Questions And Answers Nov 16 2010
TUESDAY, 16 NOVEMBER 2010
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Programme—Main Features and Sustainable Development
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki): My question is to the Minister of Finance and reads—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Hekia is behind him!
CRAIG FOSS: The member may know I am behind—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. I request the House to please take a deep breath and to settle down a little. There is no need for this.
1. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What are the main features of the Government’s economic programme and how are they helping to build sustainable economic growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government’s economic programme is focused on jobs and growth, and includes strengthening the tax system, investment in productive infrastructure, supporting business innovation and trade, lifting productivity and services in the public sector, removing red tape, improving education, and lifting skills. All of these things are helping to tilt the economy towards savings, investment, and exports, and away from the unsustainable borrowing, consumption, and Government spending of previous years.
Craig Foss: Within this programme, what steps has the Government taken to strengthen the tax system?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: At a time when many other countries are being forced to increase both income and indirect taxes, we have delivered across-the-board personal income tax cuts that leave the average household about $25 a week better off. Even after a GST increase to 15 percent, the average wage earner is about $15 a week better off. Almost three-quarters of New Zealand earners now have a top statutory income tax rate of 17.5c in the dollar or less.
Craig Foss: With this programme, what steps has the Government taken to increase investment in productive infrastructure?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are some very significant steps, including introducing smarter planning, financing, and execution of projects. The major investments currently under way are a $4 billion programme to improve the national electricity grid, a $4.5 billion programme to restore the relevance of the rail freight network, a $1.5 billion programme for rolling out ultra-fast broadband, an $11 billion investment in roads over the next 10 years, and completing the upgrade of Wellington and Auckland metro rail, an upgrade that I acknowledge was begun by the previous Government. Collectively these multibillion-dollar programmes are supporting thousands of jobs and a brighter economic future.
Craig Foss: What measures are under way within the Government’s economic programme to support business innovation and trade?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As most people are aware, the Government’s assertive programme for free trade is progressing with some energy. We have signed agreements with Malaysia, Hong Kong, and ASEAN, and at the weekend the Prime Minister announced talks were advancing with Russia and the Trans-Pacific Partnership countries. We are also in talks with India, the Gulf States, and Korea. Despite the fact that the Government has a very limited budget, it has announced $140 million per year for the Primary Growth Partnership, and this year we confirmed $320 million of extra investment over 4 years in science, research, and technology.
Hon David Cunliffe: What new policies is he considering to create jobs and lift incomes for New Zealanders, given the recent verdict of the 2025 Taskforce that “we do not see any realistic possibility that the gap in real per capita income has narrowed in the past year.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I told the member last week, I do not agree with the 2025 Taskforce, and usually Labour disagrees with those people all the time. The Government has a broad and comprehensive programme. It has only just started. There are some good early signs, but the Government will continue with its programme as I have outlined it: investment in infrastructure, less red tape, more productive public services, tax reform, and so on.
Hon David Cunliffe: Within this so-called broad and comprehensive programme, what specific changes to monetary policy, if any, is he considering to address the high and volatile exchange rates that are crippling New Zealand’s exporters and manufacturers?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The exercise of monetary policy is properly the province of the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank has the power to intervene, which it gained under the member’s own Government, and the Governor of the Reserve Bank has set out in detail where and how he would intervene. The Government can help exporters by fixing the mess of domestic policy that that member’s Government previously made, so we can help exports to become more competitive and start them growing again. Under that member’s Government, the export sector went into recession in 2005. It is only now coming out of that 5-year recession.
Costs and Prices—Effect of Government Policies
2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What adverse impact on costs and prices, if any, have his Government’s policies had on New Zealanders?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): In April the Government increased the tobacco excise. This was strongly supported by Labour, which said: “This is a huge step forward in health promotion for all New Zealanders,”. From 1 July a number of sectors, including liquid fossil fuels, came into the emissions trading scheme. This is expected to have an impact on households of around $3 per week, which, I might add, is about half the cost of Labour’s emissions trading scheme. On 1 October GST was increased to 15 percent, but people were more than compensated for this increase by tax cuts and increases in benefits, superannuation, and the Working for Families package. However, the most important thing to look at is the overall increase in prices across the economy. Inflation over the last year has been only 1.5 percent. The last time inflation was any lower than that was well back into 1999.
Hon Phil Goff: When the Prime Minister said at the start of June that “People will be better off, they just don’t know it yet.”, does he think the 16.4 percent increase in the price of fruit and vegetables over the last year is making families feel better off?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, it is worth noting that food prices rose by 2.2 percent in the quarter. Secondly, it has been interesting to note how many people have been remarking on their tax cuts, on how much money they have had, and on how easily the switch and the rebalancing of the economy has gone, from a slight increase in GST to a reduction in personal taxes. But, of course, if the member wants to campaign on reversing the GST increase and increasing personal taxes, he should go ahead and do so.
