INDEPENDENT NEWS

Questions and Answers - July 26

Published: Thu 26 Jul 2012 08:26 PM
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Infrastructure Investment Programme—Progress
1. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making with its multi-billion dollar infrastructure programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Our progress on infrastructure is good. We have invested $5 billion in infrastructure such as schools, broadband, and hospitals over the last four Budgets, and billions more upgrading our State highway networks and the national grid. The first road of national significance project, Victoria Park Tunnel, has been completed and there is good progress on the rest. We have upgraded on average over 16,000 State houses a year since 2009, and are on track to insulate every State house built before 1978 by the end of the year. Of course, we have put aside $5.5 billion to help fund the rebuild of Christchurch infrastructure, which is getting under way.
Dr Cam Calder: What steps has the Government taken to improve the quality of its infrastructure investment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, that is a good question, because just having more infrastructure is one aspect of it, but having high-quality infrastructure is, in the long run, more important. We have improved the way the Government makes its own plans, and the way it gets consents and finances its infrastructure through the reform of the Resource Management Act, setting up the National Infrastructure Unit, and setting up the Environmental Protection Authority. This has introduced more discipline into the Government process. Last year we issued the second National Infrastructure Plan, which shows that our infrastructure is generally improving, but it does highlight those areas where we need to do a better job.
Dr Cam Calder: How will the Government fund its large infrastructure investment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The planned investment over the next 4 years is large, at around $17 billion. This will be paid for through a mixture of funding sources; some of it, of course, will come from petrol tax and road-user charges on the roads, some will come from depreciation, and a considerable amount will come from direct funding from the Government. The direct funding from the Government will be channelled through the Future Investment Fund, which was set up to take the proceeds of the partial share sales and invest those in future publicly-owned infrastructure. Treasury is forecasting sale proceeds of $5 billion to $7 billion over the next 3 to 5 years, and this will assist with a $17 billion infrastructure investment programme.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the 52 percent of business leaders in the New Zealand Herald’s “Mood of the Boardroom” survey that other than returning to surplus, the Government has no adequate plan to encourage the economic growth and jobs needed to stop so many young New Zealanders moving to Australia?
Hon Steven Joyce: Oh, so not enough plans today? So we have changed from too many plans again.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not, and as my colleague Steven Joyce has pointed out, the Labour Party cannot decide—on some days there are too many plans, and on the other days there is no plan. We have outlined the programme, outlined the plan, including to the “Mood of the Boardroom” session this morning. I can tell the member that it has pretty broad support among the business community.
Overseas Investment Office—Monitoring of Overseas Investment Rules
2. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister for Land Information: Can the public have confidence that the Overseas Investment Office is taking prompt action in relation to all breaches of the Overseas Investment Act 2005; if so, how?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister for Land Information): Yes. The Overseas Investment Office promptly investigates all suspected breaches of the Overseas Investment Act 2005. I have some good news for that honourable member: in the period 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2012, 100 percent—100 percent—of public alerts about potential breaches were assessed for possible investigation within 10 working days.
Richard Prosser: Given that answer, will he tell the House what action the Overseas Investment Office has taken in respect of the four Crafar farms sold to an overseas investor without consent; or, alternatively, will he explain why no action has been taken?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I do not have particular information about particular applications or particular concerns to hand. If the member wants an answer to a particular question, I suggest he either ask it as the primary question or put it down as a written question to the Minister.
Richard Prosser: How can the public have confidence in the Overseas Investment Office when UBNZ Assets Holdings, a company associated with May Wang who failed a good-character test, was able to purchase four of the Crafar farms without permission, and get away with it?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The same principle applies: if the member wants direct answers to specific questions, he should either ask them as a primary question or put them down as a written question.
Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Did we not determine a number of weeks ago that if a Minister did not know the answer, the Minister should simply say that they do not know the answer?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I think the Minister basically said that, but he was a little more helpful in suggesting that maybe if members want detailed information in answers, they need to make it clear in the primary question what they are asking. I do not think the Minister was being unhelpful.
