Complaint to Auditor General over Partnership Schools

The Opposition is keeping up the pressure on the Government, in particular on Minister of Education Chris Hipkins, over proposed legislation to scrap Partnership Schools.

National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has sent a complaint to the Auditor General “outlining potential issues to be investigated regarding the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools”.

Complaint to Auditor-General regarding partnership schools

National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has today sent a letter to the Auditor-General outlining potential issues to be investigated regarding the Government’s handling of the impending potential closure of partnership schools.

“I want to stress that I while I believe there are serious grounds for the Auditor-General to investigate, it will be up to the Auditor-General to determine if there have been any issues with the process regarding partnership schools and any potential perceived conflicts of interest,” Ms Kaye says.

“It is important that all of the evidence and paperwork is made available and transparent before any conclusions are reached.

“The first area of complaint relates to Minister Hipkins’ and the Ministry of Education’s process around the discussions with partnership schools about their futures.

“The Minister has made several unfortunate comments that indicate he has a closed mind and there is potential evidence that the schools have undue pressure being put on them to terminate their contracts.

“I believe the Minister’s and the Ministry’s process is fundamentally flawed and there is public interest in investigating it.

“The second area of complaint relates to perceived conflicts of interest, or failure of Ministers to manage or declare conflicts of interest. This is set out in the letter I have sent to the Auditor-General.

“Given the serious nature of the letter, I hope to meet with the Auditor-General in the next couple of weeks.”

Kaye versus Davis on Partnership Schools

It’s fair to say that Kelvin Davis has been unimpressive as Labour’s deputy leader. He is also in an awkward position over Partnership Schools, last year having threatened to resign if they are closed. Current Government policy seems to be to shut them down.

Davis was questioned by Nikki Kaye in Parliament today in his role as Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education).

@GwynnCompton tweeted:

Wow! just demonstrated in the House that Kelvin Davis may have given preferential treatment to Partnership Schools he’s connected to, and the cold shoulder to those he’s not. Needs to be stood down immediately by pending an investigation.

Not only should Davis had recused himself from any dealings with He Puna Marama Trust due to his role as Associate Education Minister, but he then knowingly ignored another Partnership School in his electorate!

3. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education): What discussions and visits has he had with schools to discuss Māori education and any opportunities for improved achievement?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education): I’ve visited schools and have had many discussions as both Associate Minister of Education and as the local MP for Te Tai Tokerau. We are working on ways to improve achievement, including removing national standards and increasing the supply of Māori and Te Reo teachers.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Has he made any undertakings to a partnership school helping young Māori that he would ensure that their school would be approved as a special character school?


Hon Nikki Kaye: When he said in relation to a discussion about Māori education, “I’ve been working closely with He Puna Marama Trust, and the CEO and the senior management there and we’re very confident that together we’ll make sure this transition happens very easily with very little fuss.”, was he speaking to this partnership school in his capacity as a Minister?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No. And when I was speaking to them, I talked them through the information that the Minister has made publicly available to allay the fears of the scaremongering and misinformation that the Opposition has been bandying around.

Hon Nikki Kaye: When he said yesterday in Parliament in relation to Māori education, “I’ve had communications with some current charter schools.”, has he had any communications with partnership schools that are not in his electorate; if so, which ones?


Hon Nikki Kaye: Can he confirm that when he said yesterday that he’d had discussions with charter schools in his electorate that he has given preferential treatment to some partnership schools in his electorate but the cold shoulder to others?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The premise is just wrong.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Isn’t it true that he made himself available to discuss education impacting young Māori with He Puna Mārama, but when Villa Education Trust, in his electorate, sent him 50 pieces of correspondence, the only thing they got back was being asked to be taken off their mailing list?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I have absolutely no idea what the member is talking about.

Hon Tracey Martin: Can the Minister confirm, or is he aware of, other Associate Ministers of Education who have had interaction with the sponsors of Villa schools or conversations with chief executives of charter schools such as Vanguard—among the other Associate Ministers of Education?

