Todd Muller – new National leader

Todd Muller successfully challenged Simon Bridges for the leadership of National yesterday. In the end it looked like a well planned and well executed change.

In his first media conference as leader Muller actually looked well prepared and presented himself very well. He said a number of smart things in his prepared speech, and looked very capable handling questions from journalists.

His choice of Nikki Kaye as deputy provides a good balance (urban liberal beside his conservative rural), and she has been an able and successful MP (she twice defeated Ardern on the Auckland Central electorate).

I think this change had to happen, and with Muller’s focus on rebuilding communities after the impact of Covid-19, and also his business experience promoted in pushing for an economic recovery, this will enhance our political landscape.

His speech began:

The past few months, our country has made many sacrifices.

You have made many sacrifices. You have put a lot on the line to get us through this crisis.

Now, we must begin taking another step forward together, with confidence.

The confidence to rebuild our country, rebuild our economy and to restore the livelihoods of New Zealanders.

Only a National government can provide the leadership to do that.

That is why we must win the next election.

While well behind in the polls right now Muller has to at least be seen to be aiming for a win in the election.

My absolute focus as National Party Leader will be New Zealand’s economic recovery.

We will save jobs, get the economy growing again and we will do so by leveraging our country’s great strengths: our people, our communities, our great natural resources, our values of hard work, tenacity, innovation and aspiration.

This is an obvious focus for a National leader, and it is seen as a key in the upcoming election (in September). The Government has handled the health side of the pandemic very well (mostly) but the crunch will be repairing the economic effects.

Yes, I’ve run businesses. I can read a balance sheet and a profit and loss account.  I can tell a good one from a bad one.  And yes, I’ll bring those skills to the Prime Ministership.

But that’s not what drives me.

What drives me is community – the people who help their elderly neighbours with the lawns on the weekend; The Dad who does the food stall at the annual school fair; The Mum who coaches a touch rugby team;

This election will be about the economy, but not the economy the bureaucracy talks about. It’ll be about the economy that you live in – the economy in your community – your job, your main street, your marae, your tourism business, your local rugby league club, your local butcher, your kura, your netball courts, your farms, your shops and your families.

This is the economy National MPs are grounded in, and the one that matters most to New Zealand.

For too long this economy, your economy – and your life – has been invisible to decision makers in Wellington.

This addresses a lot of grizzles one hears about bureaucrats dominating, out of touch with ordinary people.

Muller addressed things that had been an image problem for Bridges.

This is what you can expect from my leadership: First and foremost – I’m about what’s best for you and your family – not what’s wrong with the Government.

And I’m not interested in opposition for opposition’s sake. We’re all tired of that kind of politics.

However he also took some gentle sounding but fairly scathing swipes

Will I criticise the government?  Yes.

Labour has failed against every measure it has set for itself in Government- KiwiBuild, Light Rail, child poverty, prison numbers.

If we continue on this track of talking a big game but failing to deliver, we simply won’t recognise the New Zealand we are part of in a few years’ time.

…but ultimately, values and ideas are what ground me.

Like the idea that you can shape your own future and are free to do so.

I believe in enterprise, reward for hard work, personal responsibility, and in the power of strong families and communities.

Very National Party.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe that for each and everyone of us to do better, someone else has to be worse off.

Sounds fine, but very difficult thing to avoid in practice.

In response to questions he praised Jacinda Ardern and her Government’s efforts dealing with Covid, but highlighted perceived weaknesses.

He said that while Ardern and her top three or so ministers were doing well but said the quality or ability dropped off very quickly after that. The lack of depth in the current Cabinet has often been claimed. At one stage he refereed to ‘seventeen empty seats”.

Muller is a good speaker, he had a well written, carefully worded and targeted speech, and he made a very good first impression. Unlike Bridges he got the balance about right between promoting his and his party’s own credentials, acknowledging achievements of the current Government, but also making strong criticisms where there are weaknesses without sounding too negative.

It will be a huge task to get National back up and competitive with Labour, and even then National has a lack of potential coalition partners (but he didn’t rule out reconsidering the caucus decision not to deal with NZ First).

But if Muller continues the way he started he should do a better job at holding the Government to account and promoting a viable alternative.

He said that being open and authentic was important – hopefully he won’t be taken over by remodelling media minders.

He has already shown that he is ambitious and determined – and must have set up a good team of helpers.

He has already succeeded in a number of things:

  • A successful career in the kiwifruit industry and with Fonterra
  • Being nominated for and winning a safe-ish electorate
  • Quietly but successfully becoming established as a back bench MP
  • Doing a lot of work in his role as spokesperson on agriculture and horticulture(that’s going to be important on the recovery)
  • His work with James Shaw on a Carbon Zero Bill that had cross party support
  • Picking the right time to successfully roll Bridges
  • Kicking off his leadership with a very good speech and session with journalists.
  • His choice of Nikki Kaye as deputy provides a good balance, and she has been a good and successful MP (she twice defeated Ardern on the Auckland Central electorate).

It’s very early days, but Muller should at least be able to stem the rapuid slide of National, should be able to recover some ground and may be able to get back to at least some semblance of competitiveness this election.

He may not become Prime Minister later this year, but if he does well but doesn’t make it he should be able to keep his job to continue the rebuilding of National next term.

Full speech: Todd Muller new National Leader

Muller indicated that Paul Goldsmith will remain as National’s spokesperson on Finance but said it would take a few days to work out the new lineup and roles, which is obvious.He had a few senior MPs lined up beside him as he gave his speech.

A bit will depend on what Bridges and his also deposed deputy Paula Bennett decide to do about their futures in politics.

New National leader today looks likely

The National caucus is scheduled to meet at noon today to decide whether to dump Simon Bridges and replace him as their leader with probably Todd Muller (there are other rumours floating around but I doubt they will come to anything).

A bad poll for National and bridges on Tuesday gave impetus to a coup that seems to have alre3ady been fomenting. Bridges foorced the issue in Wednesday, calling the caucus meeting for Friday. Another bad poll for both National (29%) and Bridges (bugger all %) yesterday confirmed the party’s dire situation.

