Trans-Pacific Partnership text to be released today

Scoop: Govt to release CPTPP national interest analysis on Wed

The government will release the national interest analysis for the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership on Wednesday, and the full text too if the other nations agree, says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

The Labour-led administration signed up to the regional trade and investment pact after the renegotiated deal let it restrict foreign buyers of existing residential property and watered down some of the more onerous Investor State Dispute Settlement provisions imposed before the US withdrew under President Donald Trump.

Ardern today said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s analysis unpicking the pros and cons of the deal for the country will be released on Wednesday, and she’s hopeful of publishing the full text the same day if certain translation issues are overcome.

“We have been urging all parties to reach agreement because of our strong desire to be absolutely transparent around the text as soon as possible,” Ardern said at her weekly post-Cabinet press conference. “It is our hope it will be available at the same time as the national impact assessment, but either way, we’re looking to release the national impact assessment this week.”

The deal is expected to be signed in Chile on March 8, but Ardern said it won’t come into force until it’s ratified by 50 percent of the partners. Parliament will debate the agreement and that it will also go through select committee scrutiny for a full public examination, she said.

From New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade: Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) is a free trade agreement involving 11 countries in the Pacific region, including New Zealand, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, and Viet Nam.

Partnering with these countries represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand. The Agreement has the potential to open up new export destinations for our businesses, create jobs, and help generate a better standard of living for all New Zealanders.  At the same time, the Government‘s right to regulate in the public interest and the unique status of the Treaty of Waitangi have been protected.

The government is releasing the Cabinet negotiating mandate for CPTPP and the minute of the Cabinet decision. In releasing this information, the government is seeking to balance introducing greater transparency around trade negotiations with a need to take into account the sensitive nature of the negotiations. Some of the information within the Cabinet paper is being withheld in line with the principles of the Official Information Act. The government will release further information on CPTPP as it becomes available, including a full National Interest Analysis.

Read the Cabinet negotiating mandate here [PDF, 6 MB].

Major education ‘reform’ plan to be announced today

The Government is announcing ” a complete overhaul of the education system from early childhood right through to post-secondary schooling” today. It is commonly thought that Labour works closely with and for teacher unions, so they will presumably be largely behind the proposals.

Stuff: Convincing parents it’s time for substantial education reform won’t prove easy

The Government is on the brink of its biggest test and the measure of success will be proving educational reform on a scale not seen in almost three decades isn’t just change for change’s sake.

Schools are no strangers to policy changes – as the world evolves, it’s up to principals, teachers and school communities to keep up with the sometimes frightening pace of things like technology.

But on Wednesday Education Minister Chris Hipkins, who arguably already has the worst job in politics, will lay out his plan for a complete overhaul of the education system from early childhood right through to post-secondary schooling.

Since 2002 there’s been the introduction of NCEA and National Standards, a proposal to scrap the way schools are funded through deciles, the closure of Christchurch schools and a u-turn on policy to increase class sizes.

The Tomorrow’s Schools model, which was introduced under then-Prime Minister and Education Minister David Lange in 1989 was educational reform that had never been seen before.

Under Hipkins, Tomorrow’s Schools look set to be Yesterday’s Schools when he announces a three-year work programme to review the entire system.

At least there are some benefits in teacher unions and groups being willing to work with the Government in looking for improvements in our education systems, in contrast to the last nine years where teacher groups (and Hipkins) have strenuously fought National attempts.

But it doesn’t stop there – it’s understood the review will also lead to change in the early childhood area, polytechs and school property.

While parents will welcome more state-of-the-art classrooms for their children, stomaching so much change in other areas could be a scrap the Government has underestimated.

Parents, students and teachers won’t mind something new if it’s better than what they had before but Labour is already fighting off attacks of “ideology-driven policy” when it comes to scrapping National Standards.

Hipkins has criticised the last Government over pursuing ‘ideological’ reforms, but is being criticised of the same thing (albeit different ideologies).

Complaint to Auditor General over Partnership Schools

The Opposition is keeping up the pressure on the Government, in particular on Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, over proposed legislation to scrap Partnership Schools.

National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has sent a complaint to the Auditor General “outlining potential issues to be investigated regarding the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools”.


Complaint to Auditor-General regarding partnership schools

National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has today sent a letter to the Auditor-General outlining potential issues to be investigated regarding the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools.

“I want to stress that I while I believe there are serious grounds for the Auditor-General to investigate, it will be up to the Auditor-General to determine if there have been any issues with the process regarding partnership schools and any potential perceived conflicts of interest,” Ms Kaye says.

“It is important that all of the evidence and paperwork is made available and transparent before any conclusions are reached.

“The first area of complaint relates to Minister Hipkins’ and the Ministry of Education’s process around the discussions with partnership schools about their futures.

“The Minister has made several unfortunate comments that indicate he has a closed mind and there is potential evidence that the schools have undue pressure being put on them to terminate their contracts.

“I believe the Minister’s and the Ministry’s process is fundamentally flawed and there is public interest in investigating it.

“The second area of complaint relates to perceived conflicts of interest, or failure of Ministers to manage or declare conflicts of interest. This is set out in the letter I have sent to the Auditor-General.

“Given the serious nature of the letter, I hope to meet with the Auditor-General in the next couple of weeks.”

Local councils failing to meet OIA obligations

The chief ombudsman has said that local councils are failing to meet their obligations under the Official Information Act.

RNZ:  Local councils slammed for failing to supply information

Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier said councils are not meeting their responsibilities under the Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act and that some councils seem to resent having to be held accountable.

“The performance of many councils is disappointing. Local government is absolutely fundamental to democracy, and in that respect the need for accountability and supply of information is just as strong as it is with central government, and yet many local councils don’t see it that way.

“We will commence a better process of publicising our data on complaints, giving better guidance and encouraging an earlier dispute resolution process so ratepayers who often have legitimate complaints can get to the end of the journey earlier than before.”

Last year 248 complaints were received under the act, Mr Boshier said.

There was a mix of a failure to supply information and other queries about process, he said.

People wanted to know why a council came up with certain rates, what had happened at meetings, and follow up information, for example.

The whole idea of the act was to make sure there was accountability and so ratepayers could participate in democracy.

The Dunedin City Council was slammed in an ODT editorial on Monday – see ODT editorial on secrecy and the OIA

In one case, the council is choosing not to answer questions which have been put to it by this newspaper for nearly a year about alleged bullying and other problems in its city property department. Despite Official Information Act requests, it is withholding a Deloitte report, saying it needs to protect privacy and also citing commercial sensitivity. Elected representatives and council staff all ran for cover when asked for comment. The ODT has now referred the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman.

This refusal to engage is a very troubling development. Stalling, fudging and engaging in sophistry make any organisation look bad.

Especially when the mayor and councillors campaigned on greater transparency. Politicians want transparency on successes, but want secrecy on failures and embarrassments – that’s a natural human trait, which is why the OIA is important to make sure they are transparent about everything, not just what they choose to reveal.

‘Back Judith Collins’ website and the Taxpayers’ Union

The Taxpayers Union denies being involved in a pro-Judith Collins website that appeared briefly before being taken down. Whether they were or weren’t behind the site it is a curious story.

Stuff reported on Monday: Anonymous ‘Back Judith’ website has fake phone number, registered to Collins’ office address

An anonymous website backing Judith Collins for National Party leader is registered to her electorate office address, a fake phone number, and what appears to be a fake identity.

The now-deleted website BackJudith.nz said it is “in no way endorsed by the National Party formal hierarchy, or Judith Collins” – a view Collins echoes. But a domain name lookup on the service whois has the website registered to her office address and phone number.

Since Stuff published a story on the topic the website appears to have been deleted.

The name associated with the registration was Raquel Ray. There is no online or ownership records of a Raquel Ray in New Zealand, save for a recently set up Facebook account and a smattering of Official Information Act requests to Callaghan Innovation.

That Facebook account – which has posted a link to the BackJudith website – has a profile picture also found on a photography website. That photographer told Stuff the person in the photograph was someone else not named “Raquel Ray”.

Collins herself said she and her office had nothing to do with the website. She assumed it was someone who really did want to support her and simply remain anonymous.

“Well I know that nobody in my office would actually be able to do that. I presume it’s not someone trying to cause difficulty for me.”

If her office had set it up secretly “using my work address would be a really dumb thing to do.”

The website encourages people to sign an open letter to National MPs to back Collins for the leadership.

The NZ Taxpayers Union have run a campaign around Callaghan Innovation expenses. Director Jordan Williams said they had a “Raquel Ray” in their database as someone who had sent in tip-offs in the past.

Williams said he and his staff were not at all involved in the website.

