Red Alert

Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

Time to Save Invermay

Posted by on May 6th, 2014

Across New Zealand farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated with the Government’s lack of response to the slow train-wreck that characterises AgResearch’s restructure.

Citizens too should be frustrated; taxpayer funds are being squandered to New Zealand’s detriment by a Board refusing to hear reason and not listening to stakeholders.

Staff retention is the number one risk the Board has identified and reported to the Minister.

Yet top scientific staff have already quit the organisation over the restructure and more are threatening to do so.  If Invermay is dismantled and science funding and expertise heads overseas – so too will future economic gains.

View the short video explaining the case for Invermay’s retention. Judge for yourself whether Steven Joyce is performing his taxpayer funded duty to oversee the Board and ensure it is adequately managing risks.  Time for the Minister to step up.

If the Minister doesn’t step up, the organisation will slowly run into the ground. Management’s plan to formally dismantle Invermay doesn’t properly kick into action until 2017.

For more information visit

Invermay – a national issue

Posted by on March 10th, 2014

Despite being signed off by Steven Joyce nearly a year ago, the full business case for AgResearch’s restructure has been suppressed until now. It reveals that the whole organisation is put at risk for uncertain returns. $100m taxpayer money is to be spent; and in one scenario modelled – a worse outcome is produced than business as usual.   I guess it is now obvious why they tried to hide the detail for so long.

The Background

In July last year, the Government’s largest Crown Research Institute – AgResearch – announced its plans for a major restructure. A lot is at stake since AgResearch is the taxpayer-fuelled science engine that underpins productivity-growth on New Zealand farms.

Starting in the South, discontent is spreading across New Zealand with news of the decision to break up a successful hub centred on its World-leading Invermay campus. On Saturday, New Zealand’s largest independent newspaper broke the news that background to one of the country’s most significant export-related restructures has finally been released.

Previously, AgResearch’s own internal review singled Invermay campus changes out – as the piece of the AgResearch restructure puzzle that didn’t fit.  Change is hard, but the internal review team concluded that most of what was proposed across New Zealand would meet the organisation’s internal goals.  However – Invermay should be grown, not shrunk, it said.

Where to from here?

Sheep and deer farmers in particular will be angry. It is unacceptable that this business case was kept from them until now. They are the clients. AgResearch has been treating industry stakeholders like mushrooms: keeping them in the dark and feeding them manure.

AgResearch last year released a shorter redacted version of the business case, in a failed attempt to give the impression of transparency.  What we now know is that the public were being fed only half of the story: the part AgResearch thought fit for farmer consumption.

The drastic changes proposed also create serious problems for families of scientists at Invermay’s Mosgiel campus.  Many have partners who will struggle to find good work in Lincoln and will face significantly higher mortgages. They simply won’t move there.

The worst-case scenario in the business case modelling now looks wildly optimistic.  It assumes scientific staff will relocate – when available evidence says they will not. An earlier restructure saw just 28% of scientists retained; those close to this one say it is shaping up no better.

Instead, the majority of world-class scientists who’ve built Invermay’s international reputation are proposing to leave the organisation to pursue opportunities abroad. Another group are proposing to take early retirement.  While Steven Joyce has been typically short and sarcastic in his responses to my parliamentary questioning on Invermay, he has shown some awareness of the importance of staff retention to organisational capability. As shareholding Minister, he’s left himself some wiggle-room for intervention.

Breeders know the importance of Invermay to their commercial success.  In particular sheep meat productivity has doubled and disease incidence in deer has been slashed. AbacusBio and other important industry participants have contributed to extraordinary success in the Ag sector off the back of facilities and research at Invermay.

The Government set itself the admirable goal of doubling agricultural productivity. Invermay has played a huge role in historic successes and promises to play an important part in the future. Invermay must be saved for the best future for New Zealand’s on-farm productivity.

Signatures are being collected across the country.  Sheep breeders in Northland, Manawatu and Southland abhor the changes equally. If you’re lucky enough to live in Otago there are dozens of places to sign the petition I’ve launched opposing the changes. Visit to find out more or to download your own copy of the petition form.

The board of AgResearch is showing itself out of touch with the industry it serves. Shareholding Minister Steven Joyce must call the Board to account. The Invermay changes make no sense.

NZ and the disarmament agenda – where are we?

Posted by on December 19th, 2013

The nuclear disarmament agenda has been gathering pace internationally in 2013 but our government has been ignoring, or just missing, every opportunity to do anything to advance it.

We had a great statement on it read at the UNGA recently by our disarmament ambassador, but that was despite Murray McCully, not because of him. She has been withdrawn from Geneva and sent back to Wellington, and the poor sole rep in Geneva is left there defending our interests and trying to advance the agenda without any instructions from government in Wellington.

The humanitarian rationale for non-proliferation and dismantling of nuclear weapons is gaining traction internationally. The impact of even one nuclear bomb being detonated (they are so much more powerful now than in 1945) will have catastrophic implications for the global environment and climate, food production and security, economics and politics, that winding back our collective arsenals and decommissioning nuclear warhead production is the only sensible way forward.

There are more or less 17,270 nuclear weapons in the world right now, of which 4,400 are on high alert, or ready to be used immediately. $1.75 trillion USD is spent annually on military expansion. Just 9 countries spend $100billion USD per annum, that is nearly $300million USD daily, on nuclear weapons. Just imagine what we could do if……

NZ had an opportunity to assist Obama and the US in his ambitious programme for the de-escalation of this threat to humanity, but John Key only saw it as a photo op. What a waste. It’s time he moved over and let someone who actually cares about NZ’s role in the world take over. David Cunliffe will do nicely.

Labour Leadership Virtual Hustings Meeting Questions – Full List Of Questions

Posted by on September 14th, 2013

Labour Leadership Virtual Hustings Meeting Questions – Full List

submitted by members – Sept 3rd to Sept 10th 2013

published 14 Sept, 2013

The questions below were submitted by New Zealand Labour Party members for the “Virtual Hustings Meeting” held by the party from September 10th to 14th 2013 and organised by Scoop Amplifier.

14 of these questions were selected and provided to candidates to answer with a 200 word limit. The Questions and Answers were then posted on the and Red Alert ( ) websites. As this is published a discussion is taking place on the Red Alert site about the answers.

The questions and answers can be viewed at the links below:

1. Environment : What are your views on a clean green NZ?
2. Poverty : How would you ensure no one needs to live in poverty?
3. TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent?
4. Equal pay : What would you do about gender pay discrimination?
5. Peoples : How would bring Maori & Pakeha into a multi-ethnic future?
6. Justice : What is your view of the New Zealand justice system?
7. Disability Issues : Would you create a Ministry for Disability?
8. Voter turnout : How do we motivate more people to vote?
9. Economy : How can we convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work?
10. Older New Zealanders : How would you advocate for older New Zealanders?
11. Party Leadership : What Labour values drive your work for New Zealand?
12. Party Unity : How would you unite the party as a whole?
13. Experience : What have you learned from failure & how would you apply it?
14. Winning : Why are you the one to take on and beat John Key?


(click these links to jump to questions about each subject below)
Arts sector
Australia and international relations
Green and sustainability
Income and Tax
Older NZers
Labour Party
Regional issues
Winning edge


Arts sector

What value do you place on the Arts and Creative Industries as contributors to our cultural health and wellbeing, our ability to achieve distinction, and our economic wellbeing?
John Smyth

Is it important to cultivate and sustain ‘the New Zealand voice’ and ‘the New Zealand story’ or is ‘cultural product’ just another item of trade, like a plastic spoon?
John Smyth

What are your thoughts on the Arts’ budget…….drama, orchestral, dance, etc and for the training, encouragement and support required?
(Margaret) Heather Grimwood

Will you look to create more opportunity for overseas movie houses to come to NZ to shoot films?
Christine Small

Lyndon Johnson said “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.” Under the current government the arts have been abandoned and the people are perishing. What will you do to ensure the performing and visual arts will be actively supported in New Zealand to aid communication, express visions beyond words, and provide a medium for cultural enlightenment that enables the spirit of the people to flourish?
Helen Gaeta


Australia and international relations

Would you personally engage with the Australian Prime Minister/Government in seeking to redress their current policies with regards to entitlements for ex-pat Kiwis?
Janet Phillips

Would you consider becoming less tied strategically to the U.S?
Jackie Steincamp



How will you stop private equity firms buying and owning media companies, especially in the Mediaworks and Channel 9 Australia’s situations?
Gary Wills



Would you consider policy that would lead to the appointment of our own Head of State, as in this day and age it seems ridiculous our sharing a Head of State, also a foreigner, with another nation. This would also presumably lead to our becoming a republic.
Murray Eggers



I would like each candidate to outline under what circumstances would they send NZ troops into a war zone or peace making deployment, if they were the prime minister?
Julie Beriman



Do you support a return to surplus as the priority for fiscal policy, and do you have a time-frame target for achieving this?
James Bews-Hair

Labour spends a lot of time in a deep hole called monetary policy. Last time it was moving from Opposition to Government it emerged from the hole with only a small and ultimately inconsequential change to policy settings. Is there anything decisive that can be done about monetary policy? If not shouldn’t more focus be on more direct efforts to change the structure of the economy?
Patrick Hine

Given the failure of ‘third way’ politics, what does a post-neoliberal New Zealand economy look like to you?
Damien Rogers

What are three major strands for an economic development strategy for New Zealand which the current Government has failed to consider?
Dolores Janiewski

The old (present) economic ideas seem to have failed for many. However the voting public will be sceptical about change (remember Labour and Rogernomics?) Also John Key will come out and say that any new Idea of Labour’s is unworkable. Labour will have to provide concrete proof that any change will work for the marginalised and poor. How can we get the voting public to believe that the present economic thinking has failed? and that Labour’s ideas will work for them?
Angie Croft

Would you consider reducing the high New Zealand dollar to improve international competitiveness?
Jackie Steincamp

