Questions And Answers - 16 Dec 2008
16 Dec 2008 Questions for Oral Answer
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
TUESDAY, 16 DECEMBER 2008
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers; if so, why?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; because they are talented people who are working hard for New Zealand.
Hon Phil Goff: Why should the country have confidence in him as Prime Minister when his first actions in respect of Kiwi jobs was to lose $400 million of investment in the forestry industry, and hundreds of jobs; to remove from newly employed workers the right of protection against unfair dismissal; and in respect to wider jobs, when confronted with potential job losses, to sit like a possum caught in the headlights, with no plan for growth or to protect Kiwi jobs?
Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure the country can have enormous confidence in my leadership as we look to deliver productivity growth in a stronger economy—something that his Government failed to do.
Hon Phil Goff: On what does the Prime Minister base his confidence in the Minister of Labour, Kate Wilkinson, who repeatedly told this House last week that the Employment Relations Amendment Bill would not remove any rights from workers, when he knows that the opposite is the truth, and that most workers starting new jobs can now be unfairly dismissed without the protection of personal grievance procedures or access to the Employment Court?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Minister of Labour knows what hundreds of thousands of small businesses in New Zealand also know: that the changes that the Government made last week are a “right to hire” provision. They will see hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have an opportunity to get a job—something they would otherwise be excluded from.
Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister have confidence in his Minister of Police, given her statement on television last night that “the special investigation group is not actually targeting groups but individuals who may be involved in criminal activities,” when on 4 July 2007 the special investigation group sent its paid agent Rob Gilchrist an email asking: “What is happening with climate change groups in Auckland? Who is involved? What actions might they be considering for the future?”, and also asking similar questions in relation to anti-war groups; how does the Prime Minister justify that broad-spectrum spying by covert agents on protest groups?
Hon JOHN KEY: I have complete confidence in the Minister of Police, who yesterday quite rightly called in the Commissioner of Police to seek his assurance that the special investigation group was carrying out its activities properly. The Minister received that assurance. Might I add that if the member somehow wants to come to the support or aid Mr Gilchrist, maybe Mr Gilchrist might like to give back the $600 a week that he has been receiving from the New Zealand Police.
Hon Phil Goff: What confidence can the Prime Minister have in the Minister of Finance, Bill English, who told the country before the election that New Zealanders would be better off under National’s tax package, but who, when it came to an amendment that would have given credits to anyone who was worse off under the legislation, sought to stop that amendment with a financial veto because it showed that National’s tax package ripped $730 million out of the pockets of lowincome earners; and does he accept Mr English’s explanation that families do not need any help— that they have had enough already?
Mr SPEAKER: The right honourable Prime Minister may choose to answer one of those questions.
Hon JOHN KEY: I have complete and utter confidence in the Minister of Finance, and the reason for that is that his first action as Minister of Finance under my Government was to ensure that the taxes of New Zealanders would be lowered. The first action of the previous Minister of Finance, who sits behind the Leader of the Opposition, was to raise taxes.
Keith Locke: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister of Police when the paid agent Rob Gilchrist was forwarding emails from the Greens parliamentary office to the special investigation group, and does he think that police spying on MPs and their staff is appropriate in a democratic society?
Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member needs to accept that the police should act to protect the security of New Zealanders and our communities, and that they may engage in a wide range of methods in order to achieve that, provided that they are legal. As I said earlier, the Minister sought an assurance from the Commissioner of Police that the activities were legal and had foundation. I accept the commissioner’s perspective on that matter.
Hon Phil Goff: What confidence can the Prime Minister have in the Minister of Housing, Phil Heatley, who spent the whole year telling this House that the Housing New Zealand Corporation needed to do more for people on the waiting list, but whose first statement as Minister of Housing was to say that he was going to stop acquiring any new houses, and who did a flip-flop after that, leaving the country in total confusion as to what he actually intends to do?
Hon JOHN KEY: I have complete confidence in the Minister of Housing, and the country is in no confusion about what his job will be.
Hon Phil Goff: Tell us!
Hon JOHN KEY: Amongst other things, it will be to fix up the fact that the Government is currently a slum landlord of far too many State houses. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition has actually noticed, but the thousands of people who are living in garages in south Auckland did not just appear there on 9 November; they were there for years, and the Labour Government failed to address the issue.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a statement made yesterday by Rochelle Rees that lists questions asked of the police agent Rob Gilchrist by the police special investigation group.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Keith Locke: I seek leave to table a sample of the emails that Rob Gilchrist forwarded to the special investigation group. These three emails were from the Greens parliamentary office.
Mr SPEAKER: There are to be no interjections during a point of order. Is there any objection to—
Hon Judith Collins: Point of order, Mr Speaker. I—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down while the Speaker is on his feet. I want to clarify whether the member is seeking a point of order in respect of the leave being sought. She is—my apologies.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want Mr Locke to clarify whether the emails reveal any details of any police officers, including their email addresses or names.
Mr SPEAKER: I am seeking some advice on that request. Would the member please indicate whether there is any such identification that the member has sought clarification on.
KEITH LOCKE: There is no identification of any police officer. There is an email address, email@example.com, which is the special investigation group’s email.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection. The House granting the member leave to table those documents, I wish to clarify for all members the change in the Standing Orders that has occurred since the last parliamentary term, and that is that documents now have to be tabled. There was concern that some members had been seeking to table documents that did not even exist. Under the new Standing Orders the Speaker determines when documents will be tabled. I have determined that documents will be tabled on the same day on which leave is granted by the House.
Government Spending Commitments—Funding
2. PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Finance: Has the Minister seen any reports of Government spending commitments which have no funding set aside to pay for them?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, the Labour Government made a number of spending commitments for which no funding was set aside. For instance, no funding was set aside for the $1 billion insulation fund agreed to with the Greens in the last few months of the last Government’s term, and only a fraction of the $600 million promised in the Budget for the growth of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was set aside—around $8 million of the $600 million. Some initiatives were creatively funded. The $40 million purchase of St James Station was funded by, among other things, cleaning out the Nature Heritage Fund for the next 4 years.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Is the Minister aware of any other Government spending commitments that have no funding set aside to pay for them?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes. In the 2008 Budget the previous Labour Government announced an economic transformation package, which it claimed was worth $300 million over 3 years, but only $93 million was set aside in the Budget for initiatives such as the CPI adjustment of funding for universities, literacy and numeracy in the workplace—a $40 million initiative—and other initiatives designed to “help New Zealand firms compete globally”. Although the Government had not funded all of its 2008 Budget, it nevertheless went on to promise larger extra expenditure, such as the universal student allowance, which it could not have funded if had won the election.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that all of the spending promises National made were “fully costed and funded” and covered by the $1.75 billion spending allocation, and that he has no intention of trying to go back on any of them?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I can confirm that National will not be going back on any of those promises, as we fully costed and funded them, unlike the previous Labour Government, which produced a Budget in 2008 and an election campaign full of commitments it could not have funded.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What decisions is the Minister likely to make on unfunded spending commitments?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because we are a new Government with new priorities, we will be committing a Budget allowance to the priorities of the incoming National Government, with a mandate from New Zealand voters. We will drop commitments made by the previous Government for which no funding has been allocated.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister provide details of what remains of the Government’s proposed stimulus package, which was so much vaunted in those members’ election campaign, and can he confirm that he is still committed to the $8.6 billion of infrastructure over 6 years announced
by his leader on 31 October, and to the $7 billion stimulus over 2 years that he foreshadowed in late November, or does he now accept Treasury’s advice that no further fiscal stimulus is necessary; if so, why?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Labour Party should get its lines worked out. Its deputy leader was on the radio this morning saying there should be another stimulus package, and now David Cunliffe is saying there should not be.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The last time I looked, the Minister of Finance had no responsibility for members of the Opposition.
