Police numbers increasing, but Minister is still deceitful

Increases in police numbers was a touchy topic last year, with the Government, after conflicting statements between the Prime Minister and Minister of Police, appearing to shift from a promise of 1800 additional police officers to 1800 new police officers.

Now things are being phrased more carefully – but I think there is deliberate dishonesty by deception.

Minister of Police on Thursday:  Auckland focus for first Police graduation of 2020

The number of Police on the Auckland frontline is increasing with the graduation today of a special locally-trained wing of new constables.

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the graduation of eighteen officers from Recruit Wing 333-5 means that more than 1900 new Police have been deployed since the Coalition Government took office.

They took office in November 2017. This number doesn’t take into account resignations and retirements, so is not an increase in police numbers.

“The last Police graduation in December smashed all sorts of records for Police numbers and underlined the Coalition Government’s commitment to crime prevention and community safety. That is continuing during 2020.

“We are training Police at more than double the rate of previous years. During 2019 we deployed 854 new Police, an all-time record for a calendar year. During the nine calendar years 2009-2017, an average of 363 new Police graduated each year.

“Today’s graduation means the number of fulltime Police has grown by around 1047 officers since the start of the 2017/18 financial year, after turnover. In addition, a further 200 recruits are currently in training at Police College.

The start of the the 2017/18 financial year was July 2017, nearly half a year before the new Government took over – and many new police officers since the current Government took over were planned beforehand.

Coincidentally yesterday David Farrar posted this yesterday at Kiwiblog: For use the next time the Government lies over the extra 1800 Police

The Government promised 1,800 extra police officers over three years. Then after it became clear that would fall short, they lied and claimed their promise was 1,800 new police officers (ie just replacing retiring ones with new ones).

Everyone knows it is a lie. The Minister was explicit that the target was 1,800 additional until the point the PM got it wrong in the House.

And further proof, here is an extract from the November 2019 Police News.

Absolutely clear that it is an 1,800 increase that was promised, despite Government denials.

Strictly speaking Stuart Nash hasn’t lied in his latest announcement, which is carefully (and deceivingly) worded. But he promotes the larger number first, only  later in the release giving more relevant figures (increase in numbers rather than new police) – but by using different time periods it is still quite misleading.

I think this is still dishonesty by deception from the Government

Crown accounts surplus, more pressure on spending booost

From the Beehive (Minister of Finance Grant Robertson): Govt accounts in surplus, debt remains low

The Government’s books are in good shape with the accounts in surplus and expenses close to forecast, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The Treasury today released the Crown accounts for the five months to November.

The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) was above forecast by $0.7 billion resulting in a surplus of $100 million.

The variance is due to lower than forecast Core Crown expenses and higher than forecast revenue.

“While the month by month results do tend to fluctuate due to tax timing changes, it is pleasing to see this positive result,” Grant Robertson says.

“The surplus and low levels of debt show the fundamentals of the New Zealand economy remain strong.”

Net debt remains low at 20.1% of GDP, while expenses were within 0.6% of forecast.

Net investments gains of $3.6 billion were $1.3 billion above forecast, largely because of favourable changes in market prices.

“Our careful fiscal management has resulted in low government debt, which alongside record low borrowing costs has given us room to invest an extra $12 billion to future-proof New Zealand,” Grant Robertson says.

“This package of infrastructure projects will provide further support to boost the New Zealand economy in the face of slowing international growth and global headwinds.

“It will also give certainty to the construction industry about upcoming infrastructure projects and will create more opportunities for Kiwis.

“We’ll be announcing the specific projects in the near future,” Grant Robertson says.

I think we can expect some election year spending announcements on top of the proposed large spend on more infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see if they adjust the personal tax rates – part of the reason for rising revenue is tax bracket creep.

Grant Robertson has been a relatively low profile and uncontroversial finance minister, with most criticism coming from the left who want a lot more Government spending.

Like: Borrow, build, hold says Green co-leader

Government should hold onto the houses it has pledged to put out on the open market, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says.

The Government taking on more debt for public housing would open up more opportunities than fully funding existing programmes like the Auckland Housing programme.

