Questions and Answers - July 26

Published: Wed 26 Jul 2017 05:36 PM
Social Development, Minister—Statements
1. JACINDA ARDERN (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement yesterday that the Ministry of Social Development Household Incomes report shows "both lower and higher income households are getting the benefit of a strong and growing economy"; if so, does that statement take into account rising housing costs?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes. As I said in the House yesterday, the report shows that the net improvement at the top of each income decile has been reasonably even across the board, which means that the 11 percent increase above inflation since 2008 is fairly evenly distributed. I refer the member to figure D.10 on page 76 of the incomes report, which shows the real equivalised household incomes after housing costs changes for the top of deciles from 2008-09 to 2015-16, which shows households have growing income across the spectrum.
Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that after housing costs, real mean household incomes in fact fell last year? And for that, I refer the Minister to page 76.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No; I dispute the member's reading of the figures. The good news from this report—which, as I said yesterday, is only up to year 2015-16—shows an 11 percent increase in incomes above inflation, and that is reasonably evenly distributed across all deciles.
Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that the number of households that are now paying more than 30 percent of their income in housing costs, and are therefore in housing stress, is at a record high? And for that, I refer the Minister to page 61.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I agree that the report shows that as at 2015-16 we were seeing an increased number of people who were paying more for housing costs than anyone in this House would like to see. That is why this Government has a comprehensive housing plan. It is the first Government ever to invest in emergency housing. It is increasing the supply of social housing. It has a huge programme with councils, and, in fact, just on Sunday we announced another $600 million fund to help local councils provide housing.
Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that after 9 years in Government, the poorest are now spending 51 percent of their incomes on housing costs, also a record high? And for that I refer the Minister to page 62.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As I have stated in all my answers, that is 2015-16 data that we are looking at, and it does not take into account the child hardship package that came into effect. This is the first Government in over 40 years to increase benefit levels for some of our poorest families, and, of course, in Budget 2017 this Government announced a $2 billion Family Incomes Package, which also increases the accommodation supplement. That will change the lives of many of those New Zealanders.
Jacinda Ardern: Given rents have increased by 5 percent in just 1 year, will her benefit increase of $25, which abates, make any lasting difference, as she has claimed?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As I have said, this annual report does not take into account the effect of that increase in benefits. But, as I have also said, the $2 billion package that was announced in Budget 2017 does take account of the fact that rents are increasing and that housing costs are increasing for some of the families who are in the most difficult financial circumstances. Because of the strong economic growth that this Government has overseen, we are now able to make those sorts of choices to invest in some of our most vulnerable families.
Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that after 9 years, 75,000 children now live in homes that are cold and report major problems with dampness and mould, given the report states this on page 23?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am delighted to report to the House that this report shows that the number of children in poverty, using the after housing cost, anchored 50 percent of median line or the 60 percent of median line income relations, is now below where it was when Labour was last in Government.
Jacinda Ardern: How can she possibly call this report good news, given it shows that after 9 years her Government has not made a dent in inequality, more families are in poverty, and housing costs are having a massive impact on people's quality of life? How is that possibly good news?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Because the member is wrong. She is wrong on so many counts. This report does show that after the global financial crisis (GFC) when the numbers rose, we are now, in most areas, below GFC figures. As I have said, for children in hardship, we are actually now below, as a percentage, where the last Labour Government dealt with them.
•Finance, Minister—Reports
2. CHRIS BISHOP (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on New Zealanders' rising incomes?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): The annual Ministry of Social Development report Household incomes in New Zealand, written by Bryan Perry, was released yesterday. The report demonstrates that incomes have risen over the last 9 years across the income spectrum. In fact, the number of children living in households with material hardship has dropped by one-third between 2011 and 2016. This is one of the real benefits New Zealanders get from having a Government focused on growing the economy, driving job growth, supporting vulnerable children, getting the books into surplus, and paying down debt.
