Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘legislation’

Dear Sir Peter and Fran

Posted by on February 26th, 2013

“Thank you for your email of 4 October 2010 raising issues of actors work permits and possible amendments to the Commerce Act 1986 and the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA).

Having considered the possibility of amendments to the ERA or Commerce Act carefully, our view, following extensive consultation with the Crown Law Office, is that, for the reasons set out below, it would not be appropriate to recommend such amendments.

“…….In our view, the relevant legislative provisions provide sufficient clarity such that no legislative amendments are required.”

Hon Gerry Brownlee

Hon Christopher Finlayson

This was the government’s position in mid-October 2010.  But by the end of the month, they had caved into demands to change our employment legislation to exclude film and video workers from their right to challenge the status of their employment.

The government released more information on this sorry saga today after being told they had to by the Ombudsman. It makes for fascinating reading.  Put to one side the florid and over the top language about the union and the MEAA union leader, Simon Whipp that has attracted some media comment.

Read the documents and see for yourself the hand New Zealanders were dealt by a weak government, not prepared to stand up for all of us.

Building Matters (5): Mandatory Warranty – the UK Model

Posted by on September 3rd, 2012

Thanks to the Parliamentary Library here is an overview of the United Kingdom’s mandatory warranty scheme:

The UK’s 10-year warranty scheme called ‘Buildmark’ is administered by The National House Building Council (NHBC). The main goal of the NHBC is to raise standards in new homes.

NHBC quick stats:

• 16,000 builders and developers are on NHBC’s register

• NHBC have over 1,100 employees, including 280 building inspectors

• NHBC is an independent, non-profit distributing company

• NHBC is governed by a council with representatives from organisations interested in raising building standards in the UK.

The ‘Buildmark’10-Year Warranty:

These warranties protect around 80 per cent of all new homes built in the UK. Every new home with a NHBC warranty has to be built in accordance with NHBC standards. NHBC inspectors visit the sites at key stages during construction.

The Buildmark warranty provides protection for:

• Pre-completion insolvency cover (NHBC will reimburse the deposit or arrange for the home to be completed in line with NHBC standards)

• Cover for the first two years after completion (the builder is responsible for putting right any defects of damage caused by their failure to build to NHBC standards)

• Cover for most parts of the home in years 3-10 of ownership

Buildmark however is not a complete guarantee against all defects.

Issues and problems:

Some NHBC customers have not been happy with their experience.

The 10-year warranty should provide peace of mind to new home owners, but there have been a series of issues to highlight that this isn’t always the case.

In 2007, mould began to appear in a new home in Wigan. The NHBC inspected the house and said the mould was attributed to “lifestyle factors” through the use of the shower, cooking and drying clothes in the house (the NHBC warranty only covers condensation/mould damage if it is caused by a building defect, not lifestyle factors).

The homeowner then spent 2,500 pounds replacing belongings and cleaning the house, however the mould soon returned.

The homeowner then sought advice from other building professionals who discovered that insulation work in the house was insufficient and that a number of other defective problems with the house attributed to the mould issue.

In this case the NHBC’s diagnosis was wrong and the advice to the homeowner to reduce cooking and bathing was unacceptable.

This is just one example of many of the NHBC signing off on sub-standard homes.

Building Matters (6): Mandatory Warranty – the Australian Model, will be out later this week.

Please find a link to Building Matters (4) here.

Collective responsibility

Posted by on September 20th, 2010

Note: This post has been written by Charles Chauvel, but is posted under my name because Charles is out of the country and is unable to respond to comments. We will be monitoring this legislation very closely at every step. Annette

On Tuesday last week, Labour MPs held our noses  and voted to pass the Government’s emergency Canterbury legislation.  We voted for it – as did the Greens and all parties in Parliament – not because we thought it was good law, but because we decided that the people of Canterbury needed to know that Parliament was unanimously supporting them to rebuild their lives.  Also, frankly, we’d rather not spend the next 18 months being portrayed by National and the media as having obstructed the post-earthquake recovery.

