A tale of two caucuses

June 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Incompetent or ?

November 9, 2018

A decision to deport a convicted criminal could be made in a very few minutes.

A decision to give residency to one needs a lot more time than it got:

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway made the decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency in less than an hour.

The revelation has led to calls from the Opposition for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sack her Immigration Minister.

Lees-Galloway said he did not read the full file on the Czech drug smuggler, and instead “read the aspects of the file that I thought were necessary to make the decision that I made”. . .

How can you know what you need to read to make a decision if you don’t read all the information you have?

“I took the information that I had and I took the time that I felt was necessary. I read various aspects of the full file. I didn’t rely solely on the summary.” . . 

Various aspects? That’s not the full file and it defies belief that he could have read even some of the information that has made this decision so inexplicable and granted residency.

National Leader Simon Bridges has renewed his call for the Prime Minister to sack Lees-Galloway over the “careless decision” after Lees-Galloway claimed he carefully considered all the relevant information.

He allowed a drug dealing gang associate to remain in New Zealand without reading all the information available to him, Bridges said.

“Either Lees-Galloway has misled the Prime Minister or she’s misled New Zealanders.

“The Prime Minister has defended that decision for the past two weeks, telling New Zealanders it was a ‘difficult decision’ but that she had been assured by Lees-Galloway he had given it ‘careful consideration’.

“We now know he hadn’t.”

An hour was not careful consideration of what was a dangerous decision and it was not acceptable due diligence from a senior Cabinet Minister, he said.

“Lees-Galloway’s credibility is now shot. The Prime Minister cannot expect the public to have confidence in any of his decisions given his careless approach to Sroubek’s residency.

“The Prime Minister now has no choice but to sack Lees-Galloway from Cabinet immediately.”

Woodhouse said Lees-Galloway had arrogantly refused to reveal the evidence upon which he made his decision, saying it was not in the public interest.

“He insisted it was a complicated decision not taken lightly.

“The Prime Minister even went as far as saying Lees-Galloway ‘shared with me the careful consideration that he gave this case… it was clearly a very difficult decision’. Only clearly it wasn’t,” Woodhouse said.

The evidence was now overwhelming that Lees-Galloway didn’t do his job, he said.

“It is now clear he made that call without asking questions and without proper consideration of the facts or the track record of the convicted criminal he was allowing to stay. Sroubek needs to go and Lees-Galloway does too.” . . 

To have read all the relevant information and made that decision indicates gross incompetence or something conspiracy theorists would delight in.


What’s the price of more refugees?

September 20, 2018

The government announced New Zealand will take more refugees in a couple of years.

This means NZ First has been prepared to drop its opposition – but at what price?

Labour needs to fess up about what NZ First has gained from agreeing to increase the refugee quota by 500 in two years’ time, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“The handling of what has been a cornerstone issue for Labour has been a mess from start to finish. First they were increasing the quota, then they weren’t, now they are – but not for another two years.

“The hold-up was of course Winston Peters’ exercising his authority over his larger but weaker coalition partners. Now he’s changed his mind and allowed the Prime Minister to make yet another announcement designed to boost her international profile, New Zealanders deserve to know about the quid pro quo.

“National believes 1000 refugees was about right. It costs around $100,000 per person per year to properly settle refugees to help them integrate and lead productive lives here and any increase needs to be balanced against other priorities.

“The fact that the Greens were nowhere to be seen in this announcement is evidence of the strong influence of New Zealand First had on it. The big question is what was the price of its support for a policy that only a week ago it denied the existence of. Time will tell.”

Will it be watering down the changes to employment legislation or something else that has bought NZ First’s support?

The self-labeled open and Wintransparent government ought to tell us.


Rural round-up

July 7, 2017

Govt renews call for Landcorp dividends – Alexa Cook:

The government wants better returns and a dividend to the Crown from Landcorp but isn’t looking at selling it, the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises says.

A strategic review advised the government to sell Landcorp because the asset-rich, cash-poor nature of farm ownership was not well matched to the government’s fiscal objectives.

Independent financial consulting firm Deloitte carried out the review in 2014, which was released under the Official Information Act to agricultural markets publication AgriHQ Pulse. . . .