Chris Bishop: How much have wages risen by since the global financial crisis (GFC)?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Perry report finds that median household incomes have risen around 11 to 13 percent in real terms from the period before the start of the GFC to 2015-16. In addition, Statistics New Zealand data shows average after-tax wages have gone up 19 percent in real terms since December 2008. The equivalent figure, by the way, for the 1999 to 2008 period was only 5 percent. The Budget Economic and Fiscal Update forecasts that by 2021 the average wage will rise to $64,300 a year, which is $17,000 a year more than when National first came into office.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It's not a speech time.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: So our strong economic plan is delivering, Mr Peters, increasing wages. I know you do not care about it.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call Mr Bishop, I need substantially less interjection from one particular quarter.
Chris Bishop: What additional measures are there in recent Budgets to boost New Zealanders' take-home pay?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Perry report is based on data from the 2015-16 household economic survey. That means both the Budget 2015 Child Material Hardship Package and Budget 2017's Family Incomes Package are not yet reflected in the numbers. Together, these initiatives increase main benefit levels above inflation for the first time in 40 years and deliver a $2 billion boost to the family tax credit, accommodation supplement, and income tax thresholds. The Family Incomes Package alone reduces the number of children living in families with less than half of the median income by around 50,000, or about one-third—something that those who did not vote for this package obviously did not understand.
Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that there has been an increase of 125,300 more people living in poverty since 2008, as is referenced on page 121 of the Perry report?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I cannot. I can, though, confirm for the member that over the last 5 years the number of children living in households with material hardship has dropped by one-third, over the period 2011-16. I have good news for the member: the Family Incomes Package, which will deliver more to those families, comes into effect on 1 April next year, where 75,000 benefit-dependent families, for example, will get an increase in the accommodation supplement of an average of $30 a week.
Chris Bishop: What other evidence has the Minister seen on the improving well-being of New Zealanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New research released by Statistics New Zealand last week showed that most New Zealanders are positive about their life, with around 83 percent rating it as 7 percent or above on a nought-to-10 scale. The regions were particularly strong, with people in the Bay of Plenty, Gisborne, and Northland having higher positive ratings about their lives than the average New Zealander, and with almost one-third of people in these regions rating it 10 out of 10. New Zealanders' increasing positivity is partly due to the improved economic situation. Statistics New Zealand notes that the economy was shrinking in 2008, with unemployment rising, compared with last year when the economy grew by more than 3 percent.
•Homelessness—Number of Homeless Beneficiaries
3. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: How many people on benefits are currently homeless?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): I am advised that the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) does not record whether people are homeless, because you do not need an address to get a benefit. Of course, if someone was to present to Work and Income and tell it they were homeless, it would work with them to address their situation. As I said in the House yesterday, Work and Income staff are absolutely passionate about helping people get back on their feet and live successful lives.
Metiria Turei: How many of the 60,000 children who she says are no longer on benefits are homeless?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We do not know. We do not keep track of where those children are living. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! I am now very quickly losing patience with the considerable interjection and conversation occurring across the aisle.
Metiria Turei: How many beneficiaries who have been subject to financial sanctions are now homeless?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As I said in my answer to the primary question, I am advised that MSD does not record whether people are homeless, because they do not need an address to collect a benefit.
David Seymour: Would it be easier to collect those statistics if beneficiaries accurately reported where they were living and with whom?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Work and Income does require some information, particularly from sole parents. It wants to know whom they are living with in order to establish whether or not they are sole parents.
Metiria Turei: Why does she not instruct MSD to keep records of beneficiaries and their children who are homeless when she knows that poverty and homelessness are two of the most pressing social issues facing New Zealand today?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The member is assuming that because we do not have figures, Work and Income does not deal with people who have those issues. Of course, working with a case manager, if a client declares that they have nowhere to live and they are in dire financial circumstances, the staff at Work and Income will work with that person in order to help them get good accommodation and live a successful life. It does not necessarily report those numbers through to the Minister.
