National party leadership contest

After a lot of initial media attention the contest to become the next National Party leader and Leader of the Opposition seems to have become more of an in-house affair. This isn’t surprising given that the contenders only need to convince enough of the 56 National MPs top vote for them.

It is now expected no deal will be done and it will go to a vote in Caucus next Tuesday.

Most indications point to Amy Adams and Simon Bridges being the front runners, but both short of a majority.

Judith Collins seems to be popular amongst party members, or at least has successfully created that impression, but has few supporters in caucus.

Steven Joyce may have some powerful allies, but too few.

Mark Mitchell must have a hard task, unless his aim was to raise his profile with an eye to the future.

There is no point in trying to out-Ardern Jacinda Ardern. Her situation in rising to leadership was quite different, and her mastery of media muppets is unlikely to be matched. In addition, none of the candidates looks likely to become pregnant.

However National should be mindful of the fact that Ardern has pulled quite a bit of female support from other parties, including National.

Joyce and Mitchell are unlikely to swing that back. I have no idea whether Bridges would attract female votes but I doubt it.

Collins may get some female support but deter others.

And the Slater effect shouldn’t be underestimated. Collins has been associated with Slater in the past, and that led to a major hiccup in her political career – Slater ended up limiting the damage by claiming he had ’embellished’ stories that looked bad for Collins.

Mitchell used his services to get nominated for a safe electorate but now distances himself – however his inclusion in the leadership race has revived ‘Dirty Politics’ claims. Most of the wider public probably know or care little about Slater, but it is likely all of the 56 National MPs are well aware of his past, and his personal agendas and feuds. He looks politically toxic.

That leaves Adams. She could compete with Ardern as a successful female politician, but she can also differentiate on experience in actually achieving things. She was a high performing Minister in the last Government.

Any of Joyce, Bridges or Mitchell could provide a good balance as deputy to Adams. Joyce is way ahead on experience there, but if National want to show they are intent on rebuilding and looking forward one of the other two may be a better bet.

Adams as leader and Collins as a strong deputy would be an interesting combination, if they could work together. A double female team may be a step too far for National though.

Much may depend on how well the new leader can manage the National caucus, and keep it from splitting into factions. The MPs who choose will be wanting someone they feel they can prosper under.

Most predict at least two votes will be required, and possibly more until a clear leader is decided on.

Adams v Little on Pike River re-entry liability

In Parliament yesterday Amy Adams questioned Andrew Little, the Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry, about liability for any decision to re-enter the Pike River mine.

There is a lot of credibility and responsibility riding on mine re-entry for Little and Labour.

 

7. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry: Who will bear potential liability under health and safety legislation for any re-entry of the Pike River drift that he approves, and what is the range of penalties that could be imposed on them in the event of a breach of workplace safety obligations?

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Hon Andrew Little, I will indicate to the House that I have been informed by the Minister’s office that this is likely to be a longer than normal answer, and, because of the important nature of it, I’ve allowed that.

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry): Thank you, Mr Speaker. To the first question: there are potentially many people liable as required under the Health and Safety at Work Act, which was passed by her Government. This includes employees, contractors, and subcontractors. Health and safety after all, as we all know, is a shared responsibility.

To the second question: in so far as the member would be aware that I am unable to give legal advice, the penalties in the legislation range—depending on whether they are an individual or a company—from an up to $50,000 fine for failing to comply with a health and safety duty or up to five years in prison or an up to $3 million fine for reckless conduct exposing someone to the risk of death. These penalties will only be applied where the agency fails to meet its obligations. But I can reassure her that I have every intention of ensuring that the re-entry work is consistent with health and safety obligations.

Hon Amy Adams: What was the recommendation from his Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officials on the optimal decision-making structure for Pike River re-entry, given those health and safety obligations, among other things?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I received advice from MBIE and also from the State Services Commission, and I followed the State Services Commission advice, which was for an arrangement that allowed for maximum accountability to this Parliament. That’s what I am here for.

Hon Amy Adams: Why did the Minister reject official advice that a decision about safe re-entry will be best achieved by ensuring the decision maker is independent, with the decision maker being the holder of the key duties of care around ensuring health and safety?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: In putting together this project, I was acutely aware that the previous Government had handled the families involved in this matter in a completely shabby and appalling way, and I wanted to ensure that the arrangements we put in place allowed for full accountability to this Parliament, engaged the families fully and properly, allowed for good quality advice at all levels, and complied with our health and safety legislation.

Hon Amy Adams: Why did the Minister reject advice that the best decision would come from an independent decision maker?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I got a range of advice, including from the State Services Commission, which expressed their preferred option about having a structure that allowed for maximum accountability to this Parliament as well as flexibility and responsiveness. The member should read the papers properly.

Hon Amy Adams: On what basis does the Minister think it’s reasonable to expect public servants that report to him to carry the burden of criminal responsibility for decisions that that Minister makes?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member misunderstand the law that her Government put in place called the Health and Safety at Work Act, and she misunderstands the implied obligations in every employment agreement for every employee. Every employee, contractor, subcontractor—anybody involved in a task—has duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act. No employee under our employment law can be required or instructed to undertake unsafe work, and no employer can issue an instruction that is unlawful and unreasonable—and that won’t happen in this project.

