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  • rmacculloch

Who says the Kiwi Media are not outrageously biased when it comes to reporting on inequality?

Newshub went and screamed this headline during the week:

Exclusive: NZ ranked 136th in world on fair wealth distribution leading to call for new tax

The Government needs to tax wealth and corporates more - that's the call from Oxfam Aotearoa after its international inequality index found New Zealand ranks 136th out of 161 countries when it comes to fair wealth distribution.

"It found our tax policies rank just 91st in the world while our labour rights place us in 74th", say Newshub. The article then carries on and on interviewing people about how unfair is our tax system - folks from Oxfam, the Greens and a University of Auckland academic. The NZ Herald also got hysterical in a related article whose first line is, "A new report from Oxfam has ranked New Zealand 136th in the world on the fairness of its tax system".

So would it surprise you if I told you that the Oxfam report, called "The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index" (link below) classifies NZ as being one of the "best tax performers" in the whole world in terms of its "Commitment to Reducing Inequality". Oxfam give us an overall tax ranking of 7th (out of 161 countries) (see page 53) .

I can't find the "136th on fairness" and "74th on labour rights" Kiwi rankings anywhere in the published Oxfam report below, but they are nonsense anyhow, since there is a vast amount of other survey evidence which contradicts them.

So where on earth are Newshub and the Herald getting their numbers from? Oxfam's actual report strikes the opposite tone to what the Kiwi media report. For example, Oxfam says "The pandemic has led to falls in tax collection even larger than those in GDP .. Overall, VAT collection fell most sharply, making country tax systems less regressive ... Taking these falls into account, the best performers - collecting more than two-thirds of what they should - are Barbados, Mongolia, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Denmark and the Seychelles".

What Newshub and the NZ Herald appear to have done is report some obscure sub-indices that are used to construct the Oxfam summary "Commitment to Reducing Inequality" Index, ones that make NZ look especially bad. The Oxfam Index, by the way, is meaningless since it has no theoretical basis - it is just an average of an ad-hoc collection of measures chosen by their staff. Buried toward the end of the Newshub article, there's a single line saying, "Overall, NZ did rank 8th (in the Oxfam survey), but Dr Spratt said our "tax system isn't fair". There's no mention in the Herald of NZ's top-10-world-ranking in terms of our tax system being geared up to reduce inequality. To the contrary, the message is that Oxfam found the reverse. Shame on the Herald Editors for misleading their readers.

Maybe our media should stopping slamming NZ's social achievements & throwing mud at ordinary Kiwis who are among the world's most community-minded & generous people - on the basis of silly indices constructed by overseas aid agencies. Our comprehensive welfare state, not to mention the efforts being made to reduce inequalities as they relate to our indigenous population, are reflected in NZ being in the world top 10 of life satisfaction, as well as in the top 10 of Oxfam's own "Commitment to Reducing Inequality Report" (!)

(Maori life satisfaction is almost as high as non-Maori, so well-being inequality is low in NZ, by the way. "European had the highest reported life satisfaction (84% rating it at 7 or above), followed by Asian (82%). Māori & Pacific (78%) were slightly less likely to rate their overall life satisfaction highly", according to Ministry of Social Development).

Next time, Newshub and the NZ Herald: report the facts dispassionately. Stop mixing the opinion of your writers with reporting the news. When it comes to fairness in this country, its not our tax system that is getting in the way, it is you.



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