Melissa Lee's August Update
Welcome to August!
As I write this newsletter we've just gotten the word that the Government's cost of living debacle has reached new heights with people living overseas qualifying for the Labour's Cost of Living payment, a scheme that was meant to be directly targeted at those hit hardest by their failure to rein in inflation and get our economy on track.
This weekend I'm heading down to Christchurch for the Annual National Party Conference. I'm looking forward to joining National supporters from around New Zealand in sharing our vision for a better New Zealand with you all.
Remember my Auckland and Wellington Offices are here to help.
Crime on our Streets
Last week I took part in Parliament's General Debate to highlight the shocking instances of crime, attacks on ethnic New Zealanders and the failure of Labour to ensure there is law and order in New Zealand Streets. Police wait times have skyrocketed, innocent shopkeepers and customers are being assaulted and Storefronts are being ramraided with impunity. It's only getting worse.
The Government must listen and protect Kiwis living in fear under Labour.
Below is my speech to the House and you can watch it here.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Just a couple of days ago, there was yet another racially motivated attack on a father, a Chinese man, in our super-diverse Auckland city, outside a supermarket—Pak 'N Save in Albany—on Sunday morning. He was a software specialist, a role vitally needed in this country. There are well over 3,000 ICT job vacancies today in New Zealand. He was assaulted. To quote his daughter, who was actually reported in the New Zealand Herald, "'He was trying to shield himself and ended up on the floor.' 'The other man kept on kicking him and hitting him.' He tried to hide behind [his] shopping trolley but the man continued his attack and at one point threw eggs he had purchased at her father. One witness, also a Chinese man, called the police and stayed with her father until they arrived. By the time [the officer] arrived the attacker had fled. Her father [at] this point [was] kicked or punched in his lower back, chest, stomach, and head, and was covered in egg residue. He was taken to a nearby White Cross clinic for assessment, having suffered multiple bruises to his head."
I commend the bravery of the Pak 'N Save Albany supermarket manager, who stepped in to protect this man, but this kind of Asian hate and attacks on Asian people has actually increased since the advent of COVID having actually come across to New Zealand and people blaming COVID on the Asian community. I'd like to commend every member of the public who steps in to say no to racism and actually just stop anti-ethnic violence and to stop Asian hate, because they certainly are doing a heck of a lot better than a Government who only gives lip service to this issue. The charge to go back to where you come from is one that echoes across this country for ethnic New Zealanders, despite many of them—actually, quite a majority of them—having actually lived here for generations, and yet they get this thing: "Go back to your country." Especially for those who actually are born in New Zealand, where are they to go back to? They don't have a country, apart from New Zealand.
I have personally been slandered in this very House by people who were rewarded with high office under Labour. They claim hate speech laws are needed. Maybe they should look into themselves and the deficits in law and order that have sprung up under this Labour Government, and execute and implement laws that we already have in this country. There are dozens of stories that I could potentially tell on this particular issue, but we can look into the very electorate of the Prime Minister: Mt Albert. I have visited many shops in Sandringham, and many shops are covered up with boards, plywood. The windows haven't actually been replaced. There are shopkeepers who are sleeping on the floor of their shop because they are worried that they will once again be ram-raided. The majority of these people are Asian. One particular shop has been ram-raided and broken into more than a dozen times. There was a shisha shop—not even a vape shop—that actually sells intricate shisha pipes for ethnic communities, which was reduced to one window only. The shopkeeper doesn't even open the door wide, and he had actually been broken into many times, at least five times in as many months. The instances were caused by teenagers for this particular man.
The Prime Minister cannot even bring law and order to her own electorate. She cannot even keep the streets of Mt Albert safe. Labour are not backing New Zealand's ethnic communities, and they cannot even keep the shops in Sandringham, and the people, safe. It is time the Government actually does something—or do all ethnic communities just wait until National returns to Government? Because we can certainly do the action. This Government is all about pretty conversations, huis, and lip service. They are certainly not delivering for the ethnic community.
The RNZ/TVNZ Merger
The Government is pushing ahead with it's wasteful spending plans on the future of New Zealand media with the introduction of the Aotearoa New Zealand Public Media Bill.
The plan is shocking during a cost of living crisis. It will cost $327million over the next three years and $370million all up to merge RNZ and TVNZ with no new content created in the process or a single job lost in redundancy beyond the CEOs of the subsumed entities. There is simply no reason for the creation of a new Public Media monolith that will reduce media plurality in New Zealand and National will oppose this example of yet more poor spending and bad planning under Labour.
Submissions have now opened for Members of the Public to have their say and I encourage you all to make a submission using the link here.
This bill actually does exactly what the Minister wants. It is very simple. It basically gets rid of TVNZ and RNZ, two very loved entities in New Zealand, and creates a new public media entity. However, I don't think it actually does what the Minister hopes. The Minister hopes that this is going to be aspirational and bring about trust in the media sector. I think it is probably very helpful if we actually go to the genesis of how this bill actually began. Before I do that, I'd like to sort of mention that Aotearoa New Zealand public media is not exactly something that inspires or creates an imagery in one's mind of amazing entertainment or amazing news or a trusted news entity, which we hope that the new public media entity will be—and I hope there will be a name for the entity; I'm not quite sure how that's going to be achieved.
The explanatory note of the bill basically says that it seeks to strengthen the delivery of public media services to New Zealanders by establishing a new public media. Yep—this bill actually does that. But it actually goes on to say that the media landscape is changing rapidly: the trends are of increasing competition around the world in terms of where people are actually getting their news or entertainment or sport. It's actually changing: people are not going to the traditional linear television or radio that they used to listen to and watch; they're going to streaming services, they're going to other—I won't name all of them, but things like YouTube. Young people are forever watching YouTube, for example. They go to social media to get their news.
Over the years of COVID lockdowns, over the last couple of years, the trust factor in media has actually gone down dramatically, and part of the reason was the Public Interest Journalism Fund and the very fact that there was a perception that the Government was giving media a kind of a bribe. So media should not be trusted because they were literally being a mouthpiece for the Government. So how will this new public media entity—which, effectively, as the Minister actually said, what was non-commercial will still stay non-commercial, what was linear television will still remain linear television, what was digital will still remain digital. So what is the new vision for this new entity? What is the challenge for this new entity to provide for the vast majority of New Zealanders, who are hungry for new New Zealand content?
Considering the fact that this genesis comes from the former Minister of Broadcasting, the Hon Clare Curran, who actually began the process thinking that we needed a change—she wanted to turn RNZ, Radio New Zealand, into a television station as well. I always used to think that Radio New Zealand does radio well; it doesn't quite do TV very well; we already have an existing TVNZ that does it very, very well. The commercial imperative that TVNZ has actually provides the Crown with money where they actually profit from their enterprise. And I'm just wondering why the Minister is turning this new entity, ANZPM—let's just call it that; Aoteroa New Zealand Public Media is quite a long thing—into an autonomous Crown entity. Why the change, Minister, because what an autonomous Crown entity actually means is that, and I quote, it "has to give regard to Government policy when directed by the responsible Minister"?
If that is the case, how will the public trust this new entity to be a step removed from Government policy or the dictation by the Ministers to do whatever they actually want the media to do. Where will that trust factor go? It is already down. I can't imagine it getting any better as a result. So I wonder if the select committee could actually consider potentially making this an independent Crown entity which perhaps says that it means that it is generally independent of Government policy, or something that is actually independent of the Minister dictating to the entity what to do. I know the Ministers are not supposed to dictate what kind of content the entities are supposed to actually produce, but the thing is that there are so many different ways: the Ministers actually appoint the board members—there is influence there. I think that anything that we can actually do to remove the Government hand from the news media and the new public media entity would be a good thing.
The other aspect of it is that I read this bill and it was very straightforward that it gets rid of the two entities, all of the assets, and everything in it becomes the new entity. So in that aspect it is actually very straightforward and very simple. But the thing that I could not understand in this bill is the very notion that when Radio New Zealand, a big entity, and Television New Zealand, TVNZ, a bigger entity, merges, comes together, to create one, there's not going to be a single redundancy. Are you kidding me? Has anyone ever seen a merger where there are absolutely no redundancies? Well, it looks like the Government's actually starting a trend. They merge two big entities and they are thinking there are not going to be any redundancies. Well, good luck. I would like to see that actually happening, but I feel very, very sorry for the two entities who actually are going through a very stressful time, because this has been going on ever since the Labour Government came to power, and for five years they have been wondering what their entity was going to be—whether it was going to be "Radio New Zealand Plus", whether it was going to be a merger, and all that. In a way, finally, there is a new entity, and apparently, all of your jobs are safe, so, in a sense, maybe you should actually breathe a sigh of relief.
The other aspect of it is that one of the reasons why sometimes I actually question the role of charter—there are charters and there are charters. When we were reviewing the Radio New Zealand Charter recently in the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee, we weren't going to actually get an opportunity to review it, because this merged entity legislation was going to come to the House, and I felt that because it was legislated, every five years the RNZ Charter had to be reviewed and we needed to actually do our duty as a Parliament to review it.
