Dying man and his wife prompt Health Minister to promise better cancer care, sometime

A dying man from Southland, Blair Vining, and his wife Melissa, put Health Minister David Clark on the spot at  the ‘Cancer Care at a Crossroads Conference’ in Wellington yesterday. Clark has promised better cancer care.

Providing sufficient health care is always going to be a challenge, but regional differences can be quite unfair on some people diagnosed with cancer.

Stuff: Southland man Blair Vining calls government to account over ‘lack of cancer action plan’

Blair Vining says if it was not for his persistent wife Melissa he would probably be dead.

The Southlander said it was the stark reality of his situation and was why he was calling the New Zealand government to account over not having a cancer action in place.

Vining was last year diagnosed with terminal cancer and was given six to eight weeks to live without any treatment.

The catch though was that he was advised it would take eight weeks to get his first oncologist appointment.

That is awful.

Vining did not have eight weeks to wait.

Instead his wife Melissa searched the private sector in a desperate attempt to speed up the process.

He was able to see Dr Chris Jackson in Christchurch and get the treatment process started within three weeks.

“It took 19 phone calls and a very persistent wife. If it wasn’t for her, I would have been in the public sector and waiting for eight weeks,” Vining said.

As part of the public health sector he said he overheard doctors talking outside his room about his inoperable status and he also had an infected IV line as procedure wasn’t followed through.

He also said at one point he had a six-hour journey for urgent treatment because no-one was available at the Southern District Health Board.

One would hope that people diagnosed with terminal cancer wouldn’t effectively be condemned to die for lack of health care.

At least in this case one dying person and their wife may be able to make a difference for others – if Health Minister Clark follows through on his assurances.

Stuff:  Health Minister David Clark commits to improving cancer treatment for all Kiwis


Health Minister David Clark has vowed to get the ball rolling a national cancer plan to improve Kiwis’ access to fair and consistent cancer treatment, regardless of where they live.

Speaking at the ‘Cancer Care at a Crossroads Conference’ in Wellington, Clark acknowledged more needed to be done in the sector and that he, along with the Ministry of Health, would be working to establish a plan.

Clark had the hard task of following a talk by Blair Vining, a Southland father dying of bowel cancer, and his wife Melissa, who took the minister to task.

“You have failed Blair, you have failed me and my children, and you have failed many other New Zealanders by not having a cancer plan,” Melissa said to Clark and the gathered crowd of cancer experts.

It looks like he was deliberately put on the spot by conference organisers, but at least Clark was there to listen.

“I am personally concerned about the growing inequalities [to access health care] and that is the main reason I chose to get involved in politics.”

“The existing cancer arrangements have lapsed and it’s something that I’ve been aware of since I first became minister and that’s why we’re moving towards … a national system.

“We are committing to an action plan and one of the good things that I think is going to come out of this conference is the early steps of pulling that together,” Clark said.

There are positive signs that Clark understands the problem and will do something about it.

But there are also mixed messages from Clark about whether he sees it as urgent or not.

He said “The existing cancer arrangements have lapsed and it’s something that I’ve been aware of since I first became minister” but “one of the good things that I think is going to come out of this conference is the early steps of pulling that together” is worrying – after 15 months as minister and being aware of the issue he now says they are at “early steps of pulling that together”.

He said timelines were up in the air at this stage, but he was committed to seeing change as soon as possible.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer and is told he may die within two months, and is unable to see a public health specialist for two months, then timelines being ‘up in the air’ is not a very solid assurance.

Clark often comes across as an earnest do-gooder who struggles with the doing.

Health ministers have to try to manage many priorities, but providing health care for people before they die should be close to the top of the list.  I hope Clark takes urgent action over this.

Ardern’s speech at Labour conference

Jacinda Ardern has given her speech at the Labour Party conference. I haven’t been following it so will post some reactions

Scoop: Speech: Ardern – Labour Party Conference

New Zealand Government: New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs

New workforce a game-changer for kids with learning needs

The Coalition Government will fund a new workforce of educational professionals who will work in schools to ensure children with diverse learning needs get the support they need to learn, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.

In a game-changer for students, parents and teachers, approximately 600 Learning Support Coordinators will be employed as early as the beginning of 2020. This will be the first tranche of these positions.

They will work alongside teachers, parents and other professionals to give our students the individualised support they deserve.

“These coordinators will not only help unlock the potential of thousands of children with learning needs, they’ll free up teachers so all children get more quality classroom time to learn,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“A big concern I hear regularly from teachers is the amount of time they spend trying to get support for children with additional needs. The new Learning Support Coordinators are a win-win; kids with both high and moderate needs will get on-the-ground support, parents will have a specialised point of contact and teachers will have more time to teach.

