Greens versus NZ First and Labour conservatism

Does Labour use NZ First as an excuse to be conservative on economic and other policies to avoid being linked to Green radicalism? They do use the Budget Responsibility Rules to be conservative. They are an agreement with the Green Party to allay fears of a swing too far left in the last election campaign, but there is disagreement over having the Rules within the Green Party.

I have seen dismay expressed from the the left that the Government is nowwhere near progressive enough,.

Henry Cooke (Stuff):  The Greens are looking forward to 2020 already, and the possibility of a world without Winston

At their annual conference last year, a prominent Green Party member gave a speech which called for the party to tear up a central tenet of their partnership with Labour.

He received a standing ovation. Most of the Green MPs present, who had signed off the policy, were in the room. Several agreed with him.

The policy was the Budget Responsibility Rules a set of tight government spending guidelines Labour and the Greens agreed to ahead of the 2017 election. They have gone on to play a huge role in how the parties have governed.

The idea was to blunt the attacks from the right that a Labour-Green government would blow up the surplus and destroy the economy.

Ever since Green supporters and some MPs have been agitating for the party to get rid of the rules. In the last week this began. A “review” of those budgetary constraints has been launched, but this is just a procedural step on the way to either scrapping them or modifying them before the 2020 election.

There always seemed a likelihood that Labour and the Greens would need NZ First to give them any chance of getting into Government last election, and so it turned out.

It’s a long way from the election but there appears to be a greater chance that NZ First won’t make the threshold next year. This would give the Greens more influence over Labour, depending on how many seats they get. If Greens recovered back up to ten to fifteen seats, and were in Cabinet with Labour, they should get significantly more say and sway.

In the same week, co-leader James Shaw made the most forceful argument for a capital gains tax anyone has in years, saying the Government wouldn’t deserve to be re-elected if they didn’t implement one.

That was a big play from Shaw, mostly to his party wanting more reform from Government.

​The election is next year, and the Greens are getting ready by staking out positions on the left. At the same time, some in the party are daring to look forward to a world without Winston Peters.

Fixing this requires not just talking up wins in Government but very clearly pushing left on tax – an issue likely to dominate through this year and into the next thanks to the tax working group – as well as balancing the books. These might seem like small bore issues but they are very important to that core of committed supporters.

NZ First are likely to try to distance themselves from relying on Labour next year to try to fool voters and Labour negotiators into thinking they could go either way.

So Labour+Green will be an important consideration for voters.

Many Greens see Peters and NZ First as the reactionary laggard keeping this Government from truly transforming the country. But it has long been useful for centrist Labour MPs to blame NZ First for their own conservatism. Labour will be extremely conscious of how scared the wider public might feel about a radical Labour-Green government in 2020.

Keeping the budget deal in place might well be Ardern’s plan to placate those fears.

For Labour, yes. And possibly for Shaw. But what about green supporters disappointed with the lack of progress leftwards this term, and impatient for more radical reforms?

Possibly one of the most significant decisions for the next election will be what the Green party decides to do about the Rules, that some see as a brick wall in front of progress and real progressivism.

One thing that may make it easier for Greens pulling Labour left is the conservatism of Simon Bridges pulling National further right.

Unless the Sustainability Party gets some support in the centre.

James Shaw slams tax timidity, calls on Labour, NZ First to be bold with CGT

In his opening speech for the year in parliament yesterday Green co-leader James Shaw slammed timid tinkering with tax, and, confronting pontification about whether the current Government can “politically afford to do what no other Government before it has done” and introduce a Capital Gains Tax asks “Can we afford not to?”

That must be aimed at Labour and NZ First, who have to agree with Greens on any tax changes following the Tax Working Group process.

First Shaw illustrated the tax disparity issue wit no tax on the capital gains of property.

Karen is a renter. She’s got a career, and she earns roughly the median wage. Over the last 10 years, she’s earned about $450,000 and she’s paid, roughly, $70,000 in tax. She budgets well, she can manage the rent, and she can manage the other expenses, but she can’t quite have enough left over to save.

And then there’s Paul. Paul also earns the median wage. He’s a bit older than Karen, and Paul got lucky and managed to buy some rental property before house prices really started rocketing—about the time that Karen came into the workforce, about the time that John Key became Prime Minister. On the day that Paul sells that rental property, he makes as much as Karen has in the last 10 years, and he pays zero tax on that income

Now, what does Paul do? He uses that as a deposit to buy two more houses. That is the rational thing to do. And what does Karen do? Well, Karen keeps renting because there is no way on God’s green earth that she’s going to be able to scrape together a deposit on $45,000 a year.

And that, in a nutshell, is why we have a large and growing wealth gap in this country, and it is undermining our ability to pay for the public services that we all rely on, including Karen—including Paul.