Mr SPEAKER: No, that’s actually not a matter that is the Minister’s responsibility.

Later in the afternoon the Education Amendment act was debated. First up Minister of Education Chris Hipkins referred to Partnership Schools:

The bill provides for the removal of charter schools from the New Zealand education system. This fulfils a clear commitment made by Labour, by New Zealand First, and by the Green Party from the moment the charter school model was first mooted.

The bill does include transitional provisions, which means that the repeal of this legislation will not affect existing charter schools that are currently in operation. This bill has no impact on them at all. In parallel with this legislative process, we are having conversations with those existing charter schools about how they might come into the public education system, and there are a range of options for that on the table.

I think it’s unfortunate that some members of this House have been encouraging schools not to take part in that negotiation process. They would prefer that those schools closed rather than continued to educate and people. They would rather turn those young people into—well, make them into—footballs for their political purposes rather than acting in the best interests of those young New Zealanders.

I am aware, from the feedback that I’ve had so far, that the operators of the existing charter schools have largely ignored those urgings from the members opposite and are engaging in good faith about how they can continue to deliver education for young New Zealanders, and I encourage them to keep doing that. When we said that we were going to negotiate with them in good faith, that is exactly what we meant, and we are going to live up to that commitment.

Nikki Kaye in response:

Look, the National Party is opposing this bill, and we’re opposing it for a range of reasons. I think my message to the Government is they may be quite surprised at how many people end up submitting on this bill. The number of parents that are writing to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education regarding the removal of national standards is phenomenal.

I’ve given speeches in this House and, as I said before, I protested on the weekend. I know that there are members opposite, including Kelvin Davis, who threatened to resign if these partnership schools were closed. The reality is—here are the facts.

Kelvin Davis:

So when they’re all open next year, what are you going to do?

Nikki Kay:

The facts are that what this legislation and what the ministry is doing—and they confirmed this at select committee so members can yell all they want, but they actually can’t deny these facts—is that the partnership schools are being given these options: mutually terminate, terminate, or see out your contract. The model is gone. That means that those partnership schools close.

Davis has given a speech in response:

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Madam Assistant Speaker. Well, that was a waste of breath. The member may as well have not even started speaking.

…Then we get to charter schools themselves, and the model is going. Now I remember in the election campaign, and it’s well documented, that I said that I would resign if any of those schools—the two schools up in the far north—were closed. Now I could say that as the member of Parliament for Te Tai Tokerau, safe in the knowledge—with my educational background—that there were alternatives that would be able to be implemented, because we can close the model but the schools don’t have to close.

Now, here’s the test. All those people over there who are saying I need to resign—

David Seymour: You do.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: —and I’ll take David Seymour there—if those schools’ doors are open on day one of next year, if the same teachers are teaching in that school, if those same children are there wearing the same uniforms, will that member resign? Will any of these members resign if the school is still operating, albeit under a different model?

Erica Stanford: What about the other charter schools in your electorate?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No, it won’t be a charter school. Will that member over there who’s spouting off—will she resign? Yes or no? Put up or shut up. Put up or shut up. You don’t have any moral mandate—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order! Order!

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: —to sit there and bellow your—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order! Order! Do not bring the Speaker into the debate.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: My apologies, Madam Assistant Speaker. But those people over there do not have any moral mandate to call for my resignation if they’re not prepared to resign for themselves if those schools—the doors are open, the same teachers are there, and the same children are sitting in front of them. They—silence now, isn’t there? Silence now.

Erica Stanford: Go to Vanguard.

David Seymour: Point of order, Madam Speaker.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: So—oh, “Go to Vanguard.”

Erica Stanford: Why won’t you? You’ve never been.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No, I haven’t been, and why would I go to a school where I don’t support the model? There you go.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): Order! I apologise—point of order, David Seymour.

David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I apologise for interrupting the member’s speech, but I just wanted him to know that if he’s happy to yield some time, I’ll happily answer the question.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): That’s not a valid point of order.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: OK, so there’s been—

Hon David Bennett: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I’d just like to confirm that I heard the Minister say he would not go to a school that he did not like the model of. Is that true?

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): That’s not a valid point of order. Please sit down.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Look, there are hundreds of schools across the Tai Tokerau, and what the members over there forget is that when you are a Māori member of Parliament in an electorate seat—not only do I have my electorate but in the Tai Tokerau there’s 10 other electorates. If they think it’s a hard job getting around the schools in their electorate, well, then, they need to realise that it’s actually 10 times harder for a member of Parliament in a Māori electorate.

But they’re saying, why don’t I go and visit Vanguard Military School. Look, I’ve had my Associate Minister delegation since 5 December. Since 5 December, there were about 10 school days towards the end of the year. Now anybody who has any knowledge of the education system knows it’s not a good idea for some boffin from Wellington to go to a school at the end of the year, because that’s when you’re having teacher-parent interviews, that’s when the teachers are doing reports, and that’s when the school production’s on. Those people over there don’t understand those pressures because they have never ever been in the education system. Now, they’re saying, “Oh, why haven’t I gone to the three”, or whatever number of fingers they’re holding up. They forget that there are hundreds of schools in my electorate, because it’s 10 times the size of their electorate.

Then there’s been all the misinformation. There’s the scaremongering, there’s the misinformation, and there’s members going around and ringing up saying, “The sky’s going to fall in if these schools close.” Look, there’s nothing to stop those same schools delivering what they are delivering now. It’s just a different model, and that’s really what they’re scared about. They’re scared that these schools are going to be successful despite the fact that they won’t be called charter schools. That’s what they’re scared of. They’re scared of our success.

Now we need to look at what the difference is. Oh no—actually, no, sorry. I’m just going to go through some of the propaganda that’s been promulgated in the media and supported by these guys. I see in today’s paper that the Villa school was complaining about “Davis’ visits to another charter school.” Sorry, since I’ve been the Associate Minister, I haven’t visited any other charter schools. So that’s fallacy number one.

Then it says that “Davis had been in negotiations with”—I haven’t been in negotiations. All I did when they rang me up was take them through the information that the excellent Minister of Education has proactively released and talked them through it, and as soon as you talk them through that information, then all their concerns sort of dim down and die away because they’re actually getting the facts.

But, of course, they want to make out like there’s some big conspiracy—that there’s favouritism amongst the charter schools. Well, actually, I’ve reached out to the Villa Education Trust and I got in touch with their academic manager last night, and I said, “Look, give your boss”—whatever his name is—”my phone number. He can ring my office.”, but, no, there’s been no contact. Although I asked him to give my office a ring, there’s been no contact. Now I think that that person is, again, scared that they can be successful without the charter school model. That’s what their real fear is. That’s what their real fear is. They’re buying into the misinformation and the scaremongering of the members opposite, and then they are coming up themselves—

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Poto Williams): I apologise to the member. His time has expired.

Swarbrick medicinal cannabis fails, promises made

As expected MPs failed to represent the majority of New Zealanders and voted against the Swarbrick Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment Bill.

Even the few National MP’s who were granted special permission (in a fucking conscience vote!) to vote for the bill decided not to back a dead horse – but some of them  have made assurances they will work on fixing the pathetic Government bill that purports to address the issues.

In her opening and closing speeches in the first reading Chloe Swarbrick tried to promote the bill but seemed to resigned to failure.

A number of MPs pointed to the Government bill, already past it’s first reading, as a way of trying to get something decent and compassionate for the people of New Zealand, but that will require some work.

Ex Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman (National):

So much as I’m critical of this current Government and much as they also left a lot out of the bill that was before the House yesterday, what that bill yesterday had was a regulation-making power, and that regulation-making power in the Government bill sets the groundwork for a regulatory scheme to create a market place that will increase the access for people who need medicinal cannabis products, and it will mean that they can get products that have been approved on the basis of the available evidence to help relieve their debilitating conditions. That is the way to go.

