Mediaworks wbt-ed for ‘soap joke’

Mediaworks has been wet bus ticketed by the Broadcasting Standards Authority who upheld a complaint against them for a crass ‘joke’ made on The Rock radio station when John Key was on air.

The Rock and Newshub don’t seem to be covering this yet so Stuff: PM on prison rape joke: ‘It’s nothing to do with me’

Prime Minister John Key has not offered an apology for his involvement in a radio stunt referring to prison rape, claiming he wasn’t aware of the reference.

In December, Key was asked by The Rock radio hosts to enter a cage and “pick up the soap” – a reference to prison rape.

The Broadcasting Standards Authority upheld a complaint on Thursday ruling the skit “went too far and showed poor judgment”. It was also “inappropriate and in poor taste, and would have offended many people.”

The Authority ruled the stunt went beyond the norms of “good taste and decency” and ordered the broadcaster MediaWorks to pay $1000 to the Crown. 

The Rock is known for “an irreverent and controversial brand of humour”, the Authority conceded, but the gathering and use of props such as soap, and quoting from the film Deliverance “clearly required some forethought”.

“This broadcast crossed the line from legitimate humour into a radio stunt which trivialised the issue of sexual violence by depicting a prison rape scene, for the purposes of entertainment,” the decision said.

“Sexual violence is a serious issue which affects some of the most vulnerable people in society, including those who are incarcerated. We agree with the complainant that making light of sexual violence was inconsistent with the objectives of this standard. The content of the broadcast in this respect was likely to cause distress to some people.”

The Authority ordered MediaWorks to broadcast a statement summarising the upheld aspects of its decision on top of costs to the Crown.

A Mediaworks spokesperson said the company accepted the decision but wouldn’t make any further comment.

I think it was disgraceful of the dicks at The Rock who somehow thought it would be funny putting the Prime Minister in such an embarrassing situation.

But Key didn’t deal with it anywhere near as well as he should have either – and still appears to be dealing with it poorly. It would be good if he would express some acknowledgement of the inappropriateness but it looks like he is trying to avoid any responsibility.

At The Rock they state:

POST A COMMENT

Be funny. Don’t be a dick. Read therock.net.nz commenting guidelines.

And in their guidelines:

Don’t : Be a knob. No one likes comments that are offensive and do not add any value in any way to the photo/video/topic of discussion.

It’s a pity they don’t follow their own advice.

Hipkins v. Parata on online learning

Chris Hipkins, Labour and the education unions seem to oppose just about every change proposed by the Government on education, so it is no surprise to see hackles raised over proposals on online education that may involve private providers.

On Tuesday Education Minister Hekia Parata announced in Biggest update to education in 27 years:

One of the proposals in the Bill is to modernise online learning through the establishment of Communities of Online Learning (COOLs).

“COOLs will be open to as wide a range of potential providers as possible to gain the greatest benefits for young people. This innovative way of delivering education offers a digital option to engage students, grow their digital fluency, and connect them even more to 21st century opportunities.

“There will be a rigorous accreditation process alongside ongoing monitoring to ensure quality education is being provided.”

So it was not surprising to see this come up in Question Time yesterday. The Government got in the first shot.

Education—Announcements

6. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made about expanding 21st century learning options for parents and whānau?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the introduction of the Education (Update) Amendment Bill was announced in this House. It is the biggest update to education in 27 years and will provide flexibility for parents and whānau, and for children and young people at the centre of learning. One of the proposals is the establishment of communities of online learning that will enable online learning in whole or in part as a supplement to classroom learning or a complement to what their schools offer. Digital fluency is the universal language of the 21st century. In the future a provider, including our mainstream schools, tertiary providers, or private providers will be able to apply to become a community of online learning. This will give students, parents, and whānau the benefit of a digital option, grow their digital fluency, and ensure they can be global citizens in an increasingly connected 21st century world.

Dr Jian Yang: What measures will she put in place to ensure the quality of education is maintained for the young people who choose this option?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: To become a community of online learning, a provider will be required to meet a very high threshold. They will be required to undergo an accreditation regime to ensure that students will have access to a great New Zealand education. They will also be subject to monitoring and an intervention regime, just like all our schools. Providers will also have to provide evidence of their capacity to provide pastoral care and to meet the well-being needs of students. They will be subject to an accountability regime, including reporting against agreed student achievement outcomes, financial reporting requirements, and Education Review Office reviews. We also propose to set strict enrolment criteria—for example, a restriction on the enrolment of students for whom there is a high risk of disengagement in an online environment. We welcome the submissions of parents, families and whānau, and the education sector to the select committee.

Then Hipkins asked Parata about the policy, with David Seymour,  John Key and Marama Fox joining in.

