How Green is this PR?

When I saw this headline I thought it was relevant to a post I wanted to do:  How PR ‘completely transformed’ New Zealand politics: Metiria Turei, Green Party co-leader

But it was another sort of PR – proportional representation. The post was by the UK Electoral Reform Society.

What I wanted to write about was this ‘Public Relations’ exercise by the Greens:

c8ziucyu0aad1if

That image is very young female dominant.

Remember Jeannette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald? The current crop of Greens seem to have forgotten about the past.

The Greens are obviously trying to repackage themselves and attract more voters.

The target of this PR is not the hippy greens, nor the impoverished people the Greens say the represent, nor the Maori that Metiria Turei had seemed keen on targeting not long ago.

This is certainly a new Green image, without much green showing at all, in colour and in character.

It’s a curious combination of personal. The only ones on the North & South cover who are current MPs are co-leaders Turei and James Shaw, neither of whom look like they would be at home in a garden.

The others are all candidates for this year’s election.

Only one of them, John Hart, has stood for the Greens before. He was 18 on their list last election, and has climbed to 12 on their ‘initial list’ announced last week. If he remains around that position on their final list (after members vote on it) he stands a very good chance of becoming an MP. It doesn’t look it in the cover photo but he’s a farmer.

Next is Chloe Swarbrick, placed at 13 on the initial list so a god chance of success. She is young (22) and was given a lot of publicity by media in the Auckland mayoral contest last year, and more since then. She chose Greens to advance her political career, but she’s a young urban whose green credentials aren’t clear.

Then there’s Golriz Ghahraman, at 15 on the initial list in the maybe zone. They currently have 14 MPs and will either have to increase their vote or Ghahraman will have to improve her position on the final list. She has impressive credentials – Barrister, United Nations Consultant (International Human Rights Law, Justice), United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime – but is far from a typical Green.

And there is Hayley Holt, she has pretty much no show from 29 on the initial list (the Greens only show the Top 20 Green Party Candidates on their candidate photo page. She is “snowboarder and ballroom dancer notable for her appearances on several reality television series”. gain not a very typical greenie.

I presume the Greens have done their research and are targeting the trendy urban celebrity (mainly Auckland) voter types.

But they risk losing traditional green support.

Possibly more importantly, they may find that the fluid Green support, those who like a strong environmental voice in Parliament (I’ve voted Green on that basis in the days of Donald and Fitzsimons), may not like what they see in the New Green look.

Appropriately…

NewGreen

…is barely green.

I barely recognised James Shaw on the cover, and didn’t recognise John Hart. This is his Green candidate photo:

hart_john-005-edit

Maybe the typical North & South readers don’t like the typical Green look. (I think Hart would be a good MP).

Remember how Greens used to look?

34332-nzh

The Spinoff – Turei and Shaw

An interesting interview of Green leader Metiria Turei and James Shaw at The Spinoff by Toby Manhire –  The art of the deal: The Spinoff meets the Green leaders

A follow up post looks at key aspects of it – Greens ready to govern with Winston Peters despite his ‘racist views’ – Metiria Turei

That headline raises some of the key questions of this year’s election – can Labour form a coalition with both Greens and NZ First? And what would that end up looking like in the way of priority policies?

With less than six months to a general election, the leaders of the Green Party have insisted they are ready to deal not just with their memorandum-of-understanding partners the Labour Party, but also Winston Peters’ NZ First Party, if that’s what it takes to make it to government.

In an interview for the Spinoff alongside co-leader James Shaw, part of a special series of wide-ranging election-year conversations with party leaders, Metiria Turei said the Greens and NZ First were slowly moving towards friendlier relations, and that his “racist views” were no deal-breaker.

“Oh, I really like him,” Turei told the Spinoff.

“He’s annoying as hell and all those things. But he’s given me really good political advice in the past. And you’ve just got to admire his tenacity, actually. I admire his tenacity, his staying put. For a Māori man in New Zealand politics, he’s been there for a really long time, and I don’t agree with him on lots of stuff, I’ve had huge arguments with him in public about his more racist views … but those are his views and that’s our political disagreement.”

There are some interesting views and impressions in the interview. Both Shaw and Turei come across as determined to get into Government – sort of – but don’t exude confidence that it will happen.

And can Greens shape up as a Government partner and deal with other countries? Russel Norman made a name for himself protesting at a Chinese visit to New Zealand.

While the Greens were ready to compromise in joining a government, said Turei, that did not extend to opening arms to a hypothetical visit by Donald Trump.

“We would not welcome him,” said Turei.

“What we would do in response to his visit I just can’t say, but we certainly would not welcome him, and his misogyny and his racism.”

In coalition relations you have to be able to deal with people who’s perceived behaviour runs contrary to your principles – like Winston Peters.

An interesting question that may not be answered before the election – which countries and leaders would a Green (and Labour and maybe NZ First) government not welcome to New Zealand or not actively engage with on trade and international relationships?

The Alternative Maori Party?

The Green Party used to be known as an alternative party promoting environmental betterment and social goodness.

Under Metiria Turei’s leadership it is putting a lot more emphasis on Maori things.

Yesterday on Facebook:

Top of the billing is the Treaty of Waitangi, something not mentioned by Andrew Little at all in his ‘state of the nation’ speech last week.

In the past Turei and the Greens have only used electorate contests to push hard for the all important party vote, but their are signs of that changing, with Julie Anne Genter having a testing the waters in the Mt Albert by-election, and Chloe Swarbrick challenging to contest Auckland Central saying she wants to win an electorate.

Turei is switching from a quite un-Maori electorate, Dunedin North (where she has been very successful at growing Green support), to the Te Tai Tonga electorate.

I suspect that given her increasing emphasis on Maori she fancies winning a Maori seat.

Are the Greens morphing into an alternative Maori Party?

Labour seems to think it deserves Maori votes due to historical electoral habits, but the Maori vote looks like being hotly contested with five parties with the Maori Party, Mana, Greens and Labour all competing for traditional Maori votes, plus  Winston Peters and Shane Jones looking like going hard out in Northland as well.

Maori 0f Little importance?

When Andrew Little went to Ratana last week he emphasised how important Ratana and Maori issues were to the Labour Party.

RNZ: Andrew Little joins us ahead of Ratana today

Andrew Little says it’s ridiculous to say Labour has lost the support of Ratana and wider Maori voters, and he is confident in the long-standing relationship.

Transcript from the audio:

The relationship we already have is a strong one where we are talking about what’s good, not just for the Ratana people, the Morehu, but what’s good for all Maori, and what’s good for all New Zealand. That’s what Ratana stands for, what T W Ratana championed eighty ninety years ago.

We are in that discussion with Ratana all the time. It’s not just a kind of one-off what somebody says on the 24th or 25th of January.

Sounds good.

So what did Little have to say about what’s good for Ratana morehu and what’s good for Maori in his next big political outing, which was just a few days later on 29th January at the join Labour-Green ‘state of the nation’ event?

Nothing.

He seemed to thing Bill English was important, mentioning him five times. But he didn’t mention Ratana, he didn’t mention Maori, and he didn’t mention the Treaty of Waitangi once.

His speech began:

Welcome to this historic day – the day when we start this important year, united in our resolve to change the government.

We are driven by one simple premise: That we can make this great country a better place for all New Zealanders.

Maori are included in “all New Zealanders”, but there is no specific mention of Maori issues. He mentioned Waitangi once, but that was just in a diss of English.

Metiria Turei spoke before Little and began:

Me aro koe ki te ha o Hineahuone.Mai te timatanga, ko Papatuanuku te whaea whenua, ko Hineahuone te ira tangata tuatahi, he wahine.

Tihei Mauriora!

