Once more we are seeing big talk from the Government translating into no ideas, no plan and no money – this time it’s the Government promise to reduce the prison population by 30 per cent, National’s Justice spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“After the much vaunted first 100 days, all the Minister can say is they are still thinking about it and now they have scrapped the Justice Sector Fund from which innovative justice initiatives are funded.
“The Government is so short on cash after spending it all on tertiary students that we now know it will be taking money from the Justice Sector Fund to address basic cost pressures. In doing so it will be taking away funding that could be used for new initiatives to address the prison population and the core drivers of crime.
“The Justice Sector Fund, introduced by the previous Government, allowed underspends from all law and order agencies to be reinvested in trialling new initiatives to improve justice outcomes, many of which were targeted to Māori who have long been overrepresented in the justice system. It also encouraged ministries to use funds wisely as they were able to access savings for good new ideas.
“The Government has talked a big game about reducing the prison population but seems to have no idea how to do it. We know that by the time a person gets to prison, more often than not they’ve lived a life of crime and to break the cycle, we must try new things.
“The Justice Sector Fund enabled that. Some of the initiatives it funded include the community justice panels, alcohol and drug courts, family violence services and the Gang Intelligence Centre – all of which have helped reduce crime and reoffending. Between 2011 and 2016 total crime fell 14 per cent and the number of reoffenders dropped 26 per cent.
“National acknowledged there was still more to do, particularly for Māori which is why we set a target to reduce the Māori reoffending rate by a further 25 per cent by 2025. As well as that, in 2017 we put aside a further $10 million in the Justice Sector Fund specifically for Māori justice initiatives. That money appears to have now been taken by the new Government to manage their own budget instead of looking at how to better deliver for Māori.
“It appears the new Government has its head in the sand and is scrapping the Justice Sector Fund at the same time as it’s talking about reducing the prison population by 30 per cent.
“What exactly is the Government’s plan, short of letting violent criminals out of prison earlier and loosening up bail laws? Unfortunately these sorts of ideas are typical of the soft-on-crime Labour Party.
“Talk won’t address crime and the prison rates, action is needed,” Ms Adams says.
The Labour-led Government’s planned labour market reforms would mean fewer jobs for Kiwi workers, increases in the cost of living and make our businesses less competitive, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“These reforms can only reverse the very positive job market New Zealand has enjoyed over the last few years,” Ms Adam says.
“Changes like the end of the starting out wage, the effective removal of 90 day trials for businesses with more than 20 staff, consecutive unsustainable leaps in the minimum wage, reduced flexibility, and 70s style standardised wages bargaining will all increase risks and costs for small and medium-sized businesses.
“Already we are seeing businesses across the country lose confidence and saying they are planning on hiring fewer people. Fear of these reforms are one of the big reasons for that decline in sentiment.
“Many New Zealand businesses compete internationally. There is every chance these changes will simply shift Kiwi jobs offshore.”
Ms Adams says that New Zealand has an enviable track record over the last few years of lifting employment and growing wages.
“Under National, 245,000 jobs were created in the last two years. Wages are growing at twice the rate of inflation and we now have the third highest employment rate in the OECD.
“All the evidence is that our current employment settings are some of the best and most successful in the world. Labour needs to explain why bringing in reforms that have strangled growth in other economies is a good idea.”
Ms Adams says National is today launching a campaign, “protect NZ jobs”, to explain the proposals and enlist small and medium sized businesses to fight the reforms.
“Labour must understand that forcing extra costs on small and medium sized businesses is not ‘working with them’. And you don’t improve things for New Zealand workers by increasing the cost of goods made in New Zealand.”
For more information visit www.protectNZjobs.co.nz
The Labour-led Government’s employment law changes announced today can only slow down New Zealand’s high-performing job market, National Party Workplace Relations Spokesperson Amy Adams says.
“These changes will only reduce job opportunities and wage growth, especially for those vulnerable workers on the edges of the labour market. They also mean workers will have less flexibility to get their job done,” Ms Adams says.
“The law as it stands encourages all businesses, small and large, to grow their workforces and take a chance on new workers and long-term unemployed people.
“While Labour have now partially backed down and allowed small businesses to continue with 90 day trials, they’ve still closed those trials off to the bigger businesses that take on many of these vulnerable workers. Those workers will have fewer opportunities.
“If 90 day trials are okay for small businesses, then why shouldn’t they apply to larger businesses as well?”
Ms Adams says that with New Zealand’s world-leading performance in job creation over the last few years, the onus was on the government to justify the need for the reforms.
“Under current employment law New Zealand has added a mammoth 245,000 jobs in the last two years and has the third highest employment rate in the developed world. Nearly 80 per cent of New Zealand workers are in full-time jobs and wages have been growing at twice the rate of inflation.
“These changes will only damage that track record. So why are they actually needed?
“New Zealanders will rightly suspect they are a random union wish list. People will be asking exactly how much influence these unions have in the current Government.
“These reforms will further damage business confidence and take New Zealand backwards. They will only disrupt New Zealand’s settled and successful employment law.
“That’s not good news for jobs or wages for New Zealanders.”
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.