But, you know, we were told that charters are aspirational. And when you consider the fact that the business case that this merger is a result of, the business case where numerous consultants and numerous working groups and people have actually worked on this—which literally cost the taxpayers close to $20 million—which was given before even the 2022 Budget, this is an aspirational document, the charter, and it doesn't give any prescriptive discussions or, I guess, a hope from the Minister or wishes of the Minister of how the charter or the entity should operate to create the kind of media entity that the Minister hopes this will be. It's like when we actually got rid of the previous TVNZ Charter because it really did nothing apart from lip service—this almost sounds like it.
There is going to be six to nine board members appointed, and among them, two will have Te Ao Māori and tikanga Māori understanding in order to be appointed to the board. I think, you know, when you actually consider the fact that we have a cost of living crisis, we have a Government who spends $327 million to create a megastructure and has given no indication as to how the entity may make $306 million over the next six years—that is $50 million a year—by tying their hands behind the back. I'm not so sure if this is going to work. I oppose this bill.
Visit to Southland
From Queenstown and the beautiful Gibbston Valley to the sprawling high country of Central Otago and into the deep south visiting Cromwell, Clyde, Gore, Winton and Invercargill last month, it was a fantastic whirlwind journey meeting with communities of all backgrounds hearing their challenges.
From recent migrants facing difficulties gaining public services and barriers to accessibility to the wider community sharing with me with shocking stories of internet outages and continuing lack of mobile coverage in their rural areas the messages were all clear, Labour is failing New Zealand on all fronts.
From an evening public meeting in Roxburgh on digital exclusion to meeting with Seniors communities in Gore and Winton to discuss concerns around the future of NZ Media and National's vision, I heard wide ranging views that it is time for the Government to seriously address the challenges that are stopping our regions being able to grow their local economies, learn and live their lives. It was also valuable to talk with Ethnic Community Representatives across Queenstown Lakes and Invercargill about the unique communities that are developing in our regions and how to support them. As our country continues to grow with over 213+ ethnicities , faiths and backgrounds calling NZ home it is important we ensure there are no barriers so everyone can be a part of our great country.
My final regional portfolio tour before Spring will see me joining with Tim Van de Molen, MP for Waikato for a day of portfolio, stakeholder and community meetings next week around the Central North Island. If you have issues in your community that you need help with, please reach out at [email protected].
Youth Parliament 2022
Youth Parliament has now finished for 2022 with many young leaders from around New Zealand coming together to talk about the key issues facing New Zealand's future generations.
Thank you to Yooni Park, my Youth MP for participating and engaging with the Youth Parliament process. Below is her Speech in the House:
Thank you, Madam Speaker. Suicide rates for Asians have increased by 80 percent per 100,000 people during the last six years here in New Zealand.
Yet the Government is still relying on 19-year-old research to inform their approach to dealing with Asian mental health, with no intention of updating
this research despite noticing these critical statistics. Why is our Asian community still struggling to receive appropriate help for their needs
from the country they call home?
My parents, who came to New Zealand from South Korea in early 2009, were raised by my grandparents who experienced the Korean War through their own skin.
Although my grandparents are genuinely some of the most loveliest people I know, post-war trauma lasted longer than their own generation and still extends to my life today.
Their basic necessities were not fulfilled even after the war. Providing items such as food, clothes, and shelter for their very own family was a challenge. The historical hardships
our elders had to experience prevented the concept of mental illness being widely accepted nor even known in the Asian culture.
Survival was their first and foremost priority.
Today, Asian immigrants, like myself, are considered as fragile and ungrateful when talking about their mental distress as we have been
given such comfortable lives compared to the generations before.
These characteristics of Asian households have caused stigma around mental health, creating a generational divide within families, especially preventing Asian youth
from seeking help and discussing their mental health openly. In fact, a survey done by Asian Family Services last year found that 98.7 percent of Asians believe that the public
holds negative stereotypes against people with mental illnesses, which suggests why the numbers of Asian people engaging in mainstream health services in New Zealand for help are so low.
However, unlike other ethnicities, there is no specific mental health strategy to address the rising mental health and suicides in our Asian community in New Zealand.
We need more culturally appropriate and accessible Asian mental health services supported by the Government in order to close up the generational gap within families.
We need more clinicians who are more culturally and linguistically capable, able to understand the specific cultural complexities that only Asian immigrant households have.
The mental health of minorities should not be overlooked nor underestimated. Our elders, youth, and children all deserve to be cared for in Aotearoa, the place that they might’ve not
been born to call home, but the place they surely chose to call home.
Thank you. [Applause]
Although Youth Parliament is only held once every 3 years there are many ways for active Young New Zealanders to share their voice with Members of Parliament.
As always, please reach out if you want your voice heard!
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Looking forward to talking again soon and keep warm!
Until next time!
National List MP based in Auckland
Authorised by Melissa Lee Parliament Buildings, Wellington
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