Shaw opens Green Party conference

There’s a good chance there will be quite a bit of debate at this year’s Green party conference, behind the scenes at least, but up front James Shaw is promoting Green wins through being in Government, as well as acknowledging some of the problems with being a small party in joint power.

Stuff:  James Shaw opens Green Party conference: We’re ‘just getting warmed up’

The party’s two-day Palmerston North conference is their 28th but first in Government, and first with Marama Davidson as co-leader.

Shaw used his Saturday morning speech to recount wins and to remind the party membership that the decision to go into Government was not just made by him, the sole co-leader at the time.

According to Sue Bradford (on Nation) there is tension in the power over leadership power, caucus power and membership power.

“We haven’t won every debate and the menu does feature the occasional deceased rodent. But it just goes to show, you made the right choice to go into Government,” Shaw said – one of 49 mentions of the word “you” in the speech.

Shaw acknowledged that Government was challenging the purity of the Green Party’s values as they were in opposition.

“Our values, our Green kaupapa, are being tested in ways that I just don’t think we faced when we were in Opposition,” Shaw said.

That happens to all parties – it’s just that Greens are experiencing it for the first time.

But he believed this was making the party’s values “even stronger” as they had to be properly challenged and delivered on.

In a way forcing re-evaluations of policies outside the green bubble is a good thing, but it can be challenging, and risks driving divisions.

Most of the sessions – including one named “Election 2017: Learning – Healing – Strengthening” – are closed to media.

That’s normal at party conferences. The public stuff is PR managed as much as possible.

This shows how Green support took a dive over the Metiria Turei issue and Jacindamania.

Polling so far this term…

…shows that Greens have a bit of a challenge ahead.It has levelled off in the MMP threshold danger zone on 5-6%.

They will hope their wins have more influence on voters than their losses and embarrassments.

 

Simon Bridges – leader’s address, National conference

Simon Bridges’ address at the 2018 National conference. It starts with what looks like party raffle results.

Stuff:  Smaller class sizes under Nats, says Simon Bridges in major speech

National leader Simon Bridges has delivered a commitment to reduce class sizes in primary schools, during a major speech in which he also attacked the Government’s economic management.

In a fiery speech to the National Party annual conference on Sunday, Bridges promised National would increase the number of primary teachers to reduce class sizes and give kids “more teacher time”.

“With the right education we can overcome the challenges that some children face purely because of the circumstances they were born into,” he said.

The announcement was met with thunderous applause…

A conference without thunderous applause would be kinda strange.


UPDATE: The speech transcript isn’t available on National’s website but it has been sent out as a ‘press release’.

SPEECH: Simon Bridges – Speech to National Party Annual Conference

It is such a pleasure to be addressing you as leader of this amazing party, which I’m proud to have been a member of for 25 years.

I want to begin by thanking each and every one of you for giving your time to support us. For putting in the hard yards, raising money and knocking on doors.

You are the beating heart of the National Party.

Your commitment was put to the test following the last election.

It’s been a tough adjustment.

But National is strong.

National is vibrant.

And if we work together, National is going back to the Beehive in 2020.

We’re a fantastic team. And that is in large part down to our tireless President, Peter Goodfellow. Thank you Peter.

And can I also thank someone who never lets me forget my Westie roots. She has been an incredible support for me – my deputy Paula Bennett.

Paula and I lead a team of 56 talented, driven MPs who are truly committed to New Zealand.

From Invercargill to Northland, they live in, love and fiercely represent their communities, so let’s give them a big round of applause.

I also want to thank one particular MP who left Parliament this year after nearly three decades of service.

It is a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of a man I respect and admire so much, Sir Bill English.

Delegates, I want to tell you about a woman who moved to New Zealand 13 years ago.

She has never lacked aspiration or a commitment to hard work. Through plenty of perseverance she now has her own successful business and does pro bono work for charities and community groups.

She is a mum to three young children that she is home alone with on far too many nights.

So many working mums are like her up and down this country.

But alongside all of that, she is also my biggest supporter, my wife, my partner for life

Could you please join me in welcoming Natalie on to the stage.

And these are our three children Emlyn, Harry and our baby Jemima.

Everyday this family amazes and delights me. They inspire me to do all I can to make New Zealand a place we are all proud of.

I love you. Thank you so much.

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am proud to be a New Zealander.

