Sharmageddon

Newshub report:

The Hamilton West MP has come out swinging – in fact, he’s hit the nuclear button. He’s accusing the Prime Minister and her office of a “cover-up” and says the Labour Party held a “Kangaroo Court” to decide his fate.

He’s also played Newshub a recording of another MP saying to him the outcome of the caucus meeting in which he was suspended was predetermined the night before.  …

Newshub knows the identity of the MP, but revoiced the recording to protect their identity. The MP tells Dr Sharma his fate was sealed at the meeting. 

“It’s all predetermined. This is purely just to get them where they want to be, which is for caucus to be aware that a decision will need to be made and that it will be, it’s gonna be to whack you,” the MP said.

So this other Labour MP said that the secret caucus meeting was absolutely to predetermine what would happen to Sharma. But the PM said:

Earlier this week, the Prime Minister was adamant there was no predetermination.

“You have my assurance and word here, it would not have been in the rules to make any pre-determination,” said Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday. “We wouldn’t and we didn’t.”

So who do we believe – the person who convened the secret caucus meeting and tried to hide its existence from Dr Sharma and the public, or the Labour MP who spoke to Dr Sharma?

The MP on the recording accuses his colleague of bullying.

“Those guys are bullies. No two ways around it.”

So it isn’t just Dr Sharma saying it.

The Evidence is in: Data for the School Leavers of Every High-School in NZ

I have spent the last month acquiring and processing significant data on the leavers of every high school in New Zealand – with great help from the good people at Education Counts. This is far more important than the cohort data (by Year level) that comes out in February.

As I reflected on this earlier this week with some of NZ’s top educators the highlight was that there were schools in every decile achieving highly (as well as many most certainly not) which smashes the myth that poverty precludes education success.

(Credit: Education Counts)

Top schools in each decile by University Entrance achievement (schools with 75 or more students).

Decile 10. Diocesan School for Girls

Decile 9. Woodford House

Decile 8. St Peter’s College (Epsom)

Decile 7. Marist College (Auckland)

Decile 6. St Catherine’s College (Kilbirnie)

Decile 5. Manukura

Decile 4. Selwyn College

Decile 3. Zayed College for Girls

Decile 2. St Paul’s College (Ponsonby)

Decile 1. McAuley High School (Otahuhu)

I will let the reader draw conclusions. McAuley’s results exceeded that of 20 of NZ’s Decile 9 and 10 schools.

Baradene College and St Margaret’s College are the best at getting students into degree Level study.

On the down side there are a lot of schools that have a HUGE amount to improve upon plus attendance is even worse than is being generally told. In Term 1 of this year only 22% of Decile 1 students were fully attending.

I have had the processes checked by two of Australasia’s best education analysts. 

The aim is very much to motivate change and improvement for those currently missing out as well as affirming the very good aspects of our system – and helping to put the spotlight on great practice that can then be shared.

The data is in spreadsheet form and includes sheets for all high schools on:

– high-school size – largest to smallest

– Level 3 NCEA and above percentage for school leavers for each school 2018-21 (ranked highest to lowest for 2021).

– UE percentage for school leavers for each school 2018-21 (ranked highest to lowest for 2021).

– Each school’s UE percentage for leavers for 2021 compared to decile mean and national mean.

– Level 3 NCEA and above gap to UE for leavers 2018-21 and ranked smallest to largest for 2021.

– Retention percentage until 17 years of age for each school and ranked highest to lowest.

– Percentage for each school of their leavers going onto L7+ Degree study in 2020 – ranked highest to lowest.

– The anonymised data mean for full attendance across deciles 2018-2022 (T1).

– UE percentage by school governance and school type.

 Uses for the data 

– for policy writers and influencers to be fully informed about the state of play.

– for all school leaders and management to have a better understanding of the NZ system.

– for Primary/Intermediate school leaders and management to have a better understanding of the schools their students may go to and to be able to better inform/prepare students and families.

– For high schools to better evaluate their situation/progress – plan for improvement with accuracy and seek the right kind of support from the Ministry and the Community.

– For every parent to better understand the schools their children are attending – or are looking to attend.

The information is of high value educationally and has taken a considerable amount of time and expertise. I can make it available for use within a school (under copyright) or professional organisation at a relatively small price.

For personal use happy to supply on a donation basis.

Please email me for details: alwyn.poole@gmail.com

Auckland Grammar decries free NCEA credits

I’ve been sent a copy of an e-mail from Tim O’Connor, the headmaster of Auckland Grammar to the CEs of NZQA and the Ministry of Education. He beautifully sets out why the Government’s decision to just hand out free NCEA credits this year is a terrible one. The e-mail is below:

I write to express concern about today’s announcement.  The points I raise below do not require a response, and are not a criticism of NZQA as such, as there are multiple contributing factors when making a decision to make changes to the 2022 qualifications.  These are changes that will add to the demise and credibility of our national qualification.  

