Take Waitangi Day on tour?

While many people attending Waitangi Day celebrations think it is a great occasion much of the country sees it as a media circus giving a few Ngāpuhi activists some attention at the cost of political and national inclusiveness.

David Seymour has suggested a solution to the ongoing antics at Waitangi Day – move the celebrations around the country.

PM should take Waitangi Day ceremonies on tour

Te Tii Marae’s continued failure to respectfully host the Government on Waitangi Day should prompt the Prime Minister to visit a different marae each year, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The behaviour of a small group of perpetually-grumpy activists has turned Waitangi Day into an annual political circus, denying Kiwis a national day we can all enjoy,” says Mr Seymour.

“It’s never been clear why one iwi gets to monopolise the celebrations. The Treaty wasn’t just signed at Waitangi, it went on tour and was signed by chiefs all over the country.

“If an iwi is going to host representatives of the Crown to symbolise this 177-year-old relationship, why not rotate the host iwi and location? It could be in a different place each year, perhaps following the path that the Treaty took during 1840.

“Ngāpuhi activists have denied the whole country a proud national day a few times too many. Let’s take this show on the road. There were 20-odd signing locations so it’ll return to Te Tii Marae in around 2037.

“A bit of competition among locations might help to lift standards of behaviour, bringing some dignity and joy back to this special day.”

Today’s ODT editorial thinks that this has merit – from The importance of Waitangi Day:

Act New Zealand leader David Seymour suggested the continued failure by Ti Tii to respectfully host the Government on Waitangi Day should prompt the prime minister of the day to visit a different marae each year.

It has never been clear why one iwi – Ngapuhi – gets to monopolise the celebrations.

And that hasn’t been working out very well – it seems to have become more about them and less about the country.

The Treaty was not signed just at Waitangi; it went on tour and was signed by chiefs throughout the country. He suggests the celebration of the Treaty signing could follow the path the Treaty took in 1840.

Waitangi Day is quickly slipping from relevancy for many New Zealanders who are just looking forward to a day of holiday when, in fact, the Treaty is considered New Zealand’s founding document.

Those who attend the Waitangi Day events often say it is overall a very good occasion, if you ignore a few attention seekers and media obsessions and distractions.

But currently for me and I think for many others Waitangi Day is a contentious circus hijacked by a few activists.

If it was celebrated in different places more it may become a country focussed occasion rather than a local leer up.

Little v PM English on child poverty

Yesterday Bill English faced his first Question Time in Parliament as Prime Minister, facing Andrew Little first up on questions on child poverty, with housing added to the mix – possibly the defining issues of next year’s election campaign.

David Seymour, Winston Peters and Metiria Turei joined in.

Prime Minister—Child Poverty

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft that the level of child poverty means “this is not the New Zealand I grew up in nor is it the New Zealand most of us want”; if so, what responsibility does he take as Prime Minister for his Government’s record?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): We do not want children growing up in persistent deprivation. I am proud of the steps the Government has already taken, including raising benefits by $25 per week for the first time in 40 years—something not done by the previous Labour Government. Alongside raising incomes, we are focusing on dealing with the complex dysfunction that traps families in long-term low incomes.

Andrew Little: Why are there more children living in poverty today than 8 years ago, when National took office?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not agree with the member’s assertion.

Hon Members: Oh!

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the New Zealand Government publishes the most comprehensive measures of income of all developed countries in the world. The most recent information is up to 2014, which is prior to changes in free doctors visits for under-13s, the hardship package that was introduced under this Government, and other measures that we are taking for smarter support for vulnerable families.

Andrew Little: Why, after 8 years, has his Government not set targets to reduce income poverty and material deprivation amongst New Zealand children?

Hon Paula Bennett: Well, we have.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have. We have set quite specific targets in respect of all those factors that create the circumstances of persistent deprivation—that is, reduction in recidivism rates, reduction in long-term welfare dependency, and reductions in rheumatic fever. We have insulated 300,000 homes to improve the standard of housing and reduce poor housing, and, as I have said, we have increased incomes for families on benefits for the first time in 40 years.

Andrew Little: Is it acceptable to him that, according to the Child Poverty Monitor report, 110,000 Kiwi kids live in houses with severe damp or mould problems?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course that is not acceptable; the question is what steps should be taken to deal with it. This Government has insulated 300,000 such houses, and now runs much more focused systems for dealing with those children who show signs of ill health because of the quality their housing.

Andrew Little: How much money over the last 8 years has his Government taken out of Housing New Zealand in dividends, while Emma-Lita Bourne got sick and died in a cold, mouldy State house?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member misunderstands exactly how Housing New Zealand’s finances work, but when tenants are experiencing ill health because of the standard of those State houses, money is not a barrier to fixing them. All such incidents are meant to be dealt with by Housing New Zealand within a short amount of time precisely because of the ill effects on the tenants.

David Seymour: Is not the real problem with housing and poverty the fact that New Zealanders produce half as many homes per capita as we did in the 1970s?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member puts his finger on the nub of the issue. Misguided planning laws over the last 10 or 20 years have meant that our cities have not been allowed to grow, and that has helped to push up the price of housing and has made it less likely that good-quality, lower-cost housing is built in our cities.

Andrew Little: Will he back my bill to make it illegal to rent out damp, mouldy, unhealthy homes, or does he think it is OK for slum landlords to exploit poor families and make kids sick?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is already the law, in fact, that you cannot rent out a home that is going to be bad for someone’s health.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: To the Minister, is it not a fact that our parliamentary colleague from Epsom has stumbled on it—that we are not building nearly enough houses as we were in the 1970s and that we got mass immigration, which he has allowed in, in the 1990s and the 2000s?

Hon Members: Who’s the question to?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Who was the question to?

Mr SPEAKER: Did the Prime Minister not hear the question? I can have it repeated.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I think I did. It is the case that there have been fewer houses built per 100,000 people in New Zealand in the last 10 or 15 years, because the planning laws have been designed to stop that happening. As for immigration, the National-led Government stands proudly open to trade, investment, and migration.

Andrew Little: After 8 years of rising child poverty on his watch, will he sign up to Andrew Becroft’s target of reducing child poverty by 10 percent in the next year and take immediate steps to get there, or are we going to continue to hear empty words, just like we did from his predecessor?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Since 2012 we have published a set of quite focused targets aimed at dealing with the social dysfunction that traps families in the combination of welfare dependency, criminal recidivism, low education levels, and child abuse. The data about that is more detailed and more transparent than in pretty much any other developed country, and the Government is acting on that information—in many cases, family by family, because that is the only way to change their lives. Signing up to a target does not change their lives.

Metiria Turei: Does he accept the finding of the Children’s Commissioner’s report that on average 28 New Zealand children die each year of a poverty-related condition—each of those years being when National has been in Government?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I have not seen the detail of that. The Child Poverty Monitor takes information from the Government’s annual report on the state of incomes and households across New Zealand. But I think both the Labour and Green parties grossly oversimplify this issue. If it was just a matter of income, there would be no child poverty, because incomes are higher than they were. The hard bit we are dealing with in child poverty is the social dysfunction that has been there for 20 or 30 years, and this Government is addressing that in a more focused, thorough, and transparent way than any previous Government.

David Seymour: Is it not also related that one in five of the 60,000 children born in New Zealand every year are born into a family dependent on benefits?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think that is roughly the case. Of more concern is that about one in 100 of these children are born into households where there is criminal offending, child abuse, violence, and long-term welfare dependency. We are closely focused on working with those families to break what are long-term cycles of deprivation.

Metiria Turei: What is the point of his Government’s interventions if not one of them has saved a single one of those children’s lives?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I just do not agree with the member. I mean, there have been quite sophisticated advances in, for instance, interventions around rheumatic fever, where the rate of diagnosis of rheumatic fever has halved in the last 3 years, precisely because of excellent work done by the Minister of Health and the Minister for Social Development. The rate of substantiated child abuse, which was rising, has flattened out. Those measures, among many others, may well have saved lives.

Metiria Turei: So how many families in 2017 does he expect will have to bury their children who have died because of poverty-related illness?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would hope none. I would hope none because it would be a tragedy for any family to bury their child. But what I do know is that billions of dollars have been spent ineffectively in the last 20 to 30 years because of following the recipe that that member would advocate, which is to throw money at the problem. This Government is doing a much smarter job of supporting our vulnerable families, and, of course, we have a long way to go.

3 strikes ‘an ugly piece of law’

Jacinda Ardern, in her weekly co-column with David Seymour, desrobes 3 strikesd as “an ugly piece of law”.

Stuff: Jacinda v David: Three-strikes law is no home run

You may remember this law. It was fairly controversial at the time, and was one of the ACT Party’s babies. David Garrett was the champion of the bill, and having now exited Parliament it was David Seymour who has been left to defend what I can only describe as an ugly piece of law.

I don’t use those words lightly, but when you have a combination of bad law, coupled with populism, I just don’t know what else you can call it. And that’s exactly what three strikes is.

It did seem to pander to a populist demographic – the ‘throw  away the key’ mob. But this didn’t translate into voter support for Act, who dropped from 5 MPs to 1 after the law was passed.

Let’s be absolutely clear though. No one is for a moment implying that if you commit multiple offences that it shouldn’t be taken into account. But judges already have to consider previous convictions as an aggravating factor when they hand down a sentence. All that the three strikes legislation did was remove the discretion they had over how they factored that in. And examples like this recent case highlight how clumsy the law now is as a result.

