Bad health in Parliament

The Minister of Health has a very demanding job, but that doesn’t excuse being an arrogant ass.

It’s a serious issue. for many. A lot of people have good cause to have serious concerns about the delivery (or often non-delivery) of health care.

7. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Why did he say yesterday in the House, “I do not need to check with DHBs around that”, when asked if he was sure about his claim that every other district health board is currently “managing to deliver the operations that are needed”?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): As I said in the House yesterday, I do not need to check with district health boards (DHBs) around that, because it is a fact that we are delivering 50,000 more operations than 8 years ago.

Dr David Clark: What assurance will he give that IT glitches, like the one that stopped medical professionals accessing patient letters this morning at Counties Manukau for 2½ hours, are not impacting on delivering the operations that are needed?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: That sounds deeply operational. I am surprised that at this time of the political cycle the member is not trying to raise his game to a more strategic and political level, but be that as it may; I will go back and ask a question about that. At the same time, I will be able to assure him that there is an extra $470 million of money that has gone into Counties Manukau, as well as a lift of 4,500 operations at Counties Manukau, an increase of 34 percent compared with 8 years ago when that crowd was running the system.

Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table a message to Counties Manukau DHB staff relating to clinical letters being unavailable to medical staff for 2½ hours due to an IT glitch this morning—to help the Minister out.

Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular letter to staff. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled.

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

Dr David Clark: Does he believe there are enough hospital beds for patients to meet demand pressures when at the beginning of August, 2 weeks ago, Middlemore Hospital was at 116 percent full capacity in medical, surgical, adult rehabilitation, and health of older people wards, with 358 patients going through the emergency department in one day and 52 patients left sitting waiting for an in-patient bed?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Of course, history shows I always have to check that member’s numbers, but be that as it may, of course winter is a busy time in our hospitals. It has been an especially vicious flu season, despite 1 million vaccines being distributed, but the member will be really pleased to know that, actually, we do have the capacity in our DHBs to absorb this sort of situation.

Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will assist the Minister again. Actually, one of them was 128 percent over, and I have the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! If the member is now seeking to raise a point of order, then he does it. What is the point of order?

Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table an internal email detailing just how overfull the Middlemore Hospital was.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this particular internal email. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not; it can be tabled.

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

Dr DAVID CLARK: After 9 years in Government, what is he doing about the fact that the most recent figures show that once eye injections, skin lesion removals, and other quick operations traditionally done outside the hospital setting are removed from elective surgery figures, year on year fewer elective surgeries were being done in Counties Manukau?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I find that extremely doubtful. I am not sure where the member is going with this line of questioning. These are very important operations. If he removed every important operation they were doing at Counties Manukau, none would be being done. Across the system as a whole, even if you removed these very important eye injections and skin operations, some of which have to be done under general anaesthetic, we are still doing 30,000 more operations per year than when that crowd was managing it.

Dr David Clark: After 9 years, how much longer will people have to wait when he says “[T]here is no doubt that in health there is always more to do.”, when all the wards in one of our largest hospitals in New Zealand are fully staffed and are in need of close to 70 extra beds before patients arrive each day?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I think the member needs to just reread his question in his mind, because, frankly, the whole thing just does not make sense, but despite that what I would say is that 9 years on, across the hundreds of services that our health system provides you would struggle to find more than a handful that are not performing better than 9 years ago. There are 50,000 more operations, 150,000 more appointments, and 7,000 more doctors and nurses in the system, and, yes, maybe from time to time the IT system might go down for 2 hours at Counties Manukau. If he thinks that is bad, he should try the IT system in Parliament for comparison.

Dr David Clark: After 9 years, what does he say to clinicians across the country who are pleading for their hospitals to be given more operating theatres, more specialist doctors, and more funding; and is this the “health system that’s the envy of the world” that he envisaged?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member needs to start becoming a bit more positive about New Zealand and our health system, because, actually, it stacks up pretty well. I can tell you that if you look at the facilities we have built in health across the country—$1 billion of health rebuilds in Christchurch, West Coast is being done, Dunedin is next, 6,900 more doctors and nurses in our hospital system, 50,000 more operations, and 150,000 more specialist assessments. What I would say to those specialist doctors is that if this guy was ever running the health system, they would be in really big trouble.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need to go there.

Clark v Coleman on mental health funding

Labour’s health spokesperson David Clark versus Health Minister Jonathan Coleman in Question Time on Tuesday – this approach doesn’t help the mental health debate.