Mr SPEAKER: I would alert the honourable member to the fact that his own question was very marginal in terms of the Standing Orders, in that the member cannot question the Government about statements or policies about something that the Minister is not directly responsible for as Minister, in regard to a political party. The member cannot insist on an answer being absolutely within the Standing Orders when his own question was very marginal in respect of the Standing Orders.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The statements I quoted by the leader John Key and by the Minister were made after the election, while they held the positions they hold now. Therefore, they are purported to be statements of Government policy with fiscal consequences for which the Minister of Finance is responsible.
Mr SPEAKER: I will take the honourable member’s word for that.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can confirm that the Budget Policy Statement will outline what amounts to what Treasury calculates as a $7 billion stimulus into the New Zealand economy, which is made up of the 2008 Budget, the 1 October tax cuts, and the 1 April tax cuts that were legislated for last week. Treasury estimates that over the next 2 years that amounts to a $7 billion stimulus to the economy, and that is one of the largest in the developed countries—larger than Australia’s, and comparable to the packages announced by the UK Government.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What is the impact of the shortfall in the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC)?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Earners and businesses will hear about that impact when the Minister for ACC announces levy increases, but the part of ACC that is funded by the Government has turned out to be $300 million short in the 2008-09 year, and Cabinet has already had to make a decision to add $300 million to Government debt to ensure that ACC does not run out of money in March 2009 for the non-earners account, where beneficiaries, superannuitants, and others who do not earn money are dependent to get their assistance for accidents. Over the next following 3 years, the ACC shortfall will add $1.2 billion—unexpectedly—to Government debt.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Labour—Te Atatū): What representations did the Minister of Education make to her Cabinet colleagues in the light of her commitment that teachers would not be included in the provisions of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill?
Hon Christopher Finlayson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not raise a point of order when the Leader of the Opposition misread his question, but the Minister of Education has misread his question. He should read what is on the sheet.
Hon Darren Hughes: He’s not the Minister of Education.
Mr SPEAKER: For members who did not pick it up, the misdemeanour was very minor. The member read “the Minister of Education” instead of “the Minister”.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: My question is to the Minister of Education—with a slight sense of irony. What representations did the Minister make to her Cabinet colleagues in the light of her commitment that teachers would not be included in the provisions of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill?
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know the member is unused to asking questions, but I think it would be good to get off on the right foot by not including an ironic expression and an epithet when addressing a Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the Hon Chris Carter just to read the question as it has been put down on the Order Paper.
Hon CHRIS CARTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I felt that I had, and my reference to irony—
Mr SPEAKER: Colleagues, I think the good order of the House would be well-served if members would just try to follow the procedures correctly.
Employment Relations Amendment Act—Teachers
3. Hon CHRIS CARTER (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Education: What representations did the Minister make to her Cabinet colleagues in the light of her commitment that teachers would not be included in provisions of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education): As the member should know, Cabinet discussions are confidential.
Hon Chris Carter: The Minister should have made representations to her colleagues, because she wrote—
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member should be asking a question, not making a statement. I ask him to do that, please.
Hon Chris Carter: I would like to ask the Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member knows that when the Speaker is on his or her feet members should be silent. I say to members that I think a little latitude is appropriate when members are all in new roles here. I ask the Hon Chris Carter to please ask a question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The proceedings of the House these days are televised, so everyone will have seen that, prior to your standing, the Hon Chris Carter sat down. Apropos a certain ruling early last week, I think you would have to rule that he had given up his opportunity to take this matter any further. I raise point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: If the member would just resume his seat for a moment, because he has made a point of order—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I think it will be very helpful. I was going to seek leave for the member to be able to ask his question.
Mr SPEAKER: There is no such provision for the member to do that. I think the Hon Chris Carter sat down because he thought I was going to stand when there was disorder. I call on the Hon Chris Carter to please ask a question.
Hon Chris Carter: I would like to ask the Minister why she wrote in the October edition of the New Zealand Educational Institute’s magazine, Rourou—
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First of all, I think Mr Gerry Brownlee should run a seminar for the Labour front bench on asking questions. But, once again, the previous Minister failed to ask a question. To say “I would like” to do something is not a asking a question.
Mr SPEAKER: Technically, the honourable member is correct. I call on the Hon Chris Carter, please, for the good order of the House, to take the matter seriously and ask a question. Thank you.
Hon Chris Carter: Why did she write in the October edition of the New Zealand Educational Institute’s magazine Rourou: “We do not expect a trial period to be included in the collective agreement, in which the majority of teacher and support staff employment relations are based.”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The member might like to look at the September edition of New Zealand Educational Institute’s Rourou magazine, in which the union itself showed that it well understood that our policy did not exempt teachers, when it stated that if new employees take up an individual employment agreement, they would presumably be subject to the 90-day probation period. This, of course, would still apply only if the individual employee agreed to the trial period.
Allan Peachey: Has the Minister of Education had any reports on whether the new probationary period will be a compulsory element of any employment agreement with teachers?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have seen some hysterical comments as part of a campaign of misinformation by the Labour Party that suggests that the 90-day trial periods are compulsory for all teachers. These comments are wrong. First of all, trial periods will apply only to schools with fewer than 20 staff, and, secondly, despite the Labour Party’s comments, a 90-day trial period can be included in a contract only by agreement between employee and employer.
Hon Chris Carter: Why did she tell a New Zealand Educational Institute political forum in Rotorua on 22 August 2008 that the 90-day period should not apply to teachers, and why did she make that claim?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I made the statement that the member cites on 22 August. After I made that statement I had communications with education sector groups in September and October, and I made it clear to them that there would be no legislative exemption for teachers and other staff. In fact, that is what was published by the New Zealand Educational Institute itself in its Rourou magazine.
