The Government needs to explain why it hasn’t started a review into the Psychoactive Substances legislation despite it being legally required to, Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown says.
“When the National Government passed the law to make synthetic drugs illegal it added a clause that the law must be reviewed every five years.
“The reason that’s so important is because the ingredients of the drugs, how they’re supplied and the technology used are always changing, which means we need to make sure the law remains fit for purpose.
“The Coalition Government claims that it is taking urgent action around synthetic drugs, however this review was meant to start two months ago. I’ve asked questions of the Ministers of Health, Police, Customs and Justice which show no work has been done.
“When Winston Peters was the Acting Prime Minister he promised ‘urgent action’ after the deaths of up to 45 people and yet nothing has gone to Cabinet.
“If this Government was serious about taking action it would adopt my Members Bill which would see longer sentences for the people who supply these drugs. Instead the Government is all talk and no action.”
Today’s announcement that the financial viability of Whitireia and WelTec are considered at risk is due to the Government’s reckless election promise to arbitrarily slash immigration while paying the tertiary fees of wealthy students, National’s Associate Tertiary spokesperson Simeon Brown says.
“The Government’s campaign on slashing immigration and international student numbers has sent a shock through our tertiary education sector.
“National warned it would have a chilling effect on our $4.4 billion international student market and today’s announcements has proven that demonstrably true.
“It is disturbing to hear that the viability of institutions like Whitireia and WelTec are considered at risk which could affect hundreds of jobs and thousands of students.
“Proposals to clamp down on post-study work rights for international students were heard in overseas markets, dampening interest in New Zealand and spooking the sector, with the likes of Manukau Institute of Technology also warning of major financial impacts.
“This is all down to the Government’s priorities. Budget 2018 was the first in a decade not to increase funding for the sector as the Government chose to spend $2.8 billion on free fees instead.
“Now we see the immediate impact of that decision, compounded by its reckless and cynical approach to immigration policy.
“The Government needs to put its reforms on ice and deal with the reality of a tertiary sector which relies on exporting education to the international market.
“Instead, it’s doubling down, dissolving councils, progressing changes to in-study work rights for international students, and committing to extending the fees free scheme to the second and third year of study.
“These changes are putting hundreds of jobs in the tertiary education sector at risk, and come on top of the Government’s other anti-growth policies which are making businesses less confident to invest, to lift wages and hire new workers.”
The Government’s major backdown on post-study work rights for international students is welcome, but the damage to New Zealand’s international reputation has already been done, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse and Associate Tertiary Education spokesperson Simeon Brown say.
“Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has been forced into a U-turn on his proposed changes to post-study work rights after he was told it could cost more than $1 billion a year,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“We told Labour before the election that its policy to slash the number of international students would gut the international education sector and grind our economy to a halt.
“Yet it still went ahead with proposing to require students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas to study in New Zealand for at least two years before becoming eligible for post-study work visas, which would have seen a major drop in student enrolments.
“Thanks to the chorus of voices that joined National in warning the Government that this proposal could result in 50 per cent fewer student enrolments next year at a cost of almost $500 million in export earnings per year, the Government has finally backed down.
“Had it not backed down, thousands of students studying one-year graduate diplomas would have had all post-study work rights removed. This would include, for example, teachers qualified overseas doing a one-year course to gain teacher registration in New Zealand.”
Mr Brown says the change would have had a significant impact not only on international education sector but on other sectors that relied on those skills so the backdown is welcome.
“But it’s too little too late, with news that the number of Chinese students coming to New Zealand fell for the first time since 2013 cutting millions of dollars from the sector,” he says.
“Given the Education Minister has signalled closures of polytechnics, institutes of technology and private training establishments, and Chinese student numbers could continue to fall by at least 30 per cent, the sector is already in real trouble.
“The previous National Government introduced measured, sensible changes to prevent student exploitation and improve the quality of private training establishments.
“It’s a relief that the Minister has now recognised that was the correct path to follow. There is no need for further reckless changes in order to meet an arbitrary immigration reduction target conjured up during an election campaign.”
Minister of Education Chris Hipkins’ has today revealed that our export education sector could take yet another hit with suggested closures and mergers on the way for our polytechs and ITP’s, Nationals associate spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Simeon Brown says.
“Not only will this sector suffer from the Government’s proposed changes to post-study work rights but today it has been revealed that the review of the sector could result in the merging or closure of any number of these institutions,” Mr Brown says.
“These ITP’s and polytechs are a huge part of the communities that they are based in and the potential closures should not be taken lightly. This will have a huge impact on our regions where ITP’s are critical to the local skill requirements.
“This is also yet another hit on our export education sector at a time where we are already becoming a less attractive place to study as a result of the Government’s other changes.
