Greens use coronavirus to promote policy (20% benefit increase)

National have been using the coronavirus as an excuse to promote policies like stopping the minimum wage increase and reducing regulations. The Green Party has joined in the opportunism, calling for a 20% increase in benefits – which just hapens to be something they have been promoting for years..

Stuff:  Greens urge huge benefit increase in response

The party are calling on the Government, of which it is a part, to fully implement the recommendations from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group’s report.

That would see benefits boosted across the board at a cost of around $5.2b a year. The current welfare system pays out about $24.5b in benefits a year, including $15.5b for superannuation.

Greens have been calling for substantially higher no questions asked benefits for years.

This proposal isn’t aimed at short term mitigation of the effects of Covid-19 but would be a big ongoing increase in Government spending.

Green co-leader Marama Davidson said given the impact the virus’ associated economic shock might cause for casual workers larger benefits were vital.

“The COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on the income of casual workers shows how flawed our social safety net is,” Davidson said.

I don’t know even how the possible impact on casual workers justifies a huge across the board benefit increase.

“It’s clear we need to change our welfare system, to absorb the impact of unexpected viruses and other issues that crop up in life. Whether it is COVID-19 or something else, our social safety net should be able to support us across the board when we’re struggling.”

The Green Party have long called for the full package of reforms suggested by the advisory group to be enacted.

Such a radical change in benefits should be debated and considered carefully, not rushed in because of the current virus.

Greens must know there’s no chance of rapid adoption of their policy. So this is straight out use of the virus for political campaigning.

Obituary speeches in Parliament for Jeanette Fitzsimons

Jeanette Fitzsimons is a rare politician or ex-politician who has been widely praised for what she achieved and the manner in which she conducted herself in politics.

Jeanette died suddenly last week (5 March 2020), aged 75, and most parties and leaders in parliament gave obituary speeches today, which not surprisingly were full of praise from across the House.

Both leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw spoke for the Green Party. It was obviously emotional for them.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern spoke on behalf of the Labour Party and also “on behalf of our coalition partner, the New Zealand First Party” – no MP for NZ First spoke.

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson spoke on behalf of the National Party and the people of Coromandel – Jeanette was MP for Coromandel in 1999-2002 and lived at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula.

David Seymour spoke on behalf of the ACT Party.

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green):

I seek leave to move a motion without notice on the passing of Jeanette Fitzsimons.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? There is none.

MARAMA DAVIDSON: I move, That this House mark the passing of Jeanette Fitzsimons, the Green Party’s first female co-leader, celebrate her contributions to Aotearoa New Zealand, and express deep condolences to her whānau and friends.

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

It is my honour to stand with my co-leader, James Shaw, and all of our Green MPs here in this House to celebrate the life and acknowledge the passing of our much beloved first female co-leader of the Green Party of Aotearoa, Jeanette Fitzsimons. I acknowledge and send deep aroha to Harry and her children, Jeremy and Mark, and all of their mokopuna. I am thinking particularly of Rod Donald and family at this time, and especially of our friend Holly Donald, who works here in this House. I know that the loss of Rod while Jeanette was a co-leader had a massive impact on her and indeed on all of us.

I am standing here thinking deeply of all of the past Green MPs and particularly those who served with Jeanette in this House. I am thinking of our founding members of the Green Party movement of our party—those who have had a long association with her. Those people are really feeling the loss at this time very deeply, and I want to acknowledge their mamae. I am thinking of Metiria and Russel, with whom Jeanette had a close impact and working relationship. I am thinking of the Young Greens, who held their summer camp just recently in February, as we do every year on Jeanette and Harry’s farm, and were privileged to spend that weekend with her on her beloved riverbank, on her beloved campsite.

I am thankful for the people who have messaged us their love and their thoughts—the many organisations, the many individuals who have had a long association with her over generations and over decades. This kōrero that I stand with much honour to give now is on behalf of James and I and our Green MPs, and I acknowledge James will also be speaking later.

As I start to talk about her achievements, I note—ironically—that one of the biggest is she is noted for her humility, that people recall that her work was never about her as an individual, that she was very clear she was simply doing a job for the wellbeing of our planet and for our mokopuna and generations to come. She was part of the founding movement of our Green Party, right back from the days of the Values Party, through to The Alliance, and then to become the Green Party that we have today. I wanted to start her achievements by recalling her own words, in that her mokopuna have been the touchstone of much of her work. She, of course, was the only Green to ever win an electorate seat, in 1999—ground breaking and still, to this day, the only Green to win an electorate seat.

She also was the Government’s spokesperson—a quasi-Minister, in her own words—who, in 1998, introduced the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, establishing energy efficiency and solar water heating frameworks, and the legacy of which we are still working through today, thanks to her pioneering. She, of course, helped to bring the climate change conversation into Parliament. She was a leading voice for a new, compassionate, ecologically sustainable economics that has influenced the Government’s new wellbeing approach to this very day. In her valedictory speech, she called this an economy based on respect for people and for nature—simple, but something that to date had not been called for yet. She expanded legal aid for environmental cases and funding for community conservation groups. She, of course, also chaired the Local Government and Environment Committee for six years, in her words, scrutinising the executive, listening to the people, and knocking the silly corners off bad legislation.

Over the weekend, our councils of the Green Party met for a weekend hui that we had long planned, and we started by having a round and reflection for the impact that she had on all of us. Whether you were someone who knew her for decades and generations or whether you were someone who hadn’t yet had the privilege of meeting her, we talked about the fabric of experiences that all of us hold and the marvel and achievement of the work that she led and the person that she was.

There is very much a grieving sense of loss. As I continue to say, I thought we had her for quite a bit longer. I took for granted that she was going to continue to be around to mentor me as co-leader, to mentor us as Green politicians, and to hold us, as the Green Party, to account. I really did think that we had her for a lot longer.