The other thing about the Government bill is the select committee process will allow all those who have an interest in this particular bill to submit to the select committee and have their case heard. So I think—much as I’m no fan of this Government—that the bill that the Government brought to the House yesterday will enable that public discussion that thousands of New Zealanders wish to have.

I hope MPs listen to the people far better than they have on the Swarbrick bill.

Greg O’Connor (Labour):

What the Government bill that went to select committee yesterday has done is it has bought us time, which will allow us to address many of the issues that have been brought up here today.

Actually the Government bill was rushed to beat Labour’s 100 day deadline and addresses the issues poorly.

But it will mean that when we move forward, we get it right. We don’t have to recreate. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. It’s been done. We pride ourselves on being world leaders on this, and we can.

New Zealand doesn’t lead, it trails Australia, it trails the US, it trails Canada, it is badly behind progress elsewhere in the world on cannabis law reform.

What I implore the House and my fellow members to do is don’t send this to select committee. Let’s get it right, let’s start with a blank bit of paper, and let New Zealand end up with a highly workable cannabis regime that makes it safe for our children and for all those in the future, and, most importantly, that gets it out of the hands of criminals.

Odd comments. The Government bill is already in place, and it’s screwed paper. But at least it’s a toe in the Parliament door.

Dr Liz Craig (Labour) supported the bill, but expressed some concerns.

So why am I supporting it to select committee? I think the first thing is that so many people around the country have been in touch. There’s a real sense out there that people want their voices heard, and I think select committee will allow us to do that.

The other thing is that we saw that the Government’s own bill passed its first reading yesterday and will go to select committee. I think that bill will address a lot of the issues that people in the community are raising, but what I would like to see is some formal discussion about whether and how much further we can go beyond people that have got a terminal illness. So that’s why I’d like that looked at in that select committee process.

So for me I think we need to have that debate. We need to have people to be able to put forward their views, and we need to think about the broader extension, but I think a lot of those other issues need to be sorted out at select committee so that we’ve got a safe, high quality product and we know who’s going to get the benefit from it, but we’ve got to step back from causing further harm.

Nikki Kay (National):

So I’m faced with two bills that have come before this Parliament. Both of them are flawed. One goes too far and one does too little. So that is the dilemma that I have, and I actually believe there are many members of Parliament in this House that have the same dilemma. And this is why I am conflicted. I want to acknowledge the work that you have done.

I will not be voting for the legislation this evening, but what I am committed to doing, with other members of Parliament—and I know from the conversations that I’ve had in the last 24 hours. I’m not going to cross the floor on a bill that I know, even with my vote from the National Party, we don’t have the numbers for.

It shouldn’t have been necessary to ‘cross the floor’, it was supposed to be a conscience vote. Not allowing National MPs a conscience should weigh heavily on Bill English’s conscience.

But what I will do is I will work with Chlӧe Swarbrick, I will work with the Prime Minister, I will work with those other members in New Zealand First that want change around those people who have chronic pain or debilitating conditions to provide greater access for either cannabis products or loose leaf.

And I think we can do that with the existing Government bill, and that is what I will be campaigning for, and I commit to working with you, Chlӧe, and other members of the House—to try and deliver that. It has been one of the toughest political decisions that I have ever had to make. But I want to then finally speak to the people in the gallery but also the people that are watching tonight. It’s very easy to look at parliamentarians and think they don’t care. That is not my experience of this place. People do care. And there is a pathway through, and I’ll be fighting for that.

I hope she does fight for that.

Nicky Wagner (National):

So, in summary, National certainly supports the use of the therapeutic cannabis-based products for their patients, but we cannot support this bill. Yesterday we voted for the Government’s bill as a stop-gap, but with the clear expectation that the Government will work efficiently, well, and urgently to set up the medicinal cannabis scheme as promised—a scheme that can deliver secure access for patients, that can deliver consistent and assured quality control for the product, affordability, and a safe, well-managed supply chain.

