Labour pressured by friendly fire strike threats

It seems a bit ironic that wage claims and threats of strikes have ramped up substantially now Labour lead the Government. In opposition Labour seems closely associated with unions, the PSA and worker groups like the teachers and nurses, so why are they getting more militant now Labour hold then purse strings?

Payback for their electoral support – large scale payback, because it works.

Hamish Rutherford: Labour’s sympathetic ear means it is destined to feel far more pressure from unions

The timing of strike threats from a growing number of corners of the public sector, must be galling for the new Government.

After years of small increases under National, Labour arrives in the Beehive, makes an offer – then doubles it – and the nurses announce plans to walk off the job for the first time in a generation.

So why now? Why didn’t the nurses strike at any point during the last nine years?

“All of the concerns that you are hearing here, were raised with the previous government,” New Zealand Nurses Organisation chief executive Memo Musa said as the group formally rejected the Government’s $500 million offer. It was “not about sympathy” he added.

“The issue now, is pretty much an issue of timing.”

In part it will be economic timing – National tool over in 2008 as the Global Financial Crisis struck and care was needed in spending during years of deficits. Inflation has also been very low for a decade now, and wage increases have been meagre for most workers.

So Labour taking over at the same that surpluses have come back – more money available and a friendly Government is an opportune time to push for a big lift in wages. And they are pushing hard.

Timing is everything, and the nurses are not alone in realising this.

Teachers – who admittedly have used industrial action regularly – are calling for “action”, with votes on strikes in August.

Thousands of core public servants are also being balloted on strikes. Although the proposed action by more than 4000 members of the Public Service Association – two two-hour strikes in July – will hardly bring the nation to a halt, the way it is being billed is telling.

The PSA has opted for “co-ordinated” action across Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), with national secretary Glenn Barclay saying it was “a big deal because we haven’t had industrial action in the public service for a long time”.

Labour will come under more pressure from the unions for a good reason.

It is not just that expectations are higher, it is that the Government has a sympathetic ear. Unions are likely to protest more under the current administration because it will work.

Labour have already raised minimum wages, and promise more increases. They may get pushed by threats of strikes to give generous increases to nurses, teachers and other public servants.

This will be good for the economy, short term.

But it will put a lot of pressure on companies to pay more too, or public-private wage disparities will increase.

If private sector wages are forced to follow Government wage generosity this will likely lead to price inflation as well.And there will be pressure to increase benefits.

Will we end up any better off?

National supporting non-partisan Climate Commission

National have had a rethinks and have done a bit of a u-turn, now saying the support having a Climate  Commission. This makes strong cross party support for addressing climate issues.

The Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement supports a Climate Commission:

  • Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and an independent Climate Commission, based on the recommendations of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

The number one point in the Labour Green Confidence and Supply agreement was setting up a Commission:

Sustainable Economy

1. Adopt and make progress towards the goal of a Net Zero Emissions Economy by 2050, with a particular focus on policy development and initiatives in transport and urban form, energy and primary industries in accordance with milestones to be set by an independent Climate Commission and with a focus on establishing Just Transitions for exposed regions and industries.

a. Introduce a Zero Carbon Act and establish an independent Climate Commission

b. All new legislation will have a climate impact assessment analysis.

c. A comprehensive set of environmental, social and economic sustainability indicators will be developed.

d. A new cross-agency climate change board of public sector CEOs will be established.

In a step towards that in April Green co-leader and Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced an Interim Climate Change Committee:

The Minister for Climate Change today announced the membership of the Interim Climate Change Committee, which will begin work on how New Zealand transitions to a net zero emissions economy by 2050.

“We need work to start now on how things like agriculture might enter into the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZETS), and we need planning now for the transition to 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2035,” says James Shaw.

“The Interim Climate Change Committee will begin this important work until we have set up the independent Climate Change Commission under the Zero Carbon Act in May next year.

“The Interim Committee will consult with stakeholders and hand over its work and analysis to the Climate Change Commission,” Mr Shaw said.

“If we want to help lead the world towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, we must create a moral mandate underpinned by decisive action at home to reduce our own emissions.

“Setting up the Interim Climate Change Committee is a great step in that direction,” says James Shaw.

Last week Shaw announced Zero Carbon Bill Consultation Launch.

Yesterday National leader Simon Bridges tweeted:

Bridges spoke on this – Speech to Fieldays on climate change

One of the big long-term challenges we face is protecting the environment.

In a hundred years, when we’re all long gone, I want to be sure our grandchildren will be living in a New Zealand that is still the envy of the world because of its stunning natural environment as well as its prosperity.

I’ve charged our environmental MPs, led by Scott Simpson, Todd Muller, Sarah Dowie and Erica Stanford with the task of modernising our approach to environmental issues. To run a ruler over our policies. To ask the questions and to push us harder.

And that is also true of climate change.

National recognises the importance to New Zealanders – present and future – of addressing climate change, and playing our part in the global response.

We’ve made good progress recently, but we need to do more.

We implemented the world-leading Emissions Trading Scheme, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic productivity.

I am proud to have been a part of the previous National Government which signed New Zealand up to the Paris agreement with its ambitious challenge of reducing our emissions to 30 per cent less than 2005 levels by 2030.

I was there in Paris as the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues and I stand by our commitment.

It will be challenging to achieve, and will require an adjustment to our economy. But we must do so.

Today I have written to the Prime Minister and James Shaw, offering to work with them to establish an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission.

I want to work with the Government to make meaningful bi-partisan progress on climate change.

The Climate Change Commission would support New Zealand’s emission reductions by both advising the Government on carbon budgets, and holding the Government to account by publishing progress reports on emissions.

The Commission would be advisory only, with the Government of the day taking final decisions on both targets and policy responses.

There are a number of details I want to work through with the Government before the Commission is launched – such as ensuring the Commission has appropriate consideration for economic impacts as well as environmental, and that the process for appointments to the Commission is also bipartisan.

But I am confident that we can work constructively together to establish an enduring non-political framework for all future governments when considering climate change issues.

This is a significant and a good move by Bridges and National.

With all the multi-MP parties working together positively on climate change issues New Zealand should make good progress on addressing climate change issues.

Peters successfully played to support base over 3 strikes

While Andrew Little has taken a hit after his back down on repealing the 3 strikes legislation, Winston Peters will be feeling quite happy with himself – and many NZ First supporters and potential voters will also be happy.

But Ardern’s leadership of Government has also taken a hit.

Peters has played Little and won handsomely. And the timing of the Peters power play is smart (or fortuitous) too, just before Peters takes over as acting Prime Minister

Tracey Watkins (Stuff): Three strikes lesson – Winston won’t be a token prime minister

Little has been dealt a short, sharp and brutal lesson in real politik by the master of MMP, Peters.

In doing so, Peters has reinforced NZ First’s credentials with its supporters as a vital handbrake on Labour and the Greens, especially when they get too far ahead of public opinion, particularly on touch-stone issues like law and order.

Some valuable credibility for peters and NZ First.

And he has given warning that Peters will be far from a token prime minister whenArdern hands over the reins sometime in the next week or so to give birth.

It has been Peters’ bug bear for years that the big parties still act like first past the post governments under MMP.

…Little fell right into the same hole when he publicly announced two weeks ago he was taking a paper to Cabinet proposing to repeal the law, when he hadn’t even bothered to consult NZ First.

It should have been as obvious to Little as everyone else that repealing the three strikes law was anathema to a law and order party like NZ First.

Little’s face has copped the egg this time, but ‘everyone else’ includes Ardern and her office too. It must have been obvious to them that Little was heading for an embarrassing back down.

So did Ardern let Little walk into this? She and her advisers can’t have been blind to the obvious Peters position on this. otherwise it looks like a major oversight – incompetence.

Regardless of how this came about Peters heads into his role as acting PM with Little’s power pricked somewhat, with a clear warning to other Labour Ministers too.


Ardern is on RNZ now saying a 3 strikes repeal was ‘one small part’ of judicial reform. Trying to play down the debacle.

When pushed she concedes that the repeal is ‘off the table’, despite Little claiming yesterday he would still try to get NZ First support.

Ardern claims the public promotion of a policy that could never succeed ‘is simply democracy and MMP’. It’s a cock-up by Labour, and Ardern is as responsible for it as Little.

Ardern closes saying that the 3 strikes disaster speaks to the strength of the multi party Government. This isn’t a good example to promote.

