The Government called for an extended sitting of the House to consider six Bills, but showed exactly how shambolic it is when a Minister failed to be present in the House as required to begin a debate on the next Bill on the Order Paper, Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says.
“Today’s performance in the House borders on farcical.
“The Speaker was left with no choice but to end the extended sitting an hour and 45 minutes early meaning next to no progress was made on the Government’s legislative programme.
“Meanwhile, because the Government imposed extended sitting hours without agreement from the Business Committee a whole morning of select committee hearings was lost.
“This means Bills which could have had their first reading and be sent off to select committee for scrutiny this morning will now languish on the Order Paper for an unknown period of time. The machinery of government is being ground to a halt by a Government which can’t get the basics right.
“Leader of the House Chris Hipkins will have ministerial colleagues asking for a please explain.
“The Government needs to get its act together. More people will begin to think ‘if it can’t even run Parliament how can it run the country’.”
The seventh triennial appropriation review committee report tabled in Parliament today goes well beyond the usual brief of considering the resources an MP should have to best undertake their representative activities, National’s Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says.
“It can easily be labelled an attempt to further the cause for taxpayer funding of political parties.
“With a proposed $13 million annual increase in Parliamentary support funding for MPs, including 31 extra staff for Ministers, equal funding for List and Electorate MPs, big increases in funding for Māori seats and a locked-in increase of 3.7 per cent per year for staffing, and 3.3 per cent for other costs, this is a massive dip into taxpayer funds with the greatest advantage going to coalition partners Labour, the Greens and NZ First.
“The $13 million per year increase for additional staffing and resources is the biggest yet – a whopping 20 per cent.
“The increase in funding for List MPs to be the same as Electorate MPs has a major financial benefit to the three coalition parties that are predominantly made up of List Members of Parliament.
“It is significant additional taxpayer resources for those Members.
“But perhaps the most concerning aspect is the proposal that regardless of what is delivered at the ballot box, parties are going to have guaranteed levels of funding post the 2020 election.
"Since MMP began in 1996 Parliamentary funding for parties has depended on voter support.
"But this report proposes that post 2020 – regardless of voter support – if parties like NZ First and the Greens make the 5 per cent electoral threshold they will be guaranteed a minimum as if they had achieved an 8 per cent result.
"For Labour and National it's at 38 per cent minimum or the equivalent to their Party vote if greater.
"This proposal is nothing more than an attempt at a massive cash grab by current Government parties.
"The Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister have pitched themselves as being frugal with the public purse in canning the Parliamentary building and cancelling MP pay rises.
"They need to distance themselves from the recommendations in this report or come clean on their support for more taxpayer funding for political parties.
"National does not support the recommendations and calls on the Speaker to ditch this report and recommence the review with much tighter terms of reference.”
In an extraordinary and potentially unprecedented abuse of power, the Government is attempting to impose new taxes on New Zealanders without proper debate, late at night and under cover of Urgency, National’s Shadow Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee says.
“The Government has used Urgency and an amendment to a motion to stop further debate and ram through new laws without proper scrutiny on a matter as important as taking more money off New Zealanders.
“Worse, it’s doing this because of its own incompetence and its inability to carry out a core function of a responsible Government - managing Parliament’s legislative programme.
“And it’s doing so on a Bill which it had already shortened the process for and which it has blatantly failed to win public support for.
“This is not only undemocratic – and potentially unprecedented in the 165 years of New Zealand’s Parliamentary democracy - it is arrogant. The Government is saying to New Zealand that they will be passing new taxes through Parliament by any means possible.
“This is an unpopular and unnecessary new tax which has been sold as applying to Aucklanders only, but which will be rolled out nationwide in a couple of years, adding hundreds of dollars in costs to the average motorist every year.
“What’s deeply disappointing is the Green Party has chosen to support Labour’s move.
“Both parties have again displayed a breath-taking level of hypocrisy. After being opponents of Urgency and champions of democracy in Opposition, they are taking unconstitutional and unprecedented steps in Government, on matters as fundamental as new taxes.
“The Government has stumbled at every hurdle in its attempt to foist its new regional fuel tax on New Zealanders but it has forged ahead.
“It continues to prove it can’t be trusted. It can’t run Parliament, it can’t run itself and it can’t be trusted to act in the best interests of New Zealand.”
The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security Cheryl Gwyn must explain the legal basis upon which she appointed her new Reference Group, National’s Spokesperson for GCSB and NZSIS Gerry Brownlee says.
“Following questions raised yesterday about the group, the Inspector-General issued a statement which fails to answer the very simple question regarding the legal basis for appointing the group.
“The Inspector-General says that the group was set up to help her ‘stand in the shoes of the public’ and inform her thinking.
“It’s hard to fathom how this group will be able to give objective advice on behalf of the public, given the very partisan views of several of its members.
“For someone in a role centred on ensuring our intelligence and security agencies act lawfully and with propriety, it is worrying that the Inspector-General has not yet explained what legal basis she had for appointing the Reference Group.”
Appointments to a new Intelligence and Security Reference Group raise a number of serious questions for Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn, National’s Spokesperson for GCSB and NZSIS Gerry Brownlee says.
“The Inspector-General has said this group has been brought together to help her stand ‘in the shoes of the public’.
“But several members of her group are far from objective in their view of our intelligence relationships, or in some cases the existence of intelligence services at all.
“Nicky Hager made his views about the Security Intelligence Service clear in a public talk in 2011, when he said the agencies should have been closed in the 1990s because their ‘main long-term anti-communist rationale [was] gone’.
“He then questioned the legitimacy of their role in identifying and monitoring terrorist threats.
“The Inspector-General needs to explain how this group was appointed. That they have been appointed and met with the Inspector-General before their appointment was made public is worrying given the values she is supposed to promote.
“Did the Inspector-General discuss the appointments of the group with the Prime Minister before the first meeting? And what statutory power can she cite for the appointments?
“Will this group have top secret clearance? If so, how can we be sure the information they will have access to will be secure?
“Will the Inspector-General be sharing intelligence with them? Where will the line be drawn?
“And what role will this group’s opinions have in the oversight of our intelligence operations?
“It is naïve to believe that New Zealand does not need intelligence and security services. Our intelligence and security agencies deal with very sensitive information and must be able to operate with discretion.
“The Inspector-General needs to clear these matters up urgently and answer the questions that the appointments of this group raises, so that our intelligence community can be confident in the progress of their work.”
It’s an inconceivable blunder for David Parker to have blindsided Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua with the latest America’s Cup base proposal, National’s America’s Cup spokesperson Gerry Brownlee and Crown-Maori Relations spokesperson Chris Finlayson say.
“It defies belief that when Mr Parker and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff agreed last weekend that the latest of their many iterations of potential America’s Cup bases was to be progressed they hadn’t consulted Ngāti Whātua,” Mr Brownlee says.
“But given the Council and Government’s track record of not informing important stakeholders of their proposals – most recently America’s Cup holders Team New Zealand two weeks ago – it could be true. However, we would have expected that the iwi be included.”
Mr Finlayson says the Crown is obligated to negotiate redress of the Waitemata Harbour with local iwi, which means Ngāti Whātua should have been one of Mr Parker’s first ports of call when dreaming up alternative America’s Cup base options, but he seems to have forgotten to include them or been unaware.
“For Ngāti Whātua to be surprised to discover two 110 metre concrete structures on Wynyard Wharf in the latest proposal suggests Mr Parker isn’t across his brief and hasn’t been communicating well at all,” Mr Finlayson says.
Mr Brownlee says the America’s Cup is an extremely important opportunity for New Zealand to market itself to the world.
“Mr Parker needs to get a better grasp on the details of the project to ensure that this event is a success and lives up to its full potential.”
Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee has today thanked Sir Maarten Wevers for his service to the Earthquake Commission (EQC) following his resignation.
“Sir Maarten Wevers chaired one of the biggest insurance company responses to any natural disaster anywhere in the world," Mr Brownlee says.
"New Zealand had not experienced an event that had caused such widespread destruction, and Sir Maarten was pivotal to the EQC’s remarkable response to the challenges posed.
"Prior to the Canterbury Earthquakes the EQC had 22 employees, at its peak time after the earthquakes the commission employed 1800 staff.
"While Sir Maarten was chair, the EQC handled about 470,000 lodged claims. The 2600 outstanding claims represent 0.6 per cent of that total number.
"Many of the claims that are outstanding are remedial claims, others will be disputed scopes of work, but the EQC is still open to claimants concerns.
