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Questions And Answers - 4 August 2009

Questions for Oral Answer

Questions to Ministers


1. Greenhouse Gas Reduction—Analysis

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

1. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What analysis, if any, has the Government done to determine the extent of cost-effective climate change emissions reductions that could be achieved within the New Zealand economy by 2020?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues) : Significant work has been done on mitigation options by the Ministry for the Environment, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority. This advice confirms that New Zealand has mitigation options, but they are more limited and more expensive than those of most countries, because half of our emissions come from agriculture and there is a high proportion of renewable electricity. I urge caution to those who say reducing emissions is easy, and I draw the House’s attention to the very significant increase in emissions that has occurred over the past decade.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen the Green Party’s plan for New Zealand to reduce domestic emissions by 36.2 million tonnes by 2020; if so, does he now accept that a 30 to 40 percent reduction target is achievable at modest cost and is vastly preferable to enduring dangerous climate change?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I have not had the opportunity to see the detail of the Green Party announcement. But I would note—and it was released only at 1 o’clock today, I understand—that during the period that that member was the Government spokesperson on energy efficiency, emissions grew very rapidly.

Nikki Kaye: What advice has the Minister received on the statement by those who are promoting a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2020 that a 100 percent renewable electricity supply is easily achievable by 2020?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am advised that that would require, first, the writing-off of $4.5 billion of thermal generation assets. It would also require $11 billion for the replacement capacity of 2,500 megawatts, and $2 billion for additional renewable peaking stations needed to ensure security of supply in a dry year. This amounts to a total capital cost of $17.5 billion, excluding the additional transmission investment that would be required, and this would amount to a 30 percent increase in the power price for all consumers. Going 100 percent renewable would also require the equivalent of another seven Clyde Dams to be built by 2020. I do not describe $17.5 billion, a 30 percent power price increase, and seven Clyde Dams as being easy.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen the Green Party’s plan to cut the emissions from energy by 5.25 megatons, which I sent over to his office this morning and which does not include 100 percent renewable electricity, but includes replacing the Huntly coal-fired power station with geothermal, wind, and interruptible load, as modelled by the Electricity Commission; if so, does he accept that this is achievable and vastly preferable to enduring dangerous climate change?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: As I said, I have not seen the Green Party proposals, but I would note that over the last 18 years New Zealand’s emissions from electricity have grown by 130 percent. And if—

Hon David Parker: Are they going down now?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member who interjects was actually the Ministerduring the period in which there was a very steep increase in emissions.

Hon David Cunliffe: Are they going down now?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member asks “Are they going down now?”. No. Over the period of the last Labour administration, thermal emissions grew hugely and there was a threefold increase in the amount of coal burnt to generate electricity.

Charles Chauvel: Does the Minister think that the recent New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and Infometrics modelling on possible targets overestimates the cost of the different emissions targets, given that it assumes no increase in forestry plantings, given that New Zealand business will face the full price of carbon when overseas companies will not, and given that the modelling uses different carbon prices for different emissions targets; and what other advice has he sought about how to remedy these emissions, so that the Government has an accurate picture of the real cost of a bold target?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Firstly, I do acknowledge that any sort of economic modelling is incredibly difficult—for instance, trying to make a pick about the amount of trees that might be planted. At the time when the Kyoto Protocol was signed, we were planting over 70,000 hectares per year, and nobody projected the huge drop-off in plantings that occurred after that. In terms of the analysis that shows there would be an increase in the carbon price with more ambitious targets, I think that applies reasonable common sense—that is, if the global community, in the negotiations in Copenhagen, goes for an ambitious target, it is reasonable to expect that will result in a higher carbon price. No economic analysis will be perfect, but I assure the member that the Government is getting advice that is as wide and as accurate as possible in making this important decision for New Zealand.

Nikki Kaye: What proposals has the Minister seen for reducing emissions in agriculture that would enable New Zealand to achieve a 40 percent reduction in emissions by 2010?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have seen proposals from those who promote a 40 percent reduction that agricultural emissions can be dramatically reduced through using a smart farming approach. These methods entail a one-third reduction in stock intensity, which would, of course, reduce emissions accordingly. However, the consequences of cutting by one-third our stock of sheep, cattle, and deer would cost New Zealanders approximately 50,000 jobs and $6 billion in export earnings, and would significantly reduce living standards for all New Zealanders. Such policy options for agriculture are not being considered. Our efforts as a Government are focussed on investing in the new technologies that will enable emissions reductions while maintaining our important agricultural economy.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister accept the research done by AgResearch and Dairy New Zealand that shows that if the milk payout price is less than $5.50, it is not profitable for farmers to increase their stocking intensity—in fact, they lose money—that the average for the last 10 years has been $5.20, which is where it is at the moment, and that it is expected to head downwards next year; and does he not think that farmers are actually becoming less profitable by increasing their stocking intensities to over 5 units in some cases, with a lot of bought-in inputs that they cannot pay for?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is true that dairy farming has become less profitable as a consequence of declining prices for produce. The issue of the intensity of agriculture, in my view, is not the solution to our challenge around climate change. We have to find the technologies that will enable us to maintain the economic contribution that agriculture makes, while reducing the emissions. In my view, the sorts of proposals that are put forward by those promoting a 40 percent reduction in emissions and a huge drop by one-third in the intensity of our agriculture would have a devastating impact on the New Zealand economy.

