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Red Alert

Alcohol Law Reform Bill First Reading

Posted by Lianne Dalziel on November 11th, 2010

I will post some more detail on the Alcohol Reform Bill over coming weeks as there is a lot to be considered.  To get the debate started I think it is important that we look at the Law Commission’s report on Alcohol: Curbing the Harm and ask whether this Bill will be effective in doing that – curbing the harm.  My view is that it doesn’t go far enough and in a way it’s prioritised the wrong issues.  The Minister cited age as the most important measure in the Bill, when that is one of the many diversionary tactics they are using to avoid being held accountable for what is missing from the Bill. And to cap it all off the government has managed to trample on Bill of Rights Act obligations – I predict the offending clauses will not survive the select committee process in their current form.  In my press release I said National had squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to curb the alcohol-related harm evidenced by the Law Commission’s report into alcohol. Only people power through submissions to the committee and demanding answers from MPs will get that turned around. I spoke in Parliament on the First Reading - unfortunately the tape ends before my final comments which were that we the politicians have lacked courage and that hopefully the Bill will be strengthened by the Select Committee process and that we will have the courage to make a difference. I have attached the notes I took to the House.  Let the debate begin!


A very different public service

Posted by Grant Robertson on November 11th, 2010

Yesterday, Iain Rennie the State Services Commissioner came to the Government Administration Select Committee. A bit of the discussion was about the very poor staff satisfaction and stakeholder surveys that SSC has had recently, which I covered here.

But what was also very interesting were Mr Rennie’s comments about the future shape of the public sector. Early on he said that he thought the public sector would look very different in ten years time to now. He is not talking so much about the impact of National’s on-going cuts as the long term structure of the public service.

The good news is that he talked about the importance of agencies working across boundaries more to deal with issues as they affect the public rather than through the lens of the agency. This is a good start. As previously discussed I think that breaking down the silos that operate in the public sector is a vital part of making sure we have quality 21st century services. There is a structural element to this, and it was good to see the Commissioner acknowledge that. The trick though is whether this will be tinkering at the edges or will it involve challenging some of the assumptions that underpinned the reforms of the state sector 21 years ago.

For those that follow all of this stuff perhaps the most interesting thing Iain Rennie discussed was the future shape of what are called the central agencies (DPMC, Treasury and SSC). There is already a project under way to look at shared services for those agencies in areas like IT and HR. There was also a strong hint yesterday that SSC will depart their current premises in Molesworth St when the lease runs out there, and the obvious conclusion would that they would co-locate with one or both of the other agencies.

When pressed on what the future look of the central agencies would be, Mr Rennie did not rule out mergers, though in fairness he also did not confirm them either.

While finding efficiencies in how the central agencies operate is a good thing, I would flag a concern that a merged central agency would almost certianly see a dominance of Treasury. While Treasury play an essential role in ensuring fiscal discipline, there needs to be balance in the way public services are managed. I am not suggesting SSC has done a brilliant job of that role, but I am sure that the situation would be worse if there was not a counter-weight to Treasury. The public sector system needs a champion for the quality and effectiveness of public services at the centre of decision making, not just the accountants looking at the bottom line.


John Chapman print on trademe – proceeds to go towards Mana bi-election

Posted by Carmel Sepuloni on November 11th, 2010
John Chapman is a staunch Labour supporter and is one of our good friends in Waitakere:)
Given his support for Labour and generous nature, he’s kindly put up one of his prints for sale on trademe – proceeds raised will go towards the Mana campaign.
The print is entitled ‘It’s only going to get worse’ – how appropriate given the state of our country under the current National Government.  We may have to persevere another year (or slightly less) of a National Government but that gentle reminder of how much worse it could get if we have to endure any longer than that – is a great motivator for getting Labour people and the generally ‘disillusioned with National’ ordinary kiwi, enthused about the next election!
This is a limited edition print taken by American photojournalist John Chapman. The print was exhibited as part of ‘The English’ exhibition at the Upstairs Gallery in Titirangi. http://www.fotografie.co.nz/the_english/index.html 

The print is offered unframed and is printed on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Museum Etching acid free archival paper numbered and signed by the photographer to a limited number of 25. The image was taken near Green Park in London during the 1990’s. The print is offered for sale on the condition that it is not reproduced or copied in any way and that copyright is held by the photographer.

