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Spending cut advocate blows three-year budget in one year

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Don Brash
Don Brash

Wellington, July 16 NZPA - A task force calling for extreme cuts to government spending has spent its whole three-year budget to pay its chairman, former National leader Don Brash, in one year.

Labour says the blow-out highlights why the group should have been disbanded after its first set of recommendations were ignored.

The Dominion Post reported today that Dr Brash was paid $1200 a day to chair the 2025 Task Force, and was budgeted to do eight full days of meetings and preparation in 2009-10 and four days for the following two years. However, Dr Brash was paid four times that -- $39,450 in the first year.

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

The task force came in under budget overall after spending only a fraction of its budget on outside experts.

Dr Brash said the cost of his fees reflected the fact that he was working "close to full-time" on the 2025 report and it would have been "utterly absurd" to expect the task force to complete its work in the four days set aside by the Government.

The task force is working on its second report on how to close the gap with Australia, despite the Government largely dismissing the first report which called for the Government to slash its spending by $9 billion, reform welfare, scrap the NZ Superannuation Fund, raise the pension age, cut subsidies for health and education, and reform employment law.

Labour Party MP David Parker said the task force was meaningless and costly and should be scrapped.

"The issue is not so much about what has been shelled out to task force members, however, but about why the Government is continuing to let the task force meet and deliberate when it is clear National is embarrassed by its recommendations and will not act upon them.

"The task force's first report more closely resembled a far-right brainstorm than a considered programme for New Zealand's future... (it) should be canned before it costs Kiwi taxpayers even more money."

The task force was set up as part of a support agreement with the ACT Party which has a key policy plank of a flat tax.

(Seeking government comment)

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