David Garrett: What does the Ministry for the Environment forecast New Zealand’s net emissions would be in 2020 under the do-nothing option and what does it forecast net emissions would be in 2020 under the emissions trading scheme as legislated, or does the Minister not know that?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Officials advise me that on a business-as-usual basis, in 2020 we would expect New Zealand’s emissions to be 41 percent above 1990 levels. Currently we are about 23 percent above the 1990 levels, and I think that really brings home—

Hon David Parker: Quote the net figures!

Hon Dr NICK SMITH:—now the member opposite interjects, asking for the net figures. The difficulty is this: I am advised that in 2020 the contribution from forestry will be offset by the harvesting of trees. In other words, although we have banked on forestry offsetting our increase in emissions over the period of the Kyoto Protocol, we cannot count on that in 2020. That is why the member’s question is quite relevant. Because our gross emissions are 24 percent above the 1990 levels, it will be a very difficult challenge for New Zealand to get back even to the 1990 levels.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is about the Minister addressing the question. There were two parts to the question. The Minister addressed the first part, which was what the emissions would be on the basis of the do-nothing option. Then a member from the other side interjected, and I think he got diverted into answering that question. He did not answer the second part. It may be that it was not his intention to answer it, but the second part was about how much the emissions trading scheme would reduce the net emissions by.

Mr SPEAKER: The honourable member knows that only one part of a question needs to be answered. If the honourable member wishes to provide the information to the House, that would be helpful.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am very happy to oblige the member. In respect of the current emissions trading scheme, I do not have the number on me. It is contained in the regulatory impact statement on the original emissions trading scheme. One of the uncertainties, in respect of that, is the extent of the carbon price, because the higher the carbon price is, the more likely it is that the emissions in 2020 would be lower. However, the Government is working on a package of amendments to the emissions trading scheme to better balance the environmental and economic factors that need to be carefully considered.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Has the Minister seen the research from the forestry industry that shows that with a price on carbon of around $25 a tonne and policy certainty from the Government, it would plant $25,000 hectares a year of additional forests for the next 10 years, and that if it did that, this would completely cancel out the effect of the harvesting of the post-1990 forests and give us 10.9 million more tonnes of carbon stored by 2020?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member is correct. The extent to which we plant trees has a huge impact on our capacity to be able to meet targets in 2020. The difficulty is that although it is true that foresters get credits at the time when they plant trees and those trees grow, they also receive a debit at the time of harvest. Some of the caution from forestry investors is that with the carbon price likely to rise over time, forestry is not necessarily as profitable as some of the analysis would show. One of the very important issues in the international climate change negotiations is for New Zealand to get recognition for the stored carbon from forest products, and that is why this Government gives that issue such priority in those international negotiations.

