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Questions and Answers - September 13


QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Interisland Ferry—Feasibility of Clifford Bay Terminal

1. BRENDAN HORAN (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: What reports or advice has he received regarding the feasibility of establishing an inter-island ferry terminal at Clifford Bay?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) on behalf of the

Minister of Transport: In July 2011 the Minister’s predecessor received an independent report that found that there may be a financial and economic case for progressing Clifford Bay. The Minister received an interim briefing on 4 May 2012. The Minister received a further interim briefing and a draft business case on 1 June 2012. On 30 August 2012 the Minister received another briefing from the Ministry of Transport, together with a detailed business case. These documents are under active consideration, and the Minister has asked for further work to be undertaken.

Brendan Horan: Given the potential impact of the Clifford Bay development on the livelihood of people in the Marlborough region and its importance to the national transport infrastructure, why is the public not being regularly and fully informed of developments on this project?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Well, I think the public are being informed, with the amount of information that they are getting at this point, but there are some commercially sensitive issues that are under consideration. Information will be released, unless it is subject to control under the Official Information Act because of that commercial sensitivity, and a lot of consultation is taking place.

Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How can the Minister claim commercial sensitivity when on 10—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member, but—the member will resume his seat—he cannot, by way of a point of order, question why the Minister says something. He can certainly raise it with the Speaker if he feels the question has not been answered, but the Minister did answer it. He said that there were limits on the amount of consultation, because of commercial sensitivity. That cannot be challenged by way of a point of order.

Brendan Horan: Are there any foreign interests involved in the proposed project; if so, when will the public be informed?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I am not aware of that issue.

Economy—Reports

2. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Reserve Bank this morning issued its Monetary Policy Statement for September, which kept the official cash rate unchanged at 2.5 percent. Overall, the statement presents a slightly stronger

outlook for the New Zealand economy than it presented in its June statement. The Reserve Bank is now expecting annual real production-based GDP growth of between 2 and 3 percent across the projection period out to 2015. The Monetary Policy Statement notes that growth for the March 2012 year also turned out to be higher than forecast. This confirms the Government’s expectations of moderate and sustained economic growth over the next few years.

Colin King: What were the main factors contributing to the Reserve Bank’s stronger outlook for the economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are a couple of factors in particular that are worth noting. The Reserve Bank has raised its expectations around the growth capacity of the economy. Its projections for potential growth have been raised slightly for each of the next 3 years, with annual growth in potential output increasing from 1.7 percent to 2.3 percent per annum by 2015. This primarily reflects the bank’s more positive view of trend labour productivity growth. A second factor worth noting is the Reserve Bank’s stronger outlook for private consumption. This is likely to be driven in part by wage growth and retail spending data released since the June Monetary Policy Statement.

Colin King: What observations does the Reserve Bank make about the international outlook and its likely impact on the New Zealand economy?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Reserve Bank notes that its international outlook is now slightly weaker than its forecast in June. Overall, trading partner growth has been revised down slightly, particularly over the next 2 years. There is a risk that international conditions turn out to be weaker than assumed. These changes to the near-term global outlook are driven mainly by small downward revisions to growth expected in Australia, China, and the euro area in the 2012 and 2013 years. The Reserve Bank notes the outlook for trading partner growth remains uncertain, particularly around events in Europe and the apparent slowdown of the Chinese economy.

Hon David Parker: Is the Minister of Finance aware that the Reserve Bank submitters to the consideration of the Monetary Policy Statement announcement today, when asked whether his Associate Minister was correct in asserting that a change in the exchange rate has a commensurate effect on the cost of living, said that his Associate Minister was wrong; if so, will he tell his Associate Minister to get it right?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I was not at the committee meeting this morning, but I do understand that there was no debate that actually a lower exchange rate does have an impact on the cost of living. Nobody is suggesting that that was the case. There is some debate about the exact margin, but I think we can safely assume, Mr Parker, that if the exchange rate drops by the sort of 20 to 25 percent that he is seeking, then that would—

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Two times already in question time this week you as Speaker have heard those sorts of incorrect misrepresentations of other parties, and have stood Ministers down. The Minister again makes the same assertion in an answer to a question of other political parties’ policies, which is wrong and out of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the member. My concentration must have—I did not hear that. I would ask the Minister not to make allegations of any policies in respect of another party, because the Minister has no responsibility in respect of that.

