Accusations of Labour shielding Ministers from scrutiny in Parliament

Claims have been made that Labour is protecting some of it’s Ministers from scrutiny in Question Time in Parliament.

The second, directed at Minister of Employment Willie Jackson:

Question No. 11—Employment

11. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he still stand by all of his statements?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): on behalf of the Minister of Employment: Yes, in the context in which they were made.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement in the Manukau Courier that there is a “crisis” in New Zealand employment?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How many jobs has the New Zealand economy created in the past year while it has been in crisis?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I don’t have those figures with me.

Jackson did front up for questions from Goldsmith the day before:

The first minister switch yesterday:

Question No. 10—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

MELISSA LEE (National): I seek leave for this question to be held over until the next question time when the Hon Clare Curran is available to answer this question.

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is.

10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she believe it is important for State-owned broadcasters to be independent?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Yes.

Melissa Lee: Does she agree that maintaining the independence of Radio New Zealand includes full disclosure of any meetings the Minister has with RNZ’s head of content?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes, and the Minister has corrected the written answer that she gave, which was referred to in the questions yesterday.

This follows Lee questioning Current on Tuesday:

 

Melissa Lee has been submitting many written questions to Curran.

Below average response on average wage

Minister of Employment Willie Jackson got caught out with a basic question for his portfolio today in Parliament.

The original question “Does he stand by his statement in the Manukau Courier, “for 9 years we’ve had Government policy which has offered up little more than lip service to job creation”; if so, can he confirm that in the past 2 years an average of more than 10,000 jobs a month have been created in this country?”

Jackson began with some very general responses to specific questions. Then:

Hon Paul Goldsmith: What is the current average wage?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: At the moment we know what the average wage is, and that MP needs to do some research.

A very ironic reply.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Is it a point of order on me for allowing the question?

Hon Paul Goldsmith: No, it’s just I’d like to have an answer. I asked a very simple question and I didn’t get any answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I’m not sure of its relationship with the original question.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I assume you are considering whether or not you will act on that point of order? I mean, to—

Mr SPEAKER: I am considering.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: You are? OK. Well, we we’ll be quiet until we’ve had a bit of consideration.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: For the Minister’s information, the average wage is nearly 60,000 a year—a 28 percent increase on 9 years ago, which is twice the rate of employment. And so, given that, what would his target be for increasing the average wage?

Mr SPEAKER: I would have given some extra questions if in fact we had a question. We did at the end, so what we’re going to do is we’re going to have the Hon Willie Jackson answer that question, but I do want both sides to settle down, and I especially want questions not to have prefaces.

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Sorry, Mr Speaker. What was the question again?

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think if the Hon Paul Goldsmith just does the tail end of what he said before.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So my question to the Minister is: what is his target for increasing the average wage?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Our target is to create real jobs with dignity amongst our communities. This is an Opposition that has forgotten a big group of people in New Zealand: the Māori nation and the Pacific Island nation. Shame on you.

Another vague response.

 

Audrey Young: Willie Jackson gets caught out on basic question

It is was a simple question that required a simple answer but Willie Jackson was left exposed and learned a basic lesson as Employment Minister.

National MPs hooted in delight at the fact-free answer and Labour MPs looked unamused.

Clare Curran, sitting in front of Jackson, turned around and muttered something.

Kieran McAnulty sitting nearby pulled out an iPad mini and started frenetically tapping, presumably into Google, but Goldsmith beat him to it.

Goldsmith: “For the minister’s information the average wage is nearly $60,000, 28 per cent increase on nine years ago.”

Jackson’s defence to being caught out was to come back fighting.

More transcript:

Paul Eagle: What has the Minister seen that highlights that the creation of jobs for Māori and Pasifika people are lagging behind those of others?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I’ve seen the recent unemployment figures that show under the previous Government Māori and Pasifika people were more than two times more likely to be unemployed than others, and that highlights that the job creation under the previous Government left parts of our community unacceptably behind.

Paul Eagle: What other examples has the Minister seen of lip-service to job creation?

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. That is not a supplementary question.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he wrote “I’m Minister of Employment to make a real difference, not appease easy stereotypes and lazy journalism”, which journalists did he think were being lazy?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: There are many fine journalists, particularly the ones who write negative articles about the Opposition.

Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: What impact does he anticipate the Government’s plan to progressively raise the minimum wage to $20 per hour and to enhance workers’ bargaining position in the workplace will have on average wages?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Huge, huge impact—huge impact. Workers are so happy with the changes at the moment, particularly after being under attack for the last nine years from a disgraceful Government.

He tried to snap back but the damage had been done.

Full transcript here.

Median salaries by job type here at PayScale.

 

Labour’s first TPPA question

Labour asked their first question of the year in Parliament yesterday. It was question 9, asked by David Clark, while both Andrew Little and John Key were not in Parliament (they never are on Thursdays).

Paul Goldsmith answered on behalf of the Minister of Trade, so it was hardly a clash of heavy hitters from either party.

There were some contentious points of order, plus a patsy question from National MP Joanna Hayes.

Amongst the exchanges:

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Buried near the end of the week’s question list it didn’t do much to advance debate on the TPPA.

Draft transcript:

[Sitting date: 18 February 2016. Volume:711;Page:10. Text is subject to correction.]

9. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Trade: Did his predecessor Hon Tim Groser ask MFAT officials negotiating the TPP agreement to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to ban the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreign speculators?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs)on behalf of the Minister of Trade: No. He asked them to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners, which, I might add, was one of Labour’s bottom lines.

Dr David Clark: Why did Australia reserve the right to ban non-resident foreign speculators from its housing market, and why did he not do the same?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Other countries have negotiated based on their own domestic policy positions, which I have no responsibility for. The Government has no policy to outright ban foreigners investing in New Zealand, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) maintains our current approval requirements for foreign investments in sensitive land, and, as I said in my primary response, the Government has preserved the right for future Governments to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners.