The ugly part, of course, is that a law like ‘three strikes’ sounds good – like we’re sending a hard message and that we will all be safer as a result. But what do you do when the evidence shows that that’s not what this law does? Do you fly in the face of facts and evidence just because of the perception? I’d like to believe Parliament is better than that, perhaps it’s time to show it.

Seymour responds:

Three strikes for violent crime is a good law. It doesn’t just deter recidivism – it removes the worst criminals from our streets, ensuring they can’t terrorise peaceful New Zealanders.

But 3 strikes offences are not just for violence – the infamous first 3rd strike sentence was for grabbing a female prison officer’s bum.

Parliament passed this law to reflect the public’s view that the judiciary has been lax on reoffending. The legal profession may have their nose out of joint over it but in a democracy the public has the ultimate say.

‘The public’s view’ is a bit of a stretch. The way democracy worked here is a party with 5 MPs did a coalition deal with National that allowed the 3 strikes legislation to be passed through Parliament. ‘The public’ didn’t have their views measured democratically.

As for the ‘bottom pinching’ case – Jacinda ignores how the judge invoked three strikes’ in-built safety valve (the ‘manifestly unjust’ clause), meaning the offender will likely be released on parole after a third of his seven-year sentence.

The ‘manifestly unjust’ clause has been used three times under this law – that could suggest the law is inherently unjust.

It’s true that early evidence is limited, but the figures point in the right direction – compared to before the law was passed, new violent offenders are reoffending significantly less often.

But the connection there is debatable.

Last year lawyer Graeme Edgeler posted on this –The Greg King Memorial Blogpost: Three Strikes, Five Years On (now retracted) – in which he said:

So strike crime is down around 20% since three strikes came into effect.

Claiming cause and effect over something like that is the type of intractable debate that you get into over the effect of longer prison sentences. But what we are looking at is not the general deterrent effect of three strikes (fear of punishment in the public at large), but specific deterrence: fear of punishment by those who have a conviction for strike offending who have been personally warned by a judge that further strike offending is treated very seriously.

Had the three strikes law been in place on 1 June 2005, the following five years would have seen 256 offenders receive second strikes.

Now, strike crime is down in general, but the ~20% fall in strike offending is dwarfed by the ~62% fall in strike recidivism.

But Edgeler has just retracted this Retraction: Three Strikes Five Years On.

On September 30 2015, I published a post: The Greg King Memorial Blogpost: Three Strikes Five Years On.

I retract that post. I am grateful to Dominion Post journalist Nikki Macdonald for her story published today looking at three strikes that determined that my piece was unsupportable.

The principal comparison I made in that post, between the number of second-strikes there had been during the first five years after three strikes, and the number there would have been in the five years before three strikes, had three strikes been in place five years earlier, is invalid. The pre-three-strikes data and the post-three-strikes data on which the post was based are not comparable.

The conclusions I reached in my post, as tentative as they were, are not supported by the evidence. I do not know what the correct figures are, but I have substantially overstated the number of second strikes there would have been.

The data he had used to base his original post on was inadequate.

So debate will continue on how ugly the law is that attempts to address an ugly part of our society, violence.

As for the ‘bottom pinching’ case – Jacinda ignores how the judge invoked three strikes’ in-built safety valve (the ‘manifestly unjust’ clause), meaning the offender will likely be released on parole after a third of his seven-year sentence.

So the law works, even in difficult scenarios.

It’s too soon to tell, except that ‘difficult scenarios’ have been the rule rather than exceptions so far.

But Seymour wants to expand 3 strikes to also cover burglaries.

In fact, ACT would introduce a three-strikes law for burglary, meaning third-strike burglars would be jailed for three years. Burglary mightn’t be violent, but it can be extremely traumatising for its victims.

Does it make sense to load our prisons up even more?

And burglaries will be harder to deal with. I don’t know how a prescribed law can take into account likely anomalies.

It’s common for burglary prosecutions to involve multiple offences. How would a straightjacket law deal with one prosecution and conviction for say ten burglaries once a recidivist was caught, and three separate prosecutions for three burglaries.

3 strikes was in part sold on the basis of protecting society from the ‘worst of the worst’ but is already much wider than that, and Act want to widen it even further.

What’s next – 3 strikes for speeding?

It’s odd that 3 strikes has become the one issue that Act have become identified with.  From their website:

Our vision

  • A free society: free trade, free speech, and personal and religious freedom
  • A nation that values personal responsibility, tolerance, civility and compassion
  • Small government, low taxes, secure property rights, and the law applied equally to all citizens

While 3 strikes laws try to enforce personal responsibility they don’t seem to be compatible with tolerance, civility and compassion.