Colin King: Given the ongoing uncertainty in the international economic outlook, what implications is this likely to have for New Zealand’s terms of trade and external position?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Reserve Bank made a couple of observations about our terms of trade and external position. It expects the weaker international outlook and stronger domestic demand, combined with the strong New Zealand dollar, to result in higher import growth and slightly lower export growth than it predicted in June. However, it expects these changes to trade volumes to be offset by a stronger outlook for the terms of trade, reflecting recent stabilisation in export prices. Overall the projected current account deficits over the next 3 years are now slightly smaller than forecast in June, at 5.4 percent, 5.7 percent, and 5.2 percent of GDP. This compares

with a deficit of 4.9 percent of GDP in the year to March 2012, and is significantly below the average deficits of 8 percent of GDP that the previous Government posted in the 3 years to 2008.

Hon John Banks—Donations to Member’s Political Campaigns and Compliance with Cabinet

Manual

3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his reported statement of 1 May 2012 that if Hon John Banks had lied over a donation from Kim Dotcom then he would be sacked from Cabinet?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Prime

Minister: The Prime Minister notes that that was a reported statement, not a quote. He stands by his repeated statements to this House that—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister. The Minister may continue.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: He stands by his repeated statements to this House that his chief of staff sought and received an assurance from Mr Banks that he had fully complied with the requirements of the Local Electoral Act in respect of donations.

Grant Robertson: Does he recall telling this House during question No. 2 on 1 May that Mr Banks gave his assurance during a phone call to his chief of staff that he was not aware that Mr Dotcom had made the donation to his mayoral campaign?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the answer is the same as to the primary question, which is that his chief of staff sought and received an assurance from Mr Banks that he had fully complied with the requirements of the Local Electoral Act in respect of donations.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very tight and very specific question about a matter that is related to, but different from, the answer given. I know you have got very good recall, but you might want to replay it in order to test whether or not that question was even addressed.

Mr SPEAKER: The member does raise a valid point of order in my view, because I think the Minister implied in his answer the answer, but I will let the member repeat his question, so that the House has certainty.

Grant Robertson: Does he recall telling this House during question No. 2 on 1 May that Mr Banks gave his assurance during a phone call to his chief of staff that he was not aware that Mr Dotcom had made the donation to his mayoral campaign?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Obviously it is difficult for me to recall that specifically, but I can confirm again for the House that his chief of staff sought and received an assurance from Mr Banks that he had fully complied with the requirements of the Local Electoral Act in respect of donations.

Grant Robertson: How can he still have confidence in the Hon John Banks in light of documents that show that in February this year, when Mr Banks was a Cabinet Minister, he told Mr Dotcom’s lawyer that he could not assist Mr Dotcom in getting medical attention in prison because “that may backfire on Kim if it became known about the election support”, which is a clear admission that he did know about the donation from Kim Dotcom and could remember it as recently as this year?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I do not believe that in regard to the—I presume he is referring to the papers that were released yesterday, and I am pretty sure that the Prime Minister has not read those. He notes, though, that the police determined that there was insufficient evidence to consider a prosecution, and that is the Prime Minister’s concern.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table the witness statement of Gregory Brett Towers, lawyer for Mr Kim Dotcom, who reported a phone conversation with John Banks where he said that he “wished to publicly support Kim [but] that may backfire on Kim if it became known about his election support.”

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Grant Robertson: How can he continue to have confidence in John Banks as a Minister in light of the sworn statement from Kim Dotcom that Mr Banks explicitly solicited a donation from him and told Mr Dotcom “I want to help you Kim and I can help you more effectively if no-one knows about this donation.”, indicating that he both knew about the donation and had an intent to hide it?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I note that the member is just reading a series of allegations made in some documents released yesterday. I also note that the police obviously assessed the information and determined not to do a prosecution.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a sworn witness statement from Kim Dotcom that states in it that Mr Banks said to him “I want to help you Kim and I can help you more effectively if no-one knows about this donation.”

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Grant Robertson: Supplementary question—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I want to hear this supplementary question.

Grant Robertson: How can he continue to have confidence in John Banks as a Cabinet Minister in light of the sworn statement from Wayne Tempero, Kim Dotcom’s bodyguard, who said that he spoke with Mr Banks to confirm whether the cheques had been deposited, and Mr Tempero’s quote is “‘Have the cheques been cleared or not’ and he said yes, they had been cleared.”, indicating that he was aware of the donation and had misled Mr Key’s chief of staff?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member can read as many of these things as he wants, but I would note that they are allegations, that the police did not proceed with a prosecution, and also that the Labour Party itself described Mr Dotcom—and I do not know whether this is true or not, but it said that he was of a dubious character. That was as late as—

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is an irrelevant part of the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! In fairness, it is not totally irrelevant, because the member was asking about an affidavit from a certain character, and in his answer the Minister is at liberty to challenge the character of the person. So I think it was not out of order, what the Minister did.

