A life of hard work, honest endeavour and public service
At his media conference this week with ACT President John Boscawen, ACT Leader John Banks said that early in his life he had made a commitment to hard work, honest endeavour and public service. This he said was to try to balance the family ledger.
These ACT values were at the fore this week when he put both party and country first. ACT he said needed a circuit breaker and a change in narrative. He intended to provide that by announcing he would see out the term serving the people of Epsom as their local MP, but would not seek re-election. He also said he intended to stand down as Party Leader at the ACT annual conference on 1 March 2014. This would allow him to focus on clearing his name. These decisions would maximise the opportunity for the ACT candidate to earn the confidence of the people of Epsom and the new ACT Leader to build a team to earn the necessary party votes for ACT.
The next election will be close. Like last time, he said ACT and Epsom can and will make the difference. He concluded his prepared remarks by saying he believed in a country where everybody has the freedom to achieve. Whether New Zealand can be a more open, prosperous, and enterprising nation, with its focus firmly on the future, will depend on ACT succeeding.
Towards a new candidate for Epsom; towards a new ACT Leader
ACT President John Boscawen acknowledged John Banks’ long public service and told the media conference that the ACT Board would meet shortly to open nominations for the ACT candidacy in Epsom and to determine the process for a new ACT Leader. He said the ACT Board would be considering options to engage and activate the involvement of the membership of the Party so the ACT Board can make the best choice of Leader. He told the media he was absolutely confident that ACT can succeed in 2014.
ACT the party of principle - National the party of power
Those within the orbit of the ACT party (and those outside it) have been regularly appearing in the media over the past few days on what’s next for ACT. Most of this coverage has been helpful. The Prime Minister said on Newstalk ZB that there was a voting demographic that can be earned by ACT. He helpfully said that ACT’s pitch was putting more backbone into a National Led Government – but hastily added he didn’t personally agree with the pitch. Former leader Rodney Hide was on RadioLive reminding commentators that there was a process to go through to earn the confidence of ACT members and the Epsom electorate. ACT had the opportunity to renew itself with a fresh pitch and new people for 2014. He said it was unlikely he would seek a return to Parliament but one should never say never.
Dr Jamie Whyte told National Radio that what attracted him to the ACT Party was its values; we are the party of principle whereas National is the party of power. He said he had spent most of his life teaching others about free markets and individual liberty; he thought it was time for him to shift from talking to taking action. Hear Jamie here.
Tracey Martin wrong on Whangaruru Partnership School
Winston First groupies are certainly an odd lot. Tracy Martin (Winston’s Deputy Leader) and member of Parliament’s education and science committee is no exception. This week, she wrongfully claimed that Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru had run out of money and would not get up and running. She was even more outraged that the sponsors of the Kura had purchased a farm and wanted to know if the taxpayer could recover the property.
Ms Martin scrutinised the legislation and policy for Partnership Kura, she should be able to answer her own questions. Partnership schools are not state schools, so they are not provided land and buildings. Other than the non-provision of buildings and land, they are funded for their establishment in the same manner as new state schools. Therefore the taxpayer has no direct interest or risk in any property purchased by a Kura. If a school does not perform there are a number remedies available to the Government under the sponsorship contract including the ability to recover money for services not provided. Just like any other contract.
A sea of debt, a big deficit but they have growth
Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne made the Autumn Statement to the Commons this week outlining the UK Treasury’s view about growth. He said the UK economy would grow by 1.2% next year, 2.0% in 2014, 2.3% in 2015, 2.7% in 2016 and 2.8% in 2017 outpacing forecasts for Germany and France. He told MPs that borrowing would drop from £159 billion 2009 -10 to a forecast £31 billion in 2017-18 and indicated that the deficit would continue to drop to a predicted small surplus at the end of the OBR forecast period. A useful summary of the Autumn Statement is here.
Hamba kahle Madiba
"Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do."
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, (18 July 1918 to 5 Dec 2013) Father of modern South Africa.
More Partnership Schools on the way
Education Minister Hekia Parata announced the second round of Partnership School applications on Thursday. The successful schools in this round will open day one, term one 2015, and they will join the five existing Partnerships already approved and due to open early next year. John Banks welcomed the announcement. He said that what Partnership Schools do is give educators greater flexibility in return for greater accountability for getting better results for some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable students.