There is something missing from this illustration.The implication here is that ‘Paul’ paid no tax, but ‘Paul’ must be earning something to live on for the ten years before scoring a capital gain, and after reinvesting capital gains on more property, so could have been paying some tax.

Now, the Green Party has long been calling for that fundamental imbalance to be addressed, and every single expert working group in living memory has agreed with us, but no Government—no Government—has been bold enough to actually do it. But if we are to be the Government of change that New Zealanders wanted and elected, we must be bold.

The crises that we face on multiple fronts—the wealth gap, climate change, the housing crisis—we cannot solve without fundamental reform. These crises have been allowed to metastasise because generations of politicians have timidly tinkered rather than actually cut to the core of the problem.

And the consequences of that timidity—the consequences of that timidity—are being felt by Karen and by hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders just like her, trapped in “Generation Rent”. So when the commentators pontificate about whether this Government can politically afford to do what no other Government before it has done, I ask “Can we afford not to?”

Can we afford not to?

We were elected on the promise of change. If we want to reduce the wealth gap, if we want to fix the housing crisis and to build a productive high-wage economy, we need to tax income from capital the same way that we tax income from work.

The very last question that we should be asking ourselves is: can we be re-elected if we do this? The only question we really ought to be asking ourselves is: do we deserve to be re-elected if we don’t?

Shaw is effectively throwing down the tax gauntlet to Labour and NZ First, suggesting they don’t deserve to be re-elected unless they introduce a CGT.

I have to say, boldness is needed everywhere, everywhere.

That is a challenge to the other parties in Government with the Greens. The re-election comment is particularly pertinent for NZ First, who were well under the threshold in the latest poll.

Small minority to make crucual decisions on ‘fair pay’ agreements

Fair Pay Agreements “would set minimum standards to lift wages and conditions across an industry or occupation”, but could be initiated by a small minority of workers – just 10%, or less (1,000 workers). Is that fair? A minority in, say Auckland, could effectively end up imposing ‘fair pay’ across an industry across the country.

This is what the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group has recommended. The Government will now consider what they do – this may not be straight forward, with Labour and Greens requiring the support of another minority, NZ First.

Heather du Plessis Allan: Time to fast-forward to the past

Business is collectively losing its mind over the working group’s recommendations. It’s calling it a return to the national awards of the 1970s.

Business hates that the negotiations can be triggered by as little 10 per cent of the industry’s workforce. Business hates that the contract agreements would be compulsory for all employers in that industry. Business hates paying employees more than it has to.

Business has a few fair points. We can’t expect the cafe owner in Balclutha to pay staff exactly the same wage as the Auckland cafe owner making a killing thanks to the money and foot traffic a city delivers. There should be concessions to regional variance.

These recommendations probably won’t all be accepted by the Government. Labour’s coalition partner New Zealand First might challenge many of them, if not all. Winston Peters’ party has already temporarily pulled its support on Labour’s employment law once before.

So it is far from a done deal at this stage.

But, the motivation behind these recommendations is on the money. Kiwis are underpaid.

That’s debatable. In the private sector we are generally paid what companies can afford to pay and stay in business.

Audrey Young:  Coalition Government lining up smorgasbord of targets for National

The same goes for the fair pay agreements outlined in the Jim Bolger report delivered to the Government this week.

But given New Zealand First’s track record in diluting union-backed legislation, it is hard to imagine the party agreeing to a trigger as low as 10 per cent for workers to force employers to the table for compulsory sector-wide bargaining.

The trouble is that the higher the trigger goes, the less happy the unions will be. A true compromise may result in deeply unhappy unions and employers.

Dominion Post editorial: Why back to the future on pay might not work

Many of this country’s lowest paid and most vulnerable workers have every right to look back in anger at the steady, inexorable fall in the value of their wages, the undermining of working conditions and the perceived out-of-proportion rewards for their employers and many others in the business community.

Bolger’s group was assembled to address such inequities, and its report released this week suggests we go back to the future.

It recommends the creation of fair-pay agreements, a new version of the old collective bargaining that critics have labelled as “compulsory unionism by stealth”.

There is some sympathy for that argument because the proposal, if adopted, would mean that an entire industry would have to negotiate new minimum pay and working conditions if just 10 per cent or 1000 workers in that industry, whichever is fewer, asked for it.

That creates the potential for major upheaval in businesses that have long moved on from the days of compulsory unionism and the environment that went with it.

The reforms are targeted at the country’s low-paid and most exploited workers.

But there is still the potential for major uncertainty, confusion and disruption for everyone within the complicated ecosystem that is our national economy.

For many, the amount they are paid remains the main measure of their perceived value, from the employer and within society. Work conditions are important, but pay is so often the principal point of anger and agitation.

If employers followed a number of local bodies and now Westpac bank in taking on a living wage for their employees, it would go a long way towards quelling that anger, and possibly even lift productivity.

But local bodies can just put up rates to pay for bigger wage bills. Ratepayers have to pay. If companies put up prices customers can choose not to pay.

This too, of course, is a blunt tool, and would not come without cost. But in conjunction with sensible legislation to protect workers’ rights and conditions, as happened when zero-hour contracts were deemed illegal, it could address many concerns without creating widespread disruption and a threat to the economy.

This working group is right to address inequities on behalf of the country’s workers, but it should be careful not to throw out the businesses with the bathwater.

A minority in Government, NZ First, look to be the deciding factor in whether a minority of workers could enable (or force) ‘fair pay’ on a whole industry, which could put a larger number of workers and their jobs at risk.

Another point  – Labour may think it was a master stroke recruiting ex-National MP Jim Bolger to head the Working Group, but why an ageing retired politician? One who is a long way from knowing what ordinary workers feel and experience. Surely there are younger people around who may have a better appreciation of work in the modern world.

Government blurb on the Working Group report:

Greenpeace versus Shane Jones on fishing prosecution and NZ First donors

Shane Jones has always seemed to be an embarrassment waiting to happen for the Government.  He has already ventured into iffy territory for a minister, for example his public attacks on Air New Zealand.

Now he has dived into a dispute with Greenpeace over party donations, which involves a prosecution of a subsidiary  of Talleys, a company that Jones has financial and social links to (Winston Peters also).

NZ Herald: NZ First MP Shane Jones accuses Greenpeace of deliberately tarnishing NZ’s reputation for donations

Quite a confusing headline.

NZ First MP Shane Jones has fired a shot across Greenpeace’s bow, accusing the organisation of deliberately tarnishing New Zealand’s international fishing reputation just to fundraise.

But Greenpeace’s New Zealand Executive Director Russel Norman fired back, saying Jones was trying to distract the public from the fact he has accepted donations from fishing company Talley’s.

Norman said this should preclude him from contributing to fisheries policies.

The war of words erupted after a Greenpeace press release implied Jones should be withdrawn from any debate around fisheries because of donations he had received from Talley’s.

Financial links between Talleys and NZ First have been known for a long time, as has Winston Peters support for commercial fishing.

“Incidentally, Talley’s is the same company that donated heavily to the campaign of Shane Jones, who has emerged as the de facto Minister of Fisheries in the current Government.”

Norman said it would appear from the outside that Jones was having “quite a big influence on fisheries policies”.

Jones said he had received donations from the company but they were in compliance with Parliament’s rules on donations.

He said Norman was using “politically lurid language,” which was “all part of their [Greenpeace’s] process to fundraise.

“Incidentally, Talley’s is the same company that donated heavily to the campaign of Shane Jones, who has emerged as the de facto Minister of Fisheries in the current Government.”

Speaking to the Herald, Norman said it would appear from the outside that Jones was having “quite a big influence on fisheries policies”.

Jones said he had received donations from the company but they were in compliance with Parliament’s rules on donations.

He said Norman was using “politically lurid language,” which was “all part of their [Greenpeace’s] process to fundraise”.

“Greenpeace has a track record of misinformation and exaggeration.

“It’s extraordinary that the Greenpeace’s Australian spokesman Russel Norman is ranting in such a way to damage the good name of New Zealand. Greenpeace has a track record of misinformation and exaggeration.

“It’s extraordinary that the Greenpeace’s Australian spokesman Russel Norman is ranting in such a way to damage the good name of New Zealand.”

One could suggest similar about Jones ranting.

Norman said this “obviously was not” his intention and said it was just a distraction from the fact an Amaltal fishing vessel was caught doing bottom trawls in a protected area of the Tasman Sea.

Amaltal is a subsidiary of fishing company Talley’s.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) said MPI had initiated a prosecution against Amaltal, as well as the person who was the master of the vessel at the time of the incident.

Both are facing charges under the Fisheries Act, the spokeswoman said.

In its own statement, Amaltal confirmed one of its fishing vessels had inadvertently fished in an unauthorised area of the Tasman Sea in May last year.

But Jones has defended Amaltal.

Jones said this was a “mere technical issue which would be ironed out when common sense prevails”.

A follow up from Newshub: Shane Jones in hot water over support for Talley’s accused of illegal fishing

Regional Development Minister Shane Jones is being accused of breaching parliamentary rules by appearing to support a fishing company that’s facing prosecution for illegal fishing.

New Zealand First MP Mr Jones described the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)’s case against agribusiness company Talley’s as a “technical issue” – when the Cabinet rules warn ministers against commenting on active cases.

But Mr Jones is now facing criticism for getting too close to the Talley’s case, calling it a “mere technical issue which would be ironed out when common sense prevails”.

