MPs can change Act

February 27, 2015

One man I approached to see if he’d be interested in seeking selection as a candidate for National last year said he couldn’t afford to.

He was at a stage in his life where the drop in pay would be too big a hit for him and his family .

That could well be the reason some people don’t stand but many who do enter parliament get a pay rise and few leave to go on to higher paying careers.

That is one of the reasons the news of MPs’ pay rises are met with such outrage although pay should be for what they are actually doing rather than what they did before, or might do after they leave, parliament.

On that basis some are underpaid.

My MP Jacqui Dean, for example serves and services well the country’s third largest general electorate, Waitaki. She is a select committee chair (for which she is paid a little more) and a parliamentary private secretary (which attracts no extra pay) and she’s also co-chair of the Rules Reduction Taskforce.

There is no question that she works hard and substantial increased majorities in successive elections indicate her constituents recognise this.

That can’t be said for all MPs.

Can anyone name more than one or two of the sycophants who are in parliament on New Zealand First’s list let alone provide evidence they do much to earn their salary?

Remuneration Authority members aren’t tasked with what individual MPs do. Salaries are set not on individual performance but the positions they hold so a hard working and effective MP gets the same as a slacker.

In announcing increased pay rates for MPs the Authority said:

The Authority continues to use a total remuneration approach in setting the base salary for members, as it does for other groups for whom it sets pay. The Authority takes as its starting point its payline for public servants undertaking jobs with broadly similar complexity and responsibility. That enables it to identify a total remuneration package, based on market rates, for ordinary members. The Authority then deducts from that total package the value of the employer superannuation subsidy to members (20% of an ordinary member’s salary) and the personal benefit of entitlements to members and their families (as assessed by the Authority). The figure remaining after these deductions from the total package becomes the base salary. If an individual member chooses not to take advantage of one or both of the entitlement and superannuation payments, his or her base salary is not increased.

1.5 The same approach is not taken with senior positions in Parliament, including the Prime Minister, Ministers, the Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition, Party Leaders, and so on.

1.6 In recognition of the significant element of public service given by those serving in the Executive and in senior roles in Parliament, democracies like our own have traditionally significantly discounted the rate at which their leaders have been materially rewarded, and those aspiring to those positions have accepted such a discount. The rates for these positions are not set based on market rates or the Authority’s general payline, but maintain previous relativities established over many years and reinforced when parliamentary remuneration was fully reviewed in 2001/02. . .

In 2014, the Authority’s payline at the level for ordinary members increased by 3.3%. For this year, the personal benefit of the travel entitlement to members and their families has been assessed at $3,200 per member, a reduction in the amount assessed in previous years, which takes into account tightened provisions around the personal use of travel by family members. Taking into account the change in value of the travel entitlement, this produces a package increase of 3.56% and a salary increase for ordinary members of 5.5%. . .

Which market rates the Authority took account of to get a package increase of 3.5%, and a salary increase for ordinary members of 5.5%, which takes into account the decrease in travel allowances, when inflation is so low isn’t clear, especially when the PM wrote requesting no increase at all:

. . . He told reporters this morning that he wrote to the Remuneration Authority early this year urging it not to give MPs a pay rise at all this year, but the authority had given them a pay rise anyway.  . .

He wants the Authority to review its system:

“What I think the Remuneration Authority should do, if they are going to give a pay increase to MPs, is I think they should point to the law and tell us what in the law is driving the sort of increases that they want to give MPs, and then we should go away and consider whether we think that law is appropriately set,” he said.

“In my view it’s quite clear that inflation is low, that MPs are by any measure well recompensed, and against that the Remuneration Authority has had the view that ministers are a long way away from chief executives and to other senior people in the private sector.

“But you don’t go into politics and become either a minister or a prime minister, or even a backbencher, because you are there for the money. If you do you are there for completely the wrong motivation, so I just don’t think that’s a relevant comparison in my view.” . . .

An Act of Parliament governs how MPs’ remuneration is set and therefore it is in MPs’ power to change it.

David Farrar has been suggesting sensible change for some time:

. . .On multiple occasions I have submitted that the law should be changed so that the sets salaries for an entire parliamentary term, rather than annually. There is no need for annual adjustments in a low inflation environment. They should be set three months before each election and apply for the whole term. . .

That wouldn’t change the howls of outrage every time there is a pay increase.

But it would set a good example when inflation is low and provide an incentive for keeping it low.


What would they do in government?

February 25, 2015

Question Time yesterday:

Andrew Little: Is being part of the club worth sending our soldiers to war without the authorisation of Parliament, without a plan, without legal authority, and without any guarantee of their safety?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are 62 members who have decided that they, in some part, will play a role in standing up to evil, in standing up to people who threaten New Zealanders and our values (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) and principles. I suspect, actually, it was a very similar number when Helen Clark decided to send the engineers to Iraq. I suspect it is the same situation as when Helen Clark decided to send the SAS in a combat role. As is so often the case, what we see from Labour is that it does one thing in Government and says another thing in Opposition.

Andrew Little: Why does he not support Labour’s position to actually give the Iraqi Government the help that it has asked for—humanitarian support and reconstruction expertise?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: A number of things—firstly, we are already giving humanitarian support, $14.5 million. Secondly, I would make the point that in our meeting with the Iraqi Foreign Minister the No. 1 thing that he asked for was security training—so the training of Iraqi security forces. I will make this one final point. It is a slightly warped sense of risk when the Leader of the Opposition thinks that the role New Zealand should play should be conducting air strikes when we do not have that capability, as he has publicly said, and, secondly, the reconstruction of roads, schools, and hospitals outside the wire, in an environment where they would be subject to improvised explosive device attacks, attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant—

Hon Member: You’re making it up again.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, you cannot do them behind the wire, sunshine.

During the debate on the issue, the PM summed up:

. . .On Monday the Government made a decision to send New Zealand forces to train Iraqi forces. It made the decision to send 106 people to Taji for up to 2 years.

We made the decision to stand up to the evil and barbaric behaviour we have seen from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant .

I want to focus not on political parties that have either well-established positions or fundamentally not much to add to the debate, but I want to focus on Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition .

The interesting thing is this. Labour in New Zealand, when it comes to sending New Zealand forces for training says no—it says no.

But the interesting thing is that the Labour Opposition in the UK says yes. The Labor Opposition in Australia says yes, and the equivalent of the Labour Opposition in Canada says yes. So every Labour Opposition in like-minded countries says yes, but, apparently, the Labour Opposition in New Zealand says no.

But hold on a minute, the Labour Opposition, when it was the Government, said yes to sending 60-odd engineers to Iraq. No debate, no vote—“You’re going, boys.”

And the Labour Opposition, when it was in Government, said yes to the combat forces of the SAS , and it did not tell the country; it just said yes.

I listened to Andrew Little’s speech, and here is the bottom line: he did not believe it, and I do not believe him because he knows that these people are barbaric and evil.

He knows that there are 35 to 40 New Zealanders at risk of a domestic threat. He knows, like I know, that the number of people on the list is growing to 60 or 70.

He knows, like I know, that New Zealanders are in the region. He knows, like I know, that New Zealanders travel prolifically, and he says that he cares about New Zealanders and he says that he wants to stand up for them.

Well, in Government he would be making this decision. You see, the reason he is not is this. It is not that it is not the right thing, because Phil Goff, when he was the Minister of Defence, used to do all this stuff with bells on.

The reason he is doing it is that he wants politics to win over what is right for the people. I will not—will not—stand by while Jordanian pilots are burnt to death, when kids execute soldiers, and when people are out there being beheaded. I am sorry, but this is the time to stand up and be counted. Get some guts and join the right side.

New Zealand is already giving aid but while the humanitarian support and reconstruction assistance Little suggested sounds better than sending troops to train the locals, it would be more dangerous.

A party that looks like a government in waiting has to be very careful to act like one in opposition.

The next Labour government won’t do everything the way the last one did.

But if it was asked to send troops as the last one was, is it would be likely to.

The wee parties can get away with

Instead of looking like he was ready for government, Little’s speech and stance has left him looking like the leader of just another opposition party who is unprepared for the hard decisions the executive has to take.

Hat tip for transcript: Your NZ


NZ troops to train Iraqis

February 24, 2015

Tough decisions are rarely black and white.

The decision to send troops to a war zone, even if it is to train locals rather than engage in combat, is one of the tougher ones a government has to make and the complexities of the Middle East make the issue even more complicated.

The Dominion Post editorialises:

 . . . A political force which prides itself on beheadings and crucifixions of the innocent is intolerable to any democratic state.

The problem is that almost every form of Western intervention is fraught with trouble. The West has learnt from the invasion of Iraq, and the long bloody stalemate in Afghanistan, that making war in the Middle East often makes things worse rather than better.

So the choice is extraordinarily conflicted. Honest opponents of intervention should admit that the decision not to fight is deeply troubling because Isis is evil. Honest proponents of intervention should also admit that the war might have a just purpose but it is also probably unwinnable. . .

The government will have considered all of that in deciding to send troops to train Iraqis and Prime Minister John Key explained the decision in parliament today:

Mr Speaker, today I am announcing to the House the Government’s decisions about our contribution to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.

Last November I gave a national security speech which outlined the threat posed to New Zealand by ISIL.

This brutal group and its distressing methods deserve the strongest condemnation.

ISIL’s ability to motivate Islamist radicals make it a threat not only to stability in the Middle East, but regionally and locally too.

It is well-funded and highly-skilled at using the internet to recruit.

Disturbingly, if anything, ISIL’s brutality has worsened since I gave that speech late last year.

In recent weeks we have witnessed a mass beheading and the horrific plight of a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.

And we’ve seen stories of Western hostages who have been kidnapped and killed in barbaric ways.

ISIL’s outrageous actions have united an international coalition of 62 countries against the group.

New Zealand is already considered part of the coalition because we have made humanitarian contributions, with $14.5 million in aid provided to the region so far.

The Government has been carefully considering its options to expand our contribution to the international coalition.

As I outlined in November, our approach is one that addresses humanitarian, diplomatic, intelligence and capacity building issues.

Mr Speaker, New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values.

We stand up for what’s right.

We have an obligation to support stability and the rule of law internationally.

We do not shy away from taking our share of the burden when the international rules-based system is threatened.

We have carved out our own independent foreign policy over decades and we take pride in it.

We do what is in New Zealand’s best interests.

It is in that context that I am announcing that the Government has decided to take further steps to help the fight against ISIL.

The Iraqi government has requested support from the international community and has been clear with us that security is its top priority.

We have been clear that we cannot, and should not, fight Iraqis’ battles for them – and actually Iraq doesn’t want us to.

Our military can, however, play a part in building the capability and capacity of the Iraqi forces so they can fight ISIL themselves.

I have been open with New Zealanders that we have been considering an option to train Iraqi Security Forces alongside our longstanding partner Australia, in Iraq.

Such an operation would be behind the wire and limited to training Iraqi Security Forces in order to counter ISIL and legitimately protect innocent people.

Mr Speaker, the Government has decided to deploy a non-combat training mission to Iraq to contribute to the international fight against ISIL.

This is likely to be a joint training mission with Australia, although it will not be a badged ANZAC force.

Their task will be to train Iraqi Security Force units so they are able to commence combat operations, and eventually able to carry on the work of our trainers – creating an independent, self-sustaining military capability for the Government of Iraq to call on.

The mission will involve the deployment of personnel to the Taji Military Complex north of Baghdad, and this is likely to take place in May.

The deployment will be reviewed after nine months and will be for a maximum two-year period.

The total number of personnel deploying is up to 106 in Taji, and there will be others such as staff officers, deploying in coalition headquarters and support facilities in the region.

The total altogether will be up to 143.

As well as these people, further personnel and Air Force assets will occasionally need to be deployed to the region to support the mission – for example in support of personnel rotations and resupply.

Mr Speaker, a training mission like this is not without danger.

It is not a decision we have taken lightly.

I have required assurances that our men and women will be as safe as they can practicably be in Taji.

Our force protection needs have been assessed by NZDF and determined as being able to be met by the well-trained soldiers of our regular Army.

So we will be sending our own force protection to support the training activities.

I want to briefly address the issue of special forces.

As I said last November, I have ruled out sending SAS or any troops into combat roles in Iraq.

The Chief of Defence Force has advised me that special forces are not part of this deployment.

However, I want to be clear that special forces could be deployed for short periods to provide advice on issues like force protection or to help with high profile visits – as they have many times before.

Our deployment in Taji will include logistics and medical support, as well as headquarters staff.

It is our intention that Iraqi Security Forces be able to assume responsibility for delivering their own training programmes in future.

