Should the government take care of people, or enable people to take care of themselves?

Or both to varying degrees?

Is there a natural progression of community and care (for some) from whanaua to hapu to iwi – to Government?

Everyone wants health care provided, and education, a protective police force and a bunch of other things. And many people like financial assistance and housing assistance, if not to be fully provided for.

Richard Harman raised this in his coverage of Labour’s conference in the weekend:

The most eloquent outline to the conference of what that might be came not from her  but from her deputy party leader, Kelvin Davis.

He said that the Labour party was in government to take care of people.

“As a government, we are not only changing policy and legislation,” he said.

“We are changing the way we see ourselves as a country.”

The same idea; that this was a government that was changing things ran through a speech from Finance Minister, Grant Robertson.

From Kelvin Davis’ Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

We are tackling many hard issues as a government. Housing, child poverty, prison numbers, climate change, improving the wellbeing of our country. None of the answers are easy. But we know taking on these challenges is the right thing to do.

Because, unlike the other lot, when we talk about eradicating child poverty, helping those whanau that are struggling the most, we are not just talking about percentages, headlines and numbers on a spreadsheet.

Poverty has a face. It has names.

We are talking about our neighbours, our friends, our whanau.

And that is what sets a Labour Government apart from the rest.

In the end we are in Government to take care of people

From Grant Robertson’s Speech to the 2018 Labour Party Conference:

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

How much should the Government provide for the wellbeing of New Zealanders?

Moreover, people voted for Labour because they knew that we cared about them, we were part of the community and they trusted us to look out for their families.

Is the Labour Party a part of a caring community? Should the Government be seen as a caring benefactor? To some extent that’s expected. The question is, how much?

Some people want the Government to intervene and to provide for them, they want the Government to help them and care for them.

Others want the Government to keep out of their lives as much as possible, to not interfere, to be a provider of health, education and services in the background only.

We can’t avoid the Government having a major effect on all of our lives, through tax gathering, provision of infrastructure and services. Those of us who survive to 65 get universal superannuation for the rest of our lives.

No one argues against having prisons for those who offend against the wellbeing of others.

Some people need more care than others, Some are genuinely disadvantaged through illness and disability. Their families and caregivers deserve some assistance.

How much should the Government care for the people? Of course we hope that politicians care, but how much care should they actually provide? We don’t pay enough tax to enable the Government to provide the care that people want.

To an extent it is a question of how much we want the Government to be a visible and engaged provider or care, or whether they making things available with a more background role.

Many of us have moved to a more satellite self sufficient society, but some want more provided.

Perhaps there are different cultural expectations. Do Maori (generally) expect the Government to be a more community engaged caregiver? They may think that there’s a natural progression from whanau to hapu to iwi to Government.

That’s quite different to how I see things. That doesn’t mean one is right or wrong, just that there are widely varying needs and expectations.

Should Government be the umbrella caregiver?

Grading one year of government

After a year in charge here are some gradings of the parties in Government.

Labour: B-

There have been some wins, let’s be clear about that.but at some point the pain of those on the bottom must shame this Party into actually doing something, not just pretty words and symbolism.

Jacinda continues to be their strongest performer with Grant Robertson, Andrew Little, David Parker, Willie Jackson, Kiritapu Allan, Deborah Russell, Marja Lubeck, Tamiti Coffey, Damien O’Connor, Greg O’Connor and Michael Wood being star performers to date.

Lot’s of talking, very little walking at this stage.

NZ First: B+

…they’ve done enough to keep their voters happy. The weird thing about the NZ values was just laughable. If Jones can get the forestry side working from planting, to cutting to working the wood here to building with it, he will be one of the greatest economic architects NZ has ever produced.

Greens: C-

After the meltdown of the 2017 election, there have been some wins, of that there can be no doubt, while Chloe, Jan Logie and Julie Anne Genter continue to be their best performers…but unfortunately it’s the fuck ups that gain media attention.

The Greens have become a middle class vehicle for alienating woke identity politics…

The Greens have gone backwards every election for the last 3 elections, tone policing on Twitter (I’m not making that up, there really is a ‘tone policing’ call out) doesn’t seem the way forward.