She mentioned wahine five times, Aotearoa four times, and said “Our Green values of upholding Te Tiriti o Waitangi” and “We will uphold Te Tiriti o Waitangi”.

In contrast if Maori are important to Little and Labour it wasn’t obvious from his ‘state of the union’ speech.

English on US immigration

Ignoring demands (if he heard any of them) to immediatelyjump up and down, express indignation and somehow do something about the US immigration furore Bill English waited until this afternoon to comment.

RNZ: English on Trump order: ‘We don’t agree with it’

The prime minister says he disagrees with the United States’ entry restrictions on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, but has not made his views known to President Donald Trump.

Mr English has been under mounting pressure to condemn Mr Trump’s immigration order.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy this morning urged him to make a statement – “if anything to assure the Muslim New Zealanders living in New Zealand that we’re going to look after them”.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei told Morning Report the order was “grossly unjust” and Mr English needed to join other country leaders and show “moral leadership”.

Many on social media joined the demands for a rapid response from English, regardless of it’s futility.

Bill English said today he would not implement such a ban in New Zealand and disagreed with it, but he had not been in touch with Mr Trump to make his views clear.

“We wouldn’t implement the kind of policy that is being implemented and we don’t agree with it.”

When asked why he had not criticised Mr Trump’s order, Mr English said, “I just have”.

“We’re not being meek at all. President Trump has got to deal with his own issues and his own election promises.”

“We don’t agree with the policy. We have to yet to see just what turns out to be the long-term policy for the US, because this is a temporary measure.”

“It does appear to have created some real chaos in the short term.”

Discrimination was “not the New Zealand way”.

When asked if Mr Trump was “a bigot”, Mr English said it was “for others to decide”.

“It’s not our job to tell them how to run their country.”

There’s nothing New Zealand can do about the US immigration issues.

Labour leader Andrew Little said he expected a stronger response from the Government.

What Little, Turei and others don’t seem to understand is what it’s like being in a position of governmental responsibility. Barking at selected international passing cars with zero bite won’t achieve anything except risk getting offside with other countries.

It’s similar to the demands of others for a particular response from the Government on the UN vote on Israeli settlements.

There’s a bit more to international diplomacy, especially successful diplomacy, than jumping and shouting at the behest of people and groups who don’t have to think about or deal with any repercussions.

There’s absolutely nothing New Zealand can do about the current US immigration policy changes.

What Little and Turei seem intent on is trying to embarrass English as part of the election campaign they have just launched.

A strong leader knows when to keep their mouths shut, and when it’s appropriate to say something.

Labour-Green ‘State of the Nation’

Today Andrew Little and Metiria Turei gave a joint Labour-Green ‘State of the Nation’.

I’ve been away and haven’t heard or seen anything about it so for now I’ll rely on RNZ: Labour, Greens deliver joint State of the Nation speech

In a symbolic move, Labour and the Greens have launched their election year campaigns with their first joint State of the Nation event in Auckland.

The speeches, delivered by the Labour leader Andrew Little and the Greens co-leader Metiria Turei contained no new policy, but send a clear message to voters the two parties will work closely this year.

We have already had the signal that they will work closely this year, up until the election.

No new policy is odd.

Both emphasised the “shared values” of the two parties, while launching an attack on the National-led government and new Prime Minister Bill English.

Mr Little laid out his party’s campaign priorities of jobs, affordable housing and a better standard of living.

Same old.

Mr Little criticised Mr English, calling him a “competent bean counter” and saying since taking office he had “failed the first tests of leadership” by refusing to commit to fighting harder to reduce poverty, or solve the housing crisis.

He said Mr English should front up in Waitangi next weekend, and that he should have sacked his friend and Cabinet colleague in last year’s reshuffle.

Not sure that going negative on English is a smart move, bashing Key for a decade didn’t seem to work very well.

Ms Turei acknowledged the former party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons for her environmental campaigns and the battles of the late Helen Kelly for employee rights.

