For about four months work Sir Michael Cullen was paid $84,000. Annualise that out and it's over $250,000 a year. $84,000 is higher than the average wage for people in the main centres who work full-time.

And $84,000 is Cullen's reward for chairing the Tax Working Group, before he got his contract extended at a grand a day to sell his committee decision on a capital gains tax. Not bad, eh?

And made even better by the fact he never once - in all his years in Parliament - ever offered any argument towards a CGT. In fact he argued quite the opposite.


So in retirement, or semi-retirement, you can earn more than the average wage, working part-time, and by holding a series of meetings designed to dream up a plan over something you don't like, never wanted, argued against - and think won't work. Brilliant.

Now, to be fair I never like to compare numbers with numbers. The media do it all the time, and not in an apples with apples sort of way. They take whatever the pay is, and compare it to the minimum wage, or the unemployment benefit, or some other completely pointless exercise designed to shame the person getting the bigger payday.

Let's be frank, if you're on the minimum wage chances are you don't have the skills to do what Cullen has done. If you did have those skills, you would most likely be off earning more than what you are.

And I personally have no problem paying good people, good money. And in the grand scheme of things $84,000 is not a king's ransom.

However I would have thought pride, morals, political acumen, or common sense would have at least in part come into play.

Cullen said the other day how he has been surprised that this committee and its work has become all about him, when there were a bunch of others on the team. That shows naivety that surprises me, given his experience. What did he expect? He spent a career arguing against a CGT.

Then the committee came back to the Government saying they couldn't reach consensus on a CGT, mainly because it's so fraught (hence we've never had one before). And then under instruction from Stuart Nash and Grant Robertson magically dreamed up a plan.

And then when that plan got swamped by logical, reasoned argument from those of us that saw its madness for what it was, the Government panicked, given they'd left a vacuum of silence while they wandered off to consider their response, pretending all along they hadn't made up their mind.


Which meant Cullen got re-hired, at $1000 a day, to spruik the thing for all its worth. At which point Cullen goes, "how come this is about me?"

It's a road to Damascus transformation we are seeing. Or is it? Is it a hired gun who'll say whatever you want for a price? If it is, is that why it's fallen so badly flat?

We can see through the smoke and mirrors. Authenticity always adds weight to an argument - and you can't buy authenticity for $84,000.