Labour would add 1,000+ state houses per year

Andrew Little seems to have let out a bit of housing policy early on The Nation this morning, saying if Labour were in Government they would build a thousand or more state houses a year until there were enough, but was vague about how long it might take..

Lisa Owen: Are you going to build more state houses?

Andrew Little: Yes we’ll be doing that, in fact I’ll be talking today about what we do in the state housing arena.

Lisa Owen: So what are you going to do in that arena?

Andrew Little: We are going to build more state houses. We will, I mean the last time Labour was in Government it built roughly eight thousand, added  eight thousand new state houses to it’s stocks…

Lisa Owen: How many will you add?

Andrew Little: We are looking at at least a thousand, um, a year until we meet demand. This  government has sold two and a half thousand state houses, reduced it’s state housing stock,  it has a plan to sell eight thousand more. It’s got a, it’s got a housing…

Lisa Owen: Yeah so how long do you think to meet that demand Mr Little? How long, you say a thousand houses until you meet demand, so what do you estimate that period will be?

Andrew Little: Um yeah, um that’ll be, that could be a few years, ah hard to stipulate that. Um, when you look, when you look at a…

Lisa Owen: Five years, ten years?

Andrew Little: Yeah could be five years.

Quite a bit of vagueness, hesitancy and uncertainty in that.Perhaps Labour are still finalising their research before announcing the policy this afternoon.

If National have reduced state housing stock by two and a half thousand and are planning on reducing it by 8,000 then it will take Labour about ten years to get back to where the stocks were before National disposed of some.

Labour’s current slogan is “We’re backing the Kiwi dream”.


Is the Kiwi dream to get a state house? Perhaps it is for some, I know it used to be, but is it what people should aspire to?



Bill English interview

Lisa Own interviewed Finance Minister Bill English about the budget on The Nation yesterday.

English will also be interviewed on Q & A this morning at 9 am.

The Nation interview will be repeated after Q & A at 10:00 am Sunday but here is the interview online:

Interview: Bill English

Lisa Owen talks to Finance Minister Bill English about whether this week’s Budget keeps up with demographics in health and education, why there was nothing for housing, and if there’ll be tax cuts in 2017.

On Twitter they described it:

‘s feisty interview with  

Transcript (provided via Newshub by

Lisa Owen: Well, Bill English’s eighth budget has delivered the government books back into black, and confident projections for more surpluses and growth. ‘Steady as she goes,’ he says. But the sceptics called it the buffet budget — morsels here and there ahead of the full spread in election year. And Winston Peters bluntly labelled it the ‘get stuffed’ budget. Notably, there was little for infrastructure, Auckland’s housing woes or those people living in cars and garages. So when I spoke to the finance minister earlier, I asked if his emphasis on prudence and stability wasn’t a little tone-deaf.

Bill English: No, I disagree with that. Look, the budget was never going to be the vehicle for fixing every housing problem, because you can’t buy your way through the Auckland housing pressures. We’ve been through all this in Christchurch, where the problem has now been largely solved. It takes time. And so the important work that’s related to housing is about getting the national policy statement out in the next few weeks, getting the Auckland Unitary Plan right, because the people that are sleeping in the cars are the victims of years of misdirected planning…

Yes, but you’ve had eight years.

…that’s focused on high-value housing.

You’ve had eight years, Minister.

Yes, but we don’t make the decisions, Lisa. Auckland City Council make the decisions. Even the government can’t build a house in Auckland unless Auckland City Council frees up the land, provides the subdivision consent, processes all the consents, provides the building consent and allows the house to be occupied.

All right. I want to come back to that a bit later. But, as promised, you brought forward spending from the 2017 budget to keep pace with immigration. So are we getting as much per person in health and education?

Yes, we probably are, but the amount of money that’s spent is less important than what results it gets. You know, there’s some people trying to argue that you show you care by shovelling more and more money out. And the history of that in government is that you can shovel out a whole lot of money and make no difference whatsoever. So the budget’s got a pretty strong focus on results, including in health, where the money goes, for instance, to the roll-out of the bowel cancer screening programme, which when it’s up and running will screen 350,000 people on average each year.

Point taken, Minister, but I just want to be clear on this, because if you look at the figures, let’s say for health, a variety of economists say that we needed about 700 million a year just to keep pace, yet health is getting about 570 million a year. You’ve frozen the schools’ operational budgets, so to be absolutely clear, per capita spending on health and education, it’s down, isn’t it?

No. Look, I couldn’t say for sure whether it’s up or down. It’s probably about the same. The point I’m making is it’s the wrong measure. The measures that matter are the ones that are about focusing on getting results.

Shouldn’t you know whether it’s up or down in terms of spending per capita? Because that’s something that our viewers will want to know.

It’s not a measure we apply. And I think your viewers are as interested in— probably more interested in the results we get for them. For instance, in education, we have targeted the spending on the 150,000 children who are most at risk of educational underachievement. Now, per capita, I can’t tell you whether it’s up or down. What I do know is for children from benefit-dependent households, there will be $80 per child of those in our schools. And they’re spread right through our schools, regardless of decile. So that’s trying to focus the resource where it’s going to have the most impact.

This kind of takes us back to where I started here — the people in the cars, the first-home buyers who are locked out of the Auckland market, Auckland infrastructure. People will look at this and think that you are effectively asking those people to hold tight for at least another year so that you can afford to give tax cuts.

No, that’s not the case. For instance, for the cases that have been in the media around living in the cars, a lot of those are a bit more complex than people might realise. But in any case, we have more money than we can spend on places, on houses for people in serious housing need in Auckland. The problem isn’t money; there’s enough of that. The problem is getting enough houses. Even though Auckland City is actually completing 40 houses every working day, it’s still not enough. And that’s why in the next few months we’ve got to work hard with the Auckland City Council to get more houses, because the government can’t just magic up houses; they have to be built by real people on real land. And that’s controlled by the Auckland City Council.

Well, actually, let’s look at that. The problem, you’ve said, is a huge supply shortage, isn’t it? So is that shortage getting better or worse?

Well, it depends. There’s some signs that demand might have flattened out a bit, because it’s all supply relative to demand. But in terms of the supply itself, I don’t think it’s getting worse. We’re just focusing on working with the council and doing what the government can with its own land to ramp up the supply, because we know Auckland needs more, and it needs it faster than we’re able to deliver it.

Okay, well, just let’s look at some of those figures. I mean, experts can’t agree exactly, but they think that we’re down about between 20,000 and 50,000 houses in Auckland — we’re short of those — and that we need to build about 13,000 a year to play catch-up. We’re not building 13,000 a year, so the supply must be getting worse.

Well, and that’s in the hands of the Auckland City Council, who are the people with the legal and community responsibility to get more land available so that more houses can be built faster. We’ve been through this in Christchurch. You can ramp up the construction workforce. You can change the planning rules. In Christchurch, house prices are flat to slightly falling, despite the fact that two or three years ago there was very substantial demand. And I might say the same kind of stories about it. Now, there was a lot of tension at the time in Christchurch as the system cranked up supply to meet the strong demand.

