Boris Johnson now PM of UK

In the increasingly less united United Kingdom the Conservative Party has chosen Boris Johnson to take over as Prime Minister from Theresa May.

Missy reports:


Anyway, as you will know Boris won the leadership election as expected, today he was officially sworn in as PM by the Queen and immediately set about doing his cabinet reshuffle.

24 July 2019 is becoming known as the summer’s day massacre as Boris culls the cabinet.

So far he has sacked 18 from cabinet.

The big appointments so far are:

Chancellor – Sajid Javid
Home Secretary – Priti Patel

Expected: Dominic Raab to be named Foreign Secretary


Financial Times: Sajid Javid picked as chancellor in first Boris Johnson appointment – latest news

Guardian: Boris Johnson cabinet: Sajid Javid, Priti Patel and Dominic Raab given top jobs – live news

An interesting lineup of names with just ‘Johnson’  being of English origin (the new Prime Minister’s multi-cultural full name being Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson).

Guardian: In full: Boris Johnson’s first speech as prime minister – video

Members of ‘digital and media expert group’ respond

Yesterday members of the ‘Digital and media expert group’ advising on social media regulation revealed.

There was some interaction on this on Twitter with two of the members, Nat Torkington and Lizzie Marvelly.

@MatthewHootonNZ:

What are its objectives? What is Its work programme? It looks to me like a sinister Labour move so censor dissent, like they did with the Electoral Finance Bill.

@LizzieMarvelly responded with information that the Prime Minister’s office withheld from Hooton’s OIA request – what the objectives of the group are:

It is an informal group of tech sector, legal and media folks that can provide feedback on request to help the Government to make sure its work in this area is effective and well-informed. This is an important kaupapa, particularly given what happened in Chrischurch.

To be clear, by ‘this area’, I mean social media policy proposals.

@MatthewHootonNZ:

There is no such thing as an “informal” group if it is set up by DPMC and the PM discusses it the day of its first meeting with the political editor of the NZ Herald.

Why haven’t you declared your involvement in it? How much have you been paid? What is the work programme? Has there been a second meeting?

At that point Marvelly disengaged from the discussion, but Torkington joined in.

@gnat (Torkington):

Oh hai, Lizzie. Is it normal for you to get this kind of pig-dog blind aggression? I’ve never encountered it before. It’s like being hassled by an uppity mall cop. “I know you think you’re a knight defender of Western democracy, but your cap gun and plastic badge fool nobody.”

Pig-dog blind aggression? Torkington’s lack of encountering what looks fairly reasonable questioning to me suggests that he is not much of an expert on social media, or politics. I wonder if he has ever watched Question Time in Parliament.

@AlisonMau:

It’s very normal, Nat. For Lizzie and lots of other women.

And men. While women like Marvelly are subject to some awful stuff, that’s not what happened here, so this is trying to swing the conversation to a different agenda.

Torkington:

I understood that intellectually, but this is my first time in the Flappy Asshole Blast Zone. And I know this is tame in comparison to threats of sexual violence, doxxing, families, professional fuckery, etc. that y’all get every day. You deserve a🏅for showing up every day!

Later in the day Marvelly got involved again.

If the expert advisory group had been announced and named by the Prime Minister, and it’s objectives revealed rather than kept secret, then this sideshow wouldn’t have happened.

There are benefits with being open and transparent, but the current Government seems intent on avoiding walking that talk.

 

Ardern and Macron to attempt to “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron will chair a meeting in Paris next month which will seek to “to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online”.


NZ and France seek to end use of social media for acts of terrorism

New Zealand and France announced today that the two nations will bring together countries and tech companies in an attempt to bring to an end the ability to use social media to organise and promote terrorism and violent extremism, in the wake of the March 15 terrorist attacks in Christchurch New Zealand.

The meeting will take place in Paris on May 15, and will be co-chaired by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron.

