Ardern – from ‘transformative’ to conservative

In the 2017 election campaign and after taking over as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promoted herself as ‘transformative’, she promised a major focus on climate change describing it as ‘the nuclear free issue of her time’, and she promised to put a priority on dealing with child poverty.

This election Ardern is promoting as little as possible apart from her record as a manager of crises, in particular the largely successful management of the Covid pandemic.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warns voters not to expect big Labour Party policies this election

Speaking to RNZ this morning, Ardern said voters should not expect a “large-scale range of policies” from Labour this election.

“What we will be doing over this election period is adding some additional aspects [of policy],” she said.

“But I would flag to voters not to expect to see the large scale manifestos that are a significant departure from what we are doing.”

Instead, she said her “big focus” was on the Covid-19 recovery.

“Ultimately, what needs to be done, we are already rolling out.”

At the last election, Labour campaigned on a number of big-ticket policies, such as building 100,000 KiwiBuild homes in 10 years, fees-free tertiary education and extending paid parental leave.

Ardern this morning suggested that new policy ideas on this type of scale were off the table for Labour this election.

Politically this is understandable – going buy recent polls Ardern and Labour could sleep walk to victory next month, and it’s quite possible they will be able to rule alone.

Last election Ardern and Labour made ‘promises’ they couldn’t keep.

This election they seem determined to make no promises despite them having a much better chance of keeping them.

Her main opponent, Judith Collins, is goading Ardern on her lack of policies.

Stuff: Judith Collins slams Jacinda Ardern for lack of election policy

National leader Judith Collins has attacked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for announcing almost no policy ahead of September’s election, accusing the prime minister of “hiding”.

Collins said Ardern was “incapable of delivering anything but slogans” and promised to have a “rolling maul” of policies herself.

“What we’re seeing [from Labour] is no policy at all. We’re going to have a rolling maul of policies ahead of the election,” Collins said.

“Hiding away is never a way to win an election.”

Ardern was asked about the relative lack of policy at her post-Cabinet press conference on Monday.

She said the next three years had been somewhat “predetermined” by Covid-19, meaning her Government’s plan to get through the economic impact of that crisis would form much of Labour’s policy.

“We have already laid out a very significant plan, including a very significant investment regime, as part of our plan on Covid recovery and rebuild,” Ardern said.

Labour’s approach is working for now, but will it sustain high levels of support through the campaign?

They have been criticised,with some justification, for not delivering on major policies this term, like housing, tax (CGT), social welfare reform, child poverty.

Now criticism of their lack of policies is gathering steam.

And most genuine concern about her approach is not coming from political opponents on right.

Bernard Hickey at Newsroom: A second term PM for crises and the status quo

Where once she campaigned as a transformer, Jacinda Ardern will ask for a second term as simply a manager of the post-1989 tax and welfare status quo, and of the Covid-19 recovery. That’s despite having the potential political power to govern without the moderating ‘hand brake’ of New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

In political circles, it is known as the ‘low target’ strategy: offer little obvious change from the status quo to give your opponent few clear pain points to target you on the grounds you want to ‘hurt’ one part of the electorate or another. It is essentially a conservative strategy, often employed by conservative parties in government. 

This week Jacinda Ardern revealed herself as a small ‘c’ conservative, focused on maintaining the current shape and (historically and comparatively small) size of government, but with a friendlier face. She confirmed Labour had no plans for major new spending or tax or welfare reform in the last full post-Cabinet news conference of her first term. Instead, voters should look at the Government’s current achievements, its plans for Covid-19 recovery and Budget 2020’s debt track as an indicator of ‘steady-as-she-goes’. There is no more. That is it. 

After months of wondering if she was about to flex her new and larger political muscles to pull a big policy rabbit out of the hat, she tapped the hat, turned it upside down, asked us to peer inside at the emptiness, and put it back down on the table: a popular magician without a trick who doesn’t harm rabbits.

Ardern’s only obvious ambition is winning, despite being in a strong position to promote progressive transformation type initiatives.

It is giving Collins and National a chance of clawing back some support so they don’t lose too badly.

It is giving the Greens the most opportunity. They say that for real transformation and significant change, especially on climate change and social issues, a decent Green vote will put them in a strong balance of power position.

Time will tell whether this campaign strategy will hold up through the campaign.

Green Party – Clean Energy Plan

The Green Party announced their Green Energy Plan yesterday. As for any small party policy this is subject to the Greens making the 5% threshold to get them back into Parliament, and is then subject to being able to negotiate this with the Labour party if they get to form a Government, and don’t get blocked by NZ First if they are also in the governing mix.

