Red Alert

Archive for the ‘legislation’ Category

Cutting pay Nat style #2

Posted by on April 29th, 2013

Simon Bridges will try to soothe the path of his Employment Relations Amendment bill by saying it’s about fairness and flexibility. Anyone who opposes will be portrayed as unreasonable and unbalanced.

When things get rocky, he will try to portray the Labour Party as being in the pockets of unions and unions as backwards-looking organisations. It wouldn’t surprise me if we heard more about North Korea and Polish shipyards!

Cutting workers’ pay is easy if you follow the MO of Mr Bridges and the National Government’s new legislation.

1. Increase the minimum wage by the barest of margins ($5.60 a week or 14 cents an hour in real terms since 2009).
2. Make workers vulnerable in their first 90 days of employment, so they don’t raise issues or concerns and have no bargaining power if they want the job.
3. Allow employers to refuse to settle a collective agreement – and the standards that extend to other workers are reduced as well.
4. Pay new workers less than the rate in any collective agreement so pay and conditions are undermined.
5. Enable employers to opt out of industry agreements (MECAs) so they can undercut competitors by paying lower wages – and drive down wages overall.
6. Tax workers if they work to rule rather than carrying on giving the free overtime.
6. Open up competition to small, under resourced competitors by removing rights for vulnerable workers to be transferred in contracting out.

If standards set by collective agreements are lowered, that will affect hundreds of thousands of workers, not just union members. Take for example, four weeks annual leave. That became law under the Labour Alliance government, because unions had bargained it into collective agreements for enough union members to justify extending it to all workers under the Holidays Act. Without that happening, workers would still be sitting on three weeks annual leave.

There will be a lot said in the coming months as Simon Bridges tries to justify these changes, but he shouldn’t assume people are stupid enough to buy his claims that the changes will lift productivity and help businesses grow.

We know they won’t because we’ve done this before under the National Government of the 1990′s. Thanks to similar employment law reforms, the gap between New Zealand wages and those of Australian workers widened and today it is more than 30%.

Watch out New Zealanders.

Paycuts are coming your way.


Williamson goes through the motions

Posted by on February 28th, 2013

Minister Maurice Williamson’s uncoordinated and piecemeal approach to building law review will do little except create more crises in the industry, and more stress for affected home owners.

The Building Amendment Bill No 4, now before the House for the second reading, is another example of his need to be ‘seen’ doing something, rather than the introduction of the meaningful reforms urgently needed to avoid a repeat of the leaky building saga.

The Minister has repeatedly ignored submissions from consumers, building professionals and the city councils, as the building consenting authorities. Without a genuine reallocation of responsibility and accountability, as the submitters have proposed, these partial instalments introduced by this current Bill will create more problems than solutions.

Protection for consumers is further reduced under this Bill No.4. It fails to offer consumers any effective remedies when left in the lurch by the cynical collapsing of a $1 shell company, despite that fact that the building sector failure rate is higher than the rate for all businesses before 2003 and after 2008.

No effective measures were introduced to address products warranty, although it is widely accepted that the leaky building saga was primarily caused by the use of inappropriate building products or systems. It is also unclear what the implication is for competition between local and foreign product manufacturers.

As usual, many provisions are yet to be ‘prescribed’ or ‘determined’ by regulation, meaning the law will be ‘prescribed’ by officials, rather than voted in by elected representatives in an open and transparent process.

I agree to the analogy used by submitters that the building control engine will fail if all the cogs are not all aligned and working effectively. A weakness in any of the processes will impact on others and result in risks and crisis.

Building Amendment Bill (No 4) — Second Reading

Sitting date: 27 February 2013. Volume:687;Page:82.

RAYMOND HUO (Labour) : I would like to start by thanking the officials and submitters for their contributions, and in reply to the Minister for Building and Construction’s questions, I would like to name not one, not two, not three, but 47 submitters. Particularly, I would like to urge the Minister to read again the submissions from Hawkins Construction, the Home Owners and Buyers Association, the Auckland Council, the Wellington City Council, the Christchurch City Council, and Local Government New Zealand.

