Archive for the ‘NZ Politics’ Category

Prince Charles’ letters to be released

March 27th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron has admitted defeat after the government lost a 10-year battle with the Guardian to keep secret a “particularly frank” cache of lobbying letters written by Prince Charles.

Following a supreme court ruling on Thursday that 27 letters between the heir to the throne and ministers must finally be published under the Freedom of Information Act, the “deeply disappointed” prime minister has told aides to prepare their release.

The judges decided by five to two that the government had acted illegally when it vetoed the publication of Charles’s ministerial correspondence, the release of which had previously been approved by a lower court.

It will be the first time that any of Charles’s “black spider memos” have been made public through official channels, and their release is expected to reveal how the heir to the throne attempted to influence government policies in private correspondence.

The advantage of a monarchy is that it is meant to be a politically neutral institution. These letters will show beyond doubt that Prince Charles is not in any way politically neutral. I don’t want him to be New Zealand’s next Head of State.


$60 million saved in welfare fraud

March 27th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jo Goodhew announced:

Associate Minister for Social Development Jo Goodhew has welcomed news that since benefit fraud reform initiatives began two years ago, up to $60 million of taxpayers’ money has been saved.

“Over the past two and a half years around 9,500 benefits have been cancelled after fraudulent and illegitimate payments were discovered. These changes hold people to account for their actions, and make it difficult to defraud the welfare system,” Mrs Goodhew says.

A vast majority of the fraud has been identified through increased information sharing with Inland Revenue. This allows MSD to quickly identify if a client has under-declared their income – which can affect benefit payments.

An excellent use of data sharing.

Another one of the key initiatives is stricter monitoring of low-trust clients where they have previously committed fraud.

Also sensible.


Tougher sanctions for bad employers

March 27th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Government has announced some changes to employment law, to deal with the small number of bad or abusive employers. They are:

  • A 500% increase in maximum penalties to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for companies
  • Public naming of employers who breach minimum standards
  • The ability to ban an individual from being an employer if they are consistently in breach of the law

These are targeted at the worse repeat offenders, and show a nice balanced approach to the law.



IGIS to look into pacific spying complaints

March 27th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has announced:

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Cheryl Gwyn, will commence an inquiry into complaints over alleged interception of communications of New Zealanders working or travelling in the South Pacific by the Government Security Communications Bureau (GCSB).

The complaints follow recent public allegations about GCSB activities. The complaints, and these public allegations, raise wider questions regarding the collection, retention and sharing of communications data.

“I will be addressing the specific complaints that I have received, in accordance with the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Act 1996. But there is also a clear need to provide as much factual information to the complainants, and to the wider public, as is possible.”

“For that reason, I have decided not only to investigate the complaints but also to bring forward and expand the relevant parts of my ongoing programme of review and audit of GCSB procedures and compliance systems. That review programme operates at a systemic level and doesn’t, of course, scrutinise or second-guess every day-to-day aspect of the GCSB’s operations: what it does allow for, as in this instance, is a focussed review of a particular area of GCSB or New Zealand Security Intelligence Service practice.”

This is a very good thing. The key thing when it comes to issues of security and intelligence is to have independent oversight and a system of checks and balances. The decision to investigate is important to verify that any activities have been legal.


And a third panelist goes

March 26th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A disability advocate recognised in the New Years Honours list has quit an Auckland Council panel, saying it’s no longer independent.

Huhana Hickey is the third member of the council’s community advisory panels to step down over concerns they are ineffectual.

Last week Ali said he did not feel comfortable getting paid $500 a meeting to chair a panel that had no legal mandate to give advice that made any difference.

A council the size of Auckland had enough competency and expertise to openly engage with the various communities without setting up “token” panels, he said.

Exactly. You don’t need a token panel costing $150,000 or so.


Parliament 26 March 2016

March 26th, 2015 at 11:56 am by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. JAMES SHAW to the Minister of Science and Innovation:Does he stand by his statement that the Government will “build a strong business-led R&D ecosystem to strengthen and diversify New Zealand’s economy”?
  2. Dr JIAN YANG to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on how low inflation is benefiting New Zealand families?
  3. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister responsible for HNZC: Does he agree with the National Business Review who asked “Is the Government’s social housing privatisation policy in tatters”?
  4. NUK KORAKO to the Minister for Economic Development:What reports has he received on the progress of New Zealand businesses succeeding internationally?
  5. KELVIN DAVIS to the Minister of Transport: Will transport spending in Northland return to the level that this Government inherited, given annual NZTA funding for the region has fallen by $36 million since 2008/09?
  6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS to the Associate Minister for Social Development: How much has the Government saved as a result of its benefit fraud initiative?
  7. SUE MORONEY to the Minister for ACC: Was the then Minister for ACC Hon Judith Collins correct when she said last year that the reason the Government ignored ACC’s recommendation for cuts to levies for employers and workers was “because we need to get to surplus”?
  8. PITA PARAONE to the Minister of Education: What reports has she received, if any, about why the Māori Education Trust is selling its 320ha Kahutara dairy farm, the late Edward Holmes’ farm, that was gifted to the Trust to educate Wairarapa Māori?
  9. JONATHAN YOUNG to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What reports has he received on renewable electricity generation in New Zealand?
  10. MOJO MATHERS to the Minister for Primary Industries: Will he support a ban on cosmetics testing on animals?
  11. TODD BARCLAY to the Minister for Small Business: How are small businesses benefiting from the innovation initiatives of the Business Growth Agenda?
  12. Su’a WILLIAM SIO to the Minister for Building and Housing: Have all boarding houses that are “rat-infested, mouldy dives that are unfit for human habitation” been closed down since he said he wanted them eliminated in November 2014; if not, why not?

National: Five patsies on inflation, NZ businesses, welfare fraud, renewable electricity and small business.

Labour: Four questions on social housing, Northland roads, ACC and boarding houses.

Greens: Two questions on research & development and animal testing

NZ First: One question on the Maori Education Trust

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm

Taxation (KiwiSaver HomeStart and Remedial Matters) Bill – third reading

The bill amends the KiwiSaver Act 2006 and the Income Tax Act 2007 in relation to withdrawal of member tax credits for KiwiSaver members purchasing their first home and “corrections” to the tax, social policy, and KiwiSaver treatment of income replacement payments for some veterans and other claimants.

  • Introduced: December 2014
  • 1st reading: December 2014, passed without dissent
  • Select Committee report: March 2015, supported without dissent
  • 2nd reading: March 2015
  • Committee: March 2015

The debate can last up to two hours.

Human Rights Amendment Bill – second reading continued

The Bill amends the Human Rights Act 1993 to enable the establishment of the position of a full-time Disability Rights Commissioner and to make changes to the role and structure of the Commission.

  • Introduced: October 2011
  • 1st reading: November 2013, passed 105-15 with Greens and Mana against
  • Select Committee report: April 2014, supported with amendments with Labour and Greens opposed

The debate has up to 60 minutes remaining.


Why Labour is in crisis throughout the Anglosphere

March 26th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The New Statesman reports:

It is easy to blame Ed Miliband for Labour’s problems; too easy. Labour parties are in crisis all throughout the Anglosphere: they are in opposition in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. Their problems go far deeper than the identities of their party leaders.

Labour’s fate seems especially bleak in New Zealand. Here the centre-right National Party reign: Labour won just 32 out of 121 seats in the general election last year, and only 25 per cent of the vote. Nowhere is Labour’s battle for relevance more urgent.

25% is a low in any of these countries.  In the UK they are at 33% (same as Conservatives), in Australia 38% (2% behind Coalition but 4% ahead on TPP), in Canada the Liberals are at 34% (1% ahead). In NZ they got 22% less than National.

Little is determined to learn from these mistakes. It might be that as a former trade union official, he will find it easier to reorientate Labour to a position from which it can again win elections. “The language the commentators keep using is ‘moving to the centre, moving to the centre’. And I think it is about getting down to a small number of priority issues,” he says. Last year, one of Labour’s problems was drowning the electorate in policy detail. “What I’m determined is that for the 2017 election, we won’t do what we did last time, which was have 120-odd policies,” Little says. Instead the party will offer a pledge card highlighting five or six main policies, much like Tony Blair’s Labour Party in 1997.

He sees rehabilitation for Labour lying in “finding a language and ideas that resonate with people that say, actually, there is a different way of doing this.” Labour parties must be seen as modern and forward thinking, and not merely lamenting the changing nature of the international economy that has eradicated the notion of a job for life. “That is where the future lies – being able to talk about the future of work.”

The rhetoric is good and pleasing to see Little saying this. But can he deliver a policy prescription that recognises it? To the contrary their labour policies seem to all be about reducing flexibility, not increasing it.