EducationCommunities of Online Learning

7. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: How will her Communities of Online Learning (CoOL) proposal differ from online charter schools in the United States, given a study partially funded by a private pro-charter foundation found students attending those schools lost an average of about 72 days of learning in reading, and 180 days of learning in maths during the course of a 180-day school year?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Significantly. As I set out in the answer to the previous question, before a provider could become a community of online learning, it must undergo an accreditation regime, be subject to an intervention regime, provide evidence of its capacity to provide pastoral care, be subject to an accountability regime, and demonstrate that it meets strict enrolment criteria—for example, a restriction on the enrolment of students for whom there is a high risk of disengagement in an online environment. We have put these checks and balances in place because, like the Labour Party members in their Future of Work document, we agree that—and I quote from Labour’s Future of Work document—”… people can obtain entire qualifications online with the same quality of direct learning and engagement as if they were on site.”

Chris Hipkins: Does her own regulatory impact statement state “Historically, academic achievement for New Zealand correspondence school students is lower than that of students in face-to-face education. Engagement can also be low.”; if so, what New Zealand evidence does she have that fully online learning that is allowed for in this proposal will result in better educational achievement?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is damning 23,000 students, which is the roll of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu (Te Kura)—the biggest school in New Zealand—and of course it has problems and challenges. [Interruption] Absolutely, and the regulatory impact statement outlines that, so I am glad the member has taken advantage of it. But like all schools in New Zealand that do face difficulties with engagement and achievement, so too does Te Kura, and it does a significantly good job with those kids who have been disengaged from other schools. As Dame Karen Sewell, the chair of Te Kura, has already publicly said, she welcomes this new approach and looks forward to Te Kura becoming a community of online learning.

David Seymour: Is the Minister aware that the study referred to in the primary question was popularised earlier this week in the American show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver; if indeed that is how the member researched his primary question, would that be an example of online learning?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: To answer that question in reverse order, yes, it would be an example of that; in answer to the first part, unlike the Opposition, who use overseas comedy writers as the font of their knowledge, we do not.

Rt Hon John Key: Does the Minister find it very odd when she constantly gets to read reports from people who claim that they want children in New Zealand to get a better education, especially the least well-off New Zealanders, but never want to do anything other than just back up their union mates?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is terribly disappointing for New Zealand parents, who are very focused on how they get the best education for their kids and are constantly obstructed by naysayers.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! A little less interjection from my immediate right.

Chris Hipkins: Is she seriously suggesting that a primary school child sitting at home in their bedroom in front of a laptop or a tablet is going to get an education at least as good as a child sitting in a classroom, surrounded by their peers, and with a fully trained and qualified teacher guiding their learning?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Unlike the Opposition, I do not propose to prescribe for every child in this country or hypothetically—

Hon Annette King: Yes, you do.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No, I do not, and that is why the bill is full of enabling provisions. We actually trust New Zealanders to make choices for themselves rather than have them prescribed to them by all-knowing other people.

Rt Hon John Key: Is the Minister aware that on Stewart Island the school there has 28 pupils and those 28 pupils are all learning Mandarin, the entire school, and they are learning online, and is that not a great thing—that young kids on Stewart Island are learning Chinese?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The first part of the question is in order. Supplementary questions should have only one leg to them.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am aware of that. I am equally aware that Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Waiu o Ngati Porou in Ruatoria is teaching physics and chemistry in Te Reo Māori to other parts of the country. The members of the Opposition seem confused about this policy—because in my answer I made it clear that mainstream schools can be incorporated in this policy as providers of online learning.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We now have a discussion between two front-benchers, which will cease.

Chris Hipkins: Can she confirm that all of the students mentioned in her answer and in the Prime Minister’s question were attending a school, and what evidence does she have that they will get an equally good education if they are at home by themselves without a teacher?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Again the member falls victim to his own prejudices. In the policy that we have laid out we have said there is a full range of options of what these communities of online learning could be like. It includes provision by existing mainstream schools. It includes provision by existing tertiary institutions, and it includes provision for provision by private providers. We are not saying yet what proposals will be acceptable.

Chris Hipkins: Does she at least accept the irony that while she is talking about opening up more flexibility and choice she is massively reducing the flexibility and autonomy offered to existing public schools and subjecting them in the same bill to even more compliance and red tape?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do not, because this Government has invested over $700 million into those exact same schools to ensure that they can have digital technology—24/7 ultra-fast, good-quality broadband data, at no cost to them—and we have incorporated as of a month ago digital technology as a core part of the curriculum. This is a next step because this Government is future focused, living now in the present, and providing for our young people to be internationally connected. [Interruption] Yes, very disappointing for those still living in the past; I understand that.

