Nation: Shane Jones on Provincial Growth Fund spending

NZ Herald:  Shane Jones announces suite of regional funding worth more than $80m

More than $80 million from the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund will boost rural broadband, expand a driver-training centre near Fielding, and look into building a new freight hub near Palmerston North.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones was in the Manawatū-Whanganui today to announce a number of new initiatives, most of which are for Manawatū-Whanganui region.

About half of the funding – $40m – will be used for a new regional freight hub near Palmerston North, a key staging point for domestic, imported and exported freight in the Lower North Island.

Jones also announced funding across the food and beverage, digital connectivity and tourism sectors in the Manawatū-Whanganui region, including:

• $2.8m to expand the National Driver Training Centre based at Manfeild, near Feilding, to train 700 drivers and machine operators annually
• A $400,000 investment to fund the first stage of an Advanced Aviation Hub at Whanganui Airport
• $100,000 to investigate FoodHQs development to assist food exporters
• $100,000 to assess alternative land utilisation choices in the Tararua District
• $98,000 towards Kaitahi Food & Innovation Factory
• $95,000 towards establishing an education, training and employment programme at the former site of Turakina Māori Girls’ College
• $60,000 towards the Tararua Tourism & Trails Strategy
• $50,000 to investigate education to employment pathways within Horowhenua

The projects are subject to funding contracts that will include a range of agreed commercial arrangements, targets, milestones and deliverables.

Bungle over tree planting in Northland, seedlings mulched, money wasted

Minister of Planting Lots of Trees, Shane Jones, has admitted there has been a stuff up in a planned planting of 1.2 million pine trees in Northland. Only 200,000 seedlings could be planted as most of the land was not sufficiently prepared for the planting. Some seedlings were redistributed, but many were mulched at a cost of $160,000.

This is particularly embarrassing because in May this project was promoted as the first of a billion trees to be planted.

Stuff:  Forestry projects get Government boost

Northland forestry projects which will create jobs and sustainable developments have been given a helping hand by the Government.

Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) and the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust have signed a joint venture agreement to plant and manage around 3,600 hectares of pine trees on the trust’s land. Up to 465 hectares of mānuka will also be planted, which would provide work experience for young people.

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime and Forestry Minister were among those gathered at a symbolic tree planting ceremony on May 31.

Ministers, including Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Forestry Minister Shane Jones, and MP Willow-Jean Prime planted a pine tree to acknowledge the announcement on May 31, which marked the first joint venture in the Government’s plan to plant one billion trees.

But this week (ODT) Billion trees bungle: Land unfit for planting

Forestry officials working on the Government’s flagship One Billion Trees plan ordered more than one million pine seedlings for a block of land so choked with scrub and weeds planting couldn’t go ahead.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones told the New Zealand Herald “ambition” and “enthusiasm” had a part to play in planting delays which struck the $32 million inaugural joint venture on the Far North forestry block.

(RNZ): Local iwi takes blame for $160k tree planting botch-up

The local iwi have taken responsibility after about 400,000 seedlings bought by the government to plant in Northland went to waste after the land was too wild to plant on.

Ngāti Hine has put its hand up with the trust chair, Pita Tipene, saying he’s ultimately responsible.

“What the taxpayer and the government can be assured of is that the total number of hectares over the years will be planted as planned.

“It’s just that we made a little bit of a blue in 2018 in being over zealous in our planning.”

Mr Tipene said it’s not the end of the world because the land will still be there next year and it will be ready to be planted – albeit it later than the government hoped for.

Forestry Minister Shane Jones said the cost to the taxpayer was about $160,000.

A deal was done between the Crown and the Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust in the Far North earlier this year and 1.2 million seedlings were bought to be planted.

Mr Jones said only 200,000 seedlings were successfully planted because the land wasn’t up to scratch.

“Well the land is untamed land, it’s wild, and obviously the analysis that was done on the ground was a lot more ambitious in terms of what could be delivered upon,” he said.

It looks like they (Jones, the Government and Ngāti Hine Forestry Trust) rushed into this without being properly prepared, or were too optimistic that they could manage this scale of planting so quickly.

Jones wanted greater power to push projects past bureaucratic delays, but this suggests he needs more checks on his recklessness with large amounts of taxpayer money.

Shane Jones admits failure to disclose meetings

The handing out of large amounts of money through the Provincial Growth Fund was always going to be scrutinised by the Opposition, especially with Shane Jones involved. And as Minister in charge Jones has had to admit ‘a slip-up’ in not disclosing 61 meetings, including some with people who have an interest in the Fund.

RNZ: Shane Jones fails to disclose 61 meetings

Shane Jones has had to correct 20 answers to questions from the National Party after he failed to disclose meetings he had earlier this year.

Some of those were with people who have an interest in the Provincial Growth Fund.

Mr Jones, the regional economic development minister, said he took full responsibility for the muck-up which he put down to a transcription error from his outlook diary.

One transcription error missed 61 meetings?