Labour abandons 20 years of support for free trade

March 26th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

NewstalkZB reports:

Labour is set to initially back a New Zealand First Bill that would legislate against a potential crucial clause in the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal.

Fletcher Tabuteau’s Bill would negate the ability of foreign companies to sue Governments over law changes that harm their business.

Labour Leader Andrew Little says they will support the legislation at its first reading as they have concerns about investor state dispute proceedings.

This is a massive shift in policy for Labour, putting them firmly on the extreme left. They have a proud legacy of supporting trade agreements but they are saying they will vote for a bill which would basically guarantee NZ would never ever get to sign another free trade agreement.

This is not just about the proposed TPP. Investor state clauses are now very standard in trade agreements. And they are about protecting NZ companies also. You may recall that the NZ Super Fund is suing the Portugal Government over the fact they treated the money invested by the NZ Super Fund differently to other investors in a bank. Without such provisions, then NZ companies can get treated differently.

The reality is Labour has signed trade agreements with investor state provisions. They are now voting for a bill that would have made such agreements impossible. This is again not a minor shift – this is a major reversal of 20 years of pro-trade policies from Labour.

The ASEAN FTA was negotiated by Labour and concluded in August 2008 and has investor state provisions.

The China FTA negotiated by Labour has investor state provisions.

The Thailand FTA concluded by Labour in 2005 has investor state provisions.

The Singapore FTA concluded by Labour in 2000 has investor state provisions.

So Labour signed FTAs with these provisions from their first year in office to their last year in office. They are totally standard in FTAs.

Their new policy to support a bill banning any trade agreements with them, is a de facto policy to never again sign a free trade agreement, and to walk away from all the trade agreements they concluded in Government. It’s pathetic pandering to the far left.

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Northland poll

March 25th, 2015 at 9:40 pm by David Farrar

I have details at Curiablog of the 3 News Northland poll. Key findings are:

  • Peters 54%, Osborne 34%
  • National’s bridge upgrade pledge – 74% say it is a bribe but 58% want the bridges
  • 48% say Peters can’t be trusted and 43% say he can be

So two lots of semi-contradictory results. Most Northlanders say they don’t trust Peters but they will vote for him.

And most Northlanders say they think the proposed bridge upgrades are a bribe, but nevertheless they want them.

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Food in Schools

March 25th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Minister of Local Government Paula Bennett says she expects parents to send their children to school with lunch.

National, ACT and United Future parties have voted down the Feed the Kids bill by 61-59 which sought to feed 20 per cent of New Zealand’s lowest decile school children.

“It absolutely is the right thing to do. We provide breakfast into any school that wants it and this is being taken up which is great, but we believe in parental responsibility and I stand by the decision we made,” Bennett says. 

Meanwhile Labour Justice Spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says of course it’s the role of parents to feed their kids but some parents cannot afford to feed their families.

We have a very generous welfare system. We pay benefits to people not in work, we give support to families with children, we help with childcare and we even have emergency grants for unexpected expenses.

The vast majority of low income families manage to send their kids to school with lunch. A couple of sandwiches is a very low cost – a dollar or so. If kids are being sent to school without lunch, it is far more likely an issue of parenting.

“Food in schools is not the answer to poverty, but it is a short term solution that means kids will at least be guaranteed a meal at school, which will help with their learning. Surely that means it’s the the right thing to do,” she says.

It would not be a short-term solution. Beyond doubt it would become entrenched, and never ever cease. In fact beyond doubt more and more families would stop sending their kids to school with lunch (as taxpayers are paying for a free lunch at school), and this would be seized on as proof it is needed more and more.


Paid lunch breaks?

March 25th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

Cotton On appears to have backed away from plans to strip workers at its Auckland distribution centre of their tea breaks, but their union says it is not yet convinced the war has been won.

Don’t you love the emotional term “strip”.

All that happened is the employer put forward a proposal. Unless the union agreed to it, it couldn’t occur.

The union wanted to preserve the current entitlement to a 15 minute paid tea break and a 30 minute paid lunch break and he was not clear from Cotton On’s statement that both would be retained.

Staff get a paid lunch break??

This is a first for me. I don’t know of any other employer that pays you over your lunch break. Tea breaks yes, but not lunch breaks.

The union ran screaming to the media about the employer’s proposal. Ironically if the employer did the same, they’d be fined by the Employment Court for a breach of good faith. But do you note we were never told exactly what the employer proposed. Just emotional rhetoric over stripping breaks.