Davidson said a reluctance to ditch the Budget Responsibility Rules and take on debt is the reason those houses aren’t being provided to low-income tenants as part of a mixed tenure development scheme.

“We’ve got low borrowing rates, we’ve got expensive land, the Crown can borrow money. It can hold onto more of the houses it is building right now.”

Stuff:  Green Party scrap Budget Responsibility Rules

The Green Party is ditching its commitment to the restrictive Budget Responsibility Rules, which set targets for lowering government debt and spending.

The Greens first signed up to the rules ahead of the 2017 election while teaming up with Labour.

Labour retained a commitment to the rules, while signalling it wanted to somewhat loosen them next term.

So they may not move much on this until after this year’s election, if Labour and Greens get back into government, and NZ First don’t demand most of the extra spending.

Green Minister accused of ‘rubber stamping’ land sales (implementing the law)

Minister of Land Information Eugenie Sage has been accused of allowing land to be sold to ‘foreigners’, but Sage says she is implementing the law as her job requires.

Critics seem to expect that Sage should change the way things are done ‘because the Greens are in Government’, but the Green Party doesn’t have to power to change how laws are implemented, nor to change laws to suit green activists.

RNZ: Green MP Eugenie Sage accused of ‘rubber-stamping’ land sales to foreigners

Eugenie Sage is being accused of continuing National’s practice of “rubber-stamping” the sale of sensitive land to foreigners.

New figures reveal the land information minister and Green MP has approved nearly every application to cross her desk over nine months, rejecting just 30 hectares out of almost 60,000 hectares.

Former Green MP Sue Bradford is warning the news will stir up more disquiet among the party’s supporters after an earlier backlash over Ms Sage’s decision to allow a Chinese water bottling giant to expand.

“Her role is meaningless. The party’s role is meaningless,” Ms Bradford told RNZ.

She was shocked Ms Sage approved the sale of so much land to overseas people.

Bradford doesn’t seem to understand how multi party MMP governments work. Ministers don’t get to do whatever a few activists from their party demand.

“You’d think that either [the Greens would] move their person out of the role or they’d negotiate a damn sight harder with their coalition partners about changing policy on it.”

If Green ministers couldn’t do whatever party activists wanted they should resign? That would give them even less say over how things are done.

Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa spokesperson Murray Horton said the approval rate made a “mockery” of the government’s promises to curb foreign investment.

“The Greens need to be a bit bolder, frankly. They’re in government for the first time ever.

“They have a mandate from their members and the people who vote for them to actually establish a point of difference.”

But they don’t have a mandate from the country, they only 6.27% of the vote. That is nowhere near a democratic mandate.

Between 1 November and 26 July, Ms Sage approved 21 applications covering about 55,957 hectares. She turned down two requests relating to 30 hectares.

But Ms Sage said most of approved land – roughly 40,000 hectares – related to the sale of Mount White Station, a sheep and beef farm in Canterbury.

In that case, the Czech buyer already had permanent residency and his wife and children were New Zealand citizens.

“There was very limited opportunity for discretion because … it had only been triggered as an application under the Overseas Investment Act because he was out of the country for a period.

“I’m bound by the law, and as a minister, I implement the law.”

Many of the other applications related to forestry which was a government priority area, she said.

“We need more investment in forestry to meet the billion trees’ commitment to ensure that we are sequestering enough carbon to meet our climate change objectives.”

Ms Sage rejected claims she was acting in the same way as her predecessors, pointing out that she had turned down two applications in nine months.

“Under National, I think you had one application – Lochinver – turned down during their period in government.”

Not a big difference in numbers.

The government extended the Overseas Investment Office’s oversight in November and banned house sales to most foreigners in August.

Ministers also directed officials to review the Overseas Investment Act with changes expected by 2020.

So some changes have been made and more could change this year. These things take time in Government.

Sue Bradford has proven in the past she can act on her principles, but idealists outside parties and outside Parliament can’t do anything but criticise what happens within the democratic process.

Dissatisfaction of Government by green activists risks dividing the Green Party and reducing the power they do have. It wouldn’t take much for them to drop out of Parliament altogether, and then they would have much less ability to change anything.