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to belabour the point, but the witness statement I was referring to there was not from Kim Dotcom. It was from his bodyguard, not Kim Dotcom.

Mr SPEAKER: It was still not totally irrelevant that the Minister was raising issues of character.

Grant Robertson: If the Prime Minister’s test for John Banks staying as a Minister is only a legal one, why will he not sack him, given that the police file released yesterday says in paragraph 40 of the criminal assessment report that police conclude that the law was breached and that elements for a prosecution were met under section 134(2), but it did not proceed only because it fell outside the time for a prosecution?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I have not read those details, but I did note that the police determined that there was insufficient evidence to consider a prosecution. Also, the Prime Minister would, I think, note that he holds his Ministers to a higher standard than that of the previous Government in regard to, for example, an example like—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Hon Trevor Mallard: Is the Prime Minister aware that the executive summary of the case released in relation to the Banks interview records at paragraph 29 those present, but paragraphs 30, 31, 32, 33, and 34 have all been withheld at the request of Mr Banks, and is that an indication of the openness and transparency that he requires of his Ministers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is difficult to take lectures from that member and that party about standards—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister should answer the question—at least make some attempt to answer the question.

Hon David Cunliffe: Smugness is a defence.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: From who? From you?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! A number of National members seem to have suddenly gone blind.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sorry, Mr Speaker, I just was not sure whether Mr Cunliffe was telling an intentional joke, or just—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister will just answer the question. The Minister to answer the question, please.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I cannot confirm that. I certainly have not read the file, and I do not believe the Prime Minister has had the opportunity to read the file either.

Grant Robertson: Why is the Prime Minister prepared to have a Minister in his Cabinet who has misled him, his chief of staff, and the whole public of New Zealand, when we all know that the Minister received the donations, he asked for the donations, and he even asked for them to be seen as anonymous, as in the papers released yesterday? Why should that Minister be in his Cabinet, and why will the Prime Minister not just get on and sack him?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think that is because—well, there are a number of reasons actually, but, firstly, the Minister concerned was not in the House, in fact he was not even campaigning to be in the House, at the time that the matters under discussion occurred. Secondly, the police found that they would not proceed with prosecution. Thirdly, I think everybody has accepted that the electoral law that applied locally at the time, and indeed applies now, does need improving. That is why the Government made the announcements it made yesterday. If Labour Party members were concerned, they had plenty of time to make those changes themselves.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Does having someone who lied and was shown to lie—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot use—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I have not yet, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! The member is referring specifically to another member and claiming they have been shown to have lied. The member cannot do that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At which point did I refer to a member?

Mr SPEAKER: I accept the member’s point, and if I was premature I apologise. But the member knows he must not refer to an individual member.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Is it his policy to allow people who lie and have been shown to lie to be members of his ministry?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not answering on a particular hypothetical situation, and, of course, the member—[Interruption] No, the member has told the Speaker that it is a hypothetical situation, and I am acknowledging that. Once again, it is not the job of the Prime Minister to read police files or to involve himself in police prosecutions, which seems to be the suggestion. The police determined that there was not evidence to prosecute, and did not.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Is the Prime Minister therefore confirming that the prosecution test is the same test as the ethical standard for his ministry?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Prime Minister has some difficulty, I am sure, accepting lectures on ethical standards from—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no. The question was a fair question about the tests for acceptable behaviour expected by the Prime Minister, and it deserves to be treated seriously.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sure he is confident of the ethical standards that he sets for his Ministers.

Grant Robertson: I seek the leave of the House to table the executive summary of Detective Inspector Mark Benefield’s criminal assessment report, which indicates in it that the threshold had been reached for prosecution under section 134(2) of the Local Electoral Act for John Banks’ actions, but it did not occur because it was outside the 6-month time period.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Accident Compensation Corporation—Independence of Medical Practitioners

4. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister for ACC: Does she agree with Peter Trapski’s recommendation in his 1994 Report of the Inquiry into the Procedures of the Accident Compensation Corporation that “the Corporation must ensure that the opinions it obtains from medical practitioners are independent, not only of the claimant, but also of the Corporation, and that they are seen to be so”?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): Yes.

