Labour/Government spending on schools

In her Speech to the 2019 Labour Party Conference Jacinda Ardern gave details of plans provide money to all schools for maintenance.

…next year almost every single state school in New Zealand will receive a one-off payment of up to $400,000 to upgrade their classrooms and facilities.

This is the biggest cash injection for school maintenance in at least 25 years.

It will create jobs in every community in the country while helping to make our schools the special places they deserve to be.

Every school will get a payment of $693 per student, capped at a maximum of $400,000, while no school will get less than $50,000 regardless of how small their roll is.

@henrycooke: The funding maxes out at $400k per school but also has a $50k floor. This creates some wild ratios, eg: Auckland Grammar, with 2421 students, will receive the max of $400k – $165 per student. Papanui Junction School, roll of 7, will receive the minimum of $50k – $7k per kid.

Be it classroom upgrades or extensions, ensuring classrooms are warm and dry so our kids can learn, replacing coal boilers with new clean and energy efficient heating, improving play areas with resurfacing and landscaping, replacing roofing and guttering – this money is to ensure that the projects that schools have often had to defer can now get done.

But this isn’t just about schools – it’s about jobs. And especially trades jobs.

We want schools to engage local builders, plumbers, carpenters, roofers, landscapers – this is an opportunity for work at a local level in every town and city in the country.

Now this is just the first part of our infrastructure package, and one element of our work to rebuild New Zealand.

And it will leave a visible mark on every school in the country.

Now I know that what happens to our school buildings is one thing but what happens within them matters even more.

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She also announced a Ministry of Education offer to pay all school support staff at least ‘the living wage’.

So I want to finish by acknowledging that on Friday, the Ministry of Education made a new offer to settle the school support staff collective agreement, which, if accepted, will see teacher aides and other support staff receive at least the living wage.

Today, I can also announce that we intend for the Ministry to extend the living wage offer to all non-teaching staff in schools including cleaners, caretakers, and grounds people.

A lot of people will like this expenditure, and many will benefit from it. It won’t do any harm for Labour’s election chances next year either.

Allegation of funding threat, Minister says comments ‘misconstrued’

In a select committee submission,Steve Glassey, founder of Animal Evac NZ, alleged that a Minister said that criticisms could threaten funding. The Minister, Damien O’Connor, says that his comments were misconstrued.

Barry Soper (Newstalk ZB): Threat allegation – PM did not expect minsters’ behaviour

The threat allegation centres on last month’s fires in the Nelson district and it was made in a Parliamentary select committee by Steve Glassy.

The article repeatedly misspells Glassey’s name.

After initially being rejected Glassy and his team were invited back by MPI to do their stuff as things got worse.

As it is, his organisation wanted to work on the National Disaster Resilience Strategy to put in place a better system in the future.

MPI Minister Damien O’Connor had a word in his ear, in the presence of a volunteer, that he should be more positive about how the system was working and in the same breath is alleged to have talked about future funding.

As he was driving away, Glassy’s insistent O’Connor leaned out a passenger window and told him that “you can’t go riding us and then come to us for funding.”

O’Connor was quite up front about his conversation with Glassy but seemed to dig himself deeper into the hole he was trying to extract himself from.

He told the animal rescuer it’s really important to be positive “when we’re trying to negotiate a better deal with him.”

Jacinda Ardern said it was “absolutely not” the behaviour she’d expect of a minister and if evidence was provided she’d be open to seeing it.

The Country (NZH): Animal Evac NZ head Steve Glassey says MPI had no plan to look after animals during Nelson fire

The head of an animal evacuation charity which helped rescue pets and stock during the recent Nelson fires says a Government Minister threatened to pull its funding if he didn’t “play the game”.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor confirmed it was he who had spoken to Animal Evac NZ founder Steve Glassey but said the conversation was misconstrued.

Glassey today criticised the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and its response to the plight of animals stranded as people evacuated fire-hit areas during the Nelson fires earlier this year.

Glassey was making a submission to a committee of MPs today about the National Disaster Resilience Strategy.

“The Nelson fires repeated many of the major mistakes made in previous responses.