  1. NZQA is using the same solution as was applied in 2021 but the problem is very different this year. LRCs were applied last year to level the playing field for Auckland students, but this year all schools have been impacted equally. The situation this year calls for a different solution
  2. The NZQA announcement suggests that these measures are intended to mitigate the impacts of “absences of students and teachers, as a result of COVID-19, (which) have had a substantial impact on teaching, learning and assessment”. The issues apparently being addressed, therefore, are: teaching & learning and low attendance, but NZQA’s solution is to adjust the national qualification rather than to address the 2 primary issues
  3. Absences this year could be for COVID isolation, sickness such as the Common Cold, unjustified absences and other reasons.  This year’s awarding of LRCs is precedent-setting as it isn’t a pandemic-related ‘temporary measure’; instead it is a reaction to low attendance nationally (for any reason).  It implies that there is an attendance threshold, below which a student may be eligible for bonus credits. This sets an ambiguous precedent for future years, since Ministry attendance targets sit below 70% until 2024
  4. Level 3 students with good attendance are likely to have accumulated at least 10 credits already, perhaps in all of their subjects. Since UE now only requires 14 credits in 2 subjects and 12 in a 3rd, final year students could finish their school year now. NZQA’s announcement encourages students to count the credits they have earned already and then calculate when they can stop learning, given the addition of the Learning Recognition Credits (LRC). This measure may actually encourage non-attendance in Terms 3 and 4 for those students 
  5. Lost learning may have occurred for students in Term 1 & 2, but this solution doesn’t address the lost learning (due to attendance, sickness, student disengagement). NZQA might have allowed schools to offer more opportunities for assessment for students who were absent earlier in the year, or offered the LRCs for internals completed from 1 August onwards, or for all external standards. Such an approach would have encouraged students to attend school. 
  6. Internationally, most countries are currently looking at ways to resuscitate the learning lost over the past 2 years. New Zealand, by contrast, appears to be attempting to disguise lost learning and accommodate it by reducing what is required to earn the national qualification this year. When the evidence from international tests such as PISA and TIMSS shows that New Zealand students’ performances are already in decline, this contrast in approaches is concerning. By lowering the bar of the National Qualifications Framework even further, the Ministry and NZQA will continue to manufacture results that suggest there is no decline in NZ students’ learning (or achievement) 
  7. There is a message in this decision that external assessment is less important than internal assessment, as the awarding of LRC’s means that many if not most students will not need to sit external examinations in order to secure their 2022 qualification. 
  8. The credibility of University Entrance must start being questioned by universities,  as they protect the entry standard for tertiary education. It would be understandable if universities started setting independent entrance tests as UE loses credibility.

The decision brings into question the credibility of our national qualification and the very purpose of education in this country.  If our national qualification authority is not supporting each secondary school’ s primary purpose to educate our young, and measure their acquisition of knowledge through independent means what message does that present to schools, teachers and parents across the country?  Academic rigour is a thing of the past?  Let’s lower the aspirations we have for children?  As schools it is not your role to be foundational institutions for encouraging every kind of human excellence? 

Those directly involved with teaching on a daily basis know that students will attend and do their best to achieve, if they know that they accountable for doing so. Likewise, they know that if someone will intervene with a measure that elevates their performances without them even having to attend school, it sends the message that the usual standards no longer apply.

By failing to address the underlying problems, NZQA is prolonging the educational damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic instead of working to rectify it. By inflating students’ results and encouraging non-attendance, NZQA is masking and exacerbating the lost learning problem and is prepared to send students off to higher education and the workforce with significant gaps remaining in their knowledge, rather than attempting to provide assistance that would serve students (and our community) better in the long term.  Such an approach is unacceptable to me in the role I hold and it is unacceptable to the community I serve. You will appreciate my views need to be shared with our community, so they understand academic rigour, and accountability for attendance and learning will remain unchanged at Auckland Grammar School, contrary to the messages our Government, NZQA and the MOE wish to send secondary school students and their parents nationally.

PM claims control doesn’t matter

Kate MacNamara writes:

The control of assets is just as important as ownership, and control and ownership don’t always amount to the same thing. Most Kiwis understand this. Strangely enough, though, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sat down with TVNZ’s Jack Tame this month and argued just the opposite.

Ownership without control is just a nine letter word rather than actual ownership.

The PM took a few twists and turns in her response. Tame was being “overly simplistic” she said: “… I’m arguing it’s simplistic because the ownership of these entities sits with local bodies and government. So it is not changing the ownership structures.”

Tame countered: “It’s not changing ownership but it is changing the representation, that’s an important distinction.”

Ardern insisted: “Well actually, local government maintain the ownership. They’re the ones with the public share … and with these regional representative boards, yes we have mana whenua represented and local government represented. But the ownership rights continue to sit with local government and with those local councils.”

Her final word on the matter was: “The reason I am coming back to ownership is because for most people power sits with ownership.

But the point is with three waters the owners won’t have the normal powers of ownership. The power will be with the regional groups.

Control matters: controlling parties will set the prices charged for the use of water assets (possibly subject to a regulated cap); they will decide how those charges are levied – by volume/use perhaps, or maybe by property value if that’s how they judge fairness; and they will almost undoubtedly decide that the cost of improving water assets in some regions will be met by ratepayers in other areas, so those who have already paid for adequate infrastructure will pay again for assets in areas which have underinvested.

