Twyford touch derails another promise

June 24, 2020

Another broken promise:

Auckland’s light rail project is officially an election issue after the Government gave up on trying to reach an agreement on which plan to back.

Transport Minister Phil Twyford announced the Auckland Light Rail process had “ended” this morning.

“Despite extensive cross-party consultation, Government parties were unable to reach agreement on a preferred proposal,” Twyford said.

“The future of the project will now be decided by the government following September’s general election.” . . 

That’s another reason to ensure this government isn’t the next one.

National’s transport spokesman Chris Bishop described the issue as an “epic fail” of a similar scale to Kiwibuild, saying it was one of Labour’s first promises during the 2017 election.

“They said it would be built to Mount Roskill, not just started, but built from the Auckland CBD to Mount Roskill by 2021, which is just next year,” Bishop told RNZ.

“After three years of work, millions of dollars to consultants and lawyers and policy advice, back and forth, we have no route, no consent, no business case, we have no plan, we have no estimate of the cost.

“Light rail’s actually gone backwards compared to what it was three years ago.” . . .

Three years and millions of dollars have been squandered on another project that has fallen victim to the Twyford touch.

Like KiwiBuild, this is another expensive failure of a policy that should never have been promised in the first place.


More questions on slush fund

January 21, 2020

The Provincial Growth Fund is in the news for the wrong reason again:

A forestry company with close links to New Zealand First says it gave a presentation to Shanne Jones about a project it was seeking a $15 million government loan for – months before Jones says he first heard of it.

When NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) applied for Provincial Growth Fund money on 8 April, 2019, the company was asked whether the project had been “previously discussed” with the government.

The application form shows NZFFP ticked the ‘yes’ box and said it had made a “presentation to the Minister” about its forestry and wood processing plans “including descriptions of the applicant”.

Jones, a New Zealand First MP who is forestry minister and the minister responsible for the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund, has consistently claimed he first heard about the NZFFP bid on 14 October last year. . . 

Jones refused to be interviewed over the latest revelation but in a statement said the presentation never happened. “There was no presentation as described by the applicants,” he said.

The statement said Jones “did not have any Ministerial meetings to discuss the application”.

After being asked if he had any meetings at all with any NZFFP representatives in 2019, he responded in a statement “no”. He went on to say he was “not involved in PGF-related conversations with the Henrys under the guise of NZFFP”.

But in an interview with RNZ, David Henry, who is Brian Henry’s son and the NZFFP director who signed the application form, said the presentation was a 15-minute meeting he and Jones had in Wellington.

“We had a discussion with Shane. I think it was about a 15-minute chat. Whether you want to call it a briefing or a presentation – it was a short discussion generally about the New Zealand wood supply chain and what we personally believed.” . . 

The application was turned down, but National’s Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop says that still leaves questions to be answered:

“While no money changed hands, the process is even more important than the substantive outcome because of the close links between those involved and the historical murkiness of Shane Jones’ $3 billion slush fund.”

That is the nub of the problem – the PGF is a slush fund with few if any of the checks and balances in the allocation process which ought to precede any spending of taxpayers’ funds.


$484k per job yet there’s a worker shortage

December 9, 2019

The Provincial Growth Fund gets a lot of publicity but the results are a long way from matching the rhetoric:

An answer to a written question from National Regional Development spokesperson Chris Bishop reveals 1922 people are employed by PGF projects – and of that, just 616 are full-time jobs.

So far, $297.4 million has been spent so far on PGF projects. That’s $484,000 per full-time job, excluding those part-time jobs.

Jones insists infrastructure projects like roads and rail will take years to build, however in the long-term they’ll create jobs and further investment and increase confidence in the regions. . . 

Roads? We’re paying higher fuel taxes but that money is going on public transport in Auckland not much-needed upgrades to roads in the provinces.

And the bus and rail not roads policy is costing jobs as businesses finishing roading  projects have no more work ahead of them.

Rail? That’s a very limited option that doesn’t go very far from routes taken by State Highway 1.

While politicians squabble over whether enough jobs are being created in the regions, the PGF is managing to create well-paid jobs here in Wellington.

The unit in charge of the fund’s doubled in size over the past year. There are now 116 employees. And 71 of them earn a salary of more than $100,000.

That’s around one job in Wellington for fewer than 20, full and part time in the provinces.

David Farrar calls the number of jobs created pitiful:

By comparison in 2016/17 there were 137,000 new jobs created which was 66 new jobs every working hour.

So Shane Jones has spent $300 million over two years and created what was basically one day of job growth under National!

New and growing businesses creating more jobs ought to be applauded, but in some areas the problem isn’t no jobs, it’s a shortage of workers for the jobs in already established businesses.

Employers in dairying, horticulture and hospitality are struggling to find staff willing and able to fill their vacancies.

The provinces would get more value from initiatives that would provide employable workers than they’re getting from the money scattered through the PGF.


A tale of two caucuses

June 26, 2019

National leader Simon Bridges announced a minor reshuffle of portfolios yesterday:

“Paul Goldsmith will become the spokesperson for Finance and Infrastructure following today’s announcement from Amy Adams that she will leave at the next election.

“Paul is the natural choice for the Finance role. He has done an outstanding job holding the Government to account in the Economic and Regional Development portfolio.

Shane Jones will be very happy with this change, though he shouldn’t relax, the two taking over Paul’s portfolios will be just as effective at holding the Minister to account.

“Regional and Economic Development will now be split across two spokespeople. Todd McClay will look after Economic Development, while Chris Bishop will take over the Regional Development and Transport portfolios.

“Chris has done a brilliant job as spokesperson for Police and deserves to take on more responsibility.

“Jo Hayes has been appointed the spokesperson for Māori Development and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations following the departure of Nuk Korako. Jo is a passionate advocate for Māori.

“Gerry Brownlee will pick up the Foreign Affairs portfolio, Brett Hudson will take on the Police portfolio and Tim Macindoe will become the Shadow Attorney-General.

“Other changes include Michael Woodhouse as the Associate Finance spokesperson, Maggie Barry taking over the Disability Issues portfolio, Stuart Smith will be the spokesperson for Immigration, Todd Muller will be the spokesperson for Forestry, Nicola Willis will take on the Youth portfolio and our newest MP Paulo Garcia will become the Associate Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank both Amy Adams and Alastair Scott for their valuable contributions to the National Party and Parliament. Amy was a brilliant Minister across a range of portfolios. The changes she made to domestic violence laws as Justice Minister have made families in New Zealand safer. Amy has excelled as our Finance spokesperson and has been an outstanding member for Selwyn.

“Alastair should be proud of the work he has done to prevent drug driving, and for the way he has represented and advocated for the people of Wairarapa. I’m pleased they will be here for the rest of the term to help us form policies for the 2020 election.

“National is the largest and most effective Opposition this country has ever seen. I’m proud to lead such a talented and hardworking team.” 

There are no surprises there and there will probably be none in tomorrow’s reshuffle of Cabinet but there is a major difference between the two caucuses – there’s plenty of talent in National’s with many MPs capable of becoming Ministers.

By contrast Labour’s is a shallow pool and, as Barry Soper noted:

. . .The reshuffle will be minor because most of those who should be in Cabinet are already there. And the amount of time Ardern’s taken getting around to shuffling the chairs just goes to show how hard leadership is for a person who clearly finds it hard to be hard. . . 

Ardern doesn’t have much to choose from and, if past form is a guide, will be reluctant to demote the poorest performers.


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2018

That’s creative thinking – if I had known that I probably would have joined them. –  Inspector John Kelly on the New Year revellers who built a large sandcastle in the middle of the Tairua estuary in an attempt to avoid the liquor ban.

Among western leftists, morality had become culture-specific. If imperialism’s victims asked for support, then they would be given it, unquestioningly. If not, then they would tend to their own political gardens exclusively.

The problem for western feminists is that, in spite of these cultural and political self-denying ordinances, the only garden currently showing unequivocal signs of flourishing, is their own. Across vast regions of the planet, not only are women’s rights not flourishing, they are being diminished. – Chris Trotter

Any family, in any part of the country, dealing with any one of those challenges, would find it difficult. But when you have all of those at once, it is incredibly difficult to see how a family could navigate their way through all of that on their own.

And you sure as heck, can’t have an official sitting in Wellington waving a magic wand, and fixing it for them. – Louise Upston

If I look at my colleagues, they get up and go to work every day because they care so much. . .Why would we do that if we didn’t care? Why would we do that if we didn’t care about individuals and actually want something better for their lives? Louise Upston

Men who have been inculcated into a culture of toxic masculinity need to regularly top up their King Dick Metre, which can only be fuelled by the disempowerment of someone else. And that someone else is very often a woman.

Their feelings of strength only come when someone else is in a position of weakness. They can only feel valid when they are able to invalidate someone else. They only feel like they have won when someone else has lost. – Kasey Edwards

Could you imagine a return to a world where the only people that gave dairy farmers grief were sheep farmers and bank managers?

Could you imagine the next time Fonterra was in the news, it was for a collaboration with Lynx in producing a deodorant that smelled of silage and cowshit, that dairy farmers could put on if they used too much soap in the shower?

Maybe we can hope that our on-farm processes continue to develop, along with scientific developments, adoption of best practices and consumer preferences, as opposed to at the whim of vote-hungry politicians, misinformed urban housewives and the combined armies of anaemic vegans, animal rights activists, goblins and orcs.

Maybe we could hope that we can reverse the trend that has seen rural folk and farmers become an ethnic minority in this country – a minority that is now seen by many New Zealanders as dirty, destructive and somehow freeloading on resources, with less credibility then prostitution. . .  –  Pete Fitzherbert

We welcome the government’s focus on tracking the number of children in persistent poverty and hardship. However, setting multiple arbitrary targets for reducing child hardship is easier than actually helping people extricate themselves from their predicaments. – Dr Oliver Hartwich

Good intentions are not enough. They’re not even a start, because there’s been a lot of money wasted and lives wrecked on the basis of good intentions expressed through public services. Bill English

 . . . the only reason we have a 37-year-old female Prime Minister is because a septuagenarian put her there. – Fran O’Sullivan

Peters’ inability to contain his bitterness suggests the coalition negotiations were a charade. His resentment towards National is deep-rooted, and since the election, the feeling is reciprocated. It is unlikely that National’s change of leader will diminish Peters’ toxicity.  – The Listener

It strikes me as rather unfair that while we’ve been up in arms over where the country’s burgeoning cow population does its business, our burgeoning human population has been fouling up the waterways with what comes out of our own backsides. We can’t berate dairy farmers for dirtying the rivers if we’re content for our biggest city to keep using its waterways as one giant long drop. – Nadine Higgins

Over-reacting about everything someone says or does, creating controversy over silly innocuous things such as what I choose to wear or not wear, is not moving us forward. It’s creating silly distractions from real issues.Jennifer Lawrence

The incident has also highlighted the danger of a government full of academics, health professionals, public servants, teachers and career politicians picking business winners.

The idea that councils around the country would rail or truck their rubbish to Westport for incineration is one of those ludicrous ideas that only regional development officials would think is a flyer. – Martin van Beynen

Getting policy right matters. In the end, lots of money and good intentions is never enough. You’ve got to get the policy right. – Nicola Willis

So consumed are they with the grassy vistas opening up in front of them that they are oblivious to their drawing ever closer to journey’s end, namely the holding yards of the local freezing works. – John Armstrong

Businesses, by and large, are better at coping with bad news than they are at coping with uncertainty. You cannot plan for it or adapt to it. Hamish Rutherford

Feminism is about choice, the right to have one, the right to be equal. It is not about trampling men to death in the process. It is not about spending so much time telling girls that “they can do anything” that they become curious and confused as to why you keep telling them something they already knew.

Guess what? The girls we’re raising haven’t had it occur to them they can’t do anything. – Kate Hawkesby

I’m not sure what affordable means but I am sure I’m not alone in that. It’s bound to be a complicated formula with one of the variables being the price of avocados. I just hope it doesn’t add up to borrowing from KiwiBank to buy from KiwiBuild during the KiwiBubble resulting in KiwiBust.James Elliott

 If we believe that correcting harmful inequities lies in asserting an inherent malice and/or obsolescence in all people with a specific combination of age, gender and ethnicity then we have already lost the fight. The real enemy is the unchecked and uncontested power exercised through institutions, social norms and structures which privilege one group over another.    – Emma Espiner

A tagged tax has to be a tagged tax, otherwise it’s a rort. – Mike Hosking

While the Greens are dreaming of compost, wheelbarrows, chook poo and quinoa, the rest of us wouldn’t mind getting on with business. And that means we need water. – Mike Hosking

Certainly a rational person, and especially one convinced of the threat of global warming and the possibility of more droughts, would increase, not stop investment in irrigation?

That is not to argue that water quality and nitrate leaching are not problems – they are. But to stop irrigation as a solution is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The rational approach is to find ways of reducing nitrate leaching even under high-producing irrigated pastures. This requires more science, more evidence, more rational thinking. – Dr Doug Edmeades

Businesses — it doesn’t matter what they are — require reliable steady staff; not rocket scientists but reliable steady staff. Unless we have those types of people available our whole economy has an issue. – Andre de Bruin

There’s power in love. There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will. There’s power in love to show us the way to live. – Michael Bruce Curry

The well-being of all communities can be enhanced by enabling greater levels of social solidarity, empowering people in their personal and community lives, enhancing social infrastructure and establishing opportunities for dignified work and alternative livelihoods. – Tracey McIntosh

Tough on crime is popular with the insular and ignorant when it comes to justice policy, while restorative approaches with enduring outcomes that help people stay away from jail because they offend less are not popular, not sexy and seen as “soft on crime”. Chester Borrows

Everyone can do something amazing once. You’ve got to back it up and do it again – Rowland Smith

The money spent on eliminating risk in one area means less available to fix problems in other areas. In other words, the consequence of lowering risk in one sphere can hinder minimising risk in another one. Chew carefully on that one. – Martin van Beynen

That’s what the call for diversity means. An endless slicing and dicing of society into every thinner minority groups with everyone scrambling for quotas and box ticking.

It’s a bureaucratic nightmare. It’s also a complete denial of individuality. You are not important. All that matters is what boxes you tick. It’s the boxes that define you, not what you do, what you think or what you produce. – Rodney Hide

We went to do a story about an American billionaire buying up wineries in Wairarapa. Local wine makers were going broke and in stepped the American billionaire. I went down with a TV crew expecting locals to be up in arms about the ‘foreigner’ buying up the land. But I couldn’t find one voice raised against him.

There is one thing worse than a foreign buyer, they told me, and that’s not having a buyer at all. – Guyon Espiner

It feels like a Dear Winston moment really – Mike Jaspers

We grow up thinking the world is fair, but it’s not, so you’re not always going to get the results you’re looking for. The challenge is to pick yourself up again when you have those days.Joe Schmidt

I believe rugby is similar to society, where it is about interdependence and us trying to help each other. Imagine if everyone in life became the best version of themselves and made life easier for those either side of them. – Joe Schmidt

The very premise of our system is we learn from our mistakes and wrongs and are given freedom to make amends.Mike Hosking

Grown-ups know that being short $60 a week is not what ails and troubles our most vulnerable children. Proper parenting can’t be bought for $60 a week. – Rodney Hide.

So stop beating yourself up for buying too many books or for having a to-read list that you could never get through in three lifetimes. All those books you haven’t read are indeed a sign of your ignorance. But if you know how ignorant you are, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of other people. – Jessica Stillman

Feminism has descended into a cauldron of cattiness; of nasty factionalism. It doesn’t empower. It  scrutinises and judges groups within groups. Like extreme left or right politics, the creed is hardest on those most like it – those who should know better but fail. – Lindsay Mitchell

Regional development is about more than funding a few projects; it’s about allowing people to make a living. – Paul Goldsmith

This image of Anglo-Saxon culture isn’t grounded in the up-to-date distinct cultural traditions or practices of the United Kingdom. It is a cover of a misremembered song, played by a drunk who forgot the words mid-song and so started humming. – Haimona Gray

Imagine the world today if William Wilberforce and Kate Sheppard had refused to engage with people whose views they found repugnant. If Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr had decided not to argue back. If Desmond Tutu and Te Whiti had seen no point in suffering the slings and arrows of their opponents because, hey, nothing’s gonna change.

