Hipkins is chuffed as more vaccine arrives – but is he immune from Seymour’s needling about the doses required in the year ahead?

It was as if the cavalry had come galloping in:   Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins enthused that the largest shipment of Pfizer vaccines yet has arrived two days ahead of schedule.

The shipment of 150,000 doses touched down late in Auckland at the weekend.

Hipkins acknowledged how close the country had come to running out of the vaccine.  New Zealand had distributed nearly all of its supply of the Pfizer vaccine in storage, giving DHBs enough stock to last until Wednesday.

“The early arrival means no DHB will run out of vaccine. Teams have been working tirelessly to ensure vaccine doses have been getting to the right places to honour all existing appointments, and they’ve done a fantastic job.”

In another statement, this time as Minister of Education, Hipkins announced that yet another group of people was being exempt from the border rules that – we are led to believe – protect New Zealanders by carefully regulating who can come here and under what conditions.

The need for these rules being strictly applied becomes more acute when the vaccination programme is faltering. Continue reading “Hipkins is chuffed as more vaccine arrives – but is he immune from Seymour’s needling about the doses required in the year ahead?”

Lockdowns and the slow rollout of vaccines look likely to take their toll on the PM’s popularity

Is  the  smooth  run  for  the  Ardern  government  coming  to  an  end?  It  is  still  riding  high in the polls, but almost  imperceptibly the mood   appears   to be  changing.

Jacinda Ardern  may still be enjoying   a  status  few  other  prime  ministers  have attained but the fallibility  of  some of her ministers is coming  more  clearly  into  focus.

More  particularly, where  the government won so much kudos  in  its  response to   the Covid-19 pandemic, it  now  seems to  have lost its magic  touch.

Ardern herself appears  to be becoming  more defensive, pulling  out of her regular slot  on the Mike Hosking ZB  programme.

The latest  lockdowns  accentuated the  hardship  inflicted  on  business, particularly in Auckland, and   the  rollout  of  the Covid vaccination programme  has  been disappointingly  slow. Continue reading “Lockdowns and the slow rollout of vaccines look likely to take their toll on the PM’s popularity”

Recruitment rules for teachers are being relaxed because they don’t rate as highly at the border as film crews and yachties

The Government says it is “changing its approach to teacher recruitment” as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue,” by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching”.

It sounds like this means the bar for entry into the teacher profession.

Announcing this today, Education Minister Chris Hipkins recalled the Ardern government  – on taking office – was faced with “a teacher supply crisis”.

A shortage of teachers, in other words. 

Over the past three years, $135 million has been pumped into “a range of teacher supply initiatives” (or initiatives to recruit more teachers).

These include hiring teachers from overseas and Hipkins notes that teachers were given the biggest pay rises in a decade “to ensure that we have high-quality teachers in our classrooms”.

How lowering the bar for entry not result in the quality being lowered too is a matter for conjecture. Continue reading “Recruitment rules for teachers are being relaxed because they don’t rate as highly at the border as film crews and yachties”

Apologies galore from the errant Shaw – but what about an apology to the taxpayer?

James  Shaw  has  set  a   new   standard  for  ministerial  conduct  in  the  way he has  performed over  the  allocation  of  $11.7m  of  taxpayer money  for a  privately-owned  Green  school in Taranaki.

The Green School was one of 150 projects getting a grant from a $3bn fund— the shovel-ready infrastructure fund – and Shaw was willing to put them all at risk.

An email  to government ministers and the Treasury from Shaw’s office included a stark ultimatum:

“Minister Shaw won’t sign this briefing until the Green School in Taranaki is incorporated”. Continue reading “Apologies galore from the errant Shaw – but what about an apology to the taxpayer?”

Head of the NZEI is proud of pay lift but principals are prickly on the parity issue

Cold, hard cash settled the teachers’ dispute, even though there  had  been many high-minded  claims  from the union  over  teachers    leaving  the  profession   because of the  stress of  the  job, and the lack of   classroom  support.

Even  in the wake of the settlement  some leaders   within the profession were wailing  the new  pay  scales  would do  little to  attract   fresh  talent into  the profession.

And let’s face it: that’s what NZ schools need.

There  are  still  enormous gaps  in the  education   system  between  high-performing  schools  and  those  at the  lower end of  the scale.  Critics say  standards  in  NZ schools   fall far below  those  in  advanced  economies  like   Singapore  and  Japan. Continue reading “Head of the NZEI is proud of pay lift but principals are prickly on the parity issue”

Yes, there’s lots of money in the PGF – but keep an eye on all the other troughs

The Point of Order Trough Monitor has drawn attention to a fresh batch of handouts from the public purse, reminding us that the Provincial Growth Fund isn’t the only trough in the capital.

Fair to say, in the case of Education Minister Chris Hipkin, the press statement which triggered the trough monitor related to the government’s spending on tertiary fees in the past year.

The statement was deftly crafted to camouflage the cost to taxpayers.  Rather, it brayed that first-year students have been spared the repayment burden that would have resulted from hundreds of millions of dollars in loan borrowing.

On the other hand, Winston Peters unabashedly has announced fresh handouts from a fund in his Racing ministerial bailiwick and encouraged racing clubs to apply for a place at the next serving from this trough. Continue reading “Yes, there’s lots of money in the PGF – but keep an eye on all the other troughs”

Budget surpluses are Robertson’s aim but well-being pressures will test his prowess

Finance  Minister Grant Robertson has headed for Washington for the spring meetings of the  IMF  and  World Bank,  as  well as  for  talks   with other   finance  ministers  and  senior  US  government  officials.

Despite  the darkening cloud  on the global  economy   Robertson  is  gung-ho  about the  state of the  NZ  economy,  although  he   concedes that, as an outward-facing export nation,

“ … NZ is not immune to this global uncertainty, and we have to bear that in mind as we transition to a more productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy”.

In  Parliament  before   his  departure for  Washington  he cited reports which indicate the NZ economy continues to out-perform its international peers.  Continue reading “Budget surpluses are Robertson’s aim but well-being pressures will test his prowess”

Why Hipkins should study the formula for a London state school’s remarkable academic success

If Education Minister Chris Hipkins is overcome by an urge to join his cabinet colleagues in overseas travel but doesn’t have a good reason, we suggest he visits a state school in one of London’s poorest boroughs.

Forty-one of this school’s students have been offered a place at Oxford and Cambridge this year.

This rivals the admission rates of some of the top-performing private schools across the UK, according to the BBC

Brampton Manor is a state school in Newham in east London.

Nearly all of the students who received Oxbridge offers are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds; two-thirds will be the first in their families to attend university.

Half of them are on free school meals.  Continue reading “Why Hipkins should study the formula for a London state school’s remarkable academic success”

The reports are coming in – and they bring fresh challenges for the Ardern Govt

Finance   Minister   Grant  Robertson  has had a  good run this  year, with the  economy performing  well  and the  government’s books   in excellent  shape.

Despite   ministers  splashing  out  cash  in  every direction, the half-year  economic and   fiscal  update  (out this week)   may even  offer   the Finance  Minister  scope  for a  bit  more  spending  in  the years  ahead, without  endangering   his  self-imposed   goal of   sustainable surpluses .

But  a shadow may be  beginning  to emerge  from this  apparently  cloudless  sky.  It  lies  in  the  reports   from  all  those reviews  the  government   called  for   in  its  first  months  of  office. Continue reading “The reports are coming in – and they bring fresh challenges for the Ardern Govt”

The case for filling public service leadership posts with women – then let’s look at the All Blacks

More than 50% of chief executives in public service departments for the first time are women, the Government proudly proclaimed this week.

Seventeen of the 33 public service department chief executive posts are filled by women, including acting roles.  That’s 52%, up from 14, or 44%, at 30 June 2018.

“This is an outstanding achievement,” Chris Hipkins said.

Hipkins, Minister of State Services, then noted that in addition to meeting this milestone, more women CEs

” … have been appointed to larger jobs.

“Their average job size has increased by 15% since 2016 and the job size gap with their male colleagues has narrowed to 6%, compared with a 27% gap in 2016.” Continue reading “The case for filling public service leadership posts with women – then let’s look at the All Blacks”