Red Alert

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It’s happening again.

Posted by on March 7th, 2013

An article in a small provincial paper”The Marlborough Express’ recently caught my eye. It  was a story about  threats to cut surgical and orthopedic services at the Wairau hospital in Blenheim.

Alarm bells rang for me. Have not we been here before?  Thankfully some of us have long memories.  It was in the late nineties the previous National government decided to gut the regions by closing or cutting health services. Their aim was to centralise services to a few major centres leaving our small and in some cases not so small regions with basic health care and a requirement for the patients to travel long distances for treatment .

The people’s response was quick and very definite – no way! Thousands  gathered, marched and held hands around their hospitals, in Kaitaia, Whakatane, Thames, Masterton and Reefton.  Others held large public meetings where hundreds turned out including Blenheim.

It was only after the election of the Labour government in 1999 that the drive to strip the regions of their health care was stopped. We rebuilt and remodeled hospitals and health services from Kaitaia to Invercargill and many places in between.  I was fortunate enough to get to open many of the new facilities.  Unfortunately Thames new hospital was not one of them, opened soon after the change of government by  Mr Ryall, the new minister from a government that had opposed it!  ( Labour’s invite obviously got lost in the mail) .

In 1998/99 the people of Marlborough were facing cuts to their surgical services. Their hospital was old with little improvement in the buildings over many years. It was ripe for the National Party axe. Not only were the cuts stopped but a Labour government rebuilt a new hospital on the site.  Mr Ryall was again  fortunate to get to open it lauding the new  facilities, all his own work!

On Wednesday night over 500 people gathered at the Convention Centre in Blenheim. There was standing room only. The organisers were required to open up more space but there was still  not enough seats to accommodate them all. The debate was courteous but determined. The members of the DHB attending were given not only  clear and cogent reasons why the services had to stay but  suggestions for savings that could be made.

It was made clear if after hour surgical services were not available then midwifery services would cease.  It’s not possible to run a full maternity service without access to emergency caesarian facilities. Senior doctors made it clear if these services go others would follow. They were also angry they had not even been consulted on the proposed changes.

An ambulance driver who has had to drive patients to Nelson(the place where the services would go) spoke of the 2 hour drive over a mountain range on a road that has  continuous log trucks traveling on it.

Brian Dawson from the Chamber of Commerce made a very strong submission for the retention of their health services. He said they were anxious at the ability to retain people in the region if there was not good quality schools, community facilities and hospital services.  He spoke of the loyalty of the region to the National Party over many years and it was now time for that loyalty to be reciprocated. He ended his contribution with ‘we will fight to the end’.

Perhaps the most compelling argument came from Dr Linda Scott, former National MP for Marlborough who said quite bluntly-‘people will die’.

It hasn’t taken long for this government to start to attack the health services in the regions of New Zealand.  Keep an eye  on  Ashburton and Westport, there is more to come.

I was glad I was there to hear the communities concerns and to catch up with those who are prepared to speak out. It’s not easy in this current environment where the Minister is swift in censoring any opposition. Just ask the local National  MP Colin King who wanted to hold a public meeting to discuss the proposed cuts but was overruled by Mr Ryall!

Labour is committed to strong regional development  including the provision of  important social services. This is a policy area you will hear more about over the next 18 months.

And so it’s Christmas.

Posted by on December 25th, 2012

‘So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun

The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Lets hope it’s a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Lets stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Lets hope it’s good one
Without any fear.’…

Apology to the late John Lennon but those words have come back to me this Christmas.

‘The war is over’ is his final line. I wish that were true. In a world torn with violence, millions of people are still in harms way. Then there is here at home. For many New Zealanders this Christmas will be yet another battle of survival.

‘And so it is Christmas
And what have you done?

What we have done is to set a new policy direction
for New Zealand, a different path to the one of the past 30 years. Too much has failed for too many people .

In a country with child poverty growing, unaffordable housing, huge social division, few jobs and fading hope for young people, a political party can either grab hold of the problems and address them or pretend they don’t exist, talk  in slogans and blame others for the plight.

