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Look what the nice man offered me!

25 February 2019 2 comments

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From an email recently received;

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from: Edwin Gichana <edwin@valsenfiduciaries.com>
to: “fmacskasy@gmail.com” <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
cc: David Morema <david@valsenfiduciaries.com>
date: 9 Jan 2019, 06:53
subject: Seychelles International Trust with Bank Account
mailed-by: valsenfiduciaries.com
Signed by: valsenfiduciaries.onmicrosoft.com

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Dear Esteemed professional,

We trust this email finds you well.

We are writing to you to inform you of the availability of a versatile wealth management structure in Seychelles. “The Seychelles International Trust”

We set up and administer Seychelles trusts at very competitive rates while providing you or your clients a highly personalized service.

Below are some of the landmark features of a Seychelles International Trust

a) Zero tax on Trusts

b) Pocket friendly prices – some of the lowest prices across all jurisdictions

c) Speedy formation

d) Light annual compliance

e) Re-domiciliation is permitted

f) No access to public records

g) It comes with a bank account to support operations

Popular Uses of a Seychelles International Trust:

ü Used for asset protection, tax planning and as a family and succession planning vehicle

ü Used for collective investments (Mutual Fund) structures

ü Can be used for the benefit of employees (ESOP)

ü Can do commercial transactions through Seychelles IBC

For more information Seychelles Trusts and other Estate Planning solutions please visit our website or contact us on the details below.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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Firstly, it’s deeply and amusingly ironic that a dodgy outfit sending out random, spam solicitations to unknown people expects confidentiality and “legal privilege”.  It’s a miracle they didn’t email an official at Interpol, FBI, or other law enforcement agency.

Secondly, me being a polite bloke, I emailed back, declining to participate, and offering certain observations;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Edwin Gichana <edwin@valsenfiduciaries.com>
date: 9 Jan 2019, 14:43
subject: Re: Seychelles International Trust with Bank Account

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Kia ora Edwin,

Thank you very much for taking the time to email me regarding your offer of a tax-dodging Trust in the Seychelles.

No doubt you have many wealthy clients who partake of your services, thereby avoiding/escaping paying taxes in their own country.

You may wish to ponder that the avoidance of paying tax is one of the leading causes of sovereign governments unable to provide basic health, education, housing, and transport services for their people. This creates poverty and a rising sense of hopelessness.

It also provides fuel for extremist right-wing and ultra-religious organisations as the powerless; the poor; the disaffected seek answers and solutions from outside the mainstream.

So the next time there is a riot or civil war or some other social upheaval – just ask yourself what part you and your colleagues played in the struggle between the Haves and the Have Nots. As with drug trafficking, cross-borders sex-slave trade, child-porn websites, and international arms industry, your profession is not one that I would encourage my own children to engage in.

I have dozens of dollars and will be investing them in ethical services and paying my fair share of tax on them.

I sincerely hope you find an honest job soon. (We have vacancies for fruit-picking here in New Zealand.)

Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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Ok,  taking-the-piss out of tax-dodging companies, touting for business via spam-mail, is one thing.

Foreign companies touting for business that would erode our own country’s tax base by shifting company and personal wealth to secret tax havens – is another. In some ways, it should be considered a hostile economic act.

New Zealand has diplomatic as well as commercial dealings with the Republic of Seychelles since 1992. We also – apparently – have  something called a “Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS” (Base Erosion and Profit Shifting) – which supposedly includes Seychelles.

The Multilateral Convention replaced a Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) that was being negotiated by MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade) in 2010.

According to MFAT;

Double Tax Agreements (DTAs) reduce tax impediments to cross-border trade and investment and assist in the prevention of tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) are a limited form of DTA that are concerned only with assisting in the prevention of tax avoidance and tax evasion.

Those negotiations were never concluded, and the Multilateral Convention came into effect instead.

Organised through the OECD, the “Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS” stated in it’s opening paragraph;

The Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (the Convention) is one of the outcomes of the OECD/G20 Project to tackle Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (the “BEPS Project”) i.e. tax planning strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax rules to artificially shift profits to low or no-tax locations where there is little or no economic activity, resulting in little or no overall corporate tax being paid.

In effect, the OECD Multilateral Convention was designed to close down (or restrict greatly) the activities of tax havens, as revealed in the millions of leaked documents from Panamanian law firm, and corporate tax-dodging service provider, Mossack Fonseca in 2015 (aka, the “Panama Papers“).  Both New Zealand and Seychelles were revealed to be complicit in international tax evasion practices.

Seychelles signed the (OECD) Multilateral Convention on 7 June 2017;

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However, as far as the author can ascertain, Seychelles has opted-out or reduced it’s obligations to the OECD Multilateral Convention through a raft of exclusionary clauses in it’s document, “Status of List of Reservations and Notifications at the Time of Signature“.

For example, amongst the many provisions Seychelles has exempted itself is the salient raison d’être for the very existence of the OECD Multilateral Convention – “Article 10 – Anti-abuse Rule for Permanent Establishments Situated in Third Jurisdictions“. This paragraph refers to income earned in one jurisdiction (Country “A”)  being treated as non-taxable by a second jurisdiction (Country “B”) under a “Covered Tax Agreement” (a previous agreement between countries which allowed profits not to be “second taxed” – or taxed at all).

