Open and transparent

16/08/2022

Remember Labour’s promise to be open and transparent?

Labour MPs had a secret Zoom meeting last night without Dr Gaurav Sharma to discuss his fate.

The NZ Herald understands MPs met at 8pm, but Sharma says he was not told of the meeting.

He found out about it after a message – including a photo of Kelvin Davis on the zoom call – was sent to him by mistake.

“Apparently caucus had a full meeting at 8pm yesterday with all members except me and the decision was predetermined,” Sharma said in a text message sent to NZME.

The Herald has confirmed last night’s meeting from other sources.

The meeting was organised by a Signal group and the whips started to organise it on Monday morning to get a suitable time – before Sharma had put up a further Facebook post on Monday afternoon.

It comes as Labour’s caucus meets at 2.30pm, as announced by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday in her post-Cabinet press conference. . .

So much for kindness!

If Sharma wasn’t invited to the meeting, there’s little if any chance of his remaining in caucus, and probably the party.

There’s even less chance of a caucus and party that isn’t open and transparent with one of its own, being open and transparent in government.


Resist the temptation for schadenfreude

12/08/2022

Labour supporters could be forgiven for indulging in schadenfreude this week.

They will have been watching National’s successful conference, announcement on helping young people move from welfare to work and the One News Kantar poll showing National and Act with more than 60% support being overshadowed by accusations against new Tauranga MP Sam Uffindel.

National supporters should resist the urge to take pleasure in Labour’s discomfort now the boot is on the other foot.

Labour MP Dr Gaurav Sharma has blown the whistle on bullying in parliament and is highly critical of officials and members of his own party:

Much has been said this week about bullying and the abysmal culture of our political parties which, in my opinion, continue to betray the trust of our voters. Over the last few years and under the outgoing Speaker Trevor Mallard there have been a lot of press releases to indicate that the broader work culture in the halls of Parliament is being changed for the better.

While this does sound like the right thing to do, it is – in my experience – a PR exercise to placate some of the backlash from the public in recent years. If there was any serious intent or effort to make a genuine change in Parliamentary culture, the current Speaker and the powers that be would have included Member-to-Member bullying in its terms of reference, if not initially then at least in response to the Francis Report which flagged this as a serious issue after interviewing MPs who spend upwards of 30-35 hours on the Parliamentary precinct over the three or more days we are based in Parliament on sitting weeks.

What makes this worse is the unusual legal relationship where the MPs are not employed directly by the party or Parliamentary Service, but by their own constituents who would be appalled if they saw even half of what their elected representatives have to bear in terms of harassment from inside the Parliament without anyone specific taking legal or moral responsibility for addressing these concerns.

This isn’t a new problem.

For those who need an example, Louisa Wall talked in her valedictory speech about how she was bullied by a senior Labour Party MP early in her career and despite being one of our most outspoken MPs she found out that she had no agency in the halls of Parliament when it came to her own wellbeing. If any of my more recent colleagues could speak freely, I am sure the list of similar stories with no support for MPs being bullied and no consequences for MPs bullying their colleagues would easily fill a book or two.

Crucial to addressing the bullying issue in Parliament is the role of the Parliamentary Service – which is supposed to be an independent and neutral organisation to provide support to MPs. Their own mandate states that “due to the nature of the organisation, Parliamentary Service staff must uphold the highest standards of integrity and trust. We take pride in the fact that we assist members of Parliament to carry out their roles. As well as displaying high levels of integrity, the Service looks for people with political acumen, exceptional customer service skills and an ability to work collaboratively”.

In my opinion, if only this was true.

The above Member-to-Member and Party-to-Member bullying rampant in Parliament is – I believe – promoted and facilitated by this very organisation by working behind the scenes with the Whips Office, the Offices of the Leaders of various Parties, along with the Office of the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The PM’s office – didn’t the people there hear, and act upon, the repeated entreaties to be kind?

The Parliamentary Service’s lack of accountability to both the MP and their constituents and the meddling of political parties in a triangular relationship where they end up being the fourth wheel is cause for much concern, in my view. With the way the current Parliamentary Service is run, you can go weeks and months before getting a reply to urgent issues and when they do have an answer it is seldom in writing and often from behind the desk of the party whips who – in my opinion, and based on what I have seen in my time in Parliament – use the Parliamentary Service to bully and harass their MPs “to keep them in line”. . .

 If anything, in my experience, when an MP raises serious concerns the Parliamentary Service steps back, stonewalls the conversation, ghosts the MP and throws them to the Whip’s Office to be gaslighted and victimised further so that the party can use the information to threaten you about your long-term career prospects.

Politicians especially at top of our current system and from parties across the political spectrum often talk about “changing the system” and “kindness,” but as the saying goes “charity must start at home”.

Who’s at top of our current system? Ah yes, that would be the PM who lectured us time and time again about the need to be kind.

This is very strong criticism, although without an explanation of why the MP was moved to write a column that airs his complaints in public.

He gives no specific examples and no doubt there is at least one other side to the issues raised.

This is in effect a resignation letter for even if he wanted to stand again, surely his chances of being permitted by Labour to do so are nil after these accusations against the party and its leader.

National supporters will be relieved that this might take a little of the focus off its own problems.

But this is no time for schadenfreude.

This week’s revelations and the way the media has covered them is likely to increase the plague-on-all-their-houses views of undecided voters and put good people off seeking selection as candidates.


Labour’s hand out for hand out

04/08/2022

The Labour Party has its hand out for some of the money the government is handing out:

The Labour Party is using incorrect and misleading information about the cost of living payment to try to raise funds, National Party Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“Inland Revenue confirmed this morning that a total of 1.3 million people have received a cost of living payment, about 800,000 fewer than promised by the Government.

“Labour representatives have consistently repeated, including on social media, that the cost of living payment would be supporting 2.1 million New Zealanders.

“Despite that number being proven to be grossly wrong, Labour is still making this claim, and using it to solicit political donations.

“This evening Labour sent out a fundraising letter claiming ‘more than 2 million New Zealanders received $116 from the new Cost of Living Payment’, and then asked for donations: ‘if you were proud of this initiative, too, please consider chipping in $10 today’.

“It is entirely inaccurate for Labour to seek political donations on the basis of this untrue statement. Serious questions need to be asked of the Labour Party and its head office.

Not only inaccurate but inappropriate.

The delivery of the cost of living payment has been a debacle. It’s borrowed money that has been going not only to people who need it but some who don’t, including partners of high earners people living overseas.

That’s bad enough without this demonstration that it’s not just for people who need it for necessities but those who have money to spare to give away.

“The truth is that while many people overseas have benefited from this payment, many more at home have missed out. Labour cannot deliver anything.

“Labour’s cost of living payment was only proposed because the Government’s mismanagement of the economy has created a cost of living crisis. But the scheme was doomed from the start, with officials warning the Government against it.

“A National Government would have taken the much fairer course of simply adjusting tax thresholds for inflation, allowing people to keep more of the money they had already earned.”

What’s worse, using incorrect and misleading information or seeking to be rewarded for giving out public funds to people who may, or may not need them?

This money is borrowed and has to be paid back. It was supposed to help people cope with the impact of inflation and the cost of living crisis, not prop up the Labour Party.

It’s not direct public funding of a political party and I don’t think there’s any question of rule-breaking.

But there’s something unsavoury about the opportunism in the give-us-some-of-what-we-gave-you message.


Vote for democracy

02/08/2022

MIchael Bassett calls the current government the worst he’s seen in his lifetime:

Have you noticed the ways in which New Zealand’s mainspring seems gradually to be unwinding with Jacinda Ardern’s government? A collection of small things add up to an unfolding collapse of civil society as we have known it. . .

We are experiencing the worst government of my lifetime, one that has caused more damage and divisiveness in our society, than there has been at any time since the Great Depression. 

Last week there were another step away from democracy and towards division.

. . . Mahuta has slipped a change into a piece of legislation that will make it mandatory for councils every six years to consider whether they should introduce Maori wards.

When they meet for their six-yearly Representation Review, the first step councils must take must be a decision about whether to establish Māori wards or constituencies.

That makes it very likely, doesn’t it, that a lot of councils will opt to introduce Māori wards. Because if they consider the wards and then actively choose not to introduce them, what are they? 

They’re racists.

That’s the response to any criticism of the government’s divisive race-based agenda.

Instead of responding with reasoned argument explaining or justifying proposals, proponents simply call the critics racist.

And no one wants to be called a racist so they’ll probably just end up taking the easy option and introducing the Māori wards.

Clever politics, Nanaia. 

And what’s more, because she popped these changes into an omnibus piece of law with a whole bunch of other boring, technical changes for local elections most people seem to have totally missed it.

In fact, from what I can see, no one’s reported on it in the 26+ hours since she put out her press release.

What’s especially clever here is that Nanaia is forcing something on ratepayers that ratepayers don’t want, but really can’t stop. . .

Another step towards further division and less democracy will come this week with the third reading of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill.

A National Government will restore the basic principle that all New Zealanders have equal voting rights, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“It’s astounding that any party should have to make such a promise – given most Kiwis take equal voting rights for granted – but that basic principle is being undermined by the Labour Government.

“On Wednesday, Labour and the Greens are set to vote for the third reading of the Canterbury Regional Council (Ngāi Tahu Representation) Bill. The legislation removes both equal voting rights in that region, as well as the basic principle of democratic accountability.

“The Bill will give Ngāi Tahu the right to appoint two councillors. Since Māori will have had an equal vote in the appointment of the other 14 councillors, this arrangement gives Ngāi Tahu voters extra voting power.

“Since the Ngāi Tahu appointments are permanent, the normal rules of accountability do not apply. The universal principle that politicians are better behaved when they know they can be thrown out at the next election, will not apply for these councillors in Canterbury.

“Once this Bill is passed this week, against strong opposition from National, we can be sure that other regions will try to follow.

“Labour members on the Māori Affairs Committee are still trying to resurrect the Rotorua District Council (Representation Arrangements) Bill, which would move away from equal rights for the Rotorua District Council.

“This is anti-democratic and divisive.

“This morning on Q&A, when quizzed on whether co-governance in Three Waters gave Māori disproportionate power, the Prime Minister’s only response was that “democracy is democracy”.

“New Zealanders don’t need meaningless blather from the Prime Minister. They need a resolute defence of basic democratic principles.

“Equal voting rights and accountability at the ballot box are basic principles and National will restore them if returned to office in 2023.”

Voters will have a stark choice at next year’s election.

They can vote for more divisiveness under a Labour and Green government or they can vote for a return to democracy with equal representation with a National-led government.


2 days left to submit

20/07/2022

Submissions on the government’s Water Services Entities Bill close on Friday.

It’s determined to bulldoze the legislation through and has even tried to tempt councils but as  the Taxpayers’ Union inelegantly but accurately says another bribe doesn’t polish the Three Waters turd:

The Taxpayers’ Union says the Government’s latest pathetic attempt to bribe councils with taxpayer money as part of a new package for Three Waters doesn’t make the proposed reforms any more palatable.

Responding to the just announced additional funding of at least $350,000 to every council which the Government says will “ensure [councils will] have the resourcing necessary to implement the Three Waters reforms”, Jordan Williams, a spokesman for the Union, says:

“This is desperate stuff. Along with emailing lackies begging them to submit, and relaunching a TV, print, and radio propaganda campaign, now the Government is handing out bribes in the last days before select commit submissions close on the Water Entities Bill.