James Shaw says their policies would be funded from the Covid Recovery Fund, and would cost about $1.3 billion in the first three years.

And ditching fossil fuels will take time as they are phased out.

Clean Energy Plan

Powering Climate Change Action

When all our energy comes from the sun, the wind, and the flow of rivers, we won’t need to burn the fossil fuels that cause the climate crisis.

For decades, governments have chosen to keep burning last century’s dirty fuels. Many factories still use huge coal boilers and our largest power plant relies on 1970s coal technology. But clean alternatives exist and the Green Party understands that change is needed. The climate crisis demands urgent action to decarbonise the energy system. As we reset the economy after COVID-19, investing in clean energy will help tackle the climate crisis to build a stronger, more resilient economy. The Green Party will:

  1. Bring forward the Government’s target for 100% renewable electricity from 2035 to 2030 and re-instate the ban on building new fossil fuel electricity generation.
  2. Equip all suitable public housing with solar panels and batteries, saving people on their power bills and enabling them to share clean energy with their neighbours.
  3. Make it 50% cheaper for everyone to upgrade to solar and batteries for their own homes, with Government finance.
  4. Create a $250 million community clean energy fund to support communities, iwi, and hapū to build and share low-cost, clean energy with their neighbours.
  5. Train thousands of people for clean energy careers with a clean energy training plan, developed with the energy industry, training providers, and unions.
  6. Ban new fossil-fuelled industrial heating systems and boilers in our first 100 days in Government, end industrial coal use in Aotearoa by 2030, and end industrial gas use by 2035.
  7. Triple existing financial support for businesses to replace coal and gas with clean energy alternatives.
  8. Stop issuing permits for new onshore fossil fuel extraction.
  9. Update planning rules to make it easier to build new wind farms.

Affordable home solar

Grants will cover 50% of the cost of a standard sized solar and battery system, including for rental homes. These grants will be delivered in partnership with existing solar companies and not-for-profit energy organisations, who already have the skills and experience needed to scale up.

Solar state homes

The rooftops of the 63,000 state homes throughout Aotearoa are an untapped opportunity to create free electricity from the sun. The Green Party will put solar panels on every suitable state house, along with a battery pack to store the power for when it’s needed. The rooftops of our public houses will become a huge Virtual Power Plant, sharing clean electricity with neighbours. This will save households $1,000 each, a year.

Community Clean Energy Fund

A $250 million Community Clean Energy Fund will empower communities, iwi and hapū, and local councils to build small-scale clean electricity generation and smart grids. Community groups will be able to apply for a grant or a loan to get good projects built. These could be local wind turbines, community solar systems, or community-owned batteries that store and share excess power generated by household rooftop solar panels. The fund would also be available for people who live in apartment buildings and papakāinga who want to share access to rooftop wind or solar electricity.

Clean industrial energy

Burning fossil fuels generates 60% of Aotearoa’s industrial heat, making it Aotearoa’s second biggest energy-related contributor to climate change. Replacing coal with clean alternatives is one of the best ways to quickly reduce Aotearoa’s carbon emissions.

The Green Party will triple current government support for businesses to replace coal and gas with clean alternatives, and to increase their energy efficiency. We expect many businesses to choose electricity, while others might burn biomass and wood waste. We will also modernise grid connection rules, making it easier for businesses to switch to electricity.

A Clean Energy Industry Training Plan will be developed with working people, energy companies, unions, and local government to help create sustainable careers and ensure a just transition to new clean energy jobs for people currently working with fossil fuels.

I had to search the full policy to find the projected costs. Some costs are vague.

Solar grants would be funded from the COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, and would cost $45 million in the first year, increasing over time as more people take up the offer and the solar industry expands to meet demand. The Crown would seek to recoup half the subsidy over 15 years, from a small levy.

The solar state home plan would be funded from the Government’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund at a total cost of $1.27 billion for all 63,000 state homes.

The Green Party in Government will triple the Government’s financial support for businesses making the switch to clean energy, from $33million to $100 million a year.

Building on the $200 million Clean Powered Public Service fund announced by the Government in January 2020, we will continue upgrading government buildings to be more energy efficient.

The Green Party in Government will work with Transpower to solve this problem so grid upgrades can happen faster and their costs get shared fairly.

This will cost users.