Greens in Northcote – tactical, or signs of slump?

The Greens raised eyebrows (especially Labour supporters’ eyebrows) when they decided to stand a candidate in the Northcote by-election.

Should Green eyebrows be raised over the slump in Green support? Or can it be dismissed as tactical voting?

Rebecca Jaung stood in both the last general election and the by-election.

  • 2017 general election 2,457 votes 6.73%
  • 2018 by-election 579 votes – 2.90%

Turnout (based on by-election night results) was about half that of the general election, but the Green share of the vote was more than halved.

Was it due tactical voting?

I didn’t see the Greens promoting tactical voting for the Labour. perhaps they did it quietly, but why would they? There was not a big chance for the Labour candidate, and Greens had more to lose by doing poorly.

Jaung sounded like she was seeking votes for herself – Rebel without the yell: the Greens’ Northcote candidate

“I think Northcote needs a voice like mine,” she said, and I asked, like what?

“One promoting Green ideas. A young woman. Also, the fact that I’m a doctor, that helped in some of the debates.” In the 2017 election, which she also contested, she was able to call out the sitting member, then-health minister Dr Jonathan Coleman.

She did well in 2017. The Greens ranked their top 41 candidates and she wasn’t among them, but she generated a better party vote than 28 other non-MPs who were. Her candidate vote held up too.

But really, why is she standing this time? She’ll be very lucky to get even 10 per cent of the vote and doesn’t she risk spoiling it for Labour’s Shanan Halbert? She said she didn’t believe that.

“To start with, I don’t accept that every Green voter would vote Labour if I wasn’t here. There are Blue-Green voters. Me being here gives them someone to vote for.”

But only 2.9% of voters chose her.

I think that the Greens should be concerned about this slump in their Northcote vote.

It could be a sign of a bigger problem. Stacey Kirk: Is it time to plaster the Green Party caucus on the side of a milk carton?

It seems the good old cage-rattling Greens have been lost to the halls of the Beehive. Where on earth are the Tibetan flag waving Greens? The Trans-Pacific Partnership protesting Greens? The spy-base hating, tree-chaining, parliament scaling and benefit fraud condoning Greens?

Actually, that last one went too far.

Ever since former leader Metiria Turei sent her party on a downward spiral by proudly admitting her historical benefit fraud ahead of the election, they’ve not been a team.

The election of Marama Davidson as co-leader appears to have changed very little.

Selecting Davidson may have accentuated the division in the Greens.

Meanwhile, Shaw is in danger of falling down the same ministerial rabbit hole as former Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell – becoming engrossed in the importance of his ministerial work, while hoping that speaks for itself.

Flavell, and his party’s brutal demise, is proof that it doesn’t. But in co-leader Marama Fox that party still had an outspoken wild card that was prepared to speak out – at times forcefully – against the Government.

But if consistent polling, showing the Greens on a slow march down the same path as Flavell and Fox, isn’t enough to wake them from their stupor, then it’s not just their problem but the Government’s.

Shaw seems too busy promoting his climate change ideals and a halt to oil and gas exploration – these may not be widely popular either, especially to the degree Shaw wants.

It’s early days for Davidson as co-leader but is seen more as a hard left radical rather than an appeal to soft green votes.

And the Northcote election result suggests that Green support is vulnerable.

This means Greens are increasingly vulnerable to being a one term government party, and risk missing the cut next election.

This makes Labour very vulnerable too.

Looking back at Northcote party polling

Claims were made by Labour, and National in response, about ‘party polling’ leading into the voting period for the Northcote by-election.

NZH: Simon Wilson’s Northcote Notebook: Labour closes gap in Northcote byelection

Labour Party polling for the Northcote byelection puts candidate Shanan Halbert just 2.1% behind National’s Dan Bidois. Sources close to the party confirmed that, in a poll conducted last week, Halbert was preferred by 46.3 per cent of those asked, and Bidois by 48.4 per cent.

That’s a change from a poll conducted by Labour in early May, which had Bidois leading Halbert by a more comfortable margin, 50.8 per cent vs 44.4 per cent.

National Party sources dispute these numbers. They say their polling shows a gap of about 8 per cent.

