Better public services

February 20, 2015

One of National’s goals in government has been to deliver better public services. It set firm targets and it’s making good progress towards achieving them, but it’s not resting on its laurels:

The Government has set itself ambitious new targets including 75,000 fewer New Zealanders being on benefits by June 2018 as part of its Better Public Services drive, Finance Minister Bill English and State Services Minister Paula Bennett say.

The ministers today released the latest results from the Better Public Services programme showing almost 5000 people (-6.6 per cent) came off long-term Jobseeker Support benefit in 2014, the number of children who experienced substantiated physical abuse decreased by almost 200 (-5.6 per cent) over the 12 months to September 2014, infant immunisations are at an all-time high and crime numbers continue to fall. 

“The latest results show that the programme, which measures progress in 10 areas chosen in 2012 to focus on improving the lives of people who most need the Government’s help, is working,” Mr English says.

“All the areas are making progress including improvements in the immunisation rate, a reduction in the incidence of rheumatic fever and we expect that results for NCEA Level 2 will show progress towards the 85 per cent achievement target.

“However, in some of our target areas it is not yet clear whether the positive trends are sustainable.  The challenge now is to find ways to influence those who are harder to reach and who may be in circumstances that make it more difficult for them to respond. This will require a broad search both inside and outside the public service for better solutions, more innovative ideas and   intensification of activity to keep making progress. We will track results and spend our social investment funds where they make the most difference.”

Mrs Bennett said ministers were today announcing they were extending the Better Public Services  welfare targets and, as signalled earlier,  also challenging themselves and the public service to do even better at reducing crime, and improving the workforce skills of young adults.

Mrs Bennett said the new targets are:

Result 1 –  A 25 per cent reduction (from 295,000 people as at June 2014 to 220,000 as at June 2018) in the total number of people receiving main benefits and a $13 billion reduction in the long-term cost of benefit dependence, as measured by an accumulated Actuarial Release, by June 2018.

This replaces the current target of a 30 per cent reduction – 78,000 people to 55,000 people – in the number of working-age recipients of Jobseeker Support who have continually received benefits for more than 12 months.

Result 6 –  60 per cent of 25-34 year olds will have a qualification at Level 4 or above by 2018.

This replaces the current target of 55 per cent of 25-34 year olds holding those qualifications by 2017, which has almost been achieved.

Result 7 – A 20 per cent reduction in total crime by 2018.

This replaces the target of a 15 per cent reduction by 2017, which has already been achieved.

Mrs Bennett said the change to the welfare reduction target recognised that many people who were not on Jobseeker Support also wanted to work and they deserved the same levels of support as jobseekers to do that.

“We know that around 90 per cent of people who went on benefits aged 16 or 17 also lived in benefit-dependent homes as children. This reinforces the urgency and importance of getting people in to work to improve their circumstances, and to help break the cycle of inter-generational welfare dependence.

“We have been making some real progress in this regard and it is good to see from the latest results that people who have been exiting Jobseeker Support have been staying in work for longer.

“There has also been real improvement in helping young people and young sole parents in to work so it makes sense to include them in this expanded new target because they are most at risk of long-term dependence, with a resulting heavy cost to themselves and taxpayers.”

Results on targets set so far are here.
We're already delivering better public services and we've just set ourselves tougher targets so we keep improving.<br /><br /><br />
ntnl.org.nz/1zPgs4q


Key # 1 again

December 11, 2014

TV3 political editor Patrick Gower has named Prime Minister John Key as politician of the year.

Trans Tasman named him politician of the year last week too.

There could simply be no other. John Key was out on his own this year for one simple reason – he won.

Yes, the Prime Minister’s performance ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous.

In fact, Key went from the crème-de-la-crème to the crème-de-la-crap at times.

But Key won. He got National across the line. It was an incredible victory. It defied the political gravity of a third-term and was against the odds of the campaign. . .

I am not sure that anyone except political tragics were particularly interested in the campaign.

To get that was far from easy for Key. The Dirty Politics scandal could have destroyed other campaigns and finished off other leaders.