New Zealand - Australia Migration—Minister's Statements and Numbers
3. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement regarding migration to Australia “What’s the point of standing in the airport crying about it?”; if so, how many of the 53,763 people that migrated to Australia in the year to June 2012 are from 18 to 30 years of age in number and percentage terms?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes; and, as I said in the rest of that statement, we have just got to compete. New Zealand should show the aspiration and confidence that it can compete with a larger, more wealthy economy for our young people’s talent, instead of just worrying about it. So 21,585 people aged 18 to 30 migrated to Australia in the year to June 2012— about 40 percent of the total. I note that in the 9 years to June 2008, when economic conditions were more benign, 305,800 New Zealanders left for Australia, and around 36 percent of them were aged 18 to 30.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the findings of the New Zealand Herald “Mood of the Boardroom” survey, which found that out of eight critical issues his Government has performed worst on stemming the outward flow of Kiwis?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, and as I suggested to the large group of business leaders in the room, it is up to them to compete for that talent by showing the leadership and the opportunities to our young New Zealanders. If they are waiting around for someone to do that on their behalf, then they can rely on this Government to create positive conditions, but it is in the workplaces of New Zealand that young people will see the opportunities that attract them. It is time we showed the confidence that we can compete with Australia.
Hon David Parker: Does he think it is sustainable to lose 21,000 people per annum to Australia—the equivalent of the entire student body of Otago or Victoria universities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think that is going to continue, because the relative economic performance of New Zealand and Australia is starting to close the gap. If we persist with the Government’s broad-based economic programme to create jobs and opportunities, and fix problems like housing affordability, then we will be able to compete with Australia for our young talent. That is better than telling our young people that the Government is going to waste more of their money, borrow more, and not support the businesses who provide their jobs—which is Labour’s policy.
Hon David Parker: When he said yesterday that migration rates are correlated to growth rates, does the fact that New Zealand experienced the highest number ever of people migrating to Australia in a 12-month period signify that he has failed in his goal of growing the New Zealand economy, and instead is growing the Australian economy by sending 20,000 young New Zealanders there a year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, what it signifies is that Australia has had a once-in-a-100-year increase in its income, because of its coal and iron-ore boom. That gave Australia higher growth rates—for a short time—than New Zealand’s. We would expect that, as our own programme starts to have a positive impact on the New Zealand economy, those flows will change.
Hon David Parker: Given that young people are leaving in droves to Australia, what plans does he have to ensure the long-term sustainability of superannuation, given the changing age profile, particularly in light of the fact that 88 percent of the chief executive officers in the “Mood of the Boardroom” survey said that National is completely on the wrong side and out to lunch on the issue of raising the age of eligibility for superannuation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The most important thing for New Zealand superannuation is a thriving economy. If we do not have a thriving economy, then in the future superannuitants will not have adequate superannuation. That is why we are focusing on encouraging businesses to invest and employ. We are focusing on using our natural resources, through oil and gas exploration, and mining; and on supporting our primary industries, so they can be more competitive on the global stage—all of which are policies that the Opposition oppose.