Health, Minister—Statements on Authors of People’s Mental Health Report

11. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement about the authors of the People’s Mental Health Report, “they’re very left-wing, anti-Government protesters”; if not, when will he apologise to the 500 people who wrote their own stories about experiences with the mental health system as part of the report?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, and my statement distinguished between the genuinely motivated story submitters and those ActionStation organisers with some political agenda. My quote was: “When you look at the people behind it, [you know] they’re very left-wing, anti-Government protesters.” As I say, ActionStation is back on Thursday with another, separate, anti-Government protest within the health area, and it could be back week after week with different topics. And just for the record, the ActionStation campaign coordinator is Mr Rick Zwaan, the Green Party’s Wellington election campaign coordinator, who used to work as Kennedy Graham’s researcher. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Supplementary question, Dr David Clark. [Interruption] Order! I have asked for less interjection from everybody so that Dr David Clark can ask his supplementary questions.

Dr David Clark: Has he read the report; if so, does he accept that its aim, as recorded in the executive summary, is to give space to the stories of what is really going on and going wrong in our mental health services?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, I have read the report, and especially the executive summary, the first line of which is a totally false premise. It talks about $140 million being cut from health funding. Well, actually, health funding has gone up by $300 million, which kind of proves the point that this is a political document.

Dr David Clark: Does he think the contribution of Robbie, who described support services as expensive and inadequate, and which, he says, “almost drove him to take his own life”, should be dismissed as the experience of a left-wing, anti-Government campaign?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have already answered that. Look, I think Robbie’s experience is worth listening to, but that does not change the fact that this report is produced by a group of people who are permanent anti-Government protesters. If the member does not believe me, go and look at their website. They will be back here, week after week, on subject after subject after subject, because they do not like the Government.

Dr David Clark: Does he think the contribution of Mike King, who “describes despair and hopelessness in the face of inadequate access to mental health services”, should be dismissed as the experience of a left-wing, anti-Government campaigner?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Look, I think the member needs to speak to Mrs King about how you think on your feet. I have answered that question already. The organisers are from ActionStation, and it is the permanent anti-Government, left-wing protester. Mr King is a very good man—Mike King, as opposed to Mrs Annette King—who is genuinely motivated, and I do not detract from his efforts. But, as I say, when you have people like Mr Rick Zwaan, who used to work for Kennedy Graham, and his friends from the Green Party, I think it is pretty obvious that this is political.

Dr David Clark: Does he think the contribution of “the many parents who submitted in regard of their children’s experience of huge waiting lists and lack of funding” should be dismissed as the experience of a left-wing, anti-Government campaign?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I point out to the member that he does not have to take all his supplementary questions, and if he cannot think of new material in response to the answers, he should just stop. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will deal with them one at a time.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. For two answers in a row, the Minister began by insulting the questioner rather than addressing the question. But the main substantive point is that despite the abuse in that last answer, he did not even address the question that was asked.

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion—[Interruption] Order! I have been increasingly worried about the interchange between these two members and some of the answers that have been given on occasion by the Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, but, on this occasion, when I consider the three questions that were asked, they were, effectively, the same question each time. Therefore, I can understand the frustration of the Minister in having answered the question the first time—he, effectively, gets the same question for the next two occasions.

Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question, in my view, was not addressed, because he had talked about ActionStation, which is the compiler of the report. I am asking a specific question about the comments from the parents within the report. That is a very specific and non – politically loaded question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would like to assist the member, but when I consider the answer that was given to, I think, the second supplementary question, that, effectively, was an answer that was then quite suitable for the rest of the questions the member asked, which were, effectively, just drawing on the experience of someone else within the book. The Minister was quite clear in saying he is not in any way critical of the experiences that were detailed in the report; he was certainly critical of the authors who put the report together.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, is the problem with that not that the Minister is trying to write this off as being a left-wing conspiracy—that is the essence of his answer? I think it is quite proper for members of the Opposition to put instance after instance after instance that paint a different picture. I think the Minister should have to address each of those instances, rather than just cast aside a political insult telling him he should learn how to ask different questions.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not agree that it was a political insult. The question was answered. There was no attack on the various contributions that were made within that report by the Minister. There was certainly a feeling that the authors were not of the same political persuasion as the Minister. That is acceptable.

Dr David Clark: To clarify—

Mr SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Would the member please resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! Would the member please resume his seat. I have ruled on that matter. The member is now starting to challenge the Chair and debate with the Chair. That in itself will lead to gross disorder in this House. Question No. 12—Melissa Lee—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] If I hear a further interjection from Carmel Sepuloni while I am in the Chair today, she will be leaving the Chamber. She has been consistently interjecting throughout question time in a very—[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to go now, I can make that arrangement very easily. I expect cooperation, particularly from whips, and the level of interjection that has been coming from Carmel Sepuloni throughout question time is unacceptable. When I rise to my feet, for those interjections still to continue is just not acceptable to this House.


More calls for mental health care inquiry

The Government seems to be digging it’s toes in after more calls for an inquiry into the state of mental health care in New Zealand.

The People’s Mental Health Report has revved things up again

The People’s Mental Health Review was an innovative and powerful project aimed at improving Aotearoa New Zealand’s public mental health system by letting those within the system share their stories.