The OECD Multilateral Convention would have prevented an Income Earner (eg, a corporation) from using Country B, purely for low or nil taxation purposes, and insisted that said Income Earner pay tax in Country A;

“In such a case, any income to which the provisions of this paragraph apply shall remain taxable according to the domestic law of the other Contracting Jurisdiction, notwithstanding any other provisions of the Covered Tax Agreement.”

Seychelles declined to bound by that simple statement.

The language of the Convention and the Seychelles document are framed in legalese, and are difficult for the lay person to interpret.  But the upshot is that Seychelles remains a tax haven – despite being a supposed signatory to the OECD Multilateral Convention.

Indeed, Seychelles’ status as a tax haven is currently touted by several firms specialising in tax dodging activities:-

From Offshore Protection.com;

Seychelles diligently encourages local and foreign investment; thus it offers:

  • Low government fees
  • Tax-resident low-tax and non-resident tax free structures
  • A growing matrix of tax treaties used for investment into other countries
  • An international trade zone

[…]

If you are looking for a tax haven with a solid secrecy policy, attractive offshore business laws, Seychelles may be the perfect choice for your next offshore company formation.

From Taxhavens.biz;

Seychelles as a tax haven is one of the most desired tax havens available to date. The government of Seychelles has invested a lot in the country in order to make it the tax haven that it is today. Seychelles as a tax haven has seen the modification of legislation which led to a modern but very strict offshore sector in the islands. The laws which govern the offshore tax haven of Seychelles provide asset protection, reduction of tax liabilities, privacy and confidentiality for individuals and corporations.

Disturbingly, Taxhavens.biz also promotes our own country on it’s website;

Although New Zealand is said not to be a tax haven there are certain features which make people associate the jurisdiction with tax havens. The fact that the country has offshore services which includes offshore business entities and offshore trust formation tend to qualify New Zealand as a tax haven.

No wonder New Zealand featured in the Panama Papers with links to tax dodging. Economist Shamubeel Eaqub condemned our secrective Trust laws as “firmly in a moral grey zone” and that “we have a moral duty to ensure our rules and regulations do not facilitate dishonest practices by others”.

From Fidelity Corporate Services Ltd;

Seychelles International Business Company (IBC)

Seychelles IBC – an International Business Company – is the most popular and versatile type of offshore corporation available in Seychelles. Similar to other classic offshore companies, Seychelles IBC is designed to engage in international business. Being an IBC, it is subject to minimum red-tape. While being obliged to keep internal records and registries in good order, a Seychelles IBC does not nave to submit any financial reports to public file. There is also no mandatory audit requirement.

[…]

Zero tax

A Seychelles IBC, by the definition of the law, is not subject to any tax or duty on income or profits. Article 361.(1) of the Seychelles International Business Companies Act, 2016, states as follows:

361.(1) A company, including all the income and profits of a company, is exempt from the Business Tax Act.

In a similar fashion, a Seychelles IBC is also also exempt from any stamp duties on all transactions relating to its business, in particular on any transfers of property to or by the company, and on any transactions in respect of the shares, debt obligations or other securities of the IBC.

Essentially, a Seychelles IBC is a completely tax-free offshore corporation, insofar as it complies with a few simple rules of operation. The main requirement is that a Seychelles IBC should not pursue business within the territory of the Seychelles (except, of course, it may enter into business with any other Seychelles IBC`s). The law provides that all exemptions for a Seychelles IBC shall remain in force for a period of twenty years from the date of incorporation of the IBC.

These provisions are enshrined into PART XXI of the Seychelles IBC Act (Articles 361, 362 and 363).

To strengthen secrecy, “virtual offices” are offered to companies utilising Seychelles as a tax haven;

In standard configuration, a Seychelles IBC would only have a Registered Address and Registered Agent in Seychelles, thus meeting the mandatory minimum domestic presence requirements. However, the usage of the Registered Address for routine business purposes is usually very limited. An additional functionality can be provided to an IBC by choosing some of the optional virtual office services.

A virtual office facility may include mail and fax forwarding service, shared or dedicated telephone and fax numbers, telephone call handling service, document preparation and re-mailing service. Using one or more of these optional services will contribute a more substantial “bricks and mortar” appearance for Your Seychelles IBC.

“Virtual offices” are a hallmark of tax-havens, giving the appearance of a company or individual being based in a jurisdiction, but often it is little more than “mail and fax forwarding service, shared or dedicated telephone and fax numbers, telephone call handling service, document preparation and re-mailing service” to create the illusion of a “substantial “bricks and mortar” appearance for Your Seychelles IBC”.

And if the above weren’t enough, Seychelles compounds secrecy using “International Trusts”, which can further obscure companies, individuals, and their income;

Seychelles International Trusts are commonly used in conjunction with the Seychelles International Business Companies. By using a trust to hold shares in the IBC, an additional layer of legal protection is provided for the owner. Moreover, this can enable beneficiaries to defer or avoid any possible tax on the profits of the IBC for an indefinite period.

One promoter of laissez faire tax-free jurisdictions, “Nomad Capitalist” has gone so far as to warn of the extreme nature of Seychelles as a tax haven;

I’m all for the creation of new tax havens. It’s refreshing to see governments coming to the realization that their bread is best buttered by business being conducted in their country…

[…]

…I’ve seen a number of small business owners set up shop in the Seychelles, often with disastrous results. Just recently, I advised an internet marketer get almost $100,000 from a frozen merchant account because the company refused to pay offshore companies in shady places like the Seychelles.