The twist in this debate is that the Molyneuxs, Southerns and other so-called champions of free speech only win when their shouting drowns out other voices. Voices of conciliation and peace. Because regardless of the polarisation we see today, people can change. We can learn. And, even if we still disagree on some profound issues, we can find other things to agree on and other things to respect in each other. Tim Watkin

The day that this country’s dictated to by the social media trolls is the day that democracy dies. If we are to be spooked into compliance by what an anonymous moron threatens by the swipe of a cellphone screen then we’re little better than they are. – Barry Soper

It is unfortunate, but the world seems to have lost the ability to disagree well. Civility in our discussions and debates over contentious issues seems to have been lost. We are increasingly polarised in our views with recourse to extreme positions in order to ‘prove’ or force our point. However, the answer is not to avoid difficult and, at times, confronting conversations. Rather, community leaders, and universities in particular, play a vital role in leading our communities in those discussions, as difficult as they may be, applying the principles of informed discussion, compromise, enlightenment of the points of view of others, and if all else fails, respectful disagreement. – Chris Gallavin

But where is that line that we need to find as a Parliament between being culturally sensitive to people that may not see things in the way in which New Zealand’s own cultures have developed, and, on the other hand, being firm enough that, actually, no, these things, regardless of culture, are not right. Nick Smith

We have an education system that does not reward excellence and does not punish failure. Decades of bureaucratic hand-wringing has delivered a broken system that relies on the personal integrity and good intentions of those who choose teaching as a profession. – Damien Grant

After all, as long as we can discern the truth clearly, love it passionately, and defend it vigorously, we have nothing to fear from open debate; and if we can’t do those things, then why are we claiming to be a university at all? – Dr Jonathan Tracy

The answer to suffering, physical or mental, is affection and good care. This should come first and as far as possible from family and community, supported by institutions.

“Finishing people off” may suit our current individualistic, utilitarian, impatient culture, but it will degrade us all in the end. – Carolyn Moynihan

In a liberal, democratic society, there will always be speech in the public domain that some people find offensive, distasteful or unsavoury. Unless that speech is manifestly doing harm to others, there is no case to ban it, only a case for arguing strongly against it or ridiculing it. Recourse to suppression is redolent of authoritarianism, not democracy. – Chris Bishop

The irony is that although the elimination of subsidies started out as a kind of political punishment, it wound up becoming a long-term blessing for farmers. We went through a difficult period of adjustment but emerged from it stronger than ever. . .

 We became ruthlessly efficient, which is another way of saying that we became really good at what we do.

We also improved our ability to resist regulations that hurt agriculture. Subsidies empower politicians, who can threaten to cut off aid if farmers refuse to accept new forms of control. Without subsidies, we have more freedom to solve problems through creativity and innovation rather than the command-and-control impulses of government. – Craige Mackenzie

But as someone who’s spent a bit of time writing and talking about the important, and not so important, issues in life, there is one thing I know which will never change.

Truth always wins. If you report the facts you can never go wrong. – Peter Williams

We can’t prosper by taking in our own washing so, strutting it on the global stage has to be our modus operandi.And I mean strutting, not just selling low value stuff that rises or falls on the rise or fall of the NZ dollar. Strutting starts with the daring of the ambition and is sustained by the ability to execute.  Ruth Richardson

The frightening retreat from sane economics. Free trade is the path to growth, protectionism is the path to decline. Ruth  Richardson

This is an accidental government formed on the fly and governing on the fly.–  Ruth Richardson

Death of great science on the alter of doctrinal and PC positions doesn’t strike me as the smartest choice.  – Ruth Richardson

I’m satisfied within myself. I’ve got more to do with my life than look at that. Barbara Brinsley

Each of us has made different life choices and, actually, that gives women everywhere role models.

It’s legitimate to choose. We don’t have to be the same, we don’t have to judge each other, we make our own choices. – Dame Jenny Shipley

Every student who walks out of the gate to truant is already a statistic of the worst kind, highly likely to go to prison, highly likely to commit domestic violence or be a victim of domestic violence, be illiterate, be a rape victim, be a suicide victim, be unemployed for the majority of their life, have a major health problem or problems, die at an early age, have an addiction – drugs, gambling, alcohol or smoking. Virginia Crawford

I am Māori. Tuhinga o mua Ngāti Hāmua a Te Hika a Pāpāuma. Ko taku iwi Ngāti Kahungunua a Rangitāne. I am Scottish, I am English, I am a New Zealander. I am not defined by the colour of my skin. I am a victim. I did not choose to be a victim. – Maanki 

If we want to see fewer Māori in prison, our whānau broken apart because dad is in prison and mum is now in rangi (heaven), we must free ourselves and our whānau from the increasing level of domestic violence and abuse in our homes. The drugs must stop, the high level of drinking and violence among our own must be gone.

How many of our fathers are incarcerated, because their fathers taught them the only way to deal with anger was violence, to punch their way through a situation. How many of our whānau have lost a mother, a child, a brother from our people’s own hand. – Maanki

The blame needs to stop. It is not the police, the system, the state, the Government, the justice system or even the Pākehā who made a man beat his wife to death, to rape an innocent stranger, to murder their own child or to sexually abuse a daughter or son.

No, it was a choice, a choice made by a perpetrator. – Maanki


The Senate, collectively, could not find their own arses with a sextant and a well-thumbed copy of Gray’s Anatomy
Jack the Insider

Over the years I have come to the conclusion that God’s table is a smorgasbord of theological truths with some in conflict with others and some more important that others.    People are free to pick and choose from that smorgasbord and do so based on what is important to them. – The Veteran

But I can’t remember not having books. I’d go to the library every week, search every shelf with children’s books, then go home with a stack. . .   Every choice was my choice. Then I could control what went into my head by plugging into new worlds, learning new things and just imagining a different life. . .

When we only look to reinforce our taste and beliefs we lose the opportunity to browse and the opportunity for serendipity, and that’s unfortunate. – Maud Cahill

It was sort of total irritability associated with feeling hungry that would manifest as grumpiness. This void in my stomach would create a void in my sense of humour and my ability to tolerate things. – Simon Morton

This is a partnership designed by a drover’s dog and a clinical psychologist who have absolutely nothing in common except they both have experience dealing with rogue steers who don’t believe in being team players. – Clive Bibby  

I live down in the South Island, and there’s been a lot of farmers trying to curtsey. Most of the time they’re in gumboots. – Dame Lynda Topp

In the west food is produced by a few to feed the many and when people are relieved of the duties of working on farms and subsistence farming the job is handed to a few and people move to the cities and that is when they become disconnected. – Anna Jones

Class is a commodity that doesn’t seem to be in conspicuous supply in politics at the moment. – Chris Finlayson

New Zealand’s real problems are not identity politics, no matter what the left may think. They are that the welfare state has failed. Too many kids don’t get educated. Too many working aged adults are on welfare. Too many are in jail because there is too much crime and they’re never rehabilitated. Housing has gone from a commodity to a ponzi scheme. Our productivity growth is anaemic. With government’s and councils’ approach to regulation, it’s amazing anyone still does anything. Andrew Ketels

I certainly don’t celebrate diversity for its own sake. You have to distinguish pluralism from relativism. Relativism tends towards ‘anything goes’ and that can’t be right

Pluralism is the view that although some ways of living really are wrong, the list of possible good ways to live a flourishing human life and have a good society contains more than one item. – Julian Baggini

We didn’t need a tax on stones, there wasn’t a concern about ‘peak stone’ and we didn’t need to stage protests in front of the chieftains’ caves to argue for the use of bronze. It came down to developing the new technology, which had benefits over the old technology, and disseminating the knowledge. – Andrew Hoggard

I am the culmination of generous moment after generous moment, kind moment after kind moment and that is the glue that holds this country together. – Kurt Fearnley

It is a privilege for any mother to be able to propose a toast to her son on his 70th birthday. It means that you have lived long enough to see your child grow up. It is rather like – to use an analogy I am certain will find favour – planting a tree and being able to watch it grow. – Queen Elizabeth II

When I noticed that I was spending far more time scrolling through my email and Twitter than I was playing on the floor with my son, I realized that the problem wasn’t with screens warping his fragile mind. It was that I’d already allowed my phone to warp mine. So these days, my husband and I try not to use our phones at all in front of our son. Not because I think the devil lives in my iPhone, but because I think, to some extent, a small part of the devil lives in me. – EJ Dickson

The proper purpose of journalism remains as Kovach and Rosenstiel defined it – not to lead society toward the outcome that journalists think is correct, but to give ordinary people  the means to make their own decisions about what’s in their best interests.Karl du Fresne

I’m bloody angry at New Zealand for fighting over Santa and I want us to stop. This is not what Santa’s about. Santa is not about angst and Santa is not about Santa hate.

Santa is about hope, Santa is about dreams. Santa can come down the chimney even when you don’t have a chimney. Santa can come in the ranch slider, Santa can drink craft beer. Santa can drink strawberry-flavoured Lindauer for all I care. – Patrick Gower

The expectation that we rustics just need to lean on the gate chewing a straw and making obscure pronouncements about the weather in impenetrable accents for picturesque effect is entertaining until it dawns on you that your role apparently really is just to provide background local colour and not disturb the peace too much.  Rural places are workplaces — stuff happens down on the farm and that stuff can be noisy.  And not just on the farm — gravel quarries, jet-boat companies and the construction sites of all those new houses that didn’t used to be there. – Kate Scott

Rose-tinted nostalgia strikes us all from time to time, but when it comes with a side of imported urban world view where non-working weekends and the notion of property values is accorded more worth than building community resilience, I begin to feel resentful of the twittering worries of suburbia intruding on my bucolic peace with its soothing soundtrack of barking huntaways, topdressing planes and chainsaws –Kate Scott

I had a gentleman come to my office three years ago. He was a Labour candidate. He ran for the Labour Party. He was coming to see me because he’d been to see his own team—they wouldn’t help him with an issue, so he came to me. Did I say, “Oh, sorry, you’ve been a Labour candidate. I’m not going to assist you. I’m not going to help you.”? No, I didn’t. I actually helped him with his issue, because that’s my job as a member of Parliament. I don’t care whether you support New Zealand First, I don’t care whether you’re a supporter or member of the Labour Party, the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand, or the National Party—if you come and ask for help and support, you will get it. That’s my job.-  Mark Mitchell

The only positive outcome from the UN’s 2009 Copenhagen fiasco was the launch of New Zealand’s Global Research Alliance (GRA) to reduce methane and nitrous-oxide emissions, which account for 22 per cent of the world’s GHG total. More than 50 countries are now involved. If the GRA develops science to cut agricultural emissions by two-thirds it would be the equivalent of the US becoming a zero emitter. If it eliminated them, it would be like China going carbon zero. This would benefit the world at least 100 times more than New Zealand becoming net-zero domestically. – Matthew Hooton

No one bets on a horse with a dud jockey.  Simon Bridges

Ms Ardern promised to lead the most open and transparent Government New Zealand has seen. That doesn’t mean picking and choosing to be open and transparent when it benefits her. – Tova O’Brien

Shaw and his comrades have a vision of a different economic model, one that sane people have tunnelled under barbed wire fences to escape. Alas, the sacrifice required to achieve this gender-fluid post-colonial paradise requires a reversal of most of the economic gains of the last 50 years.Damien Grant

The less you trust people, the more distrustful they become and so the more law you need in order to trust them. A good society would not have too much law, because people would do the right thing he says. But in New Zealand we have a lot of law. – Professor Mark Henaghan


Priorities, platitudes, no plan

September 17, 2018

Jacinda Ardern has bowed to Winston Peters – her big speech yesterday talked not of a Labour-led governs but either this government or the coalition government.

The speech was an attempt to show coalition unity after the recent shambles, and told us very little new.

She talked of 12 priorities, but when it came to details, it was mostly the what with little how, and the what was more about what they’ve done or already announced than what they will do.

It was full of platitudes like:

. . .We will:

A. Ensure everyone who is able to, is earning, learning, caring or volunteering . . 

And the plan? It was a whole lot more about where they want to go with little about how they’ll get there.

A good government knows where it’s going, and how to get there,  from the start, not nearly one year into a three-year term.

The “plan” such as it is, is here.


Spot the difference

July 31, 2018

National MP Chris Bishop illustrates the difference between a good bill and a bad one:


Deaf and mentally disabled don’t count?

July 16, 2018

Last week we learned the government had withdrawn funding for cochlear implants, this week it’s a pilot for mental health support workers:

The Government’s decision to axe a universally-supported pilot to improve the response to 111 mental health calls is nothing short of disgraceful, especially after Labour pledged to make mental health a priority, National’s Police spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“It has been revealed that Labour has scrapped a pilot in which a mental health nurse would attend mental health incidents alongside police and paramedics to ensure that people in distress receive timely responses that are tailored to their needs.

“Police spend around 280 hours a day responding to mental health calls. They do a good job, but are not mental health professionals so having a mental health nurse deployed to incidents with police would make a real difference.

“The increasing demand on police to respond to mental health crises is set to continue. That’s why the National Government set aside $8 million for the pilot as part of our $100 million mental health package.

“Police Minister Stuart Nash confirmed in answers to written questions the day of the Police Estimates hearing that the pilot would be canned, yet Police Commissioner Mike Bush told the hearing that police were very hopeful it would continue – in front of Mr Nash.

“Mr Nash has admitted that police are dealing with more and more mental health cases. The pilot would have eased pressure on police and improved the quality of the response for those experiencing mental distress.

“It beggars belief that this Government would axe the potentially game-changing pilot which had universal support from those on the frontline dealing with mental health, including mental health expert Nigel Fairley who said in February that the pilot was top of his spending list.

“The Government is again wilfully disregarding the expert advice and belittling calls from police and mental health experts to improve first responder processes.

“People need more help now. The Government must listen to the experts and reinstate funding for this pilot immediately.”

The government has an inquiry into mental health underway and last week announced the setting up of a criminal justice advisory group.

I will be very surprised if both don’t find a link between lack of support for the mentally ill and crime.

Deisntitutionalisation of mentally ill people was a humane policy but it hasn’t been backed up by enough support for many of them and their families.

That is one factor contributing to our high crime and incarceration rates.

Having mental health support people as first responders would not only help people in desperate need, it would make the work of the police less difficult and improve public safety.

Both Labour and the Greens say they stand for the most vulnerable, NZ First says it stands for improved law and order, withdrawing this funding is another example of their actions contradicting their rhetoric.

It is letting down the most vulnerable and their families and will make the work of police much harder.

It is also another example of wrong priorities. Had the government not wasted money on fee-free tertiary education, good looking horses, and other fripperies there would be more than enough for the deaf and mentally disabled.


National’s 10 big achievements

November 9, 2017

Hutt South MP Chirs Bishop writes on 10 of National’s big achievements in government:

. . Let me say at the outset that no government is perfect. All are affected by global economic circumstances and – as encapsulated in Macmillan’s famous dictum – “events, dear boy, events”. Governments never deliver all the fervent desires of their most ardent supporters, and most aren’t anywhere near as hopeless as partisans from the other side would have you believe.

I believe New Zealanders can look back with pride on nine years of National government. The country is demonstrably a better place than it was in 2008. Since Muldoon (who infamously, and depressingly, promised to leave the country no worse than he found it) that has surely been the litmus test for good government in this country. New Zealand is prouder, wealthier, more confident and aspirational than it was nine years ago. . . 

Nine years ago the country was in recession and forecast to have a decade of deficits.

Thanks to the good work through three terms of National-led government the situation and outlook are much rosier.

1. Getting the country through the global financial crisis – and back into the black

Any account of the last National government has to start with the GFC. Sir John Key, Bill English and team took office in the teeth of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and it’s worth recalling that New Zealand actually entered recession a year before the rest of the world. Treasury predicted never-ending deficits, unemployment to rise to over 10%, and debt to peak at 40% of GDP.