Charles Chauvel: Is it not highly misleading to the New Zealand public to claim that a bold target will cripple the economy, when the reports relied upon by the Ministry for the Environment and others show that under all scenarios GDP actually increases, and when those reports also fail to take into account any changes in behaviour to reduce emissions or any complementary Government measures that reduce emissions?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I think the underlying important issue is that reducing emissions is actually quite difficult for New Zealand. I simply say to the member opposite that if it is so easy, why is it that over the last 18 years we have seen such a dramatic increase? The Labour Party members opposite may say that the $14.5 billion per year that the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research - Infometrics analysis shows a minus 40 percent emissions reduction target would entail is insignificant. Members on this side of the House think it is significant, and that is why we intend to carefully balance, just as we campaigned on, this Government’s climate change policies with our objectives for New Zealand to be more successful economically.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister accept that meeting a bold target is not just about sitting back and waiting for business-as-usual to do it for us, but actually needs some proactive Government actions; that if he caps the price of carbon, as the Australians are proposing, we can expect much higher emissions in 2020 than now; and that the design of the emissions trading scheme, if it is weakened, is going to make it harder to meet a target in the future?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member is absolutely right to draw attention to the balance. The more ambitious the target is, the greater the cost is for New Zealanders. Where I would challenge the Green Party to be more upfront with New Zealanders is that if we want to promote a 40 percent reduction target—and remember we are already 24 percent ahead of 1990 emission levels—then the Green Party needs to be upfront about the sort of impact that achieving that would have on power prices, on petrol prices, and on jobs for people in sectors like the agricultural sector. All that I have seen from the Greens to date grossly underestimates what those costs would be for ordinary New Zealanders.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister stand by his statement that it is too hard and too expensive for us to have a responsible target, in light of the fact that the Greens today have released a study that shows that New Zealand can meet that kind of target—a responsible target of 30 percent to 40 percent reductions—and not only is that the case but in the long term New Zealand has no choice but to do so, and that the real challenge to us as a nation is that our economy must become a low-carbon economy if we are to have a prosperous economy in the 21st century?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Firstly, I have never said what the member alleged; I have said that a minus 40 percent target, when we are starting at about plus 24 percent in relation to 1990 emission levels, is unrealistic. I simply put this to the member. During the course of the 1990s, New Zealand’s emissions went up by 10 percent. During the course of this decade they are predicted to go up by another 14 percent. Do I think that over the course of the next 10 years we can do minus 64 percent? I think that is unrealistic, and I would remind the member that when his colleague Jeanette Fitzsimons was the spokesperson for the Government on energy efficiency, emissions went up.


2. Vulnerable Citizens—Prime Minister’s Statement

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “This Government is not prepared to turn its back on our most vulnerable citizens when they most need our help.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, that is why this year’s Budget maintained entitlements to welfare benefits, New Zealand superannuation, and Working for Families, despite Government revenue falling by billions of dollars. That is why we have just announced a $152 million package to create opportunities in work, education, and training for young people, who are particularly vulnerable during this recession.

Hon Phil Goff: Why, then, did the latest Budget cut $2.5 million from our most vulnerable and disadvantaged children—those who have major disabilities—who rely on that support to stay well and to continue at school?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member will be aware, in fact in the Budget the Government committed an increase of $51 million over 4 years to special education, to allow around 1,000 extra children to access special education funding. With regard to the particular issue the member raises, the Prime Minister is advised that some schools got considerable amounts of funding. Other schools with children with similar needs did not receive any additional funding. The Ministry of Education is working with the 23 schools that are affected by the change. It specifically intends to consult with those schools and parents in the upcoming review of special education.

Hon Phil Goff: What does the Prime Minister say to the parents of those children, who are so vulnerable, when they ask why the Government cannot afford just $2.5 million to give them essential therapy treatment, when the Government can afford to give $35 million to the most advantaged children in private schools?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Ministry of Education is undertaking detailed work with those 23 schools. The Prime Minister is advised that to provide a similar level of assistance for all children with similar needs could cost about $30 million. As the member will know from his time in Government, everyone understands the complex needs of those children; the challenge in Government is to make sure that all children with special needs, and their families, get as much support as the Government can reasonably provide, while being fair to all those who are affected.

Chris Tremain: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports of alternative approaches to Government support?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: He has seen a number of propositions about how to use any public money that may be available. The reports from the Labour Party indicate that actually it would not spend extra money on those children. It would spend it on providing welfare to millionaires whose spouses have lost their jobs.

Hon Phil Goff: Does he accept the concerns of the parents of children with major disabilities like muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, that the removal of that funding will compromise the well-being of their children and their ability to stay at school; if not, why does he reject the advice of both the schools and parents in that regard?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government does accept the concerns of those parents, and those children will be eligible for Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme funding in the same way—

Hon Phil Goff: No, they won’t be.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: —they will be—in the same way as many other children are. The Government is always listening to parents who express need in a vigorous fashion. That is one of the reasons that, in the Budget, the Government allocated an extra $51 million. Ongoing discussions between the Ministry of Health and those schools will be aimed at addressing the concerns of those parents where it is feasible.

Rahui Katene: What specific initiatives is this Government supporting to respond to the disproportionately high numbers of Māori and Pacifica youth job seekers, who together comprise 47 percent of all young people receiving the unemployment benefit?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it is well understood that Māori and Pacifica youth are overrepresented in the unemployment figures. The Government expects that the $152 million youth opportunities package that was announced over the weekend will pick up significant numbers of Māori and Pacifica youth. In particular, the Community Max policy offers opportunities for grassroots Māori and Pacifica groups, including marae, iwi, and land incorporations, to provide work for their own youth on community projects. Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs will work with those communities to ensure that young people take up those options. We would expect to see Māori and Pacifica young people overrepresented in those projects.