That’s from Martyn Bradbury in One year of the new Government: The faded hope of a hollow promise – grading Labour, NZ First & Greens

Conclusion:

There have been small victories but essentially the neoliberal bureaucracy and Ministries rule this Government, not the other way around and unless Labour, NZ First and the Greens find a way to shame the Ministries into reform, the Wellington Elites will continue to run the agenda, not the representatives of the people.

So the revolution driven by the Auckland Left has not transpired, yet at least.

Another left wing view (David Cormack): The politics of doing jack-all

Government, it’s time to start dominating the story. This last quarter you did jack-all and went up in the polls anyway.

When you started you were a shambles. You were disorganised, you didn’t know what you were doing, you clearly hadn’t expected to be in government and you out-sourced all your actual governing to others.

Oh sure you have done some things, and you’re running a lot better now, but if the government was a movie, this last year felt less like an action packed resolution scene, and more like a long establishing shot. An establishing shot full of working groups.

So while the past 12 months has been marked by the Government slowly getting its act together …the next 12 months promise more. But with that promise comes risk, because there’s a lot of hype about this politics of kindness. And if people start to feel like they’re not getting what they voted for then you’ll burn through a lot of capital. And it’s debatable whether you’ve earned much capital to burn.

More from Bryce Edwards’ Political Roundup: Verdicts on the Government’s first year

And an editorial from ODT: Labour’s satisfactory first year

The passing of the one-year mark by the coalition Government has provided opportunities to assess its performance. Generally, these reviews have been positive, and we agree with these opinions.

But, when all is said and done, the Government will flourish or flounder on economic conditions. If the lack of business confidence is reflected in employment and growth, if changed industrial laws affect competitiveness, if New Zealand becomes too expensive and less efficient as it is in danger of becoming then Labour will suffer.

Just as the strong United States economy has helped add a layer to President Donald Trump’s support, so Labour’s success will depend on the economy and on-going effects of Labour’s policies on people’s monetary wellbeing. So far so good. Labour and its coalition have navigated the first year satisfactorily.

And they are still in, which has exceeded some expectations. They have the opportunity to do a lot more over the next two years and live up to some of their promise and promises.

 

There’s still a Government somewhere

Jami-Lee Ross has dominated the news over the last couple of days and that looks set to continue. However there is a Government still. I have had to go looking for news about them.

The Honourable Dame Annette King will attend the 12th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Leaders’ Summit as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy in Brussels this week (18-19 October).

Small Business Minister Stuart Nash is encouraging the Australian and New Zealand public to provide feedback on a joint electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing) initiative that will save businesses time and money.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Anthony Simpson as Ambassador to Italy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters today announced the appointment of diplomat Matthew Hawkins as New Zealand’s next Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

The Film Industry Working Group has reported back today, providing recommendations on restoring collective bargaining rights to film production workers, says the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway.

Health Minister Dr David Clark has announced the third and final agreement in principle has been reached for new air ambulance services that will be safer, better and firmly focused on patients.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage today announced that the Department of Conservation (DOC) will close 21 tracks across kauri land to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback.

Racing Minister Winston Peters has announced the next steps to promote new investment in the horse bloodstock industry.

Labour 100 day medical cannabis promise could be 1,000 days or more

The lack of urgency by the Government on medical cannabis has been very disappointing, after initial promise of it being a first 100 day priority, and especially as it was promoted as important by Jacinda Ardern in the memory of her friend Helen Kelly.

And it was promoted as a 100 day promise:

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

It is now about 360 days since the Labour-led government took over, and they look nowhere near fulfilling this promise.

MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun: “It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill”.

On 1 November 2017 Dylan Kelly wrote (The Spinoff): On a new government, kindness and the (unfinished) legacy of my mother, Helen Kelly

Jacinda Ardern’s programme offers real hope for the issues Mum fought so passionately for, from labour law and cannabis reform to forestry and Pike River.

…Fast-forward to this year’s debate, and Jacinda Ardern’s rapid-fire declaration that legal medicinal cannabis was a no-brainer was considered the savvy political response.

Mum’s final public words were “I want people just to be kind. It would make a hell of a difference.” Jacinda Ardern, in her final interview before becoming prime minister, told John Campbell that her government was going to “bring kindness back”.

