Why’s Racing Bill on fast track?

June 5, 2019

Transparency International NZ asks why the Racing Reform Bill is on the fast track:

TINZ has learned that the Racing Reform Bill is on a fast track for approval by July 31, 2019 including an extremely short 5 day submission window. Submissions are due on June 4, 2019, the day this article is being published.

We are concerned that the overall timetable for the passage of this legislation is inconsistent with the Government’s Open Government Partnership commitments and in its general practice of Parliamentary processes.

The Bill’s Explanatory Note and background information, claim that urgency is necessary to initiate the recovery process for the racing industry and to address the racing industry’s immediate need for supplementary revenue to ensure it is financially sustainable into the future.

Despite this assessment, TINZ’s view is that there is a reasonable public expectation of full and thorough opportunities for public involvement in matters of public debate such as gambling. Gambling is internationally recognised as a corruption and transparency risk, with the New Zealand Racing Board’s 2017/18 annual report identifying $288 million revenue being raised through racing.

We also note the advice of the Treasury that “it is difficult to assess whether the proposals will revitalise the industry, and identifying significant fiscal implications…”

TINZ has made a submission requesting the Select Committee to extend the date set for public consultation, in the interests of transparency and public trust.

The Bill will:

  • provide a legislative mandate for the New Zealand Racing Board (NZRB) to be reconstituted as a body corporate named the Racing Industry Transition Agency (RITA)
  • provide a basis for collecting revenue from offshore betting operators that provide betting services to persons residing in New Zealand
  • provide safeguards relating to offshore charges
  • require the Minister to publish a statement explaining why the Minister considers the rates of the charges to be fair and reasonable and also the purposes for which any money collected from the charges may be applied
  • progressively reduce, and then repeal, the totalisator duty currently paid by the NZRB to the Crown under the Gaming Duties Act 1971
  • remove the distribution formula set out in section 16 of the Racing Act 2003, allowing the application and distribution of racing funds to be determined by regulations
  • remove the formula for calculating minimum payments to New Zealand national sporting organisations and create powers to set the formula in regulations
  • permit the relevant body to offer betting products on sports not represented by a qualifying domestic national sporting organisation, provided an agreement was in place with Sport New Zealand.

TINZ isn’t the only organisation with concerns over the fast tracking:

The Salvation Army is extremely disappointed that the Government is prioritising profit and propping up New Zealand’s racing industry over people and problem gambling harm.

In urgency, the Government is passing the Racing Reform Bill. To The Salvation Army’s surprise, the Government has only given the public 3 working days (after a public holiday) to make submissions to this Bill.

“Where is good democracy and giving people and communities a fair go, so they can share their views about this Bill? This is an unfair process, especially as we believe the effects of destructive gambling harm have not been adequately assessed in this Bill’s process” says Lt. Col. Lynette Hutson from The Salvation Army Addictions Services.

“Our staff have had to work over the long weekend to prepare this submission. Profit should not supersede good democratic processes and truly understanding the effects of gambling harm.”

In summary, The Salvation Army wants to highlight:

The unfair timeframe for written and oral submissions to this Bill (3 working days);
The Government’s own Standing Orders state the ‘normal’ period for submissions is a minimum of 6 weeks for submissions;
The Department of Internal Affairs states that the tight timeframe has meant drawbacks in the analysis, particularly regarding the costs and financial implications of the Bill, and that the specific package of reforms proposed in this Bill has not been directly consulted on. 

Racing has several major problems and action is needed to address them.

But that doesn’t justify fast track legislation with just a five day window to make submissions that closed yesterday, the day after a long weekend, especially when Treasury raises questions about whether the proposed changes will revitalise the industry.

 


Rural round-up

December 20, 2018

Arable farming the silent partner to sheep ,beef and dairy – Pat Deavoll:

There is an art and a fair bit of luck to growing arable crops. The water levels, the soils, the temperatures must be optimum. It must rain at the right time, the sun must shine at the right time.

“Then it’s, do I irrigate harder or hold back? Is the crop bulky enough? Will the bees pollinate?” South Canterbury farmer Guy Wigley says of the ordeal of closing in on harvest time.

“There was a harvest of several years ago when five inches of rain (127mm) and then a further three inches of rain decimated my barley crop.” . . 

