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]

Ardern’s ‘state of the nation’ speech to Business New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern gave a speech to Business New Zealand yesterday. This is described by some as her ‘State of the Nation’ speech. Here is the Beehive transcript:


PM speech to Business New Zealand breakfast

Good morning everyone.

I want to start by thanking Kirk and his Business New Zealand team for the invitation.

It’s good to have this opportunity to join you as another year starts.

While this is my first economic speech of 2019 here at home, there has been plenty happening internationally since the year kicked off. I want to reflect on some of that this morning, but before I do, I’d like to take stock of our economic and business landscape, set out some of the challenges we face here and in an international context, and then outline our Government’s plan to address those over the coming year.

First though, I want to take a moment to reflect on the events in Tasman. Twelve months after facing a cyclone, the rain in Tasman has been replaced with a fire that when I visited yesterday, was 22km in parameter, and covered 1900 hectares. It has led to the evacuation of hundreds of homes, and roughly 400 people.

I have been in regular contact with our civil defence team, and evacuations are still happening as they try to predict where the wind movement may take the fire, all the while creating a parameter around it and using fire retardant to try and contain it from spreading across an area that is bone dry, and surrounded by forestry.

I spoke to a few people who had been evacuated yesterday. They told me what it was like to evacuate with only a few hours warning. But they didn’t dwell on that.

Mostly they reflected back to me the amazing work being done by emergency services, MPI, council, civil defence and others. So many who I met yesterday were volunteers. One of the coordinators of the many helicopters hauling water over the fire for eleven hours at a time was from Feilding and had travelled through the night to get there. He also happened to be colleagues with my first cousin – it was a true New Zealand moment.

Situations like this always reinforce to me something that you will intuitively know, we are a nation of extraordinary people. And I don’t separate out situations like this as being a one off example of who we are. The traits we have as a nation are there 24/7, and in many fields of work.

You see it in our social sector, our business community, and in our young and older citizens. The trick is to remember that, and for us as Government to bring together the many groups who want to tackle the big challenges we face regardless of which sector of our society that they may work within. We are not a nation of discrete compartments, so we should be facing our challenges together.

And when it comes to the economy, and the business environment, there are challenges.

There are also good reasons for us to be optimistic though.

Last year I talked about the elephant in the room. Pleasingly, the elephant has gotten a little bit smaller in the past 12 months. Perhaps it got to know its company and decided it wasn’t quite as scary as it first thought…

Either way, it’s pleasing progress and it is based on some strong fundamentals.

  • Yesterday’s employment data showed wages are growing and unemployment is at 4.3%, the second lowest in a decade. The lowest was of course last quarter, and we are confident that we’ll reach our 4% target by the end of our term.
  • Growth is relatively strong at around 3% and is forecast to stay close to that level in coming years. That looks particularly strong when compared to the IMF’s recently released forecasts for advanced economies that predicts average growth of about 2% a year.
  • Inflation is tracking at 1.9%, and food price inflation remains low.
  • And it is encouraging that one of the Big Three rating agencies recently gave our economic and financial management the thumbs up. Standards & Poor’s have revised its outlook on New Zealand’s AA foreign and AA+ local currency credit ratings from ‘stable’ to ‘positive’ – its strongest verdict on New Zealand since September 2011.
  • The latest Crown financial statements, released just yesterday, show that core Crown revenue and expenses are in decent shape and delivering a better than budgeted surplus. Running surpluses of course gives us the room to make important capital investments while keeping debt under control and importantly provides a buffer against external shocks and international headwinds.  

As you can see, on key economic measures the Government is delivering. There is good cause for the elephant shrinking.

But there is a shift in mood globally. While global economic growth remains strong, it is beginning to slow.

The IMF is projecting worldwide growth to ease from 3.7% in 2018 to 3.5% in 2019 due to rising trade tensions, political uncertainty and less stimulatory monetary and fiscal policy.

As I mentioned earlier, advanced economies are forecast to grow at only 2% a year.

The finger of blame for the slowdown in global trade growth is generally pointed at countries pursuing increasingly protectionist policies, which are naturally affecting confidence and investment plans.

Trade tensions in the wake of tariffs imposed by the US on Chinese imports dented the strong growth seen in 2017. And the worry for us is that further reductions in Chinese exports could cause a material slowdown in its economy, with adverse effects for New Zealand exporters.

And then there is Brexit.

As all of you will have no doubt seen, the final form of Britain’s exit from the European Union is yet to be decided.

Clearly, the risk of a no-deal scenario remains high. There is a lot of uncertainty around what such a scenario would mean, and while we are doing our best to create a buffer through, for instance, our recently signed mutual recognition agreement, a no deal Brexit could still do harm to EU economies or disrupt financial markets.

Political tensions are beginning to present serious risks to international institutions and the rules-based order that we rely on for security and prosperity. The World Trade Organisation, for example, and other multilateral organisations, are facing challenges to their legitimacy that undermine their effectiveness.

At Davos, a significant conversation revolved around how we could ensure the reform of these institutions, whilst not seeing them blamed for the current political environment which, ultimately, they didn’t cause.

But where does all of that leave a country like New Zealand? We have strong fundamentals and are well prepared, but we need to be realistic that if the global economy slows, it will affect our economic growth.

Now is then the time to take the foundations we have and to build on them. Now is the time to ensure we not only build greater resilience into our economy, but that we modernise it too.

This is a message that we have been sharing for some time, but that I recently heard reinforced by the IMF executive director Christine Lagarde.

We were at APEC in Papua New Guinea when I first heard her reiterate the message that policymakers need to make greater efforts to prepare for the slowdown, and that is a message we are heeding.

