Extreme claims after to ‘End of Life Choice Bill’ campaign launch

David Seymour hopes his Member’s Bill on euthanasia will come up in Parliament for it’s first vote soon and has launched a campaign, but there has already been some ridiculous comments fro  National MPs Maggie Marry and Bill English.

NZH: Heated words from both sides as euthanasia vote nears

The first vote in Parliament on a bill to legalise voluntary euthanasia is near but National MP Maggie Barry’s description of it as a “licence to kill’ and a disruption at Act leader David Seymour’s campaign launch in support of the bill showed how heated the issue will be.

That’s ridiculous from Barry. Bein an MP doesn’t give her a license to be stupid.

Seymour, whose bill was drawn from the ballot last term, launched the campaign at Parliament today alongside MPs from other parties, End of Life Choice’s Dr Jack Havill and Matt Vickers, the husband of the late Lecretia Seales.

Seales unsuccessfully took the issue to the High Court after she was diagnosed with a non-operable brain tumour and died in 2015 soon after the High Court ruled it could not grant her wish and said it was up to Parliament to change the law.

The bill could get its first reading on Wednesday night or early next year.

The first reading of the End of Life Choice Bill is expected to be early next year and MPs will have a conscience vote on it.

Vickers, on a visit from New York, said Seales would have been delighted to see the legislation arrive at Parliament and urged MPs to support it.

“Obviously when she took the court case her ultimate goal was to get legislative change and this is the mechanism by which that happens. So she’d be very happy to see that this was going ahead.”

It has support from MPs in every party in Parliament.

It is a conscience vote for most MPs and those in support at the launch were Green leader James Shaw, National’s Nikki Kaye and Chris Bishop, and Labour’s Iain Lees-Galloway.

Nobody from NZ First was at the event and NZ First leader Winston Peters later said his party would support it at first reading but after that support would be conditional on whether a referendum was held on the issue. He said the public should decide – not 120 MPs.

His own ranks appeared split – MP Shane Jones said “I do not support euthanasia” but later clarified that did not mean he would not vote for it to be debated at select committee.

I don’t think it is a suitable issue for a referendum. MPs and parliament need to take responsibility for something like this.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she would support the bill because she believed people should have choice.

“I will always look for safeguards in place to make sure no one is ever manipulated or left vulnerable. But I also support people having their own choice in those circumstances.”

Note that it is generally younger MPs in support of people making their own choices about their own lives.

National MP Maggie Barry was also vehemently opposed, saying it was a “licence to kill.” She said there were no protections for the disabled, the elderly or the vulnerable. “It would make us the most liberal country in the world to die.”

Extreme rhetoric.

However, National leader Bill English – a Catholic – said he did not support euthanasia and believed Seymour’s bill was worse than others that had come up because it lacked the necessary safeguards.

If it passes the first vote then suitable safeguards should come out of the committee stage.

In the lead up to the election, Bill English said it was wrong to link suicide and euthanasia ().

Today he said: “It’s going to be a bit tricky for Mr Seymour to answer the question as to why some suicides are good and some are bad.”

That’s a petty and pathetic comment from English.

End of Life Choice president Maryan Street urged MPs to at least let the bill go to select committee for submissions.

“That way they can find out what it is really about, the safeguards provided in it and the checks and balances to be followed. In those respects, it is similar to legislation in other jurisdictions around the world.”

She said there was strong public support for the move and MPs should consider that when weighing up their decision.

“We want people to have the confidence they have the choice to die well, not badly, at the end of a terminal illness or when they can no longer bear their irremediable condition. We want them to have a choice.”

I want to have a choice. I don’t want the Government and some MPs dictating what I can or can’t do with my own life.

I understand  that some people are against it – but they don’t have to speed up their own deaths.  It is aimed at being voluntary.

Ardern wants cross-parliament support for anti-poverty measures

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants to avoid political bickering over putting some priorities on reducing child poverty levels. She will set ‘flexible targets’ later this week. I wish her luck with that, but  National campaigned on reducing poverty so should broadly support further measures if they make sense.

Stuff:  PM Jacinda Ardern hints the Government will set flexible child poverty reduction targets

The Prime Minister has strongly hinted the Government will set child poverty reduction targets with enough flexibility to make it hard for the Opposition to vote against them.

In her weekly press conference Jacinda Ardern, who is also the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, said legislation for child poverty targets would be announced on Thursday and she wanted to steer away from the issue being seen as “political”.

“I think most people would agree that regardless of the political party you’re in we all have a goal to improve the wellbeing of kids. What I want to see is successive Governments commit to focusing on lifting children out of poverty.”

Ardern said her bill, which would be introduced in the new year, came out of recommendations from the Children’s Commissioner, not her own party.

“In my mind that was a good starting point to try and build some consensus”.

“My view is that we will not get a long standing consensus on issues like child poverty and like climate change until we can get over the three-yearly political cycle.”

As a result Ardern said she had drafted the bill keeping in mind “what is most likely to succeed in Parliament” to try and get Opposition support.

While there should be some debate and, if genuinely warranted, holding to account, but it would be good to see Parliament working positively to address problems with deprivation, especially involving children.

“In approaching child poverty we want to make sure this isn’t just a slogan,” said English.

“The practicalities are that after the Government’s done the package on the first of April they won’t have anymore money to do anything about lifting incomes, and they don’t seem to be that interested in dealing with the social dysfunction that keeps families in poverty.

“Whatever target they set it will be impossible for them to lift incomes beyond the number of kids who come out of poverty from this first package. They won’t have the cash to do a second round because they’ve spent all the money on tertiary,” he said.

That’s a bit of a negative prelude from English.

Much may depend on the details of the package that Ardern announces later this week.

English v Ardern on sanctions on benefits

In Question Time today Bill English asked Jacinda Ardern about the use of sanctions in relation to getting unemployed people into work.

Winston Peters chimed in with a question/comment about saddling up a gift horse.

2. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): In the context in which they were given, yes.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she stand by her statement in regards to her Ready for Work scheme, or Work for the Dole scheme, that: “Our view was that you couldn’t compel people to take up a job.”

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When I was discussing the way that we would role this programme, we were acknowledging that there’s a range of ways in which we could encourage the uptake of the opportunity for employment. I have also acknowledged that sanctions have long been a part of our benefit system, and that won’t change. Ultimately, though, this is a Government focused on getting young people into work.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she agree with the statement of her Minister for Regional Economic Development in regards to the Ready for Work scheme that, “They’ll be made to go to work. … there will be no more sitting on the couch.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, and that won’t change.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she therefore agree with her parliamentary under-secretary Jan Logie who said: “Benefit sanctions punish families who are already struggling to get by …. These are not the actions of a decent and compassionate government—benefit sanctions are punitive and cruel, and it’s going to take a change of government to get rid of them. … The Green Party in government … will immediately end … sanctions.”

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister has no responsibility for Green Party policy, or statements made by someone who was not an under-secretary at the time.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does she agree with the statements made by members of the Green Party in support of the Government that they oppose sanctions on benefits and intend to roll back those that exist?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely stand by the Labour Party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party, which says that we will look at the excessive use of sanctions within the welfare system. I have to say, the excessive use of sanctions ballooned under that last Government, because rather than focusing on providing employment opportunities like this Government, that’s what they resorted to.

Rt Hon Bill English: Can the Prime Minister now outline Government policy on sanctions as they may apply to young people who have been on the unemployment benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have already given a general statement that sanctions have long been a part of our welfare system, but details around the way our particular policy around getting young people into work will go to Cabinet and decisions will be made collectively. But what I am happy to say is that, unlike the last Government, we are not willing to allow more than 70,000 young people not in employment, education, or training to have their lives wasted.

Rt Hon Bill English: If a young person who may be eligible for a scheme of this nature refuses to participate, or attends for a day or two and then refuses to attend, will the Government apply sanctions to them?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve given the general principles that we’ll be working to, but final decisions of the programme will go to Cabinet. But, again, this Government is entirely united behind the idea that young people deserve opportunities, and under this Government they’ll get them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister whether it’s her Government’s attitude that the wealth of a country is in its working people, and whether it would be refreshing if some people, instead of looking a gift-horse in the mouth, decided to put a saddle on its back and be grateful?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: This is a Government that is focused on providing employment opportunities, and that’s exactly what our Minister for Regional Economic Development has been speaking to. Unlike the last Government, who labelled young people “pretty damn hopeless”, we’ll get them into jobs.