John Chapman is an American photojournalist who spent much of his working life in the UK and Middle East. His work has been widely published in the United States and Europe. Now living in New Zealand he is currently exhibiting at the West Coast Gallery in Piha. http://www.acknowledgingwaitakere.co.nz/index.html

The listing number is 329811210

http://www.trademe.co.nz/Browse/Listing.aspx?id=329811210


This week’s lottery

Posted by Trevor Mallard on November 11th, 2010

 As may be obvious we are having a crack at getting Darren’s bill up here : -

  1. Adams , Amy – Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill
  2. Auchinvole, Chris – Habeus Corpus Amendment Bill
  3. Calvert, Hilary – Foreshore and Seabed (Repeal and Establishment of Free Public Access) Amendment Bill
  4. Clendon, David – Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill
  5. Delahunty, Catherine – Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill
  6. Douglas, Hon Sir Roger – Kiwifruit Industry Restructuring (Plant Variety Rights) Amendment Bill
  7. Flavell, Te Ururoa – Education (Kōhanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa Maori, and Early Childhood Standards) Amendment Bill
  8. Gilmore, Aaron – Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance (Break Fees Disclosure) Amendment Bill
  9. Goodhew, Jo – Joint Family Homes Repeal Bill
  10. Graham, Dr Kennedy – Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill
  11. Hague, Kevin – Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Essential Financial Services) Amendment Bill
  12. Harawira, Hone – Parliamentary Commissioner for the Treaty of Waitangi Bill
  13. Hughes, Hon Darren – Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill
  14. Hughes, Gareth – Energy Efficiency Conservation (Warm Healthy Rentals) Amendment Bill
  15. Katene, Rahui – Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (1080 Poison Prohibition) Amendment Bill
  16. Kedgley, Sue – Consumer’s Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill
  17. Locke, Keith – New Zealand Bill of Rights Amendment Bill
  18. Norman, Dr Russel – Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill
  19. Roy, Hon Heather – Crimes (Self-Defence) Amendment Bill
  20. Tremain, Chris – Wild Animal Control (Increased Fines and Sentence of Imprisonment) Amendment Bill
  21. Turei, Metiria – Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill
  22. Wagner, Nicky – Family Proceedings (Paternity Orders and Parentage Tests) Amendment Bill
  23. Woodhouse, Michael – Financial Assistance For Live Organ Donors Bill
  24. Young, Jonathan – Summary Proceedings (Warrant for Detention Conditions) Amendment Bill

 Update: David Clendon’s Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill was drawn


Fran’s hoping for too much

Posted by Trevor Mallard on November 10th, 2010

 Don’t always agree with Fran O’Sullivan but her analysis this morning gets to the core of the choice we are facing in Economic Development.

Is John Key preparing to inspire New Zealand to make the leap from a consumption-led economy to one driven by a smart investment ethos?

A bit like Singapore, perhaps, with its strong focus on using domestic savings to fuel growth via the Government-initiated investment and savings funds which have provided much of the cash that has propelled the development of its companies in the past couple of decades.

and :-

So far there is little questioning – at least in public – of why the country has to wait until the oilfields are proven before taking a leaf out of Norway’s – or preferably Singapore’s – book to increase sovereign wealth.

The purists will inevitably chime in that the Government should retire its own debt before setting up another investment vehicle.

This is the kind of thinking that led Finance Minister Bill English to slash transfers to the NZ Superannuation Fund which is supposed to help offset the bigger burden super will impose on Government accounts in future years.

Super Fund boss Adrian Orr has already earmarked some of the fund for what is arguably a nation-building purpose by investing in various New Zealand entities like Shell’s downstream business and Auckland International Airport shares when each looked likely to be sold abroad.