I should reiterate that we support some good initiatives under this bill, the Building Amendment Bill (No 4). In particular, we have no problem in supporting provisions in relation to dams. Being a member of the Local Government and Environment Committee I have learnt a lot about issues in relation to classifiable and referable dams. Indeed, if this bill focused specifically on dams, making it the “Building Amendment (Dams) Bill”, we would support it all the way through. In that regard I would like to thank submitters such as Genesis Energy, the Greater Wellington Regional Council, Meridian Energy, the New Zealand Society on Large Dams, etc., for their thorough submissions.

We did support the Building Amendment Bill (No 4) to go to the select committee. However, listening to submitters and reflecting on the bill and, more importantly, the piecemeal approach this National – ACT Government has taken has led us to the view that this bill should not proceed. Labour supports the building law review process but cannot support the piecemeal and isolated approach, and therefore the passage of this particular bill.

The bill is the second of two bills to implement the building law review policy decisions. The review found weaknesses in consumer protection and a need to better allocate responsibility and accountability among building consent authorities, building professionals, and consumers. Since the introduction of the No. 3 bill, now the Building Amendment Act 2012, we, together with a large number of submitters, have urged the Government repeatedly that “In the absence of a more genuine reallocation of accountability, for example, through mandatory home warranties, the introduction of proportionate liability, and mandatory insurance, all parties (consumers, building professionals, and building consent authorities) will continue to be financially exposed, even for defects not of their making.”

To be fair to the Minister, Maurice Williamson, he might have good reasons for ignoring those issues. One of them is that he had referred almost all important matters to the Law Commission for review, such as the liability models and issues regarding mandatory home warranties or insurance-backed surety—fair enough, and I supported and would continue to support the Minister in doing so. But the problem is that the partial instalment will cause uncertainty and create false hopes for parties in the building and construction sector. This indicates that the Government is not ready to introduce a comprehensive reform package needed to genuinely achieve its stated goal.

For the second term and in its fifth year all we got was nothing but publicity gimmicks. Let me quote something to reinforce my position: “It is important to ensure the proposals are developed as an integrated package with a number of equally important and interdependent processes … To borrow the analogy of the discussion document—the building control engine will fail if all the cogs are not aligned and working effectively. A weakness in any of the processes will impact on others and result in an inefficient regime that is unbalanced and ineffective … It is disappointed that the Bill has been put forward in relation to a relatively narrow range of matters, although it recognises that the Bill is one component of a wider reform programme that Cabinet has approved. In it’s view, it would be preferable to delay legislative amendments until a broad range of changes to the Act (identified as part of the current reform package) can be promoted and consulted in an integrated way.”

Where are the quotes from? From the Wellington City Council in its submission on the No. 3 bill. It is still valid because the Government is still taking the isolated and piecemeal approach. It is dangerous because if all these cogs are not aligned and working effectively, the building control engine will fail, and we cannot afford to have a repeat of the leaky building saga.

There are other issues I wish to touch upon at the bill’s second reading. Firstly, the purpose of this bill is to introduce enhanced and more comprehensive consumer protection measures. However, we note the frustration of some of the submitters and agree with them that the measures included under this bill provide no effective new protection for consumers. Rather, the protection the relevant parties now have is further reduced. I agree with those submitters, particularly structural engineer Mr John Scarry, that the explanatory note of this bill is misleading.

Secondly, regarding company failings, concerns were expressed about companies that are formed for the sole purpose of a single building project and then liquidated as soon as the work is completed, leaving no legal entity that can be directly held to account for defective work that is later discovered. The bill fails to offer consumers any effective remedies when left in the lurch by a $1 shell company, despite the fact that the building sector failure rate is higher than the rate for all businesses before 2003 and after 2008. Even legitimate contracting and subcontracting firms have often ceased to exist by the time defects have come to light.