The thing is you point the finger at the council there, but the council has been very clear about the fact it needs help with infrastructure. it says it needs 3 billion in the next 10 years for infrastructure. Where do you think that money’s coming from? Because the council’s nudging its debt ceiling. It can’t rate people off their properties. So where is the money coming from?

Well, fundamentally, that’s Auckland’s issue to deal with. We are certainly contributing. I mean, right now we’re in intensive negotiation for a contribution of over $1 billion from the taxpayer to an Auckland City Council transport project called the Central Rail Link. Now, in the normal course of events, they would pay for that. We’re negotiating where taxpayers will pay for that. That’s a significant reduction in the burden on the council, and it allows them to pay for other infrastructure.

Minister, isn’t it central government’s responsibility to assist with that infrastructure?

No, fundamentally it isn’t. It is the council’s responsibility. That’s the deal. They get to decide on how their city is planned, and they get to pay for the development. And for a lot of the people living outside Auckland and inside Auckland, there are real benefits from growth. And part of the puzzle here is that as more people turn up in Auckland and as incomes rise, growth is good. The council benefits from that, and so do ratepayers. And so they’ve just got to work out a better alignment between the funding and the growth.

In terms of that better alignment between funding and growth, then surely when you come up with the national policy statement in a few weeks’ time, it has to make some kind of allowance for the council to raise money, using a congestion charge or something similar.

The government generally keeps out of their way, and generally councils don’t want government interfering with how they run their affairs. The national policy statement won’t cover all the issues. It’ll focus on primarily…

But you are interfering, aren’t you? You’re going to make a national policy statement that lays down the law. They want some kind of levies or taxes. They’re not allowed to do that. So you are interfering.

Well, there will be a discussion from the national policy statement as it goes out. As I’ve said in the Budget, it’ll be more directive to councils to enhance supply, bearing in mind that in Auckland they spent a lot of years trying not to grow supply, and that’s the price—the people who pay the price for 20 years’ misdirected planning are the low and middle-income families whose stress you are seeing represented in the media. That’s who misses out – not the high-income people. They can afford to pay for the nicest looking apartments and the nicest looking streets. But low- and middle-income families can’t.

All right. Well, I want to talk about the story that we broke on The Nation about homelessness. In Auckland, every social agency that we went to about that story told us that emergency housing is full. Did you know that? Did you know it’s full?

Well, that is why there has been a package announced a few weeks ago to underpin the funding of emergency housing – about $40 million – so that we can get more emergency housing in places around the country.

Yes, but that doesn’t add new places, though, does it? Sorry, I’m just wanting to establish whether you knew when that story went out. Did you know that emergency housing was full up?

Yes. We’ve known about housing stress in Auckland for a number of years. It’s why the government has made some very direct statements about the obligations of the city council to change the planning rules to enable more supply so we can get more houses. That is the only way people who aren’t in houses can get in houses is when a house gets built. The only people who can agree to get that house built are Auckland City Council. We provide subsidies. The government provides 2 billion of subsidies a year. We subsidise 60 percent of all rentals in the country and probably more than that in Auckland. We’re putting up the money. They have to put up the land and the houses.

Minister, in terms of the emergency housing, I just want to be clear on this. Social agencies told us about a year ago that those places were under stress and now they are full up. Do you know the difference between under stress and full up? Did you appreciate that change in climate?

Yes. That is why the package was announced, actually, a number of weeks before you apparently broke the story – the story that has been sitting there for a couple of years. That is why the package was announced – because of stress on the emergency housing. And we put in 40 million. Emergency housing’s been a bit of a dog’s breakfast for decades. We worked a way with the agencies over quite a long period of time – very good work done by Paula Bennett – to work out how to make it more effective. And that’s why the package was announced.

So why didn’t you do more? If you’ve known all along that this is the issue, why not do more? Because that package doesn’t add new places. Why not do something more in the Budget?

It will add new places. We put in quite a bit of money. The agencies get to use that money, and we’ll see how it beds down. And if more is required, we would do that. But it is only a short-term fix, because you can’t put people in houses that don’t exist.

But don’t you think from what we’ve seen, it absolutely is required? You seem to be questioning whether it is needed.

No, I’m not questioning that. We’ve taken a big step to organise emergency housing so it’s more effective, to sort out the funding, make it clearer, more transparent and a lot bigger.

So more is needed? More is absolutely needed, Minister. Is that what you’re saying?

Well, it could be. We can’t fund houses that aren’t there.

‘Could be’ or ‘is’? ‘Could be’ or ‘is’ needed?

Well, look, we put in the money. I’m sure that in six months’ time, there will still be people who have significant housing problems. Some of those will be able to be directed to social housing. Some of them will explain the full stories of their lives which aren’t always explained to the media in the way that they’re represented. And some of them will be really genuine cases who need more emergency housing, and if that’s the case, then we have the capacity to respond. But bear in mind, when we pay for more emergency housing, we’re probably using houses that would otherwise be available for social housing. And when we pay for more social housing, we could be using houses that would otherwise be bought by first-home buyers. The answer to all that is more houses on the ground faster, otherwise we’re all competing with each other for a limited supply of houses.

All right. Well, I want to look at you’re choosing to pay down debt rather than borrow, and you’re choosing to do that rather than build at a time when money is the cheapest it has ever been. Can you just explain the logic of that to me?

Well, if you looked at the Budget charts, you would see that in fact our infrastructure spend in 2017 is double what it was in 2013. So it’s a myth—

But it’s down, though, Minister. It’s down. Your spending on infrastructure is down from 1.7 billion to 1.4 billion.

No, it’s not. Look at the charts. In 2013, it was 3 billion. In 2017, it’s 6 billion. That’s double.

Looking ahead, Minister, it’s down.

Well, it peaks in 2017. We don’t do it because economists say money’s cheap. In fact, I listened to a banker this morning say this is the time to pay off debt.

But that’s the point, isn’t it, Minister? Why are you cutting? Why are you cutting back on infrastructure?

We are not cutting, Lisa. There is no evidence of cutting. I mean, I’m involved in the decision-making. The capital allowance this year is about a billion higher than last year. The total spend on the ground is double what it was in 2013. Whoever’s telling you it’s being cut is simply wrong.

You’re saying it’s peaking in 2017 and then tapering off.

Well, there’s further decisions to be made. It may keep going after that. We’ve put out the forecast for how much will actually be spent on the ground over the next five years. Next year we get to make another whole set of decisions about where to spend the next billion or so. But there’s no evidence of cutting infrastructure spending. You’re simply wrong.

Okay. Well, I want to look ahead to next year. You’ve made a virtue out of fiscally responsible, perhaps boring Budgets. You’ve allowed yourself 1.9 billion to spend in next year’s Budget. Are you prepared to blow that spending cap to give tax cuts?

Well, the allowance that’s there for next year is – as I’ve made clear about a month ago – explicitly just for the act for spending and does not include tax reductions. So if there were tax reductions at any time over the next two or three years, that would be in addition to what we’ve allowed for government spending.

And just to be clear, any tax cuts would come in your fourth term?