If the Prime Minister thinks control is immaterial, she should try giving it up.

If only.

Guest Post: The Aotearoa RNZ TVNZ Public Media Bill is now up for submissions.

A guest post by Melissa Lee MP:

You know already National opposes the $370million wasteful spend that the Government thinks is the future of New Zealand’s public broadcasters.

Every submission highlighting your concerns is welcomed by me and the National Team so please write into the EDSI Committee and have your say.

The legislation is vague. The cost is massive.

We don’t even have the benefit of knowing what the financials will be for any revenue gains long-term with the Minister hiding behind the wall of OIA redactions and Commercial sensitivity when hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars are spent as inflation continues to hit our pockets.

The reality, a Public Media monolith, is dire and the Government’s own independent advice from Sapere has made it clear it’s not needed.

The merger and blurring of RNZ and TVNZ into ANZPM will not only ensure, during a cost-of-living crisis, that the Labour Government re-prioritised consultants for their mates over actual content, actual decisions and real outcomes for New Zealand’s media future but also permanently change New Zealand’s media landscape in a way that it will take years to unravel.

I am passionate about New Zealand’s broadcasting and media sector and I know that it’s future is not being corralled into a media monolith while other competitors wither and die and New Zealanders continue looking offshore for the content they desire alongside the talent choosing international destinations for their careers instead of homegrown production houses.

The next generation of New Zealand audiences simply doesn’t get media and broadcasting content from our public sector. It chooses innovation, ideas and imagination. It doesn’t care where they come from or who has funded it. We need to think about media as platform neutral and flexible. We need to think about supporting media not in terms of $$$ but in better regulations, in growing an economy that supports best practices and a platform neutral approach to content funding over feeding whatever comes along just from the public purse with little accountability.

A Public Media Monolith guarantees the latter and discourages the former.

I hope you take the time to submit on the Bill. I hope you take time to understand the implications of a merged RNZ and TVNZ. I hope you will talk with your friends and family about this and encourage them to also have their say. I can ask the questions, I can challenge the Ministers (past and present) but ultimately, the voice of the people of New Zealand is what is most important to stop the Public Media Monolith and to stop the spend.

Comments sections on blogs and news articles, for better or worse, are no replacement for your voice to New Zealand’s Parliament through the official submissions process so we need your help. There’s less than a month to go before submissions close and the Government is moving at full pace to ensure the disestablishment of RNZ and TVNZ happens before National returns to Government, they want it done and dusted by March next year.

Here is the link: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/sc/make-a-submission/document/53SCED_SCF_BILL_125298/aotearoa-new-zealand-public-media-bill

Thank you for your views whatever they may be. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

The Afghanistan disaster

Peter Bergen at CNN sums up what has happened in Afghanistan since Biden withdrew:

  • Women have no right to work, except in a select few jobs such as cleaning women’s toilets
  • Women need a male relative to be with them if they travel more than 45 miles
  • Girls can only stay in school until age 12
  • Half the Afghan population now face acute hunger
  • 40% of media outlets have closed
  • The leader of al Qaeda was living in Kabul
  • The Interior Minister is a member of the wider Al-Qaida leadership who was on FBI most wanted list for kidnapping a NYT reporter

Bergen concludes that the Taliban 2.0 is identical to Taliban 1.0, except now they are better armed thanks to the weapons the US left behind.

Greenpeace says we have a greenwashing Government

Russel Norman writes:

One of the jobs of the government is to sort out the real climate actions from the greenwashing, to hold industry to account. And of course, one of the jobs of the government is to not engage in greenwashing themselves. The problem with some of the actions of the current government is that rather than holding business to account for its greenwashing, on some vital climate issues the government is actually a proponent of greenwashing

And who is to blame:

People assume that the Climate Minister, especially a Green Party Climate Minister, will not perpetuate greenwashing, and will call it out, but it has not always been the case with James Shaw, and that makes it all the more insidious.

No love lost there.

Jacinda Ardern makes the climate policy in this Government and James Shaw presents it. The first rule of politics is to learn how to count – look at the numbers and you will understand this Government – Labour has a simple majority and Shaw isn’t even in Cabinet.

Wonder who Russel will vote for?

Government pushing up land and house prices

The Herald reports:

The Government’s winning $70.4 million offer for rural land known as Ferncliffe Farms trumped private sector bids because it constituted a “huge upfront payment” with no conditions to mitigate risk, sources close to the process have told the Herald. …

In order to outbid private sector developers, the agency obtained two valuations for the land, both of which were likely to inflate its value, and one of which made the “significant and special assumption” that rezoning was already achieved.

Critics, including opposition parties National and Act, say the case illuminates how the Government is using taxpayer funds to bid up land prices, unnecessarily baking additional cost into the “affordable” homes it hopes to build.

Yep the Government is so desperate to be seen to be making housing better that they paying over the top prices for land, which of course just pushes the price up.

In July 2021, the Treasury advised Minister of Finance Grant Robertson that the programme would overlap considerably with other government housing initiatives and was likely to “increase the risk of public funds maintaining or increasing urban land prices rather than reducing them”.

Treasury were right.

Second Labour MP says Labour has bullying issues

One News reports:

Another Labour Party MP, who did not wish to be named, said there were bullying issues within the party, as well as Parliament.

They told 1News a conduct commissioner is crucial to getting to the bottom of the concerns raised this week.

So this can’t be simply dismissed as Dr Sharma. Also he posted screenshots from other Labour MPs:

In Monday’s Facebook post, Sharma said that one “MP spent almost three hours in tears talking about how they were treated”.

He claimed he is now “being silenced again as such the bullying continues”.

“I have been driven to this point because even now the party and its leadership refuses to believe that there is a problem.”

He added screenshots to the post. None of the screenshots he posted had names or dates attached and no MPs have come forward with bullying allegations.

He posted a screenshot from a message that said the person wanted to say to another MP “that I’ve caught a cold off the boy and therefore I’m not well and off to get a test”.

“What are the steps for me so I don’t f*** things up. How long do I have to sit this out etc? I want to avoid going in on Wednesday and Thursday.”

Another said, “I fear that I will have serious mental health related issues staying here bro”.

“I feel like I’m being poisoned.”

He added another screenshot that said, “I feel the same. Every day I wake up wondering if I’m going to be in trouble.”

The likely response to all of this will be to expel or suspend Dr Sharma from caucus later this week, in the hope he becomes less newsworthy.

Prebble on Luxon

Richard Prebble writes:

The commentators are busy writing off National leader Christopher Luxon. One wrote that he is “starting to look more like a Todd Muller“. Another claimed “the number of people who dislike Luxon is very high for a new leader”.

It is total nonsense. Luxon is nothing like the hapless Muller. The only politicians who no one bothers to dislike are those who are totally useless. Around a third of the electorate are committed lefties. They dislike Luxon because they think he can win. Labour would not be testing attack ads if their polling did not say the National Leader is a threat.

Objectively, Luxon’s achievements as a leader are astonishing. When he took over as leader the National caucus was a poisonous bear pit.

It is a remarkable turnaround. He could now boast to his conference that his “MPs have their hopeless Labour counterparts on the run”. He now leads what appears to be a cohesive team.

Luxon has been in Parliament for less than two years and leader for just eight months. It takes most MPs six years and three elections to become effective. What is remarkable is not his occasional slip-up, but that he has made so few.

National received just 25.58 per cent of the vote in the last election. Now it is New Zealand’s most popular party.

I don’t think people realise how remarkable that swing has been. They were 25% behind Labour at the last election and now lead them in every major poll. A swing of 10% is considered significant. A 25% swing is huge. Here’s what the swing has been for every MMP election (gap between National and Labour):

  • 1999: -15%
  • 2002: -12%
  • 2005: +18%
  • 2008: +13%
  • 2011: +9%
  • 2014: +2%
  • 2017: -14%
  • 2020: -32%

So Luxon has had a 27% or so swing (so far) – much larger than any other swing in history except the landslide to Labour in 2020.

From crisis to catastrophe

An article on New Zealand in The Canadian Globe and Mail. This is not a right leaning newspaper like the (UK) Daily Telegraph. Justin Giovannetti writes:

I arrived in New Zealand’s capital of Wellington in early 2020 with my fiancée, a New Zealander, to buy a house and start a family. We knew that the Pacific country’s overheated housing market would be a challenge, but we’d lived in Toronto and Vancouver. We considered ourselves prepared. We’d soon learn that New Zealand’s housing problems are similar to Canada’s, just much worse.

New Zealanders found themselves with some of the developed world’s most unaffordable homes before the pandemic. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern quipped back in her days as an opposition politician that the country’s economy was basically “a housing market with a few bits added on.” Since she came to power in 2017, house prices have increased by nearly 60 per cent.

Labour campaigned on how a 25% increase in house prices over three years was a crisis, and they’ve now gone up a further 60%!

However, Ms. Ardern came into office with a marquee promise to build 100,000 homes within a decade. The program became an embarrassing failure, delivering only 1,000 homes in its first five years. Her government then changed course, putting forward a rebooted $321-millionprogram to help first-home buyers. The country’s Housing Minister drew laughs with a triumphal press release where she announced that only 12 families were helped.

The Government is on track to complete Kiwibuild in the year 2308.

Leaders should take note, not only of Ms. Ardern’s rapidly fading popularity at home, but the speed with which a housing crisis can become a catastrophe.

He didn’t even mention the massive blowout in emergency housing, people living in cars and the state house waiting list!

In defence of Labour MPs

This may surprise some, but I don’t think people should rush to judgement over Kieran McAnulty and Anna Lorck.

It is clear that there has been a terrible breakdown between the Labour Party and Hamilton West MP Dr Gaurav Sharma. But we don’t know enough to judge who has been the major contributor to this. The job of a party whip is to enforce party discipline. It may be that Kieran McAnulty is a terrible bully, but it may also be that Dr Sharma is just pathologically unsuited to being a Member of Parliament for Labour.