The meeting aims to see world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge called the ‘Christchurch Call’ to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

The meeting will be held alongside the “Tech for Humanity” meeting of G7 Digital Ministers, of which France is the Chair, and France’s separate “Tech for Good” summit, both on 15 May. Jacinda Ardern will also meet with civil society leaders on 14 May to discuss the content of the Call.

“The March 15 terrorist attacks saw social media used in an unprecedented way as a tool to promote an act of terrorism and hate. We are asking for a show of leadership to ensure social media cannot be used again the way it was in the March 15 terrorist attack,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“We’re calling on the leaders of tech companies to join with us and help achieve our goal of eliminating violent extremism online at the Christchurch Summit in Paris.

“We all need to act, and that includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared.

“It’s critical that technology platforms like Facebook are not perverted as a tool for terrorism, and instead become part of a global solution to countering extremism. This meeting presents an opportunity for an act of unity between governments and the tech companies.

“In the wake of the March 15 attacks New Zealanders united in common purpose to ensure such attacks never occur again. If we want to prevent violent extremist content online we need to take a global approach that involves other governments, tech companies and civil society leaders

“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue.

“But for too long, it has also been possible to use these platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch. This is what needs to change.”


RNZ: ‘This is about preventing violent extremism and terrorism online’

Ms Ardern told Morning Report that since the attacks, there had been a clear call for New Zealand to take on a leadership role in combating violent extremism online.

“There is a role for New Zealand to play now in ensuring we eradicate that kind of activity from social media, in particular to prevent it from ever happening again. We can’t do that alone,” she said.

“This isn’t about freedom of expression, this is about preventing violent extremism and terrorism online.

“I don’t think anyone would argue that the terrorist, on the 15th of March, had a right to livestream the murder of 50 people, and that is what this call is very specifically focussed on”.

Ms Ardern said she’s met with a number of tech CEOs, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and held meetings with executives from Microsoft, Twitter, and Google.

“When we actually distil this down, no tech company, no country, wants to see online platforms used to perpetuate violent extremism or terrorism. We all have a common starting point. It all then comes down to what it is we are each prepared to do about it.”

Technology correspondent Bill Bennett…

…said a voluntary approach was the only option for getting technology companies to sign up to a crackdown on terrorist behaviour through social media.

“They don’t see themselves as being responsible for content that’s published on their sites anyway. They see themselves as being some kind of neutral thing”.

National Leader Simon Bridges…

…questioned whether the global conversation would translate into anything meaningful.

He was cynical about why Ms Ardern was focusing on the issue.

“I think New Zealanders will say, hey, if you’re not also progressing policy, plans and actions around our housing, health, and education, why is this the big thing?

“Is it just a distraction tactic?”.

New Zealand needed to be cautious about going down a path that would see the casual erosion of freedoms, Mr Bridges said.

NZ Herald: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to lead global attempt to shutdown social media terrorism

Speaking to Newstalk ZB this morning, Ardern said she was confident all major social media companies would sign up to the Christchurch call.

“We have been working on something behind the scenes for some time now, since the 15th of March. I have also recently had calls with a handful of chief executives.”

The call, she said, would place the onus on Governments, in terms of their ability to regulate, as well as on the social media companies themselves.

“I think that’s where we need to move; this can’t just be about individual country’s [ability to] regulate because this is obviously global technology and we need to have those companies accept responsibility as well.”

She said that the principals of a free, open and secure internet would “absolutely be maintained”.

“If we want to prevent violent extremist content online we need to take a global approach that involves other governments, tech companies and civil society leaders”.

“Social media platforms can connect people in many very positive ways, and we all want this to continue.”

But she said for too long it has been possible to use social media platforms to incite extremist violence, and even to distribute images of that violence, as happened in Christchurch.

“This is what needs to change.”

A worthy aim, but it will be difficult to come up with an effective means of preventing the use of social media by terrorists but maintaining the freedom of use of social media generally.

And even if social media companies do put effective control mechanisms in place, it is likely that those seeking to promote and perpetuate violence online will find ways around the controls.

