Prime Minister’s Speech
The first sitting day of the year kicked off with the Prime Minister’s Speech, in which Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern outlined the Coalition Government’s achievements to date and plans for the coming year.
She spoke of the programme under three key themes:
- An economy that is growing and working for all
- Improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders and their families
- Taking a new approach to leadership, focussing on long-term issues
The Prime Minister said she was pleased with what the Government was already delivering and was excited about the work programme ahead.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters told Parliament that the Coalition Government was clear on where it was going. “There are going to be many programmes where we set out to rebuild this country's economy, infrastructure, and social structure.”
He said the Government was on a mission to deliver improvements for New Zealanders now, like increasing the minimum wage, addressing pay equity and investing in health and education, while also tackling the long-term issues of tomorrow like responding to climate change, investing in public transport, addressing our chronic skills and infrastructure deficit, and ensuring New Zealand’s
stability in a volatile international environment.
“New Zealand First will continue its role as a stable partner within the coalition and all of its governing arrangements,” said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
Sweeping overhaul of Vocational Training sector
Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced a sweeping overhaul of the vocational training sector as polytechnics and training institutes go broke while the country faces a critical skills shortage.
The Government plans to establish a unified, coordinated, national system of vocational education and training. The proposals are:
- Redefined roles for education providers and Industry Training Organisations to extend the leadership role of industry and employers;
- Bringing together the 16 existing institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) as a one entity with the working title of the New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology with a robust regional network of provision; and
- A unified vocational education funding system.
Mr Hipkins said the system was no longer geared up for the future economy, where retraining and upskilling would be a regular feature of working life. At the very time when courses were being retrenched and campuses closed, there was a need to expand courses and locations around the country.
He described the proposals as a “reset” of the whole system and a fundamental rethink of the way vocational education and training is viewed and delivered.
“The world around us is changing rapidly and our education system needs to keep up,” Mr Hipkins said.
Public consultation is open until March 27.
Budget Date announced
Finance Minister Grant Robertson announced that Budget Day 2019 will be Thursday, May 30.
This year’s Budget will be the first to use the Coalition Government’s new Wellbeing approach, an evidence-based framework used to identify the Budget priorities and then assess which Budget bids should be accepted.
The five Priorities for Budget 2019 are:
- Creating opportunities for productive businesses, regions, iwi and others to transition to a sustainable and low-emissions economy
- Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation, social and economic opportunities
- Lifting Māori and Pacific incomes, skills and opportunities
- Reducing child poverty and improving child wellbeing, including addressing family violence
- Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, with a special focus on under 24-year-olds
Mr Robertson acknowledged the findings of the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation report released this week, which recognised the Government’s efforts to reduce hardship for New Zealand’s poorest and most vulnerable.
Referring to the initiatives already delivered including the Families Package, the Winter Energy payment, and extending free doctor’s visits to under 14s, and the passing of the Child Poverty Reduction Act, Mr Robertson said that the Coalition Government was making solid progress on making life better for New Zealanders and that the Wellbeing approach to the Budget would be a
Heartening house price figures
The latest Quotable Value figures released this week show that house price growth has fallen to 2.9 percent nationwide, the slowest increase since 2012.
The Auckland market declined 0.9 percent in the past year, evidence that the country’s most overheated market is at last cooling.
The Coalition Government is utterly committed to addressing the housing crisis it inherited from National. We are focused on getting more Kiwis into their own homes. We have changed tax settings to discourage speculators and banned offshore investors buying existing houses. And sound economic management is keeping interest rates low.
The latest figures show that the Government’s housing policies are beginning to work, which is great news, especially for first home buyers.