How we’ll pay for it

The cost of doing nothing to stop climate change would far exceed the costs of upgrading to clean energy. Increased droughts, floods, and storms are already taking an economic toll on Aotearoa, and around the world.

I keep hearing this claim from Greens but It is probably debatable. They link to OCDE (Organisation for EconomicCo-operation and Development) – Climate change: Consequences of inaction

Read the full Clean energy Plan policy here.

 

ACT policy targeting gangs and their proceeds

David Seymour has announced ACT Party policy that targets the criminal proceeds of gangs.

Newshub: Gangs targeted in ACT Party proposal, pledges to ‘hit them where it hurts’

Party leader David Seymour told Newshub Nation the policy was simple.

“If the police find illegal firearms and illegal activity by a gang, then they can take their assets because, at the moment, gangs are getting around the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act by having a large number of small operations,” Seymour told host Simon Shepherd. “We’re saying that if you have a firearm and you are dealing drugs and you are a gang, then the Crown can take your assets because, ultimately, these guys don’t care about going to jail.”

Gangs were using money and assets to recruit people and keep “feeding the disease”, he said.

Seymour said under the current Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, police had to prove at least $30,000 worth of assets were involved before a seizure.

“What we’re saying is that if you’re a gang that’s breaking the law and you’ve got an illegal firearm onsite – we’re going for your assets straight away.

“This is a practical policy – it’s achievable and it would make a difference. Will it solve the whole problem? No. Will it get us going in the right direction with practical steps? Yes.”

ACT will hit the gangs where it hurts

“ACT will target the gangs by hitting them where it hurts – their pockets,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour and Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities.

“Over the past two and a half years, the number of gang members has increased by a third.

“There’s been a 54 percent increase in the number of gang members being charged with firearms offences. That’s at least one gang member a day being charged with firearms offences.

“We’ve seen a clear escalation in behaviour from the gangs, with regular shootings using illegal firearms.

“The current approach to dealing with gangs and illegal firearms hasn’t worked.

“Neither the Government’s new gun legislation, nor the buyback, has made a difference to the number of illegal firearms in circulation.

“Locking people up gets them off the street, but the gangs don’t care if young prospects are sent to jail and just carry on operating in our communities.

“We need to get smarter. That means hitting the gangs where it hurts.

“If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful, gang-run operation, we’ll seize their assets.

ACT will amend the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (the Act) so that if a Police search finds:

  • an illegal operation (e.g. drug manufacturing for supply or money laundering), and
  • the unlawful possession of a firearm, and
  • a person who is either a gang member or is closely affiliated,

it can apply to the courts for an order to seize the operation’s assets.

Currently, Police must meet a number of tests before it can apply to the courts to seize assets under the Act.

That includes proving a link between illicit money and the purchasing of assets, and proof of drug manufacturing or money laundering at a value of more than $30,000.

Police often wait until the suspected value is much higher as an offence is then easier to prove.

“Under our proposal, if an illegal firearm is found in the possession of a known gang member at a property where an illegal operation is taking place, authorities will not be required to meet the current tests. The discovery of an illegal firearm can be used to fast-track the seizure of assets,” says Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“ACT is going to go after the gangs and their guns by hitting them where it hurts.

“In the wake of our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch, the Government targeted the wrong group of New Zealanders by scapegoating law-abiding firearms owners. It should be going after the gangs.

“One illegal firearm in the hands of a gang is one too many. If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful operation run by a gang, we’ll seize their assets.

“Under our proposal, gangs will either need to shut up shop, disarm, or have their assets seized.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities. ACT’s plan to get smarter in dealing with the gangs is a step towards safer communities.”

ACT have been improving in polls, getting between 1.8% and 3.5% with the last from Colmar Brunton at 3.1%, and if the get this sort of result in the election Seymour will have several MPs in with him. If National keep bungling then ACT may pick up even more support.

Seymour will also be on Q+A this morning and plans to announce more policy.

 

Muller announces National Party policy for business employment

After a difficult first week as National party leader Todd Muller has announced a policy targeting businesses recovering from the Covid-19 economic crisis.

It can only happen later in the year if National win back power in the election in September and get coalition party support for the policy, and the economic situation may have changed drastically by then anyway, but Muller needed to do something to appease media demanding he do something immediately.


National backs businesses with $10k JobStart

National will provide a $10,000 cash payment to businesses that hire additional staff as part of our commitment to keeping New Zealanders in jobs, National Party Leader Todd Muller and Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith have announced.

Our JobStart scheme would begin on 1 November 2020 and run for the remaining five months of the financial year through to 31 March 2021, incentivising up to 50,000 new jobs.