Government announces $12b infrastructure spending,

The Government has announced $12 billion in infrastructure spending, but haven’t given a lot of details yet. Specifics won’t be revealed until next year.

$12 billion in extra infrastructure investment

The Government is lifting capital investment to the highest level in more than 20 years as it takes the next step to future-proof New Zealand.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has announced $12 billion of new investment, with $8 billion for specific capital projects and $4 billion to be added to the multi-year capital allowance.

The $8 billion includes:

  • $6.8 billion for new transport projects, with a significant portion for roads and rail.
  • $400 million one-off increase to schools’ capital funding
  • $300 million for regional investment opportunities
  • $300 million for District Health Board asset renewal
  • $200 million for public estate decarbonisation

The specific projects will be announced in early 2020.

The extra $4 billion to be added to the multi-year capital allowance takes it to $8.4 billion, with allocation of that money to be announced over coming Budgets.

“The new investment is forecast to increase the size of the economy by a further $10 billion over five years, with further positive impacts on GDP beyond that period,” Grant Robertson says.

With debt low and borrowing costs at record lows, the conditions are right for the Government to invest to future-proof New Zealand.

So they intend borrowing to spend on infrastructure, but at the same time have announced a surplus of the same amount over the next four years.

Strong economy, careful spending gives $12bn of surpluses

The Government is forecast to run $12 billion worth of surpluses across the four years to 2023/24 as the economy continues to grow.

The surpluses will help fund day-to-day capital requirements each year. These include fixing leaky hospitals, building new classrooms to cover population growth and take pressure off class sizes, and putting aside savings in the Super Fund for future retirement costs.

The new forecasts are in the Treasury’s 2019 Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update. This was released alongside the Government’s $12 billion plan for new infrastructure investment to future-proof the economy, and the 2020 Budget priorities.

Across the four years from 2020/21 to 2023/24, the annual surplus is forecast to rise to 1.5% of GDP. This delivers a total of nearly $12 billion of surpluses.

“The Government has committed to running a sustainable surplus across an economic cycle, and today’s forecasts show we are delivering on that,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The Government inherited net debt at 22.9% of GDP. The forecasts show net debt of 21.5% of GDP in 2021/22, falling to 19.6% in 2023/24 – within the new 15%-25% range. This includes the impacts of the additional $12 billion infrastructure investment that the Government announced today to future-proof the economy through a package of new transport, education and health infrastructure.

But they are actually going to borrow $19 billion.

I guess the additional $7 billion will be for more election year spending.

But bragging about surpluses while announcing borrowing much more seems like a bit of a PR job.

Faafoi explains and apologises

Statement from Minister Faafoi

Hon Kris Faafoi

6 December 2019 PĀNUI PĀPĀHO

MEDIA STATEMENT

I have apologised to the Prime Minister and understand I have let her down in regards to my dealings with Jason Kerrison over an immigration matter concerning his family.

I know I need to be more upfront in the future about what I can and can’t do if I’m approached for help.

I was contacted by Jason, who is an old family friend, to see if I could help him with his step-father’s immigration case.

Rather than telling Jason straight away I couldn’t do anything to help him, I said I would look into it; as MPs are allowed to do in these cases.

I made contact with the Associate Immigration Minister’s Office to seek advice on the appropriate process. They told me to refer him to his local MP and that I could write a support letter.

Following that conversation I told Mr Kerrison he needed to talk to his local electorate MP and I called Matt King to let him know about the case.

I contacted Jason’s mother to offer to write a supporting letter, as I had been advised I could, and got some more details for the letter. However, I never wrote the letter.

I stupidly created an impression through my messages that I was following up on it when in fact I wasn’t. I was uncomfortable with him messaging me pretty regularly on it and you can see I stopped responding to his texts.

In hindsight I should have just been clear and told him I couldn’t help and just to deal with his local MP. But aside from checking to see what the proper process was for me to follow I took no other actions, and specifically took no actions to advance it, influence it, or advocate for it.

I acknowledge this is messy and you could read other meaning into my messages. But I can hand on heart say I wasn’t doing anything to advance the case, and the messages just reflect me not wanting to let a mate down. In hindsight I should have been clearer with him.

