Minister for Children Tracey Martin on Oranga Tamariki taking newborn babies from mothers

Minister for Children Tracey Martin was interviewed on Newshub Nation this morning, and was asked about the jump in the number of newborn Maori babies being taken from their parents by Oranga Tamariki in the last three years.

On Newshub Nation: Simon Shepherd interviews Minister for Children Tracey Martin

Simon Shepherd: Minister for Children Tracey Martin, Thanks for your time this morning. So, we’ve seen this jump in the number of newborn Maori babies being taken from their parents in the last three years. Is that because it’s a directive from Oranga Tamariki to get involved earlier?

Tracey Martin: First of all – two things – between 2015 and 2017, certainly, there was an increase in the uplift of babies. Between 2017 and 2018, there’s been a decrease. In the Waikato, there’s been a decrease; in the Hawke’s Bay, there’s been an increase. So none of this is just a standard ‘we’re going in and picking up babies’, which is a little bit what is being portrayed across the media at the moment.

Okay. But there has been— I mean, let’s just talk about those figures. Maori babies in the first seven days, between 2015 and 2016 – 164 in those two years. Bring it forward, 2017, 2018 – 230. And that’s in the first seven days of a newborn. And in the first three months, there’s been a 33% increase.

Sure. And I would think that some of this is around the ‘subsequent baby’ situation, which was a piece inside the Oranga Tamariki legislation put in by the previous government. I believe that the intent of that insertion was appropriate – which means that what we’re talking about here is that the mum, the parents, have already had a child that has been removed due to neglect or violence or other issues, and then they now have another baby coming. So what the intent of that legislation was was – is the second child, the subsequent child, safe?

Okay. You talk about measurable outcomes in this legislation. So what are these measurable outcomes? Are you going to put targets in place to reduce the number of Maori in care?

I don’t like targets; that’s the first thing.

So that’s a no?

Yeah, because that says that there’s an acceptable level. I want to see a reduction of— And actually, something like 80% of the Maori children who are in the care of the Oranga Tamariki are living in whanau placements. So they’re not inside care and protection areas or anything like that. They are with whanau, but the CE still technically has legal guardianship rights over them.

Well, if you look at the statistics, 59% of children in care are Maori, and yet Maori are 15% of the population.

That’s right.

Would it not be a goal to say it would be actually representative of the population?

Oh, absolutely. It’s a wonderful goal for it to be representative of the population. But let’s be clear –Oranga Tamariki cannot change all the social ills; Oranga Tamariki’s job is to protect children.

Okay, so, that case has been in the headlines, but I’ve talked to other social agencies, and they’ve given me an example of a 17-year-old who had a baby, went to have a shower after three hours and came back, and the baby had been taken.

Is that in Oranga Tamariki’s time?

Yeah. In the last year, yeah.

Right. So I would be very interested if people— In the same way that I have made the offer to Jean through the MP Meka Whaitiri, I would be very interested for them to actually email me specifically about those cases.

Okay. You talk about measurable outcomes in this legislation. So what are these measurable outcomes? Are you going to put targets in place to reduce the number of Maori in care?

I don’t like targets; that’s the first thing.

So that’s a no?

Yeah, because that says that there’s an acceptable level. I want to see a reduction of— And actually, something like 80% of the Maori children who are in the care of the Oranga Tamariki are living in whanau placements. So they’re not inside care and protection areas or anything like that. They are with whanau, but the CE still technically has legal guardianship rights over them.

Well, if you look at the statistics, 59% of children in care are Maori, and yet Maori are 15% of the population.

That’s right.

Would it not be a goal to say it would be actually representative of the population?

Oh, absolutely. It’s a wonderful goal for it to be representative of the population. But let’s be clear –Oranga Tamariki cannot change all the social ills; Oranga Tamariki’s job is to protect children.