We are all lucky to live in this beautiful country, tucked away in our corner of the South Pacific.

We are a successful, prosperous, confident nation that can and does foot it with the best in the world.

I love this place.

New Zealand is filled with so many opportunities.

It wasn’t always the case – ten years ago 30,000 people were leaving New Zealand every year to move to Australia, because that’s where the opportunities were.

Well, last year there were more coming the other way.

We’ve made great progress – because of the principles National bought to government.

The belief in personal responsibility, that if you put in the hard-yards, you deserve to reap the rewards.

The belief in an individual’s freedom to choose how to live their life.

The belief in enterprise as a way to create jobs, lift incomes and drive prosperity for all.

And the belief in a shared sense of social justice – a desire to give a helping hand to those in need.

These are my principles. They are National’s principles. And they are New Zealand’s principles.

There is a perception that on the right of politics we don’t care as much as on the left.

Our opponents do their best to make people think that, but they’re wrong.

Actually, if I think where I’ve come from, and everything about my upbringing, from my mum’s role as a teacher to dad’s work as a Minister – it’s all shaped me into someone with a strong sense of justice.

It is what drives me.

I want everyone to be given the best opportunity to live life to the full – and that’s especially important for the most vulnerable who need the extra support that New Zealanders as a fair minded people want to give them.

I mentioned personal responsibility earlier. Because there’s two sides to that coin.

We should do all we can to help people lead amazing lives.

But if people choose not to fulfil their end of that social contract, I believe there should be consequences.

If you commit a crime, you do the time. It’s for our safety, and victims deserve justice.

If you’re on a benefit and can work, you should be actively looking for a job.

But this Government sees things very differently.

They want to drastically cut the number of people in prison, regardless of the amount of crime committed.

They want to remove all benefit sanctions, so there’s no consequence if you fail a drug test or skip a job interview.

That’s just wrong.

It will not happen in a government I lead.

Delegates, this new Government had 9 years to get ready.

They did nothing.

Now they’ve set up 130 working groups at well over $1 million a pop – because they don’t have ideas of their own.

They’re incapable of making decisions and nothing is getting done.

Taxpayers are paying for Labour’s laziness.

Well, National will be the hardest working opposition this country has ever seen.

I don’t want to win in 2020 just because the Government is incompetent.

I want to win a contest of ideas, to demonstrate that National has the vision and the team to deliver a better future for everyone.

We’ll have the best ideas on the environment, how we can clean up our waterways and protect our beautiful country for our grandchildren.

We’ll have the best ideas for supporting the most vulnerable, to help them turn their lives around.

We’ll have the best ideas on law and order, on how to keep you safer by keeping our most violent predators locked up.

We’ll have the best ideas on health, on education, on housing, and on infrastructure.

And we’ll have the best ideas on the economy, because frankly, that’s an area where the Government has no idea at all.

Actually that’s not fair. Their plan is to tax and borrow more, so they can spend it – or at least ask a working group how to spend it.

Cancelling National’s tax cuts, and increasing costs by raising fuel taxes and housing taxes. All so they can spend billions more on diplomats, a tertiary fees policy that doesn’t deliver any more students, and a slush-fund for New Zealand First’s pet projects.

They’re out of control.

Unlike Grant Robertson, I believe hardworking Kiwis should keep more of their own money.

Now sometimes people can think the economy equals boring, or it means we’re focused on balance sheets rather than people.

But when I talk about the economy, I’m talking about jobs for new workers.

About wages for our families.

About the local sparky as much as the big corporation in the CBD.

About the opportunities we can give our kids to move into work and follow their passion.

About our ability to invest more in education and infrastructure and health.

All of this flows from the economy.

But those opportunities aren’t created by accident.

They’re built on the hard work of people who get up early in the morning to go to work, or who stay up late the night before to make the school lunches.

They’re built on the entrepreneurs who take a risk and hire their first staff member, or their hundredth, and the workers who produce world-class exports.

They’re built on a nation of innovative, passionate Kiwis who back themselves to succeed – the farmers just out of town, the butchers down the road, and scientists and teachers and IT whizzes.

National backs every single one of them.

Under National, we built one of the best performing economies in the developed world.

We dealt with the Global Financial Crisis and the earthquakes and we were getting ahead.

But we need to keep it going to ensure all New Zealanders can share in the gains – not everyone has yet.

But it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Government doesn’t have a clear plan for the economy.

