Parliament – Ministerial Statements – Mosque Terror Attacks

Opening and Prayer:

SPEAKER: Salaam alaikum. As part of our expression of sorrow and of our hope following the terrorist attack in Christchurch, I have invited Imam Nizam ul haq Thanvi to say a prayer. He will do so in Arabic and then it will be repeated in English by Tahir Nawaz. Following this, my colleague Adrian Rurawhe will say the parliamentary prayer in Te Reo, and it will be repeated by Anne Tolley in English.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): I wish to make a ministerial statement relating to the Christchurch mosques terror attacks. Assalam alaikum, peace be upon you, and peace be upon all of us.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition): As New Zealand woke on 15 March 2019, none of us could have imagined the horror and terror about to be unleashed on our people.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First):

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green):

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

 

Transcripts: Ministerial Statements — Mosque Terror Attacks—Christchurch

Shane Jones denies conflict of interest accusations

Putting Shane Jones in charge of a billion dollars a year of handouts through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be both a financial and a political risk.

And it was always going to be scrutinised by political opponents, especially with the amount of money being poured into Jones’ home province, Northland.

RNZ: Shane Jones denies conflict of interest in funding decision

Cabinet Minister Shane Jones is denying his role in a decision to fund a group from the regional growth fund is a conflict of interest.

Before he became minister Mr Jones was involved in plans to build Manea Footprints of Kupe, a culture heritage and education centre in Northland.

He declared a conflict of interest in the project when he became a Minister in November 2017.

But in February 2018 he attended a meeting of Ministers where he spoke about the project, providing reassurances about its management.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson then approved a $4.6 million grant, despite Treasury recommending it not go ahead.

Mr Jones said he gave only factual information at the meeting and was not otherwise involved in the decision.

National MP Paul Goldsmith…

…said the Prime Minister must demand answers from Mr Jones.

“If you’ve declared a conflict of interest you shouldn’t be in the room,” Mr Goldsmith said.

“He was in the room, responding to questions, we don’t know to what extent, and so he’s left himself wide open to perceived conflicts of interest and not doing things as they should be done.”

Act leader David Seymour…

…said the Prime Minister must sack Mr Jones over his involvement in the project.

Mr Seymour said it was “completely inappropriate” for Mr Jones to be involved in the meeting which decided to grant the project $4.6m.

In an answer to a Parliamentary question, Mr Jones said he had attended no formal meetings about the project since becoming a Minister.

He said Mr Jones’ misleading answer showed he is not fit for ministerial office and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has no choice but to sack him.

Stuff: Prime Minister rejects calls to sack Shane Jones, saying conflict was managed

Jacinda Ardern says she will not sack Shane Jones, after it was revealed the NZ First Minister took part in a key funding meeting for a project he had earlier declared a conflict of interest in.

Documents show Jones, the Regional Development Minister, sat in on a funding meeting where a group of Cabinet colleagues approved up to $4.6 million in funding from the Provincial Growth Fund, providing reassurances about the governance of the plan.

“Based on both the information and advice I’ve received, the conflict of interest was managed in accordance with the Cabinet Manual so therefore I would have no cause to sack Minister Jones”, the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Jones defended staying in the meeting in taking part, saying he had disclosed his interest, which satisfied is responsibilities, although he acknowledged there was a “school of thought” that would consider he should have left the meeting.

“I don’t believe my presence in any meeting with three other powerful ministers has any deterrent effect.”

He has dismissed documents from Manea’s proponents suggesting he was proposed to be the chairman of an entity to facilitate the project.

“I don’t care what the documents said, that was just wishful thinking on the part of the people of Hokianga.”

Act MP David Seymour called for Jones to be sacked as a minister and has written to the auditor-general asking for an investigation.

“Clare Curran was sacked for failing to disclose a meeting. Shane Jones has done exactly the same, the only difference being that Curran’s meeting had no consequence whereas Jones was decisive in $4.6 million of taxpayer money going to an organisation he’d previously been involved with,” Seymour said.

Jones will probably keep his job, for now at least, but these stories will keep nagging away at Government credibility and prudence in handing money out to Northland projects that he has had some connection to.

 

Ardern argues in defence of more complicated taxes

Some people (including me) hoped that a decent review of New Zealand’s tax (and welfare) system would lead to simplifications. Complexities add to costs, and they tend to lead to distortions and unfairness – rich people are generally more successful at finding ways around complex tax law.

Jacinda Ardern keeps pushing more ‘fairness’ as a primary reason for tax reform, and she did this again in Parliament yesterday, but she also appeared to concede that this justified a more complicated tax system.

David Seymour: Is it possible that a proposed capital gains tax could be revenue-neutral?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is certainly the request that we made of the Tax Working Group. It was to consider options around making the package revenue-neutral.

That sounds lie a very fuzzy lack of commitment to ‘revenue-neutral’ tax changes.

David Seymour: Why would a Government request advice that would make a tax system more complicated, to get the same amount of revenue?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Two points: firstly, to make the tax system fairer—which seems like a pretty good reason to members on this side of the House—and secondly, almost every member of the OECD manages to deal with what is being asserted to be complicated; why can’t we?

Ardern didn’t dispute “a Government request advice that would make a tax system more complicated” – in fact she justified it  “to make the tax system fairer”.

The more complicated it is the greater the chance of unfair anomalies and loopholes.

ACT second in attempt to attract some support

NZ First, ACT second? That’s how it looks with new ACT policy announced at their annual conference today, but while taking on NZ First policies may have attracted a bit of media attention the party needs to find a way of attracting more supporters than they got to their conference.

The policy is to reduce the number of MPs to 100, reduce the number of electorates and scrap the Maori seats.

I guess that would give ACT a chance of improving their power in Parliament fro  1/120 to 1/100, but with National out of power it is closer to 0/0.

If Seymour’s member’s bill got drawn (a long shot) and made it through Parliament (I doubt there’s any chance of that this term) it would then go to a referendum.


ACT will deliver fewer politicians

ACT is drawing a line in the sand on the size of government with a new bill aimed at rolling back the the state.

Party Leader David Seymour today revealed his Smaller Government Bill which will reduce the size of Parliament to 100 MPs, limit the size of the Executive to 20 Ministers, and remove the Maori seats.

“The growth in government over the past two decades has not delivered better outcomes for New Zealand. We need smaller, smarter government”, says Mr Seymour.

“New Zealand has too many politicians for its size. Our Government costs more and delivers less than it did 20 years ago.

“The Smaller Government Bill will cut the size of Parliament 100 MPs, bringing us into line with other developed countries.

“It will also restrict the number of high-paid Ministers to 20. Our Executive is far too big – currently standing at 31 people.

“Almost half of the Government MPs hold a position in the Executive. We have too many pointless ministerial portfolios. They are not improving the lives of New Zealanders and this bill will do away with them.

“The bill will also remove the Maori seats. New Zealand is a modern, diverse democracy. There is simply no longer a place for one group of people to be treated differently under the law.

“We now have 27 Maori MPs, 20 of whom were elected through the general roll. Even without the seven Maori seats, Maori would still be proportionately represented in Parliament.

“Our plan would also require all parliamentary candidates to stand in an electorate, and all elected list MPs would be required to open an office in the electorate in which they stood.

“List MPs serve an important function in our democracy, but they should be required to serve New Zealanders and solve real problems, not just collect a salary and spend their time in a Wellington office.

“New Zealand needs smaller, smarter government. ACT is the only party with a practical workable solutions for achieving just that”, says Mr Seymour.

Last ACT annual conference?

ACT has just about disappeared from political sight. The name ‘ACT Party’ may be disappearing altogether. A name change is being considered at the party’s annual conference in Remuera today.

2018 ACT New Zealand – Annual Conference

“Freedom, Choice & Responsibility – Do they exist under this Government?”