Orr now wants to invest in New Zealand farms. The fund is also expected to co-invest with Fonterra in expanding its farms business overseas.

But the problem is that the fund is set up with an over-arching purpose of offsetting superannuation costs – not to help grow the economy by providing strategic investment capital.

Key yesterday dropped a rather strong hint that the Government would announce new policies to increase the savings rate in next year’s Budget.

English made a start in that direction in his May 20 Budget when he unveiled a tax-go-round that put more money in the pockets of working New Zealanders and reduced the tax rates on various savings vehicles.

Many Kiwis are now retiring personal debt at a faster clip.

But the Government is in a classic Catch-22. Does it continue to inject a large fiscal impulse into the economy by borrowing up large to fund Government spending (including the major construction projects) and middle-class tax cuts?

Or does it begin cutting Government spending faster so it gets on top of its burgeoning deficit?

This is not an easy decision – particularly as there is now considerable evidence that not enough of the additional money the Government has borrowed to fuel the fiscal stimulus is being spat back into the economy via growth-fuelling consumption.

At some point the question will have to be asked: is there any point in borrowing more to fund tax cuts if taxpayers simply use the extra to retire personal debt?

Maybe we would be better off tipping some of those “cuts” into a Government investment vehicle to provide extra capital for our companies to help fund their growth and create jobs.

I don’t think Key has the balls to veto English’s objections and run with it – happy to be proven wrong.


Charles thinks A-G should be in Cabinet

Posted by Trevor Mallard on November 10th, 2010

Will post on Wilson business at some stage, on the failures of the Chief Justice and especially the current A-G.

Speaking in the urgent debate on the issue I made an aside in which I drew attention to the UK constitutional arrangements whereby the Attorney General is not a Cabinet Minister. And the fact that for a short time in recent history that was the case in New Zealand. I was suggesting there might be some advantage in that approach when I saw the look on Charles Chauvel’s face. Talk about dirty.

Nothing wrong with having ambition. Charles certainly wants to be A-G and a Cabinet Minister and both at the same time.

And the chances are that he will be at the end of next year.


This is how to win a seat

Posted by Clare Curran on November 10th, 2010

Kris Faafoi has been working his butt off for several months campaigning to win the seat of Mana for Labour. He started before 7am today waving signs at Porirua intersections raising awareness of his campaign. I know becasue I got up early to help him, along with quite a few of my colleagues.

Every day he’s out knocking on doors and introducing himself to constituents, visiting businesses, social service organisations, schools and standing outside shopping malls so that people can get to see what he looks like and have a chat.

Every evening for weeks Kris has been driving around the Mana electorate stopping off at street corners with his microphone and doing a 5-10 minute speech about himself and what he believes, giving people the opportunity to come out of their homes and take a look at the next hopeful MP for Mana. This is real campaigning. Hard graft.

Not sitting in the House during question time strategically placing yourself behind the camera so that you get your photo on TV. That’s called opportunism.

Kris2

Kris Faafoi

Kris 6

Kris speaking

Meanwhile, here’s a picture of Hekia Parata campaigning from the House (yesterday). She sat in her own seat in the House today for the whole of question time. Most unusual.

lady_gardiner


Priorities

Posted by Damien O'Connor on November 10th, 2010

The outbreak of Psa is a grim reminder how exposed we are as an economy to the effects of biological attack by unwanted organisms. Why then, would a party that claims to represent farmers reduce the border protection efforts to help pay for tax cuts.

The farmers and orchardists at risk from this ridiculous stance should reconsider their loyalty to a party that has deserted their needs. I have been contacted by people working in the system who say this is just the beginning of incursions that will occur because they can’t do their job properly.

Money and resources have been shifted internally to set up Smartgate and smoother passenger processing at our airports. Delays coming into this country are rarely long compared to the US process or the chaos at some larger international airports.

