Questions and Answers - September 26
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Dotcom Case—Actions of Government Communications Security Bureau
1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements in relation to Kim Dotcom and the inquiry into the actions of the Government Communications Security Bureau?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I stand by my full statements in the context in which they were given.
David Shearer: When did the Government Communications Security Bureau begin surveillance of Kim Dotcom, and when did it realise it was acting illegally?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the memorandum spells out exactly when that work began—if the member gives me a moment. It was 16 December 2011, and it ended on 20 January 2012. The Government Communications Security Bureau recognised the error a few days before it told me—I think it was about 5 to 7 days before it told me.
David Shearer: Who first told him of the Government Communications Security Bureau’s illegal surveillance, and approximately what date was that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It was Monday, 17 September when the Government Communications Security Bureau came over to advise me there was an error.
David Shearer: Is he aware of any involvement by staff from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the SIS, or the National Assessments Bureau in the Dotcom case; if so, what involvement was that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not sure about the latter two, the SIS and the National Assessments Bureau. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet may have been advised. I do not know that—I would have to go and check that—but it is possible it would have known in that period when I was told on Monday the 17th.
David Shearer: Did he receive any advice from those agencies in the past 12 months in relation to the Kim Dotcom case?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not in relation to this issue. I was informed of that only on 17 September. Whether there was earlier advice on extradition and other matters, I am not sure. I do not think so.
David Shearer: Given that the ministerial certificate signed by Bill English said that the Kim Dotcom communication intercepts “would likely prejudice the security of New Zealand”, does he feel he should have been told well before by either Bill English or his own department?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. It is important to understand what the ministerial certificate is. The ministerial certificate is essentially a suppression order that was on the basis of an application by Kim Dotcom’s legal team to release the name of the Government Communications Security Bureau’s activity. It is not normal practice for us to do that. So, because the bureau believed it had
acted lawfully, it asked the Acting Prime Minister to sign the ministerial certificate, which avoided it having to make that public statement.
David Shearer: Does he think he was providing proper democratic oversight of his agency when he did not receive advice of the Government Communications Security Bureau involvement in the Dotcom case in the past 12 months?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. It would be quite inappropriate for me to be involved in a police raid, and if this member wants to one day be Prime Minister and direct the police—well, that is a pretty interesting way he is going to go. It is—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is sufficient.
Economic Growth—Sustainable Growth and Higher Incomes
2. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making to ensure New Zealand’s economic growth is sustainable and supports jobs and higher incomes?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: I can report that the Government is making good progress. Since 2008 we have been working hard through our broad-based economic programme to support business competitiveness in areas such as the tax system, exporting, skills, innovation, infrastructure, capital markets, and resources. We are seeing good results. The economy is now growing moderately well, compared with the rest of the world. A net 57,000 more New Zealanders now have jobs than 2 years ago. Household saving is positive, for the first time in more than a decade, and total goods and services exported have increased 15 percent over the last 2 years.
Hon Tau Henare: How is the New Zealand economy performing, according to the latest official gross domestic product statistics?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Statistics New Zealand last week, of course, reported the gross domestic product data for the June quarter 2012. They showed that the New Zealand economy grew 0.6 percent in the 3 months to 30 June, and growth for the first 6 months of the year was 1.6 percent. The quarterly growth was reasonably broad-based, including agriculture up 4.7 percent, construction up 3.3 percent, transport, postal, and warehousing up 2.7 percent, and manufacturing up 0.8 percent. New Zealand’s annual growth rate of 2.6 percent to June 2012 was the highest growth rate since 2007, before the domestic recession, the Canterbury earthquakes, and the global financial crisis.
Hon Tau Henare: How does current progress in building a more productive and competitive economy compare with the situation in late 2008?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealanders can be reassured that New Zealand’s current economic situation is much healthier than it was in late 2008. Annual economic growth is up to 2.6 percent, compared with negative 1.7 percent in December 2008. The number of people on the unemployment benefit has declined from a peak of 93,000 at the height of the global financial crisis to 58,000 in July of this year. The household savings rate is now in positive territory, compared with negative 3 percent in 2008. The cost of living is flat, with CPI inflation only 1 percent in the year to June 2012, compared with 5.1 percent in 2008. The New Zealand sharemarket is at a 4-year high, and the average floating mortgage interest rate is 5.7 percent, compared with almost 11 percent in 2008. This all shows that New Zealand is in pretty good shape, compared with most other developed countries.