“This $217 million investment over four years follows a major spending increase in Budget 2018, and brings the extra funding the Coalition Government has put into learning support to half a billion dollars. That is a huge investment in our first year into supporting both our kids and our teachers.

“One in five New Zealand children has a disability or other learning and behavioural needs and it’s been too hard, for too long, for them to get support at the right time. Learning support has been neglected for more than a decade.

“The Coalition Government has listened to the parents and students who’ve asked for more support, and teachers who have been calling for this new fully-funded role.

“Learning Support Coordinators will be key people at the heart of a new learning support model, developed by Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin, through her draft Disability and Learning Support Action Plan,” said Jacinda Ardern.

The announcement delivers on a number of the 26 recommendations from the Labour, New Zealand First and Green parties’ minority report to the Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Autism Inquiry in the last Parliament. It is also consistent with the Labour and Green Party Confidence and Supply Agreement.


Robertson signals 2019 ‘Wellbeing Budget’

In his speech to the Labour Party conference this weekend Minister of Finance Grant Robertson has pre-labelled his next year budget as a ‘Wellbeing Budget’.

Budget 2018 was called Foundations for the Future, and I am proud of what we are building. But, there is more to do. More to do to build an economy that is fit for purpose for the middle part of the 21st century; an economy that is focused on future generations: more productive, more sustainable and more inclusive.

To that end, in Budget 2019 we are making a significant change that will embody our values. Budget 2019 will be New Zealand’s first Wellbeing Budget.

It will be the first budget with that label, but it won’t be the first budget by a long shot that has tried to improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders.

Last year, and the year before that (and the year before that), I have spoken about the limitation of tracking our success on a narrow measure such as GDP growth. Well, now we are doing something about it. We are moving beyond GDP to not just look at our financial health, but also the wellbeing of our people, the health of our environment and the strength of our communities.

As the Minister of Finance I will report on all of those measures at Budget time, including on how we are tracking at reducing child poverty.

It is essential that this is based on a robust and credible framework. At the core of our approach will be the Living Standards Framework developed by the Treasury, based on the work of the OECD. It is grounded in core economic concepts to assess the stock of our wellbeing. So, you will hear about financial capital, human capital, natural capital and social capital.

Next month the Treasury will release its first Living Standards Dashboard. This will show a range of indicators of our current wellbeing as a nation. It includes the tangible, like incomes and home ownership, but also the intangible like life satisfaction and cultural wellbeing. It is a work in progress. We need to make sure it is truly reflective of Aotearoa New Zealand, and all that makes us unique. It will evolve over the coming years. But it is a great start to a new way of thinking about what counts as success.

The Living Standards Framework is designed to outlive any particular Government. It will be a critical input to our Wellbeing Budget, but it will not be the only one. We are using the Child Wellbeing Strategy, evidence from here and overseas about intergenerational success and the advice of experts such as government science advisors.

And that is the critical difference in our Wellbeing Budget. Not only are we going to measure our success differently, we are putting our Budget together on a wellbeing basis as well.

We have identified five core priorities that will define our first Wellbeing Budget. I will announce the detail of these during the Budget Policy Statement next month, but they cover the areas where we think the outcomes will make a substantive difference to both our current and future wellbeing.

These priorities will include sustainably growing and modernising our economy, lifting children’s wellbeing, and yes, we will finally be giving mental health the priority and focus that it deserves.

As we speak, my Ministerial colleagues are working together to produce initiatives that will be squarely focused on long-term intergenerational outcomes. This means we are breaking down the silos of government to form a long-term view.

And we have already started.

He gives some examples.

When we first came into Government we faced a decision about what to do with Waikeria Prison. We were told that we should build a 2,500 bed American mega-prison because it had the cheapest per-prisoner cost. But maybe, just maybe, we could do better if built a smaller prison, with a mental health unit attached to address the underlying causes. And if we focused on more drug and alcohol rehabilitation and more on prisoner housing to support re-integration. That is what we have done and that is a wellbeing approach.

Better mental health support and drug and alcohol rehabilitation have been talked about for a long time, and attempts had been made to address these issues more effectively, but of course better can be done if adequate resources are made available. It will cost more initially, but as Bill English used to promote, it is a social investment that will pay dividends in the longer term.

And just this week the Prime Minister, Phil Twyford and Kelvin Davis announced a once-in-a-generation community renewal in Porirua. Now, this could have been a project just to build more houses, but we see it as a major integrated urban development plan – including education, recreation, social services, and yes, lots of houses. And delivered in partnership with iwi and local council. That is a wellbeing approach.

Al of those things are done now, but perhaps it is new to take an integrated approach to a whole community renewal at the same time.

And we are serious about embedding this approach. Chris Hipkins and I are both working on the most fundamental change to the State Sector and Public Finance legislation in thirty years. This will ensure that collaboration and wellbeing is embedded in how our government agencies work.