We’ve got a lot of work to do. But with Prime Minister Ardern and co in charge, we can finally get started.

Ardern started with talk of kindness, and Labour started with a promise on medical cannabis, but a year later they have not delivered.

A press release from Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand:


Government’s 100-day Pledge to legalise Medical Cannabis could slip to 1000 days.

Documents released to MCANZ under the official information act show that the regulations associated with the government medical cannabis bill could take years, with a planned go-live of mid-2020. This go-live date is subject to change and with the current under-resourcing of the MOH, it could be considered a best-case scenario.  Additionally, an advisory committee initially scheduled for March has been pushed back to November, and may yet be pushed back further.

“It is disappointing that the bill’s second reading has been postponed to November due to haggling around supplementary papers to improve the bill. If the Minister of health had consulted widely in the first place when drafting the bill, we wouldn’t be in this fiasco where  essentially anyone who has a stake in the outcome of this bill, whether it’s the patients, the budding industry or indeed the political opposition are all asking for significant amendments to the bill.”

“Patients are left disenfranchised and frustrated with the lack of progress on the bill, and the lack of amendments from the select committee, where the overwhelming majority wished for the exemption to extend to those with severe, chronic and debilitating conditions.”

“It is likely that if things continue as they are, by the time this bill is sorted, nearly 3 years will have passed. Circumstances will have progressed so far that patients will likely be using the referendum as a tool to gain safe legal access, potentially skewing the result in favour”.

“Another issue is the lack of budget at the Ministry of health for external consultation or industry/international experts to assist. We hope that with the surprise surplus government has announced this week, that some of this can be dedicated to setting up the scheme”

“Without additional resources in the near term, it will prove hard for this potential industry to catch up with Australia, costing the country in jobs and revenues, and patients on a cost basis,” says MCANZ Coordinator Shane Le Brun.

Medical Cannabis Awareness New Zealand

https://mcawarenessnz.org/


Jacinda Ardern in 2016 (Stuff):  The pain behind the medical marijuana debate’

It was sometime in the middle of last year when the political suddenly felt personal. It wasn’t a party, it wasn’t even a social occasion. I was visiting my friend who had spent the evening periodically flinching, doubling over, and rocking, and was now reaching for a form of cannabis as she tried to deal with her pain.

My friend was dying.

I think that’s what gets me most about the medical marijuana debate. It’s the perfect example of the brutal reality of people’s individual situations, and the layers of complexity that emerge as soon as you dig into it as a politician.

This is not a new debate – it came up when I first came into Parliament. At that time it was in the form of a member’s bill. It’s fair to say that it had a few holes in it, but those were all details that we had time to fix. I voted in favour of it, others used the drafting as an excuse to turn it down. The bill failed.

And here we are again. Same problem, different political cycle.

That was the last political cycle, before Ardern made 100 promises as Labour Prime Minister.

My friend will never benefit from change in this area, she passed away. But in reality I doubt she ever really cared too much. She was too busy living every single day to the fullest right up until her last breath. Surely we owe it to everyone to give them the best chance they have to do the same, despite the pain.

Surely Ardern and her Government owe it to the people who experience problems and pain on a daily basis, people who die suffering, to bloody well treat this like the priority she promised.

Swarbrick putting Ardern, Clark to shame on drug rhetoric and inaction

There are serious and growing drug problems in new Zealand, especially with P (methamphetamine) and synthetic substitutes for cannabis. I have slammed the Government for being shamefully lame as people suffer and die- see  Clark, Ardern shamefully lame not urgently addressing drug problems.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick seems to be a lone voice amongst MPs on taking urgent and effective action (where is James Shaw on this?)

thinks quite a lot::

The War on Drugs has not and will not work. Moral crusades are costing lives. Nowhere in the world has been able to get rid of drugs, or reduce drug harm, by ratcheting up penalties.

With the synthetics crisis, Aotearoa New Zealand has an crucial decision: will we do what works, or will we just do “something”?

The easy “something” is to beat the punitive drum, in an attempt to satisfy people we “take this seriously.” Taking drug harm seriously looks like being brave enough to confront decades of evidence and genuinely treat drugs as a health issue.

Treating drugs as a health issue does not look like locking more people up. We actually have ample evidence to show that increasing penalties fills our jail cells, but doesn’t decrease access or supply to drugs.

