Workplace legislation announced

Labour had promised workplace legislation in Taking action in our first 100 days:

  • Increase the minimum wage to $16.50 an hour, to take effect from 1 April 2018, and introduce legislation to improve fairness in the workplace.

They have made some changes to publicised policy on the 90 day after negotiations with NZ First, and have now announced their legislative plans. Some of these changes undo changes brought in by the previous government.


Legislation for fairer workplaces announced

The Government has taken an important step toward creating a high-performing economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages with a new Bill to amend the Employment Relations Act 2000, says Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

The Bill is designed to provide greater protections to workers, especially vulnerable workers, and strengthen the role of collective bargaining in the workplace to ensure fair wages and conditions.

“Making life better for working New Zealanders is a fundamental value for the Labour-led Government,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.

“Too many working New Zealanders are missing out on the benefits of economic growth under the current employment relations system.

“Good employment law strikes a balance between employers and workers. Under the previous Government the balance tipped away from fair working conditions for workers. We will restore that balance.

“Many of the changes in the Bill are focused on lifting wages through collective bargaining.  Wages are too low for many families to afford the basics. This Government believes everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

“We will also reinstate key minimum standards and protections to employees, such as the right to prescribed meal and rest breaks and limiting the use of 90 day trial periods to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

“This legislation is the first step in the Government’s commitment to creating a highly skilled and innovative economy that provides good jobs, decent work conditions, and fair wages.

“This is the start of a progressive programme in workplace relations which includes the passing of historic Equal Pay legislation, lifting the minimum wage to $20 by 1 April 2021, and the creation of a framework for Fair Pay Agreements.

“The legislation is expected to have its first reading in early February and I encourage everyone interested in this important legislation to have their say at the select committee process,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.


Employment Relations Amendment Bill – Summary

Rights for employees

These modifications are largely roll-backs of the previous Government’s changes which weakened
employees’ rights at work:

  • Restoration of statutory rest and meal breaks. These will be subject to a very limited exception
    for workers in essential services who cannot be replaced (such as air traffic controllers).
  • Restriction of 90 day trial periods to SME employers (less than 20 employees). This balances the
    insecurity of 90 day trials to workers against keeping barriers to hiring low for small businesses.
  • Reinstatement will be restored as the primary remedy to unfair dismissal. This was
    infrequently used but recognises that in some circumstances the best outcome is for the employee to
    return to work.
  • Further protections for employees in the “vulnerable industries” (Part 6A). These changes
    repeal the SME exemption from coverage, provide more time for employees to decide whether to
    transfer to a new employer, and provide greater safeguards on transfer of inaccurate information.

Collective bargaining and union rights

Most of these modifications are roll-backs of the previous Government’s changes:

  • Restoration of the duty to conclude bargaining unless there is a good reason not to. This is
    complemented by repeal of the process to have bargaining declared over.
  • Restoration of the earlier initiation timeframes for unions in collective bargaining.
  • Removal of the MECA opt out where employers can refuse to bargain for a multi-employer
    collective agreement.
  • Restoration of the 30 day rule where for the first 30 days new employees must be employed under
    terms consistent with the collective agreement.
  • Repeal of partial strike pay deductions where employers can garnish wages for low level
    industrial action. Employers have deducted pay for actions such as wearing t-shirts instead of
    uniforms.
  • Restoration of union access without prior employer consent. Union access will still be subject
    to requirements to access at reasonable times, and places having regarding to business continuity,
    health and safety.

New proposals are:

  • A requirement to include pay rates in collective agreements. This is based on recent case law.
    Pay rates may include pay ranges or methods of calculation.
  • A requirement for employers to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent
    other workers (for example in collective bargaining)
  • A requirement for employers to pass on information about unions in the workplace to
    prospective employees along with a form for the employee to indicate whether they want to be a
    member.
  • Greater protections against discrimination for union members including an extension of the 12
    month threshold to 18 months relating to discrimination based on union activities and new
    protections against discrimination on the basis of being a union member.

More on Paid Parental Leave plans

 

 

Paid Parental leave differences and confusion

One of the new Government’s priority policies, being advanced under urgency in Parliament, is an increase in the length of time Paid parental leave will be paid for.

National has said they will vote for the bill, but have suggested a change.

The bill allows both parents to share the allowed number of weeks paid parental leave, but not at the same time. National wants to give parents the choice of taking leave at the same time if they want to, so for the first few weeks both can be on paid leave.

There are confused responses from Labour. Newshub – Confusion in Labour as National pushes for shared parental leave:

The National Party will support Labour’s legislation to provide 26-weeks of Paid Parental Leave (PPL), but wants it tweaked so both parents can take leave at the same time.

Labour’s response to the demand has been confused. While Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the policy could be considered, Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis appeared to rule it out.

Labour’s policy allows parents to split 26 weeks of PPL between them but not take it at the same time.

Their policy is to increase PPL to 22 weeks next year, and to 26 weeks in 2020.

Amy Adams, National’s spokesperson for workplace relations, says that’s inflexible and “going back to the nanny state of telling families how to arrange their lives”.

Making ‘nanny state’ accusations is unlikely to help get cross-party agreement.

“The proposal we’re talking about would simply allow families to choose whether to take some or all of the leave together,” she said on Tuesday morning.

Ms Adams said the option of taking PPL together would be particularly helpful for parents of twins, premature babies and babies with older siblings. She said it wouldn’t add any additional cost.

National campaigned on the policy to increase PPL to 22 weeks and to allow parents to take some of those 22 weeks off at the same time.

Acting Prime Minister Kelvin Davis…

…appeared to cold-shoulder National’s idea, saying Labour is happy with the bill as is.

“We’re really excited by the fact that by 2020, parents will be able to take 26 weeks’ paid parental leave.”

“We’re happy with the bill that we’ve put forward.”

Willow-Jean Prime…

…said she knows how difficult being a new mother can be and would be talking to Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway about adopting National’s amendment.

“That is one of the most challenging times – as soon as Mum has given birth – and I know in our own situation, that was a time I really appreciated having my husband there. Being a school teacher he only had about a week and that was difficult.”

Mr Lees-Galloway…

…is leaving the option open.

But he said the way it’s being explained by National at the moment goes against the spirit of the bill because it would reduce the overall amount of time parents could spend with babies.

An odd response. Labour’s stance would eliminate the possibility of the second parent from taking paid parental leave at the same time as the other parent, for example immediately after the baby was born.

It looks like Labour is lacking leadership (Jacinda Ardern is away in Asia) and lacking coordination, and Adams is lacking a conciliatory approach. Attack and criticism is not a good way to work together, as they should be on this bill.

National criticise urgency but support Paid Parental Leave bill

The first bill to be considered by the new Parliament was debated under urgency, a move criticised as hypocritical, but National also voted for the bill, saying they shared policy to increase paid parental leave.

RNZ: Govt puts Parliament into urgency to start 100-day plan

The new government made a swift start on its 100-day plan, putting the house into urgency within hours of Parliament’s state opening.

The first bill to be debated under the new government enacts the extension to paid parental leave announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.

Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway told Parliament the bill was a straight-forward one.

“It provides for a an increase in the duration of paid parental leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks.

“This is achieved in two stages, first an increase to 22 weeks in 1 July 2018, with a further increase to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.”

Despite National’s objections to the bill, it voted in support – saying it was in fact its policy as well to extend paid parental leave.

ACT voted against it.

The bill has to pass further readings before becoming law.

The bill is being pushed through under urgency, meaning it will skip the committee (and public submission) stage.

That led to accusations of hypocrisy from the Opposition, arguing Labour had castigated the National-led goverment for using urgency.

The legislation was being pushed through without being sent to a select committee, as the government argued it had already been through that process twice under the previous National government.

The first time it was voted down at third reading and the second time it got there it was vetoed by National.

It was vetoed on fiscal grounds, with the National led government saying they had no funds available.

Senior National MP Amy Adams told the House she was witnessing an incredible turnaround of principles by the parties now on the government benches.

“From parties who until now have derided, castigated, abused, got outraged over the use of urgency.

“When the National-led government took urgency it was very clear as the the need and the reasons for doing so.”

Ms Adams said the rushed, hurried, seat-of-the-pants process by the Labour-led coalition meant the bill was very light on detail.

New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin, the Minister for Children, said the bill had twice been through select committee with more than 6000 submissions, 99 percent of which were in support.

She said the bill was going through under urgency, because it was urgent.

“Because our families need it, our babies need it, our mothers and fathers need it – they need the security to know that as soon as possible they can plan for this.