English versus Ardern on the coalition document

Opposition leader Bill English questioned Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on the so-called secret coalition document in Parliament today.

Ardern:

I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

 

Draft transcript:


Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her Government’s policy that they will “strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes. In fact, later today the Government will be releasing the Cabinet paper on the change-negotiating mandate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to ensure greater transparency for New Zealanders around that deal—transparency that, I have to say, they didn’t have under the last Government.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen references by the Deputy Prime Minister to a 38- or 33-page document as containing “[directions] to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure … the coalition works.”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. The coalition document has been released and is publicly available, but, as the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, when it comes to other ideas that were discussed, if they are found to be workable and are likely to be progressed, then details will of course be released and made public.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a document including content she described yesterday in answer to a question about the previously mentioned document: “Every government has a work programme—things … they look in to. [At] The moment … we see some benefit and that it’s something that will progress, that’s the point at which it will be made public.”, and does that mean there is such a document with policies in it that have not yet been made public?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We’ve always been very clear that in the course of a negotiation, a range of documents are exchanged. The question is whether or not all of them will be progressed and whether or not they are official. Nothing has been given to Ministers; nothing has been given to Government departments or officials. Those issues that are progressed and become Government policy will be made public.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a 33-page documented draft arrangement between Labour and New Zealand First that you are working from when determining—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I’m not working from any such document. The Leader of the Opposition will try again.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is there a 33-page documented draft arrangement between Labour and New Zealand First that the Government is working from when determining the Government programme?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The coalition agreement that we are working to has been released and is publicly available. Those are the policy and programme items that we are committed to. As for any other documentation through the course of negotiation, we’ve been open that they have existed. That does not mean that those are the firm commitments that we have signed up to, nor that they will ever be progressed. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I just want to ask Dr Smith to, if he is going to interject, interject using the proper form of a member’s name.

Rt Hon Bill English: What, then, does she believe the Deputy Prime Minister was referring to in his description of a 38-page document as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I’ve said, there were other documents exchanged during the course of the negotiation, but the one that we are committed to and working to is in the public domain. As the Deputy Prime Minister said yesterday, if any of those other policies or ideas that we discussed are pursued, they will be publicly released and they will be made available.

Rt Hon Bill English: Has she seen the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister that the document includes policy issues such as the measurement of unemployment—”[We’re actually] agreed to work on”—and that that might mean policy commitments have been made, similar to those in the public coalition document?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I was actually standing next to him as he said it.

Rt Hon Bill English: So what is the difference between policies agreed on in the already published coalition document and policies referred to by the Deputy Prime Minister that are agreed in this 33-page document?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: You can hardly argue that that particular item was secret given that the Deputy Prime Minister said it out loud yesterday while I was standing next to him. The point is that, as we’ve said, if there are policy items or agenda items that we choose to pursue, we will make them public at that time. The only items that we have officially committed to have become part of our coalition agreement and are made publicly available already.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is it the case that the document that has been referred doesn’t exist or is it the case that it exists but she is withholding it under the Official Information Act because she believes it not to be official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve acknowledged that there are documents that were exchanged during the negotiations, as there will have been by the Opposition. I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him making a decision on whether or not we’ve made the right classification of this documentation. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, very close.

Rt Hon Bill English: Given her description that documents were exchanged, is it the case that one of those documents was a 33- or 38-page document including directives to Ministers, policy items that were agreed, policy item that would be worked on, but she is withholding it because she does not regard it as official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, very close.

Rt Hon Bill English: Given her description that documents were exchanged, is it the case that one of those documents was a 33- or 38-page document including directives to Ministers, policy items that were agreed, policy items that would be worked on, but she is withholding it because she does not regard it as official information?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have never denied the existence of these documents. The question is whether or not everything that was enclosed in them were agenda items that we will pursue, and some of them we will not. That does speak to the heart of whether it is an official document. As I say, I welcome the Ombudsman looking at this issue. I welcome him giving his consideration to the question.

More on Paid Parental Leave plans

 

 

The secret coalition document

The Labour is taking another hit on it’s promise for more transparency in Government after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has refused to release a coalition document.

Newsroom: Kiwis left in dark over secret document

The Government is refusing to release a secret document with directives for new ministers, despite Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters promising it would be made public.

The existence of the 38-page document was first revealed by Peters the day after Labour and New Zealand First signed a more slender eight-page public coalition agreement.

Speaking to media after the allocation of ministerial portfolios, he described it as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”.

“These are directives to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure that the coalition works, not in a jealous, envious way, ‘We got this and they got that’, but as a government successively, cohesively working.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into it, in fact day one of our negotiations that was the first subject we raised, how are we going to handle a cohesive coalition arrangement?”

At the time, he said the document was still being finalised, but would cover the appointment process for diplomats.

Peters said then the document would be made public, saying it was “for the province of the Prime Minister to release”.

However, in response to an Official Information Act request from Newsroom seeking the document’s release, Jacinda Ardern’s adviser Heather Simpson claimed “the Prime Minister does not hold any such official information”.

Simpson’s letter referred to Section 2 of the Act, saying official information covered only information held by “a Minister of the Crown in his official capacity”.

The Ombudsman’s OIA guidelines for ministers state that while official information does not include information held by a minister in their role as a member of a political party, “such information may become official information if it is subsequently used for official ministerial purposes”.

Newsroom has appealed the Government’s decision to the Ombudsman.

Not surprisingly National has picked up on this. Bill English: Secret agreement needs to be made public

The Prime Minister needs to release the Government’s secret agreement with NZ First which the Deputy Prime Minister says outlines the way ministers will behave, deal with the media and be held accountable, National Party Leader Bill English says.

“The document, confirmed by Winston Peters, goes to the very heart of the formation of the New Government.

“It is unacceptable for the Prime Minister to claim it’s not public information. It is and the public deserves to know how the new Coalition, and therefore the country, will be run.

“This is not the openness and accountability promised by Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters and enshrined in the public version of their Coalition agreement.

“It’s certainly not them living up to their promise to ‘strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and transparency around official information’.

“This lack of transparency is becoming a habit for this Government. It is also refusing to answer even the most basic questions in Parliament as well as written questions from Opposition MPs and queries from the media.

“It doesn’t seem to understand that part of running a country is being sufficiently organised to be up front and to justify and explain the decisions it is making which affect the lives of New Zealanders.

“When these decisions continue to be so ill-thought through and rushed then that’s of even more concern. They appear to be both disorganised and secretive.

“New Zealanders deserve to know what Labour has promised NZ First and how this agreement affects them,” Mr English says.

Most opinion seems to be that the document should be made public, either legally or on principles of transparency..

But Ardern is adamant that transparency only applies when it suits. Stuff: Government denies there’s an ‘official’ coalition document still to be made public

On Monday at the Prime Minister’s regular post-Cabinet press conference both her and Peters denied there was an “official” document to be released other than the coalition agreement that has already been made available.

“We did release the coalition agreement and we were very clear, both actually on the ways that we would work together, but also on the agenda items that we as two parties have formally committed to – so in our minds we absolutely have made public those things that we’ve made commitments to,” Ardern said.

Both Ardern and Peters said notes were made during negotiations, which included further work that could be done under the coalition agreement but wasn’t yet finalised.

“Yes, of course we made notes during the course of those discussions including further areas that we may undertake some work…some issues will see the light of day and at that point we’ll make sure that people are absolutely clear that that was part of our conversation with NZ First but others may not.

“There are constraints on us as a government, not least the financial constraints we’ve been left by the last government so there’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said.

“There are other areas we may explore together that may be found to be unworkable, that may be found just to be fiscally irresponsible, that may never be progressed.”

This seems to be the way the Ardern led Government intends to operate – they will be transparent in due course.

As acting Prime Minister while Ardern and Peters were overseas Kelvin Davis appeared to flounder in Parliament when he kept answering questions with non answers, like (9 November).

We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

And like (14 November):

Decisions on interim targets to achieve these housing policies will be made in due course.

Winston Peters also joined the stonewalling yesterday (something he has a long record of hypocrisy on) with some back flipping thrown in:

Peters drew on Moses and the ten commandments to try and make his point, saying, “Moses came down from the mountain and only had ten commandments right? But there’s a lot in the Old Testament as well.”

Peters said the suggestion this was a “secret agreement” was “demonstrably false”.

“I was talking about how we will compartmentalise work of the type that’s just been discussed, send it off to ministers to do some work and see what the result is.”