That doesn’t have much to do with this year’s election.

She talked about the walk out in Parliament last year by female Green and Labour MPs in response to accusations by then-Prime Minister Jon Key that opposition MPs were “backing the rapists” during a debate over New Zealanders held in detention in Australia.

“That was a moment when our parties stood together and stood up for our values.

“I don’t need to ask the values of the people here. Or to look up feminism in the dictionary, unlike Bill English.

Speaking to an audience who already support her by the sound of that. I don’t think it’s attractive to a wider audience.

I can’t find Little’s speech on the Labour website or on their Facebook yet, but The Standard has the transcript: Andrew Little – State of the Nation speech

Turei’s speech transcript is here and The Standard are discussing it : Labour Greens joint State of the Nation livestream and discussion

Quite a bit of trouble with the streaming apparently.

NZ Herald: Highlights: Little and Turei’s big speeches

 

State of Labour-Green nation

In an unusual move the Labour and Green parties are having a joint ‘State of the Nation’ speech, on 29 January. Both Andrew Little and Metiria Turei will outline their party and joint plans for the year.

Posted by Andrew Little on the Labour Party website:

Labour and Green Party to host joint State of the Nation event

Posted by on January 17, 2017

For the first time Labour and the Green Party are holding a joint State of the Nation event.

Labour Leader Andrew Little and Green Party Co-Leader Metiria Turei will speak about their priorities for the year in Auckland on Sunday 29 January.

The leaders will discuss the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country and present a vision of the stable, responsible, alternative that the parties will offer New Zealand.

Details
Labour/Green Party State of the Nation event
When: 2pm Sunday 29 January
Where: Mt Albert War Memorial Hall
773 New North Road, Mt Albert, Auckland

Posted by James Shaw on the Green Party website (curiously):

Labour and Green Party to host joint State of the Nation event

James Shaw MP on Tuesday, January 17, 2017 – 08:57

For the first time Labour and the Green Party are holding a joint State of the Nation event.

Labour Leader Andrew Little and Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei will speak about their priorities for the year in Auckland on Sunday 29 January.

The leaders will discuss the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country and present a vision of the stable, responsible, alternative the parties will offer New Zealand.

Details

Labour/Green Party State of the Nation event

When: 2pm Sunday 29 January

Where: Mt Albert War Memorial Hall

So they are identical announcements. Obviously both parties are keen to be seen as working together closely.

A different slant on it from Turei via email:

For the first time in history, we will be holding a joint State of the Nation event with the Labour Party.  This is a historic event where we will be starting off the year with our combined vision for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Will you join us?

Labour Leader Andrew Little and I will speak about our priorities for the year, plus the social and economic challenges and opportunities facing the country.  But most importantly, we will present a vision of the stable and responsible alternative our parties will offer Kiwis like you.

The event will be held at 2pm Sunday 29th January at the Mt Albert War Memorial Hall 773 New North Road, Mt Albert in Auckland.  RSVP today.

If you can’t join us in Auckland, we will be live streaming the event on our Facebook channel.  We will send out a reminder on the day so that you can be part of this important moment, which shows the important friendship between the Labour Party and the Green Party.

Green MPs “a really busy and positive year”

The Green Party have good reasons to be fairly happy with their year.

James Shaw has settled in as co-leader after Russel Norman’s exit in 2015, they secured a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour, there’s been no major embarrassments or stuff ups, John Key stepped down, they gained a second new mid-term MP (Barry Coates), and two more MPs indicated they would step down next year making room for more fresh faces (if they at least maintain current levels of support).

The loss of one of their most respected MPs, Kevin Hague is a negative but not a major considering how everything else has gone for them.

Metiria Turei reflects on 2016 and looks ahead in Well, THAT happened: reflecting on 2016 and beyond:

2016 for our MPs

Green MPs have actually had a really busy and positive year working on the nation’s most pressing issues: poverty and inequality, housing, climate action, inclusive education, safe drinking water and clean rivers to name a few. We’ve been talking with people up and down the country, promoting legislation, setting out the solutions, and, where possible, working with other parties in Parliament to achieve progress.