Look to Methamphetamine, which has under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 held Class A life imprisonment for decades. There’s been no reduction in demand or consumption, but increases, according to Ministry of Health data.

Evidence demonstrates that the only real way to tackle drugs is to focus on decreasing demand. We have a successful model in the collaboration between Northland DHB&Police, reducing demand for P, shifting resources to health, which we could expand and roll out across the country.

We need to do something, but that something desperately needs to be what works. If we cow to law-and-order rhetoric, if we fail to be courageous enough to pay attention to the research, we’ll repeat our past mistakes.

Repeating our past mistakes is more than not good enough when the evidence shows more of the same will cost people’s lives. Especially when those unnecessary deaths are the catch-cry of those calling for knee-jerk criminalisation.

The believe we need to genuinely treat drugs as a health issue. That looks like ending the War on Drugs. That looks like rejecting greater penalisation, which we all know, because the evidence shows, just won’t work.

Swarbrick could do with more concerted support from other Green MPs on this.

And somehow they need to push Ardern into converting her lofty rhetoric into actual and urgent action. Not just talking about twiddling a bit some time in the future. Urgent reform is required.

Ardern has talked about her government being progressive and wonderful, but she and her ministers are failing to walk the walk on drugs.

Swarbrick is putting them to shame.

NY Times – do Ardern’s progressive politics work at home?

Jacinda Aardern has had very good media coverage for a small country leader, and she has generally acquitted herself very well, but not all media is fawning promotion.

New York Times: Jacinda Ardern’s Progressive Politics Made Her a Global Sensation. But Do They Work at Home?

In many ways — temperament, style and policy, among them — Ms. Ardern is the polar opposite of President Trump and other brash male leaders.

She has become a subject of global fascination for her progressive values, her youth and charisma, and her status as a new mother who has garnered more attention than any previous leader of this small Pacific country.

But even as her star soars abroad, Ms. Ardern increasingly faces challenges at home. Corporate interests are lining up against her agenda after the country’s business confidence rating dropped to a 10-year low in July; the confidence rating has since improved, according to new figures released this month, but it remains weak nonetheless.

There are risks to the economy and to the government’s spending plans and wish lists.

Important policies, including tax reform, are still being decided, and critics have cast doubts on Ms. Ardern’s ability to maintain discipline within her governing coalition.

Indiscipline and dysfunction have hovered at home while Ardern has been in New York.

Experts say New Zealand exemplifies the difficulty of enacting a progressive agenda at a time when politics are fractured and conservatives worldwide are emboldened. Ms. Ardern’s supporters say she must push even harder for transformative change.

“The gestures of kindness and care need to be matched sometimes with more concrete and meaningful aspects of kindness in practice,” said Max Harris, a fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, and the author of “The New Zealand Project,” a new book about the country’s politics. He added that true success for Ms. Ardern would require structural shifts in social and economic systems — and it remains to be seen whether Ms. Ardern can get it done.

Ardern has not been progressive (or revolutionary) enough for those on the far left.

Ms. Ardern came to power last October. After nine years of center-right government in New Zealand, voters chose Ms. Ardern and her party because of their promise of a better deal for ordinary people, especially the marginalized and vulnerable.

That’s a very simplistic view of how the election and formation of government played out. In part Ardern became Prime Minister due to the 7% support of a not very left wing at times NZ First, and many NZ First voters would have preferred that Ardern didn’t get the nod.

But her power is limited. In New Zealand, a party does not have to win an outright majority in Parliament to govern. Labour formed a governing coalition with minor parties and in recent weeks, disputes between Ms. Ardern’s party and the party of Winston Peters, the deputy prime minister whose support was crucial to her victory, have become more frequent, leading critics to argue that Ms. Ardern is not in charge of her own government.

That was highlighted again in her absence.

One of her most common refrains is: “This is the right thing to do.” She used that line this month when announcing that New Zealand would accept 500 more refugees per year starting in 2020, raising the country’s quota to 1,500. The phrase also appeared in her speeches announcing policies to freeze lawmakers’ pay and increase paid parental leave.

In an interview last month, she argued that values and government go together. “You can be pragmatic and grow an economy and improve well-being and do all of the things you have an expectation governments do, but do it with a bit of heart,” she said.