On Friday he changed tact: “They are highly technical matters… and no doubt the court will be possessed of all the information.”

Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman said it’s “completely unacceptable for a Cabinet minister to intervene in an active court case where the Crown is taking Talley’s to court for environmental damage”.

The Amaltal Apollo, a vessel owned by a subsidiary of Talley’s, is facing 14 charges for fishing in protected waters in the Tasman Sea.

And Cabinet rules clearly state: “Ministers do not comment on or involve themselves in the investigation of offences or the decision as to whether a person should be prosecuted.”

“I think there’s no question that Jones has breached the Cabinet Manual, which is the rules that govern the behaviour of Ministers,” Mr Norman said.

It does look like quite questionable comment on a current investigation by Jones.

Talley’s donated $10,000 to Mr Jones’ 2017 campaign. And while Mr Jones accepts that, and that he’s mates with Talley’s boss, Sir Peter Talley, he says it doesn’t mean anything.

Instead, he’s blaming Greenpeace for spreading what he calls “misinformation”.

There seems to be some fairly solid information here that suggests that Jones is again an embarrassment to the Government.

Mr Jones has previously been chair of Sealords and held top positions within Māori and Pacific fishery organisations.

He makes no secret of his continued close relationships with the big commercial fishing companies.

It’ll be up to the Prime Minister to decide whether Mr Jones has overstepped the mark and breached the rules in this case.

Due to Labour’s reliance on NZ First for support will Jacinda Ardern do anything about it? Probably not in public at least, or nothing more than a slap over the wrist with a wet bait fish.

Tax reform and capital gains tax still unresolved

According to media claims the Cabinet has received copies of the Tax Working Group recommendations, but it could take some time to find out what they are going to decide to run with. – or what the are allowed to run with by Winston Peters.

Group chairman Michael Cullen has suggested that tax changes could be decided in Parliament this term ready to come into effect in April 2021 providing Labour gets a mandate in next year’s election. But Grant Robertson has warned that it could take some time to work through the recommendations with Labour’s partner parties in Government.

Audrey Young (in Major challenges for ‘exasperated’ Ardern):

Robertson played Robin to her Batman at the post-Cabinet presser, initially fronting on the Government response to the insurance industry inquiry.

The subject quickly changed to the final report of the Tax Working Group and its promised capital gains tax which is due to be handed to the Government this week.

Robertson patiently continued his mission to change the language over the tax by calling it a “capital income tax” rather than a “capital gains tax” — an attempt to equate it to all other income.

Ardern became impatient when questions turned to the undisputed veto that NZ First will have on any capital gains tax — the Greens have been unequivocal supporters and NZ First longstanding opponents.

Apparently a capital gains tax is just like every other issue the Government debates, and requires the agreement of all three parties.

Not just apparently. Tax reform is far from a done deal. It is a Labour only promise, but with no public agreement with either NZ First or the Greens.

Stuff:  Decision on capital gains tax will take a wee while, Grant Robertson warns

There will be no quick decision from the Government on whether to implement a capital gains tax, Finance Minister Grant Robertson has signalled – noting Labour would have to work that through with its coalition partners.

The Tax Working Group (TWG) chaired by Sir Michael Cullen is understood to have completed its report for the Government, with a “clear majority” favouring subjecting capital gains from the sale of property, shares and businesses to income tax.

But Robertson told RNZ the Government would need to take its time to read the TWG’s report “work through the details of it and work out what package we can agree to as a coalition government”.

Remarkably the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement did not mention the Tax Working Group, nor CGT, and neither did Labour-Green Confidence & Supply Agreement, so the recommendations of the TWG and what Labour would like to do will all need to be negotiated with Winston Peters and NZ First, as well as with the Greens. This alone is likely to take time.

Inland Revenue said on Tuesday morning that the report had not yet been delivered to the Government, and no date has been set for it to be made public, but sources said the report was being read in the Beehive.

Robertson said he expected to get the report by the end of the week but he and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern did not rule out a coalition partner vetoing any legislation.

“There is a wee ways to go before the final decisions about this report will be made,” Robertson said.

“As we do with all these reports, we will take a look at it and put it out with a few interim comments from us,” he said.

So it could be some time even before the report is made public. Labour want to work out how to try to sell it before they advertise it.

Cullen said in December that he believed Parliament would have time to pass legislation paving the way for any proposed tax changes before the election, so those changes could take effect from April 2021.

Theoretically Parliament may have time, but Labour won’t want to take any tax changes to Parliament without agreement from NZ First, and the Greens.

Politik: And now the hard part; getting Winston to agree to a capital gains tax

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed yesterday that iot was still the government’s intention to bring forward legislation for any tax changes before the end of its current twerm though those changes would not come into effect until after the enxt election.

