Little dodges Ardern questions

April 20th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

One News reports:

Answer the question Mr Little: Labour leader gets repetitive, won’t answer straight on Ardern link

It seems Labour leader Andrew Little isn’t keen to answer questions about the father of one of his MPs that is linked to a hotel deal in Niue that he has criticised.

I bet he won’t.

Either Little was unaware that Ardern’s father was one of the trustees, or he didn’t care. That means either incompetence or malice.

Mr Little yesterday came out swinging about the fact that the Scenic Hotel Group was given the contract to run the Matavai Resort on the tiny Pacific island, weeks after the chain’s founder gave a donation to the National Party.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully and Scenic have denied there is anything amiss, but that hasn’t stopped Mr Little speaking out about the deal, saying it stinks.

It emerged today that the father of Jacinda Ardern, Ross Ardern, is a trustee owner of the resort, and would have helped appoint the hotel’s board of directors, who organised the contract tender.

Mr Little was asked repeatedly by ONE News if his accusations reflected badly on Mr Ardern, but he wasn’t biting, giving the same stock answer every time.

Little went on about how the trustees were personally appointed by McCully and the decision stunk to high heaven. How can that not be seen as a slight on Mr Ardern (who is a very respected public servant)?

Trans-Tasman on Gracinda

March 21st, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Trans-Tasman writes:

Labour leader Andrew Little’s call for a return to Muldoon-like setting of interest rates has been well covered elsewhere, but it is only the most prominent example of an utterly woeful attack on the Govt.

The Labour party dream team, Gracinda, based their attack on an MYOB survey of small businesses which showed a sizable downturn in income for small firms due to the fall in the dairy price. Both parts of Gracinda, Grant Robertson and Jacinda Ardern, worked off three presumptions: dairy prices should never fall; they should and could somehow be made not to fall; and small firms do not anticipate dairy prices will never fall. None of these presumptions are true in the world outside Labour’s rarefied and strange outlook on the economy.

It would be nice if the first two were true. But unless Labour plans to bring back guaranteed minimum prices for dairy – and on recent performance, we shouldn’t rule it out – it is a silly and make-believe approach to the economy.

Labour really have had a shocking 2016 to date. The talk around journalists isn’t around the 2017 election, but if Labour can get their shit together enough to be credible by 2020 as they think a 5th term for National would be bad for democracy.

Drinnan on Ardern and Weldon

March 18th, 2016 at 3:08 pm by David Farrar

John Drinnan writes:

MediaWorks’ withdrawal from current affairs and its focus on reality shows has led to the perception that it is being dumbed down.

Chief executive Mark Weldon’s “no dissent” management style and a flood of staff departures have led to criticism in the media, and on the left of the political spectrum.

The commonly advanced view from many of those critics is that the current management is taking TV3 to hell in a handcart.

I have had my own differences with Weldon, but I believe that to a degree, coverage of MediaWorks has been personalised against him.

With an open letter this week from Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, TV3’s shift appears to have become politicised.

Ardern accused Weldon of destroying TV3.

I found the political attack on a private business appalling.

I hate to think of the reaction from the Left if a National politician had attacked another media business for its business plan.

Admittedly, TV3 plays a big part in the culture.

I asked Ardern if it was appropriate for a senior politician to attack the business plan of a private business.

She said she would not have written the letter if she was a Cabinet Minister.

“I am an Opposition MP, and on this occasion chose to use my voice to articulate concerns that I know are shared by many.”

The column attacking Weldon was personal and nasty. Decisions at Mediaworks are not made by one individual. I don’t think Mediaworks is doing well, but you have a board, major shareholders who appoint the board, a CEO and a senior leadership team.

Ardern made it all about Weldon and personalised it. If she says the letter would have been inappropriate as a Minister, then how does it look coming from an aspiring Minister. Think if she became Minister of Broadcasting. It would be an effective demand to Mediaworks that they sack Weldon, or face a Government that will look to punish them.

Seymour and Ardern on e-cigarettes

March 7th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

David Seymour writes:

However, I do have a modest proposal that could relieve the poorest New Zealanders of this damaging tax (the poorest are 3.71 times more likely to smoke than the richest).

It is legal to buy electronic cigarettes in New Zealand. These devices use battery power to warm flavoured liquids into a vapour, giving the impression of smoking.  It is illegal to buy liquids that contain nicotine though, so they can’t usurp an addiction to real cigarettes.

In the internet age, the hyper-connected middle class simply imports nicotine-based fluids online.  If Customs can’t work out whether or not to charge GST on those jeans you just ordered from LA, they have no chance of working out what’s in the liquid you mail-ordered.

We should simply legalise the purchase of nicotine e-cigarettes, by prescription, tax-free.  The government already subsidises nicotine patches and the drug Champix, among other smoking cessation policies.  In total it spends around $75 million a year on anti-smoking measures.  Legalising nicotine e-cigarettes for those similarly diagnosed would provide an alternative for quitting.  The main advantage is that unlike standard medical substitutes it provides a substitute not only for the substance but for the habit.

Making e-cigarettes available by prescription is the least we can do. I’d actually make them available on the same terms as normal cigarettes. Why would you make the less harmful product harder to access?

Jacinda Ardern responded:

There is a trend towards electronic cigarettes, and the evidence certainly suggests they are exponentially less harmful than smoking tobacco, but we are still replacing one addiction with another.

Good to see Jacinda recognise the evidence that they are massively less harmful. It isn’t replacing an addication with another as substiution a product.

The addiction is to nicotine. But it is the tar that kills you. So if someone is addicted to nicotine, then the nicotine product without tar is a way way better option that the one with tar.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for these products (noting with caution that the big tobacco companies have started investing in them) and I agree that making them more accessible has some real benefits.

Who cares who invests in them? Is the aim of public policy to harm particular companies or to improve public health?

Again good to see Jacinda recognise the benefits.

But so too would properly resourcing cessation programmes.

It’s not either or. Some people respond to cessation programmes, but not everyone.

So I propose an alternate idea – why don’t we use the considerable tax take on cigarettes (which we spend only a portion of on smokers) to back cessation programmes and products that have a proven track record, and help people to quit for good.

Umm tobacco excise tax and GST on tobacco brings in $1.3 billion a year. Is Jacinda saying all of that should be spent on cessation programmes? Currently $57 milion a year is spent on smoking cessation programmes. Is Jacinda really saying we should increase that at least ten fold?

Jacinda on Australia Day

February 9th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Jacinda Ardern writes in the SST on the call for NZ to have a national holiday that is an actual celebration like Australia Day:

Australia Day? Are you kidding? That is the last place we should be looking for a model of race relations, let alone a national day of celebration – unless you’re into drunken, casual racism. 

Jacinda seems to be judging Australia Day off the basis of what a small minority do. I doubt most Australians see it as a day of drunken casual racism.