The choices you make affect your future and those of the people you care for and support. ACT is the party of choice. The 2018 ACT Annual Conference is being held on Sunday 12 August in Auckland, and you are invited to attend. To answer the question – “Freedom of Choice & Responsibility – Does it exist under this Government?” – our speakers will focus on the economy, business and social reform; we guarantee you’ll be challenged!

  • Briar Lipson – Research Associate, The New Zealand Initiative
  • Lindsay Mitchell – Welfare Reformer
  • Matt Vickers – EOL Care campaigner, husband of the late Lucretia Seales

David Seymour will give the Leader’s Address at 1.00pm. It will be a thought-provoking and stimulating day for all who attend.

Whether the rest of the country will notice let alone find it stimulating is another thing.

According to Audrey Young one thing to be considered is a name change – David Seymour looking to take Act Party back to basics after years of failure

…one of the issues to be debated this weekend is whether to change the party name.

Seymour and president Ruwan Premathilaka are planning a relaunch of the party in March next year and Seymour is billing tomorrow’s conference in Auckland as “a pre-launch of the relaunch.”

The membership had been polled on the future of the party and they have held meetings throughout the country.

“What they have said is they are not angry. They don’t think we have been incompetent or stupid. They think, all things considered, we were pretty organised and campaigned okay.

“But equally they accept that what we have done had been a total failure and we are not going anywhere and therefore we need to do something completely different.”

There was a strong mandate to change the direction of the party, Seymour said.

The only controversial element was what to do about the name.

“If I had a vote for every person that says they like David, this or that policy but they would never vote for Act, I would probably be in Government.”

But will a name change make any difference?

If ACT change their name they are likely to remain approximately as unnoticed as they are now.

Seymour probably has a reasonable chance of remaining as the MP for Remuera, but it will take more than a name change to revive a dying political brand.

Successful politics is reliant on people. ACT need to get electable people more than involved, they need to get them active and noticed.

The reality of politics is that the media will only give them political oxygen if they have people deemed newsworthy. Sadly that doesn’t necessarily mean competent.

We have an enigma in New Zealand politics.

People need publicity if they are to succeed in politics. That means they need to be given significant media exposure, a reality despite the supposed promise of social media revolutions.

Media chose who they give attention to more based on how ‘newsworthy’ they are – but unfortunately in the modern political media era this usually means controversial, which usually means eccentric or appalling or rich, anything that feeds headlines and clicks.

It is unusual for the media to boost someone with genuine talent – as a media made politician Chloe Swarbrick is rare exception.  The voter jury is still undecided (or should be) on whether Jacinda Ardern’s media driven promotion to Prime Minister on whether she can deliver on the hype. Delivering a baby has been a massive distraction, and may make it harder for Ardern to succeed beyond getting ongoing fawning coverage.

Most people chosen by media to be promoted as political prospects turn out to be political failures, or at least disappointments. With media money speaks (or buys their attention and they do the speaking), but it doesn’t necessarily speak the right language to voters, as Kim Dotcom, Colin Craig and Gareth Morgan found out.

So ACT’s biggest challenge is not to apply a new label to a nearly dead party horse.

They need to attract candidates that attract both media attention and party votes.

Or a miracle.

 

 

Half a billion dollars spent on movie making subsidies

Over half a billion dollars has been handed out to movie makers to encourage them to come to New Zealand.

Is this money well spent? Or is it subsidising the already rich?

Matt Nippert (Herald) – Inside Wellywood: How NZ taxpayers forked out $575 million for Hollywood to film here

Act leader David Seymour isn’t willing to dance around this issue of whether subsidising Hollywood’s costs – including for their celebrity starlets – is worthwhile: “I think New Zealanders can decide for themselves whether they feel good about likely having given Scarlett Johansson $3m.”

“Every dollar spent on subsidies is a dollar that can’t be spent elsewhere. Who amongst us believe politicians are the wisest at investing our dollars?”