Full transcript: http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1905/S00273/the-nation-minister-for-children-tracey-martin.htm

Nation: Minister of Children on Oranga Tamariki changes

Minister of Children Tracey Martin will be interviewed on Newshub’s Nation this morning:

2017’s launch of Oranga Tamariki signaled hope for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children. Lisa Owen asks Minister for Children Tracey Martin how much has changed under the revamped organisation – and whether life is really better for our kids in care.

Progress will be difficult to measure and it may be too soon to tell whether things have improved appreciably. This is a very challenging portfolio.

Tracey Martin says only 150 caregivers have been recruited since Oranga Tamariki’s formation. The target is 1000.

Newshub Nation has learnt that children in state care are being kept in motel rooms because there are not enough caregivers for them – Tracey Martin says that is a major concern.

…says Oranga Tamariki is not fulfilling its promise to kids they took out of their homes

One caregiver told Newshub Nation that a social worker didn’t meet their child for eight months, others say they are fearful of the Ministry’s direction. Tracey Martin said thats “interesting”.

Social workers and carers have told Newshub Nation that they are on the verge of revolt.

Martin says she wasn’t aware of this level of concern and says she has had good feedback from meetings she has had.

It could be that progress (or lack of) varies in different parts of the country.

Inquiry into abuse of children in state care

The Labour Party has made a commitment to set up an inquiry into the historic abuse of children in state care, something National had refused to do when in government.

Labour Party:  Taking action in our first 100 days

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care

In February this year an open letter called for an inquiry:  Prominent Kiwis call for independent inquiry into claims of abuse of children in state care

Prominent Kiwis have banded together to demand an independent inquiry into the claims of sexual and physical abuse of children in state care.

The Human Rights Commission has spearheaded an open letter to the Government, published in today’s Herald, calling for a comprehensive inquiry and a public apology to those who were abused, and their families, in what is described as a dark chapter of our history.

Among the 29 signatories of what now underpins the “Never Again” petition to the Government are Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner and former National MP Jackie Blue, former Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements, and the Otago University dean of law, Professor Mark Henaghan.

The background to their call is:

• In 2001 the Government issued an apology and compensation to a group of former patients of the former Lake Alice psychiatric hospital, after a report by a retired judge who had interviewed them and found their claims credible.

• The issue spread to former patients of other asylums and the Government set up a confidential listening service for them to speak of the abuse they had suffered.

• Former state wards made claims for abuse in state care and a listening service was created for them.

• The head of that service, Judge Carolyn Henwood, recommended creating an independent body to resolve historic and current complaints.

• The Government last year rejected that recommendation.

Greens supported this letter and an inquiry: Greens support call for inquiry into state care

The Green Party backs today’s open letter from the Human Rights Commission and others calling for a government inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, and for a formal apology to be made to the victims.

“There is a growing list of organisations and people who are calling for a government inquiry into the abuse of children in the state’s care. It seems everyone but the Government realises that an inquiry and a formal apology are essential to helping the victims find some sense of closure, and to ensure that children in state care now and in the future are protected from abuse,” said Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie.

“The prominent New Zealanders signing this letter today have seen the effects and heard the evidence about the abuse of children in state care, and because of that they are calling for an inquiry and apology.

“Not every child in state care suffered abuse, but the fact that so many did means that it is crucial that there is accountability from the system that perpetrated this abuse.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin is now Minister for Children and was interviewed about an inquiry in the weekend – The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Tracey Martin


Lisa Owen: Now, the new government’s committed to an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care. The move’s been welcomed, but there are few details that have been released so far. So how will it all work? We’re joined now by the new Minister for Children, New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin. Good morning, Minister.

So, the inquiry — what are you thinking? Will it have the power to compel witnesses?

Tracey Martin: And all of these details, unfortunately, are still to be worked through. So I’ve had two meetings with officials to clarify what are our options, what sort of inquiry will it be, will it have those sort of powers, who will we consult before we even scope out the cabinet paper, for example, to take it to cabinet. So at this stage, I can’t answer that question 100%.

Lisa Owen: It’s on your 100 day plan.

Tracey Martin: It’s on the Labour Party’s 100 day plan that this government will deliver, yes.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, and so you’re part of that.

Tracey Martin: Yes, we are.

Lisa Owen: So in terms of that, you’re running out of time to come up with these answers, so what are you thinking, though? If not having a solid idea, do you think it would be the best-case scenario to be able to compel witnesses?

Tracey Martin: It’s not something that I’ve traversed at the moment with the officials. The major priority that we had was actually around making sure that within the 100 days, so the 4th of February is the close-off date — 3rd, 4th of February is the close-off date that we’re talking about — that we will have in place a basis for an inquiry that will provide an opportunity for those who have been victims to come forward with comfort to be able to express their truth, to be able to be validated in that truth and to feel that they have received the justice and the validation that they need. So those are the things that have been the driving part of the conversations at this stage.

Lisa Owen: Okay, because the brief is to get it set up in the 100 days.

Tracey Martin: Yes, that’s right.

Lisa Owen: So will the inquiry have the scope to attribute blame?

Tracey Martin: Well, it’s one of those things. If you look at the Never Again campaign, that was never a driver. It wasn’t about finding somebody or something to hang some guilt on. It was about making sure that the truth was told, that we bravely face actions that took place in this country that harmed individuals and that those individuals received an apology.

Lisa Owen: But the victims want truth and accountability, so will there be accountability through this inquiry?

Tracey Martin: I guess what I’m driving at is basically saying that if you put out the truth, there are going to have to be recognition by the state that this is what happened to these people and they were under the care of the state at that time. If you’re asking me are there going to be people that are then going to be charged or held accountable through the justice system, I can’t make that statement, because I’m not in charge of the justice system.

Lisa Owen: What period will the inquiry investigate?

Tracey Martin: Well, at this stage, that’s part of the scoping that’s being done, and I don’t want to actually pre-empt that. There are at least 20 organisations that the officials are now talking to before we take a proposed scope to cabinet.

Lisa Owen: So you mentioned an apology. There will definitely be a formal apology from the government?

Tracey Martin: Again, I can’t make that commitment on behalf of the government. I can tell you where I’m coming from.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, tell me where you’re coming from.

Tracey Martin: So, where I’m coming from is if we stand in our truth and we bravely say, ‘This is the reality that happened to these New Zealanders under the care of the state,’ then the state has a responsibility to acknowledge that, to own it and therefore there should be an apology. But I don’t speak on behalf of the whole government. That has to go to cabinet.

Lisa Owen: Who do you think would be the appropriate person to make that apology, then?

Tracey Martin: I don’t know. I had this question asked of me on Te Karere as well. I don’t know. Because I’ve been in the job two weeks, let’s be clear. I don’t know whether it would be appropriate for a minister at my level, whether it should come from the Prime Minister, whether it should even be bigger than that.

Lisa Owen: What’s your gut feeling? Should it be the Prime Minister?

Tracey Martin: I think if we’re going to take responsibility for what is actually going to come out in this inquiry, and we have a very clear idea of the sort of the incidents that are going to be exposed, then it’s a very, very serious— it’s very serious acts that have taken place here, and I think it needs to be dealt with at the highest level.

Lisa Owen: So Prime Minister, then, in your view. So do you think that you will set up some kind of independent authority, a permanent independent authority, like the IPCA, to monitor treatment of kids in care and the actions of the ministry? Is that something you would like to see?

Tracey Martin: Yes, I think there is a need for that. I think it’s that transparency that we’re hoping to actually— Part of what Oranga Tamariki, the reason why it was set up by the previous government and part of the direction of travel it’s in now is to make sure that we are more transparent, that we are working more closely with our communities, that the voice of children is heard more often. And so an independent body whereby complaints can be taken, I think, would be a really good and transparent thing. It would help both the ministry and our children.

Lisa Owen: How much will is there to do that?