Given the general failure of Simon Upton’s competitive CRI model to serve this country well, do you see a need to revert to something closer to the original cooperative DSIR model for the Labour Party?
Alan Mark

Until such time as free trade agreements are allowed to become ‘restricted trade agreements’ so that local production has a chance to flourish locally and then internationally, unemployment levels of 160,000 people will never disappear. My question to each of you is: Are you prepared to take this fight on to the IMF and the WTO and tell them these facts and that their neo-liberal template is causing huge, permanent unemployment in New Zealand and around the world and that we want to be able to decide our own economic, social and political destiny?
Adam Browne

Will you make the TPPA process transparent ?
Christine Small

What are your views on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement?
Vicki Bunch

Please outline your personal stance on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. In particular: 1. If negotiations are not concluded before a change in government, would you as leader support your Trade Minister to continue negotiations? 2. If negotiations are concluded prior to a change in government, do you envision taking steps to extricate NZ from this agreement?
Natalie Arnold

What is your view on the TPPA?
Cushla Dillon

If you are elected do you intend to lead NZ into the TPPA agreement?
Cushla Dillon

With Kiwi build is there any provision for low income housing with a provision for income related rents?
Gerard Hill

What is your position on an immediate return to making contributions to the NZ Super fund?
James Bews-Hair

Would you consider implementing an Investment Reserve Fund in an effort to help protect the New Zealand economy against future recession? and if not, why not? (such as found in Sweden or Norway – Relevant article: Also detailed by Peter Katzenstein’s Small States in World Markets: Industrial Policy in Europe )”
Matthew Luke Weaver

Do you think it’s now time to seriously consider a robin hood tax on foreign transactions?
Christine Small

Will you be removing GST from basic food items?
Trevor Scott

If you are elected do you intend to lead NZ into the TPPA agreement?
Cushla Dillon

If you are elected how important will it be to you to discuss openly with NZers the impact the TPPA will have on many aspects of our lives, including trade, our environment, copyright laws and medicine prices.
Cushla Dillon

Do you see an end to the business as usual model and if so when?
Frank Cook

The labour party has said it is in favour of a capital gains tax. Would the gain be counted from when the good was purchased or from when the tax law was changed?
John Raven

What changes would you make to the laws governing home insurance to force insurance companies to pay out within a reasonable period of time?
John Raven

What action will you take to help people trying to get a fair deal from their insurance companies and/or EQC for earthquake damage?
John Raven

Will you make a change in the law that allows people with bare land to insure it?
John Raven

I have a question on housing policy – a possible contradiction as I see it. Labor has accused National of “tinkering arround the edges” of the housing affordability crisis. By this statement Labor have suggested that their initiatives are substantial and will make homes in Auckland/Christchurch and NZ more affordable (at a regions given wage structure). If we believe this, then does this mean that a New Zealand that you lead will encourage and plan for debt deflation? What consequences do you intend housing policy to have for the wider NZ economy.
Jeremy Adrian

I note come of the rhetoric in the media indicates a move to the left. That is fine but how far, Labour is a Centre Left Party, Helen Clark was no right winger but pragmatic. I am concerned that too far left will give Key the Centre and power. Undoing the changes to the latest Bill on Employment Relations is good but what else do the candidates suggest?
Peter Jamieson

Since the 1980’s NZ has been running trade deficits and borrowing abroad to fund our lifestyle. Most of our trading partners use trade restrictions against our exports and yet we generally allow them to have greater access to our market and so we get deeper and deeper in debt. Many of them also use currency manipulation which disadvantages our exporters. How will you level the playing field for our manufacturers and farmers who export and also those who face unfair competition in our domestic market from abroad? Why are we such weak traders, are trade deficits the only way we can reduce inflation?
Dave Wollman

Should the next Labour Goverment institurte a “NZ first” preference in all contracts for goods and services?
Jonathon Everist



Can you commit to bring back the very valuable Adult Community Education night classes which were killed by the Nats?
Clement Pinto

I believe ECE is the most necessary area of education funding. Will you ensure as a priority that all ECE staff are trained teachers?
(Margaret) Heather Grimwood

Do you think Te Reo Maori should be compulsory in all schools; if so, how will you implement it?
Anaru Ryall

The National Government has made it harder for kiwis to access tertiary education. (Capping numbers/restrictions to student loans/allowances etc). What would you do to improve kiwis’ abilities to further up skill and educate themselves?
Janet Phillips

What strategies would you wish to put in place to ensure no one needed to live in poverty?
Ken Hutchison

How will you reduce inequality in New Zealand?
Perce Harpham

Outline how you would like to see the reduction of inequality progressed in New Zealand, such as higher taxation for those on top incomes, through cost of living increases etc?
Jackie Steincamp

New Zealand has been “internationally regarded as a flagship in creating the necessary infrastructure of early childhood policy around issues of quality, qualifications, access and curriculum. … the undermining of these policies is dispiriting, and even embarrassing, as there is continuing worldwide interest”. (Carr, May & Smith, 2010) What do the leadership candidates plan to do to reverse the watering down of ECE quality? In particular would the candidates favour re-instituting funding for centres with 100% qualified staff?
Anne Smith

Is it possible to have universal free education?
Jonathon Everist

Should more “‘integrated’ schools’ be permitted?
Jonathon Everist



What can we do to make sure that there is gainful employment available to suit the abilities and temperament of the least able and that it pays well enough to ensure that individual a reasonable standard of living and ability to participate fully in our society?
Gregg Sheehan

What concrete practical moves would you introduce to increase employment everywhere?
Jackie Steincamp

What support will you give to business owners/managers in daily operation of their business? Instead of watching workers, treating workers as “thick” and “simple”, utilization of workers e.g casual moves to part time, part time moves to full time position.
Gary Wills

What Concrete, practical moves would you promote to engage disaffected youth – and get them into paid employment?
Jackie Steincamp

Would you ensure that carers (Resthomes etc) receive the increases that the recent court hearing has decreed they should receive?
Jackie Steincamp

Gender pay discrimination in NZ is a reality. The recent ruling in the Kristine Bartlett/SFWU case gives some hope. How would your leadership promote progress on achieving equal pay for work of equal value?
Lesley Soper

Would you institute the increased Minimum Living wage across the board (not just Government organisations)?
Jackie Steincamp

Would you consider legislating a pay ratio such as 1:20 for minimum wage versus Maximum possible wage in all public or private organisations in the country in order to ensure better social fairness and social justice to help bridge the ever widening gap between the wealthy and the relatively poor?
Clement Pinto

Presently Support Staff in schools can and are being paid as little as $15.03 per hour to support the learning of quite often our most vulnerable children. What do you see as the labour party’s role in achieving a well resourced workforce in our schools, namely Support Staff?
Linda Jordan

What can we do to make sure that there is gainful employment available to suit the abilities and temperament of the least able and that it pays well enough to ensure that individual a reasonable standard of living and ability to participate fully in our society?
Gregg Sheehan

What concrete practical moves would you introduce to increase employment everywhere?
Jackie Steincamp

What support will you give to business owners/managers in daily operation of their business? Instead of watching workers, treating workers as “thick” and “simple”, utilization of workers e.g casual moves to part time, part time moves to full time position.
Gary Wills

What Concrete, practical moves would you promote to engage disaffected youth – and get them into paid employment?
Jackie Steincamp

Under the National Government there has been a disconnect between the government, in its communications and policy, and the teaching profession (including teachers, principals, boards of trustees and education experts). What would you like to see done to improve this relationship?
Bridget Dymock-Johnson

I agree that all workers deserve a living wage, but, as a provincial Chartered Accountant, I see real difficulty in many small employers, for example in the retail sector, being able to afford $18.40 an hour. They have little opportunity to increase margins when already facing stiff competition from major retailers and online outlets. How do respond to this conundrum?
Bruce Ellis

What specific economic policies will you put in place to help job and wage growth?
John Raven

Do you acknowledge there is an unemployment/ under employment problem in New Zealand especially for those under 25 and over 50?
John Raven

What specific policies will you put in place to help the young and over 50s find work?
John Raven

Would you put in place a mechanism whereby someone can do an apprenticeship at any age?
John Raven

Would you alter the exceptional circumstances threshold for notifying a personal grievance outside the 90 day period?
Steven Zindel



Given that the Puhipuhi plateau to the north of Whangarei is a vast storehouse of mostly locked up mercury , how do the candidates feel about the prospect of this area being sifted for minute quantities of gold and silver, thereby unlocking the mercury and allowing the possibility of environmental degradation from Puhipuhi to the Kaipara Harbour?
Jeff Saunders

What are your views on a clean green NZ?
Heather Mannix

What are your views on our one pure gold asset “water” and protecting our waterways?
Heather Mannix

Given that the Puhipuhi plateau to the north of Whangarei is a vast storehouse of mostly locked up mercury , how do the candidates feel about the prospect of this area being sifted for minute quantities of gold and silver, thereby unlocking the mercury and allowing the possibility of environmental degradation from Puhipuhi to the Kaipara Harbour?
Jeff Saunders

The International Energy Agency (IEA) reported in June 2013 that the planet is on a trajectory for a temperature rise around 4oC, well above the 2oC limit of the Copenhagen agreement. They have proposed a 4-for-2 policy to try to bring us back on course and talk of the need for political resolution. What measures, locally and globally, will you pursue to make the Copenhagen target technically feasible?
Frank Cook

Do you believe that global warming is a real and severe threat to our planet.. which includes New Zealand. If so (1) – do you support mining on the Denniston Plateau [which actually was categorically put aside when the Stockton Plateau was given the go-ahead? (2) do you support exploration/mining for oil in our EEZ seas? (3) – would you cancel the MacKay’s to Peka Peka Expressway and replace it with the consented Western Link Road? (4) – can you work co-operatively with the Green Party to encourage a sustainable, greener economic policy?
Rochelle Wilson

What aspect of the RMA reforms passed by National would Labour repeal if returned to power?
John Raven