Hon Tau Henare: What reports has he seen on new projects that would create further investment and jobs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Minister sees reports every day, and just yesterday he has seen a report on a project in regard to the Bathurst Resources escarpment mines project near Westport. This project would apparently immediately create 225 new jobs and incomes for workers and families on the West Coast. Unfortunately, it is being held up by ongoing litigation. Yesterday the
Minister saw a report calling for objectors to the mine to withdraw their appeals and consider the economic future of the West Coast. It prevailed upon various groups to join the call. As yet, the Minister has seen no reports that the Labour Party, the local Labour MP, the Amalgamated Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, or the Greens will support—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the answer has gone on quite long enough.
Hon David Parker: Given the 8 percent decline in exports in the year to August, announced by Statistics New Zealand just today, and Treasury’s prediction that our external deficit will get even worse, when will he accept that his plan is deficient, costing exports and jobs, and what is sustainable about that?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would point out to the member that New Zealand’s exports have grown substantially since his Government left office, and I would point out that the balance of payments deficit, the external deficit, is considerably lower than when his Government left office. But I suppose it is all relative. We know that this Government is a better economic manager.
Hon David Parker: When exports are declining, local businesses are closing, and thousands of Kiwis are losing their jobs and heading to Australia, why does he sit on his hands and pretend there is nothing he can do about our inflated currency?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think I hear the printing presses cranking up on the Labour Party side, but I would point out to the member that he is incorrect. The decline in manufacturing jobs in New Zealand occurred under the previous Government and through the global financial crisis. Over the last 2 years the number of manufacturing jobs has actually grown.
Manufacturing Sector—Job Losses
3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in his Minister of Economic Development in light of the fact that there have been nearly 40,000 net job losses in the manufacturing sector in the four years to June 2012?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I do have confidence in the Minister for Economic Development. In fact, having listened to his answers before, I have even more confidence in him. But I would dispute the member’s use of statistics. According to the household labour force survey, the number of people employed in the manufacturing sector has actually remained quite steady since the beginning of 2009, fluctuating between 245,000 and 255,000 people depending on the season. In fact, over the last 2 years employment in manufacturing has actually gone up a little. It is true that in the past there has been a decline in manufacturing jobs in New Zealand. That decline was shameful, and it happened between 2005 and 2008.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he have confidence in his Minister when Statistics New Zealand figures show that nearly 100 skilled manufacturing workers are leaving this country every week, annual exports of manufactured goods have fallen by nearly $2 billion, or over 12 percent, in the past 4 years, and manufacturing’s contribution to economic output has fallen by nearly $3 billion, or over 9 percent, since 2008?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would dispute some of those facts, but what I would say is, I would go back to the most rigorous form of measuring employment in the economy and in relation to the manufacturing sector. That is the household labour force survey. It shows that in the time that we have been in office, it has been pretty static. As I say, it has not moved enormously. What I would also say is this Government is actually trying to build competitiveness in the manufacturing sector. That is why we want to have 90-day probationary periods, lower company taxes, reform of research and development and the likes. And what I notice from that party is that time and again it resists all of those sensible changes to make New Zealand more competitive. So there is no point in crying wolf here in the Chamber and then going outside—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is not about the Green Party’s policies. This was a very straight question to the Prime Minister. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members should not interject when a point of order is raised. The member, in asking his question, inserted quite a lot of information into his question that the Prime Minister has disputed. He is at liberty to do that.
Dr Russel Norman: Are companies like Nuplex Industries wrong when they say that the overvalued dollar is a reason why they are cutting skilled manufacturing jobs; and are half of the exporters wrong when they say that the high and volatile currency is hurting their business and their sales overseas?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is no question that the high exchange rate is hurting some exporters—no question about that. The Government has been, actually, making the same position quite clear for some time. It is not universal, because against the Australian dollar, actually, we have been very competitive. So if we are to follow what the Labour Party and the Greens want to do, we will start printing money to get the exchange rate down. They had better go and tell every New Zealand pensioner what they think of that, because that means high inflation, and that means an erosion of their savings. If the member wants to be in a Government that prints money, well, that is an interesting way to go. It did not work that well for the Germans.
Dr Russel Norman: When will the Government wake up to the fact that most of our trading partners are taking active steps to devalue their currencies, which is hurting New Zealand’s exporters and manufacturers because they are actively intervening to lower their currencies, and the fact that the Government’s policy of doing nothing around the currency is a recipe for more job losses and a hollowing out of New Zealand’s manufacturing capacity?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think what is true is that a lot of countries take different positions when it comes to the exchange rate management. So when the member says countries are doing all sorts of different things to devalue their dollar, well that would vary depending on who you are looking at. In the case of Australia, yes, Australia has sold Australian dollars and intervened in the exchange rates. In the Reserve Bank’s latest annual report, if you have a look at it—I urge the member to go and have a look—have a look at what the market-to-market valuation of those sales are. When it comes to China, it happens to have trillions of dollars in reserves and it is not a capital importer like New Zealand. If the member wants to go and have a look at Switzerland and see how successful it has been at defending the Swiss franc at 1.20 against the euro, he is welcome to do that. All of these things are voodoo economics that do not work.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a paper from JBWere, from the director of the investment strategy group, Bernard Doyle, which states that New Zealand is out on its own in running orthodox monetary policy.