Although everyone would hope to live in good mental health, the reality for one in six New Zealand adults is very different – and for them and their families, the expectation that they should be able to get help when they need it is vital.

Unfortunately, there are signs that the public mental health system designed to offer this help is in crisis.

Those most in need are experiencing long waiting times for support; the lack of resources is leading to an increased reliance on the use of isolation as a form of care; and the country is experiencing alarmingly high levels of suicide.

The Ministry of Health has rejected repeated calls for a Government review of the public mental health system, so we decided to run our own.

The People’s Mental Health Review was designed to allow anyone involved with mental health in New Zealand – from mental health professionals to those with either personal or family experience of the system – to tell their story. We launched it in September 2016 with zero advertising budget, and over the space of three months collected 500 stories.

This website, and the associated People’s Mental Health Report are the result of that project.


  • An online and downloadable report summarising the key themes raised in more than 500 stories submitted to the People’s Mental Health Review.
  • Four key recommendations for Government based on those themes.
  • An invitation to sign up to an open letter calling on the government to implement our recommendations.

Our hope is that the courage of the 500 people who submitted their stories to this process will be rewarded by seeing their concerns taken seriously, along with their hopes and recommendations for a better future for mental health services in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In response from Newstalk ZB: Opposition calling for Govt to hold inquiry into state of mental health system

Green MP Julie-Anne Genter…

…said the Government’s statements seem to fly in the face of the experience of people needing mental health care, and those working in the sector.

“It does seem that National is failing to address some very real problems in the mental health system.”

“We need to go to some lengths to investigate what all the different causes of the problems in the mental health system are, so that we can begin to address them in a way that’s really effective.”

Labour MP David Clark…

…said his party believes there should be a full review of the mental health sector.

“What we need desperately is a stock take. To put a stake in the ground and say ‘this is where things are, these are the things that can be fixed immediately’ and then to lay out a path to assist them that’s more responsive, where everyone can get the support that they need.

“We need somebody with a mandate to see over the service to check that things are improving and to make recommendations where they clearly haven’t been adequate,” said Clark.

But it looks like the Government isn’t interested.

The Government’s ruled out holding an inquiry into the mental health system, as recommended by the review, with the Health Minister’s office saying an extra $300 million is now being spent on the mental health sector.

Labour leader Andrew Little…

…said Kiwis had “huge concern” about publicly-funded mental health services.

The number of service users had increased by 60 per cent since the 2007/08 year, he said.

“The report says patients have told ‘a story of frustration at being unable to access mental health services.’ This is a tragic indictment of the Government’s underfunding with many submitters talking of despair and hopelessness.

“Recent reports of bed closures, staff assaults and suicides are signalling a growing crisis in mental health. The Government has to act and act now.”

Quiet Labour reshuffle

Andrew Little has have reshuffled his caucus’s speaking roles after David Shearer’s resignation and Annette King’s stepping down as deputy.

It seems that Jacinda Ardern’s elevation to deputy has not been matched with an elevation in speaking roles. She has been spokesperson for Justice, Arts, Culture and Heritage, Children, and Small Business Associate Spokesperson for Auckland Issues, none of which are heavy hitting roles.

Dunedin MP David Clark has been given King’s Health portfolio. Clark has been an MP since 2011 and was quickly rated as a good future prospect, but has not been prominent for some time. Health will be a step up and a big test for him.

According to NZ Herald Megan Woods has been bumped up from 10 to 5 in the pecking order.

Ardern has retained all her portfolios, including Children, Arts, Small Business and Justice.

She will also pick up the extra duties of deputy, although Little said she would not fill the usual mould of deputy and would instead help him campaign.

That starts immediately – Ardern will accompany Little on a series of public meetings this week, including in Wellington, Hawke’s Bay, and Auckland.

They are keeping these changes low key, with one Tweet but I can’t see anything yet on Labour’s or Little’s Facebook pages and the Labour website still lists King as deputy.

And their website home page does not list the reshuffle under ‘Latest’ nor under ‘Latest Headlines’. I had to hunt for information.

David Clark takes over health role

Dunedin North MP David Clark succeeds Annette King as Health Spokesperson as part of a minor reallocation of portfolios announced today by Labour Leader Andrew Little.

“David has been Associate Spokesperson for some time and has worked closely with Annette in this important portfolio so I’m very confident he will do well in this role.

“A Labour Government will reverse National’s health cuts and David’s skills and experience will be invaluable in communicating to the electorate how Labour will fix the health system.

“Stuart Nash takes over David’s Economic Development (including Regional Development) portfolio and David Parker picks up his Trade and Export Growth role.

“Megan Woods has been a strong performer in her Climate Change and Canterbury Issues roles and picks up Stuart’s Energy, Innovation and Science, Research and Development portfolios.”

