Leaving us with more

September 18, 2020

National is promising tax cuts to help us through the Covid crisis:

National’s massive tax stimulus package will put more than $3000 extra into the pockets of hard-working Kiwis on middle incomes, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

Ms Collins has announced the next National Government will let Kiwis keep more of what they earn by lifting the bottom tax threshold from $14,000 to $20,000, the middle threshold from $48,000 to $64,000 and the top threshold from $70,000 to $90,000.

These changes will be in place from December 1, 2020 until March 31, 2022. The total cost of this over the 16-month period is estimated to be $4.7 billion.

“Today we are facing the biggest economic downturn the world has seen since in living memory. But with the right leadership and economic plan we can grow our economy and keep Kiwis in jobs,” Ms Collins says.

“To keep our economy ticking, New Zealanders need money to spend. National will deliver temporary tax relief that puts more than $3000 – or nearly $50 a week – into the back pockets of average earners over the next 16 months.

“This will give Kiwis the confidence to go out and spend, which will be crucial for our retail, tourism and hospitality businesses to survive this economic crisis.

“New Zealand is facing a much longer and more painful economic shock than earlier forecast. We need a serious plan for economic growth to get us back on track.”

National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith pointed to higher taxes as Labour’s only plan to get New Zealand out of this economic hole.

“No country has ever taxed its way out of a recession – and this is a big one we’re in now.”

As well as tax relief for households, National will double the depreciation rate for businesses that invest in new Plant, Equipment and Machinery over the next twelve months. This will bring forward the amount a business can claim in depreciation for new investments, which will stimulate investment by increasing the return on capital.

Doubling the depreciation rate is expected to cost $430 million a year for five years, while increasing tax revenues in out years.

“Our stimulus package has been fully-funded and costed, and is included in our independently reviewed Economic and Fiscal Plan released today,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“National’s plan carefully balances the need to drive economic stimulus, increase investment in core public services and restore government debt back to prudent levels.

“Labour, on the other hand, has announced it will increase taxes during a recession. The contrasting approaches to the economy at this election could not be clearer.

“Judith Collins and her strong National team will bring the leadership, experience and vision needed to get our country back on track.”

You can read a copy of National’s Economic & Fiscal Plan here.

You can view a copy of National’s Personal Tax Relief Policy here.

You can view a copy of National’s Double Depreciation Rate Policy here.

David Farrar has worked out what the tax cuts mean for different income levels and conclude:

This provides New Zealanders with a real choice – a Government that will help people through the tough times by temporarily reducing taxes, or a Government that will increase taxes.

If you’re not sure which would be better, ask yourself who would make better use of the money you earn – you or the government?

If you’re still not sure, think about what’s more efficient, letting us keep a bit more of what we earn and giving us the choice about how, and how much we spend, or having the government take more and absorbing some of that in the bureaucracy before the rest can be spent and only then dribble through the economy?

How did we get here?

September 14, 2020

For a while during lockdown farmers were feeling the love as criticism dropped and understanding and appreciation of the work we do, the food we produce and the export income we earn, grew.

The love didn’t last long and this from a Southland farmer expressed what may are feeling:

I can’t sleep

There’s a few things on my mind.

I know farmers are supposed to be resilient and just get on with things, but I’ve been chewing over the new laws our government has just passed for a wee while now.

“She’ll be right, we’ll figure it out”…

I’m just thinking how we’re going to get our balage and silage harvested. Our contractor shared a post that they can’t get specialized machine operators into the country because they aren’t considered important enough by our government. They haven’t got enough skilled operators here and will probably have to park up machinery during harvest…

If we can’t get our balage and silage harvested in a timely fashion, we won’t have enough food for our cows for the autumn and winter. The grass doesn’t grow well in the autumn and winter…

We can always feed them crop… except we can’t. Not without breaking the law…

If we graze our cows on crop over the winter, the paddock can’t have more then a 10 degree slope, we can’t leave foot prints deeper then 5cm and we must have it resewn before the 1st of November, along with several other conditions. If we can’t meet these conditions, we have to apply for a resource consent…which requires us to meet these conditions… but we can’t… our cows weigh nearly half a ton each. They’re going to leave foot prints…

We could all grass winter… but we would need a lot more silage and balage…which our contractor may not be able to harvest for us due to lack of skilled staff. It would require us to use up more of the farm over winter causing more damage to our pasture then if we were able to put in crops…

May be we just don’t worry about it, just get the crops in and carry on…business as usual. But we’d be breaking the law…

The worst thing I’ve ever done was get a speeding ticket on my way to see the midwife when I was pregnant with our second child…winter grazing is practically classed by our government as environmental terrorism.

…I’m just a farmer… trying to grow good food for people who think I’m a greedy maniac, trying to destroy the world…

We’ve worked so hard, these past years, to try to help change the face of dairy in NZ. When we converted the farm from sheep to dairy cows, we were going to be the complete opposite of “Dirty Dairy”. Water ways fenced off, nutrient budgets, farm plans, the latest effluent management equipment, all, way before it was law.

Then, a couple years ago, when all this wasn’t good enough, we upgraded again. Spending more then six figures to make sure we were “future proofed”

It’s still not enough

How do we have free range cows that don’t pee or leave footprints? We can’t build a barn, it’s insanely expensive and our cows aren’t really suited to standing on concrete for long periods. Besides what part of free range says “housed in a barn”? We can’t sell the cows, this farm is mainly suited to pasture, not crops for humans. We can’t sell the farm, it’s been in the family for nearly 150 years.

Besides, no one wants to go dairy farming…Lol, wonder why…

During lockdown, farmers were considered an essential service provider, yet rarely got mentioned. Not that we were worried about it. It’s was nice to be left alone to get with our job for a change…

Minister Parker and Minister O’Conner said when they came out with this law that they consulted with farmers and we were “happy” with these new rules.

They lied, on both counts.

How did we get here? How did we get to the point of having rules so outrageous, forced on us, that not even the top operators can figure out how to make it work?

They say it’s to bring the “laggards” up to a better standard. We must be pretty bad then, because our cows leave footprints 5.5cm deep on worked soil after a rain, sometimes more!

But hey, “we’re resilient, she’ll be right. We’ll figure it out.”
I know I usually try to see the bright side of things. I’m still farmings’ biggest cheerleader and I still back our farmers who try their best 100%. But we’re going to have to pull something out of the bag, team. I just haven’t worked it out… yet…

might have a glass of milk and try to sleep…

This was written before the Green Party released its agriculture policy which proposes to make farming even harder:

The Green Party’s agriculture policy is another slap in the face to Kiwi farmers at a time when we should be focused on growing our primary sector, National’s Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett says.

“Their nitrogen reduction limits are madness and would kill off dairying as we know it across the country.

“We are facing the worst economic downturn in 160 years and agriculture will lead our post-Covid recovery. With more than 220,000 people on unemployment benefits now is not the time to be putting the brakes on this still-functioning export industry.

“The Greens’ policy is yet another assault on Kiwi farmers after the Labour-led Government hit them with freshwater reforms that, in some cases, are unworkable and will shackle their ability to innovate while piling costs on to a sector that is vitally important to our country.

“National supports having cleaner waterways in New Zealand but we think there are smarter ways to achieve this. We have to back farmers to farm their way to better outcomes. They must see a pathway to improve while being profitable.

“Unlike Labour, National will work with farmers rather than against them.”

The farmer asked how did we get here?

The answer is through politics and politicians who don’t understand farming, its importance to the economic and social fabric of the country and the effort farmers have, and continue to, put into doing all they can to leave a much, much smaller environmental footprint.

And the answer?

It will take a change of government to get that.

Fiddling while country burns

September 10, 2020

Labour’s following its base instinct with its tax policy:

No country in the world has ever taxed itself out of recession, but Labour’s first instinct is to raise your taxes, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Today Grant Robertson wouldn’t say if his tax policy is a bottom line in any coalition negotiations with the Greens, leaving the door wide open for other tax increases.

“If Grant Robertson is true to his word, then he will make no other tax increases a bottom line.

“This is just the beginning. Labour will eventually widen the net and come after middle income earners.

“Labour has predictably gone back to old habits after the failure of its Capital Gains tax this term.

“It opens a door for tax avoidance that we haven’t seen for many years, which brings into question Grant Robertson’s revenue estimates.

“National won’t increase taxes and won’t introduce any new taxes.”

Labour’s plan is to impose a new top marginal tax rate of 39% on income earned over $180,000.

It says it will bring in $550 million a year.

It won’t.

Instead it will create work for accountants and lawyers as people find ways to get round it.

Even if it did, it would be a tiny contribution to the public coffers in contrast to the billions that are being borrowed.

We don’t need fiddling with tax rates while the country burns with debt.

We need plans for economic growth which is the only way to put out the fire.

Nat plan to fight gynaecological cancers

September 9, 2020

National has announced a policy to address late diagnosis and poor survival rates for women with gynaecological cancers:

National is pledging $20 million to protect women from gynaecological cancer through greater awareness, improved clinical guidelines, increased testing and greater access to clinical trials, National Party Leader Judith Collins and National’s spokesperson for Rural Communities and Women Barbara Kuriger say.

Every year in New Zealand more than 1000 women are diagnosed with, and over 475 die, from gynaecological cancer.

This investment is alongside National’s commitment to fund an independent Cancer Agency and set up a $200 million fund dedicated to cancer drugs.

“As an ambassador for the New Zealand Gynaecological Cancer Foundation this has special significance to me. Too many women are going untested and undiagnosed at the moment,” Ms Collins says.

“The sad reality is that most New Zealand families will be affected by cancer. Cancer doesn’t discriminate when it chooses its victims and people shouldn’t have reduced access to treatment just because they live in the country.

“The signs and symptoms of gynaecological cancer are difficult to determine so we will be promoting even greater awareness so women can get themselves diagnosed as soon as possible. National will provide a funding boost to awareness campaigns to ensure this happens.

“We will work with health professionals to maintain up-to-date clinical guidelines that give them the resources to identify gynaecological cancer earlier and make the best decisions around diagnosis and referring women for testing.”

This is just the first announcement in our strong plan to provide better health outcomes for rural communities,” Ms Kuriger says.

“Farming is a stressful and sometimes isolating profession. It can be all too easy to neglect your personal health needs when you’re running a farm, so we want to make care easy and accessible.

“The increased awareness and improved clinical guidelines will lead to more women being tested, and we will provide increased funding to ensure every woman in New Zealand who needs a test is given one.

“National is focused on providing better outcomes closer to home for Kiwi families and communities. This funding will save lives and ensure New Zealand women are getting the care they deserve.”

The Q&A on gynaecological cancers says:

How many women are diagnosed with Gynaecological cancer at the moment?
• Currently, around 1,000 women a year are diagnosed with one of the five gynaecological cancers each year in New Zealand.
How many women die from Gynaecological cancer at the moment?
• Currently, around 475 women are lost to gynaecological cancer each year in New Zealand.
How many more tests are needed?
• Because too many women aren’t aware of the symptoms of gynaecological cancer, and so aren’t presenting for tests, we simply don’t know the size of the unmet need. That’s why our first priority is to increase awareness.
• The funding provided will ensure that the additional demand for tests can be met. If more women are getting tested, and diagnosed earlier, then we will consider this policy a success.
Is this enough?
• It’s not about the amount of money, it’s about spending it right. We know that the evidence says that awareness is an issue and so that’s the issue we want to address.
What kind of tests will be funded?
• There are five different kinds of gynaecological cancer and there are various different tests that can be used for diagnosis. For ovarian cancer this includes ultrasound and the CA-125 blood test.
• We don’t want to pre-empt the development of updated clinical guidelines by determining what kinds of tests are needed, or how many more women will be receiving them, but we do want to ensure that every woman has timely access to the tests they need.
How many more women will be tested as a result of this?
• It’s hard to say because the issue is that too many women are going untested and undiagnosed at the moment.
• The important thing is that women are aware of the symptoms of gynaecological cancer, that they are consulting their GPs in a timely manner, and that where appropriate GPs are referring women for testing.
• National will ensure that the money for increased testing is available, as this is ultimately about saving lives.