What we can say is that the situation has been handled disastrously. To have this dispute go on for 18 months and end with an MP lodging newspaper columns against his own party, bringing lawyers to meetings and revealing he has felt suicidal is a terrible indictment on those who are meant to solve such issues.

There are some interesting aspects to the claims by Dr Sharma, which I will touch on.

  • He claims the Relationship Manager assigned by the Parliamentary Service was conflicted as he was an active Labour Party member who opposed Dr Sharma’s selection. If this is correct, this is highly unusual. The employees of Parliamentary Service (as in core employees, not those working directly for MPs) should not be active party members. It would destroy trust.
  • The accusation that a Labour MP and staffer misused taxpayers’ money needs some sort of specificity and then investigation
  • There is an interesting constitutional issue about the involvement of a Whips Office in being able to veto an MP hiring staff. I understand the practical desirability of it, but should an Electorate MP be able to have the Whips dictate whether or not he can hire staff?

But again I would be careful about judging who is right between Sharma and McAnulty. There are aspects of what Dr Sharma says which make me cautious of taking his version of events as objective, rather than subjective. People who talk about hundreds of pages of dossiers tend to have lost perspective on an issue, in my experience.

This brings me to the second issue with Tukituki MP Anna Lorck. On the basis of what has been published, one can’t conclude that Anna Lorck is a bad boss. She may be the boss from hell, but you can’t conclude that on the basis she had a staffer move furniture around the office, do menial tasks and once sober drive her home.

I have observed many many MP-staff relationships. In the best ones, the staffers are absolutely dedicated to the MP, and that includes what you might call pastoral care – driving them about, making sure they get good family time etc etc. But equally the MP is massively appreciative of their staff, and care and look after them. This isn’t generally a job which is 9 to 5, and you switch off the moment you walk out the door.

I’ve seen staffers who are so dedicated to their MPs, that they even follow them from Government to Opposition, despite halving their pay.

Now not all MP-staff relationships are like the best ones (but it might surprise you how many are). Sometimes you do get MPs who are bullies, and sometimes you get staff who make mistakes that cause huge grief to their MPs.

And sometimes you may just get a situation where an MP thinks they have a good enough relationship with their staffer they don’t think it is a big issue to ask them to give them a lift home, but they have misjudged it and the staffer does feel it is an inappropriate imposition.

I don’t know which, if any, of the above applies to Anna Lorck and her (ex) staffer but I think we should be fair and not jump to conclusions. Likewise the same applies Kieran McAnulty. Accusation is not the same as proof. Just because they are MPs in a party whose policies I don’t support, means that they are necessarily in the wrong.

It is NOT decile that determines high level education outcomes – it is dedication, direction and desire.

I have just finished a data process on the leavers of every high school in NZ from 2021.

The NZ psyche is that if you are from a poor home you are screwed. Not even close.

For upper level achievement NZ’s best decile 1 school in McAuley in Otahuhu. Metrics have their leavers ahead of 17 decile 9 schools and 9 decile 10 schools. The decile 10 schools who are in their dust are three of the most expensive (at least $50million establishment) new schools with great new learning theories and acclaimed leaders. Hobsonville Point Senior High, Albany Senior High School and, worst of all, Rototuna Senior High near Hamilton.

The best thing any education interested person (e.g. a parent) can do in NZ is seek out who is performing well and work out why. I can help them with the data.

Well done team McAuley and others like you.

Little porkies

Former health union boss Ian Powell writes:

The Health Minister’s announcement included a colossal porky in falsely claiming that the above measures could not have been introduced until his new health system established by the Pae Ora Act took effect on 1 July.

In particular, Andrew Little asserted:

Our changes to the health system only came into force a month ago, creating a single national health service. That means we can now have a single point of co-ordination and put some real heft into a national campaign to address the decades-old workforce shortage and ease pressure on the health system. These changes just weren’t possible under the old disjointed and bureaucratic structure.

Absolute balderdash! Minister Little’s claim that a single national health service only came into force a month ago is both senseless and untrue. A single national health service came into force as a result of the Social Security Act 1938. But give the Minister a break; he is only out by a mere 84 years!

Since that time Aotearoa has had a single national health service in which, of necessity, has been delivered locally, largely through public hospitals and general practices. That situation remains substantially unchanged today.

What has changed is that points of statutory decision-making closer to the provision of healthcare in these hospitals and practices have been removed. Consequently, our single national health service has seen its bureaucracy repositioned and much more centralised.

But there is an even bigger Ministerial porky than this. His final sentence states: “These changes just weren’t possible under the old disjointed and bureaucratic structure.” Absolute double balderdash!!  

Prior to the establishment of Te Whatu Ora (Health New Zealand – HNZ), it was the Ministry of Health who had overall responsibility for the health workforce; not district health boards (DHBs).

On 1 July HNZ did not just replace the DHBs. It took over the Ministry’s national planning and funding functions. This included the Ministry’s responsibility for workforce planning and development.

The Labour led government could have required the Health Ministry to implement all the measures it announced on 1 August as early as October 2017. Instead it waited for nearly five years.

So Little lied – how surprising.

Four days for 88,000 submissions!

Simon Watts released:

“Parliament received an overwhelming 88,324 public submissions on the Water Services Entities Bill, so National suggested a time extension to consider them. …

“A Parliamentary committee will now spend only four days travelling the country to hear submissions in-person from concerned communities.

Over 10,000 people asked to make an oral submission. The Government obviously has no intention of allowing people to have their say in person.

The bill “calculated to deceive”

The Taxpayers’ Union released:

Ministers have repeated assurances that councils will continue to own water assets under the proposed ‘Three Waters’. But those claims are utterly false. Public law firm Franks Ogilvie, in an opinion reviewed by Gary Judd QC, lay out the extent to which these claims have been “calculated to deceive Parliamentarians, and when it becomes law, to deceive New Zealanders generally”. The opinion is being released publicly today.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams says, “It is clear the Government realised that they could not convince New Zealanders that handing over ownership of local assets was a good idea. So they’ve instead redefined ‘ownership’ to mean nothing, so they can promise continued community ‘ownership’ in an incredible display of contempt for the public, the truth and the law.”

The legal opinion is very detailed, but it is not hard to understand. It calls the claims of retention of local ownership “false, misleading and deceptive” as “councils are expressly denied the rights of possession, control, derivation of benefits, and disposition that are the defining attributes of ownership”. Gary Judd QC comments in his review of the legal opinion: “When all the lying statements are put together, as [the] opinion does, the government’s effrontery is breath-taking.

The legal opinion concludes that despite the obvious dishonesties, ministers are immune to prosecution under the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 and the Fair Trading Act 1986 as they are not ‘in trade’.

Mr Williams continues, “But that defence does not apply to people assisting the Ministers in a professional capacity. That would include, for example, members of the Working Group on Three Waters governance that could be held liable as they operated ‘in trade’ as professionals providing a service and could be deemed complicit in making the untrue claims.”

I urge people to read the legal opinion.

What the Government is doing is the equivalent of passing a bill that defines Pi as 4, and then claiming it must be true because the law states it is 4.

The bill states that Councils will own the water entities, but all they are doing is getting the word “ownership” rather than actual ownership. Actual ownership involves the ability to appoint the board, sell, buy etc.

Dr Sharma’s allegations

Here, without editing or any additional comment is the Facebook post made by Hamilton West Labour MP Dr Gaurav Sharma last night,. which he makes serious allegations against Labour MP’s, the Parliamentary Service and the Prime Minister’s Office:

Over the last 24hours many of you would have read the op-ed I wrote in NZ Herald. I want to start by thanking a large number of you who have contacted me from across the country with support. I have also had a few people who have tried to harass me without knowing the fully story. Due to being busy with constituent work and more recent matters I haven’t had much time to follow the comments on social media, but from what I have seen there are many genuine questions out there. In order to give context to the issues I raised yesterday, I am sharing the following timeline of events:

⁃Before I took my oath I was assigned a Relationship Manager by Parliamentary Services to look after me and my staffing levels. This person had a direct conflict of interest in their role due to being a Labour member who had tried to stop me getting selected as a candidate. I raised this on Day 0 with a senior Parliamentary Manager who assured me that this would never be an issue.

⁃In February 2021 I had an underperforming staff member but instead of listening to my concerns, this was actively turned into a major project by the Labour Party Whips to bring me into disrepute and to rein me in. I sat in meetings after meetings being told I was doing a terrible job and that 9/10 times the MP is a bully so we refuse to listen to anything you have to say. I wrote numerous emails to Parliamentary Services and Whips Office asking for support, providing significant evidence of underperformance by a staff member but I was told in clear words “if you are staying up and working until 3am, you should work until 5am to make up for your staff’s incompetence.” Issues I raised involved staff being drunk at work, not showing up to work, being sent on leave without any notice or approval, and a significant wastage of taxpayer’s money. But all I was told was that I need to shut up and do a mentoring course on managing people. I had hundreds of pages to prove that my staff wasn’t doing the work they were hired to do and it affected my ability to provide services to my constituents but I was never listened to. The main bully was Kieran McAnulty who kept gaslighting me, shouting at me, degrading me in front of caucus members and other attendees at events and telling me that I was a terrible MP. His staff members at the Whips Office were the same. One of the most clearest examples was on the night of the America’s Cup final race where he asked me to come to his room for a meeting on a very short notice, but when I got there I was advised that he had to be in an important meeting so couldn’t make it. I spent close to 2 hours sitting with Kieran McAnulty’s staff in his office being told how terrible a manager I was, with no right of reply. But what was most sickening was that when I came out I saw photos of him drinking and celebrating the America’s Cup final while I sat in his office like a school kid at the headmaster’s office.

⁃In August 2021 I found that a Member of Parliament of the Labour Party and a Parliamentary staff member (also a Labour Member) were misusing taxpayer’s money. As someone who took an oath to uphold and protect the interests of this country I raised my concerns with the Relationship Manager at Parliamentary Services. Instead of protecting my identity and looking into this matter, Parliamentary Services forwarded my concerns to the Labour Party Whips and alerted them of what I had said.