Thirdly, regarding products warranty, we welcome an introduction of a responsibility provision for product manufacturers or suppliers. It is widely accepted that the leaky building saga was primarily caused by the use of inappropriate building products or systems, or incompetence in, or lack of adequate oversight of, their application. However, given the complexity of the issue, particularly where prescribed compliance with the building code is often difficult to establish, the provision in its current form fails to address the problem adequately. It is unclear what the implication is for competition between local and foreign product manufacturers.

Last but not least are drafting issues. There are drafting issues in terms of how provisions in this bill will be implemented. Many provisions in this bill are yet to be prescribed or determined by regulation. Without proper definition it is difficult to put the clauses into context, which hinders their interpretation and the implementation of the Act. It is unfortunate that in this time of a building sector crisis, New Zealanders are seeing an experienced Minister simply batting away critics rather than showing real leadership. Thank you.


Today’s Members’ Bill Ballot

Posted by on September 20th, 2012

Today at midday there’ll be a ballot for members’ bills, with two places available on the Order Paper. A preliminary ballot will be held to determine which of the following bills will be entered in the main ballot:

20. Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill – Hone Harawira
22. Education (Food in Schools) Amendment Bill – David Shearer

In my view, the Clerk’s decision to conduct a preliminary ballot to determine which of these two bills, which have similar aims, goes into the ballot is the wrong one. While the goals of the two bills are similar, the means of achieving them a very different. The test needs to be whether the bills are substantially the same in their ‘content’, not whether they are the same in the outcome they seek to achieve.

For example, if two bills were put up around the transportation of goods from Wellington to Auckland, and one sought to do so via rail and one via road, if we used ‘outcome’ as the criteria for determining whether they were the same, only one bill would go in the ballot, yet clearly the bills are very different in their content. We’ll be relitigating this for sure, but for today at least, only one of these bills will make it into the ballot.

You can see the full list of bills in today’s ballot after the break. I’ll post the results just after midday.

Update: Hone Harawira’s Bill made it into the ballot and the following were drawn:

Conservation Natural Heritage Protection Bill – Jacqui Dean
Electricity (Renewable Preference) Amendment Bill – Charles Chauvel

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We are better than that

Posted by on September 6th, 2012

 

 

 

Tracey Barnett has put together this video and will be talking about the Immigration Amendment Bill (aka Mass Detentions Bill) tonight at the Devonport Library from 7.30pm.

I’m really pleased other people are talking about what this bill means. I have previously posted about my concerns and we do need to talk more about it. The bill has been reported back to parliament and you can read the Select Committee report, including Labour’s minority view here.


Red Alert Today’s Members’ bill ballot

Posted by on August 30th, 2012

Today at midday there’ll be a ballot for members’ bills, with four places available on the Order Paper.

You can see the full list of bills in today’s ballot after the break. I’ll post the results just after midday.

Update: the following bills were drawn:

53. Oaths and Declarations (Upholding the Treaty of Waitangi) Amendment Bill – Te Ururoa Flavell

43. Local Government (Public Libraries) Amendment Bill – Darien Fenton

39. Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill – Scott Simpson

2. Care of Children Law Reform Bill – Jacinda Ardern

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Today’s Members’ bill ballot

Posted by on August 16th, 2012

Today at midday there’ll be a ballot for members’ bills, with three places available on the Order Paper.

Labour has 34 bills in the ballot today. That’s one for every member. Not a bad effort!

You can see the full list of bills in today’s ballot after the break. I’ll post the results just after midday.

Update: The following Bills were drawn from the ballot today:

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Today’s members’ bill ballot

Posted by on July 26th, 2012

Today at midday there will be a ballot for members’ bills, with five places available on the Order Paper.

You can see the full list of bills in today’s ballot after the break. I’ll post the results just after midday.

Update: the following bills were drawn:

59. State-Owned Enterprises and Crown Entities (Protecting New Zealand’s Strategic Assets) Amendment Bill – Hon Clayton Cosgrove

55. Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill – Catherine Delahunty

37. Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Bill – Louisa Wall

47. Ombudsmen (Cost Recovery) Amendment Bill – Hon Shane Jones

40. Minimum Wage Amendment Bill – Dr David Clark

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Today’s Members’ bill ballot

Posted by on June 28th, 2012

Today at midday there will be a ballot for members’ bills. There are four places available on the Order Paper after the House managed to get through quite a few first readings yesterday. Labour has 33 bills out of 65 in the ballot, so our chances are looking good.