I’ve apologised to the Prime Minister and understand I have let her down. I know I need to be more upfront in the future about what I can and can’t do if I’m approached for help.

The Minister is releasing all communications to do with this issue. Private information (application numbers or contact details) have been removed. (see attached).

https://img.scoop.co.nz/media/pdfs/1912/Correspondence_Date_and_Details.docx

That seems like plausible explanation and a genuine apology. I think the embarrassment to Faafoi (and Labour and the Government) will ensure a lesson has been learned and Faafoi will take more care in the future.

 

Serious claims against Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi

It may be coincidence but the Broadcasting Minister could be in serious trouble, again, the time Kris Faafoi, who has been accused of abusing power in trying to do a favour for a friend over an immigration application.

The first Minister of Broadcasting in the current Government, Clare Curran, resigned in September 2018 after she made a mess of her job. That wasn’t a surprising crash and burn as Curran was seen as a weak link.

In contrast Kris Faafoi has generally been as one of Labour’s best junior ministers, until now. But yesterday Newshub reported:

‘I’m on it bro’: Messages show Kris Faafoi offering help to friend Jason Kerrison over immigration case

Text messages obtained by Newshub show Faafoi appears to have breached Cabinet rules by offering to help Kerrison with his family’s declined immigration case.

An offer to “speed things up” was among reassurances made by the former Associate Immigration Minister to Kerrison, who spoke to Newshub in October about his step-father’s partnership visa application being declined.

Messages Faafoi sent to the singer of Kiwi band Opshop ask for details of the case before he says he has a plan and promises to talk to the right people.

In one communication on Facebook, Kerrison sent a direct message to Faafoi drawing his attention to a post with Newshub’s article.

Faafoi replied: “Hey bro – I will make a call on Monday. I know it is genuine as I know you travelled for the wedding a few years back. I will talk to the people that can speed things up.”

Kerrison’s mother, Jude Kerrrison, and Mich Obadiah met online in 2009. She’s visited him in Kenya eight times, and they were married in an intimate ceremony more than two years ago.

But Immigration NZ questioned the legitimacy and credibility of their relationship.

“I understand his personal situation to be genuine and I think he did have a case, which is why I offered to speak to his local MP,” Faafoi told Newshub.

Facebook messages between Faafoi and Kerrison show them discussing the immigration case, but he denies offering to do an immigration favour for a friend.

But Faafoi asked Kerrsison to “Yes – can you please send me surname and immagration nz file number [sic]” – which Kerrison did, before the conversation moved to texts.

Faafoi and Kerrison also discussed the case in a Facebook phone call.

When Kerrison thanks him, Faafoi replies “Whanau whanau brother.”

In November the conversation moves to text. Faafoi assures Kerrison “Im on it bri… o (BRO).”

But Faafoi may have a ‘Shane Jones’ defence – that his impropriety didn’t lead to a successful outcome.

But then things go cold.

Kerrison asks: “Hi bro how’re we doing”… “Where are we at” and repeats back to Faafoi “Whanau whanau mate.”

It’s after that on November 15 that Faafoi assures Kerrison, “Bro, its moving. I can’t put anything in writing”.

Faafoi told Newshub on Thursday: “I think he’s been trying to contact me but I haven’t been responding because it wouldn’t be appropriate.”

But while Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seems impotent when it comes to NZ First ministers she may be compelled to take action against a Labour minister.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister told Newshub she has “clear expectations of her ministers to uphold the highest standards at all times”.

In practice that only seems to apply to Labour ministers. Ardern may want to be seen as tough at least with her own.

 

More on the Shane Jones/NZ First conflict of interest

RNZ have revealed more information about the forestry company NZ Future Forest Products (closely linked to NZ First) that applied for $15 million of Provincial Growth Fun funds within two weeks of the company being formed.

The office of the Minister in charge of the PGF, Shane Jones, was sent documents about the bid five times over four months – why to his office rather than to the PGF office?

And Jones eventually declared a conflict of interest on 14 October, the same day RNZ asked questions via the Official Information Act. Jones claims the timing was a coincidence.

Jones claims not to have known that two people with close links to NZ First, long time friend of Winston Peters, personal and party lawyer and trustee of the NZ First Foundation Brian Henry, and Peters’ long time partner Jan Trotman, were directors of the company.