Media are talking as if it’s almost a done deal against Bridges. It’s possible he may step down before high noon.

Richard Harman (Politik): D-day for Bridges

Bridges camp was aware last night that defeat was likely today.

They must have been startled yesterday by reports of significant defections of caucus heavyweights from Leader Simon Bridges’ support. The confirmation on One News Colmar Brunton poll of National’s low rating appears to have simply added to the pressure for change.

It is even possible that Bridges might – for the sake of party unity — decide to resign before the caucus meeting.

NZ Herald – National Party showtime: Simon Bridges and Todd Muller prepare for leadership battle

Yesterday, neither the Bridges nor the Muller camp seemed certain they had the 28 votes needed, but both claimed to have strong numbers and one MP involved said it was looking “very, very close.”

The poll result may have changed that for MPs still wavering.

Muller’s camp said the poll results showed there was an urgent need for a change in leadership to reclaim that lost ground – and even Bridges’ own supporters acknowledged the poll would make it a lot harder for Bridges.

Newshub: National Party MPs prepare for midday Simon Bridges, Todd Muller leadership contest

Until Thursday night, the numbers looked to be evenly balanced with neither side willing to claim a majority but the 29 percent result seems to have pushed a group of undecided MPs towards the Muller camp, and potentially some who had been backing Bridges.

MPs talk about acting in the best interests of the party but what will be motivating many – namely list MPs and those in marginal seats – is self interest; with these poll numbers many would be out of Parliament.

So the outcome looks uncertain at this stage, publicly at least.

If Bridges hangs on it is likely to be dire for National. He already looks like damaged goods, and a close win will just highlight that lack of strong support for him in caucus, and the public are likely to see him as a lame duck leader.

If Muller wins it won’t be easy to even stop the bleeding of support let alone rebuilding it. He has had a low political profile and is unknown by most voters, but he has the advantages of not being Bridges and having no known baggage. He also has a probable advantage of polls just having been done – it will be a while before there’s another poll so will give him a chance to get established.

I would be most unlikely top vote for National led by Bridges, he has rarely impressed me and I don’t like the direction he seems to be taking the party.

If Muller or someone else I will take time to decide whether i think the change is for the better of not. It’s impossible to know how people will come across as leaders until they have had a go for a while.

We will find out some time today who will have the job of trying to revive a party with evaporating support.

Abortion Legislation Bill passes Second Reading 81-39

The Abortion Legislation Bill had it’s Second Reading debate last night and passed on a personal (conscience) vote easily, 81-39. The bill is a much better approach to abortion than the current law that is not followed in practice, making abortion health issue rather than a legal issue.

From Abortion Legislation Bill — Second Reading

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice):
(Edited)

This bill was introduced on 5 August last year and was referred to the Abortion Legislation Committee, a special committee set up specifically for consideration of this bill. The committee was established by the House precisely for that purpose. I want to thank members of the committee, in particular the chair, the Hon Ruth Dyson, and the deputy chair, the Hon Amy Adams, for the work they did. They received more than 25,000 submissions. They heard from more than 130 people during 30 hours of oral evidence.

This bill and this topic are a very sensitive topic. It’s a very difficult topic for many citizens and many, many members of this House to discuss and debate, but debate it we must, because this legislation that we’re now considering—the changes to which we are considering—are more than 40 years old and it is timely and appropriate to consider it.

I have previously spoken about the reasons why I believe the law governing abortion needs to be changed, not the least of which is that the legislation is so old, but also the fact that the framework for abortion in New Zealand right now is set out in both the Crimes Act 1961 and the Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act 1977, and a woman seeking an abortion should not have her actions stigmatised as if she were committing a criminal act—she is not; she is making a decision about herself and her body.

Following the select committee process, the Abortion Legislation Committee has recommended changes to improve access to abortion services which it considers are in the best interests of women.

There has been scaremongering about abortions up to birth, which is a distortion of what will be allowed for the good of the health of the mother and the unborn child. The vast majority of abortions are in the first 20 weeks.

In relation to abortion after 20 weeks, in response to submissions received, the revised bill changes the test that a qualified health practitioner must follow if providing abortion services to a woman who is more than 20 weeks pregnant.

The revised test expands some of the wording from the original bill. In fact, the requirements now include a requirement that the health practitioner regards the abortion as clinically appropriate, the health practitioner has to consult another health practitioner—so it’s not just one but two—and, of course, that reflects current practice anyway.

We have to remember that for women seeking an abortion at 20 weeks, generally speaking that is a wanted pregnancy but there is something seriously wrong either with the foetus or with the woman’s health. This is a very difficult point at which to make this decision, and I hope that people embarking on this debate will recognise that. That is now reflected in the changes that the committee has proposed.

Abortions for ‘sex selection’ was an issue raised.

They add in a requirement that the medical professional has to have regard to his or her relevant legal, professional and ethical standards to which they are subject, and also consider the woman’s physical health, mental health, and overall wellbeing, and, of course, the gestational age of the foetus.

The committee was concerned about submissions made that some might consider an abortion on the grounds of gender biased sex selection, and they point to evidence overseas. The committee concluded that there was no evidence of this happening in New Zealand but they wanted a statement in the bill that reflected the, generally, New Zealand view on this, which is that we don’t tolerate sex selection as a reason for an abortion.

On ‘safe areas’ (from opponents and protesters)  in the vicinity of places where abortions are done:

I turn briefly to safe areas because I know this is an area to test those who are vigilant about and are champions of freedom of speech in this country, and that’s very important and we need those voices—they’re absolutely vital. The truth is that there are women who are seeking abortions and going to facilities where they are prevailed upon in an unseemly and entirely inappropriate way, and they should not be subject to that sort of behaviour.

Now, the changes that the committee have recommended in this regard are to shift the offence from a reckless sort of standard to an objective test; it’s now expressed as an ordinary reasonable person test. That is it’s an offence to intimidate, interfere, or obstruct a person in a safe area in a manner that the ordinary reasonable person would know would cause emotional distress to a protected person. Protected person is defined as either a medical practitioner going to a facility from which an abortion might be carried out, or a person who is seeking an abortion.