“Not one cent of this will be spent on the infrastructure, nor on fixing the fundamental flaws of the Three Waters package.

“Three Waters is a recipe for higher water costs, more bureaucracy, no local control, and less democracy. The Government knows very well that only someone taking a bribe could accept the Government’s logic that Three Waters will make water ‘more affordable’ while at the same time ‘creating 9,000 new jobs’ – as Nanaia Mahuta claims.”

Labour is obviously worried about the strength of feeling against the Bill. It’s taking the unusual step of asking its members to back the proposals:

National’s local government spokesman Simon Watts is calling the move “desperate”, saying it shows Labour is worried the committee will be overwhelmed by submissions against the controversial scheme.

On Friday, Labour’s Campaigns Team sent an email to people on its mailing list – usually reserved for Labour Party fundraising and events – asking them to make a submission to Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee on the Water Services Entities Bill, the main legislation that will give effect to Three Waters reforms. . . 

While it is not unprecedented for political parties to ask supporters to submit on legislation, it is fairly uncommon.

Watts said the email showed Labour was worried about a likely avalanche of submissions against the proposals. A group opposing the reforms has signed up 31 of the 67 councils affected. Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is also opposed.

“When you’re having to ask your own supporters to make a submission on legislation it shows how desperate the situation has become,” Watts said.

“We know there is overwhelming opposition to reforms across the country.”

After a select committee hears submissions on a bill, it will publish a report on what it has heard, including any recommendations it wishes to make.

Those reports will often include a breakdown of the number of submissions that were for or against the bill. It might be damaging for Labour’s mandate to pass Three Waters legislation if an overwhelming number of submissions were against the bill. . . 

Might be damaging? It would be damaging which is why its important to join the thousands submitting against the Bill.

There are plenty of grounds for doing so, including the likely blowout of the multi million dollar cost of its IT system:

A new project merging local councils’ water service IT systems as part of the three waters reforms could blow out beyond the $500 million upper limit officials have quoted, National says.

DIA’s three waters transition unit executive director Heather Shotter told RNZ no decisions had yet been made on funding mechanisms, but “ultimately the cost of this investment will be assumed by the new water services entities as the owners of the assets”.

That means it will be residents forking out through water rates under pricing schemes yet to be decided by the new entities under the oversight of water regulator Taumata Arowai.

National’s Simon Watts said that was not fair on ratepayers, and costs could balloon further.

“There is significant downside risk in regards to these IT costs blowing out further – if the range is what it is at the moment … it’s not inconceivable to think that 12 months down the track that those numbers could be larger and that again is a significant concern.”

Watts said the mere fact the project was still at such an early stage was a “significant red flag”.

“After four years of planning and preparation, the fact that they don’t know what this key element will cost raises the fact that they aren’t over the detail, they haven’t done the planning and preparation.

“This government is clearly driven by ideology with a desire to centralise – the practicality and the implementation is always an afterthought. And this is just latest proof to show that this reform programme for three waters has been ill thought out, not prepared, and has a huge risk exposure in terms of the costs that ratepayers will fund.”

He said it would only be adding to the government’s previous spending on the three waters reform including $26m on consultants, at least $3.5m on an advertising campaign that was heavily criticised, and $2.5 billion on the government’s “no worse off” and “better off” funding for councils.

“At the end of the day this significant reform package by the minister has been sold to Kiwi ratepayers as something that’s going to save costs – well they’re already $2 billion in debt before day one,” Watts said. . .

That’s two billion reasons to submit against the Bill and there are plenty more.

It will mean higher costs, impose four levels of bureaucracy, take away local control, trample over councils’ property rights by seizing their assets and it’s anti-democratic.

Hawkes Bays’ four councils have added their voices to the majority opposing the Bill.

The Taxpayers’ Union have made submitting easy with this tool.

Breaking Views has three easy to follow steps to help you say no to Three Waters.

Or you can make your submission on parliament’s website here.

What you say doesn’t have to be long; it would help the campaign against the Bill if you ask to submit in person and request that the select committee travels the country to hear submissions; and it must be done by Friday.

 

 


Housing record fail

01/07/2022


$1 billion bandaid

01/07/2022

Remember how Labour was going to solve the housing crisis?

It’s got much worse on their watch and  they’ve spent $1 billion on a bandaid:

The Government’s housing failure has clocked up a new milestone: $1 billion has been spent on emergency housing, National’s Acting Housing spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“This is a staggering amount of money and is emblematic of Labour’s complete and utter failure on housing.

“Labour promised they would solve New Zealand’s housing crisis. Five years on, taxpayers have paid more than $1 billion in Emergency Housing Special Needs Grants, mainly to motels, with thousands of people living in motels for months at a time.

“Rapidly rising rents and unaffordable housing have pushed thousands more New Zealanders onto the state house waiting list and into emergency housing motels.

“Motels were meant to be a short-term fix to New Zealand’s housing problems. Under Labour motels have become the solution. Emergency housing has become a get-rich-quick scheme for motel owners, and has proven to be disastrous for vulnerable New Zealand families.

Many motel owners would have welcomed the government money when borders were closed and domestic travel was severely restricted.

Motels are better than no house but they’re a very poor substitute for proper homes for families.

“It is just shameful that around 4,500 New Zealand kids wake up every morning in a motel room.

“The Government seems to have given up on solving the underlying drivers of emergency housing need, instead opting for the short-term approach of writing a big cheque and looking the other way.

“The Government says state houses are the solution, but have allowed the state house waiting list to explode from fewer than 6000 people when National left office to more than 27,000 today. Meanwhile its state-house builder, Kainga Ora, has demolished or sold more houses this year than they’ve actually built, while only 1365 of the 100,000 Kiwibuild homes promised have been delivered.”

Demolition of selling houses isn’t necessarily bad policy if the houses are in the wrong place, poor condition or otherwise unfit for purpose.

But it’s hypocritical for Labour to be so eager to highlight the state houses sold or demolished when National was in government when they’re doing it too.

National would:

  • Take pressure off rapidly rising rents (up $50 a week in the past year) by removing Labour’s “Tenant Taxes”, restoring interest deductibility for private rentals and taking the 10-year brightline test back to two years.
  • Fund community housing providers to build new social homes and provide targeted support to vulnerable tenants. The community housing sector is ready and willing to grow, they just need a Government that will back them.
  • Using a targeted social investment approach to support vulnerable individuals with effective interventions that get results.
  • Support more housing supply by removing RMA barriers and working with local government to fund infrastructure needed for growth.

“Labour has failed on housing. The state house waitlist has quadrupled, rents are up $150 per week and now the Government has spent $1 billion on housing people in motels.

That’s a very expensive and inferior bandaid.

 


No shades of grey

28/06/2022

Ooohh look over there.

That’s what Labour and others on the left are doing in trying to make Roe vs Wade an issue in New Zealand.

They’re worried about the polls and desperate for something they can use to attack National. Struggling to find traction on anything here they’re doing their best to use something that has no relevance in New Zealand.

In doing so they’ve been helped by the media who have, as they do too often, painted abortion as a black and white issue with no attempt to cover the many shades of grey.

Coverage of abortion is almost always divided into the two extremes, depicting it as  either a woman’s choice or anti-women.

Those extremes might reflect the views of some people.

Some  believe abortion is never, ever right.  Some believe it is never, ever wrong.

But in between are a range of views.

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception but that abortion is right in a case like this to save the mother when the baby can’t survive.

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception and accept that while abortion isn’t right for those who believe that, there are cases where it could be right for others.

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception and accept it as an option in some circumstances including when the pregnancy is the result of incest or rape; it is being carried by a child; carrying the baby endangers the life or health of the mother, be it mental or physical; or when the mother for myriad reasons couldn’t cope with a child.

It is possible to believe that life begins at conception and accept that the consequences of illegal abortions, when that’s all there are, require and legitimise safe and legal ones.

Then there’s the shades of grey on the other side.

It is possible to believe that abortion is a woman’s right and accept there’s intellectual inconsistency when what’s aborted is regarded as merely a bunch of cells but what’s lost in a miscarriage is a baby with all the grief that goes with such a loss.

It is possible to believe that abortion is a woman’s right in early pregnancy but not in later stages, especially once the baby could survive outside the womb.

It is possible to believe that abortion is a woman’s right but that the child, and the father have rights too.

These nuances are rarely, if ever, covered in media stories on the issue and I have seen none in the extensive coverage that’s come in the wake of the US court’s decision.

Instead a lot of the focus has been on National and attempts to make abortion an issue which might have a profound impact on support, or otherwise for the party, and on next year’s election even though the USA decision has no relevance here.

Belatedly some focus turned on Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta who tweeted a comment condemning the Roe vs Wade decision even though she voted against the 2020 legislation liberalising abortion law.

. . . Politicians in New Zealand were also quick to condemn the move including Nanaia Mahuta who called it “draconian”. 

“The US Supreme Courts overturning of Roe v. Wade Is draconian and does not support the right of women to choice. How can this happen? (sic)” Mahuta tweeted on Saturday. . . 

Mahuta voted in favour of the first abortion reform reading in 2019 but against the second and third. She also voted in favour of legislation to introduce safe zones for women accessing abortion facilities in 2022. 

A spokesperson for Mahuta said she was travelling and wouldn’t be able to answer why she voted against the second and third readings.  . . 

But regardless of which of our MPs voted which way, the USA legislation is an issue for that country and its people, not us and ours.

There might be a few single-issue voters who are agitated about abortion but when both major parties have said they have no intention of revisiting the legislation it won’t be of concern for most.

What will be top of mind, and are of far more imortance, are the issues from which Labour is trying to distract us – the cost of living, housing shortage, increase in crime, a health system in crisis . . .

There’s more than enough to foment domestic indignation without importing it over what’s happening in the USA. It will change nothing here no matter how hard some are trying to make it an issue for us and in doing so are painting it as black and white with no shades of grey.


Backwards Budget

20/05/2022

The National Party leader labelled yesterday’s Budget a Backwards Budget:

Budget 2022 confirms that New Zealand is going backwards under Labour faster than ever, Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon says.

“This is the Backwards Budget. Kiwis, the economy and outcomes are all going backwards under Labour and today’s forecasts confirm the situation is only going to get worse before it gets better.

“Labour’s spending addiction means the books are going backward. Not content with a $6 billion spending spree, they’ve also raided future budgets – spending $2 billion from Budget 2023 and $0.4 billion from Budget 2024. And that’s before you count climate spending and the cost of living bandaid – which are on top.

They’re pushing out surpluses and shifting the goal posts to clear the way for more spending by lifting debt limits.

“With inflation at a 30-year-high and prices running laps around wages, Kiwis are experiencing the worst cost of living crisis in a generation. The forecasts today show inflation is rampant for years to come.

“More and more Kiwis are falling behind each week, squeezed by growing costs and a Government that refuses to offer them meaningful income tax relief while ramming through the biggest spend-up in New Zealand history.

“Labour’s cost of living package is a temporary band aid. The squeezed middle are paying the price for Labour’s economic mismanagement.

“And despite smashing the record for government spending, outcomes are going backwards. They’ve added more than 10,000 bureaucrats to the public service, yet outcomes are getting worse.

“Under Labour, wait times for surgery and specialist assessments have blown out, literacy and numeracy achievement rates have hit alarming lows and violent crime and gang numbers have exploded.

“New Zealand is going backwards, fast. We simply cannot afford this Labour Government.”

A transcript of his Budget speech is here.