50,000 cows culledin M bovis eradication bid:

More than 50,000 cows have been culled and 50,000 more may go as New Zealand attempts to become the first country to eradicate the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis.

Faced with a growing number of suspected cases at farms across the country, Kiwi lawmakers this year made a call to attempt what no other country before had managed – a costly, part-government-funded mass eradication.

The condition has serious animal welfare implications – including causing abortions and pneumonia – but poses no risk to humans or to food or milk safety. . .

Timely survey on working conditions in horticultural industry –  Anusha Bradley:

Several hundred people have been surveyed just as slavery charges were being laid against Hastings orchard worker. 

An insight into how big a problem modern-day slavery might be among horticultural workers in Hawke’s Bay could be known by the end of the week.

Workers from five of the region’s biggest growers have just been independently surveyed in a pilot study asking them about their working conditions. . .

PGG Wrightson’s seeds business to make a 1H loss after Uruguay woes – Jenny Ruth:

(BusinessDesk) – PGG Wrightson says its seeds business will make a loss after tax in the six months ended December and that it has had to bail out its joint venture partner in Uruguay.

Wrightson also says its rural services operations have been “trading solidly, although slightly behind last year” due to a later start to spring sales and a delayed recovery following recent heavy rain across much of New Zealand. . . 

Latest study confirms an animal-free food system is not holistically sustainable – Sara Place:

Let’s be clear, a healthy and sustainable food system depends on having both plants and animals. Researchers at USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and Virginia Tech just published a study in the Proceedings of National Academies of Sciences confirming this socially debated fact. The study examined what our world would look like without animal agriculture in the U.S. The bottom line? We’d reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. by 2.6 percent, and 0.36 percent globally[1] — but we’d also upset our balanced food ecosystem and lack essential dietary nutrients to feed all Americans. . . 

Hortinvest launches extensive Lindis River cherry project:

New Zealand horticultural investment company, Hortinvest Limited has released a $15.5 million cherry orchard project at Central Otago to savvy investors seeking a slice of the premium cherry pie.

The 80-hectare Lindis River project near Cromwell is double that of Hortinvest’s first cherry orchard and significantly bigger than most currently planted in the region. It is projected to send between 18-20 tonnes per hectare to market in the lucrative cherry season when it reaches full mature production by 2025/2026. . .

Relief for drought affected farmers – Andrew Miller:

Drought-affected families are receiving a welcome and much-needed financial lift on the eve of Christmas.

The Salvation Army, St Vincent de Paul Society and Rotary Australia World Community Service are providing financial support from the Federal Government’s $30 million Drought Community Support Initiative to people across parts of drought-hit Australia. . .


Sallies do tough love

December 23, 2014

The headline suggests a sob story: Kids to go without Christmas, mum says:

An Invercargill couple say their six young kids will go without on Christmas day and it’s the Salvation Army’s fault.

However, the Salvation Army says the parents are to blame for their family’s predicament because they have relied on handouts rather than trying to help themselves.

Shelly Edwards and Leo Hewett said their six children aged 3-10 will get no presents and have a diet of chicken and bread on Christmas day because the Salvation Army failed to help them in their time of need.

“How can we tell the kids there’s nothing for Christmas?” Shelly asked from their south Invercargill state house yesterday.

Shelly said she was on the invalid’s benefit and received a working for families benefit, while her partner was unemployed and seeking employment at the meatworks. Their weekly income was $631 but just $15 was left over after paying for their rent, bills, food and petrol.

Struggling to afford a decent Christmas for their kids, they thought it was sorted when the Nga Kete trust referred them to the Salvation Army scheme called adopt-a-family, which sees businesses and individuals sponsor struggling families during Christmas by providing them with a hamper filled with food and treats.

The family had been on the same scheme last year and received presents for their children, a supermarket voucher and a food hamper, they said.

However, when Shelly failed to turn up to a budget advice meeting early this month she was told she had been taken off the adopt-a-family scheme this year, she said.

She said she did not go to the meeting because she had no petrol money for their vehicle and it would have been difficult to take her six kids, one of whom is disabled, on public transport to the meeting. . .

Some people don’t have family, friends or neighbours to turn to for child minding, but surely there was an alternative to simply failing to turn up.

Salvation Army spokeswoman Brenda King said the family had never been put on the adopt-a-family scheme this year, effectively because they had failed to help themselves.

