Finance Minister Grant Robertson says it isn't unreasonable to pay Michael Cullen up to $1062 a day to spend the next four months defending the integrity of the TWG report

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says it isn't unreasonable to pay Michael Cullen up to $1062 a day to spend the next four months defending the integrity of the TWG report
Grant Robertson by Jacky Carpenter.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson says Tax Working Group (TWG) Chair Michael Cullen is responsible for the comments he makes while he stays on the Government’s payroll to “defend the integrity” of the Group’s report.

Interest.co.nz on Wednesday challenged Cullen over his defence of the report sounding like he was coming in to bat for the Government.

Cullen said it was his job to “wade into policy,” which wasn’t the same as politics.

Asked on Thursday whether Cullen’s commentary was politically neutral, Robertson said: “I think he’s responding to issues that have been raised.

“He’s responsible himself for what the tone of those comments are. But when people misrepresent the report, I’m sure he will respond appropriately.”

As reported in detail on Wednesday, Cullen has used some creative language to shoot down the maths the National Party has used to calculate the impact the Group’s recommendations would have on KiwiSaver members.

He’s also made statements around how he believes National wouldn’t reverse any tax changes made by this government, and said he doesn’t believe the Government would do anything to negatively impact KiwiSaver members.

Unbeknownst to the public at the time, Cullen made these comments while still being paid by the Government.

Robertson only let it slip on Wednesday that Cullen’s contract had been extended from February, when the Group delivered its final report, to June 30.

He revealed this when interest.co.nz queried him about an RNZ interview Cullen did where he made the above comments.

Asked why, having offered Cullen the extension on January 30, he didn’t make the announcement earlier, Robertson said: “I don’t think there was any particular decision made to announce it or not to announce it.”

Pressed on whether it was necessary to keep Cullen employed, Robertson said there was a lot of public interest in the report and Cullen needed to be in a position where he could articulate what was in it.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable, when he’s required to comment on things, that he continues to be remunerated in the same way that he was,” Robertson said.

Cullen’s charge rate remains the same as when he was working on the report.

He can be paid for doing work (which includes media interviews) for up to six hours a day. This could see him earn up to $1062 a day.

“These are the rates that people are paid when they do government working group work. This is a very important task,” Robertson said.

He said none of the other 10 TWG members had been kept on the job, including the three who disagreed with the proposal to extend the taxation of capital beyond investment property, because as the Chair, Cullen was responsible.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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103 Comments

15
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Cullen is totally polictically biased and it is unreasonable and plain stupid for him to be still on the payroll.

This is absolutely untrue....... the sort of stuff a National Party hack would spout.

Grow up.

Grow down.

Any proof at all that it's untrue? Or are you just here for the wild accusations?

Dude, how the hell do you prove a negative???

I'm not sure this is up there with proving God does not exist somewhere in the Universe.

A negative claim is a colloquialism for an affirmative claim that asserts the non-existence or exclusion of something. Claiming that it is impossible to prove a negative is a pseudologic, because there are many proofs that substantiate negative claims in mathematics, science, and economics, including Arrow's impossibility theorem. There can be multiple claims within a debate. Nevertheless, whoever makes a claim carries the burden of proof regardless of positive or negative content in the claim.

A negative claim may or may not exist as a counterpoint to a previous claim. A proof of impossibility or an evidence of absence argument are typical methods to fulfill the burden of proof for a negative claim.

Philosopher Steven Hales argues that typically one can logically be as confident with the negation of an affirmation. Hales says that if one's standards of certainty leads them to say "there is never 'proof' of non-existence", then they must also say that "there is never 'proof' of existence either". Hales argues that there are many cases where we may be able to prove something does not exist with as much certainty as proving something does exist.

"Absolutely untrue" that Cullen is politically biased?

Are you serious?

He is completely objective and balanced - apart from the minor slip up in his maiden speech, and that time he crowed "spent the lot". "I'm proud of the fact that my secondary education was not paid for by the taxpayers of New Zealand but by the farmers of Canterbury and Hawke's Bay. I ripped them off for five years then, and I shall get stuck into them again in the next few years." Only a few more years...