Hon Phil Goff: Will the Prime Minister accept the invitation he has received from schools and parents to visit schools to see the work being done with children, to see the challenges that those children and their families face daily, to hear from them that he is absolutely misinformed when he says that there is some compensatory funding that they will get out of a different pool of money—because they will get none—and to hear from them the consequences those cuts in funding will have on those children?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Obviously, I cannot answer that supplementary question on behalf of the Prime Minister. The Associate Minister in charge of special education has undertaken to go to each school and meet with those parents. I also point out to the member that we, as MPs, meet with parents whose children get no resources because they did not qualify under his Government for the Ongoing and Reviewable Resourcing Scheme. The $51 million announced in the Budget will enable another 1,000 families who have children with special needs to access the kind of Government funding that those children ought to have.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister disagree with the statement made in the New Zealand Herald today in the editorial: “Society should seek to provide every opportunity for those unfortunate enough to have been born disabled. When a small sum is delivering immense improvement and clearly providing value, there is no reason to discontinue it.”? If he does agree with it, will he reconsider the decision to cut the funding; if he does not agree with it, why not?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Where small amounts of funding make a big difference, of course any Government would target them as a priority. As the member will know from his time in Government, the challenge in those cases is to get fair treatment across the wide range of needs and the wide range of families who need considerable support. The Associate Minister in charge of special education is visiting each school. Ongoing discussions with the Ministry of Education will lead, I am sure, to a better understanding of their needs and how they can be met.


3. Youth Unemployment—Initiatives

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

3. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to tackle youth unemployment during the recession?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : The Government has set out from the start of this year to take the sharp edges off recession where it can, and it has taken several steps to combat youth unemployment, which is one of the sharp edges of recession. The package, worth $152 million, announced by the Prime Minister at the weekend will create about 17,000 job opportunities for young people over the next couple of years, across a range of activities. Education and training is a key part of our economic plan, and the package will create 4,000 new tertiary training places for 16 and 17-year-olds. In addition, it includes 4,000 job placements of 6 months for low-skilled young people in businesses and about 3,000 jobs of up to 6 months in community programmes.


Craig Foss: Why is the Government undertaking such a comprehensive package?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The number of young unemployed has climbed from 4,000 last June to nearly 17,000 this June. As the Government signalled from the start of the year and again in the Budget, we believe it is important that young people do not become completely detached from the world of skills and work. We want to make sure we do not risk diminishing the potential of a generation of New Zealanders hit by a combination of the New Zealand recession that began at the beginning of last year and the global recession that hit about 9 months ago.

Jacinda Ardern: Will the funding for the $152 million package come from the $167 million that was slashed in the Budget from skills training, the scholarship schemes that helped low-income young people into tertiary education, and the Enterprising Communities fund; if so, is the Government’s approach to unemployment less about sharp edges and more about cutting and pasting?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has spent some time evaluating the effectiveness of spending decisions left over from the last Government, which clearly made decisions when it thought that surpluses would go on for ever. Some of those decisions we have now reversed. In this case, we are focusing strongly on keeping young people in contact with the workforce and skills. We believe that is the right response to the recession.

Craig Foss: What is the intended result of this package?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a number of intended results. One is simply to ensure that the young people who would be on the dole, and losing a sense of discipline and losing their work habits, are in some kind of constructive activity. In itself, that will be of benefit. But in the longer term, we think it is an opportunity for those young people to pick up skills and a work record so that as this economy recovers they will be able to get real, sustainable jobs. Many of them are on the dole because they relied on jobs that were the product of 10 years of bad economic management, with too much borrowing and Government spending.

Rahui Katene: How does the focus on youth unemployment align with the focus on whānau ora?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The responsibilities for a young person who is unemployed can easily fall back on the whānau. In this case, we want to contribute to supporting whānau by supporting their young people, and also provide the opportunity for Māori iwi and other community groups to get together and provide opportunities for their young people. Of course, that will also support the health of the family.

Craig Foss: Has the Minister seen any reports on alternative approaches to unemployment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have heard some calls from the Opposition to “do something”, but the ideas the Opposition comes up with seem to involve extending the welfare State, not actually saving jobs or creating jobs.


4. Youth Unemployment—Estimates

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What estimate, if any, have her officials at the Ministry of Social Development provided to her on the level of unemployment by December 2010, and how many of those unemployed will be between 16 and 24 years of age?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : The Ministry’s most recent forecast provided to me predicted that unemployment numbers would reach 83,000 in December 2010. The Ministry does not forecast by age.