He said an example of some of that work was how to find a new way to measure unemployment.

“We’ve agreed to work on those things and when we’ve completed the work we’ll tell you what the outcome is.”

This is providing some easy shots from the Opposition:

However, National’s leader Bill English has demanded the government release the agreement, saying it’s “ridiculous for the government to claim either it doesn’t exist or somehow it’s not official information”.

“I think it’s remarkable the prime minister has decided the public should not know about the detailed negotiations between Labour and NZ First because clearly the public agreement is not one they take seriously.

“It was going to be a billion trees, now it’s going to be half a billion trees, they were going to go into Pike River and now they might go into Pike River – we can go through the list of undertakings that they don’t appear to be able to keep,” English said.

This closely follows other examples of a far from open Government – see yesterday’s Government not walking the transparency talk.

Journalists tend to despise information being held from them. Claire Trevett: PM Jacinda Ardern’s hat trick on ‘secret’ document

What Ardern was trying to say was that the coalition agreement was not a full and final settlement – but could be added to. There was, it seemed, a long wish list by NZ First which Labour had not unequivocally said “no” to.

The public might be entitled to presume that what was in the coalition agreement was the cost of NZ First’s support for Labour.

We don’t need to wait for ‘in due course’ to see whether the Government was bullshitting us over promises of increased transparency, it is becoming obvious already they are no better than something that has deteriorated under the past two governments.

It now seemed that may have been only a down payment – but nobody will know what else might be extracted until it is done.

Ardern justified this by saying she did not believe it met the criteria of “official information” that merited release.

This hovered perilously close to former Prime Minister John Key refusing to release information by claiming it happened when he was acting as party leader or a normal human being rather than as Prime Minister.

Labour railed against Key and his many hats, yet here was Ardern merrily leaping to the hat rack herself.

Anyone thinking Ardern may herald a new era of openness should reconsider. She seems to be reverting to opaque and secretive and fobbing off type, like any politicians who think they can get away with it.

I think it’s quite damaging for Ardern’s credibility. She is accruing quite a negative record already.

Media beat National leadership drums

I’d be surprised if National will be rushing to replace Bill English as their leader.

English did a fairly good job as Prime Minister,  and was credited with a good effort in the election campaign. While National didn’t get to form a government they had easily the most support of any parties. Remarkably National got nearly the same percentage of vote (44.45%) that they got when winning the 2008 election (44.93%).

And they should be mindful of the mess Labour became when Helen Clark resigned soon after losing in 2008. And this election Labour only made it up to 36.89%.

But media seem to have decided to start beating the drums for leadership change. It’s hard to tell if they are trying to create stories, or they are detecting a mood for change in National.

Jo Moir:  Bill English needs to be more visible if he’s serious about staying on as leader

There’s been a big hole where the Opposition leader is meant to be this week. Bill English has gone AWOL.

Parliament was in recess this week so it’s perfectly normal to only see the Government ministers about the precinct but this is the time for the Opposition to shine. So where exactly is their leader?

Recess weeks in the press gallery are a welcome relief from the chaos of the House sitting but when it comes to finding stories, one can be left scraping the barrel.

That may answer one question – a vacuum means looking for story.

That’s why Opposition MPs are a political journalist’s best friend in recess – they desperately want the air time and they know the media are just as desperate for a story to run.

But where’s Bill?

According to his office it’s been business as usual for the most part – he had some family time overseas at the start of the week but has been well and truly back since Tuesday.

English says he’s sticking it out with National after failing to be elected prime minister for the second time in his political career.

English ran the campaign of his life and, for now, most National MPs think he’s the right man for the job – they just resent Winston Peters for not seeing it the same way they do.

But if English is serious about sticking it out for the term then he needs to act like he wants to be here.

English has had a very busy last 12 months. He took over the role of Prime Minister in December last year, had to run the country while reinventing the leadership of National, then ran a good campaign and had to follow that with post-election negotiations.

Taking some time out from the media spotlight may be a wise move at this stage. English needs to wotk out the right balance between holding the Government to account, but looking like a Prime Minister in waiting. He will have bigger priorities than filling columns for journalists in slow weeks.

MPs are back at Parliament next week for the final four-week slog into Christmas as the Government pushes to get through its 100-day plan.