The government didn’t panic – and nor did it slash and burn. Social support was maintained, but poor quality programmes were rationalised, and new Budget operating allowances were pared back. In the years preceding 2008, Labour had increased spending unsustainably (50% in its last five years) for little to no effect. With Bill English in charge of the purse strings, departments were told to focus on results, not just to lobby for ever-escalating spending.

The government books got back into the black in 2014/15. Unemployment is now down to 4.6% and labour force participation is at record levels. Our debt to GDP topped at just 25%, and is coming down (Australia’s is 40, the UK’s is 90 and the USA’s is 108%!).

I’m proud that we did this while maintaining investment in core public services. For example, since 2009 health spending has increased by $3 billion per year, or around 25% (population growth has been 14%).

The incoming government inherits books that are the envy of the developed world.

2. Building a more productive, diverse and competitive economy

While dealing with the GFC, National started the process of consistent, moderate and sustained economic reform to build a more productive and competitive economy.

Through careful, measured tax reform, state asset sales and welfare reform, the results are plain to see. The economy is growing at 3% per year, one of the fastest growth rates in the world, and has generated 274,000 jobs in the last two years. The job numbers are remarkable: New Zealand has the third highest employment rate in the developed world (at a time of record migration – it seems that immigrants don’t “steal” New Zealand jobs, as some like to claim).

Economic strength has flowed through to people’s pay packets: average annual household income is up 42% since 2007, and average wages have increased by more than twice the rate of inflation. In fact after tax wages have increased twice as fast in New Zealand than in Australia since 2008.

The economy is more diverse. When the bottom fell out of dairy in 2014/15, New Zealand kept growing. The technology sector is expanding at a dizzying rate with revenue now over $10 billion. That famous “manufacturing crisis” that Labour used to talk about? The sector’s now been expanding for 57 consecutive months.

3. Dealing with the Canterbury earthquakes

Following the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011, the government was told that the local economy could expect a sustained downturn, a dramatic fall in population, and rising housing costs. National worked quickly to keep jobs in the region and support unemployed workers and businesses facing temporary shutdowns. The SCIRT programme to repair broken roads and pipes was an unequivocal success and the EQC home repair programme has repaired hundreds of thousands of homes – a building project the likes of which New Zealand has never seen. Yes, a small number of the repairs require remedial work, but this is typical in the private sector as well.

Many of the key anchor projects are now complete, including the Bus Interchange and brand new Justice Precinct. A solution has finally been achieved for the Cathedral and progress is being made again on the Convention Centre.The real news is in the results. The Canterbury economy is booming and the population higher than ever. The housing market is stable. The dire predictions following the earthquakes have not come to fruition – on the contrary, Canterbury is thriving and is well on the way to becoming one of the best cities in the world to work and live in.

4. Significant reductions in child poverty

Some will call it chutzpah for including this, but the facts are indisputable: child poverty measures fell on National’s watch, despite absurd hyperbole to the contrary. Using MSD’s Material Wellbeing Index, the number of children in material hardship in 2016 was 135,000. Too many, obviously, but well down on the 170,000 in hardship in 2008; and massively down on the 220,000 following the GFC (in 2011).

For a supposed “neoliberal” government regularly accused of showing no empathy for the disadvantaged, National’s record is impressive: the first real benefit increases in 43 years, massive insulation programmes for state homes (and the private market), breakfasts in schools programmes, free GP visits for all kids under 13, and more. National’s family incomes package (about to be legislated away under urgency by Labour) would have lifted around 50,000 further kids above the poverty line.

5. The Better Public Services programme and Social Investment

In 2012 the government did something quite profound. It set ten targets aimed at delivering results for our customers by reducing welfare dependency and crime, increasing immunisation and achievement at school, and more. This quiet revolution in the public service has led to improvements across the board: crime down 14% (youth crime is down a third), rheumatic fever has reduced 23%, 94% of 8 month olds are now fully immunised, to name a few.

Allied to this was “Social Investment” – targeted, evidence-based investment to secure better long-term results. The government spends $61 billion on social services every year. Far too often we don’t ask much about the efficacy of that spend – particularly for those with complex needs. Bill English often says: “we need to know what works, for whom, and at what cost.” Social Investment is about doing things differently: using sophisticated data to identify need and risk, and to invest up-front in what works. By breaking down silos between agencies, harnessing the power of community instead of big government this approach changes lives for the better, rather than just servicing misery.

6. A more competitive, affordable, secure and renewable electricity system

It’s a bit odd that Labour has promised a full-scale review of the electricity market (although it seems to be what new governments do – we’ve had one every time there’s been a change of government). I’m confident the review will show that New Zealand’s electricity policy settings are outstanding. That’s largely due to the work of Gerry Brownlee, who inherited a totally dysfunctional system. Under Labour consumers were told every second year to save power during winter, prices rose 72% in nine years, and security of supply was at serious risk. Moreover, despite rhetoric to the contrary, gas and coal use massively increased – Labour even underwrote the building of a new gas power plant!

Fast forward nine years and renewable electricity is at near record highs, electricity prices actually fell in 2017 in real terms thanks to more competition, and despite dry years we’ve had no forced conservation campaigns. Most astonishingly, we have decoupled economic growth from increased electricity demand: the economy is growing at around 3% while demand is flat and even falling.

7. Reforms to welfare to reward independence and work

National undertook the most significant reforms to the social welfare system in a generation. Benefit categories were simplified and new expectations introduced for beneficiaries, requiring them to be available for work or getting ready for work. Social obligations for beneficiaries with dependent children were introduced to ensure they were meeting health and education goals. National established the Youth Service, where case managers and providers help young people gain education, training and employment skills. Sixteen and 17 year olds on benefits were placed under money management.

Welfare reform demonstrably worked. The number of sole parents on a benefit is the lowest it has been since 1988. Sixty thousand fewer children are now growing up in a benefit-dependent household since 2011. The current lifetime liability of the benefit system has reduced by $13.7 billion over the last five years. This equates to clients spending 1.3 million fewer years on main benefits over their working lifetimes.

8. A big lift in the number of young Kiwis achieving educational success

When National came to office in 2008, one in two Māori and Pasifika kids left school without NCEA Level 2 – a passport for the future and the recognised minimum standard for other tertiary options.

In 2016, nearly 75% of Māori students, and nearly 80% of Pasifika students, achieved the NCEA Level 2 qualification – remarkable progress by any measure.

Under National, participation in Early Childhood Education hit record highs. The dysfunctional industry training system was overhauled. By 2016, there were 43,000 apprentices around the country, including 100,000 trainees. The Network for Learning was started and completed (on time and under budget) providing ultra-fast, uncapped, high-quality data, at no cost to schools. Pathways from school to study and work were overhauled through the Youth Guarantee and Trades Academies.

9. Treaty of Waitangi Settlements

Despite Māori overwhelmingly voting for them, and Labour liking to preen as the party of and for Māori, the Treaty Settlement process stalled between 1999 and 2006, only getting started once Michael Cullen took over the portfolio.

Using his skills developed in a former life as a negotiator for Ngāi Tahu, and his genuine good-hearted commitment to reconciliation, Chris Finlayson just got on with the job. The results speak for themselves: 59 Deeds of Settlement signed in nine years, meaning the majority of historical Treaty settlements across New Zealand have now been resolved. And consider this: it was Chris Finlayson that delivered the long overdue apology to the Parihaka community for the atrocious actions of the Crown committed almost 140 years ago. Not only that, National gave legal personhood to Te Urewera and the Whanganui River, allowing long-overdue settlements to proceed.

A final point. The Foreshore and Seabed confiscation was one of the most disgraceful acts of the Clark government. National restored the rule of law by restoring the right of Maori to go to court to prove customary rights through the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011.

10. A turnaround in net migration

One of National’s most effective ads in the 2008 election featured John Key standing in Westpac Stadium, pointing to the 30,000 plus yellow seats, and noting that about the same number of New Zealanders were leaving to move to Australia every year. National said that we’d turn it around – and we did.

Quite remarkably, net migration between New Zealand and Australia for the year to June 2017 was 560 – in our favour. Usually people move from smaller countries to much larger countries. But over the last nine years, New Zealanders literally voted with their feet: staying home and coming home in record numbers. Around 10,000 more Kiwis are coming home than under Labour, and far fewer are leaving.