The election campaign was weird. It was dark too. And it was incredibly brutal for all those involved.

There is no doubt that Dirty Politics knocked Key over at first – National lost control of its campaign.

Yet Key survived. He stood his ground.  In the words of son Max, he “manned up”.

It was like Key absorbed all of the negativity directed at him, and then, like some kind of comic book character, spewed it all out again as some kind of positive force.

There was unpredictability everywhere: Whaledump, Rawshark, Winston, Colin, rappers, hacker(s), Dotcom, Eminem, Cortex and don’t forget Speargun.

National and Key’s defence was simple – they had a plan, and they stuck to it.

“The plan” is a grinding, relentless strategy based on simple messaging and a self-belief that the Key juggernaut can eventually ride out almost anything.

It has been proven time and time again, and this time was proven on the biggest stage (an entire election campaign) facing the greatest degree of difficulty (an entire book of scandal).

Helped in no small part by a dismal and divided opposition which wasn’t looking like a government in waiting.

Key’s politics this year was a potent combination of on the “macro” level, stubbornly sticking to strategy, and on the “micro” level, being what’s called a “clutch hitter” or “big game player” who rises to the occasion.

Key made big moves at a strategic level and stuck to them, and he made big calls in day-to-politics that worked for him too.

On the macro level, one part of the plan that worked well this year was Key’s semi-upfront declaration of his potential coalition partners at the start of the year.

Looking back, it really was a masterstroke – it gave voters a clear picture of how a National Government would work.

Key also gave himself the space with the decision about giving Colin Craig a electorate seat deal and even more space when it came to working with Winston Peters.

In the end, he ruled out a seat deal for Craig because he looked too crazy and wanted him at arms-length. It was a big call but a good call – imagine if Key had been apologising for Craig on the campaign trail as well as dealing with Dirty Politics.

With Winston, Key kept him at arms’ length. But by not ruling Peters out, he always kept himself in the game, it always looked like National could form a Government no matter how bad the polls got.

The PM had the courage and sense to let voters know what they would and would not get with a National-led government.

That provided another stark contrast with then-Labour leader David Cunliffe who stupidly copied Winston Peters’ line that he’d let the voters choose without giving them all the information they’d need to choose wisely.

Key’s and National’s strategy included a bedrock of policies tailored for the centre voter, and conservative political management. They then turbo-charged this with an overload of “Brand Key” marketing.

Key used these to keep his vice-like grip on the centre-ground, and if he has that – National wins. . .

But there was nothing certain about that win.

Steven Joyce’s recent admission that National was polling at 44 percent in the final week and might have needed Winston to govern shows just how different it could have been. . .

Gower’s other awards:

Runner-up politician of the year: Andrew Little.

Back-bencher Kelvin Davis.

Runner-up political non-politician: Kim Dotcom, Whale Oil and Nicky Hager.

Radio Live’s Duncan Garner lists the year’s political winners and losers:

1. JOHN KEY

For all the obvious reasons. He is still the PM and he is still widely popular according to the polls. He had the kitchen sink thrown at him and he almost won the election outright. He’ll have to watch it doesn’t go to his head.

2. ANDREW LITTLE

Couldn’t win a fight in a kindergarten but ends the year on top. His caucus didn’t want him, his party didn’t want him, his electorate didn’t want him. Yet he ends the year looking strong and competent as Labour’s new leader.

3. KELVIN DAVIS

He beat Hone Harawira and therefore beat Kim Dotcom – do I have to say anymore?

4. SUE BRADFORD

She knew Dotcom and Harawira were in an unholy alliance and she put her principles before it all. She called it right – she has values and principles that are beyond reproach whether you agree with her politics or not.

5. CAM SLATER – WHALEOIL.

Yes he’s a dirt-bag, muck-raking, scum-bag attack blogger, but he likes it that way. He doesn’t play by any rule book yet he’s been judged a journalist by the courts. Despite having his dirty laundry aired for the world to see he remains talked about, his blog gets more hits than ever, he breaks stories and the PM returns his texts. Oh and he wins mainstream media awards.

(Close mention: Paula Bennett, now talked about as the next National Party Leader)

His losers are:

1. KIM DOTCOM

Threw millions at trying to rig an election, but the public weren’t fooled. He’s now fighting to stay out of jail. Rest my case.

2. HONE HARAWIRA

He picked the wrong rich friends. Should have stayed poor. At least he’d still be in Parliament. Woeful judgement.

3. LAILA HARRE

See above.

4. JUDITH COLLINS

Was on track to be the next National Party Leader – now she’s struggling to be heard from the backbenchers. Huge fall from grace. Career in tatters.

5. DAVID CUNLIFFE

Came across as a fake and then apologised for being a man. Do we have to say anything more? Awful defeat.

(Close mention: Grant Robertson, rejected twice as Labour’s future leader. That will hurt and in politics if winning if everything, Robertson has twice failed. Ouch. Still, he has huge chance to recover well.)

 

 


Number matters not owner

November 3, 2014

The opposition and the other usual suspects are exercised by the government’s plan to sell some state houses and labelling it an asset sale. But Prime Minister John Key said:

“If at the end of the day, Housing NZ sells a few state houses, well, actually, that’s happened for a long period of time. We often trade our stock.

“So if we sell some individual state houses, it’s not an asset sale. If we sold Housing New Zealand or part of it, it would be, and we have absolutely no plans to sell.”

This is like Landcorp selling some of its farms.

I’d be happy if the SOE sold more, but selling farms isn’t the same as selling the company, just as selling some houses isn’t the same as selling the entity that owns them.

Mr Key said the Government was undertaking a massive redevelopment of state housing stock because many houses were in the wrong place or unsuitable for housing needs.

If the houses are in the wrong place, in poor condition, have too many or two few rooms or are otherwise not fit for purpose it is sensible to sell them.

The issue shouldn’t be who owns which houses but what’s the best way to ensure people who need a house can get it and the government is planning to increase the supply by building more state houses and also making it easier for other providers of social housing to build.

The number of houses available matters far more than who owns them.

 

 

 


Rules reduction task force launched

October 21, 2014

Local Government Minister Paula Bennett has launched the Rules Reduction initiative, opening the way for people to submit examples of property regulations and local rules that don’t make sense.

“People can now head to http://www.govt.nz/rulesreduction, to start telling us what bugs them when it comes to loopy rules and regulations,” says Mrs Bennett.

“I’m also pleased to announce the Rules Reduction Taskforce will be jointly chaired by Jacqui Dean MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary for Local Government, and Michael Barnett ONZM, Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce.

“Both Jacqui and Michael bring with them a strong understanding of the local government and business sectors and will be well placed to guide the Taskforce in its work to cut red tape.

The remaining members of the Taskforce will be appointed within the next month, and will include central and local government experts, and specialists from the building and trades sector, with further announcements to come on the timeline for the Taskforce’s work.

“I’m asking property owners, builders, tradespeople and businesses who have experienced the issues caused by irrelevant or unnecessary regulations, to help draw these to our attention,” says Mrs Bennett.

The information gathered will inform the Taskforce, which will consider submissions and ultimately recommend any necessary changes.

“Central and local government need regulations which are effective, and help get the job done – not get in the way. Regulations that frustrate property owners and business people also suck up councils’ precious resources in administration time and effort.”

“We need to hear from New Zealanders about examples that have got in the way of their building, renovation, landscaping, and home improvement plans, so that we can cut the red tape where it needs to be cut, to help them get on with the job.”

The submission form can be filled out online at http://www.govt.nz/rulesreduction

Facebook (facebook.com/cutredtapenz) and Twitter (twitter.com/CutRedTapeNZ) will be used to spread the word and encourage submissions via the online form to the Taskforce.

When we were altering our home last year, our builder told us he reckoned legislation, most of which was unnecessary had added about $20,000 to the cost of a new home.

Some rules are necessary for safety’s sake and to protect people from shoddy standards.

But this task force should have no shortage of rules which at least need to be simplified and probably could be done away with altogether.

And building won’t be the only area where fewer rules could reduce costs without causing any harm.


New Cabinet announced

October 6, 2014

Prime Minister John Key has announced the Cabinet for his third term:


“There is a lot of work ahead to continue implementing our plans to build a stronger economy, reduce debt and create more jobs,” Mr Key says.

“The new Ministry builds on the experience of the past two terms in office, and combines experience with some fresh talent.

“A number of Ministers have had significant portfolio changes, reflecting the need to give Ministers new challenges as well as providing a fresh set of eyes in some portfolio areas.”

Mr Key says a number of Ministers have been promoted either to the front bench, or further up the front bench, to reflect their strong performance in recent years and their promise for the future.

“Paula Bennett has been promoted to number five in the rankings, and picks up State Services, Social Housing and Associate Finance in addition to retaining her Local Government portfolio.

“Dr Jonathan Coleman becomes Minister of Health, and also picks up the Sport and Recreation portfolio, which will link nicely together.

“Amy Adams and Simon Bridges are promoted to the front bench, both with significant new responsibilities. Ms Adams becomes Justice Minister and Mr Bridges Transport Minister.

“Christopher Finlayson remains Treaty Negotiations Minister and Attorney-General, while picking up significant new responsibilities in the intelligence area. He becomes Minister in Charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service and Minister Responsible for the GCSB, working closely with me in my new role as Minister for National Security and Intelligence.

“In this role I will continue to be responsible for leading the national security system, including policy settings and the legislative framework. Mr Finlayson will operate within the framework I set and exercise ministerial oversight of the NZSIS and GCSB, including approval of warrants.

“Officials have examined models used overseas and what we are adopting is very similar to what is seen with our closest partners.

“Housing continues to be a key area of focus for the Government, and a Ministerial team of Bill English, Paula Bennett and Nick Smith has been assembled to lead that work. Mr English will have direct responsibility for Housing New Zealand; Ms Bennett will focus on social housing, while Dr Smith will work on housing affordability and construction issues. The Social Housing portfolio will have responsibility for the government’s social housing functions, and for its relationship with the social housing sector.

Other changes include:

Gerry Brownlee becomes Minister of Defence, while retaining the role of Leader of the House and his Canterbury Earthquake Recovery and EQC portfolios.

Anne Tolley becomes Minister for Social Development.

Dr Nick Smith becomes Minister for the Environment.

Nikki Kaye becomes Minister for ACC.

Michael Woodhouse becomes Minister of Police. He also becomes Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety – a new portfolio title to reflect the modern focus of what had previously been the Labour portfolio.

Jo Goodhew becomes Minister for Food Safety.

Mr Key says, in announcing his new line up, three new Ministers will be appointed. Maggie Barry is to go straight into Cabinet as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Minister of Conservation and Minister for Senior Citizens. Louise Upston and Paul Goldsmith will be Ministers outside Cabinet holding a variety of portfolios.

“Two ministers previously outside Cabinet have been promoted to Cabinet. Todd McClay will be Minister of Revenue and Minister for State Owned Enterprises, while Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga will be Minister of Corrections, Minister for Ethnic Communities and Minister for Pacific Peoples.

“Craig Foss remains a Minister, but will now serve outside Cabinet as Minister for Small Business, Minister of Statistics and Minister of Veteran’s Affairs.

“Chester Borrows will not be appointed to the new Ministry. He will, however, be National’s nominee for Deputy Speaker, and I want to thank Chester for his service as a Minister,” Mr Key says.

A number of Ministers continue largely in their current portfolio responsibilities. These include Steven Joyce in Economic Development, Hekia Parata in Education, Murray McCully in Foreign Affairs, Nathan Guy in Primary Industries, Tim Groser in Trade and Climate Change, and Nicky Wagner in Customs.

“The support party Ministerial and Under Secretary roles have already been announced, but I want to acknowledge again their contribution to the formation of a strong, stable National-led Government.”

Mr Key says the National Caucus will meet tomorrow (Tuesday 7 October) to elect its three whips for the coming parliamentary term.

The new Ministry will be sworn in at Government House in Wellington at 11am on Wednesday morning.