Well, even if you made decisions in the Budget next year, they would occur in the next term of government, yes.

And they will only come in if you meet all your fiscal targets, yes?

Well, that’s right. We’ve got a set of fiscal targets. Now, there’s always… You never quite know what’s going to happen with the economic forecast. You might find there’s more room or less room. But those decisions are all in the future, which is why we’re not being explicit about it now, because we simply haven’t made the decisions.


Nick Smith on housing

The Nation interviewed Nick Smith on housing yesterday, this will be repeated at 10:00 am this morning.

Interview: Nick Smith

Lisa Owen talks to Housing Minister Nick Smith about Auckland’s rising garage rental market, whether new tools like loan to value ratios will work, and whether the special housing areas are actually just encouraging land banking.

Video of the full interview here


Lisa Owen: This week the Reserve Bank Governor said he’s increasingly concerned about Auckland’s property market and raised the prospect of debt-to-income ratios, meaning the less you earn, the less you can borrow. But would that make the idea of affording a house in Auckland even more of a pipe dream for many New Zealanders? Well, Housing Minister Nick Smith joins me now from Wanaka. Minister, we appreciate that you’re the Housing Minister, not the Minister for Social Housing or Social Development, but people living in garages and cars – can you answer the question in that piece? You know, as a country surely we can do better. Why aren’t we?

Nick Smith: No, of course we can, yeah, and ever having the situation of children living out of cars is unacceptable. When I saw that piece from Mike, it reminded me of the situation we had four or five years ago in Christchurch. A different scenario there in that we lost 12,000 houses from the earthquake but not dissimilar in the sense of the level of need, and that is why I’ve got confidence in the Government’s plan, both medium and long term, in that in Christchurch, growing supply has resolved those issues. For instance, rents in Christchurch over the last year have dropped by 5 percent. That is because we’ve got supply ahead of demand. Auckland is a bigger market. It’s a bigger challenge, but we need to do things short term, like the emergency houses, like the requirement for home insulation that’s in the bill, that we’ll have in the law by 1st of July, as well as those really important long-term supply questions.

Is it fair to draw the link between people paying 800,000 for the median house in Auckland and people sleeping in their cars or having to pay 400 bucks a week for a garage?

Well, they’re all part of the same symptom, and let’s go down into the core of what’s gone wrong in Auckland. Half the council is opposed to intensification and Auckland going up, the other half is opposed or historically has been to growing out and for urban sprawl, so for a decade Auckland has not built the number of houses that is required to meet the demand, and as a consequence of that, you get increasing rents, you get house prices getting up over $800,000. And that is why as a government we’ve got to pull out all stops to grow the number of houses that are being built and also trying to get the market to produce more houses that are in that affordable range, and we’ve got some programmes going in that regard that are making progress, but we have a way to go.

Well, you talk there about the council, so are you going to force them to address this, then, in some way?

Right now, I’m working on a National Policy Statement on Urban Design that will direct councils to resolve this question, and that is that they have to make provision for cities like Auckland to either grow up or out, and they can’t have this sort of dilemma where they put it in the too-hard basket; we block housing developments at the very time that we need more coming on stream. We’ve also got the crucial issue for Auckland, which is still functioning on 1993 planning documents, getting that new unitary plan in place, and that too is an incredibly important priority if we’re going to make a difference in the lives of the sort of people that you featured with Mike’s piece.

Well, we saw in that piece 25 percent rent rises in five years. What more can you do about that that you haven’t already done?

Well, of course, on the 1st of April this year our government for the first time in 40 years increased the core benefits, and I suspect that many of those people featured would have been dependent on benefits. If we look, the Government is spending actually now $2 billion a year in both the accommodation supplement and the income-related rent, and my colleague Paula Bennett is seeking additional funding which we’ll be able to talk about when the Budget is announced in a couple of weeks.

But when you talk about—

But we should not be distracted from the core issue, and that core issue is supply.

Minister, when you talk about those benefit increases, though, I think it’s about an average of $17 a week more. That’s not going to get them into a house, looking at those rents.

It is part of the solution. Remember, that’s just the increase, a specific, one-off extra increase. Like I say, the first time in 40 years that benefits have been increased over and above the rate of inflation, and that’s on top of the initiatives, the likes of the emergency housing, on top of the 300,000 homes that we have insulated, on top of the sorts of initiatives that we’ve taken in south Auckland. For instance, I’ll draw your attention to that major development at Weymouth, Waimahia, which is making progress in that very community. And you equally could have taken your cameras there and seen that development moving in pace and getting those very sorts of families into affordable and secure housing.

All right, I want to talk about the loan-to-income ratio that the Reserve Bank has been floating, this idea. Isn’t that just going to shut even more first-home buyers out of the market?

Well, the most important thing that’s shutting first-home buyers out of the market is ongoing escalation in house prices. Now, those increases were up over 20 percent 18 months ago. The latest figures are that Auckland houses over the last 12 months are up by about 13 percent. We’re not going to win the battle long term for those young families aspiring to own a home unless we can get that house price increase down into single digits. The Government’s HomeStart programme is part of helping them pool together a deposit. The Welcome Home loans that we are providing is also helping. The Government is not in a position to make any call yet about the issue that the Reserve Bank has raised, but let’s be focused. Stopping rampant house price increases is the most important thing, both for those families on your programme as well as those that are wanting to get into their first home.

All right, well, I want to talk about special housing areas. Now, these were set up to speed up building. Using your own formula, an affordable house in one of those special housing areas in Auckland is $610,000. Is that really affordable?

No. In fact, let’s be clear. The Government’s HomeStart programme sets a benchmark of $550,000.

But I’m talking about the special housing—

If you go to a development like Weymouth—

I’m talking about the special housing areas, Minister, where an affordable house is 75 percent—

Well, both Weymouth and Hobsonville are special housing areas.

But 75 percent of the median Auckland house price is what is regarded as affordable under that special housing scheme, so that is 610,000 in Auckland.

No, that’s not—

Is that affordable?

No, that is— No, it’s not, and that’s not correct. It does vary from each special housing area, and like I say, if you look at the Weymouth development, if you look at the latest announcement I made at Hobsonville with the Prime Minister, we’re looking at effectively 70 percent of those homes coming in under that $550,000 bracket, which is more in that range.

But that’s your formula, Minister, and contained in the documentation – the official documentation. That is the formula for what is considered an affordable house. That’s your formula.

No, that formula comes from the council. It varies from special housing area to special housing area. The main issue is growing the supply, including the supply of affordable houses. We were only building 10 houses per working day. We’ve got that rate up to 40 houses per working day being built in Auckland. We need to get it up more like 50 to 60 houses per working day if we are going to make that material difference to the market and get homes both in terms of supply and affordability into the right sort of bracket.

Well, that brings us to an interesting point, because land banking is a really big concern of yours. You’ve called it offensive in the past. But looking at the special housing areas, you’ve got space for approximately 48,000 houses in those special housing areas, and only 700 have been built in two and a half years – 700 complete. It looks like you’ve got people land banking in your special housing areas.