In the days before election day Labour candidate Shanan Halbert and leader Jacinda Ardern both said the election would go ‘down to the wire’. as did a party press release: It’s down to the wire in Northcote by-election

Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern and Northcote Labour candidate Shanan Halbert campaigned together today in Northcote, emphasising how important it was that people get out and vote for a strong local voice before 7 pm Saturday.

Shanan said “It was a pleasure hosting Jacinda in the Northcote shops today. We spent time encouraging locals to ensure their voice is heard by joining the thousands of others who have already voted in the by-election.”

“We know from the polling that this race is down to the wire. If everyone who voted for me in the 2017 General Election votes for me again in this by-election, Northcote will have a strong local voice in Government come June 10th.”

if everyone who voted for the National candidate in the general election voted National again Halbert wouldn’t have a chance.

It’s normal for parties to talk up their chances going in to an election, but quoting party polls without giving any details should be viewed with scepticism.

Halbert was running against a nine year MP and Cabinet Minister in the general election, while he was up against a virtual unknown from out of the electorate in the by-election.

Election night results for the National and Labour candidates in the Northcote by-election:

  • Dan Bidois (National) 10,147 – 50.98% (general election 52.27%)
  • Shanan Halbert (Labour) 8,785 – 44.14% (general election 35.25%)

Election night majority 1,362 – difference 6.84%.

So that is nowhere near the 2% claimed by Labour. It is quite close to what National claimed.

There could be a number of explanations, like – Labour support faded late in the campaign. or more Labour supporters didn’t get out and vote.

It could also be that Labour bullshitted about their polling to try to talk up a close contest.

Or Labour’s polling is crap.

For all we know Labour’s poll asked something like “Will you vote for the local candidate SHANAN HALBERT, or the unknown out of electorate candidate with a foreign sounding name?”

Or the polling was done by Labour’s door knockers.

Whatever the reason it emphasises that caution should be taken about any polls – they are an approximate measure in the past, not a prediction of the future despite what media try to say.

And one-off party polling claimed during an election campaign, with no details given and no history of polls showing trends, should not be promoted by media as news, and should not be taken to seriously.

 

Labour fundraising in private clubs

Labour tried to make a big deal about some National fundraising, but they seem to be doing the same sort of thing, and are looking like they have been caught with their hands in the biscuit jar.

Stuff in 2014: Does Cabinet Club buy influence?

Party funding is back under the spotlight after two ministers ran into trouble over their links with wealthy donors amid revelations National operates a ‘Cabinet Club’ offering access to top ministers in exchange for cash.

Last week National’s $1000-plus Cabinet Club dinners were in the gun, though there were counter-accusations, laced with claims of hypocrisy, that Labour offered chinwags with MPs for $1250 a pop.

The Greens have had a couple of stabs at greater transparency. The first, through Sue Kedgley’s Lobbyists Register Bill, has lapsed. Now the Greens are pressing for a ministerial disclosure regime. Co-leader Dr Russel Norman estimates John Key had raised more than $1 million from his “club” appearances.

“John Key claims the Cabinet Club is part of the normal political donations process. Cash for access to the inner circle of the Government is not normal,” Norman said. “It is democracy for sale.”

National MP Tau Henare says the Left is trying to curb National’s fundraising ability because it is jealous National can raise more. And National president Peter Goodfellow insists there is no quid pro quo for donations.

Newshub in April 2017: Labour launches exclusive ‘President’s Club’

The Labour Party has launched an exclusive secret society called The President’s Club for those who donate big bucks to the party.

It opened for business two weeks ago, with the primary role of luring in big cheques from wealthy Labour supporters.

It’s Labour’s version of National’s Cabinet Club, which sees exorbitantly-priced tickets sold for exclusive dinners attended by Cabinet ministers of the Crown.

Labour president Nigel Haworth says The President’s Club differs from Cabinet Club because Labour MPs aren’t involved, and aren’t used to lure in donations in exchange for access.

But Labour are charging big bucks, and using Ministers as an attraction. Stuff yesterday: Labour hosts business and lobbyists at $600-a-head dinners in exclusive private clubs

Finance Minister Grant Robertson gave a post-Budget speech at a $600-a-head Labour fundraiser at the exclusive Wellington Club, drawing comparisons to the previous National Government’s “Cabinet club” scandal.