“The changes the Government is making around post study work rights will also bring fewer people into the country to help fill shortages in our regions. The visa changes could also cost New Zealand 1,000 jobs and up to $1.4 billion. This is at a time where the economy is starting to cool and unemployment has started to rise.
“Manukau Institute of Technology has warned the Government that the proposed visa changes put their institution at risk of becoming financially unviable. This may in turn give the Government cause to close or merge the institution.
“The Government simply can’t gut New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner through its visa changes and then use their review as an excuse to merge or close these institutions.
“This is yet another part of our economy being undermined by a Government which is refusing to realise the real impact its bad decisions and anti-growth policies are having on New Zealand’s economy. This will affect our businesses and mean fewer jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders.
“Ministers must reconsider these changes immediately and ensure that the outcome of the review is not predetermined by the economic uncertainty that they are creating.”
The Government’s proposed changes to post-study work rights for international students could cost New Zealand 1000 jobs and up to $1.4 billion, just as the economy starts to cool and unemployment starts to rise, say National’s Tertiary Education spokespeople Paula Bennett and Simeon Brown.
“The Government’s proposed changes to post-study work rights have prompted forecasts from Aspire2 that show there could be a direct hit to the economy of up to $1.4 billion and result in a loss of up to 1000 jobs,” says Mrs Bennett.
“Today we’ve seen unemployment rise for the first time since 2016 as business confidence drops to its lowest level in a decade. Despite this, the Government seems intent on decimating a $4.5 billion sector.
“The Government’s changes are being made on the basis of preventing exploitation, which they should rightly be concerned with, but they should use some of their free-fees funding to boost the New Zealand Labour Inspectorate, instead of potentially crushing the sector.
“These changes risk driving education exports to countries like Canada who have clear and attractive policy settings for international students. Is the Government happy for Canadians to benefit from that $1.4 billion spend rather Kiwis?”
“Aspire2 also estimate that enrolments will drop by up to 90 per cent, forcing them to cut jobs and close a number of campuses which may force them out of the sector altogether,” says Mr Brown.
“Manukau Institute of Technology have also warned the Government that the proposed changes put their institution at risk of becoming financially unviable.
“The sector has made it clear that unintended consequences of the changes will also negatively impact the tourism and hospitality, horticulture, and agriculture industries.
“Ministers must reconsider these changes immediately before they put New Zealand’s fourth largest export earner at risk right when the economy is starting to wobble.”
If Winston Peters is serious about cracking down on synthetic cannabis with the ‘greatest urgency’, he must support National MP Simeon Brown’s Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill currently before Parliament.
“It’s good to see the Government agrees we need to do something to eliminate synthetic cannabis which is wreaking havoc on our communities,” Mr Brown says.
“In the last 12 months alone, there have been up to 45 suspected deaths as a result of synthetic cannabis use.
“New Zealanders struggling with addiction to this insidious drug don’t have time to wait while the Government figures out what to do.
“That’s why the Government’s first step must be to support my Member’s Bill which will increase the penalties for suppliers of synthetic drugs from a maximum of two years’ imprisonment to a maximum of eight years.
“The sooner my Bill is passed, the sooner we can start taking suppliers off the streets and deterring them from producing and/or supplying synthetic drugs.
“I am happy to meet with Ministers to discuss my Bill and any other possible measures that can be implemented now to urgently tackle synthetic drug use.”
The international education sector risks losing up to $40 million a year if the Government implements changes to make it harder for international students studying graduate diplomas to get post-study work visas, National MPs Michael Woodhouse and Simeon Brown say.
“International students are a critical revenue stream for our Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics (ITPs), and those studying graduate diplomas alone bring in as much as $40 million a year,” Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.
“A change proposed by the Government to require students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas to study in New Zealand for at least two years before becoming eligible for post-study work visas fails to recognise the higher calibre of those studying graduate diplomas.
“Many of these students have already obtained bachelor’s degree and should get the same post-study work rights as those graduating from bachelor’s degrees in New Zealand.
“If the Government doesn’t make this change to its proposal, some in the international education sector estimate that student enrolments could drop by at least 50 per cent in 2019, which would see the industry and our economy lose out on millions of dollars. The ITPs have been clear that this policy would destroy a significant part of the sector.”
Associate Tertiary Education spokesperson Simeon Brown says Education New Zealand estimates the proposed change could affect up to 17,000 international tertiary students and cost almost $500 million in export earnings per year.
“ITPs are already under financial pressure due to a strong labour market and the Government’s proposal will put even more financial pressure on the sector,” he says.
“International students studying graduate diplomas bring a wealth of experience to New Zealand and often fill vital skill shortages. By completing post-graduate diplomas, they are able to add to their knowledge and broaden their skillset.