An otherwise boosterish recent government evaluation of the latest iteration of the subsidy scheme, released yesterday, found $177.1m in grants paid out over the past three years resulted in a significant economic boost for the country but only generated $126.9m in additional tax revenue, costing the government $50m.

It isn’t stated how widely additional tax revenue was considered in that equation. It would be difficult, for example, to quantify the financial and tax benefits that tourism gets out of movies made here.

While Seymour put a firm foot forward in opposing the decades-old scheme, Grant Robertson, the Minister of Finance but perhaps more saliently member for Wellington Central – the location for two-thirds of the country’s subsidised film production – was keen to stay light on his feet.

Robertson wasn’t willing to weigh in on whether ScarJo was worth it, but said criteria letting productions qualify for the maximum subsidy had “been tightened in recent years”.

“I think it’s an area we want to be in. There are obviously always limits to how much you put in – what the scale of any subsidy scheme might be – but from my perspective, New Zealand has done well, produced good people, and this is part of being in that particular industry,” he says.

Sounds a bit like Labour’s immigration rhetoric while in opposition turning around to a more pragmatic approach in Government.

There’s a lot more about it in the Nipper article, and Rod Emmerson has his take on it too:

New name for ACT party?

It looks like the ACT party are considering renaming themselves. They have to do something to turn their lack of support around, they are virtually nothing but the MP for Epsom.

Frank Newman: ACT re-branding

…David Seymour says they are looking at a possible name change.

In an interview on Radio NZ on 15 June he said he did not want to give anything away about the new name, but he did mention various options were being considered, like Liberal Party or something more radical like Reason Party.

Well, he actually has already given a fair bit away on this topic.

On the 8th of October 2017 he registered the domain names, liberalparty.org.nz and liberalparty.co.nz. He has not registered domain names involving Reform Party or Reason Party, and those domain names remain.

The registrations were modified recently. But it’s still only ‘possible name change’ at this stage.

The question is whether changing the name will change the public’s perception of the Party.  Changing the name of a dead horse from Jake to Jack, does not bring the horse back to life.

It will take more than a name change – it needs other people involved who look like they could contribute to a party in Parliament, and one of the first hurdles is being seen as serious prospects by media, who are effectively the gatekeepers of any new entrance into politics.

Being rich and eccentric seems to be a prerequisite. Kim Dotcom, Colin Craig and Gareth Morgan all spent millions of dollars and attracted significant media attention, but that didn’t get them over the MMP line (5% threshold).

Seymour has a significant advantage though. If he holds on to Epsom the threshold doesn’t matter, thanks to the failure of the last (National) government to make MMP fair.

History of ACT party vote and MPs:

  • 1996 – 6.1%, 7 list MPs
  • 1999 – 7.04%, 9 list MPs
  • 2002 – 7.14%, 9 list MPs
  • 2005 – 1.51%, 1 electorate MP (Rodney Hide) and 1 list MP
  • 2008 – 3.65%, 1 electorate MP (Rodney Hide), 4 list MPs
  • 2011 – 1.07%, 1 electorate MP (John Banks)
  • 2014 – 0.69%, 1 electorate MP (David Seymour)
  • 2017 – 0.50%, 1 electorate MP (David Seymour)

So even a step up to one more MP will require a tripling of their 2017 party vote unless they can win another electorate.

I thought that Seymour had a fairly good first term considering he had to set up as an electorate MP and set ACT up inn Parliament with no prior experience. But ACT lost ground.

Seymour is trying a dancing stunt to get attention at the moment, but I don’t know whether that will help ACT’s chances. Perhaps his dance party will run as deputy leader.

Ardern: “Because it was in the agreement and they’re contracts”, except…

Going by the Question Time transcript of the first few questions (there doesn’t seem to be video available yet) it was a bit of a shambles today. Perhaps everyone had been unsettled by a pointless waste of time going on about a baby somewhere else in the word – it could be chaos with a more local birth in a month or two.

One short exchange was more effective than the rest of the shemozzle.