Speech to RSE Conference – Michael Woodhouse:

. . . It’s a big year for the RSE scheme – 10 years since it was first introduced and what a difference it has made. To the horticulture and viticulture industries, to business growth, to Kiwis looking for work, and of course, to the Pacific communities.

As I stand here today, I can’t help but think back to 2007 when the RSE scheme began, with around 65 RSE employers and a national cap of just 5,000. Today, there’s more than 130 RSE employers and the national cap has more than doubled to 10,500.

That growth is a vote of confidence in the scheme. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this ground-breaking policy has been such a success.

The RSE scheme has been regarded as one of the best circular migration schemes in the world, and without the dedication and willingness from employers to try something new back in 2007, we wouldn’t be here today celebrating its 10th anniversary. . .

Pukeko Pastures: Bridging the urban-rural divide – Siobhan O’Malley:

Christopher and Siobhan O’Malley are the current NZ Share Farmers of the Year. Here Siobhan writes about why they decided to put their farming practices out into the digital world.

Lately, we can’t go to an event, meeting or even open a rural newspaper without someone asking the question: “What are you doing about the public image of dairy farming? The media hate us. We feel picked on. It is an unfair and inaccurate portrayal. What are you doing about it?”

We sympathise. We feel like the media have created a narrative that vilifies the “dairy industry” while forgetting that behind our corporate co-operative stand literally thousands of families. .  .

Sheep industry leaders recognised: 

The skills and depth of talent within this country’s sheep industry was recognised at Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s Sheep Industry Awards in Invercargill last night.

Now in their sixth year, the Award’s celebrate the top performers in the field of science, innovation, industry training and genetics and acknowledge emerging talent and outstanding contributions.

Among the award recipients was retired Hawke’s Bay Romney breeder Tony Parker, whose stud, in 1961, was the first to produce a Selection Index for sheep. This was selecting sheep on recorded performance data rather than physical attributes alone. Although controversial at the time, this represented a step-change in this country’s sheep industry. . .

Westland appoints new Chief Operations Officer:

Westland Milk Products Chief Executive Toni Brendish has continued her drive to add depth and strength to the dairy co-operative’s management team with the appointment of a new Chief Operations Officer, Craig Betty.

It is the second new appointment to Westland’s Senior Management Team (SMT) following the announcement of Gary Yu taking up the role of General Manager, China.

Brendish says Betty’s appointment will bring considerable operations experience to the Hokitika based company. . .

National apiculture conference set to break record numbers this weekend:

Myrtle rust, manuka honey and the impact of neonicotinoids on bees are just some of the current topics that have been making global headlines. These and more will steer the conversations at the Apiculture New Zealand national conference this weekend.

A record 1200 plus people from around the country and abroad will be in Rotorua for the conference, which will be held at the Rotorua Energy Events Centre from Sunday 9 July to Tuesday 11 July 2017. . .

International staff seeking short term agriculture employment :

New Zealand as a location to work and travel is becoming more popular amongst students and graduates from abroad.

While it has always been a popular choice, many travellers are now looking to seek work in advance and secure longer term positions, from 6-12 months, as opposed to trying their luck when they arrive. This is largely due to many travellers wanting to experience New Zealand’s working lifestyle, particularly in agriculture, and to be able to learn on the job and pick up some knowledge they can take away with them. . .


Labour now the Sweatshop Boys

June 23, 2017

Duncan Garner has the line of the day on the AM Show – he’s calling Labour the Sweatshop Boys.

He’s referring to the party’s botched intern scheme :

There are calls for Immigration NZ to investigate a Labour-linked election campaign which used unpaid labour in the guise of an education programme.

More than 80 overseas students have been doing unpaid “drudge work”, and living in a cramped Auckland marae without a working shower, reports political blog Politik. . .

Rivals ACT called the campaign a “sweat shop filled with immigrant labour”.

“I cannot believe the Labour Party’s do as we say, not as we do attitude. This is a new low for hypocrisy, even for them,” ACT leader David Seymour said.

“Who would believe in Labour’s promised crackdown on cheap student labour when Labour are one of the worst offenders in the country?” . . .

That is hypocrisy writ large.

