- Debate resumed from 14 August on the Appropriation (2012/13 Estimates) Bill.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour)
: I am pleased to take a call on the estimates in Vote Labour. This is a Minister of Labour who has given up on her department. She has handed it over to Steven Joyce’s mega-ministry, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, or MOBIE, where the labour portfolio will be swallowed up into—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order, Mr Chairman.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Order! I am aware of what the member’s point of order is.
Hon Trevor Mallard: The Government is missing.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Yes, we need a Minister in the chair. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I am sorry to interrupt the member.
DARIEN FENTON: As I was saying, the Minister has handed over her portfolio to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, or MOBIE, where the labour portfolio is going to be swallowed up into the so-called business-facing ministry. Of course, the labour part of business does not count for this Government. In its view it is only business and money that count. Workers have nothing to do with wealth creation in its world, and they certainly do not deserve a specialist department that looks out for their interests. It is the first time in 121 years that we will not have a labour department, with the expertise and focus on improving our effective employment relationships, protecting workers from exploitation, and developing labour market strategies. The Department of Labour is one of our oldest Government departments, with a proud history and record, hailed by other countries for the work it has done, but this Government and this Minister have ditched it. Over the last 4 years all we have seen is the Minister of Labour overseeing a department that has spent a lot of time arguing on an ever-shrinking role for the department, and managers arguing over which bit they are going to be in charge of.
At the estimates hearing, when we asked, there was no plan and no budget for Vote Labour, even though it was due to merge with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment 1 week later. The only thing useful we did learn was that the Department of Labour’s Mediation Service—a service that Labour introduced, which has a very, very successful record in resolving employment relations problems—might be wound up, together with other mediation services like tenancy and weathertight homes. There is a lot in common between workers and weathertight homes, I am sure. What we will do is lose the expertise. The Employment Relations Authority is in a mess. It is in disarray. It has long queues of cases waiting to be heard, and it has determinations in the hundreds outstanding. The appointments process has been a shambles. It has been skewed by cronyism, and the Government no longer seems to think that employment relations experience is important for this job.
Night after night we hear on the news the impact on New Zealand workers and their families, who are paying the price of this Government’s slackness. Job after job, family after family, story after story—each one a human tragedy—job losses, and good skilled jobs at that, are happening right across our country. Under the 4 years of this Government 25,000 manufacturing jobs have disappeared. They are good jobs that we need. But we do know that John Key’s Government gave up a long time ago on trying
to improve Kiwi jobs and Kiwi wages, and he has been trying to attract investment to New Zealand on the basis of cheap labour. The Government boasted about Heinz Wattie giving up on 400 or 350 good jobs in Australia and moving to New Zealand. Well, let us tell the truth about what happened there. What happened there is those 350 good jobs have ended up in New Zealand as 70 labour-hire workers on minimum wage. I do not think that is anything to be boasting about.
The other panacea that we hear all the time from the National members is about the 90-day trial period. What I find so interesting about their boasting about its success is that in all the research that they have done they have not been able to find a single worker to give feedback on it, and especially those who have been sacked without reason, and without recourse to justice. Under this Government’s watch we have had one of the biggest scandals ever around workers with the exploitation of foreign fishing crew. Sure, the Government set up an inquiry and it has indicated a resolution 4 years out, but what shames us all is that the 100 or 200 foreign fishing crew who were courageous enough to walk off their ships, tell their stories, and give evidence to the ministerial inquiry have been sent home, and a year later they still have not been paid what they are entitled to and have not been paid the minimum wage.
And now, of course, we have heard the story on Television One last night that there is a significant problem with other migrant workers. The Minister needs to set up an inquiry into that as well, because, clearly, sitting back and waiting for exploited workers to come forward and tell their stories does not work. I am looking forward to hearing a plan from the Government about how it is going to tackle this latest scandal.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Don’t hold your breath.
DARIEN FENTON: No, I will not hold my breath. I have had several contacts from people since that story broke last night, but one today told me it is not only migrant workers but also young people—students and others—who are being employed by larger companies in malls and being paid $10 an hour. So, you know something is going wrong with the Department of Labour when it cannot get on top of these scandals. As someone said on the news this morning, this is unsustainable. We cannot build a future based on cheap labour. We know that the Government is doing nothing about training New Zealand workers—162,000 of them. Any of them would have loved to have one of the jobs that this Minister actually approved. She approved the 110 façade installers coming to New Zealand instead of insisting that this company train New Zealand workers. These are jobs that workers could be easily trained for. They are described as basic labourers’ work. I am worried about the Christchurch rebuild, as that will become a ground for further exploitation of migrants.
The one thing I will say I am grateful for is that the employment relations changes that were revealed in May have not seen the light of day in this Parliament.
Charles Chauvel: Yet! Yet!
DARIEN FENTON: It is a relief and a reprieve—yes—for workers, and particularly for those caregivers on minimum wage at Aranui Home and Hospital who were on strike for 3 days a couple of weeks ago because they had not been able to conclude a collective agreement. They told me they are extremely worried about the Government’s amendments, because it means that their employer will just simply be able to walk away from the bargaining, and these low-paid workers will have to continue with their employer-imposed individual contracts. The Government and the Minister have been warned that these changes—the changes that they are planning for amendments to the Employment Relations Act—will have consequences for wages, for fairness, for collective bargaining, and that they will be in breach of our international obligations. I expect them to ignore that, as they usually do.