I think this bill was probably chosen to push through under urgency because it had been debated last term in Parliament as a Member’s Bill, and it was a safe one to start with, uncontroversial and assured of passing.

But it is highly debatable whether it can be called ‘urgent’.

And the planned implementation doesn’t seem urgent – an increase in four weeks next July, and an increase of another four weeks in 2020.

The first bill to be considered by the new Government may signal the approach by National – a mix of apposition, criticism and cooperation.

 

 

 

Proposed ‘Fair Pay Agreements’

The new Government is proposing Fair Pay Agreements that will not allow industry wide strikes but will be decided by arbitration if the parties (employers and unions) can’t agree.

NZH: Industry-wide strikes impossible under Fair Pay Agreements

The Government is giving assurances that industry-wide strikes will not be possible under its proposed Fair Pay Agreements, which would set minimum standards across entire industries.

The agreements represent a major change to the workplace and have been hailed by unions, but criticised by the National Party as taking industrial relations back to the 1970s.

Discussions on Fair Pay Agreements will include unions and businesses, with legislation being introduced within 12 months as part of other changes, including:

• double the number of labour inspectors to 110 (cost of $9m)

• abolish youth rates

• look at ensuring proper pay for those who work over 40 hours a week

• look at improving job security for casual and seasonal workers

There’s some fairly contentious things in that.

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has assured businesses that the agreements – which could include pay rates, weekend rates, hours per week – would not allow workers to have industry-wide strikes.

“Business NZ was very concerned about industry-wide strike action, so there will be no mechanism for striking if you’re pursuing a Fair Pay Agreement.

“The flipside is that if the parties can’t agree, there will need to be some form of arbitration to make a final decision.”

So ‘some form of arbitration’ could be used to make ‘a final decision’ on ‘proper pay rates’ and job security.

Pay rates and job conditions could be imposed industry-wide.

I think more detail is required to see how radical this could be.

Lees-Galloway has a union background – prior to becoming an MP he worked for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation as an organiser and later as a publicity coordinator.

I presume that NZ First will be bound by joint Cabinet responsibility to support any changes to labour laws.

Being outside Cabinet Greens won’t, but this sounds like the sort of thing they might support anyway.

Labour promises immigration cuts, sort of

Labour say they would definitely cut immigration, but are still working on their policy so can’t say what they actually propose.

NZ Herald: Labour Party promises to cut immigration

Labour is promising to cut immigration in a bid to curb Auckland’s rampant growth and creaking infrastructure.

Labour’s election campaign manager and Te Atatu MP, Phil Twyford, said the party was still working on the policy, which was not about slashing immigration but would probably have a number on it to find a better balance.

He said Labour was still working on the policy and it was too soon to say what cap Labour might put on immigration.

“The current levels of immigration without proper investment in infrastructure is totally irresponsible,” Twyford said.

This seems little more than Government bad, vague suggestions of doing something different, which has pretty much been how Labour has campaigned so far in election year.

Deputy Labour leader and Mt Albert MP Jacinda Ardern said no-one could deny the role immigration has played for New Zealand’s economy and diversity, but it was time for a discussion about whether Auckland could offer the “kiwi life” to new migrants.

“I want people who choose to make Auckland their home to have their best shot to live in an affordable home, move across the city with ease and swim in a healthy environment,” Ardern said.

That’s even more vague. All Ardern has done is tie Labour’s kiwi dream slogan to the three issues that every candidate has dutifully repeated.

Twyford seem to have just poked some campaign palaver to media, there is no recent press release on this.

Twyford is Labour’s Auckland campaign manager. Neither him nor Ardern are the Labour spokesperson for immigration. That is Ian Lees-Galloway, who last put out a press release on immigration in February:

National still has no plan on immigration

Today’s release of latest immigration statistics is further proof the Government has absolutely no plan for immigration and its impact on New Zealand, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Iain Lees-Galloway.

It’s ironic blasting National for having “no plan on immigration” when Twyford has just said that “Labour was still working on the policy and it was too soon to say”.

“It’s clear Bill English has no plan for immigration and National can’t cope with the impacts on housing prices, infrastructure and the labour force. A major reason why so many migrants flock to Auckland is because the Government has no plan for regional economic development.