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce said Labour had to explain how it could justify “exploiting” international students for its election campaign while it was also speaking out against international education providers.

“This is truly appalling behaviour both for its lack of human decency and industrial strength hypocrisy,” Joyce said.

“If the allegations are correct, Labour has brought international students to New Zealand on false pretences, failed to look after them, and failed to meet their obligations to the students in the most basic way, while at the same time campaigning against exploitation of migrants.” . . .

Employers are very, very worried about Labour’s threatened changes to immigration.

Skills shortage in many sectors including IT, trades, farming, contracting and hospitality mean employers are already struggling to get anyone to fill positions. They’re wasting time, money and energy working their way through the process of employing immigrants.

Labour’s threatened changes would make that much, much worse.

These employers are working hard making a significant and positive economic and social contribution to New Zealand.

Labour wants to hobble them and yet has the hypocrisy to bring in people from overseas, not to work in productive businesses,  but to campaign for the party, and do it without pay.

Compounding that, the party that is supposed to stand up for workers put them up in sub-standard accommodation.

Matt McCarten did a mea culpe yesterday but the party can’t blame the mess only on him.

Newshub has obtained internal documents outlining Labour’s ambitious plans to put foreign students to work on its campaign.

The plan shows the party needed to find $270,000 in funding to pull it off and was banking on unions to fund a lot of it. . .

The budgeting was based on 100 students staying for an average of eight weeks. The cost of feeding and housing them in motorhomes was estimated at $240,000, with an operational budget of $30,000 for petrol, venues and AT HOP cards.

The documents show First and Unite unions agreed to contribute $100,000, “white collar unions” – likely the likes of the PSA – committed to $50,000, while Union Trust put up a start-up loan of $25,000.

The plan was to get E tū and “other appropriate unions” on board too.

The Council of Trade Unions was also to be involved in management of the project, and while Labour has been distancing itself from the project, the documents explicitly states: “The programme and certification is the responsibility of Labour.” . . .

Hypocrisy is bad enough, but there are also questions over which visas the students are on.

. . . We know these “fellows” are being given free accommodation in exchange for their work, so they are in breach of their visitor visa conditions, if they have visitor visas.

It is possible they have other visas, such as work visas. But it is hard to imagine they could qualify for work visas, and the hypocrisy would be great – Labour bringing in unpaid fellows on work visas, while campaigning against such work visas.

So it looks like either Labour has arranged 85 work visas for its unpaid fellows while campaigning to reduce the number of work visas for unskilled jobs or Labour has been complicit in a huge case of immigration fraud.

Even if the students are on working holiday visas, there are other questions:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse did not know whether Immigration NZ or MBIE’s labour inspectorate was investigating the issue, but believed Labour had serious questions to answer about possible breaches.

Woodhouse said the students would be allowed to undertake the work if they were on working holiday visas, as Labour believed, but there were still questions about whether there had been breaches of employment law.

“What I am aware of is similar schemes to this have been investigated very seriously by the labour inspectorate because it is work masquerading as voluntary work, and I think that is also a question that should be asked of the Labour Party.”

Providing services for food and board counted as work under employment law, he said.

“Regardless of what visa they’re on, there are certainly questions about the nature of the work they’re doing and whether that meets the definition of employment.” . .

The Sweatshop boys and girls in Labour will be sweating over this.

Even if there is no immigration fraud, what they are doing is in direct contradiction of their immigration policy and their supposed role in protecting workers from exploitation.

 

 


Rural round-up

February 8, 2017

‘Moment of truth’ for NZ agriculture in 2017 – industry report:

New Zealand agriculture faces a “moment of truth” in 2017, according to a report by agribusiness banking specialist Rabobank.

In its recently-released New Zealand Agricultural Outlook 2017 report, Rabobank says as an industry traditionally characterised by a liberal operating environment, and a key beneficiary of several decades of global shift to freer trade, agriculture faces a period of heightened regulatory uncertainty and change on both fronts.

Releasing the report, Rabobank Country Banking general manager Hayley Moynihan said 2017 was ushering in a period of considerable change and uncertainty for New Zealand agriculture with developments throughout the year likely to have a significant impact on the sector’s prospects this year and in the years to come.