While the National Party has got very good at singing from the same song sheet and showing a united front over its leader, English had better front up and be heard next week unless he wants to fight for his political survival once again.

There are sometimes more important things to do than hitting the headlines.

Jenna Lynch at Newshub has used the lull to go into more hard out speculation – Simon Bridges winning race to be next National leader

Simon Bridges has made a flying start in the race to be the next leader of the National Party.

The political reality is that Bill English is unlikely to last the full term unless the coalition Government falls apart.

We saw the first sign this week that he may bail out. He has been absent from the public eye, prompting the question “Where’s Bill?”, and the follow up: “Who is next in line?”.

So, while we don’t know the distance, a race is on, and Simon Bridges has put himself well in front.

He had an aggressive start to this Parliamentary term, turning the House upside down and showing Labour who is boss on the opening day.

The symbolism of the show of force he exerted by making the Government question its numbers while trying to do a procedural election of a Speaker is that he is ready to take them on.

Bridges was trying to find his way in his new role of Shadow Leader of the House. I thought his performance was very mixed.

Bridges entered the race for Deputy, and in doing so represented the next generation and made some good political mates on National’s backbench.

Just 12 months later he’s found himself on the Opposition benches and has launched a series of blistering attacks on the new Government, whether in the House, through brutally worded press releases or by baiting Ministers on social media.

I don’t think Bridges has looked suitable for leadership in this. He is looking more like the chief opposition stirrer, leaving the leader to look above the fray.

Of course, Bridges is not the only option for a successor to English.

  • Judith Collins – Remains a total threat, performing incredibly in Opposition. She made her intentions clear at the first opportunity, running in the 2016 leadership race. It was clear she would not win when John Key bowed out, but she can never be ruled out.
  • Amy Adams – The former Justice Minister has already landed some solid strikes on the new Government and has been given portfolios that will continue to hit where it hurts – particularly Workplace Relations. Her move on Paid Parental Leave was a masterstroke.
  • Paula Bennett – The job seemed hers a while ago, but at the moment, the desire doesn’t seem to be there. She seems happy taking a back seat after losing the Deputy Prime Minister spot.
  • Nikki Kaye – Represents the future and is National’s face of Auckland. She’s also beaten Jacinda Ardern twice in Auckland Central. If not leader, she could play Deputy to Bridges.
  • Steven Joyce – He only knows Parliament as a Cabinet Minister, so a smart bet would be that he wants to quit rather than languish on the Opposition benches, however a question mark hangs over whether he wants to be leader. He rose rapidly through the ranks and has done pretty much everything but.

While there are other options, none appear to stack up against Bridges.

Really? If Bridges took over from English now I think National would be at real risk of sinking in the polls, allowing Labour to get established as the most popular party.

I think that Englisdh has to hold up the fort for a year or so at least, and then evaluate his future then.

But what would I know, I haven’t been in Parliament in a slow news week looking for stories.

Prime Minister refuses to reaffirm Kiwibuild numbers

In the first Question Time under the new Government Bill English pressed acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis on Labour’s commitment to build 100,000 houses in 10 years. Davis refused to reaffirm this repeatedly.

(Davis is Acting Prime  Minister while Jacinda Ardern and Winston Peters are at APEC in Vietnam.)

GovernmentMeasurable Targets

1. Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What will the specific measurable targets be, if any, that she will use to hold her Government to account?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Acting Prime Minister): As Prime Minister, I will hold my Ministers to account for improving the well-being and living standards of New Zealanders.

Rt Hon Bill English: What is the appropriate measure we should follow to monitor progress on KiwiBuild where the Government has committed to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: So does that mean that the current expression of the Government’s commitment, which is “to build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years” does not necessarily mean what most people would take it to mean?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: Does the Prime Minister stand by her Government’s commitment to “build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years”?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: Why did the Government commit to “build 100,000 houses over the next 10 years” if it is now not willing to re-express that commitment in this House?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Because the previous Government didn’t build houses.

Rt Hon Bill English: Is it possible that the Government is revising this commitment because of public statements made by the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, that the commitment may involve not building houses but buying existing houses?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No.