I want to acknowledge and respect that a beautiful funeral, a small family and community and private affair, was held in Coromandel yesterday and respect and acknowledge the beauty that took place. We will be organising a wider, more public event here in Wellington in the weeks to come; I understand people are waiting for that.

I remember her telling me the time when one of our MPs rang her from this House to tell her that he was voting differently to what had been agreed. It was one of the funny stories when she was sitting me down as I was about to take up the mantle of co-leader and saying there is no job description, there is no expectation for what you might expect in doing this role, Marama, but one thing is for sure: you can expect the unexpected.

I recall Harry talking about her trying so hard but failing—after she left Parliament—to get arrested for protecting our marine environment against fossil fuel exploration and drilling. This is only a testament to her work never stopping long after—and to the very end of her life. She was a champion for a progressive vision that would protect our children, our people, and our planet. And she put herself on the line to exemplify exactly that.

Jeanette’s face keeps flashing up in front of me. I was very privileged, at that young Greens summer camp that I mentioned, to stay the night with her on her farm, to have a political huddle—that sort of time was special then. That sort of time with Jeanette was valuable to me in and of itself then. But right now, it’s feeling even more special than I realised it ever was going to be. It was a huddle that confirmed her clarity of purpose for what we—as humans of this world—need to be taking responsibility for, need to be working together for, need to be seeking the change that is indeed going to protect our future, our planet, and our communities. It was an affirmation that she maintained her commitment to those political visions right through to the very end.

Many people have many personal relationships and stories and reflections on her life. I’ve enjoyed reading through a lot of them and hearing a lot of them over the weekend, and there will be more to come. For my time here in this House today, I simply wanted to signal our deep gratitude for her commitment to a kaupapa that was going to be for the good of all of us. There is grief and loss in the gap that has been created, but there is hope in the legacy and the commitment that she maintained and an added drive for all of us, particularly for us in the Green Party and movement, to continue to be steadfast on our principles and our values and to do good in this world. Once again, I send my love to Harry and her children, all of her friends, and her family. Tēnā tātou katoa. Kia ora.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister):

I rise on behalf of the New Zealand Labour Party and on behalf of our coalition partner, the New Zealand First Party, to acknowledge the death of former Green Party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons CNZM, who passed away suddenly last Thursday night aged 75.

Jeanette will be remembered as a ground breaker, the first female co-leader of the Greens, the first Green MP to ever speak in this House, the first Green MP to win an electorate seat, and the first Green MP to hold an official Government position as spokesperson on energy efficiency. But this official record of impressive firsts only tells half the story. Her true parliamentary legacy will be the paths she laid on important environmental and conservation issues and the shift that she helped lead in our entire country’s thinking, especially on climate change.

In many ways Jeanette was by necessity a politician ahead of her time. Her job here was to agitate, to educate, to force change from those reluctant to make it. It seems strange now, but when Jeanette was first talking and writing about climate change, or global warming as it was often referred to then, she was an outlier, a bearer of an inconvenient truth. She was mocked and she was ridiculed for her earnest and persistent call for political action on the state of the planet.

I entered Parliament some time after Jeanette and even I recall that the response to climate change at that time was not what it is today, and it’s easy to forget that she was the champion of an issue that was not popular, that was not spoken of, and that was often rejected outright. I believe it is in large part to her tenacity that we are now taking this issue seriously, and that the paths she laid meant this House could vote unanimously for the zero carbon Act—a parliamentary consensus that would have been unimaginable when Jeanette was the lone voice when she first entered Parliament in 1996.

Jeanette was a true steward of the New Zealand environmental political movement. Starting out in the Values Party in the 1970s through to bringing the Greens into Parliament in their own right, Jeanette played a pivotal role over decades in building Green political representation in New Zealand and ensuring continuous representation in Parliament for the Greens since the first MMP election in 1996. She did that the old-fashioned way: holding public meetings, getting up media stories, writing op-eds, organising petitions, rallying, recruiting, and training new people. The bread-and-butter work of a political movement was never ever beneath her; in fact, I suspect that’s where she found her joy.

In fact, her commitment to the new generation could be seen in—as the co-leader of the Greens, Marama, has referenced—the hosting of the Young Greens camp each year on her farm in Thames. Passing the baton on and supporting the next generation of environmentalists was so core to who she was.

Jeanette once polled as the most trustworthy party leader in New Zealand; a fitting endorsement of her kind, caring, and passionate brand of politics. I think that she would be proud of the New Zealand Green Party today in that they keep those values in this House till this day.

I recall her presence in this House. I recall her quiet dignity. I recall her intelligence, her respect for others—even when she wasn’t offered that same respect in return. She was completely and utterly how she came across: a different type of politician and leader.

Her post-parliamentary career was not an opportunity for Jeanette to put her feet up and take some well-earned rest; she continued to campaign, to protest, to try and get arrested from time to time, to make presentations to select committee, and to train and support others.

Her final words spoken in this House were to the younger generation hungry for change. “Kia kaha—you are the hope of the future. Haere ra.”, she said. Now it’s time to say “Haera rā” to you, Jeanette. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your determined optimism. Thank you for laying the path that ultimately has meant that you left this place better than you found it. Haere rā.

Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel):

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Jeanette Fitzsimons has left us far too early. I rise to speak on behalf of the National Party and the people of Coromandel. Jeanette Fitzsimons was a character and a personality larger than her sometimes diminutive stature might have foretold. She was always passionate, energetic, and articulate in her advocacy for the policies and principles that she held so dear and lived by every day of her life—those were primarily the environment, conservation, and humanity. She was staunch always with gritty and determined but often humble focus on achieving the goals that she wanted to. She never did it in a personal way; it was always about the policy, about the argument, about the debate, and about the issue rather than the person—something that we sometimes have too little of in this place.