The New Zealand Government will retain ultimate decision-making authority over the nature and scope of the activities of the NZDF personnel within the mission, and those personnel will deploy with appropriate legal protections.

Exactly what form those legal protections take will be worked through in coming weeks with our Iraqi counterparts.

We will secure the best protections we realistically can for our personnel.

Mr Speaker, our military has a proven track record of carrying out this type of training work in Afghanistan.

This is a contribution that’s in line with our values and our skills.

But this is not all we will do to help.

We recognise ISIL is not a short-term threat and there is a lot of work to be done in the long-term.

Defeating ISIL will mean winning the hearts and minds of those vulnerable to its destructive message.

That will take time.

As I said last year, we have already contributed to the humanitarian cause and we are currently examining options to provide more help.

We are also stepping up our diplomatic efforts to counter ISIL and support stability in Iraq.

As part of this, we are looking at options to base a diplomatic representative in Baghdad to serve as a conduit between the Iraqi government and our military deployment, as well as assess how we can support better governance in Iraq.

We will also expand our diplomatic engagement on international counter-terrorism by appointing a new Ambassador for Counter Terrorism.

Underpinning all this, we will work as a member of the UN Security Council to advocate for effective action on ISIL.

Mr Speaker, last November I told New Zealanders ISIL had been successful in recruiting New Zealanders to its cause.

Our Government agencies have a watch list of between 35 and 40 people of concern in the foreign fighter context and that remains the case.

Unfortunately an additional group requiring further investigation is growing in number.

We have strengthened the ability of our intelligence agencies to deal with this and they are taking steps to add to their resources.

We cannot be complacent, as events in Sydney, Paris and Ottawa have underscored.

To those who argue that we should not take action because it raises that threat, I say this:  the risk associated with ISIL becoming stronger and more widespread far outweighs that.

I know there is already risk.

New Zealanders do too, because they know we are a nation of prolific travellers who have been caught up in terrorist activity around the world many times before.

Mr Speaker, the Government has carefully considered our contribution to the international campaign against ISIL.

We are prepared to step up to help.

New Zealand does not take its commitment to Iraq lightly.

In return we expect that the Iraqi government will make good on its commitment to an inclusive government that treats all Iraqi citizens with respect.

Sending our forces to Iraq is not an easy decision but it is the right decision.

They will go with our best wishes.

To the Dom Post again:

. . . All the signs suggest that Key is doing what Keith Holyoake did in Vietnam – sending the smallest possible force into the war, mainly to keep the allies happy and to show the flag. And probably the most that can be hoped for from this war is to contain Isis and stop it from building a lasting fundamentalist caliphate.

If it can’t build the caliphate, it loses its theological reason for being. And it then might lose some of its support, and splinter under its own murderous fanaticism. None of that is certain to happen, but it is a defensible aim for limited Western military intervention. It is the best option available.

There is no best in situations like this, but sending a limited number of troops to train the locals for a limited time is less worse than the alternatives.


Doing a lot or doing little

February 11, 2015

Prime Minister John Key presented his statement to parliament yesterday.

It included a list of the government’s achievements to date and plans for the next three years.

The PM doesn’t have to stick to that script in the House:

Prime Minister John Key kicked off the debate by taking aim at Labour leader Andrew Little. He had counted his calendar and discovered Mr Little had now been leader for 84 days. “In 1873, Jules Verne thought he could get around the world in 80 days. Well, in 84 days, Andrew Little hasn’t even got around his caucus. He hasn’t even got around the four people who voted for him.” He announced Mr Little had had the grand total of two ideas in that time: Maori sovereignty and the Future of Work Commission. “He’s going to hold a workshop about what a job is. That is a novel concept for a Labour MP, I’m prepared to admit that.”

“He isn’t Andrew Little. He’s Dr Do-Little,” Key crowed, clearly quite stoked with his own wit. . .

That’s the difficulty an Opposition faces.

The government can put its plan and put its plan into action. The Opposition can plan lots but do little and most of what it does do is negative – opposing what the government’s doing.

So while Labour and the others on the opposition benches carp about house prices, will they support the government’s plans to reform the RMA to reduce the time and cost of building new dwellings?

Of course not.

While the government is acting, the opposition is left doing little.
Today I challenged the opposition to stop simply talking about housing affordability and to support the Government as we do something about it.


