MP’s pay frozen pending ‘fairer system’

The Prime Minister has announced that MP’s salaries and allowances would be frozen for a year “while developing a fairer formula for future pay increases”: MP pay frozen and fairer system for increases developed

“Today Cabinet agreed to freeze MP Pay till July 2019, and to reassess the funding formula used by the Authority to ensure it is fair and in keeping with this Government’s expectations and values,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“I have notified all party leaders of this decision.

The  Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government needed to take action before the Remuneration Authority initiated new pay rates.

“Because of the timing of the annual increase process set in the Act, we need to use an urgent legislative process, aiming for introduction in September.

“This means we need to amend the Remuneration Authority Act 1977 to suspend new Determinations by the Remuneration Authority and restore the 2017 Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Determination until 30 June 2019,” Iain Lees-Galloway said.

Ardern spoke more about it at yesterday’s weekly media conference.

RNZ: MPs’ salaries to be frozen for a year

The Remuneration Authority recently determined an increase of about three percent for the coming year, which Ms Ardern said did not feel right.

Urgent legislation will have to be passed in order for the freeze to take effect before the Remuneration Authority’s increase comes into force.

Jacinda Ardern said she has told other party leaders about the changes.

“They were brief conversations, obviously [government support] partners and I had an earlier conversation with and they are totally supportive.

“I’ve just got off the phone to [National leader] Simon Bridges and [ACT leader] David Seymour and the general sentiment I sense from them was complete understanding of the situation, and reading between the lines I think they probably agreed with the move as well.”

Ms Ardern said the move was about the government’s values.

“We are focussed on lifting the incomes of low and middle income earners and we also acknowledge that there has been an increasing gap between those income earners and those at the other end.

“We are at the other end. It’s just not right for us to have an increase like that currently and so we want to change the way that our increases are calculated in the future.”

This looks like a symbolic gesture, and a vague one at that.She gave no indication what the ‘fairer system’ would look like.

Ardern seems to think it wouldn’t look right to get a wage increase of about 3% while wage negotiations for 10-16% are taking place for teachers. It certainly looks like an odd move by her.

Is it fair for the Prime Minister to decide when MP salaries should rise, or whether they sshould rise, or what uis fair?

The Remuneration Authority is required by law to determine a pay increase which is in line with rises across the public service, but the prime minister has asked the funding formula to be reassessed, she said, to ensure it is fair and in keeping with her Government’s expectations and values.

More vagueness.

Would it be fairer for MP’s salaries to fall behind public servant salaries?

Would it be fairer for public servant salaries to be frozen pending the introduction of ‘a fairer system’?

Would it be fair to say that Ardern is making a symbolic gesture that will be nothing more than a delay to suit her purposes?

Stuff: Government freezes MPs pay amid multiple pay negotiations with educators, police

MPs’ pay is set by the independent Remuneration Authority – a process that deliberately keeps the annual pay review at arms-length from the politicians.

However, the Government has the power to set the criteria that the authority applies and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a review of the act that governs the process.

Another review, with scant details.

The 2016 decision of the Remuneration Authority saw MPs get a 2.5 per cent pay rise across the board. Ardern earns $459,739, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on $326,697.

Ministers inside Cabinet earn $288,900, with those outside Cabinet on a $243,841 wicket. As leader of the Opposition, Bridges is on $288,900, and for other party leaders, a base salary of $175,398 is supplemented with add-ons depending on the size of the party.

A backbench MP with no additional responsibilities earns $160,024.

Allowances were awarded on top of those figures, which took care of “out-of-pocket expenses” related to the job.

Quite generous salaries, but they are jobs with huge responsibilities and especially for the PM and ministers, heavy workloads.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said MPs should eventually only get the same pay rise as the average worker, “in dollar terms”

“MPs are paid well above the average worker, so giving them a percentage rise accentuates their higher pay. When it is right for MPs to get a rise, they should get the same in dollar terms as what the average worker receives.”