Tracey Martin: I think there’s quite strong will to do that.

Lisa Owen: So you’re quite confident you can get that over the line?

Tracey Martin: I think— Well, I’m fairly confident about my argumentative skills, so I believe that it would be in the best interest of children.

Lisa Owen: So Labour supports it, basically, is what I’m asking.

Tracey Martin: At this stage, again, I haven’t taken it to cabinet, but I believe the will is there to actually say there needs to be this level of transparency.

 

NZ First move on from anti-smacking law

NZ First have campaigned strongly on having a referendum on the anti-smacking law, and it was one of their ‘bottom lines’. But new Minister for Children say that it was dropped during negotiations recently and ‘it was time to look at a range of other measures to improve children’s safety’.

NZH: Anti-smacking referendum dropped during coalition negotiations

New Zealand First’s wish to hold a referendum on the anti-smacking law was dropped in coalition negotiations, new Minister for Children Tracey Martin says.

“That was one of the policies that did not survive the negotiations,” Martin told RNZ’s Checkpoint. “So let’s move on.”

The change removed the legal defence of “reasonable force” for parents who were prosecuted for assaulting their children.

Last week Family First reminded NZ First of its 2014 pledge not to enter a coalition without a pledge to have a referendum on the anti-smacking law.

“NZ First campaigned strongly on fixing the anti-smacking law – an issue important to many families. We will continue to ask them to deliver on their pledge,” Family First said in a statement.

Martin said the focus on the smacking law had not worked, and it was time to look at a range of other measures to improve children’s safety – such as prevention.

Good to see common sense prevail.

We have already had a referendum, in 2009, but the question was too vague and loaded, and the result was ignored by politicians.

The Nation – Jacinda Ardern transcript

Jacinda Ardern is an important part of Labour’s election campaign, being promoted alongside Andrew Little as his deputy leader.

She has previously said she has no ambition to be Prime Minister.

Today in an interview on The Nation she effectively said that being Deputy Prime Minister doesn’t matter to her. She said it would be a fantastic outcome if she’s a minister but not deputy.

My relative position actually doesn’t matter to me. If we’re in government, that matters to me.

So if I’m not deputy prime minister, but I’m a minister, that is fantastic. That means that we’ve won, and we’ve got a progressive government.

When asked about the Social Development portfolio she said her ambition is to be Minister for Children.

Children. I’m happy to say that I would very much like to be the Minister for Children. I’m very happy to say that.

For Labour’s no 2 that is not a very big ambition.

Anne Tolley is ranked 10 in National’s Cabinet, and is Minister of both Social Development and Children, as well as Local Government.

The interview on The Nation, and the transcript:

Lisa Owen: Well, it’s nine weeks out from the election, and Labour’s released its alternative budget, saying it would scrap National’s tax cuts and put those billions into social services. But could Labour’s plans to cut immigration and the spending plans of its potential coalition partners through a spanner in the works? Well, Labour’s deputy leader, Jacinda Ardern, joins me now. Good morning.

Jacinda Ardern: Good morning.

Lisa Owen: You’ve got fiscal responsibilities rules, and this was party to help show that you are financially sound, financially as sound as National. But does that mean that your alternative budget has turned out, well, a bit same-same, inoffensive but not bold, not enough to make people change?

Jacinda Ardern: No. I would really dispute that. I think what we’ve presented to the public, to voters, is a really clear choice this election. We’ve rejected the idea from National that we can afford tax cuts right now when we have a situation where, for instance, the Salvation Army is telling us we’ve got the worst homelessness that they have ever seen, kids doing homework in cars, people not able to access health services. The choice that we’re presenting to voters is we need to invest in those social services, reject the idea of $20 a week and make sure that New Zealand is the prosperous nation that gives a good start to every child.

Lisa Owen: So why not go bolder? You have nothing to lose, looking at the polls, so why not make a bigger, bolder statement?