Dr David Clark: Why did New Zealand agree to Singapore reserving the right to impose a ban on the purchase of housing by foreign speculators when Singapore did not already have a ban?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do not have those details to hand, but what I can say is that this Government has, in the interests of all New Zealanders, preserved the right of the Government to restrict the purchase of residential land, and that is a good deal for all New Zealanders.

Dr David Clark: To assist the order of the House, I seek leave to table a document stating that Singapore reserves the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the—[Interruption] Order! I need the source of the document and the date.

Dr David Clark: It is the relevant annexe in the many thousands of pages of the agreement on the Table—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now trifling with the Chair. If it has been tabled in the House it is available to all members. [Interruption] Order! It creates disorder when members then seek, for political purposes, to table something that is already freely available to all members of the House. That information was tabled at the beginning of last week. It is available, and to seek to table it again only creates disorder. I will not put up with it.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Dr—ah—Chris Hipkins.

Chris Hipkins: Not yet—maybe one day. The point of order that I want to raise with you is that I think the document in question is the document there on the Table, all of the many thousands of pages of it. I think that the question becomes: where such a large volume of information is available and where there is contested debate about a particular part of it, that is not necessarily going to be available—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need any assistance at all. I can see the document from here. To suggest that it is unavailable to members once it has been tabled in this House is not fact. It is available. The question the member might legitimately ask is whether members have an interest to go and look at it. That becomes the members’ business, but the information that is already tabled in the House is already available, and to seek to re-table it is simply using the point of tabling documents for a political purpose. That is not what they are designed for. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Does he accept that Singapore could “adopt any measure affecting real estate”?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Again, I do not have those details to hand, but I am focused on New Zealand’s focus, which is to make sure that we have the ability to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners. And I might add that that was one of the bottom lines of the Labour Party.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we have just had an illustration of the difficulty of having very large documents tabled in the House. If a Minister can say they do not have the information available and you have said that the information is available, how can it be an acceptable answer but not acceptable to table the material?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: The question was asking the Minister whether he could confirm something about the particular ability of Singapore to do something. That answer will not be contained in that document at all. The statement about what Singapore has reserved is in the document—quite a different matter.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the point raised by Chris Hipkins adds to the discussion in any way whatsoever. The Minister was asked for some information about another country entirely. I would prefer him to stand and say he does not have that information rather than attempt to answer and end up giving an answer that he has to come back and correct. The fact is that the information has been available. The further tabling of it would not assist in that answer in any way whatsoever. Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Dr David Clark: Can I speak to the point of order?

Mr SPEAKER: No. I have dealt with it. I have ruled on it.

Dr David Clark: Does the Minister believe that a competent Minister of Trade would know whether the Singaporeans have reserved for themselves the right to ban New Zealanders from purchasing residential land?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: What I believe is that a competent spokesman on trade would believe in trade.

Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: This Government welcomes wide-ranging discussion on the TPP, and that is what we will be doing over the rest of this year. We believe that this is a great deal for this country and that is why we are supporting it.

Joanne Hayes: Can the Minister confirm whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership meets essential bottom-line requirements to protect New Zealand’s interests?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.

Dr David Clark: Has the Minister seen reports from 2013 when Labour announced its policy on banning non-resident foreign buyers and subsequent reports when it introduced its bottom lines that clearly indicate that the intention was to ban non-resident foreign speculators with that policy?

Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am not responsible for Labour policy, but what I can say is that Labour policy was to restrict, and that is what this Government has set out to do.

David Parker should win Epsom

I don’t necessarily mean he’s likely to, but if Epsom voters did what they should do and vote for their electorate candidate based on merit then Parker should romp in.

Banks doesn’t deserve to win, and Goldsmith doesn’t want to win so he shouldn’t.

A campaign subplot

Parker’s punt on the Epsom electorate is rapidly emerging as a tactical masterstroke. While John Banks and Paul Goldsmith said precisely nothing of substance in last Sunday’s Q+A television debate, Parker enjoyed a virtual walkover. He had pithy talking points and confident, authoritative delivery.

So Epsom voters – how about voting on merit?

And – it won’t change the outcome of the election, but it would send a clear signal from voters that they are in control and won’t be dicked around with.

Epsom assaults on democracy?

Electorate wheeling and dealing seems to give some people the shits.

Act: John Banks, great white hope for Act to keep a foot in the door of parliament.
National: Paul Goldsmith, who says he will campaign for party votes (nudge, wink to Act)}
Labour: David Parker, previously Dunedin based,” not expected to threaten”.

It would be really interesting if Winston Peters chose Epsom too, he will be wavering between the publicity and finding a seat he thinks he has a chance of being competitive in.

This is electorate politics, MMP style, parties maneuvering and dealing amongst themselves. More on this at Kiwiblog – Marginal seat deals.

There will be more accusations this is making arrangements to circumvent democracy, but that’s rubbish.
There’s nothing to stop parties working together on any electorate arrangements they want to. Their choice.

Democracy means the voters of each electorate can decide for themselves what candidates they want to support, and what parties they want to support. If the voters of an electorate don’t like the party arrangements they can show that in the ballot.

It will also bring back up claims that John Key will tell Epsom voters how to vote. Key can say what he likes, it’s still free choice for the voters.

Brash can tell electorates how to vote, Harawira can tell electorates how to vote, Peters can tell electorates how to vote, Goff can tell electorates how to vote, hell, I’ll even try that. But it’s all up to the voters.

The voters have the power in Epsom.  Voters in other electorates could also take more power for themselves instead of just auto-voting in a safe seat.

You can make your electorate count rather than giving a free pass to a party parrot..