On canning Kidscan funding

RNZ: KidsCan may lose govt funding: ‘Children will go hungry’

The charity, which has been in operation for 12 years, provides food, clothing and healthcare to 168,000 children across 700 New Zealand schools.

Executive Julie Chapman told Checkpoint with John Campbell she was told last week by Oranga Tamariki / Ministry for Children that it would lose its government funding – $350,000 worth – on 1 July next year.

Welcome change to Ministry for Children

I don’t know whose idea it was to rename the Ministry of Child Youth and Family to something stupid earlier this year, but in a small but welcome change the Ministry for Children is being renamed again.

NZH: Ministry for Vulnerable Children to be renamed

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children will be renamed with the word “vulnerable” being dropped, while legislation to help lift children out of poverty will be introduced on Thursday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made the announcements at her post-Cabinet press conference this afternoon, with Minister for Children Tracey Martin and Finance Minister Grant Robertson alongside her.

Ardern said the ministry, over time, would look to extend its reach beyond just the 5600-odd children in state care.

“A child who lives in poverty won’t necessarily come into contact with those social workers that work in Oranga Tamariki [the Ministry For Children], but we want the ministry to have regard to their well-being as well.”

Martin said dropping the word “vulnerable” from signs would take 12 months. The word had had a negative impact on children and the ministry’s workers.

The name was like having a Ministry of Sick and Dying People, Or a Ministry of Bleeding Taxpayers.

“What the children have told us, and social workers in the last six weeks have told us, is that that word actually stigmatised those children,” she said.

One small step for the Government, and a few more thousand dollars down the gurgler, but a welcome change.

Inquiry into abuse of children in state care

The Labour Party has made a commitment to set up an inquiry into the historic abuse of children in state care, something National had refused to do when in government.

Labour Party:  Taking action in our first 100 days

Labour will hit the ground running in government, with a programme of work across housing, health, education, families, the environment and other priority areas.

  • Set up an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care

In February this year an open letter called for an inquiry:  Prominent Kiwis call for independent inquiry into claims of abuse of children in state care

Prominent Kiwis have banded together to demand an independent inquiry into the claims of sexual and physical abuse of children in state care.

The Human Rights Commission has spearheaded an open letter to the Government, published in today’s Herald, calling for a comprehensive inquiry and a public apology to those who were abused, and their families, in what is described as a dark chapter of our history.

Among the 29 signatories of what now underpins the “Never Again” petition to the Government are Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, Chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner and former National MP Jackie Blue, former Mental Health Foundation chief executive Judi Clements, and the Otago University dean of law, Professor Mark Henaghan.

The background to their call is:

• In 2001 the Government issued an apology and compensation to a group of former patients of the former Lake Alice psychiatric hospital, after a report by a retired judge who had interviewed them and found their claims credible.

• The issue spread to former patients of other asylums and the Government set up a confidential listening service for them to speak of the abuse they had suffered.

• Former state wards made claims for abuse in state care and a listening service was created for them.

• The head of that service, Judge Carolyn Henwood, recommended creating an independent body to resolve historic and current complaints.

• The Government last year rejected that recommendation.

Greens supported this letter and an inquiry: Greens support call for inquiry into state care

The Green Party backs today’s open letter from the Human Rights Commission and others calling for a government inquiry into the abuse of children in state care, and for a formal apology to be made to the victims.

“There is a growing list of organisations and people who are calling for a government inquiry into the abuse of children in the state’s care. It seems everyone but the Government realises that an inquiry and a formal apology are essential to helping the victims find some sense of closure, and to ensure that children in state care now and in the future are protected from abuse,” said Green Party social development spokesperson Jan Logie.

“The prominent New Zealanders signing this letter today have seen the effects and heard the evidence about the abuse of children in state care, and because of that they are calling for an inquiry and apology.

“Not every child in state care suffered abuse, but the fact that so many did means that it is crucial that there is accountability from the system that perpetrated this abuse.

NZ First MP Tracey Martin is now Minister for Children and was interviewed about an inquiry in the weekend – The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews Tracey Martin


Lisa Owen: Now, the new government’s committed to an inquiry into the abuse of children in state care. The move’s been welcomed, but there are few details that have been released so far. So how will it all work? We’re joined now by the new Minister for Children, New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin. Good morning, Minister.

So, the inquiry — what are you thinking? Will it have the power to compel witnesses?

Tracey Martin: And all of these details, unfortunately, are still to be worked through. So I’ve had two meetings with officials to clarify what are our options, what sort of inquiry will it be, will it have those sort of powers, who will we consult before we even scope out the cabinet paper, for example, to take it to cabinet. So at this stage, I can’t answer that question 100%.

Lisa Owen: It’s on your 100 day plan.

Tracey Martin: It’s on the Labour Party’s 100 day plan that this government will deliver, yes.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, and so you’re part of that.

Tracey Martin: Yes, we are.

Lisa Owen: So in terms of that, you’re running out of time to come up with these answers, so what are you thinking, though? If not having a solid idea, do you think it would be the best-case scenario to be able to compel witnesses?

Tracey Martin: It’s not something that I’ve traversed at the moment with the officials. The major priority that we had was actually around making sure that within the 100 days, so the 4th of February is the close-off date — 3rd, 4th of February is the close-off date that we’re talking about — that we will have in place a basis for an inquiry that will provide an opportunity for those who have been victims to come forward with comfort to be able to express their truth, to be able to be validated in that truth and to feel that they have received the justice and the validation that they need. So those are the things that have been the driving part of the conversations at this stage.

Lisa Owen: Okay, because the brief is to get it set up in the 100 days.

Tracey Martin: Yes, that’s right.

Lisa Owen: So will the inquiry have the scope to attribute blame?

Tracey Martin: Well, it’s one of those things. If you look at the Never Again campaign, that was never a driver. It wasn’t about finding somebody or something to hang some guilt on. It was about making sure that the truth was told, that we bravely face actions that took place in this country that harmed individuals and that those individuals received an apology.

Lisa Owen: But the victims want truth and accountability, so will there be accountability through this inquiry?

Tracey Martin: I guess what I’m driving at is basically saying that if you put out the truth, there are going to have to be recognition by the state that this is what happened to these people and they were under the care of the state at that time. If you’re asking me are there going to be people that are then going to be charged or held accountable through the justice system, I can’t make that statement, because I’m not in charge of the justice system.

Lisa Owen: What period will the inquiry investigate?

Tracey Martin: Well, at this stage, that’s part of the scoping that’s being done, and I don’t want to actually pre-empt that. There are at least 20 organisations that the officials are now talking to before we take a proposed scope to cabinet.

Lisa Owen: So you mentioned an apology. There will definitely be a formal apology from the government?

Tracey Martin: Again, I can’t make that commitment on behalf of the government. I can tell you where I’m coming from.

Lisa Owen: Yeah, tell me where you’re coming from.

Tracey Martin: So, where I’m coming from is if we stand in our truth and we bravely say, ‘This is the reality that happened to these New Zealanders under the care of the state,’ then the state has a responsibility to acknowledge that, to own it and therefore there should be an apology. But I don’t speak on behalf of the whole government. That has to go to cabinet.

Lisa Owen: Who do you think would be the appropriate person to make that apology, then?

Tracey Martin: I don’t know. I had this question asked of me on Te Karere as well. I don’t know. Because I’ve been in the job two weeks, let’s be clear. I don’t know whether it would be appropriate for a minister at my level, whether it should come from the Prime Minister, whether it should even be bigger than that.

Lisa Owen: What’s your gut feeling? Should it be the Prime Minister?

Tracey Martin: I think if we’re going to take responsibility for what is actually going to come out in this inquiry, and we have a very clear idea of the sort of the incidents that are going to be exposed, then it’s a very, very serious— it’s very serious acts that have taken place here, and I think it needs to be dealt with at the highest level.

Lisa Owen: So Prime Minister, then, in your view. So do you think that you will set up some kind of independent authority, a permanent independent authority, like the IPCA, to monitor treatment of kids in care and the actions of the ministry? Is that something you would like to see?