In the Coromandel, she was always an active, articulate, and vocal presence in local communities, even after her time as the member of Parliament. She was never short of a well-considered, well-thought-out, and well-constructed contribution to any conversation or debate on any particular matter. She represented the Coromandel for just three years of her parliamentary career, from 1999-2002, but she left a local legacy that is much greater than often three years in this place might imply from an ordinary constituency MP.

Jeanette was well regarded, well admired, and well respected locally, nationally, and internationally for her views and for the way that she expressed them and presented them not only to those that supported her but those who were opposed or had a different view. No matter what our personal view might have been of those policies and thoughts and ideas that she had, one could never ever underestimate the sincerity or the level of conviction of those principles that she held dear and espoused at every opportunity. She lived, as others have said, by those principles every day of her life.

I had an opportunity to spend a couple of hours yesterday in the Kauaeranga Valley, near the farm, with Harry and the extended whānau and friends at a very beautiful and typically Green-type affair—if I might say—in a pleasing way. It was a very genuine, sincere, and pleasant afternoon beside the river, in the valley that she loved, with the people that she loved and who cared for her.

Towards the end of last winter, the Environment Committee was hearing submissions on the zero carbon bill. It was winter and a sub-committee had been meeting in Auckland for nearly two days in a rather drab Auckland City cold, colourless community hall—in Freemans Bay, from memory. Jeanette Fitzsimons arrived to make her submission on the zero carbon bill but before she started to speak, she presented on the submissions table a posy of bright yellow daffodils taken from her garden in the Thames Valley that very morning. They sat there, a bright beacon of hope and inspiration, while she gave her considered submission in that otherwise drab room. Then, when she’d finished her submission, the flowers stayed and they remained, and for the rest of the day those flowers stood on that table as a beacon of her contribution not only to the debate but as a measure of her views about the issues that we were talking. And they stayed there long after her submission had finished.

I want to extend condolences on behalf of the National Party and on behalf of the people of Coromandel to Harry, her children, and her wider whānau. A bright, green light has gone out on the Coromandel and across Aotearoa New Zealand too soon.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

I wish to join with other party leaders, on behalf of ACT, in condolence to Jeanette Fitzsimons’ family and in commemoration of her life and her contribution to New Zealand politics and this House. I’m sure that as a lifelong proponent of, and campaigner for the mixed member proportional system, she would want it to be so.

I did not coincide with Jeanette Fitzsimons in this Parliament, nor, unfortunately, was I able to know her, but in a way, the fact that what I know of her has been learnt by osmosis, has bled out through society and through secondary connections, speaks all the more strongly to those values that I know she had. There are politicians who believe it is an achievement to hold a particular office. There are politicians who believe that it is about what she might have called the “he said, she said” BS; Jeanette Fitzsimons was clearly a politician who believed that being in office was not an achievement but presented the opportunity to achieve not on the personality, but on the issues. That’s why we hear so frequently in the last few days, as people up and down New Zealand have come to terms with her passing, words like “principled”, “kind”, “dogmatic”, “humble”, “achieving”: values that I think all of us should aspire to and values for which all of us can have a great admiration for Jeanette Fitzsimons.

I want to extend, again, condolences to her Green Party colleagues and the wider Green Party whānau, and to those in her real biological whānau—they must be feeling such a sense of loss, and our thoughts are with them—and of course, to her, our commemoration of a great life, well lived. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Hon JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green):

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I want to acknowledge and thank the members who have spoken and the memories that they’ve shared. Those tributes, I think, reflect the extraordinary woman that Janette was. As others have said, Jeanette’s approach to politics was to treat everyone with dignity and with respect. Her belief in the practice of non-violent social change always led her to seek to build consensus and common ground, particularly with those with whom she disagreed most strongly. There’s a saying: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

I think, in the long run, Jeanette’s greatest success will be seen to be in the area where people ridiculed her the most: in economics. In her own words she said, “GDP is both too narrow and too generalised to measure anything useful. It does not tell us whether the poor are getting poorer, and if most of society’s wealth is held by a few. It does not tell us if we are paying more and more to control pollution and crime, rather than for real goods and services. It does not tell us if we are plundering the environment to [take] short-term monetary returns.”

Jeanette’s greatest regret was that she was unable to move the establishment on this point. Yet 10 years later the current Minister of Finance had this to say: “if we’ve got this so-called rockstar economy, how is it that we have the worst homelessness in the OECD? How is it that you can’t swim in most of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes? How is it that child poverty [has] grown to the extent [that] it has? The answer, in my view, was because the government wasn’t sufficiently valuing those things. And [because] it wasn’t being valued properly, it wasn’t being measured, and [because] it wasn’t being measured, it wasn’t being done.”

Now, I acknowledge that the other side of the House is, at best, sceptical about this Government’s wellbeing approach, and I also acknowledge that we are still a very long way from the holistic, social, environmental, and economic guidance system for the country that Jeanette envisaged, but we have gotten started. I hope that she knew, in the end, that she had won.

Jeanette had already had a political career spanning two decades with the Values Party when I met her some time after the 1990 general election campaign. I was 18 or 19 or so, and I will never forget it. There was a hui at a lodge in Ōhākune to make some choices about the future of this emerging political party, the Greens. There were some heated debates about whether to be a political party or an outside pressure group, trying to reach consensus on how consensus-based decision-making should work, whether to have leaders or not and, if so, whether there should be one or two, or some other model entirely.

Now, despite there being no clear consensus on that question at the time, it was clear to me that Jeanette was a beacon by which others navigated. The debates continued through dinner and through drinks and on into the lodge’s sauna, where I was a little bit startled to find that not only were the policy prescriptions very northern European, so was the dress code. That’s where I first learned to focus on the policy, rather than the person.

