This week our MPs have been back in Parliament, holding National to account on the issues that matter to New Zealanders.
Education is top of our agenda. National is running down our public education system. They’re not ruling out increasing class sizes in future. And John Key says parents shouldn’t get ‘hung up’ on the fact their children may be taught by unqualified teachers in charter schools. The Prime Minister was out of the country this week, so I tackled Bill English on the issue in the House. It is incredible that the Minister and his colleagues think parents shouldn’t be worried about their children getting a quality education. Education is a priority for Labour. It’s the only way to make sure our children get the best start in life.
The Social Development Minster’s flippant attitude to the well-being of our children was exposed this week when she refused to quantify the problem of child poverty under questioning from Jacinda Ardern, Labour’s social development spokesperson. Paula Bennett simply doesn’t want to admit how bad the situation is or to expose her failure to deal with the issue. She has released submissions to her paper on vulnerable children but it shows she is ignoring key issues like poverty and poor housing.
Parliament will get a chance to debate child poverty after a bill was drawn from the members’ ballot to extend the universal in-work tax credit. Labour will support the bill through to select committee because we are committed to reducing child poverty and this is a useful opportunity to debate new ideas about how to help the 20% of children living in poverty in New Zealand. Extending the in-work tax credit was our policy at the last election. We are looking at a range of ways to address the issue but in the meantime we support all attempts to highlight the issue and the Government’s failure to do so.
We also took the Social Development Minister to task this week over her disgraceful attitude to privacy. Paula Bennett breached the privacy of a woman when she made details of her benefit payments public while trying to score political points. She’s refused to apologise and says she may do it again in future. Bill English has chipped in too saying that if people challenge the Government they can’t expect to have their privacy respected. That’s appalling and well below the standard I would apply to any of my Ministers. Clearly, your private information is not safe with this Government.
I’ve been getting plenty of feedback on my newsletter last week, so please keep it coming. As this week’s newsletter shows, we’ve renewed our focus on working as a team to highlight National’s dead-end approach for New Zealand and to say what Labour would do differently.
Thank you for your help too in getting the Labour message out to New Zealanders.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Congrats to our Olympians! They did a fantastic job bringing home 13 medals – six of them Gold. Our athletes have really done us proud. Click here to watch my speech about their tremendous efforts.
We’ve continued fighting for the issues that matter to our regions, focusing on transport. Phil Twyford has led the charge against the Government’s stripping of funding for local roads to spend on big city motorways that aren’t a priority. One Mayor has told us that tar-sealed back roads in his community are being returned to gravel because they don’t have the funding to maintain them. That’s just not on. The regions make a massive contribution to our economy and it’s not fair that residents miss out on decent roads and other services.
David Parker and David Cunliffe have had the Government on the ropes over its so-called ‘comprehensive exports plan’ which boils down to story-telling, branding and photo opportunities. In contrast, Labour has a strong plan to deliver real growth in exports by increasing our investment pool through boosting savings and pro-growth tax reform. You can see more of our ideas in David Parker’s speech to the EPMU here.
Darien Fenton is calling for a high-level inquiry into the exploitation of migrant workers. TVNZ’s One News has exposed cases of migrant workers being blatantly ripped-off. Some were being offered pay rates of just $8 an hour. That’s disgusting.
Our Women’s Affairs Spokesperson Sue Moroney confronted the Government over its lack of commitment to reducing violence against women. She grilled the Women’s Affairs Minister in the House about news that Rape Crisis has had to cut back its services in Wellington because of a funding cut.
Last week, I attended the memorial service for our two fallen soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan. Labour joins with their family and friends in mourning the loss of two dedicated young New Zealanders. I passed on our sincere condolences in Parliament.