We choose to do something about it.

‘A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Lets hope it’s good one
Without any fear’

0800 Job Shuffle at HNZ

Posted by on June 7th, 2012

70 Housing New Zealand staff made redundant in April have good reason to feel let down as National’s drive for efficiency has seen them almost immediately replaced with call centre staff.

Housing New Zealand won’t be the last government department to fall victim to National’s short-sighted drive for efficiencies.


Filed under: housing

David Shearer Unplugged

Posted by on May 12th, 2012

I had a great time on Thursday taking David Shearer to visit the wonderful electorate of Rongotai. Despite the weather, we had a great time meeting so many interesting people and visiting some amazing businesses. One of the highlights for David was getting a chance to have a play with one of Dave Gilberd’s beautiful hand-made guitars at Goldbeard Guitars in Owhiro Bay.

David Shearer Unplugged.

Time for transparency.

Posted by on April 11th, 2012

It was only a few months ago rate payers took to the streets to protest the pay increases given to some CEOs of local government.  They were outraged at the size of increases and the process used by some councils to make decisions about terms, conditions and remuneration for their CEOs.

The most galling was the $68,000 pay increase given to Tony Marriott, CEO of Christchurch City Council.  Here was a city on its knees with people homeless, businesses in ruin and many without a job.  All were facing hard work and a daily struggle.  But some on the Council thought it an appropriate time to reward Mr Marriott for his ‘hard work’.

Mr Marriott didn’t help by trying to justify a pay increase through the media.  The interview with him in ‘The Press’ incensed the public even more.  Eventually Mr Marriott backed down, somewhat reluctantly, and decided not to accept such a huge increase.  But the damage was done.  The public want a more transparent and independent process.

My member’s bill ‘Local Government( Salary Moderation) Amendment Bill‘ now lodged for the next ballot, will address many of the concerns people have expressed.


Is anyone listening over in the Beehive?

Posted by on March 22nd, 2012

While the media and commentators have focused on Nick Smith’s folly this week the housing crisis in Christchurch has barely got a mention. Add the problems Canterbury people are facing finding a place to live to the Auckland housing crisis and alarm bells ought to be sounding in the Beehive. All we can hear however is the sound of panic, polling and bottom minding! When they finally wake up to a real issue, many people would have joined the exodus to Australia, currently running at an all time high of 1000 a week.

Memorable Leadership?

Posted by on March 8th, 2012

Have you read the latest Management Magazine? (March 2012).

Its not a regular read of mine either. But on flicking through it yesterday I discovered an interesting article entitled ‘Memorable leadership?’ written by Reg Birchfield, a writer on leadership, governance and management.

The article is about John Key. It discusses our economic prospects initially then argues poor leadership can thwart the most promising of ( economic) circumstances.

The question is asked”Will John Key rise to the occasion, not just competently but inspirationally?Does he look like a leader determined to deliver us the promised land?”

The article then goes on to set out the reasons why it will be a stretch for Key to deliver.

“Key’s ego is overt. And generally, inflated egos and political leadership are constant companions. More relevant is whether or not he has a vision for New Zealand. If he has,he has steadfastly refused to share it. That’s usually a bad sign but, again,it’s prevalent in political leaders.

Key’s disinclination to share his vision suggests a lack of willingness to commit and reluctance to be honest about future intentions. That in turn suggests a leadership approach based on knowing what’s best,and believing that what’s best is not for sharing.

That’s strange, because principled and well-articulated visions generally stand up to scrutiny. And great visions are worth defending. The best leaders even use them to inspire people to help realise the dream.

These are complicated times. The issues confronting nations like ours are complex. Great leaders have the capacity to distil and explain issues, and to take the team with them. Key seems to have a strong personal following.He could probably sell his vision if he had one and he believed it was truly worth pursuing. The fact that he doesn’t, suggests a leadership strategy based more on expedience than inspiration”

Well Mr Birchfield said it.