Again i don’t think this general approach is new, but if more emphasis is put on improving the wellbeing of people then it could make a real difference – as long as they can avoid getting bogged down with bureaucracy and they can break cycles of dependency.

So delegates, 2019 will be the Wellbeing Budget, and the first steps in changing our yardstick of success.

With finances looking healthy it is a good opportunity to invest (spend more) to achieve longer term gains in wellbeing and in costs of providing state care and assistance.

We will get a better idea of what Robertson is aiming at next May when his ‘wellbeing budget’ is announced.

However if he gets the targets and balances right it may be years if not a decade before the results will be apparent. Wise investments take time.

Full transcript of Robertson’s speech:


Labour 2018 conference after 1 year in Government

Labour is having their annual conference in Dunedin this weekend. In part they will be celebrating their first year in Government under the leadership of Jacinda Ardern. She will give a big speech tomorrow.

From their website:  Year That Was: 365 days in Government!

One whole year. And what a year it’s been.

We’ve certainly achieved a whole lot.

Right off the starting block, we were keen to get stuck in and make some real positive change for New Zealand.

They list a lot of their successes (and not surprisingly no failures). Ardern has something to say:

More from her tomorrow with her Leader’s Speech – New Zealand Labour Party Annual Conference 2018

Join Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern for her first ever Annual Conference speech as the Leader of the New Zealand Labour Party. Celebrate this special occasion with us at the Dunedin Town Hall on Sunday 4 November at 1.30pm.

If I could I would have had a look (I’ve been to ACT and NZ First conferences in Dunedin in the past) but I have other commitments tomorrow.

Marama Davidson’s conference speech

Co-leader Marama Davidson’s speech at the 2018 Green party conference.

Karanga Hokianga, ki o tamariki, he uri rātou, he mōrehu.

Kohikohia rā, kei ngā hau e wha

Kōrerotia – ko wai rātou.

Kōrerotia – ko wai rātou.

Kei aku nui, kei aku rahi, i te tī, i te tā – tēnā koutou.

Rangitāne, ka tū te manawa i tō whenua ātaahua, i ō manaaki ki a mātou, hei te mana o te whenua – tēnā koutou.

Ki a koutou te hunga kākāriki, nāku te whiwhi kia kōrero atu ki a koutou i tāku hui-ā-tau tuatahi hei kaiārahi takirua o te rōpū nei – tēnā koutou.

Kia ora tātou katoa.

Hokianga Whakapau Karakia

Exactly a week ago I was being called on to my marae in Whirinaki, in Hokianga, by my home people.

They had been planning this event for months to celebrate my election as Co-leader of the Green Party. Their pride in me was humbling.

I was joined by my other hapū from across the Hokianga harbour, Ngāi Tūpoto, and a large presence from the Green Party, including my Co-leader James Shaw.

In my kōrero to my hapū I recalled stories of my childhood.

Of being raised at the foot of my maunga, Te Ramaroa.

Of swimming in my Whirinaki awa.

Of gathering seafood from our Hokianga moana.

Of being sustained and nourished by the bounty of our whenua, our gardens and our trees.

There was laughter across the wharekai as I talked about a bunch of my tutu cousins and I almost setting the hill on fire.

My home peoples’ faces burst with love as I talked about our old people, who have mostly passed on, who cooked for us, looked after our marae, embraced our traditions.

They taught us how to care for our whenua and our water, taught us how to care for each other collectively, ensured that we knew who we were, and how we connected to our place.

I talked about Aunty Josie’s delicious cooking.

And Aunty Lucy’s quiet yet staunch karanga.

And about Aunty Queenie Broughton’s beautiful flower garden.

I recalled Uncle Brian and Aunty Kiri Wikaira taking my whole family into their home because we felt we urgently needed to be back there.

And about my Uncle Nia who is like another father to me, who was always taking a bunch of us Valley kids to kapa haka, to sport, to the Ngāwha pools.

As my home people sat there listening to me I admitted that while I never dreamed of being Green Party Co-leader, being there with them that day made me realise that maybe my tupuna did.

It was these basic things that defined our existence; a need for our river to be clean, a reliance on our moana to be healthy and when one of us needed support, the whole Valley stepped up.

It is those realities that also define my politics.

Those teachings drive my aspirations for our communities, for Aotearoa, for the world.

Planning for future generations

Our country faces huge challenges that we must meet head on.

People are struggling even in paid work to pay their rent and buy healthy food.

More and more rivers are becoming too polluted for us to swim in.

Too many families are continuing to be harmed by persistent violence.

This degradation is the result of a system that pits us against each other and collectively against our earth, for the benefit of the few.