“Today National has announced another part of our plan to create jobs and grow the economy,” Mr Muller says.

“We are committed to supporting New Zealand businesses, in particular small businesses, to invest and grow. JobStart will give small business owners greater confidence to hire new people.

“Small business owners who create jobs will be the heroes of this economic crisis, in the way that our nurses, doctors and all five million of us who stayed home were the heroes of the health crisis.”

Mr Goldsmith says thousands of small businesses across New Zealand were starved of revenue during the lockdown and many are still struggling under level two restrictions.

“They are desperate for cash flow and this payment could alleviate some of the pressure they’re facing while also supporting growth.

“The scheme will be capped at 10 new employees, or $100,000 per business. Businesses will need to prove that the new hire is an additional full time equivalent over and above their existing labour force.

“The Government said its Budget was all about jobs but there was no plan to back this up. Only National has a plan to revive the economy and keep Kiwis in jobs.”


From the factsheet

The $10k JobStart is for all New Zealand businesses but it is focussed on small businesses. It will be capped at 10 new employees, or $100,000 per business. The scheme is capped at $500 million – or 50,000 new jobs.

How many new jobs are expected to be created over the five month eligibility period?

The number of new jobs created in any given period depends largely on the stage of the economic cycle.

Especially the stage of the economic cycle in a recession or depression, as the country and world may be in by later in the year.


Naturally in politics this policy has been criticised, and defended. Like:

Thee $10,000 approximately covers employment for three months on the minimum wage.

It would encourage some businesses to employ or to re-employ, but it is debatable.

If National get back into power in late September or October they will have a huge job to do dealing with ongoing Covid-19 (or the aftermath), and it is likely the economy will be in a dire situation, as will many businesses that have survived that long.

So what needs to be done then is difficult to predict now.

But Muller needed to get a policy out to show that something positive is being done under his leadership.

 

Green Party donation versus party policy

The Greens have been bequeathed a $350,000 donation, their biggest ever and tens times larger than the limit proposed in their policy.

Green Party policy on donations includes:

Election Financing

  • Initiate a review of the overall operation of campaign finance rules, including rules around donations and spending caps and non-political party election activities
  • Introduce tighter limits on anonymous donations, place an annual limit of $35,000 on total donations from any single person or entity, and introduce a ban on overseas donations

The Greens tend to get smaller donations, but in 2016 the Greens received a donation of  $280,000 from the estate of Elizabeth Riddoch.

Last October Greens urge political donation reform

The Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says New Zealand is open for corruption under the current rules around political donations.

She told Morning Report powerful businesses can gain influence with large donations.

“I think New Zealanders would be quite keen on a conversation on how we get big money out of politics,” she said.

“What we’ve seen around the world is that those with particular interests can have millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of influence on political policy.

“We’ve already seen a $100,000 donation to the National Party being questioned, from someone who is a powerful businessman.

“I want to see equal access and not just big money having undue influence over our political system.”

“New Zealanders are starting to understand we could go down a slippery slope here”.

She said a cap on donations would give Kiwis more confidence in the political system.

But now $350,000 donation to the Greens, from late party member’s estate, the largest to a major political party in almost a decade (NZ Herald)

A $350,000 donation to the Greens in December is the largest single donation to a major political party in almost a decade.

It was also the largest to the Green Party in its 30-year history.

It was made by Betty Harris on December 13 last year. She died in January 2018 and the donation was part of her will.

The Green’s general-secretary Gwen Shaw said the party was very grateful for Harris’ donation.

She had been a party member since 1999.

“She was a lovely woman; never made a fuss but just got on with whatever she thought she could do to improve the world.”

Harris lived in East Auckland and was an active supporter of her local branch, particularly when she was younger, Shaw said.

A bit of ‘do as I say, not as I do’, but money is money, ‘gratefully accepted’, despite being contrary to Green policy.

What if Greens had been successful in placing ‘an annual limit of $35,000 on total donations from any single person or entity’?

In that situation if an amount larger than $35,000 was bequeathed to a party what would happen? If the party couldn’t legally accept it, what would happen to the money? Would the estate have to redistribute it elsewhere?

 

 

National’s primary teacher policy

The new policy announcement made by Simon Bridges at National’s conference in the weekend seems a strange choice – a promise to increase the number of primary school teachers and lower class sizes.

Typically National really struggles with teacher related policies. It is fairly well known that Labour works very closely with teacher unions, and the unions don’t like working with National.