Hon Phil Goff: Is he aware of last month’s report from the Ministry of Health that stated that only a third of New Zealand children are eating enough fruit and vegetables to be healthy; if so,
how does he think the 16.4 percent increase in the price of those goods over the last year will help children to eat more healthy food?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not actually seen the report, but I certainly would encourage parents to give their children fruit and vegetables. What I would say is that although it is not my responsibility to apologise on behalf of the previous Labour Government, I was shocked to learn that the price of fruit and vegetables went up by 21 percent in the last 2 years of that Labour Government. That is contrasted by an increase of 12 percent in the price since then, even including the increase in GST. That is a tragic set of circumstances.
Chris Tremain: How does the current level of inflation compare with that in recent years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: At 1.5 percent, the current rate of inflation is very low compared with the rate between 2000 and 2008. Price growth in New Zealand is well and truly under control. This is in stark contrast, I might add, to the position in September 2008, when annual inflation was running at 5.1 percent. Members will recognise that 5.1 percent, under Labour, is much higher that 1.5 percent, under National.
Hon Jim Anderton: Is the Prime Minister aware that the real GDP per capita in constant prices and constant purchasing power parity between Australia and New Zealand closed by about 0.5 percent in each of the first 6 years of the Labour-led Government—from 1999 to 2005—but has widened by over 0.5 percent in each of the 2 years that there has been a National-led Government; if he is aware of that, why does he believe that that is the situation when he has promised to close the gap?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not seen that data, but I have seen data that shows a lot fewer New Zealanders are going to Australia, and I have certainly seen data that shows that the gap in real incomes is narrowing between New Zealand and Australia.
Hon Phil Goff: Does he support the statement made by his Minister of Health that after the 6.5 percent increase in doctors’ visit fees, which he approved last year, a further increase of only $1 this year would be permissible because of the GST increase?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I do support is the extra subsidies that went into general practitioner visits to help people in the most low-income and vulnerable communities. What I support is the $14 billion - plus worth of expenditure that is going into the health system. What I support is the relentless focus that the Minister has had on moving our resources from the back office to the front office. What I support is the way that the Minister is trying to get greater productivity in the health system. I certainly support the recommendation he received about sharing neurosurgery between Dunedin and Christchurch. Overall, I support the tremendous efforts he is making to improve health in New Zealand.
Chris Tremain: Given that increasing GST has lifted prices, how easy would it be to reverse the Government’s GST - income tax switch?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Funnily enough, it would be very straightforward to reverse the tax switch. For instance, reversing it would be far easier than taking GST off fruit and vegetables, which would require pages of rules and armies of bureaucrats to administer it. Reversing the tax switch would be relatively simple—all Labour would need to do would be to take down GST, put up personal taxes, cut benefits, cut superannuation, and get back on the bus.
Hon Phil Goff: If the Minister of Health said that it was OK for doctors’ fees to go up by only $1, because of GST, how does he explain the increases of up to $7.50 a visit recorded today in the Mana electorate, since 1 April, which takes the fee for going to the doctor with one’s children up to $42.50 a visit?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I have said, many people in Mana who attend Very Low Cost Access practices have been getting extra subsidies. I cannot talk about individual cases. But, frankly, with about 5 days to go until the by-election, I am not surprised that Phil Goff has had to wade in, because all the people of Mana know that Kris Fa’afoi has done a pretty hopeless job, albeit he has had 10,000 billboards out there.
Rahui Katene: Supplementary question to the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I cannot accurately hear the questions being asked, at all, so I cannot assist members if they do not believe their questions have been answered, and that is not fair to the members asking the questions. It is coming from all around the House; no particular party is to blame. The whole House is far too noisy during the asking of questions.
Rahui Katene: What has been the impact on the Government’s policies in addressing the poverty of many New Zealanders of the assessment from the United Nations that New Zealand was rated as having the sixth-greatest gap between rich and poor among developed nations last year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is working very hard to close the gap. If we look across the range of different policies that the Government has been implementing—whether it is Whānau Ora; national standards to try to lift literacy and numeracy skills; the 90-day trial periods, which give people an opportunity to work; or the 17.5 percent tax rate that three-quarters of New Zealanders face—we see that all of these things will help. But we need to recognise that we are in difficult times and we do need to do our best, and the Government is working on those issues.
Hon Phil Goff: If New Zealanders are overwhelmingly better off after his tax switch, as he has promised, how does he explain the statements from Baycorp and Veda Advantage that recently there has been a massive increase in the number of New Zealanders unable to pay their bills?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The same way I did last week or the week before when I answered that question: there is always a lag effect. But, interestingly enough, if one was to look hypothetically at the number of defaults that are taking place at the moment, and contrast that with the number of defaults in 1991-92, the advice I have had is that the current number is about a quarter of the number in 1991-92. Yes, there have been difficult times for a lot of New Zealanders, but they are very fortunate, I would suggest, to have the policies we have, which are helping them through it.
