Reilly said.

But that’s the point. They should be.

What BusinessNZ and the CTU both overlook (because of course they get funded from the status quo) is the opportunity cost of the $19 million they have received. No one is saying what they have done is of no value. But think what could have been achieved if that $19 million had been spent on (for example) a campaign to reduce forestry accidents, or a campaign focusing on the five most dangerous industries.

I expect the CTU to not really grasp the reality that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that ACC should prioritise its limited budget to areas where it gets the best value for money. But I would have hoped Business NZ would realise this, especially as it is primarily their own members who fund ACC. This again show how hopelessly conflicted they have become on this issue, by allowing themselves to become part of the system they are meant to be a watchdog over.

The response from Business NZ is one of the reasons so many people have been supportive of the Taxpayers’ Union. Many people have complained to me that it has been some time since there has been a strong voice sticking up for those who fund the Government. Once upon a time Business NZ may have been that strong voice, but now it seems they’re about taking money from the Government, instead of demanding less wasteful spending on behalf of those who fund the Government.

Tags: , ,

15 Responses to “BusinessNZ misses the point”

  1. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    . But think what could have been achieved if that $19 million had been spent on … a campaign to reduce forestry accidents…

    Amen.

    Vote: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  2. RRM (9,919 comments) says:

    Once upon a time Business NZ may have been that strong voice, but now it seems they’re about taking money from the Government, instead of demanding less wasteful spending on behalf of those who fund the Government.

    BOOM :-)

    Vote: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  3. flipper (4,060 comments) says:

    A very good response to Phil O’Reilly David.

    Bus NZ has squandered an opportunity to cement a place as a repository of sound alternative economic advice to the Government. That opportunity occurred when Roger Kerr died and left a weakened NZBR. But thankfully the NZ Initiative has emerged and has pushed Bus NZ aside as THE repository of sound alternative advice..

    Bus NZ was a Brill driven initiative, and it seemed to be both smart and effective. But the BNZ’s pussy wussy comments on the ACC scam suggest that Phil needs to shape up or …..

    Of the CTU….what other than what we got was to be expected?

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  4. mikemikemikemike (325 comments) says:

    I look forward to the taxpayers union and subsequently your report on the wasteful $5 million to fund the next America’s cup. It was a gross expense amounting to nothing last time, and will likely continue to do nothing this time.

    (Insert TUI ad here)

    [DPF: Actually NZTU did a release yesterday criticizing a grant for a yacht race.]

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 6 You need to be logged in to vote
  5. NK (1,244 comments) says:

    This is a very interesting post.

    What BusinessNZ and the CTU both overlook (because of course they get funded from the status quo) is the opportunity cost of the $19 million they have received. No one is saying what they have done is of no value. But think what could have been achieved if that $19 million had been spent on (for example) a campaign to reduce forestry accidents, or a campaign focusing on the five most dangerous industries.

    I expect the CTU to not really grasp the reality that money doesn’t grow on trees, and that ACC should prioritise its limited budget to areas where it gets the best value for money. But I would have hoped Business NZ would realise this, especially as it is primarily their own members who fund ACC. This again show how hopelessly conflicted they have become on this issue, by allowing themselves to become part of the system they are meant to be a watchdog over.

    The response from Business NZ is one of the reasons so many people have been supportive of the Taxpayers’ Union. Many people have complained to me that it has been some time since there has been a strong voice sticking up for those who fund the Government. Once upon a time Business NZ may have been that strong voice, but now it seems they’re about taking money from the Government, instead of demanding less wasteful spending on behalf of those who fund the Government.

    The highlighted parts signify that for the Taxpayers Union it seems to be about re-prioritisation of spending, rather than reduction in spending.

    This highlights the standard mantra that the *right* are better economic managers; and that they know how to spend taxpayers money better. Of course there are a plethora of ways to spend taxpayers money; and I have been in elected positions having to make such decisions. It is not easy.

    It is much more difficult limiting or reducing such spending. I kind of expected the Taxpayers Union to argue for that, rather than say “spend it the way we think because it’s better spending”. It’s similar to the election campaigns when we hear of “better roads”, or “better health”. I have no idea what those mean.

    A lot of that argument is subjective because all organisations who ask for taxpayers money believe their cause is better than others.

    I’m not having a dig at the Taxpayers Union, so don’t get me wrong. I just want to highlight the difference between the two positions: Don’t spend the money v spend it over here instead of there.