Green and sustainability

Do you agree that NZ should diversify its primary industry base by developing its significant renewable resources (hydro, wind, solar and marine energy) both to supply the local energy market and to add value to primary products by local processing of energy intensive exports (wood, agriculture, fisheries, iron sands, freezing capability, Australian bauxite, nitrogen fertiliser, cement, glass, ceramics and hydrogen)?
John Irving

Given the economic environment and the benefits of having investment brought to New Zealand via our natural resources, Coal, Gold, and Silver etc. At present environment groups with the best of intentions are costing tax payers and companies money while safe in the knowledge that they will not have costs awarded against them. How do we maintain employment and income while looking after our other natural resources like our Rivers and Wildlife without having a long drawn out court battle like the one currently on-going over the Dennison Plateau between Bathurst and Forest and Bird? We need the employment and we need to keep New Zealand green, how do we do both?
John Adams

How do you intend as Leader to manage the conflicting priorities of economic development and environmental protection?
Lesley Soper

As the NZ Labour Party Leader will you be supporting solar energy within all new homes?
Heather Mannix

As the NZ Labour Party Leader will you be supporting solar energy within all new homes?
Heather Mannix

For Shane Jones: How does he reconcile his support for augmenting West Coast coal mining with the imperatives of reducing global warming by shunning fossil fuel trading and consumption?
Peter and Margaret Bartlett



What is your view on health? should dental care be subsidised? should primary health be fully funded? should residential facilities for the aged be adequately funded? Should there be one comprehensive hospital in Auckland or should each geographical area have a tertiary hospital?
Julie Berriman

We have a diabetes epidemic. This being caused by the lifestyle factor of being overfat. Overfat is created by eating too much energy to energy use. Not only does this affect people’s physical health it impacts on social, mental, psychological and spiritual well being. What will you do, as leader, to tackle this excessively expensive and preventable lifestyle dis-ease which is now starting in early childhood and extending to old age?
Vivienne Shepherd

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to addressing the discrimination against certain impairment groups (such as adults with Aspergers) which means they are unable to access support through the current MoH’s NASC system?
Hilary Stace

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to demedicalising disability support services by creating a new Ministry for Disability Issues with a high-ranked minister in cabinet and a chief executive committed to the social model of disability and, preferably, lived experience of disability?
Hilary Stace

What will you do about the national disgrace of children living in poverty in New Zealand? And how soon will you do it?
Mary K Dearsley

WINZ staff need to improve their attitude to the beneficiaries are any of you willing to bring more positive model from the negative model done by current government?
David Maclure

Is it possible to have a universal dental health subsidy as we have for doctors?
Jonathon Everist



There is no point training more apprentices if we are only going to export them to Australia. Will your Government manage the rate of immigration to ensure that labour supply does not exceed demand as has been the practice introduced as a feature of Roger Douglas’ neo liberal macro economic policy to ensure that wages in New Zealand were driven to rates less than in Australia?
Lou Yukich

Would you tighten up the immigration laws to push employers to train people already in New Zealand rather than just importing experienced people from abroad?
John Raven

If, like the Australians, you are faced with boatloads of refugees arriving, what will be your policy?
Alastair McKerchar


Income and Tax

Would a government led by you consider phasing in overtime Income splitting for couples?
Peter Hutchinson

Would a government led by you consider phasing in overtime raising tax free income threshold to the minimum amount required to live? if an individual needs 15k P.A to meet the basic needs to survive. ..start taxing every dollar after that amount, not before
Peter Hutchinson

Would a government led by you consider phasing in overtime introduction of a “Guaranteed Minimum Income” or GMI of the like proposed by Gareth Morgan?
Peter Hutchinson

As a 53 yr old ex labourer, tradesman, factory supervisor and business owner. I feel bringing in a living wage will just cause higher inflation to the basics of living, and once again the people that need assistance the most will be on the losing end. John Key gave away 4 billion in tax cuts, what will you do to reverse those to truly put money back into the pockets of the workers of this country?
Peter Hutchinson



Would each candidate outline their views on the justice system in NZ, do they endorse restorative justice or prefer the fill the prisons option?
John Berriman

What would you do about: a) lawyers not being allowed to act for many people involved in parenting disputes; b) most criminal defendants not being able to choose their lawyer on legal aid; and c) paying lawyers the same legal aid fixed fee per case, irrespective of the work done?
Steven Zindel



Why not make public drunkenness and disorder a crime – rather than fixating on closure hours of bars?
Jackie Steincamp

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to repealing the NZ Public Health and Disability Amendment Act (No 2) 2013?
Hilary Stace

Are you as a potential leader prepared to support Maryan Street’s End of Life Choice Bill, and if you become leader of the Labour caucus and should you become leader of the govt, would you be prepared to support the EOLC Bill as a Govt Bill with a conscience vote?
Jack Havill

Labour did away with Knighthoods/ damehoods when last in power, but they were reinstated by National. Would you support their abolishment, as such awards are incompatible with Labour/Socialist principles.
Murray Eggers

Will you investigate the Governments selling Government owned real-estate to itself without going through public auction?
Christine Small

Will you look into revoking any Social welfare reforms initiated by this Government?
Christine Small

What is the candidates’ view of the recommendations from the Electoral Committee to ditch he ‘coat-tails’ clause for leaders of small parties and to lower the threshold to 4 percent? What action would they take as Prime Minister?
Jenny Pattrick

Considering the extremely high incidence of child abuse in NZ (seventh highest in OECD Countries!) what do you each consider about legislation fully covering Mandatory Reporting in Child Abuse in NZ and as modelled on all Australian States (except, I believe, Western Australia) who have each submitted positive reports to us thoroughly endorsing that legislation (refer to myself for copies or to Jacinda Adhern).??
Robert W Walker

Will your Government amend the Holidays Act S14 provision to return it to the provisions it had prior to the National Party amending it to the disadvantage of workers?
Lou Yukich

Will your Government reinstate the provisions of the Holidays Act that allowed all employees the right to determine when they took alternative days (lieu days)?
Lou Yukich

New Zealand has, along with Australia, the highest rate of teenage cannabis use in the world. We also have the world’s highest arrest rate for cannabis offences. Why are we criminalising our young people in this way and what should we do to stop this insanity?
Phil Saxby


Older NZers

Senior people (those 50+) represent 53% of NZ voters, currently. As an active Labour supporter for some 40 odd years, I have been seeking from the Labour party the policy which will bring this group to strongly support Labour in 2014. Are any of the leadership candidates able to state what he is prepared to advocate for us, Seniors?
Dean Chandler-Mills

Will your Government increase the qualifying age for National Superannuation?
Lou Yukich

Would you support Maryan Street’s Member’s bill [if ” pulled from the hat”] re End-of Life choice for NZ citizens?
Rochelle Wilson


Labour Party

Who would be your finance minister if you were PM?
Bob Davies

I know it is always possible that the other candidates would not be in the cabinet, but for the sake of argument let’s say they are. What portfolios would you allocate to your fellow candidates if you became the leader (prime minister)?.
Bruce Rogan

What would your Labour Party caucus members say about your leadership style, your leadership strengths, and your leadership weaknesses? What would their perspectives tell me about how you will be leading the Labour Party in the next 18 months?
Dalene Mactier

To ensure a victory in the 2014 election we need courageous leadership. Failure is part of courageous leadership. Tell us about a time that you failed as a leader. What did you learn from that experience and how would you apply your learning in the future?
Dalene Mactier

At times it seems as if politics and integrity is an oxymoron. Tell us about a time where the Labour party caucus direction was in conflict with your personal integrity. How did you manage it and how would you apply your learning in the future?
Dalene Mactier

Did you Vote for David Shearer for Leader at the Previous Caucus vote? if so what did you see in the Candidate that would have suggested he could have won the next Election for Labour, or did you simply see him as a Temporary Leader prepared to loose the next Election until someone better came along?
Geoff Silbery

Why did you join the Labour Party over other parties and what are the key Labour values and principles that drive your work for Labour and New Zealand?
Annalise Roache

What books are you currently reading? What have you read in the last 6 months that has influenced or guided your thinking?
Bryce Bartley

Tell us about a time when you led a group of people to achieve a positive outcome. What did you do and what was the result?
Bryce Bartley

When Labour is mentioned people often refer to the party as the PC patrol or returning to the nanny state, including John Key’s current rhetoric that any of your Leadership would take the party further to the left. What are your key messages to the public in response to charges of PC’ism?
Annalise Roache

Since the last term of the Clark government the Labour party seems to have lost its way and connection with everyday New Zealanders. What do you think lead to this, what can you learn from it and how will you remedy for the future?
Annalise Roache

Under your leadership would a Labour-led Government commit to actively encouraging disabled people onto winnable places in the party list?
Hilary Stace

I am a woman and have three grown daughters and now three granddaughters. Each and every one of us has been able with the right personal attributes, determination and education to achieve without any bias towards us on the basis of gender. Why is there such emphasis on the 50-50 split of male/female MPs for Labour?
Marilyn Geddes

The best government for New Zealand, I believe, is a Labour-Green coalition that tackles global warming and energy supply. What are Labour’s plans for forging an alliance with Greens?
Jocelyn Harris

If it came down to a coalition between NZ First or the Greens, which would you be inclined to go with?
Joss Debraceny

I am in my early 40’s, live in Auckland Central and my friends and I would be described as left/centrist. Less than a handful of people I know vote two ticks for Labour, these days the average urban person simply isn’t aligned to one party, unless it’s National. What do you think of this and as Leader how will you work more authentically and collaboratively with the Greens to be more representative of today’s voters?
Annalise Roache

if you were elected would you agree to formally sign an affirmation of the parties new Policy framework and if in Govt were going to take a decision which was contrary to that party policy be prepared to bring it back to the party for confirmation/ratification?
Edwin Daniel

Critics have said that Labour is divided. How will you unite the party behind you?
Bridget Dymock-Johnson

As the candidate for the leader of the New Zealand Labour Party what qualities/initiatives can you bring to the party and within caucus and the rest of the membership within the country to unite the party as a whole?
Heather Mannix