Metiria Turei: How many of the 60,000 children she says are no longer in benefit-dependent households are now in households that live above the poverty line?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have said before, in answer both to questions in the House and to written questions, of course people leave the benefit and go into employment, they go overseas, some of them go on to be superannuitants, some of them go into jail, and some of them die. We do not necessarily follow them as they leave a benefit. However, I have conducted some research pre-welfare, for the 2 years prior to the welfare reforms, and I am awaiting a further update on that research for a cohort for the 2 years following the welfare reform to see exactly what happens to people who leave the benefit. It is clear, even at this early stage, that well over a third of the people who leave the benefit are still in work 2 years later.
Metiria Turei: So the Minister does accept the social policy evaluation and research unit's (SuPERU) analysis that shows that 2 years after coming off a benefit only 33 percent of those beneficiaries are now in paid employment?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, that was right. The SuPERU research also showed, as I have said, that there is a whole variety of things that people go on to do in their lives. Some of them go into work. Some of them go into a different household situation where they do not have to work and are supported by someone else. As I say, some go overseas and some go into training. There is a whole variety of things that people do.
Metiria Turei: Is the Minister concerned that, after housing costs, the population poverty rate in 2016 is exactly the same as it was at the time of the global financial crisis and has not changed during the time of the National Government?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I would have to look at the figures that the member is referring to.
•Social Housing, Minister—Statements
4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she agree with the Prime Minister's statement about the Government spending $140,000 a day on putting homeless people into motels "I don't know why people are complaining about this"?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Social Housing): The Prime Minister was making the comment that we are more than comfortable spending money to ensure that no one in genuine hardship should have to sleep rough on our streets, and of course I agree with that. I also agree with the Prime Minister that the member cannot have it both ways—criticising the Government for not doing enough and criticising the Government for spending too much.
Phil Twyford: Why is it so hard for her and the Prime Minister to understand that people are complaining not because the Government is putting people up in motels, but because the Government has so mismanaged the housing crisis that so many people need to be put up in motels?
Hon AMY ADAMS: What the member fails to appreciate is that this is not a new issue, and I can point to countless reports during the Labour Government of people sleeping in cars and in motels. What is different is that this Government, for the first time, has been prepared to step up and do something about it. We are very proud that we are not going to turn our backs on these people, and we will provide solutions. If that means a motel in the short term while we get them into something more sustainable, that is what we will do.
Phil Twyford: Why, 9 months after she promised an extra 1,400 additional emergency housing beds, has she delivered only 300?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I can tell that member that we do have more than 1,400 emergency housing beds available right now. That is more than New Zealand has ever had, and it is part of our plan to deliver 2,150, which is 2,150 more than Labour ever delivered.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before I call the member to ask his supplementary question, I would be grateful if his own colleagues would at least listen to the answer.
Phil Twyford: How can the Government be so out of touch that the Deputy Prime Minister now says that she had no idea how much the motel grants were going to cost, and after last year's winter of misery only budgeted $2 million, but now expects to spend $50 million on motels?
Hon AMY ADAMS: When a Government provides a solution that has never been provided before for the first time, it is not possible to exactly and accurately estimate what will be provided. What we said is that we will meet the cost, whatever that cost is, and we are doing that. This is a Government that is ensuring that there are options for people, and that if they go to the Ministry of Social Development, we will find them a solution.
Phil Twyford: Why will she not admit that she is spending $140,000 a day putting homeless New Zealanders up in motels because her Government has reduced the number of State houses by 5,000 and reduced the numbers of social houses, which includes community housing - provider dwellings, by 3,000?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The member is absolutely and utterly wrong. Those numbers are not correct, and we are in the process of delivering 6,000 more social houses while we are delivering transitional houses and while we are supporting transitional care, something that that party never did.
•Climate Change Issues, Minister—Announcements on Emissions Trading Scheme
5. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What announcements has she made about changes to the Emissions Trading Scheme?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Today I have announced a package of changes that the Government will make to the emissions trading scheme (ETS) to ensure it puts us in the best possible position to achieve our 2030 target. We are committed to the ETS being our key tool to reduce our emissions, and that is why we have begun a review of the scheme in 2015 to ensure it is fit for purpose. The proposals announced today will provide businesses with the clarity they need about the future direction of the ETS.