Despite the legal mandate for MPI to co-ordinate animal emergency plans, there was no animal management approved under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act in effect at the time of the fire,” Glassey told the governance and administration committee.

That may the more important aspect of this story, but the threat accusation has attracted more attention to it.

“We have had veiled threats from officials and even a Minister that if we continue to draw attention to such deficiencies, our chances of getting funding will be affected,” Glassey told the committee.

“Yet, this Government repeatedly says it’s prepared to be held to account.”

Asked by MPs what had been conveyed, Glassey said “basically, if we don’t play the game we won’t get funding”.

O’Connor confirmed to reporters he and Glassey had spoken but he made no such threat.

“Steve will always extrapolate things out. I said it’s really important to be positive when we’re trying to negotiate a better deal with him. I think Steve going around criticising MPI staff at every single opportunity when everyone is doing their best is not a very productive way forward.”

O’Connor said Glassey would misunderstand anything regardless of what was said.

That sounds like there could be some history in the relationship between O’Connor and Glassey.

He said Nelson was an emergency situation, Glassey had gone behind the cordon.

“He had created some chaos and some challenges for the police and for MPI. It wasn’t a very productive situation.”

So it seems to be more than aa bit of criticism that is causing friction.

MPI’s director of animal health and welfare Chris Rodwell said Animal Evac NZ was one of several agencies invited to help with the response to the fires, along with the SPCA, the Helping You Help Animals charity and Massey University’s veterinary emergency response team.

“Animal Evac does not receive funding from MPI, so there are no plans to cut funding. We look to find funding to support services in every response we are involved in, including this one,” Rodwell said in a statement.

Supporting agencies were advised that travel and accommodation costs would be picked up by the Nelson Tasman Civil Defence Emergency Management group.

“It is up to them to seek reimbursement and we can facilitate this. In addition, charities involved are also able to apply to the mayoral fund,” Rodwell said.

Perhaps further clarification will be forthcoming.

Glassey had been closely involved with the SPCA for 30 years, but ‘stepped away’ in 2017 after two years heading the Wellington branch. See Research beckons Wellington SPCA chief as new structure rolled out

Taxpayers’ Union – advocates or activists?

The Taxpayers’ Union has been a controversial player in New Zealand politics, given those who are involved (from the right of politics).

Their self-description on Twitter:

We’re the voice for Kiwi taxpayers in the corridors of power. With  and our 36k members, we fight for Lower Taxes, Less Waste, More Transparency.

But the causes they promote or oppose suggests that their focus is rather narrower than “the voice for Kiwi taxpayers”.

Their reaction to this article suggests a certain sensitivity to criticism – Newsroom: Tobacco ties undermine Taxpayers’ Union

“Here at the Taxpayers’ Union, we are no defenders of ‘Big Tobacco’ or its lobbyists.”

Jordan Williams’ words, in the foreword to a 2016 report on the impact of tobacco taxes, have a certain irony in light of his organisation’s financial ties to British American Tobacco.

In many ways, news of the tobacco giant’s “corporate membership” of the Taxpayers’ Union (for an undisclosed annual fee) should come as little surprise.

Since its inception in 2013, Williams’ organisation has consistently opposed measures designed to regulate or reduce the use of tobacco, such as the plain packaging law and the annual increases to excise tax.

Add in its ‘Clear the Air’ campaign for lighter regulation of vaping and other e-cigarette products – a sector in which cigarette companies themselves now have a large stake – and the alignment of beliefs seems clear.

Does that mean that Williams and company are mere stooges for hire, on offer to the highest corporate bidder?

Not necessarily (although the group’s most vociferous critics would surely beg to differ).

Egregious lack of transparency

British American Tobacco may pay its dues to the Taxpayers’ Union not to ensure it would take the party line against tobacco controls, but because it already shared those views as a philosophically “free market” organisation.

And the group’s argument about the regressive impact of tobacco taxes – that they impact the poor disproportionately – is one which carries some weight.

There would be value to some voters in an organisation which lived up to the Taxpayers’ Union motto of “lower taxes, less waste, more transparency”.

