New groups part of deals

Coalition agreements add to task force tally

Last updated 00:32 17/11/2008
MAARTEN HOLL/The Dominion Post
TEAMWORK: Prime Minister in waiting John Key with Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples, who is to become Maori Affairs Minister.

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After campaigning on a promise to slash bureaucracy, National leader John Key has formed a government that creates at least a dozen new reviews, committees and task forces.

The new bodies include a Big Game Hunting Council demanded by UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne as part of the confidence and supply agreement signed with National yesterday.

Others include a group to be set up by early 2010 to consider constitutional issues including Maori representation, part of the agreement with the Maori Party, and at least nine committees, task forces and reviews under the deal with ACT. These include a task force to progress work on a bill from ACT leader Rodney Hide aimed at cutting red tape for businesses and new funding to allow his party to commission research and hire consultants to contribute to National's programme though a leadership council with Mr Key.

Mr Key rejected suggestions that some of the groups, such as Mr Dunne's game council, do not sit well with his plans to call in all public sector chief executives for a review of every dollar spent.

"There will be some new bodies established and there will be some things that are disestablished over the course of the next three years, but it's my view, that by the time we get to the end of the three-year process, that you will have a leaner Government which functions in a more efficient way, and I wouldn't get hung up about one tiny little body."

Many of the groups set up under the deal with ACT are specifically designed to trim spending deemed wasteful. These include a yet to be determined number of task forces which will study spending in specific sectors, which Mr Key indicated were likely to be big-budget departments. Each task force would include private sector representatives and public servants. Their work would be overseen by a new Cabinet Expenditure Control Committee.

Mr Key accepted that the task forces could lead to some work being outsourced to the private sector, though they were also likely to identify areas that could be dropped altogether.

The deal with ACT also sees the creation of a special select committee to review the emissions trading scheme - including possibly examining whether human-induced climate change exists - and a "high-quality" advisory group to investigate productivity and report annually on efforts to close the wage gap with Australia by 2025.

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The new Government will also set up a separate group to advise on changes to the Resource Management Act and an inter-party working group to study policies for improving choice in education.

Mr Dunne said his council would pick up work not covered by existing bodies such as Fish and Game, and would not be costly to set up. Work on establishing it began under Labour.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS

ACT, the Maori Party and UnitedFuture have agreed to give confidence and supply to National.

WHAT THEY GET

ACT: Leader Rodney Hide made local government and associate commerce minister and gets new regulatory reform portfolio, with a seat on a Cabinet committee studying public spending. Heather Roy made consumer affairs and associate defence and education minister. Both outside Cabinet.

POLICIES:

* National to introduce a "three strikes" bill for worst violent offenders and support it to a select committee, but not promising to back it further.

* A special select committee to review emissions trading legislation, which will be deferred. Committee to consider alternatives, including a possible carbon tax.

* Task forces, which include private sector representatives, to undertake fundamental reviews of government spending in specific portfolios.

* Mr Hide's bill linking public spending rises to inflation and population increases will get National's support as far as a select committee, but no commitment to passing it.

* National to consult ACT on an advisory group on short-term changes to the Resource Management Act. Consideration to be given to more longterm changes, such as water allocation.

* A National-ACT working group to report on funding and regulating schools to increase parental choice and school autonomy.

* A top income tax rate of 30 cents in the dollar made is a medium-term goal.

THE MAORI PARTY: Co-leader Pita Sharples becomes Maori affairs and associate education and Corrections minister. Fellow co-leader Tariana Turia made community and voluntary sector minister and gets associate health and social development. The positions are outside Cabinet.

POLICIES:

* National promises Maori seats will not be abolished without Maori consent. The Maori Party drops calls for entrenchment. A group to consider constitutional issues, including Maori representation, to be established by early 2010.

* National to review Foreshore and Seabed Act to ensure it protects Maori customary rights. The review to be completed by December 2009. If it finds the law should be repealed, National will ensure everybody's right to access the foreshore and seabed.

* National to work with the Maori Party to progress policy priorities in other areas where agreement can be found.

UNITEDFUTURE: Leader and sole MP Peter Dunne keeps revenue and associate health portfolios outside Cabinet.

POLICIES:

* National to support public- private partnerships where these are the preferred option for major roads, including Wellington's Transmission Gully.

* National to vote for the first reading of a bill allowing income splitting for couples, but not committed to supporting it further.

* The Families Commission stays, but is likely to share administration with the Children's Commission to save money. Both bodies retain their independence.

* Capacity in private hospitals used to reduce elective surgery waiting lists.

* The Government to establish a Big Game Hunting Council as part of a national wild game management strategy.

* National acknowledges UnitedFuture's support for the further development of the SuperGold card, the voluntary sector and advancing the interests of the disability sector.

* National to progress strategy for the use of quality medicines, including the role of Pharmac.

- The Dominion Post

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