Chris Hipkins: When her bulk funding proposal results in schools reducing the number of subjects on offer, is she going to suggest to those students who can no longer take the subjects in school that they want to that they can enrol online rather than have the teacher in front of them as they have had previously?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: First of all, I have no proposal around bulk funding. Second of all, in the funding review we are still in the middle of a consultation process. The third thing to know is that schools already offer blended learning and they do offer it outside the boundaries of their own school, and, fourthly, our Government is absolutely supportive of that kind of collaboration.

Rt Hon John Key: Has the Minister of Education seen a press release by the Labour Party from Jenny Salesa saying that when it comes to Pacific population and bilingualism in New Zealand, the associate education spokesperson for Labour said this is a crucial—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is absolutely no—[Interruption] Order! I do not need help from Mr Chris Bishop. There is, firstly, no ministerial responsibility, and, secondly, it is a question that I perceive is designed to attack the Opposition party, which is in breach of Speakers’ rulings.

Rt Hon John Key: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not interested in arguing about it. If it is another matter, I will happily hear it.

Rt Hon John Key: Yes. I seek leave to table the press release, then.

Mr SPEAKER: No, and I am not prepared to put the leave.

Marama Fox: In addition to digital technologies being made a core curriculum subject, will the Minister consider Te Reo Māori and the New Zealand Land Wars also being made a core curriculum subject?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Te Reo Māori has exactly the same status in our curriculum as digital technology. It is available in any school where parents wish it to be available—

Hon Trevor Mallard: That’s not true.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: —and it is resourced accordingly—it is true. In terms of the—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Not true.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Argh! So from the past! In terms of ngā whawhai nui o Aotearoa, because the Māori Party has made strong advocacy to beef up the resources around Māori history, we have developed a significant website. I thank the Māori Party for that constructive advocacy.

More poor NZ First maths

Some very questionable NZ First spokesperson maths were highlighted recently – see Predator Free would cost ‘trillions’.

In Question Time in Parliament yesterday NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark also indicated he may be challenged by numbers.

2. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Ron Mark: Does he stand by his statement that “every region of New Zealand is crucial to our growth and progress”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, in the context I made it.

Ron Mark: Why has the Government, then, given only $12 million over 4 years to councils for tourism infrastructure such as public toilets, when the Government took $630 million net surplus from GST on international visitor spending?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member is wrong; the number is higher than that for GST. The Government has been investing very heavily in the tourism sector. It is one of the reasons why it is such an important part of the economy, and we saw 3.3 million international tourists come to New Zealand. What the Government is doing is—for the first time—providing that sort of support for councils. They are free to put in an application, and, I think, from the feedback that I have been getting both as Prime Minister and as Minister of Tourism, a lot of them are going to do that and be grateful. But to argue that that is the only thing that we are doing in terms of supporting tourists is a bit farcical. It includes the $140 million – odd every year we put into marketing. It includes the work we have done around black spots for mobile phones, ultra-fast broadband, and tourist facilities.

Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I specifically quoted the figure $12 million over 4 years to councils in respect of tourism infrastructure—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I have the point of order, please.

Ron Mark: My question is that he has not answered—I ask you to ask the Prime Minister to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, there is absolutely no doubt that the answer addressed the question that was asked.

First, on the claim of “$630 million net surplus from GST on international visitor spending“. As Key suggests, the value of GST on visitor spending is higher than that.

The latest numbers from MBIE show that in the year to June 2016 visitor spending was $10,276 million. Presuming that is GST inclusive the GST portion of that is over twice the $630 million Mark claimed – $1,340 million. That’s an increase from $1,139 million in the year to June 2015, which is still nearly double Mark’s claim.

But Mark didn’t specify what period his GST number applied to, but tried to compare it to four years of expenditure. GST on visitor spending over the next four years is on track to be well in excess of $5 billion, which is quite different to $630 million.

Kudos to Key for recognising this discrepancy on the fly. A fail mark for Mark on visitor GST.

The second point Key made is on the claim that “given only $12 million over 4 years to councils for tourism infrastructure such as public toilets“.

Mark has mentioned expenditure on only one small tourism policy. Key mentions other areas of spending on tourism.

This MBIE page details these spending announcements from this year’s budget.

  • A new Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Fund of $12 million over four years will be established for smaller scale infrastructure projects that deliver tourism-related facilities(that’s what Mark referred to).
  • Budget 2016 also contributes an extra $8 million over four years for Tourism New Zealand to target key growth markets so New Zealand continues to diversify our visitor base.
  • There will be new funding of $25 million over four years that will enable the, enhancement and extension of Nga Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

This is just additional spending – clearly headlined as a ‘further boost’

Key was a bit off with his estimate of the “$140 million – odd every year we put into marketing”.  From Tourism New Zealand’s 3 year marketing strategy document:

Tourism New Zealand’s budget will increase $29.5m, from $83.8m to $113.4m, for the financial years FY14 and FY15, increasing to $115.8m in FY16 and FY17, enabling significant expansion on Tourism New Zealand’s current activity.