Fine for Ardern and Macron to be seen to be trying to do something about it, but being seen to be trying, and doing anything effective ongoing, will be a big challenge.

Prime Minister’s post-Cabinet statement on terror attacks

A statement from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on progress on dealing with issues related to the Christchurch mosque massacres, including announcing an inquiry into the attacks, and plans for firearm law reform.


PM statement on Christchurch mosques terror attack

Before I begin I want to acknowledge again and use this opportunity to again highlight 1737 as the contact number that anyone can text or call if they are feeling distress, if they have any mental health concerns for themselves or a loved one.

We have had, I’m advised, over 500 calls or contacts to the 1737 number. It has ranged from people who simply feel distressed to those themselves — those who have been caught up in the terrorist attack on Friday. So it is a line that has specialist support available and I again encourage those who need it to utilise it.

Let me give you an overview to begin with of the coming days. Tomorrow, as the Leader of the House has advised, members of Parliament will gather in the House at 2pm to make statements of condolence for victims of the Christchurch mosques terror attack. The House will then adjourn for the day and will meet again on Wednesday at 2pm for members’ day.

On Wednesday, I will return to Christchurch. I will be meeting again with first responders, including St John’s ambulance and front-line support staff. I plan on meeting with family members, but I’m also very mindful that families are receiving their loved ones for burial and I certainly intend, and I ask others also, to be respectful of course at this hugely sensitive time.

Today Cabinet was expanded to include representatives from our confidence and supply support partner, the Green Party. It was an opportunity to discuss several key issues and pieces of work, and having all parties around the table has helped to expedite that process. I’ll run through now several preliminary decisions that have been made.

Firearms laws

Cabinet today made in-principle decisions around the reform of our gun laws. I intend to give further detail of these decisions to the media and public before Cabinet meets again next Monday. This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer.

In the intervening period, we will be working hard and as quickly as we can to finalise some of the details around the decision Cabinet has made today and the consequences of it.

As a Cabinet, we were absolutely unified and very clear: the terror attack in Christchurch on Friday was the worst act of terrorism on our shores.

It was in fact one of the worst globally in recent times.

It has exposed a range of weaknesses in New Zealand’s gun laws.

The clear lesson from history around the world is that to make our community safer, the time to act is now. I know that this might for a short period create a small degree of uncertainty amongst some gun owners, including those who possess guns for legitimate reasons, and I particularly acknowledge those in our rural communities. I want to assure you that the work that we are doing is not directed at you.

In fact, I strongly believe that the vast majority of gun owners in New Zealand will agree with the sentiment that change needs to occur. I, in fact, believe that they will be with us.

In the meantime, I want to remind people: you can surrender your gun to the police at any time. In fact I have seen reports that people are, in fact, already doing this.

I applaud that effort, and if you’re thinking about surrendering your weapon, I would encourage you to do so.

Inquiry announced

Today it was also agreed that there will be an inquiry to look at the specific circumstances leading up to the Christchurch mosques terror attack on March 15. The purpose of this inquiry is to look at what all relevant agencies knew or could or should have known about the individual and his activities, including his access to weapons and whether they could have been in a position to prevent the attack.

It will look at whether there were any impediments to the sharing of information, such as legislative or intelligence sharing challenges. The key agencies we’ll be looking at include the New Zealand SIS, GCSB, Police, Customs, and Immigration I want to highlight again, though: this is an inquiry that these agencies absolutely support.

The inquiry will also look at the individual’s travel movements to and from New Zealand, and internationally; his activities in New Zealand; and his use of social media and his connection to others.

The terms of reference are currently being finalised, and decisions around who will lead the inquiry and what form it will take will also be made shortly. Our key considerations will be public confidence in the work, timeliness, and the management of classified information. We’re also mindful, of course, that criminal proceedings are under way.

Commemorations and future memorial date

The Government has also had preliminary discussions around ensuring New Zealanders have the ability to commemorate as one the lives lost at Deans Avenue and Linwood mosques. A number of vigils have already been held in local communities throughout New Zealand; I have no doubt that these will continue.

In fact, I encourage people to come together. While I will not be announcing the memorial date today, I can assure you that the Department of Internal Affairs will be working in conjunction with the Muslim community, iwi, local government, and the mayor of Christchurch, police, and other agencies.

I can confirm the memorial will not be held this week. We want to ensure that the priority for the coming days is the families’ opportunity to grieve together. I will, however, look to announce a date as soon as I am able.

ACC grants

As I said yesterday, the families of those who have lost a loved one can apply for a funeral grant of around $10,000, which is made available via ACC.

What I’ve made clear to agencies today is that further costs should be covered upfront for these families taking their loved ones overseas. Details around these provisions are currently being finalised by officials, but Victim Support will help manage this process with the victims’ families.

There will continue to be high police visibility and presence over coming weeks in Christchurch. I understand this may concern some people, but it is not about a specific threat.

As I’ve said before, this is about taking a precautionary approach and providing reassurance as investigations continue into the terrorist attack on Friday.

Stardust in New York but Ardern’s New Zealand garden needs urgent attention

There has been a huge contrast between Jacinda Ardern wowing the world with her week in New York, and they stuttering struggles of her government back in New Zealand.

On New York

NZ Herald editorial: Stardust and substance – PM Jacinda Ardern at the United Nations in New York

Although embattled Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been facing flak on various fronts at home this week, there can be little doubt she has delivered both “stardust” and substance in New York.

She has certainly been in demand on the sidelines, undertaking interviews with media and talk show heavyweights CNN and The Late Show, meeting UN goodwill ambassador and actress Anne Hathaway, and generating media interest the world over with pics of her baby Neve in tow in those hallowed halls.

The images of a smiling, capable, young, progressive female leader and young mum are priceless PR. Some of the engagements may have seemed trivial, but Ardern has ensured mention of motherhood and even hobbits have presented an opportunity to highlight New Zealand as a tourist destination and a progressive, supportive, inclusive society.

She has met other heads of state, taken part in a range of substantive meetings, discussions and panels on issues such as climate change, trade and the sustainable development goals. She has talked about refugees, steel tariffs, foreign investment, foreign aid, gender equality, child poverty, compassion and collaboration.

She has been nothing but diplomatic about US President Donald Trump in the face of difficult meetings on trade and many testing questions – not to mention outright contempt from the General Assembly floor in what must be one of the most extraordinary scenes in that chamber ever witnessed.

Ardern has effectively and memorably presented New Zealand’s interests and values to world leaders and a global audience. Job done.

And generally, done very well. Good on her for that.

Duncan Garner: Jacinda Ardern was masterful in trumping the Don

The prime minister returns from New York this weekend as the big apple in the eyes of her many international admirers.

Her international stocks are high, she’s played her limited cards superbly, and she made dancing through the foreign affairs minefield look effortless.

In reality, it’s not as easy as she made it look, especially with America (well, Trump) all passive-aggressive, and isolationist. In short, Ardern smashed it out of the park.

But she also painted a rosier picture than reality back in New Zealand.

And guess what? The PM got away with not telling the world how we have failed spectacularly to curb our carbon emissions and how they continue to grow at unsustainable levels.

We also don’t punish our big polluters, we don’t punish pollution from transport, we don’t have incentives to drive electric cars, and we can’t swim in 60 per cent of our rivers.

Imagine if Ardern had told the truth about us overseas.

She wouldn’t have been so lauded and applauded if she had.

She didn’t go to Woodstock while she was in the US, but some lyrics come to mind.

We are stardust
We are golden
But we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden

Ardern now has to get herself back to the New Zealand garden, where the pests and weeds look like getting out of control.

John Armstrong:  Jacinda Ardern must stop the rot in ‘drunken sailor’ Government

Stop the rot. And stop it quickly. That has to be Jacinda Ardern’s absolute priority on her return from overseas.