    [DPF: NZTU believes in less wasteful spending, but also reducing govt spending as a proportion of the economy]

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  6. JeffW (326 comments) says:

    So Mikex4, I think what you are saying is that because the government funded the America’s Cup, all other government waste should be allowed to continue?

    Vote: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  7. Nick R (507 comments) says:

    I think the problem here is that the Minister decided to describe the contracts as a rort. Business NZ had little option but to respond to that. It’s one thing to allege that the contracts do not represent good use of taxpayer’s money. That’s a legitimate objection. But it’s quite another to allege a rort – that suggests bad faith.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  8. mikemikemikemike (325 comments) says:

    @JeffW – No, I’m saying that taxpayer union is obviously a self-interest group. They will ignore the wasteful spending that does not help anyone at all (or a tiny minority of people who don’t actually need help), but instead target funding of things they ‘don’t like’

    We shouldn’t have NZ on Air anymore than we should be expected to pay ACC levies for dumb people. It’s their risk, let them bear the cost of it. We need a bare minimum of a safety net to look after kids and people caught out by situations not of their making and that’s it. anything else is ‘waste’

    I used the yachting example because its pretty hard to cry poor when you are gifting money to an already wealthy sporting fraternity whose aim is to win a piece of silver, while shutting down a program that is aiming to help people with far less.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3 You need to be logged in to vote
  9. Dissenting View (3 comments) says:

    @mikemikemikemike re the sailing

    One Hundred Thousand Overboard

    Thursday, 16 January 2014, 10:19 am
    Press Release: New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union
    One Hundred Thousand Overboard

    16 JANUARY 2014

    Reacting to this morning’s NZ Herald report that organisers of a new Auckland to Bluff yacht race will get to keep $100,000 in taxpayer funding despite the cancellation of next month’s inaugural event, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams says:

    “It’s bad enough that one hundred thousand is being spent on sailing and not schools, but that it was all for nothing is an insult. At the very least, grants should be conditional on the event actually happening.”

    “Yachting is one of the richest sports, most Kiwi taxpayers can’t afford a boat but are subsidising sailing races. With the America’s cup there is some promotion of New Zealand, but this was a domestic competition.”

    “It’s an utter waste of money, with $100,000 of taxpayer cash going overboard. The race organisers should do the honourable thing and refund the money.” concludes Mr Williams.

    ENDS
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1401/S00045/one-hundred-thousand-overboard.htm

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  10. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    It didn’t help that Collins referred to this as a “scam” – wasteful quite probably, but to call it a scam is almost libel considering Business NZ and the CTU went through due process with ACC.
    Edit: Just noticed the comment from Nick K – snap.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  11. peterwn (3,271 comments) says:

    H&S safety courses that do not reduce workplace accidents are rather like the ‘Yes Minister’ hospital with no doctors, nurses or patients.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  12. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Meanwhile, Judith Collins and the CTU Secretary have had a discussion and Collins has agreed not to use the word “rort” anymore.
    In other words, tough talk for the media followed by a back down.
    And some people here think she should be the next leader of the National Party!

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote
  13. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    MikeG (and Nick R):
    Just read your comment. Yes Judith has done a back-track on her statements. I suspect privately she was told her comments could be grounds for libel.

    Vote: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  14. srylands (410 comments) says:

    “No, I’m saying that taxpayer union is obviously a self-interest group.”

    Mike you are missing the point. Any debate on government spending needs to be separated into its component parts. Here are two of them:

    1. Firstly there is “waste” which is running a health sand safety programme that does not actually improve health and safety. The taxpayer union seems to be about identifying government spending with poor economy, efficiency, or effectiveness. i.e. it is inefficient or it simply does not achieve stated objectives (or what should be pretty obvious objectives).

    2. Secondly there is a debate about the appropriateness and composition of government spending. Should we subsidise the Americas cup? Should we have WFF? Should we have time limited welfare?

    While we will have different views on (2) we should all agree on the undesirability of (1).

    Vote: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0 You need to be logged in to vote
  15. bc (1,367 comments) says:

    Mike, I remember seeing an item on the news last year about a ridiculous amount of taxpayers money that was spent producing glossy prospectuses for the asset sales that ended up having to dumped (no doubt at more expense).

    It wouldn’t surprise me if this cost more than this so called “rort” (according to Collins).

    Was there any mention of this by the Taxpayers Union? I think we all know the answer to that one.

    Vote: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1 You need to be logged in to vote