The committee has also inserted a requirement that each safe area is reviewed within five years of the area’s establishment. There is a process to go through to establish a safe area, it’s done by the Minister of Health in consultation with the Minister of Justice, there has to be good reasons for it, it has to be done by Order in Council, and it is reviewed on a periodic basis.

Contentious objection:

This is another sensitive area too, particularly for health practitioners who do not support the idea of an abortion. For contraception and sterilisation services, the person with an objection to dispensing advice to a patient had to tell the patient how to access the contact details of another provider of the services; for abortion services, the person objecting would have to tell the patient how to access a list of service providers.

The committee has simplified this process for someone with a contentious objection to ensure timely access for the person seeking services. The revised process is that the contentious objector must tell the person seeking an abortion or sterilisation or contraception services how to access the contact details of another person who is a provider of the service requested.

The committee also picked up on an existing provision in the current Contraception, Sterilisation, and Abortion Act related to contentious objection that had not been amended in the bill as it was introduced. This section regards supply of contraception to victims of sexual violation. The committee has aligned the requirements for practitioners with conscientious objections in these instances to the process set out in the bill.

Closing:

We need a law where a pregnant woman can and should be trusted to make the decision for themselves about an abortion in consultation with their health practitioner. This bill does that, and on that basis I commend this bill to the House.

Other speakers:

AGNES LOHENI (National):

As a member of the Abortion Legislation Committee, I was not able to effect any meaningful change to this bill despite an overwhelming number of submissions against it. As a consequence, I wrote a minority view to ensure those views that opposed were heard.

I have outlined a lot to be alarmed about in this bill. I am deeply saddened at this bill’s blatant attack on the right to life and recognition for our unborn babies. If we can discard the life of an unborn baby—if we can diminish their value and their humanity to the point that we no longer call them babies, then we have lost our own humanity, because they are the smallest versions of us. Late-term surgical abortions are nothing short of barbaric; there is nothing kind in it. A truly progressive society protects the rights of all its members down to the smallest and most vulnerable—the unborn child. I take a stand for that unborn child. I oppose this bill.

Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn):

 I want to begin by stating very clearly in the debate on this bill—which is a conscience issue—where I start from, and my fundamental views in this regard. I have an absolute belief that women have the inalienable right to control their own reproductive systems and to determine, ultimately, whether or not they have a child.

I think there is no place for a Parliament to be specifying and legislating what the appropriate medical treatment is in any given case. We are not medical professionals; we are lawmakers, and we have to respect that. I trust women and doctors to make these decisions carefully, gravely, and appropriately.

GREG O’CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu):

I stand in opposition to this bill. I voted for it at the first reading because I felt that the bill needed to go through a select committee to see if it could be made palatable.

Taking the legislation out of the Crimes Act, as I said, I agree with. That is something that I think there are sufficient safeguards in there now to keep it outside the Crimes Act. It does belong as a health issue, as some of the other speakers mentioned. But post – 20 weeks, there is just simply not enough safeguard to ensure that those—

PAULO GARCIA (National):

 I stand with sadness, with a heart filled with tribulation and pain because, once again, I stand to argue against a bill that seeks to enable the ending—the taking—of a human life by another human being.

The bill opens the door for the abortion of babies with not just severe abnormalities but also moderate ones, making disabled unborn children very vulnerable under the proposed law. That the current law explicitly prevents abortions on the basis of foetal abnormality up to 20 weeks, but the proposed law does not do the same represents a major step backwards in terms of disability rights.

I finish with a quote from the New York Times, quoting a Harvard medical professor who said that we pass through different stages as we grow, and that a “baby of five weeks in the womb differs from the newborn, but so does the toddler differ from the teen. … but we don’t pass from person to non-person, or vice versa.”

Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central):

I have extraordinary respect for freedom of speech and freedom of religion. But I support this bill for a few very fundamental and simple reasons. The first is I believe that every woman in New Zealand has the right to control her body. It’s very simple. It’s very simple; in fact, it’s so simple that we are one of the most archaic countries in the world—even Catholic Ireland has more liberal abortion laws than New Zealand.

Fundamentally, there are a couple of other reasons why it is crucial, in my view, that we have this law change. Again, I want to quote Dame Margaret Sparrow, who really, effectively, said a number of years ago that it is an absolute farce in this country that 98 percent—I think it was at the time—of the abortions were on the grounds of mental health. That is a farce, that is wrong, that is archaic, and it is time that, as a country, we changed that and we faced up to the fact that it is archaic and outdated and wrong to have a law on the books that, effectively, says that.

I do believe, as well, that many women in New Zealand, basically, fundamentally, want equality. They want the ability to have control over their body. They don’t want to have to be in these situations, but, if they are, they, ultimately, want respect and equality. I believe that this bill is timely. It’s progressive. It’s important. It will lead to less suffering

ANAHILA KANONGATA’A-SUISUIKI (Labour):

I today stand along the over about 91 percent of submitters that are opposed to this bill. I am acknowledging that 17 percent of submitters are for the bill. My views in opposition to this bill are derived from Tongan culture and as a Christian Tongan. That’s where I formed my view. And I need to say it in this House that I am a Christian and I was raised a Tongan Christian. And I don’t stand here to say that I represent all Christians or all Pasifika. I am representing my views as a Tongan and all the people that have actually spoken to me about those views.

Number of submitters is a part of a process, it is not a measure of public support or opposition.

Like I said in my introduction of my speech, I don’t stand here to represent all Tongans. I don’t stand here to represent all Christians. I stand here to represent what I’ve heard through the select committee and my definition of what this bill does. I accept that it’s trying to reform the legislation, but we must also remember that abortion is legal in New Zealand, but there is an opportunity to differentiate between a child and an adult. And I disagree with the fact that it is an informed decision by a woman who is pregnant at 14 to have an abortion. I disagree with that—that it is informed. And I also disagree with the fact that it’s the woman’s choice, because, at the end of the day, it is the health practitioner that makes the decision for the woman to have an abortion. And in that tone, I oppose this bill to the House.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT):

I rise in support of the Abortion Legislation Bill, a piece of legislation whose time has come—decades ago—a piece of legislation that will take abortion out of the Crimes Act because it should never have been a crime. As earlier speakers have made a point of saying, there is no other medical procedure that is legislated the way abortion is.