Now, thousands of people around the country will have their own stories of Jeanette: inspiring, challenging, humorous, poignant—endless stories of a life so rich, and which touched so many. Each and every member of this Green Party caucus here has their own, which Marama and I cannot hope to do any justice to today. She mentored and guided each of us, and all of us.

But none of us here served alongside her in Parliament. Gareth Hughes, today our longest-serving MP, entered Parliament when Jeanette vacated it, 10 years ago last month. Gareth himself will retire at the coming election, and someone else will take up the mantle. That is Jeanette’s legacy. She built a political party. She led it out of the wilderness and into Parliament. She helped to midwife it into Government, and it succeeds her.

Her leadership was so profound that it has continued to guide the choices and shape the endeavours of a generation who only entered this place when she left it, and who remain even though she has passed beyond the veil. There are very few people in our history who can make that claim. She was not just a parliamentarian and a leader; she was a mother, a musician, a thinker, a writer, a wife, a friend, a farmer, an academic, an investor, a philanthropist, and a protester.

She wanted a world where we could be counted—as she said—not by the size of our GDP and our incomes, but by the warmth of our relationships with each other and with nature, by the health of our children and our elders and our rivers and our land. We want more people to share the secret of real happiness and satisfaction in life, which comes not from having more but from being more, and from being part of a society that values all its members and values the land, the water, and the other species with which we share them. Farewell Jeanette and thank you, and please give our love to Rod.

Motion agreed to.

Waiata

Honourable members stood as a mark of respect.

Crown accounts surplus, more pressure on spending booost

From the Beehive (Minister of Finance Grant Robertson): Govt accounts in surplus, debt remains low

The Government’s books are in good shape with the accounts in surplus and expenses close to forecast, Finance Minister Grant Robertson says.

The Treasury today released the Crown accounts for the five months to November.

The operating balance before gains and losses (OBEGAL) was above forecast by $0.7 billion resulting in a surplus of $100 million.

The variance is due to lower than forecast Core Crown expenses and higher than forecast revenue.

“While the month by month results do tend to fluctuate due to tax timing changes, it is pleasing to see this positive result,” Grant Robertson says.

“The surplus and low levels of debt show the fundamentals of the New Zealand economy remain strong.”

Net debt remains low at 20.1% of GDP, while expenses were within 0.6% of forecast.

Net investments gains of $3.6 billion were $1.3 billion above forecast, largely because of favourable changes in market prices.

“Our careful fiscal management has resulted in low government debt, which alongside record low borrowing costs has given us room to invest an extra $12 billion to future-proof New Zealand,” Grant Robertson says.

“This package of infrastructure projects will provide further support to boost the New Zealand economy in the face of slowing international growth and global headwinds.

“It will also give certainty to the construction industry about upcoming infrastructure projects and will create more opportunities for Kiwis.

“We’ll be announcing the specific projects in the near future,” Grant Robertson says.

I think we can expect some election year spending announcements on top of the proposed large spend on more infrastructure.

It will be interesting to see if they adjust the personal tax rates – part of the reason for rising revenue is tax bracket creep.

Grant Robertson has been a relatively low profile and uncontroversial finance minister, with most criticism coming from the left who want a lot more Government spending.

Like: Borrow, build, hold says Green co-leader

Government should hold onto the houses it has pledged to put out on the open market, Greens co-leader Marama Davidson says.

The Government taking on more debt for public housing would open up more opportunities than fully funding existing programmes like the Auckland Housing programme.

Davidson said a reluctance to ditch the Budget Responsibility Rules and take on debt is the reason those houses aren’t being provided to low-income tenants as part of a mixed tenure development scheme.

“We’ve got low borrowing rates, we’ve got expensive land, the Crown can borrow money. It can hold onto more of the houses it is building right now.”

Stuff:  Green Party scrap Budget Responsibility Rules

The Green Party is ditching its commitment to the restrictive Budget Responsibility Rules, which set targets for lowering government debt and spending.

The Greens first signed up to the rules ahead of the 2017 election while teaming up with Labour.

Labour retained a commitment to the rules, while signalling it wanted to somewhat loosen them next term.

So they may not move much on this until after this year’s election, if Labour and Greens get back into government, and NZ First don’t demand most of the extra spending.

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill appears to be still stalled

National MP Nick Smith introduced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to Parliament in March 2016.

The sanctuary was a part of both governing agreements between Labour and NZ First and the Green Party, but after the bill was transferred to incoming Labour Minister of the Environment David Parker the bill seems to have stalled. In nearly three years it hasn’t progressed from it’s Second Reading.

Smith recently stated:

“It is embarrassing for the Coalition Government that it has made no progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary after 18 months in Government.  The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, originally in my name but transferred to David Parker with the change in Government in 2017, has sat on the bottom of Parliament’s Order Paper for 18 months.

Timeline:

8 March 2016 – Bill introduced to Parliament

15 March 2016 – First Reading

22 July 2016 – Select Committee

15 September 2016Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”

24 October 2017: Governing Agreements

Labour NZ First Coalition Agreement:

    • Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement (24 October 2017):

8. Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

11 May 2018Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

To keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

23 June 2018 – David Parker address to the Forest & Bird Annual Conference

I am also trying to progress the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which I have Ministerial responsibility for. I am working to see if I can find a way through that.

24 July 2018Winston Peters confident of Kermadec Marine Sanctuary deal by end of year

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is confident the deadlock over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary can be broken by the end of the year.

Environment Minister David Parker and Mr Peters have been working on a compromise for the best part of this year.

Mr Peters insisted an end-of-year deadline was realistic.