Jacinda Ardern: Cancelling tax cuts and saying now is not the time for tax cuts, we’re investing in poverty, we’re reducing inequality is bold, and exactly the kind of boldness and courage that I think New Zealanders want to see from an alternative government.

Lisa Owen: So you feel you went far enough?

Jacinda Ardern: I think what we have done is bold. Certainly, when we put out the families package and our choice to cancel those tax cuts and instead invest in families, particularly families on low incomes, yeah, we got a lot of criticism for that. I think people acknowledged that was a big, stark difference to choose to reduce inequality and poverty, rather than what National have done, which some people interpreted as being a bit of an election bribe. Yeah, that was bold.

Lisa Owen: Okay, well, let’s take a closer look at your fiscal plan. It is based on the current Treasury projections for growth, which are around 3%. But economists that we’ve spoken to said that immigration makes up a huge chunk of that growth, counts for 1%-2%. Your party wants to take a breather on immigration, so that means knocking off a considerable amount of income. How are the numbers going to balance out?

Jacinda Ardern: An interesting point there. I mean, you’ve actually just pointed out that National’s plans for growth was immigration and the rebuild off the back of crises that New Zealand has experienced. Our view is that our growth should come off the back of investing in regional economic development, becoming a smarter economy through things like research and development tax credits. You know, innovating instead of just simply saying carte blanche that we shouldn’t worry about the strain on our infrastructure that immigration in and in of itself was an answer. It’s not an answer.

Lisa Owen: But your numbers are built on the foundation of current immigration numbers and current growth projections. If you cut immigration, you might not have that money, and if you’re looking at a coalition with Winston Peters, who wants 10,000 immigrants a year, you could be looking at even less money, less growth in GDP.

Jacinda Ardern: I think if anyone looks at the immigration policy that we’ve set out, anyone who can demonstrate that they have a skill shortage in their area will not have a problem accessing migrant labour. That’s what we’ve been really clear on. So we won’t see, for instance—

Lisa Owen: I suppose it’s a bit different. What we’re talking about here is the GDP growth that is generated through population growth, and all through Treasury’s fiscal update in May, it talked about the fact that immigration is expected to underpin real GDP growth. Population is one of the key drivers in the economy, it says. Slowing immigration will risk slowing growth.

Jacinda Ardern: And what we’ve said is that, actually, we’ve got a plan around economic development that isn’t simply reliant on population growth that we can’t meet the needs of. So instead, and we’ve been really clear in the fiscal plan that we’ve presented, which I should add that BERL that endorsed as being absolutely correct, that we’ll be investing in making sure that we diversify our economy and continue to stimulate it, but instead of just relying on population growth, saying we will have things like research and development tax credits, things like our $200 million regional economic development. Things that will generate jobs in New Zealand, also diversify our economy and innovate within our economy. That’s the kind of growth that New Zealanders want to see, rather than just saying the only way to see growth in our economy is simply through unvetted immigration that doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of migrants as well. They’re coming into New Zealand without even having the housing and infrastructure to have a decent life.

Lisa Owen: You raised jobs, so let’s go there. Labour’s aiming to get unemployment down from 5% to 4%. In real terms, how many jobs is that and how are you going to do it?

Jacinda Ardern: Yeah, we are, and we’ve talked about some of the specific ideas that we’ve had. For instance—

Lisa Owen: Sorry, how many jobs will that be in real terms?

Jacinda Ardern: Well, we’ve said we want to drop it down to 4% as a target. I can’t give you the specific number that that generates.

Lisa Owen: So about 25,000.

Jacinda Ardern: We’ve set 4% as a target, but we are a party that believes in full employment. I want to make that point. But some of the ideas that we’ve already set out, like, for instance, in Gisborne, where we have a large amount of unprocessed timber going off shore. We want to invest in that area to create a timber-processing plant that creates prefabricated housing that then helps us deal with our other major crisis in New Zealand, which is the housing crisis. We’ve looked in Whanganui, for instance. They’ve got jobs that will be generated if they have work done on their port. We’ve said we’ll invest there. We’re looking for ways that we can invest in our regional economies to try and generate jobs — real jobs — that they know right now, if they had a little bit of a boost, would make a real difference.

