The Government in Action – August 2nd

Online gambling rules in the spotlight

 

Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin this week launched a public discussion document on the rules relating to online gambling.

The current Gambling Act dates back to 2003, and technology has dramatically changed people’s behaviour in that time, and gambling is no exception.

Currently, Lotto NZ and the TAB are the only New Zealand organisations able to offer online gambling and it is illegal for overseas online gambling operators to advertise to New Zealanders. However, betting offshore is legal and New Zealanders have spent about $380 million on offshore gambling sites in the last 18 months.

Ensuring that overseas gambling sites don’t undermine New Zealand’s rules is one of the key drivers behind the public discussion document.

“A lot of New Zealanders enjoy gambling and it’s not our intention to stop this.  However, the growth in online gambling challenges our current approach,” Mrs Martin said.

“The problem we have is that, unlike domestic gambling operators, offshore online gambling operators do not pay to mitigate the harm their industry causes, nor do they contribute to the community through funding grants.”

“We also need to assess whether they sufficiently protect vulnerable New Zealanders, particularly our young people who can spend a lot of time online.

The discussion document outlines key issues and seeks feedback on a range of options. Public consultation runs until September 30.

 “In the meantime, officials are continuing to address the legal issues raised by Crown Law on the self-identification clauses which the Select Committee introduced to the Births, Deaths, Marriages and Relationships Registration Bill. Work needs to be done on these issues before I can make a decision on the Bill’s future.”

 

Winston Peters in Thailand for ASEAN Forum

 

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters travelled to Thailand this week to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting in Bangkok.

“ASEAN is one of New Zealand’s most important relationships. It represents our fourth largest trading partner and has for five decades played a key role in maintaining our region’s security and stability,” Mr Peters said.

“These meetings with ASEAN and other key regional partners are an important chance to discuss how we address regional challenges collectively.”

While in Bangkok Mr Peters met with Thai Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai. He also met with counterparts from ASEAN, EAS and ASEAN Regional Forum countries.

 

Comprehensive changes to vocational training and education

 

The Government has announced a comprehensive overhaul of the vocational education and training sector, with a view to tackling the long-term challenges of skills shortages and the mismatch between training provided and the needs of employers.

The review is long overdue and the Government is committed to fixing the serious issues which have been allowed to develop over time.

The changes will give industry greater control over all aspects of vocational education and training, making the system more responsive to employers’ needs and to the changing world of work.

Key changes include:

  • The country’s 16 institutes of technology and polytechnics will be brought together to operate as a single national campus network. A new Institute will start on 1 April 2020 and will be a new kind of organisation that provides on-the-job and off-the-job learning.
  • Four to seven industry-governed Workforce Development Councils will be created by 2022. This will give industry greater control over all aspects of vocational education and make the system more responsive to employers’ needs.
  • New Regional Skills Leadership Groups will represent regional interests.
  • Centres of Vocational Excellence (CoVEs) will be established at regional campuses to drive innovation and expertise, and improve linkages between education, industry and research.
  • Māori will be included as key partners, including through Te Taumata Aronui, a Māori Crown Tertiary Education Group – that will work with education agencies and Ministers and cover all aspects of tertiary education.
  • The dual funding system will be unified and simplified to encourage greater integration of on-the-job and off-the-job learning.

New Zealand First supports the changes which will help to address skills shortages and better match skills with employer needs. Increasing the use of on-the-job training has always been a key focus of New Zealand First, as has recognising both the needs and opportunities in the regions. The Centres of Vocational Excellence are a bold and positive move forward.

New Zealand First has worked closely with Minister Chris Hipkins to ensure that the voices of industry and employers are reflected in the changes.

 

 

Cabinet approves dedicated watchdog for water quality

 

A dedicated watchdog and new water regulations have been announced by the Government, which is making public safety a non-negotiable priority.

“For too long, oversight of water has been split between a number of agencies and legislation, and as a result, responsibility has been fractured and ineffective,” said Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

The new proposals will ensure coherent, safe drinking water supplies, with additional oversight of wastewater and stormwater services.

Key features of the changes include:

  • a dedicated water regulator
  • a new Water Services Bill
  • extending regulatory coverage to all water suppliers, except individual household self-suppliers
  • strengthened Government stewardship of wastewater and stormwater services, with Regional Councils remaining primary regulators for the environment
  • transitional arrangements of up to five years to allow water suppliers to adjust to the regulations, if necessary with support from the new regulator.

New Zealand First believes that access to safe, clean drinking water is a right for all New Zealanders and supports these moves to improve and provide more consistency in water quality around the country.

 

 

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones learns from Australian experience

 

Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones travelled to Melbourne with a group of New Zealand construction industry leaders, to learn about major project delivery and how the Australian industry and Victorian state government undertake workforce training.

“We are interested in all aspects of how business, unions and the state government move large projects forward, but with a particular focus on how they address labour shortages and skills training,” Mr Jones said.

The visit is timely as it coincides with the establishment of Te Waihanga, the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, which will provide both strategy and delivery advice to Ministers as well as developing a long-term infrastructure pipeline.