 We’ve got inflation now at just under 7 percent, we’ve got wage growth only at 3, and that means all Kiwis are going back faster than they’ve been going in the last three decades. Mortgage costs are up because interest rates are up, rents are up $150, food prices are up the highest they’ve been in over a decade, and petrol is up over $3 a litre. And I can tell you, Kiwis up and down this country are feeling that pain. And this Budget will be putting Kiwis backwards into the future. . .

So let me be really clear: the cost-of-living package that this Government announced in the Budget today is just a band-aid on a major wound. It’s a band-aid. They deny that there was, in fact, even a cost-of-living crisis for a long period of time, and now they’ve added a temporary band-aid, which just runs out after three months. And I can tell you, what we just saw was inflation’s going to be running at 3 percent right out to 2025, so Grant Robertson’s big solution to the current cost-of-living crisis is a temporary payment to a small group of people. And I have to tell you: if you’re earning $71,000 a year, you get nothing.

And that means nobody on the average wage gets a cost-of-living payment, because these are the people that would have benefitted from income relief through a very good, sensible, logical plan—our plan, which was just say, “Take the current progressive tax system, and in fairness, why don’t you just live the tax thresholds up by the amount of inflation? And an average Kiwi household would have had $1,600 a year to fight this cost-of-living crisis that they’re facing.” But Grant Robertson said, “No.” And why did he say, “No.”? Because the dirty little secret is that inflation, while it destroys savings, it destroys people’s purchasing power, and it gets into an economy. The dirty little secret is that inflation helps Grant Robertson. Why? Because he’s collected $17 billion more in tax revenue because, as prices go up, taxes go up. And Grant Robertson, as we know, is utterly, totally addicted to spending, and that means that he won’t let Kiwis keep a single cent of their own money, because he thinks he can spend it better than them. And on this side of the House, we know Kiwis with cash in their pocket will spend it and save it a lot better than Grant Robertson. . . 

Let me lay out the facts on why the books are going backwards, because it is very, very important that Kiwis register what has gone on here today because of the economic mismanagement and the lack of economic leadership from this Government. Kiwis up and down this country are tightening their belts at their kitchen tables. They are doing it. Grant Robertson should be doing exactly the same, but he’s not. And what we have seen from this Government is a loss of a culture of financial discipline. We’ve seen a loss of targets. They don’t care about every single dollar being spent as if it’s their own, and they should because it’s not their money—it’s taxpayers’ money. But I’m telling you, Grant Robertson has a problem, and his problem is that he is so deeply and utterly addicted to spending, and I want to say that the impact of his addiction on our fiscal books is incredibly clear, and when you think about it, he’s damaging New Zealand’s economy very strongly. This is—be under no doubt—a massive Budget blowout.

This Government—and I want to just step it through—has increased Government spending since coming to power by 67 percent. You haven’t seen a 67 percent improvement in outcomes or services. And, consequently, we’re spending $127 billion this year in Government spending. That is unprecedented, and that is $51 billion more this year than it was in 2017—$51 billion dollars more. And now, let’s just look at this year, because Grant Robertson said he would spend $6 billion in the biggest Budget spend-up in the history of New Zealand, and he’s actually spending far, far more than that. And I want to take the House and the country through this because it’s actually really important everybody understands what’s going on, because he’s trying to make out that he’s fiscally prudent. And the reality is he’s more addicted to spending than he’s ever been before. There’s the $6 billion he’s already announced, and then you have to remember, earlier in the week, he spent $3 billion from the Climate Emergency Response Fund, earlier in the week—a lot on Labour projects and buzz words and strategies and plans and plans for plans. . . 

 For you to spend money and to deliver outcomes, there’s something in the middle called “implementation, execution, delivery”. Those are the things you need to do. But if you haven’t run anything, you don’t know how to get things done, and that’s exactly the story of all of this front bench: they don’t know how to convert the spending into outcomes. And you can pick any topic you want—any portfolio you want—and you’re going to see a consistent pattern: more spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes. 

Let me give you an example; let’s take Chris Hipkins and education because, without doubt, that’s the most damning set of stats I’ve seen since I’ve come into politics, and to this place, 18 months ago. He spent $5 billion more, hired 1,400 more staff—staff earning $120,000 or more has tripled—and yet we have less kids attending school, and we have worse academic outcomes. What we’ve got from Chris Hipkins is more spending, more bureaucrats, and worse outcomes.

Let’s look at Megan Woods and housing, because, if you remember something called KiwiBuild—remember KiwiBuild?—we don’t talk about it anymore, but the flagship KiwiBuild; only delivering 1.3 percent of the promised 100,000 houses. But, even if we put that aside, just think about the four outcomes you actually have to deliver in housing: house prices are up $400,000; rents are up $150; there’s a quadrupling—a fourfold increase—of people wanting a State house; and, sadly, this morning, 4,500 kids woke up in a motel in emergency accommodation. So what I’ve got to say is that from Megan Woods, we’ve seen more spending, more bureaucrats, and worse outcomes.

Let’s talk about Kris Faafoi, because he’s probably going to wake up now. He spent an extra $150 million. He’s hired another 500 people and, on every single visa processing, the wait time has got even longer. What is that? More spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes.

I want to talk about Kelvin Davis just quickly, because we should talk about Kelvin and Corrections. He spent $139 million. He increased the back office staff of Corrections by 50 percent, and then those prisoners that desperately need alcohol and drug rehabilitation services dropped from just over 6,000 down to 1,000. More spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes.

I really want to talk about Michael Wood and transport—that’s the one I really want to get to, because who would have thought that an $800 million bike bridge across the Waitematā was a killer idea? Brilliant idea. And then you go and spend $55 million on consultants looking at it, and then we’re still hiring an empty office building on Auckland’s waterfront to run a cancelled project for $600,000. He’s tripled the communications staff, we’ve had a tenfold increase in those that are paid over $100,000, and even then they still can’t communicate why you need two props of zeroes for $10,000. I mean, you honestly can’t make this stuff up, and I could go through every single portfolio and the story’s the same: more spending, more bureaucrats, worse outcomes. They don’t know how to get things done.

I just want you to take yourselves back two weeks ago because, two weeks ago, Andrew Little came to this House, and he stood up, and he realised he had a problem with wait-lists on health. And he had a cunning idea, I thought, you know, because the reality is this: there’s been a fifteenfold increase in people waiting more than four months for their first specialist appointment, and that was from when they came to power before COVID in February 2020, and it’s only got worse since then. Anyway, so Andrew Little came to the House and he said, “Look, I can’t just go and create another working group, because that’s what we used to do. We spent nine years in Opposition, we had no ideas, we arrived in Government on day one and we formed 230 plus working groups.” Now, we lost count of them but that’s what they did. So he didn’t just create a working group; he thought about it a bit more and he created what we call a “task force”. That was task force. And the great thing about a task force—this wasn’t just a normal task force, or a bog-standard task force; no, this was a “high-powered task force”, OK. [Cheers from Opposition members] . . .

In closing, let me say that New Zealanders deserve far more than this Government has delivered. Labour has taken so much in taxes, they’ve added so much debt, and they’ve spent so much money, but yet they have delivered so little in public services and outcomes. And this is indeed, sadly, the “backwards Budget”. The books are going backwards, Kiwi households are going backwards, the outcomes are going backwards, and, sadly, the country’s going backwards and we’re heading in the wrong direction. New Zealanders deserve a Government focused on outcomes and getting things done, that listens and works with communities and businesses to do so, and we’re going to do that in the National Party Government that we lead. We do live in the best country on planet Earth. I’m optimistic about New Zealand. I believe we can do so much better than this. I want us to be confident. I want us to be aspirational. I want us to be ambitious. I want us realising our maximum potential—economically, socially, and environmentally. And that’s what New Zealanders can expect, and that’s what they’ll get with a National Government in 2023. Thank you. . . 

 

Nicola Willis says government spending is out of control:

Budget 2022 confirms Finance Minister Grant Robertson’s spending is out of control, National’s Finance Spokesperson Nicola Willis says.

“Not content with a record $6 billion per year spending spree that he planned, Labour has raided future budgets – spending $2 billion from Budget 2023 and $0.4 billion from Budget 2024.

“That’s before you count climate spending and the cost of living payment – which are on top, taking the total spend-up to more than $9 billion per year of government spending.

“At a time when unemployment is very low, Grant Robertson is running a deficit of $19 billion.

“Having announced by far the biggest increase in spending in any Budget, ever, Grant Robertson expects New Zealanders to believe that he will keep his increases to $2.5 billion for the next two years. That is hard to believe.

“Inflation is at a 30-year high of 6.9 per cent, will remain above 5 per cent next year and is expected to stay high for years, not getting back down to below 3 per cent until 2025.

“While Labour might want to blame inflation all on offshore factors, Treasury has confirmed that inflation is being driven by domestic factors.

“Today’s forecast confirm that Labour’s economic mismanagement means Kiwis, the economy and outcomes are all going backwards.” 

The Taxpayers’ Union echoes the backwards theme, recalling Rob Muldoon:

Grant Robertson is the first Minister of Finance since Muldoon to fail to deliver a budget suplus during a time of economic boom, says the Taxpayers’ Union, commenting from today’s Budget 2022 Beehive lockup.

“With Government revenues booming, it is stunning that Grant Robertson has failed to deliver either tax relief or a surplus,” says Jordan Williams, the Executive Director of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

“The spike to inflation has seen record revenue flooding into the Beehive due to workers paying higher income tax rates and more GST. But despite the inflation, the lowest unemployment since records began, the end of COVID lockdowns, and better than expected economic numbers, Grant Robertson has actually pushed back the return to surplus.”

“It is stunning that, during a cost of living crisis, Grant Robertson has failed to give back any of his windfall gain to the workers who earned it. His failure to deliver either income tax relief or a balanced budget beggars belief: while households tighten belts, Wellington balloons.”

“With Government revenues as strong as they are, the Finance Minister could have today announced both income tax relief and a surplus. Instead, he’s decided to feast on the revenue with a laundry list of spending commitments.”

“The temporary $27-per week ‘cost of living’ payment is a cruel joke. Unlike genuine tax relief, it fails to improve productivity incentives. It’s just a three month handout, and an ineffective one at that. At current prices, it wouldn’t even buy two blocks of cheese!”

“The only silver lining is pushing back by three months the hike to petrol taxes and Road User Charges. With inflation running at 6.9%, the hike to petrol taxes should have been squashed permanently”

And in a touch of irony:

The figures match but a change in tax brackets would continue for much more than the three months the $27 a week will; and the change in tax brackets would help people across the board, not just those earning less than $70,000, excluding superannuitants and beneficiaries.


Majority want to keep own money

05/05/2022

More than two thirds of New Zealanders want to keep more of their own money:

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll has found an overwhelming majority want a tax cut from the Finance Minister in this year’s Budget 2022. 

Labour’s dramatic drop in Newshub’s poll has the party under pressure and it’s showing. Meanwhile, the National Party is celebrating.  . . 

The poll put National ahead of Labour. It’s only one poll but does continue the trend of National support growing while Labour’s falls.

It gets worse for Labour because the poll also showed overwhelming support for tax cuts.

It’s bad news for them though, because the Finance Minister appears allergic to the idea. But perhaps the latest results of the Newshub-Reid Research poll will make him reconsider.

It asked: Do you think the Government should give New Zealanders a tax cut in the upcoming May Budget?