Among other changes:

  • Peeni Henare gains State Owned Enterprises
  • Raymond Huo, who is expected to join the Labour caucus next week, takes over the Land Information Role
  • Adrian Rurawhe moves into the Shadow Cabinet
  • Annette King takes over State Services

“This completes changes triggered by Michael Wood’s election as Mt Roskill MP. Earlier this year Kris Faafoi was elected Senior Whip and Adrian Rurawhe, Caucus Secretary.

“The team I lead into this year’s election is strong and determined. We will be working hard to show New Zealanders that there is a better way that provides fairness and opportunity for all,” says Andrew Little.


Raymond Huo is set to return to Parliament soon to replace Ardern on the list and will do the Land Information portfolio.

That gives him some work in the area of foreign buyers – Land Information includes the Overseas Investment Office, as well as data collected on foreign buyers by the Government.

Is this an attempt to dampen down the fallout from their controversial ‘Chinese sounding names’ debacle?

Clark on RM poll

The December Roy Morgan poll had National down 4.5to 45%, and Labour up 5.5 to 28%. These weren’t out of the ordinary movements but were predictably heralded by left wing blogs.

The Daily Blog: LATEST POLL SHOCK: National plummet to 45% Labour-Green jump to 43%

National have suffered a shock drop of 4.5% and Labour-Greens have jumped up 5.5% in the latest Roy Morgan Poll…

Typical exaggeration from Martyn Bradbury. It would be more shocking if RM polls stayed consistent.

The question as to whether or not National would retain its popularity post Key looks like it is getting answered.

That question hasn’t been answered at all by this poll.

The Standard: Nats take a plunge on the Roy Morgan roundabout

The erratic Roy Morgan poll has swung around again, Nats down 4.5% to 45% and Labour/ Greens up up 5.5% to 43%. Worryingly for the B-team, government confidence fell a “whopping” 10 points.

Less over the top but it was hardly a plunge, given that National was 42.5% in April,  43% in May and 41.5% in September (and swung to 48% in October and 49.5% in November).

This sort of over-excitement is  to be expected from them, just as silence from them is the norm if polls move against them.

But Labour MP David Clark posted this on Facebook:

It has been an unusual political year. I wonder how much conflict within National’s ranks will cost them in next year’s election? Events like the frightened withdrawal in Mt Albert, the challenge to Todd Barclay, Jonathan Coleman’s unquenched ambition, and English’s early missteps in getting rid of broadcasting and housing portfolios – may have contributed to the sharp drop in the first public poll. Or is it just that people everywhere have decided it is time for a change?

Is Clark just trying to spin a line to his fan club or does he actually believe any of this?

The RM polling was actually being done (November 28-December 11) during the period that John Key resigned, Bill English was chosen as Prime Minister. English appointed his ministers and advised National wouldn’t stand a candidate in Mt Albert until after the polling period had finished.

Relative to normal poll fluctuations it wasn’t a ‘sharp drop’. The RM movements for National this year have been:

+1.5, -2.5, -3.5, +3, -2.5, +10, -7, -4.5, +6.5, +1.5, -4.5

National’s RM average over the year is 46.3%, well within the margin of error, so they haven’t finished far off that.

I hope Clark was just spinning a line. Otherwise his ignorance is alarming.

And also quite sad is Clark, The Standard and Bradbury seeming to accept Labour closing the year on 28.5% without concern.

Labour have only twice this year topped this, with 29.5% in May and 33.5% in September. For the rest of the year they have received 27.5, 27, 28, 26, 28, 25.5, 26.5, 23.

Labour have averaged 27.4% over the year and have closed just above that, which is similar to where they were leading into the 2014 election where they dropped to their lowest result for a long time at 25.13%

It will take several polls in the new year (and more than just the swinging Roy Morgan) to get a reasonable idea how party support is going  are doing under English’s leadership.

To look like a strong lead party Labour really need to get up to 35-40% at least by next year’s election, otherwise at best they will have to share power with Greens and probably New Zealand First.

TPPA timeframe change “an attack on democracy”

MPs considering submissions on the TPPA have had the available time slashed from a month to five days. This is bad process and appalling PR from the Government on a very contentious issue.

The select committee public submission process is an important part of our democratic system, despite efforts by parties and activist groups to manipulate it.

It’s a common tactic to try and flood submissions with a particular stance and then to claim that it’s a measure of public opposition. Numbers of submissions are not a measure of opinion.

But the Government has poked a stick into a wasp nest by slashing the time Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee members have to consider submissions on the TPPA.

Radio NZ reports: New TPP timeframe an ‘attack on democracy’

MPs have been given just five days to consider hundreds of submissions on the controversial TPP trade deal after the timeframe was drastically cut from four weeks.

The select committee was originally give a month to write its report and present it back to Parliament.

The Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee had been hearing submissions on the TPP from hundreds of people across the country and that will continue until the end of the month.

National MP Mark Mitchell, chair of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, strongly rejects the view that the timeframe undermines the democratic process and says there will be plenty of time for robust debate.