However, it’s in the area of transparency where the organisation most egregiously fails.

None of the numerous press releases and reports on tobacco put out by the Taxpayers’ Union make even a passing reference to the group’s funding from a cigarette manufacturer.

A Taxpayers’ Union spokesman pooh-poohed the suggestion of disclosing conflicts of interest, claiming doing so would “distort people’s perceptions of our work” given its many donors.

That’s an argument that doesn’t hold water, given the high standards to which the organisation is willing to hold politicians (take its criticism of Associate Transport Minister Julie-Anne Genter for the awarding of transport contracts to her partner, despite her lack of involvement in the decision-making process).

The organisation’s spokesman suggested taxpayer-funded entities had to be held to “a special standard” – but surely a group seeking to enhance government transparency should be purer than pure.

They should practice what they preach on transparency.

Also apparent is their interest in issues that seem to be straying somewhat from the interests of “Kiwi taxpayers”.

A few days ago:

This sort of general anti-government stance is common from the Taxpayers’ Union.  They look more like activists with vested interests in certain political outcomes rather than general advocates for reducing Government costs. This probably doesn’t surprise any Kiwi taxpayers.

More important questions for National than ex-lover spat and personal revenge

The turning rogue of Jami-Lee Ross and the text of Sarah Dowie has been a big story for months now, but a part of the issue that has been largely overwhelmed by the social saga side is what this has exposed about the National Party. Some have recently written about this.

Graham Adams (Noted & Stuff) looks at and beyond Parliament’s star-crossed lovers who crossed each other, starting with Jami-Lee Ross’s maiden speech in Parliament 2011.

In his speech, Ross also quoted the school’s aim to produce “good and useful citizens”. Most people will conclude he isn’t good but he has certainly been useful already if you look beyond the narrow interests of the National Party to the wider interests of the nation.

Ross has given us insights into our political life that only an insider could know, including how donations are handled and how much influence some donors expect (or hope) to have over candidate selection in the National Party.

His disclosures about wealthy Chinese donors has also sparked increased interest in Professor Anne-Marie Brady’s research into how United Front activities run by those close to the Chinese Communist Party have infiltrated our political life.

And Ross could prove himself to be even more useful if he told us much, much more about how our politics are entwined with the push by the CCP to influence perceptions of China overseas and policy towards it.

For starters, he might enlighten us on the role of Dr Jian Yang — that mysterious figure in National’s caucus who was part of China’s intelligence community and a member of the Communist Party, and who refuses to speak to journalists (or at least English-speaking ones).

It would be entirely appropriate for Ross to perform this service, not least because in his speech he declared himself to be passionately opposed to socialism.

He should be very happy then to expose the deep links between National — the party purportedly of “individual freedom and choice” (number 4 on its list of values) — and the communist regime in China that is one of the most repressive and repugnant on the planet.

Some will think it’s the very least a man who professed in 2011 to be devoted to “individual freedom” and who in 2018 dedicated himself to exposing the “rot within the National Party” could do.

Fran O’Sullivan (NZ Herald): Bigger issues to deal with than emotive texts

There are more pertinent issues at play.

Despite the public front National has adopted on the donations issue, it has still not satisfactorily dealt with Ross’ claim that he was effectively asked to wash a $100,000 donation from Yikun Zhang by ensuring it was split into smaller amounts.

National Party apparatchiks denied there was a $100,000 donation. National Leader Simon Bridges said at the time a “large sum of money” came into the party from multiple sources through donations from Zhang and supporters through Ross’ electorate account in Botany in the first instance.

The issue here is one of “substance over form”.

Nor has Bridges dealt satisfactorily with the clear implication from the tapes that Ross leaked, of a prior conversation that suggested he favoured effectively trading positions for different ethnicities on National’s list, in return for donations.

These issues — which strike at the heart of democracy and business ethics — have been obscured in the general furore over Ross’ meltdown.

It is obvious that there is sufficient underlying truth to Ross’ claims on this score to have provoked senior National MPs to call for change.