Full details are here.

My daughter has low grade serous ovarian cancer, a rare form of the disease which is frequently incurable.

She had been to doctors for two years with symptoms before she was diagnosed.

Her story is far too common because too many women don’t know the symptoms, it’s difficult to diagnose and like four of the five different gynaecological cancers and only cervical cancer it can’t be detected by a smear.

This policy will improve awareness, educate health professionals, increase testing and access to clinical trials.

Six New Zealand women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each week and four New Zealand women die of the disease each week.

Unlike breast cancer which has much better survival rates, the prognosis for women with ovarian cancer hasn’t improved in decades.

One reason for that is that women with ovarian cancer are often diagnosed late and are too ill, or don’t survive, to advocate.

That isn’t an argument to reduce funding for breast cancer initiatives. It is a reason to put a much greater effort into raising awareness, testing and improving access to clinical trials, which this policy aims to do so that women with ovarian, and other gynaecological cancers have the much better chance of survival that women with breast cancer do.

Last on National’s list

September 7, 2020

The Spinoff has a series of posts on the people who are last on their party’s list.

Some highlights from Shelley Pilkington who is 75th on National’s list:

Growing up, life was hard. I’d experienced hunger and homelessness and for a time been a ward of the state. When I left school I felt the pressure to work and support my family.

But one day, as a young adult, I realised that handing out money wasn’t achieving anything; I needed to leave home and take responsibility for my own future.

I went to live with my grandfather.  Grandad had faced a rough childhood too but had worked hard and done well, even receiving an MBE for his significant contribution to social work. He helped me to catch a vision for my future by teaching me about goal-setting, how to budget and save money, and encouraged me to further my education.

When it came time to vote, I asked my grandfather, “Who should I vote for?”

He said, “The National Party. They’ll back you.”

And that’s been my experience. . . 

I know that the values of personal responsibility, hard work and reward for effort are not just political ideology; they actually work.

But to achieve these things well, we also need strong families and caring communities – another key National Party value. We need to be surrounded by people who believe in us – like my grandad – who invest their time and attention to lift and encourage others to be everything they were meant to be; and to be supported by a government that gives people a hand up, not just a hand out. . . 

Despite the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, under a National-led government businesses will be inspired to grow, invest and employ more people. National’s plan is to generate more tax revenue by sharing in business growth instead of punishing success with additional tax. A growing economy will provide more money to payback debt, to spend on infrastructure, healthcare, education and a cleaner, greener environment – the things New Zealanders really want. . . 

At 75th on the list Shelley isn’t expecting to get into parliament this time but what an asset she is to the party now and will be to parliament in the future.



Every child deserves right start

September 4, 2020

New Zealand is one of the worst of the wealthiest countries to be a child:

 New Zealand is near the bottom of a UNICEF league table ranking wealthy countries on the wellbeing of their children.

Of the 41 OECD and European Union countries surveyed, New Zealand ranked 35th in overall child wellbeing outcomes – and UNICEF says that is failing children.

The UN Children’s Fund rankings show this country’s youth suicide rates are the second highest in the developed world, with 14.9 deaths per 100,000 adolescents, and only 64 percent of 15-year-olds have basic reading and maths skills.

The rankings also show too many children and young people in New Zealand are overweight and obese.

On mental wellbeing alone, New Zealand sits at 38th on the list and on physical health it is ranked 33rd. . .

The causes for these problems are many and complex.

One of the solutions is to ensure every baby has the right start and National has announced a policy aimed at giving every baby gets that:

Recognising that the first one thousand days of a child’s life is the most critical period in their development, National has committed to a raft of parent-and-child focused plans in its First 1000 Days policy.

The seven-part plan, which centres on National’s pioneering social investment approach, calls for greater and more targeted spending to create better human and economic returns in the long run and costs $226 million.

Studies have shown that countries that fail to invest in the wellbeing of women and children during this crucial time will suffer worse economic results in the future, through lower productivity and higher health costs.

Our package will give parents control and choice over the type of support they receive, regardless of their situation or parenting experience.

The First 1,000 Days package includes:

  • Empowering parents – An entitlement worth up to $3000 for all expecting mothers that can be used to commission services to support their child’s first 1,000 days of development.  Mothers and babies who have higher needs will be entitled to up to $3,000 additional funding ($6,000 in total), along with the support to help them choose the services they need.
  • Enhanced screening – This includes pre & post-birth GP visits, and a revamped B4 School check at age three to identify developmental concerns and trigger early intervention services.
  • Three day postnatal stay – All new mothers will be entitled to a three day stay in their postnatal facility.
  • Child passport – An enhanced version of the current Well Child/Tamariki Ora book with electronic record-keeping, this will record needs identified through screening and track progress to key physical, emotional, developmental and education milestones. It will be used to ensure that, where required, early action is taken to address issues or additional needs.
  • Paid parental leave at the same time – Parents will be given a choice about when they take their leave – either one parent at a time, as they now can, or both parents at the same time if that’s what they prefer. We believe both parents should have the opportunity to bond with their baby during the first months of life, and we support parents to make the best decisions for their baby and family.
  • National Centre for Child Development – Headquartered at a university, the Centre will bring together the best of child health, neuroscience and education research. Its job is to improve best-practice for child development throughout the early childhood system.

The policy fact sheet is here.

Tiny tweaks not enough to fix freshwater foul up

August 28, 2020

The government’s freshwater policy is unworkable and the tiny tweaks announced yesterday won’t be enough to fix the foul up:

Federated Farmers aren’t convinced the changes to the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater, announced Wednesday, will make much difference for Southland and Otago farmers.

Southland Federated Farmers vice-president Bernadette Hunt welcomed the amendments and Government’s acknowledgement that the policy was flawed, but said the changes still didn’t address the unique challenges farmers in the south faced, with its wetter than average winters.

This comes less than a week after Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young called on Southland and Otago farmers to boycott the new regulations, due to take effect on September 3.

His main concerns were in regards to the regulations for winter grazing – specifically pugging depths, paddock slope, and deadlines for re-sowing crop paddock, which Young said had not yet been addressed. . . 

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced Wednesday that cabinet had agreed the winter grazing regulations weren’t practical.

Discrete areas around fixed water troughs and gateways have now been exempted. We’ve also amended the definition for pugging to provide more clarity.”

Pugging is now defined as penetration of soil of more than 5cm, but Hunt said this was still impractical.

Speaking from a paddock inhabited by calves, on a warm, sunny, windy day, even the little animals were creating pugs of more than 5cm deep, she said.

The government has made the rules but expects regional councils to police them. How many people in high viz vests with clip boards and measuring tapes is it going to take to measure pugs and how much will that policing cost?

“The reality in Southland is that the ground is wet,” she said.

Hunt expected more changes to be announced in the future.

The latest amendments would not reduce the number of resources consents Southland farmers would need, she said.

Setting a date by which crop must be sown is simply stupid. When farmers sow paddocks is determined by the weather not the calendar.

Requiring consents for ordinary farming activities will add costs and compliance and reduce food production when farming is one of very few sectors that can keep earning export income to help with the Covid-recovery.

Young agreed. “It’s really only tinkering around the edges.”

He would like to see the whole freshwater policy rewritten, he said . . .

It doesn’t help that while farmers are facing unrealistic demands, more than 100 wastewater treatment plants are breaching consent.

This looks like one set of very tough laws and consequences for breaking them for farmers and no consequences at all for councils.

But urban people thinking this is a rural problem should beware. The new national standards for freshwater apply in town and country and cleaning up some urban waterways will be very, very expensive.

National is promising to review, and if necessary, repeal the policy:

Speculation that Environment Minister David Parker will have to yet again make fixes to his freshwater regulations further exposes the flaws in Labour’s package, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson and Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett say.

“The Minister has developed policy based on ideological notions and once again he has had to back down after realising it isn’t practical or based in science,” Mr Simpson says.

“National recognises the need for a sustainable approach and encourages the constant improvement of our waterways. We want to build on the existing structures around freshwater, while many of the Government’s freshwater proposals will have perverse effects on our primary sector and the wider economy.

National will repeal or review the nine regulations announced on 5 August. Instead National will work with farmers and environmental stakeholders to put in place alternatives that are practical, science-based, and achievable.

“We all want improved fresh water outcomes but we have to back farmers to farm their way to better outcomes as they have been doing. Farmers must see a pathway to improve while being profitable, our rural communities and economic wealth as a country depends on it,” Mr Bennett says

“While the country was focused on the worst economic downturn in 160 years, David Parker was busy rushing through new rules that will enforce impractical restrictions on farmers with no consideration for regional variances.

“National understands you can’t apply a blanket approach to this issue and will work with regions to ensure the rules are suited to every area.

“This Government’s changes will put the shackles on our farmers’ ability to innovate and will heap costs on to a sector that is vitally important to our country.

“Agriculture will lead our post-covid recovery. Unlike Labour, National will work with farmers rather than against them.” 

We all want clean water and most farmers have already changed what they do to protect and enhance waterways.

There is still room for improvement but the best way to achieve that is working with farmers and councils to ensure high standards for all waterways.

There is also a lot of misinformation about winter grazing. Here are some facts:

Another day another hole

August 26, 2020

We’re supposed to believe everything form the 1pm podium of truth but how can we when there are another gaping  hole between what we’re told and what’s actually happening has been exposed:

 Despite weeks of telling the public that ‘everyone’ in managed isolation is being tested for Covid-19 on day three of their stay, the Health Minister has admitted he knows these tests are not compulsory and his ministry does not know how many people haven’t had them.

Health Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed in writing on August 4 that day three tests were not compulsory and the Ministry of Health did not keep records of how many people had not received them.

This is despite Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield saying on June 9 that “from today, everyone in managed isolation will be tested twice for Covid-19”. The national testing strategy also requires day three testing.

Covid-19 testing is meant to occur on days three and 12 of a 14-day stay in managed isolation.

National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says it is disappointing the Government spin machine continued to let the public think day three tests were mandatory when they weren’t.

“This is yet another hole in our border defences,” Dr Reti says.

“Recent revelations that not all border staff were being tested for Covid-19 were extremely disappointing given this is our first and most important line of defence against the virus.

“The Government’s complacent attitude to day three testing is equally disappointing. If we are truly a team of five million then we all need to take the game plan seriously.

“Day three testing is important. Dr Bloomfield has talked about how it is key to reducing the risk of someone leaving managed isolation infectious.

Someone positive but not tested on day three would have more than a week to infect others before the test results on day 12 were available.

“This is why National has reissued our request to re-convene Parliament’s Health Select Committee. We think it is important the Director-General of Health fronts up to explain the disconnect between the Government’s rhetoric on testing and what is actually happening.

“National will protect New Zealanders from Covid-19 and allow our economy to flourish with a comprehensive border plan that includes mandatory weekly testing of all border staff.”

The Minister’s answers are here.

Not only are people not being tested, border staff are waiting far too long for results when they are tested:

A senior employee in the managed isolation system says he has yet to receive the results of his coronavirus test 10 days on.