[…]

Any jurisdiction that doesn’t require you to keep books, maintain records, undergo any type of audit, pay any type of tax, or report your activities in any way is either on everyone’s blacklist or about to be on it. Seychelles falls into that category, which is why I get quite a few emails each year from people who have a mess to clean up there.

When even a free-marketeer, low-tax capitalist looks askance at a tax haven like Seychelles, it should ring alarm bells.

Seychelles has not taken it’s obligations seriously under the OECD “Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS”.

Seychelles continues to operate internationally as a Privateer-Pirate, seeking to loot other countries of their tax revenue (ie, “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting”).

Seychelles tax-dodging firms are touting for business in countries like ours.

So why do we still maintain diplomatic as well as commercial ties with Seychelles? What possible gain do we get from ties to another country – albeit a fellow Commonwealth member – that is practically waging covert economic war against our our tax base?

I put that question to Finance Minister, Grant Robertson;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: Grant Robertson <g.robertson@ministers.govt.nz>
date: 12 Jan 2019
subject: Tax havens

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Kia ora Mr Robertson,

Would you be able to comment on the following story regarding Seychelles’ ongoing activites as a tax haven (see [above] ).

A recent email to me touted for business, offering to set up a tax-dodging trust in the Seychelles. Naturally, I declined the offer.

However, that raises serious questions why we continue to have links with Seychelles when they remain a tax haven and are not fulfilling international commitments under the OECD’s “Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS”.

Specifically, why do we continue to have diplomatic links with a country that actively undermines our tax base by offering it’s services to New Zealand citizens as a tax haven?

What benefit do we gain by continuing diplomatic and commercial links with Seychelles?

Will your Coalition Government undertake specific measures to combat Seychelles’ ongoing tax haven activities, especially as they relate to our country?

Will your government lodge a protest with the Seychelles’ government for their country’s tax-haven companies approaching New Zealand citizens to engage in tax dodging activities?

I look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.

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Regards,
-Frank Macskasy

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If there is no possible benefit to maintaining contact with Seychelles, and if that nation continues to actively allow it’s citizens to undermine our tax-base, then we should cut ties immediately. A country that threatens our economic activity is not a friend – it is a hostile force.

The letter to Grant Robertson was forwarded to Minister of Revenue, Stuart Nash. Five weeks later, Minister Nash responded.

He began by stating;

The OECD, and its monitoring agency the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes (the Global Forum), are working to implement a global standard for transparency and exchange of tax information. I can assure you that New Zealand continues to be a strong voice in what has become a significant international effort to ensure all Global Forum member jurisdictions comply with these standards.

In 2009, the Global Forum was commissioned to undertake comprehensive peer reviews and other monitoring, to assess compliance with the new international standards. The G20 stepped in after the global financial crisis to asist the OECD and establish oversight. The Global Forum now reports directly to the G20, which is positioned to apply sanctions if necessary to ensure compliance. This development has resulted in a significant change in international attitudes, with jurisdictions typically now making stringent efforts to address identified deficiencies to avoid being treated as non-compliant.

Note that Minister Nash claims there has been “a significant change in international attitudes“.

It is unclear how “significant” that “change” has been when – as pointed out above – Seychelles’ law specifically allows for any International Business Company  to “not [be] subject to any tax or duty on income or profits” and furthermore is clear in that IBCs are “a completely tax-free offshore corporation, insofar as it complies with a few simple rules of operation”.

Furthermore, Minister Nash then claimed;

The breakdown of secrecy has marked the end of tax havens, given that the key feature protecting tax havens was secrecy. Schemes will no doubt continue to be developed and promoted with the intention of facilitating tax avoidance and evasion, but in the current international environment these will become more difficult, costly and risky for the taxpayers to use.

Minister Nash’s insistence that there has been a “breakdown of secrecy” which has “marked the end of tax havens” appears to be premature. These are not just random “schemes” being promoted. They are carefully planned business structures supported by Seychelles’ law.  The legal use of “virtual offices” under Seychelles’ law does not “breakdown” secrecy – it facilitates it.

Whatever sanctions might apply from the OECD or G20 has not deterred Seychelles officially promoting itself as a tax haven.

The point I made above remains unanswered: Why do we still maintain diplomatic as well as commercial ties with Seychelles – a country that is practically waging covert economic war against our our tax base?

The government appears pre-occupied with other matters. Like China.

Postscript

Seychelles has a listing on both Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica. Curiously, neither make any reference to Seychelles’ notorious reputation as a tax haven. If any such references have ever been made on those entries, they have been ‘scrubbed’ clean.

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References

Seychelles News Agency: Blue economy, climate change top the agenda between Seychelles, New Zealand.

IRD: Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS (the MLI)

IRD: Tax treaties – recent changes

MFAT: Double Tax Agreements

OECD: Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty Related Measures to Prevent BEPS

Wikipedia: Panama Papers

Wikipedia: Panama Papers – New Zealand

Wikipedia: Wikipedia: Panama Papers – Seychelles

OECD: Signatories and Parties to the Multilateral Convention to Implement Tax Treaty related measures to prevent Base Erosion and Profit Shifting

OECD: BEPS – MLI Position – Status of List of Reservations and Notifications at the Time of Signature

Offshore-Protection.com: Seychelles Offshore

Tax Havens: Seychelles

Tax Havens: New Zealand

Fairfax media: Panama Papers – More New Zealand links to come

Fairfax media: Shamubeel Eaqub – Panama Papers show NZ is complicit in criminal behaviour

Fidelity Corporate Services: Seychelles International Business Company (IBC)

Fidelity Corporate Services: Virtual Office Facility Service Description And General Conditions

Fidelity Corporate Services: Seychelles International Trusts

Nomad Capitalist: Four offshore company jurisdictions to avoid in 2018

Wikipedia: Seychelles

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Seychelles

Additional

NZ Herald: IRD rubbishes Oxfam claims of tax evasion by big drug companies

Business Insider: How the super-wealthy hide billions using tax havens and shell companies

The Guardian: We’re losing $240bn a year to tax avoidance. Who really ends up paying?