So MP salaries would gradually fall behind public servant salary levels.

Would Davidson also want that same system applied to public servants and government workers?

Graeme Edgeler suggests:

Automatically index to inflation just before the election to cover the whole next term

Then it wouldn’t be a political decision, nor a political embarrassment during the term.

 

Q+A: Justice Minister “what we are doing isn’t working”

Justice Minister Andrew Little was interviewed on Q+A last night.

Andrew Little: after 30 years of tough on crime policy, the reoffending rate has stayed the same, “it’s not making us safe”

“We have to change the public debate on what we do with criminals”.

“If we are doing it right there will be more people leaving prison who have been helped and don’t reoffend.”

“It is not right that we’ve had a 30% increase in our prison population in the last 5 years.”

“No we haven’t got agreement from NZ First to get rid of 3 strikes law.”

Andrew Little: can’t rule out the possibility of systemic racism in the justice system

“Just the humanity of it means we have to do something different”.

“What we are doing right now isn’t working”.

I doubt anyone will argue that New Zealand’s incarceration rate is a problem, and that deterrents and reoffending rates and rehabilitation need to be seriously reviewed.

What is missing from the interview highlights (from @NZQandA) are solutions. That’s the tricky bit.

A review of the judicial system is under way. Hopefully that will come up with some good suggestions.

One problem is that a substantial up front investment will probably be required.

The growing number of prisoners has to be dealt with, and that is costly.

But much more resources are required for prevention and rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners after they are released. If these are done much better it should lead to lowering imprisonment rates, eventually.

Many prisoners are the result of long term problems, often intergenerational. Poor upbringings, lack of education and low skills making well paid employment difficult to get all contribute to resorting to crime.

Drug laws have worked poorly and contribute to a lot of crime.

Violence is a huge problem, it is a deeply entrenched issue in New Zealand society. It will be very challenging confronting and addressing this successfully, but it is an investment in effort and money that benefit us all if it works for the better.

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Nation: Shane Jones on new “infrastructure entity”

‘Infrastructure entity’ is an odd description for a new layer of bureaucracy.

On Newshub Nation this morning:

This week Minister Shane Jones announced an independent commission to tackle New Zealand’s massive infrastructure deficit. Simon Shepherd asks him how the agency can avoid becoming another layer of bureaucracy

Beehive blurb:


New infrastructure entity to help drive economic growth and wellbeing

A new independent entity will be established so New Zealand gets the quality infrastructure investment it needs to improve long-term economic performance and social wellbeing, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced today.

Speaking at the annual Building Nations Symposium in Auckland, Shane Jones said the new entity would provide greater certainty to the industry and better advice to Ministers to ensure adequate, long-term planning and investment happens.

“When we first came into Government, it quickly became clear that we’re facing a major infrastructure deficit with no plan to tackle it. We’ve struggled to get a clear picture from officials of its scale, when it would hit us the worst and in which sectors.

“Treasury is currently unable to properly quantify the value of the deficit we’re facing – it doesn’t hold accurate or up-to-date information about all infrastructure projects across all sectors and advises that agencies themselves may not necessarily know the extent of their future capital needs.

“This is just not good enough. This Government has a firm eye on the future and not just the next few years. We’re determined to improve economic performance, and social and environmental wellbeing for generations to come and getting on top of our infrastructure challenge is key.

“That means ensuring New Zealand can make the timely and quality investments in vital infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, transport networks, water and electricity. And it means being open to innovative solutions to sourcing the capital we need.

“We’ve listened to industry and local government – they need greater visibility of our infrastructure needs. 

“This new entity will provide that certainty so we can make the right investments, in the right places and the right time.

“We’re already making a significant dent in our infrastructure deficit. Net capital spending in the next five years will be more than double that of the previous five years with the Government investing about $42 billion through to 2022.