“Labour will create opportunities in the regions that will be attractive to high skilled migrants…

Twyford wants to cut numbers, Ardern wants “kiwi life” to be hunky dory, and Lees-Galloway wants immigrants to go to the regions.

Labour wants to “probably have a number on it to find a better balance”, sometime, maybe.

And Andrew little puts such an importance on addressing immigration didn’t mention it at all in his Speech at State of the Nation 2017.

 

 

More on Domestic Violence – Victim Protection Bill

There are two very good things about the progress of Jan Logie’s Domestic Violence – Victim Protection Bill – it is an Opposition MP’s genuine attempt to make a difference in the battle against the scourge of domestic violence, and it is an excellent example of how MPs from all parties can work together on a common worthy cause.

The first two speeches:

Introductions and parts of the rest of the First Reading speeches:

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE—VICTIMS’ PROTECTION BILL

First Reading

POTO WILLIAMS (Labour—Christchurch East):

I have to first acknowledge my dear colleague Jan Logie, who is an absolute champion for women, and I have to say, Minister Amy Adams, I am actually rather taken aback by the emotion you expressed at the end of that speech.

I have to say for many women in the House, this is a very personal issue. I just want to tautoko my daughters and granddaughter in the gallery. Heaven forbid that anything that happens to many of the women in our country happen to those beautiful children up in the gallery.

I must acknowledge Heather Hēnare, champion of this particular cause and supporter of many victims of domestic violence. Your work will go on and you will continue to be recognised for the amazing work that you do.

What this bill, I believe, attempts to do is to really start to normalise the conversations that we must be having in each and every workplace about domestic violence. It must bring it down to the point where we stop being scared of opening the door and shining the light on what is going on in many of the families that we occupy—that we live in.

Each of our families is touched in some way by the abhorrence of domestic violence: whether we are impacted personally, whether our children experience it, and whether we are supporting our sisters and our brothers through difficult times.

This legislation is saying: “You know what? It happens.” Let us own it. Let us get real about this everybody. Because it happens, and because we are good employers, we are going to allow people the time that they need to address those issues. Ten days is not much but, you know what, it is a heck of a lot more than we used to get, and it is a good start. It actually says “Yep. We have a responsibility here. We have a responsibility as employers to support our employees through this, and you know why? Because they are good employees and we want to keep them and it actually adds to our bottom line at the end of the day.” Let us get real; it is all about the cost benefit for the employer…

SARAH DOWIE (National—Invercargill):

I too join in the line-up of people here today who are very pleased to be speaking in support of this bill, the Domestic Violence—Victims’ Protection Bill, in its first reading, to see it through to the select committee stage to have some honest conversation about how we move we forward in protecting women, the majority of women who are subject to domestic violence, and those men the workplace.

I am pleased that Jan Logie has referred this bill to the Justice and Electoral Committee. I think that our committee is up for the challenge to have these discussions, and, as I said before, I am very pleased to be part of this movement right now that has unanimous support in the House.

I do want to pay tribute to Jan Logie, because, contrary to popular belief, MPs do speak to each other outside this house, and I can also report that I had a conversation with Jan Logie just before we came into the house here tonight and I could see her genuine excitement that

(a) her bill had been pulled from the ballot and
(b) that she would receive unanimous support to see this bill through to the select committee phase.

So, well done, Jan, for championing this, and well done for that achievement.

CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First):

It gives me great pleasure to stand on behalf of New Zealand First to, first of all, acknowledge you, Jan Logie, for bringing this bill to the House. With tongue in cheek and with serious sincerity, I think divine intervention has played a little part in this.

Being International Women’s Day today says a lot, and the only time I have seen that happen again was with Sue Moroney’s bill when it was to do with paid parental leave. It was just again that the stars aligned, so well done and great courage. It just goes to show that the passion that you have for resolving this comes through with your speech and you speak very, very eloquently of that.

I would also like to acknowledge the Minister for her words and her sincere thoughts, along with all other members who have spoken here today, and it gives me great pleasure as a male to stand up and speak to this.

The fact is that New Zealand First wholly supports this. We certainly would encourage the conversation to continue in select committee. I think there are some potential drafting issues but that is not here nor there. We would like to hear from small and medium sized businesses to see what their take is with regards to the period of time, the 10 days, that has been allocated for people who are suffering at the hands of domestic violence…

JONO NAYLOR (National):

There is no doubt that domestic violence is an absolute scourge on our society. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that, firstly, we need to do absolutely everything we can to eliminate it to ensure that we do not have victims of domestic violence in New Zealand but also that, secondly, we as a society need to do everything that we can in the meantime to support victims of domestic violence….