Child Poverty—Race Relations Commissioner’s Statements Regarding Māori Children
4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Ka whakaae a ia ki tā te Kaikōmihana Whanaungata ā-Iwi, a Joris De Bres, i kī rā, “Many Māori children are being denied their basic human rights because of poverty and inadequate public services”? [Does he agree with Race Relations Commissioner Joris De Bres that “Many Māori children are being denied their basic human rights because of poverty and inadequate public services”?]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs): [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the translation—and I think, in fact, directly—the Minister breached Standing Orders in the way that he addressed a member of the House. I think it is important, even when one is speaking in Māori, that the same standards apply.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear what the member is saying, but I do not believe that it was intentionally unfair or unkind. I think the member was actually acknowledging a fellow colleague in a warm way, and I would not like to interfere in that, although I accept the member’s point that we should refer to all members by their full names. But on this occasion I would not like to interfere, because I do not think the member involved took offence, anyway, at being referred to in that manner.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Lockwood.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister consider it acceptable that one-third of all Māori children live in poverty, and that the Government has failed to address inequality, thereby condemning these Māori children to a life of sickness, hardship, and underachievement?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member’s question was somewhat longer than that, and being a supplementary question, the Minister is not required to answer just the last part of the question. Even though the question may have been in Te Reo, the same rules apply to the answering of the question. The question covered more than just that issue.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the member to ask her question again. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister agree with the human rights commissioner that keeping a third of Māori children in poverty infringes their fundamental right to well-being, and that one fair way to alleviate that poverty would be to lift the minimum age to a liveable level?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister, then, agree that the human right of Māori children to health care is infringed by the Government’s increase in prescription charges when we know that 14 percent of Māori do not pick up prescriptions now because of the cost?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister, then, also agree that the human right of Māori children to decent housing is breached by the Government’s cuts to State and social housing provision, which currently condemns 28 percent of Māori children to living in overcrowded homes?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify with you. It could be an issue to do with translation, but during question time it has been very clear that Ministers are answering on behalf of the Government, not on behalf of their individual political parties, and twice in question time, in the interpretation—I do not speak Te Reo Māori, so I just want to check that I am correct here—the Minister has indicated he is replying on behalf of the Māori Party, not on behalf of the Government.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is quite correct that Ministers are replying in their role as a Minister, as part of the Government. However, they are at liberty to introduce into their answers other material if it helps them answer the question asked. The risk they face in doing that is if they bring into their answer material to do with their party, they can then be asked about that, when normally they cannot be asked about that. The Minister is not normally answerable in this House for matters to do with the Māori Party. However, the Minister has, as the member points out, on a couple of occasions introduced the Māori Party into his answers, and, therefore, the Minister can be asked about those matters that he has covered in his answers.
Te Ururoa Flavell: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Metiria Turei: Given that 93,000 Māori children have parents on a benefit, does he accept that the welfare reforms trap the children of beneficiaries into severe poverty, and are therefore an active discrimination against the human rights of the Māori children of those families?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was set down for the Minister of Māori Affairs. The question directly relates to the impact of Government policy on Māori children. It is within his ministerial responsibility to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member makes a fair point that the Minister of Māori Affairs has a broad area of responsibility. The primary question asked about the basic human rights of children alleged to be in poverty, and the supplementary question that was asked did cover those issues. I invite Metiria Turei to repeat her question.
Metiria Turei: Given that 93,000 Māori children have parents on a benefit, does he accept that the welfare reforms trap the children of beneficiaries into severe poverty, and are therefore an active discrimination against the human rights of Māori children in those families?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Hon David Parker: Given that under the National-led Government the interests of low-income Māori are going backwards, why is the Māori Party continuing to support the Government in confidence and supply?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Metiria Turei: Will the Minister commit to seeking Cabinet approval to replace the discriminatory in-work tax credit with a new child payment for all low-income children, regardless of whether their parents have a job or not, as one important step towards restoring the basic human rights of Māori children to a healthy childhood and a long life?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If I understood the answer correctly, it was in relation to advocacy by the Māori Party for the issue. I understand that the Māori Party might have a different view from the Government, but I am asking him as a Minister of the Government for his commitment.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member is making a fair point in that the Minister in his answer said that the Māori Party had expressed its view to the Government, but I do not think that is actually answering the question. The question asked was whether the Minister would recommend to the Government that it should remove the distinction between the children of parents who are working and those whose parents are not working in respect of the Working for Families tax credit. I do not think it is a satisfactory answer to that to say that the Māori Party has given its views to the
Government. So I know that I have not destroyed the member’s question, I invite Tariana Turia to repeat her question—I beg your pardon, Metiria Turei! My apologies.