This stands in complete contrast to my upbringing that I just talked about, which made me recognise that our power lies in coming together and understanding our role as kaitiaki of our natural world.

Recalling our ancient wisdoms, harnessing our innovations, and pulling together for the generations ahead, is the only way we will get through.

When my hapū talk about strategic planning we don’t talk about one-year, or three-year, or even ten-year strategies, we talk about planning for seven generations ahead.

Looking at the challenges ahead of us through that lens, we realise just how immense they really are.

In seven generations will my hapū still be able to sustain ourselves from our land and water as we have always done?

Will our indigenous species, such as the majestic kauri trees of Waipoua forest, still exist?

Will we even have a habitable planet to live on?

There is no time for complacency or half-measures.

No time for tinkering around the edges of the status quo.

We know that what is required is transformative and systemic change.

Delivering in Government

In the short time the Greens have been in Government, we have set the country on that path.

We have delivered a fundamental shift in environmental policy in Aotearoa.

In Budget 2018, the greenest Budget in our history, Hon. Eugenie Sage, as our Green Minister of Conservation, negotiated the largest funding increase for DoC in 16 years.

After years and years of neglect, we have a government that is backing nature and investing in conservation.

The dollar figures are huge, an extra $181 million over the next four years is a massive boost for conservation – for DOC to work with hapū and iwi, councils and communities, to turn our predator crisis around and protect our indigenous species and the places they live.

Ending offshore oil and gas exploration has long been a key goal of the Greens.

Before I entered Parliament, I stood with communities in the North, on the East Coast and in Taranaki, to stop oil exploration and drilling in our oceans.

And now we’ve delivered on it, making history.

This Government drew a line in the sand and said no new offshore oil and gas permits.

But the decision to stop new exploration wasn’t in our Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour.

It was possible because we are partners of this Government, because we are committed to transformational change, and because we can influence what happens at the highest levels.

I want to acknowledge the amazing work of Green MP Gareth Hughes in negotiating this end to offshore oil and gas permits.

And backed up by the sustained and powerful campaigning of tangata whenua, activists, communities and environmental NGOs, change happened.

When the pundits and mischief makers try and tell you the Greens no longer know what it means to be Green, or that we’ve lost our environmental focus, just remind them of this.

In the space of only ten months we have already put an end to offshore oil drilling and stopped an open-cast coal mine at Te Kuha.

We’ve put us on the path to phase out plastic bags, and secured massive funding commitments on conservation, climate change and public transport.

While there is still much work to do to implement that agreement, we are also not content with that alone.

I am so proud of my role as a non-ministerial Co-leader. It is my job to lead our engagement with communities and with our membership – to always be a champion for our kaupapa and the flaxroots of the movement.

We know that in some areas we need to negotiate and work with our Government partners to go even further, to be even bolder.

One of those areas is freshwater – our wai.

Championing freshwater

Our environment depends on it.

It’s the lifeblood of our communities – ko te wai te ora o ngā mea katoa.

The Greens have long championed protecting freshwater and cleaning up our rivers and lakes. We put this issue on the political agenda and now all parties acknowledge it needs addressing.

This term we have already secured a win to wind-down Government subsidies of large-scale irrigation schemes.

It cannot be overstated just how significant this is.

We have negotiated stronger regulatory instruments to deal with pollution, and more funding for freshwater restoration.

And I am proud to say that the Green Party has secured yet another Government commitment to further protect our water.

We heard the calls from communities around New Zealand and have worked with our Government partners to protect our water from sale.

I’m stoked to announce today that the review of the Overseas Investment Act will now look at putting the protection of water at the heart of decision-making.

Changing the law and making water extraction one of the issues to be considered when overseas corporates apply to buy rural land would ensure that this and future governments recognise that water is ours, and that it’s a vital natural asset.

Water should not be for sale to the highest bidder. Changing the law is a key step towards protecting it for the generations ahead.

Minister Sage and I will keep pushing hard to see that this change is included in the reforms that come out of the review.

We need to ensure that we are not giving away water to foreign corporations to bottle, export, and reap profits from, at the expense of New Zealand’s long-term interests.

The Greens leadership is still needed.

Our rivers are clogged with excess nitrates, sediment and e-coli contamination.

They are literally drying up due to over allocation.

The freshwater standards for pollutants need to be drastically strengthened and rigorously enforced.

As was highlighted in a report released just this week by Forest & Bird, we cannot only rely on nitrate measurement and farm plans monitored by overstretched regional councils.

Government must actively promote sustainable land use; we need to accelerate riparian planting, and support farmers to shift up the value chain to grow the value of our rural economy.

But we cannot go on the way we are.

I want to acknowledge and celebrate the Government farmer, Landcorp, for their leadership towards a modern greener model of agriculture.

We should be a world leader in organics and in sustainable agriculture.