The Guardian: Tax havens shielding companies responsible for deforestation and overfishing

TV1 News: Panama Papers investigation – ‘NZ absolutely, conclusively is a tax haven’

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists: The Revolution Will Be Digitized

Other blogs

The Standard: Why was John Key singled out by Panama Papers hacker?

Previous related blogposts

Panama Papers: Matthew Hooton’s Alternate Universes on Twitter and Radio NZ

Dodgy tax havens and even dodgier Peter Dunne’s memory

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 20 February 2019.

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National MP Mark Mitchell and his breath-taking display of arrogance

18 April 2016 5 comments

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MarkMitchell-banner2

 

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In a recent Radio NZ “Morning Report”  interview, National MP, Mark Mitchell, revealed the government’s true objective with the so-called “TPPA Roadshow” and Parliamentary Select Committee hearings. Behaviour by other Select Committee members has also drawn harsh criticism by some members of the public who attended the sessions.

The Roadshow and Select Committee hearings are being held by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) and  Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee (respectively)  to seek public submissions on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, aka, the TPPA;

More than 330 people have asked to give their views on the controversial trade treaty to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Committee in person.

The committee will hold hearings in Christchurch on 31 March and 1 April, and in Auckland the following week, before returning to Wellington, where it has already heard some submissions.

Committee chair Mark Mitchell said there would be more than enough time for the hearings.

“I’ve made sure that we allow plenty of time, so that’s going to allow us enough time to be able to hear everyone that wants to make an oral submission to the committee.”

Mitchell,  the Chairperson  of the Select Committee, was defending the shortened reporting time of the Select Committee back to Parliament. As Mei Heron reported for Radio NZ;

MPs have been given just five days to consider hundreds of submissions on the controversial TPP trade deal after the timeframe was drastically cut from four weeks.

The select committee was originally give a month to write its report and present it back to Parliament.

Opposition MPs were furious at the sudden change and they called it an attack on democracy.

The trade deal has already been roundly criticised by its opponents for being too secretive and lacking consultation.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee had been hearing submissions on the TPP from hundreds of people across the country and that will continue until the end of the month.

But opposition members on the committee say they were told yesterday the government wanted to cut down the time they had to analyse the submissions, so the legislation could get through by the end of the year.

Predictably, Opposition members of the Select Committee expressed dismay and anger at National’s unilateral change of the Committee’s timetable, with  Green MP, Kennedy Graham, roundly condemning the move;

“It’s just a slap of indifference and dismissal of some very sincere, very capable and hard-working New Zealand people. It shows it up for what it is – which is essentially a ‘roadshow’ with a predetermined end.”

Graham’s assertion that the public submission process  “ is essentially a ‘roadshow’ with a predetermined end”, is confirmed after  a startling admission by the Committee’s chairperson, Mark Mitchell. On “Morning Report” on 8 April, Mitchell vented his obvious frustration with the New Zealand public;

@ 3.45

“I think, I think some people are very set in their views. And to be honest with you my feeling is that it doesn’t matter what evidence we provide or how we try to balance the information that could allay those fears, they’re already set in their minds. They’ve decided what position they going to take and it’s going to be very hard to probably move them of that position. But there’s other people that are just genuinely worried about it because there has been some misinformation put into the public debate. And often when they get the full story, and of course the Minister’s done a very comprehensive, um, series, at which he’s continuing to do public meetings throughout the country. I think he’s in excess of about 30 or 35 now. Is that people actually just wanted to have some proper information around the TPP.”

(alt. link)

Mitchell complained that  “it doesn’t matter what evidence we provide or how we try to balance the information that could allay those fears, they’re already set in their minds” and “they’ve decided what position they going to take and it’s going to be very hard to probably move them of that position”.

For perhaps the first time in the history of the Westminster Parliamentary process,  a member of Parliament has suggested that the Select Committee process is no longer a forum where the public offer submissions for their elected representatives to listen and consider. Instead, Mitchell’s comments indicate that Select Committees are now viewed as useful tools for  dissemination of  “proper information around the TPP” for the public and businesses.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website page appears to echo Mitchell’s views on the purpose  of MFAT’s travelling “Road Shows”;

The Government will run a number of events on key TPP outcomes. These will be aimed at ensuring businesses are able to prepare to take advantage of new opportunities presented by TPP’s entry into force, and to provide information of interest to the wider public and other stakeholders. These events follow the extensive public consultations carried out during TPP negotiations.

[…]

The Government is running TPP roadshows on the outcomes of TPP for New Zealand. Members of the public are welcome. The roadshows will also help businesses prepare to take advantage of new opportunities presented by TPP’s entry into force

However, the agendas  of both the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee’s submission process and  MFAT’s  “Road Shows” is not shared with the Parliamentary Office of the Clerk;

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee is now calling for public submissions on the TPPA and the four related intellectual property treaties. Each treaty has a national interest analysis which sets out the advantages and disadvantages for New Zealand of becoming a party to it.