They have done as much as could be expected from Opposition, and have been visibly more active on policies and issues than NZ First and probably Labour most of the time. The are far more organised and persistent in social media.

2016 for us and Labour

In May, the Green Party signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Labour. It’s the first time political parties have reached such an agreement before an election, and means we get to have a conversation with New Zealanders about why we are working to change the government.

We worked constructively with Labour on the Homelessness Inquiry and early in 2017 you’ll see us working together on a range of other issues.

The Greens got what they wanted with the MoU and are happy with it, but it’s yet to be seen whether it will help their cause. They are very reliant on Labour to get into Government and are keen to do what they can to make that happen – but they also want to increase their share of the party vote relative to Labour to give them more leverage.

2016 for me

For me, this year has been one of consolidating my work on housing and inequality because I am determined to do all that I can to ensure that families have the resources they need to nurture their babies.

We need mothers educated, healthy, and secure so that they can shape the future of our nation. It will be women that determine the fate of our country next year, make no mistake.

I don’t know how that will work, there are about as many male voters as there are female.

So, I’ll be spending the summer resting and getting ready for a busy 2017. I want to spend time doing craft, reading, walking my dogs and connecting with my whānau so that next year I can run hard with the Greens to change the government.

‘Change the government’ has been repeated a lot by the Greens and Labour already, trying to get voters thinking about it being time for a change.

Turei is well supported and respected amongst her own. It’s yet to be seen whether she can appeal to a wider constituency so that Greens grow their vote (they failed to do that last election) and so that Andrew Little and Turei (plus James Shaw) look like a viable alternative to run the country.

If Little continues to try to appeal more to the left than the centre Greens and Labour may end up competing for the same votes – unless they can find the formula for inspiring current non-voters to back them, a strategy that failed last campaign.

But with Bill English taking over from Key next year’s election is wide open.

Greens thought they had their best shot in 2014 and that didn’t work out for them. They get to have another go – and it may be Turei’s last shot at making it into government.

Turei: “a very radical economic and social agenda”

In an end of year interview with Stuff  Green co-leader Metiria Turei claims that National have “a very radical economic and social agenda” that will become more obvious now “they don’t have the friendly face of John Key to soften its blow.”

The most common criticisms of the National dominated Government led by John key and under Bill English’s economic management has been that they haven’t done enough, that they have been a do nothing ‘steady as she goes’ Government.

I think that more people will see Turei as the one with a very radical economic and social agenda.

That’s why National have been getting in the high forties in the last three elections (44.93%, 47.31%, 47.04%) and Greens seem to have plateaued (6.72%, 11.06%, 10.70%).

I think there is a fairly strong voter resistance to a government strongly influenced by the Greens even under Russel Norman’s attempts to present a moderate, fiscally responsible party. Turei has always been seen as a radical.

Stuff: There’s a new political landscape now, and Greens co-leader Metiria Turei is here to play

Solving child poverty is so obvious…if only leaders didn’t cheapen the seats of power and the media calmed down a bit.

We should all calm down, let Turei wave a Green wand and all our social and environmental problems will be fixed without any adverse impact on the economy. Heaps of money redistributed to the poor and no oil for the rich.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei has some choice words about the political year past.

It delivered some shock results, one shock resignation and a “disgraceful” lack of progress on social issues like poverty and housing, she says.

There has certainly been challenges for the Government on housing, but they have been criticised for not doing enough, not for being radical.

There has also been growing pressure – by political design and aided by media – on inequality and child poverty, and again National have been criticised for not being radical enough.

“John Key never had a commitment to public service. For him, it was never about the best public welfare. I think he saw it as a challenge for him personally and I think he enjoyed quite a bit of the job, at least until these last couple of years.