Chris Bishop (National):

So when we come to the two bills that have come to the House on successive days, we talk about David Clark’s bill. That does one very worthy thing and one thing the previous Government had already done, and is utterly silent on the very worthy thing it purports to do…

What the bill doesn’t do is establish a regulatory scheme to actually establish medicinal cannabis in New Zealand. It says it does, but it doesn’t. We have to wait at least two years for that to happen.

So then we come to this bill. Now, it, too, is inadequate. Members have canvassed, on this side and the other side as well, a lot of deficiencies. It does not set up any sort of regulated market for medicinal marijuana. There are no controls on production and supply. It will not give doctors any confidence—and this is a very important point—about prescribing medicinal marijuana. The qualifying criteria, as my colleague Shane Reti pointed out, are too broad. So it was a difficult decision, but I have decided to vote against the bill.

Ultimately, I want a conversation about wider access to medicinal marijuana and how we can design a world’s best practice regulatory regime for New Zealand. The appropriate place for that is at the select committee, the Health Committee, that considers the Government bill that purports to establish that scheme.

I also, and this is very important, want the voices of those with chronic pain to be heard and listened to. Again, the right place for this is at select committee, and as part of designing a good regulatory regime we must listen to the thousands of New Zealanders out there who get therapeutic value from medicinal cannabis.

I thought Greg O’Connor made a very important point in his contribution to the debate. Let’s get this right, through the Government bill that sets up at least the starting point to, over the next couple of years, and I suspect beyond as well, through Government consultation and through engagement with this side of the House—because I think there is good-hearted support, as you’ve heard from members on the National side tonight, for a robust regulatory regime that allows people who gain therapeutic value from medicinal marijuana products to use them. But let’s get this right.

I’ll be looking to Bishop, Kaye and others to work hard on at least improving the Government bill. It’s the least they should do after failing to support the Swarbrick bill at least to Select Committee.

Full transcript of the first reading


National Standards scrapped with no replacement

The contentious National Standards in education have been scrapped, with no alternative lined up and nothing planned until next September.

RNZ: National standards ditched by government

This year’s achievement rates in the national standards in reading, writing and maths will remain a mystery after the government began the process of ditching the standards.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced schools would not have to report their 2017 results to the Education Ministry and would not be required to use or report on the standards next year.

Mr Hipkins said the government would develop a new system to replace the standards next year in consultation with teachers and principals.

Former Education Minister, National Party MP Nikki Kaye, said the government had taken a “nuclear approach” in moving so quickly to abolish the benchmarks.

“It’s a very sad day for New Zealand. We’ve got the minister making a decision that affects hundreds and thousands of children and their parents without consulting with parents,” she said.

Ms Kaye said the decision would leave a gap in national information about children’s performance at school and parents would not know how their children’s achievement would be reported next year.

But Mr Hipkins said parents and teachers were expecting the announcement.

“I don’t think anyone will be surprised that we are ditching a failed experiment,” he said.

He said schools could continue to use the standards if they wanted to.

So they are not scrapped, they are now just voluntary?

Treasury recommended retaining the standards until replacement ready

A Cabinet paper published today said the new system would measure children’s progress and focus on “key competencies for success in life, learning and work”.

It said in the meantime the government would require schools to report on children’s progress as well as achievement with an emphasis on good quality information from a range of sources.

The paper showed Treasury supported the plan to measure children’s progress against a wider range of subjects, but warned that dumping the standards would create a gap in national information about children’s achievement.

It recommended retaining the standards until the replacement system was ready.

It seems like a rush job to make it look like the Government is active in making changes, but seems a bit half cocked.

The new Opposition

National is beginning a stint in Opposition after nine years in government. This will take some adjusting as the powerful become relatively powerless. They will have a large 56 member caucus, so they could be a force in holding the new government to account, but if not managed well they could factionalise and fight for ascendancy in some sort of new order.