According to several attendees, about 40 people, including party supporters, business figures and corporate lobbyists, attended the dinner hosted by Labour president Nigel Haworth on Wednesday, at which Robertson was the key

The Cabinet manual states: “holding ministerial office is regarded as a full-time occupation and is remunerated as such. Accordingly … accepting additional payment for doing anything that could be regarded as a ministerial function is not permissible”.

This means that if Robertson was attending in his ministerial capacity, rather than as an MP, Labour would be unable to use the event as a fundraiser.

Labour dance on the head of an MP pin…

…but get pinged for it.

Labour’s fiscal plan was never realistic

Labour campaigned with a fiscal plan last year, and it was the centre of a controversial claim by Steven Joyce that demonstrated an $11b fiscal ‘hole’.

The reality is that the fiscal plan was not a plan as it could never have been implemented – there was virtually no chance of Labour governing alone. And this is Labour’s excuse for budgeting $12b more than specified in their plan, the cost of governing arrangements with other parties.

This is an obvious reality of single party campaign policies in an MMP environment where single parties have never governed alone, so it may be more a problem of how parties (and media) portray campaign policies.

NZH: Labour’s first Budget vs its campaign plan: Does it match up?

A comparison of Labour’s campaign fiscal plan with its first Budget shows things are not tracking quite as Labour planned during the campaign, something it put down to its coalition agreements and higher costs than expected.

Analysis by NZ Herald data journalist Keith Ng shows total Crown spending is forecast to be almost $12.5 billion higher over the five years to 2021/22 than Labour forecast in the “fiscal plan” it campaigned on in the last election.

That takes it to $24 billion more than National had planned over that period.

Labour campaigned on its fiscal plan against criticism from National that it had not allowed enough to cover the costs of its policies as well as increases in Government spending such as wage increases.

The higher spending also indicates the cost of securing the support of NZ First and the Green Party was higher than Labour allowed for in its fiscal plan and some policies were costing more than expected.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said the Budget should not be compared to Labour’s fiscal plan because it was based on Labour Party policy while the Budget reflected the Government arrangement with NZ First and the Greens.

In one way that’s a fair claim by Robertson. Labour was never likely to govern alone.

But did Robertson make it clear that his fiscal plan was not a plan?

He could not know which parties Labour may combine with to form a Government. But he must have known his fiscal plan would never remain intact in an MMP government, and should have expressed it with that clear proviso.

Will this happen next election? It’s likely to be glossed over again, or at least Labour may try that, but having been in Government with two other parties it should be much harder to get away with.

Unless Labour campaigns with the expectation that NZ First and Greens will miss the cut and won’t impact on Labour’s fiscal plan.

 

 

 

Ambitious tree planting policy lacking labour

The Government’s ambitious house building plans will be difficult to achieve unless sufficient trade labour is available, and there are insufficient numbers of experienced people available already.

The same problem faces another ambitious project – planting a billion trees.

Stuff: Labour shortage could create ‘significant issue’ for Govt’s 1 billion tree target

A shortage of labour and land could result in growing pains for the Government’s ambitious 1 billion trees programme.

Shortly after the Government was formed last year, it set itself the lofty goal of planting 1 billion trees by 2027 as a way to grow the regions, create jobs, offset carbon emissions, enhance biodiversity and reinvigorate New Zealand’s forestry industry.

The recent Budget allocated $258 million to the programme, and Forestry Minister Shane Jones said planting rates would increase from 55 million trees a year to 70 million in 2020, and 90 million in 2021.

“From there we will be aiming for 110 million a year over the next seven years of the programme,” Jones said.

However, finding people to plant trees let alone maintain and harvest them could prove difficult, he said.

​”We’ve got a challenge – we can’t find enough workers as it is.”

Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes…

…said the 1 billion trees programme was “challenging but doable”.

A lack of labour would be the main thing holding the programme back, he said.

“It’s clear that there’s a significant issue out there and we are going to struggle to find the numbers. That’s going to have to be addressed or we’re going to have a problem.”

Unemployed people would need to be trained and migrant labour would be needed, most likely from the Pacific Islands, who had traditionally filled forestry roles, Rhodes said.