Cabinet has also given in principle approval for annual rounds. That means more Partnership Schools in the future, assuming the funding is available and there is political will.
Real parental choice in education has long been a part of ACT values. Partnership schools make this choice real for more parents. Only ACT’s presence in Parliament can ensure this choice keeps expanding. Labour and the unions will make every effort to shut the door on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Lines in the Sand
The Surveyor-General has drawn up the provisional electoral boundaries for the 2014 and 2017 elections. With MMP and List seats there is less drama around boundaries than there once was. Two key features: change is necessary in Christchurch because the electorate of Christchurch East is down 10,000 with another 30,000 gone from the rest of the City. Big changes are also in store in North Western Auckland with the creation of a marginal Labour-leaning seat. The new seat will have a knock-on effect on other Auckland electorates, many of which are over quota.
CCCP boosters will be disappointed. Conservative Leader Colin Craig would not win the new west Auckland electorate on paper, and has no show now that Hon Paula Bennett has decided she will contest it. Mr Craig is now hinting that the Nats should gas new National MP for Rodney, Mark Mitchell. The media are offering up Foreign Minister, Murray McCully’s East Coast Bays. Mr McCully (reputedly part of the Nat’s Kitchen Cabinet) says he has not be party to any discussions.
The electorate of Epsom loses some of the suburb of Epsom in the south west corner of the seat. Other than this there are no other changes. The boundaries will be finalised next year.
Yoyo dieting in the public sector
The Nats have passed the five year anniversary of the PM and Minister of Finance working together. There is no doubt that both Key and English like each other, which is in stark contrast to many of Labour’s senior MPs. More importantly, it also marks five years of the policy of spending restraint – where spending rises, just more slowly than in the past. One key measure of this restraint has been to hold and reduce the size of the core public service. The NZ Herald reports that the Nat’s attempt to hold down the core public sector is starting to falter.
Self-imposed spending restraint is not new in the public sector. Prior to Roger Douglas government expanded and contracted with the political cycle. Helen Clark returned to this old pattern in her last term between 2005 to 2008. The latest bounce back in core public service shows that managerialism only gets you so far; the only real way to hold down the growth of government is to permanently hand back the wealth to those who create it.
Quiet achiever of the week
RT thinks John Key does more for women in politics than Helen Clark ever did (can anyone remember any of her Ministers who were women? What about significant portfolios?). This week’s award goes to Hon Amy Adams, Environment Minister. Adams a former lawyer has been given the huge job of RMA reform. She is also dealing with the global corporation Greenpeace (and their New Zealand Parliamentary mouthpiece) the Greens on petroleum prospecting in the deep sea. She is right; the risks to the environment from prospecting are small. The potential benefits to our economy are huge.
“All at sea” award of the week
Sticking with the theme, this one goes to Greenpeace executive director Bunny McDiarmid, Co-Skipper (there couldn’t be just one) of the good ship Vega. Yes, Co-Captain McDiamid found the prospecting site and occupied the sea above it…..for all of a couple of minutes most likely. Time and, more importantly, tide wait for no man.
Upcoming Events -
- Tomorrow, ACT Canterbury Regional Forum, Saturday 23 November, 2.30 - 4.30pm Cotswold Hotel, Papanui Rd, Christchurch. Come and hear Dr Eric Crampton on "Property Rights in Disaster zones" and "WHY we need ACT" from Dr Jamie Whyte, Author and Philosopher. John Boscawen ACT President will also be attending and will speak.
- Tomorrow evening, Saturday 23 November, 6.30pm onwards-President's Dinner at the Phuket Restaurant, 513 Papanui Rd, Papanui Christchurch. John Boscawen and ACT volunteers will be resting up after a hard day’s work of distributing direct mail to Christchurch East voters. Contact Brogan Powlesland for a booking at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Christchurch East By-election - if you are able to help deliver mail over the weekend, your assistance will be very much appreciated. Please contact Brogan Powlesland at 021 129 6391
Partnership Schools are on the way
Tomorrow (details here) is the opportunity for Aucklanders to hear Nick Hyde who is the CEO of the Vanguard Military School one of the five new Partnership Schools championed by ACT. Nick and his family have a proven track record of leadership in the education sector with running the Advanced Training Centre’s Military Prep School. You can read about the other successful Partnership Schools | Kura Hourua announced by John Banks and Hekia Parata here.
