Seymour on budget waste and corporate welfare

David Seymour has used his Sunday Star-Times column to highlight some of Steve Joyce’s wasteful corporate welfare.

It’s Budget week and the message from National is the same as the past six years: no tax cuts.  Labour, meanwhile, want tax increases.

So, what better time to look at some government spending and simply ask: “Why?”  Surely, some of this money would be better spent on health, or education – or simply given back to people, so they can invest in businesses, their families, their communities, and themselves.

First up is the $56 million-a-year Marsden Fund, which bankrolls select ‘academic’ research.  Some of the science topics look kind of interesting, but what do New Zealand taxpayers really gain from funding research on Cultivating chamber music in Beethoven’s Vienna: a study in socio-musicology ($580,000); or anti-trade activist Jane Kelsey’s Transcending embedded neoliberalism in international economic regulation ($600,000); or Missing narratives of modern Chinese intellectual history: modernity and writings on art, 1900-1930 ($495,000)?

There are many, many more examples but Jane Kelsey’s troughing is atrocious and unnecessary. Most of the Marsden Fund is unnecessary.

Then there is NZ on Air, using around $130 million to subsidise programmes like season two of TheX Factor NZ  ($800,000); Mastermind ($685,360); Jono and Ben 2016 ($1,717,042); The Adam and Eve Show ($3,080,400); andFind Me a Maori Bride season 2′ ($590,000).

And interrupting these taxpayer-subsidised TV shows are annoyingly repetitive taxpayer-funded advertisements that seem to suggest the obvious, like “change your lightbulbs” (the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s advertising comes to $8m), and “don’t break traffic laws” (NZTA’s marketing budget is $16.5m).

Or how about the Major Events Development Fund, costing taxpayers $77.5m since Budget 2009 for causes like The Ultimate Waterman stand-up paddle boarding event ($1.2m) and the New Zealand Golf Open ($1.9m).

Golf is a rich man’s sport…and also very popular. If NZ Golf couldn’t raise $1.9M from members or sponsors then it really shouldn’t be holding its hand out. Same goes for the America’s Cup.

Are you a high-flying executive? Well, every year the Prime Minister’s Business Scholarships programme sends 12 senior executives and business owners to attend the world’s most prestigious business schools. Cost to the taxpayer: more than $500,000 since 2010.

Ever heard about International Business Growth Services, costing taxpayers $533m since Budget 2011?  What does it do?  And why can’t businesses pay for it themselves?

‘Science and innovation’ is often just code for “politician seeks photo-op with rocket”.   Callaghan Innovation ($165m a year) basically gives taxpayer money to businesses (including billionaire-owned overseas firms) without getting shares in return.  If they fail, like Gameloft, the French game designer of My Little Pony recently did, the taxpayer loses out.  If they succeed, the taxpayer doesn’t benefit.

All up, the Government actually wastes $1.3 billion a year on “corporate welfare” grants, funds, and subsidies.

This is Steve Joyce’s sandpit…he’s the king of Corporate Welfare.

This is all small change compared to the cost of Kiwirail – over $13b lost since 2008.  That’s over $5000 for every household.  Or enough to cover 480 flag referendums.  Or 16,250 years’ worth of X Factor.  It’s like they say: “a billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

For $13b we could have rebuilt the main trunk line as a truck and busway and got rid of the expensive boondoggle that is Kiwirail.

National, Labour, and the Greens say we can’t afford tax cuts, making hardworking taxpayers feel guilty asking for them.  The truth is, we can afford tax relief for every worker while maintaining (or even increasing) spending on core services.  We just have to cut the waste and focus on the basics.

Now let’s see if Jacinda is willing to defend any of the spending I’ve named.

Oh she would, plus another $1.9billion in Health plus another $1.7billion on free university…and I’m sure they have a list several billions long on extra spending that they would do.


– Fairfax


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  • Gazza

    Makes me laugh when you hear the cries about how Auckland Council should sticking to their knitting and not getting involved in cultural fancies…..well here we have the Government doing the same thing…..they need to stick to their knitting as well! Oh and the comment about golf; rich people or rich organisations don’t stay rich by spending money, if they can get it for free then why wouldn’t they….don’t blame them, blame the idiots that allow it to happen.

  • Canucktoo

    I support blue skies research via the Marsden Fund provided it is spent on hard science – stuff that can make a difference. The rest is mumbo jumbo.

  • TM

    great article and why you should vote ACT. This is a huge waste of money and should be returned to taxpayers. Any fund that dispenses money will in of itself be wastefull due to the need to have governance and management etc etc – so a decent % is wasted before you even start with the cheques.

  • metalnwood

    I understand years ago wanting to fund ‘NZ content’ for TV but I have a feeling that the content that we were trying to fund was not envisioned to be the nonsense franchise stuff.

    If people want to watch that you may as well watch the US, british, australian, whichever one as it is all the same. It’s hardly NZ content to have bought the rights to a format and do the same thing.

  • SaggyNaggy

    It seems like Seymour cops it one way or the other. Either he’s accused of being a Key lapdog, or he’s accused of being a fifth column by being too critical. I think this article shows his worth.

    • kehua

      He can really say whatever he wants, he is only there because of National`s benevolence, one could say he is the ultimate political trougher.

      • SaggyNaggy

        I was unaware that the seat of Epsom was in National’s gift. My understanding is that every three years voters make up their own minds, and that National has contested the seat and lost four times in a row now. You can suggest, not without justification, that they are not really trying, but I would suggest back that ACT tends to be very good at local campaigns, and National would have to put up someone pretty special in Epsom if they really wanted to try and kill ACT off. It’s hardly benevolence that keeps ACT in parliament, but thousands of voters in Epsom voting practically. Which is how it works in every electorate in New Zealand.

  • How could you keep a straight face when applying for a grant to write a study on Cultivating chamber music in Beethoven’s Vienna: a study in socio-musicology…….. Getting a cheque back for nearly 600k would be like winning the troughers lottery. These people have suckled at the taxpayer tit for so long that they can’t see how ridiculous it is, and I’m picking those handing out these grants out have never existed outside of academia either and see these studies as worthwhile.

    If this is their specialty topic of study – it’s no wonder they can’t get a job in the real world

  • JEL51

    That one short piece had more worthwhile ideas in it than anything both Andy & Grant combined, have had all year.

  • sandalwood789

    Then there is the *bottomless pit* of *local government* spending.
    Key hasn’t even *looked* at it, let alone cut it back. There must be at least $1 billion per year going down the gurgler there.

    What about useless outfits like HRC, RRC and Women’s Affairs? They should all be axed (and any others like them).

    There are still *mountains* of fat to be cut from spending.

  • Legallysane

    After reading this item, I think I may be voting for the Act Party in 2017 if they promise to get rid of this atrocious waste.

    • Uncle Bully

      and forego their refugee policy

  • Sally

    Don’t forget Creative NZ who handed out over a million dollars worth of funding recently. Included $20,000 to The Spinoff Review of Books, and to numerous authors, poets etc.