Applying the law equally to all citizens is a difficult ideal to achieve, but 3 strikes laws  is hardly going to help.

Seymour slams Super policies

Act MP David Seymour has slammed ‘baby boomers’ (I’m one of those) that he says will “turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case”.

The Spinoff: NZ baby boomers are building a banana republic, and no one gives a shit

The Treasury has made it clear that current superannuation policies will turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case, and yet media remain largely silent and politicians in denial. Young people need to get voting in a hurry, writes David Seymour.

You could be forgiven for missing that the Treasury published its four-yearly Long-term Fiscal Outlook this week (please, please stay with me, I promise this is worth it). The gist of the report is the same as the previous two editions:

If no policy changes are made, by 2060, when current students reach retirement age, government debt will be 206 per cent of GDP.

No matter how well you prepare for retirement, you’ll be living in a banana republic.

No, it’s unlikely to be a republic, New Zealand politicians are as reluctant to deal with ditch the monarchy as they are dealing with escalating superannuation costs.

The reason? Ageing baby boomers who will be more numerous and longer-lived in retirement than any generation before them. Right now there are four working-aged taxpayers supporting every retiree, but by the time current university students retire there will be only two.

Probably – unless eating ourselves to earlier deaths reverses the improving life expectancy trends of recent decades.

The cost of pensions and healthcare as a share of the economy will double, the government will run large deficits, and the international financial community will demand higher interest rates on New Zealand government debt, leading to larger deficits.

John Key and Bill English claim the country can afford the huge increases in costs, or they don’t care about leaving the problem for future governments.

The first way of absorbing the change is to raise taxes by about a quarter, so GST becomes nearly 20 per cent and the top tax rate goes over 40 per cent, along with every other rate being increased by the same proportion. People embarking on their careers now would pay a 25 per cent extra “boomer tax” for being born at the wrong time.

There tends to be a bit of resistance to increasing tax rates, especially by this sort of amount.

Another alternative is extreme productivity growth, the private economy grows faster than ever for longer than ever, and public services become more efficient than ever. We basically trade our way out of this situation and become so rich we can afford all-you-can-eat pensions and healthcare for retiring boomers.

This is the Key/English gamble.

The problem is that pensions are tied to income so getting wealthier just increases the amount paid out.

The final option is to adjust pension entitlements. Follow Australia, the US, UK, Germany, Canada, to name a few, who have increased the retirement age so there are more workers and fewer pension recipients.

Seymour laments the lack of media coverage of the report and the predicted problems – but people have been shouting  about Super unaffordability for a long time, but politician’s ears are deaf to it.

John Key has torpedoed the debate by saying he’d rather resign than raise the pension age, effectively saying to his supporters: choose fiscal sustainability, or me. Labour and the Greens have followed suit, abandoning the policy after the last election. New Zealand First would rather serve yum cha at their party conference than debate the issue.

Almost every political leader is holding their hands up to their ears and chanting, “la la la la la.”

Peter Dunne tried to force a re-evaluation of Super in the last term of the current Government, proposing ‘flexi-super’, but English and Key looked like having no intention of  acting on the ‘discussion document’ that was done as part of their confidence and supply agreement with United Future.

If NZ First holds the balance of power after next year’s election there is now way Winston will allow any cutting back of Super payments for his primary constituency.

National under Key’s leadership is committed to kicking the Super can down the road.

Unless ACT gets a few more seats and is in a balance of power situation and forces National to do something?

That may be what Seymour is angling at.

To have any hope of success I think that Act and Seymour will have to promote Super change (not ‘discussion’) as a core election policy, and they will have to win enough seats to be able to force Key’s hand.

If Act succeeds in the election then the choice may be National+Act with Super reform, or National+NZ First with a booming Super budget with a risk of our economy blowing up (after Winston has retired or died so he won’t care).

I think Seymour has the gumption to have a go at this. Would he get enough support? Will younger people start to vote for Act to try to sort out their not so Super prospects?

Greens versus Donald Trump

In Parliament today on behalf of the Prime Minister Steven Joyce moved a motion in support of the election of the President of the United States.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I move, That the House convey its congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump on his election as the next President of the United States, and to Vice-President-elect Mike Pence on his election, and in doing so express our desire to work with the incoming Trump Administration to continue building on New Zealand’s already strong relationship with the United States.

New Zealand will seek to build on this already-strong relationship with the incoming Trump Administration in order to advance our shared interests. In closing, I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing administration led by President Barack Obama. President Obama has been a good friend to New Zealand, and we wish him all the best in the future.

Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour): The Labour Party congratulates Donald Trump on becoming the 45th President of the United States. I also want to congratulate Hillary Clinton, who achieved much in her public life, and who has been a good friend to New Zealand. There is no doubt, over the year-long divisive presidential campaign, that many Americans have been left fearful and concerned as to where they fit in their county. I call on Mr Trump to follow through on his words and pledge last night that it is now time for America to bind the wounds of division, and that he will be the President for all Americans.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): A week ago today I was honoured to speak in winegrowing territory in Marlborough, to its chamber of commerce. In a speech entitled “The grapes of wrath”, I predicted what so many experts did not…[lengthy speech along the lines of how what Trump has done should be called ‘doing a Winston’]

MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party): I had three words in mind and they were not those ones. I think they were pot, kettle, and black. Ha! We are here today to offer congratulations to the President-Elect, Donald Trump. Although I find it a little bit difficult, there was a collective sigh this morning and a girding of the loins for the next 4 years across the world. I am a pragmatist at heart. I like to see the silver lining around the clouds.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): On behalf of the ACT Party, I would like to join with other leaders who have supported the motion congratulating the 45th President-Elect of the United States, Donald Trump. That happens in the context of a long friendship between our two countries and our two peoples. I think it is important that we respect the will of the American people.

In contrast Metiria Turei took a different approach:

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These are the words of one of the truly great Americans, Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday’s result in the US elections has left me and the Green Party even more determined than ever to fight for the values that we believe in. We have generations of families living in poverty; people who face uncertain futures, without proper housing or healthcare or education; and people who do not believe that being involved can make a difference. That is something that we can—that we must—change.

We must use the Trump election as a powerful motivator, a motivator to stay involved in the governance of our country, and to include others in that process; to organise; to be strong; to listen to each other; to speak truth to power; to find hope; and to be kind to each other—to be kind.

So, no, I will not support this motion to congratulate Trump, and neither will the Green Party. We vow to fight the climate change denial, the misogyny, and the racism represented by Trump. We will not let hate triumph. Thank you.


Full transcript: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20161110_20161110_08

The motion congratulating Donald Trump passed by 106 votes to 14 (the Green MPs).

The Greens are in to making stands based on their principles, and they can say what they like about the incoming president, and snub him if they choose.

But there is a well established democratic principle that even when you disagree with or don’t like political candidates if they are elected by their people then others need to accept this process and attempt at least to engage with and work with whoever leads other countries.

Perhaps this reflects the Greens’ lack of experience in that practicalities of governing situations.

You could shun half the country and half the world on principles, but to successfully govern the reality is you have to be prepared to accept whoever represents other countries and work with them.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama accepted that Trump had won the right to govern and Obama pledged to work with Trump to make his transition to power as seamless as possible, as he should.

If Greens became part of a government I wonder who it would work. They seem to not want to associate with many leaders and countries, including some of our biggest trading partners.

Key refuses to act on euthanasia inquiry

John Key is refusing to do anything about euthanasia legislation, regardless of the outcome of the current select committee inquiry.

Newstalk ZB: John Key: ‘No chance’ of Govt legalising euthanasia

There is zero chance of Government introducing legislation to legalise euthanasia even if an inquiry strongly recommends it, Prime Minister John Key says.

A select committee is part-way through a major inquiry on public attitudes to euthanasia in New Zealand, which is considering more than 20,000 public submissions and holding hearings around the country.

Key said today that regardless of the committee’s conclusions and the level of public support, the Government would not propose a change.

“There is no chance of it being a Government bill,” Key told reporters at Parliament this morning.

Key said he personally supported euthanasia. He would not take the step himself, but he believed others should be able to.

However, there was strong opposition to it within the National caucus, he said.

Senior members of the Cabinet such as Bill English and Gerry Brownlee have previously voted against bills which would have made euthanasia legal.

“Ultimately you’re dealing with a really sensitive issue and I think the process is best handled through a member’s bill, as I’ve said so often before,” Key said.

Saying it is “best handled through a member’s bill”, which is a long shot lottery, is gutless bollocks.

It may be Key-speak for ‘I am outnumbered in the National caucus on this’.

The Prime Minister said the select committee’s work was still useful because it would inform any debate if a private member’s bill on the issue was drawn.

That’s pathetic, effectively not allowing Parliament to do what it should, debate issues of public importance.

Andrew is little better.

Andrew Little said the Government should “at least” allow a euthanasia bill to come before the House so that a debate could take place.

However, he said a law change would not be a priority for a Labour-led Government.

He would personally support the legalisation of euthanasia if it had the same safeguards as former MP Maryan Street’s proposed bill.

Street’s bill was withdrawn from the member’s ballot ahead of the 2014 election at the request of former Labour leader David Shearer, who was concerned it could become a distraction in election year.

It was taken over by another Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, but Little asked him not to return it to the ballot.

The Labour Party passed a remit at its annual conference on the weekend which said MPs would have a conscience vote on any euthanasia legislation.

Little said he was unsure about the level of support for a law change within his party.