“If we keep working on this issue with the level of commitment that has been exhibited thus far then it’s very likely we can have it resolved by the end of 2018.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said there was more than one way to uphold Treaty rights and keep the Kermadec Islands a sanctuary.

“We’re committed to a sanctuary, it’s with our confidence and supply agreement with Labour and that’s what we’re committed to keep working towards. I haven’t actually seen details of exactly what Mr Peters and Mr Parker might be working on.”

Greens seem to have been sidelined.

12 February 2019Prime Minister’s Statement at the Opening of Parliament

Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs.

While the sanctuary Bill seems to have stalled since 2016, despite the coalition and C&S agreements, it seems to remain stalled.

Nick Smith: Kermadec sanctuary lost at sea

World Oceans Day today highlights the Government’s failure to make any progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary in the past 18 months, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.

There seems to have been little progress since mid-2016, nearly three years ago.

“New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean in the world, yet less than one per cent is fully protected. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would protect an area twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass, 15 per cent of our ocean area and it would benefit hundreds of unique species, including whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals.

“Nothing has been done by the Government to progress the Sanctuary, despite commitments in the Coalition Agreement with NZ First and the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to establish the sanctuary.

“National will continue to push for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There is strong public support and between National and the Greens, there is a clear majority of Parliament in favour of its establishment.

“We support progression of the Government Bill now at second reading stage. I also have a Member’s Bill in the Ballot to make progress if necessary. The Government needs to make progress on this Sanctuary a priority.”

So why has this bill stalled?

Is David Parker not doing enough to push it?

Are negotiations with Maori interests still getting nowhere?

Are NZ First holding out for their deal or no deal?

Government under-delivery continues with ‘dismal’ social welfare tweaks

The Government year of under-delivery continued last week with an announcement of social welfare reforms tweaks being buried on Friday afternoon when it would have been anticipated that most news coverage would have been of Pike River mine re-entry – which also didn’t deliver.

Green co-leader Marama Davidson sounds deflated and resigned to under-delivery this term at least.

Yes I affirmed that these first steps and changes have come too late for too many.

I know change is long overdue, and people deserve support now. Can guarantee I’m committed to that change and the hard work it requires. It’s right people demand we just sort this out asap.

Sue Bradford:

“The government’s response to the findings of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) is dismal.”

A Welfare Expert Advisory Group was set up with an expectation it would report back with transformative reforms – which it did, with 42 recommendations. But the Government announcement on Friday indicated that only one of these would be implemented straight away, and another two would have to wait another year. And these are really only relatively minor tweaks.

In the 2017 election campaign the Green Party nearly died in a ditch when  co-leader Metiria Turei launched a major promotion for social welfare reform by revealing her experiences with claiming more benefits than she was eligible for. Support for the Green Party slumped.

Turei resigned and the Greens survived the election, but their number of MPs dropped from 14 to 8, and their share of the vote dropped from10.7% to 6.3%. They managed to negotiate their way into Government with Labour, but outside of Cabinet, and with what have turned out to be vague commitments. On social welfare the Confidence & Supply Agreement states:

Fair Society

10. Overhaul the welfare system, ensure access to entitlements, remove excessive sanctions and review Working For Families so that everyone has a standard of living and income that enables them to live in dignity and participate in their communities, and lifts children and their families out of poverty.

In April 2018 Marama Davidson was appointed as the new female co-leader of the Greens – Marama Davidson wins Green Party co-leadership race

She spoke about winning back voters who the Green Party had lost to Labour in the 2017 election – but also reaching out to new voters from her own background in poorer communities.

“In order to be a genuine and relevant voice for modern Aotearoa, we need to reflect its diverse reality. We need more members from all backgrounds and communities,” Davidson said.

“I know what it is to struggle to find a home to rent. I know what it is to not have enough food for your tamariki. And I know that no parent should have to go through that.”

“The community I come from is at the coalface of the most pressing issues we face as a society: rising poverty and inequality, the housing and homelessness crisis, polluted rivers and poor health and education outcomes.”

She said a massive economic shift was needed to a system that put the wellbeing of people and the environment above simple GDP growth.

Co-leader James Shaw said Davidson’s campaign had “lit a wildfire through the party.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called Davidson to congratulate her.

“The Green Party is a valued confidence and supply partner of this Government and I look forward to working with Marama to build a stronger, fairer and more inclusive country,” Ardern said.

“I am sure our work will be strengthened with the addition of Marama Davidson helping to leading this important work alongside me, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, and Green Co-leader James Shaw.”

It looks like Davidson has not strengthened much if anything on social welfare reform.

The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) was established in May 2018, with twelve ‘experts’ appointed. The Terms of Reference stated:

1. …It is timely at this critical juncture to evaluate whether our social welfare system remains fit for purpose in contemporary New Zealand.

2. The Government’s vision is for a welfare system that ensures people have an adequate income and standard of living, are treated with and can live in dignity and are able to participate meaningfully in their communities.

Objective

5. The Welfare Expert Advisory Group (the WEAG) is being established to provide advice to the Government on options that could best give effect to its vision for the future direction of the social welfare system.

They delivered their Report to the Minister for Social Development on 26 February 2019.

On Friday afternoon (3 May 2019) the Government announced that “its vision for the future direction of the social welfare system” would amount to a few minor tweaks.

Marama Davidson’s initial response promoted just one of the tweaks:

The Confidence and Supply Agreement between the and commits to removing excessive sanctions. This starts with today’s announcement.

In response to comments on Twitter she acknowledged the failure to deliver urgent reform.

Davidson:

I know change is long overdue, and people deserve support now. Can guarantee I’m committed to that change and the hard work it requires. It’s right people demand we just sort this out asap.

She sounds disappointed and deflated.

Sue Bradford (The Spinoff): No hope for progressive welfare reform from this government

The government’s response to the findings of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) is dismal.

