Ardern wants cross-parliament support for anti-poverty measures

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants to avoid political bickering over putting some priorities on reducing child poverty levels. She will set ‘flexible targets’ later this week. I wish her luck with that, but  National campaigned on reducing poverty so should broadly support further measures if they make sense.

Stuff:  PM Jacinda Ardern hints the Government will set flexible child poverty reduction targets

The Prime Minister has strongly hinted the Government will set child poverty reduction targets with enough flexibility to make it hard for the Opposition to vote against them.

In her weekly press conference Jacinda Ardern, who is also the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, said legislation for child poverty targets would be announced on Thursday and she wanted to steer away from the issue being seen as “political”.

“I think most people would agree that regardless of the political party you’re in we all have a goal to improve the wellbeing of kids. What I want to see is successive Governments commit to focusing on lifting children out of poverty.”

Ardern said her bill, which would be introduced in the new year, came out of recommendations from the Children’s Commissioner, not her own party.

“In my mind that was a good starting point to try and build some consensus”.

“My view is that we will not get a long standing consensus on issues like child poverty and like climate change until we can get over the three-yearly political cycle.”

As a result Ardern said she had drafted the bill keeping in mind “what is most likely to succeed in Parliament” to try and get Opposition support.

While there should be some debate and, if genuinely warranted, holding to account, but it would be good to see Parliament working positively to address problems with deprivation, especially involving children.

“In approaching child poverty we want to make sure this isn’t just a slogan,” said English.

“The practicalities are that after the Government’s done the package on the first of April they won’t have anymore money to do anything about lifting incomes, and they don’t seem to be that interested in dealing with the social dysfunction that keeps families in poverty.

“Whatever target they set it will be impossible for them to lift incomes beyond the number of kids who come out of poverty from this first package. They won’t have the cash to do a second round because they’ve spent all the money on tertiary,” he said.

That’s a bit of a negative prelude from English.

Much may depend on the details of the package that Ardern announces later this week.

Welcome change to Ministry for Children

I don’t know whose idea it was to rename the Ministry of Child Youth and Family to something stupid earlier this year, but in a small but welcome change the Ministry for Children is being renamed again.

NZH: Ministry for Vulnerable Children to be renamed

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children will be renamed with the word “vulnerable” being dropped, while legislation to help lift children out of poverty will be introduced on Thursday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcements at her post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon, with Minister for Children Tracey Martin and Finance Minister Grant Robertson alongside her.

Ardern said the ministry, over time, would look to extend its reach beyond just the 5600-odd children in state care.

“A child who lives in poverty won’t necessarily come into contact with those social workers that work in Oranga Tamariki [the Ministry For Children], but we want the ministry to have regard to their well-being as well.”

Martin said dropping the word “vulnerable” from signs would take 12 months. The word had had a negative impact on children and the ministry’s workers.

The name was like having a Ministry of Sick and Dying People, Or a Ministry of Bleeding Taxpayers.

“What the children have told us, and social workers in the last six weeks have told us, is that that word actually stigmatised those children,” she said.

One small step for the Government, and a few more thousand dollars down the gurgler, but a welcome change.

MMP under threat?

There has been some inevitable complaining about MMP after the outcome of the election and the eventual formation of Government – generally by people who didn’t like the result.

Is MMP broken? Or is it working as intended, albeit with the first time we have the highest polling party by a clear margin in Opposition?

Brent Edwards – Insight: MMP – Democracy or Power?

For the first time under MMP the highest polling party is not leading the government. Despite winning 44.4 percent of the party vote, easily ahead of Labour’s 37 percent, National could not win the support of New Zealand First to form a government.

We have a majority three party Government, with a large minority party in Opposition.

There is no convention for the largest party to form the Government. The only requirement is for a party or group of parties to convince the Governor General they can form a viable Government.

“That is actually the essence of democracy. The majority rules. That is the rule and that is what happened here,” Sir Geoffrey Palmer said.

As it should be.

Meanwhile, Peter Dunne thinks the process has shaken people’s confidence in MMP. But polling by UMR Insight, which does political polls for the Labour Party, does not support that.

It polled 750 people after the coalition agreement was announced.

The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percent, found 50 percent of respondents were in favour of retaining MMP, while 38 percent wanted to change the electoral system.

Back in October 2011, the last time UMR polled on what people thought of MMP, only 43 percent wanted to retain it while 37 percent wanted change.

So increasing support for MMP. That may or may not continue after this term, depending on how it manages to perform.

Jacinda Ardern said she wanted to run government differently so it reflected more accurately the reality of MMP. That included ensuring ministerial positions better reflected the interests of all parties involved in the government. In New Zealand First’s case it got regional development and the Greens climate change, both areas where those parties had campaigned strongly.

As well, in a change from previous arrangements, New Zealand First ministers sit alongside their Labour colleagues on Parliament’s frontbench. Their backbench MPs sit behind them in seating which, until now, has been the sole preserve of ministers from the largest party in government.

An interesting change. It allows the Prime Minister and Deputy to sit side by side.

The Prime Minister has only ever voted in MMP elections. For her MMP politics appear to be more instinctive than for those politicians who experienced the old first-past-the-post electoral system.

While it is unlikely any rule will be introduced directing how parties should negotiate after elections, the government does appear to be foreshadowing more change at Parliament. If select committees are given more power and if Ms Ardern is serious about consultation then the National Party might have more influence than any opposition has had in the past.

But just how far will Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens go? It is easy to talk about sharing power, much more difficult to do it. This three-party administration, which is working hard to finish off the year’s business, is under pressure to demonstrate it is not only a truly MMP government but an effective one.

The National Party, no matter what concessions are made to it as the Opposition, has little incentive to make the government’s job any easier.