Given that we don’t have the numbers in Parliament to defeat Government legislation, we had a call to make.  Go down in glorious defeat in a vote on the bill while the Government did what it wanted anyway, or use the possibility of there not being unanimity to get concessions.  We chose the latter course, and got on the ‘phone as soon as we heard emergency legislation was contemplated, rather than waiting for it to be tabled and then conducting a grand but pointless critique in the House. 

Adopting this approach, we made sure that the powers able to be exercised under the legislation are:
– subject to systematic scrutiny by Parliament;
– time limited;
– required to be consulted over in advance.

The systematic scrutiny will come via the Regulations Review Committee.  Every order-in-council made under the emergency legislation will be examined in detail by that Committee.  Independent advice from the Clerk of the House will accompany that examination.  If any member of that Committee is dissatisfied with any power taken under an order made under the legislation, or is shown evidence that any power is being abused, he or she can move disallowance of the order.  This will mean that the Government will have to allow a debate within 21 sitting days of the disallowance motion, or the order will automatically be revoked. 

Does the Government still have the numbers to bulldoze a order through?  Yes, but it did anyway.  At least through securing this concession we can shine sunlight on the abuses that many fear will occcur under them; The time limit on the emergency legislation comes from attaching a sunset clause to it.  The law will expire in 18 months’ time, not 5 years, as the Government originally proposed; The advance consultation means that we see any order, and the advice leading to it, before it’s made. We can argue for changes if any order goes too far in any way.  If we fail, we will be ready to call attention to the problem, and to have our members of the Regulations Review Committee prepare a disallowance motion.

We also successfully urged that official information legislation apply to the Canterbury Recovery Commission.

We could have simply opposed what is undoubtedly not ideal, and seen it pass anyway.  We decided instead to try to win what improvements we could.  That may be unpopular with some.  But we made a collective call that it was the responsible thing to do.

Today’s Lucky Dip

Posted by on August 5th, 2010

There are 3 spaces on the Order Paper for a Members’ Bill. There will be a ballot at midday. The following bills are in the hat:

  1. Amy Adams: Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill
  2. Rick Barker: Sentencing Act (Reparation) Amendment Bill
  3. Carol Beaumont: Local Government (Protection of Auckland Assets) Amendment Bill
  4. John Boscawen: Climate Change Response (Cancellation of Emissions Trading Scheme) Amendment Bill
  5. Brendon Burns: Environment Canterbury (Democracy Restoration) Amendment Bill
  6. Cam Calder: Imprisonment for Debt Limitation Repeal Bill
  7. Charles Chauvel: New Zealand Flag Bill
  8. Dr Ashraf Choudhary: Ethnic Broadcasting Commission Bill
  9. David Clendon: Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill
  10. Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Christchurch International Airport Protection Bill
  11. Clare Curran: Kiwi Jobs Bill
  12. Hon Lianne Dalziel: Illegal Contracts (Unlawful Limitation on Regulators’ Powers) Amendment Bill
  13. Jacqui Dean: Shop Trading Hours Act Repeal (Waitaki Easter Trading) Amendment Bill
  14. Catherine Delahunty: Human Rights (Disability Commissioner) Amendment Bill
  15. Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Kiwi Industry Restructuring (Plant Variety Rights) Amendment Bill
  16. Hon Ruth Dyson: Environment Canterbury (Water Conservation Orders) Amendment Bill
  17. Darien Fenton: Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Bill
  18. Te Ururoa Flavell: Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill
  19. David Garrett: Victims’ Rights (Victim Impact Statements) Amendment Bill
  20. Aaron Gilmore: Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance (Break Fees Disclosure) Amendment Bill
  21. Jo Goodhew: Joint Family Homes Repeal Bill
  22. Dr Kennedy Graham: Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill
  23. Kevin Hague: Animal Welfare (Treatment of Animals) Amendment Bill
  24. Hone Harawira: Parliamentary Commissioner for the Treaty of Waitangi Bill
  25. Hon George Hawkins: Code of Airline Consumer Rights Bill
  26. Chris Hipkins: Environmental Reporting Bill
  27. Hon Darren Hughes: Land Transport (Safer Alcohol Limits for Driving) Amendment Bill
  28. Gareth Hughes: Energy Efficiency Conservation (Warm Healthy Rentals) Amendment Bill
  29. Hon Shane Jones: Waste Minimisation (Priority Products) Amendment Bill
  30. Rahui Katene: Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (1080 Poison Prohibition) Amendment Bill
  31. Sue Kedgley: Consumer’s Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill
  32. Iain Lees-Galloway: Smoke-free Environments (Removing Tobacco Displays) Amendment Bill
  33. Keith Locke: Register of Pecuniary Interests of Judges Bill
  34. Hon Trevor Mallard: Minimum Wage Amendment Bill
  35. Sue Moroney: Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months Paid Leave) Amendment Bill
  36. Dr Russel Norman: Overseas Investment (Restriction on Foreign Ownership of Land) Amendment Bill
  37. Lynne Pillay: Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Bill
  38. Dr Rajen Prasad: Children’s Commissioner (Reporting on Legislation) Amendment Bill
  39. Hon Mita Ririnui: Electoral (Entrenchment of M?ori Representation) Amendment Bill
  40. HV Ross Robertson: Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill
  41. David Shearer: Continental Shelf (Oil Exploration Safety) Amendment Bill
  42. Hon Maryan Street: New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control (Entrenchment) Amendment Bill
  43. Chris Tremain: Wild Animal Control (Increased Fines and Sentence of Imprisonment) Amendment Bill
  44. Metiria Turei: Income Tax (Universalisation of In-work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill
  45. Phil Twyford: Depleted Uranium (Prohibition) Bill
  46. Nicky Wagner: Family Proceedings (Paternity Orders and Parentage Tests) Amendment Bill
  47. Michael Woodhouse: Financial Assistance For Live Organ Donors