…I also just want to acknowledge the delegation of people who I had come through my office door in Palmerston North a couple of weeks ago, the local representatives from the National Council of Women of New Zealand.

They came to me and said: “Jono, we’d really, really like you to support this bill, at least to the first reading stage, to ensure that this very, very important conversation gets on the table in Parliament and is debated, so we can work through all those different sort of nuances”—as I referred to before—”to ensure that we get the very best legislation we can.”

I am really happy to support this, at least at this stage, to ensure that we have that very positive discussion, because, as I said when I opened this speech, it is clearly incredibly important that we not only eliminate domestic violence from our communities but do everything we can to support the victims of it, and I commend this bill to the House.

SUE MORONEY (Labour):

At the outset, can I first of all acknowledge that this is International Women’s Day. What better day to be debating this bill than International Women’s Day, which is a day when we all stand in solidarity with women right across the world in order to, yes, celebrate how far we have come, but also pause and think about what we have yet to do. This bill clearly falls into the latter bracket. I want to congratulate the member Jan Logie on her foresight in bringing this bill forward…It is the ballot goddess at work again to make sure that this got debated on International Women’s Day, because, sadly, this is an issue that does affect women, in more numbers than it does men. In fact, what we would wish is that it affected nobody.

I agree with the last speaker, Jono Naylor, in that all of us would want to not be dealing with this end of domestic violence.

All of us would want to be putting our energy into preventing it from happening, and that is the world we really want to live in: where there are respectful relationships and people can deal with the pressures in life and the stresses in life without battering the people closest to them, the people who should be able to rely on the love and support of family members, but instead are hurt and have violence meted out against them from the people whom they should have the most trust and warmth and understanding from.

Sadly, that is not the world we live in, and I will not rest until we actually address the front end of this, and actually stop that domestic violence from happening in the first place. But it does happen, and so this bill is going to be something that will be a huge relief for those people, predominantly women, whom this happens to.

CHRIS BISHOP (National):

Can I firstly acknowledge the sponsor of the bill, Jan Logie. I was not privileged enough to see her first reading speech, but I understand it was quite a remarkable speech, and I want to pay tribute to you, Ms Logie, for your sterling work in bringing this bill to the House.

…one of the things I have been very privileged to have done since I became an MP just over 2 years ago is to go and spend time with our women’s refuge in the Hutt and to deliberately get out there into the community, to some of our marae and to some of those community organisations that are dealing with the front end and the hard edge of this issue.

One of the things—I suppose the biggest lesson—that I have taken away from those visits and those conversations is that the size of the problem is truly remarkable. You know, it is just almost unfathomable, the extent of violence—almost always by men against women—in our communities.

As Minister Amy Adams said in her excellent speech, which I watched in my office, it is not just going to take the Government to do something about this problem; it is a whole-of-society issue that we need to address.

The Government will do its bit and we will lead on this, and I hope, actually, that we will look back on the 2014 to 2017 Parliament and people will say that that was the Parliament—the 51st Parliament—when the New Zealand Government and elected representatives got serious about family violence.

IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North):

I would like to start where others have started, by congratulating the member in charge of this bill, Jan Logie. She was very humble in her first reading speech, by recognising that the work—as is always the case with these things—started outside Parliament with Women’s Refuge, with unions bargaining for changes through collective bargaining, and with all the other groups that, I am sure, have worked closely with Jan Logie on formulating this bill.

But the truth is it does actually take someone in this Parliament to put the bill into the ballot, and then, when it comes out of the ballot, to actually champion it, to have the negotiations and to work with colleagues around the House, especially the hard work to get to the point where it appears we will have unanimity when we come to the vote on this first reading.

So I want to acknowledge that work by Jan Logie. We all like to be humble in this place, but we have a job to do, and when those opportunities come up—when that bill comes out of the ballot—it does take a lot of work to get to the position that this bill has got to. So congratulations to Jan on doing that.

I also want to acknowledge the Minister of Justice, Amy Adams, for her leadership, because—I will say this gently, and like the previous member, Chris Bishop, I do not want to be party political—the Government’s initial response was negative.

