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Minister of Immigration all at sea over complaints

Posted by on February 14th, 2014

Spokesperson for Immigration

13 February 2014 MEDIA ADVISORY
Immigration Minister all at sea over complaints
Michael Woodhouse is clearly not in command of his portfolio as he simply does not appreciate the scale of the scams in our immigration system relating to job selling, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Dr Rajen Prasad.

“The Minister believes that all that victimised migrants who have been scammed for thousands of dollars have to do is to call a phone line at Immigration New Zealand and provide the information.

“He clearly has little appreciation of the scale and nature of the practices adopted by the illegal scammers. They lock people into paying exorbitant fees and leave them dangling on the promise of a job that they hope will eventually qualify them for residence.

“This Minister is not interested in finding out what keeps those complainants from coming forward. Those who scam migrants trade on the vulnerability of migrants because they want to make New Zealand their permanent home. They clearly feel they will lose everything if they complain in a very public way.

“In Parliament today The Minister of Immigration refused to accept that Immigration New Zealand threatened with deportation three people who complained of scams and refused them a visa while their complaint was being investigated. This decision demonstrates the very thing that complainants fear. It took the persistent advocacy of a very experienced lawyer over almost two months for this matter to be addressed.

“The Catch 22 that the Minister refuses to address is that when victims complain, their visas are cancelled or not renewed. If they don’t complain, they pay huge sums of money to illegal scammers and New Zealand does not get the migrants it seeks to attract. Some of the worst cases being reported to my office are from foreign fee paying students.

“The reputation of the New Zealand immigration system will suffer if its integrity is not protected. Many cases have been aired in the media, especially the ethnic media. Callers to radio stations have confirmed many of these scams and have made it clear why they are reluctant to come forward.

“This is why I have asked the Minister to set up an enquiry with sufficient safeguards to allow those who have been scammed to tell their story and expose the elaborate methods that are used by those scammers.”

Contact: Dr Rajen Prasad 021 444 177

John Key’s new BFF over-reaches in his attack on the ABC

Posted by on February 10th, 2014
Tony Abbott, Australia’s Prime Minister, has in recent weeks launched an extraordinary, vicious attack on the ABC, country’s public broadcaster.
Perhaps Abbott believes he can get away with such an attack in his first year of office. It’s been 12 years since I lived in Australia but it would seem to me that attacking one of the country’s most precious institutions is not wise.
His claim that the ABC is biased are simply not borne out by the statistics below. Instead it appears that “fair coverage” is something that the conservative side of politics see as bias.  Welcome your thoughts.This piece appeared in The Guardian a few days ago.

Is the ABC biased and inefficient? Here’s what the data says

Conservative commentators have lambasted the ABC for its skewed coverage but a range of figures dispute that
Mark Scott defends ABC spying coverage
The head of the ABC, Mark Scott, has defended the corporation’s collaboration with Guardian Australia in its coverage of allegations of Australian spying in Indonesia. Photograph: ABC

Following the ABC’s coverage of asylum-seeker claims of mistreatment by the navy, accusations of bias have been levelled at the broadcaster, and an efficiency review announced to assess its operations.

Tony Abbott attacks ABC for ‘taking everyone’s side but Australia’s’

The prime minister, Tony Abbott, said the ABC took “everyone’s side but Australia’s” and should show “some basic affection for the home team”. He also criticised the ABC for collaborating with Guardian Australia on reporting that Australian spy agencies had targeted the Indonesian president.

Conservative commentators have gone further, accusing it of being biased towards the left side of politics.

So, is the ABC biased?

Studies on bias are very thin on the ground, because measuring supposed bias is a very difficult business. To empirically determine what is factual, slanted, and misleading is challenging so we must look at a range of indicators.

Firstly, we can check if the ABC gives significantly more time to one side of politics during elections. Here’s the time spent covering different political parties in the 2013 election:

2013 federal election coverage: cumulative share-of-voice, all platforms combined
Radio TV Internet Total
Hrs:Min:Sec % Hrs:Min:Sec % Words % %
Coalition 55:27:29 37 37:10:23 43.4 27,588 39.7 39.4
ALP 51:52:10 34.7 41:53:43 48.9 29,079 41.9 40
Greens 14:51:44 9.9 3:57:37 4.6 6,069 8.7 8.1
Other 10:16:18 6.9 1:07:52 1.3 2,651 3.8 4.8
PUP 7:06:20 4.7 0:50:49 1 1,543 2.2 3.3
Independents 5:36:59 3.8 0:16:46 0.3 1,373 2 2.5
KAP 4:29:35 3 0:19:09 0.4 1,127 1.6 2
Total 149:42:35 100 85:36:19 100 69,430 100 100

Source: ABC, 2013 federal election. Report of chairman, election committee review panel

Coverage was pretty even between the two main parties, with Labor receiving 40% of coverage, and the Coalition 39.4%. In 2010, the split was similar:

Read the rest of the piece here:

Day Three

Posted by on January 22nd, 2014

I’m knackered. Five hours’ paddling, mostly against a headwind and at times bumpy water. My hands, arms and upper body are all feeling it.

But what a stunning day in the water: from the Tamaki Estuary, along the eastern bays past Karaka Bay, St Heliers, Kohimarama and Mission Bay to Okahu Bay, across the channel to Devonport, then past the naval base and Stanley Point, around the Bayswater Marina, and across Shoal Bay to Tuff Crater just east of the Onewa interchange on State Highway One. A visit there with the Forest and Bird Group who have been restoring Tuff Crater (more on that below), then down the Harbour Bridge, under the bridge, and finish the day at Little Shoal Bay.