Lisa Owen: And I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that job creation is a good thing, but under National, unemployment is on track to drop to 4.3% by 2021 anyway. So I suppose we’re circling back round—

Jacinda Ardern: And what specific plans—?

Lisa Owen: …we’re circling back round to the fact that your critics would say you’re not being that ambitious. We’re getting there anyway — 4.3%. You’re offering us 0.3%. Is that enough to motivate people to change, which is what you want them to do.

Jacinda Ardern: And as I say, we’ve set some targets, but, actually, we are a party, as I say, is ambitious enough to say that, actually, what we want is full employment. We will never be satisfied as long we have anyone—

Lisa Owen: But that’s not the target you’ve set in the short term. The target you’ve set is this, which is so close to National’s, it could be National’s.

Jacinda Ardern: We’ve set a target that allows us to make some projections around the kind of spending in investment in other areas. But, as I say, as much as we’ve got a number in this fiscal plan, our target is that as long as there is anyone who is unable to work because they cannot find employment, that isn’t supported, that doesn’t have the dignity of that work, we will not be satisfied. Yeah, we put a number on it. We believe in full employment. That’s bold. And I would love to hear Steven Joyce say the same thing.

Lisa Owen: You say you’re going to spend about $17 billion more than National over four years — 8 billion in health, I think it is; 4 billion in education; Super Fund payments. All of that means carrying a higher debt load for longer, which is a costly exercise. How much does a billion bucks cost you in interest?

Jacinda Ardern: Yeah, and let’s put that in perspective. Yeah, we’ve said that relative to what the government’s doing, we will take on a bit more debt. So our debt track will actually take us about two years to get down to where the government’s saying. But let me be really clear on what we’re borrowing on, because I think that’s actually the point.

Lisa Owen: No, but before we get to that, there is a price that you pay for that. So what is that price?

Jacinda Ardern: Well, on the market, of course it costs less for a government to borrow than it does an individual, right. But let me be clear on what we’re borrowing for. We’re talking $3 billion for the Super Fund. The return on the Super Fund, we’re looking at around—

Lisa Owen: Your fiscal plan says it’s about $10 million in interest a day, I think it was. So that’s an opportunity cost, isn’t it?

Jacinda Ardern: Let me just answer the question. Which is why we’re trying to get the debt track down to 20%, and we’ll be there at about two years later than the government. The reason we’ve said that we’re willing to wear those extra two years is this — we cannot sit by while children live in cars. We are not willing to have a country where we can get the debt track down at the same rate as the government, but people suffer. So we will borrow for KiwiBuild, but that’s the kind of borrowing that we need. That’s the kind of borrowing that is justified. The other borrowing — the most substantial other bit of borrowing — is so that we can restart contributions to the—

Lisa Owen: To the Super Fund?

Jacinda Ardern: To the Super, where, actually, we get a return of about 10%, which is well over what we’ll be paying and what we’re borrowing to do it. That is justifiable debt. And also, I have to say, we will not be lectured by Steven Joyce when it comes to debt. We left in office, after Labour, a debt net — Crown debt — that was at around 10%, and now we’re up around, what, 25%? We’ve got goals to bring that down, yes, but we have a track record that proves we will.

Lisa Owen: Okay. Let’s move on to the diverted profits tax, which was announced this week. Andrew Little says he’s going to claw back money from foreign corporates who are not paying their fair share of tax. So, what’s that going to be set at? What rate?

Yeah, well, we’ve originally started out by saying we’ve written to multinationals. We’ve told them that this is our intention if they don’t come to the table.

Lisa Owen: But how much are you going to after them for?