Finally, on health and safety, I will acknowledge that I think the Minister is sincere on that, but I am worried about the direction of that—where the task force is going on that. I had a look at the fishing health and safety plan today. There is no worker involvement. It just believes in individual responsibility, and in a model that is about individual human behaviour. Have a look at the advisers to the health and safety task force—have a look at what their experience is. There is hardly any worker input into that, because this Government does not believe that working people have anything to contribute as equal participants in the workplace. It thinks that workers should stay in their place, keep their mouths shut, and be grateful just to have a job.
Finally, can I mention once again—as I have often in this Parliament—the cleaners in this place, who clean up after us every night, who are on minimum wage, who want $15 an hour, and who could have $15 an hour if this Government was prepared to support David Clark’s very, very reasonable Minimum Wage Amendment Bill. I cannot believe that in a place like this, where we are supposed to set an example, the Prime Minister is prepared to see his cleaner
Jaine continue to be paid $14 an hour—she gets $14 an hour because she is a supervisor—and, because she is on only 30 hours here, work two jobs because that is the only way she can make ends meet. She is over 60. She is tired. She has been working long hours on low pay for most of her life. Now she has her son working here so he can help the family. This Parliament has to do something about it. We can do something about that situation—they are not the only minimum wage workers in this place—if the Government is prepared to stand up and be counted when it comes to David Clark’s Minimum Wage Amendment Bill.
So there is a lot happening in this labour portfolio. I do fear that this will be the last time we talk about Vote Labour—well, maybe it will not be, but it will be Vote Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It will be overwhelmed by Steven Joyce’s ambitions. From what I have seen of the restructuring that has been planned for this mega-ministry, the Department of Labour—the very, very important role that it has played for 121 years—will be squashed, will be subsumed, and will have all of its energies apparently directed towards being business-facing—business-facing, where workers do not get a look in, where all of the important work that we have had to do fails.
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany)
: That was 10 minutes of moan after moan, complaint after complaint, with zero solutions—zero solutions to the problems of the world. Let me tell you that I am happy to take a call on Vote Labour, because we have got a good story to tell. We have got a good story to tell, because we are seeing more jobs created in the economy—
Darien Fenton: Oh, rubbish!
JAMI-LEE ROSS: We are. The figures do not lie. We are seeing fewer workplace stoppages out there in the workplace. We are seeing a more harmonious working environment for New Zealand workers.
I think that any Government’s labour relations policy should be judged on several things, two of which are: how many jobs are created in the economy, and how bad are the workplace stoppage rates in the workforce. We have got some good stories to tell. In the last 2 years, 60,000 jobs have been created in this economy. That means 60,000 people are out there working because jobs have been created in this economy. Over the next 4 years, we are expecting to see another 154,000 jobs being created in the economy. Those are jobs created for New Zealand workers to go out there, earn a crust, pay their taxes to the taxman, go home, and enjoy themselves because they have worked an honest day’s work.
On workplace stoppages, we have some good stories to tell here, too. Let me give the House some figures. In 2005 there were 60 workplace stoppages. In 2006 there were 42
workplace stoppages. That was at the height of Labour’s time in office. The cost to the economy was quite high, too. In 2005 we saw $4.8 million of workers’ wages and salaries being lost to workplace stoppages. It was $5.2 million in 2006. Come round to 2011, after several years of Kate Wilkinson as the Minister of Labour under John Key’s leadership, and workplace stoppages are at an all-time low. We had only 12 workplace stoppages in 2011, versus the height of Labour’s problems with 60 workplace stoppages. Lost wages and salaries for New Zealand workers are at an all-time low of $1 million. Those figures tell us that the harmonious relationships in New Zealand workplaces are good. Harmonious relationships are leading to fewer people having their wages and salaries lost and fewer workplace stoppages that businesses are having to deal with.
Our 90-day trials have done very well for New Zealanders, too. We know that there are 13,000 extra people working because the 90-day trial periods allow New Zealand employers to take a chance and employ some people. We saw workers having the opportunity to trade in an extra week’s leave. The other side does not believe in choice. The other side does not believe that workers know best how to spend their money and workers know best how to take their holidays. We gave workers that extra week’s choice, and people are taking it up and they are enjoying it. We have had some minimum wage policies implemented under this Government that are fair and sensible, and have actually seen $1,800 extra in the back pocket of minimum wage workers after tax.
If we were to follow the policies that members on the other side wants to see, if we were to follow their policy-subjective arguments, then we would see 6,000 people who would be unemployed, because the Department of Labour has told us that if we went ahead with David Clark’s bill, if we went ahead with what Labour wants, 6,000 extra people would be unemployed. Under Labour, 90-day trials would go. Under Labour, a sensible, pragmatic minimum wage policy would go. Under Labour, we would see more jobs heading offshore, because we know that when Australian jobs came to New Zealand, and when manufacturers from Australia said “We see New Zealand as a better place to bring our business.”, we actually had David Parker opposing those jobs coming here. David Parker went out in the media and told New Zealanders that Labour—
Hon Amy Adams: Anti-jobs.