That’s why our economic plan includes the following key planks:

  • Doubling down on trade and broadening our trading base to protect our exporters and economy
  • Reform of skills and trade training to address long-term labour shortages and productivity gaps in the New Zealand economy, and to make sure we are prepared for ongoing automation and the future of work
  • Changes to tax to make the system fairer
  • Addressing our long-term infrastructure challenges
  • Transitioning to a sustainable carbon-neutral economy
  • And of course investment in wellbeing, because this is inextricably linked to our economic success too.

Trade

On trade, our experiences in the 1970s and early 1980s taught us there are no winners in trade protectionism.

By taking an active role in WTO reform efforts and by committing ourselves to diversifying our export markets through new and upgraded free trade agreements, we are strengthening our safety net.

At all the international forums I have spoken at in the last year I have made the case for the retention of an international rules-based trading system. I believe it’s incredibly important that we continue to be a leading voice on this, in order to retain a system that allows New Zealand exporters fair access to international markets.

With the CPTPP coming into force, 65% of our exports are now covered by FTA preferences which buttress and build on the WTO disciplines.

The Pacific Alliance and RCEP are making steady progress.

The upgrade of our agreement with China is ongoing and we are about to commence the same negotiations with ASEAN.

But a top trade priority this year is a positive conclusion to the EU free trade negotiations and the launch of free trade talks with the UK in the event of Brexit occurring.

On my recent trip to Europe I received assurances from the EU leadership of their desire to conclude an agreement by the end of this year. It’s an ambitious plan, and one we will pursue whilst also being mindful of getting a quality deal.

In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her desire for New Zealand to be amongst the first nations they negotiate with, and for our part we made the case that given New Zealand’s expertise in this space we would make a logical partner to establish a benchmark for a high quality model agreement for the UK.

As importantly as the political assurances I received we also got positive backing from leading British business leaders for a high quality free trade deal as soon as practical after Brexit.

And at home, we are working to rebuild the social licence for trade. The Trade for All Advisory Board will continue meeting this year to look at how our trade policy works with other economic policy to deliver the benefits of trade to all New Zealanders.

Through this combination of trade and foreign policy initiatives we will strengthen our resilience to the risks we face from the uncertain global economy.

Of course it is not just in the international scene that our economy faces challenges.

Domestically we are seeing both short and longer-term issues that could constrain economic growth if left unaddressed.

Education and training

One such issue that the Government has big plans for in 2019 is around skills training.

Whenever I talk to business I hear a recurring theme around skills training and the gap between what business needs and what our training organisations provide.

Businesses are facing a constant struggle finding the people with the right skills at the right time to do the jobs that need to be done. Many of you here today have spoken to me about this issue.

In the past our economy has been too reliant on buying skills through immigration. Immigration is vital, but we need to get the balance right. I want us to focus on how we can be better at growing the skills our economy needs.

Without change, the challenge for businesses and Government is only going to increase.

We know the future of work will look very different than it does today.

A future when, by some estimates, a full one third of jobs in New Zealand are likely to be significantly affected by automation. That’s a million jobs.

For us as a government and you as a business community we cannot afford to let the skills gap continue to drift.

We need to act now.

The Coalition Government has already taken steps to make post-school education and training more accessible, with our fees free programme, which provides 2 years of free industry training and apprenticeships, or one year of free tertiary education.

We also announced changes to allow greater use of micro-credentials to ensure our system is more accessible and responsive to business needs.

My Business Advisory Council has also set skills as one of its key priorities. One of the ideas it has put forward which we are working through is how business themselves can take the lead in committing to reskilling their workforces.

The Government has also done some deep thinking on reforms that are urgently needed to the vocational education system.

The Minister of Education will next week announce proposals for consultation. They are far reaching. But we firmly believe they must be.

We currently have a vocational education system that is in many cases, struggling.

Take the building sector for example. We know we need more tradies and they are just not coming through fast enough.

That’s absolutely no reflection of the people who are involved in the sector – far from it. What it is, is a damning statement that the system has been left to drift, to muddle through.

How is it, for example, that at a time when we’re facing critical skill shortages, our polytechnics and institutes of technology are in many cases going broke?

Over the last two years this Government has been forced to spend $100 million to bail out four polytechnics, and that is a pattern that started before we took office.

That is not the sign of a healthy and sustainable sector.

We need to move away from the cycle that sees course delivery at institutes boom when the economic cycle turns down and then dive when the economy improves, while on-the-job training providers face the opposite cycle.

Instead of our regional polytechnics and institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery throughout the country.

We want a sector that meets the needs of our economy. But the current system faces three major structural issues we need to fix.

It is not well coordinated or integrated. It is not easy for business to engage with and it delivers variable results across the country.

We have a duplication of courses and lack of consistency across the sector.

Many of the institutes face an issue of scale and insufficient capital to grow and respond. All of this is unsustainable.

Here is our vision – I want the vocational training system to be the backbone of our productive economy, and of our regions. I want students and parents to proudly choose a career in the trades and I want businesses to have confidence that the system is flexible and preparing a workforce for the future of work.

We need a model where businesses, iwi and local government in every region play an active role in driving skills development. We need a system of training and skills development that is more flexible and more nimble so we can get people with the rights skills into the right jobs much faster.

As I mentioned, we will be putting out some significant ideas in this area in coming weeks. Alongside our education sector, you have a crucial role to play in this matter and I do look forward to hearing your response to what will be some big new ideas.

But we haven’t just looked to the education sector to upskill our workforce, we have also looked for ideas to support you directly.

We are providing assistance in this regard through the Mana in Mahi training initiative, which provides a wage subsidy to businesses who employ as apprentices young New Zealanders who have been on a benefit for six months or more.

This policy is constructive for both businesses and workers, linking employers who need labour with young people in need of a career path.

I’ve met some of the young people in programmes like Mana in Mahi and He Poutama Rangatahi. They are our best salespeople for these types of initiatives.

