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Labour Leadership Virtual Hustings Meeting Questions – Full List Of Questions

Posted by on September 14th, 2013

Labour Leadership Virtual Hustings Meeting Questions – Full List

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

published 14 Sept, 2013

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

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

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

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

CONTENTS

(click these links to jump to questions about each subject below)
Arts sector
Australia and international relations
Commerce
Constitution
Defence
Economy
Education
Employment
Environment
Green and sustainability
Health
Immigration
Income and Tax
Justice
Legislation
Older NZers
Labour Party
Regional issues
Winning edge

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Arts sector

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

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

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

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

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

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Australia and international relations

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

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

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Commerce

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

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Constitution

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

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Defence

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

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Economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Will you make the TPPA process transparent ?
Christine Small

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

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

What is your view on the TPPA?
Cushla Dillon

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

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

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

Would you consider implementing an Investment Reserve Fund in an effort to help protect the New Zealand economy against future recession? and if not, why not? (such as found in Sweden or Norway – Relevant article: http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/projects/bpea/1982%201/1982a_bpea_taylor_baily_fischer.pdf Also detailed by Peter Katzenstein’s Small States in World Markets: Industrial Policy in Europe )”
Matthew Luke Weaver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Education

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

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

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

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

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

How will you reduce inequality in New Zealand?
Perce Harpham

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

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

Is it possible to have universal free education?
Jonathon Everist

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

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Employment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Environment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Green and sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Immigration

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

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

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

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Income and Tax

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

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

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

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

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Justice

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

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

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Legislation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Older NZers

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

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

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

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Labour Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Regional issues

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

******

Winning edge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ENDS


Gifted Awareness Week

Posted by on June 19th, 2013

Our education system should be focused on ensuring that all New Zealanders, no matter where they are from or what their background, have the opportunity to fulfill their potential in life. Inherent in that goal is a recognition that everyone is different, we all learn at different rates and in different ways, and we all have different strengths and challenges.

This week is Gifted Awareness Week. It’s a time when we recognise that failure to extend and challenge really bright kids is just as much of a tragedy as failure to lift the educational achievement of those at the lower end of the educational statistics. Gifted kids who are bored through lack of challenge and stimulation are just as likely to become disengaged from education as those who struggle to keep up.

Last year as part of Gifted Awareness Week I had the chance to visit the Wellington Library and play chess with some fantastic young people. Sadly, funding for the programme that supports them has been withdrawn by the present government. It wasn’t a lot of money in the first place, but that decision speaks volumes about the current government’s priorities.

The current National government are obsessed with ‘standardising’ the education system. They measure the success of the system by whether or not all kids are jumping the same hurdles at the same time. In a ‘standardised’ system, a lot of attention gets focused on those students who are at or just below the standard, while those who are falling a long way behind, and likewise those who are already excelling, often get over-looked.

What we should be doing is treating every child as the unique individual that they are. We should be asking what they’re good at, what they’re struggling with, and how we can best support them to reach their full potential. That will be the focus of the next Labour government.

Charter schools have no future

Posted by on April 17th, 2013

On Friday the Education and Science Select Committee reported back to the House the legislation introducing charter schools. In our minority report, the Labour Party has set out very clearly our reasons for opposing the legislation. Among our reasons are:

  • The introduction of charter schools is based on the failed notion that increased competition will improve student outcomes. There is clear evidence from New Zealand and overseas that this isn’t the case. Even the Treasury has argued that systems with “highly competitive elements” do not produce systematically better outcomes.
  • At a time when the government claims it is focused on quality teaching, charter schools won’t have to employ registered teachers, and the principal won’t even have to hold a teaching qualification.
  • Charter schools will lack public scrutiny. They won’t be covered by the Official Information Act, and although the Ombudsman can now investigate concerns about student stand-downs and exclusions, the overall accountability regime is still very weak.
  • New Zealand’s world-leading curriculum won’t have to be taught in charter schools. Charter schools could be used for indoctrination, rather than education. For example there is nothing to stop a charter school teaching “intelligent design” in the place of science.
  • The Labour Party does not believe that schools should be in the profit-making business. Money that is extracted from charter schools in the form of dividends for shareholders is money that isn’t being invested in education.
  • Charter schools will not have an enrolment zone. While the government claim that charter schools will be targeted to areas of high need, there is nothing to stop such a school accepting a majority of their enrolments from outside their neighbourhood. We remain concerned that charter schools will be able to use underhand methods to “cherry pick” students.
  • We recognise that a number of learners are currently struggling within the education system, and that Māori and Pacific learners are disproportionately represented in that group. That’s why we believe the government should be focused on ensuring that every school is a great school, regardless of where they live. Policies should be based on research and evidence, not ideology.
  • Much of the flexibility that the government claims it seeks through the charter schools model already exists, for example Special Character Schools can already be established with in the existing public school framework.
  • National has no mandate to introduce charter schools. Although it was working on the proposal before the last election, it did not reveal it to the public until afterwards. The fact that the process of establishing charter schools has already started even before the legislation has passed is a real slap in the face to those who took the time to make submissions to the select committee.

I’ve made Labour’s position on the future of charter schools very clear – there isn’t one. We will not guarantee on-going funding to any charter school established under the present government, nor will we necessarily offer them integration into the public system. The legislation allowing for their establishment will be repealed.

You can read Labour’s minority report on the Bill here.


Surrender and retention in schools

Posted by on April 12th, 2013

Today the Education Amendment Bill was reported back to the House. While much of the debate on the Bill will focus on the establishment of charter schools, there are some very important changes to the powers of schools around search and surrender of student property.

As a committee we spent a lot of time debating these issues, and I think the position we reached is sensible. Schools have a very difficult job balancing the rights of individual students with the rights of all students and staff to work in a safe environment. The clearer the rules and guidelines are, the easier it will be for schools to tread that fine line appropriately.

Here is a quick summary of some of the key provisions of the Bill (paraphrased):

  • If a teacher or an authorised staff member has reasonable grounds to believe that a student has hidden or in clear view on or about that student’s person, or in any bag or container under the student’s control, an item that is likely to (a) endanger the safety of any person; or (b) detrimentally affect the learning environment,  they may require the student to produce and surrender that item. If the item is contained on a computer or electronic device they may require them to reveal the item or surrender the device on which it is stored.
  • Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a student has a harmful item (one that poses an immediate threat to the physical or emotional safety of any person) in their possession and the student has refused to produce or surrender it, the teacher or authorised person may ask a student to remove a jacket or outer clothing so that it can be searched (but this would not be allowed if they had no clothing underneath it); require the removal of a head covering, gloves, footwear or socks (but this specifically excludes tights and stockings); require a student to hand over a bag or other container and allow it to be searched.
  • Such actions need to be done with sensitivity and so as to afford the student maximum privacy and decency; and that where possible the search be carried out by a teacher of the same sex as the student, in the presence of another teacher or authorised staff member of the same sex.
  • A school may allow a contractor to bring a suitably trained dog onto their premises to search school property such as desks or lockers (but not to search students).
  • The legislation also requires the Secretary of Education to issue rules regarding the surrender and retention of property and searches by schools. These rules will need to spell out requirements for written records to be kept, how any property confiscated is to be dealt with, the procedure for authorising staff members, and so forth. These rules are treated as regulations and can therefore be disallowed by the Regulations Review committee.

The Bill makes it very clear that students are not allowed to be strip searched, nor is any property they possess allowed to be forcefully confiscated. If a student refuses to comply, the school may take appropriate disciplinary action, for example stand down / suspension from school. While the legislation authorises a teacher or authorised person to ‘require’ a student to do the things above, they cannot be ‘forced’ to do it.

If a student refuses to show a teacher an item on an electronic device (eg. a cellphone, laptop or tablet), the teacher can ask them to hand the device over, but they couldn’t then search it without the students consent.

It’s also important to note that there need to be reasonable grounds for suspicion, and that the power to require students to surrender items is limited to items that present a risk to safety or to the learning environment. The very limited powers around search are even further limited to only cases where there is an immediate risk to safety.

Schools should be safe places, free of drugs and weapons. Teachers shouldn’t be required to act as ‘police’ but they should have the ability to deal appropriately with the very real challenges they face on a daily basis. I think the new provisions, as amended by the select committee, get the balance about right.


Novopay shambles continues

Posted by on March 18th, 2013

Two months after Steven Joyce was brought in to fix the failing Novopay system, the problems are getting worse not better. Over the weekend we found out that hundreds of teachers have been unilaterally given the sack by the government’s payroll provider. That news came as a shock to them and to the schools they’re employed by. It’s a total disgrace.

This latest shambles follows news last week that Novopay provider Talent2 was using debt collectors to recover money from those who had been overpaid. It’s shocking that with thousands of people still being overpaid, underpaid and not paid at all, the government deemed this heavy-handed approach acceptable. Responsibility for this mess now rests with Steven Joyce. He either didn’t ask what steps Talent2 were taking to recover the overpaid money, in which case he is incompetent, or he signed it off, in which case he shows absolutely no understanding of the extent of the Novopay debacle.

Steven Joyce speaks of technical reviews and long-term solutions, but he needs to urgently deal with the massive problems Novopay is causing in schools right now. Despite seven months of chaos, schools still aren’t being compensated for all the extra work and stress Novopay is causing. I’ve had reports of schools taking on extra staff just to deal with payroll issues, not hiring relieving teachers when someone is sick because they don’t have the funds left, and cancelling equipment orders because they aren’t confident they’ll be able to pay for them. Yet still Steven Joyce does nothing.

Of course we need a long-term solution, but Steven Joyce can’t keep turning a blind eye to the turmoil Novopay is causing in the meantime. A comprehensive remediation and compensation package is long overdue. It’s time ‘Mr Fix-it” delivered one.


Arrogance and contempt

Posted by on March 18th, 2013

Last week in the House I asked the government a series of questions about former Secretary for Education Lesley Longstone’s $425,000 golden handshake. That’s a lot of taxpayer coin, and the public should be able to expect answers from those who approved it.

Having earlier attempted to question Hekia Parata over the matter and had that request transferred to the Minister for State Services, Jonathan Coleman, I decided to drill down a little deeper into Coleman’s initial answer.

All up it took 26 minutes and countless points of order to get him to answer the primary and half a dozen supplementary questions. His replies demonstrated a total contempt for the democratic process. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a Minister reply when asked about a matter they had signed-off on with “How should I know?”

You can watch the full 26 minutes and make up your own minds.


Newsflash – there’s a Novopay backlog!

Posted by on March 11th, 2013

At long last the government have finally gotten something to do with Novopay right. Yesterday on Q+A Steven Joyce announced that he is beefing up the Novopay Backlog Clearance Unit (BCU). This is something principals and school administrators have been calling for.

One of the common frustrations that I’ve been hearing from those trying to sort out the Novopay shambles is that the problems keep compounding. Schools don’t have time to get on top of the problems from one pay round and then another one rolls along and a whole lot more problems are created. Clearing the backlog will ease a lot of pressure, and I’m sure schools will welcome that.

I’m sure schools will also welcome Steven Joyce’s commitment to getting Novopay fixed within 3 months. People have been calling for a timeframe, and now Joyce has given them one. If he fails to live up to that commitment, the responsibility for that will fall squarely on his shoulders.


Responsibility for payout rests with Parata

Posted by on March 5th, 2013

Today the State Services Commission finally announced the details of Lesley Longstone’s departure package. Recall that Longstone resigned as CE of the Ministry of Education the week before Christmas, just after her Minister, Hekia Parata, had conveniently brought her holiday forward so she was away from any fallout.

In announcing her resignation, State Services Commissioner Iain Rennie cited a breakdown in Longstone’s relationship with Hekia Parata as one of the reasons for her leaving. To this day, Parata is still refusing to comment on the issue.

Responsibility for Longstone’s $425,000 payout rests squarely on Hekia Parata’s shoulders. Taxpayers are paying a hefty price, just so that National has someone else to blame for the Government’s stuff-ups in education. Let’s look at the big debacles:

  • Bigger class sizes was a policy signed-off by Cabinet as part of the Budget
  • The Christchurch school fiasco was all done under ministerial direction
  • Novopay was signed-off by Ministers (albeit on shonky advice)
  • Salisbury School’s closure, overturned by the courts, was Parata’s decision

Basically, Longstone is taking the fall for the government, and the taxpayers are forking out $425,000 as a result. The real accountability should be with the Minister. John Key promised Kiwis he would hold his ministers to a higher standard. Repeatedly he has failed to live up to that commitment.

Today’s pay-out is also a complete slap in the face to the thousands of school staff who are still waiting to be paid what they are owed by Novopay. It is galling to see so much money wasted on a severance payment when schools are still waiting for proper Government support to compensate them for the costs of the Novopay debacle.


Novopay Issues #1

Posted by on February 25th, 2013

Plenty has already been said about the Novopay shambles. The system was never ready for implementation, it never should’ve been signed-off, and the safeguards and contingencies that should have been in place weren’t. I’ll keep holding the government to account for their failure, but I’ll also be picking up specific issues and, where I can, working to ensure that people aren’t disadvantaged in the long-term because of Novopay.

Last week in the House I asked the Minister Responsible for Novopay, Steven Joyce, some questions about Novopay not handing over Kiwisaver contributions to savings providers. The money is being taken from employees pay packets, but it’s not showing up in their Kiwisaver accounts. In some cases I’m aware of, this has been going on for months and months. Not only are the employees concerned worried about where their money has gone, they’re also missing out on the returns that would otherwise have accrued had their money been paid over on time.

The most important comment Steven Joyce made was this one:

Chris Hipkins: Will employees who have had KiwiSaver or other superannuation contributions deducted from their salaries but not paid over to their scheme provider be compensated for lost returns that would otherwise have accrued, and if not, why not?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: My understanding is that yes, they will be made good in those regards.

I welcome this commitment by Joyce. It means that not only will people affected get their money back, they will be compensated for any returns that would’ve accrued in the meantime. I’ll be interested to see the details of exactly how they’re going to calculate that, and will ask some more questions in that regard.

There are other specific concerns about Novopay that I hope to address in coming weeks, including people defaulting on child support payments, justice ministry payments, student loan repayments, and so on. I’ll blog more about those as the answers come through.


National Standards are the problem

Posted by on February 16th, 2013

This week’s Listener has an article (unfortunately pay-walled online) about supposed ‘grade inflation’ in primary school tests. The allegation comes as a result of changes to the marking guides for key assessment tools teachers use to measure student progress in core areas like literacy and numeracy. Principals are reporting vastly different results that they claim over-inflate the amount of progress students have made during the year.

The tools concerned, e-asTTle and STAR, are used by schools to assess writing and reading respectively. The issue at hand appears to be that the underlying assumptions used to produce test ‘results’ have changed. For example:

The old e-asTTle test looked at the piece of writing each student did during a test, and gave results purely on face value. The new one uses that piece of writing as a starting point, and extrapolates to what the student could probably do with support from his or her teacher and without the pressure of the test.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with this change. e-asTTle is only a tool, and the results it produces need to be weighed up against a number of other things including teachers observations, interviews and a child’s written work. The problem comes because e-asTTle and STAR results are often used in the reporting of National Standards progress to parents.

…some principals are worried that less-scrupulous schools – or those whose staff simply don’t understand how the tests have changed – could be using the results to artificially boost their National Standards results. That in turn could give schools a higher ranking in the public league tables.

Paul Drummond, principal of Tahunanui School and outgoing head of the New Zealand Principals’ Federation sums up the problem:

“I’d like to think there was professional integrity around this, [but] there are going to be enormous pressures to the contrary – to actually spin your data. There is so much pressure put on for schools to look good in those judgments, those scores.”

I have a lot of faith in the integrity of our teachers, and I don’t think they would deliberately inflate student results. However, if the National government go ahead with the plans they’ve got Treasury working on at the moment and introduce ‘performance’ pay for teachers, things could well be different.

If a teacher’s pay at the end of the week is going to be determined by a narrow range of student test results, there will be every incentive in the world for them to use every means available to make those results look as good as they possibly can.

The fundamental problem is that National Standards are narrowing the focus of teaching and learning too much. There are no national standards in science or art for example. Linking teacher pay to National Standards results is only going to make that problem worse.

Instead of taking such a narrow-minded approach, we need to replace National Standards with a requirement for schools to report to parents regularly and in plain language how their child is progressing against the whole curriculum. Instead of attempting to measure teacher performance by looking at a narrow range of test results, we should be focused on encouraging ongoing professional development and establishing a robust attestation process that factors in all elements of effective teaching.


Integration of Charter Schools?

Posted by on February 13th, 2013

The Green Party have announced today that they would seek to integrate any Charter Schools setup under National into the public education system. I don’t agree with that approach. Labour doesn’t see the need for Charter Schools. We have enough schools already.

We don’t support having schools with unregistered teachers and that don’t teach to our world-leading curriculum. We don’t support a model of education that sees a proliferation of schools competing with each other for bums on seats. Why should we be offering these prospective schools a lifeline when we don’t need or want them in the first place?

Labour’s message to anyone looking to setup a Charter School under National’s proposed legislation is to think very carefully. A future Labour government will not guarantee ongoing funding, we will not guarantee integration into the state school system. In short, we will not guarantee these schools a future.

We don’t yet know what the contracts with these new Charter Schools will look like. Hopefully we’ll get more clarity around that during the select committee hearings. Until then Labour won’t be making any clear statement about what we’ll do with any Charter Schools National establishes, but we’re certainly not offering them the lifeline of integration.


Another Parata communication triumph

Posted by on February 8th, 2013

Within the next two weeks Hekia Parata will be charged with announcing the fate of several dozen Canterbury schools. Consultation on merger and closure proposals ended just before Christmas and Parata  supposedly spent her extended summer break reading them.

While all of those schools wait on tenterhooks to hear their fate, Parata decided today to announce the government’s plans to open six brand new schools in Christchurch. Talk about a slap in the face to all of the schools still waiting to hear what the future holds for them.

Nobody doubts that significant change is required. The population has moved around in Christchurch, and as a result some schools have shrunk to the point where they are no longer viable while others are bursting at the seams.

But there is a way to do this. It starts with respect for the school communities affected. Shepherding all the principals and BOTs into a hall and giving them colour-coded name badges to indicate whether they were closing, merging, or remaining wasn’t a great start. Announcing the opening of new schools before telling the existing schools of their fate rubs further salt into the wounds.

Hekia Parata has a difficult job to do, but she seems determined to make it even harder for herself. Her handling of the Christchurch schooling situation has demonstrated arrogance and a total lack of respect. The people of Christchurch deserve better.


Performance Pay for Teachers

Posted by on February 7th, 2013

Treasury documents released this week talk about exploring new ways of ‘holding teachers accountable for their performance’.  It’s becoming increasingly clear that the National government want to put performance pay back on the agenda.

My good mate and former (and hopefully future) colleague Kelvin Davis wrote an excellent post on Red Alert back in 2010 pointing out some of the pitfalls of performance pay for teachers. Here are some of the salient points:

So what happens in those schools and regions where students enter a classroom at the beginning of the year well below the national standard? Why would a teacher want to teach in a school like that where despite his/her best efforts the student makes heaps of progress but fails to get over the National Standard ‘line’.

There are some excellent teachers working really hard in schools where the students are struggling. They get incredible results, and often the students in their classes learn a lot more in a year than a child at a school with better test scores, yet because the kids are still behind some of their peers at the end of the year, these schools are labelled as ‘failures’. Why would a great teacher work their guts out at a struggling school when they could get more ‘performance’ pay by working in a school that wasn’t struggling?

Is a teacher good or bad if they focus on ‘number’ over statistics, algebra, measurement and geometry? Are we saying these other strands aren’t important? If my receipt of a performance pay bonus depended on me making sure kids were numerate over statist-erate, or measure-ate, or algeb-rate or geome-rate, I would focus on numeracy – statistics and everything else can go to hell.

This comes back to one of the major flaws with National Standards. It’s all very well to say we want teachers to focus on literacy and numeracy, but what if that comes at the expense of other areas like science, technology, or social studies. If teacher pay is going to be based on a narrow set of targets, that’s where they will focus their efforts, rather than teaching a broad curriculum.

Do they deserve performance pay for – 1) doing duty?, 2) coaching sports teams? 3) being associate teachers of student teachers? 4) being tutor teachers for beginning teachers? 5) liaising with parents, whanau and iwi? 6) taking after school music or art classes? 7) after school tutoring? 8) leading professional development and appraisal of peers? 9) organising school discos? 10) fundraising? 11) organising the school play? 12) organising the school fair? 13) organising sports trips? 14) organising the school library? 15) organising the swimming sports, athletics day, 40 hour famine, breakfast club, buses, cross country, art exhibition, assemblies, class camps, community problems solving, peer mediators, restorative justice programme, assessment moderation sessions, interschool quality learning circles, professional development programme, etc, etc, etc.

As Kelvin points out, there is a lot more to teaching than making sure kids hit an arbitrary and narrowly focused set of standards. The fundamental problem with ‘performance’ pay for teachers is that a narrow range of student achievement statistics alone aren’t a reliable measure of how good a teacher is. Can we do a better job of rewarding great teachers? Undoubtedly. Should we provide more incentives for teachers to undertake professional development and continually strive to be better teachers. For sure. Will ‘performance pay’ based on student achievement help achieve these things? No.


Bulk funding = cost cutting

Posted by on February 6th, 2013

Last year Hekia Parata announced that the National government was going to be putting more kids into each class. The backlash was huge, and within weeks the National government had backed down, leaving a big hole in their Budget. They still haven’t identified how they’re going to fill it.

Yesterday Radio NZ reported that the Treasury are arguing for a return to bulk-funding of schools. One of the biggest components of our existing spend on schooling is teacher salaries. By devolving responsibility for salaries to individual schools, the government would also devolve the problem of working out how to make up for reduced funding.

If the new ‘bulk’ fund provided to each school didn’t keep up with increasing costs, and didn’t take into account any negotiated increases in teacher pay (which would still be negotiated by central government), schools would be forced to reduce teacher numbers (bigger classes), swap experienced teachers for less experienced ones to reduce salary costs, or cut funding from other areas of the school budget (which is already under enormous pressure).

Is this how Hekia Parata is going to fill in the hole she has created in the education budget? Bulk funding is National’s way of abrogating responsibility for funding schools properly. The losers, at the end of the day, will be the kids.


They’re joking, right?

Posted by on November 15th, 2012

Please give me a moment while I drag my jaw off the floor. As the Novopay debacle continues to roll on week after week, as teachers and support staff continue to be overpaid, underpaid, or just not paid at all, some genius at the Ministry of Education has decided now would be a good time to restructure the Payroll Services Unit. Checked the calendar, it’s not April fools, they’re serious about this!

In their infinite wisdom the Ministry has decided to reduce personnel in the payroll team from 23 to 14. These staff need to be focused on fixing the Novopay mess, not wondering if they are still going to have a job in the New Year. They’ve been given two weeks to comment on whether or not they should still have jobs.

Maybe the top managers at the Ministry of Education should get their pay via Novopay. Perhaps if they went a couple of months without getting paid correctly they’d get serious about sorting this mess out.

It’s the job of whoever authorised this restructuring that should now be on the line, not the jobs of the people working to get things back on track. The senior leadership at the Ministry of Education need their heads examined.


Look to Local Success for Maori and Pasifika students

Posted by on October 11th, 2012

Attending the Raise Pacific Education Conference held at the Auckland Museum was an opportunity to consider what success looks like for the growing number of Maori and Pacific young people. I highlighted the importance of looking towards local exemplars in our public schools that are working and improving the engagement, retention and achievement of Maori and Pacific students. There are alot of great examples in our local schools in Auckland that are raising the bar and showing the way such as Otahuhu College, Kia Aroha College, Massey High School and Western Springs High School to name a few. The problem is that they are spread out and it takes a long time to roll these innovations across the system so more students benefit from ‘what works’. This is an exciting time to be Polynesian and living in the country’s largest city, the growing reality is that the demographic mix is becoming more diverse and more polynesian. So our communities, schools and city of Auckland will have to shift the way in which planning for the future incorporates Maori and Pacific values and identity.
Its important to recognise that in education more should and must be done to lift achievement outcomes for all our children. There are two distinct paths, under the current Government, National standards, league tables and performance pay will seek to push polynesian kids down a path that will create winners and losers. It will create a culture of teachers “teaching to the test”, ultimately schools will treat all kids the same as if they are forcing round pegs into square holes. This is not the model for a high performing system.

Its disappointing that the government is using private sector models like charter schools as a solution to the challenge. All those schools will do is take from the public purse and privatise profits with little or no real gain in outcome for Maori or Pacific kids. Its time to dismiss empty rhetoric and invest in quality public education. By tackling the causes of poverty and inequality Labour will bring together solutions that exist outside the school gate to support the good work that teachers and school communities achieve to support their children within the school gates.

Getting more parents involved in their local Boards of Trustees and owning educational outcomes can make a huge difference. We must guard against the inclination of the Government who wants to pull decision-making back to the centre and tell parents and communities what works best.

We need only look at the sweeping reforms being proposed for the children of Christchurch to see that the Government is not serious about consulting with the community for the best schooling opportunities for children.

It looks like the ‘one size fits all’ creep could be a real prospect for young people in South Auckland if that behaviour continues.

Labour is looking to the future and wants to work constructively with parents, teachers and communities to ensure that every child no matter where they come from can be assured of a great education in their local community. The future for New Zealand urges us to think and act differently to ensure that success in education belongs to all our children. That does mean a different way of doing things and it will mean shifting the ‘norm referencing’ that currently occurs in our education system.


National Promotes Divide and Rule – One Size Fits All for Christchurch

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

The National Government appears to have adopted the age old tactic of divide and rule in Christchurch. Proposing sweeping education reforms of schools closures and merge options totally contradict the message that the Government will ‘consult with’ and ‘listen to’ the community. Yeah Right!

Unless you live in Christchurch it is very hard to comprehend the daily stress families cope with to carry on in a ‘new normal’ scenario. Many continue to wait for insurance claims to be confirmed, rebuild projects to commence, and for some greater certainty about job security. This is just a surface snapshot as there is so much more happening in peoples lives.

Instead of listening and working with the community constructively, the Minister of Education bowls her way though with an inefficient consultation process, questionable data and shallow analysis of submissions to justify broad sweeping changes. This is a trend that should worry any community.