A spectacular day. In a kayak you are so low in the water, so exposed to the elements, and out in the middle of the harbour you see the city from a different perspective. Views you don’t normally see.

Today I paddled with Tony Dunlop who I got to know when he stood for Labour back in 2005. He is on the board of Forest & Bird, and active in Coal Action. We got to talk politics and the environment, when we weren’t focused on battling the wind and the swell.

Three great visits today. The first was at the Tamaki Estuary, with Moana Tamaariki of Ngati Whatua, Colin Percy from Friends of Tahuna Torea reserve, and Jim Sinclair of the Tamaki Estuary Protection Society.  Colin was one of a group who fought a Council proposal to turn the  spit and wetland into a rubbish dump back in the early 1970s. For the last 40 years they have weeded, planted natives, laid tracks, and turned what was once a neglected wasteland into a thriving ecosystem. We walked through a pohutukawa grove with 20 m high trees. Colin and his friends planted it 40 years ago. The group are part of a Tamaki Estuary Forum which brings together a collection of community groups and Auckland Council local boards who are working to clean up the estuary, improve its current dodgy water quality and restore native habitat.

The second was at Tuff Crater in Northcote. We pulled up the kayaks next to the motorway that leads to the Harbour Bridge, and crossed on the footbridge. Tuff Crater is a an old volcanic crater, filled mostly with mangroves. I guarantee 90% of motorists on the motorway don’t even know it exists. We met Anne Denny of the local Forest and Bird group who have spent 14 years weeding and are well on the way to planting the entire crater walls with natives. They have built a path that is popular with locals. Amazing that this most unprepossessing of places – a mangrove swamp next to an eight lane motorway – has been reclaimed by this local group and transformed into something special. On the other side of the motorway lives a colony of threatened dotterels.

We finished up at Little Shoal Bay where Northcote College science teacher Dr Kit Hustler has devoted several years to monitoring native fish stocks in the stream that runs through Le Roy’s Bush which runs from the Birkenhead shops down to the harbour. The lower reaches of the stream have been gummed up with sedimentation. They are fetid and swampy with the unmistakeable smell of sewerage in the air.  Kit however has identified seven species of native fish in the river. It is extraordinary that in such a degraded environment the fish somehow survive.  The stream is a classic of our urban environment – a waterway wrecked by sedimentation caused by urban development, contaminants from run off, and leaking sewerage systems. Its flow into the city has been blocked by reclamation. Kit brings his students here to study the fish and their habitat, and works with local volunteers to clean up the bush and the stream and encourage the community to take care of it.

Whitebait, the juveniles of these native fish, turn up in the creek from time to time. Wouldn’t it be amazing if the waterway was cleaned up and restored so locals could catch a feed of whitebait at the rivermouth?

Three visits. Each of them local conservation heroes, not waiting for anyone to do it for them or give them permission. Getting on and making a difference.

More pics on facebook.  Thanks again to Ferg’s Kayaks for supporting this project. And Mels for doing logistics so capably.

First day’s paddling

Posted by on January 20th, 2014

Day one of my four day kayak journey around the Waitemata harbour and I am struck by how much life we encounter in just a few hours paddling: oystercatchers watching as we head off from Te Atatu Peninsula, a flock of Caspian terns take off and fly overhead, a fernbird calls at close range in the Te Atatu Orangihina wetland, a shag watches us as we paddle towards it and dives as we approach, a large group of black swans on Meola Reef take off like B52s, a baby flounder swims past (Rob thinks it fell out of the sky, out of the beak of a careless bird? I worry he might be hallucinating), and nesting black back gulls curse us overhead as we skirt along the Westhaven breakwater.

After only a day it feels like my senses have been immersed in the harbour. The endless shades of grey and green, the taste of salt water, surrounded by the tide below and the rain above, and the muscle ache of paddling into the wind.

Today’s paddling buddy was Rob Mouldey, fellow Te Atatu resident who works in Auckland Council’s biosecurity team. He and I fought a tactical battle with the weather, driving the stretch between Te Atatu’s Harbourview wetland and Pt Chevalier’s Meola Reef. It just didn’t seem like a good call to spend three hours paddling across the bay into a headwind. Luckily the Pt Chev-Herne Bay stretch was sheltered and calmer. But as we paddled under the Bridge towards that beer at North Wharf it got pretty choppy.

We met representatives of two tribes who will feature prominently in the next few days: conservation volunteers, and scientists.  The first was Jeremy Painting who is doing a great job looking after the amazing Orangihina-Harbourview wetland on Te Atatu Peninsula’s eastern flank. It is home to the fernbird, and the banded rail. Which is quite something: the fernbird is considered at risk, the banded rail is uncommon and here they are in the middle of the city. Jeremy, with the help of the local Forest & Bird group has been trapping the rats and stoats that prey on the birds. Feral cats are a problem, as are locals who let their dogs off the leash. The volunteers have also been planting, converting kikuyu grass back to native scrub.

Jeremy seems to know the fernbirds almost by name. When one called quite close to his he whipped out his smartphone and played the call of the bird’s neighbour! Apparently it usually brings him in. There are four breeding pairs in the reserve and each has their own territory, which strangely enough overlaps with the old farm paddocks that used to be there.

Across the bay at Meola Reef we met Carolyn Lundquist, a marine ecologist for NIWA who is studying the regeneration of seagrass. The seagrass declined rapidly over the last 50 years of the twentieth century but now interestingly it is making a comeback. Digital analysis of aerial photographs suggests it might be doubling in area annually. It is all the more counter-intuitive because the water coming out of Meola Creek is not that great. The beach here is permanently designated not fit for swimming. One theory is the sediment that poured into the Waitemata as a result of deforestation and urban development killed off the seagrass. Maybe it’s regeneration means the sedimentation is reducing?