Update: And today’s lucky numbers are: 23, 13 and 14 (highlighted above)

This week’s lottery 3 prizes with winners

Posted by on June 17th, 2010

The winners are:

Douglas, Hon Sir Roger, Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill
Bakshi, Kanwaljit Singh, Military Manoeuvres Act Repeal Bill
Sepuloni, Carmel, Employment Relations (Probationary Period Repeal) Amendment Bill

Bills in the Ballot

1. Ardern, Jacinda – Conservation (Requirement for Special Approval for Changes to Schedule 4) Amendment Bill
2. Bakshi, Kanwaljit Singh – Military Manoeuvres Act Repeal Bill
3. Barker, Hon Rick – Sentencing Act (Reparation) Amendment Bill
4. Beaumont, Carol – Local Government (Protection of Auckland Assets) Amendment Bill
5. Bennett, David – Land Transport (Admissibility of Evidential Breath Tests) Amendment Bill
6. Boscawen, John – Climate Change Response (Cancellation of Emissions Trading Scheme) Amendment Bill
7. Burns, Brendon – Environment Canterbury (Democracy Restoration) Amendment Bill
8. Calder, Dr Cam – Imprisonment for Debt Limitation Repeal Bill
9. Choudhary, Dr Ashraf – Ethnic Broadcasting Commission Bill
10. Clendon, David – Resource Management (Restricted Duration of Certain Discharge and Coastal Permits) Amendment Bill
11. Cosgrove, Hon Clayton – Christchurch International Airport Protection Bill
12. Dalziel, Hon Lianne – Illegal Contracts (Unlawful Limitation on Regulators’ Powers) Amendment Bill
13. Delahunty, Catherine – Human Rights (Disability Commissioner) Amendment Bill
14. Douglas, Hon Sir Roger – Education (Board of Trustee Freedom) Amendment Bill
15. Fenton, Darien – Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Bill
16. Flavell, Te Ururoa – Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill
17. Garrett, David – Victims’ Rights (Victim Impact Statements) Amendment Bill
18. Gilmore, Aaron – Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance (Break Fees Disclosure) Amendment Bill
19. Goodhew, Jo – Joint Family Homes Repeal Bill
20. Graham, Dr Kennedy – Public Finance (Sustainable Development Indicators) Amendment Bill
21. Hague, Kevin – Fisheries (Precautionary Approach) Amendment Bill
22. Harawira, Hone – Parliamentary Commissioner for the Treaty of Waitangi Bill
23. Hughes, Gareth – Land Transport (Give way to Buses) Bill
24. Katene, Rahui – Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (1080 Poison Prohibition) Amendment Bill
25. Kedgley, Sue – Consumer’s Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill
26. King, Colin – Forests (Milling and Exporting Indigenous Wood Chips for Food Smoking) Amendment Bill
27. Lees-Galloway, Iain – Smoke-free Environments (Removing Tobacco Displays) Amendment Bill
28. Locke, Keith – Animal Welfare (Treatment of Animals) Amendment Bill
29. Mallard, Hon Trevor – Minimum Wage Amendment Bill
30. Moroney, Sue – Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months Paid Leave) Amendment Bill
31. Norman, Dr Russel – Climate Change (New Zealand Superannuation Fund) Bill
32. Pillay, Lynne – Employment Relations (Protection of Young Workers) Bill
33. Prasad, Dr Rajen – Children’s Commissioner (Reporting on Legislation) Amendment Bill
34. Ririnui, Hon Mita – Electoral (Entrenchment of M?ori Representation) Amendment Bill
35. Robertson, HV Ross – Members of Parliament (Code of Ethical Conduct) Bill
36. Sepuloni, Carmel – Employment Relations (Probationary Period Repeal) Amendment Bill
37. Turei, Metiria – Income Tax (Universalisation of In-Work Tax Credit) Amendment Bill
38. Twyford, Phil – Depleted Uranium (Prohibition) Bill

