You should tweak things to fix a cock-up, not to create one
Inland Revenue Minister David Parker joined the ranks of the Government’s tweakers when he announced his department is refining the screening tests for eligibility for the Cost of Living Payments ahead of the second payment being made from 1 September.
This refinement – the introduction of extra checks to stop cost-of-living payments being made to people based overseas – follows Inland Revenue’s finding about 31,000 of the 1.4 million people who received the first payment might have been overseas. They will have to provide further information before receiving further payments.
* Disarmament and Arms Control Minister Phil Twyford expressed the Government’s disappointment that the 10th Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has failed, after the adoption of the final text was blocked by Russia. Did anyone seriously expect Russia would be onside with this?
* Climate Change Minister James Shaw announced that more hospitals, universities, and government buildings “will be supported” to switch to clean energy as part the Government’s plan for a carbon neutral public sector by 2025. This means they will be given more money – $4.8 million from the Government’s $220 million State Sector Decarbonisation Fund for the purchase of more electric vehicles and energy efficient lighting. The press statement lists the beneficiaries.
* The Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry, Andrew Little, has launched “new expectations for how the public service will learn from the mistakes of the past and do better for survivors.” He was referring to something called the Working With Survivors Model Standards, co-authored by the Stand With Pike Families Reference Group and the Public Service Commission.
* Disability Issue Minister Potoa Williams welcomed the announcement of a new chief executive for the Ministry of Disabled People and Associate Justice Minister Aupito William Sio announced a new Chairperson of the Human Rights Review Tribunal.
Parker’s press statement about the cost of living payments spoke both of refining the scheme and tweaking it.
He was aiming to improve things, as other ministers have aimed to do with the tweakings they announced this year –
Climate Change Minister James Shaw and Transport Minister Michael Woods enthused about New Zealanders getting greater access to cheaper electric and climate-friendly cars after the passage of the Land Transport (Clean Vehicles) Amendment legislation. They thanked the car industry for its constructive engagement “which has led to a number of tweaks to improve the legislation…”
Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor, enthusing about the country’s borders re-opening and international travel recommencing, said “we are now tweaking the Trade Recovery Strategy to focus on supporting businesses as they reconnect with partners, customers and key markets overseas.”
But some attempts at tweaking have had the unhappy consequence of creating a cock-up.
Let’s not forget Tamati Coffey, the Labour list MP and chairman of Parliament’s Māori Affairs Committee, who promoted legislation to over-ride the Local Elections Act and give Māori more voting muscle than non-Māori in Rotorua. Eschewing the principle of equality of suffrage, Coffey told Parliament
“The parliamentary process that we partake in right here, that we’ve cut and pasted for our Chamber, right here, is actually English; this is from a Westminster system.
“There is nothing to preclude us being able to tweak democracy to make it work for us here in Aotearoa.”
The legislation flunked the Bill of Rights test and was withdrawn – or put on hold – which means Coffey helped to create a cock-up, whereas Parker’s tweaking is designed to fix one.
“The Cost of Living Payment was developed to provide timely financial support for low-to-middle income New Zealanders experiencing the spike in prices right now. However, some people living overseas have received the payment and there are some tweaks we can make that reduces the likelihood of that,” Revenue Minister David Parker said.
The criteria for eligibility that were agreed by Cabinet had always been absolutely clear and remained unchanged, he said.
Among them, a person must be present in New Zealand to be eligible for the payment.
The refinements to the screening tests relate to implementation of the payment, not the criteria for eligibility.
The extra screening (for example) will cross-match other data and look for overseas IP addresses being used to log into myIR, or look for non-resident individual income tax returns being filed for the 2021-22 year.
As a result of that extra screening some people will have to confirm they are living in New Zealand.
Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton