“The mental health system is absolutely failing our young people, but far worse than that…””

Young MP Chloe Swarbrick slams Parliament for the failure of not just the mental health system but also housing, employment and education for young people.

Yes, the mental health system is absolutely failing our young people, but far worse than that is that every single other piece of this system that this Parliament has built up, decade after decade, is failing our young people. Whether it’s the housing system, whether it’s employment, or whether it’s the debt that they take on to get an education, we are failing our young people.

Full speech:

CHLÖE SWARBRICK (Green): E Te Māngai, tēnā koe. Tēnā koutou e Te Whare. I thought long and hard about the topic of this speech, and I thought about not addressing the subject which I’m about to address, but I thought that it was important, given that so much of this debate tends to operate in the abstract when we talk about numbers.

I want to talk about something real, because last night I got a call about another young person in Auckland who had attempted to take their life. That’s not abstract. That’s very, very real, and what concerns me is that we so often talk about these things in the abstract. We talk about the numbers and we talk about the statistics.

I was having conversation with somebody close to me about this, and they shook their head and said that the mental health system is failing our young people.

Yes, the mental health system is absolutely failing our young people, but far worse than that is that every single other piece of this system that this Parliament has built up, decade after decade, is failing our young people. Whether it’s the housing system, whether it’s employment, or whether it’s the debt that they take on to get an education, we are failing our young people.

I cannot drive it home anywhere near enough, because when people say to me that young people are lacking in resilience nowadays, our young people aren’t dying from diseases, but they are taking their own lives. There is something chronically wrong and chronically ill in the system, and we have to be bold enough to address that.

I can’t get this out clearly enough: if we cannot work together as a Parliament to solve this issue, we don’t deserve to be here. All 120 of us—we do not deserve to be representing the people of this country.

I understand that what typically happens in this Chamber is the back and forth and the political point-scoring, and we all understand that that’s just the politics of it—that’s the theatre. We all go back to our communities and we have to face up to those people who are experiencing immense, immense struggle.

I have been up and down the country, as I’m sure many of us have, and I have spoken to those who are dealing with this mental health crisis. It’s epidemic. It didn’t happen overnight. I said in my maiden speech that I feel as though the mental health epidemic is the pointy end of decades and decades of what, for lack of a better term, is a kind of austerity. It’s the shredding of safety nets, it’s the shredding of care, and it’s the shredding of community.

We know there is surmounting evidence—contemporary evidence—on the mental health crisis that showcases that three of the major driving factors for mental illness are trauma, isolation, and poverty, and we have set up this system to perpetuate those things.

So we need to be prepared to be bold, because in going around the country and talking to people about these issues, I have not once heard people ask for tax cuts. Instead, I have heard people ask for support, I’ve heard people ask for adequate housing, and I have heard people ask for opportunity, and that is what we have a responsibility to provide.

None of this is normal, and it should not be inevitable. We need to come together as a Parliament and invest in our future, and I believe that we are all, ultimately—if our words are to be believed and if our rhetoric is to be believed—committed to a paradigm shift, and that paradigm shift looks like being bold enough to look at the problems bald-faced and see them as they really are.

I am proud that we have started on the first step with the investment in the pilot programme in Porirua that will impact the lives of 10,000 New Zealanders. But we need to see this rolled out throughout the country, and we need to see all of Parliament coming together to see that happen. Kia ora.


See Free youth mental health pilot for Porirua

Parliament today – first Question Time of the year

After the first day or parliament for the year yesterday featured the prime Minister’s statement followed by replies from other party leaders and MPs, today things swing to normal business with the first Question Time (oral questions). No doubt various people will be trying to make an early impact.

That will be followed by a no confidence motion that is more political theatre than anything.

Order of Business:

Petitions

Papers

Select committee reports

Introduction of bills

Oral questions

Debate on Prime Minister’s statement

That this House express its confidence in the coalition Government and commends its programme for 2019 as set out in the extensive Prime Minister’s Statement.
(Debate adjourned 12 February 2019)

Amendment reads as follows: That all the words after “That” be deleted and replaced with “this House has no confidence in the Labour-led Government because in its ambition to be measured on its vague intentions it is proving itself completely incapable of delivering good outcomes for New Zealanders.” (Hon Simon Bridges)

Speeches 10 minutes
Whole debate 9 hours 18 minutes remaining

Other Government orders of the day

Today’s questions:

