The Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care and the Police have serious questions to answer about how a paedophile who was allowed to attend Royal Commission meetings was placed in a motel next to an intermediate school, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“The Royal Commission knew in May that this person had a criminal conviction that required him to inform Police of his whereabouts but they didn’t ask any questions for three months about what those convictions were.
“In the meantime the Commission allowed him to go to meetings with victims of sexual assault. Despite knowing his conviction was serious enough to have to inform Police where he was, they still booked him into accommodation next to a school.
“How did the Police approve a paedophile staying so close to a school? And why didn’t the Royal Commission ask questions sooner about what his convictions were for?
“Minister Tracey Martin has refused to express confidence in the Commission but hasn’t taken any decisive action. Given these latest revelations, it’s time for her actually do something. Police Minister Stuart Nash must also ask Police to explain. If they won’t act, the Prime Minister should.”
In an affront to democracy, the Associate Transport Minister has discarded public submissions from at least 1000 people who don’t support her Government’s car tax proposal, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
Documents released under the Official Information Act reveal Julie Anne Genter’s ministry blocked New Zealanders from submitting on the vehicle feebate proposal via a website set up by National because it considered their contributions to be “spam”.
A total of 1594 people made formal submissions on the proposal through National’s website while another 14,060 people signed a petition to stop Labour’s car tax.
It is unclear clear whether any of the submissions that made it through to the ministry before it moved to block them were even counted as part of the public consultation.
National is now calling on the Associate Transport Minister to reopen public consultation so that all New Zealanders who want to participate in this important debate can do so.
“It is utterly unacceptable for a Minister to ignore submissions from people who don’t agree with her, and to even go as far as blocking opposing views,” Mr Bridges says.
“It’s hypocritical for the Government to block submissions on forms supplied by National when it had no problem accepting 4190 submissions on the Zero Carbon Bill that were based on forms supplied by the likes of Generation Zero, Greenpeace and Forest & Bird.
“We now know Julie Anne Genter was being liberal with the truth when she said in August that about 80 per cent of online responses supported the car tax.
“She was ignoring the thousands who spoke out against the proposal through submissions and National’s petition. The reality is most New Zealanders do not support Labour’s car tax.
“National didn’t bend anyone’s arm to speak up. These people did so out of genuine concern about being stung up to $3000 for not buying a low-emission vehicle.
“This is yet more evidence that this Government can’t be trusted on transport and Julie Anne Genter cannot be trusted to operate in a fair, open and transparent manner.
“She must now do the right thing and reopen public submissions, as well as explain to New Zealanders why she will only entertain people who share her way of looking at things.”
The National Party will not take down our social media videos following a ruling yesterday by the Speaker of the House, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Freedom of speech is of fundamental importance to our Parliamentary democracy and to New Zealanders.
“Yesterday’s Speaker’s ruling has regrettably put the National Party in the worst of all positions. The Speaker has neither referred the matter to the Privileges Committee for a definitive public hearing, nor ruled in our favour as we believe he should.
“Instead he has attempted to stop us from holding the Government to account by drawing attention to Parliamentary proceedings. He has pushed the matter to a process which effectively gags us for a significant period of time.
“After the National Party pointed out that this would also include hundreds of videos from Labour, The Greens and NZ First when they were in Opposition, he made an amended ruling that this only applies to videos posted this year, therefore this only really affects the National Party.
“We have the highest respect for the role of the Speaker and his Office. But in the interests of freedom of expression and against censorship, we will keep the videos up to decisively bring this to a head.”
The Labour Party’s attempt at stopping the Opposition from highlighting what goes on in Parliament is a chilling move designed to stop freedom of expression, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Speaker Trevor Mallard has ruled that MPs have until 5pm on Friday to take down publicly available footage from Parliament that appears in their social media videos.
“Sound bites have been used this way for decades in all forms of media and by all New Zealand political parties. It’s the more recent accessibility of social media to highlight soundbites that has rankled the Labour Party and seen them petition the Speaker.
“The Speaker’s interim direction/ruling means parliamentarians cannot highlight soundbites from Parliamentary TV, but any outside media can. This is just a gag on the National Party.
“National believes it is important for New Zealanders to see how their elected representatives perform in Parliament, whether it’s Finance Minister Grant Robertson not knowing what one per cent of GDP is, Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni not knowing what CPI stands for, or Education Minister Chris Hipkins admitting mass redundancies as part of his Polytechnic reforms.
“What seems to have tipped Labour over the edge, prompting the privileges complaint, is a video of Labour MP and Chair of the powerful Finance and Expenditure Committee Deborah Russell describing ‘wellbeing’ as part of the ancient wisdom, where she shared the story of Diogenes casting his bowl aside to drink water just out of his hands.
“The video did not attack or criticise the Labour Party or the Government. It accurately reflects Dr Russell’s speech to Parliament about the meaning of ‘wellbeing’.
“Junior Labour Whip Kieran McAnulty laid the complaint with the Speaker about National using publicly available footage for the video. He wants to stop us from being able to show any Parliamentary footage.
“When National was in Government, Labour also used footage from Parliament. Often heavily edited. We didn’t complain as we stood by our record and we encourage political debate.
“National believes that Parliament should be accessible to all New Zealanders. We believe in robust political debate. We believe our videos make Parliamentary process accessible and engaging.
“Rather than a Standing Orders hearing, which will take months and is designed to gag the National Party, we will work to ensure this is resolved urgently.
“We are seeking that assurance from the Speaker, or we will consider other options.”
Tracey Martin needs to immediately explain how a convicted paedophile has been allowed to be involved in meetings at the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“It is impossible to comprehend how a person who has been convicted of such heinous crimes was allowed anywhere near meetings which included survivors of sexual abuse.
“The offender attended three meetings with members of the survivors’ advisory group. There were red flags early on with an email sent to the organisers saying he needed three days’ notice to tell the police if he needed to travel to attend meetings. That’s because he’s on the Sex Offenders Register and there needed to be assurances he wouldn’t be near children.
“The Royal Commission found out in May that this person had a criminal conviction but it was August before it got further details about what the conviction was for, it was during that time that he attended the meetings. The Royal Commission hasn’t been able to say whether it chased this information, or whether it was volunteered.
“To have this serious sexual offender involved in a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care is an abhorrent and gross breach of trust by Government. The survivors have already been betrayed and let down repeatedly by the State in circumstances similar to the offending by this man.
“When the Prime Minister announced this inquiry she said ‘Any abuse of children is a tragedy, and for those most vulnerable children in state care, it is unconscionable’.
“As a father and a former Crown Prosecutor, I find it unconscionable that a paedophile was allowed anywhere near this Royal Commission.
“Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin needs to be upfront about when she was made aware of this and what action she took. When she found out, she should have ensured immediately that he had absolutely no further connection with this inquiry.
“This is one of the biggest inquiries in New Zealand history, it will cost $78 million. The highly respected Chair has resigned, there have been a range of other issues, and now this. How can anyone now have confidence in this Royal Commission? The Minister must explain.”
The Government’s handling of Ihumātao has shown it has no respect for property rights, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“It’s been eight weeks since the Prime Minister told Fletcher Buildings it had to stop developing much needed houses on land that it owns. Since then, Fletchers has not been invited to be part of negotiations. It’s had to sit on the side-line as others have tried to take away its rights.
“It has set an appalling precedent for a Prime Minister to insert herself into the business of a private company and prevent it from building 480 much needed houses.
“No wonder business confidence has plummeted when the Prime Minister shows such blatant disregard for businesses and property rights.
“It doesn’t matter where in the world the Prime Minister is, it’s time for her to set the record straight. She needs to tell the protestors to go home, make it clear that the Government won’t be spending taxpayers’ dollars on buying the land and rule out any sort of deal.
“This matter doesn’t concern her. It’s time to butt out and give Fletchers back the land they legally own.”
The Prime Minister needs to put a stop to the mess that is Ihumātao and just say no to taxpayers’ money being used to buy back the land, or any other sort of deal being struck, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“This situation wouldn’t be out of control if the Prime Minister hadn’t inserted herself into it in the first place. Now she’s left the country and clearly she and her Ministers aren’t in agreement about what should happen next.
“Ministers have been careful about the language they’ve been using. Winston Peters was vague this morning about whether a deal would cut across other treaty settlements, saying ‘It depends how it’s handled, it depends on where the financial origins that enable the return to happen come from.’
“Clearly the Government is trying to come up with some sort of deal. The reality is, any sort of interference would call into question full and final treaty settlements and they should just butt out.
“Ministers now need to be upfront about who will visit Ihumātao. Will Kelvin Davis and Nanaia Mahuta visit in the coming days?
“New Zealanders will rightly be asking themselves now whether a treaty settlement, legal land buying and court processes can all be undone simply because of a protest and a Prime Minister naively saying she will get involved.
“The Government is in this position because the Prime Minister got herself involved. It’s now time for her to be clear that the Government will back off and not jeopardise all full and final treaty settlements.”
When Jacinda Ardern leaves tomorrow to go to the Rugby World Cup and the United Nations she will be leaving behind a mess at home, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Jacinda Ardern’s Government is in chaos following revelations it tried to cover up sexual assault allegations. Getting on a plane won’t give the victims the support that they need and the answers that they deserve.
“The country is in the midst of a growing measles epidemic which has affected more than a thousand people. One of the first things her Government did was drop immunisation targets which has resulted in fewer people being immunised against the deadly disease. As the Prime Minister herself once said ‘what gets measured, gets done.’
“Ms Ardern is flying away from the disaster that is KiwiBuild, one of the biggest public policy failures in a generation.
“The numbers of people on the dole have increased by 15,500 since her Government took office and the numbers of people on the social housing waiting list has more than doubled to 12,600.
“The latest GDP figures are due out this week. The economy has slowed sharply in the past two years, largely because her Government has created uncertainty, added many costs and demonstrated incompetence. Some economists are speculating this trend will continue.
“Instead of directing her departments to put as much resource as possible into fixing these messes, her biggest priority is the Christchurch Call, and, while the sentiment is nice, it won’t actually achieve anything.
“The Deputy Leader of the Labour Party has dismissed allegations of sexual assault as ‘rumours’ and Finance Minister Grant Robertson is embroiled in the Party’s poor handling of the sexual assault cover up.
“New Zealanders will be rightly thinking, who is here to show some leadership?”
It’s a pleasure to be here today. It’s my pleasure to address you as Leader of the Opposition and the largest party in our Parliament. Can I thank our hosts for their generous invitation to talk about the opportunities that exist between our two countries and in particular areas for greater cooperation between our respective business communities.
New Zealand's relationship with India is a deep and long-standing one. We are of course both committed members of the Commonwealth.
This relationship goes right back to the 1890s when travellers from India first arrived in New Zealand. It is to our mutual gain that this relationship has deepened significantly since then.
There are now some 200,000 people of Indian descent who call New Zealand home, working, studying, making a huge contribution to New Zealand society. My parliamentary colleagues Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi MP and Dr Parmjeet Parmar MP are fantastic examples of this. I’m very proud of the work they do for my party and New Zealand.
New Zealand and India are joined by a history of shared values and sacrifice.
New Zealand’s sacrifice at Gallipoli during World War One is often cited in our national story as we remember those who gave their lives defending freedom.
But we were not alone on ANZAC Cove. We stood shoulder to shoulder with our friends from India, along with Australians, Brits and French amongst others.
We stood together then and we will continue to stand together now defending shared values and freedom.
The most important value we share and have fought for is our commitment to democracy.
India is the world’s largest democracy. The most recent election in India saw more people voting than total votes ever cast in New Zealand during our 179 year history.
We trade with one another, sharing goods and services, creating wealth and prosperity for our citizens.
Our people visit each other, living in, learning in and experiencing each other’s countries.
While we sometimes test that friendship on the cricket pitch, I am constantly reminded of the enormous affection that India has for New Zealand. I am reliably informed that 1.25 billion Indians were supporting the Black Caps in the World Cup Final in July. In fact, it was said to me today here in India that the Black Caps didn’t actually lose the Cricket World Cup final, they just didn’t quite win it either.
We need to be ambitious about translating this mutual affection for each other’s countries into mutual opportunities. Leveraging every opportunity to do more with each other.
Travel and tourism
Visitors from India to New Zealand have more than doubled since 2011, with over 67,000 Indian tourists visiting New Zealand last year. India is New Zealand’s second largest source of international students, with over 29,000 Indian students studying in New Zealand.
Our systems are not perfect. Presently, too many Indian nationals wanting to visit New Zealand for tourism or study face unreasonably long delays with Immigration New Zealand. This did not used to be the case. Visa processing times have slipped significantly over the last two years. This uncertainty is now having a significant impact on tourism affecting smaller tourism businesses and international education providers who are losing out on this important market.
This year alone tens of millions of dollars have been lost to New Zealand companies because students and visitors have not had their visas issues in time to start their studies or take their trip. This level of uncertainty is unacceptable and I call on the New Zealand Government to invest in the Indian market and urgently fix this problem before more harm is done. This is not how we should be treating nationals from a respected and valued friend like India.
Earlier this year, I committed the National Party to a bold new trade agenda which includes completing the India-NZ FTA. We firmly believe that freer trade between nations is the best way to gain mutual benefits, to secure growth, and to build a more prosperous world.
In New Zealand, trade secures $82 billion worth of exports in goods and services, has helped create 600,000 jobs and is responsible for a higher standard of living and better quality of life for New Zealanders.
New Zealand’s story is one that shows the value free trade can deliver. It is not zero sum: when we trade together, we prosper together. India is an extremely important market for New Zealand. This year we reached over $3 billion in two way trade.
India currently imports about $680 million worth of goods like timber, wool, aluminium and fruit from New Zealand while New Zealand imports about $615 million worth of medicines, machinery and textiles from India.
Over the past five years our services trade has also increased quickly, since 2013 we have seen a 64 per cent increase and we have seen almost double the number of tourists from India come to New Zealand in the last year.
Many New Zealand businesses are bolstered by our relationship and directly benefit from strengthening the ties between our nations.
An example of this is Indian conglomerate Tata investing in a second consultancy office in New Zealand in Wellington recently opened by my Economic Development and Trade spokesman, Todd McClay.
While our economic prospects have been positive, by contrast, our two-way trade with India is only about one tenth of our trade with China. If we are to continue to grow the bilateral relationship, we must innovate and put our best foot forward.
John Key made two state visits to India in his time as Prime Minister. The last National Government saw frequent Ministerial visits to India to deepen and broaden our bilateral relationship.
Since the swearing-in of the current Government almost two years ago, no New Zealand Ministers have visited India. If we are going to make serious progress in our relationship with India, our Government needs to demonstrate our commitment.
The last National Government was deeply committed to the India relationship.
The cornerstone of this work was our hard work to initiate free trade negotiations between New Zealand and India.
Trade will continue to build in the absence of one but real opportunity and benefit for Indian and NZ businesses will only be properly realised when a trade deal is completed.
A free trade deal with India is important for a number of reasons:
- It would help address the current barriers to trade we currently see between our countries.
- New Zealand companies currently face high tariffs. For example, kiwifruit is charged a 30 per cent tariff at the border. Similarly, New Zealand milk and cheese is hit with high tariffs which place a barrier that, while not insurmountable for New Zealand companies, raise costs for Indian consumers.
- Increasing the competitiveness of New Zealand goods in India has the potential to make us both better off. Better access for New Zealand businesses allows us to connect with the huge and growing demand in India for such products. This is a win-win scenario.
- Seizing this opportunity for New Zealand businesses to sell India high quality products to support India’s growth. We already export hundreds of millions of dollars of logs, wool, aluminium and fruit but the growth of India coupled with a New Zealand committed to trade would help unleash further opportunities for our countries
We have also been actively engaging in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations which, if successful would see increased trade across the Asia-Pacific and between India and New Zealand.
Refreshing the NZ-India Strategy
The last National government launched the NZ Inc India Strategy, a plan for securing a greater partnership with India across economic and political lines.
That strategy set a number of goals including:
- Growing our trade to $2 billion by 2015, a step we have now easily surpassed
- Growing our merchandise exports and services trade
- Improving the bilateral investment framework and facilitating growth in the investment relationship.
- Engaging more deeply with India on regional and global issues that will impact on New Zealand’s future prosperity and security.
- And to raise the profile of New Zealand’s in India
The NZ-India strategy is almost a decade old. We need to look at it again in Government as an early priority and refresh our ambitions. We need to renew our commitment to a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement covering goods, services, and investment. We need to take into account the growing influence of the Indo-Pacific. We need to improve our political contacts. In short, we will make India a key priority for foreign affairs and trade policy.
We know through experience that transport links between countries are the fastest accelerators of growth in tourism and trade. When I was Minister of Transport, I signed an air services agreement with the Indian Government to allow for code-sharing of airline services between New Zealand and India. It is now time for us to prepare for the next step. The Government I lead will champion a direct flight between Auckland and Mumbai as the first stage in deepening our relationship.
What we now need to do
Today we have opportunities in front of us that we must seize if we want to see this relationship deepen, grow and prosper.
India is the world’s fastest growing major economy in recent years and by 2020 is expected to be world’s 5th largest.
With that growth, there is the opportunity for increased trade.
New Zealand must ensure we are not sitting on our laurels. New Zealand understands that India is a fast growing country and we want to ensure the foundation of our relationship we built over the past years is built on.
Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges and National’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee will depart today to visit India and China.
“National understands the importance of trade and building relationships with our international partners.
“During this visit we will meet and talk with New Zealand businesses, hear about new trade opportunities and promote trade between our countries,” Mr Bridges says.
While in India Mr Bridges and Mr Brownlee will be accompanied by Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi and will stay in New Delhi and visit Amritsar. They will attend the Namaste Pacific event hosted by the New Zealand High Commission. They will also meet with New Zealand businesses operating in India and meet with members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government.
In China they will be accompanied by Jian Yang and will visit Shanghai, Beijing and Xiamen. They will attend the 21st China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) where they will open the New Zealand Pavilion. Mr Bridges will also speak at The Belt and Road Agricultural Products and Material (E-Business) Trading Fair and address the New Zealand Studies Centre, Xiamen University.
“China and India make up 35 per cent of the world’s population. By 2050 China and India are expected to be the two largest economies in the world. We need to ensure that we’re open for business with these important markets,” Mr Bridges says.
“This week National released our Economic Discussion Document where we proposed committing to doubling our two way trade with China from $30 billion to $60 billion over the next decade. We also committed to aggressively pursuing free trade agreements in new markets and questioned whether we should eliminate all remaining tariffs on imports.
“This trip will help us form our trade policies. We will strengthen our diplomatic relationships, show our support for New Zealand business, foster relationships and reinforce our long friendly relationships with these countries.”