The release of documents from the Government today about the appointment of a Chief Technology Officer shows there is a raft of questions the Prime Minister needs to answer, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sent multiple messages to Clare Curran asking how the appointment process was progressing. The messages show she was very much across the details of the appointment. The Prime Minister needs to explain why she was so deeply invested.
“The Prime Minister’s Chief Press Secretary contacted Derek Handley asking to speak with him urgently and Mr Handley later sought advice in return. The Prime Minister’s Acting Chief of Staff also phoned Mr Handley. How can the Prime Minister have shrugged all of this off so casually when her office was so deeply involved?
“The meeting with the Prime Minister’s Acting Chief of Staff took place because Labour Party President Nigel Haworth set it up. He had met with Mr Handley before the election where Mr Handley offered his help to the Labour Party. Mr Handley then got in touch again post-election where he was referred to the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister needs to be open and transparent about whether she discussed appointing Mr Handley with the Labour Party President
“When questioned in Parliament the Prime Minister was less than up front about her correspondence, simply saying it was on record she’d known Mr Handley for a number of years. What we now know is that both she and senior staffers in her office deeply involved in the appointment process. The release of these documents raise more questions than they answer.”
The Government’s incompetence and constant mistruths over the fiasco of its Chief Technology Officer appointment continues with one mistake compounding another, National’s State Service Spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“Ministers are just compounding the mess over the CTO role with error upon error. Grant Robertson had to admit with a Personal Explanation to the House this afternoon that despite weeks of questions and a specific instruction from the Speaker that the Government last week failed to disclose all of the relevant emails from former Minister Clare Curran.
“This came on top of the Prime Minister claiming she’s only had one text from Mr Handley that she did not respond to. Mr Handley’s disclosures today show both Ministers were being economical with the truth at best.
“It was also a mistake for Megan Woods to not have personally communicated with Derek Handley when she cancelled his job on 14th September without warning, particularly when Ministers had engaged in dozens of communications with him up until that date.
“She erred again this morning in claiming she could not comment on the Derek Handley issue because of a confidentiality condition that did not exist. She erred a third time when she accidentally sent private information to my office and a fourth time with incorrect answers in Parliament.
“Derek Handley has been treated shabbily but at least he’s had the courage to be up front with the public by releasing his communications. Ministers have been ducking and diving for weeks trying to avoid disclosure.
“This has become a black comedy of errors. The Government’s been caught out by its repeated mistruths and efforts to avoid scrutiny. It is way past time for the Government to end the secrecy and release all of the relevant documents.”
Support has been welcomed from National, Labour, NZ First and Act parties for the introduction of the Tasman District Council (Waimea Water Augmentation Scheme) Bill that saw 112 votes in support to eight opposed and its referral to the Governance and Administration Select Committee, Nelson MP Nick Smith says.
“This Bill is the last critical piece of work required to enable the construction of this dam in the Lee Valley and resolve the long term problems of water security and river health on the Waimea Plains. The project has full resource consents and the $100 million in funding required from horticulturalists, Government and Council. This Bill is about resolving the issue of access to the land for the reservoir in the Mount Richmond Forest Park.
“My support for this Bill in enabling the Council access to this DOC and LINZ land is that the environmental gains from increasing minimum flows in the Waimea River by five-fold far outweigh the small loss of 11 hectares of land out of a park of 166,000 hectares. This is about practical environmentalism as the dam is the only realistic solution to the region’s critical summer water shortages.
“The opposition of this Bill from the Green Party is ideological. They cannot accept any conservation land being used for any sort of engineering structures even when all the technical reports shows it is the only realistic solution to improving the health of the Waimea River. Their proposals for Nelson to move away from water intensive crops like apples, berryfruit, wine and hops ignores the fact that we have an abundance of water and just need the infrastructure to better manage it through the seasons.
“The benefits of this Bill are a cleaner and healthier Waimea River, increased jobs and exports from the horticultural sector, additional water to support more housing and improving the regions resilience to climate change.
“I will be working closely with the Select Committee to meet the requirement for it to be reported back to Parliament by 7 November. My ambition is to try and have the Bill passed by Christmas but it will be tight. The next step is to finalise dates for submissions to close and to schedule hearings in Nelson next month.”
Taxpayers are being stung at least $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetent handling of the Chief Technology Officer appointment, National’s State Services spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“The process around appointing a Chief Technology Officer has been a shambles from the beginning. It involved secret meetings and emails, the resignation of Minister Clare Curran and now we’re paying Derek Handley around $100,000 for a job he never even started.
“The Government must now come clean with the hidden emails from Clare Curran and the Prime Minister so we know the full story of how badly this was handled.
“The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and was budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. Now if it still goes ahead we can add a pay out of over $100,000 because of the Government’s incompetence.
“The Government should apologise to taxpayers for wasting their money and Mr Handley for wasting his time. He’s right to have criticised the process for lacking in transparency.
“The CTO role has cost at least $100,000, a Minister her job and the Government its credibility. We can also add this to the Government’s ever growing list of reviews and working groups, currently more than 160 and costing $170 million.”
