There used to be a webcam in the Beehive Theatrette run by R2 that broadcast the PM’s Post-Cabinet press conference. Anyone who wanted to could go to the site and watch the press conference live and uncut. It was direct access for the public, the very model of digital democracy. Now, that service is gone. R2 was being asked to pay unaffordable ‘sponsorship’ to have the webcam and Parliament blocked access for maintenance. So much for transparency.
Why has this happened? Isn’t it in John Key’s and the government’s interests to have footage of his post -Cabinet media conference available to the public?
Maybe they’ve decided it’s not in their interests?
And doesn’t this decision smack of less transparency?
Not sure how it happened, so will favour the cock up rather than conspiracy theory until proven otherwsie.
Can someone tell us why? Cost cutting?
And what’s the deal with asking R2 to pay “sponsorship” to broadcast the Prime Minister’s press conference?
During recess we often get to spend five, six or seven days working as local MPs. Lots of people think the most interesting stuff happens in Parliament – but thats not my view. Today wasn’t that unusual but thought readers would be interested in the variety.
Radio interview re Christchurch Festival of Cycling which I’m supporting next weekend.
Meeting with parent of kid who is caught between being able to cope at school and being eligible for special needs support.
School visit to a local intermediate whose principal showed me documentary evidence of the way the school (decile 3) is outperforming national norms on standardised literacy and writing tests. And making well above average progress. And not using Tolley’s standards. Got a bit pissed off when a young teacher suggested I was soft on Tolley at morning tea Q&A.
Meeting with local NZEI reps.
Meeting with local police, retailers, mall management, community leaders re recent antisocial behaviour by a few local youths.
Session with guy on health reform.
Discussion on proposed church drop in centre and shoppers’ creche.
Graduation ceremony for care workers getting their first ever qualifications.
I’m in Cancun, Mexico, at the 16th UN Climate Change Conference. Like last year at the 15th Conference in Copenhagen, I am representing Labour as its climate spokesperson; I paid my own way to get here; I am part of the delegation from the International Trade Union Confederation (thanks to Helen Kelly and Sharan Burrow). I’ve done it this way so as to retain an independent voice from the NZ Government delegation to the Conference. I’m here to support efforts to get an ambitious, binding, global deal to limit the problems that we are all likely to face as a result of human-induced climate change, and to support a just transition to the different world we are all to shortly going to find ourselves living in.
Unlike last year, climate change isn’t the big topic on everyone’s mind. John Key hasn’t had to bow to public pressure and agree to come to the conference. Expectations are low for progress to be made this year, especially given Democrat losses at the mid-term elections, and the developing world’s (understandable) reluctance to move to reduce carbon emissions while the US looks unlikely to do so.
So why am I here? Well, just because the media isn’t talking about it so much doesn’t mean that the issue isn’t just as serious as it was last year. My aunts’ home in Tahiti, 6m from the high tide line, is no less likely to be washed away by rising sea levels than it was last year. Millions of people in their position in developing countries are no more able to afford to mitigate or adapt to the effects of human-induced climate change than they were in December last year. The figleaf of a much watered-down ETS aside, National is still failing to put in place any meaningful policies at home to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and also still failing to provide any moral leadership internationally on the climate issue.
In fact, if anything, the situation has worsened since Copenhagen. According to Oxfam, twice the number of people died from extreme climate events in the first 9 months of 2010 as died from them in the whole of 2009. Global GHG emissions continue to rise. Temperature increases over the medium term seem likely to be in the 4 degree range, rather than the 2 degrees that was regarded only last year at Copenhagen as the minimum acceptable level. Don’t even get me started on how much more is now understood about the the likely disastrous effects of increased ocean acidification.
We can all do so much better. We need to get human-induced climate change back on the media’s agenda and back on the minds of the public. And we need to promote and be part of ambitious, binding, and just global solutions to the problem.
I’ll be posting from Cancun every couple of days on progress (positive and negative) made here.
The Aussie government has made the connection between truck related deaths and rates of pay, while our government continues to pretend that squeezing drivers’ pay through unfair contracting has no impact on our death and injury toll.
The Secretary for Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins has released a discussion paper, which canvasses a range of practical strategies to reduce deaths and improve road safety in the heavy transport industry.
Called the “Safe Rates, Safe Roads” paper, it explores options for a national approach to truck drivers’ pay and conditions and safety measures across the industry.
Built on the back of a Safe Rates Advisory Group set up by the Labor government last term, the government has managed to bring the industry, unions and other road users together for an honest appraisal of the problems of speed and fatigue in the road transport industry and the economic incentives for drivers to engage in unsafe work practices.
