Good for party not good for govt

June 15, 2018

In March Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Shane Jones calling for sacking of a board member was a step too far.

A few months later he can say what he likes:

He’s shared a personal opinion, it’s not government policy, and that’s the end of the story,” Ms Ardern told Newshub.

That might have been a personal opinion but it was also a political act and it’s not the end of the story.

Jones wasn’t invited to Fieldays as a private citizen or even an MP, he was invited because he’s a Minister and Ministers should not meddle in private businesses.

If he wants to comment on Fonterra and its board he should buy a farm, some cows and shares in the company.

And then he should still refrain from making personal attacks on board members.

But of course he was playing to the gallery.

RIchard Harman at Politik says it was a carefully calculated campaign by NZ FIrst to boost its poll ratings.

But what’s good for the party’s poll ratings is not good behaviour for a minister, good governance nor for the government.

Jones’s comments added fuel to the fire of concern already burning businesses.

They’ve made the Prime Minister look as if she can’t control her cabinet.

And they’ve added to concerns about what might happen when Jones’s leader Winston Peters is acting PM.

 

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Business not Minister’s business

June 14, 2018

NZ First MP Shane Jones has stomped with his clod hoppers where he has no business to be again:

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones has climbed into the leadership of dairy giant Fonterra, calling for chairman John Wilson to follow chief executive Theo Spierings out the door.

Jones said he told the company it should stop being political and instead focus on its business.

Says the Minister who uses personal attacks instead of polite discourse and ought to be focusing on politics not meddling in business.

They should focus less on interfering in politics and more on justifying the money they’ve lost overseas. I believe that they have become disconnected from the farming community.”

Jones said he had suggested to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor whether it was time to restructure the dairy co-op, and singled out Wilson for special mention.

Doesn’t he know that the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA), under which Fonterra was created, is under review already?

The leadership of Fonterra, I believe, starting with the chairman, is full of its own importance and has become disconnected.”

He said there was an absolute absence of accountability for the “enormous amounts of dough” that the current chairman had presided over.

This sounds very like a minister full of his own importance presiding over a billion dollar slush fund with little accountability.

The CEO has gone, well that’s only one party of the double-Dutch we’ve had to put up with in Fonterra over the last nine years. I thoroughly believe this … that as the CEO leaves Fonterra, the chairman should in quick order catch the next cab out of town.

Double-Dutch? Is this a xenophobic reference to the retiring CEO Theo Spierings and past chair Sir Henry van der Heyden who stepped down nearly a decade ago?

“I’ve been bloody disappointed that Fonterra, in my view, the leadership has not accepted that there’s a new Government and there is a new narrative and I’ve had a gutsful of them believing they are bigger then what they really are.” . .

Believing they’re bigger than they are? That’s rich coming from the party with far more power – and voter money – than its voter support at the election entitle it to.

This sort of tirade does nothing to reassure  businesses which are already very wary of the policies and directions of the government.:

The time has come for the Prime Minister to step in and discipline her Regional Economic Development Minister who repeatedly seeks publicity by attacking business leaders, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith said today.

“Business confidence in New Zealand is plummeting and the reasons for that are mounting.

“The Government’s low growth policies like higher taxes and stronger unions are causing businesses to hire fewer people and invest less in growth and it has them concerned about the future of New Zealand and who can blame them?

“Because on top of that you have a loudmouth Regional Economic Development Minister who’s putting his own ego and need for publicity ahead of the interests of New Zealand.

“Shane Jones’ attacks on Fonterra’s leadership are the latest burp from a man who is fast losing any respect he once had.

“He says Fonterra’s leadership is ‘full of their own importance’.  That sounds like a more apt description of himself.

“He even added he’s ‘worried about the absolute absence of accountability for the enormous amounts of dough that the current Fonterrra chairman has presided over’.

“This is startling hypocrisy from the same man who defended his own region getting the lion’s share of funding from his billion-dollar Provincial Growth Fund by stating ‘to the winner goes the booty’.

“Well it’s not his booty and it’s clear Shane Jones has no idea what accountability means.

“This Government has decided to spend $3 billion over the next three years on regional economic development, including roundabouts and church restorations. It’s critical the responsible is up to the job and focused on doing his job well.

“At the moment, all he seems good for is attacking business leaders whenever a few days have gone by without some of the media coverage for which he craves.

