Bridges and MPs deliver attacks on lack of delivery

With his leadership of National under ongoing scrutiny, Simon Bridges went on the attack in Parliament yesterday.

I don’t care for that sort of politics so will leave that speech at that, apart from saying that I don’t think it will save Bridges from being dumped as leader sooner or later (it doesn’t look like he will volunteer to step down).

He did a better job with one of Natikonal’s primary attack lines, the alleged lack of achievement by the Government in what Jacinda Ardern referred to as the year of delivery.

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government’s actions, policies, and statements?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that under the previous Government, job creation was at 10,000 per month, yet in the last three months, job growth has fallen by 4,000—that is, it’s gone negative?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I notice that the member has very specifically drawn on a quarter-to-quarter comparison because what he doesn’t want to say is that the unemployment rate, as it’s being announced today, is at 4.2 percent, the second-lowest level in 10 years. What he doesn’t want to say is that wages grew 3.4 percent over the year; that the underutilisation rate—again, we want to make sure that people, when they’re in employment, are working as much as they want to be working—fell to 11.3 percent, the lowest underutilisation rate since December 2008; and the NEET rate fell—not as much as we’d like, but it has fallen—and the number of employed people rose 38,200 from a year ago. The member has compared one quarter to the next because that was the only number that he felt comfortable raising in this House.

Hon Simon Bridges: So will she answer the question: does she accept that under the previous Government, job creation was at 10,000 per month, yet in the last three months, job growth has fallen—that is, has gone negative—by 4,000 people?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For the quarter, yes. However, if we’re looking at the average change in employment, it is, of course, in the positive and over 10,000. Again, I notice that the member, when he was in Government, tended not to use quarter-on-quarter either.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know that the reason Statistics New Zealand gave for the unemployment rate falling in the last quarter was because people were deciding to leave the labour force—that is, to go on a benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is actually not correct. If someone goes on a benefit, by default they are termed unemployed and would show up in the unemployment statistics, which have gone [Interruption]—if surveyed, they would indeed be regarded as unemployed, and the unemployment rate has gone down. Secondly, I also acknowledge that when the numbers came out, Statistics New Zealand said they saw a rise in men aged over—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Don’t just make it up.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —this is actually from Statistics New Zealand, Mr Brownlee, if you’d like to tune in—55 leaving the labour force in order to go into leisure time—perhaps a suggestion, Mr Brownlee.

Hon Simon Bridges: How does she explain unemployment down but benefits strongly up?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, there’s been a variation of 0.2 percent in the benefit numbers. Again, however, when we look at the percentage of those of the working-age population receiving a main benefit, even where it is now in the March quarter, which is at 9.5 percent, that is lower than it was in every year from March 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017, under the last Government. So, yes, of course we want to keep those numbers coming in a different direction, but, again—relative to the last Government—in better shape.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that under the previous Government, 60,000 people came off benefits, yet in the last 12 months, there were 13,000 more people on the benefit?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yet, I say again, despite that, we are still at a lower rate than under the last Government. Of course we maintain the aspiration that we want to see people in work. That’s why we have Mana in Mahi, where we are supporting those who are on unemployment benefits to go into work and supporting employers to take them on in apprenticeships. That’s why we’ve got our driver-licensing scheme, where those on youth payments are eligible for free driver-licensing to help them get into work. And it’s why just this week, Ministers announced the work they’re doing with the building and construction sector. We do want people in meaningful work, and we’re taking meaningful action to make it happen.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why are there 13,000 more New Zealanders on the job seeker benefit under her watch?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, I prefer to use the proportion of working-age population, but, again, even then I have said there has been a 0.2 percent increase. We have seen, according to the Ministry of Social Development, some softening in the areas around construction, from memory. So those areas where we have seen problems around our sector is where we’ve seen also job issues, and that’s why we’re doing the work to try and make sure those individuals have the skills to go into those areas of work.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Government’s $1.5 billion mental health package be announced pre-Budget or on Budget day?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: All Budget announcements, of course, sit with the Minister of Finance and the Government. We don’t give time lines on what is in and what is out, and nor am I going to confirm the totality of those Budget amounts.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree that it’s a failure that the Ashburton District, with an unemployment rate of 1.8 percent, saw a 20 percent increase in the number of people on the job seeker benefit in the last year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, my preference would always be to look at some of that individual, regional data myself, because sometimes it does give us patterns around what’s happening for industry areas. Of course, we don’t wish to tolerate growth in any of those areas; that’s why we’re taking very specific initiatives in very specific regions and employment areas in order to try and turn such numbers around. I would again say, though, this is a day where we’ve, again, had the second lowest unemployment rate in a decade, matched only by the lowest in a decade, which we achieved two quarters ago. This is a time for celebration for the country, that we are doing well in the face of some international headwinds which are not positive.

Hon Simon Bridges: If unemployment being down is so good, why are benefits up 13,000 people?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’ve given multiple answers to this question. Regardless, again, of those rationales, we are taking individual efforts to make sure that in those areas where we have job need we are matching those on a benefit in a way that we just did not see under the last Government. And that is the right approach to get our benefit numbers down.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report, due to be released on Friday, recommend the removal of most or all benefit obligations and sanctions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, I welcome the question from the member, because I’ve noticed some statements being made around sanctions which are just not accurate. There have been no changes to the sanction regime. We have, however, ensured that Work and Income is following the existing policy. So I cannot make any statements around whether or not that kind of rigour was applied to our system before, but it is being applied now. The sanctions themselves, however, have not changed. The second point is that the Welfare Expert Advisory Group—you’ll be able to discuss and debate their recommendations once they’re released.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will her Government not only “remove excessive sanctions in the welfare system” but, as the Speech from the Throne states, also “go further”?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have been very open as a Government around some of the discomfort we’ve had with some of the sanctions that exist, for instance, naming of children—the penalty that applies for, particularly, women in those circumstances. That’s something we’ve been very open about. With sanctions, of course, we’ve always been mindful about the impact of them on children in particular. But again, in terms of any announcements, you’ll have to wait until the Government formalises its response.

Hon Simon Bridges: If she and her Government have made no secret of the fact that they’re uncomfortable with the sanctions and obligations, why have no changes been made, and will changes be made when the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report and the Government’s decisions come back?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I was simply flagging a particular sanction that at least Labour and the Greens have been on record on for a number of years. When it comes to announcements, the member will have to wait.

Hon Simon Bridges: So can I confirm that she is uncomfortable with the sanctions and obligations that are in place on benefits today, as she, I think, just said?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. The member completely misinterpreted my statement and he knows it.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the current system and what we’ve got in place right now—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m just going to remind the Prime Minister that she cannot accuse a member of deliberately misleading the House, and I think she just did.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she then saying that the benefit arrangements around obligations and sanctions today are fine as they are?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We have not changed them—they have not been changed. We’re just making sure that Work and Income applies them appropriately.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, what’s the point of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group then?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will see the results in due course.

A problem with this line of attack is that many voters probably don’t care much about what a Goverment doesn’t manage to do.

Bridges launched into an attack on (lack of) delivery in the opening speech in the General Debate.

GENERAL DEBATE

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition): I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business.

You know, when they play the political gold back over the last few years, that last interchange is bound to be there. That was something special.

There’s one thing we need to remember about this Government in 2019, and that’s that the Prime Minister has said, and she’s made it quite clear, that this is the year of delivery. That’s what it is: it’s the year of delivery. Actually, yesterday, she said—[Interruption]—Grant Robertson—it was the year of striving. That’s where she was—the year of delivery—and so far, we don’t have even a roundabout to Shane Jones’ house that’s been delivered.

So what has the Government delivered?

Hon Members: Nothing.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES: And in the economy, as Amy Adams has made quite clear in this House, we’ve gone from 4 percent growth to 2 percent growth, and today, we saw what that means: 4,000 fewer jobs in New Zealand at the moment. In poverty, more beneficiaries, more hardship, and more housing grants in their thousands, and that in the year of so-called delivery is an absolute shame. And the members over there think it’s a joke that the economy is worse, that poverty is worse, and that the cost of living is getting higher and higher.

The clowns on the other side think that somehow it’s a bad thing if, in the National Party, we highlight, in the year of delivery, that they’ve got no plans, no policies, they’ve achieved absolutely nothing.

Amy Adams continued:

Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn): Well, it has not been a great start to the year for the Government, you’d have to say, has it? I mean, here we are, in January, the Prime Minister came out proudly and said, “Well, never mind the first, sort of, 14, 15 months of our term, this is going to be the year we get some stuff done.” Then what did she do the very next day? The first item of business in the year of delivery, she came out and said, “Do you know all those KiwiBuild targets? Yeah, nah, just kidding, we’re not actually having those, because we can’t meet them.” So that was the first item of delivery.