It appears the only substantive welfare reform we can expect during this parliamentary term is the removal of the financial sanction against sole parents who can’t or won’t name their child’s father. That’s great, but that’s it.

Both Labour and the Greens went into the 2017 election promising the elimination of this sanction. It could have been axed as soon as they took power. Instead, it is now clear that the government has deliberately delayed action until the WEAG reported back, just so they could point to at least one reform of substance after the expenditure of $2 million on the working group.

The sole parent sanction won’t be removed until April next year, and the Government has confirmed there will be no backdating.

…I am so angry that this government has not had the courage of any convictions in responding to the WEAG’s heartfelt mahi.

We are seeing the weakest possible response to the WEAG’s sterling efforts. There is no commitment to any significant change during this parliamentary term. To talk about transforming welfare in three, five or 10 years as Sepuloni does is simply meaningless.

Any beneficiary expecting a sudden onset of empathy from this government can forget about that, apart from those who will directly benefit from the ending of the naming-father sanction.

None of the existing lot are going to do anything serious. It would require a kind of courage and commitment not in evidence when it comes to standing up for the rights and wellbeing of beneficiaries. The Greens have a legacy of fine welfare policies and Marama Davidson and others do seriously support the kind of recommendations made by the WEAG. However,  this is not backed up by the practice of the Greens in this term of Parliament, near-silenced in their role as support party, and with a tendency to skitter away from hard battles under any kind of pressure.

That’s scathing of the Government, but especially scathing of Bradford’s own Green Party (she may have ditched them now but was an MP and stood for leadership in the past).

If we’re ever going to hope for transformative and progressive welfare reform, it is now clear it will need to be championed by a party that is not yet in Parliament.

There is no sign of such a party, so it not just a dismal under-delivery, the outlook for social welfare reform looks dismal.

 

 

 

No questions asked (no sanctions) welfare

One of just three changes as a result of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report is contentious – it will remove (next year) a sanction (reduction in sole parent benefit) for mothers who don’t name the father of their child or children:

The Government will scrap the discriminatory sanction that cuts income to women and their children if the name of the child’s father is not declared to the Government.

Removing the section 192 sanction will cost $113.4 million over 4 years and will come into effect on 1 April 2020.

The Green Party has wanted a range of sanctions and requirements for getting benefits removed for some time. It was championed by Metiria Turei as she crashed and burned her political career just before the 2017 election, and her successor as Green co-leader, Marama Davidson, has also promoted much higher benefits with no questions asked.

It doesn’t actually start today, it starts in April 2020.

National imposed the sanctions and oppose their removal. Stuff: Government to scrap benefit sanction for solo mums, among welfare changes

National’s spokeswoman for social development, Louise Upston, said her party disagreed with the bulk of the report, “which would see fewer obligations imposed on beneficiaries and fewer incentives to get back into work”.

“Increasing the abatement threshold for people on benefits means people can keep more of what they earn. This is a welcome incentive to encourage more people into work.

“National believes that New Zealanders should be given a hand up, not a hand out and those who can work, should.”

ACT leader David Seymour…

…said removing sanctions on women who don’t name the father of their child is a complete reversal of position for Labour.

“In 2004, Social Development Minister Steve Maharey said: ‘It is a rort, and I have said time and time again in this Parliament that fathers must front up to their obligations, and we will make sure they do … It is not unreasonable to penalise financially those who do not.’

“This change will mean taxpayers will assume greater responsibility for supporting children, rather than their fathers.

Auckland Action Against Poverty…

…said it was glad to see the Government “finally taking action to stop punishing sole parents and children”.

It urged the Government to also ensure that every woman who had been penalised by the sanction received back pay, however the Minister told media this would not happen.

From the WEAG report:

The current benefit system is based on a one of conditionality and sanctions. We heard overwhelmingly through our consultation that such a system diminishes trust, causes anger and resentment, and contributes to toxic levels of stress. The application of obligations and sanctions in New Zealand (and elsewhere) is problematic.

The empirical literature provides no single, overarching answer to whether obligations and sanctions in welfare systems bring about the desired forms of behavioural change, such as movement into paid work or whether the positive effects of obligations outweigh the negative (Watts & Fitzpatrick, 2018: 111).

Research does indicate that obligations and sanctions can be costly to administer and comply with and have many harmful unintended consequences that compound social harm and disconnectedness (for example, movement in and out of insecure jobs, interspersed with periods of unemployment; disengagement from the social security system; increased poverty; increased crime to survive; worsened ill-health and impairments) (Economic and Social Research Council, 2018; Watts & Fitzpatrick 2018; Butterworth et al, 2006; Kiely & Butterworth, 2013; Davis, 2018). There is even less evidence that non-work-related obligations and associated sanctions achieve the stated aims of intended behavioural modification.

A high number of obligation failures15 are disputed (46%) and almost all (98%) of these disputes are upheld with the failure being overturned.

Require mutuality of expectations and responsibilities

The current obligations and sanctions regime must be immediately reformed into a system of mutual expectations and responsibilities that are applied according to the circumstances of the individual. They must be applied in a way that meets the values of the system, with robust checks and balances to mitigate potential negative impacts on individuals and their families and whānau.

Removing the father naming sanction makes it easier for fathers to avoid responsibility.

The report recommended a range of obligations and sanctions be removed.

  • the requirement to complete specific activities before a benefit is granted (pre-benefit activities)
  • the sanction where benefit payments stop if people have a warrant out for their arrest, and continue data matching with the Ministry of Justice and take a proactive supportive approach to contacting these people
  • social obligations that require people receiving a benefit to take all reasonable steps to have their children enrolled with a medical practice, be up to date with their Wellchild/Tamariki Ora checks and be attending early childhood education or school
  • pre-employment drug testing and provide specialised support for people with substance use disorders
  • the mandatory work ability assessment for people with health conditions or a disability and link workability assessments to return to work plans
  • the requirement to reapply for a benefit every 52 weeks – MSD is expected to provide full and correct entitlements through regular reviews (at least annually)
  • work obligations when an additional child is included in a benefit (the subsequent child rule)
  • the sanction on not naming another parent (was section 70A in the Social Security Act 1964 and is now section 192 of the Social Security Act 2018).