Oral Questions – 13 February 2019

  1. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making on implementing its economic plan?
  2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES to the Prime Minister: Has New Zealand’s relationship with China deteriorated under her Government?
  3. Hon PAULA BENNETT to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s statements, policies, and actions?
  4. CLAYTON MITCHELL to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What recent reports has she received regarding Fire and Emergency New Zealand’s response to the Nelson Tasman fires?
  5. Hon AMY ADAMS to the Minister of Finance: Is it his view that the current tax take in New Zealand is sufficient; if so, does he agree that income tax thresholds should be adjusted over time to keep up with inflation?
  6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What changes are being considered to the KiwiBuild programme to, in his words, “make KiwiBuild a stronger incentive for developers and how we can make it work better for first home buyers” and “provide a package of assistance to developers that will be enough of an incentive to get them to commit to serious volumes of affordable housing”?
  7. JAN TINETTI to the Minister of Education: Has he released any proposals to strengthen and grow trades training and other vocational education?
  8. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH to the Minister of Transport: Is he committed to building light rail from the city to the airport in Auckland and if so, when will work begin?
  9. Dr SHANE RETI to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions around tertiary education and vocational education reforms?
  10. JAMIE STRANGE to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: How much money has been spent on the Saudi sheep farm in the desert also known as the Saudi agri-hub, and have any steps been taken to stop more money being spent?
  11. DAVID SEYMOUR to the Minister for Social Development: How much did the Government transfer in social security and welfare payments according to the Financial Statements of the Government of New Zealand for the Year Ended 30 June 2018 on a per household basis?
  12. Hon JACQUI DEAN to the Minister of Tourism: What was the date he first found out about the need to postpone the China-New Zealand Year of Tourism opening ceremony?

James Shaw slams tax timidity, calls on Labour, NZ First to be bold with CGT

In his opening speech for the year in parliament yesterday Green co-leader James Shaw slammed timid tinkering with tax, and, confronting pontification about whether the current Government can “politically afford to do what no other Government before it has done” and introduce a Capital Gains Tax asks “Can we afford not to?”

That must be aimed at Labour and NZ First, who have to agree with Greens on any tax changes following the Tax Working Group process.

First Shaw illustrated the tax disparity issue wit no tax on the capital gains of property.

Karen is a renter. She’s got a career, and she earns roughly the median wage. Over the last 10 years, she’s earned about $450,000 and she’s paid, roughly, $70,000 in tax. She budgets well, she can manage the rent, and she can manage the other expenses, but she can’t quite have enough left over to save.

And then there’s Paul. Paul also earns the median wage. He’s a bit older than Karen, and Paul got lucky and managed to buy some rental property before house prices really started rocketing—about the time that Karen came into the workforce, about the time that John Key became Prime Minister. On the day that Paul sells that rental property, he makes as much as Karen has in the last 10 years, and he pays zero tax on that income

Now, what does Paul do? He uses that as a deposit to buy two more houses. That is the rational thing to do. And what does Karen do? Well, Karen keeps renting because there is no way on God’s green earth that she’s going to be able to scrape together a deposit on $45,000 a year.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we have a large and growing wealth gap in this country, and it is undermining our ability to pay for the public services that we all rely on, including Karen—including Paul.

There is something missing from this illustration.The implication here is that ‘Paul’ paid no tax, but ‘Paul’ must be earning something to live on for the ten years before scoring a capital gain, and after reinvesting capital gains on more property, so could have been paying some tax.

Now, the Green Party has long been calling for that fundamental imbalance to be addressed, and every single expert working group in living memory has agreed with us, but no Government—no Government—has been bold enough to actually do it. But if we are to be the Government of change that New Zealanders wanted and elected, we must be bold.

The crises that we face on multiple fronts—the wealth gap, climate change, the housing crisis—we cannot solve without fundamental reform. These crises have been allowed to metastasise because generations of politicians have timidly tinkered rather than actually cut to the core of the problem.

And the consequences of that timidity—the consequences of that timidity—are being felt by Karen and by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders just like her, trapped in “Generation Rent”. So when the commentators pontificate about whether this Government can politically afford to do what no other Government before it has done, I ask “Can we afford not to?”

Can we afford not to?

We were elected on the promise of change. If we want to reduce the wealth gap, if we want to fix the housing crisis and to build a productive high-wage economy, we need to tax income from capital the same way that we tax income from work.

The very last question that we should be asking ourselves is: can we be re-elected if we do this? The only question we really ought to be asking ourselves is: do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?

Shaw is effectively throwing down the tax gauntlet to Labour and NZ First, suggesting they don’t deserve to be re-elected unless they introduce a CGT.

I have to say, boldness is needed everywhere, everywhere.

That is a challenge to the other parties in Government with the Greens. The re-election comment is particularly pertinent for NZ First, who were well under the threshold in the latest poll.

Parliament opens for the year today

Parliament resumes on 12 February 2019

The first sitting day of the year is a bit different from other days.

There‘s no Question Time on the first sitting day of the year. Instead, at 2pm, the Prime Minister makes a statement to the House. This statement reviews public affairs and outlines the Government’s intentions for the year ahead.

The statement is followed by a debate that can last for up to 13 hours, often stretching over several sitting days. The debate on the Prime Minister’s statement is taken ahead of all other Government business.

You can watch the Prime Minister’s Statement and all the other happenings in the House on Parliament TV or listen to Parliament on RNZ.

This week in Parliament is a brief overview of anticipated business and events to be conducted by the House and Select Committees in the coming week.

The Order Paper is similar to an agenda, listing all the business before the House that sitting day. The order of business can change until the final order paper is published at 10:30am on the sitting day.

The Select Committee Schedule of meetings lists all committee business being conducted for the week. Business items displaying an asterisk indicate meetings that are open to the public. The meeting schedule is subject to changes at short notice.

New member of Parliament

Agnes Loheni will be sworn in as the newest member of Parliament tomorrow shortly after 2pm.