Hon Jim Anderton: As the table prepared by the OECD on national accounts, which I will seek leave to table, shows the gap widening between the income per capita in New Zealand compared with that of Australia, will the Prime Minister—
Paul Quinn: What year?
Hon Jim Anderton: This year, and that member’s Government is responsible—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Jim Anderton: Will the Prime Minister say to the House today that when the full panoply of the National Party’s policies that he promised before the election come to bear at the end of the 3-year term of Government, the income per capita gap between New Zealand and Australia will be closing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is working hard to achieve that objective.
Search and Surveillance Bill—International Federation of Journalists’ Statement
3. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Does he agree with the International Federation of Journalists that if the Search and Surveillance Bill proceeds in its present form it will “undermine the long-held right of journalists to protect the confidentiality of sources”; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Acting Minister of Justice): No, I do not. The media’s right to protect confidential sources under the Evidence Act 2006 has been expressly carried over to this bill for examination orders, production orders, and all searches. Under the bill, a journalist presented with an examination order or a production order may refuse to answer questions or produce documents that would reveal the identity of the journalist’s source.
Keith Locke: Is it not true that before the claim of privilege is heard the journalist may be forced to produce those documents and disclose confidential sources, leading the New Zealand Herald editors to say that these powers to reveal confidential sources threaten “the public airing of some of the country’s most important, and uncomfortable, news stories”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No. I think what the member is actually referring to is a situation where the claim to the privilege may be disputed. In those circumstances it may be necessary to refer the material to a judge, who can determine the validity or otherwise of the claim. That is the procedure that is set out under the Evidence Act, which the Green Party did not oppose when it was debated 3 years ago.
Keith Locke: What concerns does he have that the power to require documents to be produced on request under the threat of a jail term is now available to a host of Government departments—for example, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, the Ministry of Fisheries, etc.?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: None.
Keith Locke: Will he consider deleting the examination orders in the Search and Surveillance Bill, because, in the opinion of the International Federation of Journalists, New Zealand Herald editors, etc., they contravene the right of New Zealanders to silence and may force journalists to disclose their sources?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No.
Keith Locke: Does he agree with the International Federation of Journalists that the Search and Surveillance Bill will “erode the democratic role of working journalists in New Zealand”, the federation not being satisfied with a subsequent judicial hearing of a right to privilege if the Government agencies have already run off with documents containing the journalists’ confidential sources?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No. That is hyperbolic nonsense.
Keith Locke: If it is hyperbolic nonsense, why did the chair of the select committee, Chester Borrows, tell Radio New Zealand National that the bill may warrant further consideration and that he took seriously the criticisms of the journalists, and will the Minister not take another look at the concern expressed by a range of journalists, including their international federation?
Mr SPEAKER: I believe that the Minister has no responsibility whatsoever for what the chair of a select committee may have said. In fact, he probably should not even be commenting on it. So I do not believe that it is appropriate for to me to allow that question. I apologise to the member.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister can— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order is being heard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I think the Minister can take into account comments a chair of a select committee made publicly. I think that is certainly within the rules. If the comments are done in a public way Ministers can, if they wish, either take them into account or—
Mr SPEAKER: I think we get into dangerous territory if we have Ministers commenting on what chairs of select committees do. They are matters for Parliament, not for the executive. Once a matter is reported back to the House, I am more comfortable about it being commented on, but while a matter is before a select committee, I am not comfortable about it, at all. I do not want to deny the member his supplementary question, so I invite him to reword it to see whether he can bring it within order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask you to review the ruling you just made. I think it is one worth another look, after a bit of time.
Mr SPEAKER: I am always prepared to, on request, look at what I have done, but I would be very concerned about—Ministers have no responsibility for the chairs of select committees. But I invite Keith Locke to bring his question within the Standing Orders.
Keith Locke: Will the Minister take another look at the bill and the possibility of revising it, given the concern expressed by a wide range of journalists, including the International Federation of Journalists, and by some political figures who have commented publicly, expressing an interest in further considering the bill?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No.
Keith Locke: Mr Speaker, I take your standard that you do not like press statements being tabled, but in this case the statement from the International Federation of Journalists is on an international website and might not be available. I seek leave to table the statement made by the International Federation of Journalists on 12 November headed “NZ bill Undermines Journalists’ Rights”.
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.
Charles Chauvel: Will the Government secure Labour’s support for the now substantially redrafted legislation by taking up its offer to provide that support if the Government includes in the bill specific provisions to better affirm press freedom, provides for better controls on Serious Fraud Office powers, and makes production and examination orders available only for the most serious offences and under the supervision of judges?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The Minister has no responsibility for the Serious Fraud Office or any aspect of its administration.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about whether the Government would be willing to amend the legislation in the three ways indicated. The Minister has carriage of the bill, so he has responsibility for all the matters that are in it.