Members Day is one of the few opportunities opposition and backbench MPs get to set the agenda and debate the issues that we really care about. I’m really pleased my Labour colleagues have embraced this opportunity and all put something up for consideration (my colleague Lianne Dalziel had her Bill drawn in the last ballot and is presently working on a replacement).

You can see the full list of bills in today’s ballot after the break. I’ll post the results just after midday.

Update: The following Bills have been drawn from the ballot. Congratulations to these MPs: 

  • Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill (Russel Norman)
  • Habeas Corpus Amendment Bill (Chris Auchinvole)
  • Local Government (Salary Moderation) Amendment Bill (Annette King)
  • Prohibition of Gang Insignia in Government Premises Bill (Todd McClay)

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Key puts up ‘NZ For Sale’ sign

Posted by on June 13th, 2011

It’s time for John Key’s government to stop being dictated to by multi-national corporations and start putting the best interests of New Zealanders ahead of corporate profits. News that SkyCity has decided to invest in a new International Convention Centre in Auckland is great news for the economy, locally and nationally. But that doesn’t mean we should rush out and change our laws and regulations to suit the interests of SkyCity’s shareholders.

When Warner Brothers held a gun to National’s head, John Key rolled over and changed our employment laws to suit their whims. Now we’re seeing him roll over and offer to change our gambling laws to suit SkyCity. That’s not good enough. The National government should be guided by what is in the best interests of all New Zealanders, not what’s in the best interests of corporate giants.

It’s ironic that National aren’t willing to back New Zealand companies like KiwiRail, preferring to see contracts for new trains and carriages shipped offshore, but when one of the private sector big corporates clicks their fingers it seems there isn’t anything John Key won’t do to please them.


Uh oh – here it comes

Posted by on June 8th, 2011

John Key told the Seafood Council today that if National is re-elected in November, further changes will be made to employment law. 

I’m guessing they won’t be good changes for workers, especially when he boasted “trade unions won’t like them.”

He claims a flexible labour market is good for employers and workers.  Does he mean the one in five women employed in the public sector who work overtime for no extra pay as reported today by the PSA?  Does he meant the contribution they make of an estimated 2.5 million hours of unpaid work a year, worth about $54.5 million and equivalent to 1360 full-time jobs?

What I’m hearing repeatedly from John Key’s National Government now is that working people make no contribution to the economy – they have no role in productivity, should have no say in the workplace and most of all, should not expect either to have rights or to know anything about them.

Although the government has made some pretty hideous changes to employment rights, I thought we’d got past the real ideological crap of the past. 

But it’s heading our way in force.  Cuts to workers rights, low pay, asset sales and welfare changes – to name just a few things. 

Sounds like a government with no plan to me.


The truckies are stirring

Posted by on April 15th, 2011

Three years ago, leading into the 2008 election campaign, truckies staged a national strike, blocking the roads in protest at the then Minister of Transport’s announcement of an increase in road user charges.

It was Road Transport Forum (RTF) driven and many trucking operators put their employee drivers on the road that day to boost the numbers, which is a bit like a union paying union members to strike. It was timed well, and had an effect.  Transport Minister Annette King set up a road user charges review group which reported back in 2009.

Now parliament is considering a Road User Charges Bill that has got the truckies up in arms again because it proposes to change the definition of licence weight from nominated gross weight to a definition based on the maximum permissible on-road weight. 

The truckies are saying that this could mean increases in RUC charges for around 70% of the industry, forcing unproductive changes that could have impacts on safety, on damage to our roads, and financial consequences for SMEs. Basically, the big trucks will get off lightly, while the smaller trucks will pay more. 

In a fascinating turn of events, truckies have told the government that they are organising to protest again and this time around they will be better organised than in 2008. One operator has set up a website which is worth a look.