Hon Annette King: Is the Minister aware that, according to predictions by both the Treasury and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, youth unemployment is set to rise to around 20 percent by 2010, which would see over 36,000 youth unemployed, and, as she has said the recently announced youth opportunities package is a “short-term, targeted solution”, what more will she do to address the 20,000 youth who will not benefit from the package over the next 15 months and beyond?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The numbers the member is putting out there are from the household labour force survey. They represent young people who are legitimately not engaged in anything. They could be young people who are taking a break prior to starting university, are supported by their parents, those who are about to head off on their OE, or those who are undertaking voluntary work—a number of people, and not necessarily those who are on the unemployment benefit. Those figures are predictions, not targets as members of the previous Government seem to see them. The role of this Government is to try not to reach those numbers, and that is what this package is all about.

Hon Annette King: In the May Budget, why did the Minister scrap the successful Enterprising Communities scheme, which employed around 3,000 New Zealanders of all ages, and now 2 months later is introducing the Community Max scheme for up to 3,000 people—simply a watered-down version of the Enterprising Communities scheme—funded for a shorter period, and open only to youth workers?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Government stopped that scheme simply because we did not think it was working. Over a 3-year period the Enterprising Communities scheme was expected to be self-sustainable. In reality it was not. The 3,000 young people going into Community Max represent a positive initiative that we think will generate work for them and see projects fast-tracked in their communities. We are incredibly positive about it.

Hekia Parata: Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā o te Whare, ā, tēnā tātou e te Whare. Has the Minister seen reports of other assistance that could be made available for people on the unemployment benefit?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes. I have seen reports in the media quoting Annette King as saying that Labour is contemplating extending in-work tax credit to beneficiaries at a cost of $450 million.

David Bennett: More money!

Hon PAULA BENNETT: More money! I simply ask the member whose taxes she would increase or what programmes she would cut.

Hon Annette King: Can an employer joining the Job Ops scheme use the “90-day Act” and dismiss a young person without cause after 6 weeks, and thereby keep the $3,000 paid by the taxpayer and get an employee at no cost to the business for that person; and, if that is possible, what has the Minister put in place to prevent rorts like that?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There are criteria about when employers can get that $3,000 and how long the period is for. The 90-day probationary period does apply to the scheme. Unlike members opposite, we think that employers want to step up, want to offer work to young people, want to do well by them, and want to keep them in work as much as possible. I see members opposite shaking their heads at me, thinking: “Not those nasty employers.” Actually, employers want to do those things. They believe in society as much as this Government does.

Darien Fenton: Will the Minister guarantee that no older workers will find themselves being made redundant and replaced by a youth worker as a result of her Government’s Youth Opportunities package, and will she make it an obligation on businesses, that while on the scheme they are not able to make any of their existing workers redundant, like she has for those on the 9-day working fortnight?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Work and Income is working with employers. The scheme is for new entry-level roles, and the Government is making that very clear to employers. We make no apologies for focusing on youth and on our young people in that particular package. In a 5-month period this year, 42 percent of participants in the old scheme were aged under 25 years. However, of the total number of people who got a job and went off the benefit—and those percentages are there—70 percent were over 25 years. Young people are disadvantaged through a lack of skills and experience. That is what this package will fix.


5. Youth Job Opportunities—Announcements

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

5. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What recent announcements have been made on creating job opportunities for our young people?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : We have announced we are providing a subsidy to employers of $5,000 for every young person they can employ into an entry level position. We are paying $3,000 up front and $2,000 after 6 months. This Government now needs employers to step up and get on board. We know there are employers out there who need a bit of confidence to take on another person, and this measure will help them to do so. I would urge them to give Work and Income a ring.

Katrina Shanks: What interest has there been in the programme so far?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have already had three inquiries from community groups about the Community Max programme, but 21 job opportunities have been registered with Work and Income, and I am delighted that after just 24 hours, two young people have already been placed into jobs. One is a factory worker, the other is a cafe assistant, and they actually started work today.

Carmel Sepuloni: Has the Minister received reports showing that a child’s level of education is determined by his or her mother’s; if so, will she consider reinstating the training incentive allowance for level 4 courses and above, so that both sole mothers and their children can have a better chance of educational achievement resulting in better employment opportunities in the future for both youth and their mothers; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, we certainly do have a focus on teen parents. I know that Minister Tolley has been doing a lot of work around the education of teen parents and how that works. This Government is very focused on them and on how this might affect their children, because at the end of the day happy, educated parents means happy, educated children.