I guess it signifies a change in direction for national under Bridges’ leadership. Press release (edited):


National commits to more primary teachers

National Party Leader Simon Bridges has announced National’s commitment to increasing the number of primary teachers to reduce class sizes and give kids more teacher time.

“With the right education we can overcome the challenges that some children face purely because of the circumstances they were born into,” Mr Bridges said at the National Party’s annual conference in Auckland today.

“There is one thing every child needs to help them achieve their potential, from the one that struggles to sit still and follow instructions to the bright child that wants to be challenged to the gifted child that doesn’t know how to channel their talent.

“And that’s attention from one of New Zealand’s world class teachers who can cater to the needs of each child, and spend more time with each of them.

“More teachers means more attention for our kids at a stage of life when they need it most.

“To achieve their potential and reach their dreams our kids need less Facebook and more face time with teachers.

“National is committed to delivering that by putting more teachers in schools to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.

“We’re also committed to attracting more teachers and ensuring they are highly respected professionals in our communities. Part of that is pay, and it’s also about conditions such as class sizes and the investment we put into teachers to deliver quality learning to our kids.

Mr Bridges said National would spend the next two years working with teachers, parents and communities on the details of the policy, along with the others it will take to the electorate in 2020.

“This year is about listening to our communities, next year about getting feedback on the ideas we put forward and 2020 about delivering the concrete plans that show New Zealanders we are ready to lead.

“We will make every day count. National will bring strong leadership, the best ideas and the ability to make a difference. I’m backing New Zealanders and I’m starting with our children.”


Labour used to propose reducing class sizes (2014 campaign) and criticised National on class sizes, but I can’t find anything specifically in their education manifesto on this.

Chris Hipkins two years ago (July 2016): Bigger class sizes on the way under National

Hekia Parata’s refusal to rule out bigger class sizes as a result of her new bulk funding regime speaks volumes about the real agenda behind her proposed changes, Labour’s Education spokesperson Chris Hipkins says.

“Hekia Parata has proposed that schools should have the ‘flexibility’ to spend money that currently goes towards teaching salaries on other expenses. That can only result in bigger class sizes, a reduction in the number of courses on offer, or both.

“I’m not surprised that Hekia Parata has refused to rule out bigger class sizes. In Western Australia, where she has drawn inspiration for her new model from, at least the Minister for Education was honest enough to admit class sizes going up was a likely consequence of bulk funding.

NZH a year ago (July 2017): Modern classrooms in all schools by 2030: Labour’s election pledge

Ahead of the 2014 election Labour focused on reducing class sizes to one teacher to 26 students at primary and a maximum average class size of 23 at secondary schools. Those specific goals have been dropped.

Hipkins told the Herald the 2014 policy to cut class sizes would have been funded by scrapping National’s flagship education policy, Investing in Educational Success (IES).

“A lot of money is committed now. It remains a goal to reduce class sizes and we will have more to say on that in due course.”

In due course hasn’t arrived yet. National seem to have taken over a Labour policy.

This looks a bit like more Tweedlenats and Tweedlelabour.

School donations another delayed promise

A Labour promise to pay schools extra so parent donations aren’t required has had an evolving target, from “in our first budget” to “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”.

Below the Beltway:

Education Minister Chris Hipkins – After promising repeatedly to offer parents relief from school donations in the Budget, Hipkins insists its omission is not a broken promise but a delayed one.

Labour policy: Schooling

  • Ensure that schooling is genuinely free by offering an extra $150 per student to state and state integrated schools that don’t ask parents for donations

Labour: Education Manifesto

  • Labour will provide all State and State Integrated schools that opt-in an additional $150 per student per year in exchange for their agreement not to ask for parental donations

July 2017: Labour taking action on school ‘donations’

Labour will end so-called voluntary school donations for the majority of parents across the country under its $4 billion plan to revitalise the education sector, says Labour Leader Andrew Little. James talks with Labour education spokesperson Chris Hipkins on this.

James: So the school will get this immediately, as soon as you become Government the schools will get this extra $150 per child?

Hipkins: Ah look it might have to be, obviously we’ve got to pass a budget first, so it probably won’t be the beginning of next year, it’s probably be the beginning of the following year but we’ll be doing it as quickly as we can.

James: How long does it take to sort that out, a year?

Hipkins: Well the government budget’s normally done in May, so you’ve got to appropriate the money first.

James: Haven’t you done the figures already?

Hipkins: Yep. The money, we’ve certainly done the figures but we’ve actually got to win the election and get into Government first, and then it takes a wee while to pass an additional budget. The budget for next year has been already been set by Mr English and Mr Joyce.

Almost as soon as they got into Government,26 October 2017: ‘We’ve got to fund schools fairly’ – Labour determined to take the axe to ‘voluntary’ school donations:

Incoming Education Minister Chris Hipkins said a new Labour initiative would be introduced in the 2018 budget that would see some schools given extra government funding instead of asking parents for a donation.

Hillary Barry: End of school donations, how are you going to ensure that those are gone?

Chris Hipkins: Well that’ll be in our first budget. We’ll be making sure that school funding is enough to deliver the curriculum so that schools don’t have to rely on the ability of parents to pay, because that’s creating real unfairness…

In November: Labour’s $150 per student per year promise ‘over and above current funding’, minister says

New Minister of Education Chris Hipkins…

The new Government would commit an extra $150 per pupil per year to any schools that agreed not to ask for donations, and that money would be “over and above their current funding”, he said.

Hipkins was confident many schools would prefer the new approach to asking parents to “dig ever deeper into their own pockets”.

“I know parents and schools will be keen for this change to be made as soon as possible and work is getting under way,” he said.

It had already softened to “as soon as possible”.

A month later Labour announced their first budget, a mini-budget that included major new spending like delivering on the free-fee tertiary policy. This was their first budget they chose not to address the school donation policy then.

In February this year Schools split on Government’s plan to overhaul donation system

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the policy would be considered for Budget 2018.  “No-one should be denied an opportunity to realise their potential through education because of financial barriers,” he said.

“As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point.”

By then it was “would be considered”.

But it was absent from the budget announced this month (May).

In Parliament on Wednesday Nikki Kaye probed Hipkins:

7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his promises in education; if so, does he stand by his statement in February 2018 regarding ending school donations, “As it is Budget sensitive I can’t comment further at this point”?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes, and yes.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Why did he say, in January, to the Nelson Mail that a school donations proposal was working its way through Cabinet and “This restricts me from making any comment further at this stage.”, and when did that schools donations Cabinet paper go through?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because it was working its way through the process. It was called the Budget process.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he reimburse schools and parents who are contacting electorate offices saying they relied on his broken promise to end school donations in the first Budget, and how will they find funding from somewhere else?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has been very clear that we have three Budgets in which to deliver the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. We have, thus far, delivered one of the three Budgets.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he promise that funding will be provided in Budget 2019 to end school donations?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: All of the commitments in the Speech from the Throne are subject to further Budget consideration if they weren’t funded in this year’s Budget. There are two further Budgets that the Government will be delivering over this term of Government.

Hon Nikki Kaye: How does he justify breaking his explicit promise to parents to scrap the school donations in his first Budget when his Government is budgeting a surplus of $3.1 billion, the tax take is up by $1 billion, and the Government can afford to give millions to wealthy students, Swedish diplomats—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: To be clear, the Government was never going to be able to deliver all of the commitments we made in our first Budget, and we’ve always been very clear that we weren’t going to be able to deliver those things in our first Budget. That’s why we have a three-year term, and three Budgets on which to deliver on them.

So it’s been a moving target:

July 2017: “Probably be the beginning of the following year” (2019)

October 2017: “Well that’ll be in our first budget” (not clear whether mini-budget in 2017 or full budget in 2018)

November 2017: “…this change to be made as soon as possible…”

February 2018: “would be considered for Budget 2018”

May 2018: “three Budgets on which to deliver on them”

If Labour gets back into Government in 2020 Hipkins will have another three budgets to deliver on his promise, sort of.

 

Greens want to dump referendums so they can force separate Māori wards

Several local bodies have failed in their attempts to impose Māori wards on their constituencies, with voters initiating petitions forcing referendums that subsequently voted strongly against separate democratic privileges – see Māori wards and democracy.

Undeterred by determination through the current democratic process, Green co-leader Marama Davidson is promoting “a movement”  for  “Māori wards right across the country”.

NewstalkZB: Green Party not giving up on Maori wards

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson is refusing to give up the fight to create separate Maori wards, after Whakatane and Palmerston North both voted against the wards in binding referendums.

Davidson says it’s wrong for the majority to be setting the rules for minorities.

“Passing my law, which would have removed that referendum step and which would leave the decision in the hands of the elected councillors, is what is sorely needed.”

She has a law to take a means of democratic decision making out of the hands of voters.