‘They’ve signed off on everything we’ve done’

A Canterbury dairy farmer is defending the use of public land 50 metres from the Rakaia River, saying the regional council has let him farm it since 1990.

A report by the Canterbury Regional Council has detailed agricultural encroachment on nearly 12,000 hectares of land beside Canterbury’s braided rivers, between 1990 and 2012.

Forest and Bird said the areas taken over for farming have effectively been stolen, and their environmental values were, in effect, gone for good. . . . 

Council to use ‘rule book’ for river side development:

Canterbury’s regional council says it now has the enforcement tools needed to deal with farmers enchroaching public land and it won’t hesistate to use them.

An Environment Canterbury report has revealed almost 12,000 hectares of land beside Canterbury’s braided rivers was been converted for intensive agriculture between 1990 and 2012.

One-quarter of the land developed for farming was in public reserve. . .

Paddock to plate: chefs taste-test Omega lamb – Sally Rae:

It might still be early days for the Omega Lamb Project but feedback has been “overwhelming”, general manager Mike Tate says.

The project involves bringing healthy fat back on to the menu by producing lambs with naturally higher polyunsaturated fatty acids, intramuscular fat and omega-3.

Promoted as being the world’s tastiest and healthiest lamb, the project is a collaboration between Alliance Group, Headwaters Group and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Last week, a gathering was held in the South, bringing chefs from throughout the country together with farmers in the Omega Lamb pilot group. . .

RSE employers hiring more kiwis:

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse welcomes a report showing the vast majority of employers who take on seasonal workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are also employing more New Zealanders.

The eighth annual survey of RSE employers found that 79 per cent of the 92 respondents had employed more permanent New Zealand workers in addition to their RSE workers.

“The fact that more RSE employers are now taking on more Kiwis as well is great news and shows once again the huge benefits of the RSE scheme,” Mr Woodhouse says. . .

Lamb flap prices match record high, on limited supply, strong demand – Tina Morrison

(BusinessDesk) – Strong demand from China combined with limited supply has seen the price for the humble lamb flap rise to match its previous record high.

The price for lamb flaps advanced to US$5.50 per kilogram in January, from US$5.40/kg in December, matching the previous record set in January 2014, according to AgriHQ’s monthly sheep & beef report.

Poor lamb growth rates through spring and early summer combined with improved grass growth has crimped the number of lambs being sent for slaughter in New Zealand, pushing up the price of all lamb cuts tracked by AgriHQ compared with their year-earlier levels. Lamb export volumes in December fell 25 percent from the year earlier to 20,580 tonnes, the lowest level for the month since 2011, according to the latest data.  . . 


Cabinet changes

December 18, 2016

Prime Minister Bill English has announced changes in and outside Cabinet:

Prime Minister Bill English has today announced his new Cabinet line-up which builds on the success of the last eight years and provides new ideas and energy heading into election year.

“Over the last eight years National has provided a strong and stable Government which is delivering strong results for New Zealanders,” says Mr English.

“This refreshed Ministerial team builds on that success and provides a mix of new people, alongside experienced Ministers either continuing their roles or taking up new challenges.

“This new Ministry is focused on providing prosperity, opportunity and security for all Kiwis, including the most vulnerable in our communities.”

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett will remain the Minister of State Services and Climate Change Issues and will pick up the Police, Women and Tourism portfolios.

“I am looking forward to working with Paula as my deputy and I am delighted she is taking on the Police and Women’s portfolios.

“As only the second woman Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand Paula is well placed to take on the Women’s portfolio and represent the interests of women at the highest level of the government.”

Steven Joyce will pick up Finance and Infrastructure, while Gerry Brownlee will remain the Leader of the House and retain Supporting Greater Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, and the Earthquake Commission portfolios. He will also be appointed as the Minister of Civil Defence.

“Steven and I have worked closely together in the Finance portfolio over the last eight years, and as Economic Development Minister he has delivered strong leadership of the government’s Business Growth Agenda.

“As Infrastructure Minister Steven will have a key role in overseeing the significant investments the government will be making in the coming years.

“I am delighted to have Gerry continue in his senior roles, including Leader of the House, and also to have him pick up the Civil Defence portfolio in which he has provided such leadership during the aftermath of the Kaikoura earthquake.”