The Australians have come up with a clear body of evidence linking pay rates to safety on their roads. Like here, drivers feel pressure to work long hours to meet schedules, leading to work time breaches, speeding and cutting corners on maintenance.
The discussion paper examines a system of safe pay rates so drivers can work legally and safely and at the same time ensure that everyone is safe on the roads.
Meanwhile, we have “Safer Journeys” and the associated legislation which is due to be reported back in a week or so. A lot about young drivers and the BAC, but not much in it about trucks, even although we know the road freight task is going to double in the next couple of decades.
Ultrafast broadband is supposed to benefit New Zealanders. Yes?
In his biggest 2008 pre-election pledge, John Key promised that for $1,5 billion, 75% of NZers would get ultrafast broadband in their workplaces, schools and homes. Steven Joyce was tasked with delivering it.
But is it going to happen? And will Kiwis be able to afford it?
More than two years since the election there are no decisions made and no fibre in the ground.
The govt was forced to admit last year it could not deliver broadband to homes, rather to streets. We don’t know how much it will cost consumers to connect, though industry analysts have estimated up to $2000 per household
The discussions and negotiations on the $1.5 billion ( ultrafast broadband scheme have been conducted behind closed doors with the veil of commercial sensitivity used to prevent public scrutiny and discussion by the industry.
Steven Joyce shifted the goalposts on the UFB tender mid year with little public discussion.
The shortlisted bidders for the UFB excluded a major bidder (Vodafone/Axia) with little explanation.
The role of Telecom has dogged the broadband debate from day one. The government has allowed a parallel situation to develop where Telecom is using its agreement to structurally separate as a negotiating tool (some would say a weapon).
The government has said that the only way Telecom can participate in the UFB process is to structurally separate into legally separate companies.
Late last week the government introduced the Telecommunications Amendment Bill to the House. It will enshrine in law a 10 year holiday from price regulation for whoever wins the urban broadband contract.
The Commerce Commission will be prevented from playing a watchdog role on broadband fibre prices
The government says it will introduce an amendment to the new Bill at the select committee to accommodate required changes to Telecom structurally separating (if it decides to do so)
If Telecom decides to structurally separate, the government could give it a major tax break.
The Commerce Commission has expressed concern that Telecom’s structural separation proposal will ultimately benefit investors rather than the end-users of its products
A major bid in for rural broadband, covering 25% of NZ could result in a commercial monopoly by Vodafone and Telecom. Despite claiming it encourages competition, this could create a price fixing regime for rural NZ which would no doubt push into urban NZ.
There are serious perceptions of conflict of interest on the board of Crown Fibre Holdings; the company established to roll out ultrafast broadband. The government and CFH are ignoring these claims and stonewalling concerns.
There are many other issues which I could list here.
All in all, does it sound to you as if the people of New Zealand and the affordability of broadband is the core consideration here? I don’t think so.
The average cost for the ordinary Kiwi of a fixed telephone line, broadband and mobile connection all amount to more than $150 month. That’s a lot. For many people, it’s much more. Not taking into account their Sky connection. NZers pay significantly more than the average consumer in the OECD.
Will ultrafast broadband be more expensive on top of these costs? If so, will people pay more? Should they? Can they afford more?
Is it important that they can afford it? Isn’t this why the government has committed so much public money towards this new network?
More than 12,000 people have signed an on-line petition and 3,000 people have sent emails to Steven Joyce opposing the government’s decision to charge for access to basic vehicle registration data on the NZTA computer.
Currently, consumers can access free vehicle reports through websites like CarJam. This has helped identify cars with dodgy odometers, cars with no warrant or registration and stolen vehicles being offered for sale to unsuspecting consumers.
But NZTA’s decision to charge for basic vehicle information will add another unwelcome cost to the purchase of a car and will discourage consumers from checking whether the car they are buying is safe and legal.
I’m concerned at the impact this will have on struggling families who could end up buying a dodgy car, and in doing so, also put lives at risk with unsafe vehicles on the road. Buying a car is one of the biggest outgoings for many families and it is critical they are able to get the best possible information about their purchase.
I’m told that the cost of gathering, storing and providing this information is already covered by motor registration fees, so that effectively the agency would be double-dipping with the proposed charges.
For an interesting recess activity watch/attend Back Benches this week
VOLUNTARY VS. COMPULSORY: The Voluntary Student Membership is set to pass Parliament. Will it gut the Student Unions? Does it keep financially-strapped students out of student activities? Or does it force the Student Unions to become more accountable? Does VSM mean Student Unions will become more democratic, more of what students want?
