Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comments about the US Supreme Court’s recent ruling on abortion inadvertently help explain why the court was right to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states. She noted that New Zealand “recently legislated to decriminalise abortion and treat it as a health rather than criminal issue.”
The passage of that legislation was only the latest in a long and incremental series of policy changes on the subject that have taken place over the past century.
While many policy issues in New Zealand have divided the country, the divisions have tended to be short-lived as each side had their voices heard and the debates concluded.
The Government has declared or reiterated three bold ambitions, one of them (the elimination of family violence) probably unachievable.
Whether progress is being made towards the achievement of another (ensuring New Zealand is “a great place for women to work”) raises measurement issues. No matter what is accomplished, there are bound to be demands for more to be done – and what is “a great place” for women to work?
A third bold ambition – which looks like another mission impossible – was declared in a speech headed PM’s comments to NATO session.
The Ardern government has done it again, announcing a grandiose plan to reform Wellington’s transport system. The plan includes a long-overdue duplicate Mt Victoria tunnel, a rearrangement of the road around the Basin Reserve and a light rail operation from the city centre to the south coast, all in the Let’s Get Wellington Moving project at an original cost of $6.4bn, now put at $7.4bn.
Fanciful? It is, if you are looking for a business case on (for example) the light rail project.
The announcement included this proviso:
“If the light rail option was too expensive it would explore using buses instead”
Legislation to tighten things, legislation to relax things and a speech which reminds us of threats to our democracy – from the PM, we are delighted to note – feature in the latest posts on the Beehive website.
Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister David Clark has had a busy day, announcing two lots of legislation.
Legislation that bans major supermarkets from blocking their competitors’ access to land to set up new stores, to pave the way for greater competition in the sector, is the first in a suite of measures after a Commerce Commission investigation found competition in the retail grocery sector is not working. The Commerce (Grocery Sector Covenants) Amendment Bill amends the Commerce Act 1986, banning restrictive covenants on land, and exclusive covenants on leases. It also makes existing covenants unenforceable and enhances the Commission’s information-gathering powers.
The Financial Markets (Conduct of Institutions) Amendment Bill, which has passed its third reading, will establish a new financial conduct scheme that ensures financial institutions put customers before profits. This follows reviews by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Financial Markets Authority which found banks and insurers in New Zealand lack focus on good customer outcomes, and have insufficient systems and controls to identify, manage and remedy conduct issues. The FMA will work with financial institutions to ensure they are prepared for the new regime, and licensing applications are expected to open in mid-2023. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will develop supporting regulations. The regime is expected to come fully into force in early 2025.
Transport Minister Michael Wood has been busy beating his drum over the move to lift the speed limit on the Waikato Expressway to 110km/h, between Hampton Downs and Tamahere.
He points out that the Waikato Expressway is a key transport route for the Waikato region, connecting Auckland to the agricultural and business centres of the central North Island. The features making it safer for travelling at higher speeds include having at least two lanes in each direction, a central median barrier, and no significant curves.
Newsroom has alerted the Point of Order Trough Monitor to happenings involving a trough from which the swill – according to an aggrieved applicant – has not been impartially distributed.
The Newsroom report is headed Writer wins ‘bias’ complaint and says a writer’s complaint against Creative New Zealand funding has been upheld.
This should give cause for a thorough examination of the trough’s administration, because Creative NZ seems to have acknowledged there was a bias in the way some oinkers were favoured and others nudged to the back of he queue.
Furthermore, Newsroom draws attention to state funding bypassing the people who create books in favour of organisations that talk about the people who create books.
But Creative NZ should already be the subject of a thorough examination by a government which claims to be careful with its fiscal management after the Taxpayers’ Union (not for the first time) early this month exposed bizarre handouts of public money in a report headed You Funded A Ballet Called ‘The Sl*Tcracker’
For long enough New Zealanders have liked to think they enjoyed one of the highest living standards in the world. More recently those familiar with what is happening in those countries which are leading the world have understood NZ has been slipping down the ladder.
Under a Labour-led government, the slide has accelerated. Now as inflation surges, and recession is looming on the horizon, new questions are being asked about the economic stewardship of the Ardern government.
Has too much been left to the Finance Minister Grant Robertson? How has he done in his fiscal management?. Why is inflation burning so fiercely? What has happened with his concept of “well-being”?
One of NZ’s most experienced economists, Bryce Wilkinson, has drawn attention to the latest rankings of 63 of the world’s leading countries by the Swiss Institute for Management and Development (IMD).
Back in 2017, New Zealand ranked #16 – ahead of Australia at #21.
The changes would include lowering the threshold for political parties to disclose donors from $15,000 to $1500 and require political parties to make public their annual financial statements .
This would have a “chilling effect” on democracy, the Nats contended.
The Ardern government isn’t too fussed about protecting the country’s democratic electoral arrangements nowadays, of course, as has become glaringly obvious over the past year or so (see here,here and here for evidence)
And hey – if the Nats (a) are bleating about an electoral-reform proposal being disagreeable and (b) are warning about its chilling effect on democracy…
Well, let’s get on with it.
And sure enough, Justice Minister Kiri Allan today announced changes to our electoral laws that will require the disclosure of:
donor identities for any party donations over $5,000;
the number and total value of party donations under $1,500 not made anonymously;
the proportion of total party donations that are in-kind (non-monetary) donations; and
But in this country the fundamental matter of defining science and determining what should be taught to science studies in our universities has become more unsettling than unsettled.
“Indigenous knowledge” has become “indigenous science”, overriding the conventional view that science is colour blind and culturally neutral – that science is science is science.
And the heads of our most highly esteemed academic institutions do not resist the push to have “indigenous science” incorporated within their science faculties rather than – let’s say – Māori Studies or anthropological departments.
No appointments or reappointments to the board of the New Zealand Film Commission have been announced by Carmel Sepuloni, Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage, and declared in ministerial press statements since early 2019. Yet the appointments of two board members she announced then (when she was Associate Minister of Arts, Culture and Heritage) should have expired on 30 March last year.
Meanwhile the commission has become embroiled in a conflict-of-interest controversy which has resulted in its governance procedures being subjected to an independent review and its chief executive being on “special leave”.
Its website says the commission is governed by an eight-member board appointed by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage.