It’s OK to have a few slaves, just not too many? Minimum wage loophole hasn’t gone away

New Zealand still needs legislation to ensure adult New Zealanders are not exploited by being taken on as contractors for less than the equivalent of the minimum wage, says Labour list MP David Parker.

“My Minimum Wage (Contractor Remuneration) Amendment Bill was defeated by one vote this week – 61 to 60. The National party voted it down. They acknowledge it happens, but say it is not widespread enough to fix. This is like saying it’s OK to have a few slaves, just not too many!

“It remains a travesty that adult New Zealanders can be engaged as contractors and paid less than the minimum wage. Other countries like the UK apply the minimum pay rate to work, whether as an employee or a contractor. My Member’s Bill did the same.

“Submitters made the point that closing the New Zealand loophole would help New Zealand meet its obligations as a member of the International Labour Organisation, whose rules member states should combat ‘disguised employment relationships’.

“There is rising exploitation of low paid workers in New Zealand. They are disproportionately young, women, Māori and Pacific Island people. The large number of work-permitted foreign students are especially vulnerable to exploitation. Some are not even paid the equivalent of the minimum wage.

“The sad fact is that in our country, which used to pride itself on being fair, it remains legal to exploit low paid workers this way. We will fix this when elected to government,” says David Parker.

 

26th August 2016      Media Statement


Saudi sheep deal still stinks

Documents released today confirm Treasury were not aware of any threat of legal action from a Saudi businessman to justify the Government handing over millions of dollars in taxpayers’ money, Labour MP David Parker says.

“Almost $12 million has been spent on equipment and sending sheep to businessman Hamood Al Khalaf’s farm in Saudi Arabia.

“Foreign Minister Murray McCully and the Prime Minister have repeatedly claimed a $4 million payment was to avoid legal action following New Zealand’s live sheep ban.

“The documents reveal that just a week after John Key claimed that payment was to avoid legal action, officials from Treasury couldn’t find any reference to legal proceedings in their advice.

“It’s appalling that the truth had to be dragged out of both Murray McCully and the Government. The Auditor-General is currently investigating and, if it’s confirmed the deal was improper, the Government needs to respond appropriately.

“These new documents only confirm what we have been saying all along – that this was a shabby, unprincipled deal that has wasted millions dollars of taxpayers’ cash,” David Parker says.
 

29 July 2016 Media Statement


PCE proves water quality still deteriorating

The PCE State of the Environment Report shows that river water quality is continuing to get worse across large parts of New Zealand, says Labour’s Environment and Water spokesperson David Parker.
 
“Water quality has deteriorated in Canterbury, Central Otago, Auckland, Taranaki, Central North Island, the Wairarapa and the Manawatu. 
 
“After eight years of National, this is a fail. Land use intensity that is increasing pollution to our rivers is not yet under control. National’s wadability (rather than swimability) minimum standard is part of the problem. 
 
“New Zealand needs to return to the form of National Policy Statement under the RMA recommended by former Chief Environment Court Judge Sheppard. It said clean rivers should be kept clean and dirty rivers cleaned up over a generation. To achieve this increases in land use intensity should not be a permitted activity until plans have the rules needed to keep our rivers clean.
 
“The problems caused by erosion, including the siltation of our rivers and estuaries, are made worse by poor government policy. Current water and climate change policy distorts land use choices to the detriment of forestry profitability. This is a significant cause of the problem,” says David Parker.

29 June 2016 Media Statement


Crown Law solicitor paid more to prosecute dog owners than murderers

Crown solicitors have vented their frustration with funding cuts for prosecutions, including reporting they can be paid more to prosecute dog owners than murderers, says Labour’s Shadow Attorney-General David Parker.

“A Crown Law memo to the Attorney-General Chris Finlayson outlines a litany of concerns from solicitors for an agency that has faced ruthless cuts to its funding. The funding cuts were intended to average 25 per cent, and were predicted to be as high as 40 per cent for some firms.

“The documents obtained under the Official Information Act recorded one Crown solicitor stating the local Council paid a higher hourly rate to prosecute dangerous dog owners that the Crown did to prosecute murderers and that this likely not uncommon across the country. That’s astounding.

“One of the foremost duties of any government is to protect its citizens, including by enforcing the criminal law through prosecutions of criminals through the Courts. Crown lawyers have to be adequately funded in order to do that job properly.