Mr SPEAKER: I believe that in answering the Minister pointed out that the Minister of Justice does not have responsibility, as I understand it, for the Serious Fraud Office, which was one of the components of the member’s question. I cannot, I believe, constrain the Minister beyond that; I think he did answer that part of the question.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table a letter from the Labour Party to the Minister offering support for the legislation if it is redrafted in the ways indicated in my question.
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.
Question No. 2 to Minister
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive): I seek leave to table a document compiled by the Parliamentary Library from OECD, Statistics New Zealand, and Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that the income gap between Australia and New Zealand has widened in Australia’s favour in the last 2 years.
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.
Ministers’ Private Interests—Compliance with Rules
4. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Prime Minister: Does he believe clear and unambiguous leadership is now needed to ensure that rules regarding the private interests of Ministers are upheld?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): As Prime Minister I have responsibility for protecting the integrity of the decision-making process of executive Government and maintaining public trust in the executive. I have always expected and demanded that my Ministers act lawfully and behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Was he showing clear and unambiguous leadership when, even before he became Prime Minister, he happened to forget how many Tranz Rail shares he owned?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Was he showing clear and unambiguous leadership when he set up a blind trust to manage his real estate, dairying, and wine interests, which was blind in legal theory but which had 20/20 vision in practice?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is wrong in his accusation.
Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not hear the Prime Minister’s reply, and I wonder whether I could have the chance to hear it afresh.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask members to be quiet. I realise that issues can be tense. Would the right honourable Prime Minister mind repeating the answer?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I refute the member’s accusation.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Was he showing clear and unambiguous leadership when he reinvented a new ministerial housing system, supposedly to save the taxpayer money after the Bill English debacle, only to find that his system costs more because Ministers can, and do, pocket more money without having to show that their expenses are real?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am satisfied that the new system works effectively, is fair, and balances the needs of both taxpayers and Ministers.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Did he show clear and ambiguous leadership when he initially denied wrongdoing by the Hon Dr Richard Worth, the Deputy Prime Minister, Bill English, or the Hon Pansy Wong, only to have to backtrack when the facts emerged?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is incorrect in his statement.
Hon Pete Hodgson: Why is it always the Prime Minister’s instinct to deny, forget, minimise, dampen, distract, ward off, and worse, or to run a new agenda, rather than to live by clear personal rules himself and require his Cabinet to do the same?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In the 2 years that I have been Prime Minister I am proud to have led a Government that has had greater transparency and greater openness than previously. I am very grateful that I was not a member of the previous Labour Government, which spent its time with Taito Phillip Field, Winston Peters, and a range of other people whom it sought to protect and hide from. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: If the National backbench has quite finished, I will call the Hon Rodney Hide.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to go back over the supplementary questions that the Hon Pete Hodgson raised, and the way of doing it, in the context of the Standing Orders. I let him finish, obviously, but I raise this for next time. It seems to me that the danger that we might be heading into is the ability of members to put down questions without notice, in effect, by asking a Minister or Prime Minister whether he or she believes that clear and unambiguous leadership was shown in a particular case, and then allowing a whole range of issues to be trawled. It seems to me that the House might want to enable that to happen, but in the past Speakers have been quite tough about members putting down questions like that without notice.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that the member has raised this point in good faith. These are difficult issues. I think there was nothing unusual about the primary question that was put down. Over the years members of the House have lodged primary questions that give no particular indication of where the supplementary questions will go. I listen to the supplementary questions, and if there have been outrageous allegations against a member—or in this case the Prime Minister—I have ruled them out. Where possible I tend to let the Minister deal with the question. I think the Prime Minister dealt with the questions on this occasion. But as Speaker I accept that I have to be careful, because outrageous allegations are totally out of order and outside the Standing Orders. I will be mindful of that issue.
Kiwifruit, Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae—Government Response
5. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister for Biosecurity: How is the Government responding to the identification of the Psa disease in New Zealand?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Biosecurity): Since Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae (Psa) was identified in New Zealand 11 days ago, a major biosecurity operation has swung into action. The response team of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry was on the ground within hours of notification. Since then a major round-the-clock programme of movement controls, laboratory testing, spraying, vine control, and grower education has been in place. The ministry has also been communicating extensively with our offshore trading partners to ensure that market access remains open. The Government and industry have been working together extremely closely on this serious disease outbreak, and to date we have seen a well-managed response implemented at speed.
Todd McClay: What are the next steps in the Psa response?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Although urgent testing continues, with some 500 hectares now confirmed as infected, eradication—at least in the short term—is unlikely. The Government and industry are now focused on developing a programme of aggressive containment of Psa, which involves restricting it to currently infected sites. I am meeting with industry tomorrow in an attempt to finalise that response. Aggressive containment will require investment from the Government. The kiwifruit industry will also have to make a similar commitment but we are both 100 percent focused on ensuring a prosperous and vibrant sector into the future.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Will the Government response include reinstatement of the 54 frontline biosecurity jobs he cut in 2009—cuts that may have contributed to the disease breaching New Zealand’s borders?
Hon DAVID CARTER: No, it will not. This Government has appropriated more money for biosecurity than the previous Government did and I am certain that the readjustments at the border associated with imported containers and used cars have nothing whatsoever to do with the possible incursion of Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae (Psa), which is a disease that could have been here for many years.
Todd McClay: What has been the feedback from the kiwifruit industry on the support provided by Government to date?
Hon DAVID CARTER: Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the last 11 days has been how the Government and industry have worked together in a collaborative way to address this very serious issue. Industry leaders from Zespri, the New Zealand kiwifruit growers, and various post-harvest operators have specifically thanked me for the timely, expert, and high-quality support provided by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. It is still early days in the response to this challenging disease, but I am confident that the high-quality and professional leadership provided by both industry and the ministry leaves us well placed to tackle this disease.
6. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all statements made by him and on his behalf on the matters which led to Pansy Wong’s resignation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the honourable member, I say that excessive interjection from the back of the House is unnecessary. I think the member knows who I am looking at.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he stand by the statement made on his behalf in the House last Wednesday by Bill English, who said: “the member’s allegations are disgraceful, they have impugned a member of Parliament in a way that is absolutely unnecessary and unjustified.”; if so, does he still maintain that revealing Pansy Wong’s misuse of taxpayer funding has been unnecessary?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Given the facts known at the time the Acting Prime Minister made those statements, yes.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he stand by his statement on Breakfast this morning in relation to the Hon Pete Hodgson: “If he’d asked a question that was the right one, I’d at least, um, even— even reluctantly give him some credit.”; if so, is he suggesting that if the public want transparency around his Ministers’ misuse of taxpayers’ funds, that depends on the right questions being asked rather than his Ministers’ honesty?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but I regret saying “um”. I know that my mother brought me up better than that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he stand by his statements on Radio New Zealand this morning when he said that he advised Pansy Wong not to talk until a Parliamentary Service investigation into her use of subsidised international travel has been completed, because “MPs need to be able to answer questions honestly, truthfully and, hopefully, directly.”; if so, why, when Pansy Wong is the only person in possession of the all the facts, is she not allowed to share those facts with the media and the public?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To the best of my knowledge, she is not, but the Parliamentary Service report will actually prove what the facts are.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he stand by the statement of his spokesperson Kevin Taylor, calling Pete Hodgson—I abbreviate—an “f-wit” for questioning the legitimacy of Pansy Wong’s travel and business affairs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Mr Hodgson did not question the travel.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps we could have a vote on that question in Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: I just ask the House—[Interruption]. I am on my feet, and there will be no further interjection. The House will settle down. These are not easy issues and I respect that fact.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he stand by the statement of his spokesperson Kevin Taylor, calling Pete Hodgson—I abbreviate—an “f-wit” for questioning the legitimacy of Pansy Wong’s business affairs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think Mr Taylor could, in hindsight, have chosen his words more wisely, but I am relieved that he did not use his fists.
Climate Change Initiatives—Reports and Effect on Role in International Negotiations
7. HEKIA PARATA (National) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What reports has he received on New Zealand’s climate change initiatives, particularly the ETS and the global alliance for research into cutting agriculture emissions, and how have those influenced New Zealand’s role in the international negotiations of a new climate change deal, post-Kyoto?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): The reports indicate a high level of respect for the progress New Zealand has been able to make on climate change, in sensibly implementing a moderate emissions trading scheme and launching the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases. The Minister responsible for International Climate Change Negotiations, Tim Groser, chaired discussions in Mexico City on how countries’ pledges to reduce emissions can work best, and consequently he has been invited to the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate this week in Washington. That reflects the international respect for Tim’s work as a negotiator, as well as his work in climate change, and New Zealand’s proactive role on the issue of climate change. I also note that this year New Zealand’s former Climate Change Ambassador, Adrian Macey, was elected to a key role in the post-Kyoto negotiations, again reinforcing the constructive role New Zealand is playing in these difficult negotiations.
Hekia Parata: Has the Minister seen the UMR Research report, published yesterday, on public attitudes to climate change and the emissions trading scheme, and what conclusions does he draw from that report?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I have seen the report, and it is very encouraging, because it reinforces the approach the Government is taking. A very clear majority of people in New Zealand
want to reduce our emissions, but they are also cognisant of the costs, as consumers, and of the impacts on jobs. On the question of the emissions trading scheme, a minority of 23 percent want the scheme scrapped altogether, whereas a similar number of 25 percent want us to go harder and be more demanding in reducing emissions. It is also interesting to note that over the last year there has been an increase in the proportion, now up to 52 percent, of the public who back the need to provide support for businesses that are trade exposed. The poll indicated a very polarised position on the inclusion of agriculture in the emissions trading scheme, with 48 percent being opposed and 45 percent in support. That reinforces the cautious position the Government has taken on the inclusion of agriculture in the emissions trading scheme.