A clear majority – 68.7 percent – say yes, hand back over the cash, while only 23.7 percent said no. Even a majority of Labour voters – 54.2 percent – want a tax cut, with 35.7 percent saying no. 

But it’s not going to happen. 

“We do not agree that tax cuts that favour those who earn the most are the priority right now,” Robertson said in Parliament on Wednesday.

The political pressure is piling on from National.

“Kiwis are doing it incredibly tough in this cost of living crisis because of inflation and really what we want to do is be able to give more of their money back to them to spend and save it as they wish,” National leader Christopher Luxon said. .

That’s an important point.

This isn’t the government’s money, it’s the earnings of the people and it’s no surprise they want to keep a bit more of it.

Having the government which is wasting so much taking more of what you earn, or keeping a little more of your own money?

No contest.


Award for most incompetent Minister goes to . . .

07/04/2022

Who is the government’s most incompetent Minister? There’s plenty to choose from.

Transport Minister Michael Woods is a contender for the $50 million spent on the Auckland bike bridge to nowhere and for continuing to work on the far too expensive light rail project:

While New Zealanders are in a cost of living crisis with record inflation, it is unjustifiable and irresponsible for the Government to steam ahead with their plans to build their light rail vanity project, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Documents released by Treasury today show Michael Wood’s commitment to light rail could explode to an eye watering $29.2 billion – nearly double the cost of what was announced in January, which was already a staggering amount of money at almost $15 billion.

“Treasury’s advice was scathing of the project, saying the Government should not pick a preferred option for light rail until further analysis could be undertaken – advice the Government has clearly ignored.

“Labour’s commitment to this vanity project will cost taxpayers a whopping $100 million before the next election, with no guarantee of spades being in the ground.

“The cost for this project is entirely unjustifiable and the Government needs to accept that this project is simply not worth it. Especially when New Zealanders are dealing with a cost of living crisis, which will only get worse if the Government doesn’t rein in its wasteful spending.

Kris Faafoi is a contender for the way Immigration treated families of essential workers stuck overseas and for failing to fast track residency for essential workers already here.

Immigration policies are also likely to lead to job losses in the tertiary sector:

The Government urgently needs to get international students into the country to prevent looming job losses in the tertiary sector, National’s Tertiary Education spokesperson Penny Simmonds says.

“Universities and polytechnics are currently considering staff redundancies as a way of coping with declining enrolments this year.

“Labour is allowing 5000 international students into the country next month – but universities and polytechnics can only access 2150 students, or 43 per cent, with the remainder of students heading to high schools, Private Training Establishments and English language schools.

“This will do little to ease the urgent staffing issues facing the sector.

“Given that student visas are currently taking Immigration New Zealand three months to process, students applying in April won’t be processed in time for semester two, putting further stress on our valuable tertiary teaching staff.

On top of that, international research now shows New Zealand is falling out of favour with international students, being ranked last among the major English-speaking education destinations in a survey of more than 10,000 people from 93 countries.

“And the effects are obvious – according to the Ministry of Education in 2019, New Zealand had about 22,000 fulltime international students paying total tuition fees of $562 million. The figures for 2021 and 2022 are estimated to be 70 per cent of that 2019 figure.

“The Government must explain what the rational is for limiting international student numbers, our fourth biggest export earner, when the border is reopening.

“It is appalling that this Government has allowed international education in this country to decline to this level. We must act urgently to prevent further deterioration in this sector and that means not restricting international student numbers coming here.” . .

He’s also fallen short as Justice Minister:

Victims of crime missed out on support they were entitled to because Justice Minister Kris Faafoi failed to sign off the criteria for a $3 million victim support fund for more than five months after the fund was announced, National’s Justice spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Earlier this month it was revealed that zero victims were supported by the fund announced in Budget 2021, despite applications being open since July 2021.

“Labour was content to let Victim Support take the blame for this lack of delivery, but it turns out Minister Faafoi didn’t bother to sign off the eligibility criteria until November 2021 – more than five months after the fund was announced and four months after applications opened.

Rather than letting Victim Support take the rap, Minister Faafoi should have fessed up that his incompetence is the real reason why victims are missing out on support the Government promised them.

“Governments spend months finalising the Budget every year so he would have known well in advance that this fund would be open for applications from July. What is his excuse for doing nothing for over five months to ensure victims could access the support? 

“Even worse, the Police Minister has conceded agencies who are meant to advise victims of support they are entitled to were not provided information about the fund until February 2022. . .

That Police Minister Potu Williams is another contender for the silence when police were facing the protesters at parliament, silence over repeated examples of policing by consent that let gangs disregard lockdown rules and terrorise the law abiding while doing it; and her refusal to allow National police spokesman Mark Mitchell to meet the Commissioner or district commanders:

. . . He said: “I don’t think she’s [Williams is] very good at her job and I don’t think she’s across her portfolio, but for her now to use her political power and position in government to start blocking me from meetings – that’s Third World stuff … she may as well go and join the Cabinet in Somalia.” . . 

Trumping that is her denial of an increase in gang violence:

. . .Mitchell asked Williams in Parliament on Wednesday if gang violence had increased or decreased under her watch, to which she replied: “I reject the premise of that question.”  . . .

And this:

Then there’s waste in health with expired vaccines:

Thousands of meningococcal vaccines have been left to expire instead of being given to those most at risk, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“It has been revealed that 17,122 meningococcal vaccines have expired in the last two years, at a cost of $1.6 million, and who knows how many lives.

“The Ministry of Health has a strict eligibility criteria for the meningococcal vaccine, but these vaccines that were left unused could have been made available to those most at risk, to help protect them from this deathly disease.

“The lost opportunity to protect people is a tragedy and that $1.6 million that ended up being wasted could have been spent on other areas of health that desperately need it.

“Last week a meningitis petition was presented to Parliament, pleading to the Government to fund vaccines against the disease. This news will be a cold comfort to those petition supporters.

“This is becoming a concerning pattern of behaviour from Health Minister Andrew Little who has already wasted $8 million worth of measles vaccines in a botched catch-up campaign, and now he can add this one to the growing list.

“Minister Little needs to commit to making expiring meningococcal vaccines available to primary care for use inside and outside of the strict criteria to avoid a tragedy like this happening again.” . .

And the botched measles programme costing $1900 per person:

The botched $20 million measles vaccine catch-up programme is worse than it appears, National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.

“The other week it was revealed that $8 million of measles vaccines were left unused and had expired.

“However, information shows that only 11,206 people of the targeted 300,000 received the vaccine – representing a cost of nearly $1900 per person and reaching only 3 per cent of the targeted population.

“It was also revealed that Labour spent $1.8 million on public relations to frame a campaign ‘with a particular focus on Māori and Pacific people’, yet only 1181 Māori received the vaccine – a PR cost of $1,500 per person.

“Worse still, to date the programme costs show that $2.2 million has been spent on public relations while only $1.61 million was spent on actually delivering the vaccine to Māori.

“Andrew Little seems more interested in PR and spin than actually delivering measles vaccinations to Māori.

“The list of health failures is mounting under Andrew Little’s watch. He failed to deliver any extra ICU beds during a global pandemic, has completely missed every health target set and now he can add a botched measles campaign to his growing list.”

The government put so much effort, and spent so much money, justifying locking us down and persuading us to get vaccinated so that the health system wasn’t over whelmed yet did little or nothing to retain existing staff and recruit more.

That’s left  hospitals understaffed and health professionals overworked :

Their employers have warned them not to speak out but nurses say they won’t be silenced. Overworked and understaffed, they’ve told Sunday that they’ve had enough of a health system under real pressure.

The Omicron surge hasn’t helped, but there was a serious nursing shortage long before Covid struck, and now burnout and resignations are high while the pandemic shut off the supply of overseas nurses.

Nurses still on the job worry patient safety may suffer because they are so short-staffed.

Is the government listening?

No it’s not. Instead it’s going ahead with the complete restructure of the health system that will do nothing to improve pay and conditions for health professionals and nothing to improve services, and outcomes, for patients.

That would be bad enough at the best of times. In the middle of a pandemic it’s a complete waste of scarce funds and people’s focus.

While on health and the pandemic lets not forget the shortage of PPE, the delay in securing vaccines which left the rollout starting late and the RATs debacle.

Then there’s paying more and getting less in several areas.

Carmel Sepuloni has overseen an increase in MSD staff and deterioration in performance:

Our welfare system is less responsive than ever as phone wait times for the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) surge, National’s Social Development and Employment spokesperson Louise Upston says.

“Whether it’s superannuitants, students, people out of work, or a family who needs help to cope with soaring living costs, New Zealander’s deserve timely answers from the department responsible of administering the welfare system.

“Since 2017, the number of MSD staff answering calls has increased from 650 to 1220 people, yet the average wait time has also increased from 4 to 18 minutes, even reaching close to 40 minutes some weeks this year.

“That’s an 88 per cent increase in staff numbers, a large deterioration in performance and no better outcomes for Kiwis.  

“Appallingly, some people have waited longer than three hours while others have reported it took weeks to receive a call back.

“The cost of living crisis has increased demand for hardship grants and there is almost an extra 50,000 people on the unemployment benefit, which means preparations should have been made to cope with more inquiries.

“New Zealander’s deserve a better service given the substantial taxpayer dollars poured into MSD. Simply increasing staff numbers is not going to cut it.

“Minister Sepuloni needs to hold MSD accountable for their plummeting performance and ensures it fulfils its core responsibility to answer New Zealander’s questions and help people access their entitlements.”

Corrections is spending more money on prisoners with worse outcomes:

Taxpayers are spending more money on prisoners, yet violent crime continues to go up, National’s Corrections spokesperson Simon O’Connor says.

“New Zealand taxpayers are now spending $151,000 per prisoner, per year – an increase of over $30,000 per prisoner from 2018/19.

“Overall, there has been an increase of $139 million poured into the Corrections system over the period between 2018/19 and 2020/21, despite fewer prisoners.

“At the same time, there has been a steep decline in the number of prisoners accessing rehabilitation services. Prisoners accessing alcohol and drug programmes alone has dropped from 6311 in 2015/16 to 1065 in 2019/20 – a decrease greater than the drop in prisoner numbers.

“More money is being spent, but we’re getting worse outcomes.

“Rehabilitation is a key way for prisoners to turn their lives around, but in 2019/20 the number of prisoners taking part in rehabilitation programmes plummeted to 2399, from 5845 in 2015/16.

“It can hardly be a surprise then that violent crime is up 21 per cent since 2017, as reported by the Salvation Army, and that we have one of the highest recidivism rates in the OECD.

“This is typical for a Government who are experts at spending taxpayer money with no expectation of results.

“On top of this, Labour is taking soft-on-crime approach which is clearly not working.

“Without effective rehabilitation, re-imprisonment rates and violence will only keep climbing.”

And more is being spent on mental health for no positive results:

The mental health monitoring report out today shows that the Government’s $1.9 billion investment in mental health has delivered no benefit to Kiwis, National’s Mental Health spokesperson Matt Doocey says.

“This is emblematic of a Government that is all spin and no delivery. Labour’s only measure of success is how much it spends on things. But it needs to be about the outcomes that we achieve for New Zealanders.

“The report released today by the Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission reinforces what many mental health groups and services have been telling me for some time – that they’re not seeing any of the money promised for mental health and can’t point to where it’s gone.

“They have been raising these concerns with the Government for months about staff shortages and growing waiting lists, but have not received a response.

“The findings in the report also show that our specialist services are facing increased demand since the beginning of the pandemic, especially from younger people seeking mental health support.