There’s a split in the industry. Many are supportive of the New Zealand’s unique road user charging system, which is now attracting international interest as virtually every modern economy develops and trials technology to implement similar direct charging for heavy vehicles. 

There’s some really smart modern operators in New Zealand now taking up the opportunity new technology offers to buy road user charges on-line and maximise efficiency. 

Then you have the RTF, who continue to insist that road user charges should be paid through fuel excise and who appear to treat modern technology with suspicion. 

Never thought I would be so interested in trucks.


Hobbit revisited

Posted by on April 12th, 2011

Apparently the Hobbit is going to be shot at 48 frames per second, which is twice the normal frame rate, which will make the film more “lifelike”.

I’m glad the Hobbit is being made in New Zealand. But given the events of last year, I doubt I will ever be able to bring myself to see the film, because the consequences of  the selling out of workers in the film and video production industry are not “lifelike” – they’re real. 

Today, CTU President Helen Kelly, who was pilloried for her involvement in the saga has released her story of how events unfolded.

As she says :

Fundamentally, this was simply a situation where a group of workers sought to have a say on the setting of their terms and conditions.  This was not just in relation to the Hobbit – but to all screen productions made in New Zealand.  This desire is independent of all the legal questions about employment status, status of the union and all other considerations – that is simply what it was, regardless of all the barriers that were subsequently put in their way.

There was no need to remove worker rights in the way the government did.  The dispute had already been settled. The boycott had been lifted.  Everyone knew, including the government, SPADA and Warner Bros.  

As Helen says :

It is clear that had it been known to the public that Warners and the Government already knew the industrial dispute had been settled and the “boycott” lifted, Warners’ trip to New Zealand would have been hard to justify and the subsequent promise of additional tax payer money and urgent law change would have been untenable.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that New Zealanders were done like a dinner on the Hobbit drama.  And the government’s strategy for attracting investment of Kiwi workers working harder for cheaper wages adds to the picture.

Read it.


Bully state – let’s change this law too

Posted by on October 28th, 2010

While everyone’s been obsessed with the Hobbit there’s another battle looming that could have the same end result – the government rushing off to change labour laws to prevent workers accessing rights.

Today, the Service & Food Workers Union is in the Court of Appeal defending the right of disability support workers to be paid the lawful minimum wage during periods they are required to remain on the employers premises on-call to the 4 -5 intellectually disabled residents they are supporting (known as a sleepover).

Last December, the Employment Court confirmed its decision that being required to stay on the employer’s premises during the night to support people with intellectual disabilities was “work” and should attract the minimum wage. The court described the responsibilities during sleepovers as ‘weighty’ and ‘critical to the business of the employer.’ 

IHC, the National Residential Intellectual Disability Providers, Business New Zealand and the Department of Labour put forward the argument that if the requirement to pay $12.50 an hour was averaged over a pay period employers could offset higher paid periods for those where rates below the minimum hourly rate were paid, but the Court disagreed. 

Now the government’s joined the appeal, with AG Christopher Finlayson appearing alongside the employer (IHC).  They will argue that it is possible to average the minimum wage across a pay period and thus it is possible to earn just $3.00 an hour for some hours worked.

The AG will be arguing that the Court’s decision to have these workers paid properly for sleepovers will be a catastrophe for the NZ economy because it will destroy the system of salaries, commission and piece work.

But just in case they lose, the government is currently working on an amendment to the Minimum Wage Act to overturn the Court judgement and allow “averaging” and legal rates of pay as low as $1.00 an hour.

What’s really behind it is that the government will have to stump up with a whole lot of extra cash for Disability Providers if the Court judgement stands. 

No problem bailing out SCF with $1.6 billion, but a big problem paying these workers properly.

So, easy.  Let’s change the law. After all, they’ve done it for the Hobbit, so why not?


National/ACT make Quinn prisoner voting law even worse

Posted by on September 19th, 2010

My good friend Andrew Geddis has delivered a devastating critique of the thoroughly misguided private members bill in the name of Paul Quinn to deny all prisoners a vote (as opposed to the current situation where those sentenced to three years or less can still vote). I have blogged about this before, and the bill was bad enough before it went to the Law and Order Select Committee. Now, amazingly the Bill has emerged from the Committee even worse than when it went in. I should note at the outset that Labour and the Greens are opposing the Bill, and have a minority report to that end.

