Immigration policy changes – families for the rich

Winston Peters is claiming the credit for a toughening up of the Parental Visa Scheme which makes it possible for only high income earners to sponsor family members immigrating too New Zealand.

Peters must see votes for NZ First as more important than families.

RNZ:  NZ First pushed for tightening of parental visa scheme

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says the tightening up on who can move to New Zealand is a direct response to his party’s demands during coalition negotiations with Labour.

That sits uncomfortably against the posturing of the Prime Minister and Immigration Minister who this week celebrated the lifting of the moratorium on the parent category visa.

In the last fortnight the government has announced three significant changes to its immigration policy.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme will be boosted by just over 3000 in the next two years, the government has overturned the family link policy that stopped refugees from Africa and the Middle East resettling in New Zealand unless they had family here and it’s reinstated the parent category visa – but with a cap on the number of parents who can come in and a high income test for the child sponsor.

Speaking to RNZ, Mr Peters said the parental category visa changes that switch the financial onus from the parent moving to New Zealand to the child sponsor, and almost doubles the income test is “precisely” what New Zealand First pushed for at the Cabinet table.

“Where in the world can you decide to go and take your parents as well? That’s the reality here,” he said.

Only when a skilled migrant is living in New Zealand, who is critical to the workforce, and is in demand internationally does it make sense to allow them to bring a parent in, Mr Peters said.

“It is a significant tightening up of the parental visa scheme.”

“What we had here was up to 31 percent of the so-called sponsors having left this country to go off to other countries, including Australia, and leaving the cost to the taxpayers.”

The change is going to make it more likely that skilled immigrants will desert the country if they can’t bring in their family members.

For New Zealand First it’s about upholding a nationalist approach, something Mr Peters said always existed until the “neo-liberal experiment unleashed itself on the idea that more immigration meant cheap labour”.

Immigration has been an essential for the growth of New Zealand since long before the so-called “neo-liberal experiment”.

“All these things were meant to be part and parcel of a planned population policy but there was no plan other than to drive up consumption with mass immigration,” he said.

Peters keeps using the term “mass immigration”, which is nonsense but deliberately panders to a small intolerant section of society (and voters). NZ First needs more than them to keep their support levels up – and those who expected him to fulfil his promise to slash overall immigrant numbers (to 10,000, currently about 50,000) may still feel he hasn’t delivered anyway.

Sexual assault claims ‘innuendo’ and ‘lies’

Winston Peters arrived back in Parliament after sick leave and immediately took to stirring up Labour’s sexual assault issue. He also tried to attack Judith Collins by association – much along the lines that have been run at The Standard.

Newshub: Winston Peters labels Labour sexual assault claims ‘innuendo’, NZ First MPs back him up

Winston Peters has wasted no time wading into the Labour Party investigation, calling the allegations “unfounded fiction”, an “orgy of speculation”, and “innuendo”.

The NZ First leader’s inflammatory comments come as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern seeks to work with the complainants out of the public glare – but she won’t take her deputy to task.

“I’ve rarely seen such a disgraceful episode of unfounded allegations,” Peters said on Tuesday.

Typical irony from Peters given his history of using speculation and innuendo and allegations without producing evidence (it has often just been threatened).

He said it was “led by a woman called Paula Bennett making all sorts of vile allegations by way of innuendo without a fact to back it up”.

And New Zealand First MPs were lining up to back him up.

“If you are a victim of criminal wrongdoing, do not go to the opposition – go to the police,” Shane Jones, Regional Economic Minister, said.

Tracey Martin, Internal Affairs Minister, added: “[Winston Peters has] got a point – I haven’t seen any evidence be produced.”

So it looks like a coo-ordinated line of attack.

In Parliament yesterday Peters attempted a diversionary attack on Judith Collins was not allowed by the Speaker: 9. Question No. 9—Energy and Resources

Rt Hon Winston Peters: A supplementary question to the primary question today from the Leader of the Opposition: which member of Parliament was associated with this company?

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Speakers’ ruling 159/5 says, “It is not reasonable to use questions from the governing party or its support parties to attack other members of the House.” I think it’s clear that what the Deputy Prime Minister is doing is deliberately targeting a member of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: I’ll hear from the Deputy Prime Minister.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: That protest might sound meritorious were it not for the fact that the very leader of his own party raised that question during a supplementary in the first question today.

SPEAKER: Well, I’m not convinced that team-tag would make something like this appropriate. My view on this—and it’s a very strict view—is that attacks, especially on the families of members of Parliament, are generally inappropriate. I think that the question was an invitation to attack a family member of a member of this Parliament, and on that basis I’m not going to allow it to proceed.

Coincidentally (perhaps) similar lines have been run at The Standard. This post yesterday went as far as naming Collins: The strange case of Oravida and the rupturing of the Ruakaka jet fuel line:

The rumour mill went overboard at the time with suggestions that an Oravida company associated with Judith Collins was involved.

The post included an Oravido photo with Collins. This is dirty politics by association. Collins wasn’t driving the digger that ruptured the fuel line, and there’s no evidence she had anything to do with it or with the operations of the company – I think it’s extremely unlikely.

Also at The Standard yesterday, again authored by Labour stalwart MICKYSAVAGE: An unfortunate rush to judgment by the media?

Labour’s Council member Simon Mitchell, who is a very experienced and adept lawyer, has made a public statement which directly contradicts the essence of some of the allegations that have been made.

The post strongly supports Mitchell’s statement, and makes no mention of the complainant’s counter statement (it was linked in comments by someone else).

The post features an old photo of Paula Bennett with Cameron Slater, who has no link to the Labour sexual assault story. Associating Bennett here with Mr Dirty Politics is the sort of dirty politics that Slater used. SHG commented

And lprent was again throwing around warnings when comments were made that he didn’t like.

