Free Press – 19/12/2016

Free Advice
This week, in the spirit of Christmas, the Free Press is giving free advice to new Ministers. How would their jobs be different if ACT had more influence on the direction of the Government? We sketch out some draft agendas below. We’ll be taking a short break before returning in the new year.

Prime Minister Bill English (National Security and Intelligence, Ministerial Services)
Appoint fewer Ministers to fewer portfolios.  It is difficult to reduce the burden of tax and regulation on citizens when the example set for bureaucrats is to have 27 Ministers covering – we kid you not – 71 Ministerial portfolios. We doubt any one person in New Zealand could name them all.

Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett (State Services, Women, Tourism, Police, Climate Change)
Scrap the Minister for Women role. All genders have their issues and they are interlinked, having a Minister especially for women is very 1970s.  In terms of crime, the Minister should adopt ACT’s Three Strikes for Burglary policy that would ensure recidivist burglars are locked up for three years.

Steven Joyce (Finance, Infrastructure)
Take less of our money in taxes.  Start by ensuring the top rate only cuts in on income over $100,000.  Nobody on a five-figure salary should pay the top rate of tax.  Going forward, establish a rule that any increase in revenue goes to one third debt reduction, one third new spending, and one third tax cuts.  When other Ministers dish out corporate welfare, just say no.  (Oh the irony.)

Gerry Brownlee (Christchurch Regeneration, Defence, Civil Defence, EQC)
Make sure the armed forces get some cool toys within budget.

Simon Bridges (Economic Development, Transport, Communications)
Don’t do anything in Economic Development.  The private sector’s got that one covered thank you very much.  Stop your jihad on Uber and the like, ridesharing is one of the greatest opportunities to reduce congestion.  Follow your gut on road pricing, it is fairer and more efficient and we all know you want to do it.  Don’t get any more pizzas delivered to you in the middle of a field, no matter how many cameras turn up.

Amy Adams (Justice, Courts, Social Housing, Social Investment, HNZC)
Make the Courts victim friendly, as victims’ advocate Ruth Money has pointed out they are currently intimidating to people seeking justice. Give up being the Minister for Housing New Zealand, the Minister for State Owned Enterprises can do this.

Dr Jonathan Coleman (Health, Sport and Recreation)
Be bold on healthcare.  We know the current model has flat lining productivity, and demographic pressures are going to drive the costs through the roof, indebting the whole country if nothing changes.  Making healthcare sustainable in the long term should be a bigger focus than day-to-day management, which should take care of itself if things are working. Consider shutting down the Sport and Recreation portfolio entirely – sports organisations are perfectly capable of looking after themselves.

Chris Finlayson QC (Attorney-General, Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, SIS, GCSB, Māori Development)
Stop signing treaty settlements with co-governance arrangements where the identity of your great-grandparents matters more than merit for getting appointments.  It is a time bomb for New Zealand.

Michael Woodhouse (Immigration, Workplace Relations and Safety, ACC)
Carry out the privatisation of ACC as agreed in ACT and National’s 2011 confidence and supply agreement.  The monopoly has never worked and cannot be made to work.

Anne Tolley (Children, Social Development, Local Government)
So much opportunity.  For two things:  Extend Income Managementfrom youth beneficiaries to include those who keep having children whilst on a benefit.  It would be fairer on the kids.  In Local Government, start with a ban on Councils getting into commercial enterprises such as ports and airports.  If councillors were good at running businesses themselves they would not be councillors.

Hekia Parata (Education)
Allow state schools to take on Partnership School status, with flexible funding and accountability through a contract.  Allow successful Partnership School sponsors to manage failed state schools instead of letting the latter ruin generation after generation.

Nathan Guy (Primary Industries, Racing)Open up the Zespri marketing monopoly on kiwifruit.  Do a decent investigation into Fonterra and find out whether legislating to allow one enormous co-op to dominate our largest industry was as good an idea as we thought at the time.  Tell Bill your other portfolios of Associate Economic Development and Racing aren’t needed.

Murray McCully (Foreign Affairs)
Try to get through the next four months without creating any scandals.

Nikki Kaye (Youth, Education (eventually))
Welcome back and see Hekia above on Education.  In the meantime, tell Bill to ditch the Youth portfolio. There are too many portfolios that exist just to get photo ops, and the ‘demographic’ portfolios are the worst.