A friend who was at the KPMG breakfast at which Jones launched his tirade said it was entirely inappropriate, and a very poor reflection on the MP and the government.

Fonterra is a co-operative. The performance of the company and its chair are the business of its shareholders not an MP.

There is some dissatisfaction and there are concerns but this season’s  milk price is the third highest since the company was formed.

Shareholders could well be more concerned about the MP who has no business interfering in their business than the chair’s performance.

So Jones’s loose lips could well strengthen the position of Wilson who is up for re-election this year.


Unprepared, ill prepared

June 8, 2018

The ODT opines, there’s been a lack of progress from the government:

The Government seems intent on digging itself into a hole from which there may be no escape.

After nine years in Opposition, there were expectations change would happen quickly once New Zealand First went with Labour to form a coalition government, with support from the Greens.

However, that has not been the case. More than 100 working parties or inquiries have been established, some of them at least reporting back by the end of the year.

The latest one involves ‘‘fair pay agreements’’, seemingly code for collective bargaining agreements, to set industry standards.

Although the Government appears keen to talk to everyone possible about changes it wants to make, it seems Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods did not bother to consult her colleagues when it came to deciding to stop offshore oil and gas permits being allocated in New Zealand.

When the papers were finally released this week, it was discovered the Government was warned its plans for future oil and gas exploration could have a chilling effect on investment.

The papers said if the supply of natural gas was restricted, the likely price rise for consumers posed a significant risk to the security of energy supply and could have a detrimental impact on some regional economies.

Wasting multi-millions on working groups then failing to consult on a policy with such significant ramifications as this is the sign of a government both unprepared and ill-prepared.

The Government is hamstringing itself. There is a chance, and a real one, the Government will achieve nothing before the 2020 election if it does not start making progress on some key policies.

The only policy it has made real progress on is fee-free education for tertiary students, most of whom don’t need it and which hasn’t resulted in an increase in students.

Even KiwiBuild seems out of reach for Housing Minister Phil Twyford. Branding private housing developments as KiwiBuild will not solve the problem of building 10,000 houses a year. Within a few months, the Government will have been in office for 12 months. Recriminations which are bubbling under the surface now will become fully-fledged attacks on the core competency of ministers who should have hit the ground running when it became their time to serve.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern can only hold the coalition together for so long if progress is not being made.

Planting one billion trees has not yet started, social policy is edging its way into the system, and the so-called housing crisis is not being addressed by Labour, which christened it such.

It is unrealistic to expect the Government to implement all its policies in the first 12 months, but some progress should be measurable by now. . .

What is measurable is a lack of business confidence, which is worsened by the prospect of a return to collective bargaining.

Employers say the fair pay agreements are a major cause of concern. BusinessNZ is part of the working group announced on Tuesday but employers say they are not supportive of a national award-type employment regime in New Zealand.

Under the proposal, employers and workers cannot negotiate their own conditions — unless they are above the fair pay rates. Although workers cannot strike for a fair pay agreement, they can strike to get their own rates above the fair pay agreement rate.

This is a return to the days of multi-employment contract agreements (Meca) which broke out separate pay agreements for workers living in high-cost areas, such as Auckland and Wellington.

This is a recipe for job insecurity, an increase in unemployment and business failure.

The craziness of continually forming working parties smacks of a Government ill-prepared to govern. Until Ms Ardern stepped into the position of leader, it did look as though National would win a fourth term. Perhaps Labour MPs had given up on the treasury benches and were going through the motions.

There’s no perhaps about that – they had and they were.

There have been missteps from some ministers, something not good enough from three-term MPs. The at-fault MPs are surely surviving because there is no-one with experience to replace them.

Labour, the major party of the coalition, needs to stop thinking about solutions and start enacting policies. Otherwise, a second term is starting to look out of reach.

Just eight months into government is very early to be talking about it being a one-termer.

But Labour, which spent most of its nine years in opposition wallowing directionless with most of its energy going on undermining its leaders, is unprepared and ill-prepared for government and it shows.

The fee-free policy is Labour’s, the other ones in which there has been any progress are New Zealand First’s money for good looking horses and the regional slush fund which Shane Jones admits is politically biased.

Shane Jones’ admission this morning that his Provincial Growth Fund is a political tool is backed up by new figures released this morning revealing Northland as the main recipient of taxpayers’ money, National’s Regional Economic Development spokesperson Paul Goldsmith says.