But a last minute slashing of time to consider submissions is an awful look – what did key say about National’s need to avoid appearing arrogant this term?

Opposition MPs are understandably up in arms.

But opposition members on the committee say they were told yesterday the government wanted to cut down the time they had to analyse the submissions, so the legislation could get through by the end of the year.

They said they were stunned by the news and felt angry and frustrated.

Labour MP David Clark…

…said he wouldn’t be surprised if the people who made submissions felt the same way.

“Submitters will be horrified if they learnt that the committee is curtailing a process of consideration of the very serious issues they have raised,” he said.

“It seems very reasonable to expect them to be frustrated and to question whether there is integrity in the process at all.”

It’s fair to question motives and integrity.

Green MP Kennedy Graham…

…said he and other opposition MPs on the committee had thought the original timeframe of a month to write the report was too short.

“It’s just a slap of indifference and dismissal of some very sincere, very capable and hard-working New Zealand people,” he said.

“It shows it up for what it is – which is essentially a roadshow with a predetermined end.”

It gives opponents plenty of cause to ridicule the consultation process as a sham.

New Zealand First MP Fletcher Tabuteau…

…said what made it worse was that the tight deadline meant the draft report would be written before the committee had finished hearing all the submissions.

The TPP has been a farcical process from the beginning, he said.

“The whole negotiation had been undertaken in secret to start with. The submission time has been months in contrast to the six years it has to write [the TPP deal],” Mr Tabuteau said.

“This is clearly an attack on democracy – it’s unacceptable.”

It looks unacceptable to me.

This is likely to stir up the TPPA opponents yet again and give them a good reason to stir up protests again.

Is this just arrogant abuse of the democratic process, or is the Government deliberately stirring up anti-TPPA protest?

Whether the latter is their intent or not it is likely to be the outcome.

Labour’s first TPPA question

Labour asked their first question of the year in Parliament yesterday. It was question 9, asked by David Clark, while both Andrew Little and John Key were not in Parliament (they never are on Thursdays).

Paul Goldsmith answered on behalf of the Minister of Trade, so it was hardly a clash of heavy hitters from either party.

There were some contentious points of order, plus a patsy question from National MP Joanna Hayes.

Amongst the exchanges:

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Buried near the end of the week’s question list it didn’t do much to advance debate on the TPPA.

Draft transcript:

[Sitting date: 18 February 2016. Volume:711;Page:10. Text is subject to correction.]

9. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Trade: Did his predecessor Hon Tim Groser ask MFAT officials negotiating the TPP agreement to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to ban the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreign speculators?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs)on behalf of the Minister of Trade: No. He asked them to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners, which, I might add, was one of Labour’s bottom lines.

Dr David Clark: Why did Australia reserve the right to ban non-resident foreign speculators from its housing market, and why did he not do the same?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Other countries have negotiated based on their own domestic policy positions, which I have no responsibility for. The Government has no policy to outright ban foreigners investing in New Zealand, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) maintains our current approval requirements for foreign investments in sensitive land, and, as I said in my primary response, the Government has preserved the right for future Governments to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners.

Dr David Clark: Why did New Zealand agree to Singapore reserving the right to impose a ban on the purchase of housing by foreign speculators when Singapore did not already have a ban?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do not have those details to hand, but what I can say is that this Government has, in the interests of all New Zealanders, preserved the right of the Government to restrict the purchase of residential land, and that is a good deal for all New Zealanders.

Dr David Clark: To assist the order of the House, I seek leave to table a document stating that Singapore reserves the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the—[Interruption] Order! I need the source of the document and the date.

Dr David Clark: It is the relevant annexe in the many thousands of pages of the agreement on the Table—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now trifling with the Chair. If it has been tabled in the House it is available to all members. [Interruption] Order! It creates disorder when members then seek, for political purposes, to table something that is already freely available to all members of the House. That information was tabled at the beginning of last week. It is available, and to seek to table it again only creates disorder. I will not put up with it.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Dr—ah—Chris Hipkins.

Chris Hipkins: Not yet—maybe one day. The point of order that I want to raise with you is that I think the document in question is the document there on the Table, all of the many thousands of pages of it. I think that the question becomes: where such a large volume of information is available and where there is contested debate about a particular part of it, that is not necessarily going to be available—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need any assistance at all. I can see the document from here. To suggest that it is unavailable to members once it has been tabled in this House is not fact. It is available. The question the member might legitimately ask is whether members have an interest to go and look at it. That becomes the members’ business, but the information that is already tabled in the House is already available, and to seek to re-table it is simply using the point of tabling documents for a political purpose. That is not what they are designed for. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Does he accept that Singapore could “adopt any measure affecting real estate”?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Again, I do not have those details to hand, but I am focused on New Zealand’s focus, which is to make sure that we have the ability to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners. And I might add that that was one of the bottom lines of the Labour Party.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we have just had an illustration of the difficulty of having very large documents tabled in the House. If a Minister can say they do not have the information available and you have said that the information is available, how can it be an acceptable answer but not acceptable to table the material?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The question was asking the Minister whether he could confirm something about the particular ability of Singapore to do something. That answer will not be contained in that document at all. The statement about what Singapore has reserved is in the document—quite a different matter.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the point raised by Chris Hipkins adds to the discussion in any way whatsoever. The Minister was asked for some information about another country entirely. I would prefer him to stand and say he does not have that information rather than attempt to answer and end up giving an answer that he has to come back and correct. The fact is that the information has been available. The further tabling of it would not assist in that answer in any way whatsoever. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Can I speak to the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have dealt with it. I have ruled on it.

