Brash, budgets and bollocks – a story about task force spending has downplayed the savings

At first blush, Alf was tempted to think it’s a bloody good thing we Nats dumped Don Brash and opted for John Key as our leader.

Alf has a lot of time for dear old Don, but it seemed the bugger hasn’t kept his 2025 task force costs under control, and the task force’s budget is miniscule compared with the Government’s budget, which Bill English is keeping under very strict control.

If Don happened to be our PM, in other words, who knows how deeply into the shit we would have sunk by now.

Alf’s musings on the prospects of a budgetary blowout in the billions of dollars were triggered by a headline in the Dom-Post:


Brash blows fees budget

Bugger me, Alf muttered (as he is apt to do on being astonished by disconcerting news about his colleagues and mates).

He proceeded to read:

The controversial 2025 Task Force – which recommended slashing government spending – blew its entire three-year budget for chairman Don Brash’s meeting fees in just one year.

Dr Brash was paid $1200 a day to chair the commission, and the Government expected to pay him for eight full days of meetings and preparation in 2009-10 and four days for the following two years.

But documents made public by Treasury show Dr Brash received $39,450 in the first year – four times the amount earmarked for his first year on the taskforce.

Other members, who were paid $1000 a day, received $34,000 – $2000 above the estimated budget for 10 meetings.

Surely this could not be so.

Don – don’t forget – is the sort of bloke who washes his own socks and undies when he stays in hotels, to keep his expenses down.

As it transpires, the buggers at the Dom-Post took their time to get around to advising readers:

The task force came in under budget, however, because it did not spend as much as anticipated on outside experts – out of a $100,000 budget just $18,913 was spent.

What was that again?

Oh, yes. The task force came in under budget.

That’s surely what matters.

Dr Brash said the cost of his fees reflected the fact that he was working “close to fulltime” on the 2025 report. “I certainly worked a lot more than 10 days … working with the author, working through drafts etc.”

It would have been “utterly absurd” to expect the task force to complete its work in the four days set aside by the Government.

Exactly.

The task force has met three times so far this year and – Don says – will issue its second report by October.

The silliness of the Dom-Post is reflected in a question it put to Don, to find whether he thought the task force was doing useful work.

So what did they suppose he might say in response?

No, the task force is doing useless work, but hey – it’s a nice little earner?

In fact, he responded:

“The key issue the task force raised for me was the dramatic increase in government spending over the last six years. This is a very relevant issue for New Zealanders to debate.”

The task force – for those who might have forgotten – was set up under the confidence and supply agreement with ACT.

Its job is to look at how to grow the economy to close the wage gap with Australia.

The Dom-Post does the public some sort of a service by setting out the numbers:

$450,000 budgeted for the task force over its three-year life.

In its first year it spent $153,929, mostly on meeting fees – $39,450 to Dr Brash and $34,000 to the other members.

Catering cost $1167, taxi, telephone and other costs $1698, travel and accommodation $11,700 and external services $18,913.

Other expenses included the cost of its principal adviser and analyst at $47,000.

But it should have gone further and reminded readers how Don looked after public money when he was governor of the Reserve Bank.

It should have dug up the Reserve Bank press statement (issued on 30 July 1999) that was headed:


Governor washes his own socks

The statement quoted the chairman of the Non-Executive Directors Committee of the Reserve Bank Board at the time, Mr Bill Wilson, who said:

“Unlike many central bank chiefs, Dr Brash travels without an entourage. On all of his overseas trips and most of his New Zealand ones, he travels entirely without the aid of staff.

Furthermore, as a matter of policy he flies economy class within New Zealand and Australia and business class internationally.

In line with a Bank policy he instigated, he routinely washes his own clothes when travelling to avoid incurring the expense of using laundry services. Dr Brash is always very mindful of his accountability to the New Zealand taxpayer,” Mr Wilson said.

The bloody hacks at the Dom-Post have done Don and the public a disservice by not bringing this dimension into its snivelling story.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: