Winston Peters wants Level 1 now – Not so fast Winston


It has been revealed that New Zealand First leader Winston Peters wants New Zealand to go to Level 1 now. Mr Peters, who believes we have been at Level 2 for too long, said that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern admitted at a Cabinet Meeting that she thought we need to get to Level 1 as quickly as possible.

Not so fast Mr Peters. Whilst it is true that at the time of sending this to publish, there had been no new cases for 5 consecutive days, New Zealand needs to 28 consecutive days of no new cases to completely break all transmission. After 28 days with no new cases, two full incubation cycles will have passed. After 28 days if the current run continues, there should also be no active cases left in New Zealand.

Then we can move to Level 1. And I would fully expect to do so at that point. I understand the desire to get out of Level 1 quickly, but COVID19’s tail is still thrashing around. There are still 22 live cases that need to be fully recovered before we can move along from running at 2/3 speed.

At Level 1 COVID19 will be like a bad storm disappearing into the distance, and people can get on with cleaning up the mess it left behind – all the while hoping that when the borders reopen a second storm does not come marching in and put all the hard done recovery work back to square one. New Zealand will need to have a much more robust quarantine system in place than the one currently in use to protect the country from those who are coming from jurisdictions where COVID19 has not been so well managed.

We will need to work closely with Australia and our Pasifika neighbours whose weak health systems cannot sustain the level of care that COVID19 hospital patients require. So it was welcome news yesterday to hear that $37 million has been allocated to supporting research for a vaccine and to help ensure that our Pasifika neighbours do not miss out because of nationalist politics in larger countries.

For myself personally, Level 2 still seems like Level 2.5 despite the easing of restrictions. My work requires cars to be sanitized before they are handed over to customers. Our staff room still observes social distancing and higher level sanitization requirements. We bring our own cutlery and glasses. I still observe the distancing where possible in public.

At Level 1, with COVID19 hopefully permanently consigned to the history books, we can overhaul hygiene legislation with the hindsight gained from from nine weeks of lock down. Among the changes I want to see are:

  • Requiring all people entering bars, restaurants, cafes and eateries to sanitize their hands
  • Require inspectors to check the availability of sanitizer stations as part of their (re)licencing of premises
  • Suspend licences for any premises that are non-compliant; cancel licences for any premises that do not meet requirements when the second check happens

 

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 49


Yesterday was DAY 49 of New Zealand in lock down as we fought the COVID19 pandemic. It was also the end of LEVEL 3 lock down. It ended at 2359 hours last night. The LEVEL 2 transition to the post COVID19 future began at 0000 hours 14 May 2020.

The last couple of days in Parliament have been a massive bun fight over the legality of the new COVID19 legislation ensuring that the Government management of it under LEVEL and LEVEL 1 is legal. Without this legislation it would be nearly impossible for the Government to successfully wind up the war on COVID19.

It is legislation with some critical flaws. Some have been repealed to avoid potential legal challenges or because public compliance was going to become an issue. Some are still there:

  1. Initially the Government wanted a 2 year sunset clause that would see the legislation expire at the end of a two year period – National succeeded in getting this amended to a Parliamentary vote every 90 days or so
  2. An enforcement officer may enter, without a warrant, any land, building, craft, vehicle, place, or thing if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a person is failing to comply with any aspect of a section 11 order (S. 20)
  3. The speed with which this has had to go through Parliament means there is no way it can possibly be solidly constructed legislation – in order for the legal basis of LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 1 to exist, the legislation had to pass by 2359 hours, which meant no public input and no select committee stage
  4. Section 11 orders appear to be a watered down version of the provisions of Section 70(1)(m) of the Health Act 1956
  5. Section 24(4) appears to void any legal appeal

The opposition has come from all parts of the spectrum N.G.O.’s such as Amnesty International talked about the concerns that they have for the . Human rights activists have registered their dismay as well, whilst people like Lizzie Marvelly expressed concern that it would unfairly target Maori.

The right have also expressed criticism. National, despite winning some concessions opposes the bill and will not be voting for it in Parliament. Nor will its traditional ally A.C.T. As I cannot recall any other time when legislation was crafted like this and with such haste – the passage of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Act was not attempted until late March, 2011, some several weeks after the Christchurch earthquake – I have noted the short time frames that have been provided in the advent of Section 11 orders. These can be made with 48 hours written notice; can if the Director General believes a COVID19 outbreak to be in progress be made in shorter time frames. Notably – and alarmingly – any appeal appears to be effectively void by Section 24(4).

As some kind of legal basis needs to exist to enable LEVEL 2 and LEVEL 1 to have any legal basis, this legislation will invariably pass since the Greens and New Zealand First are voting for it in addition to Labour. However that does not mean it is good legislation – it is crap and when you have both sides of the House attacking it and look at why this was not drafted earlier in the COVID19 emergency, it becomes clear that the Government did not do due diligence.

The only thing that we can hope for is that New Zealanders start to wake up to the fact that our constitutional framework is not adequate for keeping Government in check; that we need to strengthen the checks and balances. And soon. We also need to introduce civics in schools quickly because the longer we do not teach students about how the New Zealand legal system, Government and so forth work, the greater the number that do know understand their rights and responsibilities, will be when we need them the most.

N.Z. in lock down: DAY 21


Yesterday was DAY 21 of New Zealand in lock down as we try to fight the COVID19 pandemic.

Prior to the COVID19 pandemic Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had come off a wave of support that formed out of public admiration for her leadership around the Christchurch mosques terrorist attack. And indeed a few weeks ago, just before lock down started, TIME featured her on their front page with an in depth look at where the Prime Minister would take New Zealand following the terrorist attack. It talked about her domestic challenges including the gun legislation, the decision to rid New Zealand of fossil fuels by 2050 and the frustrations around Kiwi Build.

As the glow from the 15 March attacks faded, National tried to get some traction with claims that the Government was going to irreversibly harm the economy by getting rid of fossil fuels. It tried to attack the weaker Ministers in the Cabinet and goad them into making mistakes that would diver Ms Ardern’s attention.

National tried unleashing the attack dog Judith “Crusher” Collins on the Government’s justice policy as small businesses continued to be pummelled by a wave of crime, committed by people on drugs or stealing to order so that they could fund their drug habit. But whereas National has had success in the past, people are starting to realize that “lock ’em up” is not working any more and that those prisoners who do get released have no support networks to fall back on, fall back in with the same crowd that got them into jail in the first place.

Some people are saying Labour has won the election without it even being fought. Yes, Labour has certainly improved its chances of forming the next Government, but to say that the election campaign is already over before it has officially started is excessively optimistic. And although Ms Ardern is the clear driving force behind the high support for the Government at the moment, there are several liabilities in her Cabinet who need to be dealt with.

Phil Twyford is most probably a nice person, but he is completely out of his depth with the portfolios that he is Minister of the Crown for. His handling of Kiwi Build has shown that he has little idea of what is going on in his ministry and the numbers that he puts up are not matching the reality on the ground. Shane Jones is a divisive, combative and – some might say – a bit dirty in the mouth Minister who seems to believe that he knows better than the Prime Minister. Whilst Mr Jones has announced significant aid for regions all around New Zealand, he has sought to undermine the Government when it comes to fisheries compliance by speaking against cameras on board fishing trawlers. And finally there is David Clark. Mr Clark’s doom as a Minister of the Crown is already pretty much sealed, but if he is seen doing something that violates the lock down laws again, he should be dismissed from office forthwith. His tenure as Minister of Health only continues because Ms Ardern needs a stable crew on board right now.

In saying this, I think National would be very nervous about any polls that come out about now. My picks for percentage of party votes right now look like this:

  • NATIONAL – 38 (46 seats)
  • LABOUR – 47 (56 seats)
  • NZ FIRST – 5 (6 seats)
  • GREENS – 8 (10 seats)
  • A.C.T. – 1 (2 seats)

National are a well funded, well resourced party. But the extent to which the world has changed in the last six weeks and the likely desire by New Zealanders to make sure that some lasting good comes of the lock down, might be sharply at odds with Simon Bridges very unoriginal view of how National would govern should it win. Disaster socialism won Labour the 1935 election because it put people back into work when the economy was copping a thrashing from the Great Depression. Disaster socialism might well be Labour’s saviour in 2020 as the economy cops a thrashing from COVID19.

It is too early to be absolutely sure of this, but unless National come up with an absolute blinder that balances the desires of New Zealanders with a conservative agenda AND gets people back into work, I don’t fancy Mr Bridges chances come election day.

Shane Jones a potential liability to the Government


New Zealand First Member of Parliament and Minister for Regional Development, Shane Jones, is no stranger to controversy. Over the last two decades, Mr Jones has had a colourful time in Parliament, having to quit after allegations he helped a Chinese national gain citizenship. Since his return to Parliament in the 2017 General Election, Mr Jones’ time in Parliament has been no less colourful. But is it helping the Government he works for?

Across the last three years, Mr Jones has been involved in an array of controversies. Some of them have not really been anything more than a storm in a teacup, but others like his donations from various fishing companies, comments on Indian students and support for a transporting business owner accused of flouting the law, have the potential to be damaging.

Mr Jones’ insistence on preferential treatment of the fishing companies such as Sea Lord, Talleys and others extends to:

  • attempts to water down proposed marine reserves around New Zealand
  • plans to install surveillance cameras on fishing boats being delayed – intended as a way of identifying those who abuse crew, dump illegally and misrepresent what they catch
  • Donations being made to the New Zealand First Foundation

Following that there was the case of a transport company run by a relative of Mr Jones called Stan Semenoff Logging, which was accused of hiring Filipino workers. Semenoff Logging, which had been ordered off the road over 116 separate traffic offences clocked by drivers of its trucks, was found to have concerned Filipino workers whose evidence was being used in a New Zealand Transport Agency case against S.S.L. Mr Jones confirmed that he had talked to the N.Z.T.A. about the case in what National M.P. Paul Goldsmith contends is a breach of the rules in the Cabinet Manual about what a Minister can and cannot do.

In a more recent case, Mr Jones launched a tirade against Indian students which he said unfettered immigration was out of control in a thinly veiled commentary about “everyone who comes here from Delhi. He referred to the critics of his comments as “the woke left” and reminded them that “charges of xenophobia are never going to work against me” and that “whakapapa in New Zealand goes back 1,000 years”.

Mr Jones was also made to correct numerous Question Time answers regarding meetings he had had with representatives of various interests after it emerged his official had not recorded 61 meetings.

Mr Jones undermines the Government’s claim to transparency when he acts outside the rules of the Cabinet Manual. He also risks getting New Zealand offside with ethnic minorities in this country, irrespective of how long his whakapapa goes back in New Zealand – a year or a millennia, Mr Jones needs to watch his tongue.

 

 

Political donations issues highlight need to change the law


Over the last few months, questions have been raised about how New Zealand First has handled political donations with regards to the Electoral Finance Act. That has been referred to the Police, who promptly sent it to the Serious Fraud Office. It has led to the Leader of the Opposition, Simon Bridges and his Deputy Paula Bennett both saying that the Government needs to stand down New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters as happened in 2008.

A couple of days ago it emerged National had received two significant donations of $100,000 which had to be declared but are alleged to have been broken into substantially smaller chunks to avoid disclosure laws. Now former Member of Parliament, Member for Howick Jami-Lee Ross has been charged along with three Chinese nationals by the Serious Fraud Office over them.

Mr Ross was hospitalized in 2018 following a mental break down during which time he levelled damaging allegations against the National Party. They after it was revealed that National might not have declared a significant donation from one of the three Chinese nationals, Zhang Yikun. Mr Ross was expelled from the National Party and became an independent whilst continuing to hold the seat of Howick, but as an independent M.P.

These two cases, separate as they are, highlight clearly the need for decisive action on the subject of electoral finance law. Is the Act, which was passed in 2006 following revelations nearly every party in Parliament misused money in the 2005 and had to pay it back, no longer working? If so, what needs to be changed?

These questions and others about our E.F.A. will be asked by more people as we approach the 2020 General Election. With confidence in politicians and the system that elects them to office falling, being seen to want positive changes that make the Act fairer and more accountable to the New Zealand public, is not so much a “good idea” any more as it is essential. Minister of Justice Andrew Little appeared to realize when he told New Zealand that he might bypass the Justice Committee in order to get changes through the House before the 2020 General Election.

The Electoral Commission says that parties must report immediate donations and/or loans in excess of $30,000.

Parties may keep up to $1,500 of any anonymous donation, and up to $1,500 of any donation from an overseas person.

If an anonymous donor gives more than that, the party must pass the extra amount to us within 20 working days. If an overseas person gives more than that, the party must return the extra amount to them or, if that isn’t possible, to us within 20 working days.

However, a party can keep more of an anonymous donation if it is a ‘donation protected from disclosure’. These are payments that we make to the party on behalf of donors that want to remain anonymous. Between two successive elections, parties can receive up to $307,610 in donations protected from disclosure. If a donation will take a party over their limit, we will return the excess to the donor.

Along with the two donation issues mentioned above, there is also concern that China is trying to buy influence in New Zealand politics by getting Members of Parliament involved with Chinese Communist Party activities. At some of these events, I have little doubt that donations are being talked about in a broad sense.