Well, let’s be clear. We’re over a thousand homes have been built and completed in those special housing areas, so your numbers are a bit out of date. But what we do need to be clear about—

That’s the latest monitoring report, Minister.

…is from the time when you—

That’s the latest monitoring report those figures are from.

Which is for the 31st. Yeah, that’s right. That’s for the 31st of December last year. That’s quite old. But let me just explain. The special housing areas is a mechanism for overriding those very old Auckland plans. From the time you plan an area, ie zone it residential, to the time that you then are able to convert that into sections, put the infrastructure in and build the houses, the experience in both Christchurch and Auckland is that is a two- to three-year pipeline. Now, at the moment in Auckland, you have got the strongest building boom that’s ever occurred in that city. In the last year we’ve had over $3 billion invested in residential housing.

I’m sorry to interrupt you, Minister, but after two and a half years, even if we take the thousand houses, you’ve still got space for 48,000 houses in those special housing areas. Doesn’t it concern you that people seem to be sitting on this land with special rights that you’ve afforded them, not building houses and laughing all the way to the bank?

No, I don’t accept that. No, I don’t accept that at all, and I ask you to take your cameras out around those special housing areas. You will see builders going mad. You will see massive amounts of earthworks occurring, and as I say, let’s go to the figures—

So a thousand is enough, Minister?

We were when we came into government—

A thousand houses in two and a half years – is that enough?

No, of course it’s not, and they are coming on stream, but let’s— Of course, it’s not, but that’s not the figures. We were building 4000 houses a year in Auckland. We’re now building 9500 houses a year. The build rate has more than doubled since we took that special housing area initiative. It is part of the solution, and there’s more to come.

Do you think, Minister, that there should be a clause in that special housing agreement that forces people to build houses within a certain time frame on that land? Do you need that?

Yeah, I have indeed written to some of those special housing areas, to some of those people that have that status on their land, and said, ‘Get on and get your resource consents, your infrastructure, your subdivision progressed, or myself and the council withdraw that special housing area status.’ But, actually, you cannot physically force a landowner to bring their land on supply. The best way of which we can get pace is actually creating competition in that market by removing those very crude metropolitan urban limits that have allowed the land bankers to be able to have monopoly rights and be able to exploit that market advantage and drive those section prices so high. It’s actually by freeing up those measures that we are going to get the long-term solution for housing in Auckland.

Read more:


Tolley on CYF reform and child protection

Anne Tolley was interviewed on The Nation on a damning report on a lack of child protection from CYF (Child Youth Family) despite decades of patch-up changes.

Far too much time is spent on administration/form filling and too little time is spent engaging with and helping children.

Tolley says that how CYF  operates needs to be dismantled and rebuilt with the primary focus on the needs of children.

Much of the questioning – demands about costs and solutions – as a report is expected in December that will make recommendations.

Dealing with children from the most dysfunctional families (or non-families) in New Zealand is extremely difficult. It is often an inter-generational problem, so putting children into the care of wider family can be risky.

Here’s the interview (video): Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Here’s an excerpt confirming that there is no intention to outsource core functions:

The Panel: Matthew Hooton, Laila Harre & Bernard Hickey – Hickey is worthwhile, Hooton is ok and Harre is pushing a socio-political barrow.

The media release with interview transcript:

Lisa Owen interviews Social Development Minister Anne Tolley

Tolley says NZ needs “a lot more” caregivers and “definitely looking” at paying and supporting them more; reveals plans for a new ‘A team’ of caregivers for the most troubled kids.

“We’d be looking for some people with some extra special skills that we might pay more, we might provide specialist services to take care of things.”

Says it’s “not ideal” that 50% of caregivers are on a benefit as children will be going into homes under financial stress

Commits to putting in place all the recommendations of the Rebstock report on CYF, saying previous reviews have not been fully implemented.

Says that “may well” lead to more social workers but a better mix needed. “We need more specialist services, so we need more psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists.”

Rules out outsourcing care and protection services, as it as a “state responsibility” and “there’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility”.

Says she’s not backing Labour’s private member’s bill to register all social workers because the timing is wrong, has asked Social Workers Registration Board to review Act and report back to her in December

Says frontline CYF social workers spend more than half their time on administration work because every time there’s a crisis “there’s been another layer put in there to deal with that response,”

“What I’m saying is, ‘Yes, we’re going to have to put more money in, but let’s make sure we’re putting it into the right places that are going to get the best outcomes for the kids’.”