But he was in the vicinity (off the top of his head), and again this is just a part of what the Government contributes to tourism.

Another thing – it would be ridiculous to use all of the GST gathered from visitors’ spending on tourism.

We don’t reinvest all of the GST on other sectors back into those sectors. If that was how things were done there would be little money for New Zealand First to employ researchers (via Parliamentary Services) – but perhaps they don’t use researchers now.

If NZ First want to gain some credibility as being able to hold a crucial role in the next Government then they need to stop making claims that are easily ridiculed.

NZ First versus Labour (and the rest)

It looks increasingly likely NZ First may be in a deciding position after the next election based on current polls, by a margin.

Winston Peters simply won’t indicate which way he will go, with National or with Labour-Greens, if he sticks to past practice. He claims this is letting the voters decide first but it’s difficult for voters to decide if they don’t know what he might do.

Peters has attacked the Government and National a lot. But NZ First seem happy to also attack Labour – this isn’t entirely surprising as they will compete for votes with Labour.

Audrey Young writes NZ First’s salvoes hit home in war of words.

With every passing week, it becomes more likely that New Zealand First will decide the next Government.

New Zealand First attacks the National Government frequently.Until now, it has largely avoided open attacks on Labour in the 4 years the parties have shared the Opposition benches.

But for a party that will go into the election with no coalition preferences, it has to change that perception.

In that context it was significant when New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark publicly rubbished Labour twice this week, in the general debate on Wednesday, then again on Thursday in Question Time.

Winston Peters was away but he apparently has no qualms about it.

Mark’s salvoes represent a new phase for New Zealand First – a “no favourites” phase.

In General Debate on Wednesday:

RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First): It is one of those days, is it not, when you come down to the House, you have got a whole bunch of speech notes and you are ready to deliver something that is prepared, and then someone stands up in the House and says something that rocks you in your shoes. That has just happened with Mr Iain Lees-Galloway’s speech on immigration.

Like one of the previous members said, the adjournment time gives us the chance to get out and take stock and listen to people. We have to say, in New Zealand First, we have to say we have travelled up and down the country. From Invercargill to Auckland, I have been everywhere, and the message we are getting consistently is that the public is actually tired of the type of speech that Mr Iain Lees-Galloway just gave. They are tired of one side of the House claiming that another party in this House, whose immigration policies have always been sane, sensible, and population-focused—is racist and xenophobic.

Now, suddenly, on the back of a poll that Mr Iain Lees-Galloway from Labour has seen, which tells him “Oh my gosh, 60 percent of the country agrees with the Rt Hon Winston Peters in New Zealand First that immigration policy is chaotic, is out of control.”, suddenly everyone should listen to Labour.

Let me tell you what people are saying out there: “Red or blue, there’s nothing new.” National and Labour are just the same. It is like Pepsi and Coke: tell me whether one can tell the difference. One comes in a blue package; the other comes in a red package, but everyone knows 90 percent of the people cannot tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke, and that is exactly what is happening right now.

We do not actually care about the argument that goes on between National and Labour on who put more police here, who has got a stronger focus on law and order, or who wants to get immigration under control—we see them both as exactly the same and so does most of New Zealand right now, who are all coming to that realisation.

We go down to Invercargill, down to Gore, and who is filling in my meeting? It is National Party farmers, who have had a gutsful.

Todd Barclay: Absolutely no one—no one is there.

RON MARK: Todd Barclay can stand up and rant but Todd Barclay should ask the listing committee of the National Party where his committee has gone. Where has his committee gone? People are looking at this Government as being no different from the last Government.

Then we have Mr Grant Robertson on Q+A telling the whole nation the trickle-down economy does not work. Hello! Mr Robertson, if you had not realised it, it was started by the Labour Party. It was called Rogernomics, and then National picked it up and called it “Ruthanasia”. The result was the same: devastation in the provinces and farmers out there being told they should get on and keep their chins up and handle the economic changes, whilst this Government, which trumpets free-trade agreements—which the Labour Party promoted as well—has done nothing to curb the excessive use of subsidies in these countries that they proudly proclaim they have established a free-trade agreement with.