Last year: Greens introduce Bill to make local wards process fair

The Green Party has today entered a Member’s Bill into the ballot that would make local government representation more equitable by ensuring that the establishment of both Māori and general wards on district and regional councils follows the same legal process.

“I’m really excited to be launching my new Member’s Bill today, which will ensure that the process for establishing Māori wards at a local government level is equitable and fair, and honours our commitments under Te Tiriti o Waitangi,” said Green Party Māori development spokesperson Marama Davidson.

Green Farm: ‘All votes are equal…but some vote should be more equal than others’.

“This unfair double standard in our electoral law works to limit Māori representation at local government level throughout the country.

Māori currently have the same opportunities for representation as everyone else. Davidson wants them to have separated representation. Davidson is promoting one standard for Māori the is different for the standard for everyone else.

Why just Māori wards? Why not women’s wards, LBGT wards, immigrant group wards, and white male wards?

“Removing this discriminatory provision is the right thing to do.

With a more discriminatory, less democratic provision?

“The Green Party has a proud history of standing up to honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This is a continuation of our work as the political leaders on advancing kaupapa Māori and honouring Te Tiriti,” Ms Davidson said.

By promoting separatist local body democracy. I’m not aware of Te Tiriti o Waitangi stipulating separate democratic rights. There are valid historical reasons for the establishment of the national Māori electorates, and there is no strong indications that voters want that changed – but there are strong indications in New Plymouth, Manawatu, Kaikoura and Whakatane that separate wards are not wanted.

Having lost out in the democratic process Davidson wants the rules changed so she can have what she wants. This is alarming from a party leader.

From the Green’s Open Government and Democracy Policy:

Vision

  • We have a proportional electoral system that is transparent and fair.

This refers to ‘a proportional electoral system’, not dual systems. Fair for all, or ‘more fair’ for some?

Key Principles

1. Key decisions on the shape of the nation’s electoral system belong to the people, not political parties.

And not councils. But Davidson wants this principle overturned so councils can ignore their constituents.

2. The votes of all electors are of equal weight in influencing election results.

Except Davidson wants added weight for a select minority.

6. The electoral system should encourage close links and accountability between individual MPs and their constituents or constituencies.

8. Active democratic processes require more than periodic elections and stronger mechanisms are needed for the ongoing engagement of informed citizens in the development and enactment of key national and local policies.

But Davidson wants to remove the right of local body voters to petition for referendums so they can have their say.

A. Changing the existing system

The Green Party will only consider supporting changes to the Electoral Act if:

1. The only effect of the change is to grant the right to vote to some group of citizens and permanent residents of Aotearoa New Zealand, who were previously ineligible to vote; or
2. The changes are adjustments to the existing electoral system that have been recommended by an independent commission, and that are consistent with our Key Principles.

Separate Māori wards are excluded by point 1. because Māori are already eligible to vote.

I’m not aware of any independent commission recommending Māori wards.

Māori wards are not consistent with Green Party Key Principles, but who needs to bother about principles when a party leader wants to override the current democratic systems?

Another Green democracy ‘vision’:

  • We are actively engaged in our democracy and are able to meaningfully participate in government decision-making.

That’s ok as an ideal, but you can’t make people actively engage in our democracy. Local body referendum turnouts were all close to 40%.

And Davidson wants to remove a petition/referendum means of meaningful participation because she disagrees with the democratic outcome.

Perhaps Davidson should try some meaningful participation and actively engage with Māori non-voters, and find out what would encourage them to engage and vote. That would be much better than trying to change the democratic rules when you don’t get the results you want.

It would be great if more Māori voted. It would also be great if more Māori  candidates stood, and if more Māori candidates were good enough to get voted on to local body governments.

B. Changing to a new system

The Green Party will consider supporting changing to a new electoral system only if:

1. The new electoral system is approved by a free and fair referendum of all people in Aotearoa New Zealand eligible to vote under the existing laws. The referendum should have the following characteristics:
a) The referendum process is determined by an independent commission not by members of parliament

Davidson wants to do the opposite.

Great to get more Māori  voting and standing and elected. But terrible for a party leader to try to change the rules to get what she wants.

Not only is Davidson promoting double democratic standards, she is promoting very different democratic standards to he party principles and policies.

Labour slow to restore Canterbury democracy

After slamming the last Government’s sacking of the Canterbury regional council ECan, and of promising to quickly restore democracy, Labour is now in no hurry to act.

