Red Alert

Archive for July, 2009

Not popular at Kensington

Posted by on July 31st, 2009

Not since I closed schools in Mosgiel have I been so unwelcome in Otago as I was cheering Wellington’s tries at the Kensington tonight. Game of two halves Lions kept it exciting.


Asian community is banking on an inquiry from National

Posted by on July 31st, 2009

Over the past weeks, a familiar mood has cropped up when I have been out talking to members of the ethnic community on the street, at events and in shops.The mood is one of anger and outrage at the reluctance of the National-led Government to support an inquiry into banking profits and its failure to stand up on behalf of all hard working New Zealand families.

Many people I have spoken to believe they are paying higher interest rates than they should be paying. It seems to me the best way to work out whether hard working New Zealanders and businesses are getting a fair deal is to hold an inquiry into the relationship between the Official Cash Rate and short term interest rates. This way all the facts will be put on the table and people can see whether they are being treated fairly by their banks.

The mood has generated huge media attention in the Asian communities.

As a result, the Auckland-based World TV, which broadcasts 10 channels in Chinese, Japanese and Korean, sent its crew to the electoral office of the Leader of the Opposition, Hon Phill Goff, and invited Labour finance spokesperson, Hon David Cunliffe, to specifically talk to the Asian communities on this issue.

I had the pleasure of appearing alongside Hon Phill Goff and David Cunliffe.

Asians are passionate about numbers, so I reiterate a startling statistic which was mentioned in the interview on World TV:

Over the past year the Reserve Bank has cut the OCR by 575 basis points, but business lending rates have only fallen by 243 points, and the floating first mortgage rate has fallen by 446 points.

The Labour Party, Greens and the Progressives announced on July 27 their intention to hold the equivalent of a parliamentary select committee inquiry into bank profits.

As a member of the Finance and Expenditure Committee, I witnessed how hard the Labour team – led by Hon David Cunliffe – fought in vain to convince the Government to hold such an inquiry.

The feedback from Asian communities has been over-whelming in favour of such a move. Mr Sam Lee of Pakuranga rang me expressing his approval and support of Labour’s move. ”All we ask is an inquiry. What is National worried about? All we want is a fair deal,” said Mr Sam Lee.

If you would like any more information visit the bank inquiry website: http://www.bankinquiry.org.nz


Taranaki Whanui Settlement

Posted by on July 31st, 2009

A great day at Parliament yesterday for the Taranaki Whanui ki te Upoko o Te Ika with the passing of legislation to finalise their Treaty claim.  It is well worth folks from Wellington and beyond reading some of the historical account of that lies behind the settlement.  There are some unique elements to this settlement.   One is that in additional to the Crown apology for actions that breached the Treaty, the Taranaki Whanui have offered a statement of forgiveness.  This is an incredible gesture, and gives a positive platform for the future relations between the city and iwi.  The legislation also contains an opt-out clause for one of the iwi represented (Ngati Tama). This is not something that anyone wants to see become a practice in settlement legislation, but is reflective of the unique nature of the settlement covering Taranaki iwi, Te Atiawa, Ngati Ruanui, Ngati Mutunga and Ngati Tama.

We in Wellington all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Ngatata Love and his team, as well as all the officials and Ministers who have worked so hard on this claim. I said in my speech in the Third Reading yesterday that I intend to send the full Deed of Settlement to all schools in the city.  I think this is something everyone growing up in Wellington will benefit from understanding.


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Posted by on July 30th, 2009

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You be the Brash judge

Posted by on July 30th, 2009

Don Brash has made his first speech today at AUT since he was appointed to his new role as the chair of the National/Act government’s 2025 Taskforce.  Titled “Can we ever catch Australia” it gives an overview of the challenge according to Dr Brash.  For those interested in this debate, have a look at it and let me know your views.   Then I’ll tell you what I think!


People Power

Posted by on July 30th, 2009

I see from a recent NZ Energy & Environment weekly (15 July) that Contact Energy have lost an astounding 10% of their retail customer base. 10% of their customers is huge.

This followed their large increase in directors fees, but I for one think another reason is at play in Otago, where their customer base is substantial. Contact is proposing more hydro dams on the Clutha.

This is very unpopular down our way. Remember the “Save Manapouri” movement or the controversy over the Clyde dam (pushed through by empowering legislation by a National government).

Is the lesson for Contact is “don’t mess with our rivers if you want to keep your customers”?


Law Commission ‘Alcohol in our Lives’ issues paper

Posted by on July 30th, 2009

The Law Commission’s ‘Alcohol in our Lives’ Issues Paper was released today. My copy arrived at 11:45 so I haven’t had much of a chance to go through it yet but suffice to say Lianne Dalziel and I will be giving the report very serious consideration. Any discussion welcome here and I’ll post again when I’ve digested some of the material.


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Posted by on July 30th, 2009

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MPs’ expenses

Posted by on July 30th, 2009

At long last we have disclosure of individual MPs spending. I welcome it.

Read carefully – remember some MPs have to travel enormous distances to get to Wellington – often by car as well as plane,  some have Wellington accommodation costs, others don’t, and some portfolios mean that there is much more travel required.

Ministersial travel travel and accommodation spending  hereTravel Spending on travel and accommodation other than ministerial here.

Update: Here’s a PDF, total spending, rank order.

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Bills in todays ballot

Posted by on July 30th, 2009

Thought it was useful to post the full list rather than just Labour’s. I’m sure individual members would appreciate feedback.

    1. Beaumont Carol Auckland Regional Council and Manukau City Council Referenda Bill
    2. Boscawen John Crimes (Reasonable Parental Control and Correction) Amendment Bill
    3. Bradford Sue Social Security (Benefit Review and Appeal Reform) Amendment Bill
    4. Chauvel Charles Credit Reforms (Responsible Lending) Bill
    5. Choudhary Dr Ashraf Code of Airline Consumer Rights Bill
    6. Cosgrove Hon Clayton Christchurch International Airport Protection Bill
    7. Dalziel Hon Lianne Crimes (Abolition of Defence of Provocation) Amendment Bill
    8. Delahunty Catherine Animal Welfare Amendment Bill
    9. Douglas Hon Sir Roger Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill
    10. Fenton Darien Employment Relations (Statutory Minimum Redundancy Entitlements) Amendment Bill
    11. Fitzsimons Jeanette Smart Meters (Consumer Choice) Bill
    12. Flavell Te Ururoa Education (K?hanga Reo, Kura Kaupapa M?ori, and Early Childhood Standards) Amendment Bill
    13. Garrett David Crimes (Self-Defence) Amendment Bill
    14. Gilmore Aaron Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance (Break Fees Disclosure) Amendment Bill
    15. Graham Dr Kennedy International Non-Aggression and the Lawful Use of Force Bill
    16. Hague Kevin Climate Change (Government Vehicle Procurement) Bill
    17. Hawkins Hon George Papakura City Council and Franklin District Council Referenda Bill
    18. Kedgley Sue Consumer’s Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill
    19. Lees-Galloway Iain Smoke-free Environments (Removing Tobacco Displays) Amendment Bill
    20. Locke Keith Head of State Referenda Bill
    21. McClay Todd Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Easter Sunday Local Choice) Amendment Bill
    22. Moroney Sue Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months Paid Leave) Amendment Bill
    23. Norman Dr Russel Local Electoral Amendment Bill
    24. Parker Hon David Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Change of Date for Full Funding) Amendment Bill
    25. Pillay Lynne Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Bill
    26. Prasad Dr Rajen Rodney District Council and North Shore City Council Referenda Bill
    27. Ririnui Hon Mita Electoral (Entrenchment of M?ori Representation) Amendment Bill
    28. Robertson H V Ross Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill
    29. Turei Metiria Te Ture Whenua Maori Amendment Bill
    30. Twyford Phil Auckland City Council and Waitakere City Council Referenda Bill

      Update. The winners are:

      • 3 Bradford Sue Social Security (Benefit Review and Appeal Reform) Amendment Bill
      • 7 Dalziel Hon Lianne Crimes (Abolition of Defence of Provocation) Amendment Bill
      • 15 Graham Dr Kennedy International Non-Aggression and the Lawful Use of Force Bill

      Ethical trade bites the dust

      Posted by on July 29th, 2009

      Tonight I tried to move our arcane systems around trade forward a notch. I introduced a member’s bill to prohibit the importation of products made from slave labour. You wouldn’t think the government felt so concerned by it that they needed to reject it but that’s what they did.

      We seem to be able to prohibit products made from prison labour from getting into NZ but we can’t seem to do it around the fruits of slave labour.

      In the end, things are changing. Old economic orders have crumbled and we need to devise new ones. Raising the flag for ethical trade isn’t such a big ask is it? Certainly 17,000 Kiwi consumers represented by Geoff White and Trade Aid supported a petition to Parliament for just this kind of law. In a few years, ethical trade will be the name of the game and we won’t be trading if we can’t demonstrate some standards.

      I’m all in favour of free trade, but it doesn’t happen in a moral vacuum. Trade has to be at the right price – a fair price, an ethical price, not just any price.

      Foreign Affairs and Trade officials told the select committee which finally considered the petition earlier this year, just how hard it would be to get a form of words which could be enforced, as well as a mechanism to do it. Well, we did it and do it for products made from prison labour. It seems to me that what we are missing is the political will. My bill was lost 58 votes (Lab/Greens/Maori/Prog/United) to 63 (Nats/Act).

      You can be sure that if we never do anything, nothing will be done. Damn shame.


      Te Wiki o Te Reo Maaori! Arohatia te Reo!

      Posted by on July 29th, 2009

      He paku whakaaro mo teenei kaupapa – to taatou reo rangatira. E tino mihi rawa atu ki ngaa maatua tuupuna i kawe te reo me oona tikanga kei waenganui aa whaanau, kei runga i ngaa marae araa kei ngaa waahi katoa! Ahakoa ngaa toimahatanga i aua waa te whakakorengia i te reo Maaori kei waenganui i ngaa kura, e whia ngaa tau kua hipa e ora tonu ana te reo me oona tikanga. Ka Pai! Ko taaku nei, he tino taaonga mo taatou katoa, maaori maa paakehaa maa me ngaa taangata katoa. Inanahi i tukuna mai e Nickelodeon taa raatou taonga tiihaate hei whakanui i te wiki o te reo maaori. Ahakoa kaaore a Sponge Bob ( Tarau Porowhaa) he tino tangata maaku ko te mea pai kua piri atu teenei ki ngaa hootaka reo Maaori mo ngaa tamariki. He iti noa teenei, kia kaha koutou te koorero i te reo ahakoa ko wai, ahakoa no whea, ahakoa ki whea. Mauri Ora!

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      Nats fold on education questions

      Posted by on July 29th, 2009

      I posted a teaser on 4 July.

      Now the Education and Science Committee has met, reported to the house and confirmed minutes.

      The Committee on a 5 – 4 vote led by Jo Goodhew decided not to forward questions relating to the budget’s effect on regional and rural polytechnics and on universities and Ministry of Education advice on expenditure reductions. The Chair, Alan Peachy ruled the questions in order and relevant but then voted against sending it to the Minister  for answer.

      This approach was within standing orders but unprecedented. The estimates process is a key part of the opposition information collection system.  Labour and Green members were outraged.

      To help convince the government to return to the approach of previous govenments over the last twenty years I tabled over 1,000 questions and sent the minister over 100 OIAs.

      I was therefore not surprised when last week the National members of the committee folded, relented and allowed the questions to go from the committee to the Minister.

      Goodhew see a bit of humble pie being sampled.


      Bennett confirms she ordered access of database

      Posted by on July 29th, 2009

      Paula Bennett today confirmed that it was her office that accessed the SWIFT computer for the information released on two beneficiaries earlier this week.

      Being ordered to do so by Bennett will not save the staff member from the discipline which will follow.

      Doesn’t seem fair to me.


      OK for pansy to fundraise but not for oppos to talk about banking

      Posted by on July 29th, 2009

      The Speaker has made a big mistake denying the use of parliamentary rooms for the Lab/Prog/Green Banking inquiry when he had approved Pansy Wong running a $100/head fundraiser on 10 February in the parliamentary dining room.


      Back benches

      Posted by on July 29th, 2009

      From the Back Benches website:

      Kia Ora! E aha ana koe ? te p??. Wallace Chapman and the panel will be chatting about the week’s biggest issues: Climate Change-how do we cough up the change to cover the costs? And It’s Maori Language week-should it be compulsory learning in schools? Ka rawe te k?rero M?ori.

      Tonight at 9:10pm. The panel:

      Labour MP Brendon Burns,
      National MP Jacqui Dean, and
      Green Party MP Sue Kedgley, and
      National MP & Maori Affairs Select Committee Member Hekia Parata.

      TVNZ 7 is now available on Freeview (ch. 7) & SKY (ch. 97) Or you can watch on line at tvnz.co.nz/back-benches

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      What Would the Nats do with $416m?

      Posted by on July 29th, 2009

      Did anyone else think the figure of $416m the courts say the BNZ owes in tax sounded familiar?

      It is around the amount that Labour had committed to “Pathways to Partnership” funding from 2009 to 2012 - the process by which community organsiations were to be fully-funded for essential services they provide to vulnerable families for the Government.

      Labour had delivered the first round of this funding in 2008, but the National Government has shelved this commitment and now those community organisations are working under increasing pressure with these families in an economic recession without the pathways to partnership funding.

      Instead, they are having to compete against each other for the “Community Response Fund” where the criteria is so difficult to meet that many organisations in Hamilton tell me that they won’t qualify.

      Here is my question: If the BNZ has to pay back this tax money to the Government, will the Nats commit to pathways to partnership to support vulnerable families or will they find more inventive ways to give it away to the top 3% of earners (like they did with the April 1 tax cuts) or  will they find private schools more deserving?

      What do you think?


      He mokai te Paati Maori ma te Roopu Nahinara?

      Posted by on July 28th, 2009

      I te rangi nei i penei ai te whakautu mai i a Pita Sharples ki oku patai i roto i te whare. Nana te kii nei horekau ia e whakaae ana ki to te Kawana mahi poro i te putea  ma nga mahi a ACE. Engari, nana i poti ra tautoko hoki i te ture kia poroporoa tonutia nga putea. “Kei runga te korero, kei raro te rahurahu!”

      Nana hoki i kii, na te kirimana i waenga tonu i te Paati Maori me te Nahinara mo te Tahua Putea, i kore ai i ahei ki te whakakahore i nga poronga putea.

      Koia taaku i kii nei, kua riro te Paati Maori hei mokai ma te Roopu Nahinara.


      Real anger at ACE cuts

      Posted by on July 28th, 2009

      People have to be really motivated to turn out en masse to a meeting on a public issue. So it was last night at Papanui High School Hall in Chch. No less than 500 people came to a meeting organised by the school’s principal Denis Pyatt. He allowed Chch ACE coordinator Maryke Fordyce to open. She pulled no punches, describing the 80 percent cut to ACE high school night class budgets as educational sabotage.  The Government would be lying to continue calling the classes “community education” she said because the community was not consulted and would no longer be able to afford to attend the classes. She noted that education had thrived in NZ despite two world wars and a Depression and now a single Minister was wiping those achievements.  Maryke urged the government to review its cuts. Denis Pyatt spoke next. He said he had two hours with John Key recently and told the PM that the government had under-estimated the impact and reaction to the ACE cuts. Key replied, “You are probably right!” Denis estimated that with a supportive board (it’s a mid decile school) he may be able to continue some course next year but classes are at risk  for 2500 students next year  and 60+ tutors could go. And fees would rise steeply.

      The first of the two Nats, Nicky Wagner, said Anne Tolley had really wanted to be there, causing a sustained Tui moment. She traversed the usual arguments about the biggest ever education budget at $10.8b and the focus would now be on literarcy, numeracy, Te Reo and foundation skills. Aaron Gilmore did the “tough decisions must be made” line and alienated everyone with inept references to having to choose between funding people with disablities and those wanting “hobby” courses. (More on that from Lianne Dalziel who took the strongest offence.) 

      Maryan Street demolished the two hapless Nats. She pointed out that the cuts total just $13m a year, affecting 220,000 New Zealanders; that it was a nonsense to think people will go to courses labelled “literacy” or ”numeracy” – that these were embedded in many courses which appealed to people. Maryan noted there is adifference between hard decisions and wrong decisions – and the ACE cuts were the latter.  And she put a human face on what ACE courses do, like the Belfast woman she met earlier in the day who learnt cake decorating and who now works in a cake shop. She said a great deal of harm was being done to save a piffling amount of money in a $10.8b budget.

      The  meeting then opened to an hour of questioning, all directed at the two Govt MPs, including from a woman with a son in a private school who begged them to redirect the $35m given to private schools in the Budget to keep ACE and the public education system going.  Unanimous votes were passed to rescind the cuts and to support a National Day of Action in September.

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      Tolley – it is all for sale

      Posted by on July 28th, 2009

      In the House today Anne Tolley refused to rule out the transfer of currently owned school land and buildings to PPPs and refused to give one example of an educational service that she would not consider privatising. Of course that includes teachers.

      Brash is sure back.