It will be important that they don’t go to negative, and pick their battles wisely, and execute them well – and fairly. A criticism of the outgoing Labour Opposition was their tendency to attack and whinge too much, with ‘barking at every passing car’ becoming a common observation.

Bill English has to adjust from being at the top of the power pyramid, for eight years as Minister of Finance and deputy PM topped by a year as Prime Minister, to battling for attention and relevancy.

English has probably suffered worse before, his disastrous attempt at leading National into the 2002 election. He should have learned lessons from that, both personally and for the party.

Competing leadership ambitions may or may not challenge the party. At this stage English says he has no intention of standing down, a wise choice in the interim at least.

He will be aware of the problems Labour had when Helen Clark announced her exit immediately on losing the election in 2008, and the subsequent floundering of the party for nearly nine years. Just three months ago it looked like Labour could be disintegrating, until Jacinda Ardern took over and dramatically turned things around.

There is no obvious leader-in-waiting in the National caucus.

Steven Joyce has never seemed to have ambitions for the top job (so far) and may be too connected to National’s recent electoral failure in the Northland by-election, and the knarly recent campaign that was probably rescued by English’s performance.

I doubt that the re-confirmed deputy Paula Bennett would be publicly popular enough to rise to the top. She may also find it difficult to fight against some rumours and some dirty sly attacks that have been fomenting mostly outside the public gaze.

I doubt that Judith Collins has anywhere near the caucus or public appeal to make a serious bid.

English may well stay on as leader through to the next election, but he will find it difficult competing if the new generation government led by Ardern is reasonably successful.

At some time, perhaps in about a year, or forced by panic closer to the election if polls go badly for National, someone new will rise to ascendancy and look a good bet. Simon Bridges and Nikki Kaye are mentioned as possibilities but neither look ready for it yet.

One danger is MPs who have been busy as Ministers now with time to foment other ambitions.

There’s no rush for National. I think English is experienced and sensible enough to see out the year and then ease National into Opposition next year, and see how things develop, both with the Government and within his own caucus and party.

It will take some time to see how well National manages it’s time in Opposition. Like the Government in this role they start with a fairly clean slate.

Q+A: education debate – Kaye & Hipkins

This morning on Q+A: Who has the best policies for our students and schools?
Watch our education debate – Political Editor Corin Dann with National’s Nikki Kaye and Labour’s Chris Hipkins.

National’s education policy

National launched their campaign today and also announced their education policy.

$379m package to prepare our children for the future

National will provide New Zealand’s young people with the skills and language training to succeed in a globally-connected, high-tech world, Prime Minister and National Party Leader Bill English says.

The next National-led Government will invest $379 million to provide school students with stronger maths, technology and languages skills, as well as updating National Standards to give parents and teachers better information about how students are performing and where they need more support.

“Now that the government books are in surplus, we want to invest more to help our young people embrace the tremendous opportunities New Zealand has through the next fifty years,” Mr English says.

“Opportunities from new technology, new ideas and ways of working, and stronger international connections.

“Nothing can replace the thousands of motivated, professional teachers. But we can improve the tools they use and the support we give them to lift educational standards.”

National will roll out a four-point education package to:

  • Provide every primary school student the opportunity to learn a second language
  • Improve the maths skills of primary school students by upskilling teachers, providing additional classroom resources like digital apps, and delivering intensive support for students who need it
  • Create Digital Academies and Digital Internships to give year 12 and 13 students practical, work-based learning opportunities that are a springboard into careers in the IT sector
  • Extend National Standards to provide much more detailed information about how our kids are progressing right throughout the year – information that can be accessed immediately online by children and their parents

“National Standards provides a valuable snap-shot of how your child has performed across the year,” Mr English says.

“National Standards Plus will build on this by allowing you to track your child’s progress in more detail, online, as it happens.

“I want our children to be confident about their future, open to the world and ambitious for themselves and for our country.

“Our teachers and schools work so hard to create opportunities for our children and these measures will further help more of our kids reach their potential,” Mr English says.