That remains an unproven and fairly vague plan.

In New York Ardern outlined in general terms how she things government should progress in New Zealand, but she still has a lot to prove in practice.

 

 

 

What’s the problem with ‘Labour-led Government’?

I think it’s been fairly normal to describe Governments in New Zealand under MMP as led by the largest party, and led by the party of the Prime Minister. It has been common to hear of the Labour-led Clark Government, or the National-led Key Government. Actually it was common for the last lot to be referred to as ;the National Government.

So it is odd to see such a big deal being made over the term ‘Labour-led Government’. Or the Ardern Government.

National have recently been needling Winston Peters in particular on this lately – see The most pure form of MMP?

On Sunday while most of the focus and speech making was on Ardern and Labour, Ardern only sort of said she was in charge in her speech:

It’s a bit like a road trip that tells you who’s in the car, where you’ll be stopping, but doesn’t tell you where you’re going.

I can tell you, that as the person driving that car, that wasn’t enough for me.

She referred to ‘government’ 33 times, coalition 5 times and Labour just once:

This is our Cabinet mandated, Coalition Government work plan.

This plan represents our shared vision and priorities; Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens.

She even mention ‘green’ 5 times.

Ardern is going out of her way to appease Peters on this. NZH: PM’s verdict on the three words guaranteed to annoy NZ First leader Winston Peters

In New Zealand, we now have a Government which looks like a Labour-led Government called the I Can’t Believe It’s Not a Labour-led Government.

NZ First leader Winston Peters has expended some energy trying to eradicate the pesky phrase “Labour-led Government,” claiming it is not a true reflection of the coalition arrangement.

Instead, he has instructed media, MPs and anybody else in earshot to refer to “the Coalition Government” or the Labour-NZ First coalition government.

He will tolerate the addition of “with confidence and supply from the Greens” but only three times a year and only if uttered in a dark windowless room with no audience.

Antagonising Peters probably won’t change anything, he does cantankerous without any provocation.

Even Ardern gets jittery when the three words are uttered in her presence.

Asked if she had asked ministers to stop using the term, she replied “ah, I’ve never used that phrase, I don’t believe I’ve used that phrase.

“I tend not to and I’d expect [ministers] to refer to us as a coalition Government or a Government with a coalition partner and a confidence and supply partner.”

Peters has had some success with his eradication campaign.

The offending term has now been removed from the Beehive website and replaced with Coalition Government.

Ardern said that was not her doing.

“If you’re questioning whether or not because there was a change whether or not because there was a change on the website that I’m ceding power, the answer is no.”

Nor did the outlawing of the words “Labour-led Government” mean the Government was not led by Labour.

“I am a Labour Prime Minister, I am leader of the Labour Party and I am in a coalition Government. There is no doubt I don’t think that I am the Prime Minister and leading this Government.”

Sounds like talking around the issue. Someone in Labour seems to have been busy ensuring compliance with Winston’s descriptive demands.

Doing a search on site:labour.org.nz labour-led shows no hits in the last month, but there are still some references remain going further back, with 8 in October/November last year when the new Government took over.

For this year I can find three:

Not surprisingly the media are rebelling against instructions on how to describe the Government.

The media merrily ignore Peters’ edict and some may use the term in front of him just to annoy him.

Tova O’Brien (Newshub) leads with the term in Jacinda Ardern’s U-turn on pulling troops out of Iraq

“The Labour-led Government is extending New Zealand’s deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan”, which may grate given this is a NZ First leaning decision.

Brigitte Morton (RNZ): A SuperGold move from the coalition

What it didn’t address was the issues that the Labour-led Government has been having over the last fortnight. Simply changing it from being called the Labour-led government to the Coalition government didn’t address any of the differences that are emerging between the three parties.

Tim Murphy (Newsroom): The Push-me-Pull-you Government

It was an invite only affair, in a university lecture theatre darkened to permit viewing of a skite-video of the first, well, 11 months and featuring a scrolling, too-fast-to-read list of the achievements of this Labour-led Government. Or the Labour-New Zealand First Coalition. Or the Labour-New Zealand First Coalition with support on confidence and supply from the Green Party.