Horticulture already has a lot of trouble getting sufficient labour to pick things like grape and fruit, and to harvest vegetables. One problem is it is seasonal work, but another problem is that these jobs are often in more rural areas where there is little labour available and urban unemployed are unwilling to move to.

Forestry has a bigger potential problem, as most of that work wil be even more remote from civilisation and labour.

School donations another delayed promise

A Labour promise to pay schools extra so parent donations aren’t required has had an evolving target, from “in our first budget” to “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”.

Below the Beltway:

Education Minister Chris Hipkins – After promising repeatedly to offer parents relief from school donations in the Budget, Hipkins insists its omission is not a broken promise but a delayed one.

Labour policy: Schooling

  • Ensure that schooling is genuinely free by offering an extra $150 per student to state and state integrated schools that don’t ask parents for donations

Labour: Education Manifesto

  • Labour will provide all State and State Integrated schools that opt-in an additional $150 per student per year in exchange for their agreement not to ask for parental donations

July 2017: Labour taking action on school ‘donations’

Labour will end so-called voluntary school donations for the majority of parents across the country under its $4 billion plan to revitalise the education sector, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. James talks with Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins on this.

James: So the school will get this immediately, as soon as you become Government the schools will get this extra $150 per child?

Hipkins: Ah look it might have to be, obviously we’ve got to pass a budget first, so it probably won’t be the beginning of next year, it’s probably be the beginning of the following year but we’ll be doing it as quickly as we can.

James: How long does it take to sort that out, a year?

Hipkins: Well the government budget’s normally done in May, so you’ve got to appropriate the money first.

James: Haven’t you done the figures already?

Hipkins: Yep. The money, we’ve certainly done the figures but we’ve actually got to win the election and get into Government first, and then it takes a wee while to pass an additional budget. The budget for next year has been already been set by Mr English and Mr Joyce.

Almost as soon as they got into Government,26 October 2017: ‘We’ve got to fund schools fairly’ – Labour determined to take the axe to ‘voluntary’ school donations:

Incoming Education Minister Chris Hipkins said a new Labour initiative would be introduced in the 2018 budget that would see some schools given extra government funding instead of asking parents for a donation.

Hillary Barry: End of school donations, how are you going to ensure that those are gone?

Chris Hipkins: Well that’ll be in our first budget. We’ll be making sure that school funding is enough to deliver the curriculum so that schools don’t have to rely on the ability of parents to pay, because that’s creating real unfairness…

In November: Labour’s $150 per student per year promise ‘over and above current funding’, minister says

New Minister of Education Chris Hipkins…

The new Government would commit an extra $150 per pupil per year to any schools that agreed not to ask for donations, and that money would be “over and above their current funding”, he said.

Hipkins was confident many schools would prefer the new approach to asking parents to “dig ever deeper into their own pockets”.

“I know parents and schools will be keen for this change to be made as soon as possible and work is getting under way,” he said.

It had already softened to “as soon as possible”.

A month later Labour announced their first budget, a mini-budget that included major new spending like delivering on the free-fee tertiary policy. This was their first budget they chose not to address the school donation policy then.

In February this year Schools split on Government’s plan to overhaul donation system

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the policy would be considered for Budget 2018.  “No-one should be denied an opportunity to realise their potential through education because of financial barriers,” he said.

“As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point.”

By then it was “would be considered”.

But it was absent from the budget announced this month (May).

In Parliament on Wednesday Nikki Kaye probed Hipkins:

7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his promises in education; if so, does he stand by his statement in February 2018 regarding ending school donations, “As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point”?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes, and yes.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Why did he say, in January, to the Nelson Mail that a school donations proposal was working its way through Cabinet and “This restricts me from making any comment further at this stage.”, and when did that schools donations Cabinet paper go through?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because it was working its way through the process. It was called the Budget process.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he reimburse schools and parents who are contacting electorate offices saying they relied on his broken promise to end school donations in the first Budget, and how will they find funding from somewhere else?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has been very clear that we have three Budgets in which to deliver the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. We have, thus far, delivered one of the three Budgets.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he promise that funding will be provided in Budget 2019 to end school donations?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: All of the commitments in the Speech from the Throne are subject to further Budget consideration if they weren’t funded in this year’s Budget. There are two further Budgets that the Government will be delivering over this term of Government.