Metiria Turei: I do not mind being mistaken for Tariana, not at all. Will the Minister commit to seeking Cabinet approval to replace the discriminatory in-work tax credit with a new child payment for all low-income children, regardless of whether their parents have a job or not, as one important step towards restoring the basic human right of Māori children to a healthy childhood and a long life?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Business—New Zealand’s Reputation
5. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Commerce: What steps is the Government taking to help maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Commerce): This week the Companies and Limited Partnerships Amendment Bill had its first reading. The bill seeks to strengthen aspects of the rules applying to the governance, registration, and reorganisation of companies and limited partnerships. The reforms will help maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business and will promote investor confidence and participation in New Zealand’s capital markets. The bill seeks to strike the right balance between deterring the actions that threaten the integrity of a company registration system, and maintaining the ease of business for New Zealand companies. I look forward to the select committee’s thoughts on the bill.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What other issues does the bill seek to address?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The bill will require each company registered in New Zealand to have a resident agent if there is no director living in New Zealand or an approved jurisdiction. It will give new powers to the Registrar of Companies to investigate and deal with non-compliance with the Companies Act. This includes the power to flag companies on the register that are under investigation. These are but some of the changes in the bill. I welcome the support of all parties across the House in progressing at least the first reading of this bill, and I welcome the select committee’s views on all of these matters.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Would another step to maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business be to stand down a Minister who solicits and receives at least $80,000 in donations in plain envelopes and fails to declare them?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The bill has got nothing to do with ministerial responsibility.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The bill was the subject of the supplementary question. The primary question was a general question about steps to maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business. I think the question from Mr Mallard was definitely in order.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the member’s point of order. It is certainly consistent with the primary question. I guess the Minister’s answer, though, is indicating that he, as a Minister, has no responsibility for whether other Ministers are stood down or not. I believe that is what he was saying, and that is a fair answer, I think. But I fully accept the question as being in order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Would it help New Zealand to be seen as a trusted place to do business if Ministers had sufficient capacity to remember when they receive $80,000 in plain envelopes and/or paper bags?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I do not know whether he is referring to—I will not go—the bill as drafted has absolutely nothing to do with whatever that member is talking about.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I say to the Minister that sadly the question has got nothing to do with a bill. The question asked what steps is the Government taking to help maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business. The Minister may have intended—[Interruption] Order! The Minister may have intended that answer to that question to allow him to talk about a bill, but supplementary questions are not constrained. They are constrained only in so far as this primary question states what it states. The question asked is in order. It is hypothetical, but it cannot be ignored, because the question is in order, given that primary question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Should I put it again?
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Oh no, no, I am just offering to put it again in case the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, I think the Minister can recollect the question.
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I recollect there was a hypothetical question, and there are many things that affect New Zealand’s reputation. One of the best things we can do to affect New Zealand’s international reputation as a good place to do business is to continue the prudent economic management that this Government started about 4 years ago and continues to do so.
Grant Robertson: In light of his desire to maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business, is he satisfied that the Hon John Banks has the required ethical standards to be his Associate Minister of Commerce?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I do not appoint Associate Ministers.
Grant Robertson: In light of his desire to maintain New Zealand’s reputation as a trusted place to do business, is it his intention to withdraw the delegations of the Associate Minister of Commerce, John Banks, in light of the revelations that he solicited donations from Skycity, Kim Dotcom, and a third party, and then signed a donation return that could not recall those donations?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: These reflections reflect pretty badly on the questioner. I have no responsibility for the delegations or any of the roles. That is at the will of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You know, and I know, that that Minister signed those delegations—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: —not the Prime Minister. It is just not true.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, order! The member is now questioning the answer. The Speaker has to take the Minister’s answer as it stands. I cannot question whether or not Ministers are giving correct answers; I can only assess whether or not they have provided an answer, and the Minister has certainly provided an answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did he sign the delegation for John Banks as an Associate Minister?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Yes; the member is correct that this Minister does sign those delegations in consultation with the Prime Minister.