If Cotton On employees are getting paid lunch breaks, they’re doing better than most employees. Have you ever worked for an employer that pays your wages over your lunch break? I’d be genuinely interested to hear.


Parliament 25 March 2015

March 25th, 2015 at 12:09 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. PHIL TWYFORD to the Minister for Social Housing: What reports, if any, has she received about the Salvation Army saying it felt pressured into carrying out expensive, time-consuming research on buying unwanted state houses because the Government repeatedly referred to the charity as a likely buyer?
  2. DARROCH BALL to the Minister for Social Development:Does she stand by her statement, “Every child has the right to be safe from abuse and neglect and these guidelines will help us build a stronger culture of child protection across New Zealand where the safety and security of children is paramount.”?
  3. JAMI-LEE ROSS to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on progress the New Zealand economy is making in reducing its external debt position?
  4. JACINDA ARDERN to the Minister of Internal Affairs: How will his decision to cut funding by $392,000 a year to the specialist non-fiction service provided by the National Library affect access to educational resources for rural schools?
  5. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR to the Minister for Social Housing:What are the next steps in the Government’s social housing reform programme?
  6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he stand by the Prime Minister’s answer that it is “misinformation” that New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions have increased by 20 percent between 2008 and 2012; if so, by what percentage did New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions increase between 2008 and 2012?
  7. SIMON O’CONNOR to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received in relation to the increased funding for cochlear implants announced in Budget 2014?
  8. Dr DAVID CLARK to the Minister for Economic Development: When did his officials first learn of SkyCity’s desire for a public funding top-up in order for the International Convention Centre to meet the Preliminary Design specifications?
  9. MATT DOOCEY to the Minister for Small Business: How are small businesses benefiting from the Better for Business – Result 9 Programme?
  10. Hon RUTH DYSON to the Minister of Education: What further advice, if any, did she receive that led to her decision to consult on the closing of Redcliffs School, following the advice she received from geotechnical experts in September last year that “with the mitigation measures in place, the risk from rockfall is considered to be no higher on the school grounds than on any site remote from the Port Hills”?
  11. JAN LOGIE to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Does he agree with the previous EEO Commissioner Judy McGregor’s statement on aged care that “The sense of crisis that surrounds aged care is partly a reflection of our collective knowledge that we are not being fair and that a large group of workers is being discriminated against.”?

One missing question, which means a party failed to put in a question.

National: Four patsies on NZ debt, social housing, cochlear implants and and small business.

Labour: Four questions on social housing, National Library, Sky City and Redcliffs School

Greens: Two questions on climate change and aged care

NZ First: One question on child abuse

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

Taxation (KiwiSaver HomeStart and Remedial Matters) Bill – committee stage

The bill amends the KiwiSaver Act 2006 and the Income Tax Act 2007 in relation to withdrawal of member tax credits for KiwiSaver members purchasing their first home and “corrections” to the tax, social policy, and KiwiSaver treatment of income replacement payments for some veterans and other claimants.

Introduced: December 2014
1st reading: December 2014, passed without dissent
Select Committee report: March 2015, supported without dissent
2nd reading: March 2015

There is no time limit for the committee stage but as an uncontroversial bill, is unlikely to take long.

Social Security Amendment Bill (No 3) – committee stage

The Bill corrects the effects of a Social Security Appeal Authority decision that weekly compensation payments made by employers accredited under the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) accredited employer schemes do not count as ACC payments, and hence a deduction.

  • Introduced: November 2010
  • 1st reading: April 2011, passed 110-10 with Greens and Chris Carter against
  • Select Committee report: May 2011, supported without dissent or amendment
  • 2nd reading: February 2015, passed 95-25 with Greens and NZ First against

There is no time limit for the committee stage. It is unlikely the debate would be greater than three hours.



The NZ-Korea FTA

March 25th, 2015 at 11:19 am by David Farrar

Some details of the recently agreed free trade agreement between Korea and NZ:

  • New Zealand exporters to that market currently pay NZ$229 million a year in duties.  Tariff reductions under the FTA mean New Zealand exporters will save an estimated NZ$65 million in duties in the first year.
  • Duties on New Zealand’s current exports will largely be eliminated within 15 years of entry into force.
  • Kiwifruit exporters currently face a tariff of 45 percent on their exports
  • Beef exports face duties of 40 percent
  • At the end of the FTA phasing period around 98 percent of New Zealand’s exports will enter duty and tariff free

Note that New Zealand First are promoting legislation that would stop the FTA with Korea. NZ First have opposed almost every major trade agreement NZ has signed.