I think it’s reasonable for Lees-Galloway to bring this up but god of him to say it ‘gently’ in the context of general cooperation on this Bill.

The Government’s initial response was that this would cost too much, and Michael Woodhouse, as the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, stated that on the record.

Clearly, some conversations have gone on within the National Government, aided, I am sure, by the lobbying from the member in charge of the bill, and it is pleasing to see that Amy Adams’ leadership has won through and the Government has decided that this is a worthy piece of legislation to at least take to a select committee, where we can have the conversation.

MAUREEN PUGH (National):

I too stand in support tonight of the Domestic Violence—Victims’ Protection Bill, in the name of Green Party MP Jan Logie, and I add my congratulations to Miss Logie on her initiative in writing this bill and also on her good fortune of having it pulled from the ballot. I did hear her speech tonight. It was an impassioned speech, and I congratulate you, Miss Logie, on your dedication to this cause.

In my own conversations with NGOs that work with victims of domestic violence, there is a clear need to support women at work who have fallen victim of domestic violence. For women who work in front-line roles where they must interact with the public, it is essential for them to have their privacy protected, especially if a woman bears the marks, the bruises, the impacts from a domestic violence episode.

Also at work an abuser makes it very easy for a woman to be trapped, to be captured in her workplace, and to become yet a further target for abuse. The most effective way that an abuser does that is through violent or abusive phone calls or emails. But also it becomes a risk for others in the workplace, and thereto lies the impact for employers making their workplace a safe workplace.

JAN LOGIE (Green):

It gives me hope to stand up tonight, after having listened to all the speeches in the House. I could think of it as personally gratifying that this bill, with the community we have brought to the House, has support. But mostly what I am feeling is the message that you are sending to survivors in the country, that we are, together, committed to making their lives better. We have heard their experiences and we are committed to making their lives better in every way that we can. I think that, for me, at least is a moment to mark in time.

I have heard really clear support for wanting to eradicate domestic violence, for us to use what tools we can as a country to do that, and to support the victims and survivors in the meantime. I have also heard a very clear articulation from all members in the House that yes, this is not just the business of Parliament or Government. All of us have a role to play in that, and that part of being a good employer is caring for your staff, and that this is one way to do that, and it will pay off for businesses.

I have heard mention that there needs to be some work around the drafting of the bill. I am really happy to acknowledge that. Part of the reality of it was that I had different legal opinions on the current status of the law in relation to flexible working hours, but particularly in relation to the Health and Safety in Employment Act and the extent to which it covered domestic violence.

What we have drafted is something—it is quite hard to get something right, when you are not actually sure of the status of the existing law. I really do see it as an offering for us to be able to work together to come up with the best solution. When we are all on the same page about the outcome, then that gives me hope that this process is going to get the result that we need. I will say it again—it is a result that could save lives, so it is absolutely worth hanging on to.

I did appreciate the comments that maybe we could loosen up a little bit. It is not something that people usually suggest to me. The flexible working arrangements and the need for the domestic violence documents in here were based on some legislation from overseas, in the UK. But yes, we do not want to make it more difficult. We want to clarify that flexible working arrangements should be used and should be available, and that that needs to be visible, I believe, to be able to have that intent realised. But we do not want to make it more difficult.

Somebody did mention the point about the fact that perhaps this would be too onerous for small businesses, and I thank the member Iain Lees-Galloway for asking businesses to come with solutions, if that is a concern for them. But I am going to push quite hard on this, because the international research—in Australia 1.6 million workers are already covered by these provisions, and for most of them, although the provisions are there they do not take them. It is very rare. They will take some. They take what they need. It is not a mandatory 10 days. It is up to 10 days, and you use it when you need it. The experience overseas as well as in businesses here is that people do not exploit that. It is a relationship of trust that is working. I would want to put people’s minds at rest on that point.

In the final few seconds—just for all those people who have been fighting for this for so long, and for those women who went back because they had no other choice or felt that they could not get out, I hope tonight gives you some courage. Kia ora.

Bill read a first time.

Bill referred to the Justice and Electoral Committee.

Full draft transcript.

Easter Sunday trading

Despite some very vocal opposition Parliament today passed a bill that gives local councils the power to allow trading on Easter Sunday.

