The wrongness of unifying Industry Training Organizations

It has been announced that there are significant – and controversial – changes looming for New Zealand’s tertiary education sector. And as I seek to enrol once more at a tertiary institution (Massey University), casting my eye across the landscape of New Zealand tertiary education I cannot help but wonder whether this is not simply a case of change for the sake of change.

I studied at the Open Polytechnic from 2017-2018 to complete a Graduate Diploma of Sustainable Management. My experience with the Open Polytechnic was very positive. The teaching staff are competent; queries I had were answered in good time and respectfully and I was appropriately resourced for the study that I was expected to complete.

Perhaps it is not surprising that I am therefore alarmed that the Minister of Education is proposing to merge all 12 Industry Training Organizations (I.T.O.’s) and 16 Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology (I.T.P.’s) into a single massive organization. Also not surprisingly, there are numerous agencies and industry sector groups that are genuinely concerned about what the proposals of the Minister, Chris Hipkins, mean for them and for the sector.

In fairness there are some institutions that need a significant rev up in terms of their conduct and one or two might as a consequence find themselves not able to satisfactorily meet the demands realistically expected of them. These would be the weakest links and as such, possibly made to close. But I cannot support the merger of all of the Polytechnics and Wananga into a single mega polytechnic. To me this is consistent with the old adage about putting all of the eggs into one basket. But it goes further in potentially causing job losses at established campuses that we cannot afford in a sector where understaffing is already chronic. It also smacks of another problem with which New Zealand unfortunately already has much experience with in other industries: centralization.

Instead I believe that urban areas with 100,000 people or more should have one Polytechnic. That would be Auckland, Manukau, the Napier-Hastings urban area, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. On top of that, a polytechnic that covers all distance and remote learning, which on current performance would be the Open Polytechnic. Similarly a condensation of I.T.P.’s might be necessary as well, but before that happens the Minister should reopen the proposals for further public consultation including listening to the very people for whom these institutions exist in the first place, and without which, they are nothing: the students.

Ministers and bureaucrats can have all the ideas in the world about how the teaching framework in New Zealand should look, but if it is not benefiting the very people it was set up to, then there is a problem. In other parts of the education sector we are seeing bad policy made without student input by previous governments starting to unravel, and with it their education is potentially unravelling as well. Which is not a good thing for any Minister of Education to have happen.

Warnings of “revolution” if gun buy back promises not honoured

The owner of an ammunition sales business believes New Zealand will be ripe for revolution if the Government does not honour its gun buy back promises. Paul Clark, who owns New Zealand Ammunition, has told a journalist that there is the risk of violent reaction by gun owners who think the buy back scheme is short changing them.

When interviewed by journalist Lisa Owen and asked what he meant by revolution, Mr Clark responded that it meant literally that. He was sure that there is is a high probability of a physical revolution in New Zealand by gun owners. He went to say that many were planning to skirt the law by hiding their weapons.

I have no knowledge of Mr Clark or his ammunition business, but I find his commentary consistent with that of firearm activists who think that the Government is out to ban all guns. This is extremely dangerous, misleading and if you ask me slightly paranoid in that it is consistent with some of the commentary one would expect from an organization like the National Rifle Association of America.

And what on earth would one want to do with an AR-15 anyway? The sole purpose of AR-15 type weapons is to kill on a large and indiscriminate scale, in the way that the Christchurch mosques attacker, the Nevada hotel gun man, the Sandy Hook elementary school gun man.

Maybe Mr Clark is just sounding a warning that has been passed on to him. As one selling munitions he would be expected to know a bit about the clientele who come to him for their ammunition needs. Maybe there are people on the rifle ranges around the country who honestly feel threatened by this. It is true that the Government did move with almost indecent haste to push legislation through Parliament, but that was the time to do it, when political parties (A.C.T. aside) were united by disgust. And yes, there is more legislation coming, but that was signalled clearly at the time that the first tranche was pushed through in April.

These people whoever they are need to understand though that New Zealand changed irrevocably on 15 March 2019. 51 perfectly innocent people were brutally slaughtered in a callous and cowardly act that New Zealanders honestly thought only happened overseas. Many of us were absolutely horrified at the way the N.R.A., and certain overseas politicians tried to make it about their gun agenda when they have nothing of relevance to New Zealand. We suddenly realized our firearm laws were not up to scratch. We found out that no accurate records of who has what and how they obtained it in terms of firearms, and that our customs are not able to do their jobs adequately because of chronic underfunding and resourcing.

I also fail to understand where he gets the idea he might not be able to take this to court. This is not about banning ones basic rights to challenge unjust laws, but about making sure that there is no prospect of another 15 March 2019 type incident ever happening in New Zealand again.

Errant stores dragging liquor industry down

A business that operates bottle stores and a dairy in Auckland has been heavily fined after the Labour Inspectorate found it to be in substantial breach of New Zealand labour laws. The business which was taken to the Employment Relations Authority by seven migrant workers who complained about their working conditions, lack of pay and accommodation arrangements was ordered to pay $196,542 – $96,542 in wages owed and a $100,000 penalty.

This is the latest in a string of liquor store violations of employment law or some aspect of their liquor licence. The Labour Inspectorate notes that 60 stores have been found wanting because of such breaches since 2012.

It was not said in the article whether Mr Reddy would be stripped of his managers licence. Irrespective, I do believe he should be made to undertake correctional training under supervision with a warning about long term consequences if further violations come to light.

What really bothers me is the number of people in this industry, but also the hospitality sector who are not from New Zealand and yet seem to think that because the authorities in their country of origin were corrupt, that ours will be too. More to the point, I wonder what it would take to get the message home to prospective managers from other countries, that compliance with New Zealand law is not something they have a choice about.

12 stores in the Bottle-O chain are currently facing investigations into alleged abuses of New Zealand law.

Without suggesting that the owner of the franchise is culpable, such a large number of stores being simultaneously investigated by the Labour Inspectorate does raise some serious questions about the culture of those places.

I believe that the communities in which they operate deserve to know whether these stores are compliant with New Zealand law. Stores that are found to have breached the law, should be made to display a notice in their front window for 12 months noting that they are in breach. The notice should mention what the breach was and should only be able to be taken down by a Labour Inspectorate staff member at the end of the notice period and assuming that no further violations occur in that time.

Should they commit further offences, their trading licence should be suspended until such a time as the Labour Inspectorate is satisfied that the operators are now fully compliant. Any further abuse of the law following that should be construed as a third strike and the offending premises shuttered.


Time for a Constitution Party?

As the Queen begins to wind down her daily activities, and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh enjoys retirement it is time to consider what sort of constitutional arrangement New Zealand wants going forward. New Zealand does not have a formal constitution per se – its current arrangement is a framework of six Acts of Parliament and the Bill of Rights 1990.

I have tried to outline my thoughts on the best process to revisit our arrangements, which I expect will come under scrutiny once the Queen dies. But before then there is considerable work to be done. New Zealand needs to have a debate about our interpretation of our constitutional framework – can we even consider it to be that, and if not what is it?

Whilst I have outlined my ideas, I have wondered about whether or not New Zealand needs a Constitution Party or similar in Parliament to push the issue. Of course, like every other party it needs to be established and needs to get into Parliament. Would someone like Sir Geoffrey Palmer be a suitable person to lead it – an obscure figure from the political wilderness would be meaningless. Colin Craig reckoned he could lead the Conservative Party into Parliament. After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money he and his party managed 2.2% at the 2011 election.

With only a few years until the Queen either abdicates or dies, New Zealand cannot afford to continue taking a “she’ll be right” approach to our constitutional arrangements. But without some sort of organization or party to turn the spotlight on something many are happy ignoring, the potential for a problematic knee jerk “what do we do now” approach exists.

New Zealand Defence Force Capability Plan unveiled

Today the New Zealand Defence Force unveiled its Capability Plan, which comprises the capital expenditures necessary for the Defence Force to function over the next 15-20 years. The Capability Plan includes announcements already made about acquisitions such as the P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and the just announced C-130J replacements for the existing C-130H Hercules. It also signals the direction that future spending priorities will take, with preliminary plans to replace various Navy ships and Army vehicles also provided for.

Some of the money has already been allocated, such as that for the P-8 Poseidon and C-130J aircraft. Much of the remainder is in future budgets, the exact size and timing of which will be determined by the Government of the day.

But perhaps the most interesting feature is the announcement of new types of equipment likely to be purchased. Acknowledging their ability to patrol vast areas remotely, gather data and – if needed – deliver a rocket to any intruder that refuses to make haste leaving, drones appear to be a potential future asset. No budget or timetable or details on the type/s of drones likely to be purchased have yet been announced.

Otherwise much of the Capability Plan appears to be about overhauling the equipment that provide existing capabilities or replacing it. Items in line for replacement include the controversial Light Armoured Vehicle III types purchased by the Government of Prime Minister Helen Clark, the Prinzgauer jeeps. The Royal New Zealand Navy frigates H.M.N.Z.S. Te Kaha and Te Mana are in line for replacement sometime in the 2030’s, having just had a substantial overhaul of their systems in Canada.

An acknowledgement of the growing range of situations the New Zealand Defence Force is likely to find itself thrust into is perhaps shown by the announcement that the Army will probably grow to 6,000 personnel. That would be about 50% of all New Zealand Defence Force personnel if 2017 numbers are maintained. Acknowledging that with the growth of the Army, the Navy and Air Force may find themselves in an expanded range of situations as well, I suspect their numbers might increase slightly to enable those two services to contribute effectively.

I think the by passing of the tendering process was a mistake, as there were other options available for the C-130H replacement type. They included the Boeing C-17, Airbus A400M and Kawasaki C-2. The former all but ruled itself out due to size and possible cost if a plane-by-plane replacement was done. The other two are medium size transport aircraft.

Two other interesting things to watch will be what the LAV III’s and frigates are replaced with. As the frigates have had a systems upgrade they are not likely to be replaced until at least 2030. The LAV III’s on the other hand will need replacing sometime in the next few years.

All in all, an interesting time to be in the New Zealand Defence Force. And a timely acknowledgement that the strategic situation around us is unfortunately not the benign environment envisaged by former Prime Minister Helen Clark back in 2000.