The new funding is made up of $354 million of ongoing funding over four years, plus a $25 million one-off investment in systems to extend National Standards.

Nikki Kaye is Minister of Education so is likely to have played a part in this, probably an attempt to show that National can come up with innovation from relatively young female MPs to compete or contrast with Ardern.

Patrick Gower thinks this is a good move: Bill English goes with blinder idea rather than bribe

Bill English has played a blinder by coming up with a policy to give all Kiwi kids the chance to learn a second language.

Who saw it coming? It is original, it is ambitious, it is symbolic – and at $160 million it doesn’t cost that much.

It is not compulsory – kids can learn Te Reo, French or Mandarin if they want under National’s policy.

It will be very appealing to parents – and as a pitch to those crucial centre  voters, it is a blinder of an idea.

It is there to show that Bill English is not just about the economy and that he is not out of ideas.

It fits with National’s brand that it is open to the world.

Coupled with National’s other plans to enhance digital learning and improve National Standards it creates a good wedge with Labour, which announced its education policy weeks ago under Andrew Little to little fanfare. Labour is also tied to the unions when it comes to policy and wants to scrap National Standards.

So instead of a bribe it is a blinder of an idea by Bill English.

Bold education policy is certainly outside the normal big ideas box from National. Whether it will appeal to voters or not is another story, and we won’t know the end of the story for another month or so.

Q+A repeats Nikki Kaye

Curiously after Nikki Kaye featured in an interview on education on The Nation yesterday she is also the lead interview on Q+A this morning, also talking about education.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, sitting and indoor

It looks like National is deliberately trying to distance the party and the Government from the Barclay domination of the last couple of weeks.

Education Minister Nikki Kaye is our lead interview this week. Is our education system doing its best for our kids?

I think Kaye comes across much better as a politician than either Labour’s deputy leader Jacinda Ardern (who Kay beat twice in the Auckland Central electorate), and National’s deputy leader Paula Bennett who interesting National hasn’t put forward for the weekend interviews.

She again sounds very much on top of her portfolio.

Kaye, Kaye, Kaye

Nikki Kaye was first elected to Parliament in 2008, winning what had been the long time (since 1925) Labour seat, Auckland Central. Kaye beat Jacinda Ardern in the next two elections.

While Ardern has risen in the media Kaye has more quietly risen in Government. She received some publicity last year when she had to have treatment for breast cancer.

Yesterday in a Cabinet reshuffle Kay was promoted to be Minister For Education, a difficult portfolio especially for in a National Government, the education unions sometimes look like branch offices of Labour. Any education reform is usually fought against strongly by the teachers alongside Labour.

NZ Herald gave Kaye’s promotion yesterday quite a bit of attention (notably compared to Stuff who went Brownlee, Brownlee, Brownlee).

Prime Minister Bill English reveals new-look Cabinet

Nikki Kaye and Gerry Brownlee are the big winners in a Cabinet reshuffle announced by Prime Minister Bill English this afternoon.

As expected, Kaye is the new Education Minister, replacing Hekia Parata.

Given Kaye’s preparation as Associate Minister, and signals (or assumptions) it would have been a shock if she wasn’t promoted to the role.

As Associate Education Minister, Kaye was well placed to take over the education portfolio, English said. She had a particular interest in the subject and brought energy and enthusiasm to the role.

The reshuffle winners

Nikki Kaye (Education Minister)

Has coveted the role of Education Minister since entering Parliament in 2008, and now has it after returning to Parliament this year following breast cancer treatment.

Was the obvious choice given her work as Associate Education Minister since January 2013, which has included overhauling how school property is managed and the construction of new schools and classrooms as Auckland’s population booms.

Has stood at Hekia Parata’s shoulder during recent media standup and now takes over reforms that are the biggest since 1989 and are only partially complete.

If National are re-elected, Kaye will be in charge when debate and opposition really heat up when proposals such as replacing the decile system with targeted funding for “at risk” students come closer to reality in 2020. In the meantime, Labour will go after education and new minister in election year.