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has failed to tell the truth to either the public or Parliament’s Speaker over whether his MPs have signed a $300,000 obligation contract, National’s spokesperson for Electoral Law Nick Smith says.
“Mr Peters repeatedly told the public a month ago that all NZ First MPs had signed a $300,000 resignation obligation contract as required by their party’s rules.
“He has now told Parliament’s Speaker that no NZ First MP has signed a resignation obligation contract so as to avoid a Privileges Committee hearing into a breach of Parliament’s rules over disclosure of financials interests.
“This dodgy and dishonest conduct by the Deputy PM strikes at the heart of public trust in Government and Parliament. It is reminiscent of the Owen Glenn affair in 2008 when Mr Peters was caught out for blatantly lying over whether he had received a $100,000 donation that led to a finding of contempt by the Privileges Committee, his resignation as Foreign Minister and his party being banished from Parliament by voters.
“It is difficult to ascertain the truth over these contracts. NZ First MPs put themselves in the position of either breaching their own party rules or Parliament’s rules. I suspect the MPs have cynically decided to deny the existence of the contracts because breaking Parliament’s rules would result in a damaging Privileges Committee hearing and deferral of the Waka Hopping Bill whereas nothing will happen from them breaking their own Party’s rules.
“This issue exposes how dodgy the NZ First Party is. Mr Peters has effectively told the Speaker that all its MPs are in breach of Article 57 of the NZ First Party’s constitution. The conduct paints a dangerous picture of Mr Peters and his MPs believing they are above the rule of law. This is deeply concerning for a party that is at the centre of New Zealand’s current Government.
“I am disappointed that the Speaker has not referred this serious matter to the Privileges Committee. It is clear there is a matter of privilege and the key issue is whether or not the contracts were signed on which there is now contradictory evidence. Speaker Mallard’s decision contradicts Speaker’s ruling 206/2 that the role of the Speaker is determining whether there is a matter of privilege and determining the validity of evidence is a matter for the Privileges Committee. Mr Peters denied receiving the $100,000 Owen Glenn donation but that still led Speaker Wilson in August 2008 referring the matter to the Privileges Committee.
“This saga over these outrageous contracts and the draconian NZ First Party rules just adds controversy to the debate over the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. The convention is that electoral law changes are only made with broad parliamentary support. Here we have significant electoral law changes enabling a party leader to sack a democratically elected MP being passed with a bare majority, the Greens saying the Bill is undemocratic and draconian and NZ First MPs compromised by their party rules creating a personal financial interest in its passage.”
1. Privileges complaint to Speaker Mallard 16 August 2018
2. Speaker’s response 12 September 2018
3. Rt Hon. Winston Peters public statements on NZ First contracts
4. Article 57h NZ First Party constitution
The Government must restart the appointment process for a third time for the Chief Technology Officer after the debacle of secret emails and meetings involving candidate Derek Handley, Nationals State Services Spokesman Nick Smith says.
“The process of appointing the CTO is so tainted that the Government needs to start again. You cannot have one candidate having secret meetings and emails with the Minister without creating inherent unfairness in the process.
“Confirmation today that the Prime Minister also had private communications and meetings with Mr Handley further adds to the suspicions of a politically biased appointment process.
“Today’s refusal by State Services Minister Chris Hipkins to answer any question in Parliament on the secret emails from Clare Curran and on whether Mr Handley was offered the job completely contradicts the Coalition Government’s commitment to be the most open and transparent Government ever.
“The Government is hiding its dodgy dealings over this appointment where it has let political favouritism override securing the best person for the job.
It is concerning that the key industry bodies of both IT Professionals NZ and NZ Tech have lost confidence in the process. They have described any appointment now from this shoddy process as a ‘dead duck’ reinforcing the need for it to be redone.
“The CTO is the flagship of the Government’s IT policy and is budgeted to cost the taxpayer over $500,000 per year. It is a sign of the shambles of this Government that a third try at the appointment process is required to deliver this simple policy.”
NZ First MP Darroch Ball’s claim that it can introduce a binding referendum on removing the Māori seats from a Bill that entrenches them is false and dishonest, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“Standing Orders 292 (1) and 302 (2) are very clear that any amendment must be consistent with the principles and objects of the Bill. It has been confirmed by the Clerk’s Office that an amendment to require a binding referendum to remove the Māori electorate seats is out of scope and cannot be considered.
“They also ignore the fact that the sponsor of the Bill, Rino Tirikatene, has said he would withdraw the bill as he has the right to do it if it became a vehicle for dispensing with the Māori electorate seats.
“A simple reading of the Standing Orders or call to the Clerk’s Office would have confirmed that NZ First’s amendment is impossible. This is just a ruse for the hypocrisy of NZ First campaigning to scrap the Māori seats but then voting for a bill to entrench them.
“The behaviour of Labour and NZ First over this Bill on entrenchment of the Māori seats has everything to do with political posturing and nothing to do with improving our electoral law.