Recently in Kaikohe a young woman told me all her friends want to join the course she was on. She is learning and earning and it was, in her own words, better than the street. Especially since she had become a supervisor.

Building a sustainable economy

In addition to skills the Government will use 2019 to contend with bigger, longer-term trends that will have a transformational affect on our economy. 

As I have said before, climate change is the defining issue of my generation.

We know that we all have to adapt now to avoid catastrophe for the generations to come.

We have a plan for a just transition to a low-emissions economy based on a more sustainable growth model. We want to ensure that this transition is phased and signalled early to give businesses and workers certainty and flexibility.

The Government will soon announce plans for legislation to establish an enduring institutional framework for managing the long-term transition to a low-emissions economy.

This legislation will contain legally binding emissions’ reduction targets and it will see the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, which will recommend emissions reduction budgets and provide advice on policy development and initiatives in transport, energy and primary industries.

The Government’s Just Transition work programme will assist New Zealand to successfully transition to a low-emissions economy.

The work programme includes looking at energy, regional economic development and workforce planning. It has a strong connection to education and skills development to create new jobs.

A Just Transition Summit in May this year will kick-start a national conversation about what the Just Transition means for New Zealand.

But it won’t just be a local conversation. We will be testing ideas that the world is interested in too. The conversations I had in bilateral meetings and conferences increasingly demonstrated to me that the world is not only looking for ideas, it is hunting for them. And New Zealand is on its list.

We recently announced a $100 million capital injection to New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd to stimulate new private sector investment in low-emissions industries. More and more investment dollars globally are looking for clean, sustainable ventures to invest in.

New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd positions New Zealand to attract its share of that investment capital, and will provide businesses with a pathway to being part of efforts to confront the greatest challenge facing the planet.

Another issue currently confronting the Government is inequality, and our commitment to bring fairness into our tax system.

We have long foreshadowed that we will deliver this year a response to the Tax Working Group.

There has been a lot of speculation on this topic of late, some of it feverish and not always accurate.

But my message to you this morning is succinct.

Yes, we have received the report of the Tax Working Group and, as we have shared publicly, it will be released on Thursday 21 February.

That report is now being pored over by officials, and discussed with Coalition and Confidence and Supply partners. Our plan is for the Finance and Revenue ministers to release the Coalition Government’s full response to the report in April.

Importantly though, the Working Group’s report will be shared with the public. There will be time for everyone to see that work, to debate what they have said and to share views. Anything we subsequently decide will also go through a consultation process before legislation and ultimately will be put to voters at the next election before it comes into force.

As we enter into a period of discussion and debate, I hope it’s guided by the overriding goal of fairness, and building an economy and system that works in the best interest of New Zealand and its people.

The Wellbeing budget

Finally though, a few words on what has become a significant topic of debate and discussion internationally. In fact I saw just yesterday the issue of wellbeing economics being discussed in a Swedish newspaper. I can’t tell you what it said but I am sure it was eminently sensible.

Our starting point for the Wellbeing Budget is that while economic growth is important, it alone does not guarantee improvements to New Zealanders’ living standards.

We want to take a much broader approach that uses the full range of factors that affect the quality of people’s lives.

So there will be measures that track the progress of our country based on what enables people to live fulfilling lives – things like material wealth; our capability as individuals, families and communities; and the health of our environment, such as the cleanliness of rivers.

We can all agree that New Zealand has seen solid rates of GDP growth over the past few years, and of course no one is suggesting we get rid of this indicator. But we also need to ask questions about the quality of that growth. An everyday New Zealander – hearing of the “rock star economy” while their housing costs are skyrocketing, or they can’t afford to send their kids to school with a proper lunch or their mental health is strained – tends to have their faith in the system and in institutions undermined.

So embedding wellbeing will require us to shift to a wider definition of success for our country, one that incorporates not just the health of our finances but also our natural resources, people, and communities.

It will represent a shift away from government departments thinking of their Budget bids in terms of their own appropriations, towards a focus on the outcomes they can achieve in collaboration with others.

All Ministers and departments have been asked to consider what they can contribute to the delivery of each of the Budget priorities.

This in itself is different and was the source of great interest when I was at Davos.

While deep reform will take time, the Government has already made significant strides. Treasury has created the Living Standards Framework, we are reforming the way the state sector works to give effect to a more collaborative way of working, and we will amend the Public Finance Act so that priorities around wellbeing are set each Budget. We are giving effect to the new approach in this year’s Budget.

The five Budget priorities this year are:

  1. To create opportunities for transitioning to a sustainable low emissions economy;
  2. Lifting Maori and Pacific incomes and opportunities;
  3. Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation;
  4. Reducing child poverty, improving child and youth wellbeing, including addressing family violence; and
  5. Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, particularly those under 24.

In Davos the OECD Secretary General advised the Finance Minister and me that they would be reviewing the Government’s wellbeing approach and Budget in their country review this year, an indication of how closely the rest of the world is looking at this new model and what it can offer other countries.

The Wellbeing Budget is not only about improving the livelihoods of New Zealanders, it is key to ensuring we are protected from the international headwinds the economy may face. It will ensure that those closest to the margins are protected and that no one is left behind.

I want to conclude today by affirming the Government’s strong desire to continue partnering with business wherever we can. We will be using forums such as the Small Business Council, the Future of Work Tripartite Forum and my own Business Advisory Council to develop and test initiatives that can help improve business productivity and workers’ wellbeing. But more than that, to continue to work together.

As a country we face challenges on a number of fronts, but in these challenges the Government sees opportunities to build a more resilient economy and I know we are not alone in that.

By diversifying our trade opportunities, upskilling workers, leading the transition to a low carbon economy, ensuring fairness in the tax system and delivering our Wellbeing Budget we have a clear plan that will protect and improve the wellbeing of our people, our businesses, our communities and our environment.