NOW: Education Minister, Youth Minister.
WAS: Youth Minister, Associate Education Minister.

Nicholas Jones: Nikki Kaye the right choice for Education Minister but challenges ahead

Any Education Minister can expect to be unpopular with many in the sector, particularly one in a National-led Government.

Kaye is well regarded by those in the sector, but education will be a major battleground in election year and comes with guaranteed controversy and fierce lobbying from education unions.

And the baton being passed from Parata is heavier than normal – this Government is midway through the biggest education reforms since 1989.

While some changes have passed into law many of the biggest are still to come, including replacing the decile funding system with a new model that pays a per student amount depending on how many “at risk” students a school has.

Simon Collins: Kaye: I feel better than I’ve felt in years

New Education Minister Nikki Kaye says she plans to be a “modernising” minister.

Kaye, 37, will be the youngest female Education Minister in New Zealand’s history and says that as part of the “millennial” generation she comes without the ideological “baggage” that previous National Party ministers have brought to the role – especially in their frequent battles with teacher unions.

Instead, she is passionate about new technology, which has already been her responsibility since she became an associate education minister in 2013.

“I think I have already, as associate minister, had quite a focus in terms of modernisation of the portfolio, and you can expect to see more of that in the future,” she said.

“There are obviously some areas I feel very passionately about. The impact of new technology in education is one area, but obviously next week and in the coming weeks you will hear more about my priorities.”

She worked for current Prime Minister Bill English as a policy analyst in 2002, then as a policy officer for two local councils in London, then managed a transport programme for disabled people and worked in information technology at Halifax Bank of Scotland.

She returned to New Zealand in 2007 and won Auckland Central for the National Party for the first time in 2008.

“I think I’m very pragmatic as a person, and I’m very collaborative, I naturally want to work with others to find a solution. All I ask is that we have a respectful relationship where there are no surprises and where we work constructively where we can and disagree where we disagree.”

Kaye took leave from Parliament last September after she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she said her doctors had cleared her to return to work. She came third in her division in a recent race running, cycling and swimming around Motutapu and Rangitoto Islands.

“It’s great to get back into exercise,” she said. “I feel better than I’ve felt in years.”

Video: Watch: Nikki Kaye gets education

One Little tax for tourists…

…but it was described as a levy so maybe it doesn’t count.

Three weeks ago Labour said that “Labour would definitely not increase taxes”, but yesterday Andrew Little said that he supported a tourist tax.

Newshub (11 March 2017): Labour has no plans to raise taxes – Andrew Little

Labour’s not planning on going into this year’s election with a policy to raise taxes, says leader Andrew Little.

Speaking to The Nation on Saturday morning, Mr Little said Labour’s spending promises can be paid for out of existing tax revenue.

After the interview, a Labour spokesperson contacted Newshub to clarify Labour would definitely not increase taxes.

But yesterday, in response to a The Nation interview with Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett, Little says that he wants a ‘tourist tax’.

NZ Herald: Labour leader Andrew Little calls for tourist tax

Labour leader Andrew Little wants a “tourist tax” charged at the border to help pay for tourism infrastructure, rejecting Tourism Minister Paula Bennett’s concerns it risked making New Zealand look like a “rip-off.”

Little said a “modest” levy would be ring-fenced to pass on to local councils to use on tourism-related infrastructure.

He rejected Bennett’s suggestion New Zealand risked being seen as a “rip-off” if it added too many extra costs. “We are in desperate need of new infrastructure. A reasonable sum paid at the border is a more efficient way of getting infrastructure built and making sure tourists don’t s*** all over our free camping areas and our beaches.”

Little said it would be simple to add the levy – since 2015 there has been a levy of about $22 to pay for border control added to the cost of a ticket. In its first five months, that had generated $27.72 million – well above the forecast income of $20.22 million.

It would be simple for a Government to add a lot little levies.

Little needs to be careful what he proposes and supports before thinking it through in relation to commitments made.