Kevin Hague: Is she concerned that just four of ACC’s favourite specialist medical advisers— Dr Martin C Robb, Dr Vic du Plessis, Dr Bill Turner, and Dr David Beaumont—are collectively paid up to $2 million a year from ACC for services rendered?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I believe that the member is referring to a TV3 report on Sunday evening—oh, no, he is not. When it comes to saying that people are paid up to an amount, it is not particularly helpful, because it is anything under that amount. But I have been advised by ACC that for medical case reviews, it has 338 doctors who can carry out those assessments, for initial medical assessments the number is 97, for vocational initial medical assessments it is 62, and for impairment assessments it has got 59, and that, on average, the four particular doctors who were discussed on the 60 Minutes programme, whom I thought he was referring to, actually conduct between 8.7 and 4.7 percent of those particular reviews. So I hope that is helpful to the member.

Kevin Hague: Does she believe that an ordinary person would consider it possible that medical advisers like Dr du Plessis, Dr Turner, Dr Beaumont, and Dr Robb could remain independent of ACC, when it pays them between $300,000 and $500,000 each per year?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think that that is an issue that needs to be considered, and I have spoken to ACC about it. The member will be aware that there is a new board now put in place. I will be meeting with the board and discussing—obviously not the individual cases or the matters— how we can end up with a system that, obviously, achieves good, robust, and independent medical reports and assessments, and that can be seen as independent by both the claimants or clients of ACC and ACC. I also note that even back in the year 2000—12 years ago—the same lawyers for ACC clients were claiming exactly the same issues around what they said were non-independent medical assessments. So I do not think much has changed, but I am happy to work with the member to try to get things to change.

Kevin Hague: Does she agree that an ordinary person would find it unbelievable that ACC would continue to fly these doctors around the country and pay them an average of almost $1,700 for each client they see if they were not acting as “hit men”, to use the phrase that Laurie Gluckman was described as according to Judge Trapski, in targeting the exit of long-term claimants, which ACC has referred to as low-hanging fruit?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think it is absolutely right that people who are not highly trained skilled medical professionals, just like people who are not highly trained, very skilled legal professionals, find the fees that are charged outrageous, but that is actually something that I think most people in New Zealand would say around this area. I do not know for certain and I cannot tell the House that the medical professionals he is referring to are paid any differently from any other medical professionals—

Hon Ruth Dyson: So that makes it all right.

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: —with that degree of expertise, and I am surprised that the former Minister for ACC, who left the job so abruptly, should want to call out about this issue.

Kevin Hague: Does she accept that there is a risk that the assessments performed by a doctor who earns up to half a million dollars a year working part-time for ACC could be affected by that doctor’s desire to continue receiving such lucrative contracts from the corporation?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, I think that there is always that perception. Whether the perception is reality is a different matter, because as I understand it, these very highly trained, experienced medical professionals are in great demand all over the world. What we do know is that in a country the size of New Zealand, which, of course, has a fabulous health system, thanks in good part to this Government, it is thanks also to the level of qualifications and experience and the work attitude of many of the medical professionals he is referring to.

Kevin Hague: Does she agree that contracting for specialist medical assessments with district health boards or professional colleges would help ensure that they are independent and are seen to be so, as Judge Trapski says they must be?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member has raised a very good point, and he has privately raised that matter with me. It is certainly one that I have raised with ACC, and now that the new board is in place I wish to take that matter further and see whether or not that is a realistic situation that we should consider.

Kevin Hague: What are the instructions she has given the reconstituted ACC board about specialist medical assessments?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have not yet met with the board. It has only been in place a few days, but I will be attending the first board meeting to discuss some of these issues with the board members and ask them whether they can start considering these matters. I have, however, met with the chief executive, raised those issues, and asked for some suggestions. I think it is a very important issue that the member has raised.

Barbara Stewart: Will ACC cap the annual amount it spends on any individual medical assessor to avoid the risk of incentivising advisers to provide reports that ACC wants rather than independent advice?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure that that would be a good idea, particularly if, for instance, there may be only two or three specialists with the level of expertise in the country. So I think that might be a bit of a blunt instrument, but I can undertake to look at all those considerations.

Crime Victims—Support

5. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: What steps is she taking to support victims of crime and put them at the heart of the justice system?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): I am very pleased to announce that the Government is extending funding of $1 million a year for the Victims Centre until June 2014. Over the past year the victims’ information freephone line received almost 18,000 calls, and more than 20,000 people have accessed support through the Victims Information website. Extending funding will mean the Victims Centre can continue its monthly newsletter for people and groups working with victims, its regular fora with Government and non-government agencies, and its direct engagement with victims to make sure that their experiences influence services.