I look forward to working with all of you in delivering on this in 2019. And perhaps along the way that elephant might keep getting a little bit smaller.

Ardern says 2019 is time for Government to deliver, but scraps KiwiBuild delivery targets

Jacinda Ardern had contradictory messages today, saying that 2019 was the year that the Government had to deliver on promises – but then conceded that the Government was scrapping KiwiBuild targets to deliver new houses, with some incredibly ridiculous language – “those interim targets haven’t been a useful way to demonstrate our delivery programme”.

Stuff:  Jacinda Ardern says 2019 year of ‘delivery’ for Government

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told the Labour caucus 2019 will be a year of “delivery” for the Government.

“For us domestically it doesn’t really matter what the international community does or says, it only matters what we deliver”.

She (or her advisers) seem to have been listening to recent criticisms.

Ardern said 2018 had been a year where the Government had set up the “infrastructure” for serious change and pumped money into health and education. 2019, by contrast, would be more focused on delivery.

“2019 I think for us as a team is going to be characterised by the word ‘delivery’. 2018 was obviously a huge year for us: bedding in as a new Government, setting up the infrastructure for a significant change in direction for New Zealand, reinvesting in those core services – health and education and housing in our budget.”

“That work has now been set in place. 2019 is now the year that a lot of delivery will be required of us and is actually already underway.”

Ardern singled out climate change, housing, mental health, and the recommendations of the tax working group as key areas of focus.

Included in that was housing. They have made ambitious house building promises, but later in the day Ardern conceded that they were scrapping all their KiwiBuild targets apart from the end total of 100,000 houses on ten years – far enough into the future that it is largely irrelevant.

What marked the announcement was the bulldust language used to try to paper over the backdown.

RNZ – KiwiBuild: Interim targets reviewed as scheme is ‘recalibrated’

The government is scrapping all of its interim KiwiBuild targets and going back to the drawing board.

KiwiBuild hasn’t exactly got off to a roaring start this year, with the Housing Minister Phil Twyford admitting last week that the government would not hit its mid-year target of 1000 KiwiBuild homes being built.

Now it appears that that and the other interim KiwiBuild targets are out the window as the whole policy is, as Mr Twyford calls it, “recalibrated”.

“So I’ll take a paper to cabinet in a few weeks’ time, we’re looking at both how we can make KiwiBuild both a stronger incentive for developers and how we can make it work better for first home buyers.”

While the interim targets are toast, Jacinda Ardern is sticking to her guns about the overall KiwiBuild target.

“Our 100,000 over 10 years hasn’t changed, those interim targets haven’t been a useful way to demonstrate our delivery programme and that’s why the minister is looking at that again,” she said.

Ardern actually repeated ” those interim targets haven’t been a useful way to demonstrate our delivery programme”, so it wasn’t an accidental slip of the tongue.

So I wonder how this year’s deliveries are going to be demonstrated.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges described the KiwiBuild back-down as “incredibly embarrassing”.

I have to agree with Bridges on that – at least, quite embarrassing anyway.

The same day that Ardern promised a year of delivery she wiped some very significant delivery targets.

Peters at Ratana: “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”

In Jacinda Ardern’s absence (she is in Europe at Davos) Winston Peters deputised for her at Ratana this year. It waas a lot more low key than last year, Ardern’s first time there as Prime Minister and a 100 year anniversary of the Ratana moovement.

Peters’  Ratana Speech 2019


Kia ora tatou.

Thank you for the invitation to be here. It is a great privilege to be welcomed to Ratana again.

Let me acknowledge the leadership of Tumuaki Harerangi Meihana, those of you who have already addressed the Government from the Taumata, and the presence of all of the members of the Ratana Church.

Also let us acknowledge the attendance of Government parties, the Green Party, Labour, and New Zealand First all here today on a united front.

On behalf of the Government, let me extend the apologies of the Prime Minister who could not attend today because of her work commitments which means she is currently travelling overseas.

This year we mark one hundred and one years since Wiremu Ratana started his spiritual journey which has become the Ratana movement as we know it today.

This time last year was Ratana’s centenary. Your church was 100 years old and the new Labour-New Zealand First coalition government, supported by the Green Party, was less than 100 days old.

When the government stood before you all last year we promised a Government with a difference.

A government which looked after people.  A government which addressed neglect and social inequality. A government which grows the economy and is getting people back into work.

But as the old saying goes – words are not deeds. One year on, this government has put deeds to its words.

The Families package that we brought in last year is lifting the income of 384,000 families by $75 a week when fully rolled out.  Doctors’ visits are now free for all children under 14. Doctors’ visits also became cheaper for those with Community Services Cards, and more money has been invested into hospitals. We are opening more housing opportunities through Kiwibuild homes.  And we are heavily investing in the economic development of our regions through the provincial growth fund and the billion dollar tree plantings programme. Unemployment is at 3.9 per cent – the lowest it’s been in decades. And the number of jobs available is increasing.

In December the Child Poverty Reduction Law was passed to dramatically change the circumstances experienced in this country. The government has spent its first year in office setting directions and laying foundations for long term solutions to problems this country should never have tolerated.

The Budget that is coming is focused on “wellbeing”. The Labour-New Zealand First coalition government does not seek to overpromise and under deliver for short term venal self-interest. We have a purpose in this government which unites three different parties.

We are a government which seeks to correct the fundamental infrastructure and social deficits we have ignored for far too long.

As we consistently said there are no overnight solutions, but there is progress to be made from long term investments.

We are setting out to create jobs in the regions and provinces to ensure that no part of the country is forgotten. To create opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy.

In many respects there is no real separation between what this Government wants to achieve for its people, and the work that T W Ratana committed his life to achieving.  He housed the people – here on his own land. He gave people jobs inside the Ratana community.  He looked after families – gave them a place to live and put food on their table.  He gave people hope for a better future.

