This seemed like a worthwhile way to spend an hour or so. Will the NZ Herald be willing to correct a completely inaccurate article? ( Not that this kind of response wouldn’t be legitimate on any day of the week for a dozen or more articles with similarly careless and inaccurate reporting – but this one seemed particularly wrong-headed.)
I would like to make a formal complaint and to seek a correction of Heather du Plessis Allan’s article in the Herald today. The electronic link is here.
The article is titled “How Labour just lost the 2020 election”
The author states that “Jacinda Ardern and her finance minister promised no new taxes under Labour”. That is simply false. A regional fuel tax was in the 2017 election manifesto for Labour. The manifesto says “Allow Auckland Council to collect a regional fuel tax to fund the acceleration of these investments, along with infrastructure bonds and targeted rates to capture value uplift.” The details are here http://www.labour.org.nz/aucklandtransport
Grant Robertson was quoted several times in media articles to say that there would be no new taxes other than those already announced.
The existence of this commitment was confirmed pre-election by Herald journalist Audrey Young in this article
Du Plessis-Allan clearly neither checked the manifesto nor Audrey Young’s article nor the the many news sources which contained the information about the fuel tax. I have listed some of them below.
In this article then Minister Joyce was quoted as saying that “Labour had begun a “long march back but they’ve got a way to go.”
“They’ve postponed the introduction of two taxes but have reaffirmed their intention to impose a water tax, regional fuel tax, tourism tax, income tax increases, and bringing farming into the ETS,” Joyce said.
Jacinda Ardern was publicly associated with the tax in the lead-up to the election on numerous occasions including in this article.
So Aucklanders voted with the full knowledge of Labour’s Regional Fuel Tax policy. Moreover New Zealanders and Aucklanders in particular have indicated with large majorities that their preference is for more public transport, in favour of building the rail link and unhappy with the focus on roads at the expense of other transport options. Although I cannot find details of polling about the fuel tax one survey indicates a large majority willing to pay road tolls to fund the new infrastructure.
The evidence is contained in these links.
A majority of Aucklanders support variable road tolls. https://www.horizonpoll.co.nz/page/241/majority-bac … with the intention of reducing congestion.
Several polls in Auckland have found a high preference for spending on the city rail link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_Rail_Link …
Here’s another one from 2011 showing 70% New Zealanders want to see more Government money going to fund public transport improvements in major towns and cities.
From 2014 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/10289369/Poll-Public-transport-beats-better-roads …
reports 30% want more pub transport 24% want more roads and 40% wanted both. Auckland results show an even stronger preference for more public transport.
Almost 2/3 of Aucklanders supported variable road tolls http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10821955 with the intention of reducing congestion so it is hard to claim that additional ‘taxes’ would lose an election.
Finally Du Plessis-Allan makes a simple arithmetical error. She says the fuel tax will be 9-12 c (presumably per litre of petrol) and then proceeds to add 20c to the price of a litre of fuel saying “So when you fill your car up and you’re paying $2.30 instead of $2.10, you’ll know who to blame – Labour.” She makes no case for why the cost of a litre with excise added would not be a maximum of $2.22. Perhaps that could be corrected as well.
Perce Harpham says
Great work, Jan.
Rugby players are continually told to “play the ball and not the man”. but losing sides sometimes try to physically damage the oppositions best.
Clearly this is what National are doing – trying to demoralise and destroy Labour people rather than discuss policies and their own past.
With National’s war chest we have to expect the sophisticated derogatory marketing that money can now buy – e.g. from Cambridge Analytica. Google them.
Ruby Woodward says
Thank you for your response to du Plessis Allan’s patently “fake news”. The research you offer is impressively detailed and clearly demonstrates the shoddy nature of Du Plessis Allan’s article. I really admire your dedication to ensuring New Zealand journalism aims for truth, rather than sensationlism. Sadly, I don’t expect the New Zealand Herald to publish your letter.
Jan Rivers says
Thank you for your prompt response.
When I wrote yesterday I was unaware that there were two taxes – the excise and the regional tax – and as the article did not make that clear (although the accompanying video did when I watched it this evening). I understood Ms Du Plessis Allen to be addressing the issue of the regional tax, when in fact she was writing about the excise. Hence my comment about the calculation in the article.
However having done further background work this evening I maintain that the article (and the video) are misleading as a commentary on the excise. I am a member of the public seeking to be informed by good journalism. This article was not clear, as I outlined in my previous email.
My revised complaint rests on the following premises:
1. Factual inaccuracy – The article claims that the excise is a new tax and breaches an election promise, when in fact the Labour Party’s manifesto policy stated clearly that “Alcohol, Petrol and Tobacco Levies – will be adjusted as per normal government practice and as set out in Budget documents”. See http://www.labour.org.nz/tax They are proposing to raise that tax, subject to consultation, by between 9 and 12 cents a litre over the next three years. As a matter of interest, by changing the Customs and Excise Act in 2013 to allow itself to increase the Petrol Excise Duty (by 3c per annum over 3 years) in order to fund Roads of National Significance, the previous goverment effectively created the “normal government practice.”
2. Lack of balance – It failed to make any mention of the extensive polling showing that New Zealanders, and Aucklanders in particular, are in favour of more spending on different approaches and including some evidence that people were happy to pay such a tax. I would have thought that a responsible journalist would investigate public sentiment, including willingness to pay for better services, before jumping to the conclusion that “Labour has lost the 2020 election” which is to stretch a long bow rather tightly.
3. In the associated video the interviewer says in a vox pop interview “so what do you feel about Labour breaking an election promise?” However as I have shown today and yesterday both implementing a regional tax and increases under the national excise on fuel were part of Labour’s 2017 election manifesto.
4. In its calculations the article refers to paying $2.30 instead of $2.10. How does $2.10 plus a maximum of 12c get to equal $2.30?
5. If you plan to use the defence that “this was an opinion piece” then it should have been clearly labelled as opinion, which it was not.
Jan Rivers says
I received a response to my complaint which clarified some things about the article. Firstly the article did not stand alone. It only makes sense if you also watch the video. Here is the response.
Subject: RE: Complaint about an article by Heather du Plessis Allan today in the web version of the NZ Herald.
Hello Jan, thank you for your email.
Heather’s column refers to the Government’s announcement on Tuesday that it plans to introduce a nationwide new fuel tax increase of 9-12 cents per litre. This is part of the Government’s draft 10-year policy statement on land transport.
Please note this 9-12c per litre increase is nationwide and in addition to the Auckland-specific regional fuel tax.
The announcement is explained in detail in this article: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12025268
Heather’s point is that those in Auckland face a ‘double whammy’ of taxation with both the proposed new nationwide fuel tax increase and the regional-specific tax of up to 10c per litre.
This also explains her maths re a litre of petrol increasing from $2.10 to $2.30.
Hopefully this clarifies things.
I still don’t think this is good enough and I did some more research. My email response follows in the next comment.
Alana Bowman says
Excellent letter, and very good grounds for complaint. Have you considered filing a similar complaint, on the same grounds, against Mike Hosking who wrote that Labour “lied” about the tax? Well done, Jan.
Jocelyn Papprill says
Excellent article, Jan. Hopefully you will get the necessary apology. Too many journalists within our mainstream media like Du Plessis-Allan are either sloppy investigative journalists or promoters of the failed neo-liberal agenda
Gerry Cotterell says
Thanks you for attempting to correct the hysterical tone that the Herald is adopting these days. Hosking / Hawkesby and Du Plessiss are predicting the end of the word on a daily basis at the moment it seems – completely suffocating reasonable debate.