“The Government says it has invested in the sector, yet services are harder to access. They must explain where the money has gone and why it hasn’t made a difference to improving people’s mental health.

“Making announcements with good intentions isn’t going to solve the growing mental health problems that New Zealand is facing, but strong leadership and a well-managed plan to execute change will. We need targeted spending that delivers outcomes for Kiwis.”

Then there are virtue signalling environmental policies that are nothing more than taxes that increase costs but do nothing at all for the environment:

The Government’s car tax comes into force today, piling on yet another cost for Kiwis facing a cost of living crisis, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“Hardworking Kiwis will be hoping that this is just an April Fool’s joke, but sadly they will still have to live with Labour’s new car tax after today.        

“The so-called ‘Clean Car Discount’ gives a rebate for expensive electric vehicles while imposing fees of thousands of dollars on many other vehicles. For example, buyers of a Toyota Hilux* will face a $5175 tax when they first register the vehicle.  

“This will have a negative impact on our farmers and tradies who need utes to do their jobs and contribute to our economic recovery.   

“The Government is penalising farmers and tradies for their choice of vehicle despite there being no viable electric ute available. Even Toyota had to correct the Prime Minister last year that it has no plans to bring an electric ute to New Zealand within the next two years.

“LDV will have an electric alternative, the EV-T60, coming from China later this year. But it is two-wheel drive and can only haul a max of 1,000 kgs for 162km. This is not enough to meet farmers’ needs, who need strength and reliability.

“While the Government gives with one hand, by temporarily reducing fuel taxes, it takes with the other by imposing the Auckland regional fuel tax, a car tax, and is now proposing a biofuels mandate which will further increase the cost of fuel. 

“All of these policies drive up the cost of living for motorists struggling to get by under rapidly rising inflation and fuel prices.

An environmental and transport failure is the train from Hamilton to Auckland:

The Te Huia train today marks its first birthday with news that it has spent more time off the tracks than on them, National’s Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown says.

“There is not a lot to celebrate about this service which has failed from day one.

“Not only has the train spent more time off the tracks than on them over the past 12 months, taxpayers have poured $98 million into a service which very few people use and which takes much longer than driving between Hamilton and Auckland.

“Furthermore, research produced by the Waikato Chamber of Commerce shows that based on current passenger numbers the train actually emits more carbon emissions than someone who drives their petrol or diesel vehicle between these two cities.

“Patronage is significantly lower than what it was when the service started despite repeated calls to ‘build it and people will come’.

“This painfully slow train is simply not fit for purpose. It doesn’t achieve the outcomes that the Government claimed it would one year ago.

“The Transport Minister is so completely focussed on his legacy projects, he is prepared to waste almost $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a train that isn’t fit for purpose and hardly anyone wants to use.

“Quite frankly this is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money which would be better spent on extending the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.”  

If all this isn’t bad enough, there’s the incompetence with funding the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) 

The Auditor General’s Report on the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Programme (STAPP) confirmed what many businesses have been saying – that this Labour Government has been biased and unfair, National’s Tourism spokesperson Todd McClay says.

“Every tourism business in New Zealand has done it tough over the last two years and this report has shown that this Labour Government favoured some and left others to suffer.

“In May 2020 the Government and former Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis opened a $290M fund for struggling tourism businesses. When applications opened, some businesses were accepted without any evidence that they were in financial difficulty, and didn’t have to go through the same process as other businesses.

“The Government seems to believe that only Queenstown exists when it comes to tourism in New Zealand, when in reality there are tourism operators up and down the country who are suffering just as much.

“In typical Labour fashion, they simply threw money at a problem without having a well-managed plan. Current Tourism Minister Stuart Nash has blamed the uncertainty of Covid-19 for these mistakes, but the reality is they failed to think things through at a time when tourism businesses needed them most.

“New Zealanders deserve to have a Government who are responsible with their spending, but this Labour Government has proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to make wise or fair spending decisions.

“I am calling on Minister Nash to find those funds that were given out incorrectly, take them back and redistribute them to all Kiwi tourism operators so that they can open up quickly for international tourists.”

Bryce Edwards says the report raises questions of integrity:

Was political favouritism involved in the dishing out of millions of dollars by government ministers to tourism businesses? We can’t know, because the Government didn’t keep sufficient records or have proper processes for the handouts. That’s the obvious question arising from a scathing report released by the Auditor General on Thursday, which has received far too little attention.

The Auditor General’s report investigates a scheme set up by the Government early in the Covid crisis (May 2020), called the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme. The report is one of many that have criticised government procedures during Covid for their lack of integrity. . . 

Harman draws attention to the fact that there have been a number of other reports from the Auditor General’s office that have pinged the Government for poor processes in regard to government departments dealing with private vested interests during Covid – especially the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Development.

Of course, one of the most problematic has been the multi-billion-dollar Wage Subsidy Scheme, which was seen to be poorly designed and administered.

There’s a theme building up from these reports – that of crony corporate welfare getting out of hand in recent years. This is one of the blind spots in New Zealand politics and society. Recent governments are prone to giving generous subsidies to business interests, often without any great systems of integrity or best practice. And unfortunately, the public never seems to mind much when it becomes apparent.

It could well be that New Zealand is just too eager to believe the annual Transparency International Corruption Perception Index results that show this country to be the least corrupt nation on earth. In ignoring reports such as this latest from the Auditor General, the Government is undermining that status.

On the subject of Ministerial oversight of money wasted, there’s plenty to choose from :

So much incompetence, it’s hard to choose which is worse but there’s one person who is supposed to be on top of all the portfolios and those presiding over them. That’s Jacinda Ardern.

Would any other recent Prime Minister have tolerated this litany of laxness from Ministers? Bill English, John Key, Helen Clark? No.

There’s a lot more to leadership than announcing announcements and serving word salads no matter how caring they sound.

Ensuring Ministers are up to the jobs they’re supposed to be doing and holding them to account if  and when they fall short is a very important one by which measure of competence this PM falls short.


Can’t right past by wronging present & future

31/03/2022

The Dunedin City Council has backed tracked on its backing for the collective opposed to the government’s Three Waters plans:

. . . The city’s elected members voted 7-6 yesterday to revoke last month’s decision to join Communities 4 Local Democracy, a collective of more than 30 councils opposed to key aspects of the Government’s Three Waters reform programme.

Mr Hawkins argued joining the group had amounted to the council turning its back on mana whenua, represented by Te Runanga o Otakou and Kati Huirapa ki Puketeraki, who have ancestral links to the area.

This prompted the two runanga to suspend their involvement in the council’s Maori participation working party, which has input into strategies and projects. . . 

The council bowed to the wishes of two runanga.

It has an obligation to consult them but do wishes of runanga trump DCC residents? If the majority of residents want the council to oppose Three Waters, will the council reverse its reversal?

To not do so wouldn’t be democratic and that illustrates the problem with co-governance with which, Richard Prebble says there is no democratic accountability :

. . . With almost no debate, Labour has adopted a radical reinterpretation of the Treaty as a partnership to justify co-governance. With co-governance, there is no democratic accountability when half the power is held by those who do not have to answer to the electorate.

Co-governance was not in Labour’s manifesto. Labour ministers hid from its coalition partner He Puapua – a report that could result in co-governance being extended. Work on this radical document is continuing.

Now Labour has an absolute majority and ministers have put the Treaty as a partnership at the heart of the government. It is paralysing policy. How can Māori be part of both the Crown and the other partner? Who is Willie Jackson representing as the minister in charge of He Puapua? . . 

He’s not representing the growing number of New Zealanders who are growing increasingly concerned about the government’s co-governance ambitions.

We do not need a new Treaty. The Treaty is fine as it was written in 1840. [In the English text version] there are just three articles: “Cede to Her Majesty the Queen of England absolutely and without reservation all the rights and powers of Sovereignty”; “guarantees … the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates, Forests, Fisheries and other properties”; and grants “all the Rights and Privileges of British Subjects”.

There is nothing about partnerships or being “a multi-ethnic-liberal democracy”.

As David Lange put it: “Did Queen Victoria for a moment think of forming a partnership with a number of thumb prints and 500 people?”

A few Māori signed the English version. Māori had travelled to Australia and Britain. The preamble meant Māori knew what they were agreeing. Ceding sovereignty to end the bloody musket wars, gaining protection for their property and all the rights of British citizenship was a good deal.

What the Treaty does say is still important today.

Sovereignty was ceded. Sovereignty is indivisible. The Crown is everyone as represented by the executive and the courts.

Property rights are guaranteed.

Citizenship grants the rights from the Magna Carta – no arbitrary taxation and the right to a fair trial with a jury.

Parliament is responsible for the present reinterpretation, and only Parliament can fix it.

Parliament has included in a number of laws the phrase “the principles of the Treaty”, without saying what those principles are. No MP thought that a court might say that a Treaty principle was a partnership. No court has.

If you know what these principles are, please tell me because I have yet to find a definitive answer.

People have seized on a statement by judges that in resolving Waitangi claims, it is a relationship similar to a partnership, in order to claim that partnership is a Treaty principle.

Where Māori have a valid property claim, such as to some of our national parks, then co-governance is a pragmatic solution. It recognises the Māori property interest while maintaining the public interest in preserving the parks.

Labour ministers are now promoting co-governance on the basis that the Treaty is a partnership even where Māori have no property claim. . . 

Co-governance where there is a legitimate property claim is quite different from co-governance where there is none.

Māori interest in having access to health is the same as everyone.

That doesn’t mean that Maori might be able to better address Maori health problems but that’s a matter of services not governance.

As far as water is concerned, Māori only have an ownership interest as ratepayers in the dams, pipes, pumping stations and sewage plants. There is no case for co-governance.

So what is the answer?

In the hearings to appoint Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the US Supreme Court, a Senator asked what the solution was when the court misunderstands what Congress intended? The Judge replied that in that case Congress should amend the law to make its intention clear.

We should follow the judge’s advice. Parliament has legislated that courts apply the principles of the Treaty. Parliament should now set out that those principles are what were agreed in 1840.

Instead of a referendum, Act should campaign that Parliament legislate that the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi are those in the Treaty: namely, the Crown has sovereignty, the Crown guarantees property rights and everyone has the same rights of New Zealand citizenship.

When Parliament does that we can again repeat Governor Hobson’s words: “He iwi kotahi tātou: now we are one people”.

There is a problem of course that there are four versions of the Treaty – The English one and the Maori translation of it which are different from the Maori version and the English translation of it.

But regardless of which version is used, there is no doubt that the Crown did not always honour the Treaty. Successive governments have acknowledged that and Treaty settlements have, and are still being, negotiated to compensate for that.

There is no doubt that Maori are over represented in negative statistics and under represented in positive ones for crime, education and health. But co-governance won’t solve that.

There are considerable, well-founded beliefs that all it would do is undermine democracy.

You can’t right past wrongs by wronging the present and future which is what co-governance that moves away from equality under the law, democratic accountability, and democratic institutions and practices based on one person, one vote would do.


FPAs really UPAs

30/03/2022

They’re called Fair Pay Agreements but for whom are they fair?

They’re not fair for the 90% of workers who will be forced to accept them if 10% of people in their occupation want them.

They’re not fair for the workers who will lose flexible pay and conditions that suit them and be forced to accept inflexible pay and conditions that don’t.

They’re not fair to employers in different parts of the country with different cost structures who will be forced to accept the pay and conditions imposed on them regardless of whether they can afford them.