I want to talk about the moral case behind this bill. I get messages saying, “Do you support abortion?” Of course I don’t. Nobody does. Nobody wakes up one day and thinks, “That’s what I’ll do today.” It is a difficult and harrowing experience to go through.

But that’s not the question. The question before this House tonight is: what should be the role of this Parliament and what should be the role of the State when it comes to abortion law reform? If any member thinks that it is somehow helpful for the State apparatus, for this Parliament, to ask the police and the corrections and the courts in this country to run around and try and compel women to take unwanted pregnancies to term against their will, then I don’t know how else to argue with those people, but I hope they’re in the minority tonight.

NICOLA WILLIS (National):

I support this reform of our abortion laws. Many people I deeply respect and admire do not share my views on this issue. I feel moved to express why I support it. I have carefully studied this bill. I have spoken with medical practitioners, those who perform abortions, those who have had abortions, those who’ve supported those who have had abortions, and my conclusion is that this bill advances the rights of women.

It will improve women’s access to health services. It will enhance our legal autonomy over our own bodies and our own fertility. It brings our law into line with good medical practice. It reduces unnecessary and potentially harmful delays in access to abortions, and it improves reporting on important issues such as equity and timeliness of access, availability of counselling services, and the spectre of gender selection.

This bill will reduce harm. Fundamentally, it improves choice for all of us and, crucially, requires that choice from none of us.

Let us trust women and let us trust medical professionals. I want my children to live in a world that genuinely cherishes the life of every woman, that respects her right to manage her own fertility, her own body, her own future. That is the world I want for my daughters. That is the world I want for my sons.

DARROCH BALL (NZ First):

I rise tonight not on behalf myself to speak on this bill, but on behalf of the party.

As we promised in the first reading of this bill, we will see this bill through to the committee of the whole House where we will table a Supplementary Order Paper requesting a referendum on this issue.

As we promised in the first reading of this bill, we will see this bill through to the committee of the whole House where we will table a Supplementary Order Paper requesting a referendum on this issue.

We believe that this conscience issue, affecting the fabric of human society, should be decided upon by the people of New Zealand, not decided upon by 120 temporarily empowered politicians. We don’t believe that individuals in this House—their life experiences, their beliefs, or their family histories—are any more or less important than anyone outside of this House.

The fact that this House has decided that this vote is a conscience vote and not a party vote is explicit acknowledgment that every single individual Kiwi in this country will have an individual perspective based on their own conscience, not based on anyone’s conscience in this House, and especially not based on temporarily empowered politicians in this House or anything that’s based on party politics.

Going by the second reading vote, if NZ First MPs vote against the final reading if they fail with their amendment to have a referendum it looks still likely to pass.

Personally I don’t support a referendum on this.

CHRIS PENK (National—Helensville):

I refer to the report of the majority of the Abortion Legislation Committee on this, the Abortion Legislation Bill. The majority report is linguistically elusive, ideologically incoherent, and scientifically unsound.

I wish to also make a note about the select committee majority report claiming that the current legislation contains deeply offensive language in relation to disabled people. The disabled people themselves and the advocacy groups who have contacted me in relation to the bill find much more deeply offensive the notion that their lives will inevitably be deemed to be worth less in many situations, whereby conditions such as, for example, Down’s syndrome can be effectively screened to an even greater extent than is already the case by the fact that this bill does have a liberalising effect—that is, it makes the regime more liberal both in relation to pre-20 weeks and post-20 weeks, until either such time as birth is given or abortion services performed.

JOANNE HAYES (National):

 I stand to take a call opposing the Abortion Legislation Bill tonight. I’ve sat here on purpose to listen to the contributions in the House tonight, and some of the contributions have left me a little bit flummoxed with some of their ideas. I do not support the idea of taking the Abortion Legislation Bill into a referendum. I think this is what our job is here, to make a decision, and I don’t think that it should be anything like inside any referendum like New Zealand First did with the End of Life Choice Bill.

I think one of the speakers tonight from the Government side of the House spoke about this bill being abortion on demand. That’s what this bill is actually working towards. It is about abortion on demand.

Effectively yes, up to 20 weeks only.

This abortion bill is a licence to kill the unborn; that’s what it is. It’s a dangerous piece of legislation. Whilst there will be people in here that are supporting this bill that will say, “No, no, no, that’s not what happens.”, in reality that is what will happen. That’s what concerns me most, is the reality of it hitting the ground, hitting the women out there in the community and the families, that this will be a licence to kill unborn children. It ignores absolutely everybody’s opposition. I’m really, really sad to be standing here on a day, on an evening like this evening, to be able to say to my colleagues who are supporting this bill, it is the wrong thing to do.

Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills):

The opposition to this bill came not from people who oppose this bill but from people who oppose abortion full stop. People who, if they were being given the contraception, sterilisation, and abortion legislation, would oppose it.

There is nothing more offensive than being told that a woman would wake up one morning, 30 weeks pregnant and say, “I’m over this. I’m going to have an abortion.” Then to layer on top of that the accusation that a doctor would then say, “That meets my professional and ethical standards.”, and would go ahead with that termination—I don’t know who the people who say that knows. Who do you know that would do that? Nobody. It’s just a lie. On any topic, I think it’s important to tell the truth, but on a topic as important as this, as sensitive and as contentious as this, we should just tell the truth.

We felt we were taking a needed step, but one which we wanted to take very carefully in in a very considered way, and I think the committee did a very good job of that. We want to see a country where there are very, very few abortions. Our numbers are heading in the right directions now; I want to commend Pharmac for introducing long-acting contraception. We need more education, we need better access to contraception, but we will still need abortion services—the fewer the better, but the earlier, more equitable, and safer the better. That’s what this legislation seeks to deliver and I commend it to the House.

JAN LOGIE (Green):

Thank you, Mr Speaker, and it’s a real honour to speak tonight, as a feminist who has been working towards abortion law reform for years and also as a member of the Green Party who committed to decriminalising abortion about six years ago—[Interjection from gallery]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume her seat. That man will be removed from the gallery.