Katrina Shanks: What reports has she seen that support the introduction of the Government’s youth opportunities package?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have seen a number of encouraging reports. Michael Barnett from the Auckland chamber of commerce called it a supportive, positive initiative that gives young people another option for becoming contributing members of society. Graeme Dingle has said: “The government’s intention here is great” and that it will help young people stay off the unemployment benefit, develop work skills, grow confidence, and connect with their community. Mayor Dale Williams said it “should not only achieve a decrease in youth unemployment but also an increase in the skills of our young people.”


6. Adult and Community Education—Funding

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

6. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: Will she consider reinstating the funding for adult community education for next year, allowing a review of its adult community education classes and presenting a renewed programme at the end of 2010, as called for by the adult education lobbyists, learners, and supporters who are marching on Parliament today?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Tertiary Education) : No. The Government remains committed to adult and community education, and that is why we are investing $124 million into the sector over the next 4 years. We have had to make decisions to reprioritise some adult community education funding in order to fund tertiary education opportunities for younger New Zealanders, and I stand by those decisions.

Hon Maryan Street: Does she agree with the report of the Post Primary Teachers Association on building the educational infrastructure for economic recovery, which stated that adult and community education was central to job creation; if not, why not?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I agree with some parts of that report, but I say again to the member that this Government remains committed to adult and community education. That is why, as I have just said, we are investing $124 million into it over the next 4 years.

Louise Upston: What evidence has she seen to suggest that tertiary education priorities in New Zealand need to be refocused?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The first piece of evidence is that New Zealand has relatively low participation rates of 15 to 19-year-olds in all types of education. The second is that although tertiary funding has increased substantially since 2000, the number of people completing degrees has remained constant over that time. We have to ensure that the limited tertiary education budget focuses our dollars and attention on lifting the educational attainment of young New Zealanders and on increasing the number of people achieving higher-level qualifications if we are to lift the economic performance of this country, which is this Government’s goal.

Hon Maryan Street: Is the Minister aware that even the Prime Minister, John Key, when asked whether the Government had seriously underestimated the impact of adult and community education cutbacks on communities, has been reported to have said: “You’re probably right.”, and will she now back down on her decision to cut that funding and get a real estimation of how important these courses are to people in our communities?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I always agree with the Prime Minister. We understand that people are disappointed, but many people I have talked to also understand that we are in very difficult economic times, which means we have to budget and prioritise where we spend our education budget. As I say, we are continuing to support adult and community education to the tune of $124 million. To the Opposition over there that might not seem a lot of money, but it is a great deal of investment by this Government in adult and community education over the next 4 years.

Hon Maryan Street: Does the Minister intend to meet the adult and community education protesters today, given that according to her ministerial diary she has no engagements to attend today?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No, I do not intend to meet with them. A look at the question sheet will show that I am busy in the Chamber.


7. Youth Guarantee—Announcements

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

7. ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: What recent announcements have been made about the Youth Guarantee?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Tertiary Education) : The Government announced on Sunday that it would be jump-starting the first stage of the Youth Guarantee. Next year we will fund 2,000 fee-free places for 16 and 17-year-olds at polytechs, private training establishments, and wānanga. The Government has always believed that some students will be more motivated to succeed in non-school settings, and we are very proud of the fact that we are able to jump-start the Youth Guarantee so that by the start of next year 2,000 students will be able to take advantage of it.

Allan Peachey: How will the Government decide which providers and courses will be part of the initial roll-out of the Youth Guarantee?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The providers involved next year will be those in areas with high youth unemployment rates that have a demonstrated track record of delivering programmes at levels 1 to 3 to young people. The courses offered will be vocationally focused courses at levels 1 to 3, with literacy and numeracy embedded in the course content. Examples include certificates in mechanical maintenance, computing, agriculture and forestry skills—the list goes on and on.

Iain Lees-Galloway: What advice does the Minister have for the 6,000 students who are not covered by the extra places in polytechs provided by the Youth Guarantee scheme, and how can those 6,000 students be expected to get into training or education when the Minister refuses to make room for them to learn?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I would say to the member that those students do not exist, so it is very hard to give them advice. Those students are hypothetical; they are based on predictions that various institutions have made. Each institution that makes those predictions uses a different basis. In the past, those predictions have not tended to be very reliable.

Allan Peachey: What reports has the Minister received on the reaction to the jump-starting of the Youth Guarantee?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have received a report that states that the institutes of technology and the polytechs are right behind the Youth Guarantee. I have also received reports that private training establishments and wānanga are busy putting together applications to be part of the 2010 jump-start. I am really heartened by the response from the wider education sector. It seems that everyone except the Labour Party thinks the scheme is a good idea. I look forward to all those training organisations providing 2,000 high-quality tertiary education opportunities for 16 and 17-year-olds next year.