Hon Chris Carter: If that answer is correct, why did she tell a New Zealand Educational Institute political panel at Epsom Girls Grammar School in Auckland on 20 October that the 90-day rule would not apply to support staff in schools, and what do such clearly misleading statements do now for her credibility as education Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: The issue of what Ministers can be asked has already arisen and the Hon David Cunliffe pointed out that his question related to a statement the relevant Minister had made subsequent to the election. It seems to me the quote that the honourable member is asking the Minister to confirm is a statement made prior to the election, and, as Minister, she is not responsible for that. I invite the member to reword his supplementary question to see whether he can bring it within the Standing Orders.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just clarify that what you are saying to the House is that a Minister may do the exact opposite of what he or she pledged to the country before the election and in no sense is accountable to Parliament for that?
Mr SPEAKER: The Standing Orders are very clear on the matter. Ministers are separate people from other persons such as leaders of political parties or members of political parties, and in this Chamber Ministers, including the Prime Minister, can be questioned only on their actions and plans as Ministers and Prime Minister, not on any role they may have as political persons, or leaders of parties. There are many Speakers’ rulings that cover that issue, and I am sure the honourable member is well aware of that. In fact, I am aware that the matter was discussed with the Labour Party only this morning in relation to questions being lodged today. The way that questions are to be handled in respect of confirming statements made prior to the election has to be handled carefully. I invite the member to ask a supplementary question and to bring it inside the Standing Orders.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be in order for us to ask Mrs Tolley whether she has seen a statement made on a certain date, because she may have seen that since the election and since she became a Minister, and whether she can confirm that she made it but, in fact, it does not represent her views.
Hon Rodney Hide: Of course, Dr Cullen is quite right, but it would be helpful if he gave his advice to the front bench of the Labour caucus outside this Chamber rather than having to come down and rescue Chris Carter and so embarrass him.
Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient on this matter. The point that Dr Cullen made initially is quite correct. The material is not outside the realm of the Standing Orders, it is how questions are asked about it. I invite the Hon Chris Carter to bring his question within the Standing Orders.
Hon Chris Carter: How does the Minister reconcile her statement to the House just a few minutes ago that she had clarified this matter with the New Zealand Educational Institute in
September before its October edition of its magazine, when the date that I have just quoted is 20 October?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have not seen that statement. I remind the member of what is printed here in the New Zealand Educational Institute’s own document and I repeat—I clarify—that I made the statement. I had communications widely with the sector groups throughout September and October and I made it very clear to them that there would be no legislative exemption for teachers and other staff.
Hon Chris Carter: I seek leave of the House to table the October edition of Rourou in which Mrs Tolley clearly states that teachers will be exempted.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House. Hon Chris Carter: I seek leave of the House to submit the transcript of a speech shown on Television One on 11 December. It is of Mrs Tolley telling the New Zealand Educational Institute meeting in Rotorua that teachers would be exempt.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just seek from the honourable member—was the member seeking to have that document tabled?
Hon Chris Carter: Yes, I am seeking leave for the transcript to be tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that transcript being tabled? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House. Accident Compensation—Increased Costs
4. AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister for ACC: What advice has he received on increased costs for accident compensation over the term of this Parliament and when was he first advised of these?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC): Officials sought an urgent briefing immediately after the Prime Minister’s announcement of my appointment, and before I was sworn in as Minister. They advised that the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) had a significant funding crisis in the non-earners account that required an additional appropriation of $297 million, or an additional 32 percent, this financial year, arising from escalating costs. I have subsequently been advised of significant blowouts in the other accounts, with an average 26 percent increase in costs for next year. The total increased cost for the term of this Parliament is $4.093 billion.
Amy Adams: Will the Government have to increase accident compensation levies on workers, employers, and motor vehicles to meet this multibillion-dollar blowout?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Officials have recommended very substantial levy increases on all the accounts for this year and subsequent years to fund these blowouts. The Government’s view is that households and businesses are in no position to be facing huge additional accident compensation levies. This has to be balanced against the legal requirement to fully fund accident compensation over the medium term. The levy increases I will be detailing this afternoon for the earners and work accounts are half those that are recommended by the Department of Labour. We will be advancing work urgently to contain costs and to investigate extending the full funding period to minimise these increases in future years.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Is the Minister aware that the ACC conducted a widely publicised public consultation process prior to the election, outlining the proposed levy rates for 2009-10; if he is not aware of that fact, what does that say about his attention to detail, and, if he is aware of that fact, why did he not tell Bill English and John Key, to stop them making fools of themselves by suddenly being shot by the proposed levy rates?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Nick Smith may answer whichever of those questions he chooses.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The basic problem is that the levies on which the previous Government consulted with the community were significantly less than what is required to fund the blowouts. The part that I find extraordinary about the Labour Party is that its members have dismissed these sums as insignificant, and that is perhaps why the new Government is facing a decade of deficits.
Craig Foss: What advice has the Minister received on the accuracy of a statement made by the Hon David Parker in respect of the non-earners account blowout not being in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update, where he says: “Papers show that Ministers acted appropriately throughout, as the money needed had not been quantified until the election period.”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The money needed was clearly identified in a report to the former Minister on 14 August, based on a PricewaterhouseCoopers valuation. A further 60-page technical report was completed by the ACC on 22 August, which confirmed those figures. The election was not called until 12 September, and the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update closing-off date was 8 September, after the previous Government had that information.
Craig Foss: Is the Minister aware of the Cabinet minute of 10 December 2007 that noted increased costs in the non-earners account and required the then Minister to report back on a clear funding policy before the levy-setting process began in August 2008; if so, did that occur?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, there was a very clear Cabinet minute last December requiring the former Minister to report back on funding issues in the non-earners account. That did not occur, and there is no explanation as to why it did not occur.
Craig Foss: Has the Minister received any advice about the accuracy of the statement issued by the former Labour Minister for ACC as to why the blowout was not included in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes. The statement is inaccurate in three respects. It states the first advice the former Minister received was on 14 August, yet the chief executive of the ACC has advised me that the then Minister was given a heads-up in May. The statement also claims that the paper, dated 14 August, states: “approximately $300 million per annum 2009-2013;”. The paper never uses the word “approximately”, but notes that the change in baselines was $305.654 million and gives equal accuracy in subsequent years. Contrary also to Ms Street’s statement, it also specifically notes a request for increased appropriations in this financial year—something she did not disclose.