She is replacing Chris Finlayson as next on the National Party list.

NZ Herald:  Meet Parliament’s new MP: Agnes Loheni, National Party list MP

Incoming MP Agnes Loheni will take her values of hard work, the importance of family, and a strong Christian faith to Parliament next month as National’s first woman MP of Pacific Island descent.

It will be a proud moment for Loheni, who grew up in a state house – with up to 15 family members in three bedrooms – on McGehan Close, the “dead end” street that epitomised hopelessness for former party leader Sir John Key.

She went on to graduate with an engineering degree from Auckland University, and had a two-year OE based in London before starting a family business that became a trailblazer in contemporary Pasifika fashion.

Through it all, she has been grounded in a close-knit family and Christian values that see her opposed to euthanasia and abortion law reform. She is also against legalising recreational cannabis, but is open to cannabis for medicinal purposes.

The House has approved the sitting calendar for 2019:

February 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21;
March 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21;
April 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 30;
May 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, and 30;
June 11, 12, 13, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, and 27;
July 23, 24, 25, 30, and 31;
August 1, 6, 7, 8, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29;
September 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, and 26;
October 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24;
November 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, and 21;
December 3, 4, 5, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19.

The House must sit for around 90 days in the year, with the first day being no later than the last Tuesday in February.

(Thanks for the details Gezza)

 

Provisional Order Paper for Tuesday, 12 February 2019 [PDF 463k]

Minister seeks Communications and Events Professional

David Clark, Labour MP (Dunedin North Electorate) and was given the challenging role of Minister of Health in the Ardern led Government. According to pundits rating his performance over his first year he has struggled.

From Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: NZ’s worst performing politicians

…there was also some cutting commentary on the disappointing performances of the likes of Simon Bridges, Kelvin Davis, David Clark, and Amy Adams.

in Stuff political editor Tracy Watkins’ scorecard of the year in politics, a number of struggling Labour frontbenchers don’t even get a mention (Megan Woods, Chris Hipkins, Carmel Sepuloni, David Clark, Nanaia Mahuta, and Stuart Nash) – see: After a huge year in politics, one politician stands out.

According to Newshub political editor Tova O’Brien, “Lees-Galloway’s admission that he had not read the full report when deciding whether to grant Karel Sroubek residency in New Zealand qualified him for this award” of “most useless” member of the coalition government – see Alice Webb-Liddall and Tova O’Brien’s Political superlatives 2018: Tova O’Brien reviews the political year.

O’Brien also thought the Minister of Health, David Clark, deserved to share the award, because he announced the Mental Health Review “with absolutely no detail about what the Government’s going to do”.

In the Spinoff, Simon Wilson also declared David Clark as one of the “flops” of the year: “Clark should be focused on improving mental health care, improving primary health care to those most in need, and rethinking health services delivery for the 21st century. He seems disengaged with all of it.”

So it sounds like Clark has some improving to do.

He is currently advertising for some electorate help:

I think that Clark has used the services of a communications assistant for some time, and as far as I can remember it has always been a 20 hour per week position.

The change with this latest advertisement is the range of expertise being sought. It may be difficult to find and keep someone with that degree of ability and experience in a part time position.

This is similar to other electorate situations vacant. For example:

Parliamentary MP Support to Sarah Dowie, MP (Public Relations, Communication and Stakeholder liaison)

Parliamentary MP Support to Sarah Dowie, MP

Varied and multifaceted role supporting Sarah Dowie, MP. As a strong planner, you will enjoy the coordination and planning of events along with drafting all types of communications including press releases.   You will be organised and understand office administration – you’ll be able to effectively liaise with stakeholders, support your MP with research and representation and, take enquiries at reception.

You’ve got a firm grasp of the current political landscape and where the electorate sits within it. You appreciate the sometimes unpredictable nature of this environment and instead of letting it faze you, you thrive on it – putting your proactive, calm, and flexible personality to good use. It goes without saying you’re someone who’s empathetic and respectful, and you’re confident in building strong relationships with a diverse range of people. You’re happy to work autonomously and are well known for your resilient and unflappable nature.

You’ll be stepping into an environment that is unique, exciting, and rewarding. This really is a role unlike any other and if you’re passionate about giving back and helping your community, it’s right up your alley. As an organisation, it’s extremely important to us that our people feel supported and are given the opportunity to continue to grow and develop their knowledge and their careers.

This role is based in the Invercargill office for up to 40 hours per week with a minimum of 30 hours. Some flexibility in hours may be required. This is an events-based, fixed-term role linked to the Member of Parliament.

If you’d like to play an important in supporting your MP and helping your community, apply now.

Interesting to see a back bench opposition MP seeking a similarly experienced person for a 30-40 hour per week role.

Not sure why Clark’s assistant is not advertised on the Parliamentary Services Website.

Dowie is low and slipping in The 2018 Trans-Tasman Ratings for 2018 -down 0.5 to 3.5.

MPs require good assistance but ultimately their performance is up to themselves.

Dowie can get away with staying out of the spotlight as an Opposition MP without a major role (if the Jami-Lee Ross thing has blown over and doesn’t flare up again) – she is National Spokesperson for Conservation.

But Clark needs to up his efforts – and that goes beyond better media assistance and presentation.  The Health portfolio is always challenging, but Clark has to be seen to be doing quite a bit better, and faster. Especially on Mental Health, which while regarded as in urgent need of changes is still not being addressed (due some time this year). And the Dunedin Hospital rebuild, which Labour made promises on as inn urgent need of pushing along has already slipped back.

Minister Clark needs to take more responsibility for his own actions, or lack thereof.

More pressure on him already this year:  A new year challenge for Health Minister David Clark

Dear David – A new year challenge Health Minister David Clark could make a good start to 2019 by admitting there is a crisis in the specialist workforce, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS) Executive Director Ian Powell says.

Mr Powell says specialists working in public hospitals are disappointed Dr Clark has yet to commit to developing a safe staffing accord to address this precarious situation. Mr Powell’s article, entitled ‘Dear David, There’s a Hole in the SMO Bucket’ has been published in the current edition of The Specialist and can be read here: https://www.asms.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Theres-a-hole-in-the-SMO-bucket.pdf

“This is a significant oversight as hospital specialists are a stressed and stretched workforce, and they have been shouldering the burden of an under-resourced public health system for years, to the detriment of their own health,” Mr Powell says.

Clark needs to step up.

119-1 support for Child Poverty Reduction Bill

All parties except ACT (David Seymour) voted in favour of the third reading (and final vote) of the Child Poverty Reduction Bill in Parliament yesterday.

NZ Herald: Child Poverty Reduction Bill passes third reading

The Prime Minister’s Child Poverty Reduction Bill has passed its third reading in Parliament with near unanimous support from political parties on both sides.

The bill, which will set measures and targets for reducing child poverty, inform strategy to achieve that and require transparent reporting on poverty levels and introduce accountability for governments, was a cornerstone of Labour’s election campaign last year and on the list of achievements for the coalition Government’s first 100 days in office.

Speaking in Parliament today, Ardern said it was no longer just a Labour Party bill.

“This is now an initiative that has been led by a coalition Government with the support of New Zealand First and the Green Party.

Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft recently praised both National and Labour for supporting the bill.

“That was a game changer … having a cross-party accord is historic and the bill is about to be passed any day now and it will be all systems go and I will be watching very closely,” he said.

Ardern:

“And it also is an initiative that has had the support of the National Party. I want to acknowledge that. This is this Parliament’s collective challenge, and the groups that have come together in Parliament today to support it in this House mean that it will have an enduring legacy”

National’s social development spokeswoman Louise Upston said the legislation gave the Opposition and the public the opportunity to measure the progress of the Government.

National agreed in October to support the bill to become law, with some amendments after Ardern and National leader Simon Bridges worked behind the scenes to come to an agreement.

Party leaders constructively working together does not often get reported, and deserves credit (to both Ardern and Bridges).

 

 

 

Chris Finlayson – valedictory statement

“Some people please wherever they go; other people please whenever they go.”

Chris Finlayson, National list MP since 2005 and ex Attorney general, Minister of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, gave his valedictory speech in his last day in Parliament yesterday.

Praise for some (from several parties) – some were to be expected, but of note is a special mention for Nikki Kay’s determination. a few jokes and barbs, and quite a few suggestions – like promoting a four year term. And while he opposes term limits for MPs he suggests a a compulsory sabbatical after five three-year terms or four four-year terms, which “would allow MPs to re-enter the real world and if they are odd enough to want to come back, well, they can do so.”

Finlayson’s speech (with some edits):


Mr Speaker, I have to say, I’m delighted to be leaving. In fact, I would have gone sooner, but I stayed on a few more months for a few reasons. First, Jim Bolger advised me not to go straight after the new Government was formed but to wait until about October, and I always follow the advice of Jim Bolger.

I have to say, secondly, I’ve really enjoyed the camaraderie of the caucus, especially getting to know and work with the 2017 intake.

Thirdly, I’ve been very keen to progress reform of the law of contempt, a hugely important topic I had spent many, many years trying to advance, and it’s one of the ironies of politics that I succeeded in Opposition. The recent debate over suppression orders shows why the bill is so very important. It’s now in the Justice Committee, in safe hands, and so I don’t need to stay until the bill is enacted.

Could I begin with the acknowledgments. In no particular hierarchy or order, I want first to acknowledge my opponents. The Labour opponents that I had in Mana and Rongotai, Winnie Laban, Annette King, and Paul Eagle and their spouses, are very, very nice people. I really enjoyed their company. The campaigns were pleasant and issues-focused.

I have to say I have great respect for social democracy, though I prefer liberal conservatism. But I still admire the courage of the 1984-87 Labour Government in the economics area, even if the Labour Party doesn’t. The changes they made were essential and overdue.

Can I say something about the Greens—far from me politically in many areas, but we always got on well. Kennedy Graham is someone I regard as a good friend, a man of principle and courage, and someone who still has a lot to contribute, and I hope that party can look beyond divisions of the past and use his talents.

I also acknowledge James Shaw and, particularly, Teall Crossen, who was the Green candidate in Rongotai in 2017. I think she has a great future, or perhaps she had a great future till I started praising her.