National MP Paul Goldsmith uses weekly written parliamentary questions to ask Mr Jones who he meets with and what for.

He said this slip-up by the minister seriously concerned him, because it was not one or two meetings he missed, but 61.

And, he said, a number of those meetings were to do with the $3 billion of public money Mr Jones had responsibility for.

“What’s made me nervous, is that we regularly ask who he meets with and you can understand that a minister would make the occasional mistake. But what we saw here was 61 meetings which he hadn’t initially declared, which he is now declaring.”

The forgotten meetings include a number with regional and sector representative groups, like Kiwifruit New Zealand and Whakatōhea Mussels.

There are dinners and site visits with local mayors, tourism groups and business representatives, as well as regular catch-ups with Mr Jones’ own ministerial colleagues.

There was also a meeting with the former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who now has interests in an Iwi forestry project which has received a financial injection from Provincial Growth Fund.

It can’t have just been a transcription error, because a number of written questions have not been answered accurately.

Mr Jones said he has received approximately 3000 written questions from National since he became a minister, the majority of which had been answered accurately.

“This figure represents one percent, so in the bigger scheme of things it’s small fry. But the moment that the office uncovered that some of the meetings had been miscast, then we let [them] know.”

It isn’t small fry if the Minister isn’t meeting his responsibility to disclose meetings.

And Jones is likely to remain under scrutiny.

Also today from RNZ – ‘It’s murky’: Questions over use of Provincial Growth Fund

National wants answers as to why the Economic Development Minister is giving out cash to a private trust it says is set to make a killing off it.

A newsletter sent out by the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, which has secured $6 million of Provincial Growth Fund money for a second round of pine planting on land in Northland, suggests trust benefactors are getting an exceptionally good deal which is “far superior to previous arrangements”.

It said the specifics of the deal were commercially sensitive, but “the financial returns to the beneficial owners to be received from this Forestry Right upon harvest will be substantial [sic].”

The newsletter also reveals the deal will require a third round of planting by the Crown.

“The Forestry Right with the Crown is for one rotation only and it includes the requirement for the Crown to plant a third rotation at its cost which will then be owned 100 percent by the Trust,” the newsletter said.

National’s economic development spokesperson Paul Goldmith said that proved serious financial gain for a private trust – which went directly against the core principles of the Provincial Growth Fund.

“We’ve been asking the minister and the ministry for the business cases, clarity about what is actually being purchased, what the performance indicators are before they get the money – and they’ve refused to give us that information so far.

“It’s murky, it’s been lacking in transparency and the basic principles of good governance.”

Mr Goldsmith also pointed out one of the trustees was former New Zealand First MP Pita Paraone, who he suggested lobbied the minister, Shane Jones, for the money.

But, Mr Paraone said he was appalled that the National Party had sunk so low as to accuse him of soliciting Crown cash.

“I was not part of the discussions as to whether or not Ngati Hine should lobby the minister and I don’t believe that they did,” he said.

“I had no part in the signing of the deal, or determining what the deal should be, other than to attend the actual planting of the first tree.”

Mr Paraone asked how far National was willing to take this argument.

Local governments and groups in the provinces are queueing up for government handouts for projects. This is understandable. Provincial areas have been run down and neglected by successive governments for several decades.

But there are risks of favouritism, money for mates, and poor investments, so scrutiny is important. And the Minister for Regional Economic Development should be aware that the need for transparency – including full disclosure – is important as the credibility of the fund and also the credibility of the Government is at stake.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern agreed the sheer volume of written questions from the opposition could impact accuracy of answers.

Why should it impact on accuracy? Good ministerial records should be kept, and accurate responses should be expected.

There is an issue with the volume of questions being asked, and  that may well impact in response times, but accuracy should be a standard expectation. So that’s an odd position for the Prime Minister to take.

1 News: Shane Jones says it’s a ‘happy coincidence’ his home region is getting the lion’s share of fund he’s in charge of

Northland is getting the most funding from the provincial growth fund that has $1 billion to spend.

A happy coincidence for those getting the money. Northland was badly in need of regional development, but funds handed out should be prudent decisions.

Perhaps it’s also a happy coincidence for the Shane Jones and NZ First re-election chances.

The Fund seems to have been a means for NZ First to fund some of their policies without needing ton get specific budget allocations – like this: Shane Jones earmarks $2.2 million of Provincial Growth Fund for 250,000 native trees

Ardern should be wary of Jones and the Fund, and she should be demanding that everything is transparent and above board – if she is able to demand anything of NZ First. Otherwise (and perhaps inevitably) Jones is an embarrassment waiting to happen for her Government.

Goldsmith isn’t an attention seeking MP, but he is tenacious, and is a good person to be maintaining the scrutiny of the Jones Fund.

NZ First 2018 convention

Stuff: “Just over 200 members were gathered at Tauranga Racecourse for the party’s annual conference.”

So far at least there is not much detail on the NZ First website about the convention they are having this weekend, apart from notices about it.

