Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation)
on behalf of the
Minister of State Services: I move,
That the Crown Entities Reform Bill be now read a second time. I would like to thank members of the Government Administration Committee for their prompt consideration of this bill. The bill is an omnibus bill that seeks to make changes to machinery of government arrangements in the health and charitable sectors. The proposals contained in the bill, which I will now briefly recap, are designed to reduce State sector fragmentation, bring together complementary functions and expertise, and create efficiencies by having stand-alone functions carried out by larger, more resilient agencies.
The bill provides for the following structural changes. Part 1 establishes as a Crown agent a new Health Promotion Agency to carry out the health promotion functions currently being carried out by a number of agencies across the health sector. The bill disestablishes the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) and the Health Sponsorship Council, and transfers their functions to the new Health Promotion Agency. It is also intended that the new agency will carry out other health promotion work, including programmes currently delivered by the Ministry of Health. Part 1 also disestablishes the Crown Health Financing Agency. It is intended that some of the agency’s present functions will transfer to the Ministry of Health, while others will continue to be carried out by Treasury’s New Zealand Debt Management Office.
Part 2 brings forward the disestablishment date for the Mental Health Commission to 30 June 2012, superseding the current date of 5 p.m. on 31 August 2015. Part 2 also establishes a new Mental Health Commissioner as a deputy commissioner to the Health and Disability Commissioner, and gives the Health and Disability Commissioner the new functions of monitoring addiction services and mental health services and advocating for improvements to those services.
Part 3 disestablishes the Charities Commission and transfers its functions, duties, and powers to the Department of Internal Affairs, except for decisions on the registration and deregistration of charities. The bill assigns these decisions to an independent board of three persons, which will be supported by the Department of Internal Affairs. This independent board may make registration decisions itself or delegate responsibility for them, in whole or part, to the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs. However, if the board chooses to so delegate, the chief executive will also not be responsible to the Minister for registration decisions, but must act independently.
The select committee process showed a high level of support amongst submitters for some aspects of the bill, particularly the establishment of the Health Promotion Agency, and also some concerns about the implementation of the changes to the Mental Health Commission and the Charities Commission. I will address these concerns during the course of this speech.
The bill’s intention with the Health Promotion Agency is to create an agency that is viable in the long term, resilient, and able to deliver better public health outcomes. It will lead to greater integration of health promotion across a range of public health issues, encompassing not just the work currently carried out by ALAC and the Health Sponsorship Council but other health promotion work, as well. There are significant opportunities to improve the delivery of health promotion programmes. These include taking advantage of shared expertise when developing or delivering programmes, and reflecting the fact that a number of health promotion programmes focus on the same individuals, communities, or groups. The bill was intentionally drafted to reflect the Ottawa Charter, recognising that effective health promotion relies on multiple agencies
carrying out complementary functions. The Health Promotion Agency will be able to draw upon wider expertise, utilise a fuller range of existing relationships, and lead the health sector on health promotion issues.
The bill ensures that the Health Promotion Agency will continue to exercise ALAC’s current autonomous advisory functions, because these are well established and have proven effective for alcohol matters. The bill also preserves ALAC’s current alcohol levy, and ensures it will be spent only on the Health Promotion Agency’s alcohol-related activities.
It is worth briefly setting out some of the history of the Mental Health Commission. The commission was always intended to have a limited lifespan. There is a section in the Mental Health Commission Act 1998 that was to disestablish the commission at 5 p.m. on 31 August 2015. This bill brings forward the commission’s disestablishment date to 1 July this year. Originally the Mental Health Commission was established in response to the Mason inquiry of 1996. It worked as a committee for 2 years, and then was established as a Crown entity in 1998, with a sunset clause that would disestablish it after 3 years. That date for disestablishment was extended in 2000, in 2004, and again in 2007. The time has come to stop the uncertainty created by these continuous extensions. By transferring the Mental Health Commission’s functions to the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner and creating the office of the Mental Health Commissioner within that agency, we will secure a permanent home for the functions in an independent, resilient, and well-established Crown entity.
There was some concern amongst submitters that transferring the Mental Health Commission’s functions to the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner would compromise the independence of the functions and the commission’s current focus on mental health advocacy and monitoring. However, the functions’ independence from the Crown will, in fact, be increased. This is because the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner is an independent Crown entity, unlike the current Mental Health Commission, which is an autonomous Crown entity. The bill also specifically provides for a Mental Health Commissioner who will function as a deputy commissioner within the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner. This will be the only deputy commissioner specifically identified and provided for in the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994. This identification of the new Mental Health Commissioner in statute is intended to ensure that focus is maintained on the important mental health monitoring and advocacy work of the commissioner.
Furthermore, there are alignments between the new mental health functions and the current work of the Health and Disability Commissioner. The Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner has a well-known complaints resolution function, but it also advocates for service improvement once problems have been brought to its attention. The Health and Disability Commissioner’s current service improvement activities align well with the new mental health monitoring and advocacy functions provided for in the bill. Transferring the Mental Health Commission’s mental health functions to the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner will also provide the opportunity for efficiencies to be achieved by integrating back-office functions.
In relation to the Charities Commission, firstly, some minor amendments to Part 3 of the bill are necessary as a consequence of the recently enacted Charities Amendment Act 2012. I propose to address these by way of a Supplementary Order Paper. There are three different issues that I will speak about in relation to the Charities Act amendments. They are the continued independence of the commission’s functions of registration and deregistration of charities, the continuation of the commission’s education function, and the request to delay this process until after the review of the Charities Act is complete.
The bill provides for an independent board of three members to make registration and deregistration decisions. The bill has been carefully drafted to ensure the continued independence of this board when exercising its professional judgment on registration and deregistration decisions. The Minister will not be able to direct the board. Likewise, if the board chooses to delegate some or all of its functions to the Chief Executive of the Department of Internal Affairs, then the chief executive will also not be responsible to the Minister for registration and deregistration decisions, but will have to act independently. The board will be statutorily independent from the Crown, but will be supported by the Department of Internal Affairs. The bill therefore strikes an appropriate balance between important independence considerations and achieving administrative efficiency.
The Department of Internal Affairs has extensive experience in supporting independent boards and offices of the kind provided for in the bill. These include the Gambling Commission, the Local Government Commission, the Registrar-General of Births, Deaths and Marriages, and the Chief Archivist. To take the example of the Gambling Commission, it has been successfully supported by the Department of Internal Affairs since 2003, and has demonstrated its independence on numerous occasions by overturning Department of Internal Affairs decisions. I expect the board established by this bill to operate just as successfully as the Gambling Commission, and any of the other independent entities supported by the Department of Internal Affairs, for that matter, in terms of exercising its statutory independence.
