Scant notice is given of town hall meetings to enable us (or just some of us?) to discuss mosque massacre inquiry proposals

Here’s hoping the government has been using means other than Beehive press statements to advise interested parties about a programme of consulting people about implementing recommendations of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the terrorist attack on Christchurch mosques on 15 March 2019.

The public statement was issued yesterday.  The first of a nationwide series of meetings starts in Wellington tomorrow.

According to a Radio New Zealand report, each meeting will be “a town-hall style discussion where people can share their thoughts and views directly with Ministers and ask questions”.

But NB – only some citizens will be let into the town hall.  Some meetings are for Muslims, some for Muslim youth and some for pan-ethnic or pan-faith groups.

The press statement gives the strong impression the meetings are not intended for most New Zealanders.

Mind you, maybe that’s because the discriminatory tone of the statement is a consequence of hasty drafting.   The government issued it hours after RNZ made inquiries. Continue reading “Scant notice is given of town hall meetings to enable us (or just some of us?) to discuss mosque massacre inquiry proposals”

Vaccine politics look like normal politics – just more extreme

Point of Order has been consistent in anticipating an irritable post-Brexit relationship between Britain and the EU.  But who would have thought vaccine politics would develop as a major flashpoint, let alone a possible relationship breaker?

Even hyper-critical Brits have had to acknowledge that the UK government is a leader in the global vaccination rollout.  And as more background information seeps into the public arena, the British government’s decisiveness in supporting vaccine development, committing early to contracts and driving mass vaccination is looking better and better.

But the same comparisons spell political danger for European politicians. Co-ordination by the EU appears to have resulted in slowness: slowness in making commitments, in tweaking the production process and in approving the product.

Continue reading “Vaccine politics look like normal politics – just more extreme”

O’Connor phones to mollify the Aussies after trumpeting the pay-off from mollifying Beijing

Trade  Minister Damien  O’Connor  trumpeted  this week that the  New Zealand  and  Chinese  governments had signed  an upgrade to  the free trade agreement  between the  two countries.

We suspect he will be more coy about his contribution to the New Zealand–Australia relationship because his trumpeting – loud enough to cross the Tasman – included advice to Canberra to “show respect” and act more diplomatically towards China.   

The Aussies have been riled by those remarks, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

Senior Australian government officials are infuriated at Mr O’Connor’s comments, which they see as a continuing pattern of New Zealand not joining other allies in standing up to China’s growing assertiveness in recent months.

China’s relations with Canberra remain frozen as a consequence of the Morrison government’s call for a Covid-19 inquiry and a series of punitive trade actions has been taken against Australian export sectors. Continue reading “O’Connor phones to mollify the Aussies after trumpeting the pay-off from mollifying Beijing”

Govt’s fancy footwork on climate change will bedazzle you (but critics who want to hear the specifics may be disappointed)

Three Ministers, led by the PM, joined in chorus today to warble about a bunch of measures aimed at helping to meet New Zealand’s 2050 carbon neutral target, create new jobs and boost innovation.

Mind you, the measures mentioned seem to be more matters of decisions yet to be made rather than anything to take effect now or next week – or even next month.

Other Ministers had something more immediate to deliver:

  • The Government is investing up to $10 million to support 30 of the country’s top early-career researchers to develop their research skills. The MBIE Science Whitinga Fellowship will provide each successful researcher with a one-off fellowship worth $320,000 over two years to help them grow and develop their research skills in New Zealand.
  • A $500,000 Waitomo-based Jobs for Nature project will keep up to ten people employed in the village as the tourism sector recovers post Covid-19. The worekrs will undertake local track maintenance and improve the Ruakuri bush walk and scenic reserve “and other culturally significant areas.”
  • Minister for Climate Change James Shaw has spoken with President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry. He told Kerry he was pleased that one of President Biden’s first actions was to re-join the Paris Agreement.
  • Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced three diplomatic appointments:  Alana Hudson as Ambassador to Poland; John Riley as Consul-General to Hong Kong; Stephen Wong as Consul-General to Shanghai.

But let’s get back to the PM’s song and dance act, backed by the Beehive Bugle Brigade.

The programme notes brayed Government moves on climate promises.

And – wow – you couldn’t help but be bedazzled by the almost frenzied footwork.  The Riverdance crew could only be envious:

  • The Government’s “is delivering on its first tranche of election promises to take action on climate change”, and
  • “This will be an ongoing area of action but we are moving now to implement key election promises”, and
  • “We will receive further advice and recommendations mid-year from the Climate Commission but we are cracking on with this work now.”

The PM then trilled about transport making up our second highest amount of emissions after agriculture “so it’s important we reduce emissions from our vehicle fleet”.