These two,  Jeremy and Carolyn, represent the two key ingredients of change if we are to restore the harbour and the gulf to health.  Community support for conservation and treating the Hauraki Gulf as a real national park. And the science needed so we can understand the complex ecology of the gulf and develop good policy. More on that as the journey continues.

Thanks to Ferg’s Kayaks for supporting this project. And Mels for support and logistics.

More pics here.

Unanswered questions about Chorus

Posted by on December 9th, 2013

Update: You can put any of these questions to Amy Adams tomorrow live between 12.30 and 1.30pm on NBR’s live chat

As the Chorus debacle rolls on and the government’s role in its instability remains under scrutiny, the list of unanswered questions grows longer into how this situation has unfolded.

Questions to the Minister, to her ministry and to Chorus itself which if answered may provide illumination on how this train wreck of a situation  has come to be.

I put some of these questions to MBIE last week in the Commerce Select Committee. The answers were less than satisfactory and in some cases highly questionable. The current Minister Amy Adams, her predecessor and architect of the Chorus contract and the UFB Steven Joyce and even the Prime Minister continue to duck and dive accountability, using diversionary and reactive tactics as they try to come up with ways to keep the UFB on track and save Chorus’s bacon and their own hide.

1. Did MBIE (or it’s consultants or CFH) in 2011 calculate the likely copper price under a cost based pricing principle – if not why not?  Their own legislation created a 3 year moratorium (or regulatory holiday) on changes to copper prices.

  • What was that price or range of prices? Did they share that info with Chorus- why/why not? Did they also do calculations on the impact of averaging and the 2 year price freeze – did they share that info with Chorus – why/why not.
  • What advice went to Cabinet on this? Steven Joyce’s 23011 legislative changes to the Telco Act inserted the requirement for a move to cost-plus pricing of copper giving a three year window. What advice was provided on the impact of this change? Last Thursday MBIE officials told us in the select committee that there was some advice that copper would drop “a little bit”. How was that advice developed? And how much is “a little bit”?
  • What advice was provided to the Minister from Treasury re copper pricing/fibre. Did MBIE seek any advice from Treasury? Did the Minister? Did they offer any?

You would have thought that MBIE would have to have done the numbers on cost based copper – that  the UFB could not have been negotiated without them!  Otherwise why did the govt give a three year moratorium if it wasn’t to offset the impact of cost based copper – why wasn’t it a one year or four year moratorium – there must have been some calculations on which to base such a major decision!

2: Did any MBIE officials (including Bruce Parkes) participate in any discussions with Chorus or Mark Ratcliffe relating to the move to cost based pricing? Was the impact on Chorus discussed and what the moratorium and averaging would do in compensation?  Was there a negotiation where these things were agreed.  Was there anything in verbal discussions that could possibly have been construed by Ratcliffe  as the govt or officials saying that they would look after Chorus if the copper price ended up lower than they anticipated?

  • If Bruce Parkes participated in any of these discussions was he conflicted in the sense that he was previously a senior manager in Telecom and colleague of Ratcliffe?
  • Now that Bruce Parkes has shifted out of MBIE into DPMC, what role is he playing advising the government on these matters?

3: Re Amy Adams discussion document which is now the subject of a legal challenge by smaller Telco CallPlus  – where in that discussion document are all or any of the non legislative options that the PM says are there but nobody else can find? Isn’t it the case that the discussion document only proposes options all of which require legislation?

  • Was MBIE directed by the Minister to include only legislative options in the discussion document, if not why did they not include other options as requested by industry and users?
  • Why does the Discussion Document not follow Treasury regulatory principles?
  • Now that legislation to increase copper prices is off the table, will MBIE be recommending to the Minister that the Discussion Document be pulled? (They say no, but I want that in writing from them)
  • Does MBIE acknowledge that the section 157AA review is fundamentally flawed, and will it withdraw the discussion document and conduct a new section 157AA review once the UFB is in place;

4. Re passing on costs of cheaper copper to consumers. Has MBIE advised the Minister on price pass throughs from RSPs, especially in light of both Orcon and Call Plus saying that will pass price cuts on? Is MBIE and the Minister aware that CallPlus and Orcon have both said they will pass on the savings from a fall in copper prices to consumers. Why does she deny this?

  • Has MBIE had direct discussions with RSPs on this?

5. Re the Ernst & Young report?  Will the report released publicly contain the same information as the verbal report provided to the Minister? If not why not? How will the public be able to judge whether it is a rigorous analysis?

6. When Steven Joyce signed off the deal between Chorus and Crown Fibre Holdings for the $1 billion contract for UFB was he aware that no sub contract deals had been signed and therefore no prices agreed to between Chorus and the sub-contractors including Visionstream, Transfield and Downs to rollout UFB.

  • What material impact have those subcontract deals made to Chorus’s financial position and should Crown Fibre Holdings have ensured that information was locked in before the contract was signed?

7. What advice has MBIE provided to the Minister on how the potential renegotiation of the Chorus contract is fair to other ultra-fast broadband contractors who are fulfilling their contractual obligations without the need for corporate welfare?

  • Has MBIE provided the Minister with any advice on legal issues which may arise should the contract with Chorus be further varied to provide Chorus with a better deal than that with the three local fibre companies which are quietly getting on with the job of rolling out UFB.

These are just some of the questions which need answers. Feel free to offer more in comments

What Chorus and the Govt knew #2

Posted by on December 8th, 2013

John Key got caught out last week making misleading statements on the Chorus debacle.