… I now turn to talk about New Zealand First. The most I can say to them is: thank you very much for not choosing the National Party in 2017. As is well-known, I think we dodged a bullet. That decision lays the foundations for a National Government in 2020.

Then, there’s my National Party family, but especially Judy Kirk, whose decency and warmth helped the National Party recover in 2002.

I need to say something about the media, because they are not the enemy and should never be referred to in that way. Their work is essential to our democracy. I promised Tova O’Brien I would say this: I especially acknowledge the young, clever, and classy TV3 team, Audrey Young, who’s the best bush lawyer in Wellington, and I’d better mention Claire Trevett and Barry Soper, otherwise they’ll get snarky.

I’ve almost forgiven Guyon Espiner, who taught me a very good lesson: do not appear on Morning Report just after you’ve woken up. I remember very well the morning he interviewed me and put a proposition to me from Metiria Turei, and I said, “Oh, well that’s what happens when one is dealing with a left-wing loon.”

And he put another proposition to me, and I said, “Well, that’s what happens when one is dealing with a right-wing loon.”, and he said, “Well that commentator was John Key.” The message came down from the ninth floor that if I wanted to be Minister for Consumer Affairs I was on the right track.

‘ve worked for so many iwi over the years, so many people to mention: my old friend O’Regan’s sitting up there from Ngāi Tahu; Vanessa Eparaima from Ngāti Raukawa; the gentleman, kind Tiwha Bell from Maniapoto; the wise Tāmati Kruger from Tūhoe; Kirsti Luke from Tūhoe also of Ngāpuhi, who needs to go to Ngāpuhi to sort out of few of her cousins; and all of my wonderful colleagues in Taranaki. I especially mention my friends in Parihaka, who cannot be here tonight because of their commitment on the 18th of each month. People have said some nice things about me in recent days but these people are the ones who made the settlements happen.

I also acknowledge John Key and Bill English, without whose active support nothing would have been achieved.

I also acknowledge John Key and Bill English, without whose active support nothing would have been achieved. I say to Andrew Little that this is the best job in Government. Don’t worry about setbacks. Just when it seems a negotiation has gone all wrong something very good can and invariably does happen. I mean who knows, Sonny Tau could decide to go and live in Iceland!

Lastly and most importantly, my family: I acknowledge my mother, who is Annette King’s second cousin, a great person.

So that’s the nice warm stuff, and now for the inevitable lecture. Although I cannot wait to leave, I have great respect for the institution of Parliament. I think there are ways to improve our institution, and I outline a few of them now.

How long should the Parliamentary term be? I think it needs to be four years—three years is too short. A longer term will make for an effective Parliament. The proposal to lengthen the term failed in a referendum many years ago. It’s time to revisit the issue.

How long should MPs be permitted to serve? Imposition of term limits as a non-starter, but I think there should be a compulsory sabbatical after five three-year terms or four four-year terms—don’t look at me like that. A break would allow MPs to re-enter the real world and if they are odd enough to want to come back, well, they can do so.

How should parties be funded? A very important question, because generally I think our funding rules work well. But I have become concerned about funding of political parties by non-nationals. That’s why I think both major parties need to work together to review the rules relating to funding. I have a personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to our political parties.

One of the things that amazes me in this place is that there really is a lack of practical understanding of the separation of powers. For example, the Ministry of Justice constantly fails to recognise the judiciary as a separate branch of Government, and sometimes the courts overstep the mark with Parliament when they go too far with Parliamentary privilege, as they did—David Parker knows these things. We passed the Parliamentary Privilege Act. Now, Parliament must deal with the consequences of the prisoner voting case. Parliament could nullify the decision, as we did in 2014, or recognise the court’s jurisdiction, provided Parliament makes it clear that there is no jurisdiction to strike down legislation. This will be an intensely important issue for Parliament in 2019. I shall be watching it with great interest from the sidelines.

Finally, I want to address a few comments to my fellow National MPs—my friends and colleagues for many years, a diverse and a talented bunch, you lot. I’ve said quite a bit over recent times about John Key and Bill English, so my praise for those two great New Zealanders can be taken as read. I have no intention of saying any more nice things about Ian McKelvie. He’s had his quota. But I do want to say something about two MPs I greatly admire.

First, Gerry Brownlee: when the history of the Key Government is written, his work rebuilding a shattered city will be regarded as that Government’s greatest achievement. I witnessed in Cabinet his absolute commitment to and compassion for his fellow Cantabrians. Sometimes I felt that his contribution has been taken for granted—well, not by me, because I think he’s a great New Zealander.

And secondly I want to acknowledge Nikki Kaye, who won Auckland Central in 2008 and has held it since then. Auckland Central is very like Rongotai, except Nikki wins Auckland Central. She was a Minister with a brilliant future and, as we know, was very unwell last year, but she fought that cancer and is doing a tremendous job in Opposition. I strongly support her bill on teaching foreign languages. She’s an example to all of us of grit, of courage, and of determination.

…New Zealand needs a liberal conservative Government in 2020. Some say we have no friends; I think friendship’s overrated—just a joke. But I actually think we’re turning back into a two-party State.