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Harmful Digital Communications goes to committee stage

March 25th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new law to stamp out cyber bullying has passed through another parliamentary stage.

MPs debated the second reading of the Harmful Digital Communications bill on Tuesday night. It will create a new offence of sending messages or posting material to cause harm, punishable by up to two years in jail or a $2000 fine. 

Inciting someone to commit suicide will carry a maximum three-year jail sentence.

National and support partners United Future, ACT and the Maori Party voted for the legislation. 

But the bill has critics – including Labour and NZ First. There are concerns the new law will limit free speech, and may criminalise teenagers with harsh penalties.

The law also goes much further than proposals in Australia and the UK, which are less punitive.

Labour’s Clare Curran says she supports the intent of the bill – and cyber bullying is “horrible.”

But the legislation is poorly drafted and there was no input from young people, she added.  Labour are willing to work with Justice Minister Amy Adams with any amendments at the next committee stages.

United Future leader Peter Dunne said he had raised “major concerns” about the bill with Adams and cannot guarantee his support at the next Parliamentary stage.

He said there may be some amendments from the Government which will allay fears, but won’t confirm his vote until he has seen them.

“I have given no commitment to support the Bill beyond the second reading, in view of the concerns that have been expressed, and pending the government’s response to those concerns,” he said.

His concerns centred on “criminalisation and law of unintended consequences…concerns about scope of coverage, and enforceability.”

The bill as currently drafted is quite flawed, and I hope the Government does make changes at the committee stage.

The bill addresses a very real problem, but sometimes the cure can be worse than the problem.


Another panelist quits

March 25th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Another member of the Auckland Council Ethnic People’s Advisory Panel has resigned, and the Herald understands at least two of the nine remaining panellists are on the verge of quitting.

Kafeba Pergoleze Alvis Mundele, one of only two on the panel who also served in the previous term, tendered his resignation at the weekend.

His resignation follows that of panel chairman Feroz Ali, who quit last week saying the panel was a “token” body, had no real status and that he was unhappy about what it was costing ratepayers.

Excellent. If they all quit, then easy to abolish the costly panels.

“As a pastor and someone who works with the refugees, he was very concerned about how much money the council was wasting on running this panel … which is pretty much just a joke, really.”

Abolish the panel, and split the money saved 50/50 into rates reduction and a community project.


Winston promises a cannabis referendum – for around five minutes

March 24th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

NZ First leader Winston Peters promised to hold a referendum on legalising marijuana while campaigning for the Northland byelection, but rapidly backtracked on it straight afterwards.

Mr Peters was holding a street meeting in Kaikohe when a man asked whether he would legalise marijuana.

Mr Peters replied: “you want to legalise marijuana? I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you a referendum and if the answer is yes, the answer is yes. I’ll give you a vote on the referendum and if the answer is no, it’s no. Yes if you’ve got the majority, no if you haven’t. That fair enough? Wonderful.”

Asked about it later he denied he was supporting any such proposal or putting up a referendum himself, saying his comments were simply the shorthand required on a campaign trail. “I didn’t say ‘I’m going to give you the referendum. I said our policy is a referendum and if you want one, you’ve got to go and get one.”

Pretty clear what he said. Peters is a master of saying and promising pretty much anything.


Parliament 24 March 2015

March 24th, 2015 at 12:19 pm by David Farrar

The order paper is here.

Oral Questions 2.00 pm – 3.00 pm

  1. TIM MACINDOE to the Minister responsible for HNZC: What are the objectives of the Government’s social housing reform programme?
  2. ANDREW LITTLE to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statements that his plan to sell state houses “is not about selling to developers” and he would be “amazed” if the likes of the Salvation Army were hesitant to get involved?
  3. METIRIA TUREI to the Minister responsible for HNZC: Can he rule out selling Housing New Zealand-owned homes to private developers; if not, will any sale be contingent on developers housing low-income or vulnerable tenants in those homes?
  4. ALASTAIR SCOTT to the Minister of Trade: What progress has the Government made in opening up export markets for our regional economies?
  5. DENIS O’ROURKE to the Minister for the Environment: Does he agree with the Northland Regional Council’s 2012 State of the Environment Report that “large areas of land with prime soils suited for agriculture and horticultural production continues to be subdivided for lifestyle blocks and urban development”; if not, why not?
  6. GRANT ROBERTSON to the Minister of Finance: What advice, if any, did he receive from the Treasury on the Government policy to double-lane ten Northland bridges?
  7. SARAH DOWIE to the Minister of Transport: What progress has the Government made on its Accelerated Regional Roading Programme?
  8. DAVID SHEARER to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his quote regarding Hon Tim Groser’s bid to be Director-General of the World Trade Organisation that if “he decided to put his name in the ring then the New Zealand Government would give him 100 percent support”; if so, precisely what support did the Government provide to Mr Groser?
  9. STUART SMITH to the Minister for Communications: What are the latest towns to be fully fibred under the Government’s Ultra-Fast Broadband programme?
  10. SUE MORONEY to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s assertion that we will “absolutely not” see thousands of workers denied their tea breaks under his changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000?
  11. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM to the Minister responsible for the GCSB: Is the spying on candidates vying to be the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation an appropriate use of the Government Communications Security Bureau?
  12. JONO NAYLOR to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What is the Government doing to help small businesses raise funds?