Hekia Parata: What reports has the Minister seen on how the emissions trading scheme is helping New Zealand reduce emissions?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There are two areas where the scheme is having a very positive impact. The first is in respect of forestry. In the years 2005 to 2008 we had the highest level of deforestation since records began in the 1930s; that has been reversed, with plantings now exceeding felling in both 2008 and the projected figures for 2009. I am also encouraged by reports from nurseries that the forward orders for 2011 are the most positive for more than a decade. The second positive result is the switch of investment in electricity generation. Over the last decade more than 60 percent of new generation has been thermal, and that has resulted in a decline in the proportion of our power that is renewable. I am further encouraged by the fact that over 80 percent of new resource consents for electricity generation are now for renewable power, and that is exactly where New Zealand needs to head.
Hon John Boscawen: Can he confirm that his emissions trading scheme will cost the good people of Mana $20 million over the next 3 years, and if he does not think it will cost $20 million, how much does he think it will cost?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The costs for the people of Mana would be substantially more if we put our heads in the sand and pretended there was not an issue in relation to climate change. I would also note that there are a number of significant forestry areas in the area of Mana, and our very capable candidate, Hekia Parata, has discussed with me the encouragement that is going on in forestry. Seeing new trees being planted in that electorate is something I think most members of this Parliament would welcome.
Roading, State Highway 1—Minister’s Contact with Transport Agency
8. Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: On how many weekends has he contacted both the chair and the chief executive of the New Zealand Transport Agency during the 104 weekends since his warrant was issued, and did a call to either person take place last weekend ahead of the agency’s committee meeting set down for Thursday, 18 November where the route of the new State Highway 1 motorway through Kapiti will be considered?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): It has not been possible to go through the countless phone logs to provide a definitive answer to that question. I will be helpful to the member by pointing out that it is not the first time I have spoken to officials over a weekend, and I give my apologies to them that it probably will not be the last time, either. In fact, by way of illustration, during my time as a Minister I have used my weekends and other out-of-work hours to contact any number of agencies across all of my portfolios, including the New Zealand Transport Agency, Maritime New Zealand, the Civil Aviation Authority , the Ministry of Transport, KiwiRail, the Transport Accident Investigation Commission, Treasury, the Ministry of Economic Development, Crown Fibre Holdings, the Ministry of Education, the Tertiary Education Commission, and a number of local body representatives. In reply to the second part of the member’s question regarding the weekend just passed, no.
Hon Darren Hughes: Would he at least be able to say—given that last week he said it was not unusual for him to contact officials at the weekends, and he did it all the time—he would have contacted them on over or under half of the weekends since he became the Minister?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We can play this game as often as we like. I suspect it is less than half. As I pointed out to the member, this is unlike himself, obviously, in his former role as Minister of Statistics in the previous Government. Probably the statistics job ran from Monday through to Friday; I do not know—Maurice, is statistics a weekend job?
Hon Maurice Williamson: Monday to Friday.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is a Monday to Friday job in statistics. But I think the other portfolios run pretty much 24/7.
Hon Darren Hughes: Smarminess is fine—
Mr SPEAKER: Could the Hon Darren Hughes please just ask the question?
Hon Darren Hughes: I can take it, no trouble. Does he have any—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I say this to the National Party benches: that level of noise is totally unreasonable. I cannot possibly hear the member’s question.
Hon Darren Hughes: Does he have any concerns about the consultation period under the time line for the release of the route for the new motorway—to be built for maximum speeds of up to 110 kilometres an hour through the communities of Kapiti—now that such a release has cleared his goal of being after the Mana by-election?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I just cannot accept the member’s assertion contained in that question. He is also incorrect on another matter, in that we actually do not have a speed limit of 110 kilometres an hour on any open road in New Zealand.
Hon Darren Hughes: The road is to be built to that specification. If the New Zealand Transport Agency committee finalises the motorway route on Thursday, will he suggest to the agency that it take a full-page advertisement in Friday’s Dominion Post so that at least some Mana voters will know what is going on before Saturday’s by-election, given that the deadline for the last community newspaper before the by-election just happens to be tomorrow?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The point is that on the one hand that member is trying to suggest the New Zealand Transport Agency should take a political approach to the consultation, in reference to the by-election, and then he is accusing me of taking a political approach in respect of the Mana byelection. So I am sorry, but I just cannot buy that. The bigger concern is that this member is opposed to having a strategic plan for State Highway 1 through the Kapiti area. He is opposed to having a strategic plan—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On one level I have no objection at all to the Minister talking about me endlessly, but I did not ask about that. I asked him whether—
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member to resume his seat. Now this has got a bit messy. I am not surprised the member has raised a point of order, but the issue of order was more to do with the Minister alleging what the member might believe or might stand for, etc. That is out of order. I think in terms of the question that the member asked, the Minister did answer that in the first part of his answer, but he was just going on too long and making allegations against the member that were totally uncalled for.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked him whether he would suggest something to the agency, and his response to me was that I was accusing him or the agency of being political. My question was about a suggestion of what he could do.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister gave a clear answer that he would not do that, and he explained why he would not. He did not give the words that he “would not be” doing that, but he made it very clear that he saw doing such a thing as being improper. So I think the answer the Minister gave was pretty clear.
