There’s been increasing concern over the past week or two that not only has the government failed to communicate its plan for the Christchurch recovery, it doesn’t actually have one, and isn’t particularly concerned about getting one. Yesterday in the House, Labour took Key to task on this important issue. And he was found terribly wanting.
It started with Phil asking Key to give people in Christchurch some vital information:
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “rebuilding Christchurch is a key priority for the Government this year”; if so, what rebuilding plans are currently in place?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes, I do. However, due to aftershocks and the need for inspections and demolitions, rebuilding may not begin in the central business district for at least 6 months. It is very important that the reasons for the severity of damage to certain buildings and consequent loss of life are understood as soon as possible. For this reason, Cabinet will request that the royal commission provide an interim report back in approximately 6 months. This report will include any recommendations that may be relevant to the construction of new buildings in Christchurch’s central business district.
It’s funny, I heard Goff’s question and took at as being about the 100,000 damaged houses, including the 10,000 Key says will have to be demolished. You know, the places where families live. But it seems Key thinks first and last about business buildings. I guess we just see the world differently.
Hon Phil Goff: What steps is the Government taking to begin an emergency housing programme for the 10,000 families unable to return to their homes because they are uninhabitable?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The relevant Minister and Cabinet has that issue well in hand. We will be in a position to make an announcement in the foreseeable future.
Yeah, I wonder how foreseeable the future is when you’re crapping in a bucket, your house has come off its piles, and government ministers are making (and then retracting) ominous comments about your entire community being abandoned.
Hon Phil Goff: What new skills training initiatives are being put into place, given the massive rebuilding job that lies ahead of Christchurch? Given that 9,000 people in Christchurch have been made redundant as a result of the earthquake, with unemployment expected to reach 7 percent, what skills training initiatives are being put in place to ensure that those people can help in the rebuilding of their own city?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The relevant Ministers-Steven Joyce, the Minister for Tertiary Education, and Paula Bennett, the Minister for Social Development and Employment, have been meeting with both their departments and the business recovery group, which is the old chamber of commerce, to discuss skills requirements. Again, they have planning in hand and will be able to make announcements in due course.
Ah, good. Playing your cards close to your chest. That’s what the people in the quake zone are looking for.
Jacinda then asked Key about what he is doing to stop the tide of skilled construction industry workers that are heading to Australia, given that we’re going to need every one we can get our hands on when the rebuilding starts.
Jacinda Ardern: Is he concerned about the number of partly trained plumbers who have left New Zealand for Australia since September?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and I think Helen Clark should apologise for it.
Nice. No answer and a non sequitur swipe at his predecessor. Can you feel the ambitious for New Zealand-ness? Even Lockwood Smith thought it was pathetic, saying “I cannot help with the answer; that was the answer that was given.”
Jacinda Ardern: What does he say to Julie Colthurst, whose son has been forced to move to Australia to find a plumbing apprenticeship even after completing 12 months of plumbing training at Manukau Institute of Technology?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I ask him to please get in contact with my office.
And what happens then? Key gives him interview tips? Calls up one of his mates in the industry, pulls a favour?
Trev then chipped in with a further question about a young plumber who had just headed to Aussie
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did the Prime Minister’s Ministers not take action to prevent people like this young man from leaving the country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am glad that the member asked that question, because this Government has taken lots of steps to prevent people from going from New Zealand. We have cut personal taxes, we have got on top of the crime wave that was prevalent when those members were in Government, we have made a priority of economic growth, we have had an outward-facing economy, and under our Government fewer people have left for Australia than under the previous Government.
They got on top of the crime wave, did they? Strange that there were 15,270 more crimes recorded last June year than in the 2008 year June.
And growth’s “a priority”? Ah, that’ll be why GDP per person is down 3.4% since Key came to power and why we’re in a second recession that won’t end until at least June.
“Under our Government fewer people have left for Australia than under the previous Government”. Last year 33,583 people left for Australia, worse than all but three years under Labour.