Looks like the Streisand effect in action.

1 News from yesterday’s Ardern media conference: ‘No’ – Jacinda Ardern says change in wording on Labour’s website doesn’t mean she’s ‘ceding power’

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media a change of text on the Labour Party’s website doesn’t mean she will be “ceding power” anytime soon.

A reporter asked Ms Ardern if she has asked her ministers to stop using the term Labour led Government at her post-Cabinet address today.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever used that phrase and I expect them to refer to us as a coalition Government that’s the truth of our arrangement,” Ms Ardern said.

Another reporter then pointed out Labour’s official website used to have the phrase “to get the latest from the Labour led Government click here” on it’s homepage and that has now been changed to read “to get the latest from the Coalition Government, click here.”

“I can’t say I have noticed it or that it’s ever been raised with me.

“If you’re questioning whether or not because there was a change on the website if I’m ceding power the answer is no,” the Prime Minister answered.

But:

Also:

This may seem quite petty and unimportant, but it is a further sign of how much the Government is intent on massaging their messages, including trying to dictate descriptions.

The official website of the New Zealand Government refers to “Labour led government 2017-2020”

https://www.beehive.govt.nz/portfolio/labour-led-government-2017-2020/foreign-affairs

 

 

A challenging week for Ardern

I doubt if Jacinda Ardern has lost any voter support over the last week and a bit, but she has been challenged by a number of issues inflicted by others, and her attempt to stem the slide in business confidence has had a mixed reaction.

Stuff’s From the Beltway gives Ardern a pass mark.

Ardern – after fumbling Clare Curran’s demotion Ardern acted decisively in the face of allegations that Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri had a physical altercation with a staff member. Ardern also got kudos for her response to business confidence – promising business her ear through the establishment of a Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council.

The Curran demotion from Cabinet is widely seen as an interim step, with expectations that she will be eventually dropped as a Minister altogether, whether or not she stuffs up again.

The alleged Whaitiri incident can only be an interim step, standing her down from her ministerial responsibilities and setting up an investigation into what is being widely alleged as a physical altercation with a staff member.

Tracey Watkins in Jacinda Ardern’s first term hex:

Ardern’s hand is now stayed till the investigation into Customs Minister Meka Whaitiri is complete. The allegations are clearly so serious, and so significant, she had no choice but to stand the minister aside.

The allegations include shouting and a physical confrontation which, if proven, could be damaging enough to force Whaitiri out of Parliament altogether.

There should be zero tolerance of ministers using standover tactics on staff, and particularly getting physical.

Yet these allegations appear to have come as no surprise to most Beehive watchers.

So Ardern should have been made aware that one of her ministers could be an embarrassment waiting to happen.

But allegations relating to Whaitiri’s relations with her staff date back even to Opposition days – and that should raise some serious questions not just for Ardern, but parliamentary and ministerial service bosses.

First for Ardern –  how could the Labour hierarchy not know about Whaitiri’s reputation among parliamentary staff?

It doesn’t look like a problem solved, just a problem put on hold for a while.

There has been an impression that while Ardern has generally been doing ok at her own job her Government has been lacking leadership, with Ministers left to do their own thing.

And also only partly dealt with, after being sent to an inquiry five months ago, is the youth summer camp embarrassment.

From the Beltway:

DOWN

Labour Party president Nigel Haworth – he is refusing to release the full report into Labour’s summer camp sex scandal and six months down the track the party is still only “reviewing” policies to prevent a recurrence.

There has been a lack of holding anyone in Labour to account. Neil Kirton slipped away from his job, as the report was delayed. The recommendations made public are an attempt to prevent future problems, and fail to address the camp issues (apart from the ongoing prosecution which was out of Labour’s hands after being forced by publicity).

Tracey Watkins:

Ardern doesn’t need to follow natural justice principles when it comes to her ministers – just as they are not required to follow the usual natural justice rules when it comes to hiring and firing their own staff.

Ardern’s only concern is whether she is being forced to burn some of her precious political capital on ministers who aren’t worth it.

That’s what former prime minister Helen Clark was referring to when she pointed out that heads would have rolled had the Labour summer camp scandal happened under her watch.

Clark would not have wasted her time defending the indefensible.

