Week in Review - May 17th

Christchurch Call “first step” in eliminating extremist content online

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was in Paris last week, where she and French President Emmanuel Macron co-hosted the Christchurch Summit, attended by leaders from 10 countries and major tech companies which committed to a set of collective actions that aim to eliminate terrorism and violent extremist content online.

The actions of the Christchurch Call – endorsed by a further six countries not attending in Paris, plus the EU – include developing tools to prevent the upload of terrorist and violent extremist content; countering the roots of violent extremism; increasing transparency around the removal and detection of content, and reviewing how companies’ algorithms  direct users to violent extremist content.

The pledge is split into three lists of commitments - one for governments, one for tech companies, and one for the two working together, along with a statement which stipulates that the agreement shouldn't impinge on free speech rights or the openness of the internet.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, Microsoft, and Amazon commended the call, saying “… it is right that we come together, resolute in our commitment to ensure we are doing all we can to fight the hatred and extremism that lead to terrorist violence”.

Ms Ardern said she was proud of what had been achieved at the summit but that it was only a “first step” towards a shared goal of eliminating terrorist content online. “We have all agreed to ongoing collaborative work aimed at improving our collective security.”

New Zealand First supports the action the Prime Minister is leading on behalf of the Government. The coalition partners agree that bold steps must be taken to arrest the propagation of hatred in order to help secure the safety of our communities.

 

 

Wellbeing approach to Budget 2019 explained

 

In a pre-Budget speech to the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Finance Minister Grant Robertson outlined the approach taken in planning for the country’s first Wellbeing Budget.

This Government believes it is time to take a fresh look at how we measure economic success. Even when the key economic indicator of Gross Domestic Product has been good, many New Zealanders have continued to struggle. Lowering rates of home ownership, high youth unemployment, poor mental health statistics, and hundreds of thousands of children growing up in poverty are just some of the reasons we need to do better.

“A wellbeing approach is about taking a wider view, recognising and weighing up the overall pros and cons of government policy on all of the things that enable New Zealanders to live lives of purpose and value,” Mr Roberston said.

There are three fundamental elements to the Government’s wellbeing plan. 

  • A whole-of-government approach. Agencies working together to assess, develop and implement initiatives to improve wellbeing
  • Looking at intergenerational outcomes. Thinking about the long-term impacts on future generations at the same time as meeting the needs of the present
  • The need to move beyond narrow measures of success.

The priorities of the Wellbeing Budget 2019 are:

  • Tackling mental health crisis
  • Reducing child poverty and domestic violence
  • Investing in crucial national infrastructure
  • Managing the books responsibly
  • Building a sustainable economy and preparing for jobs of the future.

These represent some of the biggest long-term challenges and opportunities that we face as a country and that they will not be solved in one go, but the Coalition Government is determined to confront them head-on. The problems have been ignored for too long.

We are doing the right thing now - putting New Zealand and the welfare of New Zealanders first. We are looking to make a positive difference for generations ahead.

 

 

Forestry sector to get additional $58 million

 

In another pre-Budget announcement during the week, Forestry Minister Shane Jones said that a further $58 million would be delivered to allow continued transformation in the forestry sector.

“Forestry plays a key role in many of our Government’s priority areas – enhancing regional development, supporting Maori to realise the potential of their land, improving water quality, reducing carbon emissions and creating jobs,” Mr Jones said.

The new funding will allow Te Uru Rākau (Forestry New Zealand) to increase its regional presence to ensure foresters and landowners have the support they need, he said. It will also see the agency focus on the Government’s goal of developing a sustainable, domestic forestry workforce.

New premises will be built in Rotorua, at the heart of the forestry sector, to accommodate Te Uru Rākau’s growth. It is expected that up to 25 forestry-related jobs will be based there, along with Ministry of Primary Industries staff.

Mr Jones said the One Billion Trees programme  - a key New Zealand First policy - was on track, with 61 million trees planted in the first year, and 100 million trees expected to be in the ground every year from 2020.

“With forestry worth over $6 billion to our economy, the Wellbeing Budget gives clear and visible leadership to Te Uru Rākau to build a sustainable sector that delivers improved social, environmental and economic benefits for New Zealand,” Mr Jones said.

 

 

 

Repeal of betting levy

 

When opening the Karaka May sales auction in Auckland, Racing Minister Winston Peters made a pre-Budget announcement to repeal the betting levy currently paid by the racing industry to the Crown. The levy will be returned to the industry, with a proportion set aside to support the reduction of gambling harm.

Redirecting the betting levy was a recommendation of the Messara review of the racing industry, and will help ensure the long-term sustainability of an industry which contributes billions to the economy whilst employing tens of thousands of New Zealanders.

“It is important that the industry is revitalised and placed on a sustainable footing for the future.  Redirecting the betting levy funds is only one of a number of steps the government is undertaking,” Mr Peters said.

 

 

 

Senior Ministers on global stage

 

While Parliament was in recess last week, key senior ministers were overseas representing New Zealand on the global stage.

