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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.

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

Submitted by : Cushla Dillon, Auckland

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LABOUR LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES’ ANSWERS

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.

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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.

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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.

ENDS


Lockwood raises the bar, again

Posted by on January 22nd, 2013

At some stage over the next few weeks, possibly as early as next Thursday, parliament will elect a new Speaker. As an opposition MP I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but we’ll be sad to see Lockwood Smith go. As Speaker, he has raised the bar in terms of ministerial accountability in the House. His most significant ruling, that when asked a straight question ministers should give straight answers, has changed the whole nature of Question Time. That ruling will remain in place long after his departure, although whether the new Speaker has the ability to implement it with the same precision and diligence is yet to be seen.

Just before Christmas, Lockwood raised the bar again, this time relating to ministerial accountability outside the Debating Chamber. Under parliament’s rules MPs are also allowed to ask written questions of ministers. There are a lot more of these and they don’t always receive the same level of attention questions in the House do. But they’re a vital information channel for the opposition, and they’re another way we can hold ministers to account for their performance and the performance of their departments.

Late last year Labour asked a series of written questions about the Novopay fiasco. The Minister in charge Craig Foss tried to brush them off by saying they were ‘operational matters for the Chief Executive’. This reply has been used by successive governments to sidestep bad news. However, the days when Ministers could duck for cover in this way seem to be over. In replying to Labour’s complaint on the matter, Lockwood Smith ruled:

“I note that there is no convention that Ministers are not answerable for operational matters, but that a Minster is not prevented from replying in those terms. These rulings related to a minister being questioned on operational matters for which a crown entity had responsibility. I expect a higher standard for answering questions relating to a department for which the Minister is responsible. A minister should be able to give informative replies about the actions of such a department.”

“As you have noted, the record shows that the Associate Minister has provided the House with information on this matter in response to questions for oral answer. Ministers are no less accountable to give informative replies to questions for written answer.”

Craig Foss subsequently provided more fulsome answers to our Novopay questions. But the effect of this ruling will extend well beyond this one instance. If the new Speaker maintains this new high standard, the improved level of accountability we’ve seen at Question Time will extend beyond the walls of the Debating Chamber. That’s a good thing.

The new Speaker will have big shoes to fill. All the more reason for the government to nominate a candidate who will have the respect of all sides of the House.


Parata battening down the hatches

Posted by on November 11th, 2012

Hekia Parata now seems to be working on the premise that the less information she gives out, the less accountable she will have to be. After making such a hash of her proposals for school closures and mergers and Christchurch, Parata and her Ministry are now refusing to release the information and advice she received when making those decisions.

I understand officials presented the Minister with several alternative options, but requests for that advice to be released are being refused. That is wrong. In refusing to release that advice officials have argued it would compromise the consultation going on at the moment. How could releasing more, and extremely important, information undermine a supposedly ‘genuine’ consultation?

Similar requests directed to Ms Parata have not been actioned on the basis that she is too busy visiting schools in Christchurch to respond to them. That’s a bit rich coming from a Minister who has refused pleas from those very same schools to give them extra time to undertake consultation.

The Government should be approaching this process in an open, transparent and democratic way. Instead the Minister and her officials are promoting a culture of secrecy. In turn that cloak and dagger secrecy around the release of information is simply creating an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion.

That’s not a responsible way for the government to behave. I urge Hekia Parata to openly release all of the information and advice she has received regarding school reorganization in Christchurch. Any refusal to do so will leave people rightly asking what she is trying to hide.


Who can argue against transparency for publicly owned Ports?

Posted by on September 18th, 2012

Tomorrow, my members’ bill, the Local Government (Council Controlled Organisations) Amendment Bill will have its first reading.

The bill is straightforward.  It will remove the current exclusion of publicly owned ports from access to information under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and Official Information Act requests.

Every port in New Zealand is wholly or majority owned by Councils, yet the ratepayers who own them have no right to request information about how they are run.

The issue came up again last week when Auckland Councillors were denied information about the amount of public money spent on consultants, advertising, public relations and legal actions during the Ports of Auckland dispute. 

But it’s not only about the Ports of Auckland. It’s about every port in New Zealand.  Hundreds of millions of dollars of public money is tied up in local authority owned port companies, but the public can’t even ask questions.

The principle of the Official Information Act is that the public own the information about publicly owned entities and therefore should be able to access that information, subject of course to the legislation.

Who can argue with that principle?

We will see tomorrow.


John Key’s “ghost followers” Part 2

Posted by on June 17th, 2012

Further to the previous post which analysed John Key’s Twitter followers and found an astounding 57% were not “real” followers, Boolean undertook a further analysis.