A chance for Kate to do something!

Posted by on December 1st, 2009

The languid Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson has announced today that employment provisions under Part 6A of the Employment Relations Act are to be reviewed.

Part 6A was passed by Parliament in 2004 and subsequently amended in 2006, with a provision agreed with NZ First that the amendment be reviewed within three years. A review could be good, or it could be horrible. It’s Kate’s chance to do something worthwhile.

I have a special interest in this. I campaigned with my union and in Labour for legislative change to deal with the devastating effects of more than a decade of competitive tendering and the repetitive contracting-out of thousands of low-paid workers. As businesses sought on-going cost reductions, particularly in easily outsourced work, such as cleaning, food services, and orderly and laundry services, the effect on the workers was catastrophic.

Workers lost their jobs, often at short notice, in a process that could be repeated up to four times a year. Contractors sought to win business by reducing hours of employment, pay and conditions, so even where workers continued to be employed by the incoming contractor, they had to do the same (or more) work on less pay and severely reduced hours of work.

Labour implemented Part 6A as a crucial part of improving job security and protection for these low paid, vulnerable workers.  Essentially, it gives workers in particular industries the right to transfer on the same pay and conditions to a new contractor or employer in the event of contracting out or change of employer.

I haven’t sensed any big push by employers to change it – even although when it was first passed in 2004, the hysteria around it was pretty loud. Don Brash promised to dump it in the 2005 election, but by 2008 that had disappeared from National’s manifesto.

Kate says that “the review will consider whether Part 6A has achieved its policy objectives and whether the special protections provided for some workers are relevant within the current business and policy environment, or if there are other ways of achieving the objectives.” It will also look at employee protection provisions that are required to be added to an employment contract when a business is restructuring.

The Minister says that if there is a need for improvement she will be happy to look at suitable amendments.

Here’s two ideas for Kate  :

1.    First and foremost, the provisions in part 6A must not be watered down, but they could be improved.

They could be extended to workers in other industries, where contracting out and restructuring have continued and the workers have been powerless to challenge the inevitable pressure on jobs and pay.

2.    Minimum redundancy notice and pay for all workers should be considered.

Part 6A provides for workers in specific industries who have been transferred to a new employer to bargain redundancy and in the event this cannot be agreed, for the Employment Authority to determine minimum entitlements. But it rules out those workers whose employment agreements expressly exclude redundancy pay. And there are no redundancy protections at all for other workers.

