Employment Relations Amendment Bill passes into law
The Employment Relations Amendment Bill passed its third reading on Wednesday and there is much to celebrate about the new law, which restores fairness to New Zealand workplaces and fundamental rights for workers.
It has taken extensive consideration of the many public submissions, and much constructive internal discussion among the Coalition partners to achieve such a well-balanced piece of legislation.
New Zealand First went in to bat for small and medium-sized businesses and secured the retention of the 90-day trial for businesses with fewer than 20 employees. Removing the trial period would have been a blow for them, said NZ First Labour and Industrial Relations spokesperson Clayton Mitchell.
Businesses can also now choose not to opt in to a Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA), which will prevent the cost structures of big cities from being imposed on businesses in the regions.
This is a great example of coalition politics at work. The law delivers rights and protections for workers which were stripped from them by National, while at the same time giving small businesses a fair go.
Defence Assessment on Climate Change and Security Released
While the Government remains committed to mitigating climate change, it must also be ready to address the effects of it, which are already being felt in the Pacific region.
Speaking at the release of the Defence Assessment on Climate Change and Security at Parliament on Thursday, Defence Minister Ron Mark said the role of the Defence Force was key to New Zealand’s response and it must be adequately resourced and equipped to be effective.
Mr Mark highlighted the increasing number of extreme weather events, and the flow-on effects these are likely to have on communities in our region in the future. These include vulnerable populations losing their economic livelihoods, increased food and water scarcity, malnutrition, climate migration, health-related crises, competition for resources, land disputes and the potential for increased violence from mismanaged adaptation or migration.
It is clear that the Defence Force will have to adapt to meet the challenges, Mr Mark said. The findings of the assessment report, which was produced by the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the Defence Force, New Zealand agencies and Pacific partners, will be considered as part of the review of the Defence Capability Plan, which is expected to be released early next year.
Government releases report from Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction
On Wednesday, the Government publicly released the report from the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction, less than a week after receiving it.
It paints a grim picture. We have a youth suicide rate among the worst in the OECD, the overall annual suicide rate for 2017/18 suicide rate is the highest in almost 20 years, and one in five Kiwis experience mental illness or significant mental distress. Addiction to alcohol and other drugs is also causing widespread harm.
The Inquiry process involved widespread consultation throughout the year - over 2000 people attended public meetings, 400 meetings were held with health and service providers, Iwi, community organisations and researchers, and more than 5200 submissions were made.
The report made 40 recommendations and the Government will respond formally in March. It sees the inquiry as a “once in a generation” opportunity for change.
New Zealand First recognises the seriousness of New Zealand’s mental health and addiction issues and the need to make meaningful change. We are absolutely committed to improving the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders, and endorse the Government’s decision to make mental health a focus of Budget 2019.
Retail fuel first for market study
On the back of the Government’s announcement that the retail fuel market will be the first market to be studied under new powers awarded to the Commerce Commission, Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters has warned petrol companies to start acting responsibly, or the Government could pass a law preventing them from "ripping off New Zealanders".
Mr Peters pointed to margins for fuel importers which have more than doubled from 7 per cent in 2008 to 16 per cent in 2017, and said there was “no excuse”.
The terms of reference for the study were released on Wednesday. They include:
- The structure of the industry
- The extent of competition at the refinery
- Any factors that may hinder competition between industry participants
- The conditions for entry by potential competitors
- Whether wholesale and retail price and service offerings of petrol and diesel are consistent with those expected in workably competitive markets
- Features of retail petrol and diesel markets that are not in the long-term interests of consumers
The commission will publish its findings by December 2019. At that point the Government will be able to determine whether consumers’ interests are being protected, and if not, what action needs to be taken.
“You have to be prepared to make a stand in the interests of the consumer,” Mr Peters said.
Government decision soon on UN Global Migration Compact
The Government has not yet decided whether it will sign up to the UN Global Compact on Migration, but a decision is due before the compact is signed next week.
The Global Compact on Migration is the outcome of negotiations between 193 member states. It is a multinational agreement on how to better manage the movement of people across international borders. New Zealand First welcomes the opportunity to discuss very serious strategic matters.
If the Government decides to sign the agreement, New Zealand would still retain its decision-making authority as the Compact is not legally binding, and recognises the primacy of national sovereignty.
Pacific Diplomatic footprint
In line with its Pacific Reset policy, Foreign Minister Winston Peters this week announced an enhanced diplomatic and development presence in the region.
Ten new position are being established in Pacific countries, and another four in China, Japan, Belgium and the US, to coordinate development policy and partnerships for the Pacific.
“This is a first step in demonstrating New Zealand is committed to the Pacific to help it be a safer and more prosperous place, and enhancing New Zealand’s voice in a region,” Mr Peters said.