Lisa Owen: Good morning, Minister.
Anne Tolley: Good morning, Lisa.
You’ve talked repeatedly about how radical this is, so is it a major shift to focus on children at risk and to integrate services better?
Yeah. So, you know, as you say, we’ve had 14 different restructures of CYF over the years, and the reality is not much has changed for the children that come through that system. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to take the system completely apart, and we’re going to put it back together, but this time it’s going to be absolutely focused on the needs of those children.
You say ‘this time’, but the thing is, in that question, I was quoting from your predecessor Roger Sowry from a press release in 1998. And then in this bundle here, there’s ones from Steve Maharey, all of them talking about charting a new direction, quality outcomes for children. So why should anyone have any confidence that you’re going to deliver something that’s better?
Well, we are. We simply have to. And when you look at the results that the system is getting for those children that we take into our care, we should be ashamed of those results. And all of us have a role to play in that. So the chief executive and I are absolutely determined that this time all the recommendations are going to be implemented. And when you go back and look at the previous reviews and restructurings, not all of those have been put into place. We’ve done a little bit here and a little bit there, and often responding to crisis and putting more into managing crisis.
But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Because everybody sets out with the best intentions, but this is your seventh year in power, so why are you just acting now?
I think when you look at what we’ve been doing with work around vulnerable children, we started and there was the Green Paper and the White Paper, which culminated in the Vulnerable Children’s Act, so my predecessor Paula Bennett started with that wider group of children who are in vulnerable circumstances – about 100,000 at any one time. That’s all in place. We’ve got children’s teams; we’ve got the community; the $330 million that MSD invests each year, that’s been redeveloped and refocused. And so now we’ve got the very tip of the iceberg, which is the top of that triangle.
I understand that, but some of the figures that you referred to this week that you said you were horrified and embarrassed about; one in particular was from 2010 showing that 23% of kids that go back to their biological families are revictimised, reabused. But those figures, as I said, from 2010. So why wasn’t something done about that in the past five years?
So, it was at the time. It fed into a review which made some recommendations, and some things were done. What’s clear—
Another review, other recommendations, more paperwork.
But what’s clear is that no one has ever gone back and monitored and checked and evaluated if what they were doing is actually working. You know the old adage – if you keep doing the same things the same way, you’ll get the same results. And so that’s very clear from the expert panel’s review. They’ve got underneath all that data. For years we’ve heard how the notifications were increasing. We’ve put more money into more social workers, because they were overworked and overstretched. What the review panel has found is that now almost two-thirds of those children are now known to CYF already, and they’ve been churning back through the system, so we’ve been creating that extra workload by not dealing with those children well and their families in the first place.
Let’s look at—
It’s stuff like that that the panel’s got underneath for the first time.
Let’s look at the panel’s report, then, and look at some of the things they have identified. Front-line social workers have spent more than half their time shuffling paperwork. Why?
That’s because this is a system that has responded. Every time there’s a crisis and another child is horrifically abused and killed, there’s been another layer put in there to deal with that response, there’s been another review done, part of the recommendations have been taken up, and small changes have been made, which is why I’m saying I’m not going to be rushed into making a patch-up job. We have got to take this system apart and rebuild it, centred on the needs of those children.
Because you’ve just identified what is the system’s fault here. But when The Nation has talked to social workers this week, we hear that they’re flat out finding emergency placements; they’re ferrying, they’re like a taxi service for kids, taking them to school, taking them to other appointments; they’re working on paperwork, at the expense of long-term care that you want and they want.
And the system has demanded that of them.
I just want to finish this, Minister, because you’ve said, despite all those pressures on them, you’ve said that we shouldn’t expect a massive change in the numbers of staff.
Well, what I’ve said is when I’ve been asked, ‘Will social workers lose their jobs?’ We need those social workers. I can’t see that we would need viewer social workers. But actually, the report tells you only about 25% of the workforce are actually working directly with children. We’ve got lots of managers and supervisors and people who are filling in forms.
But isn’t that because there’s not enough of them?
Well, there’s 3000-odd staff, but only 25% of them are actually working with children. And of that 25%, they’re only spending 15% of their time actually with children.
So are you telling me that we need more back-room staff to allow those people to get on to the front line and deal with the kids?
What we need is a system that is designed to look after those children when they first come to our attention, we need good interventions with them and their families, and we need to free up the front-line social workers to do the work they come in every day to do which is to work with children, not a system that’s built on layers and layers of risk management and bureaucracy and administration, which is what we’ve got now.
But, Minister, you talk about the research and the reviews and evidence based… going ahead with evidence. But some evidence that was provided last year was the case-load review, which said that you were 350 social workers short. So can we expect more social workers?
We may well. We may also expect, and you talked to front-line—
But ‘may well’ is not a definitive answer, is it, Minister? So yes or no? Will we get more?
I don’t know, because the final system proposal will come to me in December, so I’m not going to pre-empt what the panel’s coming up with. What they’ve done in this interim report is give us the building blocks. They will come to me in December with the final system design and the costings for that. So there may well be more social workers. What there will be is a different mix. Because you talk to front-line social workers with the increasingly complex family dysfunction that they’re seeing and some of the complex needs of these kids; we know more about them, we can diagnose better. We need more specialist services, so we need more psychologists and psychiatrists and therapists.
All right.
All of that. So that will be a different mix that I’m expecting to get.
So you do – you do need more. Does that mean you’re going to hire more?
Well, we’ll wait and see what they put in place. But as I say, we’ve got 3000 social workers who work for us now in CYF. Only 25% of those are working with children. Surely we need to release some of those supervisors and administrators and whatever they’re doing filling in forms and bits of paper to be out there working with children. That’s what we want – a system that’s focused on the needs of those children.
Okay. Well, the report indicated you also need better social workers, so Labour’s got a private member’s bill would register all social workers, which means they would be police-checked, they would be professionally-trained. Are you going support that bill?
No, I’m not supporting that bill, and I’ve talked to Carmel. It’s not that I don’t support it. I’ve said to her that her timing is wrong. So I have asked the Social Workers Registration Board to do a review of their Act and to match with the final report that I get from the expert panel. They’re reporting back to me in December. So they are looking exactly at what do we mean by a social worker, what’s the career path. There’s a lot of people who work in the social sector that call themselves social workers, but what should a qualified, registered social worker look like?
One thing you have promised immediate action on is this nationwide drive to get more caregivers. How many do you think you need?
I think we need a lot more. A lot more, and that will be defined. But it’s not just about caregivers. Look, I think- What the report identifies is more and more of these children have very high and complex needs. We saw this when the chief executive and I went overseas earlier this year. Some caregivers, we will need people with high, specialist care, being able to provide that for some of these children. The average family is not going to be able to provide that. So we might need a structured system of caregiving.
Okay. Well, one of the statistics that you brought up was half of the caregivers that we’ve currently got are on benefits. Is that an ideal situation?
I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is for the family who are on a benefit that we know- I mean, it’s pretty hard to survive on a benefit. And for the children that go into those homes, they’re going into a home that will – that is under financial stress. What we want for these children is a better life, so we need to be looking broader and wider to New Zealand families to take- to take these children under their wing. Now, some of that will be fostering; some of that might be home for life, which is sort of a modern adoption.
Basically , am I right, you’re thinking – you’re looking for sort of an A-team of caregivers?
Yes. Yes, we are. We saw it in Norway, actually, where children that were identified with those high and complex needs – they described them as an A-team; I wouldn’t say that. I’d just say- I’d just say we’d be looking for some people with some extra special skills that we might pay more, we might provide specialist services to take care of things.
Okay. Well, you talk about more paying more, and I just want to pick up on that, because CYF caregivers are paid about $150-250 a week. We know one private company is paying $600 a week. Should you be matching that kind of figure?
Well, I think you’ve always got to be very careful that you’re not setting up a professional caregiving regime. And when you talk to people who are fostering, most of them don’t do it for the money. What we need to do is make sure that they are well- those children are well-supported financially so that they are able to do all the things that other New Zealand children can.
So that’s definitely something that you’re looking at – increasing payments.
We certainly are, and the support that we give to caregivers. I mean, the Children’s Commissioner have talked about a ‘dump and run’, so- and that comes through to me clearly from those foster kids organisations.
But everything I’m hearing screams money. It screams money, and your own panel says this is going to take significant investment. So why do you keep saying you don’t want to throw money at this?
It’s because we want to invest money sensibly in areas where we know it’s going to make the greatest difference for kids. So- So the immediate reaction from people when the Children’s Commissioner’s report came out was, ‘You’ve got to put more money in here. You need more social workers. You need more money.’ We’ve seen that over the years every government has done exactly that, and nothing’s changed for those kids. What I’m saying is, ‘Yes, we’re going to have to put more money in, but let’s make sure we’re putting it into the right places that are going to get the best outcomes for the kids.’ And that might be in getting them more psychological support to deal with their initial trauma. That might need getting them caregivers at that very early stage. The kids themselves tell us – and I’ve got a youth- I’ve set up youth advisory group of young people that have been through care; we’ve got a couple of them still in care – they say make that- they say to us, ‘Make that first placement the best placement for us.’
Okay. Just in terms of money, you are asking, or wanting to set up an agency that advocates for the kids, but you’re not going to pay for that. You’re looking for philanthropic people to step in. So the report-
No, I haven’t said- I haven’t said the government won’t pay for it.
The report says – and you announced – that you’re talking to the charity sector, basically, to fund this. Isn’t that core government business, though?
No, what – no, what we’re saying is we’re actually going to do what I’m talking about, which is let the young people decide how they want that organisation to work. I don’t have any objection to putting government money into it, but I want it so that it works for them. So what I’m saying to my youth advisory panel, the Dingwall Trust panel; I think there’s another group out there – ‘There’s a group of philanthropists that are out there. They want to help you, and they’re looking for ways to assist you. I’m happy that you can, with the panel, have those discussions, and then come back to us in the final report.’ If there’s going to be Government money needed, I don’t have a problem with that. But I don’t want to design it. I want the young people to design it.
Okay, because some people would regard that as almost like outsourcing by stealth, having to go to another agency or charity to fund-
Well, if they become a lobby group that wants to be able to criticise Government and hold Government to account, they might need some independence.
But are you saying-? There are other Government bodies, or funded by Government. Are you saying they don’t have independence, like the Independent Police Conduct Authority, like the Ombudsman, like the Children’s Commissioner? They’re independent, and they get funded.
They are set up- they have- Yes, they are, but they are statutorily independent, so – this is an advocacy group. As I say, I want them to design it, and if they come back to say, ‘We want some seeding money underneath that from Government to keep it going,’ I don’t have a problem with that.
There’s a couple of things I want to get through in the time we’ve got left. Very quickly, the PM – the Prime Minister hasn’t ruled out more outsourcing. The report makes little mention of that. Can you rule out today that you won’t be outsourcing front-line care and protection services?
Look, I- Let’s put it to rest – this is a state responsibility. There’s no talk within Government at all of outsourcing that responsibility.
Okay. One last thing before we go – you are looking at placements in family/whanau situations, because there’s been bad outcomes and reabuse, revictimisation. Do you have the numbers? If you want to change that family-first approach, which is in the legislation, do you have the numbers to make a change to that?
I think the report’s making the case that we have to think differently. In many cases, families can take care-
But would you have the numbers to get that through? Because the Maori Party is not going to support it; Peter Dunne says that he likes the approach of Tariana Turia, which is giving those families more support, not taking the children away.
I think where I come from – I don’t have the numbers, because I haven’t started talking, but I think it’s a good conversation we have to have – whose agenda is most important? Is it the children’s and their lives, or is it the adult agenda? So for me, I’m unashamedly on the side of the children. If their family can be supported and get themselves back on track and provide a safe and great environment for those kids, I’m all for that. But I want those kids to have the best opportunity for a good life.
All right. Thank you so much for joining us this morning. Minister Anne Tolley.
Transcript provided by Able.

Labour will ban all foreign property buyers

Labour housing spokesperson has sparked a twitter storm after he used highly questionable data based on Auckland house sales and the ethnicity of purchaser’s names based on how they looked.

And he used this to try and justify stating that Labour would ban all foreign purchases of property in New Zealand, despite also saying “we have a policy review underway”.

Mr Twyford, people listening to this will think to themselves, ‘There’s only one thing certain here, which is that Labour is prepared to play the race card.’
I’m speaking out on this issue because, like most New Zealanders, I believe that the Kiwi dream of homeownership is worth fighting for. Rampant property speculation in Auckland is driving house prices higher and higher and out of the reach of young, hard-working first-home buyers. Offshore speculators are a major part of this picture. That’s what this data suggests. I think it’s as plain as day, and I think that so many Aucklanders will wake up this morning, they’ll look at these numbers, and they’ll say, ‘I told you so.’

Okay, if it is such a big issue, what would Labour do about it?
We would ban foreign buyers from buying New Zealand houses, end of story. That’s what the Australians have done. Look, there’s a reason—

So long-term residents can buy, and if you buy, what, a new build, you can buy? But otherwise no?
If you’re not a citizen or a resident, you’re sitting on the other side of the world, and you want to buy a house, come and live here. That’s the way to do it. Or, if you want— as the Australians allow, if you want to build a new house and add to the supply, we don’t see any problem with that. But, look, there’s a reason that so many countries around the world – Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, and a dozen others – have enacted laws and restrictions that put limits on the ability of foreign speculators to trade local housing., the preeminent Chinese website that specialises in marketing international real estate to Chinese investors in China, they reported recently that the Chinese government’s plans to free up capital controls, so that their citizens can move money in and out of the country more easily—

(Source: Scoop)

So Australians, Samoans, Tongans, English, any non New Zealander would be banned from buying property in New Zealand?

What other policies do you have that would make a difference? Because the thing is, Labour ditched capital gains tax, which arguably would have made a difference, because it wasn’t popular with voters, but you’re happy to give the old foreigners a kick, because that doesn’t lose you votes?
We’re going to crack down on speculators generally, and we have a policy review underway. There are a myriad of different tax and policy approaches that we can do to level the playing field away from the current incentives for property speculation in our economy. So we’re going to do that. We’re going ban foreign buyers.

They have a policy review under way but apparently Twyford is in a position to announce this policy now.

The criticism of the data and the ban has bee fairly vigorous from across the political spectrum.

Full transcript: Lisa Owen interviews Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford

Video: Interview: Labour’s housing spokesman Phil Twyford

And it turns out that Rob Salmond did the data analysis based on surnames of property buyers, he defends his analysis at Public Address: House-buying patterns in Auckland

Ron Mark – “we don’t find it strange at all”

Is Ron Mark the New Zealand First leader-in-waiting, ready to take over when Winston Peters bows out or conks out?

He was interviewed on The Nation yesterday (repeated Sunday morning on TV3 at 10 am) or you can watch here: Interview: NZ First Deputy Leader Ron Mark.

He uses the terms ‘bizarre’ and ‘strange’ – that could easily apply to the impression he leaves with this interview.

Mark  says what he probably needs to say about Peters being the unchallenged boss in perpetuity, but he seems to have some ambition, otherwise he wouldn’t have challenged for the deputy spot.

Mark is a politician with a lot of experience – as he demonstrated by blatantly misleading to media about taking over from Tracey Martin. He confirmed that the vote was on Tuesday but the announcement was deferred to Friday:

And once the votes were taken and the leader was confirmed, and the deputy leader was confirmed… The vote was taken on that. We also established an assistant whip which we hadn’t had before.

The Caucus determined that that should take effect as of the Friday at 10 o’clock, which gave people the chance to see what was left of that session, and we could go to the recess and come back tooled and ready to go. So, that was a Caucus decision to hold it till Friday, and so with effect 10 o’clock Friday, that was when their decision took effect, so…

On Tuesday Mark said: “No I’m not the new deputy leader, and we don’t discuss caucus matters.” (Newstalk ZB)

“Mr Mark also said he was not the new NZ First deputy leader, but would not comment on whether he had made or planned a challenge.” (NZ Herald)

To be fair to Mark it seems that he was bound by a strange Caucus decision to hold of announcing his elevation for three days. He, alongside Winston Peters and the rest of the NZ First MPs had to mislead and effectively lie about what had happened.

Mark was also contradictory when pushed to reveal the vote result.

So how did the vote go? Did you have a clear majority?
Oh, votes are always done in secret, and the votes were counted up by someone who wasn’t an MP, and, actually, no one knows the result.
Do you know the split?
No one knows the result… No one knows what the votes were at the end of the day

They must have been told the actual vote, surely.

Everyone knows the result. But we’ve been told that initially it was a draw. So was it a draw — straight down the middle?
Oh. You guys were saying all sorts of things that there was… Well, clearly it wasn’t a draw.