I think the SOE model is past its use-by date; in particular, Landcorp needs to go and its farms need to be sold to iwi. In my nine years as Minister for Treaty of Waitangi negotiations, I regret to say—well, Ron Mark knows these things—I always found Landcorp difficult and uncooperative.

We need to continue to update our constitution. The Senior Courts Act is now law and soon we’re going to have a Parliament Act—I hope. Then we need to review the Treaty of Waitangi Act. There have been some complaints recently that insufficient attention is paid to the tribunal’s recommendations; it would help if they were more practical. The shares plus decision, for example, was described as incoherent and ignoring basic principles of company law. And finally, we need to pass the Te Ture Whenua Bill in the first 100 days of a new administration. The product of a careful review and many years’ consultation, it’s going to provide landowners with a world-class regime of registration and dispute resolution.

When I delivered my maiden speech from this very seat in November 2005, I said the liberal conservative was concerned to govern and the public good and the national interest, confident in the knowledge that this is a great country full of talented and decent people. Other countries have problems; New Zealand has a project—an exciting, sometimes difficult, but nevertheless achievable project. As I give my last speech in the House today in the same place where I started, I stand by those words. I’m very pleased to be going, but grateful I’ve had the opportunity to serve.

Members probably know the old wisecrack, “Some people please wherever they go; other people please whenever they go.”, and I’m sure many will be thinking the second part applies to me—although, I understand, not Mr Robertson. I have it on excellent authority that he’s distraught and is currently undergoing counselling.

In 2005, Michael Collins said in the Address in Reply debate that he wasn’t convinced of “this sort of Latinate habit of everyone kissing each other after every maiden speech”, and I agree. It’s a dreadful habit. I think the same principle applies to valedictories, so Mr Speaker, fellow members of the House, that’s all from me. If anyone needs a lawyer in the future, don’t bother me. All the best. Goodbye.


See also Imminent departure of MP Chris Finlayson

Ardern finally fronts up on Hardcore re Sroubek

Jacinda Ardern made things difficult for herself for nearly two months by evading questions over her connection to Richie hardcore, who is connected to Karel Sroubek and his attempt to avoid deportation.

Ardern finally saw fit to provide what sounds like a reasonable explanation in Parliament today:

This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Most of the exchange in Question Time in Parliament today.

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in relation to Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, and season’s greetings to the member.

Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you. Will she release the precise content of the text message she received from Richie Hardcore about Karel Sroubek; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve already indicated in public interviews, I am concerned around precedent setting. Obviously, I receive hundreds of messages from members of the public on issues where I have no clear involvement or decision-making role. I have, however, given an indication of the content of that text. I’ve acknowledged that Mr Hardcore acknowledged to me that he knew Mr Sroubek and, of course, that he agreed and commended the decision because he knew Mr Sroubek. I’ve also acknowledged that I did not respond and that I received the message after the decision was made and after it was in the public domain.

Hon Simon Bridges: What exactly did the text message say?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I’ve said, I wish to seek some advice from the Ombudsman on the handling of information that I receive from members of the public, because I receive hundreds of messages. Indeed, on this case, I have received over a hundred messages—obviously, some not so favourable. I am seeking some guidance from the Ombudsman as to how I handle each of those individual pieces of correspondence.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was it a thank-you text?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When we went down and advised ourselves that I had received that message—openly—I acknowledged that it commended the Government on its decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: How many text messages has she received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I just simply cannot answer that. I have said from the outset that I’ve known Mr Hardcore for a number of years. My recollection is primarily that it was through his role with Community Alcohol & Drug Services as an anti – drug and alcohol campaigner based in Auckland, and subsequently his involvement as an anti – violence and sexual violence campaigner. My understanding is that he’ll know a number of members on that side of the House, as he does in Parliament generally.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is this the only text message she’s received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister: one solitary text message about Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve already acknowledged that I know Mr Hardcore through a range of his work and functions and roles. I’ve already acknowledged that publicly. This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It’s the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I’ve had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I’ve said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn’t she directly answer Susie Ferguson’s question today on Richie Hardcore on Morning Report: “How would you characterise him? Is he a friend or a family friend?”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would not characterise him as a family friend. He’s someone I’ve known for a number of years, and I’ve been very open about that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know why he has repeatedly, in the recent past, described her as someone he’s lucky enough to call a friend?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have no qualms about him doing so. What is at question and in play here is whether or not I had any engagement with Mr Hardcore over this case, and as I’ve repeatedly pointed out, the answer is no. In fact, when his name was first raised in Parliament, it was myself and my office that proactively acknowledged that I had received a message from him.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Iain Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to decide the Sroubek matter?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, and this raises the contradiction in the member’s line of questioning, he has consistently criticised the Minister for making the decision the same day he was informed of the case but, at the same time, has tried to imply there was inappropriate involvement from other members and Ministers. The fact is the Minister has always acknowledged he made the decision on the day it was given to him, the first time he was told of the case, when he was in a closed room with officials.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Sroubek is a gang-affiliated, convicted drug dealer?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I accept that the Minister of Immigration has now made a decision that would lead to the deportation of that individual.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Richie Hardcore made representations for Sroubek that are on the deportation file the Minister considered?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can only rely on what the Minister of Immigration has said in this House because I am not aware and do not know who made representations, but my understanding is that last week in the House, the Minister of Immigration ruled out him being involved or making representations on this deportation order.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that she knows that same Richie Hardcore well?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve acknowledged that in the House; I’ve made no secret of that. I have known Mr Hardcore for a number of years in a number of guises.