Stuff followed up yesterday: Taxpayers Union’s Jordan Williams’ personal email connected to Judith Collins website

Taxpayers Union director Jordan Williams’ personal email address was connected to an anonymous website backing Judith Collins for the National Party leadership, information provided to Stuff shows.

Williams said he was not behind the website on Monday and continues to deny it on Tuesday, instead suggesting that he is the victim of an elaborate smear.

Williams said the Taxpayers Union had a “Raquel Ray” in its records as someone who had sent in tip-offs but ruled out any involvement from him or his staff.

“They’re in our database and have sent through a bunch of tips in the past,” Williams told Stuff on Monday.

“Otherwise we have absolutely no association and are not taking a position in this. It’s definitely not come from within.”

A screenshot provided to Stuff shows the Raquel Ray email address that was used to set-up the website has Williams’ personal email set as its password recovery email.

The last five letters of the email address are starred out but perfectly match Williams’ personal email address. He later confirmed he had received a message to that address concerning password recovery.

However, there is nothing to stop the person who controls the Raquel Ray account setting the account recovery address as Williams – there is no verification process.

Reached on Tuesday, Williams said that this “can’t be right”.

“I did get a password reset email randomly last night,” Williams said.

He confirmed he had no involvement with Raquel Ray – other than that email had sent in tip-offs to the Taxpayers Union in the past. He declined to immediately forward that correspondence on to Stuff.

After searching his inbox Williams said that he received an email to his personal address early on Tuesday morning saying his email had been added as the recovery address to the Raquel Ray account.

He declined to forward this on to Stuff, saying he wanted to get advice on that first.

“I’m very worried that this is some sort of setup,” Williams said.

He said his personal email address was available easily online and so it wouldn’t be that hard for someone to set him up in this manner.

Williams and his organisation maintain that they are politically independent.

Related to the ‘Raquel Ray’ tipoff to the Taxpayers Union on the Callaghan Institute

There are no online or property records linked to a “Raquel Ray” save for a recently setup Facebook account using a stolen photo and a smattering of OIA requests to Callaghan Innovation.

RNZ (5 February 2018): Taxpayers’ Union criticises Callaghan spending

Last week the Taxpayers’ Union revealed the government’s science funding agency Callaghan Innovation spent more than $300,000 in a year on entertaining clients and staff. Now it says new figures show it also spent about $2.4 million on travel and accommodation. Joining us in the studio is the executive director of the Taxpayers’ Union, Jordan Williams.

And this tweet:

From FYI.org.nz:

Expenses | Beer and Burger Joint

Request sent to Callaghan Innovation by Raquel Ray on .

Withdrawn by the requester. 

That’s the only OIA request by ‘Rachel Ray’ at FYI.

I haven’t seen the ‘Robert Preston’ lead investigated. I haven’t heard of that name and a quick search doesn’t come up with anything. Surely OIA requests can’t be anonymous?

So:

  • Who set up a website supporting Judith Collins but didn’t want to be identified?
  • Why was the website taken down as soon as curious information was reported?
  • Was Jordan Williams or the Taxpayers Union involved (this is denied)?
  • If Williams wasn’t involved, why has someone tried to link him to the website?

I’d have thought that if someone wanted to set Williams and/or the Taxpayers Union up they would have wanted maximum publicity, so why would they take the site down so quickly?

Another curious aspect – as far as I can see there is no mention of this ‘Back Judith Collins’ website on Whale Oil. If such an odd attempt to promote Judith Collins but then was suddenly taken done when publicised has involved one of the other four National leadership candidates Slater is likely to have poured scorn on it.

Perhaps Slater didn’t want to give any more publicity to another website backing Collins, as that would compete with Whale Oil’s hard core promotion of Collins – the WOBLOG party is in activism overdrive.

Both Collins and Williams have had connections to Slater and controversial political activities in the past.

NOTE: some apparent connections have been reported on, but denials have been made with serious alternative suggestions (a set up). Don’t assume, insinuate or claim anything as confirmed or fact unless you have confirmation or facts to back your comments up.

Effects of Cyclone Gita

There has been widespread wind damage and flooding as Cyclone Gita passed over New Zealand, with the lower North Island and top half of the South Island worst affected. Some roads have been closed due to storm surge damage.

MetService meteorologist Karl Loots said former cyclone Gita passed over the South Island in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and by 5am was east of Banks Peninsula.