Hard to hang on when cracks appear

February 9, 2015

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is facing a leadership vote this morning.

If he wins it, his victory is likely to be temporary. It is very hard to hang on to the leadership once cracks appear in a caucus.

He benefitted from that as Labor went through a prolonged leadership uncertainty with Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard then Rudd again.

We’ve seen it in New Zealand with members of the Labour caucus undermining successive leaders.

One of the reasons John Key’s leadership and the National Party have been so successful is because the caucus has been disciplined and united.

No doubt there are some robust conversations behind closed doors, which is healthy. But there has been none of the disunity or disloyalty that signal a caucus in turmoil and a leadership in trouble.

It is, of course, much easier to be united when your leader and party are popular.

But whether disunity and disloyalty precipitate a poll plunge or follow it, one builds on and encourages the other.

Party leaders come and go, and an unhappy and leaking caucus is a strong sign that the going is likely to be sooner rather than later.


He iwi tahi tatou – we are one people

February 7, 2015

I’ve just delivered my annual address at Waitangi. You can read the full text on the National Party website: http://ntnl.org.nz/1zDu6eg

Prime Minister John Key’s Waitangi Day speech:

Rau rangatira ma e huihui nei,

Nau mai, haere mai ki Waitangi.

Tēnei aku mihi māhana mo te Kawanatanga Nahinara ki a koutou.

Kia ora huihui tatou katoa.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Today we commemorate 175 years of the Treaty of Waitangi relationship. 

It’s a relationship we should all have pride in. And we should all have great confidence that it will continue to strengthen.

Like the first Maori who arrived here many hundreds of years ago, European settlers arrived by sea.

They must have had a sense of adventure. Like the first Maori navigators they braved the often ill-tempered Pacific Ocean to strike out from their homes and make landfall here.

The whalers, the sailors, the men and women who came here to till the land and take their chances – they would have had many reasons for leaving their homes in the Northern Hemisphere. Homes many of them would never see again.

But I bet they were united by a common thread of hope and optimism.

Hope for a better life than the one they had left behind.

And hope for a new society and new opportunities for themselves and their children.

Those who signed the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 began forging the bonds of the special partnership we share today.

Over time, those bonds have been tested.

The spirit of generosity with which Maori entered into this partnership was forgotten or ignored by many over the following decades.

But the Treaty partnership we commemorate today acknowledges the bonds that have underpinned the creation of a special country.

175 years.  Just think about what we have achieved in that time. The great scientists, adventurers, sports men and women, pioneers and dreamers who call themselves New Zealanders.

The first person to split the atom, the first women voters, the first conqueror of Everest.

The first Rugby World Cup winners.

The artists, writers, singers and musicians, actors and directors who not only entertain us, but who have also created a body of stories and songs which could have only been made in New Zealand.

And the leaders, Maori and Pakeha alike, who have developed a Treaty partnership which is admired around the world.

That’s a lot to be proud of.

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Waitangi Day is a day to remember and to understand the very many pieces that make up our country’s history. The high points, the low points, the triumphs, the mistakes and the unexpected successes.

And it’s also a day to look beyond the horizon and to our future.

I am sure the Treaty signatories here at Waitangi felt the same.

The missionaries, sailors, traders and Maori – watched over by police on horseback who were sent from Sydney – packed the Treaty grounds on the 5th of February 1840.

They mingled with people hawking cold roasts, pork and bread, and rum-sellers, and the bay was a flotilla of canoes and ships with flags flying.

The delegation of Maori was so large that five tonnes of potatoes and 30 pigs were brought in, so guests were properly fed.

The next day, the 6th, was meant to be a rest day.

But, after coming ashore that morning, Britain’s consul, Captain William Hobson, was surprised to find several hundred Maori wanting to continue discussions.

They met under the marquee, made of stitched-together sailcloth, surrounded by a handful of Europeans.

By the end of the day’s discussion, around 40 Maori leaders had signed the Treaty.

To each of those leaders, Captain Hobson said, “he iwi tahi tatou” – we are one people.

Māori and the British representatives signed the Treaty of Waitangi in good faith.

And the generosity of Maori, and the good faith of both people, has led to the New Zealand we know today, and to the relationship we share.

We have some of the best legacies of Britain: a stable democracy, an elected Parliament, an independent judiciary and a free press.