Tracey Martin: Yes, I think there is a need for that. I think it’s that transparency that we’re hoping to actually— Part of what Oranga Tamariki, the reason why it was set up by the previous government and part of the direction of travel it’s in now is to make sure that we are more transparent, that we are working more closely with our communities, that the voice of children is heard more often. And so an independent body whereby complaints can be taken, I think, would be a really good and transparent thing. It would help both the ministry and our children.

Lisa Owen: How much will is there to do that?

Tracey Martin: I think there’s quite strong will to do that.

Lisa Owen: So you’re quite confident you can get that over the line?

Tracey Martin: I think— Well, I’m fairly confident about my argumentative skills, so I believe that it would be in the best interest of children.

Lisa Owen: So Labour supports it, basically, is what I’m asking.

Tracey Martin: At this stage, again, I haven’t taken it to cabinet, but I believe the will is there to actually say there needs to be this level of transparency.

 

National criticise urgency but support Paid Parental Leave bill

The first bill to be considered by the new Parliament was debated under urgency, a move criticised as hypocritical, but National also voted for the bill, saying they shared policy to increase paid parental leave.

RNZ: Govt puts Parliament into urgency to start 100-day plan

The new government made a swift start on its 100-day plan, putting the house into urgency within hours of Parliament’s state opening.

The first bill to be debated under the new government enacts the extension to paid parental leave announced by the Prime Minister on Monday.

Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway told Parliament the bill was a straight-forward one.

“It provides for a an increase in the duration of paid parental leave from the current 18 weeks to 26 weeks.

“This is achieved in two stages, first an increase to 22 weeks in 1 July 2018, with a further increase to 26 weeks on 1 July 2020.”

Despite National’s objections to the bill, it voted in support – saying it was in fact its policy as well to extend paid parental leave.

ACT voted against it.

The bill has to pass further readings before becoming law.

The bill is being pushed through under urgency, meaning it will skip the committee (and public submission) stage.

That led to accusations of hypocrisy from the Opposition, arguing Labour had castigated the National-led goverment for using urgency.

The legislation was being pushed through without being sent to a select committee, as the government argued it had already been through that process twice under the previous National government.

The first time it was voted down at third reading and the second time it got there it was vetoed by National.

It was vetoed on fiscal grounds, with the National led government saying they had no funds available.

Senior National MP Amy Adams told the House she was witnessing an incredible turnaround of principles by the parties now on the government benches.

“From parties who until now have derided, castigated, abused, got outraged over the use of urgency.

“When the National-led government took urgency it was very clear as the the need and the reasons for doing so.”

Ms Adams said the rushed, hurried, seat-of-the-pants process by the Labour-led coalition meant the bill was very light on detail.

New Zealand First’s Tracey Martin, the Minister for Children, said the bill had twice been through select committee with more than 6000 submissions, 99 percent of which were in support.

She said the bill was going through under urgency, because it was urgent.

“Because our families need it, our babies need it, our mothers and fathers need it – they need the security to know that as soon as possible they can plan for this.

I think this bill was probably chosen to push through under urgency because it had been debated last term in Parliament as a Member’s Bill, and it was a safe one to start with, uncontroversial and assured of passing.

But it is highly debatable whether it can be called ‘urgent’.

And the planned implementation doesn’t seem urgent – an increase in four weeks next July, and an increase of another four weeks in 2020.

The first bill to be considered by the new Government may signal the approach by National – a mix of apposition, criticism and cooperation.

 

 

 

NZ First move on from anti-smacking law

NZ First have campaigned strongly on having a referendum on the anti-smacking law, and it was one of their ‘bottom lines’. But new Minister for Children say that it was dropped during negotiations recently and ‘it was time to look at a range of other measures to improve children’s safety’.

NZH: Anti-smacking referendum dropped during coalition negotiations

New Zealand First’s wish to hold a referendum on the anti-smacking law was dropped in coalition negotiations, new Minister for Children Tracey Martin says.