Hon Nikki Kaye: How does he justify breaking his explicit promise to parents to scrap the school donations in his first Budget when his Government is budgeting a surplus of $3.1 billion, the tax take is up by $1 billion, and the Government can afford to give millions to wealthy students, Swedish diplomats—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: To be clear, the Government was never going to be able to deliver all of the commitments we made in our first Budget, and we’ve always been very clear that we weren’t going to be able to deliver those things in our first Budget. That’s why we have a three-year term, and three Budgets on which to deliver on them.

So it’s been a moving target:

July 2017: “Probably be the beginning of the following year” (2019)

October 2017: “Well that’ll be in our first budget” (not clear whether mini-budget in 2017 or full budget in 2018)

November 2017: “…this change to be made as soon as possible…”

February 2018: “would be considered for Budget 2018”

May 2018: “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”

If Labour gets back into Government in 2020 Hipkins will have another three budgets to deliver on his promise, sort of.

 

Cannabis legislation and referendum in 2019?

The Government are considering legislation and referendum on the personal use of cannabis in 2019 – they are committed to a referendum by 2020, but legislation followed by a referendum next year would be an excellent approach.

This sounds very sensible. The Government should be encouraged to take this approach.

The Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement guarantees a referendum by 2020:

19. Increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services and ensure drug use is treated as a health issue, and have a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 general election.

Now RNZ report: NZ may vote on cannabis legalisation in 2019

(Note – RNZ repeatedly referred to ‘marijuana but I have replaced that with ‘cannabis’)

The government is currently debating whether to hold the referendum in 2019 because it’s not sure holding it at the 2020 General Election would be a smart move politically.

The referendum on legalising cannabis was part of the confidence and supply deal struck between Labour and the Greens – although Winston Peters’ backs one too.

I don’t think there can be any guarantees about whether Winston Peters or NZ First would support this. Their stance on cannabis has been vague and variable over the past few years. NZ First back using referendums in general, but with notable exceptions – Peters was strongly opposed to the flag referendum.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said the government’s contemplating holding it next year, rather than in 2020.

“There’s two competing issues, one is it would be convenient to have it then (2020) we’ve got a General Election so we’re already running a ballot there.

“On the other hand, there would be other colleagues who would say ‘well we don’t necessarily want a General Election run on this particular sort of issue, so let’s have it at a different time’ – that issue hasn’t been resolved and it will be a little while before it is, I suspect.”

Campaigning on cannabis could be a major distraction in a general election – but it could improve voter turnout.

Mr Little acknowledged the government had a lot of work to do before any vote.

“We need to make sure there is good public information out there, good events for people to express their views, so that would dictate a timing that would be no earlier that late 2019.”

He said the government still did not know what sort of legalised cannabis system it will propose putting in place.

“We simply haven’t got anywhere near that, I think it’s about getting the mechanics of the referendum sorted, then I think obviously some discussions around scope and maybe some options there.

“The critical question is going to be, what is the question to go to the electorate with, one that makes sense and gives a meaningful answer and gives a mandate if it is approved to proceed with further work – if it’s not approved of course it’s all over.”

Having fair and clear referendum questions is very important.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick said other aspects of how the referendum will be run are still being hammered out too.

“The first thing we have to consider is whether we put legislation before the House first which will then be triggered by whatever the threshold may be of that referendum turn out.

“We’re still working through that, so we’re working with other government parties and inside our own caucus to discern what the best course of action will be,” Ms Swarbrick said.

Swarbrick generally seems to have stepped up capably and done a very good job as a first term MP in a party in Government.

Having legislation before Parliament, with public submissions and a conscience vote, makes a lot of sense. Then let the public approve or disapprove of the legislation via the referendum.

The problem with having the referendum first is that the subsequent legislative process in Parliament could then either be restricted by the referendum question, or could move away from the intent of the electorate.

The legislation then referendum approach could establish a very good model for engaging the public in the democratic process.

Legislation on personal cannabis use next year, followed by an approve/disapprove referendum late in the year, sounds like an excellent option for both cannabis and drug reform (whether it happens or not), and also for democracy.

This doesn’t mean the personal use of cannabis would become legal, but it means that the public would properly get to make the decision.