Tim Macindoe: How else is the Victims Centre contributing to the Government’s commitment to put victims at the heart of the justice system?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The Victims Centre has been drafting a Victims Code, working with Government and non-government agencies that work with victims, researching best practice for victims going through the justice system, managing services and grants funded through the offender levy, and improving information for victims. The Victims Code will enshrine legally enforceable rights for victims, set out services available to them, and set out the duties and responsibilities of Government agencies. To ensure victims of crime receive the support they need, the Victims Centre will also be a critical point of coordination with the New Zealand Police and the Department of Corrections, and will play a crucial role in delivering our Better Public Services results action plan focus on supporting repeat victims.

Tim Macindoe: What other steps is the Government taking to put victims at the heart of the justice system?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: We have introduced the offender levy to pay for victim services, which has been hugely successful. We will reduce unnecessary parole hearings, so that victims do not have to go through the stress of attending parole hearings every year for offenders who are unlikely to get parole anyway. We will increase penalties for child pornography offences, introduce public protection orders to keep people safe from serious violent and sexual offenders, and make changes to the law to ensure that offenders cannot live close to their victims.

Charles Chauvel: Will she further assist to put victims of crime and their families at the heart of the justice system by agreeing to Labour’s recommended amendment to the Victims of Crime Reform Bill to have the Law Commission consider the position of the families of murdered victims of crime who are forced to sit through trials where their deceased family member’s reputation is completely denigrated; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I may be wrong, but I am not sure that that member has put that issue to me before. I would certainly be happy to look at it.

Charles Chauvel: Although it is a public document, the Minister clearly has not seen it, so I seek leave to table the minority report of the Labour Party on the Victims of Crime Reform Bill—

Mr SPEAKER: Is this a select committee report? No, we do not table select committee reports.

Charles Chauvel: Well—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not table select committee reports.

Charles Chauvel: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: Does the member have a further supplementary question?

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a genuine question. If the Minister has not seen the report, how do I draw it to her attention?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will hear the Hon Judith Collins.

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member may have misheard me. I said I did not believe he had spoken to me about it or referred it to me.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, we are not going to litigate this by way of point of order. That is not a point of order and neither was the member’s a point of order. And we do not table select committee documents.

Question No. 6 to Minister

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): I seek leave, given the absence of the Minister of Finance, to stand this question over until next question time.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Job Creation—Statistics

6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement “In the past 2 years, however, almost 60,000 net new jobs have been created”; if so, what was the net number of jobs created in the two most recent years of the Statistics New Zealand Linked Employer-Employee Dataset?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, 57,000 more people have a job now than did 2 years ago. That is according to the household labour force survey, seasonally adjusted, which is the standard internationally recognised measure of employment and unemployment. To the second part of the question, the data from the linked employer-employee data set is not internationally recognised. It looks at specific PAYE jobs rather than people jobs, and, in any case, it appears to significantly undercount the number of jobs in the economy. Also, the most recent data is 15 months old, so it is considerably out of date. But even

given those caveats, the linked employer-employee data set showed a net increase of 4,870 jobs over the 2 most recent years from June 2009 to June 2011.

Hon David Parker: Why does he cherry-pick the wrong number of new jobs, when Statistics New Zealand says that the most accurate measure of job creation is the linked employer-employee data set, which is based on actual Inland Revenue Department returns?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have just explained to the member that it does not capture all jobs in the economy; it captures only PAYE jobs. To assist the member, I will quote from Statistics New Zealand, in terms of the household labour force survey. It says that “The household labour force survey is a nationwide quarterly survey and is the official measure of employment and unemployment in New Zealand. It has been providing the only comprehensive and ongoing picture of the labour force since it began in October 1985.”

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister still not understand that he is talking about employment and unemployment rather than jobs, and that his statement was 60,000 extra jobs?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member is dancing on the head of a pin. I know he is trying very hard to talk down the New Zealand economy, but fundamentally the difficulty with the Statistics New Zealand linked employer-employee data set is that it captures only PAYE employees, and does not actually capture other people who are employed in the economy. It is quite clear.

Hon David Parker: Does he understand that New Zealanders are becoming disappointed that National is not meeting its election promise to create 170,000 more jobs, and is this the reason why it has removed from the website the advertisement or the banner advertising that promise?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Actually we are right on track at the moment with those job numbers, as per the Budget a couple of years ago, and it is very important that we note that. I appreciate also that it is a challenging environment, and that continues to be the case, because of the global financial crisis, and I also appreciate that the member Parker is absolutely disappointed that all signs are of positive growth in the New Zealand economy. But I can repeat for him that 57,000 more people have a job now than did 2 years ago. I know he finds that disappointing.