And he says that because a loan was not granted by the PGF (after Jones recused himself from decision making) none of this matters anyway. That is nonsense.

If it is to be believed that Jones didn’t know of the potential conflict of interest until the day he was OIA’d about it, which I think is quite a stretch, I think it is incredible that Henry and Trotman wouldn’t have declared their involvement to Jones and to Peters. They certainly should have.

RNZ (Audio): New details revealed on NZ First-linked company and Shane Jones’ office

New information released to RNZ reveals that Shane Jones’ office was sent documents about a forestry company’s bid for $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund multiple times and many months before he declared a conflict of interest because of links between the company and the New Zealand First Party.

As Guyon Espiner explains, it has now emerged that Mr Jones only declared a conflict of interest over the NZ Future Forest Products bid on the day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request asking for details of his involvement.

RNZ: New details revealed over NZ First-linked company and Shane Jones’ office

Shane Jones’ office received official documents about a forestry company’s bid for public money five times over four months, but the New Zealand First minister only declared a conflict of interest on the day RNZ began asking questions.

NZ Future Forest Products (NZFFP) – whose directors include Winston Peters’ lawyer Brian Henry and Mr Peters’ partner Jan Trotman – made an unsuccessful bid to borrow $15 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, which Mr Jones is responsible for.

Mr Jones has said he recused himself from the decision-making over the bid because of his long-standing relationship with Mr Henry, who is the judicial officer for NZ First as well as Mr Peters’ lawyer.

Documents provided to RNZ show Mr Jones wrote to the prime minister advising her of his conflict of interests on 14 October – the same day RNZ lodged an Official Information Act request with his office.

Mr Jones has told Parliament that he was only “formally” made aware of the NZFFP bid to the Provincial Growth Fund on 14 October.

But answers to written questions lodged by National MP Chris Bishop show Mr Jones’ office was sent documents mentioning NZFFP and its applications to the PGF on five occasions between 17 June and 9 October.

In total, documents relating to NZFFP were sent to Mr Jones’ office on six occasions between 17 June and 13 November – when the bid was turned down – but Mr Jones said he “personally” received only three of them.

The documents sent to Mr Jones’ office included advice from the Provincial Growth Fund’s Independent Advisory Panel, on 10 July, on the NZFFP bid.

Henry was a founding director of NZFPP was the company was incorporated on 27 March 2019. Trotman became a director on 27 August.

He said none of the documents went into detail about the bid nor disclosed the involvement of Brian Henry and his son David Henry, who is also a director of the company.

So why were all the documents sent, three of them ‘personally’ to Jones, without going into detail or disclosing potential conflicts of interest and without going into detail?

In an interview with RNZ today, Mr Jones reiterated that 14 October was the first date he was formally briefed about the proposal.

That’s the same day RNZ asked questions. He was also asked about it in Parliament on 22 November, and repeatedly refused to disclose when he first knew about the bid or the conflict of interest. From Shane Jones avoids answering questions properly in Parliament:

Hon SHANE JONES: April 8 was the date that the company’s application was lodged. I became aware that the company had applied to the Provincial Growth Fund on 14 October.

The company had been sending documents to Jones’ office (and three times to Jones personally) since 17 June, but Jones claims not to have become “aware that the company had applied to the Provincial Growth Fund” until 14 October. That claim appears to be misleading or false.

Hon SHANE JONES: I became aware of this formal application on 14 October. I have asked staff to ascertain in the wodge of papers that, time to time, wash up in my office, was there any reference at all to Mr Brian Henry in any application, and they have told me zero—that there was no reference whatsoever to that application from that individual.

Chris Bishop: Was he aware informally between 8 April and 14 October that Mr Henry and N.Z. Future Forest Products Ltd had made an application to the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat again, 14 October is a date of great significance. That is the date that I was formally notified of the application…

…So it is most important that the House focuses on the date of 14 October, when I was formally notified that an application was on its way to the Ministers…

Hon SHANE JONES: Until 14 October, I was not formally notified of the existence of an application. I am advised, however, that officials have put in reports the name of the company they were dealing with. Unfortunately, I had no idea who that company was…

Hon SHANE JONES: As I said, I am not aware of the detail—the extent—of any discussions between Mr Brian Henry or a company I had never heard of and did not recognise until such time as a formal duty fell upon me to make a decision. At that point, I recused myself. Then it was turned down, which is how the process works.

