It beggars belief that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today admitted she has no idea whether her Education Minister, Associate Education Minister or Employment Minister have declared actual or perceived conflicts of interest in relation to partnership schools, Deputy Leader of the Opposition Paula Bennett says.
“Declaring actual or perceived conflicts of interest with the Cabinet Office is an incredibly important part of protecting both ministerial interests and the organisations that Ministers are involved in.
“It ensures there are no improper interactions between a Minister exercising their responsibilities as Minister and organisations that might have an interest in decisions made by the Government.
“Ministers who are local MPs have, in the past, registered their perceived conflicts of interest in dealing with local schools.
“Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis has admitted to the House that he has been involved in negotiations and conversations with partnership schools in his electorate. This despite the very clear guidance from the Cabinet Manual which says ‘Where the member also holds the relevant portfolio or is the Associate Minister, further measures, as set out in paragraphs 2.73 – 2.74, are likely to be needed to manage any possible conflict.’
“This clearly shows that Kelvin Davis should have declared his actual or perceived conflicts in relation to partnership schools.
“And yet today, when pressed on whether she had checked the register of conflicts of interest – or even asked the Cabinet Office - the Prime Minister admitted that she had not and felt no need to.
“Frankly, I’m surprised that the Cabinet Office hasn’t proactively addressed this with the Prime Minister.
“This is a serious matter and the Prime Minister should deal with conflicts of interest appropriately and within the parameters of the Cabinet Manual,” Mrs Bennett says.
National will support the Government’s proposed child poverty legislation to its first reading but won’t guarantee any ongoing support unless it agrees to amendments that will ensure it measurably improves deprivation, National’s spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“National is committed to reducing child poverty, achieving tangible results and promoting policies which are evidence-based and we know actually work,” Mrs Bennett says.
“The current Child Poverty Reduction Bill is full of positive intentions and virtue signalling but contains no substance to address the drivers of deprivation. We want to see it include succinct elements to make progress more measurable and ambitious.
“We will support the Prime Minister’s Bill through its first reading today, but further support will be contingent on the Government supporting our Supplementary Order Papers (SOPs) which require the legislation to include Better Public Services targets.
“These targets will require substantial reduction in a number of measures of poverty.
“A further requirement of our support is that the Government sets more ambitious targets to reduce the number of children in material hardship.
“As it stands the ten year targets the Prime Minister has set will actually lift fewer children out of material hardship than National’s Family Incomes package, which the Government legislated against, and will actually take longer to take effect.
“We want to see the number of children in material hardship reduced from 150,000 to 50,000 in three years.
“We also want to see the number of children living in low income households reduced. National proposed to lift 100,000 children out of low income households by 2020, whereas the Labour Government only aims to lift 70,000 out. We believe that with prioritised, targeted spending, our target of 100,000 can be achieved.
“National believes our Social Investment approach is essential to targeting spending to lift children out of poverty. We will therefore be tabling a further SOP requiring the Government to use Social Investment to direct funding to families and communities so they get the resources to assist them in the way which works for their families.
“I have written to the Prime Minister outlining National’s conditional support of her Bill and my expectation that, in the spirit of bipartisanship - and of taking the politics out of child poverty – she will consider our proposals.
“A plan that will really, truly tackle child poverty must address the drivers of social dysfunction and hold the public service accountable, not just rely on the Government’s good intentions,” Mrs Bennett says.
The new Government has taken a good first step in helping support our vulnerable kids by picking up where National left off, the Party’s spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“Tracey Martin’s announcement that the Government is putting $27 million to better support children and young people in care is a welcome move.
“I’m glad to see she’s picking up where we left off but she shouldn’t pretend these are new initiatives.
“This money is all contingency funding that we set aside in last year’s Budget.
“In 2017 the then Minister, Anne Tolley, announced $434.1 million in funding over five years for Oranga Tamariki, to support vulnerable children and young people – that was an 18 per cent funding increase over two years.
“That money was set aside to do so much more than what Ms Martin has announced today.
“Thanks to our economic stewardship, the National Government was able to fund the Ministry to provide additional support for caregivers, to expand Family Start and continue Children’s Teams, to improve accommodation for young people on remand, and enhance feedback and complaints processes.
“Ms Martin talks a lot about early intervention so it makes sense for the Government to adopt National’s world-leading Social Investment toolkit to root out the causes of hardship.