WORKING FOR WELFARE: The working welfare group has released its report. What’s proposed? Strict time limits on benefit, work-for-the-dole and solo mothers to work. What should be adopted? Is the benefit too easy to get? Is it too easy to stay on it? Or are we at the risk of being too cruel to our most vulnerable? Does the welfare system need a re-vamp? Can we afford the welfare system without changes? Is welfare a safety-net or an entitlement?
Join us for a night of LIVE pub politics from the Backbencher Pub: Wednesday, 1st of December 9pm or drink from 7ish. The panel: ACT on Campus Peter McCaffrey, Young Greens Co-Convener Holly Walker, Young Labour President Analiese Jackson, and Young Nats President Daniel Fielding.
He inferred that most politicians raising questions and exploring the reasons for the explosions at Pike River will be tainted with “exploiting the catastrophe for selfish political motives”.
John by writing that you do two things:
1. You perpetuate the view that politics is somehow “dirty” and “bad”. Is that what you really think?
2. You are undermining the questioner and the questions. That means it will be much harder to get to the truth. Is that really your intention?
Instead, asking the hard questions and seeking answers to them is what we would expect and what we require from our politicians. And from our media. Surely!
29 men died. Their families want answers. Their community wants answers. Politicians were elected to ask questions.
Armstrong appears to be framing the Pike River aftermath so that from the Opposition Benches only Jim Anderton has credibility in asking the hard questions about what went wrong.
I’m happy that Jim will be doing it.
But according to Armstrong, Labour can’t because we’ll be cynically exploiting the catastrophe for the wrong reasons, or showing desperation. What rubbish!
The union movement can’t because they (according to Armstrong) want payback “for the humiliation the Combined Trade Unions incurred over The Hobbit”. More rubbish!
Not sure what he thinks about the Greens asking questions.
On day one of the Pike River explosion I raised on Twitter the importance of hard questions being asked of the company responsible for Pike River Mine. I raised the issue of the Beaconsfield Mine collapse in Tasmania and the important role played by the (AWU) union in bringing health and safety issues to the fore.
And I encouraged the media to ask the tough questions. They are the ones who are placed to ask them. And not be put off by cries of insensitivity. Or inappropriateness. Let’s hope they do.
Fran O’Sullivan, also writing yesterday in the Herald, believes that the hard questions need to be asked and the vested interests of everyone taken into account. I agree.
My vested interest is to determine why this disaster happened, make sure it doesn’t happen again and bring some accountability. It’s the truth that matters here. All questions are important, even if they are scoffed at by some.
Politicians, no matter what side of politics they are on must ask the hard questions. Otherwise, they’re not doing their jobs.
I know there’s a bunch of MPs who’ve spent time at Pike River over the last week and a bit. All of them, from across the political spectrum, have done their best to contribute in whatever way they could to the immense tragedy. This post applies to all of them.
I just want to acknowledge three colleagues; Damien O’Connor who dropped everything and headed to Greymouth on the Friday evening of the mine accident. The West Coast is his patch. And I can’t imagine what the last week has been like for him.
And Rick Barker. We spent last Saturday together in Mana during the by-election. I know his mind and heart was on the West Coast and he headed there the next day. Rick grew up on the Coast.
And of course Phil Goff. He’s been there as much as could be this week. To be honest nothing else really mattered.
They are among the ones who’ve seen first hand the effect this tragedy has had on the people affected. Think they need support too.
As previously discussedhere, the merger of the National Library and Archives New Zealand into the Department of Internal Affairs is a piece of epic back to the future nonsense. The report of the Select Committee is out, including an extensive minority report from Labour.
Now it is out I wanted, and the submissions made to the Committee are public I wanted to highlight two comments from those who were involved when Archives NZ was last part of DIA. A former Chief Archivist said
“thousands of unique items that have relevance today have been lost by fire, water, vermin and indifference”.
“the past management of the archives function has an unfortunate history, characterised by arrested development, lack of resourcing, poor understanding, litigation, rancour and distrust”
and that ladies and gentlemen is what the government want to take us back to.
Hooton this week. I reckon the reason a by-election is thought to be less likely in Botany is because the informed money has the resignation being delayed until February to enable an August general election. I also think there is money to be made selling Key and buying Goff.
This week’s snapshot of New Zealand’s prediction market, iPredict Ltd, indicates that by-elections are likely in Manurewa and Botany next year, before a cliff-hanger General Election in Q4 2011 which will see the Maori Party hold the balance of power and choose to give John Key a second term as prime minister. Except under one scenario, detailed below, the post-election balance in Parliament does not change under different assumptions about the results of electorate races in Epsom, Ohariu and Ikaroa-Rawhiti.
The market continues to forecast that the General Election will be held in Q4 2011 (78% probability, up from 77% last week), with a 21% probability of an early election in Q3 2011 (up from 19% last week).
Forecast party vote shares are: National 45.0% (up from 43.8% last week), Labour 36.6% (up from 35.4% last week), Greens 8.3% (steady), New Zealand First 4.5% (up from 4.1% last week), Maori Party 3.1% (steady), Act 2.4% (up from 2.3% last week) and United Future 0.3% (down from 0.4% last week).
Act Leader Rodney Hide has a 55% probability of retaining Epsom for his party, up from 52% last week.
For the first time, the market is indicating that Labour will retain Ikaroa-Rawhiti so that the Maori Party will not increase its representation in Parliament from its current five MPs.
United Future Leader Peter Dunne is not forecast to be re-elected in Ohariu. National is favoured with 37% probability, steady compared with last week.
Winston Peters is not forecast to win a seat in Parliament.
Based on this data, the market is forecasting the following Parliament: National 57 MPs, Labour 46 MPs, Greens 10 MPs, Maori Party 5 MPs and Act 3 MPs. There would be 121 MPs, requiring a government to have the support of 61 MPs on confidence and supply.
National and Act would have a combined 60 MPs and Labour and the Greens a combined 56 MPs. The Maori Party would therefore be able to choose whether to support a National-led or Labour-led government, with a decision to abstain on confidence and supply being a tacit decision to allow National and Act to govern.
The market is forecasting a 79% probability that there will be a National prime minister after the next election (up from 78% last week), indicating the market believes the Maori Party would decide to support a National-led government.
Because of the importance and closeness of the electorate races in Epsom, Ohariu and Ikaroa-Rawhiti, iPredict has again analysed what parliamentary balance would exist based on all possible combinations of outcomes in these electorates.
Stocks launched yesterday about the likelihood of by-elections before the General Election in Manurewa and Botany indicate both are expected, with a 72% probability of the former and a 60% probability of the latter. However, the market does not expect Botany MP Pansy Wong to resign from Parliament until next year, with a 64% probability she will still be the MP on 31 December 2010.
The market does not believe there will be a by-election in Te Atatu, indicating it believes Independent MP Chris Carter will not resign from Parliament before the General Election.
The market indicates an 81% probability voters will elect to retain the MMP voting system in the referendum to be held on election day.
I thought Annette did us proud yesterday with this tribute to the Pike River miners. Text version for those who prefer to read:
Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour): The Labour Opposition joins all parties in this House in sending our sympathy to the families and friends of the 29 men who perished in the Pike River Coal mine disaster yesterday. We are also thinking of the people of the West Coast who have woken this morning to the reality of the loss, knowing that all hope of life has been extinguished.
Not a day goes by that we do not hear or read of a tragedy somewhere in the world from natural or human causes—earthquakes to floods, famine to fire—and we watch the passing parade of pictures on our television sets. We feel sad at their loss and we shake our heads at the enormity of their tragedy, but nothing hurts like the death of your own. Twenty-nine men have died, and although five of them are from other countries—Scotland, Australia, and South Africa—they now lie alongside our men and they too are now New Zealanders.
There will be very few people in New Zealand today who do not feel a sense of loss and deep sadness as we look at the faces of the family members, the rescuers, the community leaders, and the clergy, all grief-stricken at their loss and frustrated at their inability to save those lives. As the headlines in our newspaper said today, it is “Our darkest hour”. So many words have already been said and written over the past 6 days, and no doubt many more will follow. Eventually, the stories of this tragedy will also become part of the West Coast legend.
On Friday the Mayor of Grey District, Tony Kokshoorn, who has shown incredible leadership, said that there was a little bit of the West Coast in all of us. I think he is right. But there is a little bit of the coalminer in many of us, as well. My old dad started his working life at 14 years of age in the Owen River mine, 13 miles north of Murchison. His dad worked in the mine too. And his dad before him worked in the Denniston mine, where he broke his back in a mining accident. And his dad was a miner from Jarrow, County Durham, who came to New Zealand for a better life—and my generation got that better life. That will be a familiar story for thousands of New Zealanders whose family grew out of a mining tradition on the West Coast, or in Southland, Huntly, or Waih?.
When most of us think of working in a coalmine, we think of dirt and dust and darkness, hard labour, and danger. But for those who go down the mines it is a way of life. Few other jobs build the sense of brotherhood and loyalty to each other that miners have. The West Coast reputation of stoic, strong fighters arises out of that mining tradition. Now all that strength of character and fighting spirit are going to be needed in the days ahead. As John Crowley, a West Coaster writing in the Dominion Post said today, “what will tomorrow bring … It will bring a heavy blanket of abject sadness.”, until the region rises again from this devastating experience. It will rise again, and they will not be alone.
This morning I was talking to Rick Barker. He is a boy from Runanga, who has spent the last 5 days in Greymouth. He said what a close-knit community it is. In one street in Runanga, Ranfurly Street, two grieving mothers live just a short distance apart. Many others in that street are connected to the miners who died. Rick said there have been 5 days of dread, 5 days of hope, 5 days of courage, and 5 days of great leadership, but now is the time to mourn, and to focus on retrieving the bodies of the men so that there can be closure for their families. Then there will be a time to find out what went wrong.
A few months back Simon Collins also wrote a piece on a West Auckland solo mum called Sara – she got in touch with me around that time and we’ve been in contact since.
Following the article about her in the paper, Simon got a number of calls from people who wanted to help Sara by way of monetary and food donations. Simon wrote a follow up article that identified the support shown from the public. Not long after the Minister of Social Develoment’s office contacted Simon asking him to let Sara know that she must contact her local WINZ office to declare any such support, as it may impact on the amount she is entitled to received for her Domestic Purposes benefit. Paula’s office also advised Sara to apply for a Housing NZ House – my office assisted her with this, but unfortunately she is not deemed to be a ‘priority’.
It has been impossible for this mother to get her head above water. She’s done everything right. She walked out an abusive relationship for the safety of her and her daughter. She enrolled in a degree at Unitec, in a course of study that will not only assist her with getting work in an area that she’s passionate about, but will also allow her to earn a reasonable income to support her daughter. Let’s also not forget that by studying towards a degree, she’s also role modelling an appreciation for education and academic achievement. She doesn’t smoke or drink and is careful about every single cent she spends.
And yet, now she’s told me that she can no longer afford to continue her course of study. She’s in the process of looking for work so that she can feed her daughter and herself as well as hopefully buy her daughter a few Xmas presents. Her plan is to cross credit papers to another institution which will allow her to study part time. This s not what she wants but she has not choice.
Given the legislative and policy changes that have taken place under National, my hands are tied with respect to getting her any help. The only thing I can do is provide her personal support but what worries me is that there are hundreds if not thousands of other women in this predicament – How do we help them?
It’s finally out. The business case for the Auckland’s CBD rail loop. And what a compelling case.
The pure transport cost-benefit is 1.1 (at the standard Treasury 8% discount rate). But the wider economic cost-benefit take it up to a whopping 3.5.
As it says, “the benefits of the CBD Rail Link far exeed the travel time savings due to enhanced transport efficiency”. It “increases CBD employment by 20,000 to 25,000 without requiring additional road capacity or using scarce CBD land for additional parking. This enables the Auckland CBD to become a much more vibrant and exciting pedestrian environment … .”
The overall impact will be a “more exciting and vibarnt sense of place enable Auckland to serve as New Zealand’s outward facing global city for retaining and attracting the highly educated younger workforce that will underpin productivity growth (and also international competitiveness) in the future”.
Now compare the figures with Joyce’s Holiday Highway. It has a transport cost-benefit of 0.8 – less than a dollar back for every dollar spent.
And the wider benefits? Just 1.1. Pathetic versus 3.5 for the CBD loop. We certainly need to upgrade SH 1, it’s just that we don’t need to do it with a brand new motorway.
How can Joyce justify spending up to $2 billion on that road when this case is so compelling.
Our rear-vision minister will need to be creative with his figures to justify his spending.
It has been gutting to wake up this morning in London to hear of the second explosion, and the confirmation of the deaths of the miners. New Zealand feels both far away and very close at hand today.
For what it is worth, throughout the last few days the colleagues from around the Commonwealth at my conference have taken a keen interest and expressed their sympathy. This morning a number have contacted me in the last few minutes to pass on their condolences. They are expressing their support and concern as family members, former visitors to New Zealand, MPs with mines and miners in their constituencies, but above all as fellow human beings who can feel the tragedy. All New Zealanders, most particularly the miners, their families and the Coast community, should know we are in the thoughts of many around the world.
These are the voices of Labour MPs on issues that we care about - and we'd like to hear what you think too. What you’ll read are the individual opinions of MPs. We won’t always agree with each other and sometimes our opinions may change.