But whether it will propose a capital gains tax will now depend on whether it can persuade NZ First to agree.

Ardern and Finance Minister Grant Robertson were coy yesterday on whether they thought they could win that derbate.

Meanwhile NZ First Leader, Winston Peters, is not saying much beyond repeating his 2017 assertion that we already had a capital gains tax.

“What i tried to point out then was that we had a cpaital ghaimn tax and that we had had one for a long time,” he told POLITIK last night.

“Now the question is are you talking about broadening it.

“The position of New Zealand First is that we will wait for the report, we will evaluate it and then we will give our view.”

Tax reform has already limited by Labour in their terms of reference for the TWG. They will presumably also want any changes to fit within their wellbeing agenda.

It will only happen if it also fits with the electoral wellbeing of Winston Peters and NZ First

Polarisation versus centrism (or can we have both?)

Is political polarisation increasing? Is ‘centrism’ fading away? Is centrism actually a thing?

From Reddit: With the decline of Centrism in global politics, do you see it happening in NZ?

There has a been a trend in the last 2 decade in global politics, in the US, UK Europe etc, we have seen the rise of centrism in politics, New Democrats with Clinton and Obama and New Labour with Tony Blair in UK. Nowadays politics is much more partisan with Democrats going further left and Labour also going left while at the same time the decline of moderates in US and Liberal Democrats decline.

Is politics becoming much more partisan? Or is partisan politics a minority thing that is getting more attention? Controversial politics makes for more dramatic headlines and is more click baity.

Donald Trump certainly drives division as a tactic, but how non-centrist is he?

While their is division in the UK over the Brexit debacle is that because of the strength of partisan politics? Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn look like weak leaders. There is as much division within their parties as their is between them.  This is more poor politics and poor politicians on both sides rather than a rise in partisanship.

Could we see the same thing in NZ, where NZF along with United Future, both centrist parties decline, with Labour/Greens and National/ACT moving further apart?

IS NZ First really a ‘centrist’ party?  Aren’t they more populist? Their last election position on Immigration was right wing-ish, but what they have supported on immigration is the opposite of that, but very similar to what National did and what Labour are doing.

NZ First already declined, dropping out of Parliament in 2008, but came back in 2011 and rose to power in 2017. It is too soon to write them off.

It’s hard to know where National will position themselves under Simon Bridges. Some of Bridges’ policy positions, like on drug law reform and abortion, may be right-ish, but they are unpopular.

Jacinda Ardern has talked up being a progressive and transformative government, but has not actually proven that much yet. Economically the government has been cautious, following much the same line of the last National government.

Proteus_Core:

Short answer…yes, I see growing polarization in NZ politics which I believe will only get worse in the future. I also could easily see the proposition you put forward happening and I actually believe its a probability at this stage and certainly at the next election.

Signs of polarization in social media does not mean that the general voting population is polarising. I think that most people are probably more disinterested than supporting strong positions either way.

Waterbogan:

Yes, in fact it is already happening. United Future has already declined into oblivion, and I see NZ First following them in short order as they have lost a bunch of supporters since the election and again more recently. I would say there is room for another party on the centre/right aiming at the market sector NZ First and the Conservatives formerly shared between them.

United Future faded away, but so is ACT, so did Jim Anderton’;s Progressive Party, so has the Mana Party, and the Conservative Party. Green support has over halved. All small parties have struggled to survive, no matter where they are in the political spectrum.

‘spoondooly’:

There will always be room for populism in NZ but the nature of our political system is that it drives centrism to a degree.

The reality is that parties (by and large) need the centre vote as that is largely where the swing vote occurs. It drives moderate politics to a degree and has brought both our centre left and centre right parties together.

Even populist parties such as NZ First have to largely ditch their manifesto when in power as the majority party would be severely damaged by any coalition arrangement if that manifesto was fully recognised.

So there will always be a degree of populism but by and large NZ is centrist and moderate and our politics recognise this.

This probably reflects two things.

Most Kiwis are fairly moderate (as opposed to centrist) in their political preferences. There are a number of bell curves like this:

And MMP tends to moderate more than polarise, with National and Labour fighting over a fairly large swing vote in the centre.

‘bogan_avant_garde’:

Wait until you hear about the policies of Michael Joseph Savage. Labour are struggling to return to the position on the political spectrum they held from 1916-1983.

Ardern has tried to present herself as a great shift leader, but she is yet to deliver.

The idea that neo-liberal market capitalism with low regulation and free movement of capital is centrism is laughable. What you are seeing when you see Labour ‘shifting to the left’ is in fact Labour shifting to the centre and providing an actual centrist alternative to right wing orthodoxy.

The small noisy left are growing in dismay at the lack of action from Labour and even the Greens. The small noisy right are probably always dismayed and always will be.