Mr Speaker, you are a farmer from the Banks Peninsula and I know that you were raised like me in rural New Zealand, in the Wairarapa, and we know something that our grandparents told us a long time ago, and farmers down in Gore and down into Invercargill were telling us this as well: nothing is free—nothing. Do not come into this House and trumpet “Ruthanasia” policies or Rogernomics policies and tell us that the poor at the low end of the chain are going to benefit from that, because all the evidence shows, after 30 years of rampant neo-liberal experimentation—started by the Labour Party—that the gap between rich and poor is greater than it has ever been. It has actually reached the level where you may never be able to turn it back—well, looking at the housing situation.

By the way, we are getting to the stage in New Zealand First where we actually think we have got a security problem, because it seems that every second day Labour is picking up one of our policies and trumpeting it as its own. The thing that disappoints us more than anything is that the media print it. We would simply ask them: “If you want the original Rolex, come to New Zealand First—do not go buying a cheap, Singaporean model from the Labour Party.”

In Question time on Thursday:

Ron Mark: Is the Minister surprised that he has so many anti-immigration questions from Labour these days, given that previous Labour leaders have so viciously attacked New Zealand First and Winston Peters on the very same topic?

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will hear from Mr Chris Hipkins.

Chris Hipkins: The Minister is not responsible for questions that the Opposition asks.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I cannot see that there is any ministerial responsibility, anyway. We are moving on.

Ron Mark: Is the Minister confused by reports from political parties that have formed a coalition recently, when we have questions such as this and he is being asked to answer questions such as this, and then the leader of the Green Party, James Shaw, goes on radio and says—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no ministerial responsibility whatsoever. [Interruption] Order!

Young:

Mark: “Is the minister surprised that he has so many anti-immigration questions from Labour these days, given that previous Labour leaders have so viciously attacked New Zealand First and Winston Peters on the very same topic?”

The “vicious attacks” haven’t happened for years.

But Mark and Peters have long memories and can quote chapter and verse about who said what when as far back as 2002.

Despite their party supporting Labour in Government from 2005 to 2008, they hold a grudge.

So will the next coalition government be based on which party grovels about grudges the most to NZ First?

It sometimes seems Peters has a blanket grudge against the Greens so that could get interesting.

But for now Peters and Mark will be targeting votes. From ex-National voters who are tired of the current lot. From the big pool of voters who despair about Labour getting themselves sorted and looking capable of leading. And from the sizeable pool of potential voters who use NZ First and Winston as a protest vote.

That’s actually smart politics – votes are what count.

Then after the election Peters will smile at Key, and at Little and Turei and Shaw, and he probably won’t even have to use the word ‘grovel’.

Little versus Key on Chinese trade

Andrew Little’s second shot at John Key in Question Time yesterday was short and not very sweet.

TradeSteel Imports

5. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that threats of trade retaliation by China if New Zealand investigates substandard Chinese steel imports are “unsubstantiated rumours”, given his Government has been discussing that threat with China since May?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. Every time the issue of possible retaliatory action against our exports has been raised, New Zealand has sought, and received, assurances from China.

Andrew Little: Was the Government’s decision not to investigate substandard Chinese steel imports connected to trade threats from China, or is that just a coincidence?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not aware of the decision that the Government has made in regard to that.

Andrew Little: Is it just another coincidence that our kiwifruit exports are now blocked from China after Chinese threats of trade retaliations if we investigate its steel dumping?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: My understanding is that the issue holding up imports of Zespri kiwifruit into China is a technical matter. It is a technical matter related to some rot that was found on fruit that was imported some weeks earlier. My understanding is that Zespri has voluntarily decided not to export the fruit, because it is going through, now, a pre-examination process that will ensure that when it restarts the exports to China, they are rot-free.

Andrew Little: Why is it acceptable for China to ban New Zealand exports for containing a fungus that poses no health hazard and has been present on our kiwifruit exports to China for years?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is Leader of the Opposition and, on the basis of that, he has some responsibility at least to get the facts vaguely correct. The fact is that Zespri voluntarily stopped sending exports of kiwifruit to China for about a week. They have not been banned by the Chinese.

Andrew Little: How has he let the relationship with China get to the point where it is allowed to send us shoddy steel but we cannot send it top-quality kiwifruit?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is just making this stuff up. He does himself a disservice.

 

Back in Parliament

Parliament resumed yesterday after a long winter recess. Andrew Little, supported by Metiria Turei, in their first confrontation with John Key:

3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister for Building and Housing, given that, after 3 years in the job and numerous policies that were supposed to make housing more affordable, he now says it’s “probably not a good time for a young family to buy” and they “should be patient”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. I am pleased that the member acknowledges the Minister has advanced numerous policies as part of the Government’s comprehensive housing plan. They include a new $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund, over 210 special housing areas for 70,000 new homes, an expanded HomeStart scheme for first-home buyers, the national policy statement on urban development, Resource Management Act reform, a raft of extra tax measures, a new unitary plan for Auckland, more tools for the Reserve Bank, and independent urban development authorities for areas of high housing need. By any definition that is a comprehensive housing plan.