They’re not fair to the businesses that will collapse under the weight of unaffordable wage bills and the workers who will lose their jobs to business failures and increased automation.

They’re not fair to the everyone already struggling with inflation who will face higher costs as a result of them.

It’s not fair that they will harm the economy:

Labour’s misnamed ‘Fair’ Pay Agreements Bill will reduce flexibility and harm New Zealand’s economy, National’s Workplace Relations spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“This bill is an ideological overreach, deliberately going to war with employers at a time when we’re facing huge economic challenges.

“The modern workplace is changing rapidly and people value flexibility. Labour’s bill would take us in the opposite direction, towards rigid national awards.

“It’s another example of this Government’s belief that central government knows best – better than employees and employers trying to arrange things for themselves in a way that works for them.

“Flexible labour markets are one of the foundations of our relative economic success in the past few decades. This bill undermines that foundation and will harm our economy and our national competitiveness.

“National stridently opposes this bill.”

They are so unfair that Business New Zealand is saying no to the payment being offered to them:

BusinessNZ has confirmed that it will not accept payments included in the Fair Pay Agreements Bill introduced to Parliament today.

Under the terms of the Bill, BusinessNZ would be offered $250,000 a year for supporting compulsory bargaining in major sectors of the economy.

But Chief Executive Kirk Hope says the FPA scheme is unacceptable and BusinessNZ will not take part.

“The Bill shows the Government is not listening, and we think the legislation should simply be canned.

“The scheme would make it compulsory for businesses to take part in collective bargaining, and compulsory for them to accept union demands or imposed arbitration.

“The FPA scheme would be deleterious to the economy, to people’s prosperity, and to the human rights of those involved, and despite the mention of BusinessNZ in the Bill presented to Parliament today, I can confirm that BusinessNZ will definitely not be taking taxpayer money to support compulsory national pay schemes.”

The Employers’ and Manufacturers’ Association says FPAs are a step back in time:

The Government’s step backwards to National Compulsory Awards, also known as Fair Pay Agreements (FPAs), is a retrograde move for employees and employers that removes the flexibility we’ve come to expect and need in the modern workplace, says the EMA.

Head of Advocacy and Strategy, Alan McDonald, says this is a step back to a centralised, antagonistic wage bargaining system that failed workers and their employers in the 1970s and 80s and was done away with in the 1990s.

“It puts a Wellington bureaucracy between employees and their employers and enforces the same pay and conditions for all employees regardless of their circumstances and those of their employer.”

Mr McDonald says inflexible, unwanted, slow moving, centralised bargaining was the last thing needed in the modern workplace.

This is what we had decades ago when a worker who sprained an eyelash at one workplace could trigger strikes the length and breadth of the country.

“FPAs are not consistent with the goal of the New Zealand economy being made of flexible, innovative, competitive and agile businesses.

“If nothing else, how would we have coped with the demands for flexibility and adaptability in the workplace imposed by Covid if we were working with these ponderous, unwanted awards?”

“The fact they must be compulsorily brought to an outcome is illegal under the International Labour Organisation (ILO) principles signed up to by previous Labour governments and currently illegal under our domestic bargaining frameworks where employers can choose to opt out.

As only 10 percent of a workforce or 1,000 workers in any sector can demand one of these agreements, they are demonstrably undemocratic.”

Mr McDonald says the EMA and other members of the BusinessNZ network had opposed these agreements from the moment they were proposed and would continue to oppose them.

He said it was hard to see what the issue was that they were meant to solve, especially with such widespread access to such agreements.

“MBIE, the government’s own advisors, said there may be a few areas where there could be an issue with pay and conditions and the best solution was to apply a market test and review conditions in those sectors and make changes where required.

“We’d support that, but instead this legislation takes a scattergun approach that will result in inflexible, rigid conditions across multiple industries with some employers having to deal with multiple awards in one workplace.

“It’s a logistical nightmare if nothing else. How do you reach every employee and employer from Stewart Island to Cape Reinga?

Inflexible, rigid and a logistical nightmare – what’s fair about that?

“I see the Government’s release ignores the fact that Business NZ and its network and the Chambers of Commerce have already ruled out being the bargaining agent for employers. The fact the CTU is the Government’s bargaining agent of choice also shuts out all the other non-affiliated unions from the bargaining process and ignores the fact around 80 per cent of the workforce is not associated with unions,” says Mr McDonald.

It’s not even fair to many unions.

How fair is it to democracy when the CTU supports the Labour Party financially and with people power for campaigning.

If corruption is too strong a word for it – and I”m not sure it is – then unfair certainly isn’t.

These aren’t FPAs they’re UPAs – unfair pay agreements – and another reason to ensure this government doesn’t get a third term.


Principles vs politics

23/03/2022

Labour’s election commitment to climate change was supposed to be its nuclear-free moment.

File that along with child poverty, Kiwibuild and so many other grand promises that have been followed by little, if any, progress.

The carbon tax on fuel was supposed to encourage people to use less. The steep increase in oil prices recently ought to have reinforced that.

But National leader Chris Luxon hit the target when he spoke about a cost of living crisis and the government folded.

Its poll-driven decision to reduce the excise tax on petrol, at least for three months, shows what happens when principles meet politics.

It illustrates the problem with so many policies that are supposed to address climate change – they impose too high economic and social costs to be politically acceptable. Too often they have little if any positive impact on the environment and sometimes they make it worse.

European countries are back peddling quickly from their decisions to get rid of coal and nuclear power plants because its left them too reliant on Russia’s gas.

Labour’s rush towards greener power has left us reliant on imported coal that is dirtier than the local fuel we’re no longer permitted to mine.

Its ute-tax achieves nothing because of the way the ETS works and its insistence on a carbon tax on fuel has been undermined by the excise tax cut.

Worse, still, Matt Burgess explains the government’s emissions reduction policies are based on the pretence of necessity:

At May’s Budget, the government will commit $4.5 billion to new spending on climate change, more than $2,000 per household. The government will also deliver its Emissions Reduction Plan, an array of levies, subsidies, regulations and hard bans. The government will say these interventions are necessary and that they will help deliver emissions targets.

Neither claim is true. Existing policies already have New Zealand firmly on track to deliver statutory emissions targets. Parliament has committed to reduce net emissions of greenhouse gases. Legislation defines net emissions as gross emissions (for example, from car exhausts) minus offsets (for example, the carbon captured by trees, co-operation with other countries). Offsets are recognised in domestic law and international agreements. They are affordable and available in effectively unlimited quantities.

These facts secure emissions targets. Regardless of how much or how little existing policies including the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) lower emissions, offsets will bridge the gap to targets. New Zealand is not in a position of having to resort to desperate measures to meet its climate change obligations. This country can make reasonable or best efforts to lower net emissions with existing policies and be certain
of success.

Accordingly, further policies are not necessary. We have options. The government could choose not to add thousands of dollars to the cost of imported vehicles from next month with its Feebate policy and be certain of delivering our obligations. Agriculture could stay outside the ETS indefinitely while the country reaches net zero emissions. Only by overlooking offsets can the government maintain the fiction that drastic further actions are necessary. The government bears the burden of proof to show how its new policies improve on existing policies.

Even if existing policies were not enough to reach targets, the government’s strategy would not help. The government has already capped greenhouse gases. Changes to the ETS in 2020 introduced a quantity cap. The new cap will be a sinking lid on emissions, set to fall in line with targets. It is well known that policies cannot reduce emissions from under an emissions cap. Cap-and-trade schemes like the ETS effectively neutralise other emissions policies. Where a policy lowers a sector’s emissions, the sector will buy fewer emissions permits. That leaves more permits for others, meaning higher emissions elsewhere. Overall emissions do not change. New Zealand has one of the most comprehensive ETSs in the world. Nearly all of the government’s policies will be neutralised – regardless of whether existing policies are enough.

The government’s vast new spending on climate change policies could reduce emissions by zero tonnes. If this were business, it would be fraud.

Whether or not the government can be accused of fraud, that is scandalous.

This report reviews the government’s climate change strategy. The strategy is based on a misunderstanding of the relationship between the ETS and other policies. The government is pushing its disruptive policies by misconstruing the legislation and by ignoring every feasible alternative. Officials have mostly abandoned cost-benefit analysis; they reject cost and effectiveness as primary goals; they believe climate policies should manage inequality and historic grievances as well as reduce emissions; emissions policies are rarely checked after they are launched; and poor performance is rarely corrected. It is not surprising that policies regularly spend 20 times more than the ETS to abate each tonne of emissions.

We are witnessing an historic public policy failure. Later this year, when the government delivers its new policies, it will call its policies “necessary” or “vital.” This is the pretence of necessity. It is cover for policies that could not survive any test of their merits. After all, there can be no case for expensive, ineffective, and often regressive policies if they are not needed.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to mount a case for expensive, ineffective and often regressive policies if they are needed.

Inflicting them on us when they aren’t, is bad politics based on flawed principles.

It’s a very bad example of must do something and be seen to be doing it policy on the theory that doing something is better than doing nothing, even when in this case, it isn’t. It’s merely virtue signalling to the green zealots here and abroad.

Like far too many other supposedly green policies it unbalances the three-legged sustainability stool – cutting off the economic and social legs leaving the environmental one that superficially looks strong but will not support the weight of science.

The full report Pretence of Necessity is here.


When the pendulum swings too far

16/03/2022

Who said this?:

. . .Here I come back to the government’s aim of closing the gaps between rich and poor, and the way in which it was overtaken in public understanding by the subsidiary goal of closing the gaps between Maori and the rest. I don’t describe the second goal as lesser than the first out of any wish to minimise the effect of growing inequality on Maori people. What I mean is that from the point of view of a democratic government, the first goal can encompass the second, but the second can’t encompass the first. If the government’s goal is to reduce inequality, it follows that it will do whatever it can to improve the position of Maori.

How goals like this are achieved is the whole business of politics. It is not particularly easy politics, because the racial element always makes politics difficult, however you handle it. In this country there is the history of dispossession and displacement. There is the growing number of people who identify as Maori. There is the growing number of those who wish to wield political power as, and on behalf, of Maori, and increasingly have the means to do so. These are challenges to the political process, but they are not insurmountable.

Democratic government can accommodate Maori political aspiration in many ways. It can allocate resources in ways which reflect the particular interests of Maori people. It can delegate authority, and allow the exercise of degrees of Maori autonomy. What it cannot do is acknowledge the existence of a separate sovereignty. As soon as it does that, it isn’t a democracy. We can have a democratic form of government or we can have indigenous sovereignty. They can’t coexist and we can’t have them both.

That is clear and correct – it is either democracy or Maori sovereignty. It is impossible to have both.

This brings me to the preoccupation of successive governments with the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is with no disrespect for Maori feeling for the treaty that I have to say it means nothing to me. It can mean nothing to me because it has nothing to say to me. When I was in office I understood that the government had succeeded to certain legal and moral obligations of the government which signed the treaty, and that in so far as those obligations had not been met it was our responsibility to honour them. But that is the extent of it.

The treaty cannot be any kind of founding document, as it is sometimes said to be. It does not resolve the question of sovereignty, if only because one version of it claims one form of sovereignty and the other version claims the opposite. The court of appeal once, absurdly, described it as a partnership between races, but it obviously is not. The signatories are, on one side, a distinctive group of people, and on the other, a government which established itself in New Zealand and whose successors represent all of us, whether we are descendants of the signatories or not. The treaty cannot even resolve the argument among Maori themselves in which one side maintains that that you’re a Maori if you identify as such, and the other claims that it’s your links to traditional forms of association which define you as Maori.