“Where there are issues of quality or student exploitation, these should be addressed through individual examination of providers, not whole-scale immigration policy changes that will have unintended consequences for the sector and the wider economy.
“The Government must urgently exclude international students studying Level 7 graduate diplomas from the requirement to study for two years in order to obtain work rights, before it starts to have a real impact on enrolments.”
The Coroner’s report released this morning showing there had been between 40-45 deaths in the last 12 months as a result of synthetic drug use is cause for great concern, and action needs to be taken now, Simeon Brown, MP for Pakuranga says.
“We cannot stand idly by as more people die and families are hurt when we can do something about it. My Members Bill, which would amend the Psychoactive Substances Act to increase the penalties for supplying these synthetic drugs, is a big first step in tackling this issue.
“St John Ambulance receives around 30 callouts a week related to synthetic drug use, as batches are becoming increasingly potent and dangerous and are doing more harm to New Zealanders.
“My Psychoactive Substances (Increasing Penalty for Supply and Distribution) Amendment Bill would increase the maximum jail sentence for selling or supplying synthetic drugs from two years to eight years. This would give Police stronger powers to crack down on suppliers and help deter drug dealers in New Zealand from selling these harmful substances.
“These drugs are a serious blight on our society. Parliament needs to get tougher on this issue fast before further irreparable harm is done.
“My Bill will put the dealers of these substances on notice and ensure our justice system has the tools to more appropriately deal with the people who clearly don’t care about the harm they’re causing.
“I am once again calling on the Government to support my Bill when it returns to Parliament for its second and third readings, as urgent action needs to be taken to protect New Zealanders from what is quickly becoming a deadly epidemic.”
A recently released Cabinet Paper shows the Government is going ahead with axing public-private partnerships for building and maintaining schools, but the reasons for doing so simply don’t stack up, National’s Associate Education spokesperson Simeon Brown says.
“PPPs are an effective way of building long-lasting school buildings quickly and removing the burden of school property management from teachers and boards so that they can focus on students’ learning.
“The PPP model has also helped to save millions of dollars which have been reinvested into the school property portfolio. Scrapping PPPs will mean less money for school property.
“The reasons listed in the Cabinet Paper for why PPPs for schools should be scrapped are flimsy and at odds with its approach to PPPs for transport. It has never given a good reason for the difference between having PPPs for transport but not for school infrastructure.
“Labour’s ideological approach to PPPs is only going to make it harder to build safe, modern facilities quickly and means teachers will have to spend more time managing school property rather than on students.
“National invested a record $5 billion in school property. This included projects fixing leaky buildings and legacy issues as well as the Christchurch schools rebuild, the $79 million Western Springs College rebuild and the $22 million upgrade for The Gardens School.
“But we knew there was still more to do. That’s why a further $4.85 billion had been set aside for school property, with PPPs being a key way to maximize that investment.
“Without PPPs, the Government will struggle to make the investments needed into school property and given Labour’s recent U-turn on PPPs for prisons, I hope Education Minister Chris Hipkins will see sense to do the same on PPPs for school buildings.”
The co-location of Marlborough Boys’ College and Marlborough Girls’ College is under threat with the Ministry of Education confirming the project is under review, say National’s Associate Education Spokesperson Simeon Brown and Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith.
“In 2015 the previous Government announced plans to co-locate Marlborough Boys’ College and Girls College’ onto one site. The $63 million project is now in serious doubt as the new Government has put it under review despite overwhelming public support,” Mr Brown says.
“The two schools and the community have worked hard with the Ministry of Education on the design of the campus, which was expected to be built through a Public-Private Partnership. We know that PPPs can provide cost savings and deliver more innovative facilities.
“The Ministry has been in discussions to secure land for the campus since 2015. However, with the failure to secure a site and uncertainty created by the Government around the future of PPPs, the community is understandably worried about the co-location project.”
Mr Smith says news that the project is now under review will only fuel these concerns.
“The co-location is a great opportunity for Blenheim to build on our already excellent educational facilities by providing a more modern, innovative and state-of-the-art campus for the young people in our community,” he says.
“It is very disappointing to learn that the project has been put under review, especially given several years of community consultation and overwhelming public support.
“Staff, students and parents have poured their hearts into developing plans for the co-location of their schools and it would be a real shame for all their hard work to go to waste.
“The Government has allowed the Whangārei Boys’ High School redevelopment to go ahead as a PPP as originally planned – Marlborough Boys’ and Girls’ Colleges deserve the same treatment.
“This is about ensuring our young people get the best opportunities to be successful. The Government needs to put aside its contempt for PPPs and allow this project to go ahead.
“I will be hosting a public meeting with Nikki Kaye and Simeon Brown on May 6 at 4.30pm, venue to be confirmed. We want to hear from the community their thoughts on the review and the best way forward.”