“That was one of the policies that did not survive the negotiations,” Martin told RNZ’s Checkpoint. “So let’s move on.”

The change removed the legal defence of “reasonable force” for parents who were prosecuted for assaulting their children.

Last week Family First reminded NZ First of its 2014 pledge not to enter a coalition without a pledge to have a referendum on the anti-smacking law.

“NZ First campaigned strongly on fixing the anti-smacking law – an issue important to many families. We will continue to ask them to deliver on their pledge,” Family First said in a statement.

Martin said the focus on the smacking law had not worked, and it was time to look at a range of other measures to improve children’s safety – such as prevention.

Good to see common sense prevail.

We have already had a referendum, in 2009, but the question was too vague and loaded, and the result was ignored by politicians.

Big wins, big ambitions, big challenges

NZ First have had some big wins in their negotiations with Labour, winning support for major policies and winning some big portfolios. With a lot to do for a small party they will have big challenges living up to their ambitions.

Ministerial responsibilities for the NZ First MPs:

Winston Peters

  • Deputy Prime Minister
  • Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Minister for State Owned Enterprises
  • Minister for Racing

Foreign Affairs usually involves a lot of international travel and long absences from the country, which will have to somehow be managed alongside Deputy responsibilities, which include stepping in for the PM when she is unavailable (out of the country).

State Owned Enterprises could be interesting, given NZ First aims to but back partially sold assets.

Racing is a bauble.

Ron Mark

  • Minister of Defence
  • Minister for Veterans

Defence could be a challenge, given Green opposition to military spending and engagement. National may need to back up NZ First and Labour on Defence.

Tracey Martin

  • Minister for Children
  • Minister of Internal Affairs
  • Minister for Seniors
  • Associate Minister of Education

With Jacinda Ardern’s stated interest in children issues (she is Minister for Child Poverty Reduction) she will need to work with Martin.

Martin will also have to work closely with incoming Minister of Education Chris Hipkins.

Shane Jones

  • Minister of Forestry
  • Minister for Infrastructure
  • Minister for Regional Economic Development
  • Associate Minister of Finance
  • Associate Minister of Transport

This is a huge workload for someone regarded as not being particularly industrious. He will need a lot of help.

Fletcher Tabuteau

Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the
– Minister of Foreign Affairs
– Minister for Regional Economic Development

It looks like he will either be an apprentice to Peters on Foreign Affairs, or he may have to cover for a heavy workload if Peters wants to share the load. There could also be a big workload assisting Jones in Regional Economic Development.

Five of the nine NZ First MPs have jobs in Government, so they don’t have a big back-up crew, just four other MPs, two of them new to Parliament.

Big jobs, big challenges.

Tracey Martin on referendums

In an interesting interview during the election campaign Tracey Martin gave an indication as to how she thought referenda should be used.

It gives a good insight into Martin’s and presumably NZ First’s preferences on the use of referendums.

Martin has been a member of the New Zealand First Party since 1993. She was on the party Board of Directors from 2008 until becoming an MP and the party’s deputy leader in 2011. She dropped to party #3 when Ron Mark challenged her and took over as deputy. She is expected to become a Cabinet Minister in the incoming government.

NZ First have promote referenda as a way of allowing the public to decide – from their Social Development policy:

Protect our social fabric and traditional family values from temporarily empowered politicians, by requiring so-called ‘conscience issues’ be put to comprehensive public debate and referenda.

The have proposed a number of referenda. Winston Peters promised a referendum on the Maori seats in the recent election campaign, although it looks like that has been lost in negotiations with Labour.

Family recently publicly reminded NZ First Promised Anti-Smacking Law Referendum:

(In 2014, NZ First said “NZ First policy is to repeal the anti-smacking law passed by the last parliament despite overwhelming public opposition. Accordingly, we will not enter any coalition or confidence and supply agreement with a party that wishes to ignore the public’s clearly stated view in a referendum on that issue.”)

That was for a previous election.

In a speech in March in Northland, leader Winston Peters said;

“We are going to repeal the anti-smacking law which doesn’t work and has in fact seen greater violence towards children.”

He then further clarified his position in an interview on Newstalk ZB saying that this matter should go to a referendum with New Zealand people who are “far more reliable and trustworthy on these matters, rather than a bunch of temporarily empowered parliamentarians.”

This position was backed up by senior MP Tracey Martin.

It would be surprising if Labour or Greens supported this. We may find out today if it’s another casualty of negotiations or not.

During the election campaign Martin explained how she saw referenda being used in an interview at the University of Otago, starting at about 20:15

Question: “One thing we’ve noticed is that New Zealand First seems to call for a lot of referendums on different issues, and you think that it should be the people deciding rather than a group of Parliamentarians. Why is that?”

Martin replied :

First of all there’s some things, they’re quite big social shifts, you know there’s some stuff that makes quite a big difference to society.

Lets take euthanasia as one that’s a biggie at the moment, and also legalising recreational marijuana. Split that off from medicinal marijuana, New Zealand First has already said we support medicinal marijuana through a prescription regime.

As an aside it’s not marijuana, it’s cannabis. It’s unusual to here it referred to as marijuana in New Zealand. The bill currently in Parliament is Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis and Other Matters) Amendment.

But if you take those two issues, they’re issues that we think New Zealanders have the right to discuss, and my vote shouldn’t be worth any more than your vote…and so you need to have the same information I have, and then the country needs to vote.

“Do you see that I have a vote, and I vote in a Parliament, surely that is my reflection of those people making decisions on my behalf?”

So we have a representative democracy, and I would say that if every single bill that went through that House was a conscience vote then you might be right.

Euthanasia was not a topic that was campaigned on at the last election, so how would you have been able to vote on the political party, if you had strong beliefs on that particular topic, how would you have been able to vote for a particular party on that issue, which is a big issue for a nation.

It’s not the tweaking of a, it’s not Uber. It’s a large piece of legislation that is going to make quite a substantial change to country.

NZ First proposals to radically change our economic system is far more substantial – should any policies changing our economic system go to a referendum?

“If parties were campaigning on it this election and setting out their values on the issue which I think a lot of parties have been, it is coming into the discussion a bit more and I chose to volte on that issue, would it then be a rule for Parliament to make that decision rather than putting it back to the people again who have just voted?”

Well I think again it would be fine if it was a representative democracy.

That’s what we have.

…that’s just what New Zealand First believe, there are particular issues that should be laid in front of the New Zealand people, and the New Zealand people as a whole should be able to have a discussion about them out in the open in a transparent way, and then a vote on it.

“Is this a call for more direct democracy in New Zealand?”

Well basically yes, that’s what, I think that’s principle number 15 of New Zealand First, is about direct democracy.

If we haven’t campaigned on it, if we haven’t had a position on it, on a big item, then it’s something we think we need to go back to the constituency which is the public.

15. The People’s Policies

All policies not contained in the party manifesto, where no national emergency clearly exists, will first be referred to the electorate for a mandate.

This is an oddly NZ First-centric principle. Why should it only apply to things NZ First has no policy or campaign position on? Why shouldn’t things of public importance that are NZ First policies not go to referenda?

My also hope is that it might actually make feel connected too.

Here’s a very interesting and important point.

So if I put a bill in front, and I don’t think a referendum should just be a question. I think that’s a really easy way to manipulate direct democracy is to have a single question that is worded in a way that well how could you say no to it, or how could you say less to it.

I believe that you have the same intelligence that anybody sitting in that House has, and so you should see the piece of legislation, you should get the regulatory impact statement, you should get the full Parliamentary blurb that we get, and then after twelve months you should vote on it.

I think that in principle this is a good idea. I have suggested this sort of process for legalising or decriminalising cannabis – a bill should be passed through the normal parliamentary processes, and then go to the public for ratification or rejection via a referendum.

There are some potential down sides, especially if one referendum is held to put a number of issues to the public. There could be a lot of material to distribute and to digest.

Instead of handing out the full legislation plus regulatory statement and any other blurb perhaps a fair summary should be written and distributed. Those who have the time or inclination could obtain all the material online or request it all to be posted out.

I don’t think giving everyone a big pile of legislation will encourage participation, it is more likely to deter engagement.

But generally I think that this is a promising approach to contentious issues of public importance, write the legislation and if it passes through Parliament put it too the people for ratification or rejection.

This would encourage our Parliamentarians to write and pass legislation that made sense to the public and addressed public concerns.

I think this would work well for both euthanasia and for recreational cannabis use.

I don’t think it would be a good way to decide on the Maori seats. That would enable a large majority to make a decision that really just affects a relatively small minority.

I also don’t think it would suit the smacking issue.

The use of referendums could be a significant issue in itself this term.

Last term the flag referendums were a democratic disaster, with political game playing and deliberate disruption making a mess of the process. Somehow that has to be avoided in the future.

I’m encouraged by what Martin said in this interview, albeit with a concern about their principle of only applying referendums to things NZ First hasn’t written policy on or campaigned on. They aren’t the only party in Parliament or soon to be in Government.

Something Peters campaigned on was ‘a change in the way this country is run both economically and socially’.

That suggests major change to me. Should any major change to the way we run the country economically or socially be ratified by the public via referenda?

Peters has been quite vague about what changes he wants. Once he clarifies and suggests specific changes should we the people get to decide on whether it should happen or not?

Congratulations to the incoming government

I had ambivalent feelings about who would get to form a government, it didn’t concern me one way or the other. There were reasonable arguments for both a Labour led and a National led government.

There is no doubt that it was a rapid rise and major success for the incoming Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern. She successfully turned around what looked like a looming unprecedented disaster in July to a creditable election result in September and to forming the new Government now.

Ardern was a big contrast to the string of unsuccessful Labour leaders, and she quickly demonstrated impressive capabilities that have turned out to be good enough to now lead the country.

It is a huge challenge for Ardern, as it is for every new Prime Minister. Time will tell how well she manages her own party as well as working with two other parties, but she deserves a fair go from Parliament and from the media and the public.

This is also a success for Winston Peters and for NZ First, albeit with a significantly smaller mandate they were hoping for a few months ago.

No one in Parliament is more experienced than Peters, and his deputy Ron Mark and new recruit Shane Jones also have significant parliamentary experience, Jones in Cabinet in the Clark government.  Another likely minister, Tracey martin, has been in the NZ First party since it was formed in 1993 and has been an MP for 6 years.

So NZ First should be capable of doing the business in Government.

The Greens are much less experienced. James Shaw has been an MP just three years and co-leader for two. Losing Metiria Turei was a major blow, as well as losing two experienced MPs in the fallout in August. This possibly cut their support in half or worse, but regardless they are now in government.

Shaw looks capable of being a competent minister. So does party #3 Julie Anne Genter.

However their #2, Marama Davidson, is a relative rookie, having entered Parliament less than two years ago. She may find it challenging switching from her social activist role to being part of the political establishment with the responsibilities that go with that.

Any new Government, especially one that has been out of power for nine years (or never been in power as per the Greens), will have challenges adjusting to their new roles and significantly increased workloads.

It’s a completely different ball game than being in opposition. As all those before them they are untested at this level, but in the main at least are likely to step up and do at least a reasonable job.

Some of them have high ambitions, to transform the country, especially to deal with inequality. That won’t be easy in practice.

They start with an open slate. As with any government I will give them a fair go. There will no doubt be criticisms, but they deserve the country’s support.

I wish the incoming government well, and I hope they succeed in making New Zealand a better and more successful country for all of us.

 

Greens clash with NZ First

There were always going to be questions asked about whether the Greens and NZ First could get on in a coalition with Labour. A feud blew up between Green co-leader Metiria Turei and NZ First leader Winston Peters and also Tracey Martin which highlighted the tensions.

Turei on Q+A yesterday:

JESSICA What is your relationship like with Winston Peters? You’ve described him before as annoying as hell.

METIRIA Yeah, I think everybody thinks that Winston Peters. Look, our relationship with Winston is fine. He is on a roll at the moment which is I think a very racist approach to immigration, for example. The worst of his rhetoric is coming out.

JESSICA But you’d be prepared to work with him?

METIRIA Well, we may have to. And my plea, I guess, to the New Zealand public is don’t make that necessary.

JESSICA What’s James’ relationship like with Winston Peters? Is yours better?

METIRIA Well, I have known Winston for a long time now — for the 15 years I’ve been there. And so I do know that Winston and James have spoken, and that’s fine. New Zealand First has not ruled us out, like they have done in the past. And we have not ruled them out either. Because actually, they may be necessary for the formation of a progressive government. I think this is just the political reality we have. Either it is going to be National and New Zealand First, which is completely unacceptable, or it may be the Greens and Labour with or without Winston.

JESSICA Shane Jones? Would you work with Shane Jones?

METIRIA Oh. I mean, I don’t think that Shane Jones is going to have a great impact, actually, on the vote for New Zealand First.

JESSICA What was that sigh about, though?

METIRIA I mean, if we have to work with Shane, we will. I mean, we’ve had to cooperate with Labour when he was in Labour as well.

JESSICA But you don’t sound that keen.

METIRIA Well, I don’t think it’s going to make a huge difference, to be honest.

“So I do know that Winston and James have spoken” sounds like Turei hasn’t tried to connect with Peters.

Turei also doesn’t seem to have any time for Shane Jones.

But this comment has provoked NZ First reaction:

He is on a roll at the moment which is I think a very racist approach to immigration, for example. The worst of his rhetoric is coming out.

Just after that NZ First MP Tracey Martin responded on Twitter:

MartinVTureiRacist

But later at the Green campaign launch Turei kept attacking NZ First: Andrew Little piggy in middle of Greens – NZ First stoush over racism

Turei said Peters had a “very racist approach to immigration” and in her speech at the Green Party campaign launch yesterday launched into his “divisive” approach, saying a future Government which had only NZ First as a support partner would be “disastrous”.

Peters responded:

Peters quickly fired back, saying it was the Greens who had separatist policies when it came to Maori and ownership of water.

“My warning to the Greens is don’t call New Zealand First racist – an allegation that is spurious – and think there won’t be consequences.”

Peters did not respond to a request for comment on what he meant by “consequences” but he and the Green Party have a fractious history.

And a fractious present by the sound of things.

Going on the attack against NZ First on the Green’s campaign launch day suggests that the Greens are trying to compete with NZ First for vote share, as the must do, but at the risk of damaging their chances of forming a coalition.

Greens seem to be trying to put all their power eggs in Labour’s basket.

Either that, or they have given up on Labour forming a coalition and they are just trying to get as many votes as they can, competing with both Labour and NZ First for the role of lead opposition party.

Turei ruled out National:

JESSICA But you don’t options, do you? Because are you prepared to work with National?

METIRIA No. We are certainly not prepared to prop up a government that they want to establish. We will work with Labour, and we can work with New Zealand First if we have to for a progressive government. But any government that we support or are part of has to be genuinely progressive. We are not going to accept an inferior deal.

This sounds categorical, despite in theory any decision on coalition options is up to the party members to decide after the election.

It also makes Greens negotiating position weak, as NZ First are keeping both National and Labour options open in theory at least.

This feuding between the parties that Labour looks like needing if it is to have a chance of forming the next government makes things difficult for Labour.

Little said it did not worry him and he did not want to get drawn into it. However, he seemed to send a hint of his own to the Green Party to dial back the criticism on immigration.

“It is important that on the issue of immigration, as a country we need to be able to debate it as an issue without getting into allegations of racism and without assuming party’s positions are racist positions. If we are going to assert racism, then that has to be explained.”

Labour have had their own problems with being accused of being racist over immigration and on housing.

Asked if he believed Peters was racist on immigration, Little said he could not recall what Peters had said. However, he said Labour recognised immigration had increased rapidly and put pressure on transport and public services and had to be better managed.

That’s a classic switch from an awkward question to trying to push their own talking points.

She said Peters’ attacks on immigrants and blaming immigrants for infrastructure problems was wrong.

“And his attacks on the Muslim community have been outrageous and wrong.”

“I’m just saying pretty up front I don’t like it, I think it’s racist.”

However, Turei said it did not mean the Greens could not work with NZ First in a government.

The lure of power threatens to override principles.

Nor did she believe Labour’s policy to cut immigration by up to 30,000 a year to allow infrastructure to catch up was racist. The Greens believed the cause was under-investment by the Government, rather than the fault of migrants.

Trying to appease Labour and  and appear in synch with them.

“If he continues with what I think is a very racist line then I will keep calling him out. It’s my job to do in New Zealand politics.”

So it seems to be a planned and firm position for the Green campaign.

Turei said she was pleading to supporters to ensure the Green Party was the strongest partner in any Labour-led government – and prevent a NZ First-National Government or a Labour Government without the Greens.

She was not concerned Peters would veto the Greens again.

“It’s up to him what he does. My interest now is campaigning as hard as I can for the strongest possible vote to make sure the Greens are the dominant influence in a Labour-Greens government.”

Greens appear to be aiming for Labour+Green or nothing. That’s ambitious.

There are also hints of even more ambition – a Green-Labour coalition.

“She was pleading to supporters to ensure the Green Party was the strongest partner in any Labour-led government” does say “Labour-led” but “to make sure the Greens are the dominant influence in a Labour-Greens government” does not.

The only way Greens will be the strongest partner and the dominant influence is if they get more votes than Labour.

The only way they will achieve that is if they get votes off NZ First, Labour and National. They is going to be very difficult to achieve to any significant degree.

On Twitter in response to “ will always speak truth to power” I asked if she could transition to being one of the powerful. Turei responded:

I already have Pete. I’m the co leader of the third largest party in Parliament and have been for 8 years.

I said that that’s quite different to being a Minister in Government. She responded:

It’s a job I’ve I’ve been training for for 15 years. I’m ready and I’ll be great at it.

To get a chance to prove it she has to get the Greens into Government. Ruling out working with National, and provoking and continuing a feud with NZ First, will make that difficult.

Not only is Turei limiting Green options to Labour, she is making things more difficult for Labour.

A row boat with Labour in the middle and NZ First and Greens at each end lashing out at each other with oars may be a hard sell for Labour.

 

NZ First $4.6b student bribe

A significant factor in the 2005 election was Labour’s campaign promise of interest free student loans. They won the election. This policy was later projected to cost about $0.5b per year.

NZ First has a much bigger campaign promise – to wipe loans for students who stay and work in the country. They say it will cost $4.6b a year – but that may not take into account the likely increase in student numbers.

Stuff:  Winston Peters promises to wipe student loans

New Zealand First is promising to wipe student loans for new students who stay and work in the country for five years, and it says that it will only cost $4.6b a year.

People who bond themselves to regions in need of workers or study for less time could wipe theirs even faster.

Under the proposed scheme, the universal student allowance of about $200 a week would cover living costs while the government would cover all of student’s tuition fees upfront.

Every year of study would bond a student to one year of work in New Zealand. So a student who completed a three-year BA would only need to work for three years in New Zealand to pay off their entire loan.

However these fully-funded places would not be guaranteed, with industry groups and a reinstated Careers NZ setting a number of jobs they would need when the degree ended. There would be competition for fully funded places, but also safeguards to preserve diversity.

The policy would only apply to new students.

Martin said the scheme would cost $4.63b a year – only about half a billion more than the Government currently spends and 1.86 per cent of GDP – but both Labour and National said it was fiscally unachievable.

They can’t do it without either National or Labour support and neither could afford that sort of budget without having to significantly cut elsewhere.

She said it was more likely that she could negotiate the scheme in a coalition government with Labour, as the National Party and ACT would likely be philosophically opposed. Labour agreed – broadly.

“If we’re in a position to negotiate with other parties, then obviously more funding for education is something that we are going to be happy to talk about,” Hipkins said.

I expect Labour will have their own budget bribe priorities, and National won’t want to give up their tax cuts and family support package.