The incumbent three-party governing arrangement was displaying all the coherence and co-ordination of the proverbial drunken sailor long before the Prime Minister left for the relative sanctuary of a Winston Peters-free New York.

The unwieldy contraption has since appeared to be even more sloshed in her absence as its components stumble from one mini-crisis to the next minor scandal with such regularity that you can almost set your watch by it.

This three-headed hydra needs to go on the wagon — and pretty darned soon.

Viewed in isolation, each blunder or botch-up has not amounted to very much in the grand scheme of things.

Viewed in total, however, the various mishaps and miscues add up to a fair-sized catalogue of catastrophe.

Voters will soon forget the details of who was involved in each episode of woe and what happened and when.

What will stick in their minds from this epidemic of embarrassment will be the hard-to-erase impression that Ardern’s regime is riddled with incompetence.

It will leave the public wondering whether Ardern has lost control. That is where the damage is really being done.

Ardern’s has fiddled with aplomb on the world stage, while her government shows increasing signs that it risks crashing and burning.

In her Speech from the Throne last November Ardern said something that highlights the gulf between some of her rhetoric and reality: “This government will foster a more open and democratic society. It will strengthen transparency around official information”

NZ Herald editorial: Govt’s greater transparency vow nowhere to be seen

The Government’s domestic woes continue this week even as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern continues to bask in the global limelight in New York.

First there was the fallout from Derek Handley’s released communications in the chief technology officer saga, then there were allegations in Parliament which reminded the public about the investigations regarding recently appointed Deputy Police Commissioner Wally Haumaha.

Now, the Department of Internal Affairs is set to investigate how the draft report of the investigation into the Meka Whaitiri incident was leaked to the Herald.

The draft report finds it was agreed Whaitiri did have words with her press secretary for not alerting her to a photo opportunity with the PM during a function in Gisborne. It showed the staff member was allegedly left with bruising to her arm.

Although Whaitiri denies touching the staffer, David Patten, the lawyer who conducted the inquiry, found on the balance of probabilities the staff member’s version that she was grabbed was the more likely explanation of what happened.

That is damning — and clearly what led to Ardern’s sacking of Whaitiri as a minister last Thursday, a day after seeing the draft report.

So why the ongoing secrecy?

At the very least it raises questions about anger management and suitability for public office. And, for those who believe the alleged incident is minor, teachers now have strict new rules that prohibit manhandling pupils.

The public had the right to know exactly why Whaitiri was stripped of one of her roles. It would still be helpful to know why she was deemed okay to remain the Māori caucus co-chair, or whether there was any thought of expulsion from the party.

This Government promised to usher in a new level of transparency and openness. But there has been little evidence it is any more transparent than any other administration it seeks to better.

So returning from the euphoria of a very successful trip to New York Ardern has a lot to do in her real job, as Prime Minister in a government that looks lacking in leadership beyond Winston Peters’ wagging of the Labour dog, with the Green flea clinging on.

Ardern only had a temporary gig at the United Nations, for now at least.  She will return to a far more difficult job as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The stardust of New York won’t keep masking the garden back home looking increasingly unkempt.

Out with the not very old Aussie PM, in with the new

Our relatively) close neighbours the Aussies have a new Prime Minister that most Kiwis are unlikely to have heard of (Scott Morrison, after two leadership votes in a week. The deposing of Malcolm Turnbull adds to the procession of Australian Prime Ministers who have failed to see out a term in office, earning Canberra the label of “the coup capital of the Pacific”.

Guardian: Australia’s new PM is Scott Morrison as moderate Malcolm Turnbull is forced out

Australia has a new prime minister in Scott Morrison – the socially conservative architect of Australia’s hardline anti-asylum seeker policies – after he mounted a late challenge during a drawn-out struggle for power in the governing Liberal party.

On Friday, incumbent Malcolm Turnbull failed in his attempt to stare down a challenge from hard right MP Peter Dutton, with insurgents in his party gathering enough signatures to call for a “spill” – or leadership contest.