“The Government also has great opportunities to further reduce child poverty with the strong job growth and budget surpluses we left behind,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Government is hiding behind a smokescreen and is blustering about the number of children it plans to lift out of poverty, National’s spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“National’s Family Incomes Package was projected to lift 50,000 children out of poverty on 1 April 2018. It would have given 1.2 million working Kiwis an extra $1060 per year in the hand – and, we had committed to undertake a further package in 2020 that would have had a similar impact.
“The mini Budget announced by Labour today outlines its plans to lift 88,000 children out of poverty – but by 2021.
“So, comparing apples with apples, during the same period National would have lifted about 100,000 children out of poverty, whereas Labour only plans to lift 88,000.
“Labour has reverted to type by throwing billions of dollars at poorly targeted hand-outs, including over $3000 baby bonuses that go to everyone, irrespective of whether they need it or not.
“During our term in Government, the number of kids in material hardship fell by nearly 40 per cent to 135,000 in 2016.
“Thanks to the hard work, motivation and brave decisions of thousands of Kiwi parents, there are now 60,000 fewer children growing up in benefit-dependent households.
“Statistics like that can’t just be made up. We were the first Government in 40 years to lift benefits and the results are beginning to show.
“This is yet another example of a big-spending Labour Government that just cannot execute its ambitions,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Prime Minister has left more questions unanswered than not, following revelations her Government is cutting funding to children’s charity KidsCan, National’s Spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“KidsCan has been told it will lose its $350,000 government funding from 1 July next year.
“They were told there would be no more funding and that they were not a priority. As soon as this news was made public, both the Minister and the Prime Minister have been scrambling to distance themselves from it.
“In Parliament today I asked Jacinda Ardern whether her Government would continue its $350,000 funding of KidsCan but she wouldn’t answer.
“Given the huge amount of food, clothing and hygiene products KidsCan have provided hundreds of thousands of Kiwi kids, I think they deserve some clarity.
“The Prime Minister’s ducking and diving around simple commitments like this begs the question; is funding to services like this being cut because her Government has over-committed itself to its idealistic 100 day plan?
“I have also heard that the Kickstart breakfast programme is at risk of losing their funding.
“For the Prime Minister to purport that reducing child poverty is a priority, and to then not give certainty to these organisations is appalling. Words and measurements alone won’t cut it for our vulnerable children. Prime Minister – please back them up with support for initiatives that work,” Mrs Bennett says.
The Coalition government needs to front up and explain its decision to cut funding for one of New Zealand’s leading children’s charities, National’s Spokesperson for Children, Paula Bennett says.
“This evening we’ve learned that the Government will stop funding KidsCan from 1 July next year.
“For over a decade KidsCan has helped children who are living in hardship. It has provided over 168,000 children across 700 – mostly low decile - schools with over 21 million basic food items, over 500,000 health and hygiene products and over 700,000 items of clothing.
“They are making a real difference to the lives of vulnerable children. In the same week the new Government is talking about passing legislation to monitor child poverty, it is undermining the future of one of New Zealand’s most effective children’s charities.
“The Prime Minister has waxed lyrical for quite some time about her desire to eradicate child poverty and yet, after less than two months in Government, she’s axing a programme specifically targeting the very kids who need the most help.
“This is another example of Labour’s ideological stance against partnership models. KidsCan is a shining example of how corporate and public funds combined can achieve great outcomes.
“I implore the Government to rethink this terrible decision,” Mrs Bennett says.
Confirmation from the Children’s Commissioner that the growth in child poverty has been halted is largely due to initiatives introduced by National, the Party’s spokesperson for Children Paula Bennett says.
“Judge Andrew Becroft has today confirmed that since the National Government increased benefits in 2015, there has been a drop in the number of children living in low income households.
“This is great news and further consolidates National’s track record as a party that shows it cares, rather than just says it cares.
“We were the Government that increased benefits for the first time in 40 years. Since 2010 we reduced the number of children living in material hardship by 135,000 and since 2011 we reduced the number of children in benefit-dependent households by 61,000.
“Child poverty is a serious issue that we remain committed to working hard on. It needs to be recognised though that the complex issues that are the causes of hardship are often intergenerational.
“That’s why it’s extremely concerning that Jacinda Ardern and her Government haven’t committed to retaining either the Social Investment approach, or the Better Public Services targets we implemented.
“Our drive has been – and will always be – to root out the source of the problem through sophisticated data-driven risk analysis, followed up with solutions that work for the individual on a case-by-case basis.
“Judge Becroft points out that for children to flourish and thrive, sustained progress is needed.
“It is, therefore, both surprising and extremely disappointing that the new Government intends to abolish our Family Incomes Package. This would have lifted around 50, 000 children out of poverty, by one OECD definition.