“Labour and Mr Tirikatene knows the Bill cannot pass but is wanting to use it as a pretence for advancing the case of Māori. NZ First and Mr Ball is playing to an anti-Māori constituency pretending the Bill will enable them to scrap the separate Māori seats. The only thing that is being achieved is exposing how deeply divided the government is on such a fundamental issue as Māori representation in Parliament."
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NZ First has set new standards in hypocrisy in campaigning to abolish the Māori seats but now voting for a Bill that entrenches them, National’s Electoral law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“NZ First MP’s are total hypocrites. You cannot go to the electorate promising to abolish the Māori Seats and then vote for a Bill that entrenches them.
“The NZ First policy to abolish the Māori seats was announced as a bottom line of the party by Winston Peters who described them as ‘separatism’, that they ‘had had their day’ and ‘had to go’.
“Mr Peters stated in April ‘That entrenching the Māori seats was not part and parcel of any coalition agreement’ and Shane Jones ruled out voting for it saying ‘I don’t know anyone in our caucus who is going to vote for the entrenchment.’
“NZ First has attempted to hide it’s nakedness on this issue with a fig leaf claiming it will introduce an amendment to the Bill providing a referendum on abolition. This is out of scope under Parliament’s rules and prohibited.
“The only conclusion New Zealanders can draw on this disgraceful back flip from NZ First is that you cannot trust a word that Mr Peters or his party says and something that is becoming increasingly true of the entire Government. They will say whatever it takes to get votes and do whatever it takes to stay in power.”
The Government’s decision to remove performance pay for public sector CEOs will lead to higher CEO salaries, remove incentives for good performance and reduce accountability, National’s State Services Spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“The Cabinet paper outlining the details of the decision to remove performance based pay for CEOs in the public sector reveals that CEOs will not have their salaries cut. Instead, the overall pay packets will increase to offset the cut in performance pay.
“Instead of missing out on the performance element of their pay, Public Sector CEOs will simply have the performance based component of their remuneration rolled into their guaranteed salary. This does nothing more than remove the incentive to perform well.
“The Coalition Government has been completely duplicitous by spinning this announcement like it was reining in state sector pay. But in reality they are simply paying these CEOs the same, and in some cases more, while reducing any incentive for them to perform well.
“The Government will now pay bad CEOs the same as good CEOs. This makes no sense and will lead to a worse performing Public Sector.
“It was also disingenuous of the Minister to hide the fact that all Chief Executives would be given an extra week’s holiday. The taxpayer is effectively being asked to pay more for less.
“The unions believe everyone should be paid the same, regardless of their performance. That attitude is now being embedded in the state sector and it shows the dangerous direction the Government is headed in when it comes to its industrial relations reforms.
“This is another example of the Government reducing accountability. They have already axed the Better Public Services targets, and removed specific performance targets for DHBs and Police which were leading to better results for New Zealanders.
“The Public Sector needs more accountability and better incentives, not less.”
Revelations that Government MPs are required to sign a legally enforceable contract meaning they must pay $300,000 if they do not follow their Leader’s instruction is an affront to our parliamentary democracy, National’s Electoral Law spokesperson Nick Smith says.
“The 2016 amendment to NZ First’s constitution states its MPs must pay damages of $300,000 if they personally disagree with Winston Peters, turning them into indentured workers with an extraordinary price tag hanging over their heads.
“It means every time an NZ First MP votes or comments on an issue, they have 300,000 reasons why they should just parrot Winston Peters and not to speak out even if doing so would be in the public’s best interests.
“This is abhorrent. These types of contracts are illegal in other workplaces and would be unconstitutional in most democratic countries, so why are they at the core of our current Government? They turn elected representatives into puppets of a party leader who is now attempting to impose the same restrictions on free speech on Parliament’s other MPs, in spite of universal opposition to the Waka Jumping Bill.
“It is a sad commentary on the NZ First Party and Mr Peters that such draconian contracts are required to maintain caucus discipline – and now to keep the Government together.
“It also contradicts Mr Peters’ previous hollow position that MPs ‘have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party’.
“The contracts were revealed after I was contacted by a concerned NZ First source who advised that all NZ First MPs had signed them except Mr Peters.
“NZ First must publicly release the full details of these contracts, outlined in article 57 (h) of its constitution, so the public can see the restrictions imposed on its elected MPs. This is even more important with NZ First playing such a pivotal role in the current Government.
“Disclosure is also required to be consistent with the Government’s pledge to be the most open and transparent ever, a claim looking increasingly ridiculous when even the Minister responsible for Mr Peters’ Waka Jumping Bill, Andrew Little, had no idea about the clause.
“That’s despite his legislation increasing the legal weight given to party rules and his acknowledgement that MPs should be able to do their job with being subjected to such restrictions.
“New Zealand needs MPs who are not bound by orders or instructions but whose responsibility is to act as representatives of the people.
“The existence of these contracts opens the question as to whether New Zealand needs additional protection to prevent its parliamentary democracy from being manipulated by these sorts of oppressive contracts.”