If Ardern had been as explicit as this weeks ago she would have avoided a lot of hassle and speculation.

Imminent departure of MP Chris Finlayson

Chris Finlayson entered Parliament as a list MP in 2005. He had been ranked 27th on National’s list, high for a non-existing MP. National leader John Key placed Finlayson at 14 in his shadow cabinet, giving him some weighty responsibilities: Shadow Attorney-General, Shadow Treaty Negotiations Minister and Shadow Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister. He was also the Deputy Chairman of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee.

Retiring National MP Chris Finlayson at Parliament, Wellington, this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell

MP Chris Finlayson at Parliament, Wellington, this week. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Finlayson had a strong legal background which included treaty negotiations representing Ngai Tahu.

Finlayson was admitted to the Bar as a barrister and solicitor in 1981.[3] He was a partner in Brandon Brookfield from 1986 to 1990 and then in Bell Gully from 1991 to 2003. He has practised as a barrister sole at the Barristers.Comm chambers since 2003.

At Bell Gully he spent years fighting for Ngāi Tahu against the government, pursuing its treaty claims through a series of high-profile court battles. “I used to love going to the office in the morning when we were suing the Crown” Finlayson said in a speech in 2009. “Ngāi Tahu mastered the art of aggressive litigation, whether it was suing the Waitangi Tribunal and [National Treaty negotiations minister] Doug Graham or the Director-General of Conservation. It was take no prisoners and it resulted in a good settlement.”[5] The signing of the Treaty deal with Ngāi Tahu in 1997 was the highlight of his legal career.[4]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Finlayson

When National took over Government in 2008 until they lost out last year (2017) Finlayson was:

  • 32nd Attorney General of new Zealand
  • Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations
  • Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage

His role in treaty negotiations was generally praised.

Claire Trevett:  National MP Chris Finlayson’s farewell tour

His imminent departure from Parliament is having something of a liberating effect on National MP Chris Finlayson.

Within the first hour with the Weekend Herald he has told a story about a nun and a fly swat, described US President Donald Trump as “a dick” and described NZ First leader Winston Peters as much, much worse.

Finlayson is taking the Weekend Herald on a road trip of his favourite places by way of a farewell before he leaves Parliament and starts to spend more time in Auckland.

He will go back to what he calls his “first love”, law.

The exact field of law he intends to work in is rather boring – commercial arbitration – so let us not dwell on it.

Finlayson is famous for his intellect, his often-biting wit, and his effectiveness.

He is not famous for being a man of the people – he left that to the likes of former Prime Minister John Key.

I think that Finlayson was a very good example of a list MP, someone with a lot of experience and expertise who contributed a lot to Government but who didn’t have local electorate responsibilities.

On Trump:

But the first stop is the cafe next to the Khandallah swimming pool where he swam as a child.

He points to a photo of Jimmy the Cat, a much-adored cat, who was recently killed by a dog.

He tells the people at the cafe why we are there and assures them the cafe was the very top of his list of favourite places.

It is here, while posing for a photo, that he says whenever he has to force a smile he just thinks of US President Donald Trump.

Asked why, he says “because he’s a dick”.

He later says this is because he does not like populist politics.

“It gives me the creeps. It’s not the way I think countries should be organising themselves.”

Finlayson certainly wasn’t into populist politics.

Finlayson will deliver his valedictory on Tuesday, signing off on a career in politics that began in 2005.

In that time he oversaw an overhaul of the spy agencies’ powers.

His personal highlight was his appearance at the International Court of Justice in 2013 to set out New Zealand’s objections to Japan whaling.

But his most visible and enduring work was in Treaty settlements.

To Finlayson goes the credit for securing 59 Treaty settlements in nine years – the highest rate of any government.

That’s more than six settlements a year. His previous experience from the other side of the negotiating table was an obvious advantage in getting up to speed.

When National went back into Opposition, Tuhoe’s negotiator Tamati Kruger paid tribute to Finlayson for the emotional and intellectual connection he had with iwi.

“Easily we call him our friend.”

The Tuhoe settlement was a major success.

Alas, Ngāpuhi proved his Everest.

His successor Andrew Little has just learned for himself how intractable the Ngāpuhi hapū can be.

He insists he felt no moment of schadenfreude when Little’s attempts to get Ngāpuhi back to the negotiating table failed following a vote this week.

“I like Andrew, he’s doing a good job as the minister and I think it’s very important in that area that National and Labour do not criticise each other. I don’t think anyone could have done more than he did.”

Refreshing to see his non-partisan praise of Little.

Asked what he will miss about Parliament, he says “frankly, not much.”

He may miss the camaraderie of the caucus.

He did not like some modern developments in being an MP. He does not understand or want to understand social media, for instance.

Social media is an integral part of modern society and of modern politics, like it or not.

He lists his Favourite People.