It’s not a problem, it’s a crisis

Posted by on February 22nd, 2012

Yesterday Phil Twyford and I spent the day meeting with key people involved in housing and urban development in Auckland. I recommend Phil Heatley the Minister of ‘no Housing ‘ does the same. He might learn something.

Auckland needs to house another million people over the next 30 years requiring an extra 400,000 dwellings.  That is an impossible task without a long term strategy and total commitment from government, local government and both the private and community sectors. 

The Auckland Council has drawn up a draft Auckland Plan looking forward 30 years. It emphasises a commitment to a quality compact Auckland region. Feedback from Aucklanders has made it clear they want a bold visionary strategy.  They also want the impact of development on the heritage and character of the region to be considered.  And they want the ‘housing crisis’ addressed!

Auckland Council with all the good will in the world won’t achieve their plan on their own.  Around 13,000 new houses a year need to be built every year for the next 30 years.  That is a quantum leap from where we are now.  In 1992 around 4,800 houses were being built a year. The number peaked at 12,000 between 2001 and 2005.  In the latest figures the number has plunged to just over 2,000. (more…)

More murky backroom deals by National

Posted by on June 9th, 2011

Another National Party Budget, another untendered contract to its mates.

National has been up to its old tricks again. One year after Bill English was shamed into reversing a dodgy deal giving a multimillion dollar contract to an unknown, untested and National Party-aligned Pacific economic development agency in Auckland, called Peda, National has been caught out trying the same thing again.

You’d never know it from any Budget 2011 documents, because it was heavily disguised (National obviously learned at least one lesson from the Peda debacle), but National has this time awarded a $2 million contract to Auckland company Parents Inc without opening the contract to other providers in New Zealand.   

John Key told Parents Inc before the last election that he wanted to do business with them. The company is run by just-resigned Families Commissioner Bruce Pilbrow, who was handpicked for the commissioner’s job by Paula Bennett and who admitted he lobbied hard from within to get the big contract.

The programme the companies charges parents between $50 and $100 to use is called a Toolbox. It might well be a good programme but it is not possible to tell. The evaluation  Toolbox 29 march 2010 was never completed. Or if it was Paula Bennett is hiding it.

You’d also never know whether it was the best programme of its kind in New Zealand because no other company was asked to tender. There are equivalent programmes available .

I am seeking answers and will continue to try to get to the bottom of this dodgy deal.

John Key and Bill English are forever telling people to tighten their belts because money is tight. Why then did they bend the rules to award this contract to Parents Inc when a more effective  and better value for money programme could have been found elsewhere?

 One rule for them and their friends, another for the rest of us, it seems.

Key claims to have been PM for eight years

Posted by on May 18th, 2011

John Key didn’t have time to look at the balance of his parliamentary superannuation fund over the past eight or nine years because according to him he has been too busy being PM.

Weird we thought he had only been in the job for three.

Filed under: national

John Key speeds away from Struggle Street in new BMW

Posted by on May 4th, 2011

Recently a Timaru Woman, Melissa Voice, challenged John Key to spend a few days in her shoes to find out how much of a financial struggle life can be.

Melissa is a single mum with two children. She works, she is debt free and lives within her means. She is doing all the right things but is still finding life a financial struggle. Like many Kiwis she is going backwards.

Her request to meet with John Key isn’t unreasonable – he has been PM for 2 ½ years now, during which time the cost of living has far outpaced incomes. This despite promising that everyone would be better off with him at the helm.

Melissa Voice should be applauded for speaking out and I will be more than happy to meet with her when I am next in Timaru.

For John Key, meeting everyday New Zealanders like Melissa Voice and hearing their stories should be a golden opportunity to show he is in touch with their concerns.

Clearly though, these kinds of meetings don’t meet his test of what is a good media “photo op”.

Mr Key has also recently declined invitations to spend time at food banks to see first-hand how tough life is for growing numbers of Kiwis.

Food banks around the country have reported a massive increase in demand for food banks and some like the one here in Wellington have run out of food, for the first time since the 1990s.

John Key and his government have brought in policies that have made most middle and low income people worse off, including raising gst at a time of rising prices, giving the lion’s share of tax cuts to the well off, increasing the cost of ECE and increasing ACC charges and doctors’ fees.   

The least he can do is face them when asked why.

Paula Bennett then and now

Posted by on April 29th, 2011

I came across a YouTube video of Paula Bennett from February 2008 when she was in Opposition.

She says all the right things about kids and families and tries to push all the right buttons. She says how she had just been to a conference with child experts and talks about the role of the state in supporting families to bring up their kids

She also talks about the need for New Zealand to have a national debate – a national conversation about “the issues”. Three years later, the only national conversation she’s having is with herself!

The contrast with her actions while in government and, most recently, her non-appearance at a high-powered gathering of early child development professionals and practitioners is staggering.

The all-day event Programme 18 April 2011 last week in Wellington included a who’s who of New Zealand experts on early child development. Paula Bennett was invited but didn’t bother to reply. In fact, no representative from the National Party turned up.

The PM’s science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman was meant to be there but says his failure at the last minute to appear was because a meeting with a government ministry took longer than expected. He strongly denies he was instructed not to attend by National.

I spoke during the panel discussion and outlined Labour’s vision for kids

It’s an a amazing turnaround by Ms Bennett in just three years – and from a minister who says she worries every day about the mistreatment of children in New Zealand.

Her no-show came a day after she announced an initiative to put “priority on children” – calling for green and white papers on child abuse — once again to start a “national conversation”.

We even have to wait until September, nearly three years after she became a minister, before work begins on the papers. 

The papers will tell us nothing we don’t already know. The work has already been done. Ms Bennett’s super slow reaction delays New Zealand doing anything constructive about the problem for at least a year.

It’s a shameful, do-nothing approach – a stark contrast with her bold words and promises of three years ago.

Initial thoughts on WWG report

Posted by on February 25th, 2011

Tragic events in Christchurch have overtaken National’s Welfare Working Group’s report into the future of the welfare system, which was released on Tuesday.

This is a time when all New Zealand stands together, including political parties, out of respect to the victims of the quake and their families and to ensure that the rescue and recovery operations in Christchurch can proceed without unnecessary distraction. 

For that reason Labour has not formally responded to the WWG report’s recommendations or the Government’s response.

However, I do have some initial thoughts, which you will see below. I and my Labour colleagues will expand on these when the time is more suitable.

The WWG report sets a target of taking 100,000 people off welfare and into work over the next decade:

  • Where are the jobs going to come from?
  • Jobs have been not been a priority for this government.
  • Moving 100,000 people off benefits and into work takes us back to the total benefit figures in 2008 when National took over.
  • The past two years have been a huge wasted opportunity.
  • The economy has ground to a halt under National.
  • It is not possible to force people into jobs that do not exist.
  • GDP will have to increase by 3 per cent a year over the next decade to meet this target. Current forecasts average 2.5 per cent a year. Where’s the plan?

The report is a mix of:

  • Tried and failed ideas from the 1990s – privatising welfare delivery, splitting welfare policy and delivery arms, work for the dole, and,
  • Advocating for incentives and programmes to get people into work. Many of these existed under Labour but National abolished or slashed them – such as the Training Incentive Allowance for solo mums on the DPB, scholarships, dedicated Winz case managers who built up knowledge of individual clients and were better able to assist them, ECE funding, strategic skills and training programme funding, and,
  • Extreme ideas which give the Key government room to appear less hard line by rejecting them. Eg forcing solo parents who have another child to look for work when the youngest turns 14 weeks; and giving young parents access to free “long acting, reversible contraception”;

Making solo mums look for work when their child turns three, instead of five, says paid work is more important than the job of caring for and nurturing young children.

The first six years of a child’s life are the most important in terms of development.

Child poverty, which is already on the rise under National, will get worse still.

Forcing severely disabled people on a “Jobseeker Support Benefit” with supplementary payments tied to efforts to get into work will result in severe mental anguish and hardship for an already vulnerable group of people.

Early childhood education fees, which have already gone up under National, will rise again.

Blaming and punishing the poor lets tax avoiders who do not pay their fair share of tax off the hook.

Pressure starting to tell in Bennett’s office

Posted by on February 15th, 2011

It must be one of the lamest defences ever run by a minister.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, who is again overseas while unemployment at home soars, rebutted accusations from Phil Goff that she was “missing in action” by saying he had only submitted 71 written parliamentary questions to her since she became minister.

Well, I’m Labour’s social policy spokesperson and I’ve submitted 3731 questions to her in those two years – and I’m still awaiting credible answers for most of them.

Instead of off gallivanting in the United States again – she took a six weeks “sabbatical” off last year – she should be at home clearing up the mess she has made of her Community Max make-work programme.

The programme is hugely expensive but is very low quality spending — unless you count assisting National with massaging down unemployment numbers!  Even Treasury said it was poor value for money and would have little effect on youth unemployment.  They’re right!

And while she’s at it, she should be here sorting out her rapidly failing boot camps project, which is on track to posting reoffending rates of 70-odd per cent.

It’s not as if Ms Bennett and John Key weren’t warned. Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft and many other experts said boot camps, while sounding good on paper, were fundamentally flawed and this had been proven so many times over. “It just made them healthier, fitter, faster, but they were still burglars, just harder to catch”, Judge Becroft said.

Community Max, boot camps, national cycleway, and a do-nothing jobs summit – it’s government by slogan, and it’s rapidly catching up with National.

Bennett catches Key on the hop

Posted by on February 9th, 2011

Paula Bennett won’t be in her boss John Key’s good books tonight after leaving him floundering in the House today.

We’re well used to Ms Bennett sitting on official benefit figures to escape public scrutiny of the continued worsening of the economy and her government’s lack of a plan to fix the problems.

But this time her trickiness also fooled John Key, who had no idea what the latest figures were when I asked him in the House today.

He did not look happy at been left in the dark.

He left the chamber completely when I spoke  in the debate.

Meanwhile, as John Key, Paula Bennett and the rest of the Nat Government pretend like mad that everything is hunky dory, official figures tell us the real story.

According the MSD figures out today there are close to 100,000 additional people on main benefits since 2008, and an extra 4000 last month alone.

Not only that, Bill English has admitted today that we might be back in recession.

In John Key’s third year in charge of the economy, New Zealand is going backwards.

Who’s got the best excuse?

Posted by on February 4th, 2011

The latest unemployment figures have obviously rattled John Key and his sidekick the Minister for Unemployment Paula Bennett.

They have been in a bidding war for the lamest excuse to explain away their lack of a plan to get New Zealanders back  to work.

Which excuse is your personal favourite from John Key?

  • People should relax
  • Don’t give up hope
  • The HLFS is notoriously volatile
  • It’s just a survey
  • The information is old
  • Unemployment is a lagging not a leading indicator

Or the doozie of them all from Paula Bennett- a slow recovery fits the government’s focus on the economy.

All these comments have been made in the last 24 hours.

What has happened to John Key’s claim that we would come out of the recession aggressively!   In their third year in charge of the economy we are going backwards. It’s government by slogans, excuses and gimmicks.

And here are a few Keyisms:

A brighter future

Turbo charging the economy

Being ambitious for New Zealand

Catching up with Australia

A step change for NZ

To add to his title the Svengali of Spin, John Key can now add King of the Catwalk.

Filed under: jobs

It’s time all Kiwi children get the start in life they deserve

Posted by on January 17th, 2011

In the lead-up to Christmas when most New Zealanders were winding down and looking forward to a well-earned break, two stories in the media about child suffering stood out.

The first was the release of a Children’s Social Health Monitor study showing there were about 2000 more hospital admissions in 2009 compared to those in 2007 for children with medical conditions that occur more frequently in those living in poverty.

The second was a heart-breaking story of an Auckland girl suffering horrific child abuse.

The unnamed 9-year-old is said to have been regularly beaten at home over nearly two years and even subjected to physical torture. This allegedly occurred under the noses of a host of government agencies, which were meant to be working closely with the girl’s family in order to fix a range of troubles.

Not much more can be said about the specifics of the case while it is before the courts. But it raises many troubling questions.

Some of these – specifically how government agencies missed the abuse – may well be answered by a Child, Youth and Family investigation, which is expected to be on the Social Development Minister’s desk by the end of this month.

A wider probe into how CYF operates has been ruled out by the Minister but Children’s Commissioner John Angus has signalled he may take a deeper, structural look at the sector. This may reveal more answers.

But when all the reports have been compiled and any recommendations enacted, the only things that are likely to change will be operational. The ambulance at the bottom of the cliff might get a new set of wheels.

Labour believes a much wider and deeper change is required; one which fundamentally alters the way government invests social spending by implementing an integrated package of policies that focus on the development needs of Kiwi children in their early years. Such a comprehensive focus on child development is brand new to New Zealand.

Over the past two years, I have led a team of experts, including doctors, academics and frontline workers, to put together a set of connected policies with this aim. These policies are based on the most up to date research available and an understanding of what works.

There’s an old saying: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This new philosophy would mean tilting social spending towards the first six years of life – when children’s physical, cognitive and emotional development have the greatest implications for later life.

The productive gains for the country are obvious. Research suggests that targeting resources towards this stage of life results in better health throughout life, better education and jobs, improved social skills and less contact with the criminal justice system.

It’s not about government raising kids – that’s the job of families and wh?nau – it is about the government and the community supporting the work of all families by providing tools and services that build on their strengths and the resilience of parents and caregivers.

For example, during years 0-2 recognising that caring for young children in families is a valuable contribution; and that parents need decent work and care choices.

Resourcing will be provided to give parents the time to care, including for grandparents who undertake care.

Another example is enrolling babies at birth with a Well-Child provider to give new parents support and guidance, particularly in the early months, and making parenting programmes available to all New Zealand families.

In the 3-5 years age, providing every child with access to good quality, free early childhood education, and using early childhood education centres and schools as hubs to support early intervention and community engagement.

Changes will also be made to the benefit system, particularly the DPB which no longer does what is needed. It doesn’t provide properly for the needs and development of children affected, particularly in long-term benefit families.

But rather than blaming young parents for their situation, Labour believes they and those with older children need support to transition them back into work by providing training and education early, backed up by quality childcare and intensive case management.

Our policies are a response to our firm belief that New Zealand should be the best place in the world in which to raise children. As a country we often say such things; but is it really true or can we do better?

I believe we can greatly improve the chances of all our children getting the start in life they deserve if we take a longer term view. The shift can’t happen overnight – but it can and must happen for us to truly reach our potential as a country.

Labour’s new social policies, the first of which will be announced during the next two months, will spell out how this goal can be achieved and how it will be paid for, and in the knowledge that a sustained commitment is required across at least two political terms to get the system working properly.

Politics too often has a short-term perspective where not enough dots are joined. This is failing many of our children and it is time it changed.

Collective responsibility

Posted by on September 20th, 2010

Note: This post has been written by Charles Chauvel, but is posted under my name because Charles is out of the country and is unable to respond to comments. We will be monitoring this legislation very closely at every step. Annette

On Tuesday last week, Labour MPs held our noses  and voted to pass the Government’s emergency Canterbury legislation.  We voted for it – as did the Greens and all parties in Parliament – not because we thought it was good law, but because we decided that the people of Canterbury needed to know that Parliament was unanimously supporting them to rebuild their lives.  Also, frankly, we’d rather not spend the next 18 months being portrayed by National and the media as having obstructed the post-earthquake recovery.

Given that we don’t have the numbers in Parliament to defeat Government legislation, we had a call to make.  Go down in glorious defeat in a vote on the bill while the Government did what it wanted anyway, or use the possibility of there not being unanimity to get concessions.  We chose the latter course, and got on the ‘phone as soon as we heard emergency legislation was contemplated, rather than waiting for it to be tabled and then conducting a grand but pointless critique in the House. 

Adopting this approach, we made sure that the powers able to be exercised under the legislation are:
– subject to systematic scrutiny by Parliament;
– time limited;
– required to be consulted over in advance.

The systematic scrutiny will come via the Regulations Review Committee.  Every order-in-council made under the emergency legislation will be examined in detail by that Committee.  Independent advice from the Clerk of the House will accompany that examination.  If any member of that Committee is dissatisfied with any power taken under an order made under the legislation, or is shown evidence that any power is being abused, he or she can move disallowance of the order.  This will mean that the Government will have to allow a debate within 21 sitting days of the disallowance motion, or the order will automatically be revoked. 

Does the Government still have the numbers to bulldoze a order through?  Yes, but it did anyway.  At least through securing this concession we can shine sunlight on the abuses that many fear will occcur under them; The time limit on the emergency legislation comes from attaching a sunset clause to it.  The law will expire in 18 months’ time, not 5 years, as the Government originally proposed; The advance consultation means that we see any order, and the advice leading to it, before it’s made. We can argue for changes if any order goes too far in any way.  If we fail, we will be ready to call attention to the problem, and to have our members of the Regulations Review Committee prepare a disallowance motion.

We also successfully urged that official information legislation apply to the Canterbury Recovery Commission.

We could have simply opposed what is undoubtedly not ideal, and seen it pass anyway.  We decided instead to try to win what improvements we could.  That may be unpopular with some.  But we made a collective call that it was the responsible thing to do.

Paula Bennett shamed into releasing full benefit stats

Posted by on September 9th, 2010

National has had a good run convincing Kiwis that it is an “open and transparent” government where “sunlight is the best disinfectant” etc etc.

It’s a tremendous bit of spin. The reality is somewhat different.

For the past 20 months, John Key’s ministers have acted in concert to block access to public information though the Official Information Act and written parliamentary questions. They’ve ducked and dived like sports cheats. It is not just the Opposition that has been thwarted. There is some excellent analysis on No Right Turn about National’s cheating.

Journos too have told me they are getting increasingly frustrated by National’s trickery.

In this context, I’m treating as a win for open government Employment Minister Paula Bennett‘s reaction this week to my media statement of a fortnight ago criticising her for burying bad news.

To recap, she was pinged for sneakily trying to hide bad unemployment data as the economy has slowed. As the jobs news got worse each month, the length of time before she would allow official data to go the Parliamentary Library got longer.

So I am pleased that she has been shamed, at least for now, into ending her dodgy practice. This week, on the same day as issuing her dishonest statement on benefit numbers for August (she said 6000 had come off main benefits – what she didn’t say was the situation had actually worsened again, with more than 8,800 people going on to main benefits over the same month), she quietly released to the Library the full summary of benefit stats for the month. You can see why she’s so shy, it’s pretty grim reading.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but whatever next? National Party ministers dispensing with their haughty contempt of the OIA and WPQs?

Shonky Key unreliable and misleading – Bennett

Posted by on December 8th, 2009

Why is John Key so keen to minimise the impact of unemployment on New Zealanders.

In recent weeks he has taken to announcing weekly unemployment benefit figures at his weekly press conference.

He doesn’t understand that figures always drop in late spring and early summer.

But most of all he doesn’t understand that  according to Paula Bennett “releasing weekly benefit data has a number of limitations” – being –  “unreliable ” – “volatile ” – “and potentially misleading to the public.”

In the year he has been Prime Minister the number of people on all benefits has gone up by over 56,000.

Think about those families as you crow John. When you use shonky data you will get caught.