Getting the public policy right around expanding school choice and empowering the parents of some of our most vulnerable students is only half the battle. ACT’s own Catherine Isaac played a major role in making sure that New Zealand got world leading policy. Best evidence also shows that great schools require great school leaders. Come along a join us at the Auckland North Regional Forum tomorrow if you can– you will be inspired.
Goosing CCCP polling; Labour tanks the economy grows
For the past fortnight the Nats have been talking up Colin Craig’s Conservative Party (CCCP) in an attempt to goose his polling numbers with the journalists joining in. For the journalists, Craig has all the potential of being New Zealand’s version of Australia’s Clive Palmer. That makes for great copy if your beat is politics. It also sets up a nice pattern. As Mr Craig makes up policy on the trot; is it a bottomline? If so, how does Mr Key respond?
The real take-out of the polls has been missed. Labour’s leadership change hasn’t worked. What is also becoming clear is that while Mr Cunliffe is bright, he is also lazy. He isn’t on top of his material in Parliament. It also comes across in his glibness; what sounds profound on first hearing does stack up on closer inspection. The more Labour MPs profess to be energized, fired up and good to go the more unhappy many look. Rodney Hide has a thesis that Labour is still more pre-occupied with itself than the country, despite the best efforts of Mr Cunliffe.
Out of the GFC shadow
Poll numbers are not the only numbers that matter in politics. Those around economic fundamentals also matter. The post GFC economy is emerging. Economic growth is up to 2.7 per cent to the year to June and likely to hit over 3.5 per cent in election year – the ANZ Bank says they see a potential for economic growth at over 4 per cent. Unemployment is down, inflation, current account deficit, and 90 day Bank Bills interest rates are all up consistent with real economic growth. With a growing sense of economic security those voters that Mr Cunliffe needs to win are not the stay-at-homes but those that swing between Labour and the Nats; they are less likely to shift away from Mr Key in an election about economic credibility.
Fast followers now out on a limb?
This week Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott introduced his Bill to repeal the carbon tax with Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey introducing an accompanying measure to repeal the mining tax. While the Bills have to get through the Australian Senate, these taxes are dead.
It places New Zealand in a tricky position with our Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). The purpose of our ETS was to ensure that we were seen to do our bit to reduce carbon emissions even if in fact the ETS didn’t actually reduce emissions. Officials freely conceded that any drop in New Zealand’s emissions would make no difference to the climate anyway. No, what mattered was we were seen to be doing our bit. New Zealand was to be a fast follower not a world leader. With the moves in Australia, New Zealand is not only a world leader with our ETS we are out on a limb. Only Europe has an ETS and it is nowhere near as broad or as ambitious as our one. What is more there won’t be ETS or a carbon tax in the US or Canada any time soon. Surely being a fast follower now means dumping the ETS?
Emotional intelligence bypass of the week
This one goes to Russel Norman Co-Leader (and real leader) of the Greens and his contribution to Parliament on Typhoon Haiyan. The purpose of the motion was to express New Zealand’s sympathy to the Government and peoples of the Philippines. Instead, Dr Norman made it about domestic politics and about the Greens by reading a long highly emotional statement from a Philippines delegate at a global warming conference in Warsaw. Most in the Parliament thought it crass. You can see John Banks statement on the Typhoon here and you can make a donation to the Red Cross here.
Standing your ground award of the week
This one goes to ACT’s own Gareth Veale who has an unshakable confidence in his city of Christchurch and his Party. ACT is a great campaigning party; we will be taking our message to the people of Christchurch East in the by election and to the wider city.
Auckland North Regional Forum, Takapuna Yacht Club, 39 The Strand, Takapuna, Saturday, November 16, 1.30pm - 4pm, Cost: $10. Hosted by Beth Houlbrooke. Speakers include Dr Jamie Whyte, Nick Hyde, and Professor Robert MacCulloch.
To RSVP, you may register online here. Alternatively, you may contact Beth.Houlbrooke@act.org.nz and direct credit your fees into the 'ACT NZ Auckland North Region' Bank Account 01-0121-0120885-00, putting your name in the particulars.