Chris Bishop: Why did David Henry email his office on 21 September about the project, and why didn’t he declare a conflict then?

Hon SHANE JONES: There is no conflict between myself and a Mr David Henry, an individual I might have met once or thrice. I have clearly stated that I have a longstanding relationship with Mr Brian Henry…

Jones must have known that David Henry was or may be related to Brian Henry.  RNZ:

In an interview with RNZ today, Mr Jones reiterated that 14 October was the first date he was formally briefed about the proposal.

“I have already said that my office received papers identifying name of the company but I had no idea that that company involved the personalities that apparently are the directors of that company.”

Again at least misleading, he had received an email from one of the directors on 21 September.

Answers to written questions also show that Mr Peters wrote to the prime minister on 14 October, the same day as Mr Jones did, declaring a conflict of interest in relation to the NZFFP bid.

If Trotman didn’t disclose to Peters that she was a director of a company applying for PGF funds she should have.

There were warnings of the risks of cronyism when the PGF was set up with Jones the Minister in charge of dishing out $3 billion.  This application by NZFFP has not helped perceptions of it being some sort of a slush fund

It seems a bit extraordinary Jones and Peters were completely unaware of the involvement of the Henrys and Trotman until the same day RNZ started asking questions, and Jones repeatedly refusing to answer questions about what he knew don’t help perceptions of some sort of impropriety.

I think it’s safe to assume that Jones knew more about this (‘informally’) than he has disclosed, there is  clear implication that’s the case.

And I think it seems negligent of Henry and Trotman not to disclose to Peters or Jones of their involvement in a PGF application. It certainly hasn’t looked good for NZ First.

And it doesn’t help the credibility of the Labour-NZ First coalition Government. The Greens aren’t involved directly, but their silence on this (as far as I’m aware), compared to what one could imagine their reaction would be to anything like this involving National or Act, suggests their standards can be compromised by being in power.

Hon Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that N.Z. Future Forest Product Ltd’s application to the Provincial Growth Fund was declined?

That it was declined is immaterial to what happened during the application. Robertson has put himself in a position of appearing to approve of what happened.

Jacinda Ardern has appeared impotent on the behaviour and actions of one of her Ministers, Jones.

This story has been running alongside the revelation that Brian Henry is trustee of a Foundation that appears to be designed to hide donations to NZ First that would normally need to be declared.

Labour/Government spending on schools

In her Speech to the 2019 Labour Party Conference Jacinda Ardern gave details of plans provide money to all schools for maintenance.

…next year almost every single state school in New Zealand will receive a one-off payment of up to $400,000 to upgrade their classrooms and facilities.

This is the biggest cash injection for school maintenance in at least 25 years.

It will create jobs in every community in the country while helping to make our schools the special places they deserve to be.

Every school will get a payment of $693 per student, capped at a maximum of $400,000, while no school will get less than $50,000 regardless of how small their roll is.

@henrycooke: The funding maxes out at $400k per school but also has a $50k floor. This creates some wild ratios, eg: Auckland Grammar, with 2421 students, will receive the max of $400k – $165 per student. Papanui Junction School, roll of 7, will receive the minimum of $50k – $7k per kid.

Be it classroom upgrades or extensions, ensuring classrooms are warm and dry so our kids can learn, replacing coal boilers with new clean and energy efficient heating, improving play areas with resurfacing and landscaping, replacing roofing and guttering – this money is to ensure that the projects that schools have often had to defer can now get done.

But this isn’t just about schools – it’s about jobs. And especially trades jobs.

We want schools to engage local builders, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, landscapers – this is an opportunity for work at a local level in every town and city in the country.

Now this is just the first part of our infrastructure package, and one element of our work to rebuild New Zealand.

And it will leave a visible mark on every school in the country.

Now I know that what happens to our school buildings is one thing but what happens within them matters even more.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text

She also announced a Ministry of Education offer to pay all school support staff at least ‘the living wage’.

So I want to finish by acknowledging that on Friday, the Ministry of Education made a new offer to settle the school support staff collective agreement, which, if accepted, will see teacher aides and other support staff receive at least the living wage.

Today, I can also announce that we intend for the Ministry to extend the living wage offer to all non-teaching staff in schools including cleaners, caretakers, and grounds people.

A lot of people will like this expenditure, and many will benefit from it. It won’t do any harm for Labour’s election chances next year either.

Government to borrow more, boosting spending on ‘infrastructure’

Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has announced that the Government will take advantage of low interest rates and borrow more so they can increase spending in infrastructure. Details will come later.

RNZ: Government signals big new infrastructure spend, looser purse strings

Finance Minister Grant Robertson flagged extra spending in his speech to the Labour Party’s annual conference in Whanganui.

He said Cabinet had committed to a boost to infrastructure as part of the short to medium term spending plan.

“We are currently finalising the specific projects that the package will fund but I can tell you this – it will be significant.”

The government had heeded the calls from the construction industry for “greater certainty” about the pipeline of transport projects from 18 months’ time, he said.

“We will give that certainty”.

It made sense to take advantage of low government debt and the very low cost of borrowing, said Mr Robertson.

“Right now, we can borrow at an interest rate of 1.3 percent for ten years. Just think about that for a minute – when we came in to office, this was up at 3 percent,” he told delegates.

“We have the lowest borrowing costs in New Zealand’s history, so it is time to invest.”

There will be no details until the next update on the government books – the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update on December 11 – when Mr Robertson will release more details about the areas of spending, and the price tag.

Greens are keen (they have been wanting this for some time):

It should give the economy a good boost for election year. A first term Government overseeing and stimulating a thriving economy will be hard to defeat.

Wellbeing budget – transformative, or just ‘variation on a them’

Peter Dunne has said that most budgets he has seen (34 while an MP)  are just variations on a theme – and he includes this year’s ‘wellbeing budget’ in that description.

@honpeterdunne:

I saw 34 Budgets in my time – twice as many as Parker.

The biggest changes were Douglas’s reforms in 1984; Richardson’s Fiscal Responsibility Act in 1994, and English’s social investment reforms after 2015.

The rest, including this year’s, are just variations on a theme.

Others (I have heard a number of people promote this theme) have said that the this year’s budget is not transformational on it’s own, but sets a framework for transformation in the future.

Glen Bennett (New Plymouth Labour Committee Spokesperson):  Wellbeing budget transformational framework for New Zealanders

This week the Hon Grant Robertson delivered the Coalition Government’s second Budget. This Wellbeing Budget 2019 is different from any we’ve seen in New Zealand.

In the past budgets have had one measure, Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Simply put, GDP measures the value of economic activity within a country, what we earn and what we spend those earnings on.

In Addition to GDP, Wellbeing Budget 2019 is measured across five other key priorities, aimed at improving the wellbeing of all New Zealanders and broadening the Budget’s focus beyond economic and fiscal policy.

The priorities are; taking mental health seriously, improving child wellbeing, supporting Māori and Pasifika aspirations, building a productive nation and transforming the economy.

In the lead up to the Wellbeing Budget, in his Budget Policy Statement, the Hon Grant Robertson said:

“Faced with complex issues such as child poverty, inequality, and climate change, we cannot hope to make the best choices for current and future generations if we do not look beyond economic growth and consider social, environmental, and economic implications together.

“While economic growth is important for creating opportunities, our recent history shows that focusing on it alone can be counterproductive and associated with poor outcomes such as greater inequality and pollution.”

Recently several people have asked me what I see as being transformational about this Government, questioning if it’s just business as usual with nothing innovative or new.

The introduction of a Wellbeing Budget is something that I see as being transformational for New Zealand over a long period of time.

The Wellbeing Budget has challenged those sitting around the Cabinet table to look differently at the funding  they lobby for, to look across all Ministries in a holistic way, measuring their long term goals and aspirations against the five priorities of the Wellbeing Budget.