We should never compromise our biosecurity for convenience. The US dont do it for their security, why should we?? I wonder if Hilary passed that wisdom on to John or was he too starstruck to hear?


Neurosurgery win a victory for Southerners

Posted by Clare Curran on November 10th, 2010

Otago and Southland communities will keep three neurosurgeons in Dunedin. The decision was announced this morning. It’s a huge victory for those communities by refusing  to accept a downgrade of their health services. 

Labour is proud that the people of Otago and Southland stood up for themselves and in particular Pete Hodgson and myself are hugely relieved that our communities won’t be disavantaged by having neurosurgery services ripped away.

It is a total disgrace that Health Minister Tony Ryall didn’t have the foresight and leadership to see how important resident neurosurgeons were to Otago and Southland. Instead he put our communities through months of stress and anguish which could have been avoided.

Labour’s Health spokesperson Ruth Dyson put it well when she said today:

Southerners in their tens of thousands turned out, refusing to accept the National Government’s decision to allow neurosurgical services to be closed in Dunedin. Today’s announcement is a direct result of their protests, petitions and the pressure they placed on the Government.

Since National came into office there have been more than 100 cuts to frontline health services in New Zealand and neurosurgery would almost certainly have joined that list if it had not been for the actions of the southern people and media.

 Health Minister Tony Ryall had taken the coward’s way out by refusing to intervene in the issue. Thankfully the people of the Southern regions displayed a lot more backbone than the Minister.


Pressure telling on Captain Panic Pants

Posted by Grant Robertson on November 10th, 2010

As previously noted, according to the NBR (article not on-line), Gerry Brownlee and other Ministers have christened the PMs Chief Press Secretary Kevin Taylor as “Captain Panic Pants” for his ability to make everything into a drama and crisis.

It seems the pressure is telling on him. Last night a reporter tweeted the following

how naughty! PMs press sec called Pete Hodgson a ”f**kwit” and then invited reporters to quote him.

Not a good look. Perhaps he should be re-christened Captain Potty Mouth?


Key letting ethical standards slip

Posted by Trevor Mallard on November 10th, 2010

Remember Richard Worth getting into trouble for mixing up private and Ministerial business and getting into trouble for using his Ministerial status for private business advantage when in India.

Now we have Pansy Wong using her Ministerial status to endorse a contract between her husband’s company and one in China. And Key says nothing is wrong with that.

It just shows that any commonsense or ethical standard has gone under the Key leadership.

The Herald reports:-

Cabinet minister Pansy Wong is being accused of improperly using her ministerial title to support her husband’s private business contract, which has gone sour and is the subject of legal action.

Mrs Wong witnessed a contract between Pacific Hovercraft NZ and China-based Lianyungang Supreme Hovercraft, signed in April 2008.

Her signature is on a deed of variation, signed during a private trip in January last year, where she wrote her occupation as “Minister of NZ Govt” and her address as “Parliament Buildings, Wellington, NZ”.

The agreement is signed by Sammy Wong, Mrs Wong’s husband, who is stated as a co-director of Lianyungang Supreme Hovercraft.

A spokesman for Prime Minister John Key said Cabinet Office advice had been sought and Mrs Wong had done nothing wrong.

“She is a minister of the Crown. That is her occupation.”

But Labour MP Pete Hodgson said Mrs Wong should have signed the document as an MP, not as a minister.

“If I’m witnessing that I’ve seen your photograph and there’s a likeness to the person in front of me, I would write ‘MP, Dunedin North,’ because it’s not a ministerial function.

“That is the mistake she’s made.”

He said the document created the impression the Government supported the contract, which raised conflict of interest issues.

Mr Hodgson said he would not have any problem with the document if Mrs Wong had written “MP for Botany” and used her residential address.

The Cabinet Manual, which outlines how ministers and MPs should behave, does not have any specific rules around signing documents as a witness.

A spokesperson for Mrs Wong said the minister had done nothing wrong.

“The [Cabinet Office] advice is that there’s nothing wrong with witnessing a document like she did, and the Cabinet Manual wasn’t breached.