“This is a good start, but we need to do better over the long term and I’m confident the new infrastructure entity will help us really sharpen our planning for the future.

“Treasury will now lead the development of the detailed policy working alongside key industries and I’ll report back to Cabinet early next year with options on how to structure the new organisation,” Shane Jones said.

It is anticipated the new infrastructure entity will be operational by late 2019.


That was quite a different Shane Jones to what we usually see in Parliament. He didn’t stray into flowery crap. It was a fairly forthright performance, saying what he wanted to do, saying what he couldn’t do because of limits imposed by government agreements (especially in the spending cap), he criticised past governments including his then Labour government under Helen Clark, and also (t an extent) praised National initiatives and cooperation.

Apparently the ‘infrastructure entity’ was a National policy that Jones has taken on.

Shane Jones says this infrastructure agency should provide “greater credibility, more certainty, more confidence” for the construction industry

“I’ve got zero patience for the iwi leaders group, I’m more interested in the Indians and the cowboys because they’re the ones who vote for me” – Shane Jones on consultation with Māori freshwater advisory group

Provincial Growth Funds for One Billion Tree programme

The two policies may have always been linked, but Forestry Minister Shane Jones has announced that $240 million has been allocated to the One Billion Trees programme from the Provincial Growth Fund championed by Regional Economic Minister Shane Jones.

Two weeks ago Provincial Growth Fund gains momentum

Today’s launch of the Guide to the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will give regions greater clarity on the Government’s priorities for the PGF and how to tailor their applications, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

Yesterday: Another milestone for One Billion Trees

The Government’s goal of planting more trees to create sustainable jobs and address climate change is receiving a $240 million boost, Forestry Minister Shane Jones has today announced.

As part of the One Billion Trees programme, Cabinet has approved the creation of a new grants programme and partnership fund to get more trees in the ground and provide training and employment opportunities.

“Forestry is a fundamental part of this Government’s regional development programme and we need to work with everyday New Zealanders because they are the key to achieving our tree planting target over the next ten years,” Shane Jones said.

“We’re allocating $240 million from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to support tree planting in areas where wider social, environmental, and regional development goals can be achieved.

“The Government plays an important role in setting the right conditions for forestry growth and we need to work with everyday New Zealanders because they are the key to achieving our tree planting target over the next ten years.

“We’re strengthening our support for planting over the next three to four years in areas where there are currently limited commercial drivers for investment, and where wider social, environmental or regional development benefits can be achieved.

“The new grants scheme will provide simple and accessible direct funding to landowners for the cost of planting and establishing trees and regenerating indigenous forest. Private landowners, government agencies, NGOs and iwi will all be able to apply.

“These grants will be available from later this year and we’re aiming to encourage the planting of natives, trees for erosion control, and environmentally-focused planting – all ensuring we have the right tree in the right place for the right purpose.

“These grants will see an additional 60 million new trees in the ground over the next three years.

“On top of this, a new partnership fund will create an even closer working relationship between Te Uru Rākau and regional councils, NGOs, training organisations, Māori landowners and community groups.

“This approach will allow us to leverage co-funding opportunities and existing know-how and experience.

“We’ll be looking at promoting innovation, securing sufficient labour to get trees in the ground and providing support and advice to landowners on how they can improve land-use,” Shane Jones said.

The new initiatives will be funded through the PGF with about $118 million set aside for grants and a further $120 million for partnership projects over three years.

This is in addition to the $245m already committed from the PGF to kick-start the programme, which includes funding for joint ventures and the expansion of the Hill Country Erosion programme.

It’s a lot of trees, and a lot of money.

Medals for public servants

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a new medal that “that recognises meritorious service in the Public Service”. It is anticipated that about five will be awarded each year.

The medal will be awarded to public servants who have provided service that has brought significant benefit or prestige to New Zealand or the Public Service, or who go above and beyond what is expected.

“The new medal will also help reaffirm the Public Service’s spirit of service to the community that New Zealand’s public servants bring to their work every day.