Gareth Hughes: Why will the Minister not admit that delaying the route announcement till after the Mana by-election is because the Minister has learnt the lesson from the Mt Albert by-election that it is not a good look to be bowling people’s homes before asking them to vote for you?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: When the consultation proceeds, certain members in the House with the surname Hughes will have to swallow their words. The focus of the change is due to there being insufficient detail on the section of the road towards the northern end of the alignment, which is not in the Mana electorate, and if consulted on as it stands it would leave too much uncertainty for local residents.
Earthquake, Canterbury—Enhanced Taskforce Green Funding
9. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What announcements has she made about Canterbury Enhanced Taskforce Green funding?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation) on behalf of the Minister for Social
Development and Employment: Last week we announced funding of $96,000 to support the first Canterbury Enhanced Taskforce Green project in Waimakariri. The project will support clean-up and restoration work on the Waikuku Beach Reserve needed as a result of the damage caused from the Canterbury earthquake.
Aaron Gilmore: How will this funding support the Waimakariri project?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The Canterbury Enhanced Taskforce Green funding will subsidise the wages of a supervisor and five staff working on the project. We are working with all local councils to identify other potential Enhanced Taskforce Green projects around the region.
Early Childhood Education Services—Effect of Funding Reductions
10. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What reports has she received on the impact of the Government’s funding cuts to early childhood education services with more than 80 percent qualified staff?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Education: The Government is actually spending more than ever on early childhood education. The Government will invest $1.3 billion in early childhood education in 2010-11, which is an increase of $107 million from the previous year. The Minister of Education has received no formal reports on the impacts of the funding changes.
Sue Moroney: Has she seen a report about First Five Community Childhood Centre in the electorate of Mana, where the treasurer, David Conwell, said that the impact of the Minister’s funding cuts will result in an increase in fees to families of up to $50 per child per week?
Hon TONY RYALL: Of course, the Minister of Education would be disappointed to hear that news, because those organisations have had 8 months to get themselves organised to allow for this. The fact is the Government is putting more money into early childhood education subsidies. We simply cannot carry on with a situation where the budget for early childhood education trebled and participation went up by less than 1 percent.
Sue Moroney: What does she say to Mrs Niki Alefosio, who has two children attending the First Five Community Childhood Centre in Porirua, and who, because of Government funding cuts, now faces—[Interruption] I will start again.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to Government front-benchers on this occasion that I am on my feet. The member should just ask her question. She will note that when the Minister was answering the last question, there was a significant level of interjection from her own colleagues. She should not be totally surprised if some Government members interject a little on her question, although I would prefer that both sides of the House be more reasonable.
Sue Moroney: What does she say to Mrs Niki Alefosio, who has two children attending theFirst Five Community Childhood Centre in Porirua, and who, because of Government funding cuts, now faces an additional cost of $100 a week just so her children can have a good start to their education?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Minister would say to that lady that this Government’s top priority is to make sure that those children who are currently missing out on early childhood education, and whom we know will benefit, get the opportunity to experience good quality early childhood education. That is why we are putting an extra $107 million into early childhood education subsidies this year and have also set aside $91 million to improve the participation rate. We simply cannot have a system where the spending has trebled but the participation rate went up by less than 1 percent.
Sue Moroney: Has she received advice from National’s Mana candidate that her Government’s funding cuts for early childhood education affect more than 2,100 children in the electorate of Mana alone, and that the funding cuts will stop Mana children from accessing quality early childhood education, like the advice I have received from Labour’s candidate, Kris Fa’afoi?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am sure the Minister of Education would say that in the time that she has spent with National’s candidate in the Mana electorate, Hekia Parata, she has found strong support from parents for the leadership that Mrs Parata would be able to provide in that electorate, and also for the respect that she would give all cultures in that electorate.
Treaty of Waitangi Settlements—Progress
11. PAUL QUINN (National) to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What recent progress has the Government made towards its goal of settling historical Treaty of Waitangi claims by 2014?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): The Government recently signed deeds of settlement with two Kurahaupō iwi at the top of the South Island, Ngāti Kuia and Ngāti Apa, and will be signing a deed of settlement with Rangitāne o Wairau on 4 December.
Hon Shane Jones: What about Taipā?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Taipā is not at the top of the South Island. Since the start of last year the Crown has reached over 60 significant settlement milestones, including 21 agreements in principle and 10 deeds of settlement. That represents great progress, especially compared with the previous administration’s average of 1.6 deeds of settlement a year.