Our point of difference on the world stage lies in our clean green brand and we can be adding even more value to our exports by following the example of many farmers who have already recognised this.

Clean freshwater is not a nice to have after we make a profit off it, it is life for land and people.

And we must honour the rights, interests and responsibilities of tangata whenua in freshwater.

It should be for hapū and iwi to lead us on what that looks like.

Outright ownership of water is anathema to both Māori and Green values.

If anything, the water owns us.

The Greens recognise the intrinsic value of freshwater and its inalienable right to be protected from pollution and over-use.

But we are also very clear that Māori have rangatira and kaitiaki rights over water, guaranteed in Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The Crown has a responsibility to work alongside tangata whenua in a spirit of true partnership for the protection and restoration of our water.

On this, the Greens are holding true to our longstanding position.

The Te Awa Tupua Act 2017 received huge international coverage as it set a precedent in law to recognise water, the Whanganui awa, as a living entity, and for mana whenua decision making authority to be recognised as central to its protection and restoration.

We need to build on this work.

Protecting the environment and recognising Māori rights go hand-in-hand.

You cannot achieve one without the other.

As we saw in our Rivers Tour in the last parliamentary term, led by former Green MP Catherine Delahunty, tangata whenua and communities are at the forefront of cleaning up our waterways.

Right around the country it is hapū, iwi and rural communities who are doing the urgent work on the ground; fencing, riparian planting, and pushing for sustainable land use decisions.

As Co-leader and Water spokesperson I will continue to stand alongside those communities in pushing for what’s needed to restore the right of all children in Aotearoa to be able to swim in their local river.

E te whānau kākāriki, as we reflect on nearly a year as a first-time party of government, we have so much to be proud of.

But there’s still so much more work to do.

To restore our natural world, stabilise our climate and bring about economic justice for all people.

We need you, our members, alongside us every single step of the way. James, the MPs and I cannot do this on our own.

It’s going to take every one of us if we are going to succeed in transforming our country and our world.

And there’s no time to waste.

Nō reira, huri rauna i tēnei whakaruruhau o tātou​

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

Shaw opens Green Party conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polling so far this term…

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

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


Simon Bridges – leader’s address, National conference

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

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

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

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

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

The announcement was met with thunderous applause…

A conference without thunderous applause would be kinda strange.

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

SPEECH: Simon Bridges – Speech to National Party Annual Conference

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

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

You are the beating heart of the National Party.

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

It’s been a tough adjustment.

But National is strong.

National is vibrant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you. Thank you so much.

Ladies and gentlemen.

I am proud to be a New Zealander.

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

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

I love this place.

New Zealand is filled with so many opportunities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is what drives me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this Government sees things very differently.

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

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

That’s just wrong.

It will not happen in a government I lead.

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

They did nothing.

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

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

Taxpayers are paying for Labour’s laziness.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They’re out of control.

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

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

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

About wages for our families.

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

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

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

All of this flows from the economy.

But those opportunities aren’t created by accident.

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

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

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

National backs every single one of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each of these policies on their own are bad.

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

New Zealand can’t afford this Government.

National’s approach is very different.

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

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

Those opportunities are hard won, but easily lost.

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

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

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

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

We certainly can’t afford six.

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

We can’t let Australia beat us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I want more for them.

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

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

For too many, that pathway can look bleak.

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

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

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

I want to fight for all our kids.

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

They all count. They all matter to me.

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

And that starts with education.

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

Education is the future leveller.

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

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

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

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

It starts with a focus on quality.

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

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

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

Or frankly the centre should close its doors.

The next step is improving our primary schools.

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

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

The bright child that wants to be challenged.

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

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

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

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

All our kids should get the individual attention they deserve.

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

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

Those ratios should be reduced.

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

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

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

Frankly, they need less Facebook and more face time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This year is about listening.

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

We want your views.

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

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

Unlike our opponents we welcome different views.

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


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

We will make every day count.

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

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

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

This country can do better.

In fact we can be brilliant.

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

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


At least Bridges is getting some publicity

Simon bridges has been nearly as invisible as Jacinda Ardern. The latter has been on maternity leave. The former has been touring the country meeting and talking to as many people as possible, but apart from local news that tends to be boring repeat speeches for the media.

As acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has been enjoying the limelight, and substantially overshadowing Bridges.

National are having their first conference in opposition for a decade, so Bridges is at least getting some publicity. Some of it self inflicted:

Not a great way of looking like a fresh new leader.

Newshub: Battle lines drawn at National Party conference

The battle lines have been drawn between Winston Peters and Simon Bridges, suggesting there’s little chance that National and New Zealand First could work together at the next election.

