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.

Minister extends NCEA consultation after meeting principals

It’s good to see a positive response from Nikki Kaye to the extension of consultation on NCEA announced by Minister of Education Chris Hipkins. And good to see Hipkins listen and adjust his approach.

NZH: Advisory group of principals and teachers to be set up to consult on NCEA review

Education Minister Chris Hipkins will set up an advisory group of teachers and principals to consult on the NCEA review, and has extended the consultation period after complaints from a coalition of 70 schools which said the process was being rushed.

Hipkins has written to members of the Principals NCEA Coalition today after an urgent meeting last week, confirming that he would speak to his Cabinet colleagues about proposed changes to the proposed review process.

He would establish a professional advisory group made up of principals and teachers, in addition to a ministerial advisory group already set up, to advise him on the outcomes from the review process next year.

In addition, the consultation period would be extended from September 16 until October 19 this year.

“We are grateful to the minister for meeting with us and welcome these initial changes as a good start,” said coalition spokesman Glen Denham, principal of West Auckland’s Massey High School.

“As a 70-strong coalition, we will now begin work on our vision for NCEA and the details of how it should operate. New Zealand’s remaining secondary schools are very welcome to join us. It is vital to get this right for the future of the young people of New Zealand,” Denham said in a statement.

Hipkins had issued an open invitation to principals to meet him last month after the coalition took out a full-page advertisement in newspapers which criticised the NCEA review.

The group called for the review to be halted, describing the consultation process as “bizarre”, putting the views of children ahead of professional educators and lacking proper consultation with school leaders and teachers.

Hipkins previously said he believed the process would be sufficient and would not be extending the consultation period.

Today he said the changes were a “sensible step that acknowledges the issues raised by the coalition.

“We’ve already had about 1000 submissions from teachers and principals but I’m happy to improve the clarity of the process and give principals more opportunities to be heard alongside teachers, parents, students, employers and others.”

It’s refreshing to see a Minister prepared to meet, listen, and improve consultation.

And it’s refreshing to see an Opposition spokesperson who is often critical prepared to back a sensible move.

Ridiculed ‘teacher’ bill dropped

A New Zealand First members’ bill that would have restricted who could call themselves a teacher has been dropped. Sometimes ridicule can be effective.

Newshub:  NZ First drops ‘severely flawed’ Bill restricting use of word ‘teacher’

New Zealand First has abandoned a controversial Member’s Bill which would have placed restrictions who can call themselves a teacher.

On Monday, MP Jenny Marcroft announced she had withdrawn the ‘Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill’ after a “positive discussion” between her party and the office of the Minister of Education.

She says the launch of the nationwide initiative ‘Education Conversation 2018’ over the weekend has given her renewed confidence in the country’s respect for teachers.

“Add this to the multiple trains of work the Minister of Education is undertaking and I see a real commitment to raising and recognising the status of our teaching profession which gives me confidence that my Member’s Bill is no longer needed.”

The Bill would have meant that only those who have trained and are qualified as teachers can use the title in order to “lift the status of teachers”.

It would have become an offence, punishable with a $2000 fine, to connect the word with any unqualified person or business. People who were not qualified would have had to use the title of lecturer, tutor or educator instead.

The proposed Bill was harshly criticised by National, which NZ First MP Tracey Martin called “scaremongering”.

I think it was criticised and ridiculed quite widely.

National education spokesperson Nikki Kaye: Coalition Govt finally sees sense on teacher title bill

The withdrawal of the Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill is a big win for hardworking swimming teachers, music teachers, ballet teachers and other teachers affected by the bill, National’s Education Spokesperson Nikki Kaye says.

“It’s clear that National’s campaign against this flawed bill has succeeded. The lack of work on the bill to determine the number of people affected, the costings, and the general impact that the bill would have had meant that it was destined to fail.

Fair enough for Kaye to claim some credit for National, but there was other pressure as well.

“The bill’s misguided attempt to raise the status of the teaching profession by stopping those who have not gained recognised teaching qualifications from calling themselves ‘teachers’ was not even supported by the teaching profession.

“It’s extraordinary that it got to Select Committee with the support of Labour and the Greens despite opposition from the Government’s own Attorney-General David Parker.

“It’s good that Jenny Marcroft has recognised the overwhelming opposition to the bill she inherited from Tracey Martin and made the right call to drop it. Her heart was in the right place but the bill was not well thought-through.

“People who teach swimming, music, dance or art make a significant contribution in our communities and should have every right to call themselves teachers. Fining them for using that title would have done nothing to raise the status of qualified school teachers.

“There are far better ways to raise the status of teachers. We need to make sure we have high quality graduates choosing teaching as a career and investing in professional learning and development opportunities.

If this bill had been passed the Government would have worn the ridicule, including Labour.

I presume NZ First discovered they wouldn’t get the numbers so it was better to withdraw it rather than have it fail.

 

Legal ring fencing of the word ‘teacher’ proposed

It may become illegal to use the word ‘teacher’ unless you have a specific university degree – namely ” a three-year Bachelor of Education, a Bachelor’s degree with a one-year Diploma of Teaching, or a conjoint degree that combines study in teaching subjects with teacher training”.

This sort of silliness could be a coalition killer.

Newshub: Proposed Bill to restrict use of word ‘teacher’

A Bill which would make it illegal to use the title ‘teacher’ without a formal qualification is before a select committee.