And neither have at least three of his colleagues.

The employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was tested at a pop-up centre at an Auckland isolation hotel on August 14 shortly after revelations 60 per cent of border workers had not received a Covid test.

On Monday, 10 days after his test, he was yet to receive his results.

He had also contacted his GP who said they had no record of him being tested on August 14.

As a result, he had been told to undergo another test sometime in the next week.

The man described the state of affairs as a “farce”.

“Something’s gone wrong.” . . 

Several somethings have gone wrong and something keeps going wrong.

But the news isn’t all bad – the Health Select Committee will reconvene next Wednesday, following pressure from the National Party and New Zealand First.:

National health spokesperson Shane Reti had written – for a second time – to the Health Committee chair asking for it to be reconvened. His initial request was rejected.

Reti wanted the Health Committee to call Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, senior ministry officials, and the Health Minister, to grill them on the Covid-19 response.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters said it was logical for the committee to meet to canvass the advice of those people on the alert level decisions taken by Cabinet this week.

“Given the economic and health consequences of the Cabinet’s decision it is appropriate for the accountability function to be performed while Parliament is sitting,” he said.

Committee chair and Labour MP Louisa Wall said she was happy for the committee to be reconvened and would invite the minister and Bloomfield to appear. . . 

The Epidemic Response Committee (ERC) that operated during the first lockdown hasn’t been reconvened. The Health Select Committee will be the next best way for the Opposition to question the Minister and DG of Health.

Better border policy

August 21, 2020

National has announced a much better border policy:

A National Government will inject some steel into our first line of defence against COVID-19 by delivering robust border systems that will keep the virus at bay and allow our economy to thrive, National Party Leader Judith Collins says.

You can read National’s Border Policy Document here

“The threat of COVID-19 will be with us for years to come and National is committed to safeguarding the health of all New Zealanders, as well as the wider economy.”

National’s border security plan includes:

    • Establishing ‘Te Korowai Whakamaru/NZ Border Protection Agency’ to provide comprehensive oversight and management of COVID-19 at the border, as well as other public health threats.

This is sensible and had it been done months ago would have avoided the shemozzle of what at best has been miscommunication between the government, the Ministry of Health and workers at the border.

    • Requiring international travellers to provide evidence of a negative COVID-19 test before arriving in New Zealand.

This doesn’t mean people who test negative can’t come home at all, it means they must get over the illness and test positive.

It won’t keep everyone with the disease out, some who are incubating it could test negative before they fly, some could become infected in transit. But it would reduce the number of people with Covid-19 who get here, keeping other travellers, airline staff and border workers safer.

    • Compulsory contact tracing technologies to be used by agency employees, border facility workers, and District Health Board staff who treat or test patients.
    • Rapid deployment of Bluetooth applications to enhance contact tracing while also exploring alternative technologies, such as a Covid Card.
    • Striving towards a test-on-demand system with a waiting time target of no longer than 60 minutes for a COVID-19 test.
    • Widening the availability of COVID-19 testing nationwide.
    • Regular testing of aged-care workers and increasing opportunities for testing within aged-care facilities.
    • Preparing a more effective response to future outbreaks, should they occur, allowing lockdowns to be more targeted and shorter in duration.

The government has learned little from mistakes made in the initial lockdown, in particular its  insistence on the arbitrary essential rather than safe in dictating which businesses can operate.

“The current ad-hoc system of managing COVID-19 at our border – putting various agencies in charge of different facets – has led to a disorderly and confused response, putting the health and livelihoods of five million New Zealanders at risk,” Ms Collins says.

“More than 1.6 million Aucklanders are locked down right now because the Government dropped the ball on testing, tracing and managing people in isolation. It’s not good enough.”

Reducing the need for lockdowns could not be more crucial. The first lockdown saw 212,000 Kiwis end up on unemployment benefits with another 450,000 jobs kept alive by wage subsidies. The current lockdown is estimated to be costing Auckland 250 jobs and up to $75 million a day in economic activity. . . 

Heather du Plessis-Allen says this is the most important policy of the election:

The policy National released today is the most important policy we will see this election campaign.  

For both health and the economy, nothing else matters as much as the border right now, because it is the most important protection we have for both.

 Parties can announce as much as they like for future health spending, but if that border leaks, people will die. 

They can announce as much money as they like for future wage subsidies but if that border fails and we’re in lockdown, businesses will fall over. 

They can announce all the infrastructure spending they like but unless that border lets key workers through, the projects won’t get finishes. So everything hinges on the success of that border.  

And that is why National’s policy is the most important announcement this campaign. . . 

The Labour leader said this would be a Covid election. It is. This is why this policy is so important, and it has already made an impact in making Labour improve its performance:

Because it can’t be acceptable to us that they promise testing and then don’t deliver, that they can’t find where cases come from, that they lock down an entire city as a default. 

Potentially we’ve just seen the first example of Labour being forced to lift its game: National promised that Bluetooth contact tracing like the Covid Card in an embargoed press release at 10:04am. 

27 minutes later, Labour announced it would pilot using the blue tooth in isolation facilities too.  Labour have had the Covid Card proposal on their desk since since mid-April and took more than four months just to get to a pilot. 

Hopefully this is the policy alternative that reminds Labour – and us voters – that we can and should do better at the border.

We have been badly let down by mismanagement at the border.

The impact of that is having not just health consequences but social and economic ones.

We’ve all made sacrifices to eliminate Covid-19 and we’ve all been let down by laxness at the border.

We need much better border protection and National’s policy would deliver it.


Should the election be postponed?

August 17, 2020

We’ll learn this morning if the election will be postponed. Should it be?

Labour and the Green Party seem happy to stick with September 19. National, Act, and New Zealand First would prefer a delay.

There is some self-interest in these positions but elections aren’t just about politicians and political parties, they are for the people.

Delaying the election will cause a lot of work for the Electoral Commission which will already have booked places to be used as polling booths and employed people to staff them September 19.

That isn’t by itself a reason to stick with the date. The early announcement of the election date only began with John Key for the 2011 election. Before that the Prime Minister of the day used to leave it until a time he or she chose to announce the date, often only a few weeks before polling day.

In the normal course of events announcing early is better for the Commission, giving it plenty of time to get organised, makes it fairer for all parties and gives the public plenty of notice.

However, events are not coursing normally.

Auckland is in level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country is at level 2. On Friday we were told that these levels will be maintained until August 26th.

If parliament is dissolved today and the election goes ahead on September 19, overseas voting will start a week later and early voting a few days after that.

It’s not just that parties and candidates need time to campaign, it’s that people need time to get to know them, to meet them, listen to them and equally importantly talk to and question them.

And it’s not just the election but two referendums that will be held at the same time. While all of these may be of great interest to political tragics and those who feel strongly on the referendum issues, many people haven’t begun thinking about them yet.

There is also the concern many elderly people and others who are immune compromised could be unwilling to go to polling booths so soon after this cluster of community transmission.

There is no guarantee there will not be another outbreak of Covid-19 in the run up to a new date, but if the government and health officials learn from their mistakes, chances are we will be at level 1 for long enough for a near normal campaign.

The likelihood of at least a few weeks’ delay increased yesterday with a media release from deputy PM, WInston Peters in which he released an open letter to the PM telling her the election should be delayed.

Although that doesn’t alter the PM’s right to decide the election date, it does mean a majority of parliament favours a delay.

Disregarding that, and the other factors supporting a delay would be doing a disservice to democracy.

Hands up for Rangitata

August 10, 2020

Megan Hands has been selected as National’s candidate for Rangitata.

National’s new Rangitata candidate would like to see more mothers in Parliament and thinks her ‘’strong background’’ in rural and environmental management will help in her campaign for the seat. . . 

Hands has spent her professional career in agricultural and resource management consultancy working with farmers, growers and small business.

“With a strong primary sector base, Rangitata is well-placed to help lead a post-Covid economic recovery.

“The people of Rangitata are extremely hard-working and right now they are worried about the future, whether they will have a job and how they will support their family.’’ . . 

Megan has a strong party background as an active Young Nat and member of the Blue Greens. She has also been active in Young Farmers, including twice reaching the regional finals of the Young Farmer of the Year contest.

Her experience working with farmers to improve environmental performance will be invaluable.

She will bring strong science-based, practical environment credentials to the caucus and will be a strong advocate for her electorate.

Her name will be a gift for campaigning – Hands up, helping Hands . . .

National list

August 8, 2020

National has released its 202 party list:

National’s 2020 Party List is a strong mix of experience coming up through our Caucus, and new and exciting talent joining our team from communities across New Zealand, Party President Peter Goodfellow says.

“The National Party is incredibly fortunate to be able to draw on such a diverse and experienced team of passionate Kiwis, from our Leader Judith Collins, our Shadow Cabinet, right through to newcomers like Christopher Luxon in Botany, Tania Tapsell in East Coast, Tim Costley in Otaki, and Penny Simmonds in Invercargill.

“National run the most democratic selection processes of any party, and our process for putting together our Party List is the same. Our focus is always to strike the right balance between recognising and promoting experience, striving to reflect the diversity of New Zealand, and ensuring ongoing renewal.

“Rejuvenation is important for any political party, and National is heading into the 2020 election with some impressive and exciting new candidates. We are also saying goodbye to some very hardworking and dedicated members who have announced their retirement. They have served our country, our communities, and our Party with distinction, and we thank their families and loved ones for sharing them with us.

“We are incredibly proud to be the Party that represents Kiwis from all walks of life, from a range of ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences. We have teachers, servicemen, doctors, a paramedic, farmers, lawyers, community advocates, scientists, businesspeople, and a virus specialist – just to name a few.

“We know that every MMP election is a close fought race. Every single one of our candidates will be campaigning hard in their local communities to deliver a strong Party Vote for National, and ensure Judith Collins is our next Prime Minister.

“COVID-19 has changed our world, and while Kiwis can all be proud of our collective health response, New Zealand is facing the biggest economic crisis in generations. More than ever our country needs a strong team, with real-world experience, that can deliver what we promise and get New Zealand working.

“The only way to avoid another three years of chaos from Labour and the Greens, is to Party Vote National. That’s what our team of 75 candidates and tens of thousands of members, supporters and volunteers will be focused on right up until election day.”

National’s 2020 Party List:

1 Judith Collins Papakura
2 Gerry Brownlee Ilam
3 Paul Goldsmith Epsom
4 Simon Bridges Tauranga
5 Dr Shane Reti Whangarei
6 Todd McClay Rotorua
7 Chris Bishop Hutt South
8 Todd Muller Bay of Plenty
9 Louise Upston Taupo
10 Scott Simpson Coromandel
11 David Bennett Hamilton East
12 Michael Woodhouse Dunedin
13 Nicola Willis Wellington Central
14 Jacqui Dean Waitaki
15 Mark Mitchell Whangaparaoa
16 Melissa Lee Mt Albert
17 Andrew Bayly Port Waikato
18 Dr Nick Smith Nelson
19 Maureen Pugh West Coast-Tasman
20 Barbara Kuriger Taranaki-King Country
21 Harete Hipango Whanganui
22 Jonathan Young New Plymouth
23 Tim Macindoe Hamilton West
24 Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi Panmure-Otahuhu
25 Paulo Garcia List
26 Nancy Lu List
27 Dr Parmjeet Parmar Mt Roskill
28 Agnes Loheni Mangere
29 Dale Stephens Christchurch Central
30 Alfred Ngaro Te Atatu
31 Matt Doocey Waimakariri
32 Stuart Smith Kaikoura
33 Lawrence Yule Tukituki
34 Denise Lee Maungakiekie
35 Simon O’Connor Tamaki
36 Brett Hudson Ohariu
37 Simeon Brown Pakuranga
38 Ian McKelvie Rangitikei
39 Erica Stanford East Coast Bays
40 Matt King Northland
41 Chris Penk Kaipara ki Mahurangi
42 Tim van de Molen Waikato
43 Dan Bidois Northcote
44 Jo Hayes Mana
45 Katie Nimon Napier
46 Catherine Chu Banks Peninsula
47 Hamish Campbell Wigram
48 David Patterson Rongotai
49 Lisa Whyte New Lynn
50 Rima Nakhle Takanini
51 Liam Kernaghan Taieri
52 Bala Beeram Kelston
53 Lincoln Platt Christchurch East
54 William Wood Palmerston North
55 Nuwi Samarakone Manurewa
56 Mark Crofskey Remutaka
57 Jake Bezzant Upper Harbour
58 Mike Butterick Wairarapa
59 Tim Costley Otaki
60 Nicola Grigg Selwyn
61 Christopher Luxon Botany
62 Joseph Mooney Southland
63 Penny Simmonds Invercargill
64 Tania Tapsell East Coast
65 Simon Watts North Shore
66 TBC Auckland Central
67 TBC Rangitata
68 Adrienne Pierce List
69 Senthuran Arulanantham List
70 Sang Cho List
71 Rachel Afeaki-Taumoepeau List
72 Trish Collett List
73 Ava Neal List
74 Katrina Bungard List
75 Shelley Pilkington List

David Carter’s valedictory statement

August 6, 2020

National MP David Carter delivered his valedictory statement:

Rt Hon DAVID CARTER (National): The fascinating thing about a political career is that as it starts you never know when it’s going to end. Not even Winston!

I arrived here in unusual circumstances. Ruth Richardson suddenly resigned as the MP for Selwyn in a way that was designed to cause the maximum disruption for the Bolger Government. The by-election was a baptism of fire and lasted three weeks. Media immediately coined it the “mother of all by-elections”. It was short, sharp, and profiled nationally every night because its result was critical due to the Government’s then one-seat majority. The only humour providing any relief to the tension was the last minute selection of the New Zealand First candidate, Sir Tim Shadbolt, who was not too ashamed to say he had never read a New Zealand First manifesto and he had no idea of New Zealand First policies. Some things never change!

I recall the day I came into the Chamber to be sworn in. It actually wasn’t this Chamber. It was the Chamber used while this building was being renovated, now select committees one and two in Bowen House. As I returned to my seat, Lianne Dalziel, who sat about there, interjected with that awful shriek that the lefties often manage, “You won’t be here for long!” Well, 26 years may not be long for Lianne, but it’s long enough for me. I do know what led to that comment. We were moving to MMP, unchartered territory. No one at that stage knew the new electorate boundaries and what the future would hold. Luck was on my side. I won Banks Peninsula in 1996. So what may well have been a short 26-month career, the time between the by-election and the first MMP election, has become the 26-year stint.

I came with one driving ambition that had gnawed at me since my days at Lincoln University. I wanted to be Minister of Agriculture. This country’s primary sector is New Zealand’s economic jewel. It is the very economic foundation that has made this country the country that it is today. I had personally farmed through Rogernomics in the mid-1980s and hold no grudges whatsoever to the then Labour Government for the pain the farming sector had to endure. It had to be done. Labour should be proud of this era of reform, not dismissive of it. The last three years under this Government have been difficult. This Government seems ignorant of the way the farming sector wants to—and is willing to—grapple with the ongoing challenges of water quality, climate change, and market access. So as an industry, we will meet those challenges. So for the next Government, work with the sector, not against it.

My first promotion was to junior whip, a fascinating role and a way to really understand and appreciate the ambitions of your own colleagues. Parliament is a tough environment, but your own caucus is an even tougher environment. It was during the voting on the 140 amendments to the Ngāi Tahu Claims Settlement Bill in 1998 that I realised how tenuous the National – New Zealand First coalition Government was. The level of cooperation from then New Zealand First whip, Ron Mark, was non-existent. We never knew whether we had their support on amendments or not, and their vote was critical. Little wonder that, only months later, the coalition imploded, delivering my next opportunity.

Under the Shipley Government, I was made Associate Minister of Agriculture. Nearly there—except she didn’t call it that. She appointed a Minister of Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control, and I was the Associate Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control—the first National Government ever without a Minister of Agriculture. No wonder farmers said we had deserted them. In hindsight, the electoral loss about a year later was inevitable.

The Opposition years were tough. I have a vivid memory of our first caucus after the 2002 election. We started the meeting in the caucus room with 39 people: the successful MPs, the retiring MPs, and those that had been beaten. As we farewelled those leaving one by one, our numbers finally dwindled to an Opposition of only 27 MPs. It was a slow, hard crawl back but we won under John Key in 2008 and I achieved my political ambition: Minister of Agriculture. I then proceeded to change the title: Minister for Primary Industries. No criticism this time. Farmers accepted it. They trusted me.

I came with a strong agenda and recall three things with some pride: water storage, getting science working to find solutions to greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and improved biosecurity. I still can’t understand the resistance to water storage and irrigation. In any other developed nation, the vast resources of the Canterbury Plains and the Hawks Bay Plains would have been irrigated generations ago. Yes, I accept that irrigation brings intensification. But again, with science and with the will of modern farmers, we can find a way to mitigate environmental impacts of more intensive agriculture.

I championed the establishment of the Global Research Alliance (GRA), an international initiative that brought together agricultural scientists from then 30 different countries to seek ways of reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists working in collaboration will find solutions far more quickly than scientists working in isolation. Now over 60 countries are involved in the GRA. The only problem with the initiative: my then Cabinet colleague Tim Groser claimed all the credit and he had bugger all to do with it!

Biosecurity is critical to this country. Disease incursions will continue to occur. We can’t stop them all, but we can certainly tackle incursions better by establishing a good working relationship between Government and industry. Mycoplasma bovis has been a good example of this. The discovery of Psa in our kiwifruit industry in November 2010 could have been one of my darkest moments. But it’s actually one of my proudest. I got instant support from Cabinet for a $25 million spend matched dollar for dollar by industry, and so started the industry’s effort to find solutions—and look at the strength of the kiwifruit industry today.

I do recall my darkest day: Tuesday 22 February 2011; the day an earthquake destroyed my city of Christchurch. Within an hour I was in the basement of the Beehive, waiting for John Key as we were to travel down together by air force place. My phone went. It was Jaime Gilbert’s family to tell me that our friend Jaime was dead—crushed by falling masonry. The Prime Minister and I spent the day touring the devastation, standing for a long period of time in front of the smouldering CTV building, knowing there were people dead or dying in that ruin. But the toughest part: I didn’t get home till well after 9 o’clock that night to hug Heather and our four kids. They each had their own traumatic experiences of the day they wanted to share with me. I wanted to get home a lot earlier, guys; you wanted me home a lot earlier. I’m sorry, but it’s a cost of political life.

Chris Finlayson said there are two fundamental reasons for a valedictory: to say thank you and to give a lecture. The lecture first on two quick points: number one, the design of the emissions trading scheme. In hindsight, Parliament got it wrong in 2005 when it gave large emitters the opportunity to offset their emissions with the planting of pine forests. I know why we did it; we needed time for those emitters to find solutions. At the time, we thought that gave us a 30-year window to meet our international obligations. We ignored the fact that the majority of the sequestered carbon is released upon harvesting. Now in 2020, half that window of the 30-year opportunity has passed without any progress by emitters to reduce their emissions. In the meantime, valuable pastoral land was planted into forestry—a decision that won’t be for one rotation of pine planting; it’s more likely to be a permanent change of land use. In other words: we found a temporary solution that will have a long-term, permanent downside for New Zealand.

Number two: the continued lease of Bowen House. If common sense had prevailed, we’d be well on the way to finally being in our own fully owned parliamentary complex, rather than some MPs being housed over the road in a commercially leased Bowen House. To continue leasing Bowen House from an overseas investor is wrong and it’s expensive. To continue to use the vacant land behind this building for nothing more than car parking is wrong and an inefficient use of resources. During my time as Speaker, plans were developed for a modern, purpose-built office block immediately behind here and linking to this building, and I want to acknowledge the former Parliamentary Service officials who led this project: David Stevenson and Jim Robb.

My job was to get the political support necessary for the project to proceed. All political leaders, with the exception of the Rt Hon Winston Peters, agreed. It’s hard to see why they wouldn’t. The economics of this project were absolutely compelling. So in the 53rd Parliament, while MPs are decamped from Bowen House for its earthquake strengthening and double-desked somewhere in the library or in the basement of this building, don’t blame me. Instead, ask the question why the project didn’t proceed, and if it was nothing more than a personal vendetta against me by Mr Peters, that is shameful. What is beyond doubt is the greatest beneficiary of the decision to stop the project is the current owner of Bowen House.

Now for the thanks to the hundreds of people who have helped me through my time in Parliament. Over 26 years, there are a lot of them. I simply cannot mention them all. To those that make this building work: Parliamentary Service, security, the travel office, messengers, and VIP, that you so much. To the Inter-Parliamentary Relations team—and particularly you, Wendy Hart: the source of huge institutional knowledge on the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association—thank you.

To members of the National Party, thank you for your commitment to National and to me. To the various electorate chairs, campaign chairs, office holders of the Selwyn electorate, Port Hills electorate, and Banks Peninsula electorate, I owe you everything. To all my staff over the years, both in Christchurch and Wellington, I couldn’t have done it without you. I want to particularly note Marion Bishop in Christchurch, and, of course, the fearsome, legendary Lisa Kinloch here in Wellington. To all the staff of my ministerial office, we were a great team, but I particularly note Vanessa Rawson, Gavin Forrest, and Thomas Pryor. To Juliane Jutz for your assistance over the last three years, and particularly with the logistics of leaving Wellington and organising today. Roland Rodd: the glue of any Speaker’s office. To my political adviser, mentor, and friend, Roger Bridge: when I needed sound advice, you were there to provide it. Without it, I wouldn’t have survived 26 years in this place.

To Heather, I can’t really find the right words to say. I know my choice to enter politics was not where you thought our lives would head prior to that Selwyn by-election. I still remember the look on your face as I looked down at you from the stage at the West Melton hall on my selection night, having won selection. That look of apprehension, almost fear, is imprinted on my mind. You knew our lives had changed, but I hope for all the downsides there’s been some reward and achievement in watching me complete my political ambition. Thank you for on so many occasions being a solo mum. To Sophie, Laura, Isabella, and Morgan, I don’t think you’ve suffered too much without my daily guidance. In fact, I think you might have been better off without it. The irony of life is as I return home you embark on your own exciting lives, which I know will bring much pride to Heather and to me.

As I conclude, I want to make some comments on my almost five years as Speaker of this House. It was never a position I aspired to, but having been elected as Speaker, I realised the honour and the responsibility that this position holds in ensuring the democracy of our country. When I recall the other six Speakers that I’ve served under, all had their own individual style. I think the style of a Speaker is, in actual fact, a reflection of the personality of that person. The biggest challenge for any Speaker is moving from a career as a political operator to being truly a-political. The job is to be Parliament’s person and not influenced by earlier political loyalties.

Of critical importance to democracy is the opportunity for an Opposition to hold a Government to account. The allocation of supplementary questions at question time is a valuable resource—a chance to ask those searching, probing questions that if asked and answered, will actually ensure a sharper, more highly performing Government. So I certainly hope the Speaker of the 53rd Parliament will reconsider the recent practice of taking supplementary questions off an Opposition or ruling out questions on some spurious basis, just because the question may be an embarrassment to a Minister. Having said that, I certainly accept that every Speaker at some stage is accused of bias—it goes with the territory. Indeed, it did here last night. As I reflect on my time as Speaker, I can say without hesitation I did my best for our democracy. In hindsight, I think I was probably tougher on Government members than on Opposition MPs. As to any accusation of bias, my conscience is absolutely clear, and that’s the important thing.

So colleagues, I wish you all well as you embark on your election campaigns. This time I’m thrilled not to be part of it.


Nicky Wagner’s valedictory statement

August 6, 2020

National MP Nicky Wagner delivered her valedictory statement:

Hon NICKY WAGNER (National): Thank you, Mr Speaker.

[Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Tonight, after 15 years, I say haere rā to this place. Thank you, for giving me the opportunity to speak and thank you to everyone who’s come tonight. It means a lot to me. I’m delighted to celebrate this evening with my good friend David Carter. He was the first MP I ever met and he’s always encouraged and mentored me. He even delivers flyers for me at election time. Thank you, David.

Being an MP, of course, is an enormous privilege and it’s hugely demanding and it requires the support of many; thank you so much. Firstly, it’s just plain hard work. It’s physically exacting, 24/7 commitment, and it’s hard to get enough sleep. Emotionally, it’s challenging. I think it’s a treadmill of events, enormous adrenaline-fuelled highs and desperately mentally destructive lows, and always in the public eye. We need to look after ourselves here and look after each other. And I do have to say, I’ve always had the support of the class of 2005 and my mates in this caucus.

I came here because MPs can actually make a real difference for the people in their communities. Working through our electorate offices, we can fix stuff. We can sort out housing problems. We can deal with health and education issues. We can remove barriers for disabled people. And we can even diffuse neighbourhood clashes. You name it, we do it. I want to acknowledge all those constituents who have trusted me with their issues and every one of my staff who’s worked so hard to solve them.

In particular, I want to mention my long-serving office managers Heather Wellington and Nicola Olds. Now, Nicola’s wit is matched by boundless compassion for people, and she’s a true advocate for those who are in need. Now, Heather joined me when I first became an MP and she, her organisation skills, and her can-do attitude helped me get established in Christchurch, and then she moved to Northland, but she returned each election to volunteer to help me in my campaign, and I think that’s real dedication. Thank you very much.

And of course, Kirsten, who worked so hard on our communications during the earthquakes. You know, our newsletter really became a lifeline to so many. The same can be said of my current team, led by Karen Duff, with Marion Bishop and Boyd Becker. We tallied up the other day and figured that our office had worked with over 7,500 constituents and organised and hosted over 500 different events.

Electorate offices are the public-facing part of an MP’s job. They receive the good and the bad. They help people who are at their wits end. They support the vulnerable in our communities, but they also cop the abuse and deal with the threats. My team are extremely hard-working, enormously capable, and totally loyal, and I appreciate each and every one of them.

I never imagined or prepared myself to be a politician. As a local businesswoman, I was drawn into running in 2002, because I was incensed by the way that the Labour Government, I felt, was neglecting Christchurch and particularly small business and the small business community during the winter of discontent under Helen Clark. I was then elected on to the list in 2005, and that campaign, like all that’s followed, could not have been possible without the help of friends, family, and the wider National Party. Christchurch Central gave me the opportunity to stand and they have actively supported me ever since. I would like to thank my current chair, Brooke Law, and also a special thankyou to Stuart and Julie Laing and Murray and Joan Spackman. Those people have served continuously on the team since I was first selected and they’re still going strong, supporting our new hard-working candidate, Dale Stephens. So go well, Dale. I’d also like to thank the wider National Party, President Peter Goodfellow and the board, and our favourite regional chair, Roger Bridge.

Being a new MP was a steep learning curve. So much to do and so little time to do it. One of the issues that was vexing Christchurch Central at the time was boy racers. I worked with the police and neighbourhood groups on a member’s bill. It was never pulled from the ballot—none of my bills have ever been selected—but it was picked up by the then Minister, Judith Collins, when we came into Government. And, you know, the boy racers never saw it coming.

I also worked closely with the local Afghani community after a Christchurch taxi driver was stabbed to death. I supported his widow and family, but I also lobbied for the installation of taxi cameras. And, you know, it was CCTV technology that finally solved a longstanding issue of payment problems and horrible violence against drivers. We just don’t see it any more.

One of the most heartbreaking cases I had was the plight of a Kurdish family. One son had been left behind when they came to New Zealand and they sought my help because, in desperation, he had turned to people smugglers and had ended up in a boat that sank in the Black Sea. He survived, but he lost his wife and child. Of course, the whole family was distraught and eight of them practically camped in my office. Could we rescue him from Turkey? Could we bring him home? It was a really long and difficult negotiation, but the joy when he arrived really made it worthwhile. He got a job immediately and has been contributing to this country ever since.

The 2008 election was an exciting one. I became a Government MP and I soon learnt that it was infinitely more productive than being on the Opposition, especially under the leadership of Prime Minister John Key and Deputy Prime Minister Bill English. John was ambitious for New Zealand, full of energy, with a strong vision for a confident, successful, and outward-looking nation, and always driven to make the boat go faster. And Bill was ambitious for New Zealanders, knowing that the system had to do better for those that struggle, and totally committed to social investment. He was convinced that the Government could do better to understand and respect individuals and families, and invest in them to help them get ahead. The drive to make New Zealand a better place for all New Zealanders underpinned everything our National Government did, and New Zealanders responded to the challenge. Despite the global financial crisis and the Canterbury earthquakes, the economy grew and more jobs were created than New Zealand had ever seen before.

I feel enormously privileged to have been able to work with the National Government from 2008 to 2017. We worked hard. We were effective, the country prospered, and New Zealanders rewarded us with their votes. I felt a small taste of that success because, in 2011, I became the first National MP to win the electorate of Christchurch Central—with the smallest of margins; a draw on the night, and then a whopping win of 47 votes in the recount. I well remember the night in Premier House when John Key proclaimed that the most unexpected, the most exciting thing about the 2011 election was winning Christchurch Central.

The present Government is keen to rewrite history and say that the National Government didn’t deliver for New Zealanders, but the voters said otherwise. Each election from 2008 to 2017 National’s vote increased, and in the 2014 election, in response to the earthquake recovery work of Gerry Brownlee, Christchurch turned blue. Every electorate gave National their party vote, and I was honoured to be re-elected with a majority of over 2,400 votes. In the 2017 election, National gained 1,152,000 votes—the most votes that any party has ever received in the history of New Zealand. Now, you tell me. Was it a system failure, a miscarriage of justice, or a betrayal of democracy that National and Bill English ended up on the Opposition benches?

Life in Christchurch has been challenging over the last 10 years. We’ve had multiple earthquakes—with liquefaction and flooding—followed by the Port Hills fires, then a mass shooting, and now a pandemic. We are battered, and we’re still a little bit munted, but we’re still there and we’re still strong. So kia kaha, Christchurch.

It was those 15,000-plus earthquakes that really shaped my work as a local MP, getting out during the emergency, throughout the aftershocks, physically delivering water and digging liquefaction, or managing to connect people to the services they needed. They were long, tough, and dusty days. Back then, we wore masks for the dust, do you remember? We’re now wearing masks for the pandemic. Everyone had lost someone or something. We were all upset, but we were all together. We all had to unite as a community, and people were magnificent. I have never been so proud of my community. We shared a toilet among our neighbours, and if you ever want to test whether your street would unite or divide, make them share a portaloo.

There was a constant circuit of public meetings full of people desperately looking for information, for advice, and for help, and together with my electorate team, we helped hundreds of people who had just run out of options. And then months and years of rebuilding, of insurance claims, of fixing and upgrading roads and services, restoring community assets—we engaged far and wide across the community, we worked with the community forum, we got their advice and guidance on the decisions that we had to make on laying out the blueprints for the city. I really thank all Cantabrians who came together to put forward ideas and took an active, future focus on the recovery and regeneration.

As a local MP, I was heavily involved in everything, but the highlight of my career was the opportunity to serve the Christchurch community, firstly as the associate Minister and later as the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration. Our focus was on rebuilding homes, families, and communities, and to deliver the blueprint, the plan to rebuild Christchurch as a modern, people-friendly, and 21st century city. We wanted Christchurch to be a city of opportunity, with an energy that attracts, that encourages, and that inspires people to come, to live, to work, and to raise a family there. We can now see the shape our new city, and I know we’re on the right track. That was confirmed for me when we recently welcomed home our oldest son and his Melburnian wife to Christchurch, and now we have another one-eyed Cantabrian granddaughter on the way.

One of my greatest challenges was to broker the agreement to reinstate Christ Church Cathedral. The cathedral in the square has long been a powerful symbol and heart of our city, and there was a real sense that, until its future was decided, Christchurch would feel broken. I worked with Bishop Victoria and city stakeholders, and developed a cross-party parliamentary group to deliver a recovery package. The journey was long, and it wasn’t until 9 September 2017, only a fortnight before the election, that we finally got the decision to restore. I think the whole city celebrated because, regardless of their opinion, everyone needed a decision so the city could move forward.

As a Minister, I’ve also held responsibilities for statistics—the only ministry that counts!—customs, disability issues, and associate roles for conservation, health, and tourism. I loved being the Minister of Customs. It’s the oldest Government department—180 this year—but, with Carolyn Tremaine as its comptroller, it was forward-thinking and innovative. During my tenure, we rolled out SmartGates in our airports and completed the Trade Single Window, a world-first electronic platform for cargo and excise. But my most important work was to rewrite, modernise, and streamline the Customs and Excise Act. That was a huge job, but I’m really proud of the quality of work that was produced. Our customs officers are remarkable people, who do so much to protect our country, and their work is not often recognised. I always enjoy the story of a suspected drug mule who, when questioned by our perceptive customs officers, said he’d come to New Zealand to play golf and view our wildlife. Further questioning revealed he didn’t have golf clubs, he’d never visited a golf course, and he was really keen to see our native giraffes!

As the Minister for Disability Issues, I quickly learned that disabled people want more choice and control over their support services, and more opportunities to live a good life. But mostly they just wanted a job. And, supported by both John Key and Bill English, I developed a two-pronged strategy. With John Key and Business New Zealand, I launched the Disability Confident campaign. It was to empower and educate employers, and give them the tools to open doors and welcome disabled people into their businesses. That, coupled with the employability scheme that we rolled out across the country, enabled hundreds of disabled people to get jobs and for the employers to get first-rate, loyal employees—a win-win. Even today, people seek me out and thank National for supporting them to get a job.

With Bill English, I worked on rolling out the Enabling Good Lives programme. That’s a scheme that provides individualised funding and navigators to help disabled people design their own unique good lives. We believed that the scheme would benefit all disabled communities, and I do hope that this work will continue, because it has transformed the lives of people that have been involved. With the right support, disabled people can shape their own lives with enormously positive results. I’ve been privileged to watch Yaniv Janson develop as an artist. Supported and encouraged by his family and his support worker-cum-art teacher, his talent has blossomed over the years. His work sells readily—I bought a couple myself—and I was delighted to be able to help him mount an exhibition at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Yaniv’s work has achieved artistic recognition on the world stage, and he’s been able to build a satisfying and sustainable career. Congratulations, Yaniv.

Of course, it’s the ministerial staff that makes things happen for any Minister, and I want to acknowledge all the various private secretaries who worked in my office, including Danielle from the Office of Disability Issues, Maurice from the customs department, and Mike from the Christchurch Earthquake Recovery. Also, all my press secretaries and ministerial advisers—you were a great team; thank you very much. I particularly want to acknowledge and thank Beryl Bright, my senior private secretary. Beryl has been in this place since 1984, and her knowledge of Parliament and the standing of Cabinet, and her reputation are immense. She’s a legend, respected and loved by so many. Also Cath Bell—Cath started working with me as an executive assistant when I arrived in 2005, and stayed with me through thick and thin until she retired in 2017. A dear friend, she now lives in the South Island; so some new adventures ahead, I think.

I’ve done so much with so many wonderful people since I became an MP, but—as always—there’s so much to do and so little time. I wanted to talk about the fantastic work of the Department of Conservation—conservation boards, Predator Free New Zealand. I wanted to outline the steps that we’ve made towards Smokefree 2025. I wanted to reflect on the invaluable insights that I’ve learned about Te Ao Māori and hākari from being on the Māori Affairs Committee and, more personally, from working closely with Ngāi Tahu as we regenerate our city, but the clock is ticking, I am aware.

So, to my family, who should of course be first but always tend to be last when you have a job like ours. Tonight, I am missing my two brothers, Hamish and Jonathan, and their families, who are locked down in COVID in Australia and can’t be here, but I’m grateful to my husband’s four sisters, all who are here. Both sides of the family have embraced and supported me, our children, and now our grandchildren, over so many years. And to my husband, Billy—I hit the jackpot when I married you. You were a good man then, but it’s amazing what 47 years of training has done for both of us. We are better people for each other, and look what we’ve produced. Two fine young men who have brought their fabulous wives into our lives and, in turn, produced our two little granddaughters, with another one on the way. I used to be the only woman in my family, and I always felt that you three ganged up on me, but now the gender balance has reversed—so look out!

In the immortal words of John Prine, Billy’s favourite Country and Western singer, “Against all odds, honey, we’re the big door prize” and I’m never gonna let you go. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

Jian Yang’s valedictory statement

August 6, 2020

National MP Jian Yang delivered his valedictory statement:

Dr JIAN YANG (National): The 8th of August, just three days from now, will mark the ninth anniversary of my political career. Number eight is considered a lucky number by many Chinese. I’m supposed to be doubly lucky because the anniversary has double eights. I do think I have been lucky, but I’m not sure but I have been doubly lucky. On 8 August 2011, I received an unexpected call from National Party president Peter Goodfellow inviting me to stand in the upcoming general election. The first sentence I said to Peter was, “Thank you, but I have no interest.” Peter was somewhat taken aback but suggested that we should have a chat, and I agreed. My wife Jane was horrified when I told her about Peter’s invitation that evening. At that time, I was associate dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Auckland. Jane was very much satisfied with our life and would hate being the wife of a politician. Her position was very clear: I would have to choose between her and politics. To me, the choice was obvious, so I was quite sure what my position was when I met Peter a few days later. Peter was very genuine and explained to me the importance of a Chinese MP to the National Party. In the end, I said politely to Peter that I would consider his invitation. I briefed Jane about my meeting with Peter, and that was it—I declined the party’s invitation.

However, Peter did not give up. I subsequently had two more meetings with the party’s leadership. I was touched by the sincerity of the party. I then consulted with a small circle of my friends and colleagues. My former head of department, who was a New Zealand politics expert, said to me, “If I were you, I would grab it with both hands.”

I realised that my military academy background in China could be an issue, so I brought up the issue with the party leadership in my meetings with them. I also clearly named Air Force Engineering University and the People’s Liberation Army Luoyang foreign language institute in my list candidate application form. I have been transparent to the party from the very beginning. As I said in my maiden speech nine years ago, I am a Kiwi made in China. I came to New Zealand in late February 1999. In 2004, I received my New Zealand citizenship and gave up my Chinese citizenship. I filled out my citizenship application form as required. Unlike it was being reported, I actually did not put down the civilian or partner universities in my citizenship application form.

However, I was not sure to what extent I had been accepted as a New Zealander until 2008. I joined a Track 1.5 security dialogue delegation to Tokyo and Beijing from late July to early August 2008. The delegation was organised by the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs, or NZIIA. I joined the delegation as chair of the Auckland branch of the NZIIA and as an international relations scholar. Other members of the delegation included academics and retired senior diplomats. At a meeting with our Japanese counterparts, the head of delegation asked me to introduce New Zealand foreign policy. I was puzzled and said, “I don’t think I’m the right person to do this. I’m Chinese, and we have a few former New Zealand diplomats here.” A retired senior New Zealand diplomat immediately said to our Japanese counterparts, “Jian is the new face of New Zealand.”

A few days later, the New Zealand embassy in Beijing hosted the delegation and invited some Chinese experts to the function. Again, I was asked to introduce New Zealand foreign policy to Chinese guests. I said, “I have an identity problem. You are inviting a Chinese to talk about New Zealand foreign policy to Chinese experts in front of senior New Zealand diplomats.” The New Zealand ambassador then said, “Jian, I’ll ask you one question: what passport do you hold?” “New Zealand passport”, I said. “Then you are a New Zealander”, said the ambassador. From then on, I have never been troubled by my identity. I am a New Zealander.

Nevertheless, there have been speculations about my loyalty to New Zealand, and we have seen various conspiracy stories. Last September, I accompanied the then National leader Simon Bridges to visit China. We told our Chinese host that we would like to meet a Politburo member in Beijing. A few days before the meeting, we were told that Mr Guo Shengkun would meet the delegation. I did not really know Mr Guo’s portfolios. So I did a quick search online and discovered that he was in charge of justice and law and order. Back in New Zealand, conspiracy theories, however, claimed that I had organised a meeting between the National Party leader and the head of the Chinese Communist Party’s secret police. Simon, I’m sorry that you had to defend yourself—things went slightly off the plan.

Recently, it is claimed that I have not talked to English media for two years and that I only talk to Chinese media. The truth is, as the National spokesperson for statistics, I have talked to Radio New Zealand, Newstalk ZB, Stuff, Newshub, and other English media well over 10 times in the past 18 months or so, more than many backbenchers in this House. I only declined the media requests—English or Chinese—whose sole purpose was to question my loyalty to New Zealand. I have made it very clear that I have been loyal to New Zealand. I do not need to explain again.

It has been a great honour to represent New Zealand’s Chinese community as a National MP. I have put heart and soul into serving the community. I am pleased that I have been able to assist numerous Chinese constituents. I am proud that I have set up the Blue Dragons to better engage the Chinese community to support the National Party. I am also proud that I have enabled the Chinese community to better understand and participate in New Zealand’s democratic politics. It has been tremendously rewarding to be warmly received wherever I go in the Chinese community, and I am deeply grateful to the Chinese community for its consistent support to me.

As a first generation immigrant, I feel extremely privileged to be able to participate in the making of national policies and laws, and to chair two important select committees, the Education and Science Committee and the Governance and Administration Committee. I also had the opportunity to meet numerous outstanding New Zealanders, including those from the Chinese community. As a member of Parliament with Chinese heritage, I made my contribution to New Zealand – China relations. My trips to China with Rt Hon Sir John Key and various Ministers and colleagues are some highlights of my political career. I enjoyed each of these trips. There are many memorable moments, from meeting the Chinese President and Chinese Premier to seeing Paul Goldsmith’s facial expression when he was served a whole sea cucumber.

In March 2012, I accompanied Trade Minister Tim Groser to visit China. I helped organise a Chinese press conference before we left. Minister Groser happily announced to the Chinese media, “We will pay a visit to our old friend, Mr Bo Xilai.”, who signed the New Zealand – China free trade agreement when he was China’s Minister of Commerce. A few minutes later he received a message saying that Mr Bo had just been dismissed.

I am particularly grateful to Tim for his trust. While in China, Tim said that I could speak Chinese without being translated just to save time. “I trust you, and I want you to talk about your story to highlight the diversity of New Zealand society.”, Tim said. It didn’t work very well. New Zealand, as a nation, should have an informed debate about China. Superficial, ill-informed, and biased reports and commentaries about China will not serve our national interest well. As Professor Paul Clark concludes in his article published in the New Zealand Herald just a week ago, “Scaremongering is not the way to get real about China.” We do have some outstanding China experts in New Zealand with the academic integrity of being evidence-based, fair, and honest.

China experienced some turbulent and chaotic times in its contemporary history. Like many Chinese, my grandparents and parents suffered. As I mentioned in my maiden speech, my grandfather was a general of the Chinese Nationalist Party, China’s ruling party at that time. He was arrested and put into prison with the change of Government in 1949. My parents were sent to the countryside to be re-educated by the peasants during the great cultural revolution in the 1960s and 1970s. I myself would not be where I am had China not opened up and started its reforms in 1978. I am certainly not an exceptional case. A simple fact is that tens of millions of Chinese people have been lifted out of poverty since 1978.

It is time for me to thank those who have helped me in the past nine years. I cannot mention all of them. I thank all National Party board members, in particular, National Party President Peter Goodfellow for his support at every step. I thank my colleagues, particularly the year 2011 classmates. They have given me unfailing support over these years. I thank all Blue Dragons. Representatives from Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Wellington, and Queenstown branches are here today. In particular, I thank Frank, Chris, and James. I thank the vibrant Chinese community, which has made a great contribution to this country. Some representatives are here today.

[Mandarin text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

I acknowledge my youth MP, Sally, who is here. She is following in my path and is doing her BA majoring in international relations. I also thank my friends Tony, Phil, and Ambassador Brown. I thank in my two assistants, Shu Kim and Shan. Not many MPs have not changed their staff for nine years. Shu Kim and Shan have been my loyal colleagues and most trustworthy advisers. I also thank Shan’s wife, Susu, and Shu Kim’s husband, Blair, and daughter Isabel. They have become our close family friends.

My parents and brothers who still live in China have always been supportive of me. My father is 90 years old with dementia and my mother is in a wheelchair. I have not joined them for Chinese New Year for nine years. Hopefully I will be able to do so for the coming Chinese New Year. Finally, I thank my wife Jane and two daughters, Suzie and Evelyn. My two girls have got used to me not being around. Evelyn just made it today. Apparently her biological sciences lab is more important than my ridiculous speech.

My wife, Jane, has been my strongest supporter during the most difficult time. This does not necessarily mean she liked my political life. She has always been a private person and values her privacy. I once told a shop owner that my wife often came to her shop. The shop owner later figured out who my wife was and asked Jane. Jane was so stressed that she stopped shopping there, and the shop closed down before long. Jane has come to Wellington only twice in nine years. Nine years ago, she was here for my maiden speech saying, “Take care.” Nine years later, she’s back for my valedictory speech, saying “Welcome home.”

Before I conclude, I would like to wish the National Party all the best. In terms of values, the Chinese community is very close to the National Party, and the National Party has been firmly supportive of the Chinese community. To our new leader, the Hon Judith Collins, I’m here to say you have my full support, Judith.

I’m proud of my Chinese heritage. I feel fortunate to have had the life-changing opportunity to study in Australia. Most importantly, I am privileged to be able to live in New Zealand, a truly great country, and one I call my home. It’s time for me to put down politics and enjoy life with my family. History will be the best judge of my nine years in the New Zealand Parliament. Thank you. Xiexie.

Poverty of delivery BC & vision AC

August 4, 2020

Before Covid-19 (BC) the government was much better at media releases about their policies than delivering them.

Labour’s flagship policy KiwiBuild was a flop, child poverty worsened and the country was facing rising numbers on jobseeker benefits and forecast deficits even before Covid-19 struck.

While we can debate the when and how of the government’s response to the pandemic, we can be very grateful that there is no evidence of community transmission and, in spite of early mismanagement, new cases are being contained at the border.

While everything possible must be done to ensure that continues, now is the time to be formulating a plan for after Covid (AC).

The Labour leader’s warning not to expect big policies from her party this election is a mistake.

We need big policies. That doesn’t mean big-spending policies, it means big visionary ones and among them must be a strategy to repay the debt it is amassing:

With the election only weeks away, Labour needs to clearly explain to voters how it intends to repay the massive debt it is taking on to deal with Covid-19 – and whether its plan will involve higher taxes, National’s Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“Optimism is not a strategy for economic recovery,” Mr Goldsmith says. “So what is Labour’s target and timeframe for getting this country’s debt under control?

“Labour’s silence on the issue of a debt target is a telling sign that the only tricks up Grant Robertson sleeve is to keep spending and, eventually, reveal that he will have to hike taxes.

“Any responsible government will set a long-term target to get the huge amount of debt we are taking on under control so that the country can respond to the next crisis.

“We have said we will aim to get debt below 30 per cent of GDP in a decade or so.

“New Zealand can achieve this by striving for higher economic growth, by increasing government spending at a slightly slower rate than currently projected, and by halting contributions to the Super Fund.

“Rather than outlining any credible plan of her own this morning, Ms Ardern made false claims about the prospect of austerity under National. This is complete nonsense, and she knows it.

“National agrees with the Government that it is absolutely appropriate to spend more and borrow more during an economic crisis, such as we are seeing today.

“This is not the time for austerity, and nobody is suggesting it.”

Any government can borrow and spend. It takes a capable and disciplined one to spend the borrowed money wisely, make savings where necessary and plan to pay off debt to enable the country to cope with the next crisis.

The last National government inherited forecasts for a decade of deficits. It managed to get back into surplus while protecting the vulnerable from the worst effects of the Global Financial Crisis and dealing with the Canterbury earthquakes.

The current government inherited forecasts of surpluses, burned through them before Covid struck and is now planning to borrow big with no ideas about how to repay the debt.

This government had poverty of delivery BC and now Labour has poverty of vision AC. Parties that couldn’t deliver in relative good times can’t be trusted to deliver in bad times.

Waka jumping Act on way out

July 30, 2020

The Waka jumping Act is on its way out:

The Electoral (Integrity Repeal) Amendment Bill has passed its first reading, marking one step closer to Parliament getting rid of NZ First’s ‘waka-jumping’ legislation, National List MP David Carter says.

“I’d like to thank the Greens for voting for this legislation. They have reasserted their values as a Party that stands up for free speech, and we look forward to working with them further to make sure this Member’s Bill passes.

“No credible democracy should ever have given the power to Party leaders to dismiss elected Members of Parliament because they don’t agree with the Leader.

“It is an affront to democracy. The public expects elected members to advocate strongly without fear of being punished by their Leaders for expressing different views.

“The free mandate of MPs is internationally recognised as fundamental to a parliamentary democracy. There are only a few countries with the draconian power for Party leaders to dismiss MPs, including Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Sierra Leone.

These are not countries whose attitude to democracy we should be following.

“As I will be retiring at the next election, I have passed responsibility for the legislation to Nick Smith, who shares my passion for good, democratic process.”

The waka-jumping Act was one of many dead rats the Green Party swallowed in return for joining Labour and New Zealand First in government.

It has now spat it out, incurring Winston Peter’s wrath in the process:

New Zealand First has a track record of pulling support for Labour-Green policies at the eleventh hour.

There’s been the capital gains tax, cameras on fishing boats, and more recently light rail from Auckland city to the airport.

Peters said comparisons can’t be drawn between light rail and waka-jumping.

“We did the work on light rail, the costings and the analysis did not back it up.”

He said the Greens’ were breaking their end of the deal.

“They’re signed up to the coalition agreement on this matter for three years and that term does not end until the 19th of September.”

Peters said the Greens can’t be trusted and voters should remember that on election day.

“You cannot possibly be going forward to the years 2020-2023 contemplating a party that can’t keep its word.”

Is this an instruction for his own supporters to vote for other parties?

But Shaw rejected that criticism.

“I think it’s a bit rich for Winston to suggest that we’re not trustworthy when in fact they’re the ones who have been entirely slippery with the interpretation of our confidence and supply agreement.”

Shaw said his party is fed up with New Zealand First not sticking to the spirit of an agreement.

“I would say that in recent times we have learned that it’s the letter of the agreement, rather than the spirit of the agreement, that’s what counts when it comes to New Zealand First.

“So when it comes to the repeal of the party-hopping bill I would say that we have observed exactly the letter of our agreement.”

So is he just playing the same political games as Peters?

“Well I learn from the master,” Shaw fired back.

That the government has held together when the antipathy between these two parties is so strong.

With just days to go before parliament rises for the election, any presence of unity has gone.



Don’t have to be doomed

July 28, 2020

National finance spokesman Paul Goldsmith’s speech to IFINZ includes this gem:

To me, the point of a strong economy is to enable New Zealanders to do the most basic things in life well.

A strong economy improves our chances of finding satisfying and well-paying work so that we can look after ourselves and our families – the most fundamental task each of us have.

A society based on the assumption that its average citizen can’t or shouldn’t be expected to look after themselves and their families is doomed.  

This government’s all-rights-no-responsibility attitude to benefits has sent a strong message that people aren’t expected to look after themselves.

People looking back at the supposed good old days often cite the level of government support, including universal Family Benefit.

They conveniently overlook the fact that most families had two parents, generally one of those parents was in paid work and most people expected to look after themselves and their families.

The economic impact of Covid-19 has resulted in a significant number of job losses. Few would argue that they should not have the safety net of a benefit.

The only way to ensure that net doesn’t become a trap is a strong economy that gives businesses the confidence to invest and employ people.

The government has been quite clear about its willingness to borrow and spend. It hasn’t provided a plan for economic growth.

National does have a plan:

Government spending, however, cannot provide the full plan. The money has to come from somewhere – it either comes from current taxpayers, leaving them with less to make their own investments, or from future generations – leaving them with less to make their own investments.

The primary driver for growth and jobs needs to be the private sector. 

The recipe for this hasn’t changed.

It requires disciplined Government creating an environment where businesses feel confident to invest and a mix of employment-friendly policies that make it easier to take on new people.

The core elements are:

  • Low taxes
  • Regulatory restraint
  • Consistency
  • An openness to investment
  • And in the Covid recovery context we can add, a path to make progress on the border. . . 

We don’t have to be doomed.

The recipe to save us from that is simple, as is the expectation that those of us who can look after ourselves and our families should do so.

Maggie Barry’s valedictory

July 24, 2020

National MP Maggie Barry delivered her valedictory statement:

Hon MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore): Thank you, Mr Speaker. E te Whare, tēnā koe. E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi, e ngā hau e whā, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. To the leaders, to the many voices, to all the diverse people and communities of the four winds, I honour and respect and I greet you all.

I will begin by acknowledging my family and friends here in the public gallery. Many who have come to this Chamber tonight to witness my final speech, were also here for my maiden speech. I am grateful for your ongoing love, friendship, and support. It has been my honour to serve the people of the North Shore, and I thank them from the bottom of my heart for giving me the opportunity and for having enough confidence in me to elect me three times, for trusting me to represent the interests of t their beloved community since 2011. In particular, I thank Gary and Leslie Monk for their ongoing friendship and support. It has meant a lot to me. To the president, Peter Goodfellow and the board member Alister Bell, for all their unquestioning help and loyalty, thank you. To Don McKinnon, a mentor and friend, and, of course, Lady Clare McKinnon, thank you. I acknowledge David McKeown, who’s been an outstanding North Shore electorate chair, a man of integrity and great fairness. I’m grateful for all he’s done for me and for all of North Shore National, and I’m also very glad he’ll be there to support the new candidate, Simon Watts, who is here in the gallery tonight.

I wish Simon all the very best for the election, as, of course, all my talented and highly competent National Party MPs and colleagues. They will thrive. I am sure, under the competent and dynamic leadership team of Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee. I’ll be campaigning right through until election day to contribute to a National victory. So don’t worry, team. I won’t be slackening off.

To be an effective MP, of course, it is vital to have the right people walking and working cooperatively alongside you. I acknowledge at this point my staff who are here in the gallery, Miriam Wiley, Jack Boltar,and the indefatigable Pat Humphries. They have certainly been the three musketeers, and I thank you for your skills, your energy, and your loyalty. Monica Miller was for seven years alongside me as my electorate agent in Takapuna, and to Sally Guinness was with me from day one in here in Parliament, and in charge of our Beehive team, Gail and Alex/ Brent and Kayla, et al.

I have always been a hard worker and I have high standards and expectations of myself, as I do have anyone who works for me. The job of an MP is far too important not to have highly competent and dedicated staff, and I was fortunate to have worked with two of the very best. I thank you, Monica and Sally, wholeheartedly for your loyalty and for always going the extra mile.

The most constant and significant influence on my political life has been my good friend Peter Kylie. It was indeed serendipitous that I was made member of Parliament for the very electorate where Peter lives. There was an outside chance it might reflect badly on him if I didn’t do well. So he’s always taken a keen interest in my wellbeing and has kept me safe from harm. Peter, I thank you for your friendship, your support, and your wise advice from the beginning until the end.

As I said in my maiden speech, this parliamentary precinct, as part of my old hood. Thorndon is my tur, Thornton is my tūrangawaewae. Dad was an accountant at the railways and my mother’s florist shop was just a few doors up from here on Molesworth Street. Our family home was around the corner in Tinakori Road, and I went to the primary school next to the church on Hill Street where my parents were married and buried from. Growing up, these leafy grounds of Parliament were part of my everyday childhood landscape, and having now spent the best part of my fifties here as an MP, you might say I haven’t come very far. But today it feels a little bit like I’ve come full circle as this chapter in my life now comes to an end.

I had been planning to wear the same frock for my valedictory as I had for my maiden speech, but alas, it seems to have shrunk rather a lot, unlike its owner, who should have done a lot less Bellamy’s and Copperfields and a lot more nil by mouth and exercised steps. But I have gained so much more than just a couple of kilograms here, in my time in Parliament. Having been in the media, examining politics closely for 30-odd years before stepping up to be an MP, I was well aware of how rare it is for members to be able to choose their time of leaving, as I am doing after six years in Government, three as a backbencher and three as a Minister inside Cabinet, and now a final term in Opposition.

I’ve been here through good times and through tragedies, the earthquakes, global financial crisis, mosque shootings, and now the COVID challenge. At its best, I think this Parliament delivered in a way that our team of five million New Zealanders can be very proud of. But at its worst, being in Parliament can be frustrating, dehumanising, and brutal. As we’ve all been reminded recently, the pressures that come with the privilege of being in the service of the public can take a heavy toll on MPs and on their families. Please don’t be too quick to judge. It’s a tough life in here, tougher than you might think from the outside, and I think that the long hours and the unrelenting 24/7 scrutiny adds up to the sort of life that doesn’t suit everyone.

In this place, you do need a loyal subtribe of your own where you can take shelter from the storms. An essential part of my survival strategy has been the weekly get-together with my class of 2011 intake year group. Thank you all for those hundreds of Wednesday nights in trusted company, trying to make some sense of it all. It’s still work in progress, of course. I value the honesty and the camaraderie, if not always the food—Goldie’s coleslaw, toasted sandwiches; they are not height of the cuisine that I’ve been used to, but good on your Goldie. That’s how he keeps so thin, I suppose.