- Canterbury Regional Forum, Saturday 23 November, 2.30 - 4.30pm Cotswold Hotel, Papanui Rd, Christchurch.
If the Government were to listen to the PPTA and the results of their clearly biased survey questions it would be the end of the PPTA and the education system in New Zealand.
The PPTA want to take ‘for profit’ organisations out of the New Zealand education system.
This would mean the immediate closure of more than 1900 Licenced Early Childhood Education (ECE) centres and would affect more than 80,000 children. The PPTA profits from education, so it is advocating against itself.
The PPTA wants everyone who is not fully registered with the New Zealand Teachers Council (NZTC) out of our education system.
If the Government were to listen and therefore exclude teachers who are newly-arrived from overseas or are otherwise not fully registered with the NZTC volunteers, support staff, private tutors, and informal tuition by hard working and dedicated parents, siblings and family friends, every education institution would immediately grind to a halt and most could not continue to exist. This too would result in an end to the PPTA.
The PPTA are against Partnership Schools because of the for-profit, teacher registration aspects of the policy, but these features are already part of the current education sector. Removing these features from education would have a detrimental impact on the sector as we know it and students would suffer.
The PPTA also likes to claim that the majority of submissions on the Education Amendment Bill were opposed to Partnership Schools. But, the vast majority of the submissions received by the Education and Science Select Committee received were 'form submissions' from the PPTA, NZEI and their Union affiliates. Excluding these left a balanced pool of properly considered submissions.
Partnership schools, known overseas as charter schools or free schools, are not an experiment. Evidence has shown that the best models of charter/free schools have been very successful in raising achievement for students from disadvantaged areas and those with English as a second language. They were first started 20 years ago in the United States by... you guessed it... the teachers unions.
The PPTA is clearly not much concerned about poor educational outcomes from failing public schools. It is not plausible that it is terrified that some partnership schools might fail; it is more plausible that it is terrified that greater parental choice might improve outcomes.
The PPTA survey can be found here
ACT New Zealand Party President Chris Simmons and ACT MP Hon John Banks today announced the details of ACT’s Confidence and Supply Agreement, highlighting a number of very significant policy ‘wins’ for ACT.
Mr Simmons said the new agreement builds on the two parties’ strong, constructive partnership of the past three years and advances ACT’s core economic and social policy goals.
“In particular ACT wanted to see controls put in place to prevent excessive Government spending and poor quality regulation, improved choice in education, especially in disadvantaged communities, and reform of other key policy areas that are currently holding New Zealand’s economy back,” Mr Simmons said.
Hon John Banks said that the policy programme outlined in the agreement was an excellent platform for ACT in Parliament and a strong base from which to continue building the relationship between the two parties.
“It shows that National is willing to make changes in these key economic and social policy areas to ensure our joint aspirations for a more prosperous New Zealand are met,” Mr Banks said.
Key features of the agreement are:
• Continuation of ACT’s focus during the last term on publicly monitoring progress on improving the country’s economy wide performance using international benchmarks, and building on the work of the 2025 Taskforce, with a requirement for Treasury to report annually on the progress being made to improve the quality of institutions and policies, raise productivity, and reduce the income gap with Australia.
• Continuation of ACT’s work during the last term to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses and individuals through taking the Regulatory Standards Bill through to the new Parliament, with an agreement to pass a mutually agreed Bill based on Treasury’s preferred option (option 5) within 12 months.
• Continuation of ACT’s work during the last term on the Spending Cap (People’s Veto) Bill with an agreement to incorporate a legislated spending cap through a mutually agreed amendment to the Public Finance Act.
• Reform of the Resource Management Act, including simplifying legislation to ensure there is only one plan (a “unitary” plan) for each district.
• The provision to set up a trial charter school system - under sections 155 (Kura Kaupapa Maori) and 156 (designated character schools) of the Education Act – for disadvantaged communities, specifically in areas such as South Auckland and parts of Christchurch where educational underachievement is most entrenched. A private sector-chaired implementation group will be established to develop the proposal for implementation in this parliamentary term.
• The establishment of a taskforce to produce a comprehensive report on governance issues relating to state policy towards state, integrated and independent schools.
