In today's email we discussed the challenges facing Immigration New Zealand, and the aims of new Speaker Trevor Mallard.
1. 'He's basically a slave'
Immigration New Zealand is struggling under the weight of a massive influx of visa fraud and migrant abuse complaints, Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw reports.
Shane gave an example in opening his report.
There’s a young Indian man managing a dairy in Wellington. He also drives his employer and his wife around town, cooks dinner, cleans and does other household chores. Racking up 120 hours, over seven days a week, he is paid about $5 an hour for his efforts.
“They’re basically a slave”, immigration lawyer Alistair McClymont explains while recounting the tale, which he says is far from uncommon.
See Shane's full report here at Newsroom Pro, where it was first published on Friday.
In my view, the Government should be commissioning a ministerial inquiry or or even a Royal Commission into the issue of migrant abuse, which appears rampant. It's also worth remembering that more than five percent of New Zealand's workers are now on a temporary work visa.
2. Trevor wants to let the game flow
Trevor Mallard says he wants to be a hands-off Speaker in Parliament - if MPs are prepared to play ball.
Mallard spoke to Newsroom's Sam Sachdeva last week about which predecessor is his role model and his plans for parliamentary reform.
Unsurprisingly for a former Rugby World Cup Minister and keen Black Ferns supporter, Trevor Mallard leans on sporting metaphors to describe his transition from a low-ranked opposition MP to the Speaker’s chair.
“It does feel like I’ve gone from being the touch judge at Wainuiomata junior rugby to refereeing a test match.”
Mallard has already faced some pressure under the stadium lights, with a spat over written questions and a fleeting threat to his Speakership that was resolved by a (so far) rare compromise between the Government and the Opposition.
Speaking to Newsroom in his new office, Mallard says he does not intend to be a prolific whistle-blower during his time in charge.
“Some of the best referees do occasionally make comments which help people, issue quiet warnings, but generally it’s the players in the game who have got to be in the centre of it, not the referee.
“Some of the worst referees are the people who think they’re the key to the game, and I want Parliament to run as much as possible without me."
3. Briefly in our political economy...
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones told Q+A on Sunday he would propose a work for the dole scheme to cabinet, but that it would be for at least the minimum wage. Such forced work schemes are opposed by unions and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted this morning options had yet to come before cabinet.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff told The Nation on Saturday Auckland ratepayers would not pay a $116 million hosting fee for the America's Cup, and it would be something the central Government would have to think about.
The Salvation Army published a report this morning on the role of migrant workers in the Aged Care sector, including that 87 percent of the recently employed carers in Auckland were migrants, many of whom face having to leave within three years under strict new rules for temporary migrants.
Housing Minister Phil Twyford gave his most detailed comments yet on on Friday on how the new Government plans to build more state houses and give more responsibility back to Housing New Zealand Corp. Twyford gave his first major speech as Housing Minister at a Salvation Army event in Auckland and announced that Housing New Zealand was looking at becoming a tenant manager again. "We are going to put the state back into state housing," Twyford said, adding he also wanted to see tenants being able to keep pets. See my full report on the speech from Friday here.
Fonterra announced on Friday a court in Singapore had ordered Fonterra pay Danone 105 million euros (NZ$183 million) in damages because of the August 2013 botulism scare that forced mass recalls of Fonterra products, and in turn recalls of its customers' products. Fonterra lowered its forecast earnings per share by 10c/share to 35-45 c/share and said it had a strong enough financial position to meet the damages costs. It signalled a successful appeal was unlikely.
Winston Peters may be worried about a coming economic downturn, but fresh figures here and overseas suggest otherwise.
Statistics New Zealand reported on Friday that New Zealand's Terms of Trade, which measure the purchasing power of our exports, rose 0.7 percent in the September quarter to an all-time high. The previous record high was September 1973. Economic data show the US, Japanese, Chinese and European economies all growing solidly for the first time since the Global Financial Crisis.