You have until Friday 11 March 2016 to share your views about these documents with the parliamentary select committee by making a submission.

The committee will consider the written submissions it receives and they will be posted on the Parliament website when released by the committee.

The committee is also expecting to hear from submitters who wish to speak to their submission. Committee staff will contact those submitters to organise a time for them to speak to the committee. Hearings may take place outside of Wellington depending on the number of submitters from each region.

Mark Mitchell seems not to have received the emailed memo from the House Clerk.

The “Road Shows” have also drawn criticism from the way they have been carefully orchestrated. From a Radio NZ story;

Albert-Eden Local Board member Graeme Easte said the event was more of a show and tell, in which Trade Minister Todd McClay and the senior negotiator described what they were doing.

“It was very much pro the agreement,” Mr Easte said.

“Even though half the questioners were clearly sceptical or anti, there wasn’t really an opportunity for a discussion or a debate.”

A member of the public complained that the “Road Show” was being held at a time guaranteed to minimise public attendance;

One placard holder, a teacher, has slipped away from school and down the road to make that point: “Let’s consult widely with the public. How about on a Monday morning when everyone is at work? Yeah right!”

Blogger, ‘SkepticNZ’, related his experience at the Dunedin Roadshow event;

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Now attending a Roadshow is not as simple as popping along.  In fact in order to attend you have to first register via the MFAT website.
 
The good people at MFAT no doubt in the interest of open debate and inclusion have the following requirement upon interested citizens to gain entry.
 

Please note:

You will need to bring photo ID (e.g. passport or drivers licence) in order to collect your name badge when you attend the roadshow. You may not be permitted entry to the roadshow unless you present photo ID.Entry to the roadshow on the day is entirely at the discretion of the event organizers. Disruptive, threatening or offensive behavior will not be tolerated and may result in you being required to leave the venue.

You must comply with the instructions and directions of the event organizers. You may be required to leave the roadshow if you do not do so.

Right, have you got that? before you can enter Mr McClay’s ‘open debate, informed discussion’ you first have to agree to doing what you are told.
 
Being a curious and dutiful citizen I prepared my identification, completed my registration, and printed off my MFAT confirmation including individual Bar Code, and off I went to the show.
 
On arriving at the Venue in Harrop street, I was greeted by some very friendly people keen to hear my views about the TPPA, and happy to give me information sheets.  But enough about the protesters, onto the front door.
 
The front door itself was guarded by a heavy police presence supported by private security contractors from Amourguard.  A young man from Armourguard asked for my photo ID and then told me I wasn’t on the list and asked me to stand to one side while they check if I could enter.  Which under a watchful Police eye I did.  
 
I didn’t have long to wait before another slightly older young man from Armourguard came to speak to me and ask if I had my registration form, which of course I did.  After a moment of reading my licence, checking my registration , and checking my licence again I was allowed in the door.
 
Hallelujah I haven’t had so much scrutiny to enter a door ever in my life.  Not even as an under age drinker in  the last century, nor  at Passport control at Heathrow, have I ever faced such close observation and suspicion.  Crikey there must be something really really important inside.
 
Inside the door was more police, and more security, and a desk to register to attend the day.  I must say the folks from Orbit (Event Staff) were genuinely friendly and helpful.  In a very short time I was given my ID Card and lanyard and direct to the stair well.  Apparently the Lift was out of order.  This was when yet another Security Officer asked to search my bag.  Being a good citizen I handed my bag over.  Apparently my pen and paper and Banana for morning tea did not constitute dangerous items and I was allow to begin my long climb up the stairs.
 
The climb itself was uneventful except for the presence of Security Personnel on every landing carefully watching our every move to ensure we went were we where supposed to.
 
Upon reaching the top floor I was greeted by even more security staff and a lobby to wait in.  The lobby  contained some MFAT TPPA Fact Sheets and that is about it.
 
After about 10 minutes of standing and being watched we were all allowed to enter the conference room itself.
 
I must admit by now my expectations where very high. After all why have a small army of security guards if there wasn’t something spectacular inside?

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SkepticNZ’s experience is worth reading in it’s entirety.

Another member of the public, Tim O’Shea, who was presenting a submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee on 8 April in Auckland, became upset when he realised that “thirty minutes in, and two National MP’s are missing“;

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David Bennet - TPPA select committee hearing

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Acknowledgement: Image courtesy of Tim O’Shea

Tim also complained thatof the three who are here, [National MP] David Bennett… spent more time looking at his smart phone than he has spent listening to oral submissions.” [See image above]

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tim oshea - facebook - select committee comment and photo

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Tim has lodged a formal complaint with the Foreign Affairs Defence Trade Committee chairperson;

“On Thursday I observed that the hearing was well attended by those on the Select Committee, and that all submitters (whether pro or anti the TPPA) were dealt with in a predominantly fair and courteous way. All attending members showed respect for those submitters by making a clear effort to listen to, and look at, the various submitters. The day was a long and busy one – i.e. there were many submissions, and very few unplanned interludes and gaps between the submissions.

On Friday, several submitters expressed their dissatisfaction and disappointment at how few government committee members were in attendance compared to the previous day. I counted just three (including the chairman), compared to five who attended on the Thursday.