Would the 2 losing candidates give there FULL support to the winning candidate, and get behind the new leader and party to win the next election?
Whakiao Hopmans

Will the 2 losing candidates tell those caucus members that supported them, that they should now unite, and have no divisions?
Whakiao Hopmans

Given your commitment to unifying the party, will you consider dismantling those branches of the NZLP which enshrine differences based on gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference, so that we can become a party of equality and opportunity for all of New Zealand’s workforce, rather than a broad church hijacked by the special interest agenda?
Damien Rogers

Michael Joseph Savage left an enduring legacy on our Party and on New Zealand. In terms of principles, beliefs and views – how do you relate yourself to our first Labour Prime Minister?
Mark Byford

Undercurrents in the Labour party are compromising a Labour victory in 2014. What was your role in the past in the undercurrents and how will you build unity and synergy in the future?
Dalene Mactier

Our strength is often our weakness too. What do you see as a key strength that you will bring to the Labour leadership that could potentially become your weakness in the future? How will you manage it?
Dalene Mactier

As the Labour leader and prime minister, you will be required to steer the party and the government with a firm hand. How will you ensure that you maintain control, while allowing autonomy and encouraging innovation in younger MPs to ensure we continue to grow strong leaders in the Labour Party?
Dalene Mactier

All of you have identified the importance of Party Unity. What do you see as areas of disunity? How would you promote unity?
Bryce Bartley

I am a gay man in a relationship for the last 35 years. Acceptance has changed but I still find an occasional unexpected pocket of bigotry and abuse. Will NZ accept a gay prime minister?
Chris Brown
Leaders are good because they lead. Telephone canvassers, door knockers and letter box teams do the work on the ground. What difference will your leadership make to building the foot army required to win the 2014 election? Please base your answer on what you have already achieved in your local area.
Steve Farrow

If you were elected leader, would you be happy to work with either of the other two candidates as your deputy?
Lucy Marsden

We are not just electing a Labour leader. Equally importantly, we are electing the person we want to lead a Centre-Left government in 2014. Why do each of the candidates think they are the best suited to lead a campaign that will unite Labour, the Greens and NZ First into a confident, winning team? And how would they go about this vital task?
Phil Saxby


Regional issues

What steps will you take as leader to support the people of Christchurch in the Eastern Suburbs who are still suffering due to EQC and the lack of transparency and information to support constituents moving forward with their lives?
Heather Mannix

As leader of the party what involvement/input will you have in choosing the by-election candidate for Christchurch East and will you listen to the local membership?
Heather Mannix

Bearing in mind the National Govt’s short-term ‘solutions’ [e.g. $30 million for the Tiwai situation, which only buys a 3-5 year breathing space for the 3200 local jobs at stake], what is your stance on economic development strategies for regions such as Invercargill/Southland? What would you do as Labour Leader to support regional development and jobs?
Lesley Soper

During early protests against the Kapiti Expressway Labour indicated it would stop work on this project and reinstate the two-lane internal western link road if the former had not progressed too far. It now seems unlikely that by the time of the election work on the Expressway will have progressed to the extent that any work could not be incorporated in a Western Link scheme. Would you support work stopping on the Expressway in favour of the hijacked Western Link Road?
Murray Eggers

Will your Government build a railway line from Kaitaia to the port of Whangarei?
Lou Yukich

Will your Government build a new production facility at the Marsden Point Oil Refinery to process New Zealand oil that is currently all exported for want of a processing facility capable of handling New Zealand oil?
Lou Yukich

As a supporter of all Kapiti residents who are “motorway refugees” orwill be stranded within 200 metres of the monster road, I would ask what you would do about the proposed road through Kapiti.
Graham Bathgate

Why should a Labour-led government not develope the collection and exportation, to a desperately thirsty world, of the hugely abundant and squandered volumes of fresh water that the main divide delivers through the West Coast into the Tasman Sea? (water mining!)
Peter and Margaret Bartlett


Winning edge

What methods will you engage in to bring about a large drop in the number of electors who do not bother to vote?
Graham Adams

“How can you as an individual help to get the voters – especially the young, who were disengaged in the last election to get out and vote this time?
Steve Cole

To win the next election we need to motivate people to vote and win some of the swing voters in the middle. Share one strategy that you think would be most effective in achieving this?
Dalene Mactier

What guarantee do we have that the leftward shift in rhetoric and policy doesn’t evaporate once Labour becomes the government and the status quo of more right orthodox policies set in?
Geoff Cartwright

It would be good to see Labour lift its game as a strong and passionate oppositional voice. How will you show strength and leadership in this area?
Bridget Dymock-Johnson

Leadership is about many things but the qualities that I have found missing in politicians since the late 70’s are the ability to share a vision for the future of NZ and the ability to inspire. Australians know they are building a nation; why can’t we?
Chris Rapson

I have voted Labour since 1978, and ever since then I have heard all the rhetoric, from all parties about the trickle down theory and stopping the gap between the haves and have nots. Well its not working because to me all politicians are either too scared, or don’t know how to address the situation. Instead we waste huge amounts of money and time on populist vote catching, eg alcohol ,driving laws, or crime. Are any of the candidates prepared to do something radical if voted, and not be another centre left puppet?
Peter Power

Looking back over the last 18 months, what was Labour’s biggest mistake? How will you do this differently in the next 18 months to ensure we have a Labour 2014 victory?
Dalene Mactier

Looking back over the last 18 months, what was your biggest mistake? How will you do this differently in the next 18 months to ensure we have a Labour 2014 victory?
Dalene Mactier

John Key seems to be made of Teflon, people love his down to earth way and the fact he is a self-made millionaire, what do you think is needed to take the shine off his unwavering popularity and why do you think you can be ‘the one’ to take him on and win the next election?
Annalise Roache

Do you believe that there are sufficient votes on the Left of the NZ political spectrum to get Labour into government in 2014, or do we need to frame policies which attract voters from the Centre, and quickly repudiate policies which will lose votes from the Centre?
Gordon Gandy

Wherever you come from, List or Electorate, how will your voting base translate into New Zealand wide voter-appeal?
Steve Farrow

The reality is that to send John Key to the Opposition benches will require a Labour/Green coalition. How do the candidates envisage working with the Greens to produce a public face on policy and co-operation that will maximise the Centre Left vote to reenergise those who didn’t vote in 2011 and to claw back the swinging votes from National.
Bruce Ellis

What do you think is the major reason for Labour’s poor performance in the polls (and last election) and what, under your leadership, will you do differently?
Fraser Newman

All three of the MPs have great ideas, but how are those ideas to be implemented and for those MPs that have the same ideas, why can you do it better than the other MPs (e.g. unifying the party)?
Emma Burke

If when you are in Government you believe that you are going to make a decision which goes against Party policy how will you deal with it?
Edwin Daniel

What do you plan to do to win back traditional labour voters who have become disillusioned with the party/ it’s leadership and have started voting Green?
Phillipa Mallinson

How will you make yourself and the party relevant to undecided/swing voters?
Phillipa Mallinson

While you say that Labour no longer (at last!) subscribes to the neo liberal “free” market economic perspective, Aotearoa is tied into this mode of global economics in several ways, not the least of which are the Trade Agreements (most of which were negotiated by Helen Clark) and we are threatened currently with becoming signatories to the TTP. Our Bill of Rights has virtually no teeth – not to mention religious/Church organisations being blatantly able too violate human rights in the name of Faith/Religion! We are looking at our Constitution to write it or not to write it. For me these three factors, amongst others are utterly inter-connected and any Government looking to bring about constructive change is faced with doing so within this context – which has to change for the dignity and welfare of all people and survival of our planet as a habitat for humans and other species alike. These are, as Grant acknowledges, moral as well as ethical, justice and, above all, spiritual issues. Until politicians recognise that all people are intrinsically of equal dignity and worth and that the above situation needs to be altered accordingly, no piecemeal tinkering with what has happened to this country will be adequately effective. Labour needs to set about systematically undoing what Geoffrey Palmer proclaimed labour would do, and succeeded in doing, that is, change the culture of this country from a perspective of service and respect to the profit motive and commodification of people. The machinery put in place to make the changes proclaimed was systematic and comprehensive and immoral. I remember it well, but then I am much older that you are. Furthermore, of even greater importance is our understanding of the place of the human in planet earth, the universe, the context in which I lives have any meaning. Our industrialised, technological society is damaging the earth, causing unprecedented numbers of species to become extinct and destroying the physical and mental health of people and whole peoples. It is essential that all institutions operate out of our relatively new understanding of our evolutionary development and what that means for how we behave in the inextricable relationship we have with all that exists – we have the knowledge from science – we are acting blindly if we do not teach, learn and understand and act out of what we now know. QUESTION: To what extent does what I have written have meaning for you and if it does how will it inform the way in which you wIll operate as Leader of Labour (Prime Minister) or as a member of caucus working in solidarity to take this country into the future in a comprehensive, wholistic manner?
M Clare Pierson

The Labour Party has a reputation amongst much of middle New Zealand as being a supporter of the “nanny state,” multi-generational welfare and minority politics. How do you propose counteracting that negative perception while still communicating Labour’s values in a compelling way?
Rachel Jones

What specific policies have you seen working in other countries that you think could be imported into the New Zealand context?
Rachel Jones

What policy ideas do you have to offer the party that might be considered fresh and innovative?
Rachel Jones

Many people are frustrated with adversarial politics. Where do you see scope for reaching across the floor?
Rachel Jones


Economy : How can we convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work? Labour Leadership Q&A #9

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 9

Economy : How will you convince voters Labour’s economic policy will work?

Question : How can we get the voting public to believe that the present economic thinking has failed? And that Labour’s ideas will work for them?

Submitted by : Angie Croft, Christchurch


Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog. This started Tuesday 10th September, and continues till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.



Answer from Grant Robertson

We have to relate our economic vision to the reality of everyday lives.

This means an economy where people come before money. Where the centerpiece is full employment- decent jobs paying decent wages.

We need to talk about Labour using the power of government to help create a productive economy, not one like National’s that is based on speculation and selling off assets.

To create this economy we cannot tinker at the edges. We have to leave behind the neo liberal agenda and create a Labour way. This means changing the settings of monetary policy, giving Kiwi firms a fair go at government contracts, lifting wages, reducing power prices, building affordable homes and investing in industry and regional development.

The message from Labour must be, the economy will work for all New Zealanders not just John Key’s mates.


Answer from David Cunliffe

We need to be clear that the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) blew the lid off the myth that trickle-down economics will create a fairer, more prosperous New Zealand.

Free markets left to their own devices are ultimately destructive of human well-being. Unregulated markets tend towards monopolies and often concentrate vast wealth in the hands of a few. Neither outcome is sustainable or morally right.

When National says they are going to cut people’s legs off, Kiwis don’t want to hear that Labour will too, just nearer the ankles and with more anaesthetic. The post-GFC modern social democratic alternative must include:

• using the power of the state to intervene when markets fail;

• guaranteeing fair workplaces and decent wages through employment laws, including industry standard agreements;

• lifting the minimum wage to $15 and rolling out a living wage as fast as can be afforded;

• building new partnerships between communities, regions, industries and an empowering and investing State; and

• revised marco-economic settings that do not solely focus on inflation but include growth, employment, and our external balance.

New Zealand desperately needs change.

The next Labour Government mustn’t be more of the same.

I am offering Labour a bold economic agenda and leadership with the vision and economic credibility to see it through.


Answer from Shane Jones

Our ideas are exciting. We will use both the market and the State.

I am convinced that our tax system can be refined to incentivise and expedite fresh investment.

Industry will be actively supported, regional development will be promoted and in special cases underwritten.

Our mix of economic stewardship and equity is desperately needed throughout NZ.

I have the experience and the communication skills to sell this narrative.


TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent? Labour Leadership Q&A #3

Posted by on September 11th, 2013

14 Questions for 2014

Virtual Hustings Meeting – Question 3

TPPA : Will you make the TPPA process transparent?

Explanatory Note: From September 10th to 14th 2013 as part of the official selection process for a new leader the New Zealand Labour Party is holding a “Virtual Hustings Meeting” hosted by Red Alert and organised by Scoop Amplifier. Over 7 days questions were solicited from eligible voters in the election. The questions and answers are now being posted as a set of 14 posts at the Red Alert Labour Party Blog starting yesterday (Tuesday 10th September), till Friday 13th September. At Red Alert all-comers are welcome to discuss the answers in the comment section of the blog. The three candidates are expected to participate in these discussions at times over the five days till Saturday 14th September.


Question : What are your views on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement? Will you make the TPPA process transparent?

Submitted by : Cushla Dillon, Auckland



Answer from Grant Robertson

The TPPA is more than a normal trade agreement and needs to be treated as such, with caution.

I am a supporter of trade agreements that gain our exporters access to markets that will mean they can create jobs here in New Zealand. But we have to ensure that our rights to make laws, regulate and protect our people and environment is upheld.

In the case of the TPPA we must set clear bottom lines. No change to the PHARMAC model, protection of IP and copyright law, and ensuring our sovereign right to regulate and make policy is supported.

We do need more transparency in the way we deal with trade. I would set up an independent trade advisory group with representation from across the community to ensure there is public participation and understanding of our approach to trade agreements. We must be at the table for these sorts of negotiations, but it is vital that it is a Labour Government at the table.


Answer from David Cunliffe

I am concerned about the TPPA. We cannot trade-away our ability to set government regulation. I am worried that John Key and his Government will continue to keep us all in the dark about the text and its implications and I fear they will then present us with the final text some time near the end of this year and insist that we accept it otherwise we will harm our trading relationships.

This will leave us with little or no opportunity to consult with our communities about its potential implications.

We must protect Pharmac, ensure intellectual property provisions are suitable for New Zealand business, and we must not accept limits on our sovereign right to regulate. Any agreement must be in New Zealand’s best interest.


Answer from Shane Jones

A very challenging issue. It is vitally important we retain the capacity for our Parliament to regulate for public good.

It is essential that this deal does not hobble our technical industries through punitive patents. Ultimately however I do not want to see our Trade partners in a club without us.


The SkyCity Gamble

Posted by on September 3rd, 2013

Many New Zealanders think having a new international convention centre is desirable.  Few of them think paying for it via problem gambling is a good idea.

This Government is pushing a bad deal onto New Zealanders.

Steven Joyce’s own department estimates that 8000 more Aucklanders will be affected by the fallout from problem gambling.  Another report suggests the net benefit of the deal to the economy will be just 18 more jobs.

The Government originally tried to sell this deal as an economic development initiative, but because the economic benefits of the casino deal to New  Zealand are marginal, the debate has shifted to the problem gambling that is paying for it.

Why is the deal so bad? Simply put: it is because the Government *put itself* over a barrel in the negotiations.  A transparent process would have seen competitive bidders. Instead SkyCity were able to name their price from a Government already commited to saving political face through getting this deal done.

The Auditor General certainly pulled no punches in describing the process for what it was: “we do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even handed”.

Treasury has made it clear that they are not convinced by the cost benefit analysis presented to Ministers.  Treasury expressed “strong concerns that private benefits to SkyCity will exceed public benefits to New Zealanders.”

The deal buys SkyCity an extra 230 pokie machines and an extension on its licence until 2048 in return for building the New Zealand International Convention Centre.  Even if you put the horrors of problem gambling to one side, comparison with overseas valuation of gambling rights shows taxpayers have been short-changed.

Sudhir Kale, a professor of marketing at Bond University in Queensland, and a friend of SkyCity CE Morrison has worked as a consultant at casinos on five continents.  He says the deal was a clear win for SkyCity. “He’s a friend, but if you want to quote me you can say: ‘Morrison did an excellent job negotiating with authorities’.” Kale calls the 27 year license extension ‘icing on the cake’.

The Treasury were spot-on when they said that public costs will flow to private gain once the centre is paid off.

And there may be worse to come.  The final negotiations on spend for the convention centre are set to happen during election year.  The Government has reserved itself the right to hand more taxpayer cash over to SkyCity to get the negotiation done.

The fact that gambling issues are treated as conscience issues in Parliament presents an opportunity to MPs; we are explicitly invited to exercise our consciences.

You may not have heard of the National MP Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga but he holds the deciding vote that could stop the extra pokies. Sam comes from a part of the country where pokies do more harm than almost anywhere else.  Signing the online petition to encourage him to change his mind is a practical step you can take to push for change.

$1.5 billion – for what?

Posted by on May 18th, 2013

Earlier this month Cabinet gave Revenue Minister Peter Dunne and the IRD $1 billion of your money to buy a new computer – and another $500 million just in case the Minister burned through your first billion too quickly.

The announcement was astonishingly vague.

Almost immediately we in the Labour Party located an independent review of the computer plan. In a document released to me under the Official Information Act we learned how KPMG reported:

We do not believe the timeline presented… is achievable. A programme of this complexity, where scoping and articulation of long-list options, a robust options assessment (critical for Treasury support) and the programme’s design (i.e. ordering of tranches and projects) have not yet occurred.

Now that John Key and Bill English have bought down their Blackjack Budget we can see KPMG were too diplomatic.

Here’s how the official Budget Economic and Fiscal Update (BEFU) 2013 (p64) defines the project:

Revenue – Transformation and Technology Renewal (Changed)

The Government is exploring options that will fundamentally change the way IRD manages its processes and data. Any changes could have material costs to implement (with capital and operating implications) and/or impact tax revenue collections. The Government is currently considering a programme business case and is yet to finalise the scope of the programme.


The National Government have committed $1.5 billion of your dollars to a project which hasn’t been fully considered and which isn’t even properly scoped. For $1.5 billion you could have two thousand experienced nurses providing essential care in our hospitals for 12 whole years!

Ordinary people in New Zealand are doing it hard. Ordinary people are worried about the lack of jobs, and how to put food on the table for their kids.

Too many ordinary people can’t dream of having a new computer in 2013. But Peter Dunne gets $1.5 billion for his, and he doesn’t even know which one he wants.

Or maybe the Minister with the casting vote in the shabby casino deal will blow the lot on ‘scope defining’ exercises. Either way it’s ordinary families who will foot the bill under National.

David Cunliffe is Labour’s Revenue Spokesperson.

What’s half a billion between the Government’s friends?

Posted by on May 8th, 2013

Half a billion dollars. $500 million dollars. It’s an almost unimaginable amount of money to an ordinary person.

Half a billion is almost a third of Police’s annual budget. It’s more than DOC’s entire funding.

It’s a year’s wages for 4,150 experienced nurses and 4,150 experienced secondary school teachers as well.

It’s $113 for every man, woman and child in New Zealand.

And it’s the amount National promised Peter Dunne last week for potential overruns in his “upgrade” of IRD’s computer system.

Yes, you read that correctly. I’m not talking about the known project costs – National has committed $1 billion for those.

The extra half a billion is just in case Mr Dunne blows through the first billion without getting the job done. It’s a shadowy “slush fund” equal to half the basic worked-out cost of the project.

And let’s be frank – the Revenue Minister’s reputation for basic maths hasn’t been strong of late. This year Dunne’s had to back down on reckless new taxes on car parks and iPads and laptops and cellphones, because Labour proved he hadn’t done his sums.

But what do the experts think? Well accountants KPMG reviewed Mr Dunne’s project at the end of last year and there appear to be real issues with the way it has been set up.

Here’s what KPMG said:

“We do not believe the timeline presented… is achievable. A programme of this complexity, where scoping and articulation of long-list options, a robust options assessment (critical for Treasury support) and the programme’s design (i.e. ordering of tranches and projects) have not yet occurred.”

Now Labour does agree the IRD’s FIRST mainframe is not fit for the internet age. IRD started as a revenue collecting department, but now it has responsibilities in KiwiSaver, child support and student loans.

But surely a project of this magnitude needs to be planned better than “give or take half a billion”? Especially after this Government’s total botch-up with Novopay.