There’s so much more that could be added: the most significant action on improving freshwater quality in New Zealand’s history, the National Sciences Challenges and a big lift in research and development, huge investments in infrastructure (such as the Waterview tunnel and the Kapiti Expressway), the ambitious goal of Predator Free NZ, and so much more.

National leaves behind a better New Zealand than it inherited from Labour in 2008. And we are hungry to hold the government to account so it doesn’t squander the hard-won gains of the last nine years.

National has left the incoming government with a very solid foundation of success on which to build.

It owes it to all New Zealanders not to fritter it away, to keep the policies that were working well and improve on those which need to be done better.

 

 


Leaders’ debate

September 4, 2017

 


MoU is MoM

August 25, 2017

The Memorandum of Understanding between Labour and the Green Party did a lot more for the latter than the former.

The Greens had everything to gain at the cost of Labour which only lost.

Often it was less a MoU and more a MoM – memo of misunderstanding

Any pretence the agreement is worth anything is useless now when the Greens have done a u-turn and decided to stand candidates in Ohariu.

They might try to say it is to maximise the party vote, and that will be one motivation. But James Shaw’s refusal to endorse the Labour candidate makes it something more.

One poll shows it has less than 5% support and a couple of others show it above the threshold but at only half the level of support it had a few weeks ago. The Greens without the safety net of an electorate seat are now fighting for survival.

Taking votes, whether they be electorate or list, from Labour, in the process, won’t worry them.

On the AM Show* yesterday morning, host Duncan Garner gave Shaw several opportunities to endorse the Labour candidate and he refused to do so.

The winner in this is National’s candidate Brett Hudson who has worked as a list MP based in Ohariu for three years as a Green candidate will split the opposition vote.

The Green Party has a new candidate in Hutt South, after the previous one pulled out a few weeks ago. That is good news for National list MP Chris Bishop who seriously eroded the majority of Labour MP Trevor Mallard last election.

Mallard is standing list only and Bishop, who has had a deservedly high profile in the electorate in the last three years, was odds-on to take the seat against a newcomer. His chances are even better now the Green candidate will split the vote in this seat too.

All of this begs the question: if Labour and the Green Party can’t play nicely in opposition, what chance would they have of doing so in government?

* Newshub covers the interview here but makes no mention of Shaw’s repeated refusal to endorse the Labour candidate.

 


Live donor compensation Bill passes unanimously

December 1, 2016

Life will be easier for people who donate organs thanks to the  Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill  which passed into law last night.

National List MP based in the Hutt Valley Chris Bishop is delighted that his Member’s Bill, the Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill, has passed its third and final reading in Parliament unanimously.

“Live organ donors are heroes, but the status quo is manifestly unfair. These donors are compensated at the equivalent of the sickness benefit while they recuperate after their operation, even though their actions save lives, save taxpayers money, and contribute to a better and healthier New Zealand,” Mr Bishop said.

“My Bill will mean that live organ donors receive compensation of 100 per cent of their earnings for up to 12 weeks after the operation. It also allows for pre-operation compensation in some circumstances.”

During his speech Mr Bishop paid tribute to Lower Hutt woman Sharon van der Gulik and her grandson Matt, who inspired him to take the Bill up upon being elected to Parliament in late 2014.

“Mrs van der Gulik approached me at a public meeting in the Hutt during the 2014 election campaign and told me about how her grandson had donated a kidney to her, but was struggling financially after the surgery,” Mr Bishop said.

“I promised her that if I were privileged to be elected, I would look at taking up her cause.

“New Zealand needs to improve its organ donation rates. One big barrier to donation is the financial sacrifice that people are currently required to make while they take time off work for the surgery and recovery.

“The Bill adopts a cost neutrality approach, as in the United Kingdom, and means that people will be neither better or worse off from having donated. This should see more people choosing to donate.

“This will be good for recipients of organs, and also good for taxpayers. Research clearly shows that there are large fiscal gains for taxpayers from increased support for organ donors.

“This is a great day for organ donors in New Zealand.”

Bishop’s speech is here.

I happened to be driving home from Christchurch when the car radio picked up the debate on the second reading of Chris Bishop’s Compensation for Live Organ Donors Bill.

The speeches provided a wonderful example of parliament and politicians at their best – non-partisan support for a bill which will help those in need of an organ, ensure donors aren’t out of pocket for donating and also save public money.

Transplants save more than $120k in dialysis costs, net of the cost of the transplant and ongoing care.

Passing the Bill ends the unfairness of donors being penalised for their altruism, it is a positive move for those needing organs and those who donate to them and the multi-party support for the measure shows parliament at its best.

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Mallard makes it easier for Bishop in Hutt

July 25, 2016

POLITIK reports Hutt South MP Trevor Mallard won’t contest his electorate at the next election but will seek a list seat:

He says he is doing this because Labour will nominate him as Speaker and he told them he had come to the view that it is very hard to be both an effective electorate MP and chair the house in an unbiased manner.

And he says the move will help the party with its process of renewal by bringing in a new MP.

That means that he is not expecting Leader Andrew Little  who does not have an electorate, to stand in the seat.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Annette King appeared to confirm this last night when she told POLITIK that she did not expect Mr Little to stand in any seat.

A leader’s workload is one reason for Little to continue to be a list MP. But that also makes it easier to say he lacks the on-the-ground experience of people and issues that electorate MPs  gain working in a seat and for its people, in contrast to list MPs who can pick and choose more.

This decision also makes an already task more difficult for Labour’s list selection if the party can’t get a substantial boost in its support.

Wallowing in the popularity shallows as it is just now would give Labour very few list MPs.

But the move also opens the way for one of National’s young rising stars, Chris Bishop, to possibly win the seat. . . 

Some list MPs don’t try to win electorates, some do and Bishop is one who has been working very hard in Hutt South.

Little would have a much higher profile than a newcomer should he stand in the seat but Bishop would also be able to argue that he (Bishop) would be able to devote much more time to the electorate than a party leader.

Should Little not stand, a newcomer would have to work much harder to gain profile that Bishop’s service in the electorate has given him.

Either way this makes it easier for Bishop, who lost by only 709 votes to Mallard in 2014, to gain the seat.


Chris Bishop’s maiden speech

October 28, 2014

National MP Chris Bishop led the address and reply debate with his maiden speech:

I move, that a respectful address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General in reply to His Excellency’s speech.

Mr Speaker, can I first congratulate you on your re-election as Speaker. I am sure you will continue to discharge the responsibilities of the office with skill and care. Can I also congratulate Deputy Speaker Hon Chester Borrows, and Assistant Speakers Lindsay Tisch and my opponent in the Hutt – my friend, the Hon Trevor Mallard.

It is an honour and privilege to have been elected as a Member of Parliament. I am here because the National Party has placed its faith in me to be an effective list MP. And ultimately of course I am here because over one million New Zealanders voted for National in the recent election. I thank the party, and I thank New Zealand, for honouring me with this important job.

I also thank the people of Hutt South. Lower Hutt was where I was born and raised and I am happy to be living there again.

I am proud to say I am from “the Hutt”, an area with which I have a long family connection.

On my mother’s side of the family I am descended from seven Dixon siblings that arrived on ships at Petone beach between 1838 and 1856. Edward Dixon was one of them and every summer when I go to the Basin Reserve I sit beneath his memorial clock in the old grandstand. My great, great Grandfather Joe Dixon walked the Hutt Road before it even existed and as a lay preacher held services on Petone Beach, a stone’s throw from where I now live.

From the days of Oswald Mazengarb QC’s famous report into delinquent youths at milk bars in the 1950s, Lower Hutt, I think it is fair to say, has had a somewhat mixed reputation. Stereotypes are hard to break, but let me say this: the Hutt is a wonderful place. We have fantastic high-tech businesses at the forefront of the new economy, excellent community facilities, a wonderful natural environment right on our doorstep, and most of all, we have innovative and spirited people.

I believe the Hutt Valley’s best days are ahead of it and I am looking forward to serving the people of the Hutt – from Wainuiomata to the Western Hills – as a list MP based in the area.

While I am saying thanks, I would like to put on the record my thanks to everyone who has helped me get to where I am today: my family, who have loved and supported me in ways too numerous to detail; my friends; my campaign committee in Hutt South, who ran such a high-energy campaign; the National Party leadership in particular Malcolm Plimmer, Glenda Hughes, and Roger Bridge; and the Young Nats who make it so much easier to stand by the side of the road at 6.30am doing human hoardings in the cold because of their infectious enthusiasm. Most importantly I want to thank my partner and campaign manager Jenna, who has been the rock in my life for the past six years.

As some members know, I have been lucky enough to work in roles behind the scenes for this government. I have worked directly for two very different, but exceptional Ministers: Hon Gerry Brownlee and Hon Steven Joyce.

It is a privilege, although I have to say somewhat surreal, to be joining them in a caucus led by a man I also greatly admire, the Rt Hon John Key. Thank you, Gerry and Steven, for your friendship, guidance, and wisdom. If I achieve half as much in politics as you have I will be doing pretty well.

I come to this House as someone who has always, for as long as I can recall, been interested in politics, history, public policy and the law. My parents – John Bishop and Rosemary Dixon – are to blame. From Dad I got my love of politics. Dad was in the press gallery from 1982 to 1987. He was chief parliamentary reporter for TVNZ during the momentous year of 1984. The political bug was transferred to me, or so the family joke goes, when he was told to talk to his new baby. Most people would choose the weather, or what was on TV tonight, something like that. His topic of choice was none other than “this man called Sir Robert Muldoon”, and I’ve had an enduring fascination with him and his politics ever since.

Growing up I would pepper Dad for stories about his time as a journalist – about the night of the snap election; the night of the Mt Erebus crash; about travelling with Geoffrey Palmer to try and save ANZUS. I drank it all in, and those stories and their lessons have shaped who I am today.

From Mum I got my love of the law, particularly public law. From both my parents I gained an interest in ideas; in current affairs; and the world around me. Our household growing up was one where everyone was expected to have a view; and not to be shy about expressing it. Indeed both my parents were champion debaters, and Mum was instrumental in establishing the New Zealand Schools’ Debating Council, which I was president of for four years much later. Almost every year since 1988 the grand final of the Russell McVeagh National Champs has been held where we were this morning, in the Legislative Council Chamber.

There are now four alumni of the Championships who have become MPs: Jacinda Ardern, Megan Woods, Holly Walker, and myself. I am pleased that our side of the House is now represented on that list. I am sure there will be many more in the years to come.

My Dad’s side of the family – although not necessarily my Dad, whose politics I have never known – is true blue. The Bishops were farmers at Hillend, outside Balclutha in south Otago. My Poppa Stuart joined Wright Stephenson in 1928 and worked for them until he retired, interrupted only by World War Two where he fought at Monte Cassino.  Stuart and Cora Bishop almost certainly voted National their entire lives. They referred to National Superannuation as Rob’s lolly.

My mother’s side of the family could not be more different. They were Methodists in the great reforming progressive tradition and Labour voters to their toes. One great grandfather was a wharfie who won the honoured 151 day loyalty card during the 1951 strike.

My grandfather Haddon Dixon was a Methodist minister, director of CORSO, a social activist, and an inveterate follower of politics. The sort of man for whom Parliament TV was made. My Nana was a progressive socialist. In 1981 as a 61-year-old, sickened by apartheid in South Africa, she joined the Stop the Tour movement, helped organise a sit-down protest on the Hutt motorway during the Wellington test, refused to move, and was duly arrested. She happily did her 200 hours community service painting the Barnardos centre in Waterloo Road.

I think I get my social liberalism and reforming zeal from my grandparents – although I think it’s fair to say I didn’t inherit the Labour Party politics.

I come to this House as a 31-year-old – a representative of generation Y. Our generation doesn’t remember needing a doctor’s prescription to buy margarine, or permission from the Reserve Bank to subscribe to a foreign magazine, or any of the other absurdities of the Fortress New Zealand economy. It seems scarcely believable to us that from 1982 to 1984 all wages and prices were frozen by Prime Ministerial fiat.

For our generation, inflation has always been low. We’ve always been nuclear free, homosexuality has always been legal, and the Treaty Settlement process has always been underway.

New Zealand is a completely different country to what it was when I was born. I’ve always been profoundly fascinated by that transformation, and what its effects have been. For example, it intrigues me that while Bob Hawke and Paul Keating are regarded by the Labor movement in Australia as heroes, and receive standing ovations at Labor Party conferences still to this day, New Zealand’s own Labour reformers are essentially pariahs from their party.

I think it a significant portion of the Left in New Zealand has never made its peace with the economic reforms of the 80s and early 90s. And in some ways the debate inside the Labour Party today is the most visible manifestation of that lack of reconciliation. The battles of the 1980s are still being fought. That’s a shame.

A maiden speech is traditionally the time to put on the record your principles, philosophy, and beliefs. I will do so, with the caveat that I am not so arrogant as to think that my current views are immutable. Some of my political heroes said things in their maiden speeches they almost certainly would not have agreed with later in their careers. Roger Douglas’ maiden speech in 1969 is extremely sceptical of the benefits of foreign investment in New Zealand. In 1970, Paul Keating told the Australian Parliament that the Commonwealth government should set up a statutory authority to fix the prices of all goods and services, and bemoaned the number of young mothers who were entering the workforce.

I think good politicians listen, reflect, read, and think deeply about the world – and if necessary, change their minds. I hope to always be open to that in my time in this House.

Mr Speaker, I am an unashamed economic and social liberal. The classical enunciation of liberalism within National Party remains John Marshall’s maiden speech as the member for Mt Victoria in 1947.

I believe, as he did, that “the conditions of the good society are liberty, property, and security, and the greatest of these is liberty”.

I think individuals make better decisions about their own lives than governments do. A fundamental belief in the primacy of the individual over the collective should be the lodestar that guides all good governments. I think we should trust individuals more than we do, and be more sceptical about the ability of government to solve social problems.

I believe that the best way to deliver the prosperity New Zealanders deserve is through a globally competitive, market-based economy that rewards enterprise and innovation. The reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s were vitally important in transforming New Zealand from a sclerotic economic basket case to a modern, functioning, competitive economy, but there is more to be done.

I support a tolerant, multicultural New Zealand that is confident, proud, and open to the world. Our society is enriched greatly by migration. The periodic desire by some to scapegoat migrants I find deeply distasteful. I am proud of how New Zealand in only one generation has changed from an inward looking, insular economy and society, to one that is internationally connected and confident on the world stage.

I believe we can responsibly develop our natural resources, and improve our environment at the same time. We are blessed with abundant natural resources in New Zealand – both renewable and non-renewable – and we are not wealthy enough as a nation to not take advantage of them. What we know from history is that the wealthier a country is, the more able it is to take practical steps to improve the environment. Some of the most polluted places on earth were in the communist Soviet Union. Growing our economy through the responsible development of our resources gives us the ability to preserve things precious to New Zealand like our rivers, lakes, and national parks.

Mr Speaker, I come to this House with a long history in debating at school and university. I have a profound belief in free speech, the power of ideas and the importance of persuasion by those in public office. Fundamental, sustainable change in public policy is only ever achieved when the argument is won. That’s how marriage equality was achieved. It’s how Treaty settlements were started and how they have continued. It’s how we tore down the walls of the Fortress New Zealand economy and opened ourselves to the world. Because leaders in our Parliament made the case for those things and won the argument.

One of the proudest moments of my life was to debate in the Oxford Union, standing at the same despatch box that Lange stood at where he delivered his famous speech on the moral indefensibility of nuclear weapons. Lange was at his best when arguing.

Mr Speaker, I believe Bill English had it right in his maiden speech as the Member for Wallace in 1991: “What I bring to this job is a willingness to get into the argument rather than to avoid it. I owe it to my voters to present in Parliament what is best in them – a credible, constructive, and committed argument… Power without persuasion has no lasting place in a democracy.”

As long as I am an MP I will always try and present credible and constructive arguments – and I’ll always be willing to have one.