Stuart Smith: Can she elaborate on the specific changes being made?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I can. The changes that are being made are to set up a more predictable and transparent process for ETS decision-making. We are going to introduce the auctioning of units to align the ETS to our climate change targets, limit participants' use of international units when the ETS reopens to international carbon markets, develop a different price ceiling to eventually replace the current $25 fixed-price option, and coordinate decisions on the supply settings in the ETS over a rolling 5-year period.
Dr Megan Woods: Why is she continuing to ignore 49 percent of emissions and the advice of the OECD by failing to set a date for the inclusion of agriculture in the ETS?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because we value the actual contribution both economically and internationally that our agricultural sets, and they are trade exposed. They are some of the most efficient farmers in the world. Our country's population of 4.5 million people actually feeds about 40 million people around the world. We value that, and, as a consequence of it, we will not be bringing them into the ETS at this time. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I need substantially less conversation between the two members.
Stuart Smith: What reaction has there been to today's announcement?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have got to say that the businesses around New Zealand are very pleased about this announcement, because what they have been calling for more than anything else is certainty, and that is what today's measures give them, and it gives them a lot of notice, which is really important to them. So signalling these changes well in advance means that they can prepare for them and be part of how they are implemented.
•Finance, Minister—Statements
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements; if so, how?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): Yes; by standing and speaking into this microphone.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, right now, standing and speaking into the microphone, can he confirm that he said on 18 November, 2013, regarding asset sales: "We will be transparent."; so why has he not told New Zealanders that the Government is moving to sell Transpower?
Mr SPEAKER: There are two supplementary questions there. The Hon Steven Joyce can address one or either.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, by speaking into the microphone and stating to the member: it isn't.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—the right honourable Winston Peters. [Interruption] Order!
Hon Member: Sounds like Cook Strait ferries again!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That will not scrape the bottom.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I have less interjection from my immediate right.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know whose bottom could be struck shortly; about three axe handles wide.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will just have the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can he confirm the contents of a requested presentation by UBS AG, a Swiss investment bank giant, which details options to sell our national grid, worth billions of dollars—this document, marked confidential.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, maybe the member has requested it but, certainly, I have not.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How has this Government been transparent, when there is clearly a detailed business case requested from UBS AG outlining options on the potential sale of Transpower's national grid, with no advice to the New Zealand taxpayer owners whatsoever?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I invite the member to table his document. All I can say is that it has not been requested by, or provided to, me.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that former National Minister for State Owned Enterprises Tony Ryall was appointed to Transpower's board in May 2016, and then rapidly elevated within 4 months to the board's chairmanship, in September, against Treasury's advice, all to expedite this sale?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Do the Ministers, who are in the ownership role for the New Zealand taxpayer, not acknowledge that his colleagues have been planning the sale of further State assets, which is why the Government, ignoring Treasury's advice, appointed their old mate Tony Ryall to the board so that he can facilitate the entire sale operation outlined in this document?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, but I do note that the member, once upon a time, used to be the MP for the seat next to Tony Ryall, so possibly he is on this conspiracy. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I need to be able to hear the supplementary question. Supplementary question—the right honourable Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: They won't be laughing out there, mate. When, in late 2013, there was a referendum held by the New Zealand people on power company sales showing a massive opposition to it, why is he again in this document going behind the people's backs before the election?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Sadly for the member, we are not.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table this confidential document that I have referred to in my questions, which some enlightened New Zealander made sure I got. Thank you very much.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this particular confidential document. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
•Social Development, Minister—Announcements of Support for Young People Not in Education, Employment, or Training
Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei): What announcements has she made recently—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Sorry, there is too much conversation, so it very hard to hear the question. The member can start the question again.
7. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements has she made recently regarding support for young people who are not in education, employment, or training?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Children): Earlier this month, along with the Prime Minister and other Ministers, we announced a $50 million youth employment pathways programme: a comprehensive strategy to reduce the number of at-risk young people not in employment, education, and training in regional New Zealand. As part of the Regional Growth Programme, central and local government will partner with iwi, businesses, and support agencies to develop tailored intervention approaches. The strategy will be rolled out in the four regions of Northland, Eastern Bay of Plenty, East Coast, and Hawke's Bay, and target young people who have high and complex needs and are at risk of long-term unemployment and welfare dependency. It follows on from successful trials, such as Kaikohe Growing Regional Opportunities through Work in Northland, and Project 1000 in Hawke's Bay.
Dr Shane Reti: How many young people will this programme work with, to help them into jobs? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We will work intensively with just over 5,000 of the most at-risk unemployed young people in the four regions. I know that that does not sound like a lot to some people in this House, who try to say there are 90,000 young people out there looking for work. Well, I am sorry to tell the House that this just is not true. What they do not say is that many of those young people are caring for others, whether it is a child or an elderly relative. There are kids on a gap year or an OE, they are transitioning between training and employment, or there are some people with a health condition or disability that stops them from working. There are around 18,000 young people on a benefit—one-eight-thousand—who are in a position to start work, which is a long way from 90,000, and some of them will be on a benefit for only a short time before they do find work. We are focused on those who need the extra help, and that is what this programme is aimed at doing.
Dr Shane Reti: Why, then, is the Government focusing on young people? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am now putting up with miles too many interjections, from one person particularly. I will not name her. She knows exactly who she is. If she continues to interject, she will not be in the House for the balance of question time and for most of the afternoon.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We know that those who go on to a benefit before the age of 20 are much more likely to stay on a benefit long term—14 years or more. Not only this, we know that almost half of all children who grow up in a largely benefit-dependent household end up on a benefit themselves before the age of 23. This Government's strong economic plan is delivering growth and jobs in regional New Zealand, and we are keen to see all New Zealand Kiwis benefit from this growth. So we are absolutely committed to breaking the cycle of welfare dependency, and helping those young people live independent and successful lives.
Darroch Ball: How can she say that "neets" should be "the highest priority for any Government" when one region she has identified, Hawke's Bay, has a 22 percent "neets" rate, which has been constantly high for 9 years, but only now, 3 months out from an election, is she embarrassed enough to do something about it?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is absolutely not true, and I categorically deny that that is what this Government is doing. What we have been doing over a long period of time, since the global financial crisis, is focusing on young people. But there are a number of young people in some parts of New Zealand who represent too high a percentage of the young people—and these particular young people have very high and complex needs. So, for instance, in Northland where we are targeting about just over 2,000 of them, 1,500 are Māori and they represent about 70 percent of the at-risk population. So we are picking on the hardest young people to work with, and we are working alongside employers, alongside iwi, and alongside a range of agencies in order to get good solutions for them.
Darroch Ball: When is she going to prioritise the young people in areas ignored in her plan—those living in the West Coast, Canterbury, Waikato, Southland, Auckland, Manawatū, Wellington, and Taranaki—which have "neet" rates of 9, 10, 12, 14, and up to 16 percent; or does she agree with the Prime Minister that they are just "pretty damn hopeless".
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Well, first of all, the Prime Minister has never said that, and I do not think—[Interruption] No, I do not think anyone in this House wants to ignore any young person. We want them to go on and get good, sustainable employment, and we want them to live good lives. What we are doing is focusing on these regions that have the highest percentage of these at-risk young people where we have structures already in place through our regional economic development programme working alongside local councils, working alongside local iwi, and working alongside local businesses. If we are successful with these young people, we will then look at expanding out the programme, but because it is such intensive work—$50 million for just on 5,000 young people—this is long-term work. We want to be sure that we have got it right before we expand it out.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I seek leave to table a transcript of a speech made by Bill English to a meeting of Federated Farmers—
Mr SPEAKER: No, order! You do not need to seek leave because that transcript will be freely available if members wanted to source it.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A fresh point of order?