There were reports that it was a split vote that was resolved by a switch of sides by Richard Prosser. This may or may not be true.

Did Winston Peters vote for you?
I wouldn’t have a clue, actually.

It would be very unusual for a politician to bid for a higher party position without having a very good idea what the numbers were – and especially whether they had the support of their leader or not.

So were there 12 votes cast? Because we’re also hearing that someone abstained.
Oh, for God’s sake. See, this is the trouble. I mean… Nobody abstained, and the fact that that’s even a conversation is absolutely quite bizarre, but then a lot of bizarre things have been said over the last week, and we’re not responsible for that. The people whose mouths, those words, came out from, they’re the people responsible for that – most of them are journalists.

So he claims to not know what the vote was but is certain no one abstained.

What is quite bizarre is having a leadership vote and then pretending nothing had changed for three days. And then claiming to not know what the vote was but stating with apparent certainty aspects of the voting.

If Tracey Martin was doing such a good job, why did she have to go, then?
At the end of the day, it’s a democratic decision. People look at the candidates they have in front of them. They vote according to how they feel it should be, and that’s what happened. So it’s not for me, really, to answer questions like that.

It’s totally up to Mark that Martin ‘had to go’ – he decided that she should go and should be replaced by himself. He can choose whether to answer questions but avoiding them like this isn’t a smart look.

I suppose the thing is, Mr Mark, at some point the party is going to have to start thinking about life without Winston Peters.
Well, that point’s not too— I can’t see that on horizon right now, Lisa, because, you know, Winston’s yet to peak. He, against all the odds, after we got tossed out in 2008, he came back in 2011 against all the predictions, and I think this channel as well. 2011, he came back. 2014, he came back with more MPs. Now he’s just stormed the ramparts of Northland. Mark my words, he hasn’t finished yet, and if anyone thinks that Winston Peters is finished, all I’d say is smell the coffee.

That response can’t be taken seriously. The NZ First caucus chose a new deputy leader and then spent three days trying to fool the media and the country until confirming it had actually happened.

So it’s entirely possible that they are doing more than just thinking about ‘life without Winston’  but won’t be up front and honest about it.

That was most of the interview wasted playing media games with the process and the announcement.

Just before we go, I just want to ask – where do you stand on the spectrum? Because before you decided to stand for New Zealand First, I mean, you were at the National Party conference, you were even approached by ACT, so are you more comfortable to the centre right than the centre left?
Oh, I’m really comfortable as a New Zealand Firster and partly because we’re conservative but very much because we have a compassionate side to us and strong social conscience.

While they may see themselves competing with Colin Craig ‘compassionate’ and ‘conservative’ don’t seem to be prominent traits (of either) – Mark seems to be following in his leader’s footsteps with bull and bluster more noticeable.

Come on, Ron. Are you a possibility for working with the National Party?
I think New Zealand First, Lisa, could possibly work with any political party that’s prepared to do a deal that reflects more of our policies than they might want to consider. But, actually, our policies are all aimed at doing the best thing for New Zealand.

The best for New Zealand? Or the best for the New Zealand First constituency? Pushing for more free travel for pensioners is not exactly “the best thing for New Zealand”.


“We don’t find it strange at all”

It looks like a strange interview to me. Ron Mark does deputy leadership takeovers well, and he does strange well too.

See for yourself –  a bizarre interview.

And the full transcript.

Media mauls Minto moans

John Minto’s moans about media coverage of the election were countered strongly on The Nation yesterday.

Minto was interviewed by Lisa Owen on a panel including former TV news executive Mark Boyd (who’s completing a PhD in media coverage of the election), Internet Mana candidate John Minto and Sunday Star Times and Sunday News editor Jonathan Milne.

Minto’s moans were mauled from all directions.

Internet-Mana got a huge amount of media coverage relative to their resulting vote compared to other small parties, especially the Maori Party who got more party votes.