Families/Whānau—Minister’s Statements Regarding Policy
6. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement that “if we are going to make a difference for the families who are struggling, we need to be able to invest in interventions that we know will work”; if so, what are her methods for developing policies that she knows will work?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Associate Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the
Minister for Social Development: The Minister stands by her full statement that was made with regard to the new Social Policy Evaluation and Research Unit in the restructured Families Commission, where she said: “If we are going to make a difference for the families who are struggling, we need to be able to invest in interventions that we know will work and that have had full evaluations. This new unit will build a body of evidence that will allow policy makers, nongovernmental organisations, and anyone wanting to invest in social services to make informed
decisions about which programmes are effective for New Zealand families.” The establishment of this unit is a key part of this Government’s focus to ensure we are investing in what works.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she provide to the House the evaluation or evidence showing that the policy that she announced on Michael Laws’ show on the court ordering unfit parents not to have further children will work, when the Ministry of Justice denies any involvement in this policy and her own green paper reference group had not been involved?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: The primary question was directed towards the Families Commission. I have not been briefed in respect of an answer that I could provide to that supplementary question.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister in answering the primary question said that the policies through this unit should have full evaluations. It is quite in order for the Minister to say he cannot answer the question because it has not been provided for, but he should not deny the relevance of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the point is a fair point. The Minister is perfectly at liberty to say that he does not have the information to answer the question, but I think the point the Hon David Parker makes is correct. The primary question is not focused on the Families Commission; it does not mention it. But the Minister’s answer is still perfectly legitimate, unless he wishes to add anything further to it—he does not.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she provide to the House any advice or evaluation to show that the policy she announced on Michael Laws’ show on drug-testing beneficiaries will work, when a Government department is rumoured to have provided evidence to the Ministry of Social Development strongly criticising the plan?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: I have not been briefed in respect of comments she made in respect of drug testing.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. E rau rangatira mā, tēnā tatou koutou. What evidence has she seen that her military activity camps are working for troubled youth, given that the idea has been discredited internationally and her own camps have a reoffending rate of 53 percent?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: In respect of the military-style activity camps, they have not been commented on internationally. Although they were incorrectly represented in the previous term as boot camps, there has been international evidence in respect of boot camps. In respect of military-style activity camps, there is currently an evaluation that is going on at the moment, and we look forward to the results as they appear to be positive in the interim.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call Jacinda Ardern, I say that when a member from another party asks a supplementary question, they deserve to be able to hear the answer. There was too much interjection then.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she provide to the House advice or evidence she has used to support the policy of contraception for beneficiaries rather than for all low-income women, which Michael Laws called “a policy position I’ve always advocated”, given she claimed to have received medical advice but an Official Information Act request later revealed she had received absolutely none?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: I am afraid I cannot answer that question as it is targeted towards comments in respect of contraception. I would suggest that if the member has that particular question, she should direct it in writing or ask the Minister on another occasion.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she provide to the House the advice or evidence she has to show that the policy she announced at the National Party conference to turn food hardship grants into food parcels to save the taxpayer money would save more than the alternative policy of having an actual plan for job creation and growth so people are not in hardship in the first place?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: Unfortunately I have not been briefed in respect of that, but I am sure that such a hard-working, creative Minister will welcome the opportunity to answer that question should she be asked in person.
Question No. 5 to Minister
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour): I apologise; I meant to table this after question No. 5. I seek leave of the House to table a letter from the New Zealand Police dated 26 July 2012 referring to complaints about the Hon John Banks’ mayoral election spending, which notes that he solicited donations from Skycity Entertainment Group, an anonymous radio ad provider, and Kim Dotcom.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Major Events Development Fund—Promotion of New Zealand
7. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Economic Development: How is the Major Events Development Fund contributing to building New Zealand’s profile overseas?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): The Government is using the Major Events Development Fund to partner with organisers to attract, retain, grow, and deliver high-quality major events for New Zealand. The purpose of the Government funding is to ensure lasting benefits for New Zealand from hosting events, promotion of the country overseas, international media exposure, increased tourism, and job creation. For example, last week I attended the media launch of the 2013 Winter Games, which will receive $1 million in support from the Major Events Development Fund. In return for this, Winter Games NZ will provide extensive international television opportunities to promote this country as a premier winter destination across our key tourism and trade markets. It is estimated that the 2013 event will deliver around 33,000 visitor nights and reach a global television audience of around 800 million viewers.