Shelly had been using the services of the Salvation Army for about two years and when she received more than three food parcels in one year she was referred to a budget advice centre to receive financial planning assistance, King said.

However, Shelly had not engaged with the budget advisory service so was not put on the adopt-a-family scheme, King said.

The Salvation Army’s aim was for its clients to get to the point where they could look after themselves and be self sufficient.

“If we keep handing out we are enabling them to stay in the situation they are in. We aren’t actually helping them at all in the long run.”

Shelly and her partner had six children and they were responsible for them, King said.

“I have been in touch with her budget advisor and she assures me they do have money. Like everyone Shelly has known Christmas is coming.”

Jubilee Budget Advisory Service manager Sharon Soper confirmed Shelly had been on its books in the past but said she had not called in to see the a budget advisor since July 11 and she had failed to front for a meeting on December 4. . . .

I’m on the side of the Sallies who do a lot of good work with very vulnerable people.

Their time and resources are limited and cannot be wasted on people who won’t take up the help that’s available to help themselves where they can.

Benefits aren’t designed to cover more than the basics, though Kiwiblog calculates they’re getting more than $631 a week:

Incidentally I think their estimate of their income is low. I make it:

  • Invalids Benefit (couple rate) $217.75
  • JobSeeker (couple rate) $174.21
  • Family Tax Credits (for six kids) $414.00

So that is a total of $805.96 a week net, not $631. On top of that it is highly likely they get the accommodation supplement or a statehouse subsidized rent. . .

Should the children suffer because of their parents?

In general no. But this isn’t depriving children of basic needs.

They’re missing out on extras for Christmas in a family where, if what’s reported is accurate, the parents haven’t done everything they can to help themselves.

The Sallies aren’t being heartless, they’re demonstrating tough love.


Breaking debt cycle

August 15, 2014

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has launched a Community Finance pilot scheme  which will give people a safe alternative to loan sharks:

“Community Finance will help people with borrowing for assets they need for employment, education and a better quality of life,” says Mrs Bennett.

“This is another way we are helping families to help themselves become financially independent, by offering sustainable borrowing that avoids spiralling debt.”

“Community Finance is an excellent public-private partnership between the Bank of New Zealand, Good Shepherd New Zealand, The Salvation Army, and the Ministry of Social Development.

“Together, our aim is to help low-income families and individuals build up their asset base and achieve greater financial knowledge and skills.  Too many people on low incomes feel they have no other option but to borrow from unethical lenders who overinflate their prices and charge exorbitant interest.

“The first Community Finance product is StepUP loans for cars and other goods and services, which are now available to people on low incomes in Manukau City and Waitakere.

“The Bank of New Zealand-backed loans offer good discounts from market interest rates.  They are also free of traps such as fees (often hidden in the small print) and savage penalties which other, less ethical, lenders charge.

“The scheme has begun with a one-year pilot in South and West Auckland with the Ministry of Social Development contributing to the running costs of the not-for-profit organisations that provide the backbone and borrower support roles.  No Government capital will be loaned directly to borrowers.

“People can apply for the loans through the two local branches of The Salvation Army and borrowers will be supported over the lifetime of the loans with financial education,” says Mrs Bennett.

Even the best budgeters can be faced with unexpected expenses and the poorer you are the more difficult it is to cope with them.

This makes poor people vulnerable to loan sharks to exploit those least able to cope with the exorbitant interest rates they charge.

StepUP loans and the support that comes with them will help those in most need without saddling them with high interest rates.


Lies, damned lies and . . .

March 22, 2014

I used to chair a trust which supported people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

Most of our funding came through government agencies and it was precarious.

We knew that we were competing with other providers and if we ours wasn’t the best proposal someone else would get the funds.

That happens all the times, and not just with government agencies.

The Problem Gambling Foundation has found that out and isn’t happy about it and has Labour’s support for that:

Labour says funding for the Problem Gambling Foundation has been stopped because the foundation opposed the deal to increase the number of gambling machines at SkyCity Casino.

That doesn’t sound good but the very next paragraph makes it better:

But the Government has confirmed the new holder of the contract to provide health and counselling services for problem gamblers throughout New Zealand is the Salvation Army, which also opposed the SkyCity deal.