Convention & AGM 2018 – Tauranga

On behalf of the Board of Directors I would like to invite you all to the 2018 Convention & AGM to be held at the Tauranga Racecourse on the 29th and 30th of September. The Convention and AGM is New Zealand First’s largest gathering and networking event of the year. It will be a pleasure to see you all again as we mark an important milestone in our Party’s history – 25 years.

The Convention weekend will be fun filled and energetic as make the big decisions that will define our party for the next 25 years. Since the last election New Zealand First has had a significant role in shaping the Government of our country and I am proud of the work the Rt Hon Winston Peters, our Ministers and our MPs have been doing.

Make the decision to join the other movers and shakers in our Party and if you have any issues please get in touch with our Convention organising team.

Yours thankfully,

Brent Catchpole

Leader’s Message

On 18 July, New Zealand First celebrates its 25th anniversary. No other new political
New Zealand First was formed to represent the views of New Zealanders concerned
about the economic and social direction of our country after the radical market
reforms of the 1980s and early 1990s. At our founding, we set out 15 Fundamental
Principles which guide us as we negotiate common-sense policy outcomes for the
betterment of our people and our country.

The 25 year milestone is a result of us remaining steadfast in our principles and
enthusiasm for a better New Zealand, whether we are in government, or on the
opposition benches.

Our record precedes us: free health care for our children, a more dignified life for our
elderly, workers receiving a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, safer communities,
and many other achievements that have impacted lives of everyday New
Zealanders.

Today, our mission in Government is restoring lost capacity after nine years of
National neglect, regenerating regional New Zealand, the lifeblood of the country,
and putting the interests of all New Zealanders at the forefront of government
decision-making.

We could not have embarked on this mission without your support and contributions.
On the 29th and 30th of September, we will be holding our Annual Convention and
AGM in Tauranga. I urge you to join me, and my parliamentary colleagues, as we
celebrate our 25-year anniversary and look toward the future.

There is some coverage from Stuff. NZ First’s 25th birthday bash a chance to push right into the culture wars

Party conventions serve many purposes. The base of diehard supporters – who you need to enthuse so they can volunteer at the next election – have to be kept happy. But there are also a lot of TV cameras and mischievous journalists there – so the party must project itself as sensible, coherent, and able to win over any voters who have faded away since the election.

And while polling of NZ First between elections is notoriously bad, the party does need to win some votes back. Most of the recent public polls put it below the all-important five per cent threshold, and it seems most of the internal polling has it below there too, with the Greens still above the line. You can’t be the kingmaker if you are outside of Parliament, as Peters knows well from his stint in the wilderness after 2008.

Behind all the blustering there is one large question that faces NZ First: who does the party turn to when Peters finally retires? It could happen in a few years, it could happen in ten, but the MPs behind him have been maneuvering like it could happen tomorrow. Shane Jones has his billion dollar fund and high media profile, putting him solidly in the lead. But don’t count out the very charismatic Fletcher Tabuteau, who won the deputy leadership and will deliver a caucus report speech on Sunday morning, ahead of Peter’s speech in the afternoon. Sometimes a little bit of anonymity goes a long way.

NZ First conference takes aim at banks with several remits

NZ First members have voted for several remits aimed at the banking sector, including a $50m levy to keep banks open in small towns.

The remit seeks to levy $50m from the banking sector that was redistributed to banks as a subsidy to keep banks in small towns open and for longer hours.

Other remits aimed at promoting the Government’s use of New Zealand-owned banks, buying back shares of KiwiBank from the Super Fund and ACC were also passed with no opposition.

However, accepted policy remits from the conference have a long road to becoming actual Government policy, including the caucus policy committee of NZ First and Cabinet itself.

NZ Herald:  Boxer Joseph Parker surprise speaker at NZ First’s annual convention

Boxer Joseph Parker was the surprise speaker at New Zealand First’s annual convention in Tauranga today. What probably made it more surprising is that he is the nephew of National MP Judith Collins.

Parker played down any conflict though, saying he supported everyone.

“I feel like my aunty knows where my heart is. It’s just about going about there and saying something that we hope can inspire and motivate others and help others.”

Parker said he had a close relationship with Peters.

There will be more from the NZ First convention today, but I may not have time to post on it.

NZ First risks regional backlash against racetrack closures

Winston Peters has marketed himself as a champion of the regions, and Shane Jones has similarly promoted himself as such – see ‘Champion of Regions’: Jones holds true to title – with his billion dollar Provincial Growth Fund handouts.

But one of Winston’s biggest hobby horses (and possibly one of his biggest benefactors) is the racing industry. And he is now proposing a radical plan to close a lot of race tracks around the regions and centralise them in three big cities. This is both a clash NZ First priorities, and a risk of backlash.

RNZ: Plan to cut 20 race tracks ‘gamechanger for industry’

The racing industry is facing two choices, significant change or death, says Racing Minister Winston Peters.