Welfare Reforms—Recent Announcements

7. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made on the Government’s welfare reforms?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): We have announced we are introducing new requirements to ensure children who live in benefit-dependent households get the vital education and health services they need—the services that can make a real difference for each child’s future. These new social obligations support the work that is taking place across the Government to better protect and support our most vulnerable. We know that in this group are those who are not attending early childhood education, who are more likely to arrive at school unprepared to learn, and more likely to not achieve. We want to break that cycle.

Melissa Lee: What report has she seen that supports the change in policy to ensure children in benefit-dependent homes receive these health and education services?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have seen comments from those who are best placed to know the impact of such a policy, such as the Early Childhood Council, whose chief executive, Peter Reynolds, says this is “one of the most important welfare reforms in recent years” and likely to start changing lives the week it is implemented, and that “We are not completely comfortable with the idea of compelling parents to put their children into early childhood education, but believe the benefits too compelling to resist.”

Melissa Lee: What other reports has she seen to support the new social obligation requirements?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have seen a proposal that says that “Too many of our kids aren’t prepared for school.”, and that would allow 4-year-olds in the school classroom. That, of course, is from the member of the Labour Party Louisa Wall. As this morning’s Dominion Post editorial

wrote: “Instead of condemning the new measures, Labour, the Greens, … should be applauding [this Government] for having the courage to tackle a problem that decades of well-intentioned but ineffective policy-making have failed to remedy.

Job Creation—Statistics

8. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic

Development: Does he agree with Finance Minister, Hon Bill English, that “In the past 2 years, however, almost 60,000 net new jobs have been created”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I note that the Minister of Finance has already answered exactly the same question from the member’s senior colleague David Parker today, but I am happy to repeat it briefly: 57,000 more people do have a job now than did 2 years ago. That is according to the household labour force survey, seasonally adjusted, which is the standard, internationally recognised measure of employment and unemployment.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why, then, did he tell the House in answer to oral question No. 9 on Tuesday: “We are currently seeing around 250,000 jobs created every year, and slightly fewer than that being lost every year.”, when Statistics New Zealand’s best measure of job creation showed a net loss for the period 2008 to 2011?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure what the member means by the best measure. I assume that he is talking about—is it the household labour force survey or the linked employer-employee data? The household labour force survey is the official measure. Employment did decline due to a thing called the global financial crisis, which I appreciate on “Planet Labour” did not occur. In the last 2 years it has grown by 57,000 jobs.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with the Prime Minister, John Key, that the household labour force survey is “notoriously volatile” and “an unusual survey”, and with Statistics New Zealand which says that the household labour force survey is “not an accurate measure of job creation”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not aware of the Prime Minister’s quote in that regard, but I can again repeat for the member that Statistics New Zealand describes the household labour force survey thus: “[It] is a nationwide, quarterly survey and is the official measure of employment and unemployment in New Zealand. It has been providing the only comprehensive and ongoing picture of the labour force since it began in October 1985.” I appreciate the member is casting around to try to find some more negative numbers, but actually the household labour force survey shows a creation of 57,000 more people in jobs now than 2 years ago.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with the Minister of Finance that the household labour force survey excludes self-employed workers, or with Statistics New Zealand, which says the reverse?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not recall the particular quote that he attributes to the Minister of Finance. What I can say is that the linked employer-employee data set does exclude the non-PAYE jobs he refers to.

Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a transcript of the Minister of Finance’s interview on Radio New Zealand this morning, in which he made the statement that the Minister was unaware of—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Recent radio transcripts like that are available to all members. Supplementary question, Andrew Williams. [Interruption] No, look, I have called Andrew Williams for a supplementary question.

Andrew Williams: How does he explain the fact that between the second quarter of 2010 and the second quarter of 2012 the household labour force survey recorded a total of 57,000 new jobs, yet the national employment indicator during the same period recorded only 33,245 new jobs?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I may be able to help the member in that regard. I understand that the national employment indicator is an experimental series that does leave some matters out. If he goes to Statistics New Zealand, I think it will tell him. Again, I would stress that the household labour

force survey is the official measure of employment and unemployment. I think the point the member may be seeking to make is that, either way, the number is not big enough, and certainly from the Government’s perspective we are looking for measures to see stronger growth. That is why we are putting all the effort into the Business Growth Agenda, with items such as oil and gas exploration, the intensification of agriculture, international investment, and the convention centre. I note that the—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is all beyond the question actually asked.

Andrew Williams: Why has the Government stopped publishing both the linked employeremployee data set and the national employment indicator?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I really do not know the answer to that question. I can tell the member, though, that Statistics New Zealand is pretty notoriously independent, so I am pretty sure that if it wanted to publish something like that, it of course would.