Former Attorney-General and National MP Chris Finlayson was sufficiently exercised to use his valedictory speech in Parliament last year to say he was concerned over funding of political parties by non-nationals.

Finlayson called for both major parties to work together on party funding rules, saying it was his personal view that it should be illegal for non-nationals to donate to political parties.

“Our political system belongs to New Zealanders and I don’t like the idea of foreigners funding it … we need to work together to ensure our democracy remains our democracy.”

The issue has also festered with the long-serving veteran National MP Nick Smith who revealed to the Herald this week he also wants reforms to ensure the integrity of the NZ electoral system.

If Ross is of a decent mind he would chalk up a minor victory on this score as having focused National MPs’ attention on behind-the-scenes dealing in their party.

National is not going to wash its dirty linen in public but the allegations their former party
whip raised are of sufficient merit for police to finalise that particular probe.

I don’t think we can rely on Ross being ‘of a decent mind’, he seems more intent on personal revenge.

And we can’t rely on the Police to do a decent investigation of political funding, they seem to prefer to avoid political investigations.

Unfortunately I think that much of the media is more interested in the personal lives of politicians becoming public fodder.

But a proper examination of funding methods and of possible Chinese influence in the National Party is where journalist attention should be focussed

‘Record investment’ in low emission vehicles, but still paltry

The Government has announced more funding in support of the use of ‘low emission’ (mostly electric) vehicles, but it is still paltry amounts. It may be a bit more than lip service but it is hardly going to launch us into a transport revolution.

Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods:  Record investment in low emissions vehicles announced

Low emission transport will receive a record boost totalling more than $11 million, Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods announced today.

“Today I’m announcing the largest round of new funding from the Government’s Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund yet.

“Thirty one exciting new low emissions transport projects will share over $11 million of funding to help more Kiwis make use of new transport technology.

“This funding is made up of $4.3 million of government co-funding and $7.3 million of funds from the private sector. That’s a smart investment that means the maximum benefit for the taxpayers spend.

That’s $4.3 million of Government funding. It suggests that not a big priority is going alternative energy transport.

“This round of funding focuses on innovative projects that expand the use and possibilities of electric vehicles and other low emissions technology in the transport space. It’s about making new technology available to help Kiwis get around, lower our carbon emissions and contribute to our economy.

“From 100% electric campervans for tourists to hydrogen fuel cell powered buses at the Ports of Auckland to solar panel charged electric vehicles and trial of smart chargers in people’s homes, we’re backing new technologies that will make a difference.

“We’re also funding a further 34 new public charging spaces for electric vehicles right around New Zealand, including several at South Island tourism hot-spots. This is about creating a truly national infrastructure of EV charging so that all major trips around our country are available to EV users.

34 charging stations around the country is not a big boost – and it doesn’t solve all the problems of using EVs. A small increase in the number of charging stations will help a bit, but they are still few and scattered, and the range of EVs and the time required to charge them are still significant negatives.

“This is by far the biggest round of new projects delivered by the Fund. Each previous round has given the green light to between 14 and 18 projects. In total, the fund has committed $17.2 million in government funding to 93 projects. This is matched by over $45 million applicant funding.

Trying to talk up an underwhelming investment.

“Transport is responsible for about 18% of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions, so one of the most effective ways for us to help tackle climate change is to transition our fossil-fuelled transport fleet to run on clean, renewable energy sources. By helping to roll out that technology to more people than ever, today’s announcement helps more Kiwis cut their transport emissions.

It will help a small number of Kiwis charge their vehicles.

The 31 projects are listed, ranging from tens of thousands to a few hundred thousand dollars. It is hardly going to encourage people to invest more in electric vehicles.

But I guess it’s something.

For more information about the fund, visit www.eeca.govt.nz/funding-and-support/low-emission-vehicles-contestable-fund/

For general information about EVs, see www.electricvehicles.govt.nz

 

More funding announced for rural road safety

While most Ministers are on holiday Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has been busy promoting road safety. Today she announced extra funding for rural state highways across Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Wanganui and the West Coast. This follows earlier programmes to improve roads in The original Safety Boost Programme which made improvements in Northland, Taranaki, Manawatū-Wanganui, Otago and Southland.

