Government Bills up this week
· The first reading of the Financial Reporting Bill was held this week. The Bill seeks to ensure that current financial reporting obligations are consistent with the goal of ensuring there is access to financial information. The two big changes the Bill proposes is that some small-medium businesses will be able to reduce costly financial reporting given that their shareholders already have access to financial information, and that registered charities will be required to prepare financial statements. While there were concerns raised about whether it’s a good idea to relax the reporting requirements of some companies, the Bill was supported by all political parties at the first reading stage, including MANA. Further support will be dependent on what is raised – and resolved – during the select committee process.
· Another bill that came up for its first reading this week was the State Sector and Public Finance Reform Bill. A key purpose of the Bill is to update the state sector so that it can work better, including to better provide a whole-of-government response on issues. While this is something that MANA wholeheartedly supports, there are other worrying aspects to the Bill – and particularly the way in which it allows for the privatisation of some state services. Given this, MANA opposed the Bill.
· The Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill passed its third and final reading this week in Parliament. The Bill has been pushed through by the government, despite the opposition of all local councils, many community organisations and nearly half of Parliament, including MANA. The main point of opposition was because the Bill changed the purpose of the Local Government Act 2002 by removing its well-being framework so that councils will have to reduce their spending and investment into their communities for important projects like ensuring water supply. It strips away their purpose for being and exposes them to extensive and costly future litigation.
Feed the Kids Bill update
· Website: Currently under construction is a “Feed the Kids” website where you’ll be able to get information, find out how you can support the campaign, and feedback your thoughts and ideas. We’re hoping this will be up-and-running next week, but in the meantime the Bill and a supporting fact sheet can be viewed via the MANA website, www.mana.net.nz.
· Support from schools: Late last week Hone sent a letter about the Bill to the principals and board chairs of the 1000+ decile 1 and 2 schools throughout Aotearoa. We’re pleased to report that the response so far has been 100% in support – with many giving really good feedback on how Feed the Kids could be successfully implemented in their schools.
· Support from the NGO sector: Organisations such as Every Child Counts and the Child Poverty Action Group are also helping to build political support for the Bill to get it past the important first reading hurdle.
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s interim report on fracking
On Tuesday the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, released her much awaited interim report on fracking. Fracking is where a chemical fluid is injected into rocks far below the earth’s surface/seabed to fracture them in order to extract previously inaccessible oil and gas. She found that the regulatory framework lacks cohesion and transparency and that there seems to be very little robust monitoring taking place. Instead of calling for a moratorium on fracking while the regulatory and monitoring issues are sorted out to ‘best practice’ standards as hoped for, Dr Wright has said she will look further into the matter first. While this is hugely disappointing, if not downright dangerous for both people and the environment (particularly in terms of the potential for groundwater contamination and earthquakes), she did say that if she finds standards are not up-to-scratch she’ll not hesitate to call for a moratorium. Let’s hope nothing disastrous happens in the meantime. See the MANA website for Hone’s press statement on the report.
NZ Maori Council’s High Court case on freshwater
The Council’s case to stop the partial sale of our power companies until M?ori rights to freshwater are settled was heard in the High Court by Justice Young this week. The Council is seeking a judicial review of the Crown’s decision to partially privatise our power companies on the grounds that it’s illegal to sell them without first protecting Maori interests in freshwater and geothermal resources, and that the Crown has proceeded on the erroneous assumption that no-one owns water. Other grounds include inadequate consultation and that the Crown should allow the Waitangi Tribunal to complete its inquiry before proceeding. MANA members and Keep Our Assets campaigners were present outside the court throughout the hearing highlighting opposition to the government’s plan to sell state assets, and gathered signatures in support of the petition for a citizens’ initiated referendum (CIR) to be held on stopping the sale of state assets. Too much e hoa ma. Where to from here? Justice Young hopes to make his decision by Christmas and it is likely that whoever loses will appeal the decision. To keep to the government’s timetable for the June 2013 sale of Mighty River Power, the appeals process would need to be completed by 18 Feb. The good news is that this is unlikely to happen, and the more the process can be slowed down the closer we get to being able to hold a CIR on asset sales. MANA was the only political party to comment publically on the case, where Hone took John Key to task for trying to pitch P?keh? against M?ori by blaming M?ori claimants for the government’s economic stuff-ups if the Crown loses the case, and renewed his call for all to unite against asset sales. See the MANA website for details.
If you’d planned on making a submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Manufacturing called by Labour, Greens, NZ First, and MANA, but hadn’t quite got around to it yet, the due date for submissions has been extended until the end of December. Submissions can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org or via http://manufacturinginquiry.org.nz/make-a-submission/.
Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA)
Next week New Zealand will host the latest round of talks on the TPPA. There are a number of activities planned from 3-12 December to raise public awareness of the huge range of concerns with this trade deal between Pacific Rim countries that is being pulled together by the US and controlled by international corporate elites like the pharmaceutical companies, mining companies, and Big Tobacco. A national day of action is being planned for Saturday 8 December. For more information including how to get involved, go to www.itsourfuture.org.nz