Ardern says she does not want to be PM

November 29th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Labour’s rising star Jacinda Ardern says she is too “selfish” to want to lead the Labour Party – she’d rather have a private life.

In an interview announcing her new role as a Sunday Star-Times columnist, Ardern says people are wasting their time speculating about her as a future leader … she doesn’t want the job.

Winston also claimed for some decades he was happy to be the member for Tauranga.

The playbook is you deny any interest in the job, so that when you do stand for leader, you say that you do this reluctantly, and at great personal sacrifice, but your party and country needs you.

The latest 3 News-Reid Research Poll has Ardern at 4.2 per cent in the preferred prime minister stakes, fourth behind John Key (38,3 per cent), Andrew Little (10.4 per cent), and Winston Peters (9.3 per cent).

Ardern’s rise is as rare as it is meteoric for a lower-ranked MP.

What I can’t work out is if you don’t want the job, and your rationale is you want a private life, why do you do the multi-page spreads in the Women’s Weekly where not a word of politics is discussed, but it is all about your family, and partner?

There’s one way you could put the speculation to bed, and that is a Shermanesque statement, the short version being:

“If drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve.”

Jacinda in Women’s Weekly

November 26th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

TV3 poll this week had Jacinda Ardern climbing higher in the Preferred PM poll, and closing on Andrew Little rapidly.

Not by coincidence she had this multi-page spread in Women’s Weekly a few weeks ago.

Now Jacinda defended her women’s magazines profiles on Q+A a few months ago:

KATIE You also get criticism for doing soft media, for appearing on Next Magazine’s cover and things like that. Why do you feel it’s important to do those sort of interviews?

JACINDA Yeah, as I said, you know, in the current context, do people watch Parliamentary TV? Do they seek out political ideas in the old traditional forms? No. And we have to be realistic about that. And if someone offers an opportunity for me to take issues like child poverty into another format and reach perhaps a different audience, then that’s an opportunity I’m going to take.

Now I agree with Jacinda. It is quite legitimate to do soft pieces as a way of connecting with voters on political issues. Many politicians do it.

But if you read the article, there isn’t a single mention of a political issue. It is 100% about holidays in Niue (where her parents live and work). It could almost be a travel advertorial for Niue.

So yes it is legitimate to do interviews and profiles with soft magazines, to connect to voters on issues. But is it legitimate when there is nothing at all about politics in there?

I wonder how many more months it will be until Jacinda is polling ahead of Little as Preferred PM?

Does Labour have a Trudeau?

October 29th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Chris Trotter writes:

It’s one of those pictures that freeze-frames a political leader in the making. Half-turned from the enthusiastic crowd of Prince Edward Islanders he is addressing, Justin Trudeau’s upraised arm acknowledges something beyond the image’s point of reference. A pale sunlight lightly gilds the palm of his outstretched hand and highlights the features of his face. Taken in 2013, Canadian Press photographer Andrew Vaughan’s photograph captures to perfection the same political magic that swept the 43-year-old Trudeau to victory in last Monday’s Canadian general election.

Inevitably, those New Zealanders favouring a change of government in 2017 are scouring the ranks of opposition parties for a Kiwi politician capable of bringing some Trudeau magic to our own political arena.

Labour supporters, in particular, are looking at the rather dour figure of Andrew Little and wondering whether he has what it takes to unseat a Prime Minister as popular as John Key.

So who does Trotter think may be the equivalent? He says it is not Grant?

In the end, however, most of the speculation about whether a Justin Trudeau is lurking, unrecognised, in the Opposition’s ranks circles back to the Labour Party. If Little is too dour and grumpy to beat the man Bill English once described as “bouncing from cloud to cloud”, who is left to bounce Labour’s banner up there alongside him?

Grant Robertson would probably say Grant Robertson. (And, to be fair, there are many in the Labour Party who would agree). But, to the rest of New Zealand, Robertson can come across as just a bit too complacent; a bit too absolutely, arrogantly, Wellington. For the best part of a year, he’s had plenty of chances to shine as Labour’s finance spokesperson. That his light has barely flickered in that role must count heavily against him.

I was listening to RNZ’s The Week in Politics today while running. It was on the budget surplus. What struck me was that Julie-Anne Genter came across as far more reasoned and logical on the economy, than Grant. He was still arguing that somehow the seven years of deficits were caused by National while also attacking National for not spending more. It was very weak, while Genter actually made quite reasonable arguments.

Which leaves just two names for Trudeau-seekers to play with: Stuart Nash and Jacinda Ardern. Both are well endowed with the skin-deep trappings of the Trudeauesque politician: youth and good looks. Nash even boasts a famous Labour name – although, the number of people who recall New Zealand once having had a Prime Minister called Walter Nash will not be large. Ardern, herself, is already registering in the preferred Prime Minister stakes – always a sign of better things to come. The positives are definitely there for both MPs.

Imagine then as leader and deputy? Nash could never win the leadership vote with the unions having 20%, but deputy leader is appointed by caucus only. I don’t think it will happen before 2017, but if they lose in 2017, it could happen.

 

Herald backs Ardern

October 19th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

Labour needs to project the image of a fresh, new potential government.

Ms Ardern can help project that image. Ms King cannot. The bigger problem for Mr Little may be that Ms Ardern probably projects that image better than he does, and the last thing he needs is a deputy whose promotion might cause her to be seen as a rival to himself. Ms Ardern no doubt would deny any wish to replace him, and mean it, but if her public reception was much better than his, she would be a contender.

That is the trouble. Ardern as Deputy Leader might soon overtake Little in the Preferred PM polls.

This time next year, if the polls have not improved for Labour, some in the party may well push for yet another change of leader. Having held two contests in the previous term of Parliament, it is running short of candidates. Grant Robertson, who stood in both unsuccessfully, has accepted he will not be the next leader. Ms Ardern, who was going to be Mr Robertson’s deputy had he succeeded, has not been tarnished by the result. She could be a credible candidate; all the more so if by then she has been deputy leader for a year.

That’s almost an endorsement of Ardern to be Leader!

Quin on King vs Ardern

October 9th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Phil Quin writes in the Herald:

When he installed Annette King as his interim deputy, Andrew Little said he would revisit the decision around this point in his tenure. It’s a promise he would be wise to break. The advantages of a generational swap between King and Jacinda Ardern, the widely touted alternative, are fewer than they initially appear, and the risks are greater.

Annette King is not a leadership rival to Andrew Little, nor is she likely to become one. The same cannot be said of Ardern. That’s the first, and most crucial, box ticked. Unfulfilled ambition is the characteristic a leader least wants to see in a deputy.

That’s true. Having a deputy who wants your job rarely works out well.