This looks timed to try to address road toll news over the holiday period and end of year.

Extra Boost for Rural Road Safety

Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter today announced an extension of the Government’s Safety Boost Programme to prevent deaths and serious injuries on rural New Zealand roads.

“The Boost Programme will target 11 rural State highways that might not have high levels of traffic but still have plenty of risks like sharp corners and narrow stretches,” said Julie Anne Genter.

“The Boost Programme includes simple safety upgrades that can be installed quickly over the summer period, such as rumble strips roadside safety barriers in high-risk locations, shoulder widening, and improved signage.

“Rumble strips can reduce fatal run-off-road crashes by up to 42 percent. Shoulder widening at high risk sights can reduce serious crashes by up to 35 percent.

This summer’s Safety Boost is part of the $1.4 billion Safe Network Programme (SNP) – a collaborative, prioritised programme of proven safety improvements on high risk routes across New Zealand. The 670 kilometres of road upgrades in the Boost Programme is additional to the 870 kilometres of upgrades to high volume, high-risk State Highways in the SNP.

Extra Safety Boost for Manawatu-Wanganui Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include five Manawatu-Wanganui roads:

  • SH56: Makerua (SH57) to Palmerston North
  • SH57: SH3 to SH56
  • SH3: Palmerston North to Ashhurst
  • SH4: Whanganui to Raetihi
  • SH54: SH3 to Feilding

Extra Safety Boost for West Coast Roads

This will include two West Coast roads:

  • SH6 and SH67: Murchison to Westport
  • SH7: Hanmer Springs to Reefton

Extra Safety Boost for Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay Roads

The NZ Transport Agency will invest $20 million in lower cost safety improvements on rural State highways. This will include four Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay roads:

  • SH2: Wairoa to Gisborne
  • SH35: Gisborne to Tolaga Bay
  • SH2: Gisborne to Matawai
  • SH5: SH2 to Te Haroto.

This can’t be annual budget spending. It must either be from a general roading fund or from some roading related tax.

Foreign Affairs funding boosted by $1b with no clear plan

It was announced before this year’s budget that Foreign Affairs funding would be increased by nearly $1 billion, seen as a major policy win for Winston Peters (who is Minister of Foreign Affairs).

Documents obtained by Newsroom show that Treasury officials warned Peters’ ministry that there was no clear plan how the money would be spent – $1b foreign affairs boost against Treasury advice

Budget documents released by Treasury highlight the complex negotiations between Finance Minister Grant Robertson and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, with discussions over the final dollar figure for MFAT funding going down to the wire.

A nearly $1 billion increase for foreign policy and international aid, including $715 million for New Zealand’s official development assistance (ODA) budget, was one of the Government’s major pre-Budget announcements.

However, Treasury documents show Peters initially wanted upwards of $1.5b, while Treasury recommended almost none of it be funded.

A Treasury briefing provided to Robertson in March ahead of his first Budget bilateral with Peters said the minister wanted an extra $1.2b over four years for the ODA budget.

He also wanted an extra $280m for MFAT’s capital budget, with the requested increase for operational spending redacted.

The ministry did not have a clear idea of the full cost of their capital projects or what strategic choices needed to be made, and was preparing on a long-term investment plan which would give the Government a better idea of what was needed.

The Treasury advice said a request for an extra 60 full-time staff was not backed up with evidence of its value, while there was a “weak strategic case” for reopening the Stockholm embassy, given the low level of trade links and the ability to manage the relationship within MFAT’s existing network.

Peters asked Minister of Finance for $1.5 billion and got nearly $1 billion.

After Robertson’s first meeting with Peters, he indicated to Treasury that he supported a “cash injection” for ODA, as well as funding some of MFAT’s cost pressures.

Treasury also recommended providing capital funding for the new Stockholm post and money for an additional 12 staff – some way short of the 60 Peters asked for and the 50 he eventually received.