"Completely objective and balanced"... aside from "minor" issue of 28 years between his maiden speech and valedictory speech when he was definitively politically biased... and arguably ever since.

......and he's a rich prick!

... and he gave Taxcinda the exact recommendations she was seeking from the tax working group : a CGT ...

Pity she didn't factor in the media and public backlash against the CGT Sir Micky proposed ....

... the smokers of NZ pay more in tax than this onerous CGT will raise in any given year ...

"... the smokers of NZ pay more in tax than this onerous CGT will raise in any given year ..."

Good. Having watched a rellie die from smoking related illnesses (COPD and cancer) and seen the health system resources used in the final 2-3 years of life, I have no problem with the ratcheting up of tobacco tax every 6 months.

Apparently by smokers dying earlier they actually save the tax payer money:
https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10809145

Balanced out by all the dairy owners on ACC.

Interesting. I wonder if they took into account the wider indirect costs to the economy. I know I took a fair bit of time off work to run errands and arrange things, and visit to hospital etc , and so did several other family members.

16
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Oh dear this was to be the government of transparency, sincerity and frankness. A new, modern and fresh approach. It certainly would have been welcome after the complacent, conceited and careless lot National were proving to be, mostly, in their last term. But sadly it has not taken long to lapse into the old hat circuitous politicking of the previous Labour administration. It was always a fair bet that Clark and Cullen were not going to be thwarted by the untimely and ungrateful 2009 election reversal. In my opinion all we we have now are nothing but mealy mouthed utterances by a bunch of glove puppets. Folks, the agenda is back! Get ready to do as you are told.

15
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Cullen could of course still comment if he wasn't on the payroll. What pathetic BS. Tragically, I think our current lot of politicians on all sides is about the worst I can remember. Who on earth would make a capable prime minister? Any reckon they could talk to Bill English?

13
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This TWG is not even funny!
We have paid out untold millions to a totally biased socialist lot in general for what?
If the TWG was concise and explained what they have come up with after many months, someone with Mr Robertson’s intellect should be able to answer any qestion you would think?
Truth is that Robertson, Ardern etc. haven’t got any business acumen or common sense and it just continues to show!
Cullen can work up to 6 hours per day for over $1000?
What the hell is he doing?

We need to bring "Dame" Shipley in to right the boat..tonnes of business acuwomen. Cullen is making the same daily rate as you MAN..or have those rental incomes dropped recently.

Of course I have a turnover of well over what Cullen is getting, however I do have some costs, whereas Cullen doesn’t!
I am providing a service whereas Cullen is just sitting on his backside and talking BS!

You have a turn over well of what Cullen is getting... so, let's say $1500 a day. $7500 a week. That's approximately... 20 rental properties in Christchurch. You mean to tell us that you can't format a paragraph, can't respond to comments properly, can't make a point and don't know the meaning of basic terms in finance - yet you earn almost $400,000 dollars a year and own 20 properties?

Yeah, I'm going to have to say I don't believe you. I think you're a parody account - but a pretty funny one.

The PM earns TWICE what Cullen does she earns around 500,000 per annum for what?? ... and cant recite the articles of the treaty, she must be a parody too.

How many recent New Zealand PMs do you seriously think memorised the articles of the treaty?

John Key?

BTW, have you lodged your tenants' bond that you laughed about not lodging yet?

Stckrauss go find a carrot and Stickraus it up your ar*e....you cant because theres one already there? ... I should have guessed.
This stupid PM makes all sorts of pc statements to be inclusive but doesnt walk the talk. She is also paid more than thr prime minister of Britain. Now that's really fu**ed up

If you don't lodge your tenants' bonds does that make you a parody property investor?

I hope you feel so much better when you remove the carrot but dont waste it

At least you're classy, I guess? Even if you don't lodge your tenants' bonds, then laugh online about breaking the law. That Houseworks fellow...what a character, not lodging his tenants' bonds! Classic Houseworks!