Combined with an absence of unrealised ambition, King’s standing in caucus uniquely enables her to play hardball when called for, giving Little room to establish goodwill and build trust among colleagues.

It is hard to imagine an MP less temperamentally suited to inheriting “bad cop” duties than Jacinda Ardern. In fact, a change in deputy would demand a recalibration of responsibilities, forcing Little to take a greater role in managing (read: disciplining) caucus. He doesn’t need that: it’s not among his strengths, and it shouldn’t be his focus.

A good deputy will manage much of the caucus relations for the leader, and to a degree help manage the office also.

Ardern certainly appears to be well liked by the public, and has the backing of many inside the Labour Party, as well as a sizeable bloc of MPs, in particular those aligned with Grant Robertson with whom she ran on a joint ticket as deputy in last year’s leadership election. These are put forward as arguments in favour of promoting her, but they leave me cold.

For one thing, personal popularity is neither here nor there in a successful deputy. None of the most successful second-in-commanders of the recent era – Geoffrey Palmer, Don McKinnon or Michael Cullen – were beloved by the wider public. What they each offered were complementary skillsets, along with personal attributes, that made their leaders stronger.

This is true, but Ardern does have the ability to grow the vote for Labour if she is in a leadership role. The problem is she may over-shadow Little, but they need to lift their vote in Auckland and neither Little nor King can really do that.

It may be that Annette King wants to retire – and who could blame her after 28 years in Parliament? This would bolster the case for Jacinda Ardern without making it a slam dunk. Breakfast telly affability – undeniably useful in a senior politician – is not what Andrew Little wants in a deputy. He needs a compelling or charismatic figure far less than someone who provides the space necessary for him to become effective and popular in his own right.

I think he needs someone who can lift their party vote in Auckland.

Garner picks Ardern over King

September 27th, 2015 at 8:16 am by David Farrar

Duncan Garner writes at Stuff:

They need to now promote Jacinda Arden who last week appeared in the unprompted preferred PM rankings.

She should replace current deputy, Annette King.

King is strong, popular and performs, and my sources tell me there are some who want her to stay as number 2.

But Labour needs to excite the public and signal change and that’s where Ardern comes in.

As capable as King is, I don’t think they look like a party for the future with her as Deputy. If they retain her, it is almost a vote of no confidence in the rest of the caucus. However she is undeniably their best performing MP.

Many NZ views on Corbyn

September 15th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Spinoff has views of the election of socialist Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour Leader by a couple of dozen people. Some interesting comments:

Jim Anderton

Jeremy Corbyn represents a return to the politics of inclusion, egalitarianism and the principles of social and economic justice required of a fair society. The outrageous and ever increasing gap between the rich and the poor, with the resulting crisis of rising child poverty and social dislocation, is increasingly seen as simply unacceptable to more and more people throughout the world.

Hopefully Jeremy has better luck with his caucus than Jim did with his.

Jacinda Ardern

I wonder whether the question might be, what can the UK Labour Party learn from the NZ experience?

What can they learn? How to lose three elections in a row, and have your vote share drop every time!

James Shaw

I am unconvinced that the generally accepted wisdom – that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour is unelectable – will hold out in reality. The Obama ’08 campaign, Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain and others, show that many people are desperate for hope and change in the face of growing inequality and a sense that their own and their children’s futures are being sold down the river.

Oh dear. Not sure Obama would like the comparison to Syriza. And how is Syriza working out for Greece?

Helen Kelly

I think he will do very well and create new space for alternative policies including fiscal policies. I think the party will swing behind him and if they can organise those that recently joined, they will have a new invigorated movement come the next election.

Comrade Kelly predicts glorious triumph.

 

Dim-Post on Ardern

August 28th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Danyl McL blogs:

But the context around Ardern’s surge in popularity complicates all of this a bit, I think. She isn’t popular because she’s an effective campaigner, or because she’s been breaking big stories or landing hits on the government in the House. She’s popular because she’s gotten glowing coverage in the women’s magazines over the last few months, appearing on the cover of Next magazine and being profiled in the Woman’s Weekly. I assume this is all being facilitated by Labour’s new comms director who is a former Woman’s Weekly editor and it is a level and type of coverage that any politician – even the Prime Minister – would envy.

Ardern’s popularity subsequent to that coverage tells us something very interesting about the power of that type of media, which is something that political nerds like me are usually oblivious to. But it’s also something that’s happening because she’s really pretty. And there’s something problematic about insisting politicians shouldn’t be judged on their looks when they do appear to be succeeding specifically because of their appearance.

My thoughts are three-fold:

  1. Graham Lowe’s comments were inappropriate as the phrase “a pretty little thing” is sexist and condescending
  2. However it is a fact that attractiveness is a factor in political success. There have been peer-reviewed experiments backing this up. And it is not inappropriate to comment that attractiveness is a factor, especially when as Danyl points out that you are doing front page photo shoots for women’s magazine covers. And this doesn’t apply just to female politicians. Simon Bridges’ looks play a part in his success also, in my opinion.
  3. One can recognise attractiveness as a factor in political success, but it is silly and demeaning to suggest it is the only factor in their success.

What I’d genuinely like to hear is a feminist perspective on politicians elevating themselves through the celebrity/gossip media instead of traditional media platforms. People like Clark and Key have appeared in these magazines, obviously – but after they’ve risen to prominence. Ardern’s use of them to achieve prominence is a new phenomenon in New Zealand politics, I think, and worth talking about.

Matthew Hooton has also written in the print edition of NBR about how unprecedented it is for a non leader like Ardern to be at 4% Preferred Prime Minister, as it is an unprompted question. It means that one in 25 New Zealanders when asked who they want to be Prime Minister, name her without prompting. That is an extraordinary achievement, when you take into account she is only the 9th ranked Labour MP.

For myself I rate Ardern’s political skills, and will point out that in 2012 I predicted she will be Labour Leader and Prime Minister one day.

Final boundaries – winners and losers

April 17th, 2014 at 12:52 pm by Jadis

Well the final boundaries are out.  There are some changes (as there always are) and a couple are quite significant.

Winners:

Nikki Kaye, Auckland Central – Having won and held Auckland Central by less than a thousand votes in 08 and 11 Nikki will be overjoyed to see ALL of Grey Lynn move into Mount Albert.  Grey Lynn was Jacinda’s territory and I am pretty sure she owns a house there so she will now be living outside of the electorate that she says she will contest in this year’s election.  Nikki is probably sitting on a conservative majority of 2000 but it is useful to remember that with strategic voting and the like locally, and the high profile of the seat, that it will still be a hard race.