Dr David Clark: Does the Minister believe that a competent Minister of Trade would know whether the Singaporeans have reserved for themselves the right to ban New Zealanders from purchasing residential land?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: What I believe is that a competent spokesman on trade would believe in trade.

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: This Government welcomes wide-ranging discussion on the TPP, and that is what we will be doing over the rest of this year. We believe that this is a great deal for this country and that is why we are supporting it.

Joanne Hayes: Can the Minister confirm whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership meets essential bottom-line requirements to protect New Zealand’s interests?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Dr David Clark: Has the Minister seen reports from 2013 when Labour announced its policy on banning non-resident foreign buyers and subsequent reports when it introduced its bottom lines that clearly indicate that the intention was to ban non-resident foreign speculators with that policy?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am not responsible for Labour policy, but what I can say is that Labour policy was to restrict, and that is what this Government has set out to do.

Labour’s Mad McCarten Moment?

Did Labour have a mad McCarten moment this week when they decided to flock to embrace Jane Kelsey’s anti-trade tirade?

Andrew Litttle has been sort of leading, sort of stumbling down a very risk road on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, until suddenly forking out into far more risky territory, in which some of Labour’s MPs are unfamiliar and look uncomfortable.

In July Little declared five bottom lines that seemed to be signalling a tough line in the sand over the TPPA (to left wing activists) but with plenty of wiggle room (for the Labour and voter centre).

The key phrase was “Labour will not support the TPP if it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty”. ‘Undermine’ could easily be up for interpretation.

Then in November after the TPP agreement was made and the text released Little said that only one bottom line had not been met.

Little said the text of the deal, released late on Thursday, met four of the party’s five bottom lines, but failed on the fifth – the party’s policy to ban foreign buyers of existing residential properties.

The wording of this was “New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farm land and housing to non-resident foreigner buyers”.

But despite repeated questioning by  the media, Little refused to definitively say whether Labour supported or opposed the 12-nation agreement.

However, he said the party would fight “tooth and nail” against any provision that cut across their policy and cut across the sovereignty of Parliament.

After this at the end of November Little reshuffled his caucus.

He appointed David Shearer, known to be a strong supporter of trade agreements and the TPPA, to be Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs.

And he appointed David Clark to be Spokesperson for Economic Development (including Regional Development), Trade and Export Growth.

Since then Little repeatedly refused or failed to “definitively say whether Labour supported or opposed” the TPPA. Until this week. He was widely criticised for his lack of clarity, including from the Labour left.

But this week things quickly changed.

On Tuesday Little released TPP analysis confirms sovereignty at stake

“Labour has been behind some of New Zealand’s most successful genuine free trade agreements but this goes far beyond just trade.

“National knows many Kiwis people are opposed to this deal. That is why – despite saying last week they wouldn’t release further details – they have panicked and rushed out this tired old spin,” Andrew Little says.

Implications but no definitive position.

Also on Tuesday Labour’s finance spokesperson Grant Robertson joined an MP panel in the first of four anti-TPPa meetings featuring long time opponent of trade agreements, Jane Kelsey. I live blogged some Robertson comments:

“You cannot put a price on our democratic right to create our own law”.

“We cannot undermine our sovereignty”.

“There are people out there who have supported previous agreements who don’t support this one”.

Robertson closes without being clear that Labour will fully oppose the TPPA or not.

Uncertainty about Labour’s stance on the TPPA continued on Wednesday. Audrey Young wrote:

(Key) accused Labour leader Andrew Little of not being able to answer the most basic question he got asked, namely whether he would support it or not.

“He was floundering around on Radio New Zealand this morning like it was the first time anyone had ever asked it,” Mr Key said.

Labour supports the reduction of tariffs but opposes the TPP, claiming that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty in not allowing a future Government to ban house sales to foreigners – which Labour leader Andrew Little says he would ignore.

But Little’s hand was forced with Young on Thursday with: MPs break ranks on TPP:

Mr Goff, a former leader and former Trade Minister and now an Auckland mayoral candidate, and David Shearer, also a former Labour leader, last night told theHerald they both still supported the TPP.

Mr Goff said the deal should be signed.