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 Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a paper from the IMF chief economist who says that the days of simply targeting inflation with monetary policy are over.
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 Russel Norman: How long does this Government think it can keep playing by the rules of 1980s neo-liberalism—the rules so-loved of currency speculators—when the rest of the world is adopting modern policies to develop their economies and create manufacturing jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I say, this is a Government that is working hard to create manufacturing jobs. I would have strong issue—
Hon Member: How?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, at least we were not the Government that was collapsing between 2005 and 2008. I would add that I have real issue with the characterisation that the member has that somehow New Zealand’s monetary policy is out of whack with other countries. Charles Chauvel chaired the Finance and Expenditure Committee as part of the old Government in 2008, and what it found was we had world’s best practice—world’s best practice. Then there are 20 other countries that have a very similar approach to inflation targeting as we do, including all the majors. And the only change that has seriously ever come up with all the reviews—and there has been four of them from memory—about monetary policy in New Zealand, has been the view that is held by some people that there should be a committee deciding about the exchange rate, rather than a single person in the form of a governor. That is it. There is nothing very odd about the way New Zealand manages monetary policy.
Dr Russel Norman: As the rest of the world moves beyond our rather outdated monetary policy framework, and the IMF—the International Monetary Fund—has recommended moving beyond this simplistic and outdated monetary policy that he has, does he plan that New Zealand will be the last Government standing on the planet which remains a devotee to the neo-liberal religion, or will we adopt modern monetary policy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I reject the proposition that it is outdated. Secondly, I think we need to understand what the member is telling the House, just in case he ever gets anywhere near an opportunity to implement things. So he wants to actively intervene in the exchange rate to get it down. That is what he is telling New Zealanders. Well, by the way, while he wants to talk about people who are involved in the currency market, yep, when I went into the currency market, dollaryen was 320 approximately; today it is 80. The Japanese Government has lost billions and billions and billions of dollars intervening the whole way down, and that pattern is pretty much the same for us and every reserve bank. The member wants to print money and have rounds of quantitative easing, which is what the Americans and the Europeans are doing—fair enough—but just understand what the economic implications of that are, and that is basically much higher inflation—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has been allowed to do this not just today but on previous days: to suggest that Opposition parties want to print money.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is not remotely a point of order. The member wishes to debate an issue. He will sit down. The member will resume his seat. That is not remotely a point of order. The member is trying to use—[Interruption] The member—[Interruption] Order! The House will come to order. The member will get control of himself. The member was seeking to debate what the Prime Minister had said, by way of a point of order. That is totally outside the Standing Orders, and the member knows that. I allowed the Prime Minister to go on a little longer because the question was a little longer, but I think it was a sufficient answer in the end.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Speakers have long ruled that Ministers are not allowed to make up policies for other parties—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is enough of this. The Prime Minister did not allege. The Prime Minister—if the member checks back on the Prime Minister’s answer—said “if” people want to do things, not that they were proposing to do things. The Prime Minister was quite careful. If I heard him correctly, he said that if the member and parties want to print money, for example, this will be the consequence. He was quite careful in his language.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My recollection is that he said that if the member got close to the Treasury benches, then he would. That was his assertion.
Mr SPEAKER: We are not going to take this matter further. The member has a further supplementary question, should he wish to use it.
Dr Russel Norman: Did he or his Minister for Economic Development instruct the National Party members of the Finance and Expenditure Committee to block an inquiry into the crisis in
manufacturing, or is the National Party attitude of doing nothing so deeply imbedded that they just did it for themselves?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I certainly did not instruct them, but this is an instruction I would like to give: why does this House not get behind and clear away all of its objections, and let us have the Denniston mine operating, so those miners on the West Coast can have a job. But no, the Green Party is all—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now the Prime Minister is accusing—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. Now the Prime Minister is accusing another party of certain things.