Hon Amy Adams: I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library for my office that makes it quite clear that the chief executive of the agency is criminally responsible.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to the tabling of that document? There appears to be none.

Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

MP of the year – Amy Adams

Trans Tasman has anointed Amy Adams as their MP of the year.

Stacey Kirk reports on their annual scorecard and ratings in ‘Quiet achiever’ Amy Adams takes top gong:

This year’s top politician might be a surprise at first blush, but it’s perhaps a reflection of the “quiet achiever” status transTasman has afforded her. 

Never flashy, Justice Minister Amy Adams gets the job done. And boy, is she efficient, says the publication.

“She’s had an outstanding year as Justice Minister. She’s handled a huge workload with calm and confidence, and through it she’s been media-friendly, unflappable and accessible. 

“Adams doesn’t look for headlines, but she got them for the calls she made on compensation for David Bain and Teina Pora.

“Those are the announcements she’ll be best remembered for during 2016, and they were just the tip of the iceberg”.

She had pushed more bills through Parliament than any other minister – “demonstrating the extent of her responsibilities and undertakings”. 

And many of those bills were significant, both in detail and consequences for some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people. 

Her work this year spans protection of family violence victims, an overhaul of the coronial system and dealing with the repercussions of a hardline Australian stance on detainees. 

Kirk adds in The good, the bad and the ugly: the political issues that shaped our MPs performances:

Justice Minister Amy Adams – dealt with two highly controversial issues this year; the compensation bids for wrongful imprisonment from both David Bain and Teina Pora.

Bain’s was rejected, but the Government paid close to $1m as an ex gratia payment to end all action. Pora received $2.5m in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment, but can and is challenging the Government over its calculations. 

Despite that, Adams’ calm and collected fronting of the issues took the political heat out (particularly with Bain), while Pora’s process now plays out away from the Beehive and back in the courts.

Two issues, neither of her own making, but requiring careful treading.

A Minister of Justice should be careful and considered.

This proves that you don’t have to be a flashy attention seeking show pony (or old stallion) to do well in Parliament. To the contrary. Leaders have to perform well in the media, it’s the nature of the game.

But good Ministers work hard on their jobs and actually defuse the attention when in the media spotlight. Bill English is another top performing example who keeps a low profile in the media.

Adams deservedly gets the top award for the year, based on her performance, and regardless of her ethnicity or her sex.

Does this make her a contender for next National Party leader? That’s a totally different skill set so it’s hard to say, but she must be one of the better options. However there is currently no vacancy.

Harmful Digital Communications – Approved Agency

Pre-empting a question in parliament today…

BRETT HUDSON to the Minister of Justice: What recent announcements has she made relating to the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015?

…it is easy to find a recent announcement, on the Beehive Releases page.

This should be of interest to anyone concerned about bullying on the Internet.

It’s of particular interest to me because some notorious bullies on the Internet in New Zealand have tried to use this Act against me via a court order, ironically, incorrectly and a year prematurely. When the judge was informed he had been duped by morons he discharged the order – if lawyers had made such fundamental errors in applying for a court order they would have faced serious repercussions.

One of the main concerns about the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015 was it’s potentially for being misused and abused, and that happened before the relevant parts had even come into effect.

NetSafe appointed to cyberbullying role

Justice Minister Amy Adams has today announced that internet safety organisation NetSafe has been appointed as the “Approved Agency” under the Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015.

“NetSafe will play a key role in reducing the devastating impact of harmful digital communications, by providing a timely and effective service for victims to get help from an independent body,” says Ms Adams.

The Approved Agency’s role includes advising on steps people can take to resolve a problem, investigating and attempting to resolve complaints where harm has been caused, and providing education and advice about online safety and conduct.

Budget 2016 included $16.4 million of new funding to support the Harmful Digital Communications Act including operation of the Approved Agency.

“NetSafe is experienced in addressing many of the issues associated with harmful digital communications. It brings a strong body of knowledge and experience in this area.

“They already work with a range of enforcement agencies to help victims. NetSafe has established relationships with companies and schools both in New Zealand and overseas, who they work with to remove or stop the spread of harmful content,” says Ms Adams.

It’s expected NetSafe will start as the Approved Agency in November 2016.

“Once the Approved Agency is up and running, people can apply to the District Court for mandatory orders in relation to any complaints they have been unable to resolve through the Approved Agency,” says Ms Adams.

“The court will be able to make a range of orders, including requiring material to be taken down. Failing to obey the court orders will be punishable as a criminal offence with a penalty of up to six months in prison or a $5,000 fine for individuals, and fines of up to $20,000 for companies.”

For more information about the Approved Agency’s role, the new court orders and other measures in the Harmful Digital Communications Act, visit http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy/criminal-justice/harmful-digital-communications