“Tackling climate change is a priority for the Government and remains a core part of our COVID recovery plan. We can create jobs and economic opportunities while reducing our emissions, so it’s win-win for our economy and climate.

“We will be finalising our first three carbon budgets later this year following advice from the independent Climate Change Commission, which the Government receives mid-year.

Must we wait much longer for a chart-topping hit? 

Alas, yes.  

“The Commission’s advice is likely to ask a lot of all of us and require action in all sectors.

“Today’s announcement is a good step towards what needs to be done,” Jacinda Ardern said.

At that juncture Transport Minister Michael Wood stepped up to contribute his solo:

 “We’re making progress to reduce emissions by investing significantly more in public transport, rail, costal shipping and walking and cycling – but there is more to do,” said Transport Minister Michael Wood.

“Our Government has agreed in principle to mandate a lower emitting biofuel blend across the transport sector. Over time this will prevent hundreds of thousands of tonnes of emissions from cars, trucks, trains, ships and planes.”

But an agreement in principle doesn’t actually amount to action – does it?

So what else?

“There are economic opportunities for New Zealand in strengthening our clean green brand, encouraging innovation and creating jobs. It will also help our economic recovery. A biofuel mandate has the potential to create jobs and boost the economy through encouraging a local industry.

“Officials will consult with the public and stakeholders to help the Government decide on a way forward before the end of the year.”

In other words, we haven’t got to the consulting stage yet.

“We’re also committing $50 million to help councils fully decarbonise the public transport bus fleet by 2035. By meeting our target to decarbonise the bus fleet, we can prevent up to 4.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, which will make an important contribution towards meeting our climate targets,” Michael Wood said.

Actually, we recall this was announced in October last year.

But let’s hear him out:

“We’re moving quickly to introduce a Clean Car Import Standard to reduce emissions and Kiwis’ fuel costs. Legislation will be passed this year and the standard will begin next year, with the 105 grams of CO2/km 2025 target being phased in through annual targets that get progressively lower to give importers time to adjust. 

“The Import Standard will prevent up to 3 million tonnes of emissions by 2040, mean more climate-friendly cars are available, and will give families average lifetime fuel savings of nearly $7,000 per vehicle.

“The Government will also consider options for an incentive scheme to help Kiwis make the switch to clean cars. The Government will have further announcements on our plan to reduce transport emissions in the coming months,” Michael Wood said.

 So no FIRM action, readers.  Just the promise of action via the passage of legislation.

Never mind. Climate Change Minister James Shaw seems satisfied.

He said today’s announcement (announcement of what, exactly?) is a good first step that needs to be taken on the road towards long-term emissions reductions from transport – and that there will need to be many more steps taken after this one.

The window of opportunity we have to address the climate crisis is closing fast. Reducing emissions from transport will need to be a priority if we are to meet our targets and make sure New Zealand plays its part in keeping the climate stable. 

“For decades governments allowed emissions from transport to increase unabated. Today we begin the work to change that. In doing so I’d like to acknowledge the work of the former Minister for Transport, Julie Anne Genter.

“Together these measures will help to make our communities cleaner and healthier, and ensure the vehicles we use to get around leave a smaller carbon footprint. It is necessary first step towards making sure that the journeys we all have to take are better for the planet. The measures announced today also help advance the commitments in the Cooperation Agreement between Labour and the Green Party to decarbonise public transport and to introduce a clean car standard,” James Shaw said. 

 Latest from the Beehive


28 JANUARY 2021

Government moves on climate promises

Jump starting research careers

27 JANUARY 2021

Project protects jobs and nature

Minister Shaw speaks with U.S. Presidential Envoy John Kerry

Minister of Foreign Affairs makes three diplomatic appointments

Children’s Minister explains what he expects from his all-Maori advisory team while the Nats respond by saying … nothing

Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis believes the Crown should maintain responsibility for the care and protection of at-risk and vulnerable children, regardless of their race.

Moreover, he is confident his all-Maori  team of advisers will not be taking race into account as they help to improve Oranga Tamariki’s care and protection of children.

Whether all members of the team got this message is another matter.

Matthew Tukaki (the bloke who sees nothing amiss in deriding MPs who raise questions that vex him as “baboons”) is chair of the new ministerial advisory group on Oranga Tamariki.

He is on record as saying reforming the agency is a chance to make real change for Māori.

“It’s about entrenched poverty. It’s about lack of housing, mental health, addiction services primary health, the loss of jobs, you name it, it’s a multiplicity of different things. So we are charged with looking at how we take these different reports and recommendations, the issues on the table today, the things in particular Māori have been talking about for years now, and effect real change,” Mr Tukaki says.

Similarly, Dame Naida Glavish said the tough job would be “putting the pieces back together” for Māori.