There is no coherence to the network provision of education from early childhood options, through to schooling and tertiary pathways. This is a problem. The rebuild in Christchurch will be done over a number of years, if done well, the city will be an attractive place for business, to live, raise a famility and pursue tertiary education offerings. It doesn’t seem like the Minister has her eye on the future. Her short-sighted cost saving approach will lead to an educaiton network that is ill-equipped for 21st century learning or the prospect of coping with an influx of people prepared to rebuild and possibly live in the city.

What is particularly disturbing is the Economic Recovery Plan for Christchurch has not been revealed. It doesn’t make any sense to address the education issues without having a clear picture of the economic growth potential of Christchurch.

More cause for concern all the way around! The good people of Christchurch deserve more than political window dressing and opportunistic point scoring. Childrens futures hang in the balance. They need a well thought through system of education network provision.

Things can be done differently. The community want to be engaged in 21st solutions for the city rebuild. Parents want greater assurance that their aspiration to have a world class education for their child is not thwarted by the Government using the earthquake as an excuse to save money. Children in Christchurch deserve more – how different will the final proposal for Christchurch schools really be? Your thoughts?


Genuine consultation – yeah right!

Posted by on September 28th, 2012

Yesterday John Key tried to ease the concerns of Cantabrians by saying that final decisions hasn’t been made about school mergers and closures in Christchurch. Today Hekia Parata formally wrote to school boards of trustees to formally begin the closure/merger process. Cantabrians can be forgiven for thinking that the fate of their local schools has already been sealed.

Schools have been given until 7 December to provide feedback on proposals for closures and mergers, the first two weeks of that time will be school holidays and for senior students, exams will dominate the rest of the school year. In that time boards are expected to run a formal consultation process with parents, students, and others with an interest. It’s a sham.

We know from the Dotcom case that John Key and Bill English have a breakdown in communication. It’s clear now that the Prime Minister and his Minister of Education are also completely out of step. John Key is out there trying to tell Cantabrians that the consultation process is a genuine one, yet his Minister of forging ahead with the legal process to implement decisions that appear to have already been made.

This consultation charade would be funny if it wasn’t about something so incredibly important to the families of Canterbury. The Government needs to get this right but it’s a turning it into a bigger shambles than their plan to increase class sizes.


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!


Residential special schools

Posted by on August 26th, 2012

I understand the Minister of Education is going to be making an announcement this week on the future of the country’s four residential special schools. Over the past few months the Ministry has been consulting on a new ‘wrap around’ service that their official consultation document suggests will cost about a third of the cost of accommodating a pupil at one of the residential schools (but of course, this isn’t about cost saving…)

From the outside, it very much looks like the whole consultation has been skewed towards a pre-determined outcome, the closure of the schools. Having visited all four schools, spoken with some of the kids, the principals, teachers, parents, boards of trustees and many others with an interest in this process, I can firmly say that I think closure is the wrong option.

I believe in an inclusive education system. I don’t think kids with special needs should be shunted out or ‘institutionalised’. But that’s not what residential special schools do. In effect, they’re the most intensive ‘wrap around’ service out there. Kids don’t stay there forever, usually no more than 18 months to two years. In that time they often make huge progress, and a lot of effort is put into ensuring that their reintegration back into their original school and home life is as smooth as possible.

At one of the schools I spoke to a kid who’d come from a pretty unfortunate background. Drugs, crime, and dysfunction were all a constant feature of his life. Taken away from all of that, he was allowed to be a kid again. He was catching up on a lot of the education he’d missed out on, and plans had been put in place to ensure that the environment he returned to wasn’t the one he’d come from. Quite frankly it was inspiring.

Far from closing them, if anything, we need to look at increasing the number of special residential schools, and make them ‘centres of excellence’ that can provide advice, expertise and assistance to other schools so that we end up with fewer kids needing the highest level interventions in the first place.

Before Hekia Parata signs off on any final decision, I would urge her to take the time to visit these schools and see first hand what she is doing. It would be wrong for her to simply sign-off on the recommendations of her officials without taking the time to develop her own understanding of the issues.