“This medal will recognise those public servants who have really made a difference.”

Public servants fill a wide variety of essential roles. It is unquestionable that we have to have a lot of them, but it is questionable how many we need.

How many are there? From 2017 Public Service Workforce Data

  • The number of public servants increased by 1,357 (3%) to 47,252 full-time equivalent employees at the end of June. This is largely due to operation of Mount Eden Prison returning to the Department of Corrections (it was previously run by private provider Serco). The Department of Corrections is now the largest Public Service department
  • The average annual salary in the Public Service in 2017 was $75,416. Average salaries vary greatly among departments, ranging from the lowest at $65,701 (Ministry of Social Development) to the highest average of $134,658 at the State Services Commission.

So they are generally well paid. The median weekly earnings from paid employment to June 2017 was $929 per week, which $49,868 annual earnings.

Note that the public service is a part (16%) of the state sector, which is a part (13%) of the total workforce.

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From the Beehive: New medal for public service

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has today announced a new medal that recognises meritorious service in the Public Service.

The medal will be awarded to public servants who have provided service that has brought significant benefit or prestige to New Zealand or the Public Service, or who go above and beyond what is expected.

“Recognising and celebrating public servants who have been exemplary or a model to others is an important way to promote and acknowledge the work of the public sector,” Jacinda Ardern said

“The new medal will also help reaffirm the Public Service’s spirit of service to the community that New Zealand’s public servants bring to their work every day.

“Public servants rarely get acknowledged for the exceptional work they do that changes New Zealand society and lives for the better.

“This medal will recognise those public servants who have really made a difference.

“Some of the greatest contributions of public servants are not always obvious to the public. Public servants find solutions to New Zealand’s most challenging problems and implement big changes.

“They create new ways for New Zealanders to access services, whether it be cutting wait times to receive social support or designing innovative campaigns that lead to better health and education outcomes.

“This is the calibre of service we can be proud of because it changes peoples’ lives.

“It’s time we acknowledge high-achieving public servants.  New Zealand needs public servants prepared to take risks and find solutions to the big challenges. I hope that this new medal will inspire others to do that,” Jacinda Ardern said.

New Zealand’s current Royal Honours system includes extensive options for the recognition of state servants, particularly those in the Armed Forces and uniformed services, such as Police, and Fire and Emergency NZ. But there is no medal that exclusively recognises the work, achievements, and contribution of core public servants.

The introduction of a new medal is consistent with other jurisdictions, including Australia. It will be instituted by Royal Warrant.

The medal, which will be presented for the first time later in the year by State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes, will be part of the New Zealand Royal Honours system. It is anticipated that around five medals will be awarded each year.

 

 

Plastic bag ban

The Government announced today that a ‘single use’ plastic bag ban will be phased in over the next year.

I’m all for drastically reducing plastic bag use, and plastic use. Waste plastic is creating a lot of problems.

Some large retailers are already at least working towards this, so the ban will just push some of this along.

I’m less sure that a one year phase in. It mat depend on the detail of the plan – especially whether suitable alternatives become available quickly and economically.

There is a risk this will add to business uncertainty, but it will be difficult to quantify that.


Single-use plastic bags to be phased out

Single-use plastic shopping bags will be phased out over the next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage announced today.

“We’re phasing-out single-use plastic bags so we can better look after our environment and safeguard New Zealand’s clean, green reputation,” said Jacinda Ardern.

“We’re listening to New Zealanders who want us to take action on this problem. This year 65,000 Kiwis signed a petition calling for an outright ban. It’s also the biggest single subject school children write to me about.

“Every year in New Zealand we use hundreds of millions of single-use plastic bags – a mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life, and all of this when there are viable alternatives for consumers and business.

“It’s great that many people are already changing the way they shop. But it’s important we take the time now to get this right so we can help all New Zealanders adjust their shopping habits.