“Really the heavy rain now is focused from Canterbury down to Otago this morning, then that gradually eases. As well, we’ve still got gale force winds about Banks Peninsula and other exposed places in Canterbury, that’s all easing during this morning.”

Wellington Police are warning motorists that State Highway One is closed between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki after it sustained weather damage overnight. The road was closed around 12:30am this morning as the high tide was washing across both lanes.

Fire and Emergency spokesman Joss Debreceny said firefighters had responded to more than 400 weather-related callouts between 2pm on Tuesday and 5am Wednesday.

Taranaki, Tasman and the West Coast were the busiest areas, with many callouts to roofs lifting, fallen trees and power lines, and flooding of houses and businesses.

Christchurch received about 50 per cent less rain on Tuesday night than forecast and high tide has passed without any major incidents.

There is still half a day of heavy rain and gale force winds possible for some areas, especially the east coast of the South Island as Gita heads southwards to the east of the country.

However it doesn’t look to have been as bad (so far) as some predictions.

Highest rainfall yesterday (from Metservice):

  • Wainuiomata 108.6 mm
  • Farewell Spit 105.4 mm
  • Kaikoura 92.8 mm
  • Ashburton Airport 82.2 mm (20 mm up to 6 am today)
  • Blenheim Airport 81.4 mm

Windiest yesterday:

  • Westport Airport 119 km/h
  • Whanganui Airport 109 km/h
  • Kelburn, Wellington 109 km/h
  • New Plymouth Airport 104 km/h
  • Kaikoura 96 km/h

So widespread wet and wind but not particularly bad.

Stuff summary so far (yet to ctach up overnight) WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

– Gita has been downgraded to an ex-tropical cyclone. It’s caused mass disruption as it hits New Zealand.

– States of emergency have been declared in Taranaki, Nelson Tasman region, Selywn district, Grey district, Buller, Westland and Christchurch.

– Kaikōura is cut off after the Inland Rd was closed just after 8pm. State Highway 1 north of Kaikōura, from Mangamaunu to Clarence, and south between Peketa and Goose Bay, has been closed as of 8.30am.

– The Defence Force has been deployed in Takaka and has unimogs to help transport people, Nelson City Council communications manager Paul Shattock says.

– Air New Zealand cancelled all flights in and out of Wellington from 2.45pm until midnight Tuesday. It also cancelled services in and out of Hokitika, Nelson, New Plymouth, and Queenstown. A number of flights into Wellington airport are cancelled on Wednesday morning but operations look set to resume as normal from 7am.

– Its effects have been felt from the Taranaki district to Greymouth.

– There is a chance of coastal inundation from the Kāpiti Coast south and on the Kaikōura Coast.

– MetService has issued a severe weather watchsevere weather warnings, and coastal warnings.

– Information about how to get ready and keep safe can be found here.

Media watch – Wednesday

21 February 2018

MediaWatch

Media Watch is a focus on New Zealand media, blogs and social media. You can post any items of interested related to media.

A primary aim here is to hold media to account in the political arena. A credible and questioning media is an essential part of a healthy democracy.

A general guideline – post opinion on or excerpts from and links to blog posts or comments of interest, whether they are praise, criticism, pointing out issues or sharing useful information.

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.

Open Forum – Wednesday

21 February 2018

Forum

This post is open to anyone to comment on any topic that isn’t spam, illegal or offensive. All Your NZ posts are open but this one is for you to raise topics that interest you. 

If providing opinions on or summaries of other information also provide a link to that information. Bloggers are welcome to summarise and link to their posts.

Comments worth more exposure may be repeated as posts.Comments from other forums can be repeated here, cut and paste is fine.

Your NZ is a mostly political and social issues blog but not limited to that, and views from anywhere on the political spectrum are welcome. Some ground rules:

  • If possible support arguments, news, points or opinions with links to sources and facts.
  • Please don’t post anything illegal, potentially defamatory or abusive.

FIRST TIME COMMENTERS: Due to abuse by a few first comments under any ID will park in moderation until released (as soon as possible but it can sometimes take a while).

Sometimes comments will go into moderation or spam automatically due to mistyped ID, too many links (>4), or trigger text or other at risk criteria.

Free speech is an important principle here but some people who might pose a risk to the site will have to keep going through moderation due to abuses by a small number of malicious people.

World watch – Wednesday

Tuesday GMT

WorldWatch2

For posting on events, news, opinions and anything of interest from around the world.