Craig Foss: What advice has the Minister received on the accuracy of the claim made by the Hon David Parker that it would have been constitutionally inappropriate for the Labour Government to address this urgent problem in the non-earners account during the election period?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The statement is also incorrect. That additional appropriation was not from any change of policy but simply to maintain an existing level of accident compensation cover. I find it strange also that Labour would make that claim, when it seemed to be no problem at all for it to promise, in the middle of an election campaign, interest-free student loans, big increases in Working for Families, and many other initiatives. It seems that if it is good news, Labour can do it; if it is bad news, it hides it.
Hon Ruth Dyson: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is the advice from the ACC of 14 August to the former Minister, giving the indicative outline of changes to the appropriation baselines of “approximately $300 million 2009-2013”, and also the accompanying documents from the Department of Labour and Treasury challenging that advice and telling the former Minister that they were seeking independent actuarial advice.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for those documents. Is there any objection to those documents being tabled? There is objection.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I seek leave of the House—
Hon Ruth Dyson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You put the leave request only on the first document, so I think my point of order comes before the Minister’s point.
Mr SPEAKER: Both members will resume their seats. As I heard the honourable member, I thought she had described two documents, because if she were not describing two documents, her description was way too long, and I alert her to that. I had given the call, on a point of order, to the Hon Nick Smith, and that point of order will be heard now.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I seek the leave of the House to table three documents. The first of those is a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, dated 7 August 2008, that values the outstanding claim liabilities for the ACC. The second document I seek leave to table is in respect of the report to the former Minister on 14 August 2008, detailing to three decimal places the additional appropriations required, and the third I seek leave to table is a technical report on Vote ACC, dated 22 August 2008, which is the review and the confirmation of the size of the appropriation that was required.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to those documents being tabled? There is no objection. Leave granted.
Hon Ruth Dyson: I seek leave to table the advice from the Department of Labour given to the former Minister for ACC about the fact that it was considered unconstitutional for Cabinet at that time to make decisions.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is no objection. Leave granted.
Climate Change—ACT Confidence and Supply Agreement
5. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does his confidence and supply agreement with the ACT Party imply that he is suspicious of climate change and not even sure it is a problem, or that he is a firm believer in climate change and always has been?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): The member can rest assured that I believe that humaninduced climate change is occurring, and that my Government will take a balanced approach to reducing New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions. I guess that what we have learnt post-election is that I believe in human-induced climate change a lot more than that member believes in the Electoral Finance Act.
Hon Phil Goff: Which of the four contradictory positions that the New Zealand Herald says the Government has held on emissions trading over the last 6 weeks, or, indeed, which of the two contradictory positions that the Prime Minister has stated—which were quoted in the original question—is the Government’s actual position?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Government’s position is that we will have a high-level select committee, chaired by the Hon Peter Dunne, review the climate change legislation that is in place. It is the Government’s view that it should be passed by 30 September 2009.
Hon Phil Goff: What confidence can the country have in the Prime Minister’s claim that he is committed to combating climate change and that he is committed to the Kyoto Protocol, when every action that he has taken since the election has moved New Zealand in the opposite direction— suspending the emissions trading scheme, repealing biofuel obligations, opening up the expansion of thermal generation, and scrapping energy conservation measures such as insulating older homes?
Hon JOHN KEY: The member can rest assured that the Government will be taking a balanced approach when it comes to climate change—balancing our environmental responsibilities with our economic opportunities. I might point out to the member that for all of the rhetoric of the last 9 years, it will not be lost on the member that when his Government was in office emissions rose faster in New Zealand than they did in America under George W Bush.
Hon Phil Goff: Why has the Government pulled the rug out from under the $10 million investment of BioDiesel Oils (NZ) Ltd in research and development, which has the impact of slowing New Zealand’s achievement of self-sufficiency in transport fuel, and increasing Kyoto Protocol costs; is it, as a former National Party president, Sue Wood, has suggested, because of pressure on the Government from vested interests in the oil industry?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is committed to ensuring that biofuels play a part in our future, but I should point out—and the member will be aware, just as others are aware—that the
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment herself indicated that biofuels, unless one can be sure that they are from a sustainable source, should not be included. Rather than mandating that we take on biofuels from a source that we cannot be sure is sustainable, we are going to build up a proper supply, and it will be used in the future.
Craig Foss: Can the Prime Minister confirm what the level of deforestation under the previous Government was, and what New Zealand’s emissions profile for the last 9 years was?
Hon JOHN KEY: I can confirm that New Zealand lost 37,000 hectares of forest in the last 5 years while New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions grew by 12 percent—faster than those of the United States and Australia. That suggests that the record of the previous Labour Government, which liked to talk a lot about climate change, was far from anything to be proud of.
Hon Phil Goff: To what extent did New Zealand’s changing position on emissions trading and climate change affect the Prime Minister’s credibility and undermine his ability to persuade Gordon Brown to remove the sustainability tax on long-distance travel; or was the real problem the strength of his advocacy, about which the Dominion Post said: “Hopefully he was a more compelling advocate of New Zealand’s interests behind closed doors.”?
Hon JOHN KEY: The Minister—sorry, the member; he was a Minister once, in the good old days, I guess, for him—will be aware, if he has done his homework, that the departure tax being proposed by the United Kingdom is unfounded, that it is does not have a good basis, that it is larger than any carbon tax that could be reasonably justified, and that, in fact, it is deeply hypocritical, because it was announced in a mini-Budget in the United Kingdom at a time when financial reforms there lowered the costs imposed on larger carbon-emitting cars. I can tell the member that the Government is continuing to work on the issue, and is looking to get a successful resolution.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table the editorial from the Dominion Post stating that it hopes Mr Key was more compelling behind closed doors than he was in public.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is objection.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table a letter from a former President of the National Party, Sue Wood, outlining the case of Tom McNicholl, who, of course, has lost $10 million because of the reversal of the—
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is no objection to that document being tabled. Leave granted.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table the New Zealand Energy and Environment Business Week, which sets out that the Government’s actions have meant the loss of $400 million worth of—
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is objection.
Emissions Trading Scheme—Amending Legislation
6. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: When does his Government expect to pass “an amendment to the ETS legislation delaying its implementation” as agreed to in the National - ACT confidence and supply agreement?
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): As agreed with the ACT Party, the Government has moved to set up a special select committee to review the emissions trading scheme and related matters. This week, legislation will be debated in the House to repeal the ban on thermal generation. The Government has committed, as I said earlier, to amending the emissions trading scheme legislation by no later than 30 September 2009.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Is the Prime Minister saying he does not intend to legislate at this stage to put the emissions trading scheme on hold, yet that is what he has told foresters that he is doing; if that is the case, does he mean that foresters will still be able to claim credits in January for carbon sequestered during 2008 in post-1989 forests, as provided for in the Act?