They’re slowing New Zealand down, not speeding us up.

Whether it’s transport, with higher taxes and fewer new roads.

Whether it’s back to decades-old labour law changes which give power to the unions and just add compliance costs.

Whether it’s the cost of living, where changes such as higher fuel taxes, rent increases and higher income taxes are costing some Kiwi families over $100 a week more.

And whether it’s the decision to shut down oil and gas exploration.

Each of these policies on their own are bad.

Together, they’re going to see more New Zealanders head overseas because there’ll be fewer and fewer opportunities here.

New Zealand can’t afford this Government.

National’s approach is very different.

I believe in sensible, consistent economic policies that provide clear direction and encourage businesses to grow.

Policies that deliver new infrastructure, support investment, drive exports and help grow skills – because that is how opportunities are created.

Those opportunities are hard won, but easily lost.

I talked earlier about the 30,000 people that were leaving for Australia every year just a decade ago – because Australia was where the opportunities were.

I’m proud we’ve been able to turn that around, by creating opportunity for our kids here at home.

But I tell you what, other countries aren’t sitting still waiting for this Government to get its act together.

Other countries want what we have, and we can’t afford three years lost to working groups and inquiries and uncertainty.

We certainly can’t afford six.

Under this Government, business confidence is already at its lowest level since the Global Financial Crisis – while in Australia it’s the highest it has been in 20 years.

We can’t let Australia beat us.

We need to keep pushing. Otherwise it is all too easy to become an also ran, a place where our kids don’t see a long-term future.

I worry all we’ll export to Australia is our young people.

I want my kids to raise their kids here. And I know you do too.

I’m always thinking about how we can make this country better for our children.

How we can create opportunity for all, and help New Zealanders realise their dreams and ambitions here.

As a father of three young children, I feel it.

I want more for them.

More choice, more opportunities and for them to lead the best life they can.

I want all our children to see a pathway to their success, whatever that may be.

For too many, that pathway can look bleak.

If Social Investment has taught us anything, it’s that some of our children have the odds stacked against them.

That without targeted help they won’t achieve their dreams.

I want to fight for a better future for those kids.

I want to fight for all our kids.

The forgotten, the naughty, the good, the exceptional.

They all count. They all matter to me.

It’s got to be about opportunity for all, here in New Zealand.

And that starts with education.

So I want to put a few ideas on the table.

Education is the future leveller.

It was for me – from Rutherford High in West Auckland to Oxford University – and it must be for our country’s children.

If a little person’s brain is nurtured and taught how to think and work and learn, that child can go on to achieve great things.

Giving them the best start in life matters more than anything.

The early years are vital, and I believe there is a lot that can be done to improve early childhood education.

It starts with a focus on quality.

Most centres do a good job of looking after our young children, but a few not doing good enough is a few too many in my book.

We need to know what is happening in every early childhood centre in the country.

National will invest more to make sure our kids get the best quality start to their education, but we will also demand nothing but the highest standards.

Or frankly the centre should close its doors.

The next step is improving our primary schools.

With the right education we can overcome the challenges that some children face purely because of the circumstances they were born into.

The child that finds it hard to sit still and follow instructions.

The bright child that wants to be challenged.

The gifted child that doesn’t know how to channel their talent.

What they all have in common, what they all need, is attention.

Attention from a teacher that has the time to acknowledge their individual needs and nurture them.

A teacher who can set a learning programme that is suited to the child, who isn’t so busy managing a room of too many young children that they can’t recognise the individual qualities that sit within all of them.

All our kids should get the individual attention they deserve.

That’s why I want more teachers in our primary schools, to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.

Schools currently get one teacher for every 29 nine and ten year olds. It’s lower than that for younger children.

Those ratios should be reduced.

By giving our kids more attention, we can improve their education and set them up to take advantage of all the opportunities life throws at them.

Imagine the difference that would make to the children and to the teachers.

More teachers means more attention for our kids at a stage of life when they need it most.

Frankly, they need less Facebook and more face time.

Some will say that class size is less important than teacher quality.

Well I’d say they’re not mutually exclusive.

Teacher quality matters a lot, but I also believe that simply having more attention from teachers will make a difference to young children.

Sure older kids that are more self-managing can be in larger classes, but our young ones will be better off having more attention from their teacher.

After parents, teachers are often the most influential people in the lives of our children.