And we have a culture infused with the customs, knowledge and tikanga of the tangata whenua.

We welcome people from all parts of the world who want to make New Zealand their home, because they want to be part of the nation we have created.

The Treaty is a formal agreement but it must be interpreted over time, and adapt to new situations, through negotiation between the Treaty partners.

Many issues have a long and nuanced history, lived through by many people from all walks of life.

There are still things to work through.

But I am confident that when we celebrate the bicentenary of the Treaty signing in 2040, we will look back to today and be proud of what we have achieved since.

That’s 25 years away.

The last big Treaty commemoration was in 1990 – 25 years ago.

Those 25 years have passed quickly. It seems like too short a time for anything in New Zealand to have changed much at all.

But in 1990 things were different.

New Zealand, for example, was governed under First Past the Post.

The Maori Party didn’t exist.

Now, it’s difficult to imagine Parliament without them.

The Maori Party has brought a rich dimension to this Government since 2008.

It’s one of the reasons why the Crown and Maori have come so far over the past six years.

One area we are working on together is reforming Te Ture Whenua Māori Act. It’s the most significant re-writing of this legislation in more than a century.

How best to develop Maori land, with its multiple owners, has vexed lawmakers for over 100 years.

We recognise that challenge, because it’s central to Maori economic development.

If we can make this land work for Maori, then it will add up to $8 billion to the economy and create at least 4000 new jobs over the next decade.

25 years ago, not one iwi had achieved a Treaty settlement.

That was still five years into the future.

The Crown has now signed 72 deeds of settlement – 46 of those in the past six years.

All willing and able iwi are engaged with the Crown.

Those settled iwi are creating success stories. They see the post-settlement environment as their chance to shape their own destiny.

Settlements may represent a fraction of what was actually lost. But they let iwi move on and make better futures, and create more opportunities, for their people.

New Zealand as a whole is better off for that.

My Treaty Negotiations Minister, Chris Finlayson, is unable to be here today.

But I know if he were here, he would reiterate to you his belief that by 2017, all willing iwi should be settled.

There have been other positive changes since 1990.

Education is one example.

In 1990, just over 3000 Maori school leavers achieved 6th Form Certificate. In 2013, 7500 Maori school leavers achieved NCEA Level 2 or higher.  Taken as a proportion of Maori
school leavers, that’s a 20 per cent improvement.

The achievement rate among all school leavers is also rising, but among young Māori that improvement is happening at a faster rate.

Lifting the level of achievement in education among young New Zealanders is important, but it’s especially vital for young Maori who, for too long, have not achieved at the same level as non-Maori.

Yes, there certainly are challenges to educational achievement and we do have a long way to go to eliminate that disparity – but progress is evident.

A better education means equality of opportunity for New Zealanders, regardless of their background.

Time and time again, we see the evidence that success at school means better, higher-paying jobs, a greater standard of living and more opportunities.

Another area is health.

In the early 1990s around 50 per cent of Maori regularly smoked. Today it’s about 32 per cent.

That’s due in no small part to Tariana Turia, who has been passionate in her work to cut smoking rates among Maori.

Now, Maori are living longer – around six more years than in 1990. Immunisation rates among Maori children are up and infant mortality rates have fallen.

So in 25 years, many gains have been made. We can do even better over the next 25 years, too.

It’s all too easy to focus on the negatives at the expense of the many positives.

The Treaty settlement process may not be to everyone’s satisfaction.

But I’m a firm believer in the current process, which is addressing the wrongs done in the past to help Maori build their futures.

And on the world stage, it’s acknowledged as one of the best examples of efforts to address historical grievances.

I also think we’re maturing together, as a nation.

Nowadays, almost every time people sing God Defend New Zealand – at a school, at a sports match or a formal ceremony – we sing it in both Māori and English.

It wasn’t always that way – only in the past 15 years has it become widespread.

New Zealanders just started doing it, because it felt right.

It feels like the right kind of representation of who we are as a nation.

It’s the type of understated change that appears small, but one I think speaks volumes about how we have grown.

So in 25 years’ time, when New Zealand celebrates 200 years of nationhood, there are some changes I’d like to see.

In 2040, every willing and able iwi will be settled.

In 2040, all Maori owned land will be far better utilised, delivering jobs and prosperity, particularly for those in regional areas.