“We need to be far smarter in the way we manage waste and this is a good start.

“We are a Government determined to face up to New Zealand’s environmental challenges. Just like climate change, we’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastics pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations,” said Jacinda Ardern.

Eugenie Sage said many countries and major cities around the world have successfully taken action on plastic pollution in recent years. She was confident New Zealanders would also embrace the change.

“Public calls for action have encouraged a significant number of retailers, including supermarkets, to move on single-use plastic bags. We want to support their efforts by ensuring the retail industry moves together in a fair and effective way.”

She encouraged people to read the discussion document and share their views.

“The Government will work alongside supermarkets and other retailers to help people make the change to reusable bags and we want to hear from New Zealanders as to how we can best do this.

“We’re proposing a six month phase-out period and we’re confident this is a change we can make together.

“New Zealanders are proud of our country’s clean, green reputation and we want to help ensure we live up to it. Phasing out single-use plastic bags helps do that,” said Eugenie Sage.

People have until Friday 14 September to share their views. This includes options for the date the phase-out is to be complete by, what bags should be included, any retailers that should be exempted, and how best to help people with the transition.

To have your say visit www.mfe.govt.nz.

The Gloriavale application for Regional Development funds

With $3 billion on offer from the Regional Economic Development fund over three years there must be many lining up with their hands out in hope of benefiting.

One application for funds has received special attention –  Gloriavale seeking millions of taxpayer dollars to set up new health food enterprise

Controversial religious sect Gloriavale is applying for millions of taxpayer dollars through the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

1 NEWS has revealed Gloriavale’s leaders are looking to set up a new health food enterprise on the West Coast, and they want the public to fund it.

It is an application only. It has not been granted. So some of the political jumping up and down is premature.

Gloriavale’s application to the $3 billion fund is already on the radar of Shane Jones, Regional Economic Development Minister.

“I wouldn’t want to knock out any particular application till we had all the facts. But the reality is that particular organisation does represent something of a morality play,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones said he’s not surprised that “we will get from time to time applications where we’ll have to be very, very sensitive”.

The Government says it will consider the application in good faith.

But it will also take into account Gloriavale’s reputation with the public whose money it’s now asking for.

I think that the Government has to properly consider any application.

There’s no point in getting concerned at this stage.

 

“The most open government in history”

Journalists continue to complain about the government not living up to it’s promise to be the most transparent government ever.

There was no pledge of transparency in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. From the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and
transparency around official information.

Claims of a lack of transparency began early under the incoming Government late last year.

Stuff (26 November 2017):  Labour promised transparency in Government, but they seem to be buckling on that early

The Government is facing a mountain of questions – more than 6000 to be exact. They’ve been lodged by an army of National MPs with nothing but time on their hands and it should be no surprise to Labour Ministers, who have so far refused to release much detail, if any, about their first actions in office.

In a 100-day programme, where major reform is being pushed through at break-neck speed, that is cause for concern.

…and it might be early, but on the current trend those accusations aren’t far from being squarely levelled back to Labour. They and the Greens made much of their desire to “bring transparency back to Government” on the campaign trail.

Labour is also yet to release what’s known as the ‘Briefings to Incoming Ministers’ – or BIMs. They are the documents prepared by the experts and officials, delivered to ministers in their first week to give them a crash course on the portfolio they’ve just been handed – in some cases rendering them responsible overnight for the spending of public funds totalling billions.

Stuff (2 December 2017): For a Government vowing to be more transparent, it really is stuck in the mud

For a Government vowing to be the most transparent and open the country has ever seen, it really did get stuck in the mud this week.

The problem with this document is not necessarily what’s in it, but the message it sends by not releasing it after Peters insisted it would be made public.

Ardern has spent the week arguing it isn’t a “live document” or a work programme the Government is bound to.

The new Government has an opportunity to pave a new path on transparency, it just needs to get out of the mud its bogged itself down in over the last few weeks and accept sometimes it’s better to just admit that you’re wrong.