Business Growth Agenda—Effect on Job Losses
4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic
Development: What impact has his Business Growth Agenda had on Nuplex Industries, Solid Energy, Kawerau and Tiwai Point, and how many job cuts have been announced there in the last two months?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): The Government’s Business Growth Agenda is undertaking initiatives in skills, innovation, natural resources, capital, infrastructure, and market access to assist all New Zealand firms, including those named by the member, to be more competitive on the world stage after our tradable sector declined through the latter half of the last decade. Of course, the impact on individual firms at any point in time depends on the international state of the industries in which they operate. Job losses at the firms mentioned by the member are, of course, a matter of public record.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Rather than choosing to answer what was quite a straight question of how many job cuts have been announced in specific industries or companies in the last 2 months, the Minister chose instead to give an answer about a previous Government—or an allegation about a previous Government. If he had that information, he might have sought advice. The question was on notice, and he could have answered the question that was actually given.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has some grievance in that the Minister was asked about how many job cuts have been announced there in the last 2 months. I do not think saying that it is on the public record is actually that informative for the House. I would ask the Minister, if he has that information, please, to tell the House.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do have some information to hand. My understanding is that according to media reports the numbers are 80, 440, 120, and 100. Of course, they are contrasted with recent announcements on the positive side by companies such as Xero, Orion Health, Tait Communications, Methanex, The Warehouse—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister is trifling with question time. He deliberately did not provide the answer, despite the fact that the question was on notice. He had the information provided to him by the ministry, and he had it at hand. Now he is using—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member is criticising—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. The member is criticising the Minister. It is up to the Speaker to deal with whether or not the Minister has answered the question. I have done that. I made it clear to the Minister that I was not satisfied with the answer provided to the question on notice. The Minister did go on to put some context around the answer and the figures he was giving, and that is not unreasonable, lest a false impression be created. Ministers naturally have some licence to put context around answers, but I think he had made his point sufficiently.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The way the Minister has been allowed to answer this question effectively says that he has two long-winded answers in respect of one primary question, when he should have had the opportunity to answer only once and to do it properly then.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to read the question carefully. It asks “What impact has his Business Growth Agenda had on”—
Hon David Parker: Don’t patronise me.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member read the question carefully, he would realise that actually it asks an opinion. There is no one who can actually establish any particular facts about the impact of the Government’s policy on those particular businesses. The question seeks an opinion—and I invite the member to reflect on that—and the Minister gave an opinion in answer. The piece of the question that sought facts was the last part of the question, and that is why I required the Minister to advise the House of that information, because that is the part that sought the facts. I just invite the member to think through the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the Minister has revealed that he does have the information to hand, I would invite him, if it is an official document that he is quoting from, to please table that.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member had listened, he would recollect that the Minister was quoting from newspaper articles.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why did the Minister say that the Spring Creek lay-offs are because “coal prices are on a severe roller coaster around the world”, when Bathurst Resources’ Denniston mine faces exactly the same world coal prices, yet he thinks that that one is economic?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I would be happy to explain that for the member. There are about two or three reasons why the cost of production is different at the Denniston field and, in fact, the Buller field more generally, where Denniston and Stockton are both located. It is because the coal seams are close to the surface and run laterally, and also because they are open-cast mines and, as I understand it, there is not a lot of methane gas, as distinct from the Grey fields, which are underground mines by definition. They have very complex geology and are quite difficult. So you have a production cost at the Denniston mine that is much lower than the production cost at the Spring Creek Mine, which means that the different mines are much more economic at different prices. I understand that the private sector investors are more than ready to make their investment in Denniston, provided, of course, they get the opportunity to do so.
Hon David Cunliffe: In light of the answer the Minister has just given, could he please clarify whether he believes that it is more in the national interest to pursue open-cast coalmining on conservation land or to extract the maximum long-term value from an existing deep mine shaft at Spring Creek?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member is actually recommending that in lieu of jobs that would be successful in the open-cast mine he would prefer the Government to subsidise an—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member’s question was fairly clear. What he was asking the Minister was whether he considers it to be more in the public interest to extract coal from an opencast mine on conservation land, if I remember correctly, compared with extracting from existing deep-extraction—or whatever the correct term is—low-impact mining. It is an opinion he is seeking: which, in the Minister’s opinion, is preferable in the public interest? That is what the Minister should focus on.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, I believe that it is preferable in the public interest to encourage companies that can have profitable operations to hire workers from the West Coast to succeed in the mining industry as an alternative to attempting to subsidise mines that have proved to be not economic at current world prices. [Interruption] Absolutely. And if the member does not think so, then he needs to take the word “economic” out of the title “economic development”—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: In light of the answer that the Minister has just given, can he explain to the House why he maintains that the Spring Creek lay-offs are simply the result of market forces, when Solid Energy’s own documents show that they are a deliberate part of a strategy readying the company for sale—a privatisation process that is being driven by his own Government—and why
did that Minister not do the miners and their families the courtesy of even reading the recