State servants cool on pay curbs, despite Robertson eschewing the “freeze” tag – but will they warm to a koha-based tax system?

Finance Minister Grant Robertson reminded us – in a speech to Auckland business people – about changes to the Public Finance Act which require him to set out the wellbeing objectives that will guide the Government’s Budget decisions this year.

The Budget will also reflect the te ao Maori perspective that Treasury has been incorporating in the budget process through a framework called He Ara Waiora.

What will this mean in terms of Budget taxing and spending?  We can’t wait to find out.

We recall that one question examined by our Treasury officials a few years ago was how tikanga Māori (in particular manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, and kaitiakitanga) could help create a more future-focused tax system.

Perhaps by relying more on koha and less on IRD demands.

Meanwhile Robertson has spelled out the Budget 2021 wellbeing objectives:

  • Securing a Just Transition as we shift to a low-emissions economy
  • Lifting productivity and enabling all New Zealanders to benefit from the Future of Work
  • Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities,
  • Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, and
  • Supporting Physical and Mental Wellbeing for all New Zealanders and keeping COVID-19 out of our communities.

We suspect there are more than a few non-Maori who would like a lift to their incomes, skills and opportunities.  But this might be beyond the purview of a  te ao Maori perspective

Oh – and Robertson used his speech to elaborate on his public pay chill (because it seems we should not call it a freeze).

Another pre-Budget announcement dealt with women’s health.  Budget 2021 funds a more effective cervical screening test to help reduce cervical cancer rates and an upgrade of the breast screening system.

But let’s look first at the non-Budget announcements.

Mind your language

We were reminded in one press statement that Sign Language is an official language in New Zealand; another statement disclosed how our government is trying to help preserve the Rotuman language.

Te reo is an official language, too, of course. Radio NZ broadcasters increasingly sprinkle it through their presentations, news reports and interviews, presumably to communicate better with the one in five Maori who speak it.

We can only wonder when Radio NZ will wake up to its neglect of Sign Language and incorporate this, too, in its broadcasts.  There are times when we would welcome them using it generously, thereby treating listeners to moments of blessed silence. This week would be a good time to start …

New Zealand Sign Language Week a chance to recognise national taonga

May 10 – 16 is New Zealand Sign Language Week, a nationwide celebration of NZSL as an official language of New Zealand.

Carmel Sepuloni, Minister for Disability Issues, said the Government has taken steps to invest in inclusive and accessible spaces for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Ko Taku Reo Deaf Education New Zealand, who run a youth theatre project, received funding as part of the Government’s Creatives in Schools programme.

Sepuloni spoke at the New Zealand Sign Language Week 2021 Breakfast at Parliament this morning.  Alas, we weren’t on the invitation list.

Rotuman Language week affirms language as the key to Pacific wellbeing

The first Pacific Language Week this year  is devoted to Rotuman.

The Wellbeing Budget 2019 delivered a $20 million package over four years to support the revitalisation of Pacific languages.

Rotuman Language Week will run from Sunday 9 May to Saturday 15 May 2021.

The Rotuman language is listed on the UNESCO List of Endangered Languages, with only 15,000 speakers in the world.

Rotuma, for those who don’t know, is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about 500 kilometres north of Fiji. Politically, the island forms a part of Fiji, but it has its own distinct language, culture and identity.

Only about 2000 Rotumans live on Rotuma Island.

Mes amis – le français

It was great to see the French aren’t so preoccupied with their threats to cut off the power supply to Jersey and otherwise show their displeasure at changes to fishing rules that they couldn’t spare some time for our PM.  And so …

NZ-France to co-chair Christchurch Call Leaders’ Summit

The leaders of New Zealand and France have welcomed the United States’ decision to formally join the Christchurch Call to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.  They also welcomed the United States’ intention to attend the Christchurch Call Second Anniversary virtual leaders’ Summit, to take stock of progress and develop a new shared priority work plan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and President Emmanuel Macron will co-chair the leaders’ meeting on the 2nd anniversary of the Call, on 14 May CEST/15 May, NZT.

The summit will bring together leaders across Call supporting governments, tech companies and civil society.

“We expect the Call Community to refine its focus, redouble its efforts, and agree to a priority work plan for the year ahead. The inaugural Christchurch Call Community Consultation report provides the foundation for this work,” Jacinda Ardern said.

“Among the priorities I would like to see progressed is a strengthened collective ability to manage crises related to terrorist and violent extremist content online.

“I would like to see us grow our shared understanding of algorithmic processes that have the potential to cause harm, or to radicalise or incite to acts of terrorism and violent extremism.  And to develop positive interventions to address these.” 

In the second half of 2019, the Governments of New Zealand and France carried out a survey of the Call community, to take stock of the many ways in which supporters are fulfilling their commitments to the Christchurch Call. From that survey, the Christchurch Call Community Consultation Report was produced.

Easier travel from the land of Oz

New South Wales travel pause to be lifted tomorrow

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins on Saturday announced the travel pause with New South Wales would lift yesterday, subject to no further significant developments in NSW.

New Zealand health officials had  met  to conduct a further assessment of the public health risk from the recently identified COVID-19 community cases in Sydney. They determined the risk to public health in New Zealand remained low.

Information about quarantine-free travel between New South Wales and New Zealand is available on the COVID19 website:

Information about locations of interest visited by the cases is available on the New South Wales health website:

 More pre-Budget braying

Budget delivers improved cervical and breast cancer screening

Budget 2021 delivers a better cervical screening test and a major upgrade of the breast cancer screening system to reduce the number of people who die from the two diseases.

The Budget will invest up to $53 million to complete the design of and implement a new test for humanpapillomavirus (HPV), the cause of 99 percent of cervical cancers. The new test, which will replace the current smear test for the 1.4 million eligible women aged 25-69 years old, is a simple and quick swab that women can choose to do themselves. This will help to reduce the barriers to getting screened.

The upcoming changes will be fully rolled out from 2023.

The Budget will also invest up to $55.6 million in a major upgrade of breast-screening technology and another $10 million is earmarked to match population growth and to catch up on breast screens missed due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

The new technology will better equip the programme to reach the 271,000 women who are eligible to access breast screening but are not currently being screened, by being able to directly invite them and run targeted campaigns.

Economic resilience provides more options in Budget 2021

Securing the recovery and investing in the wellbeing of New Zealanders is the focus of Budget 2021, Grant Robertson told his audience at a pre-budget speech in Auckland this morning.

Pre-Budget speech to BNZ-Deloitte Auckland Breakfast Event

After setting out the government’s wellbeing objectives, Grant Robertson focused on its aim to improve economic and social outcomes within the Māori and Pacific communities.

Then he noted ways in which wellbeing is being embedded in the Budget process.

An innovation for Budget 2021 is the work that Treasury has been doing to incorporate a te ao Māori perspective into the budget process through a framework called He Ara Waiora.

This is an important development. Although the Living Standards Framework draws heavily from leading international efforts such as the OECD’s Better Life Index, we think we can do more to ensure that our approach is distinct to our own place and our own culture.

For Budget 2021 alignment to the He Ara Waiora concepts and principles were considered, not just for the initiatives that are focused on Māori, but at a much broader level. This is a new development, and one that we want to get right before we embed it further in decision-making in the budget process, but it is my intention that future Budgets will see our own Aotearoa New Zealand version of wellbeing take shape.

On the matter of government spending, any increase will be directed toward where the need is greatest.

This brought public wage curbs into considerations. 

The guidance issued last week by the Public Service Commission to Chief Executives within the public sector on the next round of pay negotiations focuses on the 25 percent of public sector employees who are on $60,000 a year or less.  The guidance breaks down three categories for public sector pay, “lift” (those at $60,000 or below), “adjust” (those between $60 and $100,000) and “hold” (those above $100,000).

“It is important to note that this is not as has been reported, a pay freeze.  Pay for public servants such as teachers, nurses and police officers will continue to increase as they move through the pay bands we have previously agreed, pay equity discussions continue and there is still a collective bargaining negotiation to go through.”

A second principle to guide fiscal policy is that spending needs to be effective in both securing the economic recovery, and in shaping the type of recovery that we as a country want.

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