The list of names, positions and rankings is here.

 


Nats aim for 25% reduction in beneficiaries

September 18, 2014

A re-elected National Government will reduce the number of people on welfare by 25 per cent, with a series of new initiatives to support beneficiaries into work.

“We’re making a difference with stronger expectations and greater support. The plan we’ve set out today allows us to take the next steps to get more New Zealanders off welfare and into work,” says National Party Social Development spokesperson Paula Bennett.

“National is focused on building a stronger economy and creating opportunities for more jobs and higher wages. Jobseekers are in the best position in years to take advantage of New Zealand’s economic growth. We’ll be supporting them with our investment approach and targeting more resources earlier to those who need the most help.

“We will reduce the total number of people receiving a benefit by 75,000 by 2017, including reducing the total number of young people aged between 16 and 24 on benefit by 40 per cent, or around 21,000 people.

“Our aim is to bring benefit numbers down from 295,000 to 220,000 people over the next three years.

“These are ambitious targets, but they are realistic and achievable. Since December 2010, nearly 60,000 people have come off welfare, and over the past two years 30,000 children have gone from living in a benefit-dependent home to a working one.”

Our plan includes:

Offering incentive payments for beneficiaries who stay in work for a set period of time.

Offering more childcare support by expanding our Flexible Childcare pilot.

Making first-time Work and Income assessments more comprehensive so people are directed to the right sort of support from the very start. 

“Our target of a 40 per cent reduction of young people on benefit is a bold one, but 53,000 young people aged between 16 and 24 on welfare is too many for a country with prospects like ours,” says Mrs Bennett.

“We have already announced the expansion of our Youth Service to all teen parents and many 18 and 19 years olds. We’re going to put a similar focus on young people aged between 20 and 24 with a series of new measures, so they get the same level of attention as younger beneficiaries.”  

New initiatives for young people include:

Exploring a trial where iwi administer welfare payments to young people, similar to the Youth Service.

Helping young people get driver’s licences.

Expanding the successful $3k to Christchurch scheme to other regions needing energetic and motivated workers.

Investigating a regional Work Skills scheme to get young people on benefit working in the community.

“We’ve already seen welfare numbers dropping by the thousands, and it’s important to keep our foot on the pedal,” says Mrs Bennett.

“We have a comprehensive and ambitious plan for New Zealanders on welfare who, with the right support from a re-elected National Government, can get into meaningful work that helps them and their families get ahead,” she says.

 The welfare policy is here.

One of the stark differences between National and the parties on the left is the determination to help those who can work to do so.

The facts are irrefutable – getting people from welfare to work is the best way out of poverty.

Reducing welfare dependency pays both social and economic dividends for the people involved and the country.

 


Two killed at WINZ office

September 1, 2014

Two people are dead and another seriously injured after being shot in the Ashburton WINZ office:

 

. . . A balaclava-clad man carrying a sawn-off shotgun entered the Work and Income office on the corner of Cass and Moore streets and fired several shots before fleeing on a bike.

The gunman was last seen heading towards the Ashburton river. Shots have reportedly been heard since coming from the river. 

A source told Fairfax Media that one person was shot dead on site and another died at Ashburton Hospital.

Police confirmed that two people had been killed and the third person was in hospital. . . .

This is firstly a tragedy for those who died, their family friends and workmates.

It is also a shock for the community and other public servants:

Ashburton District Mayor Angus McKay said he felt “weak at the knees” when he heard about the shooting at the town’s Work and Income office.

“Ashburton is not this kind of town,” he said.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett called it “an extreme situation and tragedy”, adding that all resources were going into looking after WINZ staff.

She was travelling down to the town this afternoon.

Public Service Association (PSA) said the shooting was a tragedy and nobody should go to work in fear that they might not return home. 

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff said “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy,”

“We don’t know what the cause is, but we will be supporting our members from Ashburton Work and Income at this terrible time. . . .

This has already been used for political point scoring on Twitter.

It shouldn’t be.

No political views justify killing innocent people at work.

It’s a tragedy.


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