Then on Friday, we’ve got the Welfare Working Group coming out. Again, about another $2.5 million of a long working group with all of the worthies in a room trying to figure out how to fix the working group, and I can tell you now, there will be zero action on the recommendations of that report. I tell you now, it’ll be another report where the only delivery this Government knows how to do is set up a working group, consult, consult, and then do nothing; a do-nothing Government.

This isn’t the year of delivery; this is the year of deterioration.

Then look at today with the revelations from Nicola Willis: waiting times for special education services and early education, this Government told us that 76 days is too long, they would halve them. What’s happened? They’ve almost doubled. That is not improving, that is not delivery, that is not well-being; it is total and utter incompetence and it is letting down the people of New Zealand. It is the very opposite of well-being.

This is not the year of delivery; this is the year of debacles. It is the year of decay. It is the year of actual well-being getting worse and worse under this Government, and I have no doubt that the people of New Zealand see through the spin

…So if this is the year of delivery, then the rest of this country will be saying “Bring on the election.”, because the incompetence, the failure, the debacles, and the arrogance we’re seeing from this Government isn’t helping the well-being of New Zealanders at all.

Michael Woodhouse continued:

Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National): There is no better illustration of the non-delivery of this Government in their year of delivery than in the health sector. Last month, I went to the Southern District Health Board’s board meeting, where I found out that on a year-to-date basis, their elective cardiac surgery target was behind by 45 percent. They had only achieved 55 percent of their year-to-date target.

For the first time in 10 years, we are on track to do fewer elective surgeries than in the previous year on both a numbers and a case-weighted basis, and yesterday, in question time, the Minister said that it was going to get worse. Another 2,300 elective surgeries have been cancelled this week alone as a consequence of the junior doctors’ strike. He also said that he was aware that there had been people who had been cancelled not once, not twice, but even more than that.

So it’s not overstating it to say that in this year of delivery, people’s health and even their lives are at risk as a consequence of this Government’s mismanagement of the health sector.

Remember Dr Clark wailing and gnashing his teeth in Opposition at a survey that showed that one in seven New Zealanders were not able to go to a GP because of affordability? And what’s happened—the number of people who can’t afford to go to the GP has gone up, not down. Over this Government’s time, it’s gone from 14.3 percent to 14.9 percent—non-delivery.

Well, I’m going to make a prediction: at the end of this month, in Budget 2019, there’s going to be no money for Dunedin Hospital. This is from a Minister who, in Opposition, petitioned the previous Parliament that the Government should have started the rebuild of Dunedin Hospital in 2017 and, two years later, not a thing—non delivery.

The removal of national health targets that the Minister said created perverse incentives has created even more perverse incentives. People could be dying, because the Minister does not want to set expectations for throughput of our DHBs—non-delivery in surgery; non-delivery in cancer care. We had Blair Vining standing at the Cancer Care at the Crossroads conference where his wife said her husband would be dead if he had kept to the appointment that the Southern District Health Board had given them. This is a Government that is not delivering and it’s not got its priorities right.

Lawrence Yule:

LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki): General debates about are about bringing things to this House that matter and that are important to your electorate and are important to New Zealand. I’m going to use my short time to highlight a really significant issue in my electorate and in my city of Hastings in this year of supposed delivery from this Government. That is around housing.

In 2016, the Hon Phil Twyford, as a member of the Opposition, said he wanted a state of emergency declared around housing in New Zealand. On 23 May, in an answer to question No. 6 in 2018—almost one year ago—he was critical that the waiting list for State houses in Hastings had gone up by 86 percent.

On 1 May this year—this day; nearly half-way through the Government’s year of non-delivery—we have one hectare of vacant land in Hastings completely serviced and ready to go and no houses on it.

From Stuff in January:  Jacinda Ardern says 2019 year of ‘delivery’ for Government

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told the Labour caucus 2019 will be a year of “delivery” for the Government.

“For us domestically it doesn’t really matter what the international community does or says, it only matters what we deliver”.

Attacks on lack of delivery look likely to continue.

However attacks on Bridges for lack of delivery as National leader also look likely to continue.

 

 

 

 

 

Local Body deserters

There’s been a number of people who have only recently been elected to local body councils talking about putting themselves forward to stand in the general election.

