Consultation on trades training reforms shows a lack of respect to our communities, National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“The Government has already decided what will happen at the conclusion of the short six week consultation period. The Tomorrow’s Schools consultation is nearly three times longer,” Dr Reti says.
“Already the consultation time is ticking away and yet the face to face community engagement dates are still to be announced, the online survey is not up and the telephone response line is only answering Monday to Friday 9am – 5pm when apprentices are working.
“With 1000 jobs on the line and massive upheaval, at least the Minister could show some respect to the industry. I challenge Education Minister Chris Hipkins to fix this and extend the consultation period by a further six weeks.
“Clearly Mr Hipkins has become encouraged by micro credentials and he now thinks micro consultation is also a good idea. It is not.”
The Government’s proposed reform of vocational education will strip power from regional New Zealand and hand all of it to Wellington bureaucrats, National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson Shane Reti says.
“Businesses and the regions know what demand there is for skills in their own backyard. But this Government wants all of the decision making to be done by a centralised body in Wellington,” Dr Reti says.
“Industry Training Organisations, which represent businesses and their needs will be disestablished. These are the groups that know and understand the demand for the trades better than anyone else.
“We believe that there is a need to address issues of quality, sustainability and more skilled people in trades but the idea that all this can be solved in Wellington is naive.
“The reforms are much bigger than we first anticipated and could lead to mass job losses, yet Education Minister Chris Hipkins said today he hasn’t done any work on that. It’s clear there are many unanswered questions.
“Given how much uncertainty there is, there should be a thorough consultation period. Instead, there will be just six week for industry to have its say. Mr Hipkins wants this in place next year which means rapid upheaval for the sector.
“The discussion document was strangely silent about the future of Private Training Establishments and Wānanga. These institutions deserve certainty about their futures.
“I encourage Mr Hipkins to put his ideology aside and extend the consultation period so the people who understand their own industries and communities can be involved in the process.”
The Government’s polytechnic sector review next week will involve consolidation and centralisation of regional polytechnics and job losses, National’s spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Shane Reti says.
A number of senior industry sources have told Dr Reti the proposed changes from the review will include centralising many of the functions currently undertaken by polytechnics and many of the polytechnics will be forced to amalgamate into regional hub type structures
“Amalgamation and centralisation on a national scale will reduce education and training opportunities in the regions.
“We understand and agree that some sector reform is necessary for the polytechnics that struggle and we indicated that several years ago with the partial amalgamation of Whitireia and WelTec.
“A few polytechnic functions may be suitable for centralisation and the benefits that would bring, however a number of polytechnics are high performing and fiscally sound, and mass amalgamation and centralisation will diminish their good work and effectiveness.
“We understand that 1000 FTEs are at risk with the restructure and that their functions will be performed centrally. Many student services simply have to be conducted face to face and are unsuitable for centralisation.
“As well as teaching students, polytech teachers add to the overall skills capacity that a region has with many of them also carrying their skill set into voluntary organisations. Under mass amalgamation and centralisation these skills could not only be lost to the community, but also lost to the regions.
“Targeted support for struggling polytechnics and targeted centralisation of functions is a better solution than mass amalgamation and mass centralisation.
“This Government is showing us that the devil is not in the detail. Instead, the devil is in the big ticket items that we are hearing about, and the dread is in the detail.”
An open letter in the Northern Advocate today urges the Prime Minister to vaccinate the 20,000 Northland children who are currently ineligible for the Meningitis vaccine, Shane Reti, MP for Whangarei says.
“The cost to vaccinate all 20,000 ineligible children in Northland between 5-12 years of age is around $700,000. That’s the same cost as creating 35 metres of new road, or less than half a rugby field,” Dr Reti says.
“Hundreds of people have signed the petition started by Northland MP Matt King and I asking for the ineligible children to be included in the meningitis vaccine campaign.
“Many parents with ineligible children have contacted me who are desperate to have them vaccinated but they cannot afford the private cost of $110.
“I was also contacted by a parent who had one child who was eligible for the Meningitis vaccine and one child who was not. She said she could not choose which of her children could have a safer life and which child would not - so she vaccinated neither.
“This is a terrible position for parents to be in. The Government is choosing which children may be safe from Meningitis and which may not. It has argued there are not enough vaccines and that the expert group on the response didn’t recommend vaccinating 5-12 year olds. This is simply not true.