Jacqui Dean: How will the development of the Winter Games benefit New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government investment is designed to provide a platform for the event to step up to another level in 2013. It is intended to become one of the world’s top three snow sports events and to deliver the quality expected of a world-leading event. It will be one of the biggest winter sports events, in fact, outside the Winter Olympics. It is expected to increase the number of participants, spectators, and international tourists attending the event. The Winter Games is just one of the many major events that the Government has backed.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Hang on—who backed it first? Who backed it first? You’re just a follower, just a follower.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We have also got behind the Rally of New Zealand, the Triathlon ITU World Championship Series, and the World Masters Games. Trevor is having a bit of attention deficit disorder. All these events will help raise New Zealand’s profile overseas, and lead to increased tourism and business opportunities, Mr Mallard.
Labour Market—Assessment Prior to Issuing of Permits
8. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration: What labour market testing requirements does Immigration New Zealand carry out before approving an employer’s application to bring foreign workers to New Zealand?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Immigration): I have been advised by Immigration New Zealand that it undertakes a variety of labour-market checks, where information from Work and Income, recruitment efforts by the employers, and the skills shortage lists are taken into account. In the case of approval-in-principle applications, consultation is also undertaken with relevant unions, guilds, and industry training organisations. The labour-market test is there to ensure that migrant workers do not displace New Zealanders from employment opportunities.
Darien Fenton: Is he confident that labour-market testing processes are robust enough to protect New Zealand jobs, when Immigration New Zealand has just granted approval in principle to one company to bring in 110 so-called façade installers from China on the basis that there are no suitable New Zealanders able to either do the work or be trained to do the work?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Yes, I am satisfied in the system.
Darien Fenton: What specific actions, if any, does Immigration New Zealand take to ensure that the job prerequisites are not overstated or exaggerated in order to artificially exclude New Zealand residents from consideration for work?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As I mentioned in the answer to the primary question, there is a very robust process that is worked through with Work and Income, with the industry training organisation providers, with the guilds, and with the unions. There is a very robust process in place, and I am satisfied with that process.
Darien Fenton: In what part of the Government’s 120-point economic plan does it state that we will grow our economy and create jobs by bringing in migrant workers into temporary and fixedterm employment, despite New Zealanders being ready and able to do this work or easily trained to do it?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I am pleased that that member is applauding our 120-point plan, which is very successful. It is interesting that Labour brought in the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, and if I could just quote from one of its members at the time, a quote that is all about migrant workers in—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not sure that is exactly an answer to the question asked. It was not that specific a question, but the answer should relate to the question and not wander a long way from it. If the Minister is not sure of the question, I invite Darien Fenton to repeat it.
Darien Fenton: In what part of the Government’s 120-point economic plan does it state that we will grow our economy and create jobs by bringing in migrant workers into temporary and fixedterm employment, despite New Zealanders being ready and able to do this work or easily trained to do it?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As the member knows, we do require in our New Zealand economy some foreigners, to ensure that we can continue to grow our economy. If I could, please, talk very briefly about the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, which was rolled out by that Government and which we are supporting, Mr Mallard said: “There are always anxieties about the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme—about whether it is displacing New Zealand workers. Well, I think there may be an argument in this case that it is actually creating jobs for New Zealand workers.” I agree with Mr Mallard’s statement.