Mr Peters has released an independent report by Australian racing expert, John Messara, that concludes the industry is in a state of “serious malaise”.

The report recommends include almost halving the number of tracks and outsourcing the TAB’s commercial activities to an international operator.

Mr Peters said the racing industry was at a tipping point from which it won’t recover unless it took on on board all the reforms put forward by John Messara.

Officials will produce a Cabinet paper from the report’s 17 recommendations, which Mr Peters said was a chance to change the fortunes of the industry and push the reset button.

Mr Messara has proposed reducing the number of tracks from 48 to 28 and Mr Peters said that will have to be a reality if the industry wants to turn around its dwindling profits.

“Every region will retain a race track. There just won’t be the proliferation right now which in stark contrast to a big industry like New South Wales, has far more race tracks. It just doesn’t make any logical sense,” Mr Peters said.

What may be good for the racing industry may not be seen as good for the regions who lose their race tracks.

Taranaki will lose two out of three of its race tracks if the recommendations go ahead.

Taranaki Thoroughbred Racing board member and judge Ron Stanley said racing was getting incredibly more competitive and that required top facilities and cutting back the number of tracks.

“I think it’s a brave decision, we should have been doing it a few years ago. We’ve always had too many tracks”.

The towns who have tracks that may be closed may think differently.

New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing chief executive Bernard Saundry also backed the proposals which he described as a “gamechanger for the industry”.

“One of our biggest issues is we can’t spread the amount of money we have across 48 venues and improve the sport. So we need to consolidate our spending and make sure we’ve got a number of venues that have good race track surfaces and good customer facilities so that New Zealanders can enjoy the great things about New Zealand thoroughbred racing,” he said.

Centralisation in big cities has been a feature of the ‘neo-liberal’ reforms that Peters has been scathing of (for political purposes, I don’t know if he believes it).

But Peters is putting the racing industry ahead of the regions.

The Provincial Growth Fund will stump up the cash – expected to be about $15 million – for the tracks that Mr Messara has recommended building in Awapuni, Riccarton and Cambridge.

Mr Peters said taxpayers will accept that cost because racing “isn’t just about people turning up at the track in their Sunday best” – it’s about an industry that employs tens of thousands of people.

So he is championing an industry over people in the regions. He and the racing industry are going to pick winners and losers.

I’m not sure how well regional taxpayers and voters will accept that cost if it takes their tracks away.

“We will ensure that every region retains at least one track so there is racing there. And we will consult with the industry on these tracks that are to be closed. But we have to change, even if it is unpopular.”

Peters the prince of populism is prepared to push policies that may be unpopular in many regions – neo-liberal reforms of the racing industry means more to him for some reason.


And – it’s interesting to see how Peters intends using the Provincial Growth Fund to fund NZ First policies over and above what was negotiated in their Coalition Agreement.


ODT report on the winners and losers in the south in Seven race tracks face closure

In his report he recommended thoroughbred racing at Timaru, Kurow, Oamaru, Waimate, Omakau, Winton and Gore should cease.

Mr Messara recommended Wingatui, Ashburton, Ascot Park, Cromwell, Waikouaiti and Riverton hold race meetings in the lower South Island.

Closing Oamaru, Timaru and Gore while retaining Waikouaiti seems odd. I arrived at the Waikouaiti races this January to find out they had been cancelled due to track conditions.


UPDATE:

Nation: Shane Jones on new “infrastructure entity”

‘Infrastructure entity’ is an odd description for a new layer of bureaucracy.

On Newshub Nation this morning:

This week Minister Shane Jones announced an independent commission to tackle New Zealand’s massive infrastructure deficit. Simon Shepherd asks him how the agency can avoid becoming another layer of bureaucracy

Beehive blurb:


New infrastructure entity to help drive economic growth and wellbeing

A new independent entity will be established so New Zealand gets the quality infrastructure investment it needs to improve long-term economic performance and social wellbeing, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced today.

Speaking at the annual Building Nations Symposium in Auckland, Shane Jones said the new entity would provide greater certainty to the industry and better advice to Ministers to ensure adequate, long-term planning and investment happens.

“When we first came into Government, it quickly became clear that we’re facing a major infrastructure deficit with no plan to tackle it. We’ve struggled to get a clear picture from officials of its scale, when it would hit us the worst and in which sectors.

“Treasury is currently unable to properly quantify the value of the deficit we’re facing – it doesn’t hold accurate or up-to-date information about all infrastructure projects across all sectors and advises that agencies themselves may not necessarily know the extent of their future capital needs.

“This is just not good enough. This Government has a firm eye on the future and not just the next few years. We’re determined to improve economic performance, and social and environmental wellbeing for generations to come and getting on top of our infrastructure challenge is key.

“That means ensuring New Zealand can make the timely and quality investments in vital infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, transport networks, water and electricity. And it means being open to innovative solutions to sourcing the capital we need.