The bill elevates the Charities Commission’s current functions of promoting public trust and confidence, and encouraging and promoting the effective use of charitable resources to the Charities Act’s purpose section. This is a clear and explicit statement on the continued importance of the charities’ education functions. The bill also retains all the Charities Commission’s other education functions: issuing guidance and rules, providing information to charities about their rights, duties, and obligations under the Charities Act, and stimulating and promoting research into charities matters. The Department of Internal Affairs will be accountable to the House for the performance of these functions as normal. It is intended that these measures will help ensure the long-term viability of the charities functions and make them better equipped to respond to challenging financial circumstances than they would be in a stand-alone agency. It is precisely these considerations that have driven the Government’s approach when developing the changes proposed in this bill. This is a good bill, and I commend it to the House.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South)
: The Labour Opposition will support this bill, the Crown Entities Reform Bill, through its second reading, but we are giving notice that at the Committee stage there is a part of the bill, Part 3, that we will be vigorously opposing. There has been, I think, quite a lot of discussion amongst members on this, and I think this bill is a mixture. Part 1, I think, is generally very well supported and might be regarded as good legislation, and towards Part 2 I think there is a feeling of ambivalence on this side of the House and maybe a variety of views, but Part 3 is an area that we are opposed to because of the loss of the autonomy that is currently enjoyed by the Charities Commission when it goes to, effectively, being a board subject to being run out of and through the Department of Internal Affairs.
We will not speak much at this stage of the bill on the ongoing question of the mess that has been made of State sector restructuring by this Government. I think it is a little bit unfair to blame Jonathan Coleman for the mess that Tony Ryall has made and for the extra work that Murray McCully has caused the State Services Commission, and I think it is probably important, therefore, to focus on this legislation.
There is a review of the Charities Act 2005 that is due to take place on the completion of the current review of the Incorporated Societies Act 1908, and I think most of us would accept that a review of a 1908 Act probably has some priority over the 2005 Act. But what the Government has decided to do is to anticipate the results of that review by transferring functions to the Department of Internal Affairs, and members on this side of the House think that that is a premature thing to do. We think currently there is a robust agency, normally resilient, and we think it generally gets its decisions right, although I am one of the people who know that every now and again there have been some decisions that have been made that would not exactly cover the Charities Commission in glory. One that has been quoted to me has to do with the Anglican Church apparently not being allowed to be registered as a charity, and the reason was the lack of a wind-up clause in the church’s constitution. Apparently that was a requirement of some of the bureaucrats at the—[Interruption] Well, I suppose it would be possible to have, one might say, a second coming clause as part of the wind-up. But I think that was taking bureaucracy too far on the part of the Charities Commission, and there certainly has been some work in the past. But the feedback I have had has been that in the last few years the Charities Commission has been working in a way that has been much more positive and has been working closely with charities. There is a general satisfaction with its work and especially with its autonomy, and you do get to the point of asking the question why, if it is not broken, we should be fixing it. That appears to be the case with the Charities Commission.
The other thing is that it has, over time, built up a good reputation for independence and integrity. That is something that is very important; there is always suspicion around a Government department that it is more subject to a bit of a nudge from the Minister. I do not even know who the current Minister of Internal Affairs is. Can someone enlighten me?
Hon Members: Tremain.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Is it Tremain? Chris Tremain is the current Minister. I am sure he would act in a totally proper way and would not ever try to influence it, but if, for example, Murray McCully was the Minister, could anyone believe that he would not be giving a nudge, nudge, elbow, or kick to the Department of Internal Affairs?
Jami-Lee Ross: Wasn’t Shane Jones internal affairs Minister?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There he goes again. The poor man’s Paul Quinn is interjecting again. Jami-Lee Ross is interjecting yet again. He can never ever get anything right.
But let us work back to the report of the select committee, where the committee did make it clear that many of the members were convinced that the legislative safeguards in the bill were not sufficient to maintain the degree of integrity and independence that the current Charities Commission provides. We think that the charities-related functions will be much less accessible to the public and that the charity sector work will be carried out in a much less transparent manner if these functions become just another part of the grab bag that is the Department of Internal Affairs. As many of us know, the MOBIE—whatever that stands for—is whatever Steven Joyce wants to have within a department, and the Department of Internal Affairs is for what no one wants to have in their department; it goes to the Department of Internal Affairs. There is therefore a certain lack of support there.
It was a very fine thing: the Labour Party caucus spent much time deliberating as to whether or not we should support the bill. On balance, we decided that we will at the second reading, probably as a result of the good work of the deputy chair of the Government Administration Committee, the former member for West Coast - Tasman. He has convinced us that it is worth going to the Committee stage. I do want to signal
that I have tabled—it may be on the Table of the House, and if it is not it will be on the Table of the House later in the day—an amendment that would put a 3-year gap after the Order in Council bringing the Act into effect until the Charities Commission wind-up occurred and the transfer occurred. What that would do would be to provide a window for the review that is required in legislation to happen and for the Government to make a decision as to whether or not it wanted to proceed with what we think is ill-thought-through legislation. Notwithstanding that, we will be voting against Part 3, and we will make decisions at the end, after that process, as to our vote on the third reading. Thank you.
Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector)
: Well, today I speak as the Minister who will be responsible for some of the functions contained in this Crown Entities Reform Bill once it has passed. One of my delegations as Associate Minister of Health is responsibility for the Health Promotion Agency, which is being created by the bill. And as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector I am able to advise Mr Mallard that it is, in fact, myself who will be responsible for Part 3 of the bill.
The bill’s intention with the Health Promotion Agency is first and foremost to create an agency that will deliver better public health outcomes for New Zealanders. Lifestyle factors like tobacco use, alcohol abuse, and obesity are significant drivers of poor health outcomes, and these are issues that many communities in New Zealand struggle with. For example, surveys indicate that almost a quarter of New Zealand adults have a potentially hazardous drinking pattern and each year more than 2,000 New Zealanders end up in hospital with alcohol-related disease. The Health Promotion Agency will work to inform and empower people to improve their health. At the broadest level the work currently carried out by the Alcohol Advisory Council and the Health Sponsorship Council will remain the same, but in the Health Promotion Agency it will benefit from being much more integrated. A more integrated and efficient approach to health promotion across the range of public health issues will, in turn, deliver better public health outcomes. By combining the skills and expertise of these two high-performing agencies, the Health Promotion Agency will be able to utilise a fuller range of existing relationships and lead the health sector on health promotion issues.
