Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘craig foss’

Is the Govt trading away our tech sector’s ideas?

Posted by on February 15th, 2013

Pat Pilcher has written another good piece in the NZ Herald about the looming changes to NZ’s patent laws which could have provided a serious kickstart to oru software industry, but which won’t becasue of a stupid last minute amendment by Commerce Minister Craig Foss who has been heavied by the multinational software comapnies. And our own Ministries.

He writes:

The hope held out by many was that software would be excluded from being covered by patents, however it now appears that the government is likely to change patent legislation so that software can be patented.

Even though the Commerce Select Committee and numerous industry experts have all recommended that software be excluded from patentability, amendments made to the bill after pressure was placed on the government could be sufficiently vague that software could end up being patented.

This, say the experts, would provide large lawyered-up multinationals with a means of tying smaller kiwi software developers up in court, effectively stunting our home-grown software industry.

Indications are that even though the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) had agreed that software should be excluded from patents and were confident that this wouldn’t impact on trade treaties, sources indicate that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (who are currently in the midst of negotiating the trans pacific partnership trade agreement) are said to now be somewhat less enthusiastic about excluding software from patents.

Read more here

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.

Need more time… really?

Posted by on September 4th, 2012

A few weeks back I revealed how the government’s new public:private partnership school in Auckland is actually costing more than it would’ve cost if it had been built using the traditional approach. Since then I’ve been asking a few more questions. Here are a couple of recent answers:

Question: What is the total annual budget for the Ministry of Education to oversee government use of Public Private Partnerships within the education sector, in each of the next 3 years?

Answer: The Ministry of Education has appropriated a budget of $100,000 per year for the next three years.

Question: What is the full list of Ministry of Education staff positions that oversee government use of Public Private Partnerships within the education sector?

Answer: The team for the Hobsonville Point Schools’ Public Private Partnership (PPP) includes a Project Director, Policy Analyst and Project Co-ordinator.

Question: How many people working for the Ministry of Education to oversee government use of Public Private Partnerships within the education sector have been redeployed from other areas and how many are new recruits?

Answer: I am advised that that there is one new recruit. No one has been redeployed from other areas.

Now either the Ministry has found an ingenious way to hire 3 staff for less than $100,000 per year all up, or something isn’t quite right here. It’s also not clear how they can have put together a team of 3 people by only recruiting one person and not redeploying anyone else. Perhaps these are some of John Key’s ghost jobs?

I asked for a bit more information. The answer to one of my follow-up questions came through today:

Question: Further to his answer to written question 06416 (2012) Does the $100,000 budget for the Hobsonville Private Public Partnership project cover the full salaries of the 3 staff working in the team?

Answer: The question cannot be answered in the timeframe and I will resolve to answer as soon as practicable.

Really? It’s a pretty simple question. I suspect the answer is going to be no, given 3 project management staff are likely to have salary packages that collectively add up to significantly more than $100,000 per year. How on earth can he justify taking more than 5 working days to come up with an answer to this one? Certainly doesn’t inspire confidence that the taxpayer is getting value for their money from this lot!

A free, independent media. What’s it worth?

Posted by on March 11th, 2012

If you believe NZ should have a free and independent media, and that this is being eroded surely but steadily under this government, then it’s worth having a look at Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss’s responses to this question in the House last week.

I wasn’t inspired by the answers. Neither should any New Zealander be. Keep watching this space.

The Law Commission’s recent  and important report on the regulatory gaps in new media had this to say about the importance of free independent media:

An independent and free press, unfettered by political interference, was seen to be a necessary embodiment of an individual’s right to free expression and an essential condition for democracy.

Here’s the transcript for those who can’t access the video clip:

Questions for Oral Answer
Thursday 8 March 2012

Press, Free—Government Broadcasting Policy
12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Is he confident that current Government broadcasting policy upholds the standards of an independent and free press; if so, why?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Broadcasting): Of course I have confidence in this Government’s policy, which upholds the standards of an independent and free press as established in the  Broadcasting Act 1989, and which provides a robust broadcasting standards and compliance regime.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, it is a primary question and it does have two parts. The second part was not addressed by the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: The member raises a fair point. It is a primary question that was asked, and the Minister answered the first part—that he is confident—but he did not actually say why.

Hon Phil Goff: Because he doesn’t know.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the Minister to clarify that part. The party asking the question did not perceive that to be answered, and I must confess I did not either.


So who is going into Cabinet

Posted by on February 25th, 2010

Intense discussion opposite between Tremain and Foss – the Hawkes Bay rivals for Heatley’s job.

Favourite possibly Nathan Guy but after today’s repeat of yesterdays procedural shambles I will renew my call for Key to bring Hone Carter into cabinet and make him leader of the House.