Since Part 6A became law, the recession has seen thousands of workers lose their jobs with little notice and no redundancy pay. The review of Part 6A is a great opportunity to consider implementing minimum redundancy entitlements for all workers.

Will the Minister take the chance?

Youse had nine years to do it…..

Posted by on November 7th, 2009

Or so the refrain from some of the contributors to this blog goes.

It’s true that Labour had nine years in government and there were things we didn’t get around to doing. We can all be critical about that.

Before I became an MP in 2005, I often joined the chorus of frustration that “Labour hadn’t” or “Labour should….”, particularly when it came to fixing obvious problems relating to workers’ rights, even while recognising that Labour had done a lot.

But once I became an MP, I learned that there are only so many House Sitting days, only so many Select Committee days for hearing submissions and that passing laws doesn’t just mean coming up with an idea and barging forward.

I also found out about the realities of numbers. In the 2005 Labour-led government, the truth is that we couldn’t always get the support we needed for the things we wanted to do.

While theoretically, the votes of the Greens and the Maori Party gave the Labour-led government a 1-vote majority in the house, it was unreliable. The Maori Party were often not there in the numbers required to vote full strength because they were off doing other things.

This is not intended as a criticism of them, but an observation about the priorities of small parties, which may be different to Labour’s –  and their responsibilities both within and outside of Parliament.

That meant Labour had to win additional support from NZ First or United Future or both, to give a buffer to legislation we wanted passed. I know that took a lot of effort. I was involved in that effort with the help of then Minister of Labour Ruth Dyson to try to win the numbers for my bill to give minimum wage to contractors.

Time and again, I had to postpone the second reading and committee stages because of the lack of Maori Party votes in the House.

After Taito went Independent, he withdrew his support, and as a result, my bill did not get through in the last parliament and failed in this one.

The point of this post is to say to all and sundry who like the mantra “Labour had nine years…” is that it’s not that easy. I wish it were.

And surely that doesn’t mean that we should never come up with new ideas and policies for the future?

In the next Labour-led government, we will be in the second decade of the 21st century, facing new challenges and a changing country.

Labour’s history in government is one of taking the country forward.

It’s how we do that in the next ten years of a Labour government I’m interested in.

Fairness @ Work under National?

Posted by on November 4th, 2009

Thank goodness I don’t have a fragile ego (if I have one at all). In the past two weeks, the Nats have block-voted against hearing submissions on a petition I championed signed by nearly 16,000 other New Zealanders and they have also introduced a Bill reducing the right for all NZ workers to have a meal break – undoing legislation passed under Labour, based on a members’ bill I drafted.

But this posting is not about my ego, because that’s not the reason I’m am MP (can’t speak for others). I’m not taking it personally. After all “its not about me.”

It is about the thousands of school support staff, social workers and other ordinary fair-minded New Zealanders who the National Government took deliberate action against by block-voting to ensure they didn’t have to justify the axing of pay equity investigations for these hard-working New Zealanders.

And it is about workers who’s health and safety will be put at risk if National goes ahead with its plans to give employers the specific right to require workers to attend to their duties during their meal breaks and rest periods.

It is highly unusual for a select committee to refuse to hear submissions on a petition – particularly one of that size. However, the Nats were prepared to sacrifice the democratic principles of select committee procedures so that they weren’t put in the embarrassing position of having to defend the indefensible.

The Minister of Labour has already admitted that the Pay and Employment Equity Unit was closed down by her against the advice of her Department of Labour officials. Maybe the Nats blocked the hearing of submissions on the petition because they were worried about what the DOL would say in its submission?

Whatever the reason, David Bennett, Jackie Blue, Tau Henare, Allan Peachey and Michael Woodhouse should hang their heads in shame as the MPs who voted to block submissions being heard.

I bet none of them admit to having prevented the petition from being heard the next time the turn up at their local schools for a visit.

As for the right to a meal break at work, I don’t know about you but when I’m flying, I wanna know that the person in the sole-charge regional control tower is well-rested, alert, hydrated and has reasonable blood-sugar levels when they are giving important information to the pilot of my plane.