I will move on now to the Charities Act changes, which relate to the Charities Commission. I know from firsthand experience how vital the charitable and non-profit sector is, the challenges that it faces, and the benefits it produces for New Zealanders. It is my view that it will be for the long-term benefit of the sector to have a stable and resilient mechanism for the carrying out of the charities-related functions set out in the Charities Act for the foreseeable future. There was some concern from the sector about the Charities Act’s definition of “charitable purpose” and the commission’s interpretation of this definition. In light of this concern, submitters asked why the Government would not wait until the outcome of the upcoming review of the Act to make the structural changes proposed in the bill. However, the changes, being structural only, will not affect the review’s ability to examine the definition of “charitable purpose” or, indeed, any other of the provisions of the Charities Act. Moreover, delaying the merger to wait for the review of the Charities Act will not address the Government’s other priorities of reducing the State sector fragmentation and achieving efficiencies in areas such as back-office services by housing functions within larger, more resilient agencies.
As the Minister has already pointed out, the transfer to the Department of Internal Affairs of the charities-related functions performed is intended to help ensure the long-term viability of those functions by having them carried out by a larger, more resilient agency. The department is better equipped to respond to challenging financial
circumstances than a small, stand-alone agency. The Minister has also already explained how the independence of the registration function will be preserved and the education function, in fact, strengthened in the bill. I would like to reassure those people who have expressed concerns that these functions might be weakened or lost that this is not the case. As Minister, I will not be able to direct the registration board, or the department if it is acting under delegation from the board. The department will be directly responsible to the House for the performance of the education and promotion functions, and it is working closely with the commission to ensure a smooth transition.
The creation of the Health Promotion Agency and the move of charities functions into the Department of Internal Affairs under this bill will improve both the quality and efficiency of public services now and into the future, and I commend this bill to the House.
LOUISA WALL (Labour—Manurewa)
: Kia ora. It is my pleasure to speak on this Crown Entities Reform Bill as Labour’s spokesperson on the community and voluntary sector. It has been interesting meeting with the sector because the sector has been very clear that particularly Part 3 of this bill is something that it completely disagrees with: of the 43 submissions that we received on this bill, 20 related directly to Part 3. I continue to receive submissions from the community and voluntary sector about the fact that the Minister is not listening to it, that the Government is not listening to it, and that it does not want the Charities Commission merged into the Department of Internal Affairs. In fact, the Government Administration Committee itself acknowledged the strong concern expressed by submitters in relation to the disestablishment of the Charities Commission.
One of the other things that were highlighted in the select committee process was that the bill was interrupted with the end of Parliament—it was first introduced on 29 September 2011, and it had its first reading on 4 October—so there were some issues about the carry-over of this bill with the community and voluntary sector. Because at the end of Parliament there was confusion about the status of this bill, it was very interesting that this Government has chosen to rush this piece of legislation through and again take no cognisance of what the community is saying.
When I talk about the community, the people I am talking about are ComVoices, which is an independent network of tangata whenua and leading national community and voluntary organisations. It has been set up to promote and make visible the enormous contribution of the community and voluntary sector to New Zealand society. The Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector is leaving the House because she does not want to hear—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order! The member will be seated. Can I just remind members that it is custom and practice in this place that you do not refer to the absence of members. All of us, at some time or other, cannot be in the House.
LOUISA WALL: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It was very interesting for me as the spokesperson—
Hon Trevor Mallard: She was running faster than the member because she’s a winger.
LOUISA WALL: —oh, you reckon, Trevor—for the community and voluntary sector that I have had so many people from this community want to meet with me to talk to me. ComVoices was one of the groups I met with. Katherine Noble was the chair. I also met with Dave Henderson, who represented the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa, which is an independent network of community sector organisations. I met with Ros Rice, who represents the New Zealand
Council of Social Services, and with Tina Reid, who was there on behalf of Social Development Partners.
One of the organisations that have sent me some communication most recently is an organisation called Te Roopu Waiora Trust, which is a national Māori disability advocacy rōpū based in Papatoetoe, South Auckland. What is interesting, from what it says—and what I really want to highlight—is in its communication, which I quote from. It has existed for over 22 years as an active network committed to progressing Māori aspirations and outcomes. What it notes is that in those 22 years it has never been invited to participate in policy and planning within the Department of Internal Affairs. However, developing a relationship with the Charities Commission has occurred, and it is in negotiations with the Charities Commission on behalf of its community to ensure that Māori actively participate in the first-principles review of the Charities Act that has been proposed. What is interesting in this process is that the Charities Commission is actually actively engaging with its stakeholders, who are the community and voluntary sector organisations of New Zealand. They have a relationship, and the commission is ensuring that those organisations have been well briefed and have an opportunity to participate. I quote: “In view of the principles promoted in the development and implementation of the Kia Tūtahi accord, we find this move by Government and the lack of consultation with the communities of Aotearoa to be completely contradictory. It is extremely disappointing that our trust in working together as Government and communities in good faith has once again been eroded.”
The position that we take on this side of the House is that we will listen to our communities when they come to us and say: “Please don’t transfer the Charities Commission into the Department of Internal Affairs. Please let the first-principles review happen.” Once that process is gone through—which ensures that the input of the community and voluntary sector, as the most critical stakeholder for the Charities Commission, into that process is enabled—then we will know the best outcomes that we want for that sector, and we will have a better Charities Commission that is going to meet the needs of the communities of New Zealand.
One of the other things that I want to highlight is that some of the key themes that emerged from those 20 submissions are that the independence of the Charities Commission and its functions would be compromised by transferring it to the Department of Internal Affairs. This really goes to the heart of what I think the community is worried about. It is about the autonomy and independence of the commission, which the community feels it currently has. So we cannot understand on this side of the House why the Government will not just listen to the community and voluntary sector. I will be supporting my colleague Trevor Mallard. I should have acknowledged earlier, actually, that the chair of the Government Administration Committee, the Hon Ruth Dyson, has been leading this work on behalf of us. I want to reiterate that we are listening to the community and voluntary sector, and we share with it, I guess, a belief in the process that was in the Charities Act. That process should be enabled, and we should go through a process that ensures that the people who are going to be most affected by this change have a say in how their sector will be controlled, and a say on the framework within which a lot of the Charity Commission’s work is undertaken—that those people can have a say in the commission’s work, really, and in the framework of the work that the commission does.
One of the other key themes that emerged from this submission was that the Charities Commission’s role of educating the charitable sector will be compromised by the transfer of functions to the Department of Internal Affairs. Again, this is what the sector is saying, and I think that we should be aware of what it thinks. For us, that is one of the most important considerations in terms of the position we will be taking. The
Charities Commission should be retained in its current form until and after the completion of the review of the Charities Act 2005.