Apart from the cost any by-elections will impose on the councils, this shows either a shoddy lack of commitment to a three year term they sought from voters less than half a year ago, or a cynical using of their positions as a stepping stone to national politics.

here are some I have heard of just over the last couple of weeks.

Auckland: Denise Lee seeking Maungakiekie MP nomination

Maungakiekie-Tamaki Councillor Denise Lee hopes to bag a National Party nomination and replace outgoing Maungakiekie MP Peseta Sam Lotu-liga when he retires later this year.

Lotu-liga announced in December he would not be seeking re-election of the Auckland seat prompting Lee to jump at the opportunity.

She was re-elected as Maungakiekie-Tamaki Councillor last year after securing the majority of votes.

“When you get selected twice as councillor, and the last time with the majority of votes, it is a good sign that you’re a good representative to serve the people well,” Lee said.

A good representative doesn’t jump off their three year council gig after a few months just because of political opportunism.

Hastings’ mayor Lawrence Yule to seek Tukituki nomination

On Friday he announced he was planning to seek the National Party’s nomination for the Tukituki electorate, after 15 years as mayor or Hastings.

A large number of locals, along with members of the National Party had encouraged him to run, he said.

“I did not expect Craig Foss to resign, now I have to deal with that opportunity. I have been pretty humbled by the number of people who have approached me to stand.  I think I can make a difference in Wellington, for the people of Tukituki, and for the National Party,” he said.

Deal with an opportunity for himself and stuff the people who voted him as mayor, and will have to fund his ship jumping if he succeeds.

Wellington:  Paul Eagle looks at running in Rongotai as Annette King heads for list

Less than three months after becoming Wellington’s deputy mayor, Paul Eagle is eyeing up a seat in Parliament.

Eagle said he was considering calls from Labour Party members to contest Rongotai, the Wellington electorate seat long held by the party’s deputy leader, Annette King.

If he did contest Rongotai, he would stay on as deputy mayor  – though he may drop some portfolios – but said there would be “a resignation immediately” if he won the seat.

So he would ditch some of his council responsibilities to suit his own ambitions, essentially using his deputy mayor salary to tide himself through a national election campaign and only resign if how won the seat.

How convenient for him – and inconvenient and expensive for his council.

And there’s two Green councillors here: Nelson byelection could be parting gift from councillors bound for Beehive

An $80,000 byelection could be on the cards for Nelson if two city councillors buzz off to the Beehive.

Second-term councillor Matt Lawrey is the Green Party candidate for Nelson in this year’s general election, while third-term councillor Kate Fulton is still waiting to hear if she’ll win her bid for the West Coast-Tasman candidacy.

If either win the electoral seats, or are placed in Parliament as Green Party List MPs, Nelson City Council will foot the bill for an $80,000 by-election.

So Lawrey is already committed to being a part time councillor, part time general election campaigner.

Councillor Matt Lawrey said it might be time to revisit the legislation that governs how city councillors are replaced.

“[It] does raise questions, and maybe it’s time we looked at changing the system so in the event of a councillor dying or having to leave the role, the next highest polling candidate gets a seat at the table,” Lawrey said.

“That would certainly be a cheaper and more efficient way of doing things.”

But Lawrey is not “having to leave the role”, he is trying to switch jobs mid term because it suits him. A cheaper way of replacing councillors might help him justify his lack of commitment, but it’s not good practice.

But Chief Electoral Officer at electionz.com Warwick Lampp said the legislation ensured fair process in cases where the next highest polling candidate received significantly fewer votes than the winning candidate.

“I think you could legitimately argue that the community didn’t want that person and then they’ve [been given] them… It has to go back to the democratic function with a completely new election, where anyone can stand,” Lampp said.

The highest polling failed candidate could have got hardly any votes.

And it’s not very fair on candidates who put time and money into standing in the local body elections and just miss out for successful candidates to desert at their convenience.

Are there any others who have announced their wish to desert their elected position just  a few months in to a three year term?

The Nation – bad Havelock water, good Helen Kelly

On The Nation today, the bad water in Havelock North:

The gastro outbreak in Havelock North is the worst in 30 years… so who’s to blame and what happens now? talks to Lawrence Yule And Massey University ecologist Mike Joy on how to stop something like this happening again

Yule says the Council has “no idea” how the fecal matter got into the bores, and the bores are still testing postive for e-coli

Yule says it wasn’t clear to him until Saturday how many people had become ill.

And Helen Kelly:

. talks to about her campaigns for workers’ rights, medical marijuana & why she won’t be writing a bucket list

What went wrong in Havelock North’s water supply? talks to Hasting mayor Lawrence Yule

Ecologist Mike Joy on the water crisis in Havelock North. How can we stop it happening again?

on workers’ rights, medicinal cannabis, and much more. Our very special full IV here:

Thinking more broadly on housing

There has been a lot of attempted political point scoring on housing , often on quite narrow issues that try to ignore the complexities of the situation.

The melee has looked messy, especially for National and Labour.

The Government (National) look like they are in reactive, almost panic mode announcing what appears to be policy on the fly, and they have also looked disjointed amongst themselves.

Labour’s double barrelled attack is to claim that we are now in crisis, but announcing policy that won’t even be considered in Government for over a year at least, and that is dependent on them forming the next government and going by current support indicators, will need agreement by both Greens and NZ First.

Peter Dunne has proposed a national conference on housing involving all affected parties – not political parties, local bodies in particular are a vital part of any possible solutions.

Lawrence Yule, President of Local Government New Zealand, via Stuff, says that Thinking more broadly on housing the only way to make a difference and agrees with Dunne:

LGNZ has long advocated for a ‘joined up’ approach to addressing housing provision and affordability. UnitedFuture leader Hon Peter Dunne recently called for a national conference with all affected parties. We agree. Such an approach could be a springboard for developing a shared national strategy to address housing supply.

We advocate that a shared plan should address the many complex factors driving the housing shortage – and that needs to be agreed between central and local government and key players in the construction industry as a matter of urgency.

He says “it is clear we need to think more broadly to make a difference” and suggests six things in particular that need to be focussed on:

  1. Funding and financing of infrastructure;
  2. Addressing land-banking;
  3. Allowing for Urban Development Authorities controlled by local government to speed up development;
  4. Putting in place tax regimes that de-incentivise speculation in residential property;
  5. Addressing a skills shortage in the construction industry; and finally
  6. Addressing an uncompetitive market for building supplies.

Funding

One of the most important priorities for local government is to address the question of why residential-zoned, serviced land is not being released to market at the rate sufficient to meet market demand.

There are two main reasons for this:

  • first the challenge of financing and so providing the essential trunk infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewerage, to ensure that land is ‘ready to go’;
  • and second the practice of so-called ‘land banking’.

Mayors whose districts are experiencing high growth have said publicly they are already doing what the proposed National Policy Statement will require them to do and it is not just a land supply problem.

LGNZ’s funding review highlighted the need for funding options that will incentivise councils and communities to invest in infrastructure to enable more growth.

One way of achieving this would be to allow councils to retain a share of any value uplift arising from a change in economic activity, including a change of zoning from rural to residential – the value uplift potentially being used to fund new infrastructure.

Currently, that gain goes directly to landholders (hence the incentive to landbank).

Land banking

Land banking occurs where developers hold onto land, releasing it only gradually in response to increases in land prices. The problem is acute in some fast-growing areas and councils currently lack the tools to incentivise land-bankers to release land for housing development.

We need tools that act as incentives to release the land. We should look to the overseas jurisdictions that have the same issues as New Zealand to consider what other powers might be needed.

The most obvious is to change the law to allow a targeted rate to be applied to land in these circumstances, currently not allowed by law. The approach taken by this Government is to require additional supply of serviced land with the intention of creating a competitive land and development market.

Development and zoning of ‘brownfield’ commercial sites, well suited to infill housing, is also often hampered by land being in small titles, with multiple owners. The United Kingdom is addressing this problem through Urban Development Authorities.

Both National and Labour have proposed something similar to the Urban Development Authorities. Now would be a good time to have one.

UDAs have the power to compulsorily purchase land, particularly useful when an area is under many small titles (often found in commercial or inner city areas) in order to offer developers a consolidated area where economies of scale can be achieved.

We will want to work with the Government on what the powers and governance arrangements for UDAs in New Zealand could be. 

Future tense is not a good sign, the Government should have already been working with local government on this.

While National insists there is no crisis and Labour insists there is and they keep hitting each other with political handbags the housing market burns.

If there was ever a time that our Members of parliament should be working together – in this case with local governments – it is now.

Rapidly escalating prices are a major problem, and if the bubble bursts and prices collapse it will get worse.

An urgent realistic and cooperative approach is needed.