“He certainly made the role of Prime Minister a much more superficial one than it’s ever been before.”

The public/media side of Government and Prime Minister has always been superficial. Key has generally done well with that, but that doesn’t mean more in depth things haven’t been done with less publicity.

However, Turei offers some praise for Key’s decision to leave when he did.

“I’ve always thought politicians should go at the top of our game…rather than getting kicked out and carried out, walking out on your own two feet is a much better thing to do.

“It was wise the way [Key] did it for himself. What he hasn’t done is leave a genuine legacy for the country.”

It’s too soon to judge Key’s legacy. But Key has succeeded where Turei has failed – they both became MPs in 2002, Key by ousting a sitting MP and winning an electorate, Turei as a list MP.

Key spent 6 years in opposition, then the last eight years leading the Government.

Turei has been 14 years in opposition. The Greens have increased their vote since she has been co-leader but seem to have hit a Green ceiling.

She may still get to experience the realities of being in government, and discover that rapid radical economic and social changes are not as easy to implement as she seems to think. And not without adverse effects.

Next year’s election could be make or break for Turei’s legacy.

“I think it’s going to be a really exciting election, because changing the Government is so possible this time around,” she says.

It’s certainly possible – but it was also possible in 2014 and the Greens were very confident of growing their support significantly so they would have a big say in government, only to be disappointed – so much so that Russel Norman decided to opt out.

But if Turei talks too much about others being very radical on economic and social issues she risks drawing attention to herself and her own ideals, and they are far from conservative.

“A very radical economic and social agenda” probably describes Turei more than any other MP, and certainly more than any other party leader.

Most voters probably see Turei as a Mad Hatter compared to TweedleDumLabour and TweedleDeeNational.

Little v PM English on child poverty

Yesterday Bill English faced his first Question Time in Parliament as Prime Minister, facing Andrew Little first up on questions on child poverty, with housing added to the mix – possibly the defining issues of next year’s election campaign.

David Seymour, Winston Peters and Metiria Turei joined in.

Prime Minister—Child Poverty

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft that the level of child poverty means “this is not the New Zealand I grew up in nor is it the New Zealand most of us want”; if so, what responsibility does he take as Prime Minister for his Government’s record?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): We do not want children growing up in persistent deprivation. I am proud of the steps the Government has already taken, including raising benefits by $25 per week for the first time in 40 years—something not done by the previous Labour Government. Alongside raising incomes, we are focusing on dealing with the complex dysfunction that traps families in long-term low incomes.

Andrew Little: Why are there more children living in poverty today than 8 years ago, when National took office?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not agree with the member’s assertion.

Hon Members: Oh!

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the New Zealand Government publishes the most comprehensive measures of income of all developed countries in the world. The most recent information is up to 2014, which is prior to changes in free doctors visits for under-13s, the hardship package that was introduced under this Government, and other measures that we are taking for smarter support for vulnerable families.

Andrew Little: Why, after 8 years, has his Government not set targets to reduce income poverty and material deprivation amongst New Zealand children?

Hon Paula Bennett: Well, we have.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have. We have set quite specific targets in respect of all those factors that create the circumstances of persistent deprivation—that is, reduction in recidivism rates, reduction in long-term welfare dependency, and reductions in rheumatic fever. We have insulated 300,000 homes to improve the standard of housing and reduce poor housing, and, as I have said, we have increased incomes for families on benefits for the first time in 40 years.

Andrew Little: Is it acceptable to him that, according to the Child Poverty Monitor report, 110,000 Kiwi kids live in houses with severe damp or mould problems?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course that is not acceptable; the question is what steps should be taken to deal with it. This Government has insulated 300,000 such houses, and now runs much more focused systems for dealing with those children who show signs of ill health because of the quality their housing.