Mr Bridges is facing one of his biggest challenges yet as leader of the Opposition, convincing his own party he’s the man for the job.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard opened the National Party conference with a big ole whinge about last year’s election result.

“A very disappointing and unjust, unfair political result,” he called it.

That was very unhelpful for National. It’s time they moved on from being jilted by Peters at the post-election matchmaking, but, Bridges made things worse agreeing with it

“That result was a little hard to take.”

“I don’t expect the prime ministership to be handed to me on a platter.”

But Peters has been dominating Bridges, as he did again yesterday.

If, like last election, Mr Peters has anything to do with it, it won’t be.

“The chances of Simon Bridges lasting the next election – on the past National Party record – is not good,” says Mr Peters.

“I’ll tell you why Simon’s gone – Simon’s discovered so much of his past, a bit like Columbus discovered America, by accident.

“All of a sudden he’s decided that he’s a Māori. Nobody knew that before he got there.”

Mr Bridges responded, saying, “Winston gets weirder and weirder by the day.”

Mr Howard is his idol.

“John is my absolute hero – absolutely.”

I doubt there will be many Kiwis who give bridges any credit for worshipping a past it Aussie politician.

Stuff’s headline was negative for National: Fresh hostilities erupt between Winston Peters and National

Bad blood between Winston Peters and the National Party has erupted in a fresh war of words after the NZ First leader warned “the jackals” would soon be circling deputy Paula Bennett.

As National gathered for its first party conference since last year’s defeat, Peters also predicted leader Simon Bridges would be gone before the next election.

National president peter Goodfellow didn’t help: National dodged a ‘whisky-swilling’ bullet in Winston Peters

National Party President Peter Goodfellow has mounted an attack on Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, saying National had “dodged a whisky-swilling, cigarette-smoking, double-breasted and irrational bullet”.

Speaking at the National Party conference, Goodfellow said that in hindsight National had a lucky escape in Peters’ decision to side with Labour after the election last year and to send National into Opposition.

Senior MP Nick Smith later echoed Goodfellow’s sentiments, saying his worst time in politics was when he was around the Cabinet table with Peters in the 1990s.

National missed getting the numbers to form a government without Peters last year.

It is a very challenging goal if their aim is somehow sustain their support through a term in opposition and then grow it enough to form a government on their own in 2020, because at the moment that looks like their only option.

Bridges may be working well with James Shaw on climate change, but I don’t think Green party members will ever accept a coalition with National.

So National Party conference a bride short of a wedding

The National Party conference is something like a wedding with a nervous groom, something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

The blue came in the new hues of blue on the conference programme, more calm and muted shades than the bright teal preferred by former Prime Minister John Key.

That programme cover promised the ‘new”. “new team, new ideas, new zealand ” it read, all in trendy lower case. The other ‘new’ was National’s place in Opposition rather than Government.

The old came in the form of Key himself, as well as reassuring noises for the more traditional National supporters from leader Simon Bridges that the party would stick to the old when it came to economic policies.

The borrowed was in the form of the announcement to restore and expand charter schools – a policy that was initially the Act Party’s.

It is a potentially risky conference as National’s first in Opposition in a decade and with Bridges struggling to get traction as preferred Prime Minister.

There was no open questioning about Bridges’ leadership or blood-letting about the election outcome.

But nor did anyone seem to question whether gunning for Peters was really a good idea given the one thing missing from National’s wedding party was a bride to walk up the aisle with in 2020.

Bringing the Popular John Key back into the limelight was a risk for Bridges, who is a big contrast in appeal.

Last night on TV news Bridges showed all the charisma of a wet fish.

Image result for cartoon wet fish

The National conference will resume today, and Bridges has a big chance for impact with his keynote address.

If he studies how Helen Clark transformed herself from an unimpressive also-ran into a three term leader – very rapidly – he might start to appeal as a PM-in-waiting, but I doubt that will have happened overnight.

Talking about ‘my people’ and ‘my health team’ makes him sound like a try-hard leader rather than an actual leader.

He could hope that voters don’t care how he looks until the next election campaign.

But his problem (apart from himself) is the media, who are at risk at writing off his chances and covering him accordingly. They can be the death knell for political leadership, as Daavid Shearer, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little found out.

Bridges has already tried the family/kids thing but no one cares about that. He can’t have a baby so is stuffed on that approach.

He may somehow surprise today. He sort of has to to make any progress.

Dunne speech on drug policy

Yesterday Peter Dunne gave a speech on New Zealand Drug policy in the keynote address at the 8th Australasian Drug and Alcohol Strategy Conference, Te Papa, Wellington.

It gives me great pleasure to be here to talk about our shared interest in influencing attitudes towards alcohol and drug use. It is an honour and a privilege to be asked to give one of the keynote speeches.

I also look forward to taking your questions afterwards.