Darien Fenton: I seek leave to table a letter from the Amalgamated Workers Union to Minister Kate Wilkinson, asking for a review of the decision to allow 110 workers to be employed on façade construction, on the basis that the skill required is basic and New Zealanders could be trained to do this work—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Emission Trading Scheme—Cost of Proposed Amendments
9. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Is the $328 million additional cost of the Government’s recent Emissions Trading Scheme proposed amendments consistent with the National Party election pledge that the amendments would be fiscally neutral?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues) on behalf of the
Minister for Climate Change Issues: Yes, because we do not want the emissions trading scheme to be a tax-grabbing revenue earner from households and the productive sector. We also wanted to amend our scheme, in globally fragile conditions, in the interests of the wider economy, rather than on the basis of some narrow Government interest.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why is the Government increasing subsidies to emitters, in these globally fragile conditions, to the tune of several hundred million dollars, rather than strengthening the emissions trading scheme so that it will actually reduce emissions?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I do not agree with the basic premise of the question. They are not subsidies; they are the absence of a cost imposed on households and businesses in this country.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why does not the Government follow the UK model, which has a binding 80 percent cut by 2050, with 5-yearly carbon budgets for reducing emissions, instead of simply stating a weaker target with no credible plan to get there?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I have not examined the UK scheme in any great detail, but it is fair to say we do not want the economic mess that they are in today.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Rather than weakening the emissions trading scheme, why does not the Government introduce a plan, such as the British one—and I recommend that the Associate Minister read it—that is described as providing “a clear, credible, long-term framework for a move to a low-carbon … economy, [giving] businesses and individuals the … certainty they need to play their part.”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I believe in our emissions trading scheme we have that clear, credible scheme and we are also, of course, wanting to make sure that in these fragile economic conditions globally we do not ratchet it up unduly at this time.
Employment Relations, Paid Parental Leave—Minister’s Statements
10. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of his statements on the proposed extension to paid parental leave?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, particularly the statement that the Government supports parents and families. We have spent $154 million on providing the current paid parental leave, which has increased by $67 per week since 2008. Alongside that, the Government spends $1.4 billion on early childhood education subsidies and $2.6 billion on Working for Families payments. We have made sure that despite Budgets being tight and despite a recession, we have at least maintained all these payments to families.
Sue Moroney: Does he stand by his statement in April that the bill to extend paid parental leave would require an extra $500 million in borrowing over the next 3 to 4 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes.
Sue Moroney: Did he receive advice from the Department of Labour on 11 April, the day he announced his intention to use a financial veto, that showed that the maximum cost of the bill was $285.6 million over 3 years—almost half the figure he misled the public with?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If you add the number for the 4th year, they are pretty similar.
Sue Moroney: No, they’re not.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: They are. The simple point is the member’s proposition will double the cost of paid parental leave. I look forward to the day when the Government has those sorts of choices. We do not have those choices now. We are working hard to maintain the current expenditure of $154 million on paid parental leave, $1.4 billion on early childhood subsidies, which have increased by 40 percent in the last 4 years, and $2.6 billion on Working for Families payments. We are supporting families very extensively.
Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table a document from the Department of Labour, released under the Official Information Act to me, which shows that the maximum cost of the paid parental leave bill over 3 years would be $285.6 million.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Sue Moroney: Did he tell journalists at a press conference he held that he will not extend paid parental leave, even after the Government books get back into surplus, when he announced his intention to use a financial veto, on 11 April?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not a matter of whether I will extend paid parental leave. What I did announce was that in my statutory role as Minister of Finance I would be vetoing this particular bill because of the high cost of it at this time. Of course Governments have got choices in the future,
and those choices will all be fairly difficult. Paid parental leave will be only one of a long list of aspirations New Zealanders will have once the Government gets its books back into surplus.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very direct. I asked him whether he had told journalists a particular statement. He did not respond to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: What I will do—because I cannot recollect exactly the question asked—is I will allow the member to repeat her question, but it had better ask just that.
Sue Moroney: Thank you, Mr Speaker. It does indeed. Did he tell journalists at a press conference he held that he will not extend paid parental leave, even after the Government books get back into surplus, when he announced his intention to use a financial veto, on 11 April?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I cannot recall exactly the words that were used, but I can tell the member that it is not a matter of my extending paid parental leave. I announced that, as Minister of Finance, in my statutory capacity—as used many times by previous Ministers of Finance—I would veto that particular piece of legislation. I look forward to the time where the Government has the kind of choice that the member is proposing, but right now, with a significant deficit, we do not have that choice. I am sure my remarks to the press conference reflected the reality that when we do get to surplus, there are many aspirations New Zealanders will have, of which this is only one. At the time, it may not be the most important.