“We’ve listened to industry and local government – they need greater visibility of our infrastructure needs. 

“This new entity will provide that certainty so we can make the right investments, in the right places and the right time.

“We’re already making a significant dent in our infrastructure deficit. Net capital spending in the next five years will be more than double that of the previous five years with the Government investing about $42 billion through to 2022.

“This is a good start, but we need to do better over the long term and I’m confident the new infrastructure entity will help us really sharpen our planning for the future.

“Treasury will now lead the development of the detailed policy working alongside key industries and I’ll report back to Cabinet early next year with options on how to structure the new organisation,” Shane Jones said.

It is anticipated the new infrastructure entity will be operational by late 2019.


That was quite a different Shane Jones to what we usually see in Parliament. He didn’t stray into flowery crap. It was a fairly forthright performance, saying what he wanted to do, saying what he couldn’t do because of limits imposed by government agreements (especially in the spending cap), he criticised past governments including his then Labour government under Helen Clark, and also (t an extent) praised National initiatives and cooperation.

Apparently the ‘infrastructure entity’ was a National policy that Jones has taken on.

Shane Jones says this infrastructure agency should provide “greater credibility, more certainty, more confidence” for the construction industry

“I’ve got zero patience for the iwi leaders group, I’m more interested in the Indians and the cowboys because they’re the ones who vote for me” – Shane Jones on consultation with Māori freshwater advisory group

Parliament – ‘anti-Māori’ and racism implications

The referencing of referencing family of MPs, plus hints of and MP being ‘anti-Māori,r arose in an exchange in Parliament today, in relation to the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Police Commissioner. There’s co clear conclusion (to me) but some interesting discussion.

It came out of this primary question:

8. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government expect high standards from all Government departments and Ministers?

It starts at 2:36…

Chris Bishop: Does she have confidence in her Government’s professional independence from Mr Haumaha when her police Minister gives him a shout-out in his workout videos, her Deputy Prime Minister attended a celebration on a marae for his appointment as assistant commissioner, her foreign affairs under-secretary has whānau links to him, and he was previously announced as a candidate for New Zealand First?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I am going to go back to that question and not require but ask the member to think very carefully about rewording it. We have had a tradition in this House, wherever possible, of not including the actions of family members—certainly within question time. I’d ask the member to reflect on his question and, if he agrees with me that that is unhealthy, to rephrase it.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely we have to have some accuracy in the questioning in this House. Mr Bishop began by talking about what, in effect, is an allegation of witness tampering. So the real issue, sir, for you to judge is: who is this witness who is being tampered that he talked about? The fact is the person is not a witness. The person may be a complainant, and there’s a huge difference. He’s putting the two together quite naively and mistakenly and getting away with it in the House when he should be stopped.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think if we had the degree of exactitude that the Deputy Prime Minister is advocating, we’d have quite a few members on both sides of the House who wouldn’t be able to answer or ask a single question. Mr Bishop—going back to where we were at.

Chris Bishop: Did the panel convened by the State Services Commission to interview the short-listed candidates for the job of the Deputy Commissioner of Police recommend that Mr Haumaha be the preferred candidate for the job?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I’m not going to get into elements of an issue that is now being independently assessed by an independent inquirer.

Hon Paula Bennett: When the Prime Minister just previously said, as she did yesterday, that, actually, he cannot be either stood down or on garden leave because it would be the decision of the commissioner and that she can’t do it, is she aware that under section 13 of the Policing Act, the deputy commissioner’s role is a statutory appointment that holds office at the pleasure of the Governor-General on the advice of her, the Prime Minister, and that she has the power to act?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That includes them acting in that role of employment. What the member was asking about was whether I had the ability to stand someone down when there had been no formal process, and we’re undertaking an inquiry to ensure natural justice provisions apply, because the threshold test here is incredibly high. If the member is asking about gardening leave or temporary stand downs, that threshold, of course, is very different, and that is employment matter for the Commissioner of Police.

Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise an issue that is troubling a number of us on this side of the House: the regularity with which those of us who enjoy Māori ancestry—and I direct your attention to Speakers’ rulings 39/4-5. I accept in the roundhouse of politics it is tough, but I am particularly irked by the allegation that Mr Bishop made, enjoying private briefings from dissolute elements in the police force, that he has labelled those of us, essentially, by talking about Fletcher Tabuteau and Winston Peters, as somehow not passing the test of parliamentary probity. And I’d invite you to reflect on it, because it will lead to a substantial bout of disorder from the House. Now, I’m not suggesting that Mr Bishop is anti-Māori, and, quite frankly, I don’t care if he is, but it is an important principle, with the number of Māori in the House—whether they’re urban Māori or broader traditional Māori—that you contemplate that situation, because we’re not going to put up with it for one more day.