“The memo contains other examples from solicitors:

Solicitors have retired their Crown warrant because of low fees.
Firms are unable to retain senior staff and struggling to recruit new people.
One solicitor said his office had cancelled the cleaning contract just to make ends meet.
The difference for one firm between being viable or not was changing the office lease.
Solicitors are seriously concerned about losing overworked staff to commercial law firms.
Concerns pressure will lead to mistakes by junior prosecutors.

“This prosecution system is clearly under extreme pressure. Legal counsel for accused criminals have told me their clients are pleading guilty to reduced charges,” says David Parker.


Under-reporting shows need to review quota system

The Government must launch an independent review into New Zealand’s 30-year-old Quota Management System following a new report suggesting gross under-reporting of catch in the New Zealand fishing industry, Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker says.
 
“The Auckland University report found the total New Zealand fisheries catch from 1950 to 2010 was 38.1 million tonnes – 2.7 times the 14 million tonnes officially reported to the United Nations.

“It is sadly unsurprising that there could be fraudulent practises among an industry where some rogue players were found to be subjecting foreign workers to slave-like conditions aboard their vessels. Despite initial denials by the industry, it was proven that some workers were being paid under the minimum wage with intolerable living and work conditions.
 
“We mustn’t let the bad behaviour of some once again bring the entire industry into disrepute.
 
“The new fisheries catch data released today should be taken very seriously. It suggests a gross under-reporting of actual catch, which would mean a significant amount of by-catch is being discarded,” David Parker says.
 
Labour’s Fisheries spokesperson Rino Tirikatene says when the QMS was introduced it was regarded as one of the most effective fisheries management regimes in the world.

“The international science now available did not exist 30 years ago. Monitoring is now old fashioned and incomplete.
 
“The industry has been working to improve commercial catch data through innovative new technologies. Efforts are also being made to gather better information on recreational catch.
 
“We must ensure the QMS is updated to properly protect our fishery,” Rino Tirikatene says.

Monday 16 May Media Statement


Mainfreight director agrees with Labour on rail funding

Richard Prebble – in the past accused of ruining rail and now a director of Mainfreight – agrees with Labour that secure funding for KiwiRail is the best way to minimise congestion in our major cities, says Labour’s SOEs spokesperson David Parker.

“The Government needs to provide long term, secure funding so KiwiRail can plan for the future and not have to consider scrapping essential freight and ferry services.

“The KiwiRail review shows that unless the Government’s funding continues, the SOE is not viable and rail lines and ferries will shut down. This will be another blow to regions, business and tourist industries that rely on regular rail services. National is out of touch with the concerns of people and businesses in the regions.

“The problem is National funded the SOE through the sales of the electricity companies. That money has run out now. National needs to find a Plan B and develop secure funding for KiwiRail.

“KiwiRail and the rail network is a poor cousin to roads and trucking as they are not funded in the same way.

“The National Land Transport Fund will spend over $10 billion in the next four years. Some of that needs to go towards rail which avoids extra spending on roads caused by more trucks.

“It’s time for National to develop a long term solution,” says David Parker.

 

27 April 2016   Media Statement


Overseas carbon credits scam caused by National

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett needs to fix the damage her Government has wrecked on the Emissions Training Scheme outlined in the Morgan Foundation’s damning “Climate Cheats” report released today, says Labour’s Environment spokesperson David Parker.

“National cannot blame anyone else. National chose not to restrict ‘hot air’ carbon units from overseas swamping the ETS. National chose to put a cap on the price of carbon but no floor. National chose to exclude agriculture.


“The price collapse to close to zero was caused by National. It made a mockery of the ETS. This stopped the ETS reducing emissions, to the detriment of our environment. It also harmed our economy by undermining our forest planters and caused the dairy bubble to get bigger before it burst.


“Labour was been calling on the Government to close down overseas trading in ‘hot air’ carbon credits from the likes of the Ukraine since 2012. National knew there was a problem, caused in part by the lack of a successor agreement to Kyoto, but wilfully refused to fix it.


“The report finds it was ‘virtually impossible’ for the Government not to be at least aware that there was a serious integrity problem with many of these overseas credits.


“It cites the evidence that New Zealand was by far the biggest consumer of fraudulent foreign carbon credits from Ukraine. While our involvement in this scam was known to those that understood the ETS, this report exposes the full extent of the sham and the consequences.


“As the latest Listener article makes clear, the ETS architecture is sound. It can easily be restored to work by including agriculture (as recommended by the last review panel), and by stopping the entry of bogus units that don’t represent reputable emissions reductions, ” says David Parker.

April 18 2016  Media Statement

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