Latest from the Beehive
While Shane Jones was distributing his latest serving of public funds to causes in the Far North, a New Zealand First colleague was showing that veterans haven’t been forgotten in The Great Covid Handout.
Ron Mark, Minister for Veterans Affairs, announced the Coalition Government has approved a one-off grant of $2.53 million for the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) and – in a separate statement – said 11 further declarations of operational service have been made. This means those who took part in those deployments will qualify for support and services from Veterans’ Affairs.
While the money-dispensing ministers were focused on different constituencies, another minister was announcing world-breaking news.
Our government became the first in the world to outline a set of standards to guide the use of algorithms by public agencies when Statistics Minister James Shaw launched the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand. The aim is to give New Zealanders confidence that data is being used safely and effectively across government.
The charter has been signed by 21 agencies, including the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Education, the Department of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Inland Revenue.
It commits those agencies to a range of measures, including explaining how decisions are informed by algorithms.
Oh – and the charter signatories are
“ … embedding a Te Ao Māori perspective in the development and use of algorithms”.
We wonder what statisticians and mathematicians must do to satisfy this requirement.
Another famous first – but at a national rather than international level – was announced by Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Andrew Little . We imagine the recently appointed Little got to announce something his predecessor, Iain Lees-Galloway, had been preparing.
The big deal is that the banking sector has become New Zealand’s first Living Wage Accredited industry.
All workers in the sector, including those who are contracted such as security guards and cleaners, will earn the income required to afford the basic necessities of life.
The Living Wage is $21.15 per hour and will increase to $22.10 per hour on 1 September. It is set by an independent group, the Family Centre Social Policy Research Unit, based on the assessed needs of a family of two adults (one working 40 hours per week, and one working 20 hours per week) and two children.
Don’t get the idea this is being done just to give the workers a bit more pay. Oh, no.
“It also has significant benefits for employers. Higher wages are likely to lead to improved productivity, as well as better workforce recruitment and retention.”
But let’s get back to the millions of dollars being pumped into regions and sectors.
Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has become a dab hand at dishing out money and announced more than $20 million has been approved for New Zealand’s 31 Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) to support the industry’s recovery in the short and long term.
Northland Inc Limited was the first beneficiary named on his list of recipients,. It will receive $700,000.
A much greater sum – $51.6 million from the COVID recovery and response fund – is involved in the Government’s release of a long-term strategic recovery plan to help stabilise New Zealand’s international education sector.
To do the required stabilising, the government is investing:
- $20 million in support for state and state-integrated schools for the remainder of 2020 to continue to employ the specialist international workforce to continue teaching and providing pastoral care to international students who remain in New Zealand.$10 million for Private Training Establishments (PTEs) including English language schools to buffer the sharp decline in revenue and maintain a foundation of PTEs for the recovery phase.
- $10 million to develop new future-focused products and services to drive growth in our system onshore and offshore, to ensure a more resilient sector. This will include:
- Allowing students to begin studying from their home country to provide greater flexibility for learners and make our international education sector more resilient to shocks such as COVID-19.
- A unified digital platform to provide a single strong New Zealand brand and presence to enable providers to deliver study programmes to more people offshore.
- $6.6 million to continue the pastoral care and other activities for international students, subject to the proposed cancellation of Export Education Levy payments until the end of 2021.
- $3 million for marketing activities to keep New Zealand’s education brand visible in key markets while travel is restricted.
- $1.5 million for English Language Schools to deliver English language training to migrants to help them to succeed in our schools and communities.
- $500k to develop a quality assurance process to ensure the ongoing quality of a New Zealand education being delivered offshore.
Another Beehive statement advised us that additional funding is being made available “to strengthen existing debt solution services” with access to debt specialists, and develop a national approach to address problem debt.
Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi isdid trhe seemed to acknowledge this when they explained:
“Given the economic impact of COVID-19, we’re addressing problem debt by expanding existing specialist debt services to meet the expected increase in demand and the complexity of debt problems,” said Carmel Sepuloni.
“Our services are expecting about 2,000 people to get specialist debt support and about 1,400 people to get no-interest and low-interest debt consolidation microfinance loans or help with variations to high-cost loans via specialist debt solutions.
Anyway, the funding boost is $4.3 million over two years intended to expand existing specialist debt services, building on the extra $35m of funding ($9.7m cost pressure funding and $25.2m Covid Response and Recovery funding) rolled out for core Building Financial Capability (BFC) services, formerly budgeting services, announced at the end of May.
Faafoi said even before COVID-19, New Zealanders had high household debt, and very low savings.
“In the wake of COVID-19, 74% of households said they’re in financial difficulty, or exposed to financial shocks. By being proactive and ensuring services are in place by the end of this year to support those experiencing overwhelming debt issues, services are removing opportunities for unsafe lenders to put those vulnerable people into even worse situations.
“This funding will help to continue the vital flow of payments to creditors while sheltering indebted people and their whānau from the financial, health and social impacts of overwhelming debt.”
Carmel Sepuloni said that as well as funding problem debt support, the Ministry of Social Development will engage with providers and diverse communities to design “a comprehensive National Debt Solution for all New Zealanders”.
Will this get rid of the national debt? Or is it a more modest initiative?
Another significant announcement is that temporary migrant workers are to be better protected by sweeping changes to prevent exploitation and improve enforcement.
The Government is investing $50 million over four years to support the implementation of these changes.
The changes to be implemented in stages over the next few years include:
- Creating a new visa that will support migrants to leave exploitative situations without negatively affecting their immigration status.
- Setting up a new dedicated free phone number, online reporting and better triaging to make it easier to report migrant worker exploitation.
- Higher standards will be required from franchises, labour hire companies and similar businesses where migrant exploitation often occurs.
- Disqualifying people convicted of migrant exploitation and people trafficking from managing or directing a company.
- Preventing exploitative employers from accessing migrant labour in the future by expanding the existing employer stand down list.
- Establishing new immigration and employment infringement offences targeting non-compliant employer behaviour.
- Notifying impacted migrant workers that their employer has been stood down.
More information can be found at https://www.mbie.govt.nz/immigration-and-tourism/immigration/temporary-migrant-worker-exploitation-review/
28 JULY 2020
This week 11 further declarations of operational service have been made, announced Minister for Veterans Ron Mark.
28 JULY 2020
This Government has today become the first in the world to outline a set of standards to guide the use of algorithms by public agencies.
28 JULY 2020
Additional funding is being made available to strengthen existing debt solution services with access to debt specialists, and develop a national approach to address problem debt Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni and Minister for Commerce and Consumer Affairs Hon Kris Faafoi announced today.
28 JULY 2020
More than $20 million has been approved for New Zealand’s 31 Regional Tourism Organisations (RTOs) to support the industry’s recovery in the short and long term, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis announced today.
27 JULY 2020
The banking sector has become New Zealand’s first Living Wage Accredited industry, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Andrew Little says.
27 JULY 2020
The Government has released a long-term strategic recovery plan, backed by $51.6 million investment from the COVID recovery and response fund to help stabilise New Zealand’s international education sector.
27 JULY 2020
Temporary migrant workers will be better protected by sweeping changes to prevent exploitation and improve enforcement, say Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Minister for Workplace Relations Andrew Little, and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.
27 JULY 2020
The Government is providing funding of more than $14 million for community and infrastructure projects in the Far North to help create jobs and boost the regional economy, Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones has announced.
27 JULY 2020
The Coalition Government has approved a one off grant of $2.53 million to be made to the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA), announced Minister for Veterans Ron Mark.