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters travelled to Fiji with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to attend a Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting.

During his time in New Zealand, Mr Guterres met Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, visited survivors of the Christchurch attack, and held talks with Climate Change Minister James Shaw.

He said New Zealand was on the “front lines” of the world’s climate crisis and was showing extraordinary leadership, for which he was grateful. He praised the Government’s zero carbon legislation, saying the move was “absolutely crucial”.

Mr Peters’ presence at the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting comes only a few days after Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Fletcher Tabuteau was in Fiji for the annual Pacific Forum for Economic Ministers where the theme was on building resilience and sustainability.

The Government is deeply committed to its role in the Pacific through its Pacific Reset policy - a re-energised approach based on New Zealand values and increased technical and financial support to the region.

Meanwhile, Trade Minister David Parker attended APEC and OECD meetings in Chile, Paris, and Brussels focused on the outlook for world trade and the EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

“At a time of ever-increasing tensions – both in trade between major players and in the World Trade Organisation – these meetings are an opportunity to build trust and confidence and identify solutions.”

On the EU-NZ Free Trade Agreement, Mr Parker said the Government was keen to meet “the ambitious target” of a substantive conclusion by the end of 2019.

 

 

PGF invests in future jobs in Bay of Plenty

 

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Employment Minister Willie Jackson announced an investment of more than $2.2 million in three skills and education programmes which offer young people extra support to develop the skills they need to get them into work, and which will help to address future employment needs in the Bay of Plenty.

The programmes are Kawerau Pathways to Work ($969,000), Eastern Bay of Plenty Driver and Operator Training Centre ($598,000), School of Hard Knocks ($713,740). The programmes will receive funding from He Poutama Rangatahi and Te Ara Mahi initiatives, funded through the Provincial Growth Fund.

“The three initiatives predominately target young people not currently in employment, education and training, and who are most at risk of long-term unemployment,” Mr Jones said.

Two of the initiatives build on the PGF’s existing $2m investment in the Kawerau-Putauaki Industrial Hub, which underpins a number of promising commercial investments in Kawerau that are expected to bring around 500 jobs to the regions in the next five years.

This latest investment meets key goals of the PGF, including lifting the outcomes of those affected by unemployment, building thriving communities by creating job opportunities close to home, and injecting new life and economic prosperity into the regions.

 

 

 

Royal Commission of Inquiry into Terror Attack under way

 

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the March 15 terror attack will begin considering evidence next week, following the appointment of the second and final commissioner, former diplomat Jacqui Caine.

The Royal Commission will work to fully understand what happened in the lead-up to the Christchurch attack, what could have been done to stop it, and how we can keep New Zealanders safe,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

 “This is a critical part of our ongoing response to the attack. The Commission’s findings will help to ensure such an attack never happens here again.”

It is due to report to the Government by 10 December 2019.

 

 

Funding boost to tackle homelessness

 

Budget 2019 will see the Government invest a further $197 million to tackle the challenge of chronic homelessness in New Zealand.

It will be used to strengthen the Housing First programme which the Government already funds in Auckland, Christchurch, Hamilton, Rotorua and Tauranga, and will over the next few months extend to many other towns and cities around the country.

The programme houses and supports people who have been homeless for a long time or who are homeless and facing other complex social and welfare issues. It recognises that it is much easier to address issues such as poor mental or physical health, substance abuse, or unemployment when people are properly housed.

It is a co-ordinated approach which sees the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development bring together local health and service providers, housing providers, local government, iwi, and other agencies locally to turn around people’s lives.

The new Budget funding will provide 1044 new places and will raise the number of people the programme can help to 2700.

New Zealand First is proud to be part of a Government tackling the tough issues facing many New Zealanders and working to make life better for them. We believe that every New Zealander deserves a warm, dry place to call home and access to quality health and welfare services. Only by taking a co-ordinated approach with local government and social services can these goals be achieved.

 

 

NCEA exam fees scrapped

 

The Government has announced that NCEA exam fees for secondary students are to be abolished as part of a wider review of the qualification framework.

More than 145,000 households are estimated to benefit from the removal of the $76.70 NCEA fee that families pay every year for around 168,000 secondary students. The removal of fees is one of a number of changes being made to NCEA, following a year-long review which 16,000 New Zealanders took part in.

Other changes include:

  • Retaining NCEA Level One and dropping the number of credits required to get each level from 80 to 60
  • Introducing a new externally-marked 20-credit literacy and numeracy benchmark
  • Reducing achievement standards for each subject, but making each one broader
  • Funding the continued roll-out of the NCEA Online programme so students can choose to sit their exams using a PC or laptop

Education Minister Chris Hipkins said the changes were needed to address limitations and unintended consequences that had built up in the system over time.

The Government wants to reduce the burden of over-assessment for both teachers and students and make the qualification more relevant for students, many of whom leave school with gaps in their knowledge and skills. The changes will be phased in over four years, starting from 2020.

 

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