“The Provincial Growth Fund should really be renamed the Political Survival Fund after more than half the funding announced so far has gone to one region – one with less than 10 per cent of regional New Zealand’s population.

“MBIE information shows Northland has sought $54.6 million from the fund so far. Applications from all the other regions combined amounted to $240 million.

“Yet Northland projects have received funding up to $61 million – even more than they’ve asked for. While the rest of the regions have had to make do with $42.4 million combined, plus a $7.5 million grant to the Howard League covering the whole country, including Northland. . .

Northland’s got more than it asked for and the whole of the rest of the country has had to share two-thirds of that amount.

Yet even Northland hasn’t got what it really needs – a better road to and from the rest of the country.

Northlanders will be scratching their heads, wondering why some groups are getting all this attention, while the single most important investment for their region – the double lane highway from Wellsford to Whangarei has been scrapped in favour of Auckland’s light rail.

“Shanes Jones is being allowed to use public money for a thinly veiled political slush fund – but on the really big issues, such as advancing oil and gas production, there is no question that New Zealand First’s ‘provincial champion’ label is nothing more than wishful thinking.”

We need a government that’s prepared to govern for the whole country, not one whose major party is so ill-prepared it is mired in the quicksand of working groups and lets its minor partner get away with pork barrelling.


WIll PM keep promise?

May 17, 2018

Children in great need have been let down by the government’s refusal to fund Stand to run its services in Roxburgh.

The closure of the Roxburgh village for vulnerable children has been described as ”desperately sad”.

Yesterday, Stand Children’s Services announced its children’s villages in Roxburgh and Otaki would close.

It would mean the loss of 31 jobs in Roxburgh, about 6% of its population of about 520.

The government has $1 billion to throw into the regional development fund but can’t find $3 million to help vulnerable children and save the jobs of about 6% of the Roxburgh community.

Helping these children and keeping existing jobs would be far better use of the money than anything funded so far.

Stand chief executive Dr Fiona Inkpen said the organisation had been topping up the shortfall in government funding from its own funds for many years but reserves were used up and the organisation would need an extra $3million to keep the villages open.

Dr Inkpen confirmed southern children would be unable to attend the only other South Island Stand village, in Christchurch, as the waiting list was long and only Canterbury children could stay there.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said it was a ”desperately sad” day for the children of the lower South Island.

”Even though I anticipated this news coming today, I still feel physically sick reading it. I’ve got to admit that when we got all the way to the top [Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] last week, and got turned down, I didn’t see how the village could be saved.”

The closure would be a ”huge blow to Roxburgh”, but he had faith the town would survive.

Clutha Mayor and chairman of Local Government Zone 6 Bryan Cadogan, who played a major role in trying to keep the service, said it would mean the withdrawal of the treatment service for the lower South Island.

”I have contacted other organisations who were supposed to pick up the slack and it was an emphatic ‘no’ – they’re stretched like a violin string.”

The government has $1 billion to fund tertiary education for all students, most of whom don’t need it, but it hasn’t got $3 million for children in desperate need of help.

The Prime Minister keeps saying vulnerable children are one of her priorities.

She made a promise to improve their lives and it’s not too late to keep it.

The Prime Minister stands accused of breaking a promise and there would seem some foundation in the accusation.

Labour campaigned on policies aimed at improving the lives of children and, once elected, the focus on social policy was heavy: pledges to end child poverty, provide affordable housing, change parts of the welfare system, improve health delivery, lift the incomes of the “working poor”.

The Stand Children’s Services Roxburgh children’s village — tasked with changing the lives of vulnerable children who have suffered trauma — is sadly familiar with the social and health ills Jacinda Ardern has pledged to fix.

The village’s possible closure, announced last month because of a shortfall in funding, flies in the face of the promise of social focus from Ms Ardern, and the Prime Minister and Minister for Children, Tracey Martin, came in for harsh criticism at a public meeting held in Roxburgh last week to try to stop the closure of the village.

The Labour-led Government said it was serious about the children of New Zealand, but instead had “fallen at the first fence”, Teviot Valley Community Board chairman Raymond Gunn said. . . 

Ms Ardern has been conspicuously silent about the village, refusing to comment about its future, passing the buck instead to Mrs Martin.

Such silence smacked of a “guilty conscience”, Roxburgh staff member and New Zealand Public Service Association delegate Carol Hastie said.

The Government should be revisiting its decision not to bailout the village, and looking harder at what the village provides.