Try and keep up. Of course there are people there that pull in $500,000k + a year. Some of them are property investors.

Someone who writes like a 12 year old and calls themselves "THE MAN" does not own earn $500,000k a year renting dozens of properties in a regional centre. Seriously he doesn't even know what the words I mean use.

It's just not fair boohoo when you are a qualified programmer analyst and cant afford a house in Christchurch or anywhere else

I can afford a house in Christchurch (:

You're getting really upset at this aren't you. Are you the other personality? The less successful but much angrier property investor.

You're only trying to convey your bad feelings and constant internal inadequacy on to others to make yourself feel better. Haha damn shame. You shouldn't throw shit around if you don't like the responses back.

Seriously why are you rushing to his aid? FWIW, had you told me you earn an astronomical sum of money I would have believed you.

saving4AUhouse - Why get so bothered about other people's affairs you are coming across angry and resentful. Focus on your own life and make it better. The Man has an opinion and is consistent in his views move on otherwise you'll end up old angry and resentful like RP.

How can I resent TM2s success when it's clearly fabricated? I'm more concerned that you seem to think it's true. Skudiv has a similar rags to riches story IIRC which is more believable, but you might as well try and convince me the earth is flat than convince me TM2 can run a successful... anything.

Also, didn't RP retire at 50? He/she also seems to constantly be in a good mood. Not sure where the bitterness is.

"Asked why, having offered Cullen the extension on January 30, he didn’t make the announcement earlier, Robertson said: “I don’t think there was any particular decision made to announce it or not to announce it.” ......... classic evasion tactics; answer another question not asked. Robertson's claim that the implications of revealing to the public (or not) that Cullen was staying on the payroll were not considered, displays sloppy politics, disturbing naiveté or is simply not true.

This current sloppy and confused state of government, was always going to loom up re CGT and it is exactly the reason National should have been keeping their powder dry. Perhaps ironically, their own internal hoops and hurdles have caused them to do so, inadvertently. In naval terms, National now have the grand opportunity to cross the T. If they have the mettle and capability they now have the moment to severely wound this government long term, which is already showing signs of digging down into a bunker mentality.

Bunker mentality = smile and wave (both work in government)

Sorry Frazz, but cannot help but say, not for Adolf, in the end.

13
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I quite like Ardern, but she looks tired. Which is not surprising when she has a baby.
I'm wondering how in control she is. She should have sacked Twyford by now. He's proved useless on arguably the most politically important issue, housing.

12
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I've been wondering exactly the same thing. Her snappish response to some gentle goading in Parliament this week (the International Organisation of Socialist Yoof schtick) plus her lack of control over Little's initial mouth-running re the Bumbly Jihardly - the one who's a few bullets short of a magazine - demonstrates that in spades. She's totally at sea with any economic terms, and simply repeats the talking points her long-suffering staff no doubt feed her, as 'answers'.

I think too that our current PM is a genuine good person. That being the case she is not exactly equipped to deal with the muck and inanity that is going on around her, day in, day out. She is too, not unintelligent or bereft of values both socially and personally. The family may well eventually take priority and she will then quit. If that should happen, I would applaud her decision absolutely.

ps. “a few bullets short of a magazine” personally have spent hours of days and evenings without coming up with one as good as that. Thanks. My god, even Chandler couldn’t have said it better.

I do aim to amuse as well as to inform and comment. It's, of course, a straight steal from 'a few sandwiches short of a picnic', or 'a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock'. Commenters may care to amuse themselves by adding more.....

Could I offer that it seems some contributors here, are a few commas short of a full stop.

You've noticed that too?

Lots of ideologically blinded individuals pushing their own barrow and can't see past their own political ideology. Democracy is wasted on them. BUT most present a perspective that is at least representative of many others, and thus an opportunity to learn and understand. Doesn't mean you have to agree with them. Just know they have a right to their opinion.

I like a quote from a lady being interviewed about Trum - "Even a blind squirrel finds the occasional nut." Applies to so many on this site too! (Possibly even myself on occasion)

@Frazz ...............Ardern is not coping at all , and frankly we need to get rid of this hopeless Government as soon as possible .

