Point of Order hasn’t kept count of the millions of dollars the Government has been pouring into cyclone-devastated communities in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.
But we don’t recall the several announcements suggesting there might be a discriminatory element to the way the beneficiaries would be determined. If there was a need for help, then that’s where the money would go, although – fair enough – funding for farmers would probably go to farmers, and funding for horticulturalists would go to horticulturalists. And so on.
The assistance announced today, on the other hand, reminds us that the Maori Caucus still carries a lot of clout within the Government despite the change of leadership and signs given by the new prime minister that he would be easing back on politically ticklish issues such as co-governance.
And the Maori caucus unabashedly sees things through an ethnocentric lens, especially when public funding is up for grabs.
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.
Foreign affairs, agriculture, health and transport are among the burning issues which have been keeping our ministers, their policy advisers and their press secretaries busy in recent days. Inviting oinkers to new freshly filled troughs was on the agenda, too.
Ministers had issued 13 new press statements when Point of Order checked this morning. At time of writing the number of new statements had increased to 16, on subjects ranging from the agriculture sector’s agenda for dealing with climate change to the race-fixated restructuring of the health system.
The flow of news from The Beehive in recent days seems to have been aimed largely at enabling ministers to remind voters of their portfolio responsibilities and duties.
On International Women’s Day, for example, the Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence and Sexual Violence, Marama Davidson, joined with other women “to reinforce the need for collective action to address gender-based violence”.
The Minister for Children, Kelvin Davis, drew attention to the celebration of Children’s Day/ Te Rā o Ngā Tamariki by asking everyone to continue with crucial support for our young people as the fight with Covid continues.
Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio announced the 2022 Pacific Language Weeks series, highlighting the contribution of those who have provided life-saving Covid-19 messages in the nine Pacific Island languages over the past two years.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi reassured us the Government is “progressing” legislation to ensure that courts can continue operating safely and effectively as COVID-19 spreads in the community.
And Finance Minister Grant Robertson issued a ministerial statement to serve what looks like the purpose of putting down National Party leader Christopher Luxon, who had called for the government to give struggling Kiwis tax relief as the cost of living soars. Robertson rejoined that Kiwis had heard “the same tired old story” from Luxon that “fails to give any new ideas for our future”.
While the science domain in New Zealand has been split over what is science and what is not, the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation is having a bob each way.
Not her bob – it’s the public ‘s bob.
And not just one bob. Megan Woods was announcing a $1.6 million investment in a bunch of young people.
Expressing herself in the mix of English and te reo that is favoured for communicative purposes by the government and the establishment press, Woods’ press statement said:
“Getting rangatahi hooked on science is a key focus of this year’s Unlocking Curious Minds funding round, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods has announced, unveiling the 13 successful recipients of $1.6 million in Government funding.
“Through the Unlocking Curious Minds 2021 contestable fund the Government is supporting a wide range of really fun, hands-on projects, investigating subjects like nature, climate change, and Mātauranga Māori to empower rangatahi to connect with science and technology in a way that is meaningful to them.
Science has been to the fore in Point of Order’s considerations in recent days and it’s been high in Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s considerations, too.
The Government is backing two new research projects to investigate the impacts of “regenerative farming” practices. This is a contentious issue in science circles, raising questions about definitions and about the need for zealous champions of regenerative farming to base their arguments on New Zealand science, not on science results from countries with different conditions and farming methods.
O’Connor announced the government is contributing $2.8 million to a $3.85 million five-year project involving AgResearch with co-investment by Synlait Milk and Danone. This aims to understand how to measure and manage soil health to boost environmental and economic performance on New Zealand farms.
The second project sees the Government contributing $2.2 million to a five-year research project aimed at boosting New Zealand farm yields by attracting beneficial insects to farms using specifically designed native planting.
On another sector front, the government is reporting on the outcomes of money invested in the past: the construction sector is now the fourth biggest employer in the country and infrastructure activity is forecast to reach $11.2 billion in 2026.
More than one announcement from the Beehive yesterday has the potential to affect the country’s health and general wellbeing in one way or another.
Justice Minister Kris Faafoi – for example – was chuffed about the the Three Strikes Legislation Repeal Bill passing its first reading in Parliament.
But critics fear this legislation will put several of the worst criminals in New Zealand back on our streets over the next four years.
ACT Justice spokesperson Nicole McKee said:
“Three Strikes offenders make up just one per cent of all convictions, they have an average of 75 convictions, they are the worst and most violent offenders New Zealand has seen. They aren’t behind bars for petty theft or minor crimes. They have beaten, raped and murdered people.
Vaccine announcements have dominated news from the Beehive over the past few days, but while the vaccine deals to Covid, the Treaty of Waitangi has been prescribed to deal to family violence.
ACC minister Carmel Sepuloni announced the ACC is investing $44.9 million over four years to establish “a fit-for-purpose sexual violence primary prevention system”.
This is bound to be successful because it is based on the Treaty, a document signed in 1840 comprising just three articles. But when interpreted by the Ardern governmnent, this document holds the key to ridding us (apparently) of pretty well anything from warts to citizens’ rights to challenge local authorities’ race-based governance proposals.
“The new Te-Tiriti-informed primary prevention system announced today, will provide long-term, sustained investment and enhance our Government’s effort to prevent sexual violence.
“The package includes $11.715 million of targeted investment for kaupapa Māori approaches. It will enhance the primary prevention system in Aotearoa New Zealand.”
Who provides the money?
Most of us, we imagine, although when it comes to determining who should be given priority in the spending of this money, the government unabashedly brings race into calculations.
A bundle of statements and speeches has emerged from the Beehive in the past 24 hours.
We can’t closely examine all of them but suggest public servants whose pay is being frozen or subject to a stiff test before it is increased might take a look at some of the Government’s spending decisions.