The Coalition Government must be deeply worried about maintaining internal discipline within their own Caucuses given they are attempting to ride rough shod over our democratic processes by preventing individual MPs from standing up for the voters that elect them, National’s Justice Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Last week the Coalition introduced what is colloquially known as ‘Waka Jumping’ legislation. It might be more accurately called the ‘Winston Peters Self Preservation Bill’ as it was clearly his bottom line for entry into the Coalition.
“The Bill would effectively prevent individual Members of Parliament from speaking out on points of principle and policy, and ensuring the voices of their communities are heard. Worse still, it would enable party leaders to advise the Speaker that a Caucus member isn’t acting as the leader would want and then move to force that member out of Parliament.
“This makes individual MPs more answerable to their party leader than to the voters that elected them. Allowing party leaders to overrule the wishes of voters is fundamentally wrong,” Ms Adams says.
“This is about ensuring the factions within New Zealand First, Labour and the Greens are kept from raising objections to the direction of the Government or threatening the leadership of their respective parties.
“The reason the Coalition Government wants to push this piece of legislation through as one of their first bills is to ensure unhappy MPs don’t jump ship. From going soft on crime and immigration to removing benefit sanctions to pushing up taxes on New Zealand families, New Zealand First are having to swallow a whole lot of dead rats which their voters just do not support.
“Overriding democracy to entrench your own political position is an abuse of power of the worst kind.”
Documents on the Pike River Recovery Agency show that while the Minister will decide whether a re-entry goes ahead, it will be the agency’s chief executive who will be liable if any re-entry goes wrong, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“This Government has continued to make entering Pike River a political decision but this is patently wrong. While there’s been lots of talk about how Mr Little will be responsible for his decisions, it will be some poor senior public servant who carries the can.
“It is wrong to put a Chief Executive in this position. He or she will have to carry out what their political masters decide in a very unsafe environment. Why would any sensible person put their hand up for that job?”
Ms Adams says the Coalition went against official advice which was to make the final decision-maker independent of politicians.
“That would have been the responsible approach which fairly reflected the dangers of re-entering the mine. This undermines the very health and safety laws which were strengthened in the wake of the Pike River disaster to try and ensure it never happens again.”
Ms Adams also notes that the mission of the agency has changed from the Government’s pre-election commitments.
“Up until now all their talk has been about manned re-entry into the mine. Now the papers tell us it’s about achieving manned re-entry of the drift only, all bar 400 metres of which has already been explored.”
Justice Minister Andrew Little’s statements on The Nation this morning demonstrate that the Coalition Government will go soft on crime, expressing concern that judges are putting the safety of the public first rather than putting more offenders on bail, National Party Justice Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“When asked if he thought judges were being too conservative in putting public safety first and keeping offenders in custody, rather than releasing them on bail, he confirmed that was his view,” Ms Adams says.
“In what were extraordinary comments for a Justice Minister to make, Mr Little has said the bail laws are fine but it’s the way judges apply them that is the problem. Not only is it constitutionally inappropriate for a minister to criticise the judiciary, it confirms that the Coalition Government will be soft on crime.
“Most New Zealanders welcome strong sentences for serious and violent criminals and caution around granting bail. But Mr Little appears to be calling for judges to stop erring on the side of caution.
“National toughened up bail laws to protect public safety and judges have applied these laws fairly. Mr Little needs to let them get on with their job.”
The Government has missed the opportunity today to join the Opposition in providing greater flexibility for New Zealand families with young babies, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“Today I sought leave for my private members’ bill on flexible paid parental leave to be debated in Parliament on Members’ Day this week and taken through the usual select committee process,” Ms Adams says.
“Although I provided notice to the Government yesterday, they refused to agree to this.
“The Prime Minister has said that the idea that both parents can take their paid parental leave at the same time has merit. So why didn’t they take up the opportunity?
“We could have debated this bill comfortably in the time available without impeding the relatively light business the Government currently has before the house.
“It’s quite apparent the only thing actually wrong with this bill from the Government’s perspective is that it isn’t in their name.
“What’s disappointing is that by vetoing the bill now parents will not have the flexibility to share their parental leave by the time the Government’s changes come into force on 1 July next year.
“I will continue to fight for parents to have the opportunity to choose for themselves what parental arrangements work best for them.”
National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams is today lodging a private members’ bill to provide flexible Paid Parental Leave so both parents can take leave at the same time.
“Tomorrow I’ll be asking MPs to debate my bill in Parliament on Members Day this week,” Ms Adams says.
“This means we can pass the Government bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks and begin the usual Parliamentary process on this amendment to increase flexibility.
“The Prime Minister has already indicated this idea has merit, and the Government will look at it – but not at the expense of the current bill before the House. The good news is we don’t have to wait.
“I’m hoping all parties will support the bill going to select committee. This approach can be a real win-win for the Parliament.
“National believes parents should be able to choose how to best take care of their new-born baby, not the Government.
“We’ve previously sought to get this amendment added to the current legislation in Parliament to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, but Labour are refusing to consider it saying there’s not enough time, even though the increase doesn’t take effect until 1 July next year.
“Countless parents around New Zealand have contacted us wanting flexibility in paid parental leave. From the families who have sick children who need the support of both parents, to the families who cannot afford to take time off without pay.
“National wants to give parents the right to choose for themselves what parental leave arrangements work best for them and this bill will allow them to do so.”
The Coalition Government should be flexible on Parental Leave and accept changes to their Paid Parental Leave Bill that would improve options for families, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“There are many instances where families would prefer both parents to be able to take leave at the same time, because of their particular circumstances,” Ms Adams says. “For example, if they have had twins, a caesarean, or a sick child.
“National’s proposed change recognises the role of both parents, and allows families to have the flexibility that suits their circumstances. It is good for parents, good for their baby and will help support women in the workforce.
“We’re surprised that Labour are not taking this idea up and we haven’t heard a sensible reason why they won’t. They should stop being dogmatic, and insisting that their legislation can’t be improved.
“Labour’s assumption that they know how every family would want to use its parental leave is frankly a bit nanny state. Why wouldn’t you simply give people the option to choose?”
Ms Adams says National will also promote a second change to Labour’s Bill that will increase the number of “keeping in touch hours” for parents to stay in touch with their workplace, commensurate with the extension to Paid Parental Leave.
“This is a straightforward tidy-up which frankly should have been done by the Government through a Cabinet Committee before they put the Bill in the House.”
Ms Adams says the Bill could have been improved significantly by having a proper process and time at Select Committee to discuss these and other ideas, and take submissions from the public.
“The strange thing is that the Bill does not take effect until 1 July next year, and that’s plenty of time to go to a Select Committee,” Ms Adams says.
Mrs Adams says National’s proposed change will ensure parents can spend more time at home supporting each other and bonding with their babies in those important and stressful early months, and will help them stay healthier.
Christchurch’s state-of-the-art Justice and Emergency Services Precinct was officially opened by Prime Minister Bill English this morning.
Justice and Courts Minister Amy Adams says today’s opening marks the latest and most significant milestone in the $300 million Precinct’s development.
“This is a special day for Cantabrians. The Precinct will provide a welcome boost to the vibrancy and economy of Christchurch city, with an estimated 2000 people either working in or visiting the facility daily,” she says.
“The Precinct is the largest multi-agency government co-location project in New Zealand’s history and brings all regional justice and emergency services together in one purpose-built facility.
“It has been built to withstand seismic events and contains special resiliency features to enable the Emergency Operations Centre and 111 Call Centre to continue operating in a major emergency, including a back-up power generator, 100,000 litres of portable water and 100,000 litres of sewerage storage,” says Ms Adams.
The official opening of the Precinct will be followed by a public open day at the weekend to give Cantabrians the opportunity to have a behind-the-scenes look at spaces that would otherwise be restricted once operations begin.
Following the public open day, agencies will begin moving in and it is expected that the first public facing operations will begin in mid-October.
“I know that Cantabrians have been eagerly awaiting the opening of the Precinct, which will breathe new life into a city that continues to rise from the rubble of the earthquakes,” says Ms Adams.
National will make it easier for first home buyers to get a deposit by doubling the financial support available when buying an existing house, and increasing it for new builds, Ms Amy Adams and Dr Nick Smith say.
“National believes every New Zealander should be able to buy their own house if they want to – so we are building on our existing suite of measures to support first home buyers,” Housing New Zealand spokesperson Amy Adams says.
The changes mean a couple will be eligible for an extra $10,000 of Government HomeStart Grants, taking the grants to $20,000 for an existing home or $30,000 for a new build.
The additional grants mean there is funding to help a further 80,000 people into their first home over the next four years, on top of the 31,000 people the scheme has already helped.
Building and Construction spokesperson Dr Nick Smith says HomeStart Grants complement other Government measures to support first home buyers, including:
- Welcome Home Loans, which allow first home buyers to access Government-backed mortgages with a 10 per cent deposit
- KiwiSaver FirstHome Withdrawals, which allow New Zealanders to access all of their KiwiSaver funds to put towards a deposit.
“Take a couple on the average wage in Auckland who have been in KiwiSaver for five years and are looking to buy their first home,” Dr Smith says.
“Between the $20,000 HomeStart Grant and their KiwiSaver withdrawal, they will have around $60,000 for a deposit for an existing home.
“Add in a Government-backed Welcome Home Loan, which means they only need a 10 per cent deposit, and they have enough for a house worth up to $600,000 – the Auckland HomeStart cap for existing homes - without needing other savings.
“That’s significant support for those New Zealanders, particularly given 18 per cent of home sales in Auckland in the past year were below $600,000.
“If that couple lived in Palmerston North, they would have enough for a 20 per cent deposit on a $300,000 house, without the need for a Welcome Home Loan.”
Ms Adams says National will also combine HomeStart Grants and Welcome Home Loans into one HomeStart product, so first home buyers can get all the support available to them from one place.
“We will simplify the application process for Welcome Home Loans to allow accredited banks to approve these 10 per cent deposit, Government-backed loans on the spot – rather than going through an often time-consuming process with Housing New Zealand,” Ms Adams says.
Dr Smith says National’s policies are helping 200,000 new houses be built over the next six years – the equivalent of four extra Dunedins.
“We are increasing our support for first home buyers, and making it easier to access, to further help young New Zealanders achieve their dream of owning their first home.”
The changes will come into force on 1 January 2018. They are expected to cost $74 million per year, to be met from the 2018 Budget allowance. Costs in 2017/18 will be met from the between budget contingency.
From early next year, the Methodist Mission Southern will be delivering an innovative youth transitional housing programme to help around 24 young people living in Dunedin each year, Social Housing Minister Amy Adams announced today.
“Methodist Mission Southern’s new initiative will provide stable transitional housing for at-risk youth, and a platform for them to engage in education and training,” says Minister Adams.
The programme delivered by support service provider Methodist Mission Southern will provide supervised accommodation for six young people at a time in a 7-bedroom home. In addition, they will receive support into education or training, then into long-term housing.
The Government will provide around $666,000 over the next two years to fund accommodation and service delivery costs for this programme.
“For some young people engaged in education during the day, the positive progress they are making is at risk if they are in unstable housing. These young people need stable housing combined with intensive support in order to change their lives for the better,” says Ms Adams.
“This programme takes a fresh approach to meeting the needs of young people who are at risk of homelessness or living in insecure housing, and will help them to make the most of their opportunities and stay on track with their education and employment goals.”
Methodist Mission Southern identified a gap for youth transitional housing services in Dunedin, after observing the education and training challenges faced by youth aged 16-19 years old who were living in an insecure housing situation, such as sleeping rough or in cars, or couch surfing.
Young people on the programme will live in the shared home for an average of 12 weeks. While they are there they will receive assistance to develop life skills and support with education or employment opportunities. It is expected that the young people staying in the home will transition into secure housing. This could include returning to family, accessing housing provided by other social housing providers or private rentals.
Methodist Mission Southern work throughout Otago and Southland, and have delivered specialist educational and social support services to high-needs youth learners for over 20 years.
There are currently 20 transitional housing places in Dunedin, which are managed by two providers, The Salvation Army and Women’s Refuge.
A new development on Auckland’s Great North Road will be solely used for those who need social housing assistance, Social Housing Minister Amy Adams announced today.
“All of the 120 new homes to be built on under-utilised Crown land and adjoining Housing New Zealand land in Great North Road, Waterview, will be social housing. This makes it one of the biggest social housing developments in Auckland,” Ms Adams says.
Housing New Zealand and development partners Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki and Housing for Social Benefits Ltd, a subsidiary of Waipareira Trust, will develop the combined 1.2 hectare site into a mix of one- two- and three-bedroom apartments and townhouses, with the first homes becoming available in late 2018. The entire project, called Waterview Court, will be completed by June 2020.
“These homes are part of the 34,000 new houses the Government is building in Auckland over the next ten years, under the Crown Building Project,” Ms Adams says.
“Half of the land on the Great North Road site was originally held by New Zealand Transport Agency for roading, and the other was an old and dated 20-unit HNZ complex. These two parcels of land will translate into a six-fold increase in social housing at this location, integrated with the local community and delivered to the latest urban design and building specifications.
“This housing development is made possible because of the Crown Land Programme, under which we’re always actively reviewing land held by Crown agencies for public facilities, and whether the land can be better used for housing.
“I look forward to seeing progress at Great North Road and other sites as we transform vacant and under-utilised Crown land into housing, through this smart and innovative programme,” Ms Adams says.