Her most important Minsters are clueless or out-of control , or both

Twyford is just the worst housing Minister we have ever been saddled with .

Her Finance Minster is equally as hopeless with this feel-good nonsense , instead of the real hard stuff that makes our country successful , like growth and wealth creation

Her Immigration Minister allows drug dealing convicted criminals to get Permanent Residence .

Her Prisons Minister goes visiting Kiwi criminals in Aussie detention centres , when our prison system is in disarray.

Her Health Minister goes on an overseas holiday with his family during a nurses and doctors strike

Her education minister gets rid of established measurement of outcomes systems ( that worked since the 1960's) ...... and replaces them with ............. nothing .

Her Energy Minister defends the ban on oil and gas exploration , a ban that was done without consultation with stakeholders

Shane Jones spends a few Million $ on trees that cannot be planted

James Shaw of the so-called "Green " party has the biggest personal carbon footprint of anyone in Government with endless 20 hour flights overseas

The list goes on and on and on ............

Who replaces them and why?

To be fair the entire MSM is advocating for National. Providing some balance is not totally unreasonable.

There isn't anyone on the opposition benches at the moment, who isn't tainted in some way by dishonesty, duplicity and hypocrisy.

I was thinking the same , further to that , imagine if the Political party's roles over the last 2 years were reversed ,how would the MSM (or certain commenters on this site) report on eg, Helen Clark's role in Mainzeal, or chinese donation issue's revealed by the unseemly spat between Lee Ross , Dowie, - also Barclay Key' and English's role in funding the settlement via PM's fund, fuel pipe/ kauri link the list extensive.

Robertson has kept him on... taxpayers are paying for him... I just cannot stomach Robertson's stance of "Cullen is responsible for himself and the tone of his comments"... no.. he is paid by the taxpayers. If he is on his own time... so be it... but while you are paying him you are responsible for the tone of his comments.

What exactly are we paying him for anyway? Defending a poorly drafted, ill-considered set of socialist policies that have absolutely no chance of getting enacted?

Saving4AUhouse.
Firstly there happens to be 7 days in A week so $1500 per day is $10,500 per week, so in excess of $500,000
Gross per year!
And yes it is in excess of that minus expenses!
No idea what your other points mean whatsoever?
However, another poster who doubts The Mans investing in Christchurch!
I will offer you the same offer that I have been offering Gordon for the past few years, and which he has never ever had the guts to take me up on!
The challenge to you or Gordon or anyone else on Interest.Co is to prove that I am not telling the truth!
If I am telling lies you get $50k which will help you with your saving for a house!
If I am telling the truth then you cough up $50k and that will bugger your house buying for a while won’t it?
This is a genuine challenge to you or anyone, if you are not prepared to take this challenge up,then stop making false accusations!!
I don’t believe you will take it up, because you know The Man always tells the truth!!

I'd bet $50,000 on you being either mentally ill/delusional, or being a brilliant troll. Someone of your intellect would not be able to deal with that kind of money even if you inherited it, you'd spend it all on magic beans or Nigerian royalty.

Anyway the easy way to lend credence to your claim that you earn over $500,000 gross per year is to tell us your name. Someone operating on your level would have your own website and would be fairly famous in the Christchurch community. You'd also have your own company for tax purposes.

Anyone who calls himself ' The Man' needs help...

I've heard he also has a super model wife, is hung like a donkey, is a former heavyweight champion and played a few test matches for the all blacks. At least that's what he tells everyone at the pub if they come within earshot of that corner with the pokie machines that reeks faintly of urine.

Trying to deflect the challenge put to you, clearly shows that you also make accusations and then haven’t got the guts!
I can see why you are still saving for a house because you don’t take action!!
Yes, my wife is model material

Yes, my wife is model material

LMAO. Case closed.

Might be true.. but she's above the line on the hot-crazy matrix... if she wasn't before, she definatley would be after living with TM2..

At this point I genuinely believe mental illness. I've had some long winded emails from diagnosed mentally ill people I've known IRL (long story), and the resemblance is uncanny.

I'm not trying to be funny here. I'm not saying that because he's a property bull. I don't think ttp, skudiv, BLSH etc are impaired - just wrong :P. But he puts in way too much effort to just be a troll.

shut the fuck up.

I have seen some Thai dudes at the airport recently and they are also model material!

I am not a brilliant troll, so I must be mentally ill!
Why would,I need to give my name out on a forum?
Why on earth would I need a website???
As for being fairly famous in ChCh?
Are you up for the challenge or not, or someone that just makes accusations and then runs and hides like Gordon?
If $50k is too much for you, name the amount but it has to be worth our while!!!

I am not a brilliant troll, so I must be mentally ill!

Ah, there we go. Schizophrenia?

Another one who makes false accusations and then won’t step up to the plate!
!eep,saving for that house, you will get there one day!
On the bright side you have saved yourself 50k, unless you want to take up the challenge?

500k gross isn't big money, neither is whatever Cullen is making. It's in the range of mid level expert, the real experts are making far in excess of that.

If you told me you were earning 500k a year I would find that plausible. It's not beyond the realm of possibility.

It also means they can probably handle a CGT without going hungry.

Accountants, lawyers and valuers certainly are looking forward to hefty fee increases once the CGT is enacted. Pity it will be a dead weight cost to the economy, for a lumpy unpredictable tax revenue, that is only estimated to return 8B over five years. Which is chump change in tax revenue terms, for those of you that think it sounds really big. An average of 2.3% pa of current total tax revenue.

Your living in a bubble and given the up votes you are not alone. That would cover a mid range self employed /Professional practice person in Christchurch and no they would not necessarily be famous. Top level professionals clearly earn in Christchurch in the range of 800k-1.2 million, most being medical. Higher is clearly possible...

As a business 500k is mid range at best.

I agree with what you are trying to say.. but its well known that TM2 isn't a medical professional, or a high level lawyer or executive, he is a property investor. $500k a year cashflow after expenses would require 40 odd mortgage free properties at $400/week. That's not insignificant.

True it is not insignificant, although it can be done in Christchurch on a lot less properties than 40. I hate to tell you i have meet a number of property investor who are as smug as and think they are the smartest in the room, yet clearly an't that bright when you talk to them. They have often invested at this level and been lucky. Actually the more investment properties one has often appears to be a function of lack of smarts in my experience..its just worked for them in this silly cycle:)

Oh, i believe ya.. hang round here long enough and you'll find a few more like that :)

Pay peanuts, you get monkeys, enough said.

I’m all for the govt keeping Cullen on the payroll.

The more Cullen talks the lower Labour will go in the polls.

Who is going to replace them? Not that useless lot of national MPs. Bring back McGillicuddy Serious for some integrity in Politics!

We don't seem to get polls when Labour makes mistakes.

Matthew Hooten this morning :
"National insiders say their polling has NZ First consistently below the 5 per cent threshold, the Greens dicing with death by bouncing around it, and Labour and National locked in a tight battle, both above 40 per cent and within the margin of error of each other"

Cullen is no "salesman"

His selling of the "TWG report" was woeful and his defence of it pathetic

Why he has been appointed for a second go round defeats me

He has been appointed cos Robertson and Ardern don't understand it

Cullen, who was a half decent finance minister, has become something of a hypocrite. He's acting as a cheerleader for CGT when he wouldn't have a bar of it when he was in power. Having said that, property speculation has almost certainly driven up prices, if basic economy theory is right. So that profit has a social cost which should be returned to the community. Longer bright line and a reduced rate, say 10%, after that, but with tougher terms for unoccupied property and undeveloped building land. Turn speculators into responsible landlords.

Yes, but that would be solving the problem instead of aggressively taxing all the rich pricks for the crime of earning over $70K or owning stuff.

It's probable he still doesn't personally support it and is only parroting Ardern who campaigned for a CGT (despite demonstrating by various statements she doesn't properly understand the implications).
Tellingly, when Cullen was asked to explain his apparent Damascus road conversion on CGT he suggested we 'draw our own conclusions' from the fact he never advocated for one during his years as finance minister. i.e he doesn't think it's goer but has been instructed by Ardern and Robertson on how to direct the TWG.

Or the alternative is he thinks its good idea.. but political suicide, and now that he's not in govt that is not his problem anymore.

Sounds like Robertson can't explain the TWGs findings, or understand or articulate them(which is his job) , and Ardern certainly can't; so the taxpayer pays $1000 per day to hear snippets of Cullen's unbridled sarcasm again ??
Total waste of money.

He's only having to stay on because half you muppets either don't understand what's in the TWG report or you're being deliberately obtuse and he needs to be kept on to combat the misinformation and emotional stupidity.

All the antiCGT crowd give me this vibe: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statler_and_Waldorf

But surely an able PM and Finance Minister could do that without the taxpayer being stung severely??

They weren't part of the TWG, they did not write the report. They're being paid to run the country and part of that will be interpreting the report and coming up with their own implementation that they will then have to communicate to the country.

They claim they will be able to announce decisions on CGT etc by the end of April, so I hope Cullen can explain it to them by then.
Then they really will have to explain themselves, or will Cullen be reappointed to keep explaining to all and sundry, Nats included...

The government sat on the report for 4 weeks before it was publicly released .Yet they still need to contract out its PR to an unelected retired Finance Minister? It's either because they don't understand it, or don't want to suffer the flak from the public. Neither explanation inspires confidence in the COL. And I note the last TWG under National worked on a voluntary basis.

You can whine as much as you like. A lot of work went into making the report, and they clearly need someone there who was part of the deliberation to front it because of all the landholder propaganda being spun.

Maybe we do understand the report, it's actually pretty poor, you're just determined to dismiss any opinion contrary to your own as misinformed and the only muppet here is actually you.

Frankly , we should be outraged .............. the Tax Working Group completed is mandate and no longer exists .

Cullen therefore cannot be on a body that no longer exists , so this is a really expensive taxpayer funded rort by Government .

This is Labour's policy and has been for almost a decade , and Ardern and Robertson, need to front up and answer the public's questions and concerns .

Not fob it off onto the ex-Chair of a now non -existent panel

Getting pay $1000 a day isn't so unusual, I know of some independent IT contractors working for a well known Govt owned accident insurance corporation are earning just as much for the last 10 years. Even the person on their Helpdesk is on $80/hr

Yeah bottom starting rate for contract developers is $560 a day. ~$1000 a day is fairly common. The ceiling is higher for the finance industry than the IT industry though.

@Chairman Moa , so its okay for Cullen to be paid more than the PM just to answer a few questions about a tax that not even he fully understands ( given he is not a tax expert at all )

Its not even a WTF question ............. to be honest .

We should all be outraged

@Boatman, being a working professional you should know the drill.
Cullen (I am not his fan btw) won't be doing any of the gritty nitty work. There will be tax professionals working under him, he'll be like a project/program manager in a large project. And a good project/program manager, one shouldn't need to be an expert in a particular subject. he/she needs to be able to channel resources and plan well to meet deadlines, and being the front person!

The pay Cullen is receiving is rather low, and I would reject such a low pay rate. Perhaps if higher pay was offered the TWG could have had someone capable leading it.

Lets face it , this Capital Gains tax has quickly become this Government's Achilles heel .

All the other mistakes, can be overlooked, forgotten or even forgiven , but this one is not one of those easily forgotten by almost all hard working middle class New Zealanders, who see it as an attack on their way of life.

I mean , why should I pay CGT when I sell my boat ?

I will sail it to Sydney and sell it there .

Ahem, Australia have CGT..! Don't be like Simon..

I am not an Aussie taxpayer

Then you will have to declare that income in NZ and get taxed accordingly!

Except IRD don't track anything offshore. If they did they would be addressing issues with NZ shell companies and entities not declaring tax in any jurisdiction, along with numerous other issues.

Sure they don't track but you are required to declare overseas income. You know the drill if you get an audit!