RNZ (4 December 2017): Jacinda Ardern on ‘secret’ documents

Speaking to Morning Report today, Ms Ardern defended the new government’s reluctance to reveal the details of its coalition agreement.

“When something becomes an official part of our work programme, then that’s the point at which, absolutely, we have to be transparent about that. But when it comes to documents that sit behind a negotiation, that aren’t necessarily going to be pursued, as soon as you release it, that gives an expectation that it is a hard and fast policy, when it might not be at all.”

“We are actively at the moment looking at ways that we can make sure there is greater transparency around briefings that ministers receive, cabinet papers, whether we can routinely release documents after decisions are made, these are conversations I have never heard governments have before, and we are having.”

She said the government was still dedicated to greater transparency.

Jump forward seven months and this is looking like a ‘same old’ secretive government.

Stuff: ‘Secretive’ Shane Jones won’t release Fonterra texts

Regional economic development minister Shane Jones is refusing to make public messages backing his criticism of Fonterra chair John Wilson.

Self-styled “provincial champion” Jones launched a blistering attack on the long-serving dairy co-operative boss last month. Defending his remarks, Jones then claimed 365 people had sent messages supporting his stance.

But the NZ First Minister is now refusing to release those text messages. And that raises questions about the Government’s official record-keeping processes.

“The messages I was referring to were received predominantly on my private phone and not in my capacity as a Minister. They therefore do not fall within the scope within the scope of the Official Information Act 1982,” Jones said in a letter to Stuff.

@HenryCooke from Stuff: “In Politically Correct this week I recounted some recent OIA fun we’ve had with “the most open government in history”

But it looked like “We will be the most transparent government ever…unless it doesn’t suit us.

Urging Government to borrow more to pay nurses and teachers more

Both nursing and teacher groups are on a roll. They have already been offered pay raises significantly more than average pay raises – they say it is necessary to catch up ‘after nine years of neglect’ and to attain pay parity.

They say for the good of children and their sectors the Government must borrow more to pay them.

What they don’t say is what a likely flow on effect would be if they get pay increases well over 10%.

Newshub Nation had a decent panel discussion on this today (their panel discussions are often brief and rushed).

95% of vehicles need to be zero-emission by 2050

Minister of Climate Change James Shaw has a very ambitious target for “the ground vehicle fleet” (cars, trucks, buses and trains) – he says that 95% need to be zero emission by 2050. That means electric, person powered or powered by some other zero emission fuel.

RNZ: Carbon neutral goal reliant on electric cars – Govt

If New Zealand is to meet its zero carbon pledge, nearly all the country’s cars will have to be zero-emission by 2050, Climate Change Minister James Shaw says.

Mr Shaw said achieving the country’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 was reliant on significantly boosting the uptake of plug-in vehicles.

“We can’t get to the zero-emissions carbon goal without switching over the ground vehicle fleet to electrics. You just can’t get there,” he said.

“We think that means about 95 percent of vehicles in the year 2050 will be zero-emissions vehicles.”

That’s an ambitious target given the current use of electric vehicles.

As of June, roughly 8700 plug-in cars are on the road of a total fleet of more than four million.

That’s about 2%, so a long way to go.

Not only will it mean a huge increase in electric vehicles, it will also mean disposing of a large number of petrol and diesel fueled vehicles.

Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter dismissed the suggestion that was unrealistic.

“What is possible in 2030 will be far different from what we imagine being possible today.”

We simply don’t know what will be possible in 2030, or in 2050.

Not only will it need a massive change in vehicle type, and if the Greens achieve what they want a massive shift to public transport, it will require a large increase in electricity production.

Zero emissions will need to apply to vehicle manufacturing as well.

There is unlikely to be a major change to hydro capacity because flooding land is not very popular these days.

Wind and solar energy are only a part of the solution.

The target is unrealistic until the Government comes up with a viable plan.