JAMI-LEE ROSS: —was anti-jobs and that Labour did not want to see more jobs coming to this country. Labour members said that manufacturing jobs coming to New Zealand for New Zealanders was bad. They told New Zealanders that the $1.5 billion of economic benefits from
The Hobbit films being made in New Zealand was a bad thing. Labour is anti-jobs. Labour has done nothing to support our pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policies, and it is a disgrace when it comes to labour policy.
We have got a good story to tell. I am proud to tell it, and we have got a good Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, working hard for this country.
Vote Veterans’ Affairs—Defence Force
Vote Veterans’ Affairs—Social Development
Vote Internal Affairs
Vote Senior Citizens
Vote Women’s Affairs
Vote Consumer Affairs
Hon TAU HENARE (National)
: Kia ora, Mr Chair. I want to congratulate first and foremost our Minister of
Māori Affairs, the Hon Pita Sharples, who has done a sterling job not only for the
Māori Party but also for steering some resources into the
Māori community, and also
Whānau Ora. The naysayers about
Whānau Ora will go on and on about a few
fullas down somewhere getting a bit of extra money, but here is the thing: working on the whole family, not just a little problem here and there that becomes a bigger problem if left alone, is the way of the future. And what better way to use public money—public money, taxpayer’s money—than by fixing up the whole family, identifying the problems, and parking the five cars up the driveway so the family does not have to go 10 miles to the south for the social welfare, 10 miles north for some other assistance, and 10 miles east for some other assistance. That is what
Whānau Ora is. That is why we, the National Government, have supported and put money into
Māori health—we talk about
Andrew Williams: Don’t forget the Mongrel Mob.
Hon TAU HENARE: See, there you go. That is all they can do. All they can do is tear down. I remember what the Rt Hon Helen Clark said about some other party: they were haters and wreckers. Well, I will tell you who the haters and wreckers are. They are those people over there. They even denied a Minister leave to make a personal statement. How rude. How appalling. How unconstitutional. But I digress.
We have got a problem out there called rheumatic fever, and this Government has made sure that, one, it has seen the problem, and, two, it gets in and tries to fix it. So that is why money has gone in to making sure that that disease of poverty is no longer around. All the health organisations around the country in the poorer areas—in South Auckland and in the north—have welcomed this Government’s commitment to making
sure that young people have what we had, and that is the opportunity. They do not want a handout. They want the opportunity to grow.
Also, there is
Māori economic growth. There was one time when nobody knew what it was. How is the
Māori economy fitting in to the national economy?
Mike Sabin: Does in Northland.
Hon TAU HENARE: Well, I tell you what. Only a couple of weeks ago I attended an economic forum put on by none other than the new member for Northland, Mike Sabin. There was a huge turnout of people not only in the social services area but in the business area and the employment area, who want to get on with the job of training and employing young
Māori from the north. They see that the longer
Māori are unemployed in the north, the longer the economy does not work. The economy should work for everybody. So I applaud the Government’s view and I applaud the Government’s initiatives, but I also applaud the personal initiative of MPs such as Mike Sabin.
Hon Nathan Guy: What did Shane Jones say?
Hon TAU HENARE: Look, nobody is really interested in what Shane says any more, which is a pity—which is a pity—because before he leaves he still has a contribution to make to this wonderful Parliament.
There is one thing that I will say that this side of the Chamber has done better than anybody else, and that the Government’s commitment to Treaty settlements.
Louise Upston: Absolutely.
Hon TAU HENARE: Absolutely. Do not look sideways at me, Mr Grant Robertson, because some other people might think that you are thinking something else. [Bell rung] Mr Chair—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Unfortunately, the time for this debate has expired.
Le’aufa’amulia ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR (NZ First)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Chairperson. That member, Tau Henare, has stated that the Rt Hon—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Order!
ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR: I am seeking leave, Mr Chairperson.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): That is not how you start to seek leave, by criticising another member.
ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR: I am trying to seek leave to correct a comment that was made.
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): No, you cannot do that. You cannot correct. That is a debating point; that is not a point of order. The time—
Le’aufa’amulia ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR (NZ First)
: I seek leave to request that the member who has made an incorrect statement about Winston Peters—
The CHAIRPERSON (Eric Roy): Order! Sit down, please. I have ruled on that. That is a debating point. You cannot enter into a debate or the alteration of a debate by the mechanism of a point of order. You simply cannot do that. The debate has now expired. I will put the question, which is that Vote
Māori Affairs stand part.
A party vote was called for on the question,
That the preamble, clauses 1 to 12, and schedules 1 to 7 be agreed to.
||New Zealand National 59;
Māori Party 3; ACT New Zealand 1; United Future 1.
||New Zealand Labour 34; Green Party 14; New Zealand First 8; Mana 1.
|Preamble, clauses 1 to 12, and schedules 1 to 7 agreed to.
- Bill to be reported without amendment presently.