It is pointed out he did not mention National leader Simon Bridges in his list.

“The fact is, you have your good years and your bad years but I think the party is still in very good heart and Simon can be very pleased we’ve ended the year on 46 per cent in the party vote.”

He does not pay much attention to the popularity of a leader.

“It’s a sad reality the leader of the Opposition always gets bagged. Low polling results are not necessarily an indicator of a lack of success.”

Not necessarily.

His least favourite people include Winston Peters, who had a hand in dispensing this fate: “someone once described Ronald Reagan as a triumph of the embalmer’s art. On a bad day, that’s what Winston reminds me of.”

I’m not surprised that Finlayson isn’t a fan of Peters the populist panderer (who was also a lawyer many moons ago before becoming an MP).

He enjoyed Opposition in his first term, from 2005 to 2008. But after nine years as a minister, it has somewhat lost its appeal. “I’ve found this year pretty boring, actually.”

It was an ideal start for Finlayson in Parliament, three years in opposition to become familiar with how Parliament worked, followed by nine years of putting things into practice.

Also not surprising that he is now bored with being in Opposition.

“I’ve done my dash, and I’m washed up,” Finlayson tells him.

Twelve years is probably long enough for a non-career politician with outside career prospects to battle in the bear pit.

He finds it ironic that it is Mallard – whose nickname for Finlayson was Tinkerbell – called a review into bullying, but thinks it is a good thing for the staff at Parliament.

Mallard long operated on the more bullying side of politics, but that shouldn’t detract from his efforts now to address it, at least between MPs and staff.

He has a good rep from the his own former staff as a generous boss.

So, he may after all be a man of some people. Just not people in general and certainly not Winston Peters or Donald Trump.

For the people in general, albeit distanced from most.

Finlayson ends is Parliamentary career as he started, ranked 14th in National’s shadow Cabinet.

Highlights of his 9 year Ministerial career include:

  • Signing 59 deeds of settlement with iwi, far more than any previous Minister and a record which will be impossible to beat
  • Reforming the legislation governing the intelligence agencies and securing major increases of funding so that the agencies are well equipped to protect New Zealanders against evils like terrorism and cyber crime.
  • Appearing for New Zealand in major international forums like the International Court of Justice on whaling and the U.N Security Council on terrorism.
  • Reforming much of the cultural legislation of this country, being responsible for the widely acclaimed New Zealand presence as guest of honour at the Frankfurt book fair in 2013, and being responsible for the World War One commemorations.

Petition to ban fireworks “modernising our rules”

Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Gareth Hughes has accepted a the petition, Hughes said that the private sale of fireworks was dangerous.

Retweeted by Green co-leader @MaramaDavidson

I haven’t bought fireworks for a long time, possibly not in this century, so I have no personal interest in whether I can buy fireworks or not.

I’m aware of issues with personal harm risks and fire risks and adverse effects on pets and animals.

But I have concerns. ‘Modernising our rules’ is a euphemism for BAN – rules to restrict personal choice.

This is not the only fireworks petition on the go.

Petition of Chris Eichbaum – Cease retail sales of fireworks

Published date: 1 Nov 2018

Petition request

That the House of Representatives pass legislation to prohibit the retail sale of fireworks, and institute licensing arrangements for individuals or organisations to responsibly detonate fireworks in public displays approved by the relevant territorial local authority.

Petition reason

At present fireworks can be lawfully sold to any person over the age of 18 years. Accidents involving fireworks result in injuries to many, and to young people disproportionately. Domestic animals are often traumatised by fireworks and their retail sale is opposed by the NZ Veterinary Association that has repeatedly called for a ban. Legislation should facilitate public fireworks displays that are managed by licensed providers and approved by the relevant territorial local authority.

Also:

Petition of Melanie Lindstrom – Ban the private sale of fireworks and promote Matariki for public displays

Published date: 13 Nov 2018

Petition request

That the House of Representatives pass legislation banning the private sale of fireworks and urge the Government to promote Matariki, rather than Guy Fawkes, as a culturally significant occasion for public firework displays.

Petition reason

The private sale of fireworks at Guy Fawkes is a commercial enterprise that I believe harms New Zealand. We see distressed pets and wildlife, burn injuries, and multiple fire service callouts. We need to shake off our colonial overcoats and be more culturally responsive to our tangata whenua. Celebrating a failed gunpowder plot from England in 1605 makes no sense in 2018.

‘Guy Fawkes’ is not a ‘commercial enterprise’, it is an opportunity for free trade of goods for sale for entertainment purposes. There is very little celebration of the 1605 gunpowder plot in England.

Celebrating 2000 year old disputed history at Christmas makes no more sense, but some old traditions survive. An attempt to ban Christmas probably wouldn’t go down well (ditto Easter and even the recently adopted tradition Halloween).

But a good practical case can be made for moving fireworks use to Matariki, in the middle of winter when it is dark by 6 pm.  It is a long wait up for kids on 5 November with it not getting properly dark (in southern New Zealand at least) until 10 pm.

If fireworks are banned because they can cause harm what else could be petitioned? A ban on bikes, scooters and skateboards? Kids often get harmed when using them. Ban TV and computers and mobile phones? They have harmful effects.