And in 2040, I want to see the disparity in educational achievement eliminated.

For young Maori, this means really digging in to lift achievement.

For the Government, it means ensuring our education system works for all students. It also means developing initiatives to support young people and families in other areas.

Like free doctors’ visits for under-13s.

Like subsidising early childhood education.

And getting our schools, social organisations and law enforcement agencies to work together so children don’t stumble into a life of petty crime or welfare dependency.

Governments can’t make these changes by themselves.

We also need to get alongside families and give them the right support. It’s not just about throwing money at a problem.

Because you can’t buy the dedication of communities who want to rid their streets of drugs and crime.

And you can’t buy the dedication of a mother who is trying to keep her 14-year-old son in school.

When you give families what they actually need, great changes can happen.

Maori children, for example, are now being immunised at nearly double the rate they were in 2007. So I’ve no doubt the willingness – and the ability – to chase success in education is there, with the right support.

So that’s what I would like to see in 2040. There is one more aspect of New Zealand I would like to see changed.

In 2040, I’d like to see a new New Zealand flag raised at the Waitangi Day dawn service.

That’s my personal preference.

The current flag represents the thinking by and about a young country moving from the 1800s to the 1900s. Our role in the world was very different then.  Our relationship to the rest of the world has changed over time.

I think, and I believe many New Zealanders feel the same, that the flag captures a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed.

During this parliamentary term, New Zealanders will be asked to participate in a two-step referendum process to choose an alternative flag, and decide whether or not that flag should replace the current one.

I believe the time is right for us to create a flag which is distinctly New Zealand’s.

At the same time, I acknowledge there may be many New Zealanders who want to retain the existing flag, and that will be one option.

Regardless of your view, this milestone year in our history is a good time to discuss the flag, formally and respectfully, allowing New Zealanders to have their say.

Maori chose New Zealand’s first flag – known today as the flag of the United Tribes – in 1834, when James Busby, the British Resident, decided chiefs needed to choose a flag that New Zealand’s ships could fly.

Three flags were displayed on short poles at Waitangi, voted on, and the winning one hoisted.

I imagine it was all over in a matter of minutes. The process this time around will be much more considered, but I have every expectation Maori will be closely involved, just as they were in 1834.

If we choose a new flag, it will serve us in times of celebration and remembrance, like Waitangi Day.

On Waitangi Day we remember when our nation-building began, and we celebrate the hope and optimism our forebears must have felt when they oversaw the creation of a new country.

It’s a day when we draw confidence for our future from the sense of our past.

In 175 years, New Zealand has achieved much. In the 25 years since the 150thanniversary of the signing of the Treaty, some of those achievements, like the settlement process itself, have brought about great change.

I am confident the next 25 years will deliver more promises, passion and achievements as we work together to tackle the challenges that will be thrown at us.

Thank you.

Regardless of your view, this milestone year in our history is a good time to discuss the flag, formally and respectfully, allowing New Zealanders to have their say.


Evil will triumph if good do nothing

February 6, 2015

Speaking to Prime Minister John Key at Waitangi yesterday, Maori Council head Maanu Paul said the Maori Council was concerned Mr Key had indicated New Zealand would go to Iraq.

We are a bit concerned that you might be putting the principle of protection for Maori at risk as you participate in the global problems and want to be a ‘family’ with the United States and England and other people like that.”

Mr Key responded in his speech, saying he agreed New Zealand should not fight others’ wars – but he also did not believe it should stand aside in such a case.

He accused those on the left of being hypocrites, saying they did not believe New Zealand should intervene despite criticising him for failing to speak out on human rights enough when overseas. He said they had also criticised him for his apparent ambivalence on apartheid.

“So the very people who tell me their whole DNA is laced with human rights and standing up for people who can’t protect themselves tell me to look the other way when people are being beheaded by kids, burnt by kids and thrown off buildings. Well, sorry. Give me a break.

“New Zealand is not going to look the other way. We are not going to do silly things but we may join 60-odd countries around the world trying to protect people who can’t protect themselves.”

He said he had no intention of fighting Iraq’s war “but I’m not going to turn the other way when people are being persecuted and say as a leader that it’s other people’s problem.”

The evil without a conscience that disregards rules based democratic systems and commits atrocities as radical Muslims do is our problem.

As Edmund Burke said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
John Key on ISIS


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