Iain Lees-Galloway: Well, it is speaking to that point of order. That transcript is not freely available.
Mr SPEAKER: It is freely available. Question No—[Interruption] Order! And now I identify another member who knows who he is. If he continues to interject and behave like that, he will be leaving very shortly.
•Māori Development, Minister—Statements
8. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister for Māori Development: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon TE URUROA FLAVELL (Minister for Māori Development):
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Kelvin Davis: Does he stand by his statement on the Marae programme a week or so ago that he has "got no idea" how homelessness got so bad in Waiariki, despite being the MP since 2005 and a member of the Government since 2008?
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Kelvin Davis: In light of that terrible answer—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! If the member does that again, he will not be having any chance to ask further supplementary questions.
Kelvin Davis: Does he regret supporting the sell-off of State houses, which he described as rangatiratanga, given the fact that Māori are five times more likely to be homeless than Pākehā, and Māori make up 44 percent of the wait list for State housing?
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Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Kelvin Davis.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Stop hiding behind the Māori language.
Kelvin Davis: Might one of the reasons Māori housing—
Hon Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
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Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the interjection but if the member, the Rt Hon Winston Peters, suggested that a member was hiding behind answering this House because that member spoke in Te Reo, that is absolutely out of order and the member will stand, withdraw, and apologise for that remark.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! First of all, before I take the point of order, I require the member to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How are the people of this country out there, this close to the election, going to know what the answer was from a broadcast from this House to tens of thousands of people on a critical issue?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, I am sure you will want to tell the member that, should they be listening or should they be watching, there will be translation provided.
Mr SPEAKER: That is exactly the point I would have made if Mr Brownlee had not done so.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a further point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, it does not need anything further. We will now revert back to supplementary questions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I hear from the member, it had better be a fresh point of order, not relitigation.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a fresh point of order; it always is. When I was talking about communicating with the tens of thousands of people out there I was also talking about the radio, for which there is not a translation.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is now continuing to relitigate what has already been raised. It is an official language. It can be used and will be used by members who choose to do so. Are there further supplementary questions?
Kelvin Davis: Might one of the reasons that Māori housing outcomes are so bad be that his Māori housing network has managed to get consents for only 11 houses, despite spending $37.5 million, as detailed in his supplementary answers to the Estimates questions?
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Kelvin Davis:
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Why did Treasury state in March this year, regarding Budget 2017, about funding bids he submitted, "Eight initiatives have no supporting information. We cannot be confident that TPK has the capacity to deliver these initiatives.", and is this why his Māori housing initiatives are a mess?
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Kelvin Davis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was about eight initiatives that Treasury said Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK) did not have the capacity for. The member did not address that in his answer whatsoever.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think—it is difficult because I am certainly not fluent in Te Reo, but as I listened to the interpretation I think the question has been addressed. At that stage the answer was progressing and it was far too long, so I was about to interrupt the Minister on that count.
•Health Services—Bowel Screening
9. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm that the Government has invested $77.8 million into the roll-out of the national bowel screening programme to date, and that the first eligible residents are now being invited to take part?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, indeed. This week the first letters inviting people to take part in the screening programme are being sent to residents in the Hutt Valley District Health Board and the Wairarapa District Health Board areas. Over the next 2 years, approximately 30,000 residents in those district health board areas will be invited to do the bowel screening test. This is the first step in the phased implementation of the free National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme throughout New Zealand over the next 3 years. The Southern District Health Board and the Counties Manukau District Health Board will be the next to join the roll-out, and the nationwide roll-out will be completed by 2020.
Simon O'Connor: How will the bowel screening programme benefit New Zealanders?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Around 3,000 New Zealanders are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year, and it is the second most deadly form of cancer. The National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme will be New Zealand's first national cancer screening programme for both men and women. Once implemented, it is expected to screen over 700,000 New Zealanders every 2 years. It is expected that 700 cancers will be detected each year during these early screening rounds. The Government has invested $77.8 million into the screening programme's progressive roll-out to date, with a further $19 million invested into delivering more colonoscopies faster.
