Prime Minister Jacinda Adern held a Post Cabinet press conference today on the announcement of Government funding for support of New Zealand’s returned service men and women with a particular focus on support for post-traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).
On the 6 month anniversary of her Labour Government, Ardern began by outlining some of the highlights of the Government’s achievements to date. These included:
• The Families Package under which families will be $75 per week better off. This package includes theThe Best Start allowance, the Winter Energy Payment and in her view is the most substantial increase in decades for both children and older citizens.
• The Child Wellbeing Strategy
• Launching the inquiry into historic abuse in state care
• Increasing support for students seeking tertiary education
• The Minimum Wage increase
• Work on climate change including the 30 year transition away from fossil fuels
• Support for the regions through the $1billion Provincial Growth fund which is well underway, an increase in allocation towards local and regional roads and the plan to plant 1billion trees.
• Housing – the unitec project in Mt Albert under which 3000 affordable homes will be built, the Healthy homes guarantee and stopping the sell-off of state houses.
• Trade - The CPTPP has been signed, progress was made on EU and UK Free-trade agreements, progress on the RCEP which involves India, the Pacific Alliance and the development of the Trade For All Agenda
ANZAC Day Veterans Announcement
The Prime Minister announced the allocation of $1.1 million in grant payments over the next four years for the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association (RSA) and No Duff Charitable Trust.
The funding will see $250,000 going to the RSA, and $25,000 to No Duff annually to help fund their support services for veterans.
Ardern said that New Zealand now has around 41,000 veterans, around 30,000 of those are contemporary veterans from conflicts such as Vietnam, East Timor and Afghanistan.
She also stated that this money will be used primarily to focus on providing support for those veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress Injury:
“We’re seeing cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI), and many of our younger men and women are returning from operational service in need of help…The RSA has worked hard to modernise its services to meet this emerging need. They are a great example of an organisation which has evolved and they are wonderful advocates for veterans.”
The Prime Minister pointed out that the No Duff funding was previously scrapped by the National Government and replaced with ad hoc funding. This announcement ensures guaranteed funding to both agencies locked in for four years.
Ardern stated that both organisations have expressed that they are extremely thankful for this funding.
On her European trip, Ardern was asked if progress getting Macron onboard with the EU FTA was the highlight. She responded that this was certainly a primary goal as it is potentially worth $15billion in two way trade and she is feeling positive about our position despite not wanting to pre-empt any firm agreement.
She also stated that a key point of interest from Macron was our willingness to embed domestic priorities and concerns into the agreement as previous agreements have not featured an inclusive and progressive agenda. She felt this was certainly a selling point as France is particularly keen to embed environmental protections.
Ardern was asked about the issue of the WINZ Culture. She stated there are too many stories in her local area about WINZ decisions not taking into account human side, such as a person who missed an appointment and had their benefit cut. Ardern stated we need to put people at the centre of such decisions and treat them respectfully. She believes these cases may be indicative of a wider problem of culture in the ministry.
On the Timeline for a comprehensive overhaul of WINZ Ardern stated this is imminent and hopefully will include discussion of Sanctions as this was an issue raised by the UN recently.
Ardern stated WINZ resources may be a relevant factor and they will look into all contributing factors as they want to get it right. She added that culture change takes time – it has been nine years of messages that the only priority was to reduce benefit numbers, so this will take time to change.
On the Counties Manukau DHB issues, Ardern was asked about the appropriateness of the removal of DHB Board members and replied that this is a process that is still underway so she cannot comment.
On whether Spousal travel to events such as CHOGM is appropriate she said that the past two Prime Ministers took their spouses to CHOGM and that it is appropriate for events such as CHOGM which include spousal programmes.
On the Infrastructure deficit Ardern stated that Ministers with will make announcements over the coming weeks in their own portfolios and she will have more announcements in the lead up to the budget.
On Oil and Gas Ardern was asked if the decision was evidence based. She answered that it involved knowledge of future and is a predictive process and a difficult area to predict, with Cost - benefit analysis difficult to conduct. However she stated that the Government did take into account all the relevant factors and that the Minister was very familiar with industry viewpoint. She also added that the decision effects are 30 years in the future and doesn’t affect current industry profits.
Ardern – plans to go to Taranaki on 25 May to discuss plans firsthand around regional economic development there.
Asked about the Australian Royal commission on the banking sector and its impact in New Zealand, Ardern responded that th Government is taking great interest in the findings of the review and impacts for local consumers.
Asked about her travel plans, Ardern stated that she is cleared to travel domestically right through to her due date and plans to work right up to her due date (all going well).
Asked about Thompson +Clark Ardern confirmed that DOC are using them for 1080 protestor surveillance and stated that her Government has sought clarification about the nature of all departments use of the agency and whether it is appropriate. Ardern understands that DOC asked T+C to monitor threats on social media but not on individuals. She stated that the State Services Commission been asked to undertake work on whether individual surveillance is going too far with other depts.