Nicky Wagner, Christchurch Central – I am really pleased for Nicky as she was gutted when the provisional boundaries came out as they made it a strong red seat. There must have been some fascinating discussion at the Commission table because it is a crazy shaped seat – how many legs does it have?  Nicky only won the seat by 47 votes so holding Christchurch Central was always going to be extremely tough.  Big chunks of red vote have been cut out of the electorate so Christchurch Central is back in play for both parties.  Still too close to call but certainly gone in Nats favour compared to the provisionals.

Tim MacIndoe, Hamilton West – Hamilton is unique as it is the only urban centre held by the Nats .  Similar boundaries to the provisionals means that by crossing the river MacIndoe has gained some strong blue areas in a high growth zone.  This seat should get stronger as more development occurs.  Tim’s majority may get as high as 5000-6000 this year.

Matt Doocey, Waimakariri – While there are no changes since the provisional Waimakariri is well and truly one of the most marginal seats in the country.  The electorate already had a big party vote in Nats favour but Clayton Cosgrove has been pretty popular there.  With Kate Wilkinson retiring Cosgrove would have been hoping to regain his seat but the boundaries haven’t been so helpful for him.  Wilkinson’s very thin majority is expected to climb just into four figures – not a big jump but it matters when a race is as tight as this one.

Losers:

Ruth Dyson, Port Hills – Dyson is the biggest loser in this boundary review.  Her majority has been reversed with the Nats stronghold of Halswell moving into the seat, and Anderton’s old stomping ground of Sydenham moving into Christchurch Central.  Dyson will have a real battle to hold this, even with the Nats putting in a new candidate.  How winnable the seat is very much depends on the strength of the Nat candidate, but a good candidate could take the seat with a 2000 majority.  I’d be gutted if I was Dyson as Pete Hodgson (who did the boundaries for Labour) is a good mate of hers.  Perhaps this is Labour’s new (poor) strategy of retiring MPs.

Trevor Mallard, Hutt South – This is the surprise of the final boundaries.  Mallard has gained all of the  Western Hills (good Nat territory) and lost super red areas of Naenae and Rimutaka. Labour should have been able to stop this occurring but appear to have put up no fight.  Mallard should be furious with his party for failing to keep Hutt South a real red seat.  Why didn’t Hodgson fight hard for Mallard?  Was it a directive from on high?  Realistically, Mallard should hold the seat but he’ll be working hard for it and never should have been put in this position. I expect Mallard’s majority to be pegged down a few.

Sam Lotu-iiga, Maungakiekie – Labour were grumpy in 2008 when Sam took one of ‘their’ red seats in Maungakiekie, so they will no doubt be pleased that the blue booths have almost all been taken out of Maungakiekie.  Beaumont would be silly to think her win is a foregone conclusion as Sam will throw everything into his beloved electorate and is able to cross party divides for electorate support.  This seat is too close to call.  Another true marginal.

Cunliffe and Labour – Labour have racked up few gains, and have taken significant hits in Christchurch, the Hutt Valley, Hamilton and Auckland.  In Maungakiekie where Labour locals organised a large number of submissions they’ve made headway but they could have been similarly organised elsewhere and chose not to be. That poor organisation has put a number of Labour MPs at serious risk.  At this rate, Labour will have no provincial seats (Tamati, you are dreaming in Rotorua with another Nat stronghold (Te Puke) going into Rotorua) and are fighting from behind in the marginal seats. Where was the leadership from Cunliffe, Coatsworth, Barnett and the hierarchy to stop this happening?  Overall, a fail for Labour.

 

 

 

The Care of Children Law Reform Bill debate

October 24th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The House debated last night Jacinda Ardern’s Care of Children Law Reform Bill. Despite the fact that most parties and MPs agree adoption laws need to be reformed, the House voted down the bill because it was so lightweight. As I blogged last May, it was basically a press release pretending to be a bill. It did nothing except ask the Law Commission to write a bill, and require the Minister of Justice to introduce it.

One Minister has said that the bill basically meant handing over most of the powers of Parliament and the Cabinet/Executive to Wayne Mapp! (Dr Mapp is a Law Commissioner).

The debate is in the draft Hansard transcript:

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour):  It makes sense that as Parliament we make use of the expertise of the Law Commission and the work that has already been done. Doing so would be an unusual practice, though, and I do acknowledge that. Embedding this process into a member’s bill is, however, a very, very unique approach, but, as I have said, given that this work is so overdue, anything that can help us speed up reform in this area surely must be welcomed.

The problem is that the bill doesn’t speed up reform. It would mean an actual law reform bill would not be considered by Parliament for two to three years.

SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel): The sponsor of this Care of Children Law Reform Bill, Jacinda Ardern, has nominated the Justice and Electoral Committee to scrutinise the bill should it pass this first reading. Therefore, as chairman of the committee, it falls to me to have a first go at what can only really be described as a very sloppy and lazy member’s bill by this member. …

But I am very aware that in contrast to this once-over-lightly bill that is being presented by Ms Ardern, the Green MP Kevin Hague has actually done a very significant and substantial piece of work and has a bill in the ballot on this very matter. His bill remains in the ballot. It is a hugely complex area. It is emotional and it has huge impacts on people’s lives. Just identifying the key policy issues is itself quite a task, but if Jacinda Ardern genuinely wants to make a real contribution to serious and meaningful law reform in this area, then she needs to put in a bit of serious work. This bill that she has put forward is basically little more than a legislative request for the Government to do something. It is not a solution; it is not even an attempt at a solution. 

Hague’s bill is 18,000 words of legislation which covers around a dozen different policy areas. It is a very serious piece of law reform, which if drawn from the ballot could see a new law in less than a year.

The first major flaw with this very sloppily drafted piece of legislation is that if passed, under this bill there would probably be no law change for at least 4 years or more. And let us just have a look at the likely timings. A select committee would take about 6 months or more to give this member’s bill consideration, given the looming summer break ahead of us. Then there would need to be a second and third reading—that would easily take a further 3 months or more. Then the Law Commission itself would need to draft its report, and that would take at least a year—probably longer. Then, of course, once it came back from the Law Commission under instruction, the Government bill would have to be first read and scheduled, and that could take up to another 12 months. Then there would be a select committee process; that would be another 6 months or more. Then there would be a second and a third reading, and at least another 3 months after that. So the problem is that the member sponsoring this bill is essentially trying to use her member’s bill to get the Law Commission to write her bill for her. That is sloppy. That is lazy. It is a lazy approach. It is politically lazy—it is politically lazy—and it is intellectually lazy.

It is an NCEA not achieved.

The second flaw with this bill is that it does not actually specify a single policy principle—not one. It does not identify a single policy principle. It actually gives no direction at all to the Law Commission as to what should be in the bill or what its scope should be. The bill does not even indicate whether it should discriminate against same-sex relationships. Every single detail is left to the Law Commission. It would effectively give the Law Commission a blank piece of paper. It is a constitutional affront to this House and to the members who sit in this House.

The lack of detail is also a killer.

It is very easy to write a nine-clause bill and trumpet that as some kind of solution, claiming that it would address a wide range of concerns about the outdated Adoption Act. But, sadly for the member sponsoring this bill, lawmaking is not that simple; nor is it that easy, and it absolutely should not be. If she wants to do some serious work, then she should put in the hard work. She should put some intellectual grunt into it and actually apply her not insubstantial brain to the matter at hand and actually proffer a solution—she should actually proffer a solution. So simply drafting this bill and asking someone else to do the job for you is a lazy way of ensuring that a prospective glittering political career falls in the dustbin. The National Government MPs will be opposing this bill. It is a sloppy, lazy piece of legislation, and it deserves to be consigned to the legislative rubbish bin.

A somewhat harsh speech, but not inaccurate. And it wasn’t just National voting against. The Greens did also:

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): The member Jacinda Ardern announced her intention to place this bill in the members’ ballot back in 2010. On that same day the Greens indicated that we did not support the approach that she proposed. We reiterated that position again when the bill was drawn from the ballot, and as a result we will be voting against the bill today.

Kevin Hague has blogged on why the Greens said they would vote against:

This Bill is very big and complex. I believe that the cross-Party approach that I set up was the best way of proceeding, and have been very pleased that work in the last Parliament led me to be able to continue work with Nikki Kaye (and many others outside Parliament) to produce this Bill. Along the way we are certain to have made some mistakes or policy decisions that others disagree with. That is why I have indicated that while the Bill sits in the ballot waiting to be drawn I am very keen to get feedback, so that we can refine it and advance important law reform that has the broadest possible support.

“But your Bill and Jacinda’s are very similar. Why are you voting against hers?” To understand that you need to look at the Bills – they’re not similar at all. Jacinda’s Bill does not change adoption law in any way. While my Bill is a substantive reform of adoption and surrogacy law, Jacinda’s instead gets the Minister of Justice to ask the Law Commission to update the advice they have already given on adoption reform and turn that into a bill. With the best will in the world, that process will take at least two or three years to arrive at the point we have already reached, and will use valuable Law Commission money and time to bring us to where we already stand! Even then the notional Bill would require a well-disposed government to do something with it. Well if we had one of those, it would pick up my Bill and advance it as a Government one. And hers doesn’t deal with surrogacy.

Labour withdrew from the cross-Party process on adoption in order to advance Jacinda’s approach – a choice of unilateralism over multilateralism. In my opinion it is a history of unilateralism from successive governments that has led to the situation we have now, where everyone agrees the existing law is obsolete and harmful, but nobody has done anything about it. I told Jacinda at the time, and then said publicly, repeatedly, that we opposed her move, because what we really need is an approach that will actually takes us forward, not a bill that won’t pass and is instead a distraction from the goal of having adoption law that actually works for families. It should be no surprise to anyone that our position hasn’t changed. Supporting Jacinda’s Bill would undermine the cross-Party work we have been doing for the last 3 years.

You can imagine Kevin’s annoyance. He’s been spending over a year working cross-party to do a serious piece of law reform, and Labour chooses to draft up a press release, call it a bill, and try and claim credit for doing something.

TUREI: We believe batting the issue back to the Law Commission is an abdication of the responsibility to act now. One of the reasons that this is important is that drafting a bill to give effect to the Law Commission’s recommendations requires political judgment calls to be made on many policy issues, not just legal or technical ones. It is Parliament that has the mandate to do this, not the Law Commission. Secondly, this bill incorporates another form of abdication of responsibility to a future Parliament. A future Parliament cannot be bound, of course—we know that well enough—by what we decide today, so there is no greater likelihood that the process will advance the cause of adoption reform any further than the Law Commission’s 2000 report did. More to the point, although it is inevitable that issues first raised by a particular Parliament will not be completed until a future one sometimes, this bill would effectively defer any action to a future Parliament. We need to take action now. Thirdly, the Law Commission already has a busy programme, and even under the very best of circumstances this bill will not result in an actual bill on adoption for us to debate for at least another 2 to 3 years. In other words this bill delays law reform further.

If the Ardern bill did proceed, it would mean that Parliament would have the perfect excuse to do nothing until the Law Commission reported back in three years or so.

There is no reason why a bill cannot be drafted now, and, indeed, one already has been, saving us those years. Back when the member first announced this bill colleagues from Labour and National had joined Green members in a cross-party approach addressing adoption reform. We still believe that this is the best way of pursuing the change, and, indeed, have continued to work with National and other parties in the House and community organisations to develop a bill.

Labour and Jacinda had a choice – continue with the cross-party work with adoption reform groups, or seek to do some cheap grandstanding. Sadly they chose the latter. You may not get headlines from the behind the scenes work – but you do get progress.

Hopefully Hague’s bill will be drawn out of the ballot in the near future, allowing real progress to be made on this issue. The Adoption Act is woefully out of date. Note also that this isn’t about same sex adoption. Louisa Wall’s Marriage bill has already changed the law to allow same sex married couples to adopt. Adoption law reform is about recognising that almost all adoptions today are open, not closed etc.

The fate of this bill is a good lesson to other MPs. Do the hard work up front. Parliament will not vote for a bill that contains no policy principles, no details and just asks someone else to write the actual bill that is needed.

Now we know what the Greens mean by Green jobs!

April 12th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

TVNZ reports:

Metiria Turei’s claim that Maori growing marijuana are developing entrepreneurial and horticultural skills has been slammed as “mind-blowingly ridiculous” by Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

The Green Party co-leader made the comment on Maori TV’s Native Affairs programmethis week, but she has been cut down by Dunne, who branded the claim as “ridiculous” and “irresponsible in the extreme”.

In the show, Turei said growing the illegal drug helps develop “real skills” among Maori, particularly in disadvantaged areas.

This is what you have to look forward to if there is a change of government. I wonder if you will be able to apply for an entrepreneurial grant to help pay for your cannabis plantation?

He said her claims that growing cannabis could teach people much-needed skills, was akin to saying “a safe cracker is teaching his apprentice engineering skills”.

Peter Dunne is talking common sense on this. I actually support a change to our drug laws, but the last thing you want is MPs praising drug dealers as entrepreneurs.

However, Labour’s social development spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said Turei’s comments highlighted the difficult situation many families find themselves in New Zealand.

Oh, Good God.

Incidentally the video clip used by TVNZ appears to be taken from the Whale Oil blog You Tube channel, without attribution!

Why not inform people of whom is right?

March 4th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s another case of she said, she said. Labour MP Jacinda Ardern was yesterday bemoaning record benefit numbers during National’s reign.

DPB, sickness and invalid beneficiary numbers were at the highest since records began in 1940, she said.

It didn’t take long for Social Development Minister Paula Bennett to respond with her own gloating statement.

The number of people on the DPB, unemployment and invalids benefits all decreased last year, she said. It seems statistics are everyone’s friend.

Rather than just report that both MPs are claiming different things, it would be nice if the media actually provided the full data and allowed people to decide for themselves.

I blogged yesterday that the numbers cited by the HoS and Ardern were over a year out of date. That’s not opinion – it is fact.

The excellent Stats Chat site also gives people the full data, in graph form. Sadly the number of people who read that site is far far less than those who read newspapers.

Lindsay Mitchell also has some useful fisking of Ardern’s claims.

Ironically Anthony Robins at The Standard is also unhappy with the article. Not for the misleading claims, but because a Labour MP is suggesting that it would be a good thing to have fewer people on welfare!

I pledge $1,000

February 28th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Paul Easton at the Dom Post writes:

Just a few days after getting a promotion, Labour MP Chris Hipkins has received the chop from his leader David Shearer.

Mr Hipkins was shorn of his red locks this morning to raise money for a cancer charity.

8357809

David should have left it hard down. Then Chippie would look the part to be MP for Rimutaka 🙂

8357822

 

Looking like a younger Trevor Mallard 🙂

While the general consensus was positive, Mr Hipkins was not so sure when shown the results.

”Oh my goodness, it’s really short. What have I done?” he said.

Mr Shearer also had concerns.

”I just hope I can get the red hair off my suit,” he said.

Heh, he may need decontamination.

Mr Shearer revealed he had pledged to have one Labour MP a year shave their head for the cause, Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

He hoped to line up a woman MP for next year, he said.

”I had a word to Annette King last night, but she wasn’t too impressed.”

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern, who watched on from the sidelines this morning, also seemed less than keen on the idea.

If Jacinda takes the place of Chris next year, I’m pledging $1,000 in advance to the cancer charity! 🙂

Goff smear fails

December 5th, 2012 at 6:48 pm by David Farrar

In Parliament today Phil Goff asked:

When he appointed Peter Kiely as director of the Pacific Forum Line in July 2009 was he aware that Mr Kiely was, from November 2008, listed under the Companies Register as a shareholder in a competing shipping company, Sofrana, and that he held those shares right through until 10 August 2012?

Was it appropriate for Mr Kiely to have been a shareholder in Sofrana and not disclose that information to his Minister or to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade when Mr Kiely was involved in giving advice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the sale of the Pacific Forum Line and when the preferred bidder was in fact the Sofrana shipping line?

But Kiely is not a shareholder. McCully says:

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has called allegations made by Phil Goff MP against former Pacific Forum Line director Peter Kiely “reckless, cowardly and wrong”.

“By attacking Mr Kiely without checking the facts Mr Goff has impugned the reputation of a highly professional individual without any justification.

“Central to Mr Goff’s allegation is that Mr Kiely held shares in shipping company Sofrana at the time PFL, of which he was a director, was considering an offer from Sofrana.

“Mr Kiely has never owned shares in Sofrana. The shares referred to by Mr Goff were held by Mr Kiely as a non-beneficial trustee for a Sofrana employee. Practising lawyers like Mr Kiely commonly hold shares for clients as non-beneficial trustee. If Mr Goff had asked he could have been told this.

Goff could have found this out by setting down a written question. He thought he had a gotcha, but failed.
Just a big as fail was in Q5:

JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: When was she first aware that the Transition to Work Grant had been used to pay for flights to Australia for job seekers who had an offer of employment?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development) : It was just after 1 p.m. yesterday that I was advised there might be cases where payment had been granted for flights to Australia. I am aware that there has been the odd request for airfares to Australia via correspondence to my office. I have been clear that my expectation is that they would not be paid. Transition to Work grants were introduced in 2007 under Labour. That year there were 16 cases where airfares were granted to Australia, and I have been informed that there have been six cases this year at a combined total cost of $4,600 approximately. I will be removing any ambiguity in the programme by a direction to the chief executive that will be tabled in this House.

And just for good measure:

Rt Hon John Key: Does the Minister find it unusual that a party that set up the fund and used it 16 times in the first year now finds in Opposition that it is opposed to its very own policy that it established?

Again, this could be avoided by good planning. Seek the information under written PQs and then you know whether your attack will backfire or not.

Ardern on Homebrew

November 3rd, 2012 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil notes that Labour’s Welfare Spokesperson Jacinda Ardern tweeted:

I heart @homebrewcrew #NZMA

This is the band whom at the Music Awards said John Key was a cunt who should suck their dicks. They are a Labour favourite who plays at gigs to raise funds for Labour. They encourage people to chant “Fuck John Key” at concerts.

So I’m not surprised Jacinda is a fan. I mean how can you not be if you are a Labour MP. I wonder how they would like it if there was a band which had played lyrics about Helen Clark being a bitch, and encouraged people to chant “fuck Helen Clark” and called her a cunt. Somehow I suspect she would be outraged and complaining to somebody about it.

In a Stuff review it was noted:

Initially, the subject matter might be a bit hard to swallow for some audiences – songs about living on the benefit, being an alcoholic and taking deadly drugs like datura are placed prominently at the start of the album and could come across as flippantly celebratory.

So the lyrics celebrate taking drugs and being on the benefit – how appropriate for Labour’s welfare spokesperson.

But it would be nice to know specifically what part of the performance Jacinda was tweeting her approval of – telling John Key to suck dicks or celebrating being on welfare and drugs?

Adoption law reform

October 14th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Green MP Kevin Hague has announced:

 Green MP Kevin Hague today unveiled a Bill to comprehensively overhaul adoption law and address related surrogacy issues, which will be entered in the next Members’ bill ballot.

“This Bill is the result of considerable work, and is a much more ambitious reform than is usually attempted through the Members’ bill process,” Kevin Hague said.

“The Law Commission reviewed adoption law and in 2000 recommended the consolidation of the legislation relating to parenting and care of children. The changes they recommended are what we have based my Members Bill on.

“We have also used previous Ministry of Justice advice, and more recently had assistance from other experts with an interest in these issues. I want to thank everyone for helping us get the Bill this far.

The current Act is almost 60 years old, and has almost no relevance to what is happening today. It is primarily based on “closed” adoptions and the vast majority of adoptions today are “open”.

The Member’s Bill places adoption in the Care of Children Act, as originally intended by the Law Commission, and makes the best interests of the child the fundamental principle underpinning the law. The Bill also:

  • Ensures that all adoptions will be “open” unless exceptional circumstances mean there is a need to extinguish links with the child’s biological parents. While this has become common practice, the current law does not provide for it at all.
  • Removes unnecessary restrictions on the kinds of people who may be considered to adopt, ensuring that adoptive parents can be selected from all the options, in the best interests of the child.
  • Acknowledges, but does not regulate whāngai arrangements, which are instead controlled by traditional Iwi practice.
  • Provides for the adoption of children conceived and born through altruistic surrogacy arrangements.