One of the other points that have been highlighted is that the savings associated with disestablishing the Charities Commission have probably, in fact, been overstated. There could be a point where it is actually going to cost this Government more money to merge the functions of the Charities Commission into the Department of Internal Affairs. Given that this Government is very quick to use cost savings as one of the rationales for a lot of the work that it is attempting to do, maybe it should critically analyse whether or not it could save some money by just letting the first-principles review take place.
We look forward to working with our fellow Opposition members to ensure that Part 3 of this bill is defeated. That is our primary purpose because, once again, we are going to listen to what our communities say. For those of you who are listening, we will continue to ensure that your voices are heard and have a valid place in this House. I hope that the Minister and the members of that side of the House start listening to what the community and voluntary sector wants. Kia ora.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green)
: It is my pleasure to take a call on the Crown Entities Reform Bill. I want to begin by expressing my gratitude to the officials, and to the members of the Government Administration Committee, who kindly allowed me to join them for consideration of the submissions on this bill, and in particular to the chair of the committee, Ruth Dyson. I also express my appreciation to the submitters on the bill. There were some thoughtful submissions, some of which have already been mentioned.
I want to just in passing raise the issue of a procedural matter that is addressed tangentially in the report from the committee, which is that because of the timing of this bill, the process followed by the committee prior to the 2011 election was to open submissions but have no closing date. No closing date was effectively set until this Parliament’s Government Administration Committee was convened and chose to pick up the business, including this bill. What that meant for submitters—and possibly this was a necessary process, given the rules we have to work with—was that many organisations who had an interest and a stake in this bill and who wished to have their views heard either were not aware that submissions were open or were not aware of when submissions were going to close. Certainly, we heard quite a lot of feedback from potential submitters that they were frustrated and angry about that lack of clarity. I think it would be useful for perhaps the Business Committee or perhaps your own office, Mr Speaker, to look at that matter to see whether that could be tidied up to better reflect a good process for submitters in the future on other bills.
The Green Party opposes this bill, and we do so reluctantly because there are aspects of it that we support. When the bill, should it proceed, is split into several separate bills, there is at least one of those that we will vote for. The part of the bill that we support relates to the creation of the Health Promotion Agency.
There has been some commentary, both from the Minister’s speech at the start of the second reading on the bill and from officials, that this is a bill that has been drafted to give effect to the Ottawa Charter on health promotion. I am a bit of a fan of the Ottawa Charter, and so I was very excited to think that a bill would be giving specific effect to it. It is possible that the Minister may like, in the Committee stage, to move a Supplementary Order Paper to more explicitly give effect to the Ottawa Charter in the wording of the bill. My concern is that, although that is the rhetoric around the bill, actually the bill does not go that far.
The Ottawa Charter is important, because it establishes a new approach to health. Within the health sector we talk about the Ottawa Charter and health promotion as a socio-environmental approach to health, and we contrast that with both the biomedical
approach and also the health behaviour approach. The biomedical approach tries to explain patterns of health and illness in communities by the distribution of germs, effectively, or bacteria and viruses. In fact, that explanation fails to predict what is actually observed in terms of distribution of health and illness. Then the health behaviour model came along. Health behaviourists say that it is not so much the viruses and the bacteria, the biomedical causes of illness, it is actually people’s lifestyle choices. So we see this phrase “healthy lifestyles”. That, of course, is an attempt to actually bring forward the theory of microeconomics—the rational decision maker—into the health arena. So the theory behind that is that a person will weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of a potential course of action, or health behaviour, and choose the “right” one. If we could only encourage people to make the right lifestyle choices, then we would all be healthier.
In fact, again what we see is a pattern of health and illness that does not support that theory as the primary driver of health and illness. Instead, what we see is disease clustered in particular communities, and that is not because everyone in those communities makes poor lifestyle choices. What health promotion says, and what the Ottawa Charter says, is that that is because health and disease are functions of the level of empowerment of a particular community, control over the life circumstances that people in that community enjoy, and their relative marginalisation. So what the Ottawa Charter says—and I talked about this a little in the first reading speech—is that if the nation wishes to improve the health of communities, we must improve the social and physical environment surrounding those communities and give those communities greater control over their life circumstances. It is a profound change, and I would like to pay particular tribute to this Minister and this Government for their bravery in deciding to set up an agency with the specific function of enacting the Ottawa Charter.
If the Minister chooses not to be more explicit about that in a ministerial Supplementary Order Paper at the Committee stage, then I invite the new Health Promotion Agency to take it from the debate in this House that that direction is indeed the one that the Government wishes the agency to pursue. So that is a part of this bill that the Green Party supports, and we will vote for a bill to achieve that.
The second area that I want to comment on is the change that is being made around the Mental Health Commission. I spoke about this in my first reading speech and pointed out that mental health services have long been Cinderella services within the health sector. The Mental Health Commission was intended as the game-changer to try to very radically alter the direction. The Minister was quite correct in her remarks to say that it was intended that there would be a finite period for the Mental Health Commission, but what I would encourage the Government to do is to reflect on the fact that the job is not yet done.
In particular, the reason why the Green Party will oppose the Government’s intention to fold the Mental Health Commission into the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner is that the functions are so greatly different. What the Mental Health Commission has been great at doing is taking on a planning function for mental health services and then monitoring against the plan at a macro-scale. That is fundamentally different from the type of role performed by the Health and Disability Commissioner, which has investigated individual cases and tried to draw on learning about that particular case to better inform the health services that are provided in the future. These are not the same functions, and there is no case that has been made out to fold the Mental Health Commission into the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner.
My colleague Denise Roche is going to talk about the dreadful change that is planned for the Charities Commission. It is completely wrong and we will oppose that as strongly as we possibly can. Thank you.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National)
: It is with pleasure that I rise to speak in favour of this Crown Entities Reform Bill. I would like, initially, to acknowledge a few points that have been made by other speakers—in particular, the Hon Trevor Mallard, who mentioned he has concern about the Charities Act but in other ways is pretty supportive of the bill, and, indeed, the most recent speaker from the Green Party, Kevin Hague. I know that he has had a background in health and is very committed to it. I find it sad, though, that both speakers have said they will support the bill, but not bits of it. I think that that is unfortunate, even though there has been a good level of discussion at the Government Administration Committee.