National: Five patsies on social housing, exports, roading, fibre, and small business.

Labour: Four questions on social housing, Northland roads, GCSB and workplace relations

Greens: Two questions on social housing and GCSB.

NZ First: One question on Northland.

Government Bills 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm to 10.00 pm

Statutes Amendment Bill (No 4) – third reading continued

The bill makes changes to 34 Acts.

  • Introduced: May 2014
  • 1st reading: April 2014, passed without dissent
  • Select Committee report: July 2014, supported unanimously with amendments
  • 2nd reading: March 2015, passed without dissent

A provision relating to travel perks for former MPs has been dropped, following objection from the Green Party.

The debate has up to 80 minutes remaining.

Taxation (KiwiSaver HomeStart and Remedial Matters) Bill – second reading

The bill amends the KiwiSaver Act 2006 and the Income Tax Act 2007 in relation to withdrawal of member tax credits for KiwiSaver members purchasing their first home and “corrections” to the tax, social policy, and KiwiSaver treatment of income replacement payments for some veterans and other claimants.

Introduced: December 2014
1st reading: December 2014, passed without dissent
Select Committee report: March 2015, supported without dissent

The debate can be up to two hours

Harmful Digital Communications Bill – second reading

The Bill aims to “mitigate the harm caused to individuals by digital communications and to provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress.” by creating a new civil enforcement regime to quickly and effectively deal with harmful digital communications; creating new criminal offences to deal with the most serious harmful digital communications and making some small amendments to existing legislation to clarify their application to digital communications and cover technological advances.

Introduced: November 2013
1st reading: December 2013, passed unanimously
Select Committee Report: May 2014, supported unanimously, with amendments

The debate can be up to two hours.



Devoy on Refugees

March 24th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A reader e-mails re this story:

A few points on this:
Firstly, the Race Relations Commissioner should not involve herself in matters of public policy outside the scope of her responsibilities. She is in a public service role and should keep her opinion on these matters to herself, and not engage in activist issues.

I agree. 

In respect of her view that the quota should increase to at least 1,000 per annum:
We have a generally successful refugee resettlement programme.  Largely because we take a number of refugees that we can handle and work closely with to settle successfully.  We want refugees to make a solid contribution to their new country and do well.  In turn, that underpins public support for the annual quota which is crucial.  Excessive numbers with unsuccessful settlement outcomes is not helpful.
In effect, we already accept 1,050 per annum as we take a further 300 in the Refugee Family Support category.  This allows refugees to ‘sponsor’ their family members and bypass the usual migration process with its requirements for high education and skill levels etc.
I prefer quality of settlement outcomes for those we take, rather than a quantity we cannot successfully settle.  Many refugees have serious educational, health, mental health, language and other challenges that are costly and intensive to address.  We should seek to do that well rather than spread the limited funds too thinly over too many.
Could we take more refugees within the annual quota from Syria?  Perhaps.  Worth exploring and it may well be on the radar of officials already.
New Zealand is one of just 19 or so countries that takes an annual quota of refugees.  That is the number that needs to increase substantially to address the global refugee issue.  Like climate change, New Zealand can only ever have a minimal effect without the contribution of other nations.

I am sympathetic to calls for a modest increase in our quota. Maybe have it as a proportion of our population, so it rises a bit over time. But this is not a good time to increase it. Net migration is at a record high and infrastructure is going to start to feel some real strains. If anything, we need to temporarily reduce the level of net migration for a year or two – not because we don’t still want migration, just that it needs to be at a level our infrastructure can handle.

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Quote of the week

March 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“Every dollar released from taxation that is spared or invested will help create a new job and a new salary.”

- John F. Kennedy

The is brought to you by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. To support the Union’s campaign for lower taxes and less government waste, click here.

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Salmond on GCSB

March 24th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Rob Salmond blogs:

I am not a serial apologist for the GCSB. I think,f or example, that their recently-uncovered trick for feeding New Zealanders’ information to the NSA is entirely too cute. I think this morning’s New Zealand Herald story, however, about the GCSB spying for Tim Groser is somewhat overblown.

The most critical question is whether trying to help Tim Groser’s, ahem, optimistic bid to become WTO Director-General falls within the GCSB’s legal mandate. I say it does. Here’s section 7 of the GCSB Act, which gives the Agency’s objectives:

The objective of the Bureau, in performing its functions, is to contribute to—
(a) the national security of New Zealand; and
(b) the international relations and well-being of New Zealand; and
(c) the economic well-being of New Zealand.

I can readily see the argument that having our own person at the head of the governing body for world trade, however unlikely he was to actually get the job, would be good for the economic well-being of New Zealand, therefore falling under subsection (c). You could make an argument for (b), too.

If the activity was illegal, then I’m sure the Inspector-General would say so. We have a system of checks and balances to make sure any foreign intelligence gathering occurs within the law. Hager may not like what is done, but that does not make it illegal.

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Boston charter schools

March 24th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Boston Globe reports:

Boston charter school students outperformed their counterparts at traditional public schools and at charter schools in other urban areas by a striking margin over a recent six-year span, a Stanford University study found.

The strides at Boston charter schools — in both math and reading — equaled what students would have learned if they had been in school hundreds of additional days each year, researchers said in the report, released Wednesday.

The disparity held true for black, Hispanic, and low-income students in both math and reading, and was particularly strong for black and Hispanic students who live in poverty.

As you read this, remember that the two parties that most go on about poverty, are the two who want to abolish charter schools.

In Boston, the average yearly academic growth for charter school students was more than four times that of their traditional school peers in reading. In math, the academic growth was more than six times greater.


This month, Los Angeles administrator Tommy Chang was named as the next superintendent of Boston Public Schools. Chang, a former charter school principal, has a reputation for giving schools more freedom to hire and develop budgets, and said he plans to narrow the achievement gap with a focused effort to improve classroom instruction.

Make every school a charter school! Give public school boards the ability to become a charter school and fully manage their own budgets and staffing.

The study compared standardized test scores of charter school students with the scores of Boston Public Schools students with similar demographic backgrounds.

It found that the average academic growth of charter school students surpassed public school students in both mathematics and reading, and at each level from elementary to high school.

So they compare like with like.

Jon Clark, co-director for Brooke Charter Schools, which has schools in Mattapan, East Boston, and Roslindale, said charter schools provide a longer school day and give students intensive personal attention.

Principals have the freedom to hire a staff and craft a budget as they see fit, he said.

That’s the key – local flexibility and control.

Clark rejected the “cherry-picking” argument and said the success charter schools have shown with low-income black and Latino students is the true indicator.

“If you really care about the achievement gap, you can’t look at these numbers and dismiss them,” he said.

But they do.


A lizard management plan!

March 23rd, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

This is almost too bizarre to be true, but sadly it is. Duncan Garner writes:

This is a tale of a breath-taking rip-off.

It’s about a decent hard-working guy merely trying to build a house.

He is being gouged financially as part of the planning and consent process.

It’s no wonder we have a nationwide housing shortage when these sorts of disgraces are taking place.

The details:

This house construction was supposed to have started months ago at a site that needed some native bush and vegetation cleared. An arborist was called in and prepared a report.

But the local council then elevated it and demanded a whole new plan including an “ecological assessment of any likely/potential adverse effects caused by the clearance”.

Officials also wanted a restoration plan outlining what “supplementary planting” and “weed management” would take place.

Remember this aspiring home owner actually owns the land he is building on.

The council said this must include “subcontracting a lizard specialist to assess whether a lizard management plan would also be needed”. Sorry? A what?

Officials needed to know whether lizards or native geckos exist at the property . . . and whether their lives are in danger.

The work for this new plan would be $3000 plus GST. The cost of the lizard survey was extra – and estimated to be about $1600.

A lizard management plan. Is there a better example of the culture problem that exists at so many councils.