8. Finance, Minister—Line by Line Review Progress and Priorities

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

8. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Finance: What progress has he made on line by line reviews, and what are his priorities for the next 12 months?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : As I said in the Budget, departmental reviews have freed up $2 billion over the next 4 years. This money is being put back into Government priorities such as boosting front-line services by training more doctors and nurses and employing more police and probation officers. Over the next 12 months we will continue to focus on ensuring that front-line services are improved, and that resources are shifted from back-office functions to front-line services.

Hon Maryan Street: Did the cut to adult and community education target the lowest-value expenditure; if not, will the Minister give an example of lower-value expenditure?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The departmental chief executives sat alongside brand new Ministers and worked through the processes that were required for the Budget. The reviews are largely driven by the judgment of those who are much closer to front-line services, and reflect clearly expressed Government priorities.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Why has the Minister of Finance made line by line reviews his top priority, when surely the more important question is whether agencies such as the Families Commission, the Charities Commission, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, and the Ministry of Youth Affairs should even exist; if they should exist, which of their functions should continue—for example, $3 million on racing sponsorship, $13 million on the Contestable Waste Minimisation Fund, and $9 million on strengthening relationships with Māori on brokerage—and if those functions should continue, can we deliver the service more efficiently through competition?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Those are all very good questions that I hope the departments are asking themselves. But the Government is not focusing on small agencies; we are focusing on large ones, like the Accident Compensation Corporation. The liability of the taxpayer and the levy payer has got completely out of control, because of the reckless management of the previous Government; it now amounts to almost $24 billion. Getting that under control will have more impact than a discussion on the Ministry of Youth Affairs.

Lynne Pillay: Did the cuts to physiotherapy for the most disabled children in our schools target the lowest-value expenditure; if not, will the Minister give an example of lower-value expenditure?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I covered in answers to an earlier question the issue of special education. The Government made it clear that it felt that special education was a high priority; that is why it allocated an additional $52 million so that another 1,000 young people with challenges would be able to get the support they need.

Carmel Sepuloni: Did the cut to the training incentive allowance, which was designed to assist beneficiaries in gaining skills and employment, target the lowest-value expenditure; if not, will the Minister give an example of lower-value expenditure?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I will repeat the answer I gave earlier: the departmental chief executives and Ministers—particularly the chief executives and departmental officials who are familiar with the wasteful ways of the last Government—decided what was low- priority expenditure.


9. Criminal Law—Proposed Changes to Partial Defence of Provocation

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

9. CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) to the Minister of Justice: What changes is the Government proposing to the partial defence of provocation?

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice) : Today the Government has introduced the Crimes (Provocation Repeal) Amendment Bill, which will abolish the partial defence of provocation provided for in section 169 of the Crimes Act. There are fundamental problems with the application of the partial defence of provocation. Historically, the reason for this provision was to avoid the mandatory murder penalty, which was originally capital punishment. As I have stated previously, provocation enables defendants to besmirch the character of victims and it effectively rewards a loss of self-control.

Chester Borrows: What impact will the proposed repeal of the partial defence of provocation have on those who are battered and those with mental impairments?

Hon SIMON POWER: I am advised by the Law Commission that the defence of provocation is rarely relied upon by the victims of battering; in fact, it is more likely to be used by the perpetrators of battering. In appropriate cases, though, self-defence would be available to the victims of battering. I am further advised that the mentally impaired are generally precluded from relying upon the partial defence of provocation, as provocation requires that the defendant has the power of self-control of an ordinary person.


10. Education, National Standards—Single Standard

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

10. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour) to the Minister of Education: Does she still stand by her comments reported in the New Zealand Herald on 1 August 2009 in relation to national standards, in particular where she says that the system would not force teachers to meet a single predetermined standard as in the United States and Britain?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) : No, because that is not a direct quote from me. National standards will provide nationally consistent benchmarks that will assist teachers to make judgments about a student’s progress and achievement in literacy and numeracy. Teachers will continue to use evidence from a range of sources to inform their teaching and learning programmes.

Kelvin Davis: How will the Minister expect teachers to report to parents in plain English whether their child has met a national standard that is not set at a specific level, and will this not just add to parents’ confusion as to whether their child is achieving to the level he or she should?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I say to that member, Kelvin Davis, that if he were to look at some of the suggestions that were put in front of parents and educators during the consultation period and were to hear the comments from the many parents who took part in that consultation process, he would see that they are very clear that the standards will be of huge assistance to them as parents in understanding what are the strengths and weaknesses of their children.