There appears no end in sight to the civil war consuming the ruling Liberal-led coalition government. The country may be headed to an election, with Turnbull saying he will not stay in parliament. His resignation in between general elections would erase the government’s single-seat majority in the House of Representatives.

Australia has now had five prime ministers in just over five years. Since 2010, four prime ministers have lost office, not at the ballot box, but torn down by their own parties, earning Canberra the unhappy appellation “the coup capital of the Pacific”.

So who is Scott Morrison?

Morrison was treasurer in Turnbull’s administration, and before that, as immigration minister, he was behind Australia’s controversial hardline asylum-seeker policies – including indefinite detention on remote foreign islands.

So that stain on Australia’s reputation may not end before the next election at least.

The son of a policeman and an active member of a Sydney Pentecostal evangelical megachurch, Morrison wears his political ambition and his conservative credentials proudly.

He voted no in Australia’s plebiscite on same-sex marriage, listed “church” as one of his interests in his Who’s Who report, and regards former prime minister John Howard as his political inspiration.

Before his election to parliament in 2007 he was a factional kingpin in the rightwing of the New South Wales Liberal party.

Maybe less right wing than the twice-in-a-week unsuccessful Peter Dutton, but Morrison looks like a move right at a time when they might be heading into an election that may be determined by voters in between the major parties.

Turnbull has sounded some warnings.

In his valedictory speech, Turnbull sounded a warning against the rising tide of populist anti-immigration political rhetoric, promoted from within his own party. “We are the most successful multicultural society in the world, and I have always defended that and advanced that as one of our greatest assets,” he said. “We must never allow the politics of race or division or of setting Australians against each other to become part of our political culture.”

Turnbull also made another thinly veiled swipe at actors “outside the parliament” undermining his leadership – widely interpreted as an attack on the influence of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation newspapers and TV channels, which have consistently campaigned against him.

We are likely to go back to largely ignoring Aussie politics until the next democratic dumping, be it by general election (that mightn’t be far away) or by caucus.

MP’s pay frozen pending ‘fairer system’

The Prime Minister has announced that MP’s salaries and allowances would be frozen for a year “while developing a fairer formula for future pay increases”: MP pay frozen and fairer system for increases developed

“Today Cabinet agreed to freeze MP Pay till July 2019, and to reassess the funding formula used by the Authority to ensure it is fair and in keeping with this Government’s expectations and values,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“I have notified all party leaders of this decision.

The  Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway said the Government needed to take action before the Remuneration Authority initiated new pay rates.

“Because of the timing of the annual increase process set in the Act, we need to use an urgent legislative process, aiming for introduction in September.

“This means we need to amend the Remuneration Authority Act 1977 to suspend new Determinations by the Remuneration Authority and restore the 2017 Parliamentary Salaries and Allowances Determination until 30 June 2019,” Iain Lees-Galloway said.

Ardern spoke more about it at yesterday’s weekly media conference.

RNZ: MPs’ salaries to be frozen for a year

The Remuneration Authority recently determined an increase of about three percent for the coming year, which Ms Ardern said did not feel right.

Urgent legislation will have to be passed in order for the freeze to take effect before the Remuneration Authority’s increase comes into force.

Jacinda Ardern said she has told other party leaders about the changes.

“They were brief conversations, obviously [government support] partners and I had an earlier conversation with and they are totally supportive.

“I’ve just got off the phone to [National leader] Simon Bridges and [ACT leader] David Seymour and the general sentiment I sense from them was complete understanding of the situation, and reading between the lines I think they probably agreed with the move as well.”

Ms Ardern said the move was about the government’s values.

“We are focussed on lifting the incomes of low and middle income earners and we also acknowledge that there has been an increasing gap between those income earners and those at the other end.

“We are at the other end. It’s just not right for us to have an increase like that currently and so we want to change the way that our increases are calculated in the future.”

This looks like a symbolic gesture, and a vague one at that.She gave no indication what the ‘fairer system’ would look like.