• The implementation in this parliamentary term of the Welfare Working Group recommendations 27: Parenting obligations, 28: Support for at-risk families, 30: Income management and budgeting support, and 34: Employment services.
• To introduce competition to ACC’s Work Account.
• To support National’s Post-Election Action Plan.
• The appointment of Hon John Banks to the positions of Minister for Small Business, Minister for Regulatory Reform, Associate Minister of Education and Associate Minister of Commerce.
Mr Banks said New Zealand is facing very challenging times.
“This agreement is a significant achievement for ACT, addressing not just economic issues but key social issues as well, in particular those that are currently contributing to our very high rates of unemployed, undereducated and socially marginalised young people.
“I intend over the next three years to advocate for further advances in these areas as well as in the areas of government spending and regulation, labour market reform, and other policies to reduce the burden on businesses and boost productivity and economic growth.
“I would like to thank former ACT MP and Parliamentary Leader John Boscawen for the lead work he has done over the past week to finalise the terms of the agreement. His advice and ACT Party experience has been invaluable and stands us in good stead to reinvigorate and strengthen the Party over the next three years.
“ACT looks forward to working with National, and Prime Minister John Key, to put in place policies to strengthen our country and put us on a path to prosperity,” Mr Banks concludes.
It's a great privilege to be the ACT candidate for Wellington Central. I want to thank you Heather for representing the ACT Party so ably in Wellington Central, and for maintaining such a successful local branch of the ACT Party.
Recently I spent a couple of hours at the Raukatauri Music Therapy Centre. Music therapy is used to help many with intellectual and physical disabilities reach their potential, and it was exciting to see it in action.
Below is a piece from the Raukatauri Centre newsletter on my visit.
The New Zealand Educational Institute's (NZEI) claim that bulk-funding failed in New Zealand schools does not stack up with the evidence, ACT New Zealand Education Spokesman Sir Roger Douglas said today.
"Bulk-funding is very simple – schools are given a lump sum and then the Board of Trustees get to allocate it according to its needs. We already have bulk funding with operational grants to schools – my Bill would extend the same principle to staffing issues," Sir Roger said.
"In surveys undertaken for the Ministry of Education in the late 1990s, it was revealed that 94 percent of respondent schools felt that they had been mostly advantaged by bulk-funding, and 80 percent confirmed that their school would prefer to continue with bulk funding.
"Moreover, the idea that this would help high-decile schools is nonsense. The previous model of bulk funding was optional, and 36 percent of bulk funded schools came from those in low-decile areas - deciles 1 to 3. Why would so many low-decile schools opt in to the scheme if it harmed them?
"Over 80 percent of bulk-funded schools used the money to hire extra teaching staff. This shows that schools used the increased flexibility in order to increase teacher quantity and quality. Why should schools be prohibited from doing this?
"Far from being a bad chapter in education, school autonomy has increased around the world in the past 20 years – it is New Zealand's education system that has been moving in the wrong direction.
"Teachers' unions and interest groups should want good quality teachers to be well-remunerated. I am staggered by their belief that every area of school budgets – except teacher salaries – should be bulk-funded," Sir Roger said.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard's claim that teachers do have incentives to improve their performance because they can be promoted to a management role illustrates how ridiculous our education sector is, ACT New Zealand's Education Spokesman Sir Roger Douglas said today.
"It is absurd that the only way to pay good teachers more is to put them in a managerial role – seeing them spend more time out of the classroom in order to receive a higher wage," Sir Roger said.
"The reality is that the one of the only ways to attract the best teachers to a school is to offer them more money. Currently, the only way to offer them more money is to have them spend more time administering, rather than teaching. It's a national tragedy that our best teachers end up doing very little of it.
"Labour seem concerned that so-called 'rich' schools will poach the best teachers. However, low-decile schools are the ones that receive the most Government money, and yet they are prevented from spending the money on the one thing that will have the most impact – better teachers.
"My Bill will allow Boards of Trustees to control and manage all the Government money that they receive – and if they want to pay teachers more to attract better staff, they will be free to do so. We all want the best education for our children, and this atmosphere of incentive will drive teacher performance, improving the education that our children receive.
"If the Labour Party really cares about the children from low-income households – and not the Teachers' Unions – then they will support this Bill," Sir Roger said.