I disagree with that. Opposition parties have a duty to aid the Government of the day, and they do this through Parliament’s committees. They can do this in other ways, by providing a majority vote for legislation that doesn’t have the support of all the parties in Government.

I think that a largely constructive Opposition that worked positively for the good of Government and the country, albeit holding the Government to account when appropriate, would be reward at the next election if they sold themselves as an improvement.

 

 

Most retweeted tweets of 2017

2017 isn’t over yet but the most retweeted tweets of the year are already announced. Some of them are a result of campaigns to get retweets, two for a good cause, #1 inane.

Interestingly Donald Trump isn’t included, but Barack Obama features thrice (#8, #5 and #2).

10.

9.

8.

7.

6.

5.

4.

3.

2.

1.

Source: http://time.com/5048929/most-retweeted-tweets-2017/

“Free from fear, innocent of hatred”

Trump: “We want our country to be a place where every child from every background can grow up free from fear, innocent of hatred, and surrounded by love, opportunity and hope.”

Wonderful words.

Or they could be if they were spoken by someone who didn’t divide and ostracise using fear tactics, and didn’t promote hatred of immigrants, minorities, media, and political opponents in his own as well as other parties.

And who didn’t provide opportunity and hope for big business at the expense of ordinary people and the health of the planet.

I wonder how the 800,000 young people at threat of deportation think of this speech?

Reuters: U.S. top court blocks release of Trump ‘Dreamer’ immigrant documents

Since its inception, the DACA program has provided protection from deportation and work permits to about 800,000 mostly Hispanic young adults brought into the United States illegally by their parents. At the time Trump announced the rescinding of the program, about 690,000 people were protected under DACA.

Trump scrapped the program as part of his hard-line immigration policies, calling DACA an unconstitutional overreach by Obama. Trump gave Congress until March to come up with new protections for the Dreamers.

Dreamers are a fraction of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Obama and his fellow Democrats have defended the program as one that protects young people who grew up and were educated in the United States and are Americans in every way but actual citizenship.

Are the ‘Dreamers’ free from fear? Surrounded by surrounded by love, opportunity and hope?

Greens sweat in heat of Government kitchen

It’s not surprising to see claims (from Green Party staff) of difficulties with the transition from always being in Opposition to being in Government for the first time. There have been additional pressures due to fewer staff being required after they dropped from 14 to 8 MPs.

They need learn to deal with these added pressures, that are inevitable with their greater responsibilities.

If they can’t stand the heat they should question whether being in the Government kitchen is for them.

RNZ: Greens letter reveals ‘damage to staff morale’

A letter from disgruntled Green Party staff to its MPs has revealed complaints of low morale, bad communication and unfair treatment.

…the letter reveals staff are unhappy with the way they’ve been treated since the party has become part of the government.

RNZ understands there has been a push from senior party staff to hire external people for key advisor roles. There was some pushback, with one minister, Julie Anne Genter, going against the directive and hiring existing staff.

There could be good reasons for hiring external staff when shifting to a Government role, which requires different skills to being in Opposition. In particular, specific skills will be required to assist with the portfolios that Green MPs now have.

The letter makes it clear that some staff also took exception with the processes and some were left with the “distinct impression they were not valued” or that they had “defects” in their work.

“MPs and senior staff should now be fully aware of the damage to staff morale created by this drift away from Green kaupapa,” the letter said.

“Many staff have been in a holding pattern for over a month, which has created uncertainty, paralysis, and low morale,” the letter said.

The letter also states staff were prevented from providing feedback on a proposed staffing structure and “MPs impinged upon important rights to be heard”.

“They should also know that the manner in which Green staff have been treated has already diminished the reputation of the Green Party.”

Until this letter made to issue public the reputation of the party wasn’t really diminished.They have strengthened slightly in post election polls.

The letter is likely to hit their credibility.

The low -morale within the party shows it is still struggling to completely recover from a poor election campaign that was disrupted by the resignation of its co-leader Metiria Turei.

Moral will already have been rocked when Turei created chaos which resulted in her resignation,  plus  the resignations of David Clendon and Kennedy Graham.  This will have directly affected the staff of three MPS, and put the party at risk of missing the threshold and being dumped from Parliament altogether.

It was a tough campaign for the Greens. Staff must have wondered if they would all lose their jobs or not.

While the Green Party has been celebrating having ministers for the first time, it’s understood this has created some tension within the caucus, with some long-serving MPs, who were overlooked, feeling disgruntled.

This is common in parties when they get elevated to positions of power – those who miss out can get disgruntled.

The Greens had operated under their own democratic systems of appointments, responsibilities and rankings. Negotiating to be in Government and then being in Government meant they were dictated to by necessity, by Labour and by NZ First. This is likely to have also created tensions.

Airing all this in public probably won’t help the Greens. Letting off steam may ease the pressure on some but will create other pressures.

This all adds to the substantial increase in pressure due to increased scrutiny that being in Government inevitably attracts.

Some are likely to complain that criticism is unfair and is an attempt to destabilise the Greens and the Government. It is certainly a change from the past when Greens were allowed to promote and support some fairly extreme policies without much examination.

But being in Government means much greater responsibilities, and a healthy democracy means that how Green MPs execute those responsibilities will be open to criticism.

If they didn’t want that to happen they should have stayed out of Government.

It’s obviously a culture shock for the Greens, but if they don’t step up they are going to stumble, which may not only mean they are a one term Government partner party, it could put their future in Parliament at risk.

The Greens can’t have their slice of Government cake but keep eating their easy ride in Opposition.

General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

Media watch – Monday

11 December 2017

MediaWatch

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Open Forum – Monday

11 December 2017

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World watch – Monday

Sunday GMT

WorldWatch2

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