Andrew is a level headed guy (and in the interests of fairness I should note he has expressed strong opposition to the earthquake legislation) who is not prone to hyperbole. So this paragraph should grab the attention

This proposal is downright wrong in its intent, outright stupid in its design and (if finally enacted) would be such an indelible stain on the parliamentary lawmaking process as to call into question that institution’s legitimacy to act as supreme lawmaker for our society.

As Andrew notes the Bill is against the advice of the Attorney General, and goes against decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee and courts in Canada, South Africa and Australia. It is a silly, hopeless piece of law that will do nothing to make New Zealand safer, and has the potential to make reintegration and rehabilitation more difficult.

But, amazingly, the National and ACT members of the Select Committee have combined to make the law worse. Andrew points out in his article that they are proposing to repeal the current legislative provisions regarding disqualification from voting and replace it with the following wording

“a person who is detained in a prison pursuant to a sentence of imprisonment imposed after the commencement of the Electoral (Disqualification of Sentenced 15 Prisoners) Amendment Act 2010:”

The effect of the repeal and a new clause only dealing with those imprisoned after the new law comes into force would seem to be that someone who is currently serving a term in prison of longer than three years (say Graeme Burton) could register to vote. I am sure National will now change this, but it really does typify what is a ridiculous bill.

There must be some in the National caucus who oppose this nonsense. Perhaps they should allow themselves a conscience vote and join Labour and the Greens in voting down this silliness?


Pansy on message (not)

Posted by on September 9th, 2010

Pansy Wong was answering questions for the Minister of Labour today in the House. I hope Kate wasn’t listening because she will be tearing her hair out. Pansy confirmed that the government is considering changes to collective bargaining and refused to rule out either a move to contracting out of personal grievances or the reintroduction of a youth minimum wage. We haven’t even begun the select committee submission process on the current proposed law changes to the Employment Relations and Holidays Act – and now Pansy has let the cat out of the bag about the next round of draconian law change wage and salary earners can expect from the NACTs.


Have your say at Select Committee – just kidding!

Posted by on August 27th, 2010

The most significant changes to workers’ rights in two decades are coming our way via the Employment Relations Amendment Bill (No 2), and the Holidays Amendment Bill, which had their first readings in parliament in the last few days.

So, you would think that the government would want New Zealanders (both for and against) to have their say.

Not so, it seems.

The two bills have been referred to the Transport & Industrial Relations Select Committee, who had, according to the Chair David Bennett, decided “informally” to call for submissions, even prior to the conclusion of the first readings in parliament.

(Disclosure :  I am a member of this Select Committee, where Labour and the Greens are in the minority, so I know what really happened, but I can’t say so publicly).

The timeframe for the submissions for these two bills is at best three weeks, with closing dates on the 13 September and 17 September respectively.

I would have thought the government would be keen to ensure all of support they claim to have had around the 90 day fire at will extension, the sickies get-to-the-doctor-or-else provision and the selling of holidays were able0 to be presented at Select Committee.

Or should I be more cynical?  Is the short timeframe really designed to make sure that unions and workers have as little time as possible to have their say?

If the government really believes there is support for these changes, they would have given more time for submissions.

But then there’s ACT calling the shots and National meekly following on behind.  I forgot that Minister Kate Wilkinson got rolled at Cabinet (again) over her recommendations.


Meaning the opposite of what they say

Posted by on August 22nd, 2010

work rally august

Today Dunedin-ites hit the streets again to protest against the Government’s unfair, unreasonable work laws.

I don’t know how many people, around 500, turned out on a sunny day. It was a good march and rally. Working people talked about their workplaces and the ridiculous nature of these laws and the effect they’ll have. This issue will continue to grow in momentum.

Last week Minister Kate Wilkinson stood in the House at question time and described the Employment Relations Bill as fair and reasonable.