Submissions for The Education (Protecting Teacher Title) Amendment Bill, fronted by New Zealand First MP Jenny Marcroft, closed on Friday.

It aims to “lift the status of teachers” by removing the ability of those without the qualification to represent themselves with that title.

“Clarity around the use of the title of teacher is essential in order to avoid any misunderstanding by the public about the qualifications,” the proposed Bill reads.

It would become an offence, punishable with a $2000 fine, to connect the word with any unqualified person or business.

Qualifications which could use the title are a three-year Bachelor of Education, a Bachelor’s degree with a one-year Diploma of Teaching, or a conjoint degree that combines study in teaching subjects with teacher training.

Those who aren’t qualified can still use the titles of lecturer, tutor or educator.

Educator sounds more school orientated to me than teacher.

I guess this is trying to emulate restrictions on the use of the word ‘doctor’ or the words ‘sir’ or ‘dame’, but it is risky using legislation to limit the use of such a widely used word like teacher.

National education spokesperson Nikki Kaye says the Bill “jeopardises many of our current teachers and early childhood teachers”.

“It has the potential to undermine and devalue our many educators who contribute to the wellbeing of our country.

“The impact of the Bill is not even isolated to the education sector. Are we going to fine every music teacher, dance teacher, and swimming teacher?”

“Even the Attorney-General has come out against the bill as it breaches the Bill of Rights, yet the Government continues to support it.”

But Ms Marcroft says it’s “nonsense” that there’s currently no differentiation between those that have “significant skills and training” and those who don’t.

“If we are going to have strong partnerships with whānau and communities to improve the educational outcomes of all tamariki, we must ensure the professional status of teachers is recognised,” she says.

“The Bill will elevate the public status of teachers and provide parents with a clear distinction between teachers who are fully trained and qualified, and those who are not.”

It’s highly questionable trying to legally limit the use of a common word used in a wide variety of ways.

Oxford dictionary: doctor

A person who is qualified to treat people who are ill.

North American A qualified dentist or veterinary surgeon.

A person who holds the highest university degree.

They are well established uses.

Oxford dictionary: teacher

A person who teaches, especially in a school.

That’s far more general.

This legislation seems to be a misguided attempt to fix a problem that doesn’t exist.

What about home teaching?

If the Government wants to assign a unique word to teachers they should make one up rather than legally ring fence a widely used and interpreted word.

Enough of that, now I must move on to teach you lot how to comment properly – perhaps you should have to be qualified?

Unopened Partnership Schools may cost millions

Labour had always strongly opposed Partnership Schools (alongside teacher unions), and campaigned on abolishing them. When they took over  Government they moved quickly, but due to contractual commitments millions of dollars may have to be paid for schools that will never open.

NZH: Charter schools that may never open were paid $3.4m

Taxpayers have paid $3.4 million to five proposed charter schools that may never open.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins has told National education spokeswoman Nikki Kayethat two proposed schools were paid establishment grants on the day the Ardern Government was sworn in, October 26.

Two others have been paid establishment grants since then, apparently because the new Government was bound by contracts signed before the election even though Hipkins has introduced a bill abolishing charter, or partnership, schools.

None of the five schools is believed to have paid back any of the money yet because they are still negotiating about either opening state or integrated schools instead, or recovering their costs for dreams that will never be realised.

The Ministry of Education has advised Hipkins that terminating contracts for the 11 existing charter schools and the five proposed schools “would generate compensation costs for committed costs of up to $1m per school (total of $16m for 16 schools), but is likely to be lower as not all schools would have committed costs of $1m”.

Kaye said adding that to the $3.4m in establishment grants, plus extra property costs the state may take on if charter schools become state schools, make “a $20m policy to change the names of the schools”.

But Hipkins said: “Negotiations with all existing and proposed charter schools are ongoing. I’d encourage the Opposition to contain their wild speculation until those negotiations have concluded.”

Some proposed schools may now never open, but others could switch to the newly named option, “State schools with designated character“.

Blue Light Ventures, which runs youth activities out of police stations, abandoned its plans to open a charter school in February for up to 90 boys in Years 11 to 13 at Wairakei, after local residents objected.

Blue Light chief executive Rod Bell said then that he was still discussing “the contract position” with the ministry, which paid it an establishment grant of $568,783 on August 21.

However at least three of the four charter schools that were due to open next year are still hoping to open schools in some form.

Partnership schools (to be abolished):

Owned by private sponsors; free to employ non-registered teachers; not bound by NZ curriculum; state pays establishment grants; state pays operational funding into one pot; no student fees. Example: Vanguard Military School.

State schools with designated character (the new alternative):

Owned by the state but private sponsors may have board representation; must employ registered teachers; must follow NZ curriculum; state provides capital for school buildings plus operational funding in two main pots – one for teacher salaries which must be paid at agreed collective rates, and one for other costs; no student fees. Example: Ngā Kura a Iwi (tribal schools).

Integrated schools (longstanding alternative):

Owned by private proprietors, who may have up to four people on the school board; must employ registered teachers; must follow NZ curriculum but may include religious instruction; state may fund up to 85 per cent of building costs, then funds operations as for state schools with teacher salaries which must be paid at agreed collective rates; may charge attendance dues solely to cover property costs.

Many religious based schools have become integrated schools.

Labour have not opposed privately owned Integrated Schools, but have strongly opposed privately owned (mostly trust owned) non-religion based schools.

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 KELVIN DAVIS: No.

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 KELVIN DAVIS: No.

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.