Either Mitchell is lying or this individual victim is lying. I’d be interested in hearing what the other complainants have to say. What a messy situation.

Let us not forget that Sarah is only one of twelve people who have complained.

Also, let us not forget that where sexual assault/rape/harrassment is concerned, only a fraction of the incidents ever result in complaints.

What I’m saying is, don’t fixate on what Sarah did or didn’t say to the Labour Party’s lawyer as if answering that question represents any sort of achievement.

[lprent: Lets not forget that the panel and everyone else in the Labour process have been saying that the sexual assault/rape allegations weren’t raised to them. You have just asserted that it was. That is defamatory.

Please keep trying to make me liable. I am really looking forward to kicking your snarky lying arse off the site permanently.

Second warning. ]

Ironic accusing SHG of being defamatory given the posts smearing MPs.

lprent falsely accused me of lying last week when all I was doing was quoting media reports. He has accused the media and others of lying too.

He and The Standard seem to have a similar agenda to peters and NZ First, It looks like the are doing dirty work for the Labour party establishment in a defence, and an attack on the complainants.

Disclosure: The Standard banned me on Sunday for posting media reports on this issue. The seem to be hard out trying to control the message favourable to the Labour Party establishment, with messages contrary to what Jacinda Ardern has been saying.

Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill appears to be still stalled

National MP Nick Smith introduced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to Parliament in March 2016.

The sanctuary was a part of both governing agreements between Labour and NZ First and the Green Party, but after the bill was transferred to incoming Labour Minister of the Environment David Parker the bill seems to have stalled. In nearly three years it hasn’t progressed from it’s Second Reading.

Smith recently stated:

“It is embarrassing for the Coalition Government that it has made no progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary after 18 months in Government.  The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill, originally in my name but transferred to David Parker with the change in Government in 2017, has sat on the bottom of Parliament’s Order Paper for 18 months.

Timeline:

8 March 2016 – Bill introduced to Parliament

15 March 2016 – First Reading

22 July 2016 – Select Committee

15 September 2016Govt remains committed to Kermadec sanctuary

The Government is disappointed it has been unable to reach agreement with Maori fisheries trust Te Ohu Kaimoana (TOKM) on the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary, despite lengthy negotiations, Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith says.

“We have tried very hard to find a resolution with TOKM, with 10 meetings involving ministers during the past 10 months. TOKM wanted to be able to maintain the right to fish and the right to exercise that at some time in the future. We wanted to protect the integrity of the sanctuary as a no-take area.

“The Government has amended the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill to provide a dual name, the Kermadec/Rangitahua Ocean Sanctuary Bill, to include Maori in the new Kermadec/Rangitahua Conservation Board, and to provide for their inclusion in the 25-year review. We remain committed to the changes to the proposal despite not being able to secure an agreement with TOKM.”

24 October 2017: Governing Agreements

Labour NZ First Coalition Agreement:

    • Work with Māori and other quota holders to resolve outstanding issues in the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary Bill in a way that is satisfactory to both Labour and New Zealand First.

Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement (24 October 2017):

8. Safeguard the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems and promote abundant fisheries. Use best endeavours and work alongside Māori to establish the Kermadec/ Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary and look to establish a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary.

11 May 2018Winston Peters says the Greens can have a Kermadec Sanctuary – with a catch

Hope for a Kermadec Sanctuary is back on the table and NZ First leader Winston Peters is confident he can do a deal with the Green Party by the end of the year.

The deal would involve a compromise from the Greens though – accepting that the sanctuary won’t be a 100 per cent no-fishing zone.

While the previous government’s bill to establish it passed its first reading unopposed in 2016, iwi bodies and fishing companies subsequently filed legal action against it. NZ First, which has close ties to the fishing industry, raised serious concerns about the legislation.

To keep the fishing industry happy and to ensure iwi with fishing rights under the Treaty of Waitangi are on board, Peters is proposing a mixed model that allows for roughly 95 per cent marine reserve and 5 per cent fishing.

Peters says it’s entirely possible to preserve species while allowing a small percentage of fishing to keep interested parties on side.

He said the Greens would need to decide whether it was more important to have the best part of a sanctuary, or no sanctuary at all.

23 June 2018 – David Parker address to the Forest & Bird Annual Conference

I am also trying to progress the Kermadec Rangitāhua Ocean Sanctuary, which I have Ministerial responsibility for. I am working to see if I can find a way through that.

24 July 2018Winston Peters confident of Kermadec Marine Sanctuary deal by end of year

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters is confident the deadlock over the Kermadec Marine Sanctuary can be broken by the end of the year.

Environment Minister David Parker and Mr Peters have been working on a compromise for the best part of this year.

Mr Peters insisted an end-of-year deadline was realistic.

“If we keep working on this issue with the level of commitment that has been exhibited thus far then it’s very likely we can have it resolved by the end of 2018.”

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said there was more than one way to uphold Treaty rights and keep the Kermadec Islands a sanctuary.

“We’re committed to a sanctuary, it’s with our confidence and supply agreement with Labour and that’s what we’re committed to keep working towards. I haven’t actually seen details of exactly what Mr Peters and Mr Parker might be working on.”

Greens seem to have been sidelined.

12 February 2019Prime Minister’s Statement at the Opening of Parliament

Cabinet will also consider options to resolve outstanding issues around marine protection for Rangitahua/the Kermadecs.

While the sanctuary Bill seems to have stalled since 2016, despite the coalition and C&S agreements, it seems to remain stalled.

Nick Smith: Kermadec sanctuary lost at sea

World Oceans Day today highlights the Government’s failure to make any progress on the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary in the past 18 months, Nelson MP Dr Nick Smith says.

There seems to have been little progress since mid-2016, nearly three years ago.

“New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest areas of ocean in the world, yet less than one per cent is fully protected. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary would protect an area twice the size of New Zealand’s land mass, 15 per cent of our ocean area and it would benefit hundreds of unique species, including whales, dolphins, turtles, seabirds, fish and corals.

“Nothing has been done by the Government to progress the Sanctuary, despite commitments in the Coalition Agreement with NZ First and the Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Greens to establish the sanctuary.

“National will continue to push for the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary. There is strong public support and between National and the Greens, there is a clear majority of Parliament in favour of its establishment.

“We support progression of the Government Bill now at second reading stage. I also have a Member’s Bill in the Ballot to make progress if necessary. The Government needs to make progress on this Sanctuary a priority.”

So why has this bill stalled?

Is David Parker not doing enough to push it?

Are negotiations with Maori interests still getting nowhere?

Are NZ First holding out for their deal or no deal?

Cabinet considering extending employer Kiwisaver beyond the age of 65

NZ First leader and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says that Cabinet is considering extending the age when employers have to contribute to employees’ Kiwisaver. The age employers are required by law to contribute is currently 65.

But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says that no decisions have been made.

And Seniors Minister Tracey Martin says “we need older people to stay in paid work”.

RNZ: Peters and Ardern send mixed messages over KiwiSaver changes

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Minister for Seniors, Tracey Martin, were at a Grey Power conference yesterday to announce an injection of more than $8 million to revamp the SuperGold card website, a new app and in funding digital literacy training for seniors.

During the announcement Ms Martin stressed the importance of maintaining a workforce over the age of 65.

“We are going to increasingly need older people to stay in paid work if they want to. We can not have 1.2 million seniors dropping out of the workforce,” she said.

At the conference, Horowhenua Grey Power president Terry Hemmingsen, who was called in to work after he had retired, asked why his employer – the government – had scrapped its contributions to his fund.

“The day you turn 65, that 2 percent employer contribution stops. With government agencies, so being in education, I could keep paying in myself, and did. But I lost the 2 percent. Now that’s discriminatory on the basis of age, wouldn’t you think?”

On that basis you could also say that paying people National Superannuation from age 65 is discriminatory on the basis of age.

But Hemmingsen has a point. People employed with negotiable wage rates can factor in things like the the employer contribution. The KiwiSaver contribution is part of an overall remuneration package, and once that ceases at 65 theoretically at least pay rates can be renegotiated.

But people employed by the Government with industry wide rates of pay, like teachers, may not be able to do that.

Perhaps a solution is for public servant pay rates to be adjusted once someone turns 65.

NZ Herald: Deputy PM Winston Peters says Cabinet is looking into changes to NZ Super eligibility

He said that Cabinet is considering changing the KiwiSaver rules so people over 65 were able to have their contributions matched by their employer.

speaking at the Grey Power annual meeting today, Peters hinted that changes were on the way in this area.

“Something like 70,000–80,000 people have come into our country … and whether they pay tax or not, have acquired full superannuation just like some of you who have worked 45 years,” he told those gathered.

“The issue of being able to arrive in our country and get full super after just 10 years is being addressed as I speak.”

Speaking to media after the speech, he said the Government was looking into increasing the amount of time someone has to live in New Zealand before being eligible for the scheme.

Asked if the Government’s position on the issue would be unveiled before the 2020 election, he said: “Very much so, yes”.

At the moment, if someone over 65 is still working their employer is not obligated to match their contribution.

Peters said this was “not right”.

“And the Government and Cabinet are looking at that matter as we speak – trying to see why that would be fair and, more broadly, why would we not keep on encouraging older people to keep on saving?

“It’s a serious question, we’re looking at that right now.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was less enthusiastic, but also non-committal:

“New Zealand First has long held a policy in this area and it’s absolutely within any party leader’s rights to reiterate that,” she said at a post-Cabinet press conference today.

“But I note that the Deputy Prime Minister also acknowledged that no decisions have been made.”

“When we make any decision related to retirement or savings, they will be announced – I’m not going to speculate on any other policy work that is being done, or has been done”.

I am concerned that Cabinet could be discussing this possibility and could make a decision according to Peters without proper public discussion and debate.

There is no reference to KiwiSaver in the Labour-NZ First Coalition Agreement.

Leaked Cabinet paper on cannabis referendum ‘out of date’

A Cabinet Paper detailing cannabis law reform referendum options has been leaked to the National Party (who insist on misnaming the drug) just before the issue will be considered by Cabinet, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick says that it is out of date.

National: Cabinet Paper shows NZ not ready for (cannabis) referendum

A Cabinet Paper leaked to National which will be considered by the Government tomorrow shows New Zealand will head into the recreational marijuana referendum with many unanswered questions, National’s Drug Reform spokesperson Paula Bennett says.

“Cabinet will tomorrow consider four different options for the referendum but no matter which option it choses, there are huge holes.

“The Cabinet Paper is clear that smoking marijuana when you’re under the age of 25 is detrimental for development of the brain, and yet it recommends that the legal age should be 20. The legal age seems to have been plucked out of thin air.

“The paper acknowledges that regular marijuana use increases the risk of developing depression, psychosis and schizophrenia and is especially harmful to those under 25-years-old. It also acknowledges that there is a one in six chance of young people becoming dependent. This would result in further demand for mental health services.

“Only one of the options being considered will give New Zealanders some certainty about what they’re voting for – the other options will mean a huge lack of information.

“Every option takes us straight to legalisation instead of decriminalisation. Many other countries consider decriminalisation first before leaping straight to legalisation.

“National understands that as usual with this Government, the coalition has been unable to reach a consensus and the decision around which option they will choose has been holding up the process.