Support extended for Veterans

Minister for Veterans Ron Mark announced that all veterans who served in the Former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Timor-Leste and the Solomon Islands are now eligible for support and services from Veterans’ Affairs.

Veterans’ Affairs has been reviewing deployments after 1974 to check whether they should qualify as operational service under the Veterans’ Support Act 2014. Thirty-eight deployments have been reviewed, with over 70 more to go. This week’s announcement extends support to an additional 1600 veterans.

“This is helping to level the playing field for many New Zealand veterans,” Mr Mark said.

The declarations were made possible by the recent passing of the Veterans’ Support Amendment Act, which received unanimous support in Parliament.

 

 

NZ offers extra support for Tonga police

 

New Zealand is to provide an additional two years of support to Tonga police to help them tackle transnational crime.

“New Zealand is committed to confronting the scourge of criminal gangs and organised crime that cause harm to our communities, said Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters. “It is vital that New Zealand works with all countries in the Pacific to secure the safety of our neighbourhood.”

New Zealand, Tonga and Australia will jointly fund the programme which will see New Zealand Police officers seconded into Tonga Police to provide training and technical assistance.

In February, New Zealand signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Australia, Tonga and Fiji to target transnational and organised crime in the Pacific.

The Tonga Police Programme will support leadership development, community policing and ensure that Tonga Police has the right infrastructure to deliver on its mandate of safer Tonga Communities.

 

 

Referendums Framework Bill introduced to Parliament

 

A Bill establishing the framework for referendums next year was introduced to Parliament this week.

The Government has committed to holding a referendum on legalising the personal use of recreational cannabis at the next General Election, and there is also the possibility of a referendum being held in 2020 on the End of Life Choice Bill.

“The voting process is a vital feature of our democracy,” said Justice Minister Andrew Little. “By ensuring the same rules apply, as far as practicable, to both the general election and any referendum in 2020 the Government is working to safeguard this important process.”

The Bill includes rules around referendum advertising, ensuring a balance between freedom of expression and transparency, so that voters know who is behind any advertising campaign. 

New Zealand First supports the Bill, as it has made a longstanding commitment to take the issue of the legalisation of cannabis to a referendum, and has only agreed to continued support for the End of Life Choice Bill if the public gets to exercise its view through a referendum.

 

 

Strong growth in the construction sector

 

Latest figures show that the number of building consents for new dwellings was up by nearly six percent in the year to June compared with last year.

In total, 34,761 new dwellings were consented, with a record high of 14,000 issued in Auckland alone, up 13 percent.

Initiatives launched by the Government such as the Skills Action Plan, the Construction Sector Accord and the Building Legislative Reform Programme are helping to achieve the goal of a healthy, sustainable construction sector that meets the growing demand and needs of New Zealanders.

“The growth in building consent activity shows that we are making progress in reducing barriers and providing the sector with the building systems support they need to sustain this growth,” said Minister for Building and Construction Jenny Salesa.

New Zealand First welcomes these encouraging figures which show that the multi-faceted approach being taken by the Government to address the housing crisis is starting to bring real results. Building capacity in the construction sector also provides jobs for New Zealanders and builds resilience in the economy.

 

 

NZ near the front of the queue for free trade deal with UK

 

Trade Minister David Parker held promising talks with newly-appointed UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss in London this week.

Only a week after her appointment to the position in Boris Johnson’s new cabinet, Ms Truss confirmed her country’s commitment to move ahead quickly on agreeing a free trade deal with New Zealand as soon as Britain leaves the EU.

This is great progress and reflects the work which has been put in by both countries since a trade policy dialogue was established in late 2016, following the referendum vote to leave the EU.

“I want New Zealand to be one of the first free trade agreements the UK signs as we prepare to become an independent trading nation once again,” Ms Truss said.

Mr Parker said it with our long shared history and values, it was “natural” that New Zealand would be an early, first choice trade partner for the UK through “a high quality, comprehensive and inclusive FTA”, shortly after its departure from the EU

New Zealand First is pleased to be part of a Government which is working to build collaborative and rewarding relationships with other like-minded nations, enhancing our self-reliance, building our export-driven economy, and supporting local businesses. A free trade agreement with the UK would be a big win for New Zealand.

 

 

New Learning Support Coordinators to help in schools

 

The first tranche of the new education professionals who will help provide learning support to children in more than 1,000 schools and kura has now been allocated, Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin announced this week. 

“This Government is rebuilding our education system so that it is fair and meets the needs of all students, including the one in five who need extra support,” Tracey Martin said.

The 623 new Learning Support Coordinators (LSCs) starting in January are an integral part of a more flexible and joined-up approach to learning support, called the Learning Support Delivery Model, which is already being implemented across New Zealand.

The LSCs will work alongside teachers and with specialist providers and parents to ensure children and young people receive the support they need to learn. They will be fulltime, qualified teachers and focus on identifying the learning support that students need. Ministry of Education staff will then be responsible for accessing the supports and services that are required.

Budget 2019 included an extra $217 million of operating funding over four years to cover the cost of the new positions.

 

 

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