“The tough job will be initiating and instilling whānau, hapū, iwi trust in a service that they haven’t had any trust in – or any reason to trust – in the last few years. That’s where the hard work is.”

Dame Naida said she was “absolutely” pleased chief executive Grainne Moss had resigned. “But it’s not about her now, it’s about us fixing up a broken system.”

In light of the Minister’s assurance about the advisory team’s focus being on all children in Oranga Tamariki care or requiring its protection, regardless of their race, we must suppose these advisers have been misreported.

The assurance was given in response to questions Point of Order put to the Minister about his appointments:

What are the reasons for the Minister appointing no non-Maori to the expert group?

 I have selected and appointed well-respected members of the community to the Ministerial Advisory Board, who each bring with them valuable expertise. When making the appointments I took into account their seniority, experience and standing in New Zealand. They will play a key role and their advice will help us improve the child care and protection system for all children and young people who come into contact with Oranga Tamariki – whether they’re Maori or non-Maori.

Does the Minister have any sympathy with the arguments promoted for a Mokopuna Authority (Māori for Māori by Māori)? 

 I met with Oranga Tamariki leadership and senior officials just before Christmas to outline my priorities and areas of focus in this portfolio. Those priorities include focusing on enhancing relationships with whānau and Māori, and starting to entrust funding and decision-making to Māori and to people on the ground in our regions.

However, I don’t accept that the Crown should absolve itself of its responsibility to care for and protect our at-risk and vulnerable children, whether they’re Maori or non- Maori.

I believe we need to reshape Oranga Tamariki and fix the system, to do better for our children and young people.

There isn’t a single, homogeneous view from Maori about how the system should work. Different Maori communities, hapū and iwi have different ideas of how they want to be involved.

So we need to engage with hapū, iwi and Māori about their capacity, their capability and their will to become involved and what their solutions are, what a partnership looks like to them.

And does the Minister believe he would be ill-advised to make decisions based on the information and recommendations he should already have received in several reports on the performance of Oranga Tamariki? 

 My decision-making in this portfolio has been and will be informed by a range of sources.

As soon as I became the Minister I began a schedule of meetings with various officials, with stakeholders, with Māori – including some of Oranga Tamariki’s harshest critics – to help develop the Government’s priorities and aspirations for children, particularly tamariki Māori.

I’ve considered the various reports and reviews, our Government’s Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and the feedback from iwi and Māori.

The Waitangi Tribunal is also currently assessing whether the Ministry’s legislation, policies and practices are consistent with te Tiriti o Waitangi, and I will be listening intently to the Tribunal.

Outside of formal reporting and data, what is also needed is real time information about Oranga Tamariki and its progress, operations and performance, and certainty that its future direction is understood and becoming entrenched – this is what the Advisory Board will help provide.

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency Chair, is among those who might want greater separatism in the restructuring of the state system for protecting and caring for children.

She said she wants Oranga Tamariki chief executive Grainne Moss’ decision to resign to be the catalyst for Māori leadership of an organisation in which seven of every 10 children are Māori.

Diversity was not part of her prescription for improvement:

“It’s a big organisation, but Pākehā don’t have the cultural competency, they don’t have the networks. I honestly don’t believe they have the long-term interest in the safety of the children,” Raukawa-Tait told The AM Show on Monday morning.

“This is our time to step up and do what we have to do. We would’ve done that long ago given the opportunity, but it’s always been the Government – and particularly Pākehā – saying ‘we know what’s best for you’. We’re saying, right now, ‘hands off our tamariki – no more’.

“It really is about the solutions by Māori, for Māori, with Māori as soon as possible.”

Davis’s all-Maori team might not be enough to mollify all Maori leaders who have been railing against Oranga Tamariki’s management and operational practices.  The Opposition seems to be indifferent.

When asked this morning, a National press officer said no statements had been issued on the matter.

Kelvin Davis appoints a team of four (with no places for Pakeha) to advise him on Orangi Tamariki and child welfare

After a raft of inquiries delving into and recommending what should be done about the politically beleaguered Orangi Tamariki, along with the briefing papers we suppose he has been given, we imagined Children’s Minister Kelvin Davis would have no more need for expert advice.    

Wrong.  He has just appointed “a skilled and experienced group of people” as the newly established Oranga Tamariki Ministerial Advisory Board.

The group (an  all-Maori team) will begin work on 1 February and Davis expects an initial report (to add to the advice provided by the other reports) by 30 June.  

The board’s appointment was one of three fresh announcements from the Beehive.

The others were 

  • Work begins today at Wainuiomata High School to ensure buildings and teaching spaces are fit for purpose; and 
  • The green light for New Zealand’s first COVID-19 vaccine could be granted in just over a week.  