Hon Paula Bennett: As one of those Māori, there is actually also a convention that we express our conflicts of interest for our whānau and particularly when we are looking at making statutory appointments, and this side of the House has a right to question that.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, yes, I would have made the same point that the Hon Paula Bennett has made, because what Mr Jones is effectively doing is saying that if there is a statutory appointment that involves someone who identifies as being a Māori New Zealander, then that process can’t be questioned and nor can anything that would make the suitability of that person appropriate for that. But further than that, sir, you sat there while Mr Jones referred to another member of this House, effectively, as having some racial bias, and that’s a completely unacceptable thing for him to do.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The allegation that someone is a cousin and therefore is biased in the choice of someone in a governmental job is so demonstrably false when the person doesn’t go to the lengths to describe how far removed that relationship might be. If he were Scottish or Māori, he might understand that this would include 7,500 people. But no such attempt is made. It’s the insinuation that because that relationship, distant though it might be, nevertheless corrupts the member’s mind in being impartial, and that’s unfair.

Mr SPEAKER: I am in a position to rule. Members may have forgotten that I intervened on Mr Bishop’s question and asked him to reword it, because I thought the tone of it was not consistent with the way that we have gone as a country over the last number of decades. He reflected on that and, despite the opportunity, decided not to repeat the question in that form and I want to thank him for that.

There are a lot of elements of judgment in this. I, of course, don’t want to indicate that people cannot be questioned where there are seen to be untoward influences and of course that is the case, but what I did indicate was that I thought it was particularly important where family matters are being brought into account that people are either very specific or very careful and not general in allegations.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Precedent in rulings in this House are very important, because they do guide the House. I’d ask that you have a look back through, I think, the mid-part of 2015 when a then prominent member of the Opposition, now a very, very prominent member of this House, was asking questions of a Minister of the then Government that related directly to a family member. Those questions were allowed, they stood, and they went on for quite some days. When you’ve gone back over those transcripts and perhaps reflected on the wisdom of the course of action taken by the prominent Opposition member, now a very prominent member of Parliament, could you perhaps bring down a ruling that brings all of these things together. I think the general allegation made against the Parliament by Mr Jones today that it is somehow racially selective to bring up an issue that relates to the appointment of a person who is of New Zealand Māori descent is a very, very backward step for this Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: I don’t feel any need to bring back a considered ruling on it. I think the matter is pretty clear. Speaker’s ruling 41/1 makes it clear that people should avoid referring to MPs families in their private capacities. It is all right to refer to family members who have official roles, and that is a ruling of long standing. It is also all right where there is a clear intersection of the public business of an MP and a Minister and the actions of a family member, and that is an area of longstanding ruling where there is a suggestion of inappropriate behaviour on the part of a Minister in favour of a family member—that is the subject of questioning in the House and will always continue to be.

 

The Gloriavale application for Regional Development funds

With $3 billion on offer from the Regional Economic Development fund over three years there must be many lining up with their hands out in hope of benefiting.

One application for funds has received special attention –  Gloriavale seeking millions of taxpayer dollars to set up new health food enterprise

Controversial religious sect Gloriavale is applying for millions of taxpayer dollars through the Government’s Provincial Growth Fund.

1 NEWS has revealed Gloriavale’s leaders are looking to set up a new health food enterprise on the West Coast, and they want the public to fund it.

It is an application only. It has not been granted. So some of the political jumping up and down is premature.

Gloriavale’s application to the $3 billion fund is already on the radar of Shane Jones, Regional Economic Development Minister.

“I wouldn’t want to knock out any particular application till we had all the facts. But the reality is that particular organisation does represent something of a morality play,” Mr Jones said.

Mr Jones said he’s not surprised that “we will get from time to time applications where we’ll have to be very, very sensitive”.

The Government says it will consider the application in good faith.

But it will also take into account Gloriavale’s reputation with the public whose money it’s now asking for.

I think that the Government has to properly consider any application.

There’s no point in getting concerned at this stage.

 

“The most open government in history”

Journalists continue to complain about the government not living up to it’s promise to be the most transparent government ever.

There was no pledge of transparency in the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. From the Labour-Green Confidence and Supply Agreement:

20. Strengthen New Zealand’s democracy by increasing public participation, openness, and
transparency around official information.

Claims of a lack of transparency began early under the incoming Government late last year.

Stuff (26 November 2017):  Labour promised transparency in Government, but they seem to be buckling on that early

The Government is facing a mountain of questions – more than 6000 to be exact. They’ve been lodged by an army of National MPs with nothing but time on their hands and it should be no surprise to Labour Ministers, who have so far refused to release much detail, if any, about their first actions in office.

In a 100-day programme, where major reform is being pushed through at break-neck speed, that is cause for concern.

…and it might be early, but on the current trend those accusations aren’t far from being squarely levelled back to Labour. They and the Greens made much of their desire to “bring transparency back to Government” on the campaign trail.

Labour is also yet to release what’s known as the ‘Briefings to Incoming Ministers’ – or BIMs. They are the documents prepared by the experts and officials, delivered to ministers in their first week to give them a crash course on the portfolio they’ve just been handed – in some cases rendering them responsible overnight for the spending of public funds totalling billions.