I am proud to be joining a government that is demonstrably making a difference for New Zealanders. I agree with the Prime Minister – we are on the cusp of something special as a nation. This National Government has an historic opportunity to be the kind of long-term government that doesn’t just administer the status quo, but one that can, through incremental, constant economic reform deliver ever growing living standards for all New Zealanders.

We have the economic opportunities right in front of us – globalisation, a rapidly growing Asian middle class, and technology ending the tyranny of distance. We have the right leadership through John Key, Bill English, and his Cabinet team. And we have the right policy framework in place: smaller government through better government, openness to foreign capital and labour, a tax system that rewards hard work and enterprise, and a growing culture of innovation. Most importantly, this government has a fundamental belief in the power of the New Zealand individual and civil society.

This is a government that is governing with a hard head and a soft heart. We are the first government in a long time which has a resolute focus on tackling some of the intractable social problems which have bedevilled New Zealand for too long, such as a persistent underclass; welfare dependency, Maori and Pasifika educational underachievement, and poor quality social housing.

We are not doing this by simply throwing more money at problems. Care for those most vulnerable is not, or should not, be measured by the amount of money spent, the number of bureaucratic agencies set up, or the number of people employed to deal with a problem. We should judge policy by results. Milton Friedman was right – “one of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results”.

This is a results-driven government. Across the fields of welfare, housing, and education we are driving through quite remarkable and transformative change that is delivering results for the most needy in our society.

There is still more extremely important work to do. One thing that I am personally passionate about is our plan to reward excellent teachers and keep them in the classroom, doing what they do best – changing kids’ lives.  Everyone remembers their amazing teachers growing up. It’s simply wrong that the classic career pathway for good teachers at the moment involves leaving the classroom to move into administration. I am proud to be part of a government that is changing that.

Mr Speaker, when people look back on this passage of New Zealand’s history, it’s my fervent hope that they will recognise that it was the Fifth National Government that put in place the reforms to raise the quality of teaching in our schools, that challenged the soft bigotry of low expectations, that made progress on tackling child abuse and family violence, that made social housing actually work for people, and that invested in people to support their aspirations for independence from the State.

This government’s signalled economic achievements are important, but I think and hope that this government will be known for much more than that.

In closing Mr Speaker let me just say finally that I come to this House with the desire to serve. To represent the people of the Hutt Valley, to apply my mind to the challenges facing New Zealand now and in the future, and to work hard each and every day for and on behalf of New Zealanders. Much faith has been placed in me by many people. Mr Speaker I intend to work hard to repay that faith.

 


Class of 2014

September 23, 2014

Prime Minister-elect John Key, his deputy Bill English and the new national MPs:

Bill English and I were proud to welcome National’s 15 new MPs to Parliament this morning.

 


Labour’s list

June 23, 2014

Labour has announced its party list for the 2014 election.

Five sitting MPs Ruth Dyson, Kris Faafoi, Clare Curran, Trevor Mallard and Rino Tirikatene have opted off the list as has Napier candidate Stuart Nash. . .

Did those not on the list step aside voluntarily or did they jump when they learned their plaes?

Hamish Rutherford gives Curran’s  statement:

Dunedin South MP Clare Curran makes a short statement over the phone about withdrawing from the Labour list:
“I made a decision to withdraw from the list. I’m focused on winning Dunedin South for Labour and a hundred per cent committed to campaigning for the party vote. Not just in Dunedin but across the region, Otago-Southland region. And that’s all I’m saying, okay?”

This might be nearer the truth:

Rutherford  also lists the winners and losers:

Winners on the Labour list:
David Clark up from 49 in 2011 to 26 this year
Iain Lees-Galloway from 37 to 24
Loiusa Wall, not placed in 2011 is ranked 12
Chris Hipkins rises from 30 to 9 this year
David Shearer was 31 last time, ranked 13 for 2014
Megan Woods rises from 47 to 20.

Losers:
Carol Beaumont down from 22 in 2011 to 27 this year
Maryan Street, 7th in 2011 is ranked 15 this year
Phil Goff, leader in 2011 and number 1 in 2011, is ranked 16

Damien O’Connor who rejected a list place three years ago is back – at 22.

Is that a sign he’s back in the fold or that he’s worried about losing his seat to National candidate Maureen Pugh.

Have the people ranking the candidates followed the party’s rules that 45% of caucus should be female?

That can only be determined when the votes are counted.

They have however fallen one short of the 65 list candidates the rules stipulate they should have.

That seems strange when at least two electorate candidates lots – 16 men and 5 women by my count – who are standing in electorates aren’t on the list at all.

Mallard says he chose not to seek a list place:

You’d think he’d understand how MMP works by now.

Everyone who wins a seat will push those who are depending on a list seat further down so unless Mallard loses his seat his not being on the list makes no difference to anyone else on it.

Chris Bishop, National’s candidate will be doing all he can to help him.

On current polling there will be some MPs facing the knowledge their chances of staying in parliament aren’t high and hoping the party does lose some electorates.

The list is:

1 David Cunliffe   2 David Parker   3 Grant Robertson   4 Annette King    5 Jacinda Ardern   6 Nanaia Mahuta   7 Phil Twyford   8 Clayton Cosgrove   9 Chris Hipkins   10 Sue Moroney   11 Andrew Little   12 Louisa Wall   13 David Shearer   14 Su’a William Sio   15 Maryan Street   16 Phil Goff   17 Moana Mackey   18 Kelvin Davis   19 Meka Whaitiri   20 Megan Woods   21 Raymond Huo   22 Damien O’Connor   23 Priyanca Radhakrishnan   24 Iain Lees-Galloway   25 Rachel Jones   26 David Clark   27 Carol Beaumont   28 Poto Williams   29 Carmel Sepuloni   30 Tamati Coffey   31 Jenny Salesa   32 Liz Craig   33 Deborah Russell   34 Willow-Jean Prime   35 Jerome Mika   36 Tony Milne   37 Virginia Andersen   38 Claire Szabo   39 Michael Wood   40 Arena Williams   41 Hamish McDouall   42 Anjum Rahman   43 Sunny Kaushal   44 Christine Greer   45 Penny Gaylor   46 Janette Walker   47 Richard Hills   48 Shanan Halbert   49 Anahila Suisuiki   50 Clare Wilson   51 James Dann   52 Kelly Ellis   53 Corie Haddock   54 Jamie Strange   55 Katie Paul   56 Steven Gibson   57 Chao-Fu Wu   58 Paul Grimshaw   59 Tracey Dorreen   60 Tofik Mamedov   61 Hikiera Toroa   62 Hugh Tyler   63 Susan Elliot   64 Simon Buckingham


Chris Bishop Nat candidate for Hutt South

May 23, 2014

Chris Bishop has been selected by National as its candidate for the Hutt South electorate.

. . . Chris was born and raised in Lower Hutt, attending Eastern Hutt School and Hutt Intermediate. He has worked in both the private and public sector, as well as contributing to the community as President of the New Zealand Schools Debating Council. He was the 2006 Young Wellingtonian of the Year.

Chris holds a first class Honours degree in Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University, and has been admitted to the bar as a Barrister and Solicitor.  He is a skilled debater and public speaker, having won ten intervarsity debating tournaments, including at the Cambridge Union and Sydney Union.

Chris worked as a researcher for National in opposition before spending two and a half years working as a Ministerial Advisor to Hon Gerry Brownlee. Between 2011 and 2013 he lived and worked in Auckland as Corporate Affairs Manager for Philip Morris New Zealand, before returning to Parliament to work as a Senior Advisor to Hon Steven Joyce.

Some commentators have seized on the fact this is the second candidate who’s worked for Philip Morris and suggested a conspiracy, but National’s record on anti-smoking initiatives show there is nothing to worry about.

Prime Minister John Key isn’t worried about National putting up two former tobacco lobbyists as election candidates.

“Not in the slightest,” he told reporters.

“Look at the government’s record – we’ve done everything from changing point of sale rules to substantially increasing tobacco excise, and we’ve got a plain packaging bill in parliament.” . . .

I’m anti smoking to a point infinitesimally short of bigotry  but have no concerns that should one or both these candidates become MPs there will be any change in National’s efforts to reduce smoking.

 


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