Hon David Cunliffe: Which data set would the Minister choose to use to deny the reality that the unemployment rate continues to rise, and that more children in South Auckland are going to school with hungry tummies?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure that I agree with that member’s characterisation of either of his questions. What I would say to the member is that, no doubt about it, times have been tough for the world, New Zealand is doing better than most, and we are seeking to do better again. Our economy is 2.5 percent larger than it was last year.

Grant Robertson: You used to be ambitious for New Zealand.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We are ambitious for New Zealand. If he would like to wander over to Europe or to America, he will see an entirely different perspective on what is going on in the New Zealand economy.

Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a document from the Parliamentary Library that shows that average incomes have risen but median incomes have fallen, that inequality has risen, and that the children of the poorest are more in poverty.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document from the Parliamentary Library. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Emissions Trading Scheme—Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s Statements

9. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Why is the Government making changes to the ETS, which Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright says will make “taxpayers subsidise the cost of pollution indefinitely” and which she has described as “a very poor way” of subsidising jobs?

Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): The Government is seeking to make changes to the emissions trading scheme because its overarching objective is to strengthen the recovery in a very fragile international economic situation. We did not therefore consider it a stellar time to increase charges and taxes on households and the firms that employ New Zealanders.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Point of order—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I say to both front benches that Dr Kennedy Graham is raising a point of order. David Cunliffe will respect that.

Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave of the House to table the Minister’s Cabinet paper on the proposed changes to the emissions trading scheme. Table 1 shows the net fiscal impact of proposed policy changes on an itemised basis.

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.

Dr Kennedy Graham: In light of the Cabinet paper just tabled, which shows net fiscal costs of $328 million of the total proposed changes, including $14 million for the extension of free carbon

credit allocations and $266 million for retaining the two-for-one surrender obligation, how can he describe these two items, in particular, as anything other than subsidies?

Hon TIM GROSER: Well, from memory, I think there are some legitimate fiscal costs associated with the package—I think some $3.4 million is to be spent on updating emissions projections to take account of the new global warming potentials. But the vast proportion of that figure amounts to a case of counting your fiscal chicks before your political eggs have been hatched.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Why has the Government cut support for jobs-rich cleantech businesses while continuing expensive subsidies for businesses that are contributing to climate change?

Hon TIM GROSER: We do not consider these subsidies. This word is used—thrown around loosely—by people who have no understanding of the international jurisprudence around this, or any concept of materiality on subsidies.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Having clarified to the House’s satisfaction the matter of subsidies, in light of tabling the document, and to put it in another way that is comprehensible to the Minister, why is it fair that taxpayers pay for 95 percent of the cost of large greenhouse gas emitters’ pollution?

Hon TIM GROSER: Well, our households are paying their share of the emissions trading scheme, as are all New Zealanders, including farmers. The reality is that we are on track to meet our commitments and probably to have a surplus, so we will not end up subsidising anybody.

Dr Kennedy Graham: If greenhouse gas emitters do not themselves pay for the costs of the pollution now, who does?

Hon TIM GROSER: Well, provided they are part of the covered scheme, an industrial polluter—which includes processed food producers—will be paying their share of the costs of the scheme.

Fines and Reparation—Improvements

10. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for Courts: What progress can he report on making fines and reparations a more effective part of our justice system?

Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts): Fines and reparations are an important part of how the justice system deals with offenders, but if people do not pay them, they are not an effective sanction. When National came into Government a record of over $800 million was owed in fines and reparations—

Hon Tony Ryall: How much?

Hon CHESTER BORROWS: —$800 million—with almost 60 percent of that overdue. However, I am pleased to report to the House that in a little over 3 years we have turned that round. The amount owed in fines and reparations has fallen 25 percent, passing below $600 million for the first time in 8 years. Even better, the amount of that debt that is overdue has fallen by 15 percent. This shows that although there is still more work to be done, fines and reparations remain an effective sanction.

Katrina Shanks: How is better use of new technology contributing to collecting fines and reparations?

Hon CHESTER BORROWS: New technology is an important part of this progress, with even small changes paying big dividends. For example, from June bailiffs have been issued with mobile eftpos terminals to make it even easier for people to pay their fines. Within the first month these terminals recovered the cost of their hire for an entire year, and in the first 3 months they have allowed bailiffs to bring in an extra half a million dollars of fines and reparations.

Katrina Shanks: How are the public responding to these new innovations in the collections system?

Hon CHESTER BORROWS: The public are eagerly embracing new ways of working. As an example, the ability to challenge a fine online was introduced on 1 August, removing the need to

apply on paper forms at the courthouse counter. In just the first month of operation a whopping 40 percent of these forms were sent in online. What is more, for those applications, the average processing time fell dramatically, with 99.7 percent of applications dealt with in just 1 day. Previously, the same process took a whole month.

Transport Funding—Minister’s Statements on Roads of National Significance

11. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by all his statements on the Roads of National Significance?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction) on behalf of the

Minister of Transport: Yes.

Phil Twyford: When he said that “by 2020 the roads of national significance will have about a billion dollar annual effect on our economy in a positive way.”, was that estimate based on economic modelling; if so, will he release that advice?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Indeed, I believe that it was based on economic modelling. There are a number of tables that show what the benefit-cost ratios of each of the projects are, including the wider economic benefits of different discount rates.

Phil Twyford: Does he think it is fair that the New Zealand Transport Agency is spending $1 billion a year on new State highways, has spent $14.9 million on consultants for the Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway and $1.6 million on public relations for the same motorway, and has $33 million budgeted for the next 3 years, but says that it has no money to purchase the home of Bob and Jill Scott, even though the planned route goes through the middle of their home?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The purchase of a particular person’s property for a particular route into the future, I would have thought, is very much an operational matter for the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Phil Twyford: Given the Government’s intention to borrow for State highways, does he think Northlanders would prefer the country to borrow to build a duplicate road that would slice a few minutes off the journey time between Auckland and the Ōmaha turn-off, or would they prefer the nearly $3,000 each of them would get every year for the rest of their lives for the same cost?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: First of all, I question the member’s numbers. Frankly, I know that the people of Northland are desperately keen to see the State highway network expanded, because of the volumes of traffic that are growing on it all the time. The fact that the Opposition label it as the “Holiday Highway” I find outrageous, given the huge volumes of freight and the huge volumes of people who have to travel on it as part of their work.

Phil Twyford: I seek leave to table calculations by Dr Rhema Vaithianathan, an economist at Auckland University’s business school, that show that the cost of borrowing to fund the Pūhoi to Wellsford highway would be the same as writing everyone in Northland a cheque for $2,986 every year—

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Phil Twyford: Is the Minister aware of a 2008 report prepared by Sinclair Knight Merz consultants—the current consultants working on the Pūhoi to Wellsford project—that said that “the scope for substantial economic growth with the upgrading of SH1 is limited.”, and “Even a significant increase in this contribution of the project [to tourism] would be modest when set against the likely costs of road upgrading.”, and does he agree with the project’s consultants on this matter?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I am aware that when any huge projects of the nature of the roads of national significance are proposed, a wide range of views are held. Those who are opposed to building roading networks come out with some of the most shonky figures to try to prove why you should not do them, and those who support them come out with their numbers. I think the numbers that the New Zealand Transport Agency is using, which are well founded, well analysed, and well based on, are the actual numbers that this House should give some credence to.

Senior Citizens—Elder Abuse Prevention and Support for Older People

12. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister for Senior Citizens: How are Police and communities working together to improve responses to elder abuse and support for vulnerable older people?

Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister for Senior Citizens): Today I announced that the Office for Senior Citizens Volunteer Community Co-ordinators will be working with neighbourhood policing teams, known also as NPTs, to help them engage with older people in their communities, and to assist them with appropriate responses to elder abuse or other issues raised by local older people. This initiative will help older people feel safe in their own homes.

Dr Jackie Blue: Which communities will be involved in this initiative?

Hon JO GOODHEW: The initiative is up and running in Naenae, where the Volunteer Community Co-ordinator joined the neighbourhood policing team as an adviser, and is working with the neighbourhood safety panel and community patrols in the area. Over the last 8 months, police have established 33 neighbourhood policing teams in 11 districts throughout the country. Over the next 12 months, the plan is to link more Volunteer Community Co-ordinators to their local teams, and initial discussions have already been had with a further four neighbourhood policing teams. Such is the interest in this that after the announcement, I have already had communities asking whether they can be in on this exercise.

QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS

Afghanistan, Briefing—Requests for Submissions

1. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence

and Trade Committee: Does he intend to invite the New Zealand Defence Force to give evidence on the briefing on Afghanistan?

JOHN HAYES (Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee): If the matter is still before the committee, the Standing Orders require the matter to remain confidential to the committee. Accordingly, no further comment can be made by me on this issue, at least until the committee’s consideration is completed.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Can the chairperson explain to the House the reasons why the initial request for a briefing was refused?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the chair of the committee cannot do that. That would be a breach of the Standing Orders.

ENDS

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