Paul Quinn: What other progress has the Government recently made towards its goal of settling all historical Treaty claims?
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the member, but I say to members on both sides of the House that the background noise today is unacceptable. A member was yelling endlessly across the House while the member was asking his question. I fully accept that tensions are quite high today. I have tried to let the House live a little more because of it, because I think there are times when one cannot keep the reins too tight. But I just ask for a little bit more reasonableness, please. I ask Paul Quinn to repeat his question.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We accept your ruling. If you are to extend that protection to the particular member who is asking the question, then he might return the courtesy when other members on this side of the House are asking questions. This member in particular gives a diatribe of yelling whenever our people are asking questions.
Mr SPEAKER: Members should not abuse another member when raising a point of order—for example, referring to something as a diatribe. Members should not do that. I admit that the member has interjected a little too often during question time today and he needs to be mindful of that, although I have not heard him yelling constantly, which is what was going on here. [Interruption] Order! His voice is very loud and very distinctive, and one certainly hears it, but what we have just been experiencing is someone yelling continuously. I have not blamed one side of the House more than the other; I am just asking all members to be a little more reasonable. I am not blaming one side of the House any more than the other; both sides have been particularly noisy today in respect
of background noise. I take on board the member’s point, and I ask Paul Quinn to be mindful of that when he is interjecting.
Paul Quinn: What other progress has the Government recently made towards its goal of settling all historical Treaty claims?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The Government recently initialled a deed of settlement with Ngāti Porou. Ngāti Porou is now engaged in a ratification process and I—
Hon Shane Jones: Labour policy!
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: What is Labour policy? It certainly is not to settle Treaty of Waitangi grievances. I encourage all those who are eligible to participate. I acknowledge the leadership of Ngāti Porou in reaching this milestone and the support of the Māori Party throughout the negotiations. I also acknowledge the very eloquent speech by the Hon Parekura Horomia at the ceremony when the deed was initialled.
Rahui Katene: What impact has the legal action being taken against the Crown by Wakatū Incorporation had on settling the claims of Te Tau Ihu iwi, and what can those iwi do to progress their negotiations?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It certainly delays the signing of the deeds of settlement because, in accordance with the terms of negotiation, the Crown has had to suspend negotiations with Tainui Taranaki pending resolution of the Wakatū proceeding. They too were parties to the terms of negotiation, but in the interim I hope that the iwi of Tainui Taranaki will be able to work together to resolve the intra-iwi issues that remain outstanding. My understanding is that good progress is being made in that regard.
Hilary Calvert: In the light of it taking 40 years to settle Treaty claims, does he expect it to take more or less time for customary marine title claims to be settled?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: It has not taken 40 years to resolve Treaty of Waitangi claims. This process really got under way in the early 1990s, and good progress is being made. In answer to the question about marine and customary title matters, I say that I believe good progress can be made to resolve those matters once legislation is passed—legislation that, properly explained to the electorate, will secure their agreement. I think we should adopt that approach rather than scaremongering and unpleasantness.
Broadband, Ultra-fast—Tendering Process
12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Communications and
Information Technology: Is he satisfied that the process for awarding the ultra-fast broadband tender is appropriate; if so, why?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): As I replied to the member’s exact same question last Thursday, yes; and for the same reasons.
Clare Curran: Has he received any advice or expressions of concern from industry stakeholders relating to a potential or actual conflict of interest in Murray Milner’s role as director of Crown Fibre Holdings at the same time that he was a consultant to Huawei Technologies, a likely bidder for equipment and services on ultra-fast broadband; if so, what is the detail of that advice or concern?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I have not received any concern in that respect. I have sought advice in response to the member’s questions from the chair of Crown Fibre Holdings, and I am satisfied that Crown Fibre Holdings has robust and comprehensive procedures in place regarding conflicts of interest, which all board members and staff are required to comply with. I note again that Huawei Technologies is not a respondent in the ultra-fast broadband initiative but a technology provider. Crown Fibre Holdings will not be entering into agreements with technology providers; that is an issue for the Crown’s partners to manage.
Clare Curran: Did he meet with Chinese technology company Huawei Technologies during his recent trip to China, leading an information and communications technology delegation; if so, whom did he meet with, on what occasions, and what was discussed?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Absolutely. I led the trade delegation and we met with a number of very large Chinese telecommunications companies, including China Unicom, China Mobile, China Telecom, and Huawei Technologies. I met with Huawei Technologies’ chief executive officer and founder, Mr Ren, as part of a visit to its Shenzhen headquarters. The purpose of the visit was to showcase the New Zealand companies that were travelling with the trade mission I was leading, and give the opportunity to build contacts and relationships with Huawei Technologies, which is one of the world’s largest telecommunications technology providers. Although Huawei took the opportunity to show me some of its product range, neither the New Zealand urban nor rural broadband initiatives were specifically discussed.