I very much agree that the focus should be on the best interests of the child, and arbitrary restrictions should not be in place to restrict an adoption which is best for the child.

“Drafting a Bill of this size means that I’m sure there are further improvements that can be made. I will continue to work with interested parties to fine-tune the Bill while it sits in the ballot waiting to be drawn.

Few bills get drawn in their first ballot, and it is indeed sensible to listen to feedback and improve them for future ballots.

GayNZ has written:

Labour’s Jacinda Ardern will put forward an amendment to her adoption bill at its upcoming first reading to immediately fix the basic discrimination in the current law, because the full overhaul her proposed legislation will lead to will take a long time.

The problem is you can not amend a bill at first reading. Standing orders do not allow for amendments to a bill to be considered at first reading. You can change a bill between members’s ballots before it is selected. You can have a select committee amend a bill, or you can amend a bill at the committee of the house stage. There is no provision to amend a bill at first reading.

Any MP can ask for leave to do something outside standing orders, but this requires not a single MP out of 121 to object, and have never known this to be granted for a first reading amendment that is substantive.

I blogged over four and a half months ago on the problems in Jacinda’s bill. It was resubmitted unchanged over three months later. The time for amendments was before resubmitting it. You simply can not amend a bill (without unanimous leave) at first reading. Now I’m not suggesting MPs should change their bills, just because I’ve criticised them. But the fact that Jacinda is now trying to amend her bill, indicates that many others share at least some of my concerns over her bill. Note that I believe we all want the same thing – a modern child-focused adoption law.

The challenge for an MP, is to not just write a bill, but to seek feedback on it from colleagues, from interested groups, from experts. You want to have it fit for purpose before it gets drawn from the ballot.

For those interested the Hague bill is here. I’m sure Kevin would welcome feedback on improvements to it (that are consistent with its aim).

Tamihere on Labour front bench

October 7th, 2012 at 6:13 pm by David Farrar

John Tamihere on Q+A:

PAUL Yeah, but we’re now 2012, as I say. I mean, do you think David Shearer’s got to really reshuffle that front bench? I mean, you can’t honestly look at that front bench and think they’re performing well as an Opposition.

MR TAMIHERE That’s true, but he’s also got to look to 2014 for the list. 

PAUL It’s critical, because this week – you take this week. Bad week for the government. Should have been. More Dotcom coming left, right and centre at the Prime Minister.

 MR TAMIHERE You’ve got me. There’s no doubt—

 PAUL Wilkinson’s reversal on Mike Tyson.

 MR TAMIHERE Front bench is not firing.

 PAUL No.

 MR TAMIHERE Across the whole line, whether it’s health, welfare or education, and those are the biggies.  …

I’m surprised Tamihere named specific portfolios where he claimed Labour front benchers are not firing. That will not endear him to Maryan Street, Jacinda Ardern and Nanaia Mahuta.

Who will win this match?

August 17th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A broadcast media rugby team will square off tomorrow against a parliamentary side in a fundraiser for St John Ambulance Service.

The media team includes former All Black Glen Osborne, former MP John Tamihere, TVNZ’s Scotty Morrison and Monty Betham and Nate Nauer from MAI FM. Radio Live’s Willie Jackson is team manager.

On the other side are MPs Shane Jones, Chester Borrows, Paul Goldsmith, Brendan Horan and Alfred Ngaro. Jacinda Ardern, Nikki Kaye and parliamentary rugby team adviser Winston Peters will provide the glamour.

Hmmn who will win – the team with a former All Black who played in 21 test matches, or the team with Jacinda and Nikki in it? 🙂

Anyone know where the game is?

Espiner on Ardern

August 9th, 2012 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Guyon Espiner has done a profile on Jacinda Ardern for The Listener. I was one of those he interviewed for it:

Presumably Ardern will do that, too, if she wants to go all the way to the top. Blogger David Farrar believes that is possible. Yes, he’s a National supporter and National’s pollster, but he would “far rather have her leading the country than a lot of the others!” He has some words of caution, though. He believes her first-term record did not justify a No 4 placing – equivalent to Steven Joyce’s on the National benches. Farrar says if Ardern doesn’t get pushed too far too fast, she could be deputy prime minister or even prime minister one day. He chuckles at her leading the International Union of Socialist Youth because it’s so far removed from his politics. But he certainly doesn’t belittle the job. “You don’t get elected to a position like that if you are stupid – that is a seriously testing role with a lot of people involved.” Farrar says that given most of her experience has been in the state sector, she needs to broaden her horizons, be more pragmatic and learn that not all good ideas come from your own side. “If you don’t have it before you are an MP, you have to recognise your weaknesses and work hard to address that.”

All views and advice I stand by.

Ardern’s CV reads as if she has spent a lot of time thinking about a political career, although she insists she hasn’t. She worked for Helen Clark and cites the former prime minister as a major inspiration. Their early lives do share similarities. Like Clark, Ardern grew up in a small town with conservative parents. 

Ardern is like Clark in many respects.

Ardern rates Labour’s chances of regaining power in 2014 as 10 out of 10. “Look at the coalition possibilities for Labour – if we had an election tomorrow a Green-Labour coalition is a very strong prospect. 

I think this is unwise. Trevor Mallard has also said he expects Labour to win in 2014, 2017 and 2020. Claiming you are a dead cert to win can come over as arrogance.

There is every sign Ardern will one day do that. She has an honesty, a humanity and an engaging manner absent in most politicians. There is a freshness to her speech. Even when she’s grinding through the policy options on serious subjects like welfare reform or child poverty, the hint of a smile is there. This doesn’t undermine her credibility, but it lightens and lifts her above the hectoring bores who chew up time on digital recorders. It is late afternoon now. The cafe is preparing for the evening crowd and the quiet spot in the corner is under threat. It’s time to go.

Final question: how would she like to be remembered when her political career is over? “Can I say two things?” she says, not waiting for an answer. There’s a long list of policy goals. “I won’t bore you with all of them but broadly they are around wellbeing of kids and families. But ultimately I think I would just like to be remembered as someone who has integrity.” Wherever the journey takes her, it seems certain she will achieve that.

Time will tell. If Grant becomes leader, most people assume she will become the deputy to her former PM’s Office colleague. Clark staffers would be Leader, Deputy and Chief Whip!

Handing over law making

May 29th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

As I blogged yesterday I am in support of modernising our adoption laws. They are literally a relic from the 1950s. But the law reform is not just about whether same sex couples should be able to adopt, but needs to deal with a wide range of adoption issues, guardianship issues and surrogacy issues.