Rt Hon Bill English: What other reason could there possibly be for not being willing to restate a commitment made by all its members right though the election campaign to “build 100,000 houses”? What other reason could there be not to make that commitment here today?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are not revising targets. We will make and confirm decisions on appropriate targets in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: So is the commitment to build 100,000 houses an appropriate target, or one that is subject to revision or further decisions, or is it one that we should take at its word?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The member will find out in due course.

Rt Hon Bill English: My question to the Prime Minister is this, then: are there other commitments that were made during the election campaign and in the Speech from the Throne that are now open to revision and later decisions?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We are committed to implementing what the Governor-General has said in the Speech from the Throne.

Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify: it’s been the practice in the House for some time that a member answering on behalf of another member should clearly identify that. I didn’t want to interrupt the question, but can you clarify whether that is still the case?

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister answered the question.

Davis may have been playing safe, but this was an odd opening performance.

From the Speech from the Throne:

Housing is a top priority for this government. Action will be taken to address homelessness. State house sell offs will stop. And the State will take the lead in building affordable houses.  Through its Kiwibuild programme, this government pledges to build 100,000 high quality, affordable homes over the next 10 years; half of them in Auckland.

Davis said they were committed to implementing that but wouldn’t make a direct commitment.

In the next question Housing Minister Phil Twyford was prepared to make a commitment.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development have reiterated our policy, which is to build 100,000 affordable homes to restore affordable homeownership to this country.

So it is odd that Davis wasn’t prepared to make this same commitment directly.  He seemed to be avoiding saying anything.

However the Opposition has emphasised the Government’s housing commitment to build 100,000 ‘affordable’ homes in ten years.

Of course amongst other things this may depend on whether Labour stays in government for long enough to ensure they fulfil the commitment.

Source: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20171109_20171109_12

Party leaders on poverty measures

In their opening speeches in Parliament yesterday both the Leader of the Opposition Bill English and the Prime minister Jacinda Ardern made commitments on reducing poverty.

First was English:

New Zealand under the last Government developed the best tool kit in the world for understanding the context and culture of poverty and disadvantage. It has the label “social investment”—that’s the label it has.

The Government needs to understand that higher incomes are part of what you need to reduce poverty, but the other part of what you need is to create some stability and framework in a household, with a family working with someone they trust in order to have the behaviours that can sustain the benefits of better incomes or getting into a job.

The sad reality is that the work done by the previous Government shows a hard core of chaotic, very challenged households where they need individual attention. But you know what the Government’s doing already? It’s going to give away—it said so in the paper yesterday or today—the tool kit that enables you to know who those families are. So, oh yes, great intentions—”We’ve got great intentions. We want to help these people. We’re just going to make sure we don’t know who they are.”

The case in the New Zealand Herald today—Marie, is it?—the domestic violence death, Marie. It’s the same story—the one we tried so hard to fix, and this Government could fix, if it starts where we left off. It is a case where a terrible death occurred when lots of people knew a bit of the story, and if someone had known the story they would have stopped it.

That is what social investment delivers, and if the Government gives that away, they will cost children and families a start in life, and in fact, in some cases, their lives—in some cases, their lives.

So I just say to the Prime Minister: we will back her on child poverty, provided she gets over Labour’s problems with social investment and uses the toolkit with the intention for which it was meant, and that is to assist our most vulnerable.

Jacinda Ardern responded:

Finally, the Leader of the Opposition talked about his willingness to cooperate on child poverty if we continue to collect individual client’s data through our social agencies and our NGOs. It sounds like the trade-off that he gave to NGOs as well. The difference here, on this side of the House, is that we have listened to those concerns. Yes, we will be an evidence-based Government.

Yes, we will use data in the way we inform policy. But we will not do so in a way that jeopardises individual people’s privacy. When domestic violence groups tell you that what you intend to do puts a service at risk, this Government will listen. That is the difference in the way that we will govern.

I’ve often said I would like to do things differently. I’m going to start on a few issues dear to my heart. There should be no politics, for instance, in child poverty and child well-being. It should be a source of pride for all of us to strive to be known to be the best place in the world to be a child.

That does mean I will take up the Leader of the Opposition’s offer. I will extend to the National Party and to ACT the chance to work together on tackling those issues that matter most. What they do with those offers is, of course, each party’s call. But sometimes, in the people’s Parliament, Opposition is about more than being oppositional.