That in itself, however, was of less concern to me than the rude, discourteous and totally disrespectful behaviour shown by one of the attending committee members, namely National MP David Barnett.

Despite the fact that the hearing didn’t start until the relatively leisurely time of 10:00am, Mr Barnett clearly felt, as the attached photo that I took at 10:22 shows, that looking at his cell phone was far more important than listening to, or looking at, the first THREE submitters !

It wasn’t until part the way through the third submission that Mr Barnett eventually put his phone down.”

When Tim asked David Barnett “to put his cell phone down for ten minutes to show some courtesy and respect“;

“The chairman, Mark Mitchell told me that I should not address committee members directly in that way, and that the members had other important work to do during the hearing – I responded that I also had work to do, and that the least he could do is listen to me and show some respect.”

Tim added;

“As I continued to the end of my submission, David Barnett showed complete and utter contempt by looking at his cell phone for the whole time that I presented, showing no interest at all, and not even looking up at me. Chairman Mark Mitchell said nothing about it whatsoever.’

The complainant claims that Committee Chairperson, Mark Mitchell then criticised Tim for his “bad behaviour”. According to Tim O’Shea;

“Mr Mitchell then told me that he didn’t like the fact that I stood up to do my submission.”

In an obviously increasingly tense atmosphere, another Select Committee member, Labour’s David Shearer, was allegedly over-heard referring to Tim as an  “arrogant twat”  to fellow-committee member,  Green MP Kennedy Graham.

David Shearer is a known supporter of the TPPA. In January this year, he was censured by Labour-leader Andrew Little for breaking ranks with Labour over the TPPA.

The complaint is on-going.

Whatever purpose the “Road Show” has, it clearly has upset members of the public. According to comments made by Mark Mitchell, and repeated on an MFAT website, Green MP, Kennedy Graham was correct when he condemned the exercise as;

“…essentially a roadshow with a predetermined end.”

Certain MPs  seem to hold the attitude that they are not so much highly-paid civil-servants, elected to represent us  in Parliament – but instead “members [who] had other important work to do”. These MPs forget that they hold office at our pleasure.

The clear perception is that public participation is not welcome at the “TPPA Roadshow” or Select Committee.

The farce surrounding the TPPA continues.

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Appendix1

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee Role MP Name Party, Electorate
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Chairperson Mitchell, Mark National Party, Rodney
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Deputy-Chairperson Reti, Shane National Party, Whangarei
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Bennett, David National Party, Hamilton East
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Graham, Kennedy Green Party, List
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Muller, Todd National Party, Bay of Plenty
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Ross, Jami-Lee National Party, Botany
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Shearer, David Labour Party, Mt Albert
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Tabuteau , Fletcher NZ First, List
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Tisch, Lindsay National Party, Waikato
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Member Woods, Megan Labour Party, Wigram

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Appendix2

Trade Minister Todd McClay appears to be labouring under an illusion when said;

“But you’ve got to remember it’s been over seven years or more of negotiation, so not all of that consultation or engagement will be remembered.”

MFAT repeated the fantasy;

These events follow the extensive public consultations carried out during TPP negotiations.

One of the most trenchant criticisms of the TPPA is that there was no public consultation carried out during the negotiations. It was all done in secret.

In fact, Professor Jane Kelsey won a court case on this very issue.

So one has to wonder how Todd McClay and MFAT can make the startling assertions that there was “extensive public consultations carried out during TPP negotiations“.

Too soon to be re-writing recent history, yes?

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Appendix3

National MP, Mark Mitchell, is closely connected with far-right activist,Simon Lusk, who runs (ran?) a private, self-styled “candidates school” for potential National Party candidates. Amongst those National MPs linked to Lusk are Taupo MP Louise Upston, Maungakiekie MP Sam Lotu-Iiga, Napier MP Chris Tremain, disgraced former list MP, Aaron Gilmore, and Minister Judith Collins. (Lusk, in turn, is associated with “Whaleoil’s” Cameron Slater; “Kiwiblog’s” David Farrar; and “Taxpayer Union’s” Jordan Williams.)

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Acknowledgement

To Tim O’Shea, for kind permission to  use his material (images, quotes, etc) and for proof-reading my story to ensure accuracy.

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References

Radio NZ: Over 330 ask to have say on TPP

Parliament: Select committee begins examination of TPPA

Radio NZ: New TPP timeframe an ‘attack on democracy’

Radio NZ: Morning Report – Select committee chair defends shortened TPP timeframe (audio) (alt.link)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade: Trans-Pacific Partnership – Events

Scoop Media: Select committee begins examination of TPPA

Radio NZ: TPP meeting one-sided, local politician says

The Spinoff: Tea, pee and pecuniary gains – Amid the clowns at the trade deal roadshow

SkepticNZ: Inside the #TPPA Roadshow Experience

Facebook: Tim O’shea – Submission

Facebook: Tim O’Shea – Facebook Post

Fairfax media: David Shearer faces ‘consequences’ for not toeing Labour line on TPPA – Little

NZ Herald: David Shearer to be censured over breaking Labour line on TPP

Parliament: Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee Members

Radio NZ: TPP requests – Groser acted unlawfully

NZ Herald: National Party had high-level concerns over member’s influence

Fairfax media: Seriously happy to upset the status quo

Bryce Edwards: Invite to Selection Training Weekend

Other bloggers

Bowalley Road: Protecting The TPP

No Right Turn: Government propaganda on the TPPA

The Daily Blog: Josie Butler – Why I attacked the TPPA roadshow

The Standard: TPPA review time slashed

Wheeler’s Corner: TPPA’s Road-show SEAN PLUNKET tongue flaps

Previous related blogposts

Power Struggle in the National Party?!

David Farrar – Challenging Slater for Sultan of Sleaze?

National MP admits collusion with bosses to set up strike-breaking law!!

11 May: End of the Week Bouquets, Brickbats, & Epic Fails

Nats, Lies, and Videotape

The secret of National’s success – revealed

So who’s a “conspiracy theorist” now?!

National’s Ohariu candidate admits contact by Simon Lusk

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Bamboozlement

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 13 April 2016.

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Radio NZ: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams – 16 December 2013

16 December 2013 2 comments

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– Politics on Nine To Noon –

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– Monday 16 December 2013 –

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– Kathryn Ryan, with Matthew Hooton & Mike Williams –

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Today on Politics on Nine To Noon,

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radio-nz-logo-politics-on-nine-to-noon

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Click to Listen: Politics with Matthew Hooton and Mike Williams ( 22′ 37″  )

This week:

  • Len Brown

Listen to Matthew Hooton’s surprising analysis of Len Brown’s hotel room upgrades.

  • Paula Rebstock and the MFAT Inquiry
  • Asset sales referendum
  • Christine Rankin vs Paula Bennett

en Brow.

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Ministerial Waste & Hypocrisy

7 April 2012 3 comments

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At a time when National has sacked 2,500 state sector workers; plans to make hundreds more redundant; reducing state housing services; cut early childhood education; and other drastic cuts to social services – it is somewhat galling to have a Minister wasting taxpayers’ money,

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Source

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Ms Parata  said she “had eight back-to-back meetings and it was decided hiring a car would be more cost-effective than a taxi”.

Really?

We actually have a Consulate- General in Sydney, located at 55 Hunter St, in the heart of the city,

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Source

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Why did Ms Parata not avail herself on a staffer from the Consulate’s office? No doubt the office has it’s own vehicles to use as part of their official duties – why did Ms Parata not access one of those?

She could have saved taxpayers $1,400 and still have met her appointments.

National expects everyone else to tighten their belts; make cutbacks and sacrifices – even lose their jobs. But that doesn’t seem to stop highly paid Ministers from throwing money around like it grows on trees.

Or did National sack every man, woman, and their dog from the Consulate, as part of their massive MFAT cuts?

Tory governments: reknowned for their philosophy of Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

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Additional

Budget deficit keeps getting worse

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Gerry Brownlee – “In the public interest”

24 March 2012 3 comments

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Full Story

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Are we being treated as children by National’s Gerry Brownlee?

It certainly appears so, when he refuses to release information relating to the Ports of Auckland dispute. It appears that any information Brownlee is witholding is being done because it would be embarressing to National.

Let’s be upfront here; National leaks information when it suits their agenda.

The Nick Smith/Bronwyn Pullar situation is one example. Who leaked Pullar’s name and details to the media?

Who leaked Michelle Boag’s email, that had been sent to ACC Minister Judith Collins (and subsequentlyt forwarded to ACC)?

It could only have been one of two ‘players’ in this politi-drama; ACC or a Minister of the Crown. My money is on the latter.

And now, in the last 24 hours, we have the leaking of pay and conditions of MFAT (Ministry of Foreign Affairs &  Trade) staff to the media. Again, judging by the detailed nature of the information leaked, it could only have emanted from a Ministerial desk.

And in July 2009, we had the open release of  Natasha Fuller and   Jennifer Johnston’s WINZ details to the media, by Welfare Minister, Paula Bennet.

The condemnation of Bennett’s unethical behaviour led to complaints to the Privacy Commissioner (still awaiting resolution).

I suspect that the odium laid upon Bennett’s head over her abuse of Ministerial power served as a warning to other National ministers. Now, instead of releasing information openly, they now do it through  clandestine means, employing third parties such as feral bloggers.

It is obvious that Brownlee has something to hide – that is the only interpretation of his outright refusal to release information to the public. (Information, by the way, which we taxpayers have paid for.)  Brownlee is hiding information that is most like embarressing and could shed some light on the machinations of POAL management, Board, and ministerial involvement.

After all, if the information wasn’t potentially damaging to Brownlee and National – wouldn’t it  have served their purposes to have released it by now?

In fact, wouldn’t they have leaked it already?

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Related Blogposts

Gerry Brownlee – Diplomat

Finland, some thoughts

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Try doing this with…

…an 0800 call-number,

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Kiwi diplomat faces down armed men

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Last updated 05:00 05/03/2012

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A Kiwi diplomat is claimed to have sat on the floor surrounded by armed men as she tried to negotiate the release of a New Zealand mother and her three children in Algeria.

“I am not leaving this building without my citizens,” consul Barbara Welton is said to have told more than two dozen soldiers, police and a gang of about 50 locals surrounding the house where Mihi Puriri, 33, and her children were allegedly being held.

The Government has now ordered a review into how a child custody dispute involving the Northland mum and her boxer husband Mohamed Azzaoui turned into an international incident, with Mr Azzaoui accusing Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry staff of acting illegally.