I come from a family of teachers – my mum, my sister and my brother. I want teachers to be highly respected professionals in our communities. They deserve that.

Part of that is pay, and it’s also about conditions such as class sizes and the investment we put into teachers to deliver quality learning to our kids.

Unlike our opponents, we will be prepared for Government in two years’ time.

We’ve got a two and a half year process to run the ruler over our existing policies, and propose new ones for 2020.

This year is about listening.

We want to hear from you – parents and pupils, families and farmers, businesses and communities.

We want your views.

We want to talk and challenge ourselves, and contest ideas.

In education, our team led by Nikki Kaye will use that input to develop discussion documents next year, and our plans and policies for the 2020 election.

Unlike our opponents we welcome different views.

And unlike them before 2020 we will have made decisions and we will be ready to lead.

Delegates.

My team and I will be working hard to ensure the next government is National-led.

We will make every day count.

We want to undo the damage this Government is doing now.

Come election year we will have the detailed, thought out and costed ideas to do that.

We will show you we have the plans and the policies and the people to earn your support and continue to build the country you deserve.

This country can do better.

In fact we can be brilliant.

National will bring strong leadership, the best ideas and the ability to make a difference.

I’m backing New Zealanders and I’m starting with our children.

 

Northcote by-election result

Voting will have just closed in the Northcote by-election. Results should be known tonight.

In the first week of advance voting numbers were well ahead of the same period during the general election, but they slowed down inn the second week, finishing up just ahead.

Total advance votes:

  • 2017 general election 10755
  • 2018 by-election 11464

All this means is that a few more people have voted early this time. It may or may not favour any candidate.


Northcote – Preliminary Count

Electorate No. 34 – 33 of 33 results counted

VOTES COUNTED:
19,900
100.0%
LEADING CANDIDATE:
BIDOIS, Dan
10,147
2nd CANDIDATE:
HALBERT, Shanan
8,785
CURRENT MARGIN:
1,362
Candidates Party Votes
BIDOIS, Dan
NAT
10147
HALBERT, Shanan
LAB
8785
JAUNG, Rebekah
GP
579
BERRY, Stephen
ACT
157
KOLONI, Kym
IND
95
LYE, Jeff
ALCP
76
CHEEL, Tricia
NZDSC
30
WALSH, Liam
NAP
5
Candidate Informals: 26
TOTAL: 19,900

This is not the formal declaration of results.


So that’s the final election night result.

The general election results:

  • Jonathan Coleman (National) 19,072 (52.27%)
  • Shanan Halbert (Labour) 12,862 (35.25%)
  • Rebekah Jaung (Greens) 2,457 (6.73%

Majority 6,210

66.4% vote yes to amend abortion law in ‘quiet revolution ‘ in Ireland

The final result in the Irish referendum on abortion:

The Eight Amendment to the Republic of ireland’s constitution was introduced after a referendum in 1983. It “acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right“.

Just one constituency, Donegal, voted against change with No 51.9% to Yes 48.1%.

The next closest was Cavan-Monaghan with No 44.5% to yes 55.5%.

The Yes vote in the ten Dublin constituencies ranged from 73.1% to 78.5%.

BBC –  Ireland abortion referendum: PM hails ‘quiet revolution’

The Irish prime minister has hailed his country’s “quiet revolution” as early results point to a “resounding” vote for overturning the abortion ban.

Leo Varadkar was speaking after exit polls suggested a landslide vote in favour of reforming the law.

“The people have spoken. They have said we need a modern constitution for a modern country,” he said.

Mr Varadkar, who campaigned in favour of liberalisation, said: “What we’ve seen is the culmination of a quiet revolution that’s been taking place in Ireland over the past 20 years.”

The taoiseach (prime minister) added that Irish voters “trust and respect women to make the right choices and decisions about their own healthcare”.

BBC – Timeline: Ireland and abortion

1861 – Abortion is first banned in Ireland in 1861 by the Offences Against the Person Act, and stays in place after Irish independence.

1983 – The Eighth Amendment to the Republic’s constitution, or Article 40.3.3, is introduced after a referendum.

1992 – The X case – a 4-year-old suicidal rape victim is initially prevented by the courts from travelling to England to terminate her pregnancy. The ruling prompts demonstrations by both anti-abortion and pro-choice campaigners across Ireland, in New York and London. However, the ruling is later overturned by Ireland’s Supreme Court. It says the credible threat of suicide is grounds for an abortion in Ireland.