4. Briefly in the global political economy...
US President Donald Trump continued overnight to deny any collusion with Russia. But on Saturday morning his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller's Inquiry. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that a Trump Transition team official wrote in an email about Russia 'throwing the election' for Trump. (New York Times)
In another sign of how Trump's America First policy is breaking down multi-lateral agreements and institutions, the United States has quit a negotiations to form a UN-led voluntary pact on migration. (Reuters)
The Middle East is increasingly nervous about the potential fallout from a US move to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel as soon as Wednesday. (Reuters)
Trump's Republican Party finally won a major legislative victory. The US Senate voted 51-49 in favour of $1.5 trillion worth of tax cuts for companies and individuals on Friday night. The Congressional Budget Office estimated it would increase US deficits by $1.4 trillion over the next decade. Trump is expected to sign the changes into law by the end of the month after a Congressional conference irons out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. (The Hill)
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull appointed a Royal Commissioner on Friday to lead a Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
5. Coming up...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is scheduled to hold a post-cabinet news conference around 4 pm today.
Parliament resumes at 2 pm on Tuesday as it continues on its final run of sitting before rising on December 21.
Statistics New Zealand is scheduled to publish figures on the value of building work put in place in the September quarter on Tuesday at 10.45 am. It is a key component of full GDP figures due on December 21
Reserve Bank Governor Grant Spencer is scheduled to release a speech titled “Low inflation and its implications for monetary policy” on Tuesday at 1.15 pm.
Prices on the GlobalDairyTrade auction on Wednesday morning are expected to bounce after four consecutive fortnightly auctions with falls. Fears of a drought are weighing on the production outlook, but boosting the outlook for prices
Victoria University is scheduled to hold its post-election conference on Wednesday in Parliament. The conference will be opened by the Prime Minister, who will be introduced by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The conference will bring together the leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament. They will talk about what worked and what didn’t, and look at the election outcome. The party leaders will be joined by journalists, independent commentators and academics, each of them discussing features of the 2017 New Zealand election – the campaign and its consequences. Details are here.
6. One fun thing
Donald Trump's weekend tweet that appeared to acknowledge he knew Michael Flynn was lying (before he asked James Comey to stop investigating Flynn) has put Trump's lawyer in the firing line for essentially revealing obstruction of Justice.
The twittersphere had a field day:
The Secret Barrister: "As a lawyer, I can confirm that I frequently compose tweets confessing to crimes and send them from my clients’ twitter accounts. It’s the first thing you learn at law school."
7. My pick of the weekend links
Here's pick of the links from the weekend that doubles up as a version of my Weekend Reads:
This Kirsty Needham piece in the Sydney Morning Herald on China's United Front organisation, which is a Government-controlled overseas network of pro-China groups overseas, is a usfeful backgrounder on an issue New Zealanders are still mostly unaware of. Australians are much more aware and Australia is about to pass legislation requiring "agents of foreign influence" to register with the Government.
The Nikkei Asia Review also goes into some depth on way China works with its overseas diaspora to exercise soft power.
Reuters reports on how the Trump administration is blocking the appointment of judges to the World Trade Organisation court that rules on trade disputes, creating the potential for the system of multilateral trade to seize up.
This Stephen Selwood piece in the NZ Herald on the economics of house-building in Auckland is accidentally devastating argument for the need for the price of land to collapse. Somehow.
Last week the Washington Post exposed an attempt by a right wing group to implant a false story about a women impregnated by Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. It was dirty tricks on an epic scale that was uncovered by diligent journalism. It's one of the reasons I subscribe to the Washington Post, along with the New York Times, the FT and the Economist.
Reuters has pieced together the events leading up to Mugabe’s removal in this investigation, showing that the army’s action was the culmination of months of planning that stretched from Harare to Johannesburg to Beijing.
What will happen to New Zealand's cardboard and plastic and waste metal if China won't take it? That's the disturbing question raised in this New York Times piece about a recent change of policy in China that is roiling the world's markets for raw materials for recycling. China's Government no longer wants to import the world's garbage.
For those wondering what on earth is going on within America's diplomatic service, this Politico piece on Rex Tillerson's goes deep into the complete mess he is presiding over as he tweaks org charts. The headline tells the story: "Rex Tillerson is fiddling with powerpoint while the world burns".
Etsy is a fascinating example of a tech company with social values that was apparently successful. But now, after profit growth wasn't high enough for investors, it has transformed back into a more normal company. This New York Times piece looking inside the process is enlightening.
8. The morning links
These are available in the subscriber email