JAN LOGIE: This may point to the need for safe areas and the fact that, actually, there is opposition to those of us who support women’s reproductive health rights. And that has resulted, or at least been used as an argument, in the assault against my co-leader.

If you care about women’s health, if you want to see these women accessing abortion care, accessing it earlier if it has to happen, this is the legislation to do it. I do think we should get rid of the 20-week threshold altogether, and that was bounded for me, it came through clearly from those very small numbers of people who are actually involved in providing this care in the country.

When we heard, previously, from a speaker talking about a GP saying, well, how were they to interpret wellbeing, they wouldn’t know what that would mean—it wouldn’t matter if they didn’t understand that, because they wouldn’t be providing them, because there’s only a very small handful of people who are qualified to provide those services. The thing is that it is according to very strict guidelines of care and medical ethics, and it is my belief that the decisions should still remain with the pregnant person.

A personal vote was called for on the question, That the amendments be agreed to.

  • Ayes 80
  • Noes 28

A personal vote was called for on the question, That the Abortion Legislation Bill be now read a second time.

  • Ayes 81
  • Noes 39

So it looks like the Abortion Legislation Bill should pass comfortably, and without a referendum.  That would be good, in my opinion.

The split between the first 20 weeks (choice) and the second 20 weeks (medical decision) is  pragmatic compromise that largely fits with current practice despite the archaic law.

There is strong opposition to changing the law, but the Bill just makes what is currently practiced officially legal with the stigma of ‘breaking the law’ removed.

The Bill won’t change much, apart from the sensible change from a legal to a personal or health issue. The number of abortions has been dropping, that trend may or may not continue but should be largely unaffected by the Bill.

 

Nikki Kaye on climate ‘indoctrination’ in schools, Plunket petulant

Sean Plunket is back on talkback, playing to his audience that seems to like grumping about climate change. He asserted that the inclusion of guidelines on teaching about climate change in schools is ‘indoctrination’ as he tries to indoctrinate his listeners with his own views on thee topic.

National spokesperson on education, Nikki Kaye:

National are supportive of climate change being taught in schools. However, the process around developing the curriculum and Ministry led curriculum resources needs to be balanced and communicated well. We have concerns that this decision combined with Ministers press release has caused confusion and angst with some parents because people have thought that this particular resource is now a change to the curriculum.

There has been no change to the curriculum so it is totally up to schools as to whether they use this particular resource or not. We are aware of genuine concerns raised by parents and groups about a lack of balance in this material and also striking the delicate balance of informing children about these issues while not causing unnecessary anxiety. While some material looks fine National has concerns about some of the document.

Seems like a reasonable and considered response, but Plunket isn’t happy (or at least makes out he isn’t happy):

Well this is hardly taking a stand against indoctrination in state schools.

Plunket has also been griping about Jimmy Neesham.

Newshub:  James Shaw thanks Blackcaps star Jimmy Neesham for supporting climate change interview

James Shaw has thanked a Kiwi cricketer for supporting an interview the minister gave about teaching climate change in school – described by an Opposition MP as a “shocker”.

Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party, clashed with Plunket in the interview earlier this week, after being invited to discuss a new teacher resource announced on Sunday for educating year 7-10 students about climate change.

Shaw defended the syllabus in his interview with Plunket, telling the radio host the teaching resource is “based on the science so you can dispute that all you like”.

Plunket shot back: “Well, clearly you can’t dispute that all you like if you’re an intermediate school kid… you’re going to be told you can’t dispute it.”

Shaw replied: “Of course you can, but you’d have to go to town against the entire New Zealand scientific community and suggest that they were wrong.”

Blackcaps star Jimmy Neesham said on Twitter he wanted to take his hat off to Shaw for his “calmness” during the interview with Magic Talk’s Sean Plunket.

The New Zealand cricketer, 29, has been outspoken about his support for climate change activism, recently telling the BBC he feels a responsibility to be a good role model.

“As role models, it is important to keep abreast of what is going on and have at least a passing knowledge of global social issues like politics and climate change.”

So Plunket took a swipe at Neesham: Sean Plunket slams Blackcaps cricketer Jimmy Neesham over climate change comments

But since the interaction, Plunket has hit back at Neesham.

“Well, Jimmy I feel like throwing my bloody phone at the wall often watching the Blackcaps.”

Plunket criticised the cricketer for speaking out about climate change while flying “all over the world”.

“Is that why you catch planes all over the world to play cricket Jimmy?”

He continued to berate the cricketer, seeming to suggest that Neesham’s career is “completely pointless, yet burns up tonnes of carbon”.

The MagicTalk host then commented on the number of Neeshan’s Twitter followers, saying the “number is a lot less than the runs or wickets he’s got”.

This is a pathetic attack in response from Plunket, but I guess Magic and Newshub are trying to start the year with some sort of controversy to get their audience back. They are in fighting for survival as broadcasters, but I doubt this sort of petulance will help, apart from play to a small demographic. It’s unlikely to widen their appeal.

 

Education Amendment Bill passes in Parliament

The Education Amendment Bill (No 2), which tightens up on the school starting age, provision of online education and university name changing, passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

Stuff:  School starting age pushed back to 5 as Education Amendment Bill passes Parliament

The bill also changes the future course of digital education in New Zealand, repealing the communities of online learning provisions set to come into force in December. The regulations would have enabled communities of online learning to be established by public and private providers.

It also toughens up the process for universities pushing for a legal name change.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins introduced a Supplementary Order Paper to the bill on Wednesday after Victoria University of Wellington abandoned its name change attempt.

Children will no longer be allowed to start school before their fifth birthday after the Education Amendment Bill (No 2) passed its third and final reading in Parliament.

The bill changes cohort entry, removing the option for parents to enrol their child up to eight weeks before they turn five years old.

This seems an odd change. It reverses a change two years ago – Stuff:  Starting school at four too young, principals warn Government

Four-year-olds are too young to cope with the structure and learning requirements of school, Auckland principals say.

But the Government is looking at a new law which will allow 4-year-olds to enrol on the first day of the term closest to their fifth birthday.