Andrew Little: In light of that answer and moving on from good intentions, does he agree it is a bad time for young families to buy, especially given Bill English’s estimate that only 500 affordable homes were built in Auckland last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the point the Ministers have been making is it is important for every person who buys a house to consider all the factors and to do so with their eyes open. We have interest rates that are at a 60-year low. Of course, we have a very strong economy with strong wage growth, and that makes it more affordable. But house prices do go down, as well as going up, and I think it is important that people just are observant of those facts.

Andrew Little: Given Auckland house prices have doubled on his watch from $496,000 to $992,000 does he now accept that the average Auckland house is out of reach for most families?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. If you look at the year to 31 March 2016 in Auckland there were 31,963 sales. Sales in the under $600,000 category of existing homes were over 30 percent of that—9,638 sales. For new houses under $650,000 there were 11,842 constructed—37 percent of sales.

Andrew Little: After 8 years why has he failed to stabilise house prices and build enough affordable houses?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said to the House before, in the early part of the term of this Government there was not strong demand for housing, but because of the economic programme of the Government we have now seen New Zealanders returning from overseas, we have seen New Zealanders not leaving, and on the back of all of that we are actually seeing the biggest housing boom in New Zealand’s history. An enormous number of houses are being built—and yes, of course it is taking some time to work its way through the system. It is not unique, I should say: if one looks around the world at cities like Melbourne, Sydney, London, Dubai, New York, and many others, they are also experiencing quite high house price increases.

Tim Macindoe: How is the Government’s comprehensive housing plan translating into new houses around New Zealand, where they are needed most?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We are now in the middle of the biggest housing boom New Zealand has seen. We are on track to build 85,000 houses across New Zealand in this term—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I apologise for interrupting, but the level of noise now coming from my left is at a level where I am going to have to deal with it rather severely. I do not mind some interjection, but just because members may not like a question or like an answer it does not need to lead to a constant barrage coming from my immediate left.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The construction industry is the biggest it has ever been; there are around 40,000 more people working in the sector than 2 years ago. In the year to June residential building consents increased 16 percent to over 29,000—the highest for a June-year since 2004. The Government’s comprehensive plan is boosting housing and supply, and we need to build on this good momentum.

Andrew Little: Why is Auckland City 40,000 houses behind what it needs to accommodate today’s population?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Primarily, actually, it is because of bad planning rules, I think, around Auckland. But the good news is that those planning rules are about to be reformed under the new Auckland Unitary Plan.

Andrew Little: Rather than hoping that the problem will fix itself, is it not time that he got off his backside and he and his Government got in behind Kiwis who want to own their own homes, and just built some bloody houses?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The only person who is in hope is Andrew Little, who hopes that one day he will poll higher than Winston Peters.

Tim Macindoe: What reports has the Prime Minister seen about whether alternative approaches would succeed in controlling house price inflation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen one report, which was completely inconclusive about its chances of controlling house price inflation. It said: “It’s hard to be specific about that.” That was, of course, Andrew Little on his pipedream of building 100,000 houses for just $2 billion.

Andrew Little: Why does he think that the majority of New Zealanders now back Labour’s KiwiBuild plan to stabilise house prices and build 100,000 affordable homes for families to buy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: A sound bite does not make a plan. [Interruption] If the best that New Zealand can do is 100,000 houses over 10 years then we are in serious trouble, because this Government will see 100,000 constructed over 4 years.

Andrew Little: Is this not the truth: his half-baked policies, his bumbling Minister for Building and Housing, and all the hollow promises will not solve the housing crisis, and that he leads an arrogant and out-of-touch Government that has given up on the Kiwi Dream of homeownership?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. If one looks at the activity that has taken place, the enormous amount of action that we are actually seeing—and actually the inaction that we saw in the 9 years of the previous Labour Government—then we can actually see a credible plan to more houses being built. And that is the reason why most New Zealanders actually can see that that is working. Of course it is going to take some time, but that is a factor that we are working our way through. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Mr Twyford, please, less interjection from you specifically.

Metiria Turei: Does he agree that for homes to be more affordable for families, the gap between house prices and incomes needs to reduce?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, as the Minister for Building and Housing said earlier in the House today, that is a factor—but there are many other factors, including interest rates. One thing I will say is that if house prices in New Zealand were to halve, that is a war on the poor. It is the poorest New Zealanders who, in percentage terms, borrow the most against their houses. Metiria Turei has been telling New Zealanders—and the Opposition is supporting her—that halving house prices will actually see the poorest New Zealanders have all of their equity eliminated. That is a war on the poor.