As our increasingly dismal national day continues to show, the treaty is no basis for nationhood. It doesn’t express the fundamental rights and responsibilities of citizenship, and it doesn’t have any unifying concept. The importance it has for Maori people is a constant reminder that governments in a democracy should meet their legal and moral obligations, but for the country taken as a whole, that is, and must be, the limit of its significance.

Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the treaty in statute. The treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts. It is a bald agreement, anchored in its time and place, and the public interest in it is the same as the public interest in enforcing any properly-made agreement. To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.

The treaty is a wonderful stick for activists to beat the rest of us with, but it could never have assumed the importance it has without the complicity of others. It came to prominence in liberal thought in the seventies, when many who were concerned about the abuse of the democratic process by the government of the day began to see the treaty as a potential source of alternative authority. It’s been the basis of a self-perpetuating industry in academic and legal circles. Many on the left of politics who sympathise with Maori aspiration have identified with the cause of the treaty, either not knowing or not caring that its implications are profoundly undemocratic.

I don’t think it any coincidence that the cause gained momentum in the eighties and nineties, when the government retreated from active engagement in economy and society and in doing so weakened the identification between government and governed which is essential to the functioning of a democracy. It isn’t in the least surprising that undemocratic ideas flourish when democracy itself seems to be failing.

I think that in practice the present government will find it difficult to draw back from its public commitment to the treaty, and that this will almost certainly rob it of its chance to build a more cohesive society and a more productive economy. It has, in the public mind if nowhere else, adopted a goal whose pursuit is inevitably divisive, and it is spending its political capital on it almost by the hour. The result, if the worst comes to the worst, will be a fractured society in which political power will be contested in ways beyond the limits of our democratic experience. . . 

Who said that?

A racist?

A right wing extremist?

I don’t think either of those descriptions could be applied to  David Lange who said this in the 2000 Bruce Jesson lecture.

Nearly 22 years later we’ve got more of what he was concerned about:

Here I come to the dangers posed by the increasing entrenchment of the treaty in statute. The treaty itself contains no principles which can usefully guide government or courts. It is a bald agreement, anchored in its time and place, and the public interest in it is the same as the public interest in enforcing any properly-made agreement. To go further than that is to acknowledge the existence of undemocratic forms of rights, entitlements, or sovereignty.

The current government has gone further than any any other, it plans to go further still and anyone who questions that risks being called racist.

It would however, be difficult to call a Maori who criticises the dangerous path down which this government is headed racist and Shane Jones is doing that in saying stop dragging Treaty of Waitangi into policies where it’s of dubious value:

As the Covid virus continues to move through the community, another virus spreads across our political system.

Just as there is ignorance about the exact origins of Covid, the public does not recall giving the Labour Party permission to impose its Treaty of Waitangi co-governance master plan. A dogma that thrives where visibility is weak, debates are shallow and agendas are murky.

Take for example the bog known as Three Waters, a reform designed to avoid a repeat of the 2016 Havelock North drinking water crisis.

Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has a superior agenda in mind which will be in our best interests, not only for drinking water but also storm and wastewater – providing it goes through her Treaty purification plant.

The Government wants to forcibly transfer all our publicly-owned water assets into four jumbo corporations and then hand over 50 per cent control to iwi – a radical move from contaminated water to toxic politics.

According to the Government, this is necessary to satisfy Treaty articles of faith and accommodate the fractious iwi leaders collective, who should stick to their rūnanga knitting rather than whinging in Wellington. . . .

It is high time to call time on how the Treaty of Waitangi is being dragged into policy areas where it is of dubious value, alienates people, and eats away the goodwill of past decades.

It is critical that the jurisdiction of the Waitangi Tribunal be reviewed and changed. It is no longer fit for purpose, it indiscriminately strays into matters where it lacks competence and adds no value. Whilst the legal truffle hunters may encourage it to be expansive, it is overdue a political pruning. In 2025, which will be in the next electoral cycle, the tribunal will have existed for 50 years. Why should it still exist and for what purpose?

Treaty co-governance is being grafted onto our political system without any public consent or informed debate. Labour did not seek the approval of the electorate in 2020 for this divisive agenda. Quite the opposite.

He Puapua, which is behind much of the treatyfication being rammed through by the government was kept hidden from the public until well after the election.

We had no say in legislation that was rushed through under urgency taking away the right to veto Maori seats on councils, a separate Maori health authority with a veto over the other non-Maori one was presented as a fait accompli and consultation on giving Maori 50% control over Three Waters was a farce.

The wellbeing statistics for whānau remain woeful but the political leadership is pitiful.

Rather than deal to the Tribesmen gang, which now appears to own the Waikato Expressway, our Māori MPs encourage tribal ambitions to control the health system. The case for establishing a separate Māori Health Authority with budgetary veto powers has not been made. The same for the proposed Māori Education Authority.

No doubt these structural changes will lead to more statutory Treaty references which then leads to more litigation whilst the gang nephews run amok.

These whānau want practical results, not superficial linguistics where everything gets a Māori title but whānau circumstances don’t markedly improve. Kāinga Ora is a case in point, where the Māori grammar is inversely related to the actual housing outcomes for Maori. Rather than indulging the Mongrel Mob tenants, put them in a tent until they learn to respect their neighbours.

Tiriti co-governance is an artifice that will hobble economic activity and worsen statutory processes such as those in the Resource Management Act. A developer’s deathtrap bogged down with red-tape, surrounded by loose hapū cannons that threaten to spike economic development unless their two cents worth is handsomely paid for. Consultation is a part of democracy, however, it needs to be tightly defined and not allowed to morph into either green or brown mail.

The Three Waters project is doomed to fail because it is not sustainable in our democracy for a $185 billion public utility programme to be 50 per cent controlled by iwi. These are public assets, not tribal baubles.

The current Government can shroud its agenda with artfulness but the result will be the same. Any iwi co-governance legislation it arrogantly forces through Parliament will be undone by a future government.

Such a government should be formed on the clear basis that there will never be political privileges such as the iwi co-governance plot.

The pressing issues confronting the average rangatahi are very basic. Rather than tribalised Three Waters, they need three affordable staples, veges, meat and milk.

The political agitators and those driving the political gravy train have a lot to gain if the government allows the tentacles of the Treaty principles to stretch further.

But the treayification does nothing to improve the lives of those who are disproportionately represented in negative statistics for crime, education, health and welfare dependency and it undermines democracy.

A year ago Barrie Saunders asked democracy or partnership, what do we want?

. . . At present New Zealand has a quality democracy.   We have fairly-drawn electorates, an easy voting system, and a reasonable level of political literacy.  Money struggles to buy Government policy, which is all as it should be.  

However, we have no reason to be smug, because this democracy is under threat. Governments since 1987 and the Courts have been entrenching a modern view that the Treaty of Waitangi means there is an ongoing “partnership between the Government and Iwi”.  Some Maori leaders want a form of co-governance between Parliament, elected by all New Zealanders, with one which has to negotiate policy with iwi leaders.  

The partnership concept has been advanced in small steps, without the Government first holding an honest conversation with all New Zealanders.  Apart from concerns about the costs in the early stages of the treaty settlement process, New Zealanders have basically remained silent while governments negotiated settlements and wrote the subsequent legislation.   . . 

For the record, while I prefer they don’t exist, separate Maori seats or even Maori wards, do not undermine our democracy, provided each is based on the same electoral numbers as general electorates and wards.  Nor do I think a requirement for central and local Government to have regard for the views of Maori, destroys democratic integrity, provided the consultation process is genuine, and also that it doesn’t necessarily mean agreement must be reached.  

These provisions help create social cohesion that is critical to successful democracies.  However, we could soon reach a point when the word “democracy” will not accurately describe our form of government.         

For anyone who thinks I may be exaggerating the threat to our democratic model, I strongly recommend they read the 2010 iwi-sponsored 129 page “The report of Matike Mai Aotearoa – the independent working group on constitutional transformation”.  It is all laid out with a plan to achieve the transformation by 2040.  The recommendations are not about making the Treaty fit within the current constitutional arrangements; rather it creates a whole new form of Government based around a minority view of what the Treaty means. . . 

There is reasonable agreement that Maori were mistreated by the government and that their land was stolen. There is broad support for Treaty settlements to compensate for that and acceptance that there is a place for Maori solutions to Maori problems.

But the pendulum has swung too far with a separatist and divisive agenda that makes some more equal than others.

Most of the support for Treaty settlements is for them to be full and final, not for repeated renegotiations, nor the growing erosion of democracy through the insertion Treaty principles into all sorts of places where they have no place and certainly not for  co-governance.

Jones has been silent since losing his seat in parliament last year.

His opinion piece could well signal the start of his campaign to return with New Zealand First and it should come as a warning.

The trend in recent polls shows Labour and the Green Party couldn’t govern without the support of the Maori Party.

That could well push wavering voters towards the right rather than the left.

But if National and Act aren’t quite clear that co-governance and democracy are mutually exclusive they will open the door to New Zealand First and history shows the risks that could come with that.

 


It’s only one poll

11/03/2022

The 1News Kantar poll shows National ahead of Labour:

IT’s only one poll but it is continuing the trend of National gaining popularity and Labour losing it.

However, under MMP one major party having more votes than the other, doesn’t necessarily mean it could form a government.

National and Act have 37% support.

Labour and the Green Party have 36%.

The Maori Party has 2% and would be far more likely to go left than right.

However, the spectre of a Labour, Green, Maori government could well scare some in the middle ground into going right.

While Jacinda Ardern is still ahead as preferred PM, when those polled were asked who they’d prefer as PM if they could choose only Ardern or Christopher Luxon, there was only one percentage point in the difference:

We’re not even half way to the next election, but for the first time since Covid struck in 2020, the trend is National’s friend.


Priorities

01/03/2022

Another Labour election promise is yet to be delivered:

A ground-breaking drug treatment programme led to a 34 per cent drop in criminal offending by people who took part, a study found, prompting calls for the Government to urgently extend the initiative nationwide.

Te Ara Oranga, or the Pathway to Wellbeing, is a partnership between the police and the Northland DHB which helps steer meth addicts towards treatment in the health system and employment, rather than the revolving door of criminal charges in the courtroom.

One of the key findings in the recent study of Te Ara Oranga was a return of at least $3 for every $1 invested, possibly up to $7, according to the evaluation report published on the Ministry of Health website in late December.

The Labour Party made an election promise in October 2020 to expand the treatment project from Northland to another 4000 families in the Bay of Plenty and the East Coast, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saying “the old ways have failed us over decades”.

Struggling towns in those three regions are the worst affected by the country’s methamphetamine crisis, where the weekly per capita consumption rate of the drug can be more than double the national average, according to Herald analysis of two years of wastewater test results.

Nearly half-way through the electoral term since Labour was re-elected with an overwhelming majority, no progress had been made on the number one law and order priority, Te Ara Oranga.

Attempts to confirm a timeframe for future plans were met largely with silence from the agencies and Cabinet Ministers involved. . .

Is there anything the government could do that would have such a good return in health, social and financial terms, especially for Maori who are over represented in statistics on meth users and victims of meth users?

Manifesto Commitments are for a three-year term. We are still committed to the roll-out of Te Ara Oranga by the end of the term,” said Police Minister Poto Williams in a statement to the Herald last year.