As a government, we put actions to our promises, as we continue to deliver for New Zealand with many of the same objectives.   And in another 12 months when we return to your marae you will see more progress.

For there is an old saying: “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”


That saying is apt for Peters, but he may not be saying it to highlight his own walk versus talk.

It is also something that Ardern should be aware of: “People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do.”

She (and her Government) has a lot of doing to do, to deliver on all the saying.

Year of reckoning for Ardern Government

The Labour led Government has to step up and prove it is as progressive and transformative as Prime Minister has promised.

In the Speech from the Throne at the beginning of the current term:

The programme I will outline today is ambitious.

This government is committed to major investments in housing, health, education, police, and infrastructure.

This will be a government of transformation. It will lift up those who have been forgotten or neglected, it will take action on child poverty and homelessness, it will restore funding to education and the health systems to allow access for all, it will protect the environment and take action on climate change, and it will build a truly prosperous nation and a fair society, together.

This will be a government of aspiration.

There will be a progressive tax system where everyone pays their fair share, according to their means…

This ambitious plan to take real action on climate change…

A nation in which fairness and equality of opportunity are not just aspirations but facts. And a nation in which all communities are empowered.

Last year was in the main underwhelming. Much was put on hold pending work groups and inquiries.

This year the rubber needs to hit the cycleway.

Sam Sachdeva – 2019: the year of action at Parliament?

A stream of working groups

For Jacinda Ardern’s Government, the biggest task may be dealing with the stream of reports and recommendations that start to come in from the various working groups it has set up since taking power.

Derided by National as an expensive abdication of responsibility and defended by the Government as necessary work after years of neglect, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.

What is undeniable is that the cost of running the groups will be eclipsed by the dollar figures attached to the recommendations that they make.

While the books are in healthy condition, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has already signalled to the Labour faithful that fiscal prudence is a guiding principle – an understandable position given accusations of economic vandalism hurled at left-wing parties, but one which could lead to disquiet if the governing parties are seen to be falling short of their voters’ expectations.

2019 may be the year when the public gets a better sense of whether the Government will be as truly transformational as Ardern has suggested, or if it may fall short of the hype (although it will be years or decades until we know for sure).

We will have to wait and see how things pan out through the year.

 

Female looks and male ‘beer test’ competing with substance in 2019 politics

Political PR presents politicians in ways they think will appeal to voters, but ultimately substance should be a primary focus in 2019 in New Zealand.

Too much fluff and illusion can eventually backfire if the PM, Ministers and the Opposition don’t deliver.

Stacey Kirk (Stuff):  No amount of photoshop will paste over broken promises or scandal in 2019

Problems arise though, when the photoshopping – both metaphorical and literal – is carried out with a bit too much gusto.

Just ask Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who found himself the butt of ridicule when his staff botched an unnecessary photoshop job, by pasting hip new sneakers over his tired old kicks.

(Funny – see Scott Morrison Photoshopped shoes)

More seriously, the gaffe served to highlight the level of detail a leader’s army of press secretaries will go to, to control their image.

New Zealand’s politicians are no different in that regard.

Whether it’s Clark Gayford breaking a month-long Instagram hiatus to poke self-depracating fun at his “christmas belly”, National leader Simon Bridges guzzling a beer in a floral shirt, or Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern signing on for a round of soft media in the gossip mags.

None of this PR appeals to me (and I successfully avoided “christmas belly”, I have no desire to have a beer with Bridges, and my recent experiences at The Standard and Kiwiblog cannot be described anything like soft social media).

Sadly, in the case of women, it’s more closely aligned to the subject’s looks. But as it applies to male political leaders, it could perhaps be more accurately described as the “beer test”, as in “he seems like a good guy to have a beer with”.

Hence the beer gut, the drinking shot, and myriad softly-lit photo shoots.

But that only gets a politician so far and this is the year where the rubber hits the road for the leaders of both major parties.

The matey drinky PR spin does nothing for me. Simon Bridges will probably be battling to keep his job as National leader this year. He has to smarten up his media image, and come up with some policies and positions that will appeal to mainstream voters.

So far he has tended towards more conservative (and less popular) stances on current issues like drug law reform, euthanasia and abortion – all of which could be included in referendums alongside the general election next year.

This is the year that Jacinda Ardern and her Government will have to come up with some substantive progress on pressing issues.

The Government’s stalled as long as it can with sundry working groups. The trouble with appointing experts to these things is that they’re incredibly earnest in their responsibilities to come up with solutions.

Solutions which cost money, of which the Government has plenty but still not enough to fulfil the promises it’s made.

Kiwibuild will have to look like thousands of houses that wouldn’t otherwise have been built (without Government investment) are at least in progress.

An actual plan for progress on climate change will be needed to show that James Shaw and the Greens can go beyond vague targets and ideals (Shaw doesn’t seem to do the PR poncing though).

Health, mental health, education reform, justice reform, public service pay, climate change and tax issues are all crying out for bold decisions and tankers of cash.

They were crying out for that a year ago.

A lot will depend on the budget in May – a number of Ministers seemed to be stalling, waiting for a commitment of money from Finance Minister Grant Robertson, who was prudent last year, but will have more pressure on him this year.

Will ‘unravelling world’ fall apart in 2019?

Pessimists will some time be right about the world turning to custard. Will they be right about 2019?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (SMH/Telegraph) – The dystopian view: Is this the year the world falls apart?

This is the year that mounting hammer blows to the Western alliance system and the edifice of global governance threaten to bring the old order tumbling down.

There are always threats, but most years things manage to hang together, sort of.

“The geopolitical environment is the most dangerous it’s been in decades,” warns Eurasia Group, political risk-adviser to the world’s elites, and a voice of globalist ideology.