The Roxburgh village helps 380 children a year, and they are some of the nation’s most vulnerable.Luckily, most people cannot imagine the kinds of trauma that means a child needs to be sent to an intensive, residential, wrap-around service such as the Stand children’s village.

But for the children who have ended up there, through no fault of their own, the village can literally change lives.

Ms Ardern’s Government has announced various initiatives with a social focus. These policies will hopefully help some of the root causes that may lead a child to end up in a situation where they require an intensive, residential, wrap-around trauma service.

But why take away that very service?

The Roxburgh children’s village is still needed by the children in the village’s large catchment, which includes everything south of the Waitaki River.

Southern social service agencies have said there is no equivalent to the residential Stand service for the children who need it. . .

The Prime Minister has talked herself up as a champion for children and Shane Jones calls himself the savior of the regions.

The children who need the help of the Roxburgh village and the people who work there don’t need empty words.

They need action and the relatively small amount of money which the government is refusing to provide.


Let’s not politicise public sector

April 26, 2018

Shane Jones want to give ministers more power over ministries.

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones, says he would like to “soften that line” between governance and the bureaucracy, including allowing ministers to appoint top officials.

In an interview on the provincial growth fund Jones, the Regional Development Minister railed against a bureaucratic system he characterised as a “treacle-riddled”, slowing down process around funding economic projects, without evidence of improved efficiency.

“I’m looking forward to fighting an election to change the way that politicians relate to the bureaucracy,” Jones said.

“I know we have this separation of governance and the bureaucracy, but I’m really attracted to the idea where the Aussies have softened that line, and key ministers bring in their s…-kickers to get things done. That’s always been my preference.” . . . 

Among other things the State Sector Act gives the State Services Commissioner the power over chief executive appointments, without influence from the Beehive, at least in theory.

Unlike many other countries, public servants are required to act in a politically neutral way.

The Public Services Association warned in December that the influence of ministerial advisors, Beehive staff which are appointed to serve the interests of their minister, are undermining this neutrality.

Jones was quick to promote reports of his comments.

“Surely I’m not the only one who would like to see less bureaucracy in this country? Meeting high governance and probity standards should not come at the expense of efficiency and pace in my books,” Jones said on his public Facebook profile.

Is he suggesting we accept lower governance and probity standards?

The Taxpayer’s Union’s executive director Jordan Williams called the comments “bizarre”.

“Shane Jones is suggesting we abandon our Westminster-style independent public service and adopt a corrupt American-style political appointment model. It’s a recipe for unstable, crony, poor governance.” . . 

Anyone who has had the misfortune to attempt to move something at anything more than snails’ pace through a government department will understand Jones’ treacle analogy.

Many will have sympathy with his desire to speed processes up.

But let’s not politicise the bureaucracy.

That’s a prescription which would poison the public service and do nothing at all to improve management, governance or productivity.

 


Quote of the day

April 7, 2018

The arrogance of that statement beggars belief but, then again, Jones was always an arrogant bastardnurtured by the Labour Party with a post-graduate diploma in arrogant bastardry from the WRP School of Bastardry.   The Veteran


Waste-to-energy plan expensive lemon

April 5, 2018

Who would think taking rubbish to the West Cost to turn it into energy was a good idea? Not the experts who advise the government:

The government announced hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding for a proposed waste-to-energy scheme two days after experts advised it was a lemon.

The Environment Ministry warned the Provincial Growth Fund that the proposed project on the West Coast did not stack up economically or environmentally.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones placed the proposed scheme on ice in February after RNZ informed him its chief executive, Gerard Gallagher, had been referred to the Serious Fraud Office.

Now, advice obtained under the Official Information Act shows the Environment Ministry warned the scheme had enormous flaws just two days before Mr Jones announced $350,000 for its feasibility study.

Not only would the scheme undermine other incentives to reduce waste – like recycling, it would increase carbon emissions the experts cautioned.

Mr Jones said he never received the advice and even if he had it would have made no difference. . . 

A few weeks ago Martin van Beynen wrote:

. . . The incident has also highlighted the danger of a government full of academics, health professionals, public servants, teachers and career politicians picking business winners.

The idea that councils around the country would rail or truck their rubbish to Westport for incineration is one of those ludicrous ideas that only regional development officials would think is a flyer.   . . 

It doesn’t take a $350,000 to know this scheme isn’t a flyer, it’s a very expensive and environmentally unfriendly lemon.


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