A Goldman Sachs report from November 2011 reveals that at least one financial analyst predicted the wholesale price of copper would fall and provided an estimate for smaller Telcos of $8.47 per month which was significantly less than the final price of $10.92 a month announced by the Commerce Commission.

Today I am making public another analyst report by Macquarie Wealth prepared also in November 2011 which on page 7 clearly outline the risk to Chorus of an expected drop in earnings from UBA .

This is despite John Key and Amy Adams  claiming for weeks that no financial analysts had predicted the extent of the fall in the copper price. They were clearly wrong.

Last Monday Key was reported as saying “No one anticipated the magnitude of the fall.

On 6 November he told me in the House: ‘There were many, many analysts who looked at the situation as a result of the legislation that was brought in, and in fact, at the contract that Chorus signed, and not one analyst actually noted that there was a significant likelihood that there would be such a dramatic decrease in the copper price.’

On the 4 November his own Communications Minister Amy Adams said the commission’s rulings had come as a surprise to everyone involved. ‘No analysts or companies saw that coming, no one priced it in.’

The Goldman Sachs forecast implied that Goldman Sachs’ expectation was for a significant reduction in pricing – certainly lower than the Commerce Commissions determined price.

Chorus’s own first prospectus released in September 2011 (see bottom of  page 10) said there was a risk that the regulator will set prices that do not provide New Chorus with an adequate return on its assets.

For the Government to now claim ‘no-one knew it was going to be that low’ is simply wrong.

John Key’s disastrous handling of this issue has created false expectations for Chorus that he would inappropriately overrule the Commerce Commission, his public comments that there is a chance that Chorus will go broke are all responsible for the deep uncertainty around Chorus and the UFB rollout.


Raw data:

Explanation provided to me of impact of the Goldman Sachs analysis November 2011.

On page 4, they estimated it to be $8.47 for the smaller players (the last 2 figures in the LLU column). This is the price on top of the UCLL price, to make the service up to an equivalent EUBA (Enhanced unbundled bitstream) service.  The Commerce Commission ruling is $10.92.

For Chorus, the co-location charge would not apply in this form, and the DSLAM recovery would be on an assumption of 50%-80% capacity rather than 20%.

The backhaul charge of $9 covers backhaul around NZ, and the data charge of $7.80 covers international internet traffic.  Possibly a fraction of the backhaul could be attributed to EUBA to get the data to the handover point.

We think Chorus’s true cost of providing EUBA (on top of the basic UCLL cost) is about $5, so they have a 100%+ mark-up on the determined price.
In any event it would imply that Goldman Sachs’ expectation was for a significant reduction in pricing – certainly lower than the Commerce Commissions determined price.

Pretty hard for the Government to now claim “no-one knew it was going to be that low”

Another take on the Goldman Sachs report

He’s right – the estimate on page 4 does indeed put the UBA cost (broken down here into “co-location and other” and “DSLAM recovery”) at $8.47.

The  UBA is made up of the electronic components and in the Goldman Sachs report that’s broken down into “colo and other” and “DSLAM recovery” and they put it at $8.47 for an ISP that has only 20% market share. If you have more, as Chorus clearly does, then your costs will go down from there.

CallPlus for instance offers this service (UBA in effect) in the market today and told the Commission that it charges its retail ISP customers around the $8 mark for those lines.

If CallPlus can do it at that price and make money then Chorus, with its economies of scale, can do much more. I think xxxx  is being generous when he says Chorus costs are about $5/line. I suspect they’re a lot lower.

Madiba. The world thanks you

Posted by on December 6th, 2013

What Chorus and the Govt knew

Posted by on November 11th, 2013

The debacle surrounding the government’s flagship ultrafast broadband programme and the roll out by Chorus rumbles on. The government’s heavy-handed response to a well-signalled decision by the Commerce Commission to review and drop the price of copper broadband has resulted in a year of uncertainty for the telco industry and turmoil for the future of the fibre scheme.

Both the government and Chorus have insisted they had no idea that the Commerce Commission would decide that copper prices should fall following a review based on international benchmarking on a cost-plus basis, despite this being what the legislation written by former Minister Steven Joyce told them to do (Section 78 page 100).

In this post I have provided two pieces of evidence that both the government and Chorus knew very well back in 2011 what would happen with copper prices, even if they didn’t know what the end price determination would be. The disingenuity of both players around this is staggering and has led to speculation that there was some kind of backroom guarantee to Chorus from the government via the Ministry that “she’ll be right”.

Clearly “she’s not right”. And the only place the finger can be pointed is back to Steven Joyce, the original architect of the legislation which demerged Telecom to create Chorus, which was then handed the UFB contract on a plate. It was Joyce’s legislation and his contract. And as should be clear below, both the government and Chorus knew what the deal was with copper pricing.

The spin

On Tuesday 5 November, the day the Commerce Commission announced its final decision on copper broadband prices, Amy Adams was reported in the New Zealand Herald as saying:

Communications Minister Amy Adams said the commission’s rulings had come as a surprise to everyone involved.

No analysts or companies saw that coming, no one priced it in. When we entered into the UFB contracts this was pored over by all the players and people with a very high level of understanding if anyone was going to foresee it, it would have come up then and it certainly didn’t and frankly no one’s on record as predicting a drop on this scale.

Certainly there was some small drop expected and everyone was very aware of that.”