“This is just Pete Hodgson trying to muck-rake and smear.”

Mr Hodgson raised the issue in Parliament yesterday when he asked if Mrs Wong was acting in her ministerial capacity when she signed the deed.

Mrs Wong replied: “I was not aware that I signed a document overseas in my capacity as Minister for Women’s Affairs, when it had nothing to do with the ministry.”

He later released a Duncan Cotterill Lawyers letter, dated December 2009, claiming a breach of the contract and asking Lianyungang Supreme Hovercraft for payments over $800,000.


What some people will do for a photo op

Posted by Clare Curran on November 10th, 2010

It appears some people will do just about anything to get their face on TV. Yesterday at question time Hekia Parata (National candidate for Mana) was seen seat hopping her way around the House to position herself strategically next to, or behind, the National MP asking or answering the questions.

But it was when she moved into the Maori Party seats that Trevor Mallard felt moved to take a point of order on the issue.

Watch Question 10 to see her moving around (especially the last frame where she’s put herself next to Te Ururoa Flavell) and then Question 11 where Trevor takes a point of order.

Very funny and a bit sad really. Perhaps she could do or say something interesting to get her own publicity next time.

Meanwhile, Kris Faafoi, Labour’s candidate for Mana was out campaigning hard in the Mana electorate.

 


Minister gives wrong introductory speech on tax bill

Posted by Stuart Nash on November 9th, 2010

Just to show how confused the Nats are around tax legislation, duty Minister Jonathon Coleman gave the government’s opening speech on the Taxation (International Investment and Remedial Matters) Bill 2010.  Well, he was supposed to, but instead spoke for 10 minutes on the Taxation (International Taxation, Life Insurance, and Remedial Matters) Bill that was passed over a year ago. 

Wonder who stitched him up? After all, he was just the duty minister and so was given the speech.  Perhaps Foss as head of the Finance and Expenditure Select committee, and therefore the govts representative sponsoring this bill.  We all know Foss is ambitious, but to do that to a fellow MP and a minister…

Coleman certainly didn’t look happy.  And who can blame him.!!!!

UPDATE: Coleman gave exactly the same speech, word for word that Peter Dunne gave when he spoke on the First Reading of the Taxation (International Taxation, Life Insurance, and Remedial Matters) Bill in July 2008. Check out Dunne’s speech here and Coleman’s video below.


The Price of Alcohol

Posted by Iain Lees-Galloway on November 9th, 2010

Got sent this today. Thoughts?


Nga Whanaketanga – Anne Tolley on different standards for standards development

Posted by Trevor Mallard on November 9th, 2010

So Anne Tolley thinks it is ok to trial standards where people speak Maori but not in English speaking schools.

For those without broadband, the Hansard version is below. Read the rest of this entry »


Very, very good friends

Posted by Grant Robertson on November 9th, 2010

Hilary Clinton’s visit, and the Wellington Declaration were a good marker post in the improvement of NZ/US relations. This has been developing over the last few years under both Labour and National and is, to state the obvious, a good thing. NZ and the US have far more in common than we differ on. Our relationship with the US is critical, not just because they are a global superpower but because there are great opportunities for us in the relationship.

What is interesting for me, though, in the wake of the visit is where we are heading in terms of the defence realtionship. Today’s stories indicate that the warming relationship might see us “playing war games” in the very near future. I think this is an area where we need to tread carefully, for two principal reasons.

First, we have deliberately and clearly staked out our independent stance in a post-ANZUS world. Some level of training and engagement will be beneficial but the government needs to be very clear about setting our own priorities, and where our limits and boundaries are. Are there any caveats in place to how the relationship will develop, or is it full steam ahead to a neo-ANZUS strategic relationship?

We may well continue to differ on occasion on strategic and politicial issues and we need to be able to differentiate and limit our involvement where that is appropriate. The government needs to give us some indication of how they will manage this to protect the indepdendence of our stance if, for instance, another Iraq situation comes along.