Christchurch Labour MP Megan Woods in 2016: ECan legislation an affront to democracy

The Government’s ECan Legislation is an affront to Cantabrians and continues to deny them a democratically elected regional council, says Labour’s Canterbury Spokesperson Megan Woods.

“There is simply no logical, rational or compelling case for a system of regional government in Canterbury that is anti-democratic and radically different from other parts of the country.

“This is not the return to democracy we were promised. This is a continuation of government control.

“It has been six years since the Government sacked the regional council. It is time to put regional governance back where it belongs. That regional governnment has to be in the hands of Cantabrians. There is no justification for controlling Canterbury through appointments made in Wellington.

“I have a Private Members Bill in the ballot to return to a fully elected council at this year’s elections. That Bill stays in the ballot because Labour backs Cantabrians to run their own region,” says Megan Woods.

Labour’s policy on Canterbury (August 2017): Unlocking Potential – Labour’s Plan for Canterbury

Our plan has eight crucial components, each demonstrating Labour’s commitment to get the region moving – and thriving.

Labour will:

  • Restore full democracy to Environment Canterbury

Stuff (November 2017): ECan elections unlikely before 2019

A return to democracy at Environment Canterbury (ECan) appears unlikely before 2019, despite Labour’s long-standing objection to the status quo.

The last Government removed democratically-elected councillors in 2009 and replaced them with seven commissioners the following year.

One of the sacked councillors, Eugenie Sage, is now Minister of Conservation.

Despite promises by former Environment Minister Nick Smith to restore democracy in 2013, it was pushed to 2016. A full return to democracy was delayed again until 2019 – half the current council is elected and half appointed.

During the election campaign, Labour said full elections would be restored “as soon as possible,” but it is understood that is unlikely to happen before 2019, when elections were expected anyway.

Newsroom (today): Labour’s big miss in Canterbury

The Labour-led Government has failed a crucial test in Canterbury.

Despite making an election issue out of a return to full democracy at Canterbury’s regional council, Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has confirmed to Newsroom it will follow the last Government’s timetable of waiting until next year’s scheduled local body elections.

That’s little payback for a surge of support for Labour in Christchurch at last year’s election. The decision not to call early elections will disappoint many – including Mahuta’s ministerial colleague Eugenie Sage, who was one of 14 councillors sacked by the National-led Government in 2010, mainly over claims it was mismanaging water.

Labour’s go-slow on Canterbury democracy even leaves it open to a swipe from ex-Environment Minister Nick Smith, who made the National-led Government’s decision, jointly with then Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, to sack councillors at Environment Canterbury (ECan).

Smith, a fading flower in National, says Labour “screamed from the rooftops” in opposition and if it believed the strength of its rhetoric it would have moved to restore a fully elected council. “I think they know, as I did, that a sensible transition through this term of council and full elections in 2019 is actually the right thing for Canterbury.”

After this length of time without an elected regional council it makes sense to restore a democratic body during the Local Body elections next year, but Labour have failed to fulfil their promise. At least they haven’t set up an inquiry on this.

Cannabis referendum could disappoint

One of the policy wins for the Greens is a referendum on personal use of cannabis.

A referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis by 2020. Funding for drug and alcohol addiction services will be increased.

The ‘referendum on legalising the personal use of cannabis by 2020’ is both good and bad news.

Cannabis laws and enforcement of them are hopeless, and long overdue for being radically reformed, so it is good to see tangible progress on this.

But I’m really quite disappointed by this.

Why do we need a referendum apart from appeasing NZ First? Polls have consistently shown public support for cannabis law reform.

A referendum in 2020 is likely to mean that legislation wouldn’t go through Parliament until 2021 at the earliest, and if National get back in they are unlikely to put any priority on it. This means any change could be four or five years away.

A simple referendum could be hobbled or watered down by actual legislation if it’s not specific enough.

Perhaps legislation could be done in advance of the referendum so we know what we are voting on. Then the referendum could be to approve of or reject the legislation. But that still means at least a 3 year wait.

I won’t get too annoyed yet, before details are available, but I have some concerns.


Note that this addresses personal use of cannabis as opposed to medicinal use – in Labour’s Taking action in our first 100 days:

  • Introduce legislation to make medicinal cannabis available for people with terminal illnesses or in chronic pain

Ardern has not been specific but has said that most of their ‘first 100 days’ pledges remain intact.


UPDATE – there could be even more disappointment

James Shaw just said in an interview on The Nation that it hasn’t been decided yet whether the referendum will be binding or not.

So it could be in 3 years, and toothless.