•Transport Infrastructure, Auckland—Third Main Rail Line, Business Case
10. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Can he confirm that the business case for the Third Main Rail Line in Auckland says completing this project will take 400 heavy vehicles off the road each week, reduce travel times for 5 million rail passengers, and save 300 hours for freight services each year?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): Yes. The draft business case identifies these benefits. I have always seen the third main line as a project of real merit, and that is why I asked officials to jointly work on the project, which has led to the development of a draft business case.
Julie Anne Genter: Given that he sees the project as one of real merit, why did his Government reject the Budget bid for $60 million for this critical new rail line when it is happy to spend nearly $2 billion on road freight on the uneconomic East-West Link motorway?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Well, it never, in fact, got to a political level, and that was simply because it was a draft. It was not fully prepared and had not been consulted on amongst the agencies it should have been. I note there is an irony, I suppose, in that this member insists on benefit-cost ratios and good economics and strong process on projects that suit her ends, but not all projects.
Julie Anne Genter: Will he commit to building this new rail line before the City Rail Link is complete, given the business case states that without it "the benefits of the Auckland City Rail Link will be constrained, as there will be no capacity to introduce more … trains" to the line?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: As I say, it is a project of real merit, I think, but it has got to go through a proper process instead of a process that the member insists on for roading projects. What I would say to the member, though, is that it is in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project first decade, and I think that should give her some confidence about this project.
Julie Anne Genter: Given that rail patronage is growing at a much faster rate than his Government ever anticipated, does he not think that perhaps this project should be built sooner rather than later, because it will enable more people and more freight to move around Auckland?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I note that that patronage is growing in part because of this Government, because we have invested so strongly in the electrification of rail, and it is on the basis of those figures that we are continuing to invest more in rail than any other Government.
Julie Anne Genter: Ha, ha! Ha, ha!
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I know the truth hurts, but those are the facts.
•Health, Minister—Statements
11. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement in regards to elective surgeries, "we've been very transparent around the targets we are hitting those targets"?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Absolutely; especially the statement that elective surgeries have risen by around 50,000 under National compared with only 10,000 under Labour.
Dr David Clark: Can he confirm that when you take out eye injections, skin legion removals, and other surgeries that could have been performed outside of hospitals, the Auckland District Health Board and the Counties Manukau District Health Board, in 2015-16, despite a growing population, performed fewer surgeries compared with the previous year?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, I would not underrate those Avastin eye injections. They are for the treatment of macular degeneration, which leads to blindness. Also, that skin surgery is pretty complex, and I would not underrate that either, especially for patients who have a complex melanoma on their back and who might need it removed under general anaesthetic. But what I can confirm is that even if you were to take out the 20,000-odd eye injections and skin legions from the total, which it would not be valid to do, we would still be doing a 20,000 increase on what Labour did.
Dr David Clark: Can he confirm that when you take out eye injections, skin legion removals, and other surgeries that could have been performed outside of hospitals, the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and the Waikato District Health Board performed fewer surgeries compared with the previous year?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am very surprised that, with the member's party's record on this, he wants to ask these questions. But what I can confirm is that if you take out every type of important surgery that we have done, we would not have done any.
Dr David Clark: Does he think that district health boards that are paying for half of the Government's targets out of their own budgets are incentivised to focus on eye injections to meet targets instead of funding additional hospital beds, like in Dunedin Hospital?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member needs to understand that this is all public money, and, of course, there is another $888 million of money that went from the public to fund the health service last year. What I can say is that the numbers of elective surgeries have greatly exceeded the target—the 4,000 uplift—that we have set over time. Last year, we planned to deliver 186,000 surgeries; we actually delivered 200,000. That is unlike the year when Mrs King—I hate to criticise her, because she was a very good Opposition spokesperson—delivered 2,000 fewer surgeries.