Drug policy in New Zealand is an ongoing balancing act. And because the tightrope tends to move, it is vitally important for us to keep checking whether we have our balance right.

Because we need to cover overseas as well as local experiences, today’s speech is going to be a rather rapid fly-by view of both international and local drug policy.

Recently, I had the good fortune to be in Vienna to take part in the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs. It was one of the most constructive and encouraging international events that I have attended.

I was delighted to express New Zealand’s support for the work of the Commission and the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime.

Over the last few years of attending such meetings, I have seen welcome signs of an increasing shift internationally towards a health focus on drugs, rather than drugs being treated as primarily a law and order issue.

This has profound implications for how we treat drug users. It means drug use disorders should be treated in the health system. So people with these disorders need access to essential medicines, including controlled drugs, but we need to minimise the risk that these drugs will be diverted or misused.

It also means people need continued support for recovery through their rehabilitation and reintegration into everyday life. We all know health is more than just the absence of ill health, or treatment of it.

A truly health-focused drug policy has to include building resilience and responding to the reasons why people use drugs. And it has to respond in a balanced way to the harm associated with drugs.

While there is still a long way to go in some instances, it is generally encouraging to see this happening more and more. Yes, a number of countries still impose the death penalty for drug offences – and a small minority condone the barbaric extra-judicial killing of drug users and dealers.

New Zealand will always stand firm in opposing that.

But on the whole, drug policies the world over tend to take a wider frame of reference and look for a proportionate response to drug-related harms.

I will just focus for a moment on what this means to us in New Zealand. We have seen a shift away from a relatively narrow punitive approach to drugs to a more balanced view.

You can see this shift in our national drug policies. New Zealand’s National Drug Policy balances three complementary elements. These strategies – problem limitation, demand reduction, and supply control – have been part of all the drug policies that we have had.

The goal, however, has changed and become more broadly health-focused. While the previous policy had a harm minimisation goal, the current one explicitly aims to promote and protect health and wellbeing as well as aiming to minimise alcohol and drug-related harm.

That may sound straightforward, but there are several questions worth raising about that goal. For one thing, how much do we know about alcohol and drug-related harm in New Zealand?

It is all very well to talk about effects on individuals and the community. These are very real, and we all see the weekly media articles about them. But we do not have accurate measurements of the size of the problem.

We have a New Zealand Drug Harm Index which gives us some indication, but we know that the drugs being used and the way they are being used are changing. So the index has to be a living, changing document.

Knowing about the harm is one thing, but knowing when we have minimised is more complex. And whose health and wellbeing are we promoting and protecting?

The easy answer is to say ‘everyone’s’. But is everyone getting the same degree of protection and promotion?

These questions are not easy to answer. But we know that our health services, enforcement services and others working together to strike the right balance of education, support and enforcement is the best way to address them.

It requires a people-centred approach where a range of agencies – health, police, correctional services, social services and others – work together to respond to individual, family, and community needs.

As a small country, we know the value of working together. We do not usually have the resources to get things done other than by cooperating with each other.

As the leader of a party which has a confidence and supply agreement with the government, I also have a particular appreciation of the need to work collegially and find common ground in order to make progress.

But it is not always the norm in other, larger countries, where achieving inter-agency co-operation is in itself a challenge. Our agencies cooperate with each other via an interagency committee on drugs, tasked with the challenge of achieving the objectives of the National Drug Policy.

In the area of interagency cooperation, New Zealand has seen particularly encouraging collaboration between Police and Health at local, regional and national levels.

During my attendance at the UN this year, I had the opportunity for a bilateral meeting with the Portuguese delegation. The Portuguese approach of putting the health system front and centre when drug use is an issue is admirable and something to aspire to.

Unfortunately, whenever Portugal is mentioned, the focus is often solely on the tolerance they apply to low-level use of drugs, while overlooking the other side of the story about possession and cultivation remaining illegal, and the very strong use of mandatory assessment and treatment programmes in place for all drug use.

I have long felt that pursuing sick and disabled people for inconsequential cannabis use related to their ailments is both imprudent and a poor use of Police resources – formal Police guidelines for such situations would be a welcome development.

An excellent example of positive collaboration between Police and the Ministry of Health is illustrated in a new approach to reducing demand for methamphetamine.

Police and the Ministry of Health developed the approach together last year. The idea for this new approach grew from Operation Daydream. It began as what you might call a standard operation in the sense that police arrested a number of people who were supplying methamphetamine.

However, it departed from standard practice when it came to users identified during the operation. Rather than prosecute, police contacted them to discuss their issues and offer referrals to treatment services. This proved to be a positive and productive approach.

The users engaged with officers, and gave them some insights into the reasons that they were using methamphetamine. What they then did with the information was set up a public meeting with some users and some members of the community who had never set eyes on methamphetamine.