She did not respond to further questions last week, but a spokeswoman for Health Minister Andrew Little said there was no further update.

This ought to be a far higher priority for attention and funding than restructuring the health system.

But a recent study of the effectiveness of Te Ara Oranga has led traditional opponents who clashed in debate over drug law reform being united in calling for the Government to make faster progress on the promised expansion.

“Te Ara Oranga is a no-brainer,” said Sarah Helm, the executive director of the New Zealand Drug Foundation.

“This evaluation shows we shouldn’t be holding back from sharing this programme in other regions impacted by methamphetamine. This is urgent and important.” . .

While the cost-benefit analysis was complicated by whether someone was a casual, moderate or heavy user of methamphetamine, the calculation suggests a return of between $3 and $7 for each dollar invested into the programme.

“In a nutshell, this report concludes that Te Ara Oranga works,” Professor Ian Lambie wrote in the foreword. Lambie is the chief science adviser on justice issues for the Prime Minister. . . .

The pilot programme in Northland was established under the previous National government.

Dr Shane Reti, the party’s health spokesman who also lives in Northland, said the recent evaluation was further confirmation of Te Ara Oranga’s successful track record.

“It’s the best meth programme in the country. It’s because of the true partnership between police and health, they’ve both got skin in the game,” said Reti.

“The real magic though, is the pou whenua. These are the people working and living in the community, with lived experience, who have now retrained in health or social work. They know how to support people going through the programme because they’ve walked down that path themselves.”

Reti said a future National government would expand Te Ara Oranga across the country, but also increase funding so the programme could provide more intensive outpatient support.

“It’s not even much money, in the scheme of things.”

Alongside National and Labour, Te Ara Oranga has also been supported by the Green Party when the pilot programme received a $4m funding injection in 2019.

Such cross-party political support for drug policy is rare, said former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark in an opinion piece published in the Herald today.

“We have a programme here that can make a huge difference and is uniquely homegrown. The Government has some important choices to make about how to take it forward.” . .

The choices aren’t just important, they’re urgent so why the delay?

It is rare, probably unprecedented, to have support for an initiative from National, the Green Party, a former Labour Prime Minister, the police, a DHB and the Drug Foundation.

Not only do they agree on this, their support is backed up by hard data which clearly shows the need for and the benefits of the programme.

A spokesperson said the Ministry of Health was pleased with the pilot results of Te Ara Oranga and “expanding the programme is under active consideration”.

“However significant funding will need to be secured for a full roll-out of the programme,” said the spokesperson, who later clarified $38m was needed. . .

Where else could the government spend what is for it a relatively small amount of money and get a $3 to $7 return?

It is setting up a separate health authority for Maori at considerably more expense. That will benefit the well-paid people who get employed by it but no-one has been able to explain how it will lead to an improvement in services, especially to those most in need.

What does it say about government priorities that it is wasting time and money on restructuring but hasn’t got around to expanding Te Ara Oranga?


Worst time for new tax

03/02/2022

There is no good time to add a new tax, but raging inflation and the Covid threat make this the worst time to tax us more:

The Government’s plan to impose a new tax on every worker and business in the country could not come at a worse time, Opposition Leader Christopher Luxon says.

“With prices growing twice as fast as wages, Kiwi families are worse off than they were 12 months ago under Labour.

“National has big concerns that Grant Robertson’s new unemployment insurance will make the cost of living crisis even worse. It’s a new tax, reducing incomes at a time when with high inflation businesses and workers can’t afford it.

Reduced incomes will exacerbated by increasing business costs that fuels inflation, eats into wage increases and erodes the real value of savings.

“Small businesses have been struggling just to keep the doors open over the last two years. Now, just when Kiwis deserve some relief, the Government wants to hit workers and businesses with a brand new tax to fund a new gold-plated unemployment benefit.

“Calling this new tax a ‘levy’ or a ‘contribution’ doesn’t disguise the fact that this will be yet more money flowing from hard-working New Zealanders and businesses to this big-spending Labour Government.

This is a levy or contribution rather than a tax in the same way requisitioning rapid antigen tests ordered and paid for by businesses is consolidation.

“This ‘Jobs Tax’ is a solution looking for a problem.

“New Zealand historically has very good labour market outcomes and a welfare system that, at least until Labour took office, did a good job of acting as a social safety net to help those who had fallen on hard times get back on their feet.

“But the Government wants to impose yet another centralised, bureaucratic welfare scheme on top of the one we already have.

“The Government should just call this what it is – a Jobs Tax. And then they should abandon it.”

The New Zealand Initiative points out that unemployment insurance is a recipe for more unemployment:

Because New Zealand’s labour market outcomes are generally good, delivering consistently low levels of unemployment and long-term unemployment, the potential benefits of UI appear modest at best. On the other hand, a significant body of empirical work suggests that UI insurance has a detrimental effect on employment. Total unemployment is raised, as is the length of time people spend in unemployment. UI also comes at a considerable fiscal cost. For these reasons, the introduction of UI in New Zealand should be avoided.

You can read the Initiative’s paper on that here.

So much for Labour’s no new taxes promise.

Another downside of the new tax is that it will be a productivity killer:

Grant Robertson’s new tax on employment is a broken promise that will punish productivity and reward the unproductive, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

New Zealand’s productivity is already dismal and Labour has already made it too easy to stay on a benefit.

The Taxpayers Union is releasing Curia polling commissioned by the Union that asked respondents: Would you be happy to pay $1,000 a year more in income tax in return for a compulsory unemployment insurance scheme which would see someone made redundant receive 80% of their old salary for six months – only 31% supported this proposal, versus 42% opposed.

Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “The Government’s ‘social insurance’ proposal is really just a pumped-up new benefit scheme that will pay even wealthy people up to $1820 a week for sitting on the couch. It would be one of the most extreme unemployment insurance schemes in the world, replacing 80 percent of income.” [1]

“This policy is a classic productivity killer: it taxes work and subsidises non-work. Why bother finding a new job when you can sit at home for six months on nearly full pay, courtesy of the taxpayer?”

“The new tax on employment is yet another nail in the coffin of Grant Robertson’s ‘no new taxes’ promise made in 2020. The two 1.39% levies on the worker and employer will effectively stack together as a 2.78% tax on income – an extra $1580 per year for someone on the median wage.”“The tax is especially unfair on workers who have made the choice to pursue stable careers with reliable employers. They’ll pay the tax but may not ever get the payouts.”

“The Taxpayers’ Union will fight tooth and nail to shut down this dumb tax.”

[1] Unemployment insurance schemes around the world: Evidence and policy options (Page 22)

If the government thinks that the threat of redundancy is uppermost among people’s concerns, they are delueded.

Inflation, paying the bills, rising interest rates, high house prices, high rents . . .

There are a lot more pressing concerns than potential redundancy, especially when New Zealanders are already getting poorer under Labour:

New Zealanders are getting poorer under the Labour Government with wage growth figures of 2.6 per cent trailing well behind inflation of 5.9 per cent, National’s Finance spokesperson Simon Bridges says.

“The figures released today show that real incomes are going backwards. More and more people simply won’t be able to afford groceries, petrol or rent under this Government. Their pay packets just aren’t keeping pace with rising costs.

“Despite what he might say, Grant Robertson can’t do much to affect wages in the short term. But he can rein in his big government spending which will ease pressure on high inflation and rising interest rates.

“It’s not credible for him and the Prime Minister to simply blame New Zealand’s rising cost of living on international factors.

“In the last quarter, domestic inflation grew faster than the international components did. Most of the country’s economists have warned of the significance of home-grown factors in our inflation and that high inflation is likely to be more long lasting than originally thought.

“It is now at a thirty-year high and affecting the price of everything across our economy. The Reserve Bank has made clear that with inflation this high, a succession of interest rate hikes will be required this year.

“Grant Robertson’s spending has been 40 per cent higher during his time as Finance Minister than it was under National. This year he’s planning to increase that to a staggering 68 per cent at $128 billion, with $6 billion in new spending.

“The OECD’s Economic Survey of New Zealand, released yesterday, backs up National’s call for the Government to rein in its spending. If they don’t, inflation will be higher for longer and the Reserve Bank will be forced to keep hiking interest rates which will take even more money out of Kiwis’ pockets.

“The Government should listen and bring its spending under control so that New Zealanders don’t keep falling further and further behind.”

The government should also can its plan for its job tax.

It should be concentrating on cutting its own wasteful spending and developing policies which will boost productivity instead of wasting its time and our money on a policy that will add costs to businesses, reduce incomes and incentivise unemployment.


Social investment was working

08/12/2021

Heather du Plessis Allan is excited about National leader Chris Luxon’s promotion of social investment:

. . .This was originally Bill English’s idea.

And his idea was to invest in kids and families who were clearly going to become problems later on.

You know the ones. I know the ones. The government knows the ones.

Kids who are sending a bunch of warning signs that things are going in the wrong direction.

Let’s say they’re growing up in a statehouse that’s had too many visits from the cops lately, their parents have been on the dole too long, they start showing up as truant on the school list too often,  maybe they get in a bit of trouble with the police themselves as a young one.

Bill English’s idea is that when you see that family is triggering alarms you know that child will end up probably committing crime later on and then in jail and costing the taxpayer a huge amount of money.

So, you break the cycle. You invest in them early, and you invest a lot. Whatever it takes to get their life in order

And it’s a win-win. They have a better more productive life with better opportunities and society aka taxpayers don’t end up with the huge bill for throwing them in jail for years on end. . . 

The policy was working but was shamefully dropped by Labour.

Because rather than spending lots of money on a huge group of people identified through something as genial as their ethnicity, wasting money on people who don’t need it and missing the ones who do, I would like the government to spend the same amount on one child helping them out and giving them a greater chance of it working.

It wasn’t only children who benefitted from this policy. It was also used for teen parents, teaching them to look after themselves and their babies, helping them get qualifications, become work ready and eventually get jobs. It could be used for anyone on a benefit to break the cycle of disfunction and poverty.

Social investment fosters independence. It’s the total opposite of Labour’s policy which encourages benefit dependency and all the high social costs which result from that.


Too early to get excited but . . .

04/12/2021

The latest Roy Morgan poll putsOpposition parties ahead of ahead of Labour and the Greens.

Support for New Zealand’s Labour/Greens ‘coalition’ government was down 3.5% points to 46.5% in November as support for the Labour Party dropped 3.5% points to 36%. Support for the Greens was unchanged at 10.5%. This is the lowest level of support for Labour since the election of the Jacinda Ardern-led Government in October 2017 with 36.9% of the vote.

For the first time since the election support for the Parliamentary Opposition National/ Act NZ/ Maori Party has now overtaken the Government at 47% in November, up 3% points since October. However, it is worth noting there is no formal agreement between these three opposition parties.

While the Maori Party is counted as opposition the likelihood of it supporting National and Act in government is slight.

Support rose for all three opposition parties with National up 0.5% points to 26.5%, Act NZ up 1.5% points to a new record high of 17.5% and support for the Maori Party hitting its highest for over five years since January 2016, up 1% point to 3%. . . 

It’s too early to get excited, but this poll does follow the trend of other recent ones with the government losing popularity and National and Act gaining.

That has mostly been due to a surge is support for Act.

Now that National has a new leader, it will almost certainly become more popular.

Some people who moved to Act may swap to National, but that won’t help the centre right become the government.

The challenge is to regain those voters who moved left in such numbers in last years election and thereby increase the centre right support.


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