Pax Americana is unravelling. The transatlantic concord underpinning the West since the Fifties is dying. Nato, the G7, the G20, the WTO and the EU are all in varying degrees of crisis. Vladimir Putin’s Russia has an open goal.

“Every single one of these is trending negatively. And most in a way that hasn’t been in evidence since the Second World War,” it said.

Anti-liberal strongmen are tugging away at the edges in Turkey, Brazil and Hungary. Some in the twilight zones of the democratic world are drifting -towards the Putin-Xi camp.

There does seem to be a rise in extreme right and extreme left groups. The UK and Europe are battling over a split. Donald Trump is shaking up US and world trade and diplomacy.

“US alliances everywhere are weakening. The limited trust that underpins the US-China relationship appears to be gone,” said Eurasia in its annual outlook.

The dystopian picture is grim enough even at this late stage of global economic expansion, which begs the question: what would happen in a deep recession with mass unemployment?

The world has gone longer than usual without a recession, so one may be overdue.

Eurasia Group warned that 2019 could “turn out to be the year the world falls apart” although it is not the central forecast. Denouement may take a little longer.

“Barring bad luck (like -Sarajevo in 1914?), it takes years, even decades to knock down a geopolitical order. That process of erosion is under way around the world today,” it said.

It is a world in which the gloves are coming off in cyber warfare, setting off a cycle of “action and reaction” that could all too easily spin out of control.

In parallel, a “global tech Cold War” is closing in. States are slashing -reliance on foreign suppliers wherever national security is at stake. The West is shutting out Chinese manufacturers of 5G high-speed equipment. Digital globalism is in retreat.

Donald Trump is – in Eurasia’s view – the central catalyst and accelerant for much of what is going wrong in the world. It starts at home in Washington.

“Damage is being done to the legitimacy of democratic institutions in the world’s largest economy,” it said.

Europe is in no fit state to step into the leadership vacuum as America turns its back on the liberal alliance system and nexus of shared values.

There’s no doubt that major international relationships are shakier than usual, and this could increase.

Eurasia estimates that eurosceptic/populist forces will win 37 per cent of the seats in the European Parliament next May, up from 28 per cent in 2014.

That’s quite a move but well short of a majority.

“The new body formed later in 2019 will be in crisis before it even gets to work. This year will be the one when populists gain real power on Europe’s largest stage,” it said. This before the next inevitable downturn hits. When it does come the political shock absorbers will be perilously weakened. Belt-tightening will unleash a lot of deflationary demons.

Recessions are inevitable, and the risks of the next one being exacerbated by current international turmoil must be high.

The biggest tail risk is a Sino-American showdown ending in global economic slump, bitter recrimination, and a cycle of escalation “into the kinetic space”. Eurasia says relations have already deteriorated beyond the point of no return. Nor is there any workable common ground for compromise. At stake is 21st Century technology dominance, not trade.

“Rising nationalist sentiment makes it unlikely that Beijing will ignore US provocations,” it added.

Despite the doom and gloom headline and intro:

The balance of probabilities is that the world will muddle through 2019 without any of these landmines detonating. Yet the drift of events is clear. The Western liberal order we took for granted at the end of the Cold War is under existential threat.

“We’re setting ourselves up for trouble down the road. Big trouble,” it said.

But there’s no way of knowing when big trouble will arrive. It may or may not be in 2019.

Should we have confidence that Trump, the EU, Theresa May, Putin, China can smooth the lumps out the custard when it turns? Ah, I have concerns with that lot and the way they are currently playing things.

Here in New Zealand there is little to nothing we can about it anyway, except be prudent with our own national finances and personal finances to prepare ourselves for harder times, whenever they come.

Stuff 2019 political predictions

Stuff has made their 2019 Political predictions: Big calls for the year ahead – some are on things that they can’t be predicting based on knowledge so are little more than lame guesses – like whether someone will have a baby or not. But some are presumably based on political intuition.

2. National MPs will lose their nerve partway through the year after the party’s poll ratings start to slide. And they will install Judith Collins as leader on a promise to destabilise Jacinda Ardern’s leadership.

National’s polls slid last year (thanks to Jami-lee Ross) but recovered quickly. What could cause them to dive and stay down? Labour doing much better perhaps, and actually making some bold changes that will benefit middle New Zealand other than parents with dependent kids.

This prediction looks to be a stab.

Would Judith Collins make any difference? She would be a bigger risk – she has some appeal and also a lack of wide support. Whether she would appeal broadly enough is hard to tell – actually, i think impossible to tell in advance. Any leadership change is a major punt.

3. The Euthanasia Bill will pass with NZ First’s support but its implementation will be subject to the country supporting it in a referendum.

As it should be. If NZ First don’t support it going to a referendum it would be a major betrayal of one of their core policies – to let people decide on social issues via referendum.

4. Ardern will have a cabinet reshuffle and promotions will include emerging star Kris Faafoi, plus the surprise return of veteran MP Ruth Dyson to address the lack of senior women cabinet ministers. Rookie MP Deborah Russell will make the biggest jump from the back bench.

I don’t know about Dyson, but Faafoi deserves a promotion, and Russell is a good prospect, but it may be a bit soon for her.

I think that Clare Curran returning to Cabinet is too big a risk, she looked out of her depth. Meka Whatiri is female and Maori so could be given another chance.

5. NZ First’s Shane Jones will spend increasing amounts of time (and money) in Northland, in preparation to be lined up to contest the Northland seat with the understanding that if he wins he will be the successor to Winston Peters.

That looks to be how things are intended to happen.

Would Jones retain support for NZ First if Peters retires? Provincial voters will like all the hand outs, but they may not be so keen on am over-eloquent self promoter.  But we won’t find this out until 2020.

6. The bullying inquiry led by Debbie Francis will find a widespread culture of bullying in Parliament and the Beehive, heralding a long overdue beef up of protections for ministerial and parliamentary staff.

There does seem to be resolve in Parliament to address bullying behaviour.

9. The fallout from the Karel Sroubek deportation scandal will continue into the new year.

Does the media know more than  has been made public so far?

11. National will trigger the waka jumping bill to remove Jami-Lee Ross from Parliament after he becomes a thorn in their side following his return to Parliament.

I think it’s hard to know how Jami-lee Ross will conduct himself if he returns to Parliament. His support looks certain to remain negligible.

12. The Government is going to park their promise of abortion reform for fear of alienating its conservative South Auckland Pasifika vote.

That would be a real shame. Gutlessness or political self-preservation? Maybe both, if that’s what happens.

13. A majority of the tax working group will recommend some kind of extension of a capital gains tax, with a series of exemptions and carve outs. But the campaign against the tax will grow until Labour abandons meaningful tax reform.

It could be argued that Labour’s limits on CGT and other tax changes has already ensured that meaningful tax reform is unlikely.

15. Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson will adopt a soapbox cause that will have co-leader James Shaw scrambling to carry out damage control.

That’s what she has done in 2018, and seems unrepentant, so it’s aa good bet she will repeat – and this is likely to further damage Green Party support.

16. Despite success in their flagship Zero Carbon Bill, the Greens will round out the year in the exact same position at around six per cent popularity.

That may depend on 15. And predicting an exact poll percent seems to be a silly prediction.

17. Attempts to find friends for National will see two new parties emerge as contenders – a Vernon Tava-led environment party and a party targeting the Christian and Pasifika vote to leverage off the Christian vote mobilised by the euthanasia, cannabis and abortion reform debates.

If either or both get off the ground they are unlikely to come close to the threshold in the 2020 election – but that may not be the aim. Instead, they goal may be to split the Green vote, threatening them missing the cut, and also to take a bit of support of Labour.

If so the end goal would be a virtual single party National government. I wouldn’t be keen on that.

19. Peters will lose the legal battle over the leak of his superannuation details, claim victory, and the Government will have to pick up the tab for National MPs’ expenses.

Which way the legal battle may go is difficult to predict. Peters claiming victory is an easy pick, as is MPs expenses being paid for.

20. Teachers will call off their strikes in February but the Government will continue to be plagued by industrial action.

How that pans out will be interesting.

 

Governor General: New Year message 2019

Governor-General of New Zealand, Dame Patsy Reddy’s New Year message

Kia ora koutou.

Nga mihi o te tau hou. New Year greetings to you all.

In 2018 we honoured some great New Zealanders.

We marked anniversaries of events that impacted on our country and the wider world.

I was privileged to represent New Zealand at Gallipoli on Anzac Day, and in November, I attended commemorations at Le Quesnoy, in France, where I led hundreds of New Zealanders at events to mark the liberation of the town by New Zealand troops 100 years ago.

The following week, 100 years after the Armistice ending the First World War, our commemorations at Pukeahu expressed the joy and relief of our forebears, after four long years of war.

In March, we launched the commemorations to mark 125 years since New Zealand led the world in achieving votes for women. Later in the year, during the Royal Visit, the Duchess of Sussex recognised New Zealand’s leadership.

In 2019, I hope New Zealanders will lead the world again, this time in taking responsibility for reducing our carbon footprint on the planet, helping us meet our international commitments to combat climate change.

Whether it’s making changes to transport and energy, how we use land and water, or generate waste – if we all work together, we can make a difference.

No reira, tena koutou katoa.

 

 

Isaac Asimov’s 1984 predictions for 2019

In 1984, 35 years after George Orwell’s grim novel was published, The Star asked Isaac Asimov to write about what he thought things might be like in 2019.

Asimov said that “three considerations must dominate our thoughts” – 1. Nuclear war. 2. Computerization. 3. Space utilization

This has been republished – 35 years ago, Isaac Asimov was asked by the Star to predict the world of 2019. Here is what he wrote

If the United States and the Soviet Union flail away at each other at any time between now and 2019, there is absolutely no use to discussing what life will be like in that year. Too few of us, or of our children and grand· children, will be alive then for there to be any point in describing the precise condition of global misery at that time.

So far there has been no nuclear war so we have survived that threat, for now. But going into 2019 the risk is still there.

Let us, therefore, assume there will be no nuclear war — not necessarily a safe assumption — and carry on from there.

Computerization will undoubtedly continue onward inevitably. Computers have already made themselves essential to the governments of the industrial nations, and to world industry: and it is now beginning to make itself comfortable in the home.

1984 was early in the adoption of computers in homes. I was selling them then, and it was a small market, but it gradually grew from there.

An essential side product, the mobile computerized object, or robot, is already flooding into industry and will, in the course of the next generation, penetrate the home.

Various types of robots are very common in some industries, like manufacturing, but apart from toys they have been slow to take on in homes. Is there anything much other than robot vacuum cleaners available? They don’t seen to have caught on much. I think you can get robot grass mowers, but they have hardly taken over our gardens.

Automated functions in cars have become common, but they still only assist driving. Robot cars still seem to be unproven technology and could be years away.

The growing complexity of society will make it impossible to do without them, except by courting chaos; and those parts of the world that fall behind in this respect will suffer so obviously as a result that their ruling bodies will clamour for computerization as they now clamour for weapons.

The growing complexity of society is a real issue, or could be if humans become too dependant on computerised devices.

The immediate effect of intensifying computerization will be, of course, to change utterly our work habits. This has happened before.

It is changing things, but not really a large amount.

I have worked in computing jobs over the last 35 years. I still go to an office and help people use computers. There have been some changes – site visits are less necessary, a lot can be done via remote connections, and we can and do support customers around the world – but I wouldn’t say that my work has changed dramatically over that time.