“As a GP, I can order dozens of vaccines right now and the expert group did suggest the option of vaccinating all Northland children under 20 years of age.
“The Prime Minister is in Northland and should front up to parents and explain why her Government has decided that their children will miss out on the Meningitis vaccine. Meningitis doesn’t ask their age.”
The open letter to the Prime Minister in the Northern Advocate today is available here.
MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti and MP for Northland Matt King have launched a petition challenging the Government to vaccinate all Northlanders under 20 years of age to protect against the Meningitis outbreak.
“The petition seeks public support to vaccinate the 5-12 year olds who are ineligible for the Government funded vaccination campaign,” Dr Reti says.
“Meningitis doesn’t ask their age. It is woeful that the Government avoided expert advice that recommended that all others under 20 years of age should be vaccinated in this campaign, not just the limited age groups that were chosen.
“The Government says the reason for the limited vaccination campaign is because there are not enough vaccines but thousands have been sold through GP vaccine suppliers in Auckland. As a GP, I can buy dozens online right now.”
“Many concerned parents are paying up to $140 to have their children vaccinated because they are outside of the campaign age group. However, many parents simply cannot afford that,” Mr King says.
“We are encouraging Northland parents to sign our online petition which we will then present to Parliament when it returns next month to urge the Government to extend the campaign. The petition is available here.”
National’s MP for Whangarei, Shane Reti says that despite the Ministry of Health claiming vaccine supply as the reason for targeting specific age groups, thousands have been available through an Auckland supplier while ineligible children in Northland miss out.
“As tens of thousands of holidaymakers continue to flood into Northland’s Meningitis outbreak area over the summer it is concerning that the Government’s vaccination campaign is limited by vaccine stocks when several thousand vaccines were available to GPs a few weeks ago, with the first lot selling out in half a day.
“New batches of vaccines have continued arriving and even today GPs can privately purchase the same vaccine the Northland campaign is using. Why are there meningitis vaccines available for private purchase in Auckland today but we are told there are no more vaccines for children in the Northland outbreak region?
“Health Minister David Clark and the Ministry of Health avoided one of the Technical Advisory Group’s recommendations to vaccinate everyone under 20 years. The actual campaign sees Northland children between five and 12 years miss out on the vaccine, concerning many parents.
“Northlanders are being betrayed by the Minister who says their children can’t have vaccines because they are not available, when in fact thousands are being legitimately sold through a vaccine supplier in Auckland.
“It’s not good enough for the Minister to hide behind the advisory group’s recommendation of a targeted vaccination coverage when one of the other recommendations was also universal coverage for everyone under 20 years. You don’t get to pick who gets meningitis and who doesn’t, I’ve seen it before in as a GP Northland.
“It is unclear if the smaller vaccination group was selected based on price. If that’s the case the Minister needs to come clean on what the costs were for a targeted compared with a universal Meningitis campaign in Northland.
“Pharmac and the Ministry should have costed out the alternatives, and they now need to put that information out for scrutiny and not hide behind a committee or commercial sensitivities.
“I challenge the Minister to fix this delayed and limited campaign by acquiring existing meningitis vaccines and making it available to everyone in Northland under 20 years old.”
Screenshot showing Menactra vaccine private purchase availability available here.
Details showing the reasoning for the limited vaccination campaign available here.
Meningococcal W Technical Advisory Group meeting summary available here.
A lost computer drive by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) between Wellington and Auckland earlier this month was potentially far more damaging than the ‘little risk of personal identity theft’ described by NZTA at the time, National’s Data and Cybersecurity spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“National has received documents which show the huge extent of the breach, cynically released by the Government just before the Christmas holidays.
“We now know the lost USB drive contained information for staff identity cards for 1104 individuals including names, email addresses, photos and signatures.
“This constitutes a significant data privacy breach that cannot be swept under the table as ‘little risk of personal identity theft’.
“It is hard to believe and completely unacceptable that NZTA would courier staff identity data without password protection and without encryption.
“NZTA needs to immediately offer all 1104 staff identity theft protection to monitor and protect them if the stolen credentials are used. Email addresses may need to be changed and because photographs were included passport monitoring may also be required.