A few people think this will lead to many gay couples getting to adopt children, ahead of “deserving” heterosexual couples. But I quote Andrew Geddis on this:

This law change will result in only an infinitesimal increase in the number of children who actually get raised by a same-sex couples because there are Fuck All “stranger” adoptions in New Zealand (less than 100 a year). And then a given same-sex couple only will be able to adopt a child if the birth mother chose them ahead of all other eligible couples. So if gay couples could join the pool of people eligible to adopt in this manner, the number of children who would be placed with them likely would be negligible

What this means is that the argument about whether kids being raised by same-sex couples is good/bad is pretty much irrelevant to this issue, because it ISN’T ABOUT MORE KIDS BEING RAISED BY SAME SEX COUPLES THAN THERE ARE AT THE MOMENT.

What this is about is like what we saw on TV3, where two lesbians have lived together for 19 years, and both have a biological child. however they can not make each other the adoptive parent of each child. So if one of them dies, one of the children could be left in limbo. The current law actually prevents the best interests of the child being paramount.

Media reported yesterday that National MP Nikki Kaye and Green MP Kevin Hague have been working for around 18 months on an adoption law reform bill. As I indicated, it is a hugely complex area, and just identifying the key policy issues is quite a task.

Now some in Labour have been saying that there is no need for a bill by Hague/Kaye, as Jacinda Ardern already has a bill in the members’ ballot. This prompted me to look more closely at the bill, and I’m afraid it is very seriously flawed. I have absolutely no doubt that Jacinda genuinely wants good law reform in this area, but the bill she has put forward is basically little more than a legislative request for the Government to do something. The bill, which is only slightly longer than a press release, essentially does the following:

  1. Requires the Minister for the Law Commission to ask the Law Commission to review the law relating to the care of children and update its September 2000 report on adoption
  2. Requires the Law Commission to report within 12 months a report, recommendations and draft legislation
  3. Requires the Minister of Justice to introduce the bill, as drafted by the Law Commission, without amendment within seven days

There are a significant number of semi-fatal flaws with this approach. The first is timing. Under the Ardern bill, there would probably be no law change for four or more years until after it has been selected from the ballot. The likely timings are:

  • 1st reading – 3 months after introduction
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months
  • Law Commission report – 12 months
  • Govt Bill has first reading scheduled – up to 12 months
  • select committee – 6 months
  • 2nd and 3rd reading – 3 months

So even if the Ardern bill was drawn tomorrow, any actual law change would take four or more years, so maybe the law would be changed by 2017. The problem is that Jacinda is trying to use a bill, to get the Law Commission to write a bill. But Ardern’s bill itself would have to go through the full legislative process which would take probably 12 months. And I am being generous in suggesting it could take 12 months to pass. Many member’s bill have spent 18 months just awaiting their first reading!

Effectively what Ardern wants could be achieved by writing a letter to the Minister of Justice, and this would save one to two year’s time if the Minister agreed. However Ardern is trying to legislate to force the Minister to introduce a bill, even if they do not want to. But she has made a fatal error. She has legislated that such a bill must be introduced within 7 days of the Law Commission drafting it, but she has not said that the Government must schedule it for a first reading debate.  So if the Government did not want the bill to progress, it would simply place it at the bottom of the order paper – which they can do as it would be a Government bill. Even a minority Government would be able to prevent the bill from ever being voted on – something they can’t do with a private members’ bill that actually seeks a law change – rather than just ordering the Government to introduce a bill.

So to be very clear, even if a majority in Parliament favoured law reform, the process outlined in this bill would give the Government an effective veto. It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where for example it is after the 2014 election and say Colin Craig or Winston Peters could demand that the price of their support is the bill not proceed, as their constituents do not like it. By making it a Government bill, you lose control of its timing.

So the biggest problem if Ardern’s bill would not actually see any law change for four or more years, and could in fact never be voted on if the Government did not want it to pass. But that is only one flaw.

The second flaw is that the Ardern bill doesn’t specify a single policy principle. Not one. It gives actually no direction to the Law Commission as to what should be in the bill, what its scope should be, or even that the bill should not discriminate against same sex relationships. Every single detail is left to the Law Commission. This is a blank piece of paper. Now one could say, well surely they would mainly repeat what they reported in September 2000. Well they might. But it is worth considering that I think every single member of the Law Commission is now different from 12 year ago. So there is no guarantee that what the Law Commission would deliver is what Ardern wants. It is the job of legislators to spell out the general policy principles they want a law to reflect.

The third flaw is that the Minister of Justice is required to introduce whatever the Law Commission drafts, without amendment. Putting aside the rather important constitutional issues of making the Law Commission able to bypass Cabinet, it means that if a first reading is scheduled the MPs have to vote on whatever the Law Commission drafted. It could not be amended unless it survives to select committee. Such a bill could include a provision that all babies named David have to be placed into the care of CYFS and the Minister of Justice would be forced to introduce it without amendment. Sure that is an unlikely example, but it is a horrific precedent to have draft laws bypass Ministerial and/or MP approval, and going straight to a vote. This gives huge powers to the unelected Law Commissioners.

This is obviously a very bad idea. The political process is about MPs and parties working together to ensure a bill is acceptable and has enough support to pass first reading. There are often intense negotiations before a bill is introduced into Parliament.  The Ardern Bill actually entirely removes MPs from the legislative equation until the Law Commission bill reaches select committee – if it even made it that far. And the probability that it would face massive changes at select committee is enhanced when MPs have had zero say in its drafting.

The fourth flaw, I touched on earlier. Rather than introduce a private members’ bill that actually outlines the desired law changes, it just instructs the Government to introduce a bill in probably two years time. By then making it a Government bill, it means Parliament loses control of when it gets voted on, as Government bills are debated at the discretion of the Government. So by failing to specify that the bill must be scheduled for first (and subsequent) reading/s at the top of the Government order paper, the bill is basically entirely ineffective.

So in summary the Ardern bill is not a helpful (while I am sure well motivated) step towards sensible adoption law reform for the following four reasons:

  1. It would probably delay any actual law reform for four or more years. By contrast a private members bill which actually specified the proposed reforms could be passed into law within a year or so.
  2. There are absolutely no policy principles in the bill (not even that the welfare of the child is paramount). It is a total blank piece of paper for the Law Commission.
  3. The bill locks MPs out of any involvement in the eventual draft government legislation prepared by the Law Commission, making it far less likely of gaining the necessary support.
  4. The private members bill requires the Government to introduce a Government bill, which will then only progress at the timetable decided by the Government – rather than as Parliament wishes. Under MMP the two are not the same thing.

It is very easy to write a nine clause bill and trumpet that as the “solution”, claiming it would “address a wide range of concerns about the outdated Adoption Act”. But alas law making is not that simple or easy. Either you convince the Government to make adoption law a Government priority, or you draft a private members bill to do it yourself.