⁃Following this incidence, I was put through further bullying. I was told by then Junior Whip Duncan Webb that what I did was wrong and I should be ashamed of myself. I was told that it was lucky that this Parliamentary Services Relationship Manager (who I had raised issues re conflict of interest on day 0) who is also a Labour Party member informed the Whips Office, because it could have fallen into the wrong hands which could have caused trouble. I was then told by Duncan Webb that an accusation like this could mean that the government could get into trouble, lose the election etc and such issues needed to be contained rather than discussed freely. I was then told by Duncan Webb in clear terms that “the only way this country can succeed is if Labour is in government. Government means Labour. So the Party comes first and foremost before the country.” The matter was never looked into and everything was hushed.

⁃Due to my outspoken stance on squandering of taxpayers money and other policy issues I was further bullied. I was called to last minute meetings with no notice and no support person (but once when I managed to take a caucus colleague with me).

⁃My staffing issues created through the mismanagement of the Whips Office and Parliamentary Services continued. My messages to the Parliamentary Services Relationship Manager were often not returned and I was repeatedly deflected to instead sort it out with the Whips.The same Whips who would bully me and had no legal right to begin with in a triangular relationship between Parliamentary Services (employer), my staff (employee) and myself (day-to-day-manager). I went to the Manager’s Manager but nothing came out of it. I went to the CEO of Parliamentary Services, I wrote emails and made calls – I was promised support to help with the staffing issue but all I got was silence. Many weeks after meeting the CEO I was told that I should go back and talk to the Whips.

Slowly I fell into a cycle of stress, depression and lack of hope as I found myself stuck. I remember one of my former patients sending me very kind message on World Mental Health Day about how I had helped her as a doctor a while ago. I thought to myself about how despite listening to and assisting many of my constituents with bullying and harassment issues, I had to put a bold face up as I struggled everyday with the thought of contemplating suicide. The Labour Party Whips Office and the Parliamentary Services removed all my mānā and didn’t give me any fair process to express my concerns. Slowly I started withdrawing from all the social events in Wellington. Every time I saw my bully Kieran McAnulty speak or smile, it made me sad and angry at the system and the process.

⁃I came to a point in 2021 where I advised Duncan Webb that I had had enough, and because I hadn’t received the support and justice I had been seeking I would go to the media to present the whole issue and tell them how I was being mistreated and there was no investigation into serious claims I had made about the incompetence of a staff member. This is the first time they listened. I was told that they would fly up to Hamilton and talk to me face to face to resolve my issues, which I declined because I had been in meetings after meetings with them for months with no resolution. Their solution included paying a severance pay from taxpayer’s purse to a person who had been repeatedly underperforming. I refused on principle, doing this would mean a double wastage of public money. I kept being pushed to concede but I refused. Eventually they cut a deal with the staff member to encourage them to resign from my office (I did not pay this person out because I stood by my claims which were never and still haven’t been investigated).

⁃After this, the bullying continued in many ways, simplest of which was a freeze on hiring staff. I challenged this and asked them to openly and fairly investigate my claims. But it was refused. For months on end I continued to be short staffed in providing support and services to my constituents who deserved better. I was told that I wasn’t an employee of the Labour Party, or its caucus or Parliamentary Services. My employers were the constituents – but my resourcing was halted by the Labour Party Whips – who were not legally even part of the triangular relationship. A fourth wheel which I continued to challenge shouldn’t be able to make decisions for my constituents especially when they were themselves the bully. When I tried to contact the Parliamentary Services they stopped taking my calls or replying to emails, instead again asking me to talk to the Whips.

⁃I went the only place I felt I could to seek help in December 2021. The Prime Ministers’ Office. The advice was always clear – do not give anything in writing and do not expect anything in writing. Everything can be OIA’ed. So I met the Chief of Staff of PMO for over an hour of meeting which was supposed to be only a 30mins appointment. I took with me hundreds of pages of evidence – emails, timelines, issues etc to explain my case. I very clearly said that Kieran McAnulty was a bully. That I was being bullied. That other caucus members were being bullied by Kieran McAnulty. Few weeks after the meeting when I had not heard from PMO, I contacted the PMO with a written complaint on 18th of December 2021. An investigation was never done. My bully still walks the halls of power with his head held up high, while a “messenger from Caucus” advised me yesterday after my op-ed in Herald that I should take the basement exit and try to avoid Parliament. The kick in the guts however is that despite raising concerns about Kieran McAnulty, not only by me but as I understand by other members of the caucus too (which I had clearly said to the PMO) he was promoted to being a Minister of the Crown. This is our justice.

⁃The issues with Parliamentary Services are even more complex & detailed and have continued. My current staff member has also raised significant concerns about the support from Parliamentary Services and has essentially been ghosted and stone walled. They have had no support in terms of expectation settings & annual review and have been underpaid for a significant amount of time. They went on to raise similar concerns as me re the Relationship Manager (the Labour member with conflict of interest) but it was only after 17months that this person was removed but never investigated for a serious breach of confidentiality (in my case raising concerns re taxpayers money) and in other cases re appropriate support and training.