Ardern is going to have to learn that being ruthless is a necessary part of the role. Otherwise she won’t have any political capital left to burn on the fights worth having.

Ardern became involved in what should have been an issue between the Speaker and National.

RNZ Week In Politics: Could it get any worse for Labour?

Speaker Trevor Mallard’s decision to call off the inquiry set up to find the culprit has created a controversy that isn’t going to be easily resolved.

Police know who it is but won’t tell Mr Bridges. Mr Mallard apparently doesn’t know either but pulled the plug on the inquiry after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was an internal National Party matter.

Mallard controversially spoke to Ardern before scrapping the inquiry, a day after appointing a QC to run it.

Another contentious issue was the timing of Mr Mallard’s announcement that the inquiry wouldn’t take place. This came just before the release of Ms Ardern’s statement that she had sacked Clare Curran from cabinet.

The suspicion was that an attempt had been made to bury the inquiry story by swamping it with a bigger one.

Media tend to show their annoyance if their weekends are disrupted by later Friday news dumps.

This cluster of problems reflect on the management of Government. Demoting or sacking ministers can be politically embarrassing, but are storms that can usually be weathered.

But one issue has wider and bigger implications – business confidence (especially a lack of) can impact on the economy, and if that falters that can reflect badly on Labour’s financial management credibility.

Ardern tried to address it in a long planned speech, but a like warm response from her wordy and vague pep talk that attempted to address sliding business confidence.

While this was rumbling on, Ms Ardern decided to deal with a problem of her own – falling business confidence which the Opposition has been using to condemn the government’s economic management.

Ms Ardern’s creation of a Business Advisory Council, chaired by Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon to provide “high-level free and frank advice”, had a lukewarm reception at best.

The PM wants the government to have a stronger grip on the way it engages with the business sector, but she’s dealing with people who believe they already know what’s going on.

It’s going to be hard to persuade them that ministers in a Labour-led government know as much about business as predecessors such as Steven Joyce and Sir John Key.

Setting up an advisory council is a virtual admission that Ardern didn’t have the business knowledge and contacts deemed necessary for a Prime Minister.

Just as it seemed a bad week couldn’t get worse, another ANZ Business Outlook Survey was released showing confidence had fallen another five points.

The bank’s economist, Sharon Zollner, said that indicated “a threat to near-term activity”.

And it didn’t help that NZ First minister Shane Jones resumed attacks on the person Ardern appointed to lead her advisory council.

NZ First also created some awkward contradictions for their own stances on championing the regions and attacking Australian owned banks and business interests when Winston Peters released a racing report written by an Australian businessman that proposed shutting down many regional race tracks, and taking rrace betting of the TAB and giving it to Australian businesses.

Ardern has survived the week, but many of the challenges that arose remain as problems that will eventually need to be dealt with better.

Particularly with Simon Bridges flailing around over with the expenses leak Ardern’s voter approval will have barely been dented, but her ability to manage her Government  and especially her Government’s ability to manage financial matters, will need to improve or she may struggle to hold her coalition together.

A popular Prime Minister with an unpopular Government will find re-election another major challenge in two years time.

 

National target Government over committee can kicking

The National opposition has increased criticism on the Government over the many working groups, reviews, inquiries and committees they have set up. Labour has tried to play down the assistance they have sought.

The big news from Jacinda Ardern’s business confidence speech yesterday was the announcement of the setting up of a ‘business advisory council’. A chairman only has been announced so far.

This was a day after National launched this Twitter campaign:

Simon Bridges reacted to the Business Advisory Council announcement:

This means a third of the economic announcements so far from this Govt are working groups.

That brings the total number of working groups set up by this Govt on business issues to 10 & counting. This gives businesses no certainty.

I think the PM needs a new rubber stamp. The “set up a committee” one is wearing out.

The Government have a problem reacting to this, as the results of the many committees will not be known for months or years.

The Opposition campaign has been running for months.

The bill for the Government’s constant outsourcing of its job to 152 working groups and reviews has reached $170 million so far, with a third still to be costed, National Leader Simon Bridges says.

What’s worse is the Government doesn’t know the cost of over a third of the 152 working groups and reviews announced to date.