Ardern seems to think it wouldn’t look right to get a wage increase of about 3% while wage negotiations for 10-16% are taking place for teachers. It certainly looks like an odd move by her.

Is it fair for the Prime Minister to decide when MP salaries should rise, or whether they sshould rise, or what uis fair?

The Remuneration Authority is required by law to determine a pay increase which is in line with rises across the public service, but the prime minister has asked the funding formula to be reassessed, she said, to ensure it is fair and in keeping with her Government’s expectations and values.

More vagueness.

Would it be fairer for MP’s salaries to fall behind public servant salaries?

Would it be fairer for public servant salaries to be frozen pending the introduction of ‘a fairer system’?

Would it be fair to say that Ardern is making a symbolic gesture that will be nothing more than a delay to suit her purposes?

Stuff: Government freezes MPs pay amid multiple pay negotiations with educators, police

MPs’ pay is set by the independent Remuneration Authority – a process that deliberately keeps the annual pay review at arms-length from the politicians.

However, the Government has the power to set the criteria that the authority applies and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a review of the act that governs the process.

Another review, with scant details.

The 2016 decision of the Remuneration Authority saw MPs get a 2.5 per cent pay rise across the board. Ardern earns $459,739, with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters on $326,697.

Ministers inside Cabinet earn $288,900, with those outside Cabinet on a $243,841 wicket. As leader of the Opposition, Bridges is on $288,900, and for other party leaders, a base salary of $175,398 is supplemented with add-ons depending on the size of the party.

A backbench MP with no additional responsibilities earns $160,024.

Allowances were awarded on top of those figures, which took care of “out-of-pocket expenses” related to the job.

Quite generous salaries, but they are jobs with huge responsibilities and especially for the PM and ministers, heavy workloads.

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson said MPs should eventually only get the same pay rise as the average worker, “in dollar terms”

“MPs are paid well above the average worker, so giving them a percentage rise accentuates their higher pay. When it is right for MPs to get a rise, they should get the same in dollar terms as what the average worker receives.”

So MP salaries would gradually fall behind public servant salary levels.

Would Davidson also want that same system applied to public servants and government workers?

Graeme Edgeler suggests:

Automatically index to inflation just before the election to cover the whole next term

Then it wouldn’t be a political decision, nor a political embarrassment during the term.

 

Back to Parliament, back to business for Ardern

Jacinda Ardern took back control as Prime Minister last week after six weeks maternity leave, and returned to Parliament yesterday. After a few days of media fawning and puff pieces it was finally back to business.

Tracey Watkins: It’s a business as usual return for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

It hasn’t exactly been business as usual with all the baby distractions, but Ardern needs to get back to business quickly.

If plummeting business confidence was the thorn in Labour’s side before Ardern went on leave, it’s now a knife that keeps being twisted a little deeper each day.

Treasury is the latest to feel the knife’s edge. Its latest report on the economy admits rosy growth forecasts in the May budget might have to be revised downward due to the drop in business confidence and a cooling housing market. But Treasury is arriving at this party late. Nearly every bank economist has already come to the same conclusion that falling business confidence may have some very concrete effects.

Ardern’s return offered an opportunity for a reset – a gesture to business that the the Government has been listening and is willing to try and meet them, if not halfway, then some of the way.

But there was no olive branch from Ardern – just push back on the disconnect between business confidence and New Zealand’s economic performance.

So a challenging time for Ardern.

And she is being challenged. Barry Soper: ‘Trade for All’ agenda another announcement without substance

It’s a bit like putting the produce-laden cart before the lumbering Clydesdale as the Government tries to bring the public on board with free trade deals and what they’re calling a ‘Trade for All’ agenda.

This soft sell to the public was Jacinda Ardern’s first big announcement after putting her feet under the Beehive’s Cabinet table yesterday.

And just like all Government announcements without substance they’re setting up a board to advise on how to woo the great unwashed when it comes to trade. And as usual they’ve appointed the chair with the boardroom chairs to be filled later, or as the blurb said “in due course”.