The extremes are minorities.

Image result for bell curve politics

(That’s from The Political Typologies of American Educators but is indicative of minority extremes).

One of New Zealand’s most polarising politicians has been Winston Peters, but that’s only when in Opposition. He is currently in Government, and is mostly quite non-controversial.

I don’t think we have much of a problem with polarisation here. We have a much bigger problem with political apathy (if that is actually a problem).

(This is not original) I tried to start up an Apathy Party, but no one was interested.

Winston Peters’ claims of migration compact misinformation misinformation

Winston Peters has been accusing others of spreading misinformation about the UN Migration Compact that New Zealand voted in favour of this week, but he has been misinforming a bit himself, by implication at least.

Newstalk ZB (Wednesday) – Winston Peters: Misinformation around the UN migration compact is wrong

Peters says that they sought legal advice as there had been a lot of misinformation spread about the compact.

He says that Crown Law found that the seven major criticisms of the agreement were fundamentally wrong.

Peters says that in their statement to the United Nations tomorrow morning our time, they will be making it clear how New Zealand is interpreting the compact.

National Party Simon Bridges has vowed to pull out of the deal if his party gets into Government.

However, Peters says they initially signed up to the deal back in 2016.

“They won’t [pull out], because they were the ones that started this.”

National didn’t ‘start this’ – they just signed up to an agreement to develop an agreement.

On Friday, Gerry Brownlee said signing up the agreement wasn’t a good move.

He said to “hand over your immigration policy to scrutiny to other UN countries if you don’t do what is required – which is pretty much open borders – I think’s the wrong thing to do.”

The decision to develop a compact was first made by UN Member States, including New Zealand, in September 2016. The process towards it began in April 2017, stewarded by representatives from Mexico and Switzerland.

After months of negotiations, the final draft of the agreement was decided upon in July.

“In the end, New Zealand will be voting for a cooperation framework that was clearly set out at the start of the Compact’s negotiations process in 2016 when the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted by all UN member states, including New Zealand under the previous government,” said Mr Peters.

This is misinformation by Peters. The National led Government was a part of the process, but they didn’t decide on the finaal details of the compact.

Newshub on Friday:  New Zealand First slams ’emotional debate’ over UN Migration Compact

In an email on Friday, NZ First responded saying its “political adversaries” will be “telling everybody that they’re going to ‘overturn’ the UN Migration Compact and make various inflammatory claims that the ‘Compact’ is going to permit mass migration into New Zealand”.

The NZ First email, with the subject line “they are not telling the truth”.

But Peters is being somewhat flexible with ‘the truth’.

Committing to develop a Compact is a long way from voting for the final form.

Peters is reported as saying (about national) ‘they initially signed up to the deal back in 2016’. That’s clearly misinformation. It is nonsense to claim New Zealand signed up to a Compact before negotiations had begun.

NZ First email to members on UN migration compact

The NZ First Party is trying to address what looks like widespread criticism of Winston Peters for his support as Foreign Minister of the UN compact on migration.

See:

NZ First has focussed on a response to criticism in their Christmas message to members.

The press release:

Government legal advice says UN Migration Compact doesn’t compromise sovereignty

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters says New Zealand will support the UN Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration after being satisfied fears about the document are unfounded.

“The Government would not support the UN compact if it compromised New Zealand’s sovereignty or could in any way take precedence over our immigration or domestic laws. But the compact does not do that,” said Mr Peters.

“The Crown Law Office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade have provided legal advice which confirms this UN cooperation framework is neither legally binding nor constraining on this country setting its own migration policies.”

Specifically the legal advice has stated that:

  • The compact is non-legally binding and does not create legal obligations;
  • It does not establish customary international law;
  • The compact should not be taken to give the legal instruments referred to in the text as having any binding effect that those instruments do not already have in international law;
  • It reaffirms the sovereign right of States to determine national immigration policy and laws and that States have the sole authority to distinguish between regular and irregular migratory status;
  • The compact does not establish any new human rights law, nor create any new categories of migrants, nor establish a right to migrate.
  • The compact in no way restricts or curtails established human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.

“The legal advice from Crown Law is not surprising but is important advice in debunking falsehoods or misguided perceptions being spread about the implications of this framework,” said Mr Peters.

“We are aware that the statements of other countries voting in support of the compact, such as the United Kingdom, are underpinned by legal advice supporting their positions.”

“In the end, New Zealand will be voting for a cooperation framework that was clearly set out at the start of the compact’s negotiations process in 2016 when the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants was unanimously adopted by all UN member states, including New Zealand under the previous government,” said Mr Peters.

“New Zealand is voting for the Compact because we support greater efforts in controlling migration issues while also being confident our own sovereign decision making isn’t compromised,” he said.