Only the last of those is being being removed by the Government, so most sanctions will remain.

The cost of removing the s192 parent naming sanction is estimated to cost $113.4 million over 4 years, which is $28.35 million annually.

“Around 24,000 children will be significantly better off as a result of this change, with many sole parents’ incomes increasing by an average of $34 a week,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

That’s a lot of children with unnamed fathers.

Doing some calculations the budget suggests about 16,000 solo mothers will have an income (benefit) increase, that’s a lot who don’t name fathers – it’s nearly a quarter of the total of about 60,000 receiving Sole Parent Support  (some of those will be fathers).

Why don’t mothers name fathers?

Some will genuinely not know who the father is, or will be uncertain. And some mothers will have legitimate reasons for having nothing to do with fathers.

In other cases men named as fathers may deny they are the parent.

And there must be some arrangements of silence of convenience, where the mother doesn’t name the father so he doesn’t have to pay maintenance, but under the table support arrangements are made.

$28.35 million annually is not a lot in the whole scheme of social welfare, which has a current  annual budget of $30.6 billion.

This is a small win for the Greens, but when the sanction is removed many children and low income families will be better off, which generally is a good thing.

It may cost a bit more as more solo mothers are likely to choose to not name the fathers, which is likely to reduce the number fathers paying maintenance, but this is likely to be not substantial.

“Stop infantilising us. I personally hate the Rainbow whanau/family nonsense.”

Some sensible words from @aniobrien on the Israel Folau fallout, and some strong words to Green MPs, who are politicising lesbians and gays, on their “Rainbow whanau/family” nonsense.

Just as there are diverse gender and sexuality preferences, there are diverse views within the LABC…XYZ – everyone who is not purely heterosexual (if that exists) – groups, communities and individuals.

I’m not a lesbian or gay but I agree with what Ani says about Israel Folau’s insistence that anyone who doesn’t ‘repent’ follow his beliefs will go to some sort of hell.

Dismissing Folau is entirely the decision of Rugby Australia and it is likely that he breached his contract with them by bringing the sport into disrepute. This is simply Folau reaping the consequences of his actions. This isn’t the first time he has courted controversy.

Folau has rightly been publicly condemned, however I don’t think his speech should be subject to legal measures. It is not illegal to be offensive. It is not illegal to practice religion. Nor should it be.

Just as I have a right to call Folau a religious nutbar with a habit of hypocrisy who is reaping what he has sowed, he has the right to say I am going to hell for being a total homo. Hilarious because hell doesn’t exist!

Hell is a threat rather than a place. It’s been used as the ultimate bogeyman, a place equivalent of Knecht Ruprecht just as heaven is a place equivalent of Saint Nicholas/Santa – age old threat/reward trick.

Ani then lays into politicians who are politicising homosexuality.

There has been a lot of pearl clutching by heterosexual politicians invested in portraying lesbians and gays as fragile and on the precipice of suicide. I really wish they would cut it out. We are one of the most resilient groups of people on the planet.

I have a few messages for NZ politicians who’re politicising me & other lesbians and gays:

  1. Stop with the irresponsible suicide rhetoric. All research shows that this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy and risks contagion. You can support us without invoking dodgy suicide stats.
  2. Stop infantilising us. I personally hate the “Rainbow whanau/family” nonsense. Partly because our “community” has never been so divided & partly because it sounds like a kindergarton play group.
  3. Stop conflating transgenderism with homosexuality. Folau didn’t even mention trans people. We are not synonymous. We are very different & piggy-backing them on to all of our issues is unhelpful.
  4. Stop hyperbolising what hate speech is. 50 people were massacred in Christchurch & when you lump in offensive speech with the hate & violence of the man responsible for the terrorist attack you insult their memory.
  5. Stop undermining free speech principles. When you censor & restrict speech it is those in power who dictate acceptability. This means minority groups & those challenging systems of oppression are the first to be silenced.
  6. Stop virtue-signalling & playing identity politics & for the love of goddess please focus on the policies that acutely affect us – you know like our planet becoming rapidly uninhabitable. I’m looking at you
  7. Start listening to all of your constituents – even those you don’t agree with.
  8. Start basing your policy decisions on science and fact not the ideology of a small minority. Most of us do not want to be governed by the religion or belief systems we don’t subscribe to. We are a secular nation.
  9. Start leading by example. Divisive messaging does not solve anything. Your mates in your (not so) secret Facebook groups might cheer you on, but it is not smart politics or good for NZ.
  10. Start speaking up. I know a great number of you can see the harm that comes from this brand of silencing, divisive identity politics. It’s time to get brave and say something.

Divisive messaging does not solve anything. Can you take that on board Marama Davidson? Golriz Gharaman?

Marama Davidson lays into the blame game

The degree to which Marama Davidson takes her arguments here is alarming, especially for a political party leader.

While most of the country is coming together with a common purpose of sympathy and empathy, she seems to be intent on blaming and dividing.

Yesterday from her speech in Ministerial Statements — Mosque Terror Attacks—Christchurch

I know that we must work together, all of us, to become an Aotearoa where everyone is safe to pray, or not—an Aotearoa where people are safe to be who they are.

I also acknowledge the calls from those in Muslim communities to ensure that we tell the truth right from the start. I note the Muslim voices highlighting the truth that New Zealand has a long history of colonial policy, discourse, and violence that sought to harm indigenous peoples. As tangata whenua, I am aware that we need to build connections now more than ever, to heal, and to create loving futures for everyone.