The second issue is around funding. The more we engage in a deeper defence relationship with the US the more costly that will be. Now some of that cost might be justified, but if I know some elements of our military it will be milked for all it is worth. There are a lot of other priorities, not only in terms of defence forces but also the wider Budget.

A steady improvement in our relations with the US is welcome, but in our enthusiasm for this its vital we do not try to re-create a version of the ANZUS era, the time of which has passed, and lose the strong and independent place we have carved for ourselves on the world stage.


Joyce shouldn’t make broadband decision

Posted by Trevor Mallard on November 9th, 2010

There are lots of broadband issues around. I want to focus on one.

Cabinet has decided that Steven Joyce will decide which of the commercial tenderers wins the $1.5b prize.

I know of no precedent for this. Ministers approve capital inputs (after looking at a budget) and sometimes tender criteria for SOEs.

Boards after advice from CEOs and sometimes outside experts make decisions.

We have a tradition of being corruption free for over a century.

Politicians deciding who wins massive tenders places that tradition at risk.


Tax take down by $1b on forecast for last quarter

Posted by Stuart Nash on November 8th, 2010

Today’s announcement that the government’s tax receipts are $1.1billion down on forecast for the last quarter is disastrous news for vulnerable New Zealanders, but comes as no surprise. 

As I have said before, Keynesian economic theory states that in times of economic recession, you don’t give tax cuts to the highest income earners because they will tend to either save or retire debt (i.e. they won’t spend), and this is exactly what has happened. 

Bill English told the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee 2 weeks ago that the $14b in tax cuts were not designed to be stimulatory.  Treasury Head John Whitehead and Reserve Bank Governor Allan Bollard have also stated on record that the tax cuts are not stimulatory. 

My question is, ‘Why the hell would you spend such a vast sum of money at a time of economic recession if one of the outcomes wasn’t to get the economy moving again?’ 

I predict the government will use such a poor revenue result as ammunition to make further cuts to the vital services already stripped to the bone.  There are rumours out there that Mrs Tolley will announce further cuts to early childhood education services, and this is just the start.

Once again, those who lose will be the majority of New Zealanders who have seen their cost of living increase significantly in proportion to any tax cut they may or may not have received.  Change that no one now believes in.

Filed under: Tax, economy

Back Benches this week

Posted by Trevor Mallard on November 8th, 2010

GETTING AN EDUCATION: Several schools have said “NO!” to National Standards—225 boards in all have decided not to use the targets until the system is completely revised. The National Standards fight comes at a time, when Teachers are also putting up a fight for more money and better conditions in the classrooms. Is it about the way the National Standards programme is implemented? Or is the programme a good idea but currently unworkable? Should there even be National Standards? Does it leave students behind? Or does it show where teachers have failed? And Teachers—are they underpaid? Or are they being greedy?

OUT ON LOAN: The Government has decided those who haven’t paid their school loans will have to cough up a little more cash to cover the cost of their non-compliance. Is $40 for every year you don’t repay too much to ask for? Are we just nickel and diming our students? Or do those bludgers need to be punished? And if you head overseas to skip out on your loans—should the IRD be able to chase you down? With over $15 million owed by expats in Oz—is it time to get tough? Or is this a step too far?

LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 13th of October. Our Panel: Green MP Keith Locke, Labour MP Maryan Street, National MP Cam Calder.


John Carter is going too

Posted by Darien Fenton on November 8th, 2010

It’s just been announced that Northland MP John Carter will not seek reelection at the end of the present parliamentary term.He’s been in Parliament for 23 years, and been the MP for Northland since 1996. He’s a current minister in the NACT government.

John Carter says “it’s time to move on” after 23 years in parliament.  He wants to spend more time with his wife and family.

So, while Speaker Lockwood Smith is going on the List to allow the obvious candidate, Steven Joyce an easy ride in the safe seat of Rodney, John Carter is leaving altogether.

Any idea who the up and coming is in Northland? (for the NACTs that is).