Note – legal advice is attached

There is no link to the legal advice, but it can be found here.

Comments on this at Reddit: Email from NZ first on UN compact

Peters blames ‘alt-right’ and NZ First member bewilderment for criticism of UN compact on migration

Winston Peters goes into irony overdrive in a grumpy interview blaming others of dog whistle politics over the UN migration accord.

New Zealand’s Foreign Minister has blamed “a campaign strategy by the alt-right” to discredit his and the Government’s support of the accord – see Government to sign controversial UN Migration Compact – and agrees (or doesn’t disagree) that NZ First party members are bewildered.

And he criticises anyone who doesn’t align with his views on the accord – including taking swipes at interviewer Mike Yardley and Australia.

Newstalk ZB: Peters blames ‘alt-right’ for UN migration pact criticism

Winston Peters says the UN Migration Compact has been misrepresented by people spouting nonsense who want to lie to the public.

The Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister says uninformed people and the “alt-right” are intentionally misleading about the true nature of the agreement.

He says the legal advice is very clear that it’s not legally binding, and won’t override our immigration laws and he is entirely comfortable with adopting it.

Peters told Mike Yardley it’s an agreement in principle about how we reduce harmful, illegal migration and how to stop trafficking.

“We have decided as a matter of principal it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sign up to the agreement. Just because there have been people dog whistling false information on this, that doesn’t mean we will sway.”

Winston Peters says he is comfortable with the compact, despite the outcry from many people, especially NZ First members, who believe the agreement will sign away the country’s sovereignty.

He says the compact doesn’t blur the lines between legal and illegal migration, and they are not legally bound to the document.

“We are trying to stop the awful human trafficking of people, and the corruption of people. These are dreadful things which are happening around the world.

You have a campaign strategy by the alt-right to try and spread misinformation on this, it is just not true.”

There is audio of the interview at the Newstalk ZB link. It concludes:

Mike Yardley: Are you receiving lot’s of congratulatory messages from your party faithful?

Winston Peters: No.

Mike Yardley: Are you surprised?

Winston Peters: No.

Mike Yardley: Are they bewildered?

Winston Peters: (I think he says or meant to say) Well guess why? Because you’ve had a group of, a campaign strategy by the alt-right in particular, and it is the alt-right in this case…

Mike Yardley: Is Paul Spoonley alt-right Winston?

Winston Peters: Oh well actually Mr Spoonley is a sociologist from Massey University, and doesn’t understand the law, so he can opine all he likes…

Mike Yardley: Is Chris Trotter alt-right?

Winston Peters: No he’s not alt-right, and if Chris Trotter is talking about the political consequences of sometimes having to do something called principle.

There is a lot of criticism of Winston’s support of the accord on the NZ First Facebook page: Response to Winston Peters support of UN Migration Compact

He is also being slammed at Kiwiblog (in General Debate comments), and Whale Oil, in the absence of pro Winston activist Cameron Slater, has gone into anti-Winston overdrive:

That may be the closest thing to the alt-right in New Zealand.

Peters really doesn’t sound comfortable being on the receiving end of criticism from the demographic that in the past he has often appealed to for support.

Government and Opposition on fixing the mental health crisis

It has long been known that mental health was being inadequately addressed by governments. It could be claimed (and is) that all health is inadequately funded, but mental health is a special case, and has been since the large mental health institutions were emptied and closed in the 1970s and 1980s. Community care was seen as a better option, but it has never really been done properly, at great human, family and community cost.

The last National government did the usual inquiries and came up with a plan late in their tenure, but the incoming Labour-led government scrapped that and went back to the drawing board – another inquiry. A year on they have just announced a plan that will still take some time to implement.

Labour’s health spokesperson Annette King on  21 February 2017 Kids suffering under mental health strain

A newly released report from the Ministry of Health on the mental health and addictions workforce shows a worryingly large vacancy rate in child and youth mental health services, says Labour’s Health spokesperson Annette King.

“The Mental Health and Addiction Workforce Action Plan 2017-2021 shows a whopping eight per cent vacancy rate in infant, child and adolescent mental health and alcohol and other drug services, the estimated equivalent of 141 full time positions unfilled.

“Every week we hear of failings in our mental health system from deaths in care, patient attacks, overstretched counselling services and crisis teams, with staff working more than 60 hours a week.

“The Government needs to do more than look at staff per 100,000 population, they need to look at how many staff are needed to meet demand and fund mental health properly.”

“A Labour Government will review mental health services…

King cited specific problems from a Ministry report but called for a review. Jacinda Ardern commented on it  on Facebook:

I find this staggering. There is such a huge demand for services and yet the vacancy rate for Child and Youth Mental Health Services is equivalent to an estimated 141 full time positions.