“This is a Government caught badly unprepared and New Zealanders are now paying an exorbitant price. And now we know Ministers are ordering reviews and setting up groups without even knowing what they will cost, while the reviews are coming back with recommendations for more reviews.

The Government has sometimes responded.

I saw Ardern disputing National’s numbers last week but can’t find coverage of that.

Every Government sets up external groups too help them research and set policies and to investigate issues of concern. When National took over Government in 2008 they used a lot of committees etc.

But it does seem that there have been a lot announced since the Labour led Government took over last year, and national will no doubt keep highlighting any new ones.

The Government will have to get some tangible outcomes, but that may be some time off yet.

One of their major reviews is on the tax system, but whatever that recommends Labour has committed to make no tax changes this term.

The Government is at risk of being seen as synonymous with committee can kicking down the road. Until they start getting tangible outcomes from all these advisory groups and reviews the Opposition are likely to keep hammering away.

“The most open government in history”

Journalists continue to complain about the government not living up to it’s promise to be the most transparent government ever.

There was no pledge of transparency in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. From the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and
transparency around official information.

Claims of a lack of transparency began early under the incoming Government late last year.

Stuff (26 November 2017):  Labour promised transparency in Government, but they seem to be buckling on that early

The Government is facing a mountain of questions – more than 6000 to be exact. They’ve been lodged by an army of National MPs with nothing but time on their hands and it should be no surprise to Labour Ministers, who have so far refused to release much detail, if any, about their first actions in office.

In a 100-day programme, where major reform is being pushed through at break-neck speed, that is cause for concern.

…and it might be early, but on the current trend those accusations aren’t far from being squarely levelled back to Labour. They and the Greens made much of their desire to “bring transparency back to Government” on the campaign trail.

Labour is also yet to release what’s known as the ‘Briefings to Incoming Ministers’ – or BIMs. They are the documents prepared by the experts and officials, delivered to ministers in their first week to give them a crash course on the portfolio they’ve just been handed – in some cases rendering them responsible overnight for the spending of public funds totalling billions.

Stuff (2 December 2017): For a Government vowing to be more transparent, it really is stuck in the mud

For a Government vowing to be the most transparent and open the country has ever seen, it really did get stuck in the mud this week.

The problem with this document is not necessarily what’s in it, but the message it sends by not releasing it after Peters insisted it would be made public.

Ardern has spent the week arguing it isn’t a “live document” or a work programme the Government is bound to.

The new Government has an opportunity to pave a new path on transparency, it just needs to get out of the mud its bogged itself down in over the last few weeks and accept sometimes it’s better to just admit that you’re wrong.

RNZ (4 December 2017): Jacinda Ardern on ‘secret’ documents

Speaking to Morning Report today, Ms Ardern defended the new government’s reluctance to reveal the details of its coalition agreement.

“When something becomes an official part of our work programme, then that’s the point at which, absolutely, we have to be transparent about that. But when it comes to documents that sit behind a negotiation, that aren’t necessarily going to be pursued, as soon as you release it, that gives an expectation that it is a hard and fast policy, when it might not be at all.”

“We are actively at the moment looking at ways that we can make sure there is greater transparency around briefings that ministers receive, cabinet papers, whether we can routinely release documents after decisions are made, these are conversations I have never heard governments have before, and we are having.”

She said the government was still dedicated to greater transparency.

Jump forward seven months and this is looking like a ‘same old’ secretive government.

Stuff: ‘Secretive’ Shane Jones won’t release Fonterra texts

Regional economic development minister Shane Jones is refusing to make public messages backing his criticism of Fonterra chair John Wilson.

Self-styled “provincial champion” Jones launched a blistering attack on the long-serving dairy co-operative boss last month. Defending his remarks, Jones then claimed 365 people had sent messages supporting his stance.

But the NZ First Minister is now refusing to release those text messages. And that raises questions about the Government’s official record-keeping processes.

“The messages I was referring to were received predominantly on my private phone and not in my capacity as a Minister. They therefore do not fall within the scope within the scope of the Official Information Act 1982,” Jones said in a letter to Stuff.

@HenryCooke from Stuff: “In Politically Correct this week I recounted some recent OIA fun we’ve had with “the most open government in history”

But it looked like “We will be the most transparent government ever…unless it doesn’t suit us.