This will sort of allow tidying up a messy situation where tourist towns Queenstown and Taupo can currently open on Easter Sunday but nearby tourist towns like Wanaka and Rotorua can’t.

I understand that religious people don’t want to go shopping in Easter Sunday but why should that prevent those who do want to trade and shop to do so?

It was ugly in Parliament today.

Stuff: Nod for Easter Sunday trading law gives councils power to decide

The Government has handed councils the power to decide if shops can open on Easter Sunday ending a decades-long parliamentary impasse and after a dozen previous attempts.

After an insult-laden debate in the house, in which one MP was kicked out, the bill passed by a narrow majority of 62 votes to 59. 

National MPs opted to back the bill along party lines, leading to impassioned pleas from the opposition for them to ignore orders and cross the floor to vote according to their conscience. 

Labour MP Sue Moroney was booted out of the house, for the first time, for calling Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse “gutless”.

She said National MPs were “hypocritical”, attending church in their electorates, only to come to the House and vote the other way. 

Speaker David Carter asked Moroney to withdraw her comments, which she did, only to reiterate her point.

So she ignored a warning and defied the Speaker.

Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway backed Moroney in a fiery speech, calling upon National MPs to “get some guts”.

“The Government … is passing the buck on an issue, which is fundamental to the role of the New Zealand Parliament.

“This legislation is shambolic, it is going to create inconsistencies around the country,” Lees-Galloway said. 

But National MPs said the law would “give power back to the local community”.

Jami-Lee Ross said it was “a process issue that should be given to local authorities”.

Ross accused Labour of “awful tactics”, using ethnic and religious rhetoric in their protest against the bill. 

Some of the attempted religious coercion that I heard was awful tactics.

Like Saturday trading and Sunday trading I think this will be largely forgotten in a year or two.

‘Govt cowardly on euthanasia’

Not just the Government – some opposition MPs and parties could be seen as unwilling to address an important issue for many people too.

A lead item on Stuff:

‘Govt cowardly on euthanasia’

John Key supports euthanasia but he won’t make it a Government bill – is it time for a rethink?

The actual article headline is less provocative:

Lecretia Seales lives on in a health inquiry into euthanasia that kicks off this week

A petition was handed to MPs at Parliament, which sparked an inquiry into voluntary euthanasia.

Wellington was home for Matt Vickers for a long time – it’s also where his love and memories of his late wife Lecretia Seales live on.

Seales died from in June last year after a long battle with cancer that ran hand-in-hand with a courageous fight to win the right to choose to end her own life. Hours before she took her last breath she learned her legal battle had failed.

On Wednesday Vickers will be the first of 1800 people to speak to a parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia, instigated by a petition in the name of former Labour MP Maryan Street and the Voluntary Euthanasia Society.

The petition, which garnered 8795 signatures and cross-party support, came in the wake of Seales death.

It demanded the committee examine public opinion on the introduction of legislation “which would permit medically-assisted dying in the event of a terminal illness or an irreversible condition which makes life unbearable”.

More than 21,000 submissions later – the most ever received by any select committee – Vickers will pull up a seat at 8am in front of a panel of MPs to explain Lecretia’s story.

“Lecretia was very strong in wanting a choice, that wasn’t a weakness of character. She wanted to be able to exercise her strength by having a choice,” he said.

The submission process is an opportunity for the country to “honestly and unashamedly talk about the end of our lives without fear”.

The problem is that generally MPs and parties don’t want to be associated with discussing euthanasia despite strong public support for change.

And the chair of the Parliamentary committee has caused some concern.

While in Wellington Vickers will also launch his book, Lecretia’s Choice, and already one member of the select committee intends to read it – chair and National MP Simon O’Connor.

The Tamaki MP is Catholic and spent almost a decade studying for the priesthood with the Society of Mary before deciding he couldn’t be a politico and a cleric.

Vickers, much like Street and Seymour, is concerned about O’Connor chairing the committee – all three question how someone publicly opposed to euthanasia can chair an inquiry into it.

But some MPs from different parties are promoting the discussion.

National MP Chris Bishop stood alongside Seymour, Labour MP Iain Lees-Galloway and Green MP Kevin Hague when Parliament received Street’s petition in June.

Bishop supports the inquiry and Seymour’s bill and says while O’Connor chairs the committee, “he’s not doing the whole inquiry – he’s only one person”.

