In this morning's email we called on the Government to release the complete coalition agreement document.
1. Show us the full 38 page document
Newsroom's Sam Sachdeva reports this morning that the Government is refusing to release a secret coalition document with directives for new ministers, despite Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters promising it would be made public.
National leader Bill English has called for the agreement to be made public, saying it is "at the heart of the governing arrangements" for the new Government.
The existence of the 38-page document was first revealed by Peters the day after Labour and New Zealand First signed a more slender eight-page public coalition agreement.
Speaking to media after the allocation of ministerial portfolios, he described it as “a document of precision on various areas of policy commitment and development”.
“These are directives to ministers with accountability and media strategies to ensure that the coalition works, not in a jealous, envious way, ‘We got this and they got that’, but as a government successively, cohesively working," Peters said.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into it, in fact day one of our negotiations that was the first subject we raised, how are we going to handle a cohesive coalition arrangement?”
At the time, he said the document was still being finalised, but would cover the appointment process for diplomats.
Peters said then the document would be made public, saying it was “for the province of the Prime Minister to release”.
However, in response to an Official Information Act request from Newsroom seeking the document’s release, Jacinda Ardern’s adviser Heather Simpson claimed “the Prime Minister does not hold any such official information”.
Simpson’s letter referred to Section 2 of the Act, saying official information covered only information held by “a Minister of the Crown in his official capacity”.
The Ombudsman’s OIA guidelines for ministers state that while official information does not include information held by a minister in their role as a member of a political party, “such information may become official information if it is subsequently used for official ministerial purposes”.
Newsroom has appealed the Government’s decision to the Ombudsman.
See Sam's full story here on Newsroom Pro, where it was published first this morning.
There are others concerned about the Government's early approach to the Official Information Act. Stacey Kirk has written an opinion piece here.
As a reminder, here's Newsroom's Shane Cowlishaw opinion piece from November 13 on the issues with the OIA, and a challenge for the new Labour-led Government. A key issue at the moment is why the Briefings for Incoming Ministers have not been released yet.
Also this morning on Newsroom Pro, political scientist Bryce Edwards has called on public servants, academics and journalists to form a campaign to improve the Official Information Act while the Government is still fresh and says it wants to be open.
2. So much cash in a cashless society
New Zealanders increasingly think we're moving to a cashless society. So why has the amount of cash held in New Zealand more than trebled in the last 20 years?
Newsroom's Lynn Grieveson has taken a closer look at the figures and whether whether criminals, tradies or abusers of migrants are responsible in this piece first published on Newsroom Pro.
Half of New Zealanders think that we won't be using cash in ten years' time, and over two-thirds rarely carry cash now, yet new research shows that the amount of cash in circulation has grown over the past decade, outpacing the growth in GDP.
The Federal Research Bank of San Francisco released research last week into cash use around the world. After looking at the amount of cash in circulation in 42 economies including New Zealand, the Bank found that in nearly every country the amount of cash being held grew as fast or faster than GDP over the past ten years.
In New Zealand, the amount of cash in circulation rose by 76 percent over the past decade, while GDP only rose by 54 percent - a 21.5 percentage point difference. Over the same period, the average household wage grew only 42 percent.
This increase in cash in circulation gave us a ranking of 27th in the list of 42 countries, which was topped by troubled economies such as Argentina (where the rise in cash in circulation was 769 percent more than the rise in GDP), the Sudan (454.5 percent) the Ukraine (368.2 percent) and Afghanistan (206 percent). Only Norway and Sweden saw a decline in cash use.
3. Big land sales bypassing OIO
Newsroom's South Island correspondent David Williams reports this morning that land sales to foreigners are being investigated for potentially bypassing the Government watchdog.
New Zealand’s overseas investment rules mean sales of sensitive land must be approved by the Overseas Investment Office (OIO), which is an arm of government department Land Information New Zealand (LINZ).
LINZ spokeswoman Joanna Carr confirms: “We are currently investigating a number of matters including where overseas people appear to have needed Overseas Investment Act consent, but did not apply to the OIO.”
Newsroom asked how many sales are being investigated and where they are. But Carr says: “We cannot provide any further detail at this time as it could jeopardise our investigations.”
See David's full story here on Newsroom.
4. Minimum wage for contractors?
There has been a lot of talk about exactly what the Government is planning in its reforms of labour laws. It has pledged to introduce legislation to improve fairness in the workplace in its first 100 days, but what will it focus on?
Newsroom's Auckland reporter Teuila Fuatai has taken a look at how these laws could affect companies that use contractors, and in particular the prospect of imposing minimum standards that mean they have to at least be paid the minimum wage and get holiday and sick pay.
AUT work and employment professor Erling Rasmussen, a former policy adviser at the since-renamed Department of Labour, pointed Teuila to one of the fundamental challenges in the area.
“The reality is nobody’s quite sure how many contractors are not actually currently meeting the minimum standards as they’re set out for employees,” he says.
“Starting to put in minimum regulations for contractors that are similar to employees is in principle a big change, but just how much impact it will have, and how much it will cost - we don’t know.”
Businesses not currently meeting minimum standards for all workers - permanent and contract - should already be assessing what is wrong with their operating model, he said.
See Teuila's story in full here on Newsroom.
5. Twyford's new housing probe
Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford has commissioned Shamubeel Eaqub, Philippa Howden-Chapman, and Alan Johnson to do an independent stocktake of New Zealand's housing crisis.
Twyford announced the stock-take over the weekend, reiterating recent MBIE advice he had received showing a nationwide shortfall of 71,000 houses.
“The previous government never acknowledged or accepted the official numbers, and also refused to accept its own official definition of homelessness," Twyford said.
“This report will provide an authoritative picture of the state of housing in New Zealand today, drawing on the best data available. It will put firm figures on homelessness, the state of the rental market, the decline of homeownership, and other factors in the housing crisis," he said.
He has asked for the report before Christmas.
Elsewhere, Twyford released a new study showing the rail network generated $1.5 billion of benefits through reduced congestion, fewer road accidents, lower road maintenance expenses, and less greenhouse emissions.
He said the study showed rail was a great way to travel and move cargo.
“For too long, rail has been on life support – starved of government funding. The Labour-led Government will restore balance to transport funding, boosting investment in rail infrastructure both for passengers and freight," he said.
”The establishment of a light rail network in Auckland will significantly increase the $1.3b a year of benefits that road users, including freight companies, experience from reduced congestion.
The EY report was commissioned by NZTA and KiwiRail in 2016, but wasn’t released by the past government.
6. Coming up this week
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to hold her weekly post-cabinet news conference this afternoon. It is usually held at 4pm..
Parliament resumes at 2pm on Tuesday for a four week session until the end of the year.
The Reserve Bank is scheduled to publish its half yearly Financial Stability Report on Wednesday morning at 9 am.
Statistics New Zealand is scheduled to report building consent figures on Thursday morning at 10.45 am.
7. One fun thing
One of the more curious things to emerge from the Opposition in the last week or two has been more than 6,000 written questions to Ministers.
Here's Beehive Letters' take on this: Simon Bridges to Trevor Mallard RE: Questions for Written Answer
8. The political links
This morning's roundup of the political links is available in the subscriber email.