“The problem with that is there isn’t time for yet more coalition disagreements on an issue this important.”

The 2020 Cannabis Referendum proposals outline four options including;

  • A general question consistent with the undertaking in the Confidence and Supply agreement: “Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis?” This would not be accompanied by any legal framework or other policy decisions and it would be left to a subsequent Parliament to determine what to do in the event of a ‘yes’ vote.
  • A questions referring to a specific policy framework document setting out the basic principles of what legalisation for personal use of recreational cannabis in New Zealand would entail: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with [published policy document]?” A ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact law changes consistent with that policy document;
  • A question referring to draft legislation that outlines the regulatory model for cannabis: ‘Do you support legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis in accordance with [published draft legislation]?” Similar to option 2, a ‘yes’ vote would result in the duly elected government and Parliament having some moral imperative, but no obligation, to enact the legislation.
  • A question referring to legislation already enacted but conditional on an affirmative vote on the referendum: “Do you support legalising recreational cannabis in accordance with the [Drug Reform] Act 20XX?” A ‘yes’ vote would trigger the legislation coming into effect.

A leak of a Cabinet paper is rare and serious, and national are playing it hard.

Paula Bennett has been invited a number of times to work together with Government parties on cannabis law reform, but National has chosen to try to spoil and disrupt the issue as much as possible, in this case aided by a leak.

It’s very disappointing if Cabinet are seriously considering any but the last of the above options.

It’s also disappointing to see National trying to make a mess of the issue. Paula Bennett has handled this appallingly, presumably with the approval of Simon Bridges.

Labour, NZ First and National are all at risk of letting the majority of New Zealanders who support cannabis law reform down by playing petty politics and possible trying to get out of fronting up properly on this issue.

If Labour yet again fails on a key policy due to not getting NZ First support, and if National mess things up by not working positively on this, then they will piss a lot of people off.

Andrew Little vague on timing and form of cannabis referendum

I am seeing increasing uneasiness about what form the recreational cannabis referendum might take, in particular whether the vote is on confirming legislation already decided by Parliament.

The commitment from the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement:

19. Increase funding for alcohol and drug addiction services and ensure drug use is treated as a health issue, and have a referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis at, or by, the 2020 general election.

That’s unfortunately quite vague, leaving the decision up to Labour and NZ First Ministers in Cabinet.

Yesterday on Newshub Nation:

Okay, let’s talk about the referendum on the personal use of cannabis. You confirm you’re taking a proposal to Cabinet next week?

No, look, we’re still going through a process with our coalition and confidence-and-supply partners. We will make announcements on the issue about that hopefully very soon.

So not happening next week?

Look, I’m not going to say exactly where we are in the process, but we have been in a process, negotiating this through. I think we’re at a pretty good point. Eventually, we’ll get to the point where Cabinet will make a decision, and once that happens, we’ll make announcements.

Could we have a timeline?

I would hope sooner rather than later. I would expect in the next few weeks as opposed to, you know, too much later than that.

And have you got all your coalition partners on board on this?

I’m very pleased with where things are at. In the end, what—

Is that a yes?

Well, in the end, what is most important is Cabinet gets to make a decision. Once Cabinet has made a decision, then we’re in a position to announce—

Have you decided the wording of the question?

Look, I don’t want to go into a whole lot of detail. This has been, obviously, the subject of discussion. it’s been very intense discussion; I think very constructive discussion. I’m pleased with where things are at. Cabinet will be poised to make a decision fairly soon, and once they do, then we’ll make those announcements.

Cabinet. NZ First. No Green MPs.

I think there is cause for concern.

NZ First on the Capital Gains Tax capitulation

NZ First have prevented the Government from proceeding with any changes to capital gains taxes, despite a CGT being a core policy of Labour, backed by Jacinda Ardern, and despite it being something Greens have wanted for a long time (and James Shaw stated earlier this year that the Government didn’t deserve to be elected if they didn’t introduce a CGT).

New Zealand First Leader media release:

Tax Working Group Report

New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters has welcomed Cabinet’s decision not to implement an extension of capital gains taxation, following the Prime Minister’s statement in response to the Tax Working Group Report.

“This decision provides certainty to taxpayers and businesses. We in New Zealand First wanted first and foremost for New Zealanders to have time to discuss and debate the contents of the report,” stated Mr Peters.

“During that time we have listened very carefully to the public.

“There is already an effective capital gains tax through the Bright Line test brought in by the last National Government and New Zealand First’s view is that there is neither a compelling rationale nor mandate to institute a comprehensive capital gains tax regime,” said Mr Peters.

“We also welcome the announcement that the coalition government will be urgently exploring options with the Inland Revenue Commissioner, in concert with central and local government, for taxing vacant land held by land bankers and reviewing the current rules for taxing land speculators. Tightening these rules was a priority for New Zealand First.

“Current tax policy, rigorously enforced by an Inland Revenue Department properly resourced will by itself 1) improve the administration of existing tax policy, and 2) target those multi-nationals not paying their fair share of tax,” Mr Peters said.

There was nothing about a CGT in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. This was the only reference to tax:

  • Increase penalties for corporate fraud and tax evasion.

Peters via Twitter yesterday:

Despite the claimed hearing and listening, Peters has done what he has said he would do for a long time.

During the 2017 election campaign (Politik): Peters ready to throw spanner in Labour’s capital gains tax plans

Peters says he is not ready to support any moves labour might want to make to extend capital gains taxes.

Finance spokesperson Grant Robertson has arrived at a neat compromise. Labour would set up a Taxation review once it got into Government.

Phil Twyford (on The Nation): “In the first three years we’re going to do a taax working group that will redesign the entire tax system”.

Robertson (on NZ Q&A): “We will have a working group that will have a look at getting a better balance into our tax system between how we tax assets and how we tax income”.