Hon JOHN KEY: I have not had any direct conversation with foresters. What I have pointed out is that no element will be currently affected by the emissions trading scheme legislation, because, effectively, it will not begin until 2010 when stationary energy comes into the scheme. It will be the Government’s intention that the high-level select committee will have met, and the revised legislation would have been passed by 30 September. On that basis the matter would have been cleared up before any elements come into the emissions trading scheme that could be used to offset the forestry sector.
Chris Auchinvole: Has the Prime Minister received any reports that indicate the need to be cautious in the implementation of an emissions trading scheme?
Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I have. The Australian Government yesterday released its white paper on the proposed carbon pollution reduction scheme. As I have said many times previously, we need to make sure that New Zealand’s measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are aligned as appropriate with those measures taken in Australia.
Hon Pete Hodgson: When the Prime Minister said in question No.5 that we needed to balance environmental action against economic opportunity, does that mean that the default position in his thinking is that, all other things being equal, assertive climate change action is economically deleterious?
Hon JOHN KEY: The member can rest assured that we intend to take a balanced approach to climate change and to our economic responsibilities. We will not export jobs, nor will we go around the countryside, as that member did when he was a Minister, telling New Zealanders that they were about to earn half-a-billion dollars off the Kyoto Protocol, when, in fact, it is now costing them a sum equivalent to that amount.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: With regard to those parts of the emissions trading scheme that came into force on 1 January 2008—relating to forestry—will the Prime Minister or will he not put on hold the penalty regime for deforestation during 2008, and the credits that foresters expect to claim in January 2009 for the carbon sequestered by their forests this year?
Hon JOHN KEY: The current legislation and rules about deforestation stay in place, pending the outcome of the select committee.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: In that case, what precisely is the Prime Minister suspending or putting on hold, given that nothing else is due to come in until 2010 and he is retaining the parts that are already in force; or is the Prime Minister saying that the forestry bit may be taken out of force later, which means they will have to give their credits back?
Hon JOHN KEY: That is exactly the point. Nothing is coming in until 2010 outside of forestry. The high-level select committee will have reported back. It is the hope of the Government that the legislation that will replace the existing emissions trading scheme legislation will be in place long before January 2010.
Hon Phil Goff: Did the Prime Minister just suggest then that this is all smoke and mirrors, and he is not doing anything—he is not suspending anything?
Hon JOHN KEY: There is nothing about reviewing the emissions trading scheme legislation that is smoke and mirrors. What we intend to do is pass legislation that balances our environmental responsibility with our economic opportunities. We will do so in a way that will put some clarity in the legislation, and, actually, will do so in a way that works, which is a whole lot better than the climate change policy that his previous Government had.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: What reports has the Prime Minister received from Mr Groser in Poznan on how our Kyoto partners have received the news that New Zealand is reviewing or suspending the emissions trading scheme, has cancelled plans to make sustainable biofuels in New Zealand, has cancelled its preference for renewable electricity, has cancelled its green homes insulation fund, and gets its police to spy on organisations campaigning for a responsible attitude to climate change? Has anyone in Poznan given New Zealand the fossil of the year award yet?
Hon JOHN KEY: I am not sure the Sunday Star-Times has made it all the way to Poland yet, but putting that to one side, I expect that our partners will be looking at New Zealand in exactly the same way that they reviewed what came out of Australia yesterday, which was a very considered and balanced approach to climate change.
7. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Housing: What reports has he seen on the status of New Zealand’s housing stock?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): The briefing to the incoming Minister from Housing New Zealand Corporation revealed that “It is estimated about $2 billion is required to address the deferred maintenance and upgrade and modernise State houses to an appropriate standard.” The books show that Labour was going into the depreciation fund to an unprecedented level over the past few years to acquire new State houses, instead of keeping the current ones up to scratch. While Labour was bragging about new State houses, it was actually strip mining the existing stock and leaving its tenants in squalor.
Jonathan Young: What is the Minister going to do about the legacy he has been left?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Two billion dollars of deferred maintenance and squalor is clearly a huge challenge. We will be taking a balanced but urgent approach to upgrading existing stock. Members will see some increases in the number of State houses, and they will certainly see better management of the State house sector going forward.
Hon George Hawkins: Does the Minister’s latest announcement that only South Auckland will see additions made to Housing New Zealand Corporation stock mean that other areas of New Zealand will miss out or even have a reduced number of houses built, and how long has he suffered from the premature announcement syndrome that he appears to have?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I do not recall saying South Auckland was the only place that would see increases in State houses. I have said that National has a high priority on upgrading the State housing stock, particularly in light of this $2 billion deficit, that members will see some increases in State house numbers, and that we will most certainly be better managing the State house sector.
Jonathan Young: What will be your priority?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would love to know your priorities, but I am sure the member meant to ask what the Minister’s priority is.
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member makes a perfectly valid point. Could Jonathan Young direct his question to the Minister?
Jonathan Young: What will be the Minister’s priority?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: The National Government will not be directing Housing New Zealand Corporation to gut the depreciation fund in the way that the Labour Party did. We are going to take a balanced but urgent approach. We are going to upgrade these State houses, and we intend to do it with some urgency. I seek leave to table the briefing that says there is $2 billion worth of deferred maintenance.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is no objection. Leave granted.
Government Legislation—Referrals to Select Committees
8. Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) to the Leader of the House: Is it Government policy that no bill will be referred to a select committee if it was National Party policy for the general election 2008?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): No.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: How does the Minister reconcile that fulsome answer with the fact that last week the only reason he gave for bills not being referred to select committees was that they were in the National Party’s election policy?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because they were. It may surprise the Minister to learn—
[Interruption]—the member; I am sorry. I know from long and bitter experience how much the member loves those little moments on that side of the House. It may surprise the member to learn that the Government has decided in the very short time prior to the very, very long Christmas break that it wanted to advance some legislation that it felt was important for the economy.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Does the increasing confusion just expressed by that supplementary answer over his management of the Government’s business in the House reflect the new Government’s instruction to officials to avoid the use of words such as “strategy”, “collaboration”, and “coordination” in Government reports, or is that just a coincidence?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am struggling to understand what Dr Cullen is so upset about. It would be interesting to know what Dr Cullen is so upset at. I look at his own record and I look at his performance over the last 9 years, and I tell you what, I have learnt a thing or two off him. I recall Dr Cullen coming into this House and introducing the 2006 Appropriation (Parliamentary Expenditure Validation) Bill. There was no bill on the Table and no explanation to Parliament, and that is because it was the bill that made legal the terrible pledge-card spending of the Labour Party. At least every bill we have put in does good—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. Answers to questions are not meant to be opportunities for major speeches.
Hon Simon Power: Is the Leader of the House confident that all members of the House could ask meaningful questions during the select committee process, and has he received any reports about the lodging of oral questions?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I must report to my fellow Minister that I have grave concerns about that. I heard a report this morning about a member of this House of very high standing, a member who has some 24 years’ experience, a member who spent 15 of those years as a Minister, a member who we might have thought would understand the question and answer process quite well, but here we are in the first day of question time in the new Parliament, and that member completely mishmashed and hashed up his question lodging to a point where, somewhat embarrassingly, he had to resubmit it. That member, of course, was none other than the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon Phil Goff.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Of course, the National Party never had to resubmit a question. Does the Leader of the House now consider it good policy to refer bills to select committees; if so, will he discuss with his colleague the Minister of Energy the desirability of referring the legislation to repeal the mandatory biofuels requirement to a select committee, as it is likely to cost jobs in New Zealand and make it easier to import unsustainable biofuels?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The matter of the biofuels bill will be discussed this afternoon and all of the relevant information sought by the member will be given. Does this House recall whether a bill was sent to a select committee after a long period of extraordinary urgency, when the House went through until 5 o’clock in the morning, putting a little bit of extra tax on grandma’s sherry—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will sit down and resume his seat. The honourable member will resume his seat when I stand. I just remind the member that, having answered the question, he should not go on to make a speech. I think it is something that both sides of the House need to be aware of. Some questions have been too long and some answers have been too long. There is some fault on both sides.
Electoral Finance Act—Repeal
9. JOHN BOSCAWEN (ACT) to the
Minister of Justice: On what date is the Government planning to repeal the Electoral Finance Act and introduce new electoral law?
Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice): As part of its first 100 days’ commitment the Government intends to repeal—
Hon Darren Hughes: Fight them on the beaches.
Hon SIMON POWER: Well, that member should go back to his seat. Oh, that is right, he does not have one.
Mr SPEAKER: We have lost a fair bit of time today with unnecessary interjections, and I am sure that members of the House would like to see a little more decorum.
Hon SIMON POWER: As part of its first 100 days’ commitment the Government intends to repeal the Electoral Finance Act 2007 and replace it with an interim regime by 26 February 2009. The precise date is yet to be determined and it will depend on the cooperation of other parties in the House, which I hope will be forthcoming.
John Boscawen: Does the Minister support free speech; if so, does he agree that political parties should have the right to purchase their own broadcasting time outside taxpayer-funded allocations?
Hon SIMON POWER: By and large, yes.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Can the Minister advise whether the ACT Party has requested that the repeal bill contains a retrospective provision to annul the ACT Party supporter’s complaint about the Hi-de-Hi! jacket that has caused the Hon Rodney Hide to be embarrassed and has led him to concede that the public had a right to be furious about what was nothing more than a stunt?
Hon SIMON POWER: I can advise the member that I have no knowledge of such a request.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a requirement under the Standing Orders that questions are to be factually accurate. I was furious, but I was not furious with the supporter of the ACT Party—I love them all. I was furious about that crazy law that Lianne Dalziel and the Green Party passed.
Mr SPEAKER: What the member has raised is not actually a point of order. However, what he might have raised was that the Hon Lianne Dalziel’s question was not in order because the Standing Orders do not provide for that kind of information to be put in a supplementary question, where it is bringing into question what other members may or may not have said. If the member wants to check the Standing Orders, then I am sure she will find that ruling.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the article from the New Zealand Herald on 4 December that quoted the honourable member.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Could I just make it clear to honourable members that it was not because the member raised the issue; it was the manner in which she raised it. If the member wishes to check the Standing Orders in respect of questions, she will see that it spells out what they are allowed to contain and what they are not allowed to contain, and she will see that that kind of reference to material is out of order.
Hon Phil Goff: Did the Minister’s earlier answer to Mr Boscawen imply that he is contemplating amending the Broadcasting Act to allow wealthy vested interests to spend as much as they like during an election campaign; or, if that is not what he was implying, then what was he trying to say?
Hon SIMON POWER: I say to Mr Goff that I was referring to the first part of the question, which was “Does the Minister support free speech,”. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Members should show respect to other members in the House.
Chester Borrows: What reports has the Minister seen regarding the potential cross-party support for reform of electoral laws?
Hon SIMON POWER: I have been sufficiently encouraged by statements made by the Leader of the Opposition since the election that suggest there is now a willingness to participate in a
bipartisan approach to the reform of electoral administration. Because cross-party consensus has historically been the hallmark of electoral reform in New Zealand, the Government believes this path is most likely to lead to enduring legislative frameworks.
John Boscawen: Does the Minister think it fair and reasonable that at the last election ACT was restricted to $100,000, while the taxpayer contributed around $1 million to each of Labour and National’s broadcasting spend; if so, would he consider allowing smaller political parties like ACT to spend their own money, at least to match the two big old parties?
Hon SIMON POWER: I am sure that all issues of fairness and matters relating to parties of all sizes, both those represented presently and those represented potentially in this House in the future, will be taken into consideration and factored into an enduring legislative framework solution, which we all hope all parties will participate in.
Agriculture—Speech from the Throne
10. Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive) to the Minister of Agriculture: Is he aware of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry briefing to incoming Minister that states: “The agriculture, food and forestry industries are the core of our economy, major determinants of our employment and social well being and key drivers of our land, water and biological resource use”; if so, how many times was the word “agriculture” used in the Speech from the Throne?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): Yes, I am aware of that briefing, and I was extremely pleased to see that the briefing recognises what National policy has been for the last many years. Unlike the Opposition, we have always supported New Zealand agriculture and we have never considered it a sunset industry as Labour did previously. The word “agriculture” was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, but, more important, the speech promised action in areas of real concern to farmers such as the Resource Management Act, a more balanced emissions trading scheme, increased infrastructure, and the removal of inefficient red tape—all areas that the member and his colleagues did nothing about over the last 9 years.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I recall you stating publicly that you would take a firmer line in terms of the nature of ministerial answers and certain kinds of questions. Indeed, we had a discussion about these matters. This question asked, first, whether the minister was aware of something, to which the answer is “yes” or “no”, and, second, a very simple closed question, “if so, how many times was the word ‘agriculture’ used in the Speech from the Throne?”, and the answer to that question is “A number.” I think this is a very good example of the kind of question where you were implying you would require Ministers to actually answer the question rather than go off into a broad political dissertation.
Hon DAVID CARTER: The member may not have heard, but I said the word “agriculture” was mentioned in the speech, and then went on to mention a number of things that were mentioned in the speech as well, and which were far more important to New Zealand farmers.
Mr SPEAKER: On the point of order made by the Hon Dr Cullen, I accept absolutely that where Ministers are asked a question, we want to try to avoid lots of additional information being provided in answers, because the Standing Orders do require them to be more succinct. I thank the honourable member for reminding me of that, and I am sure Ministers will want to make sure they improve order in the House by following that line.