I note the point that Kevin Hague made about submitters not feeling they had sufficient time. It is a consequence, I would suggest, of changes of Government. I know there are several bills that have been thus affected. You would have to be more than an arithmetician to work out a system of overcoming that issue without compromising the new Government by the activities of the old. I think it is something that we do have to take into account. We certainly approached it from an advised point of view in this particular select committee. It was a point of discussion and we were able, I think, to achieve some additional responses from submitters.
The bill provides us with an opportunity to greatly improve the effectiveness of the public sector by reducing the duplication of services and reducing the separation of costs. Indeed, this phrase is not mine, but it is one that I like: this Government is not about increasing public services, but is about increasing services to the public from Government departments. I would have to say—
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Sounds like yours.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: It sounds like mine? Thank you, Mr Finlayson; I wish I had thought of it. Indeed, it is something that I have always been keen on. I think this bill goes a long way to achieving that concentration of services to the public.
But also it does something else, and something that I have noticed since National began with its National-led Government. We have done bills on the environment and in other spheres where it produces a synergy for the Government departments that are involved. It brings together people of the same mind. They are not working in isolation; they are not working in silos. It stops the proliferation that occurred, and I say it advisedly, under the previous Labour-led Government. I understand that Labour believes in an expanded Public Service. It always has done and it probably always will, whereas we do not. So we feel this bill is a responsible response to the situation of Public Service proliferation, to reduce that, and it is in keeping with the Government’s overall direction for the State sector, and the Government’s aim of improving State sector performance. None of these changes has been made lightly, and they have been made with a fairly thorough investigation before they went in.
I join the previous speaker, Kevin Hague, in thanking the advisers that we had for the work they have done. I am proud to be the deputy chair of this particular select committee. It is a significant one, which covers eight ministries and involves itself—
Hon Member: Fun working with Ruth.
CHRIS AUCHINVOLE: The Attorney says it must be fun working with the Hon Ruth Dyson, and I have to say that she has a very open approach, particularly to cooperating with committee members. She does have an intensified view of health services through, I think, her continued experience on health select committees. But, as I say, I am always interested when the speeches come out, because they do not always reflect the unanimity or the degree of agreement that does occur during the discussion at committee level.
I will just touch on a few aspects of this particular bill. It accomplishes particular goals. One is the creation of a new Health Promotion Agency, which previous speakers
have spoken at length about. It should be noted—and this is one of the concerns of the Alcohol Advisory Council—that the alcohol levy to the council will be continued as a preserve to be spent by the Health Promotion Agency on alcohol-related activities. In other words, it is a centralised feature; it does not get dissipated. The centralisation of services will ensure that programmes are delivered at a high level, removing duplicated expenses. Probably the most contentious issue is the change to the Charities Commission. I think that those who anticipate it the least will find that their anticipated problems do not occur to the extent that they expect them to, and I would encourage them to wait until further in the debate and not to get too anxious about it.
But I am heartened to hear levels of support from both sides of the House for the majority parts of this bill. I support it wholeheartedly and call on all members of the House to do the same, as I am sure all members of the House will. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First)
: New Zealand First does not support Part 3 of the Crown Entities Reform Bill, disestablishing the Charities Commission. Therefore, it will vote against the bill as a whole, and later when it is divided. I will have no comments to make, however, on Parts 1 and 2, and my following comments relate to Part 3 exclusively. I first of all want to refer to the procedure by which this part of the bill has got to the House. The bill was first introduced, as we know, in the previous Parliament, and people have been given only 1 month since then to make submissions to this Parliament on this bill. That is clearly and obviously a totally unreasonable and inadequate period of time for organisations involved in the charities sector to consider and make submissions. That is just not satisfactory, and it should have been much longer—at least 3 months, if not longer than that. A lot of those involved, actually, and they have told me this directly, did not even know that this bill was coming back to the House in this form—and these are the people most directly concerned, so you see how poor this procedure has been.
So there has really been very little consultation on this, and the Government is sailing out on its own without taking any notice of wide public concern about the disestablishment of the Charities Commission. I have many letters and emails to demonstrate that. The public are really being ignored in this process, and that is a very poor process indeed.
The essential problem is, of course, lack of independence for the new board. The current commission is, and is seen to be, independent, and that is a great advantage for the charities sector. The transfer of these functions, as the bill does, to the Department of Internal Affairs does remove genuine independence. The new board of three will be seen as Government lackeys, simply because their functions are so utterly restricted. They will be seen to be there to do the Minister’s bidding, and the fine words in section 8(4) in clause 45, which talks about “not subject to direction from the Minister.”, are just that—fine words, not in any respect real at all.
Independence is important. The purpose of the bill is said to be, firstly, to “promote public trust”. But, in fact, it will do exactly the opposite. It will alienate the public from the charities sector and the Government administration of it in the form that is set out in this bill. It also says that the purpose of the bill is to “promote the effective use of charitable resources:”. What on earth does that mean? I have not heard any of the Government MPs describe what that is, and I would like to hear some discussion on that. Does it mean interference in where charitable resources should go? That is certainly the appearance it gives. If that is a purpose, it is a very bad purpose, indeed. The Government and its departments are not suited to that sort of function. Donors should decide, and charitable organisations should decide.
Thirdly, it talks about registration and deregistration. That, of course, is already achieved, as is compliance with rules, which is already achieved. We see also that the new chief executive is to have a lot of executive powers to carry out functions. That means a lot more executive power and a lot more Government power—yes, more government, not less government as the previous speaker asserted. It means more influence in the private affairs of people and of charitable organisations, it means more bureaucracy, it means less freedom, it means less public encouragement to donate to charities, it means less flexibility, and it means less public engagement. True independence, not just words in the statute, must be a culture—not just some words in a statute. That is not going to be achieved by this bill and the administration system that is set out in it. That is simply not possible in a Government department. I am not criticising Government departments for that; it is just the way they work. They are not suited to it. A separate commission, with the appropriate culture—which the current commission was developing—is the right way to go. So Part 3 of this bill is entirely misconceived and cannot achieve even the purposes that are stated in the bill itself to be achieved. It is not wanted by charities, for good reasons: lack of independence, too much bureaucracy, and less flexibility in administration.
I want to read to the House some of the comments from some of the communications to me. “I have not met one single person in the charitable sector that thinks the absorption of the Charities Commission into the Department of Internal Affairs is a good idea.” “The sector fought so hard for so many years to get a Charities Commission. Please do not allow it to be disestablished now.” “The number of submissions should not in any way be taken as evidence that the sector are ambivalent about the potential loss of the Charities Commission. They are not. Everything I have seen and heard to date indicates that the sector feels very strongly that the Charities Commission should not be disestablished.” “No matter what measures are put in place, the proposed independent board connected to a Government department is very unlikely to be perceived as independent. This will have a profound effect on the public trust and confidence which is so important.” Of course, those comments are from the sector itself, and should be taken notice of by the Government.
What are the effects of bureaucracy? First of all, there will be no real fair or impartial access to the system by charities and those involved with them. Secondly, there will be no real transparency in decision making, which is typical, I am afraid, of Government departments, which do not reach out to the community and are probably incapable of doing so in any real way.
What is needed, of course, is to encourage the sector, and for a commission to engage meaningfully with it, not to regulate and control, as Governments and their departments do. New section 10, in clause 45, for example, makes it very clear: the chief executive officer has functions that are set out in these terms. First of all, issuing guidelines is what the chief executive officer is to do. Does that really mean directions by the bureaucracy? I fear that it will. Secondly, we see the term “model rules” in section 10(1)(ii) in clause 45. That will effectively be regulations—it will effectively be regulations. Also, in section 10(b) in clause 45 there are the words “appropriate information”. What is that? Will only the chief executive officer know what is appropriate? I fear so. The Crown Entities Reform Bill is done in advance of a review of the Charities Act 2005, which is unwise and unnecessary, and it is untrue that to disestablish the Charities Commission now will create a more robust, resilient agency. That is poppycock. It will do no such thing. The current commission would do that much better. In fact, a new organisation will weaken the sector generally, it should not be supported, and it should await the review of the Charities Act so that this can be done holistically and efficiently. This cherry-picking, this piecemeal approach by this
Government, is very unwise and should not proceed. For all those reasons New Zealand First supports the charities sector, which, obviously, the current Government does not. We support the charities sector and we support what it says, which is not what this Government is doing. This bill should not be supported now and when it is subdivided later into three separate bills.
KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National)
: I thank you for the opportunity to speak during the second reading of the Crown Entities Reform Bill. The bill once again underscores this National-led Government’s commitment towards improving the performance of our State sector. There is very little doubt that New Zealanders expect, and are entitled to, a State sector that is of the 21st century and that improves as time progresses. This bill does provide what is expected by New Zealanders, by making structural changes to the health and charitable sectors. The Government intends to improve services by reducing the cost of these services in the longer term. I would like to repeat the words of my learned friend Chris Auchinvole, when he said that public services are not to grow, but services to the public are to grow.
I personally am very pleased with the bill, because, quite frankly and plainly, the legislation will end up in practical savings that can be used towards providing other valuable services to New Zealanders. For instance, when I spoke on this bill last time, I mentioned that Counties-Manukau now has 300 extra front-line police on the road. This has been achieved by ensuring optimum utilisation of our resources.
This omnibus bill forms structural changes to the way governance is organised across the health and charitable sectors, including the establishment of a new Health Promotion Agency that will take over the functions of the Alcohol Advisory Council, the Health Sponsorship Council, and the Ministry of Health. This bill by no means reduces the commitment to the alcohol harm reduction programme or towards mental health services; rather, we have strengthened these services. For instance, mental health services functions will continue to be performed by the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner. The Government has further strengthened the services by providing for the role of the Mental Health Commissioner within the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner. These changes will reduce the duplication of corporate and governance overheads, and ensure that the agencies can continue to deliver the front-line services that New Zealanders expect. Having outlined the positives of the bill and what it stands to deliver, I commend this bill to the House.
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North)
: We have heard from a number of my colleagues on this side of the House and other Opposition parties that there are mixed views on the Crown Entities Reform Bill. That is because the three parts of the bill, although they superficially appear to do very similar things, actually do quite different things. The similarity, of course, comes from the fact that each of Parts 1, 2, and 3 amalgamate parts of the public sector; it is usually amalgamating two different organisations into one single organisation. But, of course, the organisations that are being amalgamated are very different. In Part 1 the Health Sponsorship Council and the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) are being brought together. Part 2 sees the Mental Health Commission rolled into the Health and Disability Commissioner. Part 3 amalgamates the Charities Commission into the Department of Internal Affairs.
What this represents is the ideological position of the National Party that reducing the number of public sector organisations is, by definition, a good thing. It does not matter what the outcome of that amalgamation might be, but the fact that there is an amalgamation and the fact that the number of organisations is being reduced is, by definition, a good thing. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. It is the outcome of those amalgamations that really matters. That is why most parties are saying that Part 1—the bringing together of the Health Sponsorship Council and ALAC—makes a
certain amount of sense. It makes one single Health Promotion Agency, which is focused on well-being, healthy lifestyles, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. Although I can understand some reservations at a time when there is considerable focus on the issue of alcohol-related harm in New Zealand at the moment, and people’s concern that the folding of ALAC into that Health Promotion Agency may reduce the role and the importance of ALAC, we are reasonably confident, from the discussions had at the Government Administration Committee that that does have positives, and the fact that we will have one single agency focused on health promotion is a good thing.
Then you have in Part 2 the bringing together of the Mental Health Commission and the Health and Disability Commissioner, with the Mental Health Commissioner becoming a deputy to the Health and Disability Commissioner. I think it is fair to say there are some reservations about that change, on this side of the House. Mental health has always been the poor cousin of the health system, the Cinderella of the health system—whatever you want to call it. What we are trying to say is that mental health does not get the focus and attention that it ought to, and that has certainly been the case for a number of years. There was an effort under the first mental health blueprint to fix that, and, of course, at the moment what is happening is consultation and preparation for the second mental health blueprint, which, of course, is being carried out by the Mental Health Commission. We all expect that that will be produced in fairly short order, because, of course, the Mental Health Commission will cease to exist fairly soon, so it is going to have to get that job done before it disappears. But under the current Government there is no mental health target, there is no additional mental health funding for secondary services, and we continue to see the proliferation of this attitude towards mental health services as being very minor—almost the health system’s dirty secret, which we do not want to talk about, and which we do not want to support and promote. Supporting mental well-being in the community is absolutely part of health promotion. So there are some reservations about Part 2.
Part 3, which I do not really intend to speak about much, because my colleagues have addressed that at some length, is, of course, the part that we are completely opposed to.
Those three different positions are, I think, quite consistent, because what the Opposition parties are doing, what Labour is doing, is looking at the outcome of these amalgamations. We are not simply looking at should we or should we not amalgamate or reduce the number of public sector organisations; we are looking at what their roles are and what is the best structure for achieving the outcomes that are desirable. National, however, with this bill, simply takes a very, I think, blunt approach, which is that the reduction of the number of public services and the reduction of the number of public organisations, in and of itself, is a good thing.
Part 1, of course, establishes the Health Promotion Agency, and, as I said, we are quite supportive of that. I am looking forward to seeing the work of that agency, and seeing it pick up the work that the Health Sponsorship Council has been carrying out. The Health Sponsorship Council works in tobacco control, sun safety for cancer prevention, nutrition and physical activity, and, of course, minimising the harm related to gambling. It is that particular aspect of its work that, I think, is probably going to become more challenging fairly soon, if John Key and the Government have their way, because what we have seen, of course, is that this Government, which is prepared to sell its own grandmother to get a deal, is going to increase the number of pokie machines just so that it can get a deal with Skycity. Well, I took a look at the Health Sponsorship Council’s website this afternoon to see what it has to say about problem gambling. Here is what it has to say: “Every day New Zealanders lose $5.5 million on gambling. That is around $2 billion each year.” That is lost from our families and our communities. This is the role of the Health Sponsorship Council, and it will be a role of the Health
Promotion Agency, as established in Part 1 of this bill, so this is important information that is absolutely relevant to this debate. The website states: “More than 18,000 New Zealanders are problem gamblers.”, and around half of the money lost to problem gambling or to gambling in general, particularly to problem gambling in New Zealand, goes on pokie machines, the very component of gambling that our Prime Minister, John Key, wants to see expanded in this country.
As Kevin Hague said earlier on, this is not simply about some economic approach to health care, where people will weigh up the pros and cons of a healthy lifestyle and will choose automatically a healthy lifestyle. What we are talking about here is that many of the issues that this Health Promotion Agency will have to deal with will be related to addiction, and people do not make sensible, logical decisions when they are dealing with addiction. It is about the environment, and it is about how we construct our communities to reduce the harm, and to reduce the opportunities to engage in harmful and addictive behaviour. That is what really counts. The Health Sponsorship Council knows that. I am sure the Health Promotion Agency will know that. The only people who do not seem to know that are Government members over there, those people who want to increase the opportunities for gambling, and who, in respect of nutrition and physical activity, got rid of the Healthy Eating - Healthy Action programmes, the health promotion in schools, the very health promotion activities that we should be carrying out in order to actually achieve the outcomes that these agencies are supposed to be focusing on.
If we look at the Health Sponsorship Council, it actually looks at some of the costs related to the issues that it is trying to work on. I have talked about the costs related to gambling. We already know about the significant costs related to smoking. Of course, if we look at the costs related to preventable cancer, for instance, it is estimated that skin cancer costs New Zealand about $57 million a year. But, again, what this Government is not interested in is health promotion or promoting healthy lifestyles. What it is doing, and what we have seen from its reprioritisation of health funding, is movement away from health promotion, movement away from primary health, and into secondary health. In other words: “We don’t care if you get sick. We’ll clean up the mess afterwards, instead of working hard to keep people well in the first place.”
The last thing I just briefly want to touch on is the very important fact that the ALAC levy will be secure under this new structure, and that that ALAC levy will be used for alcohol harm reduction promotion activities. It is interesting that we have an alcohol levy, yet we do not have a tobacco levy. That is a question that needs to be canvassed in much greater detail than can be done this afternoon—[Interruption] It might be in the Budget, but it is, I think, an important factor that although we have this very specific levy for alcohol, the fact that we do not have a similar specific levy for tobacco is, I think, a gap that we want to consider addressing. In summary, there are very mixed feelings about this legislation on this side of the House. We look forward to the Committee stage, where we can get down and talk about it part by part. For now, we will support the bill, but without significant changes to some parts of the bill, that support cannot be guaranteed into the Committee stage and third reading.
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany)
: I see from the speech from Mr Lees-Galloway that Labour is on to its tired old hobby horse again of opposing a convention centre for Auckland. The more that Labour members stand up and tell people that they are opposed to more jobs for Aucklanders, and that they are opposed to more economic development for Aucklanders, the better, because the public needs to hear what they stand for, which is opposing jobs. I just want to take a short call on this Crown Entities Reform Bill—
Andrew Little: You’ll have to do better than that.
JAMI-LEE ROSS: How was the process server last night, Andrew? How did that go? I just want to take a short call on this bill. This bill amalgamates the functions of a number of existing agencies to improve financial efficiency and effectiveness, which are goals that we stand behind most certainly. The bill is to help to increase the future viability of those existing agencies. It is unashamedly part of the Government’s overall programme of improving State sector performance as a whole. This National-led Government does not believe in growing the Public Service; it believes in growing services to the public. That means more front-line service delivery, and more efficient back-office services.
We have heard tonight that there is some concern from other parties about this bill. It seems that most parts of the bill have been supported by other parties, except the issue around the Charities Commission. I just want to briefly touch on the issue of the Charities Commission, because from what I am hearing it sounds as though the issue with the Charities Commission is around the independence of the role of the commission, and whether or not that independence will continue through with the new organisation and the board that is being established. I think it is worthwhile pointing out a portion of the Government Administration Committee’s report on this bill. I just want to read it briefly. It says: “We note that Part 3 of the bill contains a number of provisions designed to support the independence of the charities registration function. Clause 45 of the bill as introduced would insert a new section 8(4) into the Charities Act 2005, requiring each board member to act independently in exercising their professional judgement,”.
Denis O’Rourke: Oh, fine words.
JAMI-LEE ROSS: Members can pooh-pooh that if they want to. They can complain and moan about that if they want to, but it is very clear. If members are concerned about the independence of the board, which would be administering functions of the charities-related legislation, they only have to read new section 8. I will read it—I will read it. It says: “In performing or exercising his or her functions, duties, or powers, each member of the Board—(a) must act independently in exercising his or her professional judgment; and (b) is not subject to the direction of the Minister.” I suggest that members have a read of the bill, because it is quite clearly in the bill. The independence that members are looking for will be statutorily required by the board, and I say that that should satisfy many of the concerns that members have.
Overall, this is a good piece of legislation. It goes a long way towards implementing National’s goal of delivering better public services within tight financial constraints, which is one of our four key priorities, and I ask the House to support this Government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The next call is a split call.
CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South)
: Labour members on this side of the House do have a number of concerns about this bill, the Crown Entities Reform Bill, and certainly not just to do with the item that the previous speaker, Jami-Lee Ross, discussed. I would like to refer my comments to Part 2 of the bill, around the disestablishment of the Mental Health Commission. This bill is aimed at what it says is amalgamating “the functions of a number of existing agencies to achieve gains in financial efficiencies, effectiveness, and future viability of agencies.” What we contend is that with regards to the downgrading, the diminishing, of the Mental Health Commission and its functions, it is not effective at all. It is not effective that this bill will actually diminish its functions and diminish its role. I want to address that as being a wrong priority and a false economy, because it is an example of how saving money will result in more problems down the track and will result in worse outcomes for people. As my colleague Iain Lees-Galloway said earlier, this is a vulnerable part of the
community, where mental health is treated as the poor cousin, and not given the attention that it deserves.