Under local planning rules and the Resource Management Act he must consult with local iwi groups.

They must be notified of his plan to cut down some of the native bush.

All six interested iwi groups have to be contacted.

Some of these iwi groups live hundreds of kilometres away from the building site, but have historical connections to the area.

Three of these groups have so far asked for initial site visits.

These don’t come cheap either. One of the iwi is charging $240 an hour, plus travel costs (and excluding GST).

This iwi goes on to say should a proper cultural impact assessment be needed they will provide the details of the costs involved.

Another iwi group say they see the trees as “taonga in need of protection from climate change, disease and ongoing development and they generally oppose the removal or felling of native trees”.

They also want an initial site visit to assess whether a wider cultural assessment is needed – but the kaitiaki (guardian) can’t do it till April.

Again this is bush on his land.

Apparently some bloke turned up for lizard patrol one night with a torch, barely knowing what he was looking for – and found nothing.

So far they’ve found one lizard in total – 500 metres away from the building site!

I’m sorry, this is a sick joke. It’s a rort and hard-working people are being ripped off.

Yes, we need planning rules and a consent process. But the RMA has created a cottage industry of outrageous ripoffs in the name of cultural political correctness.

This particular consent has been held up for months because iwi groups are gaming the system.

Councils are clearly misinterpreting the law and too many groups have too much power over private property.

This is an abuse of the system. It may be legal but it’s not right.

Government ministers need to read this and do something about it.

Well a major RMA reform bill is before Parliament. But if Northland votes for Winston Peters on Saturday, then the reform will fail (in its current form) and the status quo will continue.


Penalising shoppers

March 23rd, 2015 at 10:32 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Aucklanders wanting an alcoholic nightcap will have to stock up earlier or go clubbing if a recommendation for supermarkets and bottle stores to stop selling liquor at 9pm wins council approval.

A council hearings panel is recommending that the closing time for off-licence alcohol sales be brought forward by two hours from 11pm – and trading not start again until 9am the next day.

That compares with an existing national “default” opening time of 7am, which Retail NZ and its supermarket members have been lobbying hard to retain.


This is an incredibly stupid decision, if they make it.

The vast majority of people in supermarkets buying alcohol before 9 am or after 9 pm are not buying it to consumer that night. They’re mums and dads or shift workers who don’t have time to do shop during the day, so are doing their weekly shopping early in the morning or late evening, and are just buying some wine or beer for consumption at a later time.

This proposed change will massively inconvenience those families, and have almost no impact on alcohol related harm. Those wanting alcohol that night will simply buy it before 9 pm.

And what harm are they trying to solve by not allowing wine sales in supermarkets at 8.00 am?


Auckland Council panel chair says they are a waste of time

March 23rd, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

One News reported:

The chairman of Auckland Council’s ethnic people’s advisory panel has quit, saying he can’t keep claiming his $500 meeting fee in good conscience.

Feroz Ali says he has resigned after nine months chairing the panel because he doesn’t feel like his advice was making a difference to the council’s policy decisions.

“I could go on ticking the boxes, attending the dinners and collect $500 but I have ethics and I can’t do that.”

Good on him.

Each panel costs around $150,000. They should abolish pretty much all of them.

Council could invest more in getting its 9300 staff to consult with community leaders themselves, he says.

Exactly – you don’t need a panel to consult. In fact having an in house panel can undermine proper consultation because staff then think that talking to the panel is the same as consulting the community.


Customs and passwords

March 23rd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Customs boss Carolyn Tremain has told MPs the department would only request travellers hand over passwords to their electronic devices if it had a reason to be suspicious about what was on them.

Oh that’s okay then.


Although the proposed power would let Customs request passwords from any traveller or do random checks on electronic devices, Tremain told a parliamentary select committee that was not its intention.

Instead, the department would only use the power if it was acting on “some intelligence or observation of abnormal behaviour”, she said.

How about acting on a warrant?

“The reality is we have 11 million people crossing the border and a limited amount of resources which we are always going to prioritise by taking a risk-assessment approach. We are not saying every 10th person would be inspected.”

Every 12th?

It is quite appropriate for Customs to have power to search physical luggage at borders, because it is necessary to do so to detect illegal items such as drugs, wildlife, flora, goods etc.

But digital files are different. Just because you are going through an airport is no reason the state suddenly gains the ability to look at everything on your phone or computer. Digital files can of course be transferred electronically without the person leaving their home or country. So claiming you need some special power when you are in an airport is not justified.

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