Hon Jim Anderton: Can I assume, then, that the real answer to the primary question is that the Government never mentioned the importance of agriculture or the primary industries to the New Zealand economy at all in the Speech from the Throne; if so, is this the example of the neglect of the backbone of our economy that we can expect from a Government run by downtown finance market traders?
Hon DAVID CARTER: As I answered earlier, agriculture was mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. But I went back and researched a Speech from the Throne given in 1999 when Labour became the Government, and in that particular speech agriculture was not mentioned apart from this
comment: “New Zealand remains over-dependent upon the production and exporting of commodities”. There was the Labour Government again signalling that it had no interest in agriculture whatsoever.
Colin King: What other reports has the Minister seen from the rural community on the Government’s Speech from the Throne?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I have seen a number of very positive reports on the Speech from the Throne, including a press release dated 9 December 2008 from New Zealand’s leading rural sector organisation, Federated Farmers, stating that farmers are “pleased Government is on the same page”, that farmers are “encouraged by a new Government that values the real builders of the economy”, and that National’s promises are “like green grass to farmers”—very high praise indeed.
Hon Jim Anderton: Why would anyone believe that our primary industries are even vaguely on this Government’s agenda or the Minister’s agenda, when the Government’s own outline of its programme for the next 3 years never mentioned once our primary industries, the word “farming”, the word “forestry”, the words “scientific research”, or even the word “export”?
Hon DAVID CARTER: What the Speech from the Throne outlined were the areas of concern to farmers, and this Government is intent on doing something about those, not on ignoring the issues or on making compliance worse, as that member did while he was the Minister of Agriculture.
Colin King: Has the Minister seen any reports on rural representation at a Government level?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I have seen that this current Government is well represented by rural interests. We have a number of members who are actively farming. We compare that with the Opposition, which, to date, has not even bothered to name its own Opposition spokesperson on agriculture. That is how much interest Labour is showing in New Zealand agriculture.
Hon Jim Anderton: Was reference to the future of our agriculture industries omitted from the Speech from the Throne because the Prime Minister ignored the advice or submissions of the now Minister of Agriculture, Mr Carter, or was it because the Minister never made any submissions whatever to the speech?
Hon DAVID CARTER: No.
Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member might have sought the call before giving his answer, but we will take the answer as given.
Hon Jim Anderton: I seek leave to table the Speech from the Throne in 2005 and the Speech from the Throne in 1999, where agriculture and science were part of—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon DAVID CARTER: I seek leave to table the Speech from the Throne dated 21 December 1999, in which Labour claims that New Zealand is over-dependent on agriculture.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled?
Hon Member: It’s just been tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: As I heard—and I stress, as I heard—I thought the Hon Jim Anderton sought to table the Speeches from the Throne for 2005 and 1999. The honourable Minister sought to table to Speech from the Throne for which year?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Just to clarify, I understood that the member sought to table the Speeches from the Throne for 2008 and 2005.
Mr SPEAKER: It was difficult to hear because of all the interjections. I ask the Hon Jim Anderton which documents he sought to table.
Hon Jim Anderton: It was the Speech from the Throne in 1999 and in 2005.
Mr SPEAKER: Was there any objection to those two documents being tabled? There is no objection. I ask the Hon David Carter which document he seeks to table. There are no further documents.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. For the third time today when you were on your feet, the Leader of the House carried on speaking at some length while he was on his feet. I suggest that at this early stage of the Parliament it would be wise to draw to the attention of members of the House that when you are on your feet the rest of us should be sitting down and showing you appropriate respect.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member and say to him that I hope he just remembers it himself, as once before, today, the same thing happened.
Te Puni Kōkiri—Focus on Māori Potential
11. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Kua tau ngā whakaaro o te Minita ki te arotahi o Te Puni Kōkiri mō te pūmanawa nohopuku Māori?
[Is the Minister satisfied with the focus of Te Puni Kōkiri on Māori potential?]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs): Kātahi anō ka tīmata ngā kōrero a ngā āpiha o Te Puni Kōkiri ki a ahau. Haere pai ana ngā kōrero engari, ka mārama pai ahau ki tēnei kaupapa te pūmanawa nohopuku Māori, ā , he pai ki ahau. He tino pai ki ahau tēnei pūmanawa ātaahua.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have not had an interpretation.
Mr SPEAKER: Quite right. I beg your pardon.
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Talks btween Te Puni Kōkiri officials and me have just commenced. Good progress has been made and I am better informed about the Māori Potential Approach. I am impressed by it.]
Te Ururoa Flavell: What does he consider has been achiesved by the Māori Potential Approach?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: The Māori Potential Approach has promoted a conscious shift across Government—also a mind-shift—identifying positive outcomes for Māori going forward, and has provided a very strong platform for effective relationships between Māori and the Government. It was developed from within the Te Puni Kōkiri policy area, and has its focus totally on the positive areas.
Hon Parekura Horomia: Can the Minister explain to the House how the Government’s law that takes away the rights of workers in their first 90 days can possibly help Māori reach their full potential?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: As the Minister of Māori Affairs—
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just check with you about the relevance of that question to the primary question. The primary question focused on Te Puni Kōkiri and its approach into the future. I want to check whether the question from the previous Minister is appropriate under that banner?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The primary question asked whether the Minister was satisfied in terms of the focus by Te Puni Kōkiri on Māori potential. That opens up questions around Māori potential, and, indeed, on advice that the Minister may have received on certain matters relating to Māori potential. I realise it could be a difficult question, but it is perfectly in order.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the honourable member makes that the primary question does have a range of possible openings in it.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Our party, as a party, spoke against that law, and as a Minister seeking to promote potential amongst the community, I also voted against it.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: How does the Minister think the Government’s tax changes can possibly help Māori reach their full potential, when the vast majority of Māori, who earn between $24,000 and $44,000, are worse off because of the law he supported last week?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I do not think they help Māori at all, but Māori are not worse off, and let us be clear about that; they are still in exactly the same position. But I would point out that
those changes were part of the agreement on confidence and supply that we entered into, and we know exactly where we are on that issue.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Did the Minister receive any advice from his Māori Party MPs on what benefits will be delivered to Māori earning between $24,000 and $44,000 that will lift Māori potential?
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following the line taken by other members earlier, the question asked about the views of the Māori Party, and that is outside the realm of ministerial responsibility. I ask you to consider that.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The question asked whether the Minister had received advice from certain people. Who those people are is actually quite irrelevant. One could ask whether the Minister had received advice from these people, those people, or any people. It was a perfectly legitimate question. Ministers may seek advice from anybody.
Te Ururoa Flavell: As a member who is new to challenging some of the decisions in our House, I noted earlier, Mr Speaker, that you talked about parties explaining party policy. The question talked about members of the Māori Party, and, under that view, is the question still relevant and in order?
Mr SPEAKER: I am happy to rule on this point of order. In so far as the Minister was asking whether the Minister had received advice from anyone, that is a perfectly fair question and the answer can be yes or no as to whether there was advice. But asking about advice from party people, as distinct from officials, would not be in order, because the Minister has no responsibility for any advice he might receive from party members. He does have responsibility for advice he receives from officials. I am sure members will understand the difference. Members can ask him as Minister who he received advice from; the answer to that may be yes or no. But only advice from officials is relevant to his role as Minister.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I certainly do not want to question your ruling, but I would like to seek some clarification. Of course, it would be completely inappropriate to ask Dr Sharples about National Party policy, because Dr Sharples is a co-leader of the Māori Party. We have always been able to ask questions about Mr Key and National Party policy. Mr Key asked questions about the previous Prime Minister and Labour Party policy, because, obviously, she was the leader of the Labour Party in the House. So it does seem to me that we would be in a rather strange position if a Māori Party co-leader who is a Minister cannot be asked questions about matters relating to Māori Party policy, and input from his colleagues on policy. Similar questions to those have been asked in the past in the context of the Labour Party, the National Party, or whatever party it may be. We now just happen to have Ministers who are not members of one of the two major parties.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That is almost a contradiction of what Dr Cullen has so eloquently argued in the past. It would seem that the question simply is whether question time is confined to Dr Sharples’ responsibilities as a Minister, or whether it is open to members asking Dr Sharples anything about anything he has spoken of in a political sense. I would make a strong case, as Dr Cullen has done in the past, for delineating between the responsibilities that Helen Clark had as leader of the Labour Party as opposed to her responsibilities as Prime Minister, and suggest that in Dr Sharples’ case his responsibilities as a Minister inside that portfolio, or any of the portfolios for which he is responsible, should be the limit of reach in the House.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: If one was asking about Dr Sharples’ interaction with his colleagues about a matter outside his ministerial portfolio, then to object to that would be perfectly appropriate. But the question was about his discussion with his colleagues about matters inside his portfolio— that is, in relation to the actual nature of the question asked, which was about Māori potential. That is broad, but, then, that is the very nature of a policy ministry; it covers a very wide range of areas, and any areas that are relevant within that ministry’s work can come up. Mr Speaker, I would find your ruling very strange, because if we take that point, then we could ask Dr Sharples whether he
had sought advice from various iwi leaders about Māori potential, and whether he had sought advice from local authorities about Māori potential, but not whether he had sought advice from his own Māori Party colleagues about Māori potential. I would find that a very strange position for us to end up in.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that members have raised a serious issue, and it is obviously one that we need to think about very carefully. The Minister clearly has responsibility for Government policy, but he is not responsible for members of the Māori Party in this House, because those members are not party to the Government in that regard. He has no responsibility as a Minister for the actions of the Māori Party. That is where we have to be a little careful, and I want to be very careful in my ruling not to expand what has traditionally been the accepted scope of question time. As I said before, I saw nothing wrong with the Minister being asked who had given him advice, but the question, as I heard it, related to the nature of what certain Māori Party people had said to the Minister. I believe that the point of order raised by Te Ururoa Flavell was a valid one in that the Minister is not accountable in this House for the advice given to him by those Māori Party members. If it had been official advice—from officials—that would be different. I do not believe I have changed the accepted interpretation of the Standing Orders. I am very happy to discuss the issue further with members of the Opposition, because it is an important issue and it is not going to go away, and I want to make sure that I am fair to all sides of the House. But on this occasion I will accept the point of order of Te Ururoa Flavell and rule the question out of order.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Did the Minister receive advice from any Government Māori MPs on the benefits of what would be delivered to Māori earning between $24,000 and $44,000 to lift Māori potential; if so, did he agree with that advice?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Yes. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is absolutely at liberty to answer the question in a way that he chooses. “Yes.” was a perfectly adequate answer. He does not need to add to it.
Hekia Parata: Ka pēhea te Minita Māori mōhio ai ki te tutuki angitū te pūmanawa tipuranga Māori?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[How will the Minister of Māori Affairs know when Māori potential is being successfully achieved?]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Kua hangaia e Te Puni Kōkiri ngā tikanga kia taea e tātou te kite kua haere pēwhea tēnei kaupapa. Ka taea tātou te kite i te pūmanawa o te Māori hei te wā kā tū rangatira ai te Māori i roto i āna kaupapa mātauranga, oranga tangata, whakahaere kaipakihi me te hanga whakataunga ia rā, ia rā mō tōna ake oranga ā kōmua, me te eke ki ēnei taumata ia rā, ia rā, kāre anake i te wā kotahi.
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Te Puni Kōkiri has created measures that will enable us to assess where the potential is. We will see Māori succeeding in education, in improved health and well-being, in owning and operating their own businesses, and in making powerful decisions every day about their quality of life in the future. Achieving these will become a daily thing, not just something done on a one-off basis.]
Te Ururoa Flavell: Ki te Minita, he aha ētahi huarahi kē atu e whakaarohia nei hei whakahihiko i te ara pūmawana mō tāua te Māori?
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[What robust changes will he make to the Māori Potential Approach for us in Māoridom?]
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES:
[Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
[An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]
Incandescent Light Bulbs—Ban
12. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Will the Government be moving to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources): I am delighted to inform the House that I have issued firm instructions to the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to stop its plans to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs. This Government, in stark contrast to the previous Government and the previous Minister of Energy, David Parker, rejects the idea that the Government knows best and must constantly meddle in the lives of New Zealanders. If people wish to buy incandescent light bulbs, then this Government will not stop them from doing so.
Aaron Gilmore: Why is the Government not going to ban incandescent light bulbs?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are a number of excellent reasons why we have not moved to ban those light bulbs. The first is that this Government believes that choice not compulsion, and the ability for individuals to make their own decisions about what sorts of lives they want to lead and what contribution they want to make to climate change, is far better than nanny State telling them what to do.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Can the Minister confirm that it has never been a New Zealand Government policy to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs, but, rather, to phase out some incandescent light bulbs as a range of identically performing high-efficiency alternatives come on to the market, and that that policy has just been adopted across the European Union, saving the equivalent of the entire electricity consumption of Romania; if he can confirm that, would he care to tell the House why he is ramming this country into reverse gear?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Supplementary question. [Interruption] Oh, sorry! No.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister in reply.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have answered.
Hon Members: We didn’t hear.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I gave the House an answer.