Former Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark also backed the TPP among 12 countries and it was begun under her leadership. Mr Goff was Trade Minister.

Labour has decided to oppose the TPP on the grounds that it undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty.

This created another confused situation when Little said that Goff was allowed to support the TPPA (and even vote against the party position on it) but that Shearer was bound to support the official caucus position that opposed the agreement and would be censured for speaking out in support of it. See Differing view on TPPA agreed.

Also on Thursday Matthew Hooton tweeted what appeared to be a leaked Labour email:

Please retweet. Internal email shows policy being driven by Jane Kelsey & loony left.

Little’s Head of Staff arranging for Kelsey to brief Labour staff, with MPs free to be invited.  Does Labour’s staff choose what to invite MPs too? Peculiar.

This raises questions about how involved McCarten is in Labour’s shift to oppose trade deals.

Going by posts at The Daily Blog by Martyn Bradbury, Chris Trotter and John Minto there appears to be a spontaneous rising of the revolutionary left. Or something more planned and coordinated.

Then on Friday Little came out with an attempt at clarification in Andrew Little: “My thoughts on the TPPA’:

There can be no trade-off between citizens’ democratic rights and economic interests. We don’t put a price on our democratic system, and it is not for sale.

This marks the TPPA out as being different to any other free trade agreement I know. I do not support the TPPA in this form.

On Friday night the fourth of Kelsey’s meetings was held in Dunedin. Trade spokesperson David Clark attended, looking not entirely comfortable being photographed there – see David Clark on the TPPA.

And Clark also spoke at an anti-TPP event in Dunedin’s Octagon on Saturday. He didn’t look very comfortable there:


David Clark looks as comfortable as a minister at a mosque

Also on Saturday Audrey Young wrote in Labour leader gambles in opposing trade deal:

…the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.

So why was Clark appointed to a role that is now central to an issue that could make or break Labour’s chances at next year’s election?

Why was Shearer assigned to Foreign Affairs? He along with Phil Goff are Labour’s most internationally experienced MPs. Both of whom support the TPPA, contrary to new Labour policy.

What experience do Little, Robertson and Clark have in international trade and foreign relations?

Why were unions and the Council of Trade Unions sponsoring Kelsey’s strident anti-TPPA speaking tour?

McCarten has close union connections.

Has Little been sucked into a McCarten/Auckland left/Kelsey engineered isolationist attempt at revolution?

A photo from the anti-TPPA event in Dunedin yesterday:


Signs of socialists and revolution

Note also the council chambers in the background – event organiser Jen Olsen said that Dunedin should become the first city to declare itself TPP-free. That’s ironic from a campaign claiming “we will use democracy to protect our democracy” – there’s nor mandate for that.

Little and Labour have now inextricably associated themselves with all of this.

Photo of David Clark at the Dunedin anti-TPP meeting removed as per request/copyright. Link to it here.  It’s also shared on Facebook with: “Currently going Viral on Twitter a little bit of fun I had making my point about Members of Parliament needing to listen” so unusual to see it restricted by copyright.


This is David

David is a Member
of Parliament

David knows that
Kiwis are worried
about the TPPA

David has come to
hear their concerns.

David is Listening.

Be Like David

That’s not the David that has to apologise to the Labour caucus for supporting the TPPA. The other David, and Phil, and a number of other Labour MPs, supporters and voters may be feeling as uncomfortable as this David looks.

Has this been a mad McCarten moment for Labour?

Clark, Curran speak at anti-TPP event

Labour’s trade spokesperson David Clark and Dunedin’s other Labour MP Clare Curran followed up appearances at last night’s anti-TPPA meeting with speeches at a rally in the Octagon today.

The ODT reports: Octagon declared a ‘TPP-free zone’

Up to 250 people have declared the Octagon a Trans Pacific Partnership-free zone at an ”action event” in Dunedin this afternoon.

Event organiser Jen Olsen said Dunedin should follow suit and become the first city to declare itself TPP-free.

I’ve already mentioned in the previous post that unilateral declarations are not very democratic.

The crowd heard from Labour’s Dunedin MPs David Clark and Clare Curran, the first time the pair have spoken publicly since Labour declared itself opposed to the controversial deal after years of uncertainty over where the party stood.

They seem to have decided to back some fairly extreme trade activists. This is a major change for Labour, who were involved in getting the TPPA off the ground.

Dr Clark, who is also Labour’s trade spokesman, said it had been a ”hell of a ride” since he took on the trade portfolio last month.


Labour trade spokesperson David Clark (Facebook)

The party had taken a “principled stance not a populist stance” to the TPP, which breached New Zealand’s sovereignty, he said.

New Zealand relied on trade, but not at any price, he said.

He said the party needed to be careful how its presented its argument over TPP in order to take “middle New Zealand” along with it.

Taking “middle New Zealand” while lurching leftward may be quite a challenge for Labour.

