Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Consumers’ Category

Government must break stalemate with plumbers

Posted by on July 3rd, 2013

Labour will this evening introduce an amendment to the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Amendment Bill to help break a stalemate between the National-Act Government and a large number of tradespeople in the industry.

The Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board, which was appointed by the Minster for Building and Construction Maurice Williamson, has been found to have illegally collected fees and levies from the industry.

The Bill, which is currently being pushed through Parliament under urgency, seeks to retrospectively validate the significant amount of money the Board collected unlawfully.

The Government’s failure to break the industry stalemate is a two-fingered salute to committed and qualified tradesmen just trying to get a fair deal.

The Ombudsman upheld Wellington plumber Wal Gordon’s complaints and recommended that the Board should negotiate an arrangement “whereby the excess levies paid could in whole or in part be refunded over a period or some credit could be given in respect of future fee or levy payments in compensation.”

But Maurice Williamson has openly snubbed the Ombudsman’s recommendations and instead adopted a closed and defensive approach and tried to fast-track the legislation. The National-Act Government is ignoring the industry’s valid concerns.

Labour’s Supplementary Order Paper implements the Ombudsman’s recommendations.

“A five-year licence configured around the Board’s regime costs $10,000 in New Zealand – according to the Plumbers Federation. The same five-year licence in Australia costs only $330. It’s no wonder we are losing quality tradespeople to Australia.

We agree to the sector that this Bill is about more than the payment of money, it’s about unlawful activities. It is about the trust New Zealanders place in the Accountability Agreement between the Minister and his Board, and more importantly, in their Government and Parliamentary systems”.

Labour’s SOP seeks to find a midway but it is only the first step. We are encouraging a culture that is open and engaged with the changing needs of the sector. We acknowledge the problem with the Board’s activities are deep seated and we must get to the root of the problem from all aspects.

The Board has been subject to complaints to the Office of the Auditor-General, Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee, the Office of Ombudsman, the Charities Commission and the Inland Revenue Department.

The Campbell Live show, the Politics of Plumbing, featuring particularly the “Minister Williamson artwork” is not a good look for his National-Act Government. Actually, it is a bad look for all politicians. I feel sorry for the Minister.


Where are they?

Posted by on February 17th, 2013

Last year, Labour questioned why a company called King Facade Ltd had been given approval in principle from Immigration New Zealand to bring in 110 “Facade Installers” from China on the basis that there were no New Zealanders skilled enough to do the work. There were  questions about the granting of this approval that were not satisfactorily answered by either the Minister of Immigration or Immigration New Zealand, with only a cursory attempt to find New Zealand workers, and a exaggeration of the skills required ensuring that any Kiwis would not meet the requirements.

The parent company of King Facade Ltd is Mainzeal, and this week King Facade Ltd also went into voluntary liquidation.

The then Associate Minister of Immigration, Kate Wilkinson gave assurances that the parent company Mainzeal had a good record with Work and Income. Another big justification from the government was that King Facade would work with Mainzeal and the Industry Training Organisation to develop a Facade Installer Apprenticeship programme, so New Zealanders would be skilled to do the work in future.

Well that’s all fallen over, along with the collapse of Mainzeal, the loss of jobs and contractors out of pocket.

Who knows what’s happened to the poor Chinese Migrant workers, who were promised a three year employment contract.

My guess is they were on the next flight home, with no pay in their pockets for the work they have done.


David Shearer and Clayton Cosgrove announced today that Labour will legislate for a fairer deal for subbies.

The only poll that matters…

Posted by on June 19th, 2011

Isn’t these ones obviously...

That’s twice in one weekend I’ve linked to a post on The Standard. And written by Rob. What will people think?

Well hopefully, that there are major discrepancies in polls. And there’s really only one that matters. On 26 November.

HoS on prices

Posted by on March 6th, 2011

This week yet another family in the same supermarket queue as me had to put some good back cos their card didn’t work.

I think the cost of living is growing as an issue that people care about. The Herald on Sunday has an interesting article this week.

We checked with hundreds of retailers around the country to measure the average price of 70 basic household items from the Consumer Price and Food Price indices. We found that their average cost has risen more than 5 per cent over the past 12 months. Items like beer, cigarettes, petrol and diesel have gone up 10 per cent or more just in the first months of this year; the prices of some fresh produce, like potatoes, carrots and butter, have risen as much as 50 per cent in the past 12 months.

This won’t surprise economists in their glass and concrete tower blocks on The Terrace in Wellington. The Treasury has predicted the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will rise 4.5 per cent in the year to March, and 5 per cent in the year to June.


Forecast inflation of more than 5 per cent means prices at the dairy, supermarket and petrol pump, and the cost of building a new house, will rise so steeply that wages won’t be able to keep pace.

Paul Keane, of retail consultants RCG in Parnell, says that in the 1980s people had secure jobs and their wages were rising. Today the economy is stagnant and inflation is increasingly rampant.

“In the eighties we all had jobs and salaries were good. It’s the reverse of today,” he said. “Mortgage rates were high but money was easily available, hence inflation for the average consumer was not too much of a problem.

You had drinks and barbecues at your home. You lived with it.


Eaqub says that while some goods may have become cheaper in the recent recession, as manufacturers compete for business, food has not.

“It might be cheaper to buy an LCD TV,” he says.”But it’s more expensive to buy milk. And this hits home because we can’t do without food.

“People have to keep buying food. But other retailers of what we call frivolous goods – a lipstick, for example – will feel the pinch.

“If people have to spend more on food, they will cut back on things they perceive to be less necessary items. I believe we’re going back into recession.”

In previous recessions people simply borrowed more money. But this time, he says, people are cutting back and spending less. That strangles the retailers. It is a vicious circle.

Joyce’s double dip

Posted by on November 29th, 2010

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.

Seems like a miserly change to me.