"It is disappointing that the Minister responsible for the EQC does not have confidence in the team that has delivered such exceptional results thus far.
"It is important to note that insurance policy costs in New Zealand have not risen to post-quake predictions thanks, in large part, to the work of Sir Maarten and the EQC.
"Thank you Sir Maarten, for your service to the EQC, and also to the people of Canterbury.”
The breath-taking voter deceit of Winston Peters has been laid bare over his apparent satisfaction that minor changes to Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses in the Comprehensive and Progress Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) were the key to New Zealand First supporting the deal, National Foreign Affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee says.
“Putting to one side the admission that the New Zealand Government will still be open to legal action by foreign companies in the updated trade deal – the abolition of which was apparently a sacred bottom line for New Zealand First support – Mr Peters is also now supporting greater access to New Zealand assets for his life-long bête noir, the Chinese.
“Never one to sweat the detail in his Cabinet papers, the impact of the CPTPP on countries that have Most Favoured Nation status through Free Trade Agreements with New Zealand, such as China, will have completely escaped Mr Peters’ attention.
“Certainly it will come as a huge surprise to New Zealand First’s few remaining supporters that the threshold for Overseas Investment Act approval for Chinese companies purchasing New Zealand assets will double when Mr Peters’ party helps enact the CPTPP.
“That’s because buried in the deal he clearly hadn’t read was a doubling of the investment threshold for CPTPP countries from $100 million to $200 million – a salient fact his more studious colleague, the Trade Minister David Parker, no doubt concluded Mr Peters didn’t need to know when negotiating New Zealand First support for the deal.
“Either that, or this is just another case of Mr Peters saying one thing about New Zealand First’s core beliefs to voters but doing the opposite when the baubles of office present themselves.
“National looks forward to Mr Peters explaining this and his many other inconsistencies in respect of the CPTPP when the full text is released and it is debated in Parliament, before the March 8 signing in Chile, which his colleague Mr Parker has promised,” Mr Brownlee says.
Evidence given to the Environment Select Committee from the Department of Conservation (DOC) today just goes to show the deeply divided factions occurring within the Coalition Government, National’s Fisheries spokesperson Gerry Brownlee says.
“Speaking at DOC’s annual review, the Director General Lou Sanson was asked what input his department has had on the new Government’s decision to firstly postpone and then, this week, cancel the introduction of cameras on fishing boats.
“Mr Sanson and DOC have always been spirited advocates of on-board cameras as one of the best practical measures needed to protect our declining marine bird species.
“He told the committee that DOC ‘absolutely’ maintains its position that cameras on fishing boats are essential if we are to reverse the decline in the sort of seabird species we see in our waters.
“It’s therefore quite extraordinary that his Minister, Eugenie Sage, has so quickly and thoroughly distanced herself from Stuart Nash’s decision to cancel the roll-out that the National Government initiated.
“It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to work out that Mr Nash is being leaned on by Coalition partner, New Zealand First.
“I’m surprised that as a junior Coalition partner, the Greens have allowed themselves to be side-lined in this way,” Mr Brownlee says.
The Government’s last minute announcement of a change in the Mānuka honey definition puts one of New Zealand’s iconic export industries at risk, National’s Food Safety spokesperson David Bennett says.
“The repeated changes and subsequent confusion around the definition and test for Mānuka honey are extremely unsettling, and indicate that the Minister has no idea what he is dealing with,” Mr Bennett says.
“This uncertainty has flow-on effects for not only the industry but also exporters and consumers. With only a week until export requirements come into force, the industry is still in the dark.
“Overseas markets are looking to New Zealand to provide a credible and robust definition for Mānuka honey and all that we have so far are a series of failed attempts and back-tracks.
“Yesterday in the House I asked the Food Safety Minister which of the two standards released by MPI outline the accurate test for Mānuka honey, and he said that they both did.
“The definition put out this week only requires one microgram of the 2MAP marker per kilogram, whereas the first definition that was released in December required that the honey had five micrograms of the marker.
“The Minister also indicated that he had carried out “lots” of consultation with the industry around the December test. However the industry tells me that this is not the case. The dropping of legal action after the Minister reverted back to his pre-December test further proves that.
“I’m calling on the Minister to give the industry some reassurance and confirm a test and standard for Mānuka honey once and for all,” Mr Bennett says.