Peters though is adamant.

“I am not for an extension of the capital gains tax” he told POLITIK.

Peters is critical of the review and Labour’s plan to provide details on it’s water levy policy after the election.

“How many times can you get away with this sort of nonsense” he said.

So why did Labour insist on going ahead with the Tax Working Group that had an aim of recommending a capital gains tax?

It seems to have been a wasted exercise, unless the intention was to provide Peters with an opportunity to say NO CAPITAL GAINS TAX.

Shane Jones interview on Nation

Shane Jones on Newshub Nation:

Have you offered your resignation to the Prime Minister at any point?

Oh, no. Absolutely not.

Newshub:  Shane Jones drops capital gains tax clue (includes video of the interview):

Shane Jones has hinted the upcoming capital gains tax announcement could include relief for the regions.

The Regional Development Minister declined to comment on what exactly the Government has come up with, following the Tax Working Group’s recommendations, which were made public in February.

The Regional Development Minister told Newshub Nation on Saturday revealing its contents was off-limits.

“There’s various ways that I could be sacked,” he told interviewer Tova O’Brien.

“One of them that will definitely get me sacked by the end of this programme is if I offer any view whatsoever in terms of what lies exclusively in the realm of my leader and Prime Minister.”

Asked if he could give assurances that “farmers and regional businesses” wouldn’t be hit hard, Jones gave one of his typically cryptic replies.

“Well, in the near future, all I would say is that to the folk who have dirty boots and hard-working calloused hands, watch this space.”

Transcript:


Tova O’Brien: He’s the self-styled champion for the north – as he so often likes to remind us – the first citizen of the provinces, but does Shane Jones’ bluster and bravado mean he gets away with far more than most other ministers? Once again he’s in hot water, once again he’s been reprimanded by the Prime Minister and once again it’s over allegations of a conflict of interest and interfering in a judicial process. Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones joins me now. Kia ora, Matua. Thank you for joining us. Minister Jones, you directly spoke to the Chief Executive of the NZ Transport Agency about its case against Stan Semenoff Logging failing to meet safety standards. A High Court case, you’re a minister, you’re not allowed to interfere. Why did you?

Shane Jones: No, well, the facts are being distorted by the National Party. Not once have I ever had anything to do with the prosecution decision that you refer to. Those decisions, I imagine, are made in windowless rooms by lawyers and an independent body. I have no delegations for those matters.

The brief discussion I had with the acting CEO of NZTA, I’m glad to see, has been taken up now by the industry leadership. I accept, however, the cautionary words that the Prime Minister expressed with me. It is a distraction.

It is very difficult to maintain the entirety of the Cabinet Manual if perceptions start to grow that a minister’s interfering with a High Court case. But I’ve probably seen more High Court cases and, in the Maori Fisheries, funded more High Court cases than any other MP. I know exactly where the boundary line is.

But you’re related to the managing director of this Northland company. You once received a donation from him. What made you think it was appropriate to get involved and make that call to the NZTA CE?

You see, I have not made any call to the NZTA CEO. I have raised, in Parliament, with him issues that are now actually being agreed to by the broad leadership of the industry, and people misapprehend what my role is. My role is to isolate those issues that time to time thwart and undermine regional development.

Now, try as much as the Tories might to brand me as someone breaking High Court rules, the reality is I am a feisty, earthy, industrial-grade politician. That’s what the people expect of me, and when I’ve been around the motu, the country, over the last two weeks, not one single garden-variety Kiwi has raised this with me as being a problem.

That’s not necessarily on them, though, and being feisty and industrial-grade doesn’t preclude you from the Cabinet Manual and interfering in judicial processes is against the Cabinet Manual. The NZTA had taken a case against Semenoff Logging.

And that case is, I presume, going to continue in the High Court, and I have nothing to do with that case. I’ve never had anything to do with that case. They are a body that exercises statutory power, and our democracy works on the basis that when we who hold power, i.e. the officials, they’re capable of looking after themselves and having their decision tested in any court. Just because I raise an issue about the essential importance of logistics, supply-chain, doesn’t mean that I’m involved in a High Court case. I absolutely reject-

The reason the ministers need to keep an arm’s length is because of ministerial influence, so even having that conversation can be perceived as influence.

So this is where, Tova, I think that you run the risk of repeating non-credible memes being driven by the National Party. I utterly reject their assertions, and the reality is that I will remain the champion of the regions. The industry love my contributions. From a party that is pro-industry, you should not expect me to shut up. Just because I say things that make the windy bureaucrats feel a bit nervous, in actual fact that makes me more popular amongst the people who back me.

Yeah, there’s windy bureaucrats and then there’s ministerial interference. But anyway, this isn’t the first time you’ve been accused of this. You were also accused of interfering in legal proceedings against fishing company, Talleys, the PM hauled you over the coals for overstepping with the Serious Fraud Office investigation. You have form here.

Well, I don’t recall saying anything untoward about the SFO. I remember giving a general debate speech.

It was enough for the Prime Minister to give you a call and to tell you not to.

Yeah, I mean, the reality is that there’s the role that I have as a minister and then there’s the role that I have as a politician. Look, I wouldn’t read too much in it. I think that people from time to time in the media misapprehend the role that I have. In terms of any other court cases — well, I’ve got nothing to say about them. The people that are embroiled in litigation, they can look after themselves.

So was the Prime Minister wrong to reprimand you?

No, she is totally within her rights to do what she does. I thoroughly understand the Westminster system of democracy. I’ve just got a very robust— and as I’ve said, I’m a retail politician, I’m industrial-grade and I don’t care if it sounds as if I’m always leading with my chin. That is what the people who support me expect me to do.

Yeah, perhaps there needs to be more of a demarcation between those two hats because former National minister, Maurice Williamson, he interfered in a police case, made a call, also said he wasn’t trying to influence an active police case, but he was forced to offer his resignation to the then Prime Minister and resigned. Have you offered your resignation to the Prime Minister at any point?

The difference between Maurice Williamson and me is that I was an ambassador, then I became a politician. Maurice was a politician, now he’s an ambassador in America. He’s done it the other way round.

Have you offered your resignation to the Prime Minister at any point?

Oh, no. Absolutely not.

OK, what about — because it looks a bit like the Prime Minister, she kind of hauls you into the office, says, ‘Don’t do this, Shane.’ You say, ‘Sure, sure, sure.’ Then you walk out and perhaps do it again. Does she have any control over you?

No, I take very seriously what the Prime Minister says, but the Prime Minister also realises that there has never been a consistently loud, focused voice from the regions and the provinces. She, I believe, realises that from time to time there might be a bit of bump and grind, and she’s well within her rights to caution me to ensure that I don’t represent an unwelcome distraction to the overarching narrative of the government. I don’t believe I do. In fact, where I go, I’m met with popular acclamation.

What about Winston Peters? Has he ever chastised you or cautioned you?

What happens in our caucus is tapu. That’s where it stays.

Okay, on the Provincial Growth Fund, how many full-time jobs is your PGF, Provincial Growth Fund, created so far?

Yeah, so the most recent announcement was well over 500. The challenge that I’ve got is that although we’ve allocated $1.6 billion the pace at which the bureaucrats and officials can roll out the approval process, I can’t interfere with that. I can encourage them to go quicker. I do, every week. But at the end of the day, there are strictures that they have to observe in terms of the allocation of public money.

You say over 500, but the list provided by your office says that only 272 full-time jobs have been created so far. That’s a long way off the 10,000 promised.

Yeah, well, look, can we just deal with the 10,000? That 10,000 figure is an extraordinarily important and ambitious figure associated with the full import of the programmes, once they’re up and running. And as I said to you, the Provincial Growth Fund, whilst we are allocating putea, there are other things happening in the provinces. I’m a great supporter of those other things because I’m pro-industry. I’m pro-fishing, I’m pro-dairy, and I’m pro-mining. The fact that oil and gas is actually going to get a boost down in the South Island, then they’re going to find in me a great champion.

Let’s talk about oil and gas. Let’s talk about a region that is crying out for more funding and jobs, Taranaki, thanks in large parts to your government’s oil and gas ban. What responsibility does the Government — and you, as champion of the regions — what responsibility do you have to ensure economic stability there.

Well, I don’t want to go into too much detail, but in the near future there’s going to be a transitional, large meeting up there. But I would say that Taranaki stakeholders, they have various proposals that they’re promoting. There is a proposal doing the rounds called 8 Rivers. That’s associated with storing gas in the ground, using gas for hydrogen energy.

But I want to remind everyone, Tova, that when the Prime Minister made her announcement, which I supported, but we secured the on-going existence of entitlements that are already in place, which is why I’m an enthusiast for the various mining entities, oil and gas mining in the South Island, who are rolling out through the process that they’re entitled to do.

OK, so, 8 Rivers, you raise that now, you also raised that last time you were on this programme, last year. But we haven’t heard much more about it, so what’s happening with that? It wants $20 million from the PGF, is that right? Is it going to get that money?

Yeah, well, it’s just going through the process. I mean, obviously these things take a bit of time, because it is an enormously large project. I’m not the only Minister that would make that decision. And, look, I accept that when I associate myself with the oil and gas industry it does lead to criticism.

And you mentioned Greenpeace, well, you mentioned the accusations that Greenpeace made against me about a fishing court case. I’ve got no time for their lime-coloured righteousness. And if people in the South Island are allowed to use their rights to explore and develop oil and gas, I know the South Island people want that to happen. And before Greenpeace lecture me about that, they can explain to New Zealand why their boat has been under investigation for polluting the Bluff harbour.

Greenpeace aside, what about Labour and the Greens. What do they think about what you’re saying today?

No, they know, the Prime Minister knows that when we made our announcement, no more fresh mining applications offshore. We did, however, retain the ability of International and Domestic firms to use their current entitlements.

Which means 8 Rivers could go ahead, cause they—

Well, they would need to go through a statutory consent process, but the point I’m making—

With the help of your $20 million dollars from the PGF?

Well, we don’t know what the amount of putea is.

But there is going to be some?

Well let’s not taint the process, allow them to go through the process. Ministers will make a decision, yea or nay. But the point that I’m making — I can’t fund, and we don’t fund everything that happens in provinces. We make decisions that have impacts. An impact that was made from our oil and gas decision is people are legally allowed to continue to explore and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the South Island.

So, 8 Rivers, for those who don’t know, is a development project – it would create hydrogen, urea, and electricity using natural gasses. So, that’s controversial within your Government. How much biffo is going on behind the scenes between you and David Parker, say?

Oh, no, David Parker is a very good friend of mine. Although as Attorney General, he has been known from time to time to warn me to be very conscious of the blurry lines between my writ as the champion of the provinces and other legal obligations.

OK, let’s move on to Westland Milk. Chinese Company Yili is buying Westland Milk for nearly $600 million dollars, $588 million dollars. Are you comfortable with China buying such a significant New Zealand dairy asset?

Well, in phase two of the overseas investment rules that David Parker is leading, he is going out to consult whether there should be criteria dealing with a test of national significance, not necessarily for land, but for strategic industries.

Is that a ‘no’?

No, what I’m saying is that I don’t want to say anything that taints the ability of the Mongolian milk company to acquire whatever consents that they might have.

Well, one of your colleagues, Mark Patterson, has said that it’s an erosion of New Zealand control in our significant dairying assets. Do you agree with him?

Well, you’re talking to me as a Minister of the Crown. And I feel like I have an obligation—

Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate.

Yeah, fair point. But please listen with your taringas. I don’t want to taint whatever process the Mongolian milk company is going through. Mark is a dearly loved colleague of mine and I thoroughly understand his anxieties, but people are playing by the rules. And the rules at the moment allow them to proceed. I’m disappointed with the ineptitude and how absolutely useless the directors of New Zealand’s second-largest dairy co-op are, but that’s not the problem of the Mongolians. That’s the problem of how useless those directors are.

The $10 million that the Provincial Growth Fund loaned Westland Milk, was that an attempt to stave off an offshore purchase like this?

Well, I must be very honest, I had no idea that the directors had only one plan in mind, and they never ever shared that with me that they were preparing the company for sale via Macquaries, I think those are their advisors. So we put a caveat on that $10 million dollars in the event that there was a change of ownership, then the deal would vaporise.

Now it’s been suspended. And it’s not the only time you’ve offered a loan through the PGF. You also gave Oceania Marine in Whangarei a $4.8 million dollar loan. Is the Government becoming a lender of last resort?

Well, look, the policy underlying the Provincial Growth Fund is imaginative. It is bold. And, look, I accept that it inverts what used to happen. And I realise there are risks in doing that. But if there is a genuine case of market failure, then we have the criteria, endorsed by Cabinet, for the four ministers to proceed in that direction. Now, I know I’m attacked by the National Party for doing this, but I’m reminded of that great saying which I’ll adapt from my Grandmother, which is that if the Epsom cat wants to eat fine fish, then he’s got to get his feet wet.

OK, let’s move on to the capital gains tax, an announcement is going to be made very soon by your Government. Are you happy with where the Government has settled?

So, there’s various ways that I could be sacked. One of them that will definitely get me sacked by the end of this programme is if I offer any view whatsoever in terms of what lies exclusively in the province of my leader and Prime Minister.

Yes, but as the much-lauded, by your good self, champion of the regions, that includes farmers and regional businesses, can you give them assurance that they’re not going to be stung by a capital gains tax?

Well, in the near future, all I would say is that to the folk who have dirty boots and hard-working calloused hands, watch this space.

Sounds like New Zealand First got a win, and perhaps the tail is indeed wagging the dog. It was Winston Peter’s birthday this week, 74-years-old, what did you get him?

Every time I go overseas I bring a gift back for my rangatira, and that gift is the subject of great privacy between him and I. But we shared a day yesterday in Whangarei, and although the announcements were relatively modest, it’s always a pleasure to be with, yeah, the rangatira of New Zealand First.

What about the gift of succession? Who would win in a leadership fight between Shane Jones, Ron Mark and Fletcher Tabuteau, say?

Right, well, I don’t think we should contemplate a future at all without our leader, Winston Peters. And when I had the opportunity, Tova, to come back into politics, I wanted to demonstrate that the provinces would have a champion, and that champion doesn’t need to hanker after anything else.

Yeah, that’s not a no. Thank you very much for joining us, kia ora, Matua Shane.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz

Reid Research party support poll

A Business New Zealand Reid Research poll on party support slipped under the radar this week. It was taken from 15-23 March, the day of and just after the Christchurch mosque attacks, so it should be treated with more caution than normal.

  • Labour 49.6%
  • National 41.3%
  • Green Party 3.9%
  • NZ First 2.3%

Labour are up from 47.5% in the RR February poll (which was up 4.5% from the previous poll). It isn’t surprising to see an (small) increase in support for Labour at the  time of a major adverse event. Jacinda Ardern’s adept handling of the attack aftermath has been rewarded in the poll.

National have hardly moved, down just 0.3% from the February poll, but had dipped 3.5% to a record low in the previous poll. They may struggle to hold even at that after Simon Bridge’s performance since.

Labour’s gain has been Green’s loss.

Greens have dropped from 5.1% to 3.9%, which must be a concern to them. James Shaw was largely unseen after the Christchurch killings, with Marama Davidson and Golriz Ghahraman being more prominent, and they tend to be polarising – popular in part but also annoying many.

NZ first have slipped 0.5% to 2.3%, after dropping by the same amount in February. Winston Peters and NZ First fully backing the Arms Amendment Bill happened after the poll period so they could easily slip further. They have disappointed a lot of their 2017 supporters.

The Business NZ Reid Research poll of 1,000 voters was taken from March 15-23 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 per cent. 750 were interviewed by phone and 250 online.

Source NZ Herald – Claire Trevett: Poll puts Labour support up after mosque attacks but tax is back in debate

 

Mark Patterson (NZ First MP) supporting the Arms Amendment Bill

It is significant that Mark Patterson, a farmer, spoke on behalf of NZ First in the third reading of the Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines, and Parts) Amendment Bill.

I would also like to talk too on behalf of farmers. For farmers, this stuff’s not “nice to have”; it’s actually a tool of the trade in some cases, and they will be feeling a little bit as if they have been restricted unfairly in the sense of the need that they have: things like wallabies, geese, goats, tahr, deer—of course, which not only damage pasture and crops but carry TB—and pigs that can do so much harm.

There is some need for cullers to have access to these semi-automatic weapons over and above the criteria that we have set and we have carved out an exemption for cullers on private land. It wasn’t in the first draft of the bill but we have added that within the select committee process. But we will have to look at that in the second tranche because there are 5 million hectares of private land—hill country—out there under some pressure from these pests and wild animals, and we will have to assess that.

But New Zealand First fully supports in the first tranche being tight, because the tighter we make it at the start it’s easier to make exemptions as required rather than try to do it in an ad hoc manner at the start.


MARK PATTERSON (NZ First): It is an honour for me to stand and add New Zealand First’s support for this significant piece of legislation. In doing so, we stand behind and beside our Prime Minister and I would like to acknowledge her in the leadership she has shown and it has been comforting to us all. Her response has been noted not only nationally of course but internationally.

In a dark time of international politics she has stood out and New Zealand First, right from the get-go, had absolutely no trouble falling behind what was, in one word, “leadership” in this time of national crisis. In fact, our own leader, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, his initial reaction was that at 1.30 on 15 March our world changed forever. And so will our gun laws.

I will acknowledge too the National Party. I know that the politics for them, as Chris Bishop alluded to earlier, is not easy either as it is not for us, but their response and their leader, Simon Bridges, falling in behind and getting alongside—this effort has been incredibly important. I acknowledge you on that side of the House—well, the National Party in particular on that side of the House—for taking the principled stand and you have done that for the same reason that New Zealand First and the rest of the House has: because it is the right thing to do.

The gunman, it has been referenced, was operating legally on an A category licence—the garden variety licence that any one of us with a reasonably limited background can qualify for. He had a legal firearm purchased over the counter at a retail outlet. He did modify that firearm but he did expose the gaping holes in our firearms law.

These changes are long overdue and the genesis of this is actually not Christchurch. The genesis was Aramoana, and, as has been referenced earlier, we did fail to act there. John Banks has admitted recently it’s his greatest regret. Mayor Dalziel in the select committee process, in her presentation to us she referenced the fact that she sat where we sat in 1992. She heard the same arguments that we heard and they were unable to get it across the line, and today we have the ability to right that wrong.

The Thorp report of 1995—it came out and recommended restricting handguns, banning these military-style semi-automatic rifles, limiting magazine capacity, having a full firearm registry. We had Port Arthur and we saw the exemplar of John Howard. We had Matt Robson’s attempts to get bills before the House and one successfully in 1999 and then again in 2005. The 2017 select committee recommended 20 changes off the back of a full investigation; only seven were implemented. This is not the time to point fingers but certainly, for anyone that questions the process, how much process do you need? We have been too timid. We have paid the price.

It is important though, as Ian McKelvie referenced in his previous speech, to acknowledge the lawful firearms owners of this country. New Zealand is amongst those with the lowest rate of firearms-related incidents in the world. There are 250,000 or thereabouts firearms licence holders and there are estimated between 1.5 million and 2 million guns. There is a lot of firepower out there and the vast majority of these New Zealanders use their weapons, as described, legally and safely and comply.

For those New Zealanders, some of whom are hurting and feeling somewhat victimised, we do understand that hurt but we hope that you will see the greater good in what we are doing. There is no alternative for us. We cannot and will not suffer a repeat of this tragedy.

In terms of the exemptions, I would commend the Minister actually in his pragmatic approach to this with the collectors’ items, vintage firearms. These are history and, as one of these collectors said to me, they touched history—they lived and touched history. And to be able to keep these with very strict controls and having this amendment where you have to have a vital part stored at another address, we are making sure that that is a safe provision but an important provision nonetheless.

I would also like to talk too on behalf of farmers. For farmers, this stuff’s not “nice to have”; it’s actually a tool of the trade in some cases, and they will be feeling a little bit as if they have been restricted unfairly in the sense of the need that they have: things like wallabies, geese, goats, tahr, deer—of course, which not only damage pasture and crops but carry TB—and pigs that can do so much harm.

There is some need for cullers to have access to these semi-automatic weapons over and above the criteria that we have set and we have carved out an exemption for cullers on private land. It wasn’t in the first draft of the bill but we have added that within the select committee process. But we will have to look at that in the second tranche because there are 5 million hectares of private land—hill country—out there under some pressure from these pests and wild animals, and we will have to assess that.

But New Zealand First fully supports in the first tranche being tight, because the tighter we make it at the start it’s easier to make exemptions as required rather than try to do it in an ad hoc manner at the start.

So this is just the first tranche of legislation and we note the royal commission that’s coming—Sir William Young, a wise head to lead that effort. We will look at things like the licencing regime. We will look at things like registry. We will look at sentencing. Just looking at the bill as it is, I think there is room for toughening some of the sentencing. Prohibition orders have been mentioned by the Opposition, once again, where those exemptions may be able to be increased for our farmers, if indeed they are demonstrated to really need these weapons.

Of course, there will be these wider social issues such as hate speech that will be looked at, and the wider social context of how this tragedy has been able to come about. But these are questions for another day. This is a very, actually, narrow bill around hardware—where the line is drawn in terms of what weapons New Zealanders will be able to have access to and those that we won’t.

Could I commend the Minister Stuart Nash on the way that he has shepherded this through the select committee. I’ve previously acknowledged the chair, Michael Wood, who did an outstanding job in this, and all members of the select committee contributed constructively. Our public service: I understand that there were members from 10 departments seconded on to this bill. There were 13,000 submissions in 48 hours.

We, of course, did not get to read them all individually ourselves, but I’m sure—with other members of the select committee—we did all read a select few, and it has also been referenced that we did get a very broad selection, and wisely picked selection of oral contributors that contributed so much to the drafting of this bill.

To the Police Assistant Commissioner Penny, who I see here, and your team, Mike McIlraith, I might reference, who found out he’s a long lost cousin of mine through this process, but everyone who contributed through that select committee.

Could I quote, finally, from Lianne Dalziel, who quoted a contributor to the ’99 select committee: “If the Aramoana experience has failed to teach our legislators that these and similar weapons must be banned, regardless of the power of the lobby opposing such action, one can only speculate at the extent of the tragedy needed to spur our politicians into position action to protect our lives.” Today we know the answer to that question.


See Arms Amendment Bill passes third reading