“NZTA needs an independent body such as CertNZ or the Privacy Commissioner to urgently review their cybersecurity policies and reassure the public with a report on findings and actions.
“The loss of the data drive is consistent with the cybersecurity laziness this Government has shown as Russian cyberattacks on DHBs, lack of 2-factor-authentication at the Ministry of Health, and now the loss of a data drive with no passwords and no encryption.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is responsible for the NZTA and his lack of transparency over this data loss is another example of NZTA failing under his watch.”
The end of year information dump by the Labour-led Government includes Ministry of Health officials discussing a Green Party SOP allowing individuals with previous drug convictions to manufacture cannabis, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“The intentions of the Greens to liberalise cannabis under the cover of medical need is a further indictment on the Government’s agenda to be soft on drugs.
“We strongly believe that medicinal cannabis manufacturers and employees need to be ‘fit-and-proper-persons’ and National’s Medicinal Cannabis Bill was very clear on the details around this, something that is absent from the Government’s Bill.
“The Greens have listened to one version of the pleadings from East Coast based Hikurangi Cannabis and ignored the rest of the industry who were completely behind the fit-and-proper-persons requirements in my Bill.
“The industry was adamant that it understood the need to be absolutely squeaky clean in this new industry and they were up for that.
“Members of the industry have also said that there are many suitably-qualified and experienced people to support the sector. This makes it is hard to see why the Government is pushing to have people with serious drug convictions in the industry.
“National’s Bill used the clean slate legislation requiring no terms of imprisonment and no convictions for seven years for employees and even tougher standards for license holders including no associations with gangs. We stand behind these requirements as essential and reasonable.
“The Green Party’s intentions are clear and we now need to be vigilant as officials create unknown regulations for medicinal cannabis.
“The National Party will maintain high vigilance and accountability to ensure that people with serious drug convictions are not allowed to participate in the sensitive medicinal cannabis industry.”
The Government’s slow response to the Northland Meningitis outbreak has been underlined again in a report that shows that the Technical Advisory Group wasn’t convened until three weeks after outbreak status was reached, MP for Whangarei Dr Shane Reti says.
“The minutes of the Technical Advisory Group, obtained by National, suggest that an outbreak was technically reached around October 14 but the group was not convened until three weeks later on November 8.
“This delay completely contradicts the Minister’s repeated assurances that the response was ‘swift’ – there is nothing swift about it.
“What’s worse is that after the three-week delay in convening the group to confirm the outbreak and trigger the response, the meeting itself was carried out by a teleconference which took just an hour over a lunchtime.
“It staggering that the group were not convened earlier to confirm the outbreak and get on with the response – especially considering all it took was a phone call.
“Those three weeks would have been the difference between rolling out the immunisation campaign at schools and vaccinating children while they were still accessible. Instead, the vaccination programme was stalled and children have missed their vaccinations as a result.
“The Minister needs to come clean on the three-week delay to convene this advisory group.
“This has been a late and delayed response from the start, given the seven warning flags from May this year. The Minister must outline the timeline of events and tell the public why he and his Ministry wasted valuable time to respond to this deadly outbreak.”
Meningococcal W Technical Advisory Group meeting summary available here.
News that MedSafe is investigating cannabis billboard advertising in Auckland further confirms the lazy vacuum the Government has created for medicinal cannabis, National’s Associate Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti says.
“Earlier this year National released its own Medicinal Cannabis Bill which has been widely recognised as far superior to the Government’s legislation.
“Our Medicinal Cannabis Bill specifically covered advertising restrictions for cannabis, but the Government’s Bill was so poor we could not even debate this in the committee stage.
“We had regulations ready to go that would prohibit advertising cannabis to young people or around schools but the Government wouldn’t even entertain the debate.
“The Greens have tried to claim that this gaping hole was addressed in Parliament, however, advertising regulations weren’t debated or mentioned at all. Considering that this is already an issue it is woeful that the Greens are kicking this down the road, saying that medicinal cannabis regulation won’t be implemented till at least 2019.
“This is further evidence of cannabis decriminalisation by stealth and the Greens attempt to normalize cannabis in communities.
“Even at this late stage we are calling on Labour and NZ First to stop the Greens from walking all over them and at least regulate the advertising space for cannabis.”