Lisa Owen: The election campaign has been described as chaotic, surreal and the grubbiest in living memory. In the midst of it all, the right hammered the media for its supposed obsession with Dirty Politics. And now those on the left are saying journalists are falling for National’s spin cost it the election. So how did the media do, really? Well, I’m joined this morning by former TV news executive Mark Boyd, who’s completing a PhD in media coverage of the election; Internet Mana candidate John Minto; and SundayStar Times and Sunday News editor Jonathan Milne. Good morning to you all.
John Minto: Good morning.
John Minto, if can come to you first. Can you explain how did the media cost the left the election?
Minto: Well, I think if you look at the clip of Pam outside the campaign launch and you looked at what happened on TV3 that night, the entire coverage was devoted to what Pam had said and how she had behaved. And inside that launch, we had the most important— I think the biggest jobs policy that the country has had for several decades, where full employment was the objective, and we spelt out very carefully how that was going to funded and how it was going to lead to a dramatic change and, you know, giving everybody a stake in the future of the country. But that was not even mentioned on the TV3 news. Now, I can understand that being reported, but the fact is that jobs package was just completely lost and I think across most of the media that night.
Owen: Yeah, that—
Minto: That’s a good example of—
Owen: That outburst was obviously on a number of number of media outlets, but that’s a single incident, so in the bigger picture, what went wrong, do you think with the media, in your view?
Minto: Well, I think in the bigger picture, we have the news people receive is dominated by television. And I think we’ve got this culture developed in New Zealand where TV journalists see their job as catching journalists— sorry, catching politicians out. And, I mean, I’ve got no objection to journalists having political opinions. I’ve got no objection to them expressing those opinions. But when their personal opinions drive the narrative that the public receive as the news, then I think we’ve got a serious problem. And I think in TV3, for example, right from the get go, their chief parliamentary reporter, Duncan Garner— Patty Gower, was hotly opposed to the link-up between Mana and the Internet Party. And I think that drove the way the TV presented the news all the way through the election.
Owen: Is that not the job of political reporters to ask questions which you might not find particularly palatable?
Minto: I think it is. Absolutely it is, and journalists should be really drilling down, and they should be enhancing the idea of an election as a contest of ideas. And they should put every politician on the spot. They should really drill down, but this idea of we’re going to have an interview and the purpose of the interview is actually to catch you out, rather than what the up-front reason given for the interview.
Owen: Okay, let’s bring Mark into the conversation here. You are crunching the numbers. Have you seen so far any evidence of, say, a right-wing bias in the coverage of the election?
Mark Boyd: Absolutely not. I mean, this is just fantasy on the part of the left. You know, let’s go back to what John just said about Pam Corkery’s outburst. That wasn’t provoked by the media. The media didn’t put words into Pam Corkery’s mouth. Pam just lost it, and that was covered. And also that night, the National Party had a launch as well, but that was the second story in both bulletins. Look, in this campaign, and I’m analysing in detail both television and newspaper coverage in cooperation with Dr Babak Bahadorat Canterbury University. I’m about halfway through the campaign so far, up to day 18 of a 31-day campaign. The media coverage in those first 18 days — there was a lot more coverage than 2011, both on television and in newspapers. It was a lot more negative. There was a lot less policy. But that was mainly because of Dirty Politics. So the left can’t claim that there was a right-wing conspiracy when, certainly, in the first two weeks of the campaign, all of the media were absolutely hammering the Government and hammering John Key on Dirty Politics.
Owen: Well, if the—
Boyd: And it led to the resignation of a Cabinet minister, and that hardly ever happens in New Zealand.
Owen: If there was a disproportionate coverage of Dirty Politics, was it warranted? Were those issues legitimate?
Boyd: It was not disproportionate. It was absolutely proportionate. It was a legitimate issue. It wasn’t a policy issue, but it was a legitimate issue. It raised some very serious questions about accountability and credibility at the highest levels of government.
Owen: John—
Minto: And yet we’ve still not seen an interview with Jason Ede. You know, we’ve not seen that whole—
Boyd: The guy keeps running away.
Minto: Yeah, he does. He does, indeed.
Boyd: He put up a sign in his front yard saying, ‘Implied consent to enter is denied to media.’ So, you know, that’s—
Owen: Let’s bring Jonathan Milne in here. Was there an appetite for policy with your readers, and did they get that policy?
Jonathan Milne: I believe— I can only go only go on gut instinct here. I don’t have hard numbers to back this up, but I certainly felt towards the end of the campaign that people had had enough of a lot of the toing and froing of Dirty Politics, that they’d had enough of the mudslinging and the personality politics. We’ve learnt— We’ve been told for the last, going on 20 years now, isn’t it, in MMP that it’s all about presidential personality politics, but I think in this election, and I think this was really good, that towards the end of the campaign, people really did start saying, ‘Tell us what the parties actually stand for. Tell us what the policies are.’ Certainly in the final week of the campaign for myself, I interviewed the Prime Minister and David Cunliffe at length. We focused entirely on their policies because by that point, we’d kind of had enough of Judith Collins and everything else. As far as Internet Mana’s claim that the media was somehow out to get them, I really do think that’s utter nonsense. And we saw the rest of the left actually blaming Internet Mana, saying, ‘They got all the air time. They sucked up all the attention. They got too much attention, and that’s why the left’s going down.’ And that’s one of the things that we’ll be looking at very closely in this Sunday’s papers.
Minto: Internet Mana didn’t get the attention at all. The policies of Internet Mana didn’t receive that sort of coverage. What received coverage was Kim Dotcom, and he received—
Owen: Hang on, John—
Boyd: John, you got about 8% of the coverage I’ve counted so far. Now, admittedly, a lot of that was negative, but that was because of Kim Dotcom.
Minto: I know. I know—
Boyd: His brand was poison.
Jonathan: John, I don’t think I received a single policy press release from you guys. So if you’re not even—
Minto: Oh, look—
John Minto—
Minto: Can I say this? I put out a number of media releases. I’m one of the spokespeople. And throughout that entire campaign, the six weeks of that campaign, I had one journalist send me one email to clarify one aspect of our policy. I never received any coverage whatever for any of the policies that we were promoting. Instead, there was all this—
Owen: You were on an economics debate with us. I had—
Minto: Yes, you were. Yes, sorry, early on, I was.
Owen: Okay, well, just on the Kim Dotcom question, though, that now infamous outburst from Pam Corkery was because she was annoyed at the fact that journos were asking for an interview with Kim Dotcom. But I want to put this to you, John, if you fund a party and you fund a campaign and you publicly state that your aim is to get rid of the sitting Prime Minister—
Minto: Yeah, change the Prime Minister, change the government.
Owen: …aren’t you trying to influence the outcome of an election without accountability, because you’re not allowing yourself to be interviewed, to be questioned? You’re dodging that.
Minto: Oh, heavens above. Look, Kim Dotcom was interviewed numerous times. Multiple times. And all the way through the election campaign, he was prepared to front up. But what became clear to us was—
Owen: He cancelled— He was due on this programme for a long-form interview, and he cancelled.
Minto: Oh, look, there’s been so many interviews he’s done. So many interviews over such a long period of time that we were concerned that his presence was swamping things, and we wanted to get the policies out. I mean, an election should be this battle of ideas. Instead, there was this—
Owen: But was that your mistake, John, going into coalition with him as such?
Minto: Sorry?
Owen: Was that your mistake? You say you felt his image, his presence was swamping the campaign. You chose to run on a ticket with him.
Minto: We did, and we realised it was a big risk. We’ve said that.
Boyd: It was a big mistake.
Minto: It was a big risk—
Boyd: …to blame in that case.
Minto: No, it was a big risk. We realised there was a risk. We went in with our eyes open. And to be frank, I’m really proud of the fact that we took that risk.
Owen: A mistake in the end?
Minto: Yeah, it turned out to— Obviously, it didn’t turn out well, but I’m proud of the fact that we did it. If we hadn’t, we would have been stuck around 1% in the polls, as we are at the moment.,
Boyd: But you still are stuck at 1%.
Minto: I know we are, but the thing was— No, no, no, listen. The coverage of Kim Dotcom — I mean, in the last week of the campaign, The Herald just poured scorn all over him—
Boyd: Because he didn’t deliver. He had this—
Minto: He did deliver.
Boyd: He had this big revelation he did not deliver.
Minto: He did deliver. He delivered that—
Boyd: He had an email which appears to have been falsified.
Owen: Just in the couple— Gentlemen, just in the couple of minutes that—
Minto: Where did you get that evidence from, Mark?
Owen: In the couple of minutes I’ve got left—
Minto: How do you know it’s falsified?
Boyd: The media looked at it expertly. Got experts to analyse it.
Owen: Look, the blogger Keith Ng has written recently that journalists covering the campaign were not lazy, nor were they biased, but they have failed, he said, essentially because the claims around Dirty Politics have been neither proven or disproven. Is that fair comment? Because, you know, we don’t know who sanctioned— Do we know who sanctioned snooping in the computers? Do we know what Judith Collins’ role was? You mentioned Jason Ede. We haven’t got to the bottom of that.
Minto: Well, we haven’t got to the bottom of all of it by any means, but it’s certainly— The premise of Nicky Hager’s book, and I’ve read the book, and the evidence is there that we had, you know— that the National Party used this vicious right-wing attack blog to do their dirty work for them and this two-track campaigning where John Key could be the man stepping aside and having the lovely public image, while behind the scenes in the office two doors down from him, Jason Ede was feeding stuff to right-wing bloggers.
Owen: All right, last word to Jonathan Milne. Do you—?
Jonathan: You’re right. There’s still work to be done, and Keith is right. You know, we’ve still got to dig further into that. But, look, Judith Collins quit as a result of an investigation that the Sunday Star Times did into Dirty Politics. We have made some real progress there. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been accused by the left or the right of pandering to one side or the other, I really would be the corporate lackey that you accuse me of being.
Owen: So, Jonathan, in a word, was this election different from any other that you’ve covered in terms of coverage? Yes or no?
Jonathan: I think we worked harder, and I think we tried to be really fair, and I think we succeeded.
Owen: All right, thank you very much for joining me this morning, gentlemen.

Source: Scoop
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