David Seymour: Why is the Government honouring existing irrigation contracts?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because it was in the agreement and they’re contracts.

David Seymour: Why is that different with partnership schools?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We’ve given partnership schools an option, and the majority of them look to be taking it up.

That may be ACT’s only questions for the week, but Seymour did a good job with them. Ardern really set herself up.

Partnership Schools had contracts, but the Government pretty much ignored that and gave them a choice of ‘taking up’ one option, or being forced to shut down.

Charter school report – ‘most parents happy’

A report into Partnership Schools says that there have been positive results and most parents are happy, but it was too soon to judge academic achievement.

David Seymour says that it justifies a reversing of the current Government policy to close Partnership Schools, but Minister of Education Chris Hipkins says “does not tell us much” apart from what students and parents thought about the schools. Isn’t that kind of important and relevant?

RNZ: Charter school report silent on educational achievement

Students at charter schools are being stood down less frequently than they were at other schools and most parents are happy with the schools’ performance, a report commissioned by the previous government says.

However, the report by consultancy firm Martin Jenkins, the third in a series, failed to cover the schools’ academic achievement because they had not been operating long enough and their NCEA data was presented in a way that was not comparable to that of other schools.

 

The report said its authors worked with the Education Ministry to shift the focus of the evaluation away from student outcomes in part because it was too early to determine the schools’ success.

“Schools/kura were still becoming established, numbers of students that had received a ‘full dose’ of the PSKH [Partnership School Kura Hourua] intervention were low, and efforts were ongoing by the Ministry to define and agree contracted outcomes,” the report said.

The report has been published at a critical time for the schools, which must apply to join the state school system as special or designated character schools or face closure.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins…

…said the report “does not tell us much” beyond an insight into what students and parents thought about the schools.

“It doesn’t tell us for example about academic achievement and progress and obviously that’s where a lot of the attention really should be focused.”

ACT MP David Seymour: Hipkins must reverse charters decision after glowing report

“The Education Minister must now reverse his decision to close Partnership Schools after the final report from independent consultants Martin Jenkins painted a glowing picture of the model”, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The report cuts through the spin on Partnership Schools, delivering blow after blow to Government’s hopes it could kill off the model quietly.

“The final report shows Partnership Schools are strongly focused on disadvantaged kids with complex needs. Students are largely Maori and Pasifika from low-decile schools. Before attending the Partnership Schools, many students were transient, disengaged, with poor academic histories and complex socio-economic needs. They often lacked positive aspirations and role models.

“The schools are meeting learners’ needs using innovative practices and high-quality standards. Sponsors are driven by a vision to provide an alternative for students who have been underserved. Innovations enabled by the flexible funding model are across the board, in governance arrangements, staffing, student engagement and support, pedagogy, teaching and learning.

“Student engagement has significantly improved. Stand-downs and length of suspensions are lower. Students give positive feedback. Whānau feel more involved and more confident communicating with schools. Very few learners are opting out.

“It is no exaggeration to say that this is the most positive news our education system has had for some time.

“It simply beggars belief that Jacinda Ardern and Chris Hipkins would end an educational model that has delivered so much for students that have been so poorly served by our state system

“The Government must now reverse its position on Partnership Schools”, says Mr Seymour.

Last year an earlier Jenkins report: NZ’s charter schools given good report card

Most of the first eight charter schools are good at teaching and testing children from Māori, Pasifika and poor backgrounds, an independent evaluation says.

“All schools/kura report that high proportions of their students have poor achievement histories and are achieving below the age/stage-related standards that could be expected on entry to the school/kura,” it said.

It said the schools showed mostly good and in some cases innovative practice in their approaches to working with the children.

Last month from Seymour: Why is Hipkins Hiding the Final Charter Schools Report?

ACT Leader David Seymour is questioning why Education Minister Chris Hipkins is suppressing the final Martin Jenkins evaluation of charter schools.