We certainly support high-quality public services that are delivered in the most efficient and effective way, but what we are seeing here with this particular proposal is certainly not going to be that. There will not be efficiencies, and we have seen a number of examples of that. I just wanted to mention as a clear example of that the Housing New Zealand Corporation, which introduced its “Smarter. Faster. Fairer.” 0800 system, which not only cut 70 jobs but is actually, as we speak, resulting in worse outcomes for people, who are being badly affected.
I have got a case in Dunedin right now of a young family in a State house who had their fireplace taken away a month ago. It still has not been replaced. There are three small children in that household. One of them has been hospitalised with bronchiolitis, which is a disease of poverty, and all the mother can do is ring the 0800 number to try to find out when the contractor is coming back to fix that fireplace. She is having to use electric heaters and spend money on power she cannot afford, because Housing New Zealand Corporation has an 0800 number. You tell me how that is smarter, faster, and fairer.
Disestablishing the Mental Health Commission simply will not adequately reflect the Mental Health Commission’s present functions. We are also concerned that the blueprint funding roll-out, which did not meet the roll-out target in the last 2 years, will be further reduced. We consider that it is turning what was a proactive approach that the commission applied to its auditing and advisory functions into a reactive function, which is well suited to the Health and Disability Commissioner’s complaints resolution process but will not reflect the proactive response and the proactive role that the commission has played in the past.
I did not sit on the select committee that heard this bill, but I have read the submissions. I have read submissions from the New Zealand Drug Foundation, the National Council of Women, the Public Service Association, and the Mental Health Foundation, which have all opposed this part of the bill.
DENISE ROCHE (Green)
: The Greens will be opposing this bill, the Crown Entities Reform Bill, because, on balance, we see more harm in it than good. Although we acknowledge that there are some adjustments that could be in order, especially around the area of health promotion, there are several areas in this omnibus bill that cause considerable damage. In particular, I refer to Part 3 and the shift of the Charities Commission so that it sits within the Department of Internal Affairs. There is considerable concern within the charities sector and the community and voluntary sector. I acknowledge that other speakers have already talked about this, but I would like to also touch on some of the issues that these organisations have, and their fears around what could happen to the Charities Commission if it was subsumed by the Department of Internal Affairs.
At the moment there are about 28,000 registered charities. They have been put on a register by the Charities Commission, which actually acts as a watchdog and has a reporting regime that means that those charities are held to account. Their financial records are transparent, and this means that philanthropic organisations are able to go to that register and see what sort of activities those charities have been contributing towards in the last year of their operation. That register is a fail-safe; it is a watchdog. It acts as a measure to ensure that dodgy trusts cannot be set up—and there have been attempts to make that happen. Some may want to set up dodgy trusts because there are quite a lot of tax exemptions that can happen as a result of being registered as a charity.
We believe that the move to shift the Charities Commission into the Department of Internal Affairs—and this bill, basically—is premature. The Charities Act is still a fairly
new Act. There is a review of principles that is scheduled to be undertaken within the next few years, and, in fact, there is discussion already around the terms of reference for that review. As well as that, the Incorporated Societies Act was also due to be looked at, so to actually jump the gun, to say that this is what we are going to do to dismantle—and there will be an element of dismantling—the roles of the Charities Commission, and to do that before those reviews have taken place means that that Act, which was passed through this House in good faith, is failing to meet what it set out to achieve.
My colleague from Labour Louisa Wall actually spoke quite movingly, I thought, about how the charities sector and the community and voluntary sector feel about not being listened to. I join with a lot of other speakers who commented on the fact that the process for the submissions was truncated and did not lend it to a democratic process. We acknowledge the reasons for that around the election. However, there were many charities that did want to have their say, as well. They have actually been sending in letters, though, and I would just like to quote from some of the points that have been raised from some of the letters that I have received.
This comes, I think, from the
Association of Non-Governmental Organisations of Aotearoa. It is concerned about this move because the proposal is based on major errors of understanding in the Government’s thinking. The first point is the “Lack of understanding that charities are set up by ordinary New Zealanders … to address an issue they see in their community. And that such goodwill and initiatives do not require the involvement of a government department … Most charities receive no direct funding from government, so their responsibility is to their members and their community—not government”, and not to the Department of Internal Affairs. The letter continues: “DIAs involvement is likely to dampen initiatives in the community rather than encourage them … The proposed change is out of step with government’s own policy push around Better Public Services—it will instead lead to more bureaucracy and lower innovation.”
I attended a conference quite recently where four international speakers on charities law also said that this move would be a great leap backwards. We will be voting against this bill, and tomorrow, when the Supplementary Order Paper comes up to defer Part 3 of the bill, we will be supporting that. Thank you.
MIKE SABIN (National—Northland)
: I will take a short call on the Crown Entities Reform Bill. It is no great surprise to my colleagues on the Government benches—or to anyone else in the House, I suspect—that the Greens oppose this bill. The Greens typically do oppose reducing bureaucracy, which is usually a fairly good indicator to this side of the House that we are on the right track.
I thought I would take it up to a slightly higher level just to sum up. I think most of the matters here have been well traversed in this good piece of legislation. The National Government was re-elected in 2011, essentially because the public of New Zealand have faith in our economic leadership. A key plank in that is our priority in terms of improving public services. This bill is simply part of the Government’s overall programme to improve State sector performance, and this bill will achieve efficiencies for the New Zealand public. This will improve service delivery to the New Zealand public, and it will also help us achieve a better synergy across those backroom corporate functions. That is yet again another good example, I believe, of how this Government is heeding what the New Zealand public have realised: that we have to be more efficient in the way we go about governance.
There were some comments made from across the floor to the effect that “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I think we should not forget the fact that if it could be better, we should actually aim for that. That is exactly what the New Zealand public expect of a Government. That is something this bill sets out to do. So what are we really talking
about in terms of nuts and bolts? What savings are we talking about for the New Zealand public? We are talking about $19.6 million over 4 years, and $4.1 million thereafter. This bill is another part and another good example of how we are supporting the New Zealand taxpayer to improve efficiency in the way the Government provides services to the front line, and ensures that we have the most efficient backroom services in doing so. I commend this bill to the House.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the Crown Entities Reform Bill be read a second time.
||New Zealand National 59; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Māori Party 3; Mana 1.
|Bill read a second time.