There are some major contradictions in this.

So what do we do now? I am energised by the signs of people now reflecting on their own bias and prejudice and committing to fighting racism with all their might.

We have a big shift ahead of us. We have lessons to learn. We have conversations to have. It’s just that this seems like it was too big a price to pay to get us to this point. In closing, to our Muslim communities, we love you, not just because you are us, but because you are you. Kia ora.

Davidson needs to learn that those of us who have some colonial history in our whanau are also part of ‘us’.

She is correct in saying “we must work together, all of us” – she just needs to learn what that actually means, and she needs to learn that divisive speech is contrary to what she is imploring here.

 

Parliament – Ministerial Statements – Mosque Terror Attacks

Opening and Prayer:

SPEAKER: Salaam alaikum. As part of our expression of sorrow and of our hope following the terrorist attack in Christchurch, I have invited Imam Nizam ul haq Thanvi to say a prayer. He will do so in Arabic and then it will be repeated in English by Tahir Nawaz. Following this, my colleague Adrian Rurawhe will say the parliamentary prayer in Te Reo, and it will be repeated by Anne Tolley in English.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): I wish to make a ministerial statement relating to the Christchurch mosques terror attacks. Assalam alaikum, peace be upon you, and peace be upon all of us.

Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition): As New Zealand woke on 15 March 2019, none of us could have imagined the horror and terror about to be unleashed on our people.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First):

MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green):

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

 

Transcripts: Ministerial Statements — Mosque Terror Attacks—Christchurch

Marama Davidson: “I had to pull the party together”

Marama Davidson is a radical activist who has struggled to work with the realities of being in Parliament, and especially the realities of leading a party in Government.

She had an opportunity to mmake a mark while co-leader James Shaw is busy being a Minister trying to establish the Greens as a party in power, but she is still more of a niche politician trying to appeal to a wider audience.

She has a long way to go to lift the Green Party out of Labour’s shadow, and the big challenge here is to do this without appearing to be too left wing radical, which would deter support from those who prefer the greens as an environmental party.

Newsroom – Davidson: very Green, very outspoken and a lot to prove

On the reality of last year’s Green leadership contest:

But all was not well behind the scenes. The contest brought to the fore an identity crisis for the very soul of the party. At its heart was a question of whether the Greens were radical enough — and whether, as a party of Government, it would naturally move further to the centre, losing its activist raison d’être.

Eugenie Sage and Julie Anne Genter were prospects for taking the leadership position left vacant by Metiria Turei.

Then there was Marama Davidson. Entering Parliament in 2015, she was the least experienced potential contender and initially hesitant to run. But she was popular with the party’s activist left, who lobbied strongly for her to put her hat in the ring in the hope she would counterbalance Shaw’s perceived corporate-ness and pull the party back to the left.

Sitting down one year later, Davidson admitted the time after the leadership battle was difficult.

“We went through some tough stuff and none of it was very secret,” she said.

“I had to pull the party together”.

But has she?

But the first few months were difficult. The Greens had haemorrhaged staff through the first half of 2018, stretching the party’s back room. The chaos came to a head in June when the party forgot to lodge its Parliamentary questions.

Then further chaos erupted in August, when Davidson told a protest she would reclaim the C-word because she was sick of being slandered with it online. The episode quickly spiralled out of control.

Looking back on it now, Davidson is mostly disappointed the story became about the appropriateness of the word, rather than the fact she was campaigning against the online abuse she received.

Observers felt it showed a lack of focus from the Green leadership as the campaign drew ever more attention, diverting people from the party’s work elsewhere. Less time thinking about climate change, more time thinking about, well, the c-word.

That didn’t pull the party together.

Davidson still has a lot to prove — especially to the hard left of the party who lobbied so effectively to elevate her to the leadership. Criticising the Government from her position is hard — some would say impossible.

Davidson could go harder in future. She thinks one of the main reasons the Maori Party didn’t survive was because it failed to properly hold the National Government to account. She sees continuing to put pressure on Labour as being essential to the Greens’ survival in Government.

On the other side of the equation, concessions won by Davidson from within Government, like Phil Twyford’s work on improving rental properties, are significant but hardly enough to take back to a hungry electorate in 2020.

There is the suggestion this has meant some on the hard-left of the party are dissatisfied with her leadership.

On Sunday, she will make a speech to party members at the Greens’ summer policy conference about the wellbeing budget and the environment.

She has made that speech: Marama Davidson – Summer Policy Conference

The conference has some big decisions to make, not least of which is whether to sign the Greens up to another round of Budget Responsibility Rules for the next parliamentary term.

With both Davidson and the membership strongly opposed, its likely the party will junk the rules for the next election. However Labour, which will control the finance portfolio in any future left-wing Government is likely to sign back up.

The looming question for the Greens is whether or not they can force the larger party’s hand – getting them to release, or even loosen the purse strings in any future Government.

RNZ: Greens want wide-ranging tax reform

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson wants a capital gains tax to be just the start of wide-ranging tax reform.

There’s real doubt Labour will even go for the CGT.

Speaking at the party’s summer policy conference Ms Davidson told members that resistance to a tax on capital gains came from a wealthy elite who are holding the country’s political system hostage.

She said the Greens want more reform including a tax rate for the richest 1 percent and taxing polluting big businesses and housing speculators.

Davidson was asked about this on RNZ this morning, and she came across as waffly and unsure. Outside her radical Green circles, her comfort zone, she struggles.

It may be to soon to judge whether Davidson is more asset or liability for the Green re-election chances. She has to find an assured and credible way of talking to a wider audience.

I see no sign of her pulling the party together. More like the opposite.