Nick Smith (Environment, Building and Construction)
Nothing to lose so step up. Tell the Māori Party you have the numbers to reform the RMA properly without them, then do it.  Take urban environments out of the RMA altogether and develop urban planning law that gets houses built.  Reform infrastructure funding so councils have an incentive to grow.  Get to it.

Judith Collins (Revenue, Energy and Resources, Ethnic Communities)
Tell Bill there’s no need for the Ethnic Communities portfolio.  Tell the IRD to respect the taxpayer.  Reform resource royalties so that councils get a portion of royalties from activity consented in their area.  Theresa May has just done something similar by distributing royalty cheques to residents in areas where gas extraction is allowed.  If local people don’t benefit they will make sure nobody does.

Todd McClay (Trade, State Owned Enterprises)
Start privatising all SOEs.  Solid Energy shows what can happen when nobody invests their own money.  Get ready to sell the idea, as people are not rational about these things.  For one thing, the Crown has got more dividends since partial privatisation.  In Trade, start negotiating a CANZUK (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom) free movement zone, the most popular thing you could do for young New Zealanders.

Maggie Barry (Arts Culture and Heritage, Conservation, Seniors)
Tell Bill there’s no need for a Minister for Seniors.  Marginal call on Arts Culture and Heritage.  Adopt ACT’s policy of enabling community-run wildlife sanctuaries to bring back the birdsong in every town.

Paul Goldsmith (Tertiary Education Skills and Employment, Science and Innovation, Regulatory Reform)
Take Regulatory Reform seriously, it is the key to getting good law and avoiding screw-ups such as the RMA.  The goal should be to persuade colleagues of the Under-Secretary’s programme for improving Regulatory Impact Statements (largely done), then of ACT’s Regulatory Responsibility Bill. In Tertiary, give the Productivity Commission’s idea of Student Education Accounts, and all of its recent report the hearing it deserves.

Louise Upston (Corrections, Education (associate))
Make Corrections more consistently welcoming to volunteers who want to teach prisoners to read.  It’s absurd that there is an oversupply of people wanting to help.  In Education, start planning to have a separate entity owning the Government’s property portfolio, the Ministry of Education is hopelessly conflicted making sure its ‘network’ is fully utilised even when many of the schools are failing.

Alfred Ngaro (Pacific Peoples, Community and Voluntary Sector, Children (associate))
Tell Bill there’s no need for a Minister for Pacific Peoples let alone an Associate Minister for Children. Use the Community and Voluntary portfolio to rethink how the sector is contracted by government, better utilising the talents of non-government operators across the country.

Nicky Wagner (Customs, Disability Issues)
Keep up the good work in Customs and Disabilities.

Mark Mitchell (Land Information, Statistics)
Statistics is the Key to the Kingdom.  Seriously.  They may be hopeless at processing and presenting data but they have the statutory power to collect and hold it.  Tear down the walls and make data open source for everyone.  The results, for example, of revealing who is taking which credits under NCEA could be incendiary, but for the long term good.

Jacqui Dean (Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Small Business)
Commerce and Consumer Affairs is a big deal, first task, sort out the mess that is killing peer-to-peer lending and ensuring New Zealand won’t have a fintech industry thanks to silly regulations.

David Bennett (Veterans’ Affairs, Food Safety)
Listen carefully to those vets in Veterans’ Affairs, the post-Vietnam generation have been neglected so far and are getting organised.

Peter Dunne (Internal Affairs)
We are glad our passports get a speedy turnaround, but can you please explain why the fire service is funded by a levy on people who take out insurance, even holiday insurance, while people who don’t insure their houses get off scot-free? Ideally reform this to a revenue source with more suitable incentives.

Te Ururoa Flavell (Māori Development, Whanau Ora)
Show us the performance of Whānau Ora.  We want to see it work, but there’s too much room for critics at the moment.

David Seymour (Education (Under-Secretary), Regulatory Reform (Under-Secretary))
Keep it up, see policy agendas for Hekia and Paul (above), they look familiar.

In Sum
Altogether ACT would get rid of at least 10 portfolios, and has an agenda for all that remain.  Imagine what ACT could achieve with a few more MPs.

‘Tis the Season
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