The process, called cohort entry, is part of a raft of changes in an update to the Education Act, set to be debated in Parliament this week.

The new rules allow children to start school a maximum of eight weeks before their fifth birthday, and schools would have to consult the community first.

Bayswater Primary School principal Lindsay Child said she did not see any educational benefits in enrolling pupils before they turned 5.

“The new entrants model is specifically designed for children who are school age, and now we’re talking about kids even younger than that.”

Children develop at different rates. There’s nothing magic about starting school at exactly five years old.

Child taught in the UK where pupils who had just turned 4 could start school. That was “far too young” and she had embraced the Kiwi model where pupils could start school between their fifth and sixth birthday.

What we have in New Zealand is a drip feeding of children into school as they turn five, so classes have to cater for children at different stages of their first year of education.

I know that in Queensland (I have grandchildren there) children start their year 1 (called Prep) all at the same time at the start of the year. Children who turn 5 by 30 June enrol at the start of that year, so their starting ages range from 4 and a half to 5 and a half. They seem to manage ok.

The change in 2017 at least allowed children to start as a group each term.

On the passing of the amendment act yesterday:

National’s Education spokesperson Nikki Kaye said repealing communities of online learning was “hugely disappointing”.

The bill was “an example of this Government on an ideological crusade to get rid of anything brought in by National”.

There seems to be some of that in education and in workplace legislation.

 

Consultation on education reform

The Government is proposing major changes to how schools are administered.

From December:  Minister wants ‘wider discussion’ on proposed schooling changes

The Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce is proposing significant changes to the way our schools are run, governed, and managed to ensure every student receives the best quality education in future, Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

“The next four and half months until April 7, 2019 provides opportunity for the wider public discussion we are seeking.

“Now is the chance for all New Zealanders to have their say on building a schooling system that meets the needs of all students, educators and parents, and that is fit for purpose for the 21st century.

“The Taskforce will lead the consultation, and report on the results. The Government will make decisions on implementing the review in mid-2019,” Chris Hipkins said.

A full copy of Our Schooling Futures: Stronger Together | Whiria Ngā Kura Tūātinitini is available here.

There is alternative consultation going on.

Big Read (NZH): One night with the man who could change all your children’s futures

Bali Haque’s got the electricity of a preacher. He’s an education evangelist with a fire in his eyes.

“We have a world class education system,” says the academic-principal-teacher leading the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce.

He’s on the road, from the south of the country to the north and back again, telling people why this “world class education system” needs to become something completely different.

The reason?

“In this country, we have a really significant issue with equity,” he says.

Haque is speaking in the Kerikeri High School library, the Far North’s centre of relatively comfortable affluence where citizens know all about equity. They are well aware they enjoy a life different from the abject poverty which eats at the heart of almost all Far North towns.

The gap between poor and rich has grown to a chasm. School is one place where foundations are laid to bridge that gap.

“The gap between best performing and least-well performing is large. And it is stubborn.”

And there’s the problem. The 1989 promise of former Prime Minister David Lange’s
Tomorrow’s Schools has not been realised. Our 2500 parent-led schools have developed a host of different answers to the question every child poses, which is: Who is the best person you can be?

He tells the 30 people in the audience: “We are good at innovation but have a problem with scaling up, or sustaining innovation.”

And so, if we are to have an education revolution – this biggest school shake up in 30 years – then it needs to happen in a way which lasts.

“It’s our view one of the reasons we have this stubborn gap is the system we are working in.”

Having listed his Five Great Truths, Haque is off and painting a picture with words of a new system of schooling.

These meetings are happening across New Zealand this month and next. By the time they have finished, Haque and the other four people on the Taskforce will have given or heard this talk 33 times, from New Plymouth on Valentine’s Day to Palmerston North on March 27.

There are around 800,000 children in our primary-through-secondary education system. If Haque gets his way, these changes will have a dramatic effect on how they are educated, and how their children will be educated.

Haque hasn’t just redesigned our school system. He’s drafting a fresh blueprint for our future.

And yet, there are just 30 people in the Kerikeri High School library. Of those, 25 people are teachers or Board of Trustee members. Only five – including this reporter – are parents of children at school.

For such a monumental upheaval, is this really consultation?

A big read follows that.

National’s Nikki Kaye is also going around the country consulting – National to hold 40 education public meetings

“The meetings will be jointly hosted by myself and the local National MPs, some members of National’s Education Caucus will also be in attendance. I plan to attend all of the 40 meetings.

“National has also welcomed a request by the Chair of the Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce, Bali Haque, to have some of the taskforce or officials attend some of our meetings as part of their own public consultation process.

“National want to ensure that the 19,000 trustees on school boards and hundreds of thousands of parents have the opportunity to have a good understanding of the proposals. To ensure this we will be providing factual information on the changes as well as seeking feedback.

More from the Big Read:

Last year, Hipkins stressed to Cabinet the importance of “public consultation”. It was this, he said, what he would bring to Cabinet before “decisions on a Government response” to the taskforce recommendations.

He wouldn’t be interviewed about the timeframe, but said through a spokesman he was happy with the level of consultation.

The Bali Haque Roadshow set off for Whangārei, and then further south. They will soon be in a town near you. If you have children, you need to go to these meetings. Not just for their sake but for the children they will have.

Haque and his cohort of revolutionaries will change education for generations.

And if you do go to a meeting, you will hear him say: “Education reform in New Zealand we don’t do well.”

A list of meetings:

The education road show

East Auckland: February 28, 4pm and 7pm at Bailey Road School.

Queenstown: March 4, 7pm at the Crowne Plaza.

Hamilton: March 5, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Taupō: March 6, 7pm, Taupo-nui-a-Tia College.

Gisborne: March 6, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Napier/Hastings: March 7, 7pm, William Colenso College.

Wellington: March 11, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Porirua: March 12, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Lower Hutt: March 13, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Masterton: March 14, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Rotorua: March 18, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Tauranga: March 19, 7pm, Tauranga Boys’ College.

South Auckland: March 20, 4pm and 7pm, Papatoetoe High School.

West Auckland: March 21, 4pm and 7pm, The Trusts Arena.