This is promising, with the leaders of the two largest parties saying they are prepared to work together to address poverty issues. They will have different approaches on some things, but debating those issues will be an important part of the process, as long as it is done with an aspiration to do what is best for children, especially children iin low income households.

Ardern has made this a major focus of her leadership.

Poverty is what a person is left with when all other options are extinguished. Now, I’ve often talked about it being a motivation for my entry here into Parliament and into politics, and it’s been what has kept me here too.

I am happy for this Government to be measured on what it does for children, which is why we will legislate not just the measures we will use for poverty but the targets to reduce it too. And we do that using a bill that I’ve had in the ballot for probably about six years now, to prove that we’ve long held the view that we need to measure and target child poverty.

I cannot fix the housing crisis alone, but we can together. I cannot end child poverty alone, but we can together. I cannot generate higher incomes alone, but we can together—together, alongside NGOs, businesses, council, iwi, and other community groups. Each and every one of us has a role to play in building a better New Zealand. I’ve always said that I believe what unites us is stronger than what divides us, and the campaign only confirmed that to me.

So here is my final promise to all New Zealanders. Whether you voted or not, and no matter who you voted for, I will be a Prime Minister for all, and this will be a Government for all. I hope we can focus on what unites us, rather than what divides us, because there is so much to do. We can be better, we will be better, and this is our chance to prove it.

Perhaps this will be a different type of Parliament that values cooperation and positive politics alongside robust debate and holding to account.

With Winston Peters out of the country Ron Mark spoke for NZ First using what looked like party prepared notes. There was only a brief mention of poverty:

The Hon Tracey Martin, in her role as Minister for Children, will work closely with the Prime Minister to help lift children out of poverty. As the Governor-General so eloquently said, if we put child well-being at the heart of we do, then the well-being of all New Zealanders will be lifted. We have to do better—it’s a moral imperative.

Martin has shown a willingness in the past to work with other parties on joint approaches to major issues – she led a cross-party group on climate change.

James Shaw also made brief mentions, well into his speech.

We are here to support families and to lift children out of poverty. We are here to save our rivers and our endangered species. We are here to solve problems that the market cannot, and the first and greatest of those is climate change.

The previous Government also knew that measurement is important. That is why they fought so hard against measuring child poverty in New Zealand. They didn’t measure it so they couldn’t, therefore, be held accountable for it. This Government will make the measure and will take the measure of child poverty. This Government will take responsibility for child poverty and this Government will reduce child poverty.

…to me it also sums up the Green Party’s way of doing politics when we are at our best: seeking to solve the great challenges of our time, putting solutions above partisanship, and focusing on the long term.

Perhaps Greens will put that approach into practice along with Labour and National.

Being in Opposition or on the cross benches for the entire 18 years of our Parliamentary history gave us a lot of time to get good at that. It is my hope that the new Opposition takes a similar approach—and a similar time scale.

If we, as a nation, are to restore and replenish our forests and our rivers and our birds, if we are to end child poverty, and if we are to lead the global fight against climate change, it will take longer than three years. It will.

Interesting that English spoke more strongly and specifically about poverty than Shaw.

Now Metiria Turei is out of the Green picture poverty seems to have slipped down their priorities somewhat. Greens did not negotiate any ministerial responsibilities directly related to children or poverty.

‘End child poverty’ is fairly meaningless idealism. Whether poverty in New Zealand can be ended will depend much on how they decide to define and measure it.

There will always be families that struggle, there will always be poor households, and their will always be children who have harder starts to their lives than others.

But if the parties in Parliament are genuine in their expressed willingness to reduce poverty and raise employment and incomes then New Zealand may make real progress in improving the standard of living for lower income families and improving the outcomes for children who have missed out  in the past.

Source: Hansard Address in Reply

Parliament’s seating plan

Here is the new seating plan in Parliament.

ParliamentSeating2017Nov

https://www.parliament.nz/en/mps-and-electorates/house-seating-plan/

Interesting to see NZ First to the left of Labour – this allows Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to sit beside Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, while remaining opposite Leader of the Opposition, Bill English.

The Greens are to Labour’s right amongst Labour back benchers.

Labour has nine on their front bench, compared to National’s thirteen.

Duncan Webb, new Labour MP for Christchurch Central, has been plonked on his own on the National side behind their bank benchers.