So Little is ‘unsure about the level of support within his party’ but nevertheless had a Labour member’s bill withdrawn from the ballot and consigned it to ‘not a priority’, which is much the same as Key’s refusal to address it.

Euthanasia is a difficult and sensitive issue, but making it as hard as possible for parliament to debate it is gutless politics.

Act’s David Seymour is the only Member of Parliament willing to push for debate on this. He has effectively taken over the bill from Lees-Galloway. The rest of them are ducking for cover when they should be representing the interests of us the people.

The outcome of a euthanasia bill is obviously unknown, but debate on it should be allowed.

I’m especially disappointed with Key’s refusal to do anything, very poor leadership.

Seymour v Collins on euthanasia checkpoints

David Seymour kicked off Question Time in parliament yesterday by quizzing Minister of Police Judith Collins on whether she believed “the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety.”

Collins avoided answering this and follow up questions by claiming she couldn’t respond even in general due to a specific incident being referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.


QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

PoliceRoadside Testing and Collection of Personal Information

1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Although there is no ministerial responsibility for the genuinely held views of members of the New Zealand public, and both section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 and the Cabinet Manual preclude my intervention—in particular, with policing operations—I can confirm that the Commissioner of Police has referred this incident to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.

David Seymour: Does the Minister believe it is a good use of Police resources to interrogate law-abiding people attending a peaceful meeting of an advocacy group, given an 18 percent spike in burglary reported by Statistics New Zealand just this week?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I have answered that question very clearly. This is not a matter that I can comment on. It is currently with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and for me to make a statement about it or have any sort of view would, in fact, actually try to influence the IPCA—and this is not a Labour Government; this is a National Government.

David Seymour: Can the Minister comment on whether she is completely satisfied with how Police currently allocates its resources, given increases in assault, sexual assault, abduction, kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but no reported increases in rogue advocacy groups in Maungaraki?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Clearly, the member is not aware that road policing is actually funded out of the Ministry of Transport, not out of Police. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister agree with the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, when he said “there would be pretty troubling aspects” to an operation that used the statutory power and, indeed, funding provided under the Land Transport Act to gather personal information for a different purpose?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure how many times I need to tell that member that I have no intention of wading into an investigation that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is undertaking. I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would refer the member to not only section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 but also the Cabinet Manual on this issue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister have any views about how a police force should operate and how it should allocate its resources?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I do. One of the ways I believe that police should operate is to not have politicians telling them how to do their job. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

David Seymour: Will she guarantee that someone will eventually be held accountable for this gross breach of civil liberties?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member is jumping to conclusions. I suggest he leave it to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which is the right and proper place and people to look into this issue.


Seymour followed up with a press release:

Minister ducks for cover on inappropriate use of police resources

The Minister of Police has failed to reassure New Zealanders that someone will take responsibility for any misuse of police resources to target euthanasia groups. She hides behind due process today while she is happy to crow about police operations when it suits, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“When New Zealanders see a blatant abuse of civil liberties, they expect someone to be held accountable. At the very least they expect the appropriate Minister to have a view on the principles of good policy. New Zealanders should be disappointed on both counts today.

“Astoundingly, Judith Collins refused to acknowledge what anyone can see: that surveillance of assisted dying advocates is ethically wrong and legally dodgy, not to mention a complete waste of police resources when burglary is spiking 18% in the last year.

“The Minister refused to share any view on this behaviour, saying it would be inappropriate given an inquiry is under way by the Independent Police Conduct Authority. ACT respects this due process, but it needn’t prevent the Minister from expressing a general view, particularly one who is not usually reluctant in sharing her opinions.

“She hasn’t shied away from crowing about other initiatives such as recent anti-burglary measures. Core police operations suffer when resources are thrown at harassing advocacy groups, but the Minister offers no comment. Apparently she only likes to comment on good news.”

It would be good if the Minister of Police could at least assure the public that breath testing checkpoints won’t be used illegally to detain members of the public travelling legally.

Time for a meaningful discussion about Super?

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation in New Zealand is long overdue, but the National Party is adamant that kicking the Super can down the road is the best way of avoiding it.

Stuff: David v Jacinda: Super changes a poison pill that must be swallowed

David Seymour:

“A political hot potato that no party wants to handle.” That’s how The Nation’s Lisa Owen last week described rising superannuation costs, and she’s almost right. Since Andrew Little last year abandoned Labour’s policy of raising the age of eligibility, ACT is the one party campaigning on sustainable super.

Now perhaps that may be sort of correct. In past terms of the current Government Peter Dunne campaigned for changes to Super, promoting ‘flex-super’ which is still a United Future policy.

Politicians across the spectrum, including the Prime Minister, treat changes to super like a poison pill for how it polls with older voters. But if this Government doesn’t make changes, a future one will. By denying this, politicians deny younger Kiwis the chance to even discuss the issue. They are showing contempt for younger voters.