On 6 November I asked John Key in parliament:

Clare Curran: Why is he, his former Minister Steven Joyce, and his current Minister for Communications and Information Technology, Amy Adams, so surprised at the Commerce Commission’s decision to drop the copper price given that Steven Joyce’s 2011 telecommunications company legislation clearly stated that there would be a 3-year moratorium before the move to a cost-plus model for wholesale copper pricing, which the Commerce Commission is now implementing, and that Chorus’ first prospectus clearly stated this as a risk, as did the regulatory impact statement for the Government’s only 2011 law?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I think it is very fair to say that no one back in 2011 actually predicted that there would be such a dramatic fall in copper prices. In fact, my understanding is that the member believed that copper prices would go up, not actually go down. So that fall has certainly caught the market by surprise. There were many, many analysts who looked at the situation as a result of the legislation that was brought in, and, in fact, at the contract that Chorus signed, and not one analyst actually noted that there was a significant likelihood that there would be such a dramatic decrease in the copper price.


The reality

1. Chorus’ first prospectus released on 13 September 2011 contained several paragraphs under a section on page 204  headed Regulatory and Government risks. It said:

Future regulated copper and fibre prices

The prices New Chorus can charge for most of its copper-based network products and services will be regulated for the foreseeable future, and the prices for most of its fibre-based products and services are subject to a contractual agreement with CFH until 31 December 2019, and are likely to be regulated thereafter.

The framework for setting the prices of New Chorus’ regulated copper-based products and services is described in section 3.6.6. There is a risk that the regulator will set prices that do not provide New Chorus with an adequate return on its assets.

In addition, if the prices that the regulator sets for copper-based products and services are significantly below the prices for comparable fibre-based services, fibre uptake may be negatively affected (see section 9.2.1).

In the event of disagreements with the regulator over pricing, considerable resources and management attention may be diverted to dealing with disputes with the regulator.

2. A regulatory impact statement prepared for the 2011 Telco legislation drafted by Steven Joyce’s Ministry titled: Regulatory issues resulting if Telecom becomes a partner in the Ultrafast Broadband initiative stated the following:

48. The following set of criteria was applied to determine which areas require specific transitional measures, or can be implemented immediately on separation day:

a) allowing access seekers to recover sunk investments in UCLL;

b) ensuring Service Tel is economically viable and competitive during the transitional period;

c) ensuring that Chorus is economically viable during the transitional period and has time to adjust to cost-based USA;

d) giving the Commission time to implement the cost-based USA pricing principles; and

e) providing the industry with stability during a time of considerable structural change.

49. A constraint in terms of analysis is that the industry has not yet been consulted on some of the detail of the proposed transitional measures. MED seeks views on this matter at the Select Committee stage.

50. The three key aspects of the transitional measures are:

a) the currently determined price and non-price terms for the USA service will be frozen, and the USA competition test put into abeyance, for 3 years from separation day (although the Commission will be able to conduct clarifications under section 58 of the Act);

b) ServiceTel will be restricted from purchasing Chorus’s unbundled copper local loop network service until three years from separation day, and the requirement to average the UCLL service geographically will not take effect until 3 years from separation day; and

c) the determined price for naked UBA will be averaged on separation day.

Freezing UBA terms

51. The key transitional provision proposal is to freeze the UBA regulated service for a period of 3 years from separation day, with the intention of allowing a transition to cost-based UBA retail services where they are more economically viable. A 3 year period for the transitional provisions was chosen on a qualitative basis based on the estimated replacement period for exchange equipment (DSLAMs) deployed by access seekers. A more detailed analysis of likely depreciation values was not carried out

52. Consultation noted that “freezing UBA prices for an interim period” could be included as a transitional measure, but the length of time of the price freeze was not the subject of consultation.

Delay in averaging UCLL price

53. The delay in averaging UCLL will disadvantage ServiceTel which, for the period of 3 years, will be required to buy a stand-alone voice input service priced at the UCLL price, including the higher price in rural areas. However, MED considers that this delay is essential to protect access seekers who have invested in UCLL and their customers during the transitional period. ServiceTel will be protected itself by the averaging of naked UBA on separation day.

The following is an extract from the transcript at  a Commerce Commission conference to consult with the industry on the draft copper price in June 2013. The Commerce Commissioner is referring to the extent of the Government’s and Chorus’ fore knowledge of the price review.

COMMISSIONER DUIGNAN: Yes, just that the one source for the indication of the purpose of the three year freeze is the regulatory impact statement which was released, I haven’t actually got the date here, but it’s the one described relating to the cabinet paper described, or with the title “Regulatory Issues Resulting If Telecom Becomes A Partner In The Ultrafast Broadband Initiative”.
Para 48 of that paper says, “The following set of criterias was applied to determine which areas required specific transitional measures, or can be implemented immediately on separation date”.
Has a list: (a) is allowing access seekers to recover sunk investments in UCLL; (b) is ensuring service teller’s economically viable and competitive during the transitional period; (c) is ensuring that Chorus is economically viable during the transition period and has time to adjust to cost based UBA, and other documents are more explicit about the adjustment.
So, that’s the source, para 48 of that document.
I note the reference “time to adjust to cost-based UBA” implies that some adverse economic effect was clearly expected as a result of this adjustment.

Numerous industry participants have commented on the knowledge of both Chorus and the government that this review of the copper prices was coming and that there would be a material impact. To say otherwise is just nonsense. Fortunately, I think this message has got through. The big question now is what will the government do next and how will it dig itself out of the hole Steven Joyce, the great “Mr Fixit” has created.


National’s Asian MPs urged to have a conscience

Posted by on November 8th, 2013

My colleague Dr Rajen Prasad and I have called on Members of Parliament of Asian descent to vote with their conscience and vote against the Sky City bill.