“These are real solutions for real hardship. Labour has made big proclamations about putting child poverty reduction targets into legislation, but they’ve baulked at putting a number to those targets.
“National left the new Government a great opportunity to further reduce child poverty with strong job growth, budget surpluses and our Social Investment toolkit to root out the causes of hardship.
“As an Opposition party, we will hold the Government to account and ensure it steps up and delivers more than just slogans,” Mrs Bennett says.
The first round of the new $100 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund has attracted 43 eligible applications, says Tourism Minister Paula Bennett.
“We received 39 eligible applications from 29 councils for infrastructure projects that will help communities with growing visitor numbers. The cost of the proposed projects would be $35 million overall, with councils seeking a total of $17.8 million from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund,” says Mrs Bennett.
“We also had four applications from three councils for $70,000 in funding for feasibility studies with a total cost of $130,000. This shows that while demand is there, our initial $100 million investment looks about right for what is needed.
“We will work with councils to support communities with high visitor numbers but low ratepayer bases so they can really benefit from the growth New Zealand is seeing in the tourism sector. Tourism employs 188,000 people in New Zealand and we want to see that continue to grow.”
Councils were invited in August to apply for co-funding to develop visitor-related public infrastructure such as carparks, freedom camping facilities and sewerage and water works.
The fund’s panel will now make their assessment and recommend a package of infrastructure projects that best aligns with the Government’s priorities for the fund.
For more information, visit the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website: http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/sectors-industries/tourism/tourism-infrastructure-fund
Women's Minister Paula Bennett is encouraging all New Zealanders to take some time tomorrow, on Suffrage Day, to reflect on women's rights in New Zealand.
"I'm so proud to live in a country that was the first in the world to give women the vote. I hope all New Zealanders take time to reflect on that tomorrow and just how far we've come," Mrs Bennett says.
"Kate Sheppard and the other suffragists fought for years to give women this right and did this country proud.
“This Government has continued to support women. In the public sector 45 per cent of people on state sector boards are women, 46 per cent of women in senior leadership roles in the public service, we’ve introduced pay equity principles and we’ve settled a $2 billion pay equity claim for 55,000 care and support workers.
"We still have so much more to achieve though. We have a 9.4 per cent Gender Pay Gap. This recently reduced from 12 per cent - but in 2017, we just shouldn't have one. We’re working with the private sector to encourage them to measure their Gender Pay Gap and to work to reduce it.
"I'm often asked why we have a Ministry for Women and not a Ministry for Men. My answer is simple - when we no longer have a Gender Pay Gap and women aren't predominantly the victims of domestic and sexual violence, I'll happily shut it down.
"Until then, we should continue to focus on improving the lives on women and girls in this country. Anniversaries like this are the perfect time to reflect on that," Mrs Bennett says.
The Labour Party is continuing its full-frontal attack on regional New Zealand with its announcement today that farming would join the Emissions Trading Scheme, National Party Climate Change Spokesperson Paula Bennett said.
“No other country includes agriculture in their ETS. We have the best, most sustainable farmers in the world and Labour want to place costs on them that their competitors don’t face,” says Mrs Bennett.
“All that will do is force production overseas to less environmentally friendly places. That does absolutely nothing to combat climate change and is in fact worse for the planet.
“This is yet another example of how Labour would stall the economy. It comes hard on the heels of a water tax, a land tax, a capital gains tax and their opposition to the TPP trade deal, it’s hard to remember a more deliberate multi- pronged attack on our regions and a single sector in the economy.
“Labour talk about regional development and exports but their actions would harm towns across New Zealand and our biggest exporters, and would cost local jobs.
“The emissions intensity of our farmers is decreasing by about 1 per cent a year and the industry is committed to doing better, that’s why National is investing $20 million a year into research which will find a scientific solution to reducing emissions from agriculture.
“Labour have also said they want to legislate a carbon target and set up an independent climate commission. But legislating a target won’t reduce a single emission. National is 100 per cent committed to our 2030 Paris Agreement target and we are focussed on practical steps that will actually help us meet it.
“We will have 90 per cent renewable electricity by 2025 and are already over 85 per cent, we will have 1 in 3 electric vehicles in the government fleet, and we are investing a record amount in public transport.
“We also have the Productivity Commission working on how we transition to a low carbon economy while still growing jobs and the economy, something Labour seem to have no regard to.
“More taxes, legislation and working groups from Labour, while National is focussed on what is practical to actually get emissions down.”