This time he analysed  John Key, myself, Russel Norman, Metiria Turei, David Shearer and Gareth Hughes. The results are here

They show pretty clearly that we all have followers who are questionable. But the percentages for all, except Key are pretty standard. More than half of John Key’s followers don’t stack up.

I reckon that’s a bit odd. I’ll be undertaking a cleanout of my followers. And expect a bit of scrutiny of them.

I think the question that remains is how did John Key acquire nearly 30,000 bogus  followers?


John Key’s “ghost” followers

Posted by on June 17th, 2012

JohnKeyInfographic2

I was sent this link  a couple of days ago by Boolean.co.nz which raises some interesting issues about the extent of John Key’s public support on social media.

To be fair I asked for an analysis of my own more modest twitter following to establish the extent of my “true” followers. The results of this analysis speaks for itself. (To see the comparison with my followers see below or click on the link).

Boolean has since done an update, which I’ll post shortly. But the question has to be asked, how come so many of JK’s followers are not real? Where did they come from? Can you “buy” followers?

Chris Keall’s recent article in The National Business Review had John Key @johnkeypm as ‘top of the twits’ with over 50,000 subscribers. With Newt Gingrich and Kevin Rudd amongst others being accused of buying Twitter followers I thought it would be interesting to investigate some of John Key’s followers.

In the comments for the NBR article MikePSmith suggested most of the followers were spambots with CK replying “overall it looks like most are living breathing New Zealanders”. I cast my eye over the followers and decided exactly the opposite: most of the following accounts looked extremely fishy.

The @johnkeypm account is a managed account – that is the man himself does not update it personally. Much like the man it is decidedly bland and delivers the party line more like an RSS feed.

To make the account look as popular as possible accounts that regular users block and report for spam are kept as active followers. If the account isn’t actually being used in the traditional manner those annoying spam accounts aren’t interfering with everyday use.

So with the help of Twitter API I analysed the followers of the @johnkeypm account. The results confirmed almost exactly what my eyes had already told me: most of the accounts were spambots, zombies, or worse.

With a very loose definition of an actual Twitter user as opposed to a spambot zombie (10 followers, 10 tweets, tweeted this year, have bothered to change the display picture from the default) the follower count falls to less than half at 22,000 accounts.
If you care to further refine the criteria to what most of us would consider regular active users the numbers just fall away. Limiting to accounts based in New Zealand (not fair to expats or those who choose not to disclose) then the numbers dwindle even further.

John Key probably remains New Zealand politician with the largest Twitter follower count but with a much smaller margin than the numbers suggest – if one is at all concerned about quality or real accounts.

UPDATE 15/06/2012
Other accounts will be analysed for comparison

Clare Curran @clarecurranmp
No avatar pic 8% (197 accounts)
No tweets 5% (115 accounts)
No followers 1% (15 accounts)
Inactives 22% (538 accounts) Corrected 16/06/2012
‘Real’ followers 85% (2076 accounts)

Update coming


Doyle on spades

Posted by on April 11th, 2012

Spade photo


Shhhh – that wasn’t the real BIM

Posted by on March 5th, 2012

National is planning a raft of changes around immigration that somehow seem to have been ‘left out’ of last month’s Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Immigration (BIM).

There’s a post-BIM BIM – a secret Briefing titled Issues and decisions for the first 100 days, which was prepared for new Immigration Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Minister Kate Wilkinson.

It reveals, among other things, Government plans to tighten up requirements for family members seeking residency in New Zealand, with preference to be given to the better off. Parents seeking residency in New Zealand to be with their children will face tougher tests according to the income levels of both themselves and their children. Parents whose families have higher incomes will go straight to the front of the queue in a  ‘Tier One’ category and face less stringent eligibility tests, while those less well off will be ranked ‘Tier Two’ and will face tougher conditions and longer waiting times.

There are already tough measures around the parent category.  They have to be sponsored and supported for at least five years. There’s a waiting list and defined numbers.  National made it even harder last year with its new “Parent Retirement Categories” which allows rich people to retire in New Zealand and be given preference over others.

The Adult Child and Sibling Category will be abolished altogether. These changes were signed off by Cabinet in May 2011, yet there was no mention of them in the publicly released Briefing to the Incoming Minister.

It  seems that only those with pot loads of money are welcome in our country.  We roll out the red carpet for people for them, to the extent we are prepared to change our laws and sell off our land.

There’s much more required for family reunification and good settlement outcomes than money, but that’s becoming the only criteria that matters.

But shhhh, it’s a secret, and you will only be told when the Minister decides you should be.