Fishing Vessels—Safety
11. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Associate Minister of Transport: What recent changes has the Government made to improve the safety of fishing boats?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Associate Minister of Transport): Today I announced changes to the maritime rule covering the design and construction of fishing boats and the equipment used on them. The rule applies to vessels less than 25 metres in length, which make up more than 90 percent of the fishing fleet. The fishing industry is one of our most dangerous, and structural and equipment failures count for approximately one-fifth of fishing industry incidents. The new requirements will mitigate the risks such as of fire and flooding, and substantial new structural requirements will be applied to newly constructed vessels.
Jami-Lee Ross: How do these changes reinforce the Government’s focus on better and less regulation?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: These changes are part of a bigger story in transport, where we are working with industry at reducing both unnecessary compliance costs and red tape while improving safety as well. Other recent examples include regulations regarding jetboat licences and passenger service vehicles. Industry involvement on these changes has been essential to ensuring that rules are appropriate and workable for the sector.
Education, Minister—Statements
12. TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First) to the Minister of Education: Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] Yes. In particular I stand by my statements that this Government wants to see our education system delivering for five out of five kids, and that we are committed to raising achievement and ensuring that all our young people have the knowledge, skills, and values to be successful in the 21st century.
Tracey Martin: Does she stand by her statements on Parata’s Post promoting the Australian My School website as a template for a purpose-built New Zealand educational website?
Hon HEKIA PARATA:
[Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Tracey Martin: Kia ora. Is the Minister aware that the My School website relies upon the national testing regime, the National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy or NAPLAN, and that this contradicts her statements to the Education and Science Committee that there are no plans to have a national test in New Zealand, if the model was rolled out without substantial change; if so, can she explain this contradiction?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Andrew Williams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although this is Māori Language Week, and we do understand the use of Te Reo this week, there will be many New Zealanders out there who are wanting to hear the Minister’s answer to the question in English.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Members will respect the fact that I am on my feet. Members in this House are perfectly entitled to use the official languages of New Zealand, and they can use Te Reo at any time they choose. For the people whom the member was concerned about out there in the public, especially those watching on television, there is an immediate translation available to those people watching it on television. That should be available—a simultaneous translation—and if it is not available, I want to find out what has gone wrong technically, because that should be available.
Point of Order—Tabling of Documents
MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Senior Whip—National): In your reflections on question time today and yesterday, I wonder whether you would consider the application of Speakers’ rulings 147/4-6 regarding the tabling of documents. It may be just my perception, but it seems to me that the convention around succinctness may be being relaxed at the moment whereby a number of documents are being described, following which there is a commentary that starts “which shows they have” or “which says that”. In particular, your own ruling, among other things, says: “Seeking leave is not an opportunity to convey information while members are on their feet;”. It may be me, but it does seem that over the last few days that has become elongated. It would be helpful if you would reflect on that.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear Chris Hipkins on the point of order.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Senior Whip—Labour): Although many of the Speakers’ rulings do indeed refer to that, since some of those rulings were made you have made a further ruling that members need to explain with some particularity what the document is that they seeking to table, so that you can assess whether it is already publicly available, for example, among other things.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the spirit in which the point of order is raised, but we have made very significant changes to the process for seeking leave to table documents, and members can no longer seek leave to table clippings from newspapers, records of radio transcripts, or anything like that that are readily available to members. We have also made a requirement that members identify the source of the document before making any comment about what it contains. I think that is a mechanism of avoiding the opportunity for members to just get extra speeches in. I think for members of the House to be able to make a decision on whether or not they should allow a document to be tabled, I think they need to know the source of the document, and they need to have a brief summary of what it contains—some idea of what it contains. I accept that I must not allow members to go on too long there, but I think it is not unreasonable that there can be some brief explanation of what the document contains, since we have eliminated so much of the wasteful
tabling of documents. I think it is unreasonable to expect members to make a judgment about whether they should allow a document to be tabled, if they do not know what is in it. But I do accept the point the member makes that I must not allow members to use it as a chance to make an extra speech.
ENDS

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