Mental health services have come up A LOT during this campaign, and for good reason. It’s time to review mental health services…

I find the call for reviews staggering, although one person (Liam McConnell-Whiting) laauded her words:

Yes Omg yes! Jacinda you speak the speak! NZs history of ignoring mental health issues, primary and secondary to other (better funded) health issues is a phenomenal shame.
Love to see you identifying this!!!

September 2017: What Labour promised, but will they deliver?

Labour promised to increase resourcing for frontline health workers, put nurses in all high schools and conduct a review of the mental health system in their first 100 days. It would put mental health workers in schools affected by Canterbury earthquakes and target suicide prevention funding into mainstream and rainbow community support organisations.

Labour would put $193m over three years into mental health, on top of the Government’s increase announced in the budget. It would conduct a two-year pilot programme placing mental health teams at eight sites – such as GPs – across the country. The programme would offer free crisis help for people.

A number of specific plans.

And Labour put together a government. Mental health was listed as a priority in the Labour-Green confidence and supply agreement:

16. Ensure everyone has access to timely and high quality mental health services, including free
counselling for those under 25 years.

There was a minor mention in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement:

Re-establish the Mental Health Commission

In Taking action in our first 100 days Labour implied urgency saying they will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Set up a Ministerial Inquiry in order to fix our mental health crisis

So they referred to it as a crisis, but chose an inquiry that has taken a year. On 4 December 2018: Mental Health and Addiction report charts new direction

Health Minister Dr David Clark says the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink how we handle some of the biggest challenges we face as a country.

The Government has today publicly released the report of the Inquiry in full, less than a week after receiving it.

“It is clear we need to do more to support people as they deal with these issues – and do a lot more to intervene earlier and support wellbeing in our communities.

That has been clear for a long time.

“We are working our way carefully through the 40 recommendations and will formally respond in March. I want to be upfront with the public, however, that many of the issues we’re facing, such as workforce shortages, will take years to fix.

‘Fixing’ mental health care will always be an ongoing challenge, but there is a lack of urgency here.

“Reshaping our approach to mental health and addiction is no small task and will take some time. But I’m confident this report points us in the right direction, and today marks the start of real change for the better,” David Clark says.

“Today marks the start of real change for the better” is a nonsense statement, and will sound hollow to those who have been struggling with mental health for a along time, for some people a lifetime.

Two MPs, one from National and one from Labour, comment on progress in Virtue signalling or concrete action on mental health crisis?

Stuart Smith (National MP for Kaikoura):

Eighteen months ago, we established a $100 million fund to support mental health, which the current government duly scrapped after the election.

They then set about reinventing the wheel by launching their own inquiry into mental health and addiction services which, a full year later, supports the very initiatives that we had already identified for targeted funding.

The Prime Minister chose not to keep these initiatives in place, yet at the same time wanted a zero tolerance on suicides, a goal she has now shifted to a percentage reduction of 20 per cent by 2030.

This is nothing short of virtue signalling, and that is incredibly irresponsible. What we need at this time is action, and instead this government cut programmes, then spent a year coming to the conclusion that those programmes were exactly what the mental health system needed.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan (​Labour List MP based in Auckland’s Maungakiekie):

Over the last nine years, demand for mental health services increased by 60 per cent – but funding for these services did not increase by even half that.

Fixing the mental health system is a priority for this government – and it can be done. It requires commitment to understand the problems and implement sustainable solutions – and time. Almost a decade of underfunding and neglect cannot be turned around in one Budget.

The Prime Minister has spoken about her personal commitment to addressing it. The Finance Minister has signalled that it will be a priority in our first wellbeing Budget in 2019. So how are we tracking?

The Government committed to an inquiry into mental health and addiction services in its first hundred days. The report from that inquiry has just been completed and released and the Government will respond formally in March. This response will be a considered one that focuses on long-term, sustainable change rather than political expediency.

In the meantime, the government has committed an extra $200 million to district health board mental health services over the next four years. Low-decile schools, especially those affected by earthquakes, will be better resourced to assist children who may need support. It’s now cheaper for 540,000 New Zealanders on modest incomes to see a doctor, and free for children under 14. A pilot programme that will provide free counselling for 18 to 25 year olds is being developed. Our mental health and addiction support workers – 5000 of them – have been included in the Care and Support Workers Pay Equity Settlement. I’m proud to be supporting a government that cares enough to act.

Finally, as we work to fix the mental health crisis, we must remember that one size does not fit all.

As we work to fix the mental health crisis, we must make sure that we fix it for all New Zealanders.

Not all New Zealanders need mental health assistance. Some measures have been implemented, but after a year in Government it is warned that it will time to fix but is still being referred to as a crisis.

We will find out next March – 18 months after the election – what the Labour-led government plan to do to fix the mental health crisis.