It is often framed as an ‘appeasing older voters’ versus addressing issues that younger peeople will face in the future.

No-one wants to punish today’s retirees or near-retirees. The question is how super should work in the decades ahead. In the long term, policy change appears inevitable – we’re healthier, working and living longer, resulting in a rapidly aging population. This trend won’t stop – half of babies born today are expected to live until the age of 100, and in my lifetime we’ll go from five taxpayers per superannuitant to two taxpayers per superannuitant.

The effects of this huge demographic shift can’t be overstated, with its effect on super alone costing an extra billion dollars each year. It’s reasonable to assume taxpayers won’t tolerate this forever, and fair enough.

When asked about the problem, politicians gloss over the real scale of the cost and instead pivot onto smaller issues. A typical tactic is to focus on immigrants, who can receive the pension after just 10 years of residency. This period should be extended, but that would be just a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of super for the existing ageing population.

Another idea mentioned is flexi-super – letting some people take it earlier at a lower rate, or later at a higher rate. It’s a good idea, but ultimately doesn’t affect the policy’s cost. It needs to come with more substantial reform.

Some suggest means-testing – taking super away from retirees with high earnings. But it’s surely both unwise and unfair to punish those who choose to continue working and pay taxes.

So that brings us back to raising the age.

That’s something that National won’t consider, and I presume NZ First won’t either.

Jacinda Ardern:

I agree with you David, on most counts.

Where I disagree is with David’s interpretation of other parties position on this question – namely ours. Labour knows we have a problem and we knew it when Michael Cullen set up the Super fund. We knew it when we campaigned to raise the age of superannuation, not just one election, but two. That may have been rejected by voters, but we can’t give up on the conversation on how to guarantee universal super for everyone. That has to be our bottom line.

So yes, you’re right. The National Government has rejected taking action in this area, and they are wrong.

But Seymour points out:

The Prime Minister promised in 2008 not to make changes under his leadership.

Not only that, Key and Bill English refuse to consider planning for the future affordability of Super.

If they get back in for another term that’s another three years of inaction, unless ACT and/or Dunne hold the deciding votes and force National to do something.

If NZ First hold the balance of power then no change will be locked in, whether Labour or National lead the next government.

Ardern:

Perhaps the courage we are now asking for needs to come from us, but also from voters – we need them to start banging down a few doors too.

It doesn’t seem to be an issue that voters will decide elections on.

A meaningful discussion about the future of universal superannuation is needed but is unlikely to happen in this decade.

Seymour versus PPTA president

David Seymour has criticised comments made by PPTA president Angela Roberts regarding serious offending against children. Roberts has attacked back, accusing Seymour of misconstruing her comments, “probably done so deliberately”.

This started with a Newshub report: 54 teachers in 3 years struck off for violations

Official figures obtained by Newshub reveal 75 teachers have been censured and 54 have lost their registration in the past three years for violations including sexual misconduct, assault and sex abuse.

It comes as 10 teachers in September went before the Education Disciplinary Tribunal for violations ranging from inappropriate relationships with students to fraud.

PPTA president Angela Roberts says it’s important for the Education Council to monitor the statistics to pick up any trends.

“They may find that there is an increased trend of teachers who are suffering from significant stress, and some really poor decisions get made,” she told Newshub, “and if that’s something they see a trend is coming through on, then actually how do they respond to that?”

She says it’s important the Education Council has good processes in place to protect teachers and students, as issues can rapidly get thorny.

“It can get really complicated very quickly – do the police need to be involved, is it just an employment issue or is it a registration issue? So there are three bits to it.”

Seymour responded: PPTA president’s comments disgrace her profession

ACT Leader David Seymour says teachers should call for Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) President Angela Roberts’ resignation after her casual dismissal of inappropriate conduct towards students being due to ‘stress.’

“When it suits them, the PPTA claim to be the altruistic guardians of children’s education,“ says Mr Seymour.  “When it is revealed that 10 teachers are being investigated, six for inappropriate conduct, in the past month, the PPTA President had the following to say: ‘They may find that there is an increased trend of teachers who are suffering from significant stress, and some really poor decisions get made.’

“Inappropriate conduct can severely damage a child for life. Over the past three years 75 teachers have been investigated and 54 struck off, but the PPTA show no remorse, simply citing ’stress’ and ’bad decisions.’  It’s a joke.  The thousands of good teachers up and down New Zealand should be outraged and making it clear that these comments are not in their name.

“What she could have said is that the PPTA strongly opposes child abuse by teachers, there is no excuse, and the PPTA will be taking steps to protect children.  Instead, she explains it away as being someone else’s fault, someone else’s responsibility.