Jacinda Ardern: Well, at the moment, IRD’s predicted that we’re forgoing over, I believe, from three to four years, about $600 million. So our view is they’ve set a really unambitious target of collecting, you know, about $100 million. Our view is that we can do better than that through a diverted tax.

Lisa Owen: Yes. Using what percentage?

Jacinda Ardern: But that’s set by IRD, dependent on what—

Lisa Owen: But you have already accounted, in your fiscal plan, for gains of $200 million a year. That’s taken into your costings from this tax. So you must’ve used some figure to work that out.

Jacinda Ardern: Based on what IRD have predicted is the forgone tax revenue that we’re losing, the government’s then gone, ‘Actually, we think that we can only then recoup a certain percentage of that.’ Our view is we can recoup more of that by actually investing in IRD to be able to do that, so we’ve budgeted for investing in IRD to—

Lisa Owen: You can’t give me a ballpark of what the tax level would be? So, in Australia, it’s like—

Jacinda Ardern: Because the diverted tax regime is set by IRD, based on how much they think the company has forgone in revenues, so that then comes down to an IRD discretion.

Lisa Owen: All right. So, you’ve got $10 billion that’s unaccounted for spending in your budget — so, unallocated spending — looking at your potential coalition partners — New Zealand First and the Greens — what policies of those parties do you like and that you think would be worthy of consideration for unallocated funds?

Jacinda Ardern: And the reason we’ve done that is because all governments do that. That’s the way that you build a fiscal plan. Because, also, you have to take into account inflation adjustments for your spending.

Lisa Owen: But there’s obviously money in there, because you’re going to have to have friends in a government, and friends like their policies to be implemented. What policies do you like from the Greens and New Zealand First that you think are worthy of consideration?

Jacinda Ardern: I love this hypothetical, because, of course, this is talking through Labour forming a government afterwards. And, of course, that’s the position that we’re out there campaigning on, to be in that position to be able to do that. But, ultimately, as every election has generated, that’s the conversation you have after the election. We’ve put out a set of priorities—

Lisa Owen: So you don’t like any of their policies?

Jacinda Ardern: Oh, there are similarities in some of the policies.

Lisa Owen: So which ones do you like?

Jacinda Ardern: There’s some similarities in the Families Package and what the Greens have put out in theirs, because we’ve both targeted poverty alleviation and looking after middle income.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, but the Greens propose to spend more on a family package, so would you support some of their initiatives in spending more in those areas that they’ve suggested?

Jacinda Ardern: Oh, well, if you look, for instance, at what we’ve done with Best Start, which is about investing in children in their early years, they’ve got something that they’ve called a Child Benefit, and so there’s some similarities there.

Lisa Owen: But they are spending more, so is that a policy that you would support being implemented?

Jacinda Ardern: That’s all for negotiation. But even though they’ve spent more—

Lisa Owen: But voters want to know what exactly they’re voting for.

Yeah, and if they vote for Labour, they get our Families Package. If they vote for the Greens or any other party, then it comes down to a negotiation afterwards. But my simple message, Lisa, to any voter—

Lisa Owen: Let’s move on, because you, personally, want to eradicate child poverty — that’s what you’ve said — and the Children’s Commissioner says benefits should be tagged to wages, like Super. So why not commit to that? Why not make a bold move and commit to something like that?

Jacinda Ardern: Because the Children’s Commissioner has also talked about doing things like investing in the early years of a child’s life. In fact, we looked at some of the research and analysis, and it told us that, actually, the period of a child’s life where they experience the most persistent poverty is —

Lisa Owen: I know you’re giving a universal baby bonus in these winter payments. I’m asking you about this. Why not do that?

Jacinda Ardern: If you just let me finish. He also pointed out that, actually, if we increase the payments for those early years, that’s going to make a really big difference to those low-income families and those ones in poverty. So we prioritise that—

Lisa Owen: So you don’t think you need to tag benefits to wages, is that what you’re saying?

Jacinda Ardern: We haven’t done it in this package, but we have acknowledged that those families who are on constrained incomes, who are on benefits, are doing it tough. And those are the areas where kids are suffering. What we’ve done goes to those beneficiary families as well.

Lisa Owen: Yes, but this is a step further, I suppose. And you’ve also said in the past that you think that the Commissioner needs to have more power, and you don’t get more power just through money. You get more power by implementing his suggestions or ideas.

Jacinda Ardern: Indeed.

Lisa Owen: So why not go with this one? Why not go with a big, bold—?

Jacinda Ardern: What will give him more power is, actually, greater independence, the ability to speak freely. And we want him to do that. We want any Children’s Commissioner in the future to have the ability to hold us to account.

Lisa Owen: Okay, so you’re not prepared to take that on, then?

Jacinda Ardern: But, to be fair, everything that we did in this package — the Winter Energy Payment, the Best Start payment, the increases to the Family Tax Credit, all go to families on benefits. In fact, by doing what we’ve done, we’ve got a big boost—

Lisa Owen: You’ve said that, and viewers will get that, but really the question is about whether it’s enough of an incentive, if it’s bold enough, if it’s dynamic enough to get people to change — which is what you want them to do.

Jacinda Ardern: And what I would say is that those families we have targeted, in the most need, end up being thousands of dollars better off. And that would even do more, in some cases, than what the Children’s Commissioner has suggested.

Lisa Owen:  Sorry to interrupt, but we want to get to a couple of other things. You’ve made it clear that you’re not keen to be Prime Minister; it’s not on your radar. How likely do you think it is that you’re going to be deputy prime minister?

Jacinda Ardern: Do you know, for me, if we’re in the position where we’re negotiating those positions, then that’s where I want us to be.

Lisa Owen: Come on, how likely? How likely is it?

Jacinda Ardern: My relative position actually doesn’t matter to me. If we’re in government, that matters to me.

Lisa Owen: Is the reason—?

Jacinda Ardern: So if I’m not deputy prime minister, but I’m a minister, that is fantastic. That means that we’ve won, and we’ve got a progressive government.

Lisa Owen: So you’re prepared to give up the opportunity of that role if one of the people you’re in coalition with—?

Jacinda Ardern: Yeah, because, as I’ve said, it’s never been about me. If we are in a position to be in government, that’s what I want. I don’t care about my relative status in that government.

Lisa Owen: Okay, so would you rather it be a Green or Winston Peters who held that position?

Jacinda Ardern: I’m loving this negotiation that we’re conducting here, Lisa.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, well, voters want to know what they’re getting. All right, let’s be fair, they want to know what they’re getting. So I’m asking you what your thoughts are.

Jacinda Ardern: And I agree with you. Voters deserve, in an MMP environment, to know, which is why we have the MOU. We’ve indicated that we’re going to work with the Greens. New Zealand First is a wildcard for voters. They could go with either Labour or National. If people want to change the government, the clearest way to do that is with Labour. Beyond that—

Lisa Owen: So, Greens is your preference, then?

Jacinda Ardern: Yes. We’ve got an MOU with the Greens.

Lisa Owen: And Greens is your preference for deputy prime minister as well?

Jacinda Ardern: I’m not saying that. That’s words in my mouth. What I’m saying is that, ultimately, there’s a range of things that will be on the table, but for me, it doesn’t matter to me.

Lisa Owen: You’ve mentioned a ministerial portfolio. So, social development — is that one that you’d like?

Jacinda Ardern: Children. I’m happy to say that I would very much like to be the minister for children. I’m very happy to say that.

Lisa Owen: Just before we go, if something should happen, as Winston Peters suggests, and your polling goes down and your leader is out, if it is a decision between stepping up for your party or not, will you do that?

Jacinda Ardern: Andrew Little is taking us to the election.

Lisa Owen: What about after the election?

Jacinda Ardern: Andrew Little is taking us to the election for victory. There’s no Plan B.

Lisa Owen: All right. Thanks for joining us this morning. Nice to talk to you.