Every time this government says certain words, you know it means something else. The opposite. It’s called Orwellian language which means an attitude and a policy of control by propaganda,  misinformation, denial of truth, and manipulation of the past.

She says this Bill is not major, it’s only a little change. That means a big change. Just like Tony Ryall who talks constantly about change in health. Change, which equals cuts. Or Bill English who talks about change in the public sector and reprioritisation. Words that mean cuts. Cuts to peoples services and people’s jobs.

And the icing on the cake is when the government talks about its policies being aspirational. Which means “we don’t really mean it”. They are now aspirational about closing the wage gap between NZ and Australia (despite promising to do so before the last election). They are no doubt aspirational about creating 170,000 jobs. And there are countless other things they are “aspirational” about.

Unfortunately they are not aspirational about this Bill. They really mean it. But it’s not, as Kate Wilkinson describes, a small change that is fair and reasonable. It’s a major shift towards fundamentally affecting the reltationship between employers and employees in our NZ workplaces.

It’s taking us backwards as a country. It will affect the morale and productivity of employees. Hard working NZers, people who earn wages and salaries. People who arent liars and slackers.

It will make workplaces harder to be. It entrenches unfairness in our employment relations system. It won’t do anything to address the fact that we don’t have enough jobs in this country, we don’t have an economic plan.

And then I heard yesterday that Paula Bennett plans to force people on  sickness benefits to get jobs, or they’ll be cut in half (and that’s for starters). Leaving aside the issue of whether people who shouldn’t be working will be forced to try to find work, just where are these jobs going to come from? And watch the messaging she uses. Code for people on sickness benefits being bludgers. Just like those on the DPB.

In the meantime there’s higher unemployment. And we’re about to have a GST rise.


Environmental Reporting Bill

Posted by on August 5th, 2010

This morning I’ve introduced a new Environmental Reporting Bill into the ballot. The Bill does two things. It requires the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment to produce a comprehensive report on the state of the environment at least every 5 years. It also gives the Commissioner the power to establish a standardised set of indicators to assess the state of the environment on a regular basis.

A recent report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment found that the quality of data currently available on the state of our environment is patchy at best. Establising a standardised set of indicators will help to remedy this problem. It will also improve the quality of the 5-yearly report the Commissioner will produce.

Improving the quality of information available on the state of our environment has never been more important. We now place a much greater focus on the impact of our actions on the environment. Assessing the effectiveness of our policy responses to issues like climate change will rely on the availability of quality, objective information.

Giving responsibility for establishing what data is to be collected to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment brings some independence to that process. I think it’s really important that the public can have confidence that the data presented has been selected and collected free from any form of political interference and manipulation.

There are still some logistical and resourcing issues to sort out. The Commissioner currently doesn’t have the resources to do this job effectively, so no doubt that will be the topic of some discussion should the Bill make it as far as a Select Committee. Should it be drawn from the ballot I’m hopefully my parliamentary colleagues will at least support the First Reading so that we can have that debate.


Nacts are Rats

Posted by on July 18th, 2010

P7180102

It wasn’t me who said it, but it sounds about right.


Should I explain John Key’s policy to him?

Posted by on July 17th, 2010

As workers gear up to fight against the government’s moves on employment law, it’s clear that Prime Minister John Key doesn’t understand what he’s about to announce tomorrow.

He said on TVNZ last night : “you can’t just sack someone (under the 90 day trial period) – you have to go through a formal process, but what the process avoids is a personal grievance just for the sake of things.”

Well, he’s wrong.  Under the 90 day trial period, an employer can just sack someone. They don’t even have to tell them why. They can just say “Don’t come Monday.”

And a personal grievance just for the sake of things?  Please.  He has no idea what an effort taking a personal grievance is and why would he think someone would do it “just for the sake of things”.  The number of grievances that proceed to mediation or beyond are tiny in comparison to New Zealand’s 2 million workforce.

Key went on to describe the law as “probationary periods”.  We already had those in the law prior to the 90 day Act last year, and still have them for all workers.

John Key needs to study up on his policies. I’m happy to help.