Look, I’m not what you might call a career politician, like the predecessor, perhaps, who spoke before me. I didn’t sign on for a 30-year lag with a gold watch at the end, although I am looking forward to getting my souvenir traditional farewell silver tray soon. I have unbridled admiration for those stayers with stamina—my old friend and father of the House with the big brain and the big heart, Dr Nick Smith; our ever ebullient and fast on his feet deputy leader, the nimble Gerry Brownlee—both are National’s lifers, and we need their parliamentary debating skills, their institutional knowledge, as well as their strong sense of fairness in this House.

For my part I was raised to be a participant, and not so much an observer or a bystander. I was expected to contribute to the community and to try to help those less fortunate. I didn’t joined the armed forces as my grandfather and father had done in the two world wars. Instead, my contribution to serving my country when the time was right for me was to stand for public office. The notion of service might be seen by some as rather quaint and old-fashioned, but to me it has meant trying to be a voice for the vulnerable, for the people who don’t have a voice in this House. I’ve wanted to speak up for our seniors suffering silently with elder abuse, and to strongly advocate as well for the survival of the critically endangered plants and birds that partly define who we are as New Zealanders.

I acknowledge John Key. Thank you, sir, for believing in me and backing me from the start, and for the trifecta of portfolios you gave me for my birthday in 2014. It was the best present ever—or, so far, anyway. The commemorations of World War II coincided with my time as the Minister for Arts, Culture, and Heritage. I was privileged to represent my country on many formal occasions, perhaps most memorably, at the Western Front battlefields. It was a moving experience reading the Ode of Remembrance at the Menin Gate in Belgium, where almost every night since 1929, they have sounded the bugle for The Last Post and recited the ode to express their gratitude and to remember the sacrifices of the fallen, including some 12,500 New Zealand soldiers buried there.

I will never forget the sadness, standing in the windswept, empty carpark of a Belgian cheese factory in September 2015. There was no marker, nor memorial, to show the significance of that place, which was the battle site of New Zealand’s worst ever day of military loss. One year later, I was able to return to Passchendaele and unveil the first of many Ngā Tapuwae plinths, as part of our footsteps in the Anzac Trails, which tell the stories of our courageous soldiers of the Great War. It was also a proud moment for me as the MP for North Shore to dig in the first plant in New Zealand’s memorial garden at Passchendaele, part of a project that had been driven by a determined group of my fellow Devonport RSA members, Chris Mullane and Mike Pritchard amongst them. It was a bronze flax, just in case you were wondering.

With my lifelong interest in plants and nature, a highlight of my political life was as the Minister of Conservation responsible for Predator Free 2050. We launched it four years ago this week, and at the heart of National’s bold vision to save our precious vulnerable national species, to achieve that goal, we can and must eradicate the unwanted eco-invaders—the rats, the stoats, and the possums who don’t belong here and are eating our songbirds and our taonga plant species to the brink of extinction.

Sir Paul Callaghan said getting rid of the pests was essential, but it would be our Apollo moon shot, and he was right. The late Sir Rob Fenwick, who I first met on a television garden show 30 years ago, and who had a profound influence on my thinking, was a visionary who made an enormous contribution and helped convert our distant moon shot prospect into something down to earth and well within reach. We are, of course, only the custodians of this land. We are the kaitiaki, the guardians, of our grandchildren’s natural heritage. We owe it to them to do better and to try harder to save our kiwis and our other endangered native species. I encourage people to put aside their prejudices about genetic modification and also prejudices about 1080. There is no time to waste.

I’ve enjoyed being part of National’s most effective policy advisory group, the Bluegreens, and at the annual forum earlier this year I was humbled to be given the inaugural Takahe Award for tireless work encouraging all New Zealanders. Thanks to Chris Vern and the Bluegreens for all you have done. I hope that in my time here, I have made a worthwhile contribution to preserving our natural heritage. I acknowledge the Department of Conservation’s (DOC’s) greatest director-general, Lou Sanson. DOC is in his DNA, and he’s been the right man for the times to lead New Zealand’s conservation heroes and warriors.

One of the most sobering realisations as Minister for Seniors for three years was knowing the extent of the abuse and the neglect of our elderly. We would not be the country we are today without their skills and without their hard work and toil and their wisdom. For those people who have come before us, we truly do stand on their shoulders, and yet why is it that 70,000 of them over the age of 65 say they have been the victims of physical, psychological, or financial abuse?

I don’t believe we value our seniors enough and I don’t believe that as a society we are doing enough. We need to do more to keep them safe, and that’s often from their own families.

I know from my own experience with my mother, Agnes, and her 10-year journey with dementia how important it is to put the person at the heart of our policy decisions. It’s a philosophy I’ve tried very hard not to ever lose sight of, as an electorate MP for North Shore as well as a Minister.

My concern for the vulnerable and the elderly is at the heart of my opposition to a proposed law change to allow euthanasia and assisted suicide. For more than 20 years since the death of my father, I have been involved with end of life care as patron of Mary Potter Hospice and, later, of Hospice New Zealand. I chaired 28 days of public hearings into the euthanasia bill, and I’ve heard and I understand that people want more and different choices at the end of their lives and to have their suffering eased.

New Zealand has simply not done well enough in the care for the dying, and we must do better, which is why I have put together, with the palliative care community, a member’s bill to guarantee and enshrine New Zealanders’ access to world-class palliative care wherever and whenever they need it. The member’s bill is now in the ballot in the name of my friend and colleague Simon O’Connor.

Properly funded end of life care is what needs to happen before, in my opinion, we push the nuclear button on the option of euthanasia. I acknowledge Sir Bill English. Along with Lady Mary English and Professors Sinead Donnelly and Rod McLeod, it’s been a great privilege to work with you over a long number of years in our opposition to euthanasia, and I know that we all hope the public will vote against that referendum on assisted suicide at the upcoming election.

In the 10 years I have been in politics, my son, Joe, has grown from beginning in college to being a university graduate, and as I said in my maiden speech and reaffirm here tonight, Joe has taught me more about myself and about life than anyone else in the world ever has. I thank him for being him, and how proud I am of the fine young man he has become. I know his father, Paddy—alongside him, here in the gallery tonight—shares that same pride in our son.

Your life is not your own when you’re an MP, and that’s as it should be for a role as important as this one. But I’ve missed, now, enough family events and milestones, and the time is right for me to get together and get stuck into the bucket list with my best friend and my husband, Grant. We first met doing Outward Bound, and I knew then that he was the man I could go into the jungle with—I could trust him implicitly. We’ve certainly been in the parliamentary jungle together for the best part of 10 years, and he has never once failed nor faltered. He has always had enormous faith in me, and for that I am hugely grateful. In politics, as in life, I am excited about the prospect of walking alongside him in this next chapter of our lives together.

My time in this place has been short, and yet sometimes it seems an eternity. You don’t get everything right every time and you can’t always get everything that you hope for and dream and strive for, but I know that I have worked and fought hard, tried my best, and not given up on the issues that are important to me. Whether I have succeeded or not is up to others to decide.

I have no regrets. I’ve done my dash, and I’m leaving Parliament with my integrity intact and in the certain knowledge that being the National Party’s MP for North Shore has been a rare privilege and a lifetime’s highlight. I thank you. Fare thee well. Haere rā.

For the sake of the children

July 21, 2020

Lindsay Mitchell points out two contrasting approaches to welfare:

Perhaps the single-most underrated and under-reported issue in New Zealand is the practice of adding children to existing benefits. Oodles is spoken and written about child poverty, particularly by the Prime Minister who appointed herself Minister of Child Poverty Reduction in 2017. But the fact that 6,000 children are added to an existing benefit and a further 3-4,000 are reliant on welfare by their first birthday never rates a mention. The numbers have varied only slightly over the past 30 years and persist at very high levels. One in ten babies goes home from hospital to a benefit- dependent family.

Most of those one in ten babies will be behind most babies who go home to a family where at least one adult is in work from the start.

The links between welfare dependence from birth and poor, if not disastrous outcomes, have now been well-explored by institutions like AUT and Treasury. The latter identified 4 indicators:

1)    a finding of abuse or neglect;
2)    spending most of their lifetime supported by benefits;
3)    having a parent who’d received a community or custodial sentence; and
4)    a mother with no formal qualifications. . . 

The outcomes for those children are much poorer than for children in families not dependent on benefits.

They are more likely to have contact with Youth Justice services, leave school without qualifications, follow their parents onto a benefit, and be jailed. They are also more likely to be Maori.

Is it kind to perpetuate this intergenerational failure?

Is it kind to contribute to these bad outcomes?

Is it kind to foster the causes rather than address them?

Act doesn’t think so.

 They point out that it isn’t acceptable for these families to keep having children when other families wait and sacrifice, and sometimes never have their own or additional children. More to the point, it is entirely unacceptable for children to be carelessly thrown into environments that harm them and rob them of their potential.

ACT’s policy says that if someone already on a benefit adds another child their benefit income will thereafter be managed. Rent and utilities will be paid direct, with the large part of the remainder of their benefit loaded onto an electronic card to be used in specified retail outlets. Work and Income already has the technology to do this. They operate income management for Youth and Young Parent beneficiaries in this fashion.

Under this regime children should be guaranteed a secure roof over their heads instead of the insecure transience resulting from unpaid rents, evictions and homelessness. Their schooling would be less interrupted with increased geographical stability. They should have adequate food in their tummies in and out of term time (not assured under school lunch programmes).  Their  mother may be encouraged to take advantage of the fully- subsidised, highly effective,  long-acting contraceptives now available, ameliorating the overcrowding which is a significant factor in New Zealand’s horribly high rate of rheumatic fever. Perhaps most importantly their parent(s) will actually decide working is a better option if they want agency over their income. There is a risk caregivers will try to supplement their incomes in other undesirable, illegal  ways but no policy is risk free, and this almost certainly already happens to some degree.

Increasingly throwing money at dysfunctional families provides no assurance parents will suddenly become better budgeters, or not simply spend more on harmful behaviours. Gambling and substance abuse don’t just hurt the parent. They hurt the child directly (damage in the womb, physical abuse or neglect under the influence) not to mention indirectly through parental role-modelling that normalizes bad behaviours, especially violence, to their children.

The last National government took an actuarial approach to benefit dependence, worked out the long term cost and began putting more money into preventing benefit dependency. It was working but the current government has undone that good work.

There is a need for a welfare safety net and with the Covid-19 induced recession numbers needing benefits are already increasing but welfare should not be a life sentence.

There are sound financial and social benefits to stopping people going on benefits and getting those on benefits off them as soon as possible.

The current government’s approach could be seen as being kind. It stopped sanctions against people who could work but don’t and women who don’t name the fathers of their babies.

That isn’t kind to the adults and it’s even worse for the children.

The two approaches to child benefit dependence are a world apart. One continues the ‘freedom’ of the adult to use taxpayer’s money as they wish; the other prioritizes the best interests of the child -their right to security, stability and safety – or, as ACT puts it, what the taxpayer thinks they are paying for.

The country cannot go on merely paying lip-service to the idea of ‘breaking the cycle’. Now is not the time for more of the same. More than ever New Zealand cannot afford the social cost and lost potential that occurs monotonously in an easily identifiable portion of every generation.

The choice at the election is stark – a vote for any of the parties currently in government that are perpetuating the cycle of benefit dependency and the poor financial and social outcomes that result  or a vote for a National-Act government that will address the causes and break the cycle.

The truly kind way is to vote for change for the sake of the children.

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