Thinking big – Biden’s spending programme signals shift in thinking about role of the state in the economy

Here’s a Think Big project of which even Rob Muldoon would have been proud.  US President Joe Biden has launched a $US2.3 trillion infrastructure plan designed to fix roads and bridges, replace pipes, expand broadband internet access and boost funding for research and development.

Might we need something similar here rather than tinkering with light rail and broadcasting?

The infrastructure plans would water the eyes of an old Minister of Works. There’s $US621 billion to modernise transportation infrastructure, for starters.  But then there’s $US400 billion to help care for the aging and those with disabilities, $US300 billion to boost the manufacturing industry, $US213 billion on retrofitting and building affordable housing and $US100 billion to expand broadband access, among other investments

There are plans to modernise 20,000 miles of roadway, build 500,000 electric-vehicle charging stations, replace the country’s existing lead pipes and service lines, repair aging schools, fix the ten most economically significant bridges in the country in need of reconstruction, repair the worst 10,000 smaller bridges, and provide critical linkages to communities.  And plans to replace thousands of buses and rail cars, repair hundreds of stations, renew airports, and expand transit and rail into new communities.

Home care for the elderly and disabled will be expanded. Billions of dollars will go into semi-conductor manufacturing. More of the country’s electricity will be generated from low-carbon sources, with a goal of eliminating carbon emissions from the power grid by 2035. Continue reading “Thinking big – Biden’s spending programme signals shift in thinking about role of the state in the economy”

Invitations to the racing trough are issued, barbecuers get a gas assurance and Robertson serves alphabet soup

Latest from the Beehive

Self-interest (we confess) triggered our reading of the speech delivered by Energy Minister Megan Woods to a Business New Zealand Energy Council breakfast.  We were rewarded with encouraging news (but it was not so encouraging when we took a second look).

Woods reassured New Zealanders that the Climate Change Committee’s recommendations on natural gas would not mean “the imminent end of the classic kiwi BBQ”.  The key word is imminent.

Woods said residential and commercial consumption of gas makes up a small proportion of our overall gas demand – about 9  per cent in 2019.

The question for the Government is how it can best support the phase-out of natural gas while ensuring that consumers get the energy they need.

“This will include considering what the most efficient emissions reductions areas may be within the market.

“For example, our current gas distribution infrastructure provides many opportunities for alternative lower emissions fuels to be used, including the use of biogas and hydrogen. These are all matters the Government will need to consider before making recommendations about the future of natural gas use in commercial and residential applications over the next thirty or so years.” Continue reading “Invitations to the racing trough are issued, barbecuers get a gas assurance and Robertson serves alphabet soup”

Woods sticks to her script (a list of what the government has done) after economist rails about housing

As Minister of Housing, she is acutely aware of how decades of under-investment in infrastructure and the building of affordable homes has led us to where we are today, Megan Woods said yesterday.

Great.  But what is being done about it?

Plenty – but nothing that hasn’t been announced already, it seems.

At least, not according to the speech which Woods delivered to the InfrastructureNZ conference.

Woods ticked off a list of programmes already under way and legislation already passed, and she reiterated the Government’s intention to replace the Resource Management Act.  But an audience of infrastructure buffs hoping to be the first to hear of new initiatives would have been disappointed.

Woods’ speech was among the new posts on the Beehive website, since we last checked.

Among the others: Continue reading “Woods sticks to her script (a list of what the government has done) after economist rails about housing”

Hey, we have some influence, but maybe not enough in the right circles to secure a share of $30,000 propaganda job

Because we fancy ourselves as “influencers”, here at Point of Order, we had high hopes of being invited to share some of the $30,000 lolly the government intends spending to publicise its apprenticeship programmes.

It was a very fleeting flight of fancy.  On almost immediate second thoughts we sensed that (a) our influence might not be as great as we like to suppose and (b) we might not be reaching the audience the government hopes to reach with whatever influence we can muster.

Even if we could reach the right audience with the necessary degree of influence, we would be bound to bridle at having to earn our money by getting into the propaganda business.

We would also cop criticism, probably, from a Taxpayers Union that is apt to rail against hypocrites who disapprove of troughers, but then accept goodies from a taxpayer-funded trough.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Education Minister Chris Hipkins yesterday drew attention to the troughing opportunity in question when they announced a campaign to raise the profile of vocational education and training (VET). Continue reading “Hey, we have some influence, but maybe not enough in the right circles to secure a share of $30,000 propaganda job”

Monitoring (or is it oversight?) gets good results in Westland but the Canterbury DHB requires strong medicine

Central government monitoring seems to have done the trick on one side of the Southern Alps.  Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta has declared she is satisfied “the close monitoring” of the Westland District Council by an Oversight Committee can draw to a close.

he had written to the council in July and September last year, expressing concerns about poor processes, dysfunctional governance and management, non-compliance with policies, and natural hazard management. Later in the year she established an Oversight Committee comprising key government agencies to support the council as it worked to improve its performance.

But she seemed curiously disinclined to call it monitoring.

In a statement on November 26 she said:

“The Council has heard the extent of the concerns raised and has taken steps to respond. Westland have demonstrated they are establishing governance committees to provide transparency of decision making, putting in systems and frameworks for policies and processes, and learning from pas t experience”.

But she said there was benefit “from a level of oversight” and had tasked an existing group to provide support to the council to support necessary changes.