It all beggars belief really, just as National and Peter Dunne will beggar New Zealand until they’re given the boot at the next election.

Saving New Zealand’s own eel

Posted by on April 23rd, 2013

We’re a passionate people about our natural environment. From the kiwi to the kauri, from the black robin to Maui’s dolphin, our shared sense of responsibility to protect (and when necessary save) our native flora and fauna unites New Zealanders from all walks of life.

The longfin eel (known in Te Reo Māori as tuna) is this country’s only native eel. It’s an amazing species.

Longfin eel only reproduce once in their lifetimes. When the females reach about 80 years of age their instinct drives them from their homes in freshwater streams and rivers out into the sea, and onto a journey of thousands of kilometres to the Tonga Trench where they breed and pass away. Their spawn are carried by ocean currents all the way back to New Zealand, where they make their way up the rivers and that very slow reproductive cycle begins again.

Tuna are taonga to many Hapu and iwi, and at times in history they have been a crucial food protein source for Māori.

Indeed eel is a reasonably popular food in West European markets, particularly in Belgium and the Benelux countries. New Zealand fishers have long exported to Europe and recently there’s been some tentative steps towards selling into Asia.

The available science shows longfins are in decline. They are particularly susceptible to water pollution and sedimentation, and their slow breeding cycle has been disrupted by overfishing and damming of rivers.

Perhaps the starkest evidence is the size of the commercial fishery. At 82 tons it has dropped a whopping 96% since the 1960s.

Yet, for all which we do know, our longfins remain mysterious creatures – and we as a country don’t have adequate science to know just what is required to turn around their path to extinction.

That’s a gross failing on the part of Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, who is supposed to be responsible for fisheries science, as well as Conservation Minister Nick Smith who is responsible for the DOC estate where much of the population lives.

In the face of hands-off inaction from the Government, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, launched her own investigation into the status of longfin eels. Last week Commissioner Wright released her comprehensive report, and it’s a true landmark.

The Commissioner calls for better science, which is a no-brainer – but also for a total moratorium on the commercial fishery.

Now a moratorium is a bold step which would hit fishing communities and some iwi in the pocket. However if the eels go extinct the outcome is the same – only we’d all be the losers.

Conservationists and fishing industries around the world have long looked to New Zealand as an example of a country where the people care for the environment, and as a an early leader in science-based quota management. If the choice is extinction or saving our native eel, then I expect New Zealanders will want their Government to take responsibility and rescue our natural heritage.

So the Government’s deafening silence in the face of Commissioner Wright’s report has been truly disturbing. Ministers haven’t even issued press releases, and the only acknowledgement of the report has come from officials.

I asked Nathan Guy “Is he concerned that the longfin eel (tuna) might go extinct; if so, why, if not, why not?” and here’s what he said:

I will not be able provide the Member with a response within the timeframe available and will endeavour to provide this response at the earliest opportunity.

I received that non-answer three weeks ago but haven’t heard a peep from the Minister since.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment couldn’t have been clearer that the time for action is now. If we don’t commit to saving our native eel then it will go extinct – and extinction is forever.

Could it be that the National Government are so hands-off and hostile to the environment that they just don’t care?

Op-ed: We all must pay tax – including multinationals

Posted by on April 12th, 2013

This op-ed was originally published in the New Zealand Herald.

On May 14 Australia’s Budget will introduce new requirements providing more transparency of tax arrangements by giant multinationals like Apple and Google. It’s a fair bet that just two days later, our Government’s Budget won’t.

Australia has chosen to front-foot an important global economic challenge while, once again, our Government sits on the sidelines.

The new Australian regulations will ensure companies with annual revenue above A$100 million ($122.5 million) will have their tax details published by the Government in a bid to ensure that all pay, and are seen to pay, their fair share.

The issue is sharpest for online sales, where it is possible to allocate costs and shift profits and tax liabilities across borders to low tax jurisdictions.

“As a matter of principle, taxpayers, whether they’re companies or individuals, should pay their proper rate of tax.” Most fair-minded Kiwis would agree with that statement by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

On April 2 the Herald’s editorial railed that “point-scoring outbursts will not solve [this] tax conundrum”.

I couldn’t agree more. Reasoned and considered debate on this complex issue is required. But that must not be an excuse for inaction. This is not a populist issue – it is an issue for a 21st century tax system and one that multiple jurisdictions and international bodies are grappling with, including the OECD and the Group of 20 industrialised nations.

Enduring solutions will require both a global response and a clear sense of what we expect of our tax system in New Zealand. But global co-operation is no excuse for local indifference, impotence or resignation.

Recent months have shown that we have a Revenue Minister who is more interested in tinkering around the edges.

Peter Dunne wants to tax New Zealanders’ use of iPads and iPhones but shies away from taxing Apple itself.

The Herald asked this writer if it seemed fair that in New Zealand Apple paid only $2.5 million in tax on $571 million in turnover. Of course tax is paid on profit, not revenue – and Apple NZ apparently made only $5.5 million in profit and paid 31 per cent tax on that. Fair enough?

Oddly, Apple shares have climbed 73 per cent from US$404.30 to $700.09 ($471,00 to 815.85) over the tax year to September 2012. Its global profits climbed from US$25.922 billion to $41.733 billion, or from 23.94 per cent to 26.66 per cent of sales revenue during that time. So why was its New Zealand arm so apparently unprofitable at less than 1 per cent of sales revenue, relative to Apple’s global operations?

New Zealand Inc’s inability to answer that question is exactly why the Australian Government will soon move to require transparency of tax arrangements for large firms. I would hope that as good corporate citizens New Zealand-based multinationals would welcome similar transparency here.

Let me put on record that Labour is not proposing new taxes in this area – we are researching and consulting on a widely recognised challenge: how to protect the tax base, improve transparency and reduce legal avoidance of existing tax obligations by global companies operating within New Zealand.

Globalisation is a fact, not a philosophy. The issue for all New Zealanders is how we deal with it.

Do we lay ourselves blindly open to the chill winds of international markets and simply take the tax affairs of multinationals on trust? Do we say it’s all too hard and bury our little heads in the Antipodean sand like the current Revenue Minister? Or do we learn to play a high-value global game like winners – including insisting that global businesses operating in New Zealand transparently pay a fair and equitable share of tax?

The answer matters because if multinationals avoid paying the taxes that are due, Kiwi mums and dads will be forced to pay more for their early childhood education, school “donations” and higher fees for taking their kids to the doctor. Or we will be told the services we need are no longer available because we, as a country, can’t afford them any more.

We are increasingly paying a high price for growing inequality. We have a right-wing Government moving to “targeted” social funding because even it is not blind to the inexcusable, ghastly truth that 270,000 Kiwi children live in poverty.

But that, once again, will be at the expense of working and middle New Zealanders facing more intrusive, penny pinching local taxes – from car parks to phones to Christchurch rebuild accommodation. These are the result of the Government balancing their books at the expense of yours – while waving the proverbial wet bus ticket at multinational tax avoidance.

Our tax system must be fair to all – and that includes multinationals paying their fair share. Because in the end somebody has to pay.

David Cunliffe is Labour’s Revenue Spokesperson.

Tax pain time

Posted by on March 26th, 2013

Next week thousands upon thousands of New Zealanders will wake up to a cut in their take-home pay because of policy decisions by the National/United Future government.

From 1 April 2013 the minimum KiwiSaver contribution is increasing from 2% to 3%, while the Student Loan compulsory repayment jumps a whopping 20% to 12 cents in every dollar earned over the repayment threshold.

Now Labour stands for a gradual move to universal, employment-based KiwiSaver contributions over time, because that will grow the economy and secure savers in retirement.

But with unemployment today at record levels, and with so many families only just getting by, it’s crucial that changes which hit people in the pocket are well-signalled and well-understood before they take effect.

Complex communications around tax changes need to be relevant. Some Kiwis watch the 6pm news; others will see billboards on the daily commute; and web-savvy students might expect important information to be pushed to them through social media.

Ultimately the obligation for quality communications falls squarely to Revenue Minister and United Future leader Peter Dunne.

But over and over again I’ve heard that many Kiwis have no idea how next week they’ll have less cash-in-hand to feed the kids and pay the mortgage.

That’s not good enough from Mr Dunne. That’s not good enough from the National/United Future Government.

Now too many Kiwi taxpayers find a phone call to the IRD an exercise in frustration.

But you can bet there’ll be lots of calls on pay day next week.

Too often people who phone the IRD contact line get put in a long, long queue (last time I tried I waited 45 minutes).

Even worse, callers are sometimes flatly told by a machine “We’re too busy – call back later” then disconnected. This is just not good enough. It is the taxpayer who is liable if issues are not resolved. Any Government has a duty to facilitate good compliance.

Therefore it’s a bit of a worry that IRD had its staffing slashed by 6% last year.

Who is going to answer all the calls?

And with the external communications so lacklustre, how can we be confident that Peter Dunne has ensured IRD’s own staff know what’s going on?

Fortunately (for the first time in quite a long while) Mr Dunne has pinned his colours to the mast.

I asked Dunne Parliamentary Written Question 1401 (2013), and here’s what the Revenue Minister has assured the public:

Portfolio: Revenue
Minister: Hon Peter Dunne
Question: Is he confident that the Inland Revenue Department is adequately staffed to manage any requests from businesses related to the change in minimum KiwiSaver contributions?

Answer Text: Yes.

Next week we shall see whether Peter Dunne’s word is more credible than his department’s communications.

Hands-off Government let export education drift

Posted by on March 19th, 2013

Lincoln Tan of the New Zealand Herald reports

A Ministry of Education report to be released this week is expected to show a 6 per cent drop in overall fee-paying student enrolment. The annual Migration Trends and Outlook, released last Friday, reported a 7 per cent drop in international student approvals to 68,980 – the lowest since 2008.

Of course it does not look good because the Government has been hands-off. It just let the sector grow when time is right or deteriorate when it is not, like the situations we are in now. No coordinated marketing, no leadership, no policy to give quality providers a boost and bad apples a boo.

The Labour list MP has a private member’s bill in the ballot that is seeking to tighten rules about small private schools having international or national titles in their business names.

The Bill has already generated some attention. For those who have not seen much of the Bill, here is the Q&A, which is self-explanatory.

 Education (Naming of Private Training Establishments) Amendment Bill Q & A

 1. Q: What is the purpose of this Bill?

 A: This Bill will stop misleading naming of PTEs and provide a boost to the image of the Export Education industry by ensuring that private training establishments (PTEs) are profiled correctly and accurately. The Bill will be one of the measures that are designed to promote NZ education providers collectively in the international market.

Currently there is minimal (and patched-up) regulation for the naming rights of PTEs which is causing great harm to our Export Education market in Asia and around the world. Many countries (particularly in Asia) have strict guidelines which reserve international, national or regional titles to reputable education providers whose names match their international, national or regional status. Therefore PTEs which boast regional or national titles in their names are attractive to Asian students and their families. However, a number of PTEs (although it is a relatively small number) in NZ have abused their naming rights and have created a credibility issue for the NZ Export Education system with the term ‘ghetto education’ being used in China and other countries to describe the state of the educational facilities in NZ, which is detrimental and unfair to the majority of the education providers in NZ.

This Bill will ensure that PTEs are profiled accurately and correctly and that New Zealand remains a top quality international education provider.

2. Q: Who is likely to benefit from this Bill?

A: The majority of New Zealand’s PTEs. This Bill is designed to protect them.

3. Q: Who is likely to be offended by this Bill?

A: A very small number of poor providers in the export education sector who are providing poor outcomes for students, flaunting the rules and damaging NZ’s overall reputation. The “ghetto education” – as so termed in overseas media – referred specifically to them.

4. Q: Will the Bill impose more regulation?

 A: No. This Bill seeks to help manage performance rather than impose more regulation.

 5. Q: Why this is a scaled-down version?

 A: The original Bill was drafted over a year ago and we have since undertaken consultation with the export education sector. We listened to them and have taken their advice. Generally speaking, under the current economic environment, the New Zealand export education sector needs help to compete with the UK, US, Canada and Australia who are seen as top quality international education providers.

The Bill in the current form deals with only one issue, which is the naming rights of PTEs.

The accurate and correct profiling of PTE’s will help promote the image and profile of NZ export education as a whole.

6. Q: Why does the Bill not cover border control in respect of the exemption for offshore education advisers providing advice on student visas and permits?

A: Two reasons: the loophole can easily be closed by removing the exemption by an Order in Council – this is the Government’s call and we urge the Government to seriously consider this.

Secondly, evidence shows that these issues were caused by a small number of poor providers. One of the reasons why these poor providers existed in the first place is that under the current legal regime they were allowed to profile themselves in an inaccurate (or passing off) manner and attract more international students to them than other providers who pay more attention to quality and sustainability of their establishment. Many of these poor providers are also aided by a “larger than usual” amount of commission paid to agents.

7. Q: Will this Bill impose any fiscal burden to the government?

A: No. This Bill will not cost a lot, if at all, to implement. With reliably profiled PTEs, we will attract more top-quality students to study in New Zealand. The flow-on effect will be felt throughout the country. So this Bill is good for NZ’s economy.

8. Q: Will this bill help prevent New Zealand from attracting the ‘bad’ students who tend to fall into trouble in NZ?

A: Yes. This bill will improve the level of export education in New Zealand which will have an instant flow on effect and lift the quality of international students attracted to study in New Zealand.

9. Q: What motivates you to write this Bill?

A: As Labour’s spokesperson for Export Education, my dream is to see New Zealand become a world leader in top-quality export education. As many international students do stay and become our residents after graduation it also goes deeper than just export education.

Because some of these students are our future New Zealanders – we must get it right from scratch and attract the best quality students to New Zealand.

10. Q: Isn’t it the case that no matter how good the Bill is it may not be drawn from the ballot and even if it does, it will likely be voted down?

A: True, but the Government will be forced to address the issue with more urgency.


Comments Off on Hands-off Government let export education drift

United Future’s awful week

Posted by on March 19th, 2013

Poor Peter Dunne. He’s having one heck of an awful week.

The sad thing is the United Future leader used to be quite diligent back when his party had a confidence and supply agreement with the 2005-2008 Labour-Progressive Government.

But Labour were diligent to Mr Dunne too. We respected United Future and we were careful to consult with their leadership on revenue matters and keep lines of communication open.

Perhaps, though, in the four years since as John Key’s Revenue Minister, Peter Dunne might have become too comfortable in his cushy leather-seated limo.

Mr Dunne has royally stuffed up with his attempt to ram through uncosted and unfair new taxes on car parks and iPads and cell phones and laptops, and goodness knows what else which hasn’t come to public light yet.

The mobile phone tax is a 1980s idea completely out of touch with New Zealand families in the twenty first century. What about the benefits of flexible work, especially for working mums? What about New Zealand-led companies working across multiple time zones (or the generation of Kiwi parents who have to phone Australia to talk to their kids)? How about encouraging the bright young Kiwis who’ve stayed here to be web warriors and build a high-value knowledge economy!

But let’s set aside for a moment the merits of the new taxes.

(Although, for the record, the car park tax made zero financial sense, would not have grown jobs or the economy or reduced crime, and had nothing whatsoever to do with a plan for better public transport.)

The really shocking back-story to this tax debacle has been the total contempt which Prime Minister John Key has shown for Peter Dunne and the United Future Party.

Twice in two days Mr Key has publicly put the kibosh Mr Dunne’s new taxes by speaking directly to journalists. Each time Mr Dunne has carried on, seemingly oblivious to how he’d just been thrown under the bus by National’s leader.

Today, in the seeming back down on the iPad and cell phone tax, John Key announced “there is virtually no chance of it going ahead” only minutes before he walked into Question Time.

That left Mr Dunne to struggle on under questioning, seemingly oblivious to how his IRD officials were wasting time and taxpayer money finalising another new tax which was already dead as a dodo.

Now Peter Dunne might have grown tired and reckless as Revenue Minister – and I will continue to highlight how on behalf of New Zealanders.

But, ironically, the reality is John Key relies on Peter Dunne to prop up his fraying Government.

That’s precisely why there is a formal confidence and supply agreement between the National and United Future parties.

Crucially the agreement demands confidentiality and collective responsibility. Well, United Future members can see there’s been none of that from the Prime Minister this week.

So, with the new taxes ‘dodo’, United Future’s membership need to ask why they’re being used to prop up the National Government. Because it’s clear that National have nothing but contempt for them and their leader.

The no credibility car park tax

Posted by on March 15th, 2013


FBT Action Group bumber sticker

New Zealand desperately needs a fairer tax system.

Labour stands for a capital gains tax because wage earners carry the can for wealthy property investors who too often pay almost no tax at all.

We support progressive tax rates because it’s wrong for the poorest in our society to subsidise big tax cuts for the richest.

Opposition to the National/United Future Government’s new car park tax unites unions and business because its administration will cost more than the tax will collect. That’s just crazy.

And those administration costs will disproportionally hit the poor, because it’s vulnerable female cleaners working at night for minimum wage who’ll lose their safe parking (not the bigwigs).

Labour stands firmly for better public transport in Auckland. But the car park tax simply isn’t intended to deliver that.

Any theoretical revenues from the new tax are earmarked to be chucked down the deficit hole.

That’s because the National/United Future Government have staked their entire economic credibility on two measures: reducing taxes and returning the Crown’s books to surplus.

Well they’ve completely failed on the tax reduction front. John Key and Peter Dunne have introduced more new taxes than any Government since Rob Muldoon. As well as the car park tax we’ve had the paperboy and papergirl tax, the increase in GST, higher prescription charges for the elderly, pickpocketed tertiary students, and cuts to services all over the show. Last week they even announced a rapacious tax on Christchurch rebuild workers’ accommodation!

With regards to returning the books to surplus, well we’ve had 4 years of John Key’s deficits. And the only thing New Zealand has to show for forced austerity are these new taxes which make zero financial sense.

So the National and United Future parties aren’t just scraping the bottom of their own credibility barrel – they’ve dug right through and they’re on their way to Greece.

It’s time for this Government to come clean and acknowledge their trickle-down dogmas don’t work in the real world.

It’s time for a plan to make New Zealand’s tax system fairer so we can see sustainable growth in jobs and the wider economy.

And a very simple start would be dropping this costly and absurd new car park tax.

Motivated by the pressure from their traditional backers and funders, I won’t be surprised if National concede on the car park tax pretty soon. If so, expect to see Tory ministers abrogate collective responsibility as they desperately try to shift blame onto United Future and Peter Dunne for this debacle.

Tell us it’s Dunne and dusted now Peter

Posted by on March 13th, 2013

United Future leader and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne’s belated recognition that he holds a casting vote in John Key and Steven Joyce’s shonkey SkyCity convention centre deal is welcome.

The question remains, however, whether Dunne will use his veto to stop the sale of our country’s laws to a casino.

Because he most certainly should.

By Dunne’s own admission the National Government “did play very fast and loose at times” during the rotten tender.

The Deputy Auditor-General was more clear – the deal was “unfair” and managed so the “SkyCity proposal was always going to be the most attractive”.

Last week Dunne (finally) appeared to lay down a challenge to the National Government which he otherwise supports:

There is a time-bomb warning to the government here. Support for the cut through approach will wither if it is seen to be a standard proxy for bending the rules or doing special deals to achieve the desired outcome. While the government is not immediately vulnerable on this issue, the clock has started ticking.

And it is worth remembering the adage, the ends do not justify the means.

Well National has responded to Dunne’s challenge.

I asked Steven Joyce written Parliamentary question [1307 (2013)]:

Does he regret any of his actions as Minister for Economic Development related to the Government’s decision to negotiate with SkyCity Entertainment Group Ltd for an international convention centre; if he does, which actions?

And Joyce has (finally) responded with one word:


This is just about the only time I can recall the Economic Development Minister giving a straight answer to any question. But what an answer it is.

With one word Joyce has confirmed he’s learned nothing from the Deputy Auditor-General’s scathing criticism. He’s thumbed his nose at fair and proper process, at accountability to the people of this country, and at their hard-earned (but fast fading) reputation for having the lowest level of Government corruption in the world. Joyce has effectively confirmed that so long as he’s a Minister he’ll trade New Zealand’s laws if he sniffs a special deal for the big end of town.

So there you have it Peter Dunne. National do think the ends justify the means. The time-bomb has exploded.

And you – and only you – can put a stop to this madness.

The question the whole country wants to know is whether you will. So do it today Mr Dunne.

Economic Development

Posted by on February 28th, 2013

David Shearer has been clear from the start that he wants a clean, green, diversified economy – to ensure New Zealand’s future prosperity.

With my appointment as Economic Development Spokeperson comes a big challenge. We need to present a credible plan to get to a prosperous diversified economy.  I’m excited about this opportunity.

Steven Joyce spent a year with the huge bureaucratic resources of MoBIE and failed to map anything but a managed decline. His ‘Business Growth Agenda’ finalised yesterday has proven little more that a year long coms plan. It’s been a year of existing policy re-heats with a few meek ideas thrown in for colour.

But Joyce is vulnerable. Because the facts are drowning out his spin.

Last year 30,000 jobs were lost.  Unemployment is pushing 7%.  1000+ Kiwis are leaving for Australia permanently every week.

No amount of spin can hide the fact that the Government has no plan for sustainable economic growth. Selling off our best revenue-generating assets is National’s big idea.  Treasury says it will set back the Government coffers by about $100m/year. Other than that, they intend things to continue as they are.

I’ve always maintained that the market makes an excellent servant and a terrible master. And this Government is failing to control the market. It is failing to deliver jobs. Right now so many hard-working New Zealanders are being treated like its slaves, forced to be grateful for any scraps that fall from the table. A full 40% of Kiwis earn less than a living wage.

Labour already has chunky policy announced that will lead to economic growth, jobs and an export-led recovery. In particular we want a pro-growth capital gains tax, Research and Develoment Tax Credits, Universal Kiwisaver, Pro-Kiwi procurement policy and tools for the Reserve Bank that will allow it to do what overseas countries are doing to assist their exporters.  These changes will give the economy a shot in the arm and create jobs.

There is more to explore.  Sector-specific incentives for growth beg consideration, as do the implications of Labour’s affordable and healthy housing announcements.  They will create jobs as will our commitment to creating more apprenticeships.  Labour wants a market that generates jobs, living wages and future prosperity for our country.

We need change, because the old solutions have been shown to fail. Right now, the market and it’s hands-off disciple Mr Joyce are not working in the interest of New Zealanders.

Moving on to the next challenge

Posted by on February 25th, 2013

I have enjoyed the Health portfolio. It is huge and arguably, it takes longer than one year to get around and establish networks. I have been doing that in the past year and I am grateful to all those who were prepared to engage intelligently and repeatedly with me. I have been pleased to stick up for diabetics in the disastrous changeover to the Care Sens blood glucose meters. It was a mistake and should be rescinded. It affects the way people manage their diabetes and directly impacts their well being, especially for Type 1 diabetics.

I have also made a running on the increase in prescription charges, changes to pharmacists’ contracts with the DHBs, and the burden of implementation of changes falling on local pharmacies. This sector is in chaos and Tony Ryall continues to pretend that there is nothing to see here. Shelves full of uncollected prescriptions would say otherwise. If people can’t afford medicines, and some clearly can’t, we are only going to see additional hospitalisations further town the track.  This isn’t rocket science – just medical science.

But now I take up a new challenge with the Environment portfolio.  And there are challenges aplenty.  We would all love our myth of being 100% pure to become fact again but we need aggressive leadership in this area if that is ever to happen. From our waterways to our air quality, and much more besides, there is much to do to restore our natural environment and to protect it for future generations.  I look forward to that challenge.

Thanks again to all you good health folk for working with me over the last year.  Keep up the good work!

Today the house must not win

Posted by on February 20th, 2013

New Zealand is a small, remote country with an unfortunate reliance on imported capital to maintain our standard of living. A crucial insurance for the economy is New Zealanders’ hard-earned reputation for having the lowest level of government corruption in the world.

Or at least that’s something we had.

I write this post with the heaviest of hearts because I know how completely National has jeopardised the economy. I know how foreign investors will be frightened by the truth. Their reaction could see more hardworking and innocent Kiwis turfed on the unemployment scrapheap.

Ultimately, though, there is an overwhelming public interest in having on record just how low Prime Minister John Key and his factotum Steven Joyce have sunk in their bid to trade our country’s laws for a casino’s cash.

Yesterday the Deputy Auditor-General released her report into the tender process for the SkyCity convention centre. At 71 pages it is among the longest and most damning auditor’s reports I have seen. John Armstrong, writing in the New Zealand Herald, assessed the tender as “verging on banana republic kind of stuff without the bananas.” Armstrong was too polite.

Labour leader David Shearer summed the report up more completely: “Kiwis know [Key] was donkey deep in this entire process. The deal with SkyCity was his idea. He knew exactly what was going on and was pulling the strings behind the scenes.”

I have followed the convention centre tender since it first came to public light in 2010 – months after John Key had a cozy dinner with the casino company’s board and (in the PM’s own words) “discussed a possible National Convention Centre and they raised issues relating to the Gambling Act 2003”.

As time has passed I have become more and more outraged by what was transparently a stacked process seemingly designed to ensure SkyCity was the only tenderer left standing at the end.

All throughout the National Government have obfuscated, played cat-and-mouse games with the Opposition and the media, and denied multiple Official Information Act requests on the most specious of grounds.

Not only did ministers refuse to answer more than 100 of my parliamentary questions on the SkyCity deal – but they even took to using the SkyCity deal as a supposed reason to refuse answering dozens of questions which were quite unrelated to the casino!

The Commerce Select Committee (which I am a member of) even had to take the most extraordinary step of recalling Ministry of Economic Development/MoBIE officials to a second testimony session, following their failure to answer legitimate questions as part of the committee’s 2011/12 financial review.

As the years passed and the stench of the rotten tender grew overpowering, the sole explanation Key and Joyce offered for their preference for SkyCity was that taxpayers wouldn’t foot the bill for the conference centre. But that was an outright lie – $2.1 million of your dollars were diverted from the Christchurch earthquake recovery effort and other economic development programmes to support the convention centre design!

Finally, when the Deputy Auditor-General prudently announced a probe into the whole sordid affair, Steven Joyce vowed to push on in contempt of her. In my time in Parliament I have never seen anything like it.

But now the auditor has published her report. Her findings are damning and they back up what I have been saying and what my Labour colleagues have been saying since 2010. It is beyond comprehension that Steven Joyce did not resign from the ministry immediately after receiving the report.

The Deputy Auditor-General’s findings include (and I quote):

  1. We do not consider that the evaluation process was transparent or even-handed (p5).
  2. SkyCity was treated very differently from the other parties that responded [to the tender] and the evaluation process effectively moved into a different phase with one party… the steps that were taken were not consistent with good practice principles of transparency and fairness (p5).
  3. The Prime Minister/Minister of Tourism… annotated the [tender] briefing paper by hand, stating that “we should close off the SkyCity angle first” (p15).
  4. It was well known among officials that SkyCity had met with various senior Minister in the previous months. In our view, there was an obvious risk that SkyCity would have a better understanding of the Government’s thoughts than other participants (p45).
  5. There were a number of flaws with the way the evaluation process unfolded during 2010 (p50).
  6. Given the nature of the responses, it is likely that the SkyCity proposal was always going to be the most attractive (p51).

So what are the broad consequences for New Zealand?

Has the opaque and unfair SkyCity deal been scrapped? No.

Instead National has thumbed its nose at the auditor’s office and is about to restart the negotiations. They have to finalise pesky details such as how anyone will receive the television news once a hulking great pokie palace is plonked where our state broadcaster has some of its studios.

Has the Government promised not to change the law to flood central Auckland with very low-taxed pokies, while taking money out of high-taxed pub pokies which fund kids’ learn to swim programmes and quit gambling programmes?

It’s a no to that too.

As my Labour colleague Ruth Dyson succinctly put it “The convention centre will not be ‘free’. The social cost for New Zealanders and their families battling problem gambling will be significant.”

So National seem quite happy to plough along with their trade in our laws, whatever the consequences. Well Labour will fight them every step of the way. I can only hope that the government’s support partners in the Māori and United Future parties will do the right thing and join us.

Ultimately, though, this is not only about one shady deal – although one shady deal is clearly one too many.

This speaks to the whole world about what sort of country New Zealand is in our collective soul. It speaks to the truth about whether we have a clean government which stands up and stops corruption wherever its finds it. Or whether we don’t.

And it speaks to our longstanding core values of egalitarianism and equality. Labour MPs face the human casualties of the National government’s economic mismanagement in our electorate offices every week. We know the despair felt by ordinary, honest kiwis who can plainly see that John Key’s ‘brighter future’ means one law for them and sweet deals for his mates at the big end of town.

The casino deal is a total disgrace. Clearly John Key and Steven Joyce don’t care.

So, in light of the Deputy Auditor-General’s report, I am publicly calling on SkyCity to formally withdraw their current tender. That should trigger the entire process to restart from the beginning, so it can be run fairly and transparently.

I look forward to SkyCity’s quick, positive and public response.

Extra: David Shearer, Grant Robertson, David Parker and Ruth Dyson all gave excellent speeches on the convention centre deal in Parliament today. Well worth a watch!

Two minutes silence for Hillside

Posted by on December 18th, 2012

On Friday at 11am, please stop whatever you are doing for TWO  MINUTES to mark the passing of 130 years of engineering work at Hillside Workshops in Dunedin.

Filed under: economy, jobs