MPs they should act in the interest of those people they represent when they cast their vote for the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill, which will grant SkyCity casino in Auckland an extra 230 pokie machines and an extended licence until 2048.

The statistics make for grim reading. Among the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand’s clients, 16.6% are Asians. These people are mainly based in Auckland, and among them, 61.7% had problems with casino gambling.

Leaders in the Asian community including John Wong of the Problem Gambling Foundation’s Asian Family Services and Donghwan Lim of the Korean Community Wellness Society have spoken out against the bill and the harm that gambling causes in Asian communities around New Zealand.

Bankruptcies, job losses, crime, suicide and devastation for families are the real outcome of more pokies.

National MPs Dr Jian Yang, Melissa Lee and Kanwalit Singh Bakshi should have the courage to exercise their conscience and not tow the National party line.

David Cunliffe’s speech to Conference 2013

Posted by on November 4th, 2013

A better, fairer, more inclusive society that works for all New Zealanders, not just a privileged few; that’s the Labour vision. I highly recommend you watch David Cunliffe’s speech to Conference 2014 as he sets out the steps to achieving that vision.

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Today, we are a better country

Posted by on August 19th, 2013

It’s not often these days that we can say it, but today, we are a better country.  Shortly, the first of 31 same-sex couples who have registered to marry will do so on the first day they are able to. (as an aside congrats to Jeff Montgomery, the Marriage Registrar and the team at DIA who have done a great job in preparing for today).  Today marks the culmination of years of work from thousands of New Zealanders to achieve marriage equality- congratulations and thanks to you all.

We are a better country today because we take further steps towards equality.  I have always held that a country that can include people, rather than seek to exclude will be stronger.  For many New Zealanders their exclusion from a cherished social institution such as marriage made them feel second class.  The heart of this issue is that we can show that we all have the same intrinsic human value and that we should all have a fair chance at life.  We have a long way to go when it comes to equality in New Zealand, but in the case of marriage, today we get there.

We are a better country today because we are giving a new generation one of the great gifts- hope.  Yesterday I attended a terrific celebration of the entry into force of the law, which doubled as a fundraiser for Schools Out, the support group for LGBT secondary school students.  For those young people the message of this Bill is that they can have hope for a life where they will be treated fairly and embraced for who they are.  The challenges facing young people coming to terms with their sexuality still loom large. But through this Act, just as it was for me with Homosexual Law Reform in 1986, they can dream about what their life might be with some real hope.

We are a better country today because we recognise the importance of love.  Some of the most moving submissions that were received on the Bill were from parents. They told us of their unconditional love for their children,  and their desire that all their children, whether they were straight or gay, be given the same shot at happiness.  The love of parents and the love of a couple who desire to make a commitment are both given new life today.

At Alf and my Civil Union my very good friend Alex sang this song.  As he said that day, it is fundamentally about courage.  Today is about the courage of those who worked so hard to stand against discrimination over so many decades, and the courage of those who will today, finally, have the chance to show their love and commitment to their partners.  As Nick Cave says ” we make a little history”, today.

Labour’s Policy Platform

Posted by on August 4th, 2013

One of the more significant developments from Labour’s Organisational Review has been the decision to create an enduring Policy Platform for Labour.  This is to be a high level framework for Labour’s policy, outlining the values, vision and approach Labour will take to policy in government.

The Labour Party conference last year decided that it will be binding on elected representatives of the Party, and the manifesto written for each election has to be consistent with the Platform. (The last point is important- the Platform is meant to be high-level. It is not a manifesto for a particular election.  Not ever policy area is covered, it is not meant to be an exhaustive list. The specific commitments that Labour will make at each election will continue to be put through the normal manifesto process).

The work on the platform actually started last year. It is truly a member driven document, with drafts coming from Policy Committees, discussed at last year’s annual conference, revised and discussed again at regional conferences this year.

The latest draft of the document was agreed Policy Council of the Labour Party last week. You can find it here.  It will now be the subject of regional seminars where amendments can be proposed. These will be consolidated by the party’s Policy Committees, debated at Annual Conference in November where the Platform will be adopted. In future years it will be possible to amend the Platform through the regional and annual conference process.

This does represent a further step in our democratic policy making process. Labour will now have a reference point for the inevitable question, ” what does Labour think about….”. The platform shows our commitment to social democratic principles, our pride in what we have achieved and provides the foundations for future Labour governments.

The core of the draft platform is the statement of our values. These are the guiding principles for the rest of the platform and will be given life by the policy priorities that we approve in our manifesto.

  • Freedom/Rangitiratanga
  • Equality/Oritetanga
  • Opportunity/Whakaritanga
  • Solidarity/Kotahitanga
  • Sustainability/Kaitiakitanga

In the draft platform the chapters that follow highlight our vision for a productive, inclusive, caring and independent New Zealand. They also show how Labour will approach each policy area, grounded in our principles, reflecting the spirit of the age and the opportunities and challenges of our changing world. The platform shows that we are a party whose actions have a principled underpinning. It shows New Zealanders what we stand for and the values, approach and priorities that will guide us when we have the privilege to lead a government.

There has been plenty of vigorous debate within the Party about this document- and there will be more.  That is the mark of a strong political party, where we care about the future of our country and world, and where know that our values and principles matter to what kind of country we have been and will be in the future.

Whether you are a member of the Party or not, we are interested in your views on the platform. Click on the link above to have a read.  Feel free to leave them in the comments here, or if you have a more substantive contribution you can email


Housing policy backs all New Zealanders

Posted by on July 30th, 2013

Labour’s plan to introduce restrictions so that non-residents will not be allowed to buy any existing house, flat or apartment in New Zealand is standard practice internationally. It’s a policy that will reduce demand, help take some of the heat out of the housing market and most importantly put New Zealanders’ interests and aspirations before those of non-resident property speculators.