The Nats though, are passing legislation to ensure that they have to work through meal and rest breaks and in the process are subjecting all other NZ workers to the same possibility.

Not the brighter future they promised really, is it?

When a break is not a break

Posted by on October 27th, 2009

The government tabled its Employment Relations (Meals and Rest Breaks) Amendment Bill in the House today.   I’ve had a brief look at it and what it seems to do is :

  1. Remove the requirement for breaks to be half an hour for a meal break and ten minutes for a tea break and replace it with a requirement to “provide the employee with a reasonable opportunity during the employees work period for rest, refreshment and attending to personal matters”.
  2. Provide that the times and duration of the rest and meal breaks are by agreement.
  3. Provide for “compensatory measures” if the employer doesn’t provide rest breaks.
I’m not going to rush to judgement on this, but I am uneasy about any law that leaves things this wide open.   Labour brought in this law for the workers who weren’t getting breaks at all and I can’t see anything in this amended bill that gives me any comfort that we won’t be reverting to the situation we had before the original bill.  I am even more uneasy when I see that the bill has to receive consent by 30 December.  That means more urgency and no chance for anyone to submit on the bill. 

The Gambling Amendment Bill

Posted by on July 14th, 2009

At some stage soon parliament will resume debate on the Gambling Amendment Bill (No2). It’s a largely technical Bill that makes minor amendments so that the law will work as intended. One of the issues it covers is the distribution of pokie machine profits which, by law, have to be used for charitable purposes. However those profits don’t have to go back into the communities they were drawn from and quite a bit of pokie money goes into paying rental space for the machines, director’s fees for the ‘charities’ that distribute the funds, and other similar ‘expenses’.

During the Second Reading debate, the then Minister of Internal Affairs, Richard Worth, conceded that there were some questionable funding practices within the industry. He subsequently indicated in discussions with me that he thought those issues should be the subject of a separate piece of legislation. It’s an undertaking I hope the new Minister will honour.

In the meantime, Sue Bradford has tabled a number of amendments to the current Bill and while I think that some of them are wide of the Bill’s scope (it’s supposed to contain technical amendments, not significant policy changes) I think they’re worthy of debate. They include requirements for pokie machines to be located entirely indoors (not in courtyards where people can smoke, drink and gamble at the same time) and for the majority of the grants to be made back into the communities the money came from in the first place.

The amendments would also prohibit the use of pokie machine profits for racing stake money. I don’t have a problem with racing clubs receiving charitable grants. It would be unfair to stop racing clubs receiving any funding whilst still allowing other sports clubs to get it. However currently it is perfectly legal for a pokie machine operator to hand over their profits to the racing industry to use as prize money. In my view that is one form of gambling subsidising another and I can’t see how it can be justified.

I’d be interested in people’s views on pokie machines and how the profits should be distributed. Do we have too many pokie machines? Should the profits have to go back into the communities they are taken from? Should racing stake money be an authorised charitable purpose? Should we move to a more centralised system for grant distribution (eg. A model similar to lottery grants)? All reasonable and sensible argument and suggestions welcome.

The gentle art of filibuster

Posted by on May 14th, 2009

It’s ground hog day all over again as the House drifts towards the end of a day-long 15 hour sitting. Labour, the Greens and Maori Party are resisting National-Act’s undemocratic super city bill under urgency.  The day has been spent debating numerous amendments to the bill that sets up the new Auckland Council, and establishes a transition authority with draconian powers over the elected mayors, councillors who are only half way through their elected terms.

It’s not so much clause-by-clause combat but something much gentler. As literally hundreds of amendments are voted down – Ayes, Noes, The noes have it, Party vote called for – it’s not unlike the soporific rhythms of radio cricket commentary on a summer afternoon.

What else to do in the face of the Government’s bulldozer tactics but resist in the old parliamentary way? If hundreds of people can turn out on a wet night to protest across the burbs of Auckland it seems the least we can do. It is early days in the debate.  Friday night plans to head home from Wellington should now be on hold. I am still hoping the Nats will explain to Aucklanders how gutting local councils is good for democracy, and how much this lark will cost the ratepayer.