Getting these two groups of people together was a powerful experience for all concerned. Even something as simple as talking to each other can make a positive difference to people’s lives. So we are building on this initiative.

The current pilot programme brings together police, health and community efforts to respond to the needs of a particular area and its people – in this case, Northland. That will in itself be a positive thing that brings people together.

It also represents a shift in attitudes, with a district health board partnering with local police and community organisations to improve outcomes for people in the area.

Innovation also happens centrally of course.

The unique part of New Zealand’s response to the issue of new psychoactive substances is of course our Psychoactive Substances Act.

I have a history with this Act as the Minister responsible for its introduction. Prior to the Act, we had a losing battle on our hands with new psychoactives. This was because new substances were emerging in the market too quickly for us to establish the level of risk that they posed.

This system meant that users of new psychoactives were consuming drugs that were not fully understood, and risking all sorts of harm to themselves and others.

Previously, New Zealand faced precisely the same problem as other jurisdictions. We had a range of unknown substances, posing unknown risks.

The existing controls were based on the old world of well-known and well understood substances. For the old drugs, the risks could be judged, and they could be scheduled in our Misuse of Drugs Act with the appropriate controls.

But that approach depends on the substances being understood. The government could legislate based on the risk of a substance, but it had to know the risk first.

For something like cocaine, where we can draw a picture of the molecule, and identify risks and medicinal uses in detail, that approach works well.

For the new psychoactive substances, that approach simply did not work. By the time it had been identified, investigated and legislated against, the original substance could be replaced by 10 new ones.

Instead, New Zealand’s response was to reverse the onus of proof. Under the new legislation, licences must be obtained by people or businesses who wish to import, research, manufacture, wholesale and retail psychoactive substances and products.

The Act also restricts the sale of these products, when approved, to people aged 18 years and older. That is an apparently simple change, but a world-leading solution that has effectively reduced the level of harm to users of new psychoactives.

The Act was amended in May 2014 to prohibit animal testing data being used for the purpose of product approval.

At this time the necessary tests cannot be done using entirely non-animal methods. I do not see this situation changing for the foreseeable future. I am advised it will likely be at least 5 years before any applications for product approval are received, as they must wait for non-animal test methods to be validated.

Once this happens, we will have the flexibility with our psychoactive substances legislation to fully control the window of opportunity. At that time our innovative policy approach will fully come into effect.

The work we are doing now on new psychoactive substances is bringing to bear expertise from both within and outside government to develop an early warning system that will help identify and respond to emerging drugs. Early warning systems were a popular topic at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting.

As you may recall, I spoke about having seen an increasing international shift from a law and order focus to a broader focus on health. One thing that particularly stood out from the Commission’s discussions was alternative approaches to the possession of drugs.

My colleagues in Vienna agreed there are many ways in which the system can send a message that illegal drugs are unacceptable – and that these ways do not always need to involve criminalisation. We can take these ideas forward in developing options for further minimising harm within our National Drug Policy framework.

As I said to begin with, New Zealand’s drug policy continues to be a balancing act.

This year agencies will check the initial agreed actions in the National Drug Policy, to ensure we keep on striking the right balance. To change attitudes and minimise the harm that can come from the use of alcohol and other drugs, we must stay open to new ideas and new frames of reference.

I have said many times that the principles of compassion, innovation and proportion underpin our national drug policy. Consistent with that theme we need to be constantly open to alternative approaches and ways of doing things, always so long as robust pharmacological, clinical, and criminological evidence is there to back up the positions we take.

I hope this conference builds on existing efforts to change thinking and behaviour towards alcohol and drug use and I wish you all a rewarding and productive time here in Wellington.

David Seymour’s conference speech

Live at 2 pm Saturday:

Targeting 5 MPs this election. They need four more candidates who appeal to voters first.

Criticises Labour, Greens, and NZ First in particular.

Too much negativity so far.

Coalition – a repeat of the status quo – is stable but unambitious.

“We need a National-ACT government with a much bigger dose of ACT”…”to keep the bad guys out”.

Wants to cut spending and taxes, a standard ACT act. “Nobody should pay more than 25% income tax…on income under a hundred thousand dollars”.

Replace the Resource Management Act in urban areas with something is fit for purpose.

Will force the Government to address the sustainability of National Super – from 2020 incrementally raise the age from 65 to 67 (a modest shift).

Address traffic congestion through ride sharing through phone apps and affordability.

Not surprisingly he is talking up Partnership Schools and cites as Iwi being the real driver.

ACT doesn’t resile from being ‘tough on crime’ but wants to get smarter on crime to help prisoners get off the criminal treadmill.

“Self improvement in prisons” – see ACT: reduced prison sentence for education

Seymour’s speech –