Some have accused Labour of being anti-Chinese, anti-immigration and anti-investment following the announcement of the policy. That’s rubbish.

The policy is designed to push foreign speculators out of our market, and will in fact help the Kiwi Chinese community get into their own home.

As the first Chinese New Zealand Labour Party Member of Parliament, I am very proud to be part of the policy team behind this initiative.

This is about putting our interests first. All ethnic communities resident in New Zealand will benefit from this policy. It’s pretty standard stuff – in fact, this policy mirrors the Australian policy, and is based on the Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai experience.

Property prices in Hong Kong have doubled in the past four years due to low interest rates and strong foreign demand, particularly among mainland Chinese investors seeking high returns and with a desire to move assets offshore. Property prices in Hong Kong are among the world’s highest and first time buyers are hardest hit.

In 2012 the Hong Kong Government introduced a 15% tax on property purchases made by foreigners. Buyer’s Stamp Duty is paid by all companies and non-resident purchasers and is aimed at pushing offshore investors out of the market. This tax came on top of Special Stamp Duty which is a transaction tax of as much as 20% charged on properties resold within three years of purchase.

Early in 2013, Double Stamp Duty was further introduced by the HK Government, which doubled stamp duties for any buyer other than a first-time home buyer or a homebuyer trading up and reselling his or her former unit. These measures helped cool down the residential property market and gave locals more of a chance. Transactions plunged as speculator activity and non-local demand was significantly reduced.

Also, in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, they have introduced similar measures. For instance, in Beijing any non-local purchasers of residential properties will have to show tax returns or records to prove that they have been local tax residents for at least five years before they are eligible to buy residential properties. So from those experiences we can tell that such policies are not only popular internationally but also regionally within a country like China.

Articles 138 and 139 of New Zealand’s Free Trade Agreement with China are complicated issues for two main reasons. Firstly, in China, all land is owned by the Government. The right to use of residential properties is 70 years and for commercial properties, 40 to 50 years. Secondly, there are a number of restrictions on foreigners purchasing residential properties. An individual must have a work visa for a period of no less than one year before they are qualified to buy and they are only allowed to buy one residential property. Foreign companies are only allowed to purchase commercial properties for commercial use and there are further restrictions.

Labour understands the importance of backing all New Zealanders.  We know this solution is only a small part of a much bigger picture. But the old adage applies – action speaks louder than words and on that front Labour is streets ahead.

Helping New Zealanders get into their first home is a priority for Labour.

The Kiwi dream of home ownership has slipped out of reach for too many New Zealanders. In fact, people I speak to already feel like home ownership is an impossible dream. That’s why Labour has a suite of policies that get stuck in straight away to help them out.

We have already announced our KiwiBuild policy to build 100,000 homes over 10 years. We honour our commitment at the 2011 election to introduce a capital gains tax (excluding the family home) and last weekend we announced our policy to crack down on international property speculators.

PGD problems: “a potential time bomb” (3)

Posted by on July 20th, 2013

The PGD sector, and inevitably the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board, have a colourful history and their problems are only getting worse and worse under the watch of this National-John Banks’ Government.

Concerned tradespeople describe the issues as a “potential time bomb”, not only for tradespeople, but also for future apprentices and the public. Worse still, we continue to lose experienced and competent tradespeople to overseas.

Tradespeople are claiming that the “serious mismanagement” of the Board and its refusal to comply with legislation are destroying the industry. Minister Maurice Williamson’s answer is to give the Board a piece of legislation to validate its unlawful ultra vires acts, retrospectively. What the Board and the industry need is solution not head-in-the-sand legislation which will create more problems.  

The table below, sent to MPs, sets out a comparison of the number of licenced plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers in 2003 versus 2013 per head of population in New Zealand.


In 2003:    4258 Drainlayers serviced 4,000,000 people, this equates to 1 Drainlayer per   939 people.
In 2013     1808 Drainlayers service   4,468,000 people, this equates to 1 Drainlayer per 2471 people. 


In 2003:     2129 Gasfitters serviced 4,000,000 people, this equates to 1 Gasfitter per   1878 people.
In 2013      1426 Gasfitters service   4,468,000 people, this equates to 1 Gasfitter per   3133 people. 


In 2003:     5094 Plumbers serviced 4,000,000 people, this equates to 1 Plumber per     785 people.
In 2013      2845 Plumbers service   4,468,000 people, this equates to 1 Plumber per   1570 people. 

It would be reasonable to assume on the figures above that there could be the same or more tradespeople working without a license as those that have. Getting the qualification (registration) is the respected and important indicator. Those qualified tradespeople who are “forced to work” without a licence of course means there will be no Council records of drainage plans or gas installations. Further, these un-licensed (but registered) tradespeople cannot take on an apprentice. 

Have the problems caused any concerns to Minister Williamson and his National-John Banks Government?

Politics aside, we all will have to wake up and see what the harm is doing to the industry and the impact this has on everyday New Zealanders who require these services

Nyet! Kiwi crew need to learn Russian for jobs

Posted by on July 18th, 2013

Kiwi fishing crew are now having to learn Russian to get work in the fisheries sector, showing that more and more Kiwis are being shut out of jobs, says Labour’s Fisheries spokesperson David Cunliffe.

“A Kiwi company is now advertising for crew who speak Russian and can read mechanical instructions in that language. This is madness. It is completely wrong that a Kiwi fisherman should need to learn Russian to fish in Kiwi waters.