Ms Curran echoed Dr Clark’s sentiments, and reminded the crowd Labour celebrated its 100th anniversary this year.


“We are immensely proud of our history – most of our history,” Ms Curran said.

Their current actions may or may not be viewed with pride.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei received the warmest response from the crowd, especially when she declared the TPP would bring down the National Government.


She said she had been heartened by the anti-TPP speaking tour featuring US trade authority Lori Wallach.

It wasn’t a big crowd but that sounds like it was Greenish rather than the “middle New Zealand” Labour think they might appeal to.

David Clark on the TPPA

Labour’s new trade spokesperson David Clark has been out of sight nationally on the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Audrey Young in Labour leader gambles in opposing trade deal:

Three guesses who Labour’s trade spokesman is …

…it is in fact Dunedin MP and former reverend David Clark, and has been since last November in Andrew Little’s first-anniversary reshuffle.

But the Trans-Pacific Partnership is far too major an issue at present to be handled by Clark.

For the next few months, Little himself and Robertson will be de facto trade spokesmen.

It was Robertson who spoke on Labour’s behalf at the It’s Our Future/Jane Kelsey anti-TPPA meeting in Auckland on Tuesday.

Fran O’Sullivan in TPP is too important for Little’s partisan political football:

…the real pity of Little’s stance is that it undercuts the intention of his new trade spokesman David Clark to reassert Labour’s decades long role in working either in or out of government with is major opponent in a bipartisan approach on trade.

But Clark appears to have bought into the Kelsey/Robertson/now Little anti-TPPA stance.

In an MP’s View in Dunedin’s The Star weekly Clark echoes Andrew Little: “My thoughts on the TPPA’:

Labour for trade but TPP concerns abide

There’s a gathering tomorrow from 7 pm at Burns Hall in Moray Place. I will probably stick my head in. It is about the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

That was Jane Kelsey campaigning strongly against the TPP. I was there, and Clark probably did stick his head in.

Dunedin’s other Labour MP Clare Curran made herself prominent there too.

Labour, with strong roots in Dunedin, has a long commitment to international trade.

Eighty years ago, the first Labour government was noteworthy in pushing increased trade access and the opportunity to grow international markets.

Generally countries give up barriers to trade only when they believe it makes good sense for them to do so. As a small nation heavily dependent on trade, our country has often led the charge.

Thanks to Helen Clark, Phil Goff and others, New Zealand signed the first free trade agreement with China. We are richer as a country as a result.

Kelsey campaigned against the China FTA and other trade agreements.

Like previous Labour trade spokespeople, I am committed to trade. I don’t want to live without coffee or bananas. If we stopped trading in dairy or tourism, we couldn’t afford to keep our schools and hospitals open. As a country, we need trade for our prosperity.

Clark (or Star editors) has a curious use of commas.

Labour continues to support gains from trade. Because barriers to international  trade are a lot smaller than they use to be, by definition the gains to be made from modern trade agreements are increasingly modest. The Labour Party supports these gains still.

But the Labour Party will oppose moves to undermine our country’s constitutional integrity. Months ago, Andrew Little released a set of bottom lines on the TPP agreement. It has since become clear that Labour’s concern about protecting Kiwi land – expressed in those bottom lines – is not addressed in the final text of the agreement.

Other countries, including Australia, have secured sovereignty protections for home ownership.

Interesting that he calls them “sovereignty protections”. Australians can buy homes in New Zealand – does that threaten our sovereignty?

It turns out New Zealand did not even ask for these protections in the TPP negotiations. Our Government has failed to get the best deal for New Zealanders.

Moreover the actual TPP text requires us to allow non-citizens, including overseas corporates, to have a say on law changes in a number of areas.

As in the China FTA? And other existing agreements supported by Labour?

Future trade agreements negotiated by a Labour government will better protect our sovereign rights.

Labour (now, Greens and NZ First all oppose the TPP agreement. Greens opposed the China FTA and other trade agreements. How could a Labour/Green/NZ First government negotiate a trade agreement in the future?

The government has the numbers to pass TPP-enabling legislation in our Parliament. Despite this Labour will continue to oppose those things that have no place in an agreement that should focus on market access and increased trade.

Clark doesn’t make it clear whether Labour would vote against any TPP related legislation regardless of whether they agreed or disagreed with the specific legislation.

Will Labour (except Phil Goff) vote against every TPP related bill in symbolic opposition to the whole agreement? They don’t get to vote on the agreement as a whole.

Like others around the country, tomorrow’s gathering in Moray Place will send a crisp message to the Government. If you can spare the time I’d enjoy seeing you there.

I don’t think the Government will get much message at all from the fourth in a series of meetings opposing the TPP.

But Clark has sent a crisp message that he is on message for his leader and the majority of the Labour caucus in opposing the TPP.

And he has sent a crisp message to the public that he is in support of the It’s Our Future/Jane Kelsey anti-TPP and anti-trade agreement campaign.