Rod Oram's column; Jacinda on the first 100 days; MFAT's 'shameless' budget bid; What a Wellbeing Budget might look like

Jacinda Ardern, powered by tea not coffee. Photo by Shane Cowlishaw

1. Jacinda on her first 100 days

Newsroom's National Affairs Editor Shane Cowlishaw interviewed Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday for her impressions on a whirlwind first 100 days. It's also six months since she became leader of the Labour Party.

“It really does feel like a lot longer than that,” the Prime Minister told Shane while sipping on her morning cup of tea.

By the way, she drinks from one of the biggest mugs you’ve ever seen, one that is surprisingly never filled with coffee despite her hectic workload.

Most think she has had a good start, capped off with the final announcement yesterday to complete the 100 day plan list. Ardern celebrated with a 'We did this!' release.

She herself feels she is yet to make a serious stuff-up since becoming Prime Minister, although she worries about the inevitable first one. (Although some might argue her decision to pursue a first-term capital gains tax was a mistake, she reversed course a week before the election.)

“Everyone has things you worry about and in this job you can imagine the list is quite long. Things keep me awake at night if I feel like I’ve really stuffed up, but if I feel like I’ve genuinely done my best, then I’ll sleep," she said.

One item which the Opposition wants to turn into a mistake is the area of Fair Pay Agreements. They are due to be revealed later in the year and would see pay rates and benefits negotiated at an industry level.

She described National's claims of damage to the economy from the agreements as “scaremongering."

"Our concern is where we’ve been going in recent years means we have people working longer and harder who are having to rely on subsidies from the state for their incomes to be decent. How sustainable is that?"

It has been suggested that individual businesses would have little input in what they paid their workers under the new scheme, but Ardern scoffed at this.

“That would be down to whether or not they have truly representative bodies speaking on their behalf, so that shouldn’t be a problem," she said.

“I think at the moment there’s an attempt to make it sound like every single business operating in New Zealand (will be affected): let’s keep in mind the majority of New Zealand businesses are SMEs. What we’re talking about here is the ability, ultimately, to see a greater share of productivity gains going into people’s wages because actually, when we start lifting wages we all benefit from that."

See Shane's full interview with the Prime Minister here on Newsroom Pro, where it was first published yesterday.

2. MFAT's 'shameless' Budget bid

Newsroom's Foreign Affairs and Trade Editor Sam Sachdeva covered the Foreign Affairs select committee yesterday and heard what even MFAT CEO Brook Barrington described as a 'shameless' bid for more funding.

He has a receptive and experienced Minister to lobby in Winston Peters.

MFAT argues New Zealand punches beneath its weight on foreign aid and that the failure to increase MFAT's baseline funding since 2007 was beginning to bite.

See Sam's full article on the budget bid here, published first on Newsroom Pro yesterday.

He also covered the skirmish in the committee hearing over the unpublicised decision that Government ministers will no longer represent New Zealand at embassies’ national days. MFAT officials now attend in their place.

National MP Todd McClay described the decision as a snub, which MFAT rejected. Here's Sam's full article on McClay's reaction, which was only published on Newsroom Pro.

3. What a Wellbeing Budget might look like

Newsroom's new Press Gallery reporter Thomas Coughlan took a deeper look yesterday at what a Wellbeing Budget might look like, along with the pros and cons.

He spoke to Treasury's Tony Burton and Tim Ng, along with Arthur Grimes.

Thomas looked at how the idea of measuring 'Wellbeing' was developed internationally and what the Treasury has done in recent years to build its Living Standards Framework to measure.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson has ordered Treasury to accelerate its living standard model-building process so it can be used for the 2019 Budget.

There's more detail and discussion in Thomas' full article, which was first published on Newsroom Pro yesterday.

As an aside, we illustrated the story with a photo of my daughter swimming in the Kaitoke River north of Lower Hutt a few years ago to illustrate the idea that not all activities and 'wellbeing' are currently measured in GDP statistics.

We had a ball that day and paid no one for it. The clean water was 'free' too. If it had been dirty, that would not have registered either, nor would our disappointment at turning around and going home. The only measure would have been the fuel we burned, which would have been no different for either outcome.

4. Rod Oram: A road trip for Waitangi Day

Ahead of the celebrations at Waitangi over the coming days, our columnist Rod Oram has some reflections on a road trip through the North Island last weekend on the legacy of the years since the treaty was signed.

He travelled to a series of churches to help tell the story.

[I recommend reading Rod's full column, which is both sobering and hopeful.

5. What the Royal Commission will focus on

Jacinda Ardern announced the details of the final item in the Government's 100 day plan yesterday - an inquiry into abuse in state care.

But rather than a ministerial inquiry, she announced a more wide ranging, longer and more powerful Royal Commission led by former Governor General Anand Satyanand that will look at both the compensation system and at religious boarding schools that looked after children who were in state care.

Some, including Ardern herself, had expected it would just be an Inquiry. Also, most had expected abuse in religious institutions not to be touched on at all.

Newsroom's social issues reporter in Auckland, Teuila Fuatai, took a good close look yesterday at what the Royal Commission will look at over the next two and a half years.

She spoke to Andrew Becroft, the Children's Commissioner, and Whakarongo Mai, the independent group of advocates for children.

“Simply put, we think New Zealanders will be shocked at the sheer magnitude of abuse in the care system in this country,” Whakarongo Mai chief executive Dr Ainsleigh Cribb-Su’a said.

Here's Teuila's full article on the Royal Commission here on Newsroom.

6. Coming up...

Jacinda Ardern will meet the Iwi Leaders Forum at Waitangi this morning and plans to be up north for the next four days, including Waitangi Day.

Migration and building consents data will be released by Statistics New Zealand later today.

7. One fun thing...

This cartoon from Jim Cagle took my fancy this morning.

8. This morning's political links

These are available in the morning subscriber email.