Stuff (2 December 2017): For a Government vowing to be more transparent, it really is stuck in the mud

For a Government vowing to be the most transparent and open the country has ever seen, it really did get stuck in the mud this week.

The problem with this document is not necessarily what’s in it, but the message it sends by not releasing it after Peters insisted it would be made public.

Ardern has spent the week arguing it isn’t a “live document” or a work programme the Government is bound to.

The new Government has an opportunity to pave a new path on transparency, it just needs to get out of the mud its bogged itself down in over the last few weeks and accept sometimes it’s better to just admit that you’re wrong.

RNZ (4 December 2017): Jacinda Ardern on ‘secret’ documents

Speaking to Morning Report today, Ms Ardern defended the new government’s reluctance to reveal the details of its coalition agreement.

“When something becomes an official part of our work programme, then that’s the point at which, absolutely, we have to be transparent about that. But when it comes to documents that sit behind a negotiation, that aren’t necessarily going to be pursued, as soon as you release it, that gives an expectation that it is a hard and fast policy, when it might not be at all.”

“We are actively at the moment looking at ways that we can make sure there is greater transparency around briefings that ministers receive, cabinet papers, whether we can routinely release documents after decisions are made, these are conversations I have never heard governments have before, and we are having.”

She said the government was still dedicated to greater transparency.

Jump forward seven months and this is looking like a ‘same old’ secretive government.

Stuff: ‘Secretive’ Shane Jones won’t release Fonterra texts

Regional economic development minister Shane Jones is refusing to make public messages backing his criticism of Fonterra chair John Wilson.

Self-styled “provincial champion” Jones launched a blistering attack on the long-serving dairy co-operative boss last month. Defending his remarks, Jones then claimed 365 people had sent messages supporting his stance.

But the NZ First Minister is now refusing to release those text messages. And that raises questions about the Government’s official record-keeping processes.

“The messages I was referring to were received predominantly on my private phone and not in my capacity as a Minister. They therefore do not fall within the scope within the scope of the Official Information Act 1982,” Jones said in a letter to Stuff.

@HenryCooke from Stuff: “In Politically Correct this week I recounted some recent OIA fun we’ve had with “the most open government in history”

But it looked like “We will be the most transparent government ever…unless it doesn’t suit us.

Jones praises himself, speaking as a Minister

NZ First MP Shane Jones continues to impress himself with his eloquence. I’m not sure how widely he is admired beyond a mirror.

Getting anything serious or of substance out of Jones is nearly as hard as getting a straight answer from Winston Peters.

And both of them may feel further unleashed now that Peters has taken over as acting Prime Minister (he is not prime Minister as Jones claimed, Jacinda Ardern retains that role).

In Parliament yesterday:

Question 9 – Hon Paul Goldsmith to the Minister for Regional Economic Development

Does he stand by his statement to the House last week, “Fonterra cannot wander around making advertisements, such as they did this year, drawing on the countryside and the personalities of country people and not expect the ‘champion of the country’ to hold them accountable”?

 

9. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement to the House last week, “Fonterra cannot wander around making advertisements, such as they did this year, drawing on the countryside and the personalities of country people and not expect the ‘champion of the country’ to hold them accountable”?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): In response to the question, the word “champion” is a verb and a noun, and I am delivering it by deed and by word.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Was he speaking in a personal capacity at the time he made that statement to the House?

Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat: I will remain an avid defender of the standards of accountability. Unlike that member, I will not be sucked in by this corporate-based pecuniary prattle, smooth tongue, and what I said, I owned.

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

Mr SPEAKER: Well, I probably should have ruled the question out. I mean, it is absolutely obvious that if a member makes a statement in the House in response to a question, as a Minister, then he is speaking as a Minister.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he reconcile his response in the House with the statements of the Prime Minister, who repeatedly said that his comments regarding Fonterra were made in a personal capacity—”end of story”?

Hon SHANE JONES: Just to remind the House, those candid remarks were made to an audience organised by KPMG, where we were told it was Chatham House Rules. And then, when I returned to the House, obviously someone associated with the National Party leaked those remarks to the press gallery. And as befits a plain-speaking, forthright advocate, champion, citizen of the provinces, I own what I said.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told the House last Thursday, the day after the Prime Minister had asserted that his comments about Fonterra’s leadership were made in his personal capacity, “I stand by my remarks in terms of accountability [they] should be shown by failing corporate governance culture at the highest levels of our largest company, and if the cab doesn’t suit then shanks’s pony is just as good”, was he intentionally setting out to make the Prime Minister look weak?

Hon SHANE JONES: My style is strong and forthright; however, nothing that I have said, done, or am contemplating to do is designed to undermine the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, or indeed the Deputy Prime Minister, soon to be the Prime Minister. And I think what the member needs to understand, it was a rapidly changing narrative. It started where I was invited as the “champion of the country”, I gave the remarks to an adoring audience, and I said them to the face of the chairman of Fonterra, not behind his back, like other people on that side of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen the supportive comments of the New Zealand Herald writer Fran O’Sullivan, and why would it be that she is allowed to see the common sense of the argument about Fonterra’s lack of accountability but the National Party can’t?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! [Interruption] Well, you know I am allowed to make my own rulings. The member can answer the first part of the question but not the last.

Hon SHANE JONES: The journalist referred to is a highly respected, well-versed, leading writer about matters of governance and accountability, and I’ve got every confidence when she congratulates my call for accountability she speaks truth to power.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So have I got the sequence right? The Prime Minister told him off for attacking corporate leaders; then he did it again; then she said he was only speaking in a personal capacity, not as a Minister; then the Minister rode over that fig leaf in a steamroller and repeated those statements in the House—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I’m now going to ask the member to very quickly come to a question that doesn’t have the level of embellishment—even if the fig leaf embellishment he used is a small one.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, I started with the question, Mr Speaker. The question was—

Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member started with the question, has he finished?

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, no, because I was continuing the question and I haven’t got to the end of it.

Mr SPEAKER: OK, right, get to the end quickly.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, I’ll start again if I—

Mr SPEAKER: No. No. Does the member have a further supplementary?

Hon Paul Goldsmith: No. I haven’t finished this particular question.

Mr SPEAKER: No. No. You have.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, I’ll let him answer it then.

Hon SHANE JONES: The member obviously doesn’t understand the reproductive cycle. This was a story where seeds were planted in an audience full of farmers and their grandees. It changed. At what point he missed the impregnation, I’m not sure.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, I could see that throughout that question you were asking yourself whether or not it should progress or otherwise and what was right and what was wrong. You at one point said that you thought the simple question about whether he was acting in a personal or ministerial capacity was irrelevant, because, clearly if he’d spoke about it in the House, he was acting ministerially. I wonder if you might consider asking the “provincial champion” to provide some sort of timetable for when he is acting personally and when he is acting as a Minister? Because our understanding is that Ministers are at all times Ministers, and when they are invited to speak somewhere as a Minister, they are accountable as a Minister for what they say.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, there is no other authority than the member’s former leader John Key, who made the very distinction which everyone else got but Gerry didn’t.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, now the Deputy Prime Minister will stand up and address the honourable member for Ilam in the appropriate manner.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, which the honourable member for Ilam didn’t get.

Mr SPEAKER: Right, now, what—[Interruption]—no. I’m—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, hang on. We’re dealing with a point of order and someone makes a contribution on it. Everyone’s got to understand it. What circumstance is the Deputy Prime Minister referring to? Because there was a long discussion in this House where someone can be considered a party leader, and the Speaker will remember those long discussions some time back. That has been a long-held tenet in this country that if someone is doing something as a party leader, that’s separate from their other roles, but a Minister is always a Minister as long as they hold the warrant.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: The former Prime Minister, Mr Key, said that he was not always acting as a Prime Minister and he gave examples such as when he was put the putting the cat out. So the very principle that that member outlaid to the House just doesn’t stand.

Mr SPEAKER: Right. I want to thank both members for their contributions. I think they have highlighted something which is an important issue and one which I think in New Zealand we haven’t quite got our heads around. I was reminded earlier today of some comments, I think, attributed to the honourable Mr Finlayson when he referred to the Roman habit of indicating whether or not senators were on duty—whether they were acting as senators—via the colour of their toga. It mightn’t have been Mr Finlayson, but in those days it was very clear whether or not people were acting as Ministers or not. [Interruption] Amy Adams—

Hon Amy Adams: Sorry.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, we have had in this House some quite long discussions, I think, without any real conclusion as to when people are Ministers and when they are members and when they are acting in private capacities. It is clear that Ministers do at times act in all three different capacities. Clearly, there are things which they do, especially those who are constituency members, which they’re not doing as Ministers; they’re doing on behalf of constituents, and that is clear. There have been a number of examples given by Mr Key—I think putting out the cat was one of them. I think there were some others which weren’t quite as repeatable in the House—and we wouldn’t want to get into them in the House—which were done in a personal capacity rather than in a ministerial capacity. So it has been accepted by the House previously that there are occasions where, effectively, the ministerial hat is taken off and people act in a personal capacity. But what I’m not certain of—and maybe we need to have a discussion at Standing Orders at some stage is to get things a bit more codified so members can better understand these things.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That process will be a good one, but it’s a long process, as you’re aware. In this case, Mr Jones was at a function, invited to speak, because he is a Minister. At no point, as far as we know, did he say, “Look, I’m happy to speak, but I’m speaking to you in a private capacity.”, and if he was speaking in a private capacity, then clearly the criticisms he could make could stand, but certainly would not have got the publicity they did as result of his making those statements. So I think some sort of interim ruling from you about what is in and what is out as far as Ministers acting would be useful for the scrutiny of the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I will see if I can get my head around the issue.