That didn’t stop Labour blaming the government:

Labour’s Internal Affairs Spokesman Trevor Mallard said the foundation was being forced to close its doors because it vocally opposed the deal between the Government and SkyCity to increase the number of pokies in the Auckland casino, in return for building a new national convention centre. . .

This would be the same Mallard who was a guest of Sky City at the Rugby World Cup.

That was then, back to now:

Mallard said the foundation was the largest provider of problem-gambling services in Australasia and “it is hard to imagine a more qualified organisation to do this work”.

The funding decision was based on far stronger grounds than Mallard’s imagination.

Health Ministry group manager Rod Bartling said negotiations were still ongoing, but the tender process was fair and independently assessed.

“The ministry can confirm that it has informed the Problem Gambling Foundation that it does not intend to renew its national contract to prevent and reduce gambling harm,” he said.

“The process to re-tender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender process.

“The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members – three internal ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.

“The ministry also asked Pricewaterhouse to independently review the procurement process and this confirmed the ministry’s processes followed accepted good practice.”

Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne was even stronger in refuting the claims  that the PGF lost funding  due to political pressure.

“The Ministry of Health clearly signalled in 2012 that it would go to the market for the provision of gambling harm minimisation services during its public consultation on this issue, and this is the outcome of that process”, says Mr Dunne.

“This review had been on the cards for some years prior to this, as the development of the sector has to a large extent been undertaken in an ad hoc manner, with duplication of services from national providers simply not achieving best value for money that clients of services are entitled to expect.”

The process to retender the contracts for these services was an open contestable tender.   The evaluation panel deciding on the tender comprised six members: three internal Ministry staff and three external evaluators from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.  

“The Ministry of Health has been particularly mindful to keep the process clearly separate from any perception of political interference. This extended to commissioning an independent review by Pricewaterhouse on its proposed decisions and I congratulate them on the rigorous commitment to probity they have shown in following this tender process as it went beyond the requirements of best practice”.

“The outcome is that services are more streamlined and will achieve increased service provision from government funding in the gambling harm minimisation area. The Problem Gambling Foundation will continue to be contracted to provide specialist services, if negotiations with them are successful, says Mr Dunne.

It is proposed that the major national provider will be the Salvation Army’s Oasis service, which already provides gambling harm and other addiction and social services across the country.

“I am aware that the Salvation Army has been critical of the government in certain areas over the years, including the SkyCity convention centre, but I see no reason why this should prevent them from being contracted to provide the excellent services that they do.

“For Labour and the Greens to say that the Problem Gambling Foundation’s funding has been cut because of its opposition to particular government policies is patent nonsense. It was not until that process was completed that I was advised of the outcome.

“Just because they have Problem Gambling in their title, doesn’t mean they become a default provider, and I commend the Ministry for its rigorous process and decision making which will ultimately benefit those New Zealanders who may who experience negative outcomes from their, or others, gambling activities”, says Mr Dunne.

The PGF lost funding because the Salvation Army, which was also critical of the Sky City convention centre, convinced the evaluation panel, backed by an independent review by Pricewaterhouse that it was offering something better.

That still wasn’t good enough for Labour leader who has been active on Twitter:

A picture might paint a thousand words but that doesn’t make them true.

Cunliffe and Mallard aren’t going to let the truth get in the way of their story which gives us lies, damned lies and Labour.


More money not always solution

February 20, 2014

When National won the 2008 election it inherited Labour’s forecast of a decade of deficits.

Careful management has turned that round in spite of the economic and natural disasters with which the government has had to deal.

The careful balance between economic management and provision of services to those in need was explained during question time yesterday:

3. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government balancing its focus on responsibly managing its finances with addressing some of the most challenging social issues facing vulnerable families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has been clear since it became the Government that the 50 percent jump in Government spending in the 5 years to 2008 was unsustainable. In setting a path back to surplus, we rejected the option of aggressively cutting spending. Instead, we took the time to understand the drivers of existing spending and whether the spending was delivering results, and to ensure that results were delivered. At the same time, we put significant resourcing and effort into improving the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders, particularly children. We are not doing that by throwing taxpayers’ money around indiscriminately. We are attempting to resolve the complex and persistent problems that mean some of our children have lives that sap their sense of opportunity.