“The PPTA frequently claim that lobbying and strikes are not out of self-interest but concern for children’s education.  These comments, unintentionally perhaps but true all the same, show a union out of control and living in a parallel universe.  The comments are a disgrace for the whole profession and Roberts should either apologise or resign.”

Calling for a resignation seems an extreme response and is usually something that opposition MPs resort to far too often.

However Roberts does sound like she was downplaying abuse by teachers as being mitigated “due to suffering from significant stress, and that “some really poor decisions get made”.

And far more important than monitoring trends is the detection of abuse and appropriate action against teachers found to be abusing children. And even more important that measures are taken to try and prevent abuse happening in the first place.

Many people suffer from stress in workplaces and in homes. Actually we all do to varying degrees. That is no excuse for abusing children.

Fair enough to question Roberts on what she said, but it seems somewhat provocative to call for her resignation.

At NZ Herald in Act leader David Seymour slams comments by PPTA president  Roberts responded:

Roberts told the Herald that Seymour had misconstrued those comments, perhaps deliberately.

They were made as part of a longer interview, and were about the wider issue of dealing with both disciplinary and competency matters, Roberts said.

“If what I had said was, teachers are under stress and they make poor decisions – if I had been referring to cases of serious misconduct, then, yes, that would be dismissive and inappropriate.

“But that wasn’t what I was referring to. I was talking about all cases of deregistration – there is a huge range. There is conduct, but there’s also competence. And I was talking about all cases referred to the council.

“We do need to look at trends…the ones that are about bad people, absolutely those should be dealt with.”

Fair enough to clarify what she meant and the context the comments were made in.

But accusing Seymour of deliberately misconstruing her comments doesn’t help her argument.

And while Roberts has defended her comments she doesn’t appear to have done anything to address her or PPTA views on teacher abuse of children.

Greens would stand aside for Labour in Mt Roskill

Greens have announced they won’t stand a candidate in the Mt Roskill by-election, should Phil Goff win the Auckland mayoralty and resign from Parliament.

Stuff: Greens won’t stand candidate in any Mt Roskill by-election

The Greens will not stand a candidate in a Mt Roskill by-election if Labour incumbent Phil Goff wins the Auckland mayoralty and vacates the seat, the party has announced.

The deal is part of a memorandum of understanding the two left-wing parties signed earlier this year – but the Greens say the move has “no bearing” on its plans for the 2017 election.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the party had decided not to stand a candidate in the seat “after several weeks of internal discussions”.

“The Mt Roskill by-election will be closely contested, and we don’t want to play any role in National winning the seat.” 

Turei said the decision showed the success of the memorandum of understanding between the two parties, which includes an agreement to co-operate in Parliament and investigate a joint policy and/or campaign.

The party was making the announcement now to be clear with its supporters and the public, given the “considerable interest” in a likely Mt Roskill by-election.

I think the timing of this announcement is odd, before the results of the local body election are known.

The Greens risk a backlash over this – perhaps this is a deliberate test of what the reaction might be in advance of next year’s general election.

Last election Barry Coates stood for the Greens in Mt Roskill. He will soon replace Kevin Hague as next Green off the list in Parliament. A by-election would have given him a chance to raise his profile but he has to defer to a party decision to stay away.

The Greens may think that not standing in order to help Labour candidate Michael Wood will give them and their MoU with Labour good publicity, but it could just as easily backfire. I guess it’s best to test this now before taking a bigger risk in next year’s election.

ACT’s David Seymour is highlighting the change of attitude to electorate jack-ups by both Greens and Labour.

Mt Roskill arrangement shows hypocrisy of opposition

The Opposition’s hypocrisy over ‘dirty deals’ is brazen, says ACT Leader David Seymour as the Green Party confirms that they won’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill as part of an arrangement with Labour.

“Michael Wood’s campaign in Mt Roskill is set to be a brazen display of hypocrisy,” says Mr Seymour. “Two years ago he was bemoaning John Key’s endorsement of a vote for me in Epsom as a ‘dodgy deal’. Now look at him.

“The Greens ought to be just as embarrassed, with Julie-Anne Genter having called John Key’s Epsom endorsement ‘undemocratic’. Clearly, this was nothing more than faux-outrage.

“Strategic voting is a reality of MMP, but hypocrisy is optional. Labour and the Greens have shown how cheap their words are by participating in a deal that far eclipses the electoral arrangements they criticise every election.”

Wood stood for Labour in Epsom last general election and has been selected as Labour’s candidate in Mt Roskill should Goff resign.

It will be interesting to see if ACT stand a candidate in Mt Roskill. That would give them more opportunity to bash Greens and Labour with a hypocrisy hammer – but it could also jeopardise the National candidate’s chances.

ACT didn’t stand a candidate in Mt Roskill in 2014.