In November that year, as a result of the X case and the judgement in the Supreme Court appeal, the government put forward three possible amendments to the constitution.

The Thirteenth Amendment said the abortion ban would not limit freedom of travel from Ireland to other countries for a legal abortion. It passed Yes 62.39%, No 37.61%.

The Fourteenth Amendment said Irish citizens had the freedom to learn about abortion services in other countries. It passed Yes 59.88% to No 40.12%.

The Twelfth Amendment proposed that the possibility of suicide was not a sufficient threat to justify an abortion. It failed No 65.35% to Yes 34.65%.

Turnout 68%.

2002 – Another referendum, asking if the threat of suicide as a ground for legal abortion should be removed. Yes 49.58%, No 50.52% (turnout 42.89%).

2010 – After three women take a case against Ireland, the European Court of Human Rights rules the state has failed to provide clarity on the legal availability of abortion in circumstances where the mother’s life is at risk.

2013 – Abortion legislation is again amended to allow terminations under certain conditions – the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act is signed into law. It legalises abortion when doctors deem that a woman’s life is at risk due to medical complications, or at risk of taking her life. It also introduces a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment for having or assisting in an unlawful abortion.

2015 – The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recommends a referendum on abortion, saying it is concerned at Ireland’s “highly restrictive legislation” and calls for a referendum to repeal Article 40.3.3 of the Constitution.

2016 – The United Nations Human Rights Committee says that Ireland’s ban on abortion subjected a woman carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality to discrimination and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

2017 – A Citizens’ Assembly votes to recommend the introduction of unrestricted access to abortion. It votes 64% to 36% in favour of having no restrictions in early pregnancy.

2018 – In March, Irish Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy signs an order to set the date for an abortion referendum.

And in big reversals of the 1992 referendum and Twelfth Amendment vote in 2002 the people of Ireland have voted resoundingly to modernise their abortion law.


New Zealand’s abortion law is still archaic but it is virtually ignored in practice. Time this is properly addressed – perhaps we should have an abortion referendum here too.

Peters and a handsome horse called Neoliberalism

This week’s budget highlights a big contrast between what Winston Peters has said and what he does. Talking the bucking the system bronco talk in opposition, but trotting along with the establishment for a dividend of baubles.

In past years Peters speeches has condemned National, capitalism and ‘neoliberalism’, but this week’s budget has been described as business as usual, National-lite and a continuation of neo-liberalism.

Not that this sort of duplicity will bother Peters – he has a history of talking a big change talk, but is walking a same old walk.

Winston promised radical change but is helping to deliver more of the same old. He campaigns as an anti-establishment politician, but props up the establishment given half a chance.

Peters has a history of cosying up to whoever will give him a share of power. He worked a coalition with National from 1996-1999, and did it again with Labour in 2005-2008. Neither of those Governments wavered from the same old capitalist approach alongside some state assistance. All Governments since the 1980s have been bitterly described as ‘neo-liberal’ by some on the left.

Peters in a speech in 2010:

New Zealand First was born from those who rejected the radical reforms of National and Labour and who wanted a party that represented ordinary New Zealanders – not overseas interests or those of a few ever mighty subjects.

So, after the blitzkrieg neo-liberal policy destruction of Labour between 1984 and 1990 – and National until 1996, New Zealanders decided they wanted change.

In less than two years Jim Bolger was rolled by Jenny Shipley whose mission was to smash the centre-right coalition and to continue the neo-liberal experiment supported by the Business Round Table and any other stragglers they could cobble together.

We saw some of this recently in the economic prescription of a failed politician who simply could not see that pure neo-liberal economics is a pathway to economic servitude for all but a small privileged elite.

Or maybe he does know this – which makes he, and his ilk, even more dangerous.

Dripping with irony. Peters enabled both the Bolger government and the Clark government prior to making that speech.

In 2016 Government a ‘bum with five cheeks’ – Peters

“Unless we get a dramatic economic and social change as a result of our efforts at the next election, we would have failed. That’s our objective. We know that unless we’ve got a dramatic change from this neoliberal failure that every other country seems to understand now but us, then we as a party would have failed.”

There is scant sign of anything like a dramatic economic and social change in the current Government or in the budget, apart from vague assurances it will be ‘transformational’ at some time in the future.