Discussions over the final foreign affairs package came down to the wire, with an email sent on April 4, days before Robertson had to sign off on a final version of the Budget Cabinet paper, noting he was still locked in discussions with Peters and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

A few days later, Robertson’s office contacted Treasury saying there had been a late agreement to move money out of the APEC hosting budget and put it towards the ODA funding.

This appears to show how much sway Peters had over Labour.

Peters said Treasury’s argument against the funding was “frankly not in the interests of our country”, given an effective 10-year funding freeze for MFAT.

“The underfunding had started to bite, undermining our ability to maintain New Zealand’s independence as an international actor projecting our distinct values.”

It was “shocking” that New Zealand’s ODA had dropped as a share of gross national income from 0.3 percent to 0.23 percent, Peters said, weakening the country’s hand in the Pacific “at the very time the region has become a more crowded and contested strategic space”.

There were funding pressures all over Government. NZ First managed to negotiate some major boosts in Foreign Affairs, plus the $1 billion per year for Shane Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund.

Peters also got tax concessions for his friends in thoroughbred racing, and intends using the Provincial Growth Fund to boost racing further.

Greens got very little in comparison, albeit from a much weaker negotiating position and lacking negotiating experience.

Labour bumped a few things up, with major increases to Working for Families, the tertiary free fees scheme and Kiwibuild, but they had cited many other priorities like health, education, justice and prisons, and poverty, that have struggled with a lack of money.

Q+A: Phil Goff on funding infrastructure and free speech

This morning Phil Goff will be interviewed on Q+A.

Goff says that one way of dealing with local government funding problems is to have the GST on rates returned to councils for them to do as they wish with.

On free speech, Goff says that he has a responsibility to ensure Auckland is an inclusive city – by excluding some speakers?

Pressure on budget spending, except for NZ First policies

Bad Labour, good cop NZ First? Or perhaps that should be tough accountant Labour, generous giver NZ First.

Labour has been highlighting unforeseen shocks putting pressure on budget spending in health and education, but NZ First seems to have no problems getting money to burn for it’s policies.

They had already scored $1 billion a year to hand out to regions, where many NZ First votes come from.

The Government has now announced a $1 billion increase (over four years) in foreign affairs funding, which feeds policies championed by Winston Peters.

Stuff – Budget 2018: ‘Pacific reset’ will increase foreign affairs funding to $1b over four years

New Zealand’s foreign service has been given a massive boost in funding – taking its total four-year vote to near $1 billion – to cater for the Government’s “Pacific reset” and the reopening of an embassy in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Winston Peters has unveiled his department’s Budget allocation, at a special announcement ahead of next week’s Government Budget reveal.

The funding boost for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) will also see New Zealand’s diplomatic corps increased by another 50 positions.

Peters said the announcement reflected the “critical role” MFAT played in keeping New Zealand safe and prosperous.

MFAT would receive an operational expenditure increase of $150.4m across four years, and an additional $40.3 in capital expenditure, which would allow for the new embassy that was closed by former National Minister Murray McCully in 2012.

The Government would also be bracing for some big investment in the Dubai World Expo in 2020, and New Zealand’s hosting of the Apec forum in 2021.

Peters also announced a whopping $714.2m allocation to the Official Development Assistance fund – or foreign aid – that will be heavily prioritised towards the Pacific.

He said the funding was a “clear demonstration” to the international community that New Zealand was serious in addressing global and regional challenges and helping people in need”.

“Increased investment will enable New Zealand to deliver on our Pacific Reset. It will bolster our efforts to tackle priority issues like climate change in the region,” said Peters.

This is thought in part aimed at competing with China’s influence in the Pacific.

Peters on The AM Show:

“We don’t have an option, either we step up or someone else will”

“There are countries that have shown interest in the Pacific”

“We cannot just as some people advocate, walk away… that is a futile action to take”

“We’ve got things we’re standing up for and we’re doing it”

Barry Soper: Foreign Minister Winston Peters has the power and he’s using it

Peters has the power and he’s using it and if you agree with the idiom that you’ve got to spend money to make money, then he’s on the mark.