“I wonder if Mr Hipkins is not bullying Martin Jenkins into modifying the report to talk down the schools?”, asks Mr Seymour.

In 2014, the Ministry of Education contracted Martin Jenkins to deliver an independent evaluation of the performance of the charter school model. Its reports were to be delivered between 2014 and 2017.

“The first report found the flexibility of the model was enabling charter schools to deliver ‘innovative educational provision for students who have been under-served by the education system.’

“In its second report, Martin Jenkins said charter schools were reaching priority students – those at higher risk of not achieving.

“The final report appears to have been completed, but not released. What does it contain? Why is Chris Hipkins hiding it? Is the Minister having the report altered to suppress glowing reviews about charter schools?

“Chris Hipkins can’t hide the report forever. At some point, New Zealanders are going to learn what 1500 students already know: charter schools change lives for the better”, says Mr Seymour.

It isn’t hidden any more, but is seems unlikely that Hipkins will change his mind about Charter Schools, he (and the teacher unions) has been always strongly opposed to them.

Closing the schools has been awkward for Labour as some of their Maori MPs have been involved in and support partnership schools. They may stay open but under a different description.

Tobacco retailer safety

With the continually rising price of tobacco and cigarettes, and a presumption (mine) that people inclined towards committing crime and those associated with them  also tend to be inclined towards smoking, the number of robberies related to tobacco have increased. These robberies are often violent, and dairy owners and staff  are often the victims.

Dairies can choose whether to stock tobacco products or not, but it is a major source of revenue for the small businesses. Who should be responsible for their safety?

Of course the police have a duty to protect any retailer of legal products from theft and violence – to an extent. They cant be at every dairy all the time.

ACT MP David Seymour is suggesting that the Government direct more of the substantial amount of tax and duties they get from tobacco into paying for retailer safety.

Another suggestion is to admit that escalating taxes and prices have created an unintended consequence, and lowering the taxes would alleviate the theft and violence problem but that is debatable.

Today’s ODT editorial looks at the problem, and comes up with what should have been an obvious answer – tobacco product suppliers should protect their retailers.

ODT: The smoking gun of tobacco taxes

Dairy owners are again starting to worry that the next person who enters their shop may be a thief who could turn violent as he or she demands cash and, increasingly, tobacco products.

A search of media outlets shows a pattern of increasing crime against sellers of tobacco products, as their price has escalated through increased excise taxes.

The New Zealand tobacco industry says it makes a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy in terms of government revenue, retail sales and employment. It pays more than $1.8 billion in total taxes each year.

Tobacco products make their largest financial contribution to the economy in the form of excise taxation. The industry also says tobacco is an important source of revenue for about 5000 New Zealand retailers, the vast majority of whom are small, independent retailers and dairies.

A debate has again broken out about who should pay for the protection of the retailers selling the tobacco products. Fewer outlets are now selling tobacco and communities celebrate the success, believing fewer people are smoking as outlets reduce.

However, aggressive cost-cutting has helped some of the largest tobacco companies retain their profits, despite falling sales.

One of the arguments being made to help protect dairy owners is to just stop selling tobacco, of course ignoring the fact tobacco is a legal product and a genuine part of a service dairy owners can offer their customers. Unless another high-margin product emerges to replace it, dairy owners will still sell tobacco.

Act New Zealand leader David Seymour is at the other end of the spectrum, saying after two violent robberies in less than a week, it is only a matter of time before someone is killed.

The money collected by the Government each year in tobacco tax revenue is blood money, obtained by putting the lives of people at risk, he says.

But Mr Seymour is somewhat off the mark when he calls for the Government to direct 10% of tobacco tax revenue to protect vulnerable business owners.

Surely it is time for the tobacco companies themselves to start protecting the people they want to sell their products? Revenues from global tobacco sales are estimated to be close to $965 billion, generating combined profits for the six largest firms of $67.5 billion.

That’s a good point. If tobacco companies want to protect their sales and profits perhaps they should do more to protect their retailers.