Continue reading “Kelvin Davis appoints a team of four (with no places for Pakeha) to advise him on Orangi Tamariki and child welfare”

The political payoff is plain but is it smart to borrow $219,512 per job (mostly temporary) to spruce up the Murihiku Marae?

The Point of Order Trough Monitor was triggered today by the announcement of a $9 million handout for Southlanders – sorry, some Southlanders.

The news came from the office of Grant Robertson who, as Minister of Finance, prefers to invest public money rather than give it away – especially when it is borrowed money which taxpayers eventually will be called on to repay.

Accordingly, wearing his “Infrastructure Minister” hat and in the company of Te Tai Tonga MP Rino Tirikatane, Robertson announced the Government is investing $9 million “to upgrade a significant community facility in Invercargill, creating economic stimulus and jobs”.

The only other news from the Beehive came from ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni, who announced the appointments of three new members to join the Board of ACC on 1 February.

“All three bring diverse skills and experience to provide strong governance oversight to lead the direction of ACC” said Hon Carmel Sepuloni.

Of course they do. Continue reading “The political payoff is plain but is it smart to borrow $219,512 per job (mostly temporary) to spruce up the Murihiku Marae?”

Let’s see what Andrew Little prescribes to remedy structural weaknesses in NZ’s health system

One  of the biggest  challenges  facing the  Ardern  government  is in  public health.   New Zealand  may have  escaped the  pressures heaped on other  health  systems by the Covid-19 pandemic but  its  health service has had  its problems, not  least those  exposed  in the  first  report from Heather Simpson and her team   and subsequently in  the Simpson-Roche report revealing deficiencies in  handling  aspects of the response to Covid-19

Both  of  those reports underlined  structural weaknesses  within  the system,  not  only in the  district  health  boards,  but in the  Ministry of  Health.  To  repair  them  would be  a  singular challenge  for any minister. It is  notable  the Prime  Minister  nominated Andrew Little  as the  one  with  the  know-how  to get to grips  with  those particular headaches.

But even with the skills he has, reforming  district  health boards will be a severe test for Little. Some of  them are under enormous financial stress  while others  are  failing to provide  the  full range  of  services  in a  timely manner.  And  let’s not forget the  government  has  yet  to make  significant  progress  in overcoming  the deficiencies  it has  acknowledged in the country’s mental  health services.

Beyond  that  there  are  other pressing  challenges  in health, for example  with diabetes. Continue reading “Let’s see what Andrew Little prescribes to remedy structural weaknesses in NZ’s health system”

Begorrah – Irish Moss brings relief to a leftie blogger who was discomforted by a foreign accent

Contrasting reactions to news of Grainne Moss’s resignation as Oranga Tamariki chief executive inevitably can be found in the blogosphere.

Lindsay Mitchell has recorded the ACT Party’s response to the resignation and hailed it as “spot on”.

The statement was made in the name of Karen Chhour, described as a part-Maori who grew up in foster care and hence has first-hand experience of Child, Youth and Family intervention:

“Oranga Tamariki (OT) will remain ungovernable and continue to fail children unless it’s allowed to focus on the one thing it was established to do, ensure the wellbeing of children,” says ACT’s Social Development and Children spokesperson Karen Chhour.

On the other side of the left-right-divide, Martyn Bradbury’s first instinct – an unabashed illiberal expression of intolerance – was to express relief at “not having to listen to Grainne Moss’s thick Irish accent lecture us about why the State needs to steal Māori children …”

Curiously, Bradbury seems to be arguing for the government to get out of the business of looking after the welfare of the country’s beaten and/or poverty-stricken children. Continue reading “Begorrah – Irish Moss brings relief to a leftie blogger who was discomforted by a foreign accent”

Twyford has something to celebrate, but the hard yards were put in on disarmament long before he was given the portfolio

It’s great to hear Phil Twyford celebrating a success.  Not a personal ministerial success, it’s fair to say, but a success nevertheless related to arms control.

The arms on which Twyford is focused,  it should be noted, will make quite a mess if they are triggered.  They tend to be nuclear ones.

Police Minister Poto Williams is similarly focused on arms control.

The arms in this case are not in the same big-bang league as those embraced by Twyford’s portfolio, but their potential to kill is plain enough and inevitably they became a political issue in the aftermath of the mosque massacre in Christchurch last year.

Williams yesterday announced the next steps in the Government’s firearms reform programme, a three-month amnesty aims to remove further firearms and arms items that were prohibited and restricted through the Arms Legislation Act 2020.

The Government has allocated $15.5 million for compensation and administrative costs.

Among other new announcements – Continue reading “Twyford has something to celebrate, but the hard yards were put in on disarmament long before he was given the portfolio”