Destroying our minds

The jobs that will disappear will tend to be just those routine clerical and assembly-line jobs that are simple enough, repetitive enough, and stultifying enough to destroy the finely balanced minds of those human beings unfortunate enough to have been forced to spend years doing them in order to earn a living, and yet complicated enough to rest above the capacity of any machine that is neither a computer nor computerized.

Certainly clerical and manufacturing jobs have been lost, but there are still many jobs, more jobs, in other industries like hospitality and tourism.

…a vast change in the nature of education must take place, and entire populations must be made “computer-literate” and must be taught to deal with a “high-tech” world.

Many more people are “computer-literate” as users of devices, but our education systems aren’t a lot different to what they were like in 1984.

The change, however, is much faster this time and society must work much faster; perhaps faster than they can. It means that the next generation will be one of difficult transition as untrained millions find themselves helpless to do the jobs that most need doing.

By the year 2019, however, we should find that the transition is about over. Those who can he retrained and re-educated will have been: those who can’t be will have been put to work at something useful, or where ruling groups are less wise, will have been supported by some sort of grudging welfare arrangement.

I don’t think that the changes to education have really happened much yet, and the ‘transition’ is far from over, in fact it may never be over. We now live in a relatively rapidly changing world.

First: Population will be continuing to increase for some years after the present and this will make the pangs of transition even more painful. Governments will be unable to hide from themselves the fact that no problem can possibly be solved as long as those problems continue to be intensified by the addition of greater numbers more rapidly than they can be dealt with.

Food production for an expanding population has been an opportunity for New Zealand, an agricultural country. But there are problems here, for example with housing being unable to keep up with a growing population.

Efforts to prevent this from happening by encouraging a lower birthrate will become steadily more strenuous and it is to be hoped that by 2019, the world as a whole will be striving toward a population plateau.

A transition to low birth rates in developed countries seemed to largely happen without encouragement being needed. The easy availability and social acceptance of contraceptives and abortions seems to have worked this one out. Improving living standards in high birth rate countries seems to be the best approach to deal with the population explosion.

It is more likely that in the future people will need to be encouraged to have babies to prevent the population declining too much.

Second: The consequences of human irresponsibility in terms of waste and pollution will become more apparent and unbearable with time and again, attempts to deal with this will become more strenuous. It is to be hoped that by 2019, advances in technology will place tools in our hands that will help accelerate the process whereby the deterioration of the environment will be reversed.

There are plenty of wills to achieve this now, driven by the threat of climate change, but limited ways still.

Asimov did not mention climate in his look into the future.

That is the driver for radical change, but the technological solutions have been slow to materialise.

Third: The world effort that must be invested in this and in generally easing the pains of the transition may, assuming the presence of a minimum level of sanity among the peoples of the world, again not a safe assumption, weaken in comparison the causes that have fed the time-honoured quarrels between and within nations over petty hatred and suspicions.

In short, there will be increasing co-operation among nations and among groups within nations, not out of any sudden growth of idealism or decency but out of a cold-blooded realization that anything less than that will mean destruction for all.

There may have been increased talk between nations on some things, but action  is lacking. And so is cooperation – the country with biggest economy in the world, the US, has chosen not to cooperate for now.

By 2019, then, it may well be that the nations will be getting along well enough to allow the planet to live under the faint semblance of a world government by co-operation, even though no one may admit its existence.

With the increased self interest of the US under Donald Trump, and the UK trying to exit from the European Union, the opposite seems to be happening.

Education, which must be revolutionized in the new world, will be revolutionized by the very agency that requires the revolution — the computer.

Schools will undoubtedly still exist, but a good schoolteacher can do no better than to inspire curiosity which an interested student can then satisfy at home at the console of his computer outlet.

There will be an opportunity finally for every youngster, and indeed, every person, to learn what he or she wants to learn. in his or her own time, at his or her own speed, in his or her own way.

Education will become fun because it will bubble up from within and not be forced in from without.

This may be happening to an extent, but I’m not sure about how much-  I see kids more interested in using devices to play games rather than to educate, but I see some learning as well. I have a seven year old granddaughter with a wide knowledge of insects and fish in particular.

While computers and robots are doing the scut-work of society so that the world, in 2019, will seem more and more to be “running itself,” more and more human beings will find themselves living a life rich in leisure.

This does not mean leisure to do nothing, but leisure to do something one wants to do; to be free to engage in scientific research. in literature and the arts, to pursue out-of-the-way interests and fascinating hobbies of all kinds.

Like blogging? Technology makes it possible, but I don’t know that it makes much difference to the world of politics.

Add my third phrase: space utilization.

It is not likely that we will abandon space, having come this far. And if militarism fades, we will do more with it than make it another arena for war. Nor will we simply make trips through it.

We will enter space to stay.

With the shuttle rocket as the vehicle, we will build a space station and lay the foundation for making space a permanent home for increasing numbers of human beings.

We are a long way from this happening.

By 2019, we will be back on the moon in force. There will be on it not Americans only, but an international force of some size; and not to collect moon rocks only, but to establish a mining station that will process moon soil and take it to places in space where it can be smelted into metals, ceramics. glass and concrete — construction materials for the large structures that will be put in orbit about the Earth.

One such structure which very conceivably, might be completed by 2019 would be the prototype of a solar power station, outfitted to collect solar energy, convert it to microwaves and beam it to Earth.

And humanity, not its structures only. will eventually be in space. By 2019, the first space settlement should be on the drawing boards; and may perhaps be under actual construction.

It would be the first of many in which human beings could live by the tens of thousands, and in which they could build small societies of all kinds, lending humanity a further twist of variety.

This looks to be a long way from happening.

There has been significant changes with computing and technology, but institutional education and ‘space utilisation’ haven’t really changed advanced a lot in the last 35 years.

But it’s not 2019 yet. The revolution may still happen, but time is running out.