Colin King: Why is the Government introducing national standards?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: National standards are being introduced to provide clear expectations for children at primary school, and to provide parents with simple, plain language explanations of their children’s progress. That is what the parents tell us they want, and that is what we are providing. Parents want to be involved in their children’s education, and to do that they need to know how their child is progressing.

Kelvin Davis: What is the point in just showing progress against the standard, as the Minister stated in the New Zealand Herald, when the rate of progress towards a standard is more important, but neither are of any use if a teacher does not know where the standard sits in the first place?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The national standards will provide very clear expectations of just what progress a student needs to make, and the formative assessment by the teacher that takes place in the classroom will provide good results showing the progress that a child is making against those standards.

Kelvin Davis: In relation to the Minister’s answer, can she explain what her understanding of formative assessment is?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Formative assessment is an assessment technique that is widely used by New Zealand teachers and worldwide to inform the teaching and the learning that happens. It is a continuous process of the assessment of the effectiveness of the teaching and the effect of learning on students.


11. Energy Devices, Marine—Deployment

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

11. PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What steps is the Government taking to accelerate the deployment of marine energy devices in New Zealand?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) : The Government has recently opened applications for the third round of the Marine Energy Deployment Fund, which aims to have wave and tidal stream energy devices operating in New Zealand.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Why is the Government interested in accelerating the development of marine energy?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government would expect that marine energy would take quite some time to develop, given that it is not in any significant commercial operation anywhere in the world. The fund was put together by the previous Government, and we felt it was worth continuing with. New Zealand does have a very large coastline. There is opportunity to develop fast-moving waters, which could result in tidal energy contributing to New Zealand’s energy requirements.


12. Auckland Governance, Reform—Government Leadership

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

12. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) to the Minister of Local Government: Does he believe the Government is providing clear leadership on the reform of Auckland governance?

Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government) : I thank the member for the question. Yes, Prime Minister John Key and this Government are providing Auckland with precisely the leadership that it needs and has lacked for many years. I am particularly pleased to have the support of one special commentator who, when comparing the present leadership with the previous Government, stated: “There was a feeling for quite some time that the city wasn’t working.”, and who stated that the previous Government “was very late in coming to the party and doing something about it”. That commentator was Mr Phil Twyford, commenting in the Listener on why Labour was punished at the last election and why it remains unforgiven by the public.

Phil Twyford: Does the Minister agree with Mayor of Auckland City, John Banks, who was telling his mates that a deal has been done with the Government for 18 ward and six at-large councillors on the new Auckland Council?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: I have no idea about whatever comments Mr Banks might be making. But I can say that, under this Government and this Minister, things are looking up for Auckland compared with the situation under the 9 years that Helen Clark and the Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, Judith Tizard, managed things, when one commentator of whom I am fond stated: “The city wasn’t working properly, with traffic problems, crappy infrastructure, and a downtown that looked like a bombsite.” That was after 9 years of Labour, and the commentator was list MP from Auckland Mr Phil Twyford.

Phil Twyford: Does the Minister stand by his recent statement that none of the current incumbent mayors in Auckland are “up to the job of super-mayor”, or is it that he now wants to call off the race because his horse—John Banks—is coming second?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: I stand by all my comments. It will be up to the people of Auckland to decide who will be the next mayor of Auckland, and it is quite clear that they have decided that they do not like Labour. That is not surprising when Phil Twyford stated that after 9 years the city was not working, that the Government was late in fixing it, and that there were traffic problems, crappy infrastructure, and a downtown that looked like a bombsite. If that is the legacy of Labour in Auckland, then it is no wonder the people of Auckland love this new Government.

Phil Twyford: Which of these statements made by the Minister is correct: “Rate rises should be capped at the rate of inflation or less.”, which was made in February this year, or: “I am not proposing rate capping or rate setting.”, which was made last week?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: Both of them are correct.

Phil Twyford: How does the Minister respond to reports that his “make the boat go faster” reforms met rough waters at the Local Government New Zealand conference last week, where many of the 600 delegates said they wanted him to “drop the anchor on Auckland’s Super City” and his plans to restrict councils to core services?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: I respond very positively to the warm welcome that the Prime Minister, John Carter, and I got at the Local Government New Zealand conference. It contrasted sharply with the comments that I got about the visit by the Hon Phil Goff, and that is not surprising when Phil Twyford actually summarised what happened in Auckland after 9 years of neglect by the previous Government. Mr Twyford’s comments are so memorable that I seek leave to table them, plus Clare Curran’s comment about Phil Goff, which was: “He is a real man and we need one.”

Mr SPEAKER: The House needs to know what the document is that the member is seeking to table.

Hon RODNEY HIDE: It is from the Listener.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that article from the Listener. Is there any objection? There is objection.


ENDS

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