Shane Ardern: What are some of the social issues the Government is addressing to improve the lives of the most vulnerable New Zealanders?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has set out what it believes those social issues are, but, more than that, it is publishing results in order that the public can hold us and the public service to account for achieving something for the most vulnerable New Zealanders. The Better Public Services targets are particularly challenging because they cover some of New Zealand’s most persistent problems, like long-term welfare dependency, vulnerable children and the amount of violence that they suffer, the need to build skills and employment so these young New Zealanders have real opportunities, and also crime reduction and making our communities safer. Overall, we are making good progress towards meeting these results and further updates will be published tomorrow.

Shane Ardern: What kinds of social issues affecting the most vulnerable New Zealanders did this Government inherit in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There were a number of long-standing social issues making the lives of New Zealanders miserable in 2008. They are set out clearly in the Salvation Army’s state of the nation report of February 2008. It said: “The social outcomes which we as New Zealanders have achieved over the past five years”—that is, under the previous Labour-led Government—“were somewhat mixed and in some areas quite disappointing.” The report noted that in 2008 more children appeared to be at risk of harm, more young people were engaged in petty crime, there was more violent crime, and the number of people going to jail was rising at a significant rate. I do not think that any of those trends could be seen as progress. The Salvation Army noted in 2008 that New Zealand households were chronically indebted.

Shane Ardern: What else do reports say about the serious social challenges facing New Zealanders when this Government took office, and particularly the fiscal policy approach to dealing with those issues?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Salvation Army said in its report in 2008 that perhaps the most disappointing aspect was that New Zealand had invested huge amounts of money in core areas of social spending but the spending seemed to have contributed very little to New Zealand’s social progress. This was not said by the then Opposition’s spokespeople; this was from the people from the Salvation Army. The report listed billions of taxpayers’ dollars that had been spent, and then listed many indicators that were going backwards—rising numbers of referrals to Child, Youth and Family Services, more children in Child, Youth and Family Services care, rising youth offending, rising teenage pregnancy and abortion rates, continuing educational inequality, and early childhood enrolment rates lower than 65 percent. Funnily enough, in 2014, almost all of these indicators are turning positive, when the Government has been very careful about its spending but instead has focused on its effectiveness.

It’s an issue of quality rather than quantity.

More money isn’t always the solution to social problems.

While the Labour-led government of the noughties spent more social indicators worsened.

By looking at causes and focussing on effectiveness the government is achieving more without throwing taxpayers’ money into a black hole where it makes no difference.


Sally’s state of nation shows improvements

February 12, 2014

The Salvation Army’s 2014 State of the Nation report shows some improvements:

. . . In its annual report The Salvation Army gives the thumbs up to an improvement in Maori participation in early childhood education, a drop in infant mortality, reducing teenage pregnancy rates, a reduction in overall criminal offending, a drop in unemployment and a reduction in the per capita spend on gambling.

That is good news and some of the credit for the improvements goes to government policies.

But the Salvation Army remains deeply concerned at the lack of progress in reducing child poverty, family violence, the harmful use of alcohol, and the failure to address criminal re-offending and serious crime.  

“Without doubt the most disturbing data in the report relates to child poverty and family violence,” says Major Roberts. “Neither of these areas is improving. Every day Salvation Army workers see the tragic results of the failure to deal with these issues,” he says.

“Government addresses social deficits when New Zealanders indicate they require action,” he said.

“The failure of Government to effectively reduce child poverty and family violence suggests that New Zealanders are not expressing with enough strength and urgency the need for more effective government action.”

Major Roberts suggests that unless ordinary New Zealanders take these matters seriously, Government is unlikely to.

“Public pressure will help policy makers strike a better balance to ensure effective solutions are found for child poverty and domestic violence. As a nation we must take a brave and more deliberate interventionist approach if we are to see child poverty and family violence significantly reduce,” he says. . .

There is no shortage of pressure from the opposition, lobby groups and the general public on child poverty but there isn’t consensus on solutions.

The opposition and left in general have fought welfare reforms tooth at every step but there is very clear evidence that children in families dependent on welfare have worse outcomes than those in families on the same income from work.

Then there’s the elephant in the room – sole parent families, and those where the parent is very young in particular, are far more likely to be poorer with all the problems associated with that.

That’s not an argument to return to the days when young mothers were shamed and forced to give up their babies for adoption.

But it would be helpful to have research on whether the pendulum has now swung too far in the opposite direction.

The full report is here.


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