“How many Kiwis know Russian to the level of reading mechanical instructions? I’m willing to say very few, especially those in the fishing industry.

“Next they will have to read War and Peace to man the nets. Or Alexander Pushkin’s ‘The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish’.

“It’s hard to see how your average Kiwi can get a job as crew when the Russian language is a must-have to get in the door. Perhaps the captains should learn English, or Māori.

“The Russian language test will be of particular concern to iwi, who want as many rangatahi as possible to learn skills in the fishing industry.

“Fisheries Minister Nathan Guy needs to explain how this job criterion has come into being and whether he supports it.

“Labour backs moves to bring all foreign charter vessels within New Zealand law – including English language requirements. As this advertisement shows, change cannot come soon enough to boost jobs for young New Zealanders,” said David Cunliffe.

What’s wrong with the Plumbers Bill (2)

Posted by on July 18th, 2013

The National-John Banks Government’s arrogant approach is destroying the plumbers, gasfitters and drainlayers industry.

Under the watch of the Minister for Building and Construction Maurice Williamson, it’s only a matter of time  – according to tradespeople in the know – before the cost of getting a plumber, gasfitter of drainlayer to your doorstep will be “as expensive as instructing a lawyer”.

This is because – according to them – registered tradespeople have been forced to push up their hourly charge out rate in order to cover their excessive premiums to be registered with the New Zealand Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Board.

Fees to the Board to get registered for two licences (eg. plumber and drainlayer) in New Zealand now costs $10,000 for five years (see table from the PG & D Board website ).

In comparison, a five year licence in Australia costs $312.50 (see link ). They don’t have a disciplinary levy, offence fee or forced ‘Continual Professional Development’ in Williamson’s way. It’s no wonder we’re losing more and more of our skilled tradespeople to Australia.

And the National-John Banks’ answer is to bring a bill (Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Amendment Bill 2013) which will create more problems it seeks to resolve.

Recreational fishers shouldn’t carry the snapper can

Posted by on July 16th, 2013

Nathan Guy is putting the interests of commercial snapper fishers ahead of recreational fishermen in another example of National cosying up to their corporate mate.
The Government has only released three options for snapper bag and size limits for recreational fishermen in its latest round of consultation and all of them are significantly less than the current allowance.
Nathan Guy expects recreational fishermen to carry the can but there is very little proposed change to the commercial quota.
This has outraged recreational fishermen. Getting a feed of snapper for the family is a tradition that Kiwis hold dear.
The Snapper 1 fishery, covering the north east coast of the North Island and the Hauraki Gulf, is the most popular and important recreational fishery nationwide.
Labour wants an even better fishery to be there for future generations. We support rebuilding the stock. But it is untenable for recreational limits to be reduced while the commercial catch is virtually the same.
Current snapper stocks in the Hauraki Gulf and Eastern Northland are well below target. They are 24% of natural biomass, below the agreed target of 40%. The Bay of Plenty fishery is at only 6% of original levels.
Labour wants a sustainable snapper fishery that supports recreational fishing and a strong, sustainable commercial sector. Getting there means everyone must play their part.

As long as you cut the tree right you won’t die

Posted by on July 12th, 2013

So, says Minister of Labour, Simon Bridges, who continues to insist that his updated Approved Code of Practice for Forest Operations (ACoP)  has all the answers and if workers, employers and contractors just follow it, forestry will no longer be a dangerous industry.

Problem with that is that Simon developed the ACoP without asking the people who actually have to do the work and whose families continue to worry whenever their beloved husbands, sons, brothers and uncles go off to work.

It follows the previous ACoP which was signed off by the Hon Max Bradford (shudder) in 1999, and also developed without involvement with workers, unions or communities. Both are full of good advice about how to cut trees, safety gear, working with equipment and machinery etc. Both are voluntary, non-binding codes which state that :

An approved code does not have the same legal force as a regulation, and failure to comply with a code of practice is not, of itself, an offence”

Both ignore the underlying issue in this industry of the impact of the deregulation of the labour market in the early 1990’s when work time and rest breaks requirements were gutted.  The 2013 ACoP says :

Worker Health

Working hours shall be agreed (my emphasis) so as to provide all workers

  • adequate opportunity to manage fatigue, including regular rest breaks
, a meal break
, a daily or nightly sleep period.

The 1999 ACoP says :

General Health :

Working hours shall be arranged so as to provide adequate opportunity for rest periods, which shall include:

  • Short breaks during work hours, Sufficient breaks for meals, Daily or nightly rest.

So, in 1999 it was “arranged”  and in 2013 it is “agreed”.

Neither are strong. Both ignore the reality that limits on working hours in this highly dangerous industry don’t exist.

You can’t tell me that long working hours, pressure to deliver on piece rates or low pay, working in bad weather on dangerous terrain, in the dark, with exhausted workers is safe.

But Simon Bridges prefers to ignore that. He says he has all the answers. The answer is his updated non-binding voluntary code of practice that he continues to flaunt in parliament – oh and to cut any requirement to have rest and meal breaks for all workers.

Open your ears Mr Bridges and agree to the growing calls for an independent inquiry into this industry before more workers die.

Government must break stalemate with plumbers

Posted by on July 3rd, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By-election rules

Posted by on June 28th, 2013

Tomorrow is the by-election for Ikaroa-Rawhiti. Special rules that apply to communications on election days, including tomorrow’s Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election. As a result the comments function on Red Alert will be shut down for the day of the by-election.

Due to the logistics of this, the comments function is now unavailable until Sunday.

I’m sure you’ll understand


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