⁃I know that some people think that I had for some reason tried to time this with what was happening with the issues at the National Party but that is far from the truth. I was told in an email in May by Parliamentary Services that there had never been an investigation against me despite me asking for an official review on multiple incidences. In April this year I contacted a range of lawyers in Wellington and eventually engaged someone to help me draft a legal challenge to the issues I had been facing. I was open about this to the Parliamentary Services and the Labour Whips from the moment I hired the lawyer but they thought I was bluffing. Due to a recent overseas trip and the staff shortage it has taken me a bit longer than I had anticipated to put together all the notes for my grievances and concerns (I am at 40+pages but still writing). Last week I had written to a new Manager at Parliamentary Services asking for a report on some serious complaints I had made (over a year ago). This Manager had promised me 4months ago that things would be looked into but I had not heard back. In reply to my most recent query the Parliamentary Services Manager advised me that they would instead first like to meet me with the Labour Whips and then they would give a written reply. Don’t forget that Parliamentary Services is part of the triangular employment relationship, but Labour Whips aren’t. Hence my comments yesterday about seldom replying and often from behind the Whips’ table.

⁃To me this meeting on Thursday was another attempt to silence me, to bully me and to put me in my place. But unlike other times this time they had given me a slightly longer notice for the meeting. Having been in numerous meetings where I had no support person and was being talked at by 3-4 people often, I decided to take my lawyer Phil Mitchell with me to the meeting to support me. The meeting was called by the Labour Party Whips in their room with the presence of Parliamentary Services on the day of their choosing. They weren’t expecting me to bring a support person let alone a lawyer. Suddenly the conversation in the room was about moving forward. The staffing issues that PM and Whips office claim they had been working with me in good faith to resolve had been going on for 1.5 years but now somehow with the lawyer in the room and threat of a legal case hanging about their head, I was advised that all was forgotten! That I just had to move forward, drop my complaints about Parliamentary Service and significant issues of drunk staff, staff with serious complaints from constituents etc because they didn’t want to investigate these claims. I was told that I was relitigating old matters. At the Thursday meeting I continued to say that Kieran McAnulty is a bully and if they would investigate him. I was just given blank stares and told to move on. I was also told by Duncan Webb that making such claims against a sitting senior Labour MP can affect my career projection.

⁃But they agreed to resolve the staffing issues. Within 30mins of a meeting with my lawyer I had been emailed by two Managers at Parliamentary Services that everything would be resolved and we were moving forward. The ads and roles for staffing were sent to me and I was free to hire asap, something that couldn’t be done in 1.5 years was done in a short meeting with a lawyer.

⁃The reason the op-ed came out yesterday was because the meeting was called by the Labour Whips yesterday at a time and place of their choosing and in that meeting they continued to laugh on my face saying in front of my lawyer “how will you even sue us, you have no legal rights” while repeatedly refusing to investigate anything I have said or investigate me for any issue.

⁃In summary, I stand by my claims that I have been subjected to ongoing bullying by the Parliamentary Service and the Labour Whips and none of my concerns have been investigated. Neither has there been an investigation into any claims against me as per the last written contact from the Deputy CEO of Parliamentary Service. I didn’t just wake up on the wrong side of the bed one day and made these serious claims. For 1.5years I have been trying to seek independent investigation, justice and support from Parliamentary Service, Labour Whips and the PMO. I also want to clearly state that despite what Duncan Webb says it has always been my belief that the country should always come ahead of any party. If I ever have to choose between party and country my allegiance will always be with the country first.

The Government and Shortland Street

A reader writes in:

My fellow Kiwis,

I think that – as a nation – we may have reached a watershed moment.

As our construction sector implodes, our education system quietly dies and our health system lurches desperately from crisis to crisis, kept alive only by the Herculean efforts of our overworked doctors and – in particular – our nurses, our benevolent and all-knowing Minister of Health, Dr Do-Little, has come up with a plan: the Government is teaming up with Shortland Street.

Like Captain Planet before them, with their powers combined, the Government and the writers of Shortland Street will craft and broadcast a sweeping epic of inspiration, struggle against the odds, and finally, of dreams come true.  As the young heroine prevails against the evils of the colonialist patriarchy, no diversity, inclusivity or equality box will be left unticked.  And so moved will the viewers of Shortland Street be, that they – in their hundreds and in their thousands – will at last comprehend that Shortland Street is set in a hospital, that nurses work in hospitals, and that they too could perhaps train to be nurses and so also work in a hospital.

The walls and foundations of our polytechnics will pulse and throb with energy, as rank upon rank of would-be nurses will file into their seats and begin a salvific journey of nation-building.  And in years to come, we will call them as The Greatest Generation and we will offer sacrifices to the writers and producers of Shortland Street.

So let us all take this moment, to give thanks and to rejoice at the wondrous greatness of our Government, and to bask in the warmth of its protective glow.  For surely, we are all like sheep who would have gone astray, were it not for the wisdom, the foresight and above all, the kindness of our Great Leader and her merry band of student activists. 

Sit tight, New Zealand.  The cavalry is coming.

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