Andrew Little: How much money over the last 8 years has his Government taken out of Housing New Zealand in dividends, while Emma-Lita Bourne got sick and died in a cold, mouldy State house?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member misunderstands exactly how Housing New Zealand’s finances work, but when tenants are experiencing ill health because of the standard of those State houses, money is not a barrier to fixing them. All such incidents are meant to be dealt with by Housing New Zealand within a short amount of time precisely because of the ill effects on the tenants.

David Seymour: Is not the real problem with housing and poverty the fact that New Zealanders produce half as many homes per capita as we did in the 1970s?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member puts his finger on the nub of the issue. Misguided planning laws over the last 10 or 20 years have meant that our cities have not been allowed to grow, and that has helped to push up the price of housing and has made it less likely that good-quality, lower-cost housing is built in our cities.

Andrew Little: Will he back my bill to make it illegal to rent out damp, mouldy, unhealthy homes, or does he think it is OK for slum landlords to exploit poor families and make kids sick?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is already the law, in fact, that you cannot rent out a home that is going to be bad for someone’s health.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: To the Minister, is it not a fact that our parliamentary colleague from Epsom has stumbled on it—that we are not building nearly enough houses as we were in the 1970s and that we got mass immigration, which he has allowed in, in the 1990s and the 2000s?

Hon Members: Who’s the question to?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Who was the question to?

Mr SPEAKER: Did the Prime Minister not hear the question? I can have it repeated.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I think I did. It is the case that there have been fewer houses built per 100,000 people in New Zealand in the last 10 or 15 years, because the planning laws have been designed to stop that happening. As for immigration, the National-led Government stands proudly open to trade, investment, and migration.

Andrew Little: After 8 years of rising child poverty on his watch, will he sign up to Andrew Becroft’s target of reducing child poverty by 10 percent in the next year and take immediate steps to get there, or are we going to continue to hear empty words, just like we did from his predecessor?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Since 2012 we have published a set of quite focused targets aimed at dealing with the social dysfunction that traps families in the combination of welfare dependency, criminal recidivism, low education levels, and child abuse. The data about that is more detailed and more transparent than in pretty much any other developed country, and the Government is acting on that information—in many cases, family by family, because that is the only way to change their lives. Signing up to a target does not change their lives.

Metiria Turei: Does he accept the finding of the Children’s Commissioner’s report that on average 28 New Zealand children die each year of a poverty-related condition—each of those years being when National has been in Government?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I have not seen the detail of that. The Child Poverty Monitor takes information from the Government’s annual report on the state of incomes and households across New Zealand. But I think both the Labour and Green parties grossly oversimplify this issue. If it was just a matter of income, there would be no child poverty, because incomes are higher than they were. The hard bit we are dealing with in child poverty is the social dysfunction that has been there for 20 or 30 years, and this Government is addressing that in a more focused, thorough, and transparent way than any previous Government.

David Seymour: Is it not also related that one in five of the 60,000 children born in New Zealand every year are born into a family dependent on benefits?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think that is roughly the case. Of more concern is that about one in 100 of these children are born into households where there is criminal offending, child abuse, violence, and long-term welfare dependency. We are closely focused on working with those families to break what are long-term cycles of deprivation.

Metiria Turei: What is the point of his Government’s interventions if not one of them has saved a single one of those children’s lives?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I just do not agree with the member. I mean, there have been quite sophisticated advances in, for instance, interventions around rheumatic fever, where the rate of diagnosis of rheumatic fever has halved in the last 3 years, precisely because of excellent work done by the Minister of Health and the Minister for Social Development. The rate of substantiated child abuse, which was rising, has flattened out. Those measures, among many others, may well have saved lives.

Metiria Turei: So how many families in 2017 does he expect will have to bury their children who have died because of poverty-related illness?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would hope none. I would hope none because it would be a tragedy for any family to bury their child. But what I do know is that billions of dollars have been spent ineffectively in the last 20 to 30 years because of following the recipe that that member would advocate, which is to throw money at the problem. This Government is doing a much smarter job of supporting our vulnerable families, and, of course, we have a long way to go.