Simon Bridges and Amy Adams have both picked up additional senior ministerial responsibilities.

Simon Bridges continues as the Minister of Transport and will pick up the Economic Development and Communications portfolios and Associate Finance, while Amy Adams retains Justice, Courts and picks up Social Housing, Social Investment and Associate Finance. Amy Adams will take a lead role in driving the Government’s social investment approach.

“Simon and Amy are two high performing Ministers who are ready to take on more responsibility. I am confident they will work well with Finance Minister Steven Joyce,” says Mr English.

At National’s Mainland conference, Amy told delegates she’d asked for money to be directed into social portfolios because that was the way to address the causes of crime.

She is well qualified for the extra responsibility for social investment.

Jonathan Coleman continues in his Health and Sport and Recreation portfolios, and will play an important role on the front bench.

“All New Zealanders care deeply about the health system, and Jonathan’s focus on ensuring that the needs of people young and old in accessing quality health care is a very strong one.”

Michael Woodhouse has also been promoted up the Cabinet rankings, retaining Immigration and Workplace Relations and Safety and picking up the ACC portfolio.

“I would like to congratulate Michael on his promotion. He has been a solid performer and I know he still has a lot more to contribute.”

Anne Tolley has picked up Local Government and will also be appointed Minister for Children, where she will continue her work on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Hekia Parata will retain the Education portfolio until May 1, at which point she will retire from the Ministry to the back bench.

“I am keen for Hekia to see through the education reforms which she is well underway on, and she will work closely with other Ministers to ensure there is a smooth transition in May.”

There will also be a transition of ministers in the Foreign Affairs portfolio.

Murray McCully will retain the Foreign Affairs portfolio until May 1at which point he will retire from the Ministry to the backbench. A decision on his replacement will be made at that time.

“I am keen for Murray to stay on for this transitional period to ensure I have the benefit of his vast experience on the wide range of issues that affect New Zealand’s vital interests overseas.”

This ensures there will be no need for a by-election if he leaves parliament when he’s no longer a minister. It also leaves the door open   for another couple of back benchers to get promotion next year.

Judith Collins takes on new responsibilities in Revenue, Energy and Resources and Ethnic Communities, and is well placed to oversee the significant business transformation work occurring at Inland Revenue.

A number of Ministers largely retain their existing responsibilities, including Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Nick Smith, Todd McClay, Maggie Barry and Nicky Wagner.

Paul Goldsmith and Louise Upston have been promoted into Cabinet.

“I would like to congratulate Paul and Louise on their promotions which are all well-deserved,” says Mr English.

There are four new Ministers. Alfred Ngaro who goes straight into Cabinet and Mark Mitchell, Jacqui Dean and David Bennett who have been promoted to Ministerial positions outside Cabinet.

I am especially pleased that Alfred and Jacqui are being promoted.

He was an electrician before entering gaining a degree in theology and has extensive experience in community work. (See more here).

Jacqui is my MP, serving one of the biggest general electorates in the country. She c0-chaired the Rules Reduction Taskforce and was Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism and Local Government.

“The National party Caucus is a tremendously talented one, and as Ministers finish their contribution it’s important for the government’s renewal that we give members of our caucus an opportunity. Alfred, Mark, Jacqui and David have worked hard and performed well in their electorates and as select committee chairs, and deserve their promotions.”

There will be 21 positions in Cabinet until May 1 and a further six outside Cabinet (including two support party Ministers) keeping the total number of Ministerial positions at 27 plus the Parliamentary Under Secretary David Seymour.

“I would like to thank our support party leaders Peter Dunne, Te Ururoa Flavell, and David Seymour for their continued contribution to a strong and stable government.”

Mr English said that he expected to make announcements on the two further new Ministers to replace Ms Parata and Mr McCully just prior to their 1 May retirements from the Ministry.

Ministers Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew are departing the Ministry.

“I would like to thank Sam Lotu-Iiga, Craig Foss and Jo Goodhew for their service to New Zealand as ministers. I am sure they will continue to be great contributors to New Zealand society in the years ahead.”

The full list of portfolios and rankings is here.


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