Seymour says O’Connor should apologise before oral submissions kick off on Wednesday for “soliciting submissions from a certain point of view which happens to coincide with his own beliefs”.

“If you look at the way Simon’s behaved you’ve got to be pretty concerned … it’s really quite shameful given you get paid an extra $20,000 to be a chair.”

“He’s got every incentive, he’s an ambitious guy like most people in Parliament, and if he wants to be a minister one day then he has to actually play a straight bat and be seen to play a straight bat.”

Seymour versus National:

Even Prime Minister John Key supports euthanasia and Seymour’s bill and said the select committee inquiry is proof “it’s quite possible without a bill being in Parliament to have a good and open discussion about the issue”.

The Government has no intention of picking up Seymour’s bill but Key says “at some point it’s bound to be drawn”.

According to Seymour, every Government is reluctant to pick up controversial issues and this National government isn’t alone – homosexual law reform, abortion law and marriage equality also came out of members’ bills.

“All governments have been cowardly on controversial issues, not just this one.”

And some opposition parties. ‘Not a priority’ is a cop out.

He also blames several senior Ministers in Cabinet being strongly opposed to euthanasia for blocking it.

He wants a public conversation that does some myth-busting.

I hope the committee listens well and does this inquiry justice.

I strongly believe that with adequate legal protections freedom of choice for individuals who are dying should be paramount – and certainly choices about our own lives should not be illegal.

 

‘Pretty damned hopeless’ – English

 

Bill English has prompted an outrage after referring to Kiwi’s available for work as “pretty damn hopeless” at a Federated Farmers meeting.

This came up in Question Time in Parliament today.

10.GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were made.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does he stand by the statements made to a meeting of Federated Farmers that there is “a cohort of Kiwis who now can’t get a licence because they can’t read and write properly and don’t look to be employable—you know, basically, young males” and that a lot of Kiwis available for work are, in his words, “pretty damned hopeless”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, and I welcomed the presence of the member who strode to the front of the Federated Farmers meeting and sat there showing complete attention to everything I said, for about 20 minutes.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does he stand by his statement that one of the reasons why immigration is “a bit more permissive” is that, in his words, Kiwis are “pretty damned hopeless”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member is mixing a couple of different statements there. I referred to the common—[Interruption] Well, the Government is at the sharp edge of this every day, and I referred to the common response from New Zealand employers that many of the people on our Ministry of Social Development list will not show up to the jobs they are offered and will not stay in the jobs that they are offered. If the member has not heard that from dozens of New Zealand employers, he is out of touch.

From what I’ve heard it’s common for employers to have difficulty in finding reliable committed workers.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Why, after 8 years of the National Government, has he written off a whole cohort of young men as unemployable because they cannot read or write properly, and what message does it send young New Zealand men that they need to be replaced by migrant workers because, in his words, they are “pretty damned hopeless”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has certainly not written anybody off. In fact, we have poured hundreds of millions into raising the level of educational achievement, job training for young New Zealanders, and individual supervision for every sole parent under the age of 20. Labour left young New Zealanders in such bad shape that even with that investment we still have so much more to do. And if the member cannot handle a realistic description of the problems we are dealing with, then he is out of touch.

Labour MPs let rip on Twitter, and it seems via media – Lees-Galloway via NewsHub:

Mr Lees-Galloway, Labour’s workplace relations spokesman, says Mr English’s comments at the meeting were a “disgrace”.

“It shows the Government has given up on our young people and have no faith in their own education system.

“Bill English is the Deputy Prime Minister. It’s his job to give young Kiwis hope, not dismiss them as hopeless,” Mr Lees-Galloway says.

He believes Mr English’s aspersions against workers are an indictment of National’s record on training and education.

Kiwi workers ‘hopeless’ – English

And ‘NATWATCH’ was quick to follow up at The Standard: Kiwi workers are pretty damned hopeless – says Bill English

National are now so convinced of their invulnerability that they have taken to actively insulting us – Kiwi workers ‘hopeless’ – English

The Newshub reported is quoted, then:

Fuck you young males! You couldn’t make this stuff up.

No, you couldn’t make it up.

But a number of comments on the thread acknowledge that English has a point. There’s a significant number of young people in particular who are pretty damned hopeless when it comes to working reliably.