This can only be good for New Zealand and our wellbeing. I can’t see a quick fix to inequality, environmental challenges, child poverty or our mental health crisis, but this is a start.

It’s a moment in time when our Government is laying out a framework that will be transformational for all New Zealanders, not only in 2019, but for years to come.

Mental Health Foundation: Wellbeing Budget 2019 a good start towards transformation

The Mental Health Foundation (MHF) are pleased the Government are taking mental health seriously by creating a $1.9 billion mental health package, announced in today’s Wellbeing Budget.

“The funding and initiatives set out in today’s budget are a fantastic start, but it’s crucial Government keep up the momentum into the future if we are to create a New Zealand where all people can experience positive mental health.”

But…

Rod Oram: Budget long on rhetoric, short on transformative funding

… the Government chose six priorities for its first Wellbeing Budget, and devised some innovative ways to bring multiple agencies of Government together to work on each.

This approach has brought about the biggest changes in the three priorities focused on people – mental health, child wellbeing and Maori and Pasifika aspirations. The investment will be substantial, particularly on mental health, and applied in some novel ways.

However, the Government has made far less progress in applying the wellbeing methodology to its other three priorities  – the productive economy, the environment and infrastructure investment.

All three are largely business-as-usual with only a few gestures to new and co-ordinated approaches; they don’t get to grips with the massive transformation all three need; and, worse, there are some serious disconnects between them.

…but it has none of the innovation in programmes or serious commitment of money that the other three capitals have. Yet it is this transition to the low carbon economy which will drive our transformation to a highly productive economy, wealth generating and strongly sustainable nation.

So, while this is a good start on the Wellbeing Budget in social areas, the Government has a Herculean task ahead in economic and environmental ones. One simple search of the Budget document illustrates this: The four new capitals used – financial and physical, natural, social and human had just 17 references in the 149 pages of the Budget document.

David Hall (senior researcher in politics at the Auckland University of Technology): Ardern more transitional than transformational:

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern saddled herself with the word “transformational”. She used it heavily in the heady days of the 2017 election campaign, although less so in the compromised reality of a coalition government. Still, it is the aspiration she is held to. The 2019 wellbeing Budget is held to it by association.

But how do we know transformation when we see it?

Obviously, transformation must go beyond the status quo. But to be transformative, it must also go beyond mere reform.

A reform agenda recognises that trouble is brewing, that social, economic and environmental trends are on the wrong track. It accepts that major changes to policy and lifestyle may be required. As sustainable development research shows, it does “not locate the root of the problem in the nature of present society, but in imbalances and a lack of knowledge and information”.

It tends to reach for existing policy levers, and to hang its hopes on technical solutions. It reacts to the toughest choices by devising new frameworks for analysing them.

The wellbeing Budget easily goes this far. Finance minister Grant Robertson is entitled to say, as he did in his Budget speech, that this is a government “not satisfied with the status quo”.

A transformative agenda goes further. It sees problems as rooted in the present structure of society. It isn’t only about managing the flaws and oversights of the dominant system, but overturning the system itself. This involves an order of ambition that the wellbeing Budget lacks.

There is another word for change that the Prime Minister sides with: not “transformation” but just transition. This is the idea that socioeconomic change should be guided by principles of justice, such as equity and inclusivity, to minimise the disruption change can bring. The aim of a just transition is to achieve revolution without revolt.

Ardern obviously sees the idea of a just transition as more broadly relevant, contrasting it with the “rapid, uncaring change” of structural reforms in 1980s New Zealand. To my mind, this better captures the temper of this Government – not transformational, but potentially transitional.

But transformation and transition are just simple labels.

Labour ministers and MPs have kept saying that they can’t change ‘9 years of neglect’ (I think an unfair label) with a single budget, but this was their second budget.

Transformation or revolutionary change takes longer than a three year term in an MMP Parliament.

The Government’s third budget will be trying to balance a carefully nurtured image of financial prudence with further signs of transformational intent – as long as they are re-elected.

Much my depend on whether voters chose to keep the transformation-resistant NZ First party in the mix to moderate changes, or dump them and take a risk with a Labour-Green Government. (Returning National to power looks a long shot at this stage but is an option for those preferring more incremental change than Labour/NZ First).