Ms Puriri has since left the house, but has not seen daughters, Iman, 5, and Assiya, 2, and son Zakaria, 11 months, for more than a week…

[abridged]

… Last month, he said, a diplomatic party from New Zealand’s embassy in Cairo travelled to Mostaganem to carry out a welfare check on the family. The party included New Zealand’s ambassador to Egypt, David Strachan, and Ms Welton.

“Barbara went out with a full gendarme escort and police escort to conduct a welfare visit on Mihi,” the spokesman said. “When [Ms Welton] arrived she was confronted with over two dozen … gendarmes, 15 police who were all armed and in excess of 50 locals who were there to support the Azzaoui family.

“Barbara went up and knocked on the door and said I’d like to see my citizens. Mihi was prepared with the children … she attempted to escape the apartment into Barbara’s care and custody. She was physically prevented.”

Ms Welton then called a halt to proceedings. “They were placed in a room … Barbara Welton sat down on the floor – she is an amazing woman – and said, `I am not leaving this building without my citizens.”‘

After hours of intense debate, the consular officials managed to leave in another vehicle. Later, Ms Puriri was retrieved but the children could not be removed.

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Full Story

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I doubt that a Call Centre would be much help or come to your aid if/when things get sticky,

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MFAT confirms 305 job cuts

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Last updated 14:16 23/02/2012

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LATEST: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has confirmed 305 jobs will be cut as part of proposed restructuring.

MFAT chief executive John Allen said at a briefing today the proposals created more flexibility, deepened expertise, and ensured appropriate representation-including non resident ambassadors and smaller posts.

Mr Allen confirmed there would 305 job cuts and that 600 MFAT staff would have to reapply for their jobs in new specialist roles. The ministry has 1340 staff, half of which are offshore.

The restructuring was expected to save $20-25m annually.

Mr Allen confirmed the ministry was also considering outsourcing some functions. That included a 24/7 call centre based in Wellington. [My emphasis – FM]

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Full Story

Of course,  it won’t be John Key or Murray McCully who will ever need  consular assistance in a far-off country – they have their own Diplomatic Protection Squad to hold their hand,

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We will end up regretting these cuts to overseas consular postings. It will end in tears.

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John Key: another day, another broken pledge…

28 February 2012 1 comment

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National’s hatchet-job on our state service continues – and appears to be getting worse.

Fresh from news that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade  about to sack 305 people; and 295 uniformed personnel are to be fired from the Defence Force,  we learn that Key’s government is about to fire at least 70 staff from Housing NZ,

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Full Story

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This is on top of Housing NZ recently announcing that it will no longer assist low-income families with social needs,

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Full Story

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Worse still, on top of the redundancies, is the planned closure of offices; and replacing front-line staff with an 0800 number Call Centre.

The sackings are a direct breach of Key’s promise to New Zealanders that the cutting of the  state sector would not impact on front-line staff – and indeed he has stated that front-line numbers would be strengthened,

It’s time to focus public spending on front-line services that make a real difference in people’s lives, rather than paper-shuffling and report-writing that does not

We are not going to reduce the number of front-line staff. Let me make this absolutely clear – under National the numbers of doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, police and other front-line staff will grow

In addition, we are not going to radically reorganise the structure of the state sector. Our focus will be on delivering services. Just as Labour has done, we will take opportunities to make changes to some agencies as part of the usual business of government. However, there will be no wholesale reorganisation or restructuring across the state sector… ” – John Key, 12 March 2008

John Key has broken every aspect of his own committments that he made to the nation, nearly four years ago, and which he has been repeating ad nauseum ever since.

Not only is his government sacking front line staff – but they are radically reorganising the state sector. Key’s most bizarre recent proposal was contracting out government services to Google. I kid you not: Rise of the Terminator Keybot!

A proposal to replace 1,000 full time soldiers in the Defence Force with “reservists”, who are “on call”, is a depletion of front-line personnel. This leaves NZ ill-equipped and ill-prepared to meet our international committments for U.N. peacekeeping duties, or local disaster relief operations.

Soldiers are front-line personnel. In fact, the term “front line” is a military term.

For those of us with fairly decent memories, we may recall the 1990s; when a Bolger and Shipley-led National governments cut the state sector until health, housing, social services, etc, were failing to meet the needs of ordinary New Zealanders.

At one stage Prime Minister Jenny Shipley was mooting moving or demolishing the Beehive Building so that an extension to the main Parliamentary Building could be undertaken. The cost to taxpayers was estimated to be in the region of $94 million (1997 dollars).

All whilst rentals for State houses were set at market prices; ex-psychiatric patients were living in public toilets; and on 3 April 1998, Southland dairy farmer Colin Morrison (42) died on a waiting list, awaiting a triple heart bypass surgery. His condition was listed as “life threatening” – but was still on a waiting list when he died.

And all during the 1990s, the wealth/income gap between the top 10%  and the rest of New Zealand widened further and further.

Sound familiar?

By 27 November, 1999, New Zealanders had had a gutsful and threw out the National government.

History is repeating.  The question is, how bad will it get this time?  Perhaps as bad as families living in caravans?

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Additional

‘Broken promise’ claim as frontline Defence jobs slashed

Review suggests more part-time soldiers

Families in caravans, cars as Housing NZ gets tough

Housing NZ proposal poses dangers for staff

HNZ: Housing New Zealand proposes changing how it delivers its services

2500 jobs cut, but only $20m saved

On Colin Morrison 1998)

Widow says little improvement seem

GP hits out at health reforms

Died waiting for by-pass

Word today on heart list

Anger on heart op delay

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