Also from 2016 – Winston Peters: ‘Most Kiwis are struggling’

“Everyone in New Zealand First knows that our duty, our responsibility and our mission statement is to get an economic and social change at the next election. Otherwise we will have all failed. It was a challenge to my caucus members, my party delegates and everybody else.”

He said there was no use in pursuing the major parties’ neo-liberal economic policies, which he described as being like “Pepsi and Coca-Cola”.

Peters provided the froth for both, and continues to do so.

Leading in to the 2017 election campaign: Winston Peters dismisses ‘irresponsible capitalism’ of other parties with new economic policy

Winston Peters is positioning NZ First as the party of difference and says his policy announcements today will steer away from the “irresponsible capitalism” that every other political party is selling.

The neo-liberal policy adopted by New Zealand politicians in the 1980s is a “failed economic experiment”.

“We want to confront what’s going on and set it right,” Peters said.

“I look at Parliament today and the National party, the Labour party and now the Greens are all accepting of that with a little bit of tweaking. That is astonishing, particularly in the case of the Greens – they’ve done it to try and look respectable – it’s totally disrespectable economic policy.”

Peters has enabled a Labour led Government whose first budget is little more than a bit of tweaking, with the Greens getting a  modest modest bit money for tweaking environmental policies.

Once negotiating power with Labour and the Greens Peters was already talking less radically.

October 2017: Winston Peters wants ‘today’s capitalism’ to regain its ‘human face’

“Far too many New Zealanders have come to view today’s capitalism, not as their friend, but as their foe. And they are not all wrong.

“That is why we believe that capitalism must regain its responsible – its human face. That perception has influenced our negotiations.”

So he moved from radical change to supporting a tweak to capitalism.

And this weeks budget has been barely a tweak. Guyon Espiner calls it a A ‘triumph of neoliberalism’

It turns out you can’t judge a book by its colour either. Labour’s first Budget in nearly a decade came with a bold red trim, rather than the royal blue Treasury uses to present the documents when National is in power.

But inside this was a blue budget not a red one. It’s a description neither Labour nor National would like bestowed on Budget 2018 but this was a triumph of neoliberalism or at least a continuation of it.

A continuation of neoliberalism enabled by and supported by Peters, with a bit of crony capitalism for him and NZ First.

This looked like National’s tenth Budget rather than Labour’s first.

It is the seventh National/Labour budget that NZ First has played a hand in.

Much more largesse has been lavished on the New Zealand First relationship with $1 billion for foreign aid and diplomats and another $1 billion for the Shane Jones provincial growth fund.

Even Winston Peters’ racing portfolio gets a giddy up. The government will spend nearly $5 million on tax deductions “for the costs of high quality horses acquired with the intention to breed”.

It has to be a handsome horse though. The rules say it will be tax deductible if it is a standout yearling “that commands attention by virtue of its bloodlines, looks and racing potential”.

What next? A handsome horse called Neoliberalism? Peters is probably a bit old to ride it, but he is providing the hay.

NZ First’s colours are black and white, and Peters campaigns with black and white rhetoric, but when he gets the chance to get some power he is a kaleidoscope of collusion, whether it be with National, Labour, capitalists or neoliberalists.

Perhaps like Grant Robertson he has a few transformational tricks up his sleeve, holding them back for next year, or next term.

Or maybe his the same old political charlatan, talking a maverick talk in opposition but given half a chance walking the same old establishment walk.

Budget highlights – foundation for the future

The budget is more of a preparatory budget rather than the claimed transformative budget – but Minister of Finance Grant Robertson acknowledges that. Here is his summary of the 2018 budget.


Foundations for the future

Health, education, housing and other critical public services receive overdue investments today, says Finance Minister Grant Robertson.

“Our public services have been underfunded for too long and there has been a failure to appropriately plan for the future. That changes today,” says Grant Robertson.

“Budget 2018 begins the economic and social transformation that must happen if New Zealanders are to have better lives in the decades to come.

“The Coalition Government is rebuilding the critical services Kiwis expect their government to provide – modern hospitals, classrooms kids can learn in, public housing for those who need it, efficient transport systems and safe communities.

“Budget 2018 makes responsible investments for the future, while delivering a surplus of more than $3 billion and taking a responsible approach to debt reduction.

“We are committed to living within our means and having a buffer to deal with the risks and shocks that a small country like New Zealand inevitably faces.

“The Government’s plan is fully funded within the operating and capital allowances we have set for this and future Budgets. We have been able to increase the allowances slightly because economic growth is forecast to be stronger than was expected before the election, by cracking down on tax avoidance, by reprioritising spending to reflect the Coalition Government’s priorities and with our more balanced debt track.

“We are committed to being responsible – not just fiscally but socially and environmentally. This Government is preparing our country for the future by making sure its foundations are strong and sustainable,” says Grant Robertson.

Highlights of Budget 2018:

  • Health receives a huge boost with $3.2 billion more in operating funding over the next four years and $850 million new capital – including $750 million to tackle some of hospitals’ most urgent building problems, the biggest capital injection in health in at least the last decade.
  • This Budget commits to free doctors’ visits for everyone under the age of 14 – an extra 56,000 of our young people from the current policy. We are extending very low-cost general practitioner (GP) visits to all Community Services Card holders and extending the Card to all Housing New Zealand tenants and New Zealanders who receive an accommodation supplement or income-related rent subsidy. This will make going to the GP cheaper by up to $30 for the 540,000 people eligible for the Card.
  • Elective surgery, maternity services, air ambulances and the National Bowel Screening Programme are among the health services receiving extra funding.
  • New capital funding will build schools and hundreds of new classrooms. Operating funding for education over the next four years increases by $1.6 billion to address rising demand, fund 1,500 more teachers and raise teacher-aide funding. Early childhood education gets a $590.2 million operating boost over four years, benefiting over 200,000 children. A total of $284 million goes to Learning Support to allow every child with special education needs and learning difficulties to better participate in school life.
  • Housing is boosted by more than $634 million in operating funds. We will increase public housing by over 6,000 homes over the next four years, provide more transitional housing and help for the homeless and offer grants for insulation and heating.

“This Government is placing the wellbeing of people at the centre of all its work,” says Grant Robertson.

“We are also building strong foundations for a more productive and sustainable economy. Budget 2018 allocates $1 billion over four years to encourage business innovation through a research and development incentive. We are supporting and growing our regions through the $1 billion-per-year Provincial Growth Fund and investing $100 million into a Green Investment Fund to help our economy’s transition.

“We are promoting a progressive and inclusive trade agenda. Our tax system will be fairer and more balanced to encourage investment in the productive economy.

“This Government is looking ahead to the next 30 years. We are managing our economy responsibly and providing the critical public services we need to build foundations for our future,” says Grant Robertson.

Budget day

Grant Robertson will present the first Labour-NZ First-Green budget today. It is a big test for Robertson and Labour in particular.

All three parties have been playing the PR game in advance.

Most of the budget will be mundane business as usual.

Some things will probably be laudable. Some will be debatable. And critics will criticise.

And then we will have to wait months if not years to see what the effects are – some will be positive, some negative.

And for most of us life will go on regardless.

7.84% rates rise “a normal part of the cycle”

Saying that a 7.84% rates rise will be “in the lower quartile” won’t mean anything to ratepayers who face increases of $200-400. I am horrified by this level of increase – and it sounds like it is what much of the country should be expecting.

ODT: DCC approves second highest rates increase since 1989

The Dunedin City Council has backed a higher-than-expected rates rise of 7.84%, after agreeing to a series of last-minute funding boosts yesterday.

Plus:

The council has also signed off on a 4% increase in most fees and charges.

The waffle:

But Mayor Dave Cull insists the rates hike, like the fees and charges, are just a normal part of the cycle as cities invest in their futures.

That was within the council’s new self-imposed rates limit of 8% for the first year.

That’s about four times the rate of inflation.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose said the city’s rates would remain in the lower quartile, while other centres across the country eyed increases of between 3% and 15%.

Lower quartile, about average, that’s tosh when trying to make excuses for an increase of about 8%.

It’s not as bad as 15%, but that’s like saying it’s not as bad getting two teeth pulled by the dentist as getting four teeth pulled.

Mr Cull said cities went through cycles of investment, leading to periods of higher rates increases, but the alternative would be worse.

Those cities that kept rates artificially low by not spending in the short term were eventually forced to catch up, leading to ”massive rates increases” later, he said.

”They pay the price in the end. The idea is to try to keep it smooth, but every now and then you have got to invest,” he said.

More nonsense. I think that rates have been rising ahead of inflation for yonks.

This is budget day news. I don’t expect to get any joy from the Government today either, but the budget shouldn’t be this bad.

ANZAC Day 2018

25th April 2018 – ANZAC Day

ANZAC Day began as a mark of respect of the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers (Australia and New Zealand Army Corp) at Gallipoli in 1915. It was first marked in 1916, but since then has widened into a commemoration of Word War 1, World War 2 and all New Zealand military action overseas.

Most of us have relations who took part in the World Wars and other hostilities, and this is a good time to reflect on what they had to do and how many of them must have suffered – some paying the ultimate price, others returning with physical injuries and many with mental scars.

The post war generations are lucky to live in a time when there has been no compulsion to take part in armed conflict – the luckiest generations in human history

This post is for remembrance, family stories or whatever you feel is appropriate for the occasion.

Premature ‘influential’ accolade for Ardern

Time Magazine has named Jacinda Ardern as one of the 1o0 most influential people in the world for 2018. Given that we are only in April this is premature – and I think it is far to soon to judge Ardern’s actual influence outside the celebrity circuit. At least she hasn’t been given a premature and ultimately undeserved Nobel prize as per Obama.

Time: Jacinda Ardern by Sheryl Sandberg

Just 11 countries out of almost 200 are led by a woman. Let that number sink in. That’s how hard it is for a woman to rise to lead a nation.

Last October in New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern did it.

She was already a political prodigy. In 2008, she was elected the youngest member of the New Zealand Parliament. Now she’s the youngest female Prime Minister in the world. At a time when conservative politicians are ascendant across Europe and the U.S., she’s proudly progressive—with a raft of plans to fight economic inequality, address climate change and decriminalize abortion. She wasn’t supposed to win: she entered the election late, and her party’s approval ratings were low. Then a wave of “Jacindamania” swept the land.

And she’s expecting her first child this year.

In a world that too often tells women to stay small, keep quiet—and that we can’t have both motherhood and a career—Jacinda Ardern proves how wrong and outdated those notions of womanhood are. She’s not just leading a country. She’s changing the game. And women and girls around the world will be the better for it.

Sandberg is the COO of Facebook and author of Option B and Lean In

‘A raft of plans’ does not make a successful Prime Minister in New Zealand, let alone an influential world leader.

Fighting economic inequality and addressing climate change are lofty aims, but Ardern and her government are yet to prove that they can make a real difference on either. They may, but we are unlikely to be able to judge that to any degree in 2018, or probably 2019.

By the end of 2020 we will have time to see whether notable progress has been made on inequality and climate change (but both are long term projects), and whether Ardern has influenced New Zealand voters enough to win a second shot at continuing the reforms she has talked the talk on, but has barely stood up let alone walked the walk.

Other younger leaders that initially caused a stir, Emmanuel Macron of France and Justin Trudeau in Canada, have since found the going tough.

Funnily Ardern has written praise of Trudeau in the Time 100 influencers list.

There will be a few names globally that will become etched in our history books. They will be the names that mark the shift in our political landscape, when younger politicians took the reins and heralded a different type of politics. Justin Trudeau will be one of them. Youth alone is not remarkable, but winning over people with a message of hope and warmth, tolerance and inclusion, when other politicians the world over choose an easier route—that is remarkable.

Trudeau’s tenure as Prime Minister of Canada has hit speed bumps. As has Macron, but he also gets a good write up:

Just under a year ago, a 39-year-old underdog shook up French politics to become the youngest-ever President of the French Republic. His movement, built from scratch in just a few months, quickly doubled down by winning a large parliamentary majority, giving the new government a mandate for change.

Using this unique window of opportunity, President Macron has swiftly begun to implement an ambitious set of reforms intended to boost economic growth, reduce high unemployment and transform France into a more dynamic, competitive and inclusive economy. His vision of a strong Europe also has added fresh momentum to the integration effort—which has become all the more critical in our increasingly fragmented world.

Challenges abound. Migration, terrorism, climate, digital transformation and inequality are forcing new fault lines on our societies. But based on the policies he has implemented to date, I am convinced that Emmanuel Macron can help create the multilateral solutions that will make the planet a better place for all.

Also on the list of influencers are Donald Trump, Robert Mueller, Sean Hannity, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Plus a number actors, performers and sports people.

Angela Merkel, Theresa May, Kim Yong Un, Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin don’t feature at all.