Dr David Clark: What urgent action is he taking to ensure there are additional beds for surgery in Dunedin Hospital right now, so that patients do not keep having vital operations cancelled, like Amber Gibbs; Allan Sutton, cancelled three times; Merv Telfer, cancelled seven times; and Owen Glover, who did not make it to surgery and passed away in his home after four postponed appointments?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am not familiar with those individuals, but of course it is important that surgeries are performed in a timely manner. That is why it is absolutely important that, over the last 8 years, we have increased the numbers of elective surgeries in Southern District Health Board by 2,700—
Grant Robertson: What's going wrong then, Jonathan?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: What's going wrong is your spokesperson.
Dr David Clark: Does the Minister think it is acceptable that, at one point yesterday afternoon, there was not a single ICU bed available in the whole of the South Island?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: As per usual, I would have to check that member's assertions.
•Housing Supply—Housing Infrastructure Fund
12. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister for Building and Construction: How many additional homes will be brought forward, and in what areas, as a consequence of the Government's support for councils through the $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Construction): The funding will be used to provide infrastructure for 60,000 homes across nine projects in five fast-growing urban areas. Auckland will receive $300 million to provide infrastructure for an additional 10,500 homes, Hamilton will receive $272 million for an additional 8,100 homes, Waikato will receive $37 million for 2,600 homes, Queenstown Lakes District will receive $50 million for 3,200 homes, and Tauranga will receive $230 million for infrastructure for 35,000 homes.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: How does this work on housing infrastructure complement the fast-track zoning provided through the housing accords with councils across New Zealand?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The No. 1 problem with new housing supply has been the shortage of suitably zoned land, and that is why our Government's top priority has been fast-tracking the additional space for housing. That has been successful, in that from when the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act was passed, we have seen a lift from 15,000 homes a year being built to 30,000 homes. However, councils signalled to the Government last year that the constraint of how they funded the infrastructure to support the housing risked slowing that growth. That is why the billion-dollar injection to support council infrastructure, and the new Crown Infrastructure Partners initiative announced at the weekend, is about dealing with that new constraint and maintaining the momentum of growth.
Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2)—Support
1. CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Member in charge of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2): What indications of support has he received for the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2)?
Mr SPEAKER: Andrew Little.
ANDREW LITTLE (Member in charge of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2)): I am obliged, Mr Speaker. Thirty thousand New Zealanders have signed an open letter calling on the Government to back the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2), and I would hope the Government would listen to that. This bill will make sure that children are not growing up in cold, damp, mouldy homes. I seek leave to table the open letter for healthy homes that has been presented to me recently and is signed by 30,000 New Zealanders.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that substantial information. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Carmel Sepuloni: What indications of support has he received for the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2) from experts on the effects of unhealthy housing?
ANDREW LITTLE: Yesterday I received a petition from no less an organisation than Medical Students for Global Awareness. That petition was signed by 1,000 New Zealanders, mostly from the medical community, calling on Parliament to pass the bill. That organisation is led by Josh Smith, a 6th year medical student who is working in paediatrics. I seek leave to table the petition from Medical Students for Global Awareness, carrying 1,000 signatures.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I refer the member to Speaker's ruling 188/4. By convention, one supplementary question will be taken; it is always taken from the member who asked the question.
•Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2)—Objectives
2. CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Member in charge of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2): What are the main objectives of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2)?
ANDREW LITTLE (Member in charge of the Healthy Homes Guarantee Bill (No 2)): The objective of the bill is very clearly laid out, and is to improve the health of our people and to save lives. It is about ensuring that no child in New Zealand grows up in a damp, unhealthy, cold rental home, and it sets minimum standards for insulation, for heating, for ventilation, and for drainage.
Carmel Sepuloni: Does he intend to propose any changes to the bill to better meet those objectives?
ANDREW LITTLE: Yes. I intend to propose amendments to adopt the changes proposed at the select committee that the committee unfortunately could not reach unanimous agreement on. That includes the inspection regime by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to ensure that the standards are met, improved standards in the bill, and to ensure that it works with the existing rules for smoke alarms.

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