He impressed his audience of diplomats and NGOs last night, underscoring this country’s place in the world. Peters said on the world stage that people look over your shoulder looking at what you’ve spent and said to have to cope with a budget where this country was heading he’d rather give the job to somebody else, it was so embarrassing.

It’s true McCully significantly cut the foreign affairs spend, shaving a hundred diplomats by Peters’ count, and acting like deserters in our Pacific neighbourhood.

The new minister’s going on a diplomat recruitment drive, reopening our embassy in Sweden where he reckons we can do business in that region, and pouring the lion’s share of his new money, more than $700 million, into Pacific aid.

This re-energised Foreign Minister’s adamant the Pacific must remain peaceful, free from the shafts of strife and war that affect many other parts of the world and he reasons if we’re not there some other influence will be. Given the growing influence of China, maybe he’s too late.

He didn’t mention China, he didn’t need to. But this man, who in his last Foreign Affairs incarnation opposed the lucrative free trade agreement with the People’s Republic, has been converted on the road back to the Beehive, declaring “we are a country that trades or dies”.

Except he strongly opposed the TPPA, until he got into Government.

Peters only has the power because Ardern and Labour are allowing it. He doesn’t have many numbers in Caucus and Parliament, but he is being allowed to use them to his advantage.

Health Minister: “we won’t be able to afford everything straight away”

Minister of Health David Clark has conceded on Q&A that there is not enough money available to pay for all Labour’s election promises, like reduced doctors fees and pay equity for nurses. He blames it on the competing demands of other parties in Government, and ‘underfunding’ by the last Government – Health is always underfunded in that it is never possible to afford all the needs and demands.

Corin Dann: It’s interesting talking to people in the health sector this week. One in the nursing sector said to me they voted National because even though they were sympathetic to many of the things you’re doing, because they didn’t believe you would have enough money left after making all your promises for the nurses, for their pay settlement. And that’s the reality, isn’t it? The nurses aren’t going to be able to get what they want because you’ve got so many other things to pay for.

David Clark: We’ve set aside money across health. We’ve said that we want to spend more money, and we did say we wanted to spend more money than our opponents. But we won’t be able to afford everything straight away. Nobody pretends we can. We won’t be able to afford everything in our first Budget. We’ve got to do it step by step. And there is a backlog of underfunding. We’re going to take steps to address that.
Corin Dann: You went into the election campaign making it clear you would deliver all this money and you would deliver all these promises.

David Clark: We will deliver the promises we make.

Corin Dann: In the first term?

David Clark: In the first term.

Corin Dann: All of them?

David Clark: Corin, all of them, subject to any new information that comes to hand.

The ‘new information that has come to hand’ since Clark became Minister is that the Government has already committed a large amount to things like the benefit increases, fee-free tertiary education and the Provincial Development Fund, and there isn’t going to be enough available for everything promised for Health.

Corin Dann: So new hospitals, what about—Let’s just stay back on the nurses’ pay very quickly. Because the issue here seems to be pay equity, isn’t it? That’s the big problem you’ve got looming. Are nurses going to get pay equity this term?

David Clark: Pay equity is further down. It was in the negotiated offer that went forward previously, pay equity – a shift towards that. It is huge. Let’s not pretend it’s not. It’s a serious issue, but it does need to be tackled.

Corin Dann: But why shouldn’t they get pay equity when other parts of the health sector are and we’re hearing stories of nurses who feel like they’re earning less than caregivers when they’re 20 years experienced or whatever. Why shouldn’t they be getting pay equity now?

David Clark: Well, they should be getting pay equity, but there is a process to work through to work out how we do that.

Corin Dann: It’s money, isn’t it? Because according to the advice given to the Labour Party during the coalition negotiations, the estimated cost from collective bargaining and pay equity, if you join them together, for the health sector over three years is $750 million. You don’t have it, do you?

David Clark: Yeah, these are big sums. Of course we have the money. We have budgeted really carefully. Labour Governments and coalitions with Labour in them are held to a higher standard. We know that.

I’ve heard this claimed before, as far as I know it is subjective and unsubstantiated, and I call bollocks on it.

David Clark: And that’s why we did our sums very carefully when we were in opposition, and the promises that have been made in the coalition agreements and the confidence and supply agreements will be kept. We have accounted for them and we will deliver on them.

But when?

Corin Dann: Let’s look at primary healthcare. Is that going to be the big focus for you in many ways? Because that’s what’s going to make the big cost savings, isn’t it?

David Clark: Absolutely. Longer-term, it will. In the short term, we’ve got so much unmet need. Last year over 500,000 New Zealanders couldn’t afford to go to their GP. One in four adults in New Zealand now cannot afford to go to their GP in any given year for reasons of cost.

Corin Dann: So will we see in the Budget you deliver on your promises to bring GPs visit down by, what, $10 on average? From $40 to $30?

David Clark: We’re going to have to phase some of these initiatives. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not going to skate around that, and I’m not going to make the Budget announcement today, you understand that, Corin.

Corin Dann: But you are signalling that that’s not coming all at once?

David Clark: We will make healthcare more affordable, and that includes primary care.

Corin Dann: So when can someone expect to see the average get down to 30? 

David Clark: Corin, I can’t announce that today. We are phasing our priorities, but we are absolutely committed to the principle of making sure New Zealanders can afford to visit their GP.

So a policy promise has become a principle that may be phased in at some time, perhaps.

Corin Dann: And you’ve got a national cancer agency you’ve got to do?

David Clark: Yep, we’ve got lots of things we’ve announced– 

Corin Dann: Will we see that this term?

David Clark: We will see some progress in that regard. I’m having policy work done now to tell me what the best way is of delivering those things. We’re in government now, and that’s different. I do have access to a lot of researches, to the best international evidence, and I want to make sure that every dollar I spend goes as far as it can possibly go as Minister of Health and of course as Associate Minister of Finance.

Being in Government is different to being in an election campaign, and being Minister of Health is different to being Opposition spokesperson on Health. You don’t need the best international evidence to know that it is very difficult to meet all the demands of the Health portfolio.

There will never be enough money to afford everything that is wanted, especially with substantial spending commitments for other things like education, social welfare, housing, transport etc etc.

Clark has since confirmed that the Government won’t be able to meet all their promises ‘straight away’.

NZ Herald: Health Minister David Clark says coalition funding pressures have delayed cheaper doctors’ visits for all

Labour’s promise to cut the cost of going to the doctor by $10 from July 1 this year will now have to be phased in over time, Health Minister David Clark has said.

He points to Labour having had to meet the cost of new priorities from agreements with the New Zealand First and Green parties, Labour’s partners in Government, as the reason the full policy cannot be implemented from July 1 as promised.

Clark’s admission is the first time a minister has conceded that an election promise may have to be delayed.

Labour promised that from July 1 this year, the cap on doctor’s visits for very low-cost access practices would be lowered from $12 to $2 for those aged 13 to 17, and from $18 to $8 for patients age 18 and over (it is already free for 0 to 12 year olds).

For visits to other GPs it promised, from July 1, to reduce the average cost from $30 to $20 for teenagers and from $42 to $32 for adults, and to cap the maximum fee at $59 from $69.

The policy was estimated to cost $213 million a year.

Clark made it clear today the policy will now have to be phased in but has given no hint as to how.

“I am pursuing the principle that we get more affordable access to primary care in this country,” he told the Herald. “And what happens when you form a coalition Government is that you agree priorities and we are responding to the priorities as they are outlined in the confidence and supply and coalition agreements.

“I am pursuing cheaper doctors’ visit but I am signalling that that will be phased over time.”

Perhaps there will be a clearer signal of what sort of phasing in over what time in the budget.

I don’t recall Clark or Jacinda Ardern or Grant Robertson saying “we won’t be able to afford everything straight away” during the campaign. A lot of criticisms were directed at Steven Joyce when he pointed out a large difference between spending promises and available funds – the infamous fiscal hole.

Health can be a particularly emotive issue on a personal level, people’s health and lives are at stake.

We know a perfect ‘fully funded’ health system is impossible, but what we should expect from our politicians and our Government is honesty that not everything can be delivered due to competing demands.