Landmark Climate Change legislation introduced
The Government is taking action on the long-term challenges of climate change with the introduction of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Bill to Parliament. The critical goal is to reduce global warming by 1.5degC over the next 30 years by setting a net zero target for carbon by 2050.
New Zealand First negotiated extremely hard to achieve balance in the policy announced, balance between expressing strong leadership over climate change policy and the need to respect the important role that agriculture plays in the New Zealand economy.
With the needs of the agriculture sector in mind, New Zealand First ensured that:
- The Climate Change Commission will not be granted statutory independence in the manner of the Reserve Bank;
- The Government will establish and legislate split gas targets for carbon dioxide and biogenic methane. These gases are being treated differently as the lifespan in the atmosphere of CO² lasts for hundreds of years, while methane degrades in around 20 years;
- The Government will set an initial methane target at a 10 percent reduction from 2017 levels from 2020 to 2030, providing certainty for the agriculture sector as it transitions towards a lower emissions future. Setting the 10 percent biogenic methane target until 2030 also recognises the research going in to the development of methane inhibitors and vaccines which may see significant technological progress by 2030;
- The 10 percent reduction target for biogenic methane includes 11 percent for waste, making the effective bovine-induced biogenic methane target 26.7 percent, which lands squarely inside a wide range of officials’ advice;
- The Climate Change Commission will review the 2050 targets against progress, including the 10 percent biogenic methane target not until 2024, providing a predictable transition period for the agricultural sector as it tackles mitigation efforts;
- The methane target from 2030-2050 will fall within the IPCC range of 24-47 percent, but the pathway set between 2020 and 2030 (i.e., the 10 percent reduction from 2017 levels) will establish a predictable direction of travel and progress against that target ;
- Unnecessary advisory groups supporting the Climate Change Commission were removed.
Government improves work conditions for New Zealanders
On Monday sweeping employment law changes came into effect, restoring protections for working New Zealanders, strengthening the role of collective bargaining, and promoting fair wages and conditions.
“The Government is committed to building a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions and fair wages,” said Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.
Key changes which came into effect this week include:
- Reinstating prescribed meal and rest breaks
- Strengthening collective bargaining and union rights
- Restoring protections for vulnerable workers, such as those in the cleaning and catering industries, regardless of the size of their employer
- Limiting 90-day trials to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
The Government believes everyone deserves a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and these changes will help achieve that. New Zealand First fought hard to retain the 90-day trial for employers of fewer than 20 staff, securing it as a major concession for small business owners who form the backbone of our economy.
These changes strike the right balance, providing strong safeguards and rights to workers, while maintaining certainty and flexibility for employers.
Cannabis referendum details announced
The Government announced details of how New Zealanders will choose whether or not to legalise and regulate cannabis. A referendum will be held at the 2020 election with a question asking whether or not to adopt draft legislation.
The Coalition Government is committed to a health-based approach to drugs, to minimise harm and take control away from criminals and the draft legislation will include:
- A minimum age of 20 to use and purchase recreational cannabis
- Regulations and commercial supply controls
- Limited home-growing options
- A public education programme
- Stakeholder engagement
New Zealand First has always believed that voters should make the decision on conscience issues, and not temporarily empowered politicians. The voters’ choice will be binding insofar that all of the parties that make up the current Government have committed to abide by the outcome. It is hoped that the National Party will also commit to respecting the voters’ decision.
Minister Jones releases first Infrastructure Pipeline report
Infrastructure Minister Shane Jones released a prototype Government Infrastructure Pipeline report, showing the scope of spending by major central government agencies over the next five years.
A Government building programme of $6.1 billion-plus has been revealed, with education and defence taking the lion's share of new infrastructure and building work.
Mr Jones said the Government was the construction industry's biggest client and lack of certainty and transparency on new state projects had been an issue, so the report would give much-needed certainty. Developing a long-term and publicly available Infrastructure Pipeline will be a key focus for the new Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga, which is on track to be up and running by the end of the year.
“This prototype will allow us to gather feedback on the pipeline’s form and function before it expands to involve all central government agencies, local government, and, in time, private sector projects.” Mr Jones said.
Code of Conduct ensures better financial advice for Kiwis
Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi announced that a new code of conduct will come into effect next year to ensure that New Zealanders receive good quality advice when it comes to investing their money.
Serious issues were identified by the Financial markets Authority and Reserve Bank RBNZ in their recent reviews of the banking and life insurance sector. The code, alongside the new financial advice legislation, will help address those issues by ensuring consumers’ interests are much better served.
Mr Faafoi said anyone giving financial advice to consumers will need to act fairly and with integrity when they give advice, and to meet a minimum standard of competence. Businesses that provide financial advice will need to be licensed.
“We want consumers to have confidence that people advising them about their finances are prioritising their interests, are competent and are following professional standards.”
Taking action to improve life for those on benefits
The Government is committed to offering better support for New Zealanders on benefits. While a number initiatives have already been announced during the term of this Parliament, further changes announced this week include:
- 263 new frontline staff to focus on helping more people into meaningful and sustainable work
- The scrapping of the discriminatory sanction that cuts income to women and their children if the name of the child’s father is not declared to the Government
- Lifting the abatement thresholds for those on benefits who work, in line with minimum wage increases
These changes follow the release of the Government’s Welfare Expert Advisory Group (WEAG) report, Whakamana Tāngata: Restoring Dignity to Social Security in New Zealand. It contained 42 key recommendations that call for a systematic overhaul of New Zealand’s welfare system with a renewed focus on support to help those on benefits into sustainable work, and improved income adequacy to ensure families on benefits are not living in poverty.
“The Government is taking a balanced approach and is committed to delivering change over the longer term and prioritising areas like housing and mental health which impact on all New Zealanders but especially those in the welfare system,” said Minister for Social Development Carmel Sepuloni.
Minister for Children Tracey Martin said the welfare system needed to be fair to everyone and support child wellbeing. The combined investment of today’s three pre-budget announcements is $286.8 million over the next four years.
Government outlines how it will respond to Historical Abuse inquiry
Minister of State Service Chris Hipkins will lead the Crown’s response to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-Based Institutions, the Government announced this week as the scale of the investigation becomes apparent.
Eleven government agencies are involved in responding to the inquiry. The six principles guiding the inquiry will be: manaakitanga, openness, transparency, active listening and learning, connectivity between agencies, and meeting Treaty of Waitangi obligations in order to build stronger Maori-Crown relationship.
“In setting out the principles, we have taken an important step in the vital task of rebuilding trust between Government and children who were abused while they were in state care,” Mr Hipkins said.
“The Government is determined to take action in a transparent, co-ordinated and timely way to ensure such wide-scale abuse over such a long period can never be allowed to happen again.”
The Commission’s interim report is due in December 2020, and the final report in January 2023.