Their blurb was stating the bleedingly obvious, they want trade benefits to flow to all New Zealanders, they want them to be felt throughout the country, not just in the major cities. Like the last Government did, trying unsuccessfully to sell the Trans-Pacific Partnership, they’ll be holding meetings and hui around the country over the next couple of months.

It’s a government’s job to govern and those who run this trading nation from the Beehive should get on with the business rather than engaging focus groups and crowd sourcing to make everyone happy about what is after all New Zealand’s bread and butter and always has been.

It seems to be a kick the can down the advisory board government.

Ardern has had a break. She now needs to step up and show that she can lead the Government and lead the country, more so than she has done so far.

And business is a big issue for her to deal with – as soon as possible, not waiting for the results of an inquiry.

 

The Prime Minister and baby balancing act

Jacinda Ardern ‘returned to work’ in her role of Prime Minister yesterday. Sort of. She took over prime ministerial responsibilities from acting PM Winston Peters, but remained in Auckland (she will return to parliament next week).

Ardern released selected photos of her, Clarke Gaygord and baby Neve, and gave some media interviews that focussed a lot on the baby and how that would affect her work.

It may have been laid on a bit thick, and it was slammed by some (the types who would slam anything done by Ardern, but I think generally this was a reasonable way to start. There was always going to be a lot of attention given to the mother-baby stuff, so best to give the media something.

As long as it mostly stays at that. That is up to the media to be reasonable, and also up to Jacinda not to exploit it with orchestrated distractions – she pulled a stunt like that on Sunday which appeared to be a deliberate attempt to distract from Simon bridges at the National Party conference.

Ardern is extremely lucky to be able to integrate parenting with her work. Most parents are either not able to do that, or choose to devote work time to work and make arrangements for baby care. I’ve done that (quite a while ago), being responsible for night time feeds with expressed milk while the mother was away working.

Teachers, nurses, police, fire, ambulance, retail, hospitality, court, construction – most parents who work know that it simply isn’t feasible (or professional) to care for a baby during their work hours.

So highly paid prime ministers and MPs are a very privileged minority when it comes to this.

Ardern wants to change attitudes to mothers and work. It may change how mothers can work as politicians, but it is unlikely to change the practicalities and realities for most parents.

It will now be up to Ardern and the media to get the right balance of work versus parent coverage.

I’m fine with Ardern giving occasional stage managed coverage of her family – so long as she doesn’t exploit this for publicity and political purposes.

She still has a very important job to do, a job she volunteered to do and negotiated her way into. As a mother of a baby she should be cut a bit of slack, but she has a challenging balancing act ahead of her.

There is no way she can escape the spotlight. She may well shine as a working mother, but she risks a voter backlash if she abuses her family situation politically.

Ardern in action as Prime Minister again

Most of New Zealand will probably notice little if any difference, but Jacinda Ardern has resumed her duties as Prime Minister after taking six weeks of maternity leave.

Ardern will have to be careful to keep as much focus on her public role as possible, and keep her private life and baby as private as possible – unless she chooses to play the baby card as a distraction from issues facing the country.

And Ardern has a lot to try and get on top of.

A key cause of concern should be dropping business confidence, and warnings and symptoms that the New Zealand economy may be heading for tougher times.

Ardern’s Government has a number of poorly performing Ministers, so will need to show more leadership, and give some indication she can manage the ship.

Conveniently Winston Peters is disappearing overseas for a while, avoiding any chance of an awkward handover. This week Peters was showing signs that he had had enough of trying to appear like a respectable statesman, slipping back into his habits arrogance, petulance and combativeness.

So it’s now up to Ardern to show that she can focus on leading Government and running the country.

And the media should also focus on the important issues and the conduct of Government without getting dragged down into an obsession with baby stuff. I don’t know if they are capable of getting the balance right here.

Ardern needs to show that leadership is her priority. That could be challenging for her.

We will find out over the next few weeks how she manages being Prime Minister for the country alongside mother for her family.