Metiria Turei: Given that house prices are rising at more than 10 percent nationwide but Treasury predicts wage growth at less than 3 percent, when does he expect that housing will become more affordable for families in Auckland?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There are a number of factors. Firstly, very low interest rates, stronger real wage growth than we have seen for a very long period of time, and strong employment markets actually are supporting young people and, actually, people across the board to be able to afford housing. That is the reality—that they have got the confidence of doing that. One of the reasons why more people are interested in buying houses in New Zealand, particularly in Auckland, is that they do feel that confidence in the Auckland market.

Metiria Turei: How many of the 400,000 Aucklanders aged between 20 and 40 will be locked out of the housing market because of low wage growth and skyrocketing house prices?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: By any definition, you cannot say there is low wage growth in real terms. When one looks back at the previous Government, there was virtually zero real wage growth in New Zealand because inflation was high. Inflation is running at extremely low levels, interest rates are extremely low—in fact, they are at a 60-year low—and employment markets are very strong. They are the conditions that support young people to get into a property. What we will see, I think, is a change in the nature of the sorts of properties that young people buy—more of them buying apartments and the like. That is an international trend that we are seeing. But to say that someone cannot buy a house in Auckland at under $600,000—which is where the Government’s KiwiSaver HomeStart scheme is set—is not true: there are many apartments, townhouses, and some homes in that category.

Metiria Turei: Given that when he became Prime Minister the median Auckland home cost six times the median household income and now it is almost 10 times that, when does he expect that that number will stop growing?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: When I became Prime Minister, 35,000 Kiwis a year net left for Australia. When I became Prime Minister, interest rates were 8 percent, and 11 percent in some retail numbers. When I became Prime Minister, there was a significant recession and a decade of deficits. One of the reasons why New Zealanders are coming back to this country is that they see the opportunities that are being created. I think most New Zealanders would prefer the conditions they see today than those in 2008 when I first became Prime Minister.

Sack them all?

It’s not uncommon so see calls to sack politicians. Andrew Little was at it again today:

SackSmithTweets

Duncan Garner picked up on this: Little calls for fifth minister to be sacked

Andrew Little has called for Nick Smith to be sacked as Housing Minister.

Shock. Horror. You’re bloody joking me?

If Andrew Little had his way there may be no Cabinet Ministers left.

Maybe that’s the grand plan?

In the last year or so Little has called for the sackings of:

  • Murray McCully for the Saudi sheep deal.
  • Todd McClay for his position on China trade sanctions.
  • Simon Bridges for his Northland one-way bridges policy.
  • And Gerry Brownlee for his management of the Christchurch rebuild.

And now Nick Smith. Are there any more?

So; does Little have a point?

Has Nick Smith been so bad on housing that he deserves to be sacked by the Prime Minister?

Or does Andrew Little need to get a bit more original and find some better lines and more creative material.

There’s a real cry world type problem here. How would anyone know when it was really justified for a Minister to be sacked? Not by listening to Little. Or others.

I don’t think Little has called on John Key to resign yet but both Russel Norman and Winston Peters have in the past.

It’s hard enough getting capable people standing for Parliament as it is without sacking all and sundry at the whim of a political opponent.

Wouldn’t it be good if more leaders actually led by example instead of trying to trash everyone else?

Labour’s Kiwibuild supported

Newshub/Reid Research have polled on Kiwibuild.

‘Do you support Labour’s Kiwibuild policy?’.

  • Yes 56%
  • No 41%
  • Don’t know 3%

This time a reasonable headline – Labour’s ‘Kiwibuild’ popular with voters  – but Patrick Gower again goes a bit overboard with his commentary.

Labour’s policy of building 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years for first home buyers is supported by a clear majority of voters.

It’s another blow on the housing front for National, as it shows Labour’s signature policy has significant support.

I don’t see it being a game changer, not at this stage at least. Much may depend on the state of the housing market in a year, leading into the next election.

Labour likes the result.

Leader Andrew Little says the result vindicates the policy and is proof it’s not only popular, but Kiwis believe it’s one of the best solutions to the crisis.

“People do expect when we do have a crisis of the nature we’ve got – a shortage of houses across the country – that if the private sector can’t do it, then the Government needs to step in and lead a building programme,” says Mr Little.

And Greens beat National over the head with it.:

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is also welcoming the result, saying it flies in the face of the Government’s vehement opposition to a mass-scale house-building programme.

“National will not do it because they are so fixed in their ideology,” she says.

“I mean, they just launched a billion-dollar fund which had nothing to do with building new homes. They have no new ideas and I think that’s why they’re failing.”

Ironic for Greens to accuse someone else of being fixed in their ideology.

Prime Minister John Key says the poll result is not a sign the current system is failing.

“We don’t think it’s necessary because that’s 100,000 homes over 10 years,” he says.

“We’re going to build 100,000 homes under our programme in about 3.5 years.”

There has to be real signs of progress towards that by next year’s election or National could be dumped on housing.

 

McClay reprimanded over Chinese trade issues

The Trade Minister Todd McClay has been publicly reprimanded by John Key for not being open and honest to Key or to the public after a story broke about alleged Chinese threats over trade.

Stuff: McClay rebuked by PM after failing to reveal wider fears of China retribution

After days downplaying Stuff reports, McClay on Monday revealed officials have been “for months” examining reports that China could retaliate if an investigation into steel dumping in New Zealand went ahead.

He also apologised to Key for not seeking more detail on the issue, but he stopped short of offering his resignation.

Key said McClay’s answers to media at a joint press conference in Indonesia, after Stuff broke the story, left the impression “that the only correspondence, the only discussion, had been between Zespri and a non-Government organisation and that’s not true”.

It’s not uncommon for Ministers to avoid telling the public everything about an issue, sometimes to try and protect themselves, sometimes to protect others from revelations that could be embarrassing.

But to not be up front with the Prime Minister can create serious problems for the Government, as it did in this case due to Key giving responses to media that turned out to be inaccurate.

There had been discussions and correspondence with others.

“He should have made both the media and me aware of that.”

“I think he took a very literal interpretation of the question that was asked of him. While that …may have been technically correct the point I was making to him is that’s giving a very specific and, I think, ‘dancing on the head of a pin’-type of answer to what was really a broader question. “

Key says that McClay has apologised to him but has not offered his resignation. McClay should be on notice not to stuff up like this again.

Labour leader Andrew Little called for Key to sack McClay. 

“A Minister who does not appreciate the seriousness of possible retaliatory action by our biggest trading partner against some of our biggest export industries simply should not be in the job.”

I have no idea whether it warrants the sacking of McClay, but Opposition calls for sackings tend to be not infrequent and often overplayed. In any case McClay may have appreciated the seriousness of the issue with China, but not the importance of properly informing the PM.

McClay was hamstrung in what he could say about a possible complaint about steel dumping because under WTO rules the Government could not confirm that until a formal investigation was launched.

How much to tell the PM is an ongoing judgement call by ministers, in this case poorly judged by McClay, but if Ministers resigned or were sacked over every stuff up there would be a drastic shortage of experience in Cabinet.

Key still played down the seriousness of the trade threats.

Key continued to describe the fears of China retaliating as “unsubstantiated rumours”.

“I think it still does fit in that category.”

There had been “engagement” like the one between an NGO and Zespri.

“What has happened is where there have been questions raised about whether, if there was an action taken, there would be retaliatory action the minister and the ministry have sought assurances that wouldn’t take place,” Key said.

“And to the best of our knowledge they have received those assurances.”

There have been claims ranging from serious trade threats from China to the story being an over-egged political hit job in New Zealand.

If the latter then jeopardising trade relations with China for political purposes deserves some attention, but don’t expect openness with the public or resignations for stuff ups in that respect.

US warship visit

A very unsurprising announcement on the visit to New Zealand of US Vice President Joe Biden – the US has formally accepted an invitation to send a naval vessel here later this year.

Stuff: Biden confirms US ship visit

It won’t be a nuclear powered or armed ship. It can’t be, as New Zealand law does not allow it.

New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act 1987

Prohibition on stationing of nuclear explosive devices

No person shall emplant, emplace, transport on land or inland waters or internal waters, stockpile, store, install, or deploy any nuclear explosive device in the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone

9 Entry into internal waters of New Zealand

(1) When the Prime Minister is considering whether to grant approval to the entry of foreign warships into the internal waters of New Zealand, the Prime Minister shall have regard to all relevant information and advice that may be available to the Prime Minister including information and advice concerning the strategic and security interests of New Zealand.

(2) The Prime Minister may only grant approval for the entry into the internal waters of New Zealand by foreign warships if the Prime Minister is satisfied that the warships will not be carrying any nuclear explosive device upon their entry into the internal waters of New Zealand.

11 Visits by nuclear powered ships

Entry into the internal waters of New Zealand by any ship whose propulsion is wholly or partly dependent on nuclear power is prohibited.

So a US ship visit should be uncontroversial.

Except that it brings to an and a thirty year hissy fit by the US who reacted petulantly when  another sovereign nation passed laws that had massive public support.

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