Continue reading “Monitoring (or is it oversight?) gets good results in Westland but the Canterbury DHB requires strong medicine”

Parker doubles up on his response to court ruling but the PM has yet to post news of jobs for Simpson and Roche

Latest from the Beehive

It’s there now,  up on the Beehive website – the official pronouncement that the Government is increasing the number of defence force personnel supporting the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and maritime border.

The statement sits alongside –

  • A typical spending statement from Shane Jones (the Government will invest $14.6 million in upgrades to Route 52 between Central Hawke’s Bay and Tararua District);
  • News from Damien O’Connor that the Government is investing $6.8 million to help upgrade the main road through Motueka;  and
  • News from Winston Peters and Ron Mark (New Zealand will deploy additional personnel to the Republic of Korea, increasing the size of the New Zealand Defence Force deployment there from six to nine personnel).

Around 500 more defence personnel are being deployed closer to home as the government hastens to buttress the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and more firmly secure the maritime border. This lifts the total to about 990 defence personnel at managed isolation facilities and will bring the total Defence Force personnel supporting the Covid-19 response to around 1200 (the largest military contingent since Timor-Leste, the government wants us to know).

But we can find no official written record of something else announced yesterday:  Helen Clark’s former top adviser, Heather Simpson, is being brought in to lead a new group that will support the Ministry of Health as it ramps up testing at the border. Continue reading “Parker doubles up on his response to court ruling but the PM has yet to post news of jobs for Simpson and Roche”

Fingers crossed about the border being made Covid-tight but let’s salute the further assault on Taumurunui’s housing shortage

Our daily check with the Beehive website revealed nothing new until this afternoon, and then we found just one new announcement.

It came from – guess who?

Yep.  Shane Jones was again demonstrating his munificence, providing $7.78 million for the Ruapehu District Council to “jump-start” its Housing Options programme.

But a statement with much greater national significance had been made by Housing Minister Megan Woods and despatched to the Point of  Order  email intray.

Woods advised us the government is reducing its reliance on private security guards and increasing its use of Defence Force personnel, especially in the highest risk facilities, to fortify the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and maritime border and further bolster (we hope) protections against community COVID-19 spread.    

The defence personnel will staff higher-risk security areas such as entry and exit points and public areas.

But the private sector isn’t being forsaken. Woods said:

Continue reading “Fingers crossed about the border being made Covid-tight but let’s salute the further assault on Taumurunui’s housing shortage”

Delay gives Jones a bit more time to distribute public money before Northland voters decide his fate

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Hard on the heels of the PM announcing the delay of the general election, Finance Minister Grant Robertson was announcing an extension of the wage subsidy while the munificent Shane Jones was to the fore in announcing millions of dollars of investments and loans for selected beneficiaries.

A mushroom farm in Hawke’s Bay was among those beneficiaries.

Jones’ New Zealand First colleague, Tracey Martin, meanwhile was announcing another trough for the nation’s oinkers, a new lottery fund worth $40 million. It’s called the Lottery COVID-19 Community Wellbeing Fund, established (Martin said) because the Lottery Grants Board wants to help rebuild and strengthen our communities and help with the recovery.

Martin is the Presiding Member of the Lottery Grants Board.

The Fund will provide one-off grants and is expected to be up and running in the last quarter of the year. Continue reading “Delay gives Jones a bit more time to distribute public money before Northland voters decide his fate”

Northland doesn’t reject the millions Jones brings to his home patch – but polls suggests it will reject him

Latest from the Beehive

Here’s hoping the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped into Northland from the Provincial Growth Fund and other government programmes do much more to promote the region’s economic and social wellbeing than they are doing to enhance Shane Jones’ election prospects.

He is bound to be disappointed.  Besides channelling substantial loans and grants into his home patch, Jones has staunchly championed the region in other ways – by promoting the proposal to move Auckland’s port to Whangarei, for example.

But a new Q+A/Colmar Brunton poll suggests Jones is running a distant-third behind the incumbent National MP Matt King and Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime.  It showed King on 46 per cent support for the seat vote, Prime on 31 per cent, and Jones on 15 per cent.

Labour was ahead in the party vote within the electorate at 41 per cent, with National not far behind at 38 per cent, ACT next at 8 per cent, and NZ First at 7 per cent.

How much more money (we wonder) would make Jones a shoo-in? Continue reading “Northland doesn’t reject the millions Jones brings to his home patch – but polls suggests it will reject him”

Algorithm charter (with a Maori perspective embedded) is a world first while banking become NZ’s first sector committed to a living wage

Latest from the Beehive

While Shane Jones was distributing his latest serving of public funds to causes in the Far North, a New Zealand First colleague was showing that veterans haven’t been forgotten in The Great Covid Handout.

Ron Mark, Minister for Veterans Affairs, announced the Coalition Government has approved a one-off grant of $2.53 million for the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) and – in a separate statement – said 11 further declarations of operational service have been made. This means those who took part in those deployments will qualify for support and services from Veterans’ Affairs.

While the money-dispensing ministers were focused on different constituencies, another minister was announcing world-breaking news.

Our government became the first in the world to outline a set of standards to guide the use of algorithms by public agencies when Statistics Minister James Shaw launched the Algorithm Charter for Aotearoa New Zealand. The aim is to give New Zealanders confidence that data is being used safely and effectively across government.

The charter has been signed by 21 agencies, including the Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Education, the Department of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice, and Inland Revenue. Continue reading “Algorithm charter (with a Maori perspective embedded) is a world first while banking become NZ’s first sector committed to a living wage”