Central Auckland: March 21, 7pm, Freemans Bay School.

Nelson: March 25, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Greymouth: March 26, 5.30pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Whanganui: March 26, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

Palmerston North: March 27, 7pm, location yet to be confirmed.

More from NZ Herald:

• Bali Haque: Tomorrows Schools review must deal with the market’s failure
• Tomorrow’s Schools meeting: Teachers speak out against Bali Haque’s plan
• Biggest education shake-up in 30 years proposed
• ‘Stalinist’ or ‘exciting’: Battle begins over radical school reforms

70 public meetings planned for and against school trustee reforms

The task force that has proposed major changes to the way schools are managed has organised 32 public meetings around the country, but the Opposition has organised 40 meetings of it’s own.

While teacher unions are usually strongly on Labour’s side some school principals are opposed to the proposals.

NZ Herald:  Battle over school reforms begins this week as 70 public meetings begin

A national battle over proposed radical changes to the school system kicks off this week with the first of more than 70 public meetings.

National Party education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye has unveiled plans to hold 40 public meetings from Kerikeri to Stewart Island, starting in Hamilton this Friday.

The taskforce which proposed the changes, led by former principal Bali Haque, has also announced 32 public meetings and an online survey seeking public input on 58 questions.

National Party leader Simon Bridges drew the battle lines on the proposed reforms last week, promising in his State of the Nation speech to “fight the Government’s plans to entirely centralise education, disempower boards of trustees and reduce choice and the sense of community in schools”.

Auckland Grammar School headmaster Tim O’Connor, who is fiercely opposed to the reforms, said he would be inviting other schools to join him in a public campaign aimed at making the reforms voluntary, allowing some schools to opt out of them.

O’Connor said Haque proposed a “one-size-fits-all model that will remove parental input into school governance and the freedom to choose a style of education that suits different children and young adults”.

But Haque said he still hoped to reach a national “consensus” before the taskforce presents its final report to Education Minister Chris Hipkins on April 30.

“We are an independent taskforce,” he said. “We are keen to talk across the political spectrum to take this out of the political realm, and we want to develop consensus.”

The chances of a consensus with National look slim at this stage, although Nikki Kaye has a record of working with other parties on some issues, and she has made it clear she doesn’t oppose all proposed changes.

“There are wider issues around our education system where National totally believes there needs to be change, like more equitable funding. We support changes around learning support”.

“I think there are changes that need to be made in terms of the way property is run. We had some plans in the works on that.”

The reform proposals:

The taskforce’s key proposal is that about 20 regional education hubs should “assume all the legal responsibilities and liabilities currently held by school boards of trustees”.

Education lawyer Carol Anderson said the boards’ key powers to be transferred to hubs would be:

  • Employment of the principal and teachers. The taskforce proposes that boards would retain up to half the members of a selection panel for the principal, and would have a final veto over appointments, but principals would be appointed for five-year terms and might then be moved to other schools.
  • Finance. Principals would still manage the school’s operations grant, but the hub would have to approve the school’s annual budget.
  • Property. Hubs would take over property maintenance but would have discretion to delegate this back to schools judged to be competent.
  • Suspensions and expulsions. Hubs would take over processes as soon as a student is suspended.

Having a ‘hub’ take over some of the management and responsibilities will suit some schools, but it isn’t surprising that some larger schools would prefer to manage as much as possible themselves. For the latter hubs may be an unnecessary level of bureaucracy.

Regardless of who is organising the meetings they provide an opportunity for the public, in particular parents, to have their say.

Kaye and Hipkins working together on language teaching bill

This is a very good sign from two younger senior politicians – Minister of Education Chris Hipkins is supporting Former education minister Nikki Kaye’s members’ bill – the Education (Strengthening Second Language Learning in Primary and Intermediate Schools) Amendment Bill – to at least the committee stage in Parliament.

NZ Herald:  Ex-education minister Nikki Kaye signs up sitting Minister Chris Hipkins to progress bill for teaching languages

Foreign language learning in primary schools looks likely to become commonplace for Kiwi kids with widespread political support for a private member’s bill promoting second-language teaching from a young age.

Former education minister Nikki Kaye has won the support of current Education Minister Chris Hipkins and the Labour caucus, plus the Greens and Act, to progress her bill to select committee.

The bill is also likely to extend the provision of Māori language teaching in schools as well as foreign languages.

The bill requires the Government to set 10 priority languages – likely to include Mandarin, Spanish, French, Japanese, Korean, Pacific languages and possibly Hindi as well as official languages Te Reo Māori and New Zealand Sign Language.

It also requires the Government to resource the provision of those languages in primary and intermediate schools.

Kaye said a number of issues would need to be worked through at select committee.

“These include investing in workforce development to ensure we have the teachers and that adequate time is given for schools to implement this. I realise this could be phased in over a number of years.”

The bill won’t come up for its first reading vote until next year but she has had a commitment in writing from Labour, the Greens and Act that they will support it. New Zealand First is still considering it. Kaye was particularly complimentary about Hipkins.

“He has been incredibly generous and understanding that while there may need to be some changes to the bill in the future, that he is supportive to send it to select committee.”

Hipkins said there was real value in second-language learning.

“Kids who do a second language generally tend to do better in their first language,” he said.

“It is not going to be something that any Government can deliver in three, six or even nine years. It is going to be something we are going to have to work on over a long period of time.”

He said one of the areas of debate would be around the concept of priority languages, the role of Pacific languages, the focus on Asian languages in the context of economic partnerships and the traditional European languages which have taught for a long time.

“I’m not sure whether we should restrict down to a small list of priority languages but the bill gives us an opportunity to have that discussion.”

He welcomed the opportunity to have a discussion about what was taught in schools, including language learning, on a cross-party basis rather than being divided along party lines.

This is a good bill to have put into the Members’ ballot, so good on Kaye for that. Lucky it was drawn.

And it is very good to see the ex-minister and current Minister, from normally opposing parties, working together to get this bill debated and worked over in Parliament. It doesn’t guarantee it will end up passing, but this shows our MPs and parties are capable of working together on policies of common interest.

I would like to see more of this cooperation between the Government and the Opposition – it does happen quite a bit as business as usual in Parliament but usually gets little or no attention.

Holding to account, and even attacking opponents constructively, are important parts of our democratic system, but those actions should be exceptions rather than the norm.

Unfortunately media tend to prefer to report on conflict rather than cooperation, but I think that most voters would prefer to see more working together between all our representatives in Parliament.

This cooperation on Kaye’s language bill is a very good sign.

Hipkins to take parental leave from Parliament

Not long ago Jacinda Ardern took leave from Parliament when she had her baby. Winston Peters took over as acting Prime Minister for eight weeks (and things seemed to tick over ok).

A week ago Green MP and Minister Julie Anne Genter had a baby and is currently on leave.

So it shouldn’t be a big deal that Chris Hipkins has announced that he will take four weeks parental leave when his second child is ‘born’ (by C-section).

This is the first time a male Minister has taken baby time out to this degree (I’m sure Ministers will have taken a bit of time out when babies have been born).

NZH:  Education Minister Chris Hipkins plans to take parental leave from Beehive for baby No. 2

Education Minister Chris Hipkins is planning to take up to four weeks paternity leave after the birth of his next baby at the end of the month.

“The main priority really will be to support the baby’s mum because the baby will be born by C-section”.

That means being around to do the heavy lifting, quite literally the heavy lifting.”

The baby will be the second for Hipkins and partner Jade.

He will also be spending time looking after the couple’s first child, Charlie, who turns two in October.

Hipkins says he already spends quality time with Charlie every morning with him, getting him up, having breakfast together and dropping him at day care.

The new baby will be subject to the same publicity regime as Charlie, who has no public photos, including on Face Book.

Hipkins: “I want him to be able to grow up like a normal Kiwi kid and I want him to have his own space to grow up and be a kid and not be public property. I accept that I am public property. That doesn’t mean that my family are.”

Hipkins will continue to be paid his ministerial salary – as Jacinda Ardern was when she took time off. There is no mechanism to stop MPs’ pay and they are not eligible for the ordinary paid parental leave scheme.

MPs are lucky that they can take time out for their families.

Hipkins has a heavy workload as:

  • Minister of Education
  • Minister of Ministerial Services
  • Minister of State Services
  • Leader of the House

Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin will pick up most of Hipkins’ education work. Iain lee-Galloway will take over Leader of the House duties. And State Services and Ministerial Services will be farmed out to others.

He was also given extra responsibilities after Clare Curran removed from Cabinet ten days ago:

State Services Minister Chris Hipkins will take back the Open Government responsibilities which were delegated to Hon Curran.

“The CTO appointment process is in its final stages. Minister Curran will have no further involvement in it and State Services Minister Hipkins will take over that process and finalise the details of the appointment and the implementation of the CTO role.

“Minister Hipkins has asked the State Services Commission to take a look at the CTO appointment process to ensure it has been robust, and that the meeting between Ms Curran and Mr Handley had no bearing on the process or outcome. The SSC will report back next week before the appointment process is concluded.

The CTO appointment should be dealt with by next month when Hipkins plans to take leave.

Open Government responsibilities may be put on hold. It shouldn’t make much difference, ‘open government’ was a bit of a joke under Curran.

Ardern taking leave showed that no Minister is indispensable – others should be able to take over when anyone needs to be absent.

It has happened before due to illness. In September 2016 then Minister Nikki Kaye took several months leave from Parliament to be treated for breast cancer. She resumed duties in early 2017.

Taking a few weeks off work is a privilege for MPs, many ordinary people are not in financial or employment situations that are so generous.

But it is a sign of more sensible times when MPs and ministers can take time off when they have children, whether they be male or female.

Ardern absolutely overdone

Quotes from Jacinda Ardern in Parliament’s question time on Tuesday:

Hon Chris Hipkins: Does the Prime Minister think it is tenable for the Government to threaten to cut funding for universities when they make decisions that the Government disagrees with?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely not.

 

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Regarding the international influence upon New Zealand’s economy, is the Prime Minister encouraged by all of a sudden the number of highly-placed European Union officials and representations with respect to a free-trade deal with the European Union?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely.

 

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept the collapse of multiple construction companies to be a reality for those businesses, their workers, and their customers?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, absolutely we’ve acknowledged that’s happened.

 

Hon Simon Bridges: No, we’re not—not on anything.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: On things like the employment rate, we absolutely are.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept any responsibility in terms of her Government’s policies such as industrial relations reform, shutting down the oil and gas sectors in terms of new exploration, higher taxes, and banning foreign investment, and the hurt they’re causing business confidence, and therefore the direct impact they’re having for families all around New Zealand?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, as I’ve said, I absolutely acknowledge that businesses have shared with us via the confidence surveys that there are issues they wish us to work on.

But Ardern isn’t on her own in absolute overkill.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The member’s question contained a number of things in it that are certainly on the table. Reducing teacher workload is absolutely one of the things that I imagine will be discussed as a result of the current bargaining round. I’m not ruling out changes to class sizes over the term of this Government, but, as I indicated in my answer to the primary question, they will be considered alongside all of the other priorities that the Government has in the education area.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Why will he not absolutely commit to reducing class sizes, and what action will he take against Labour list MP Ginny Andersen, who distributed this pamphlet, which said Labour believes class sizes are too high and will absolutely invest in class sizes?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I’m not sure which election campaign that flyer came from, but what I can be clear about is that the Government is absolutely committed to employing more teachers. We put funding aside for 1,500 more teachers in this year’s Budget, and that will have an effect on class sizes, that would have been going up had we not put that funding aside in order to fund that.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: First of all, I absolutely reject the premise in the last part of the member’s question. The Government is absolutely committed to negotiating in good faith with the teachers, both primary and secondary, and we will continue to do that. There are a range of priorities in the education portfolio that the Government will be endeavouring to meet over the term of Government. I absolutely reject any suggestion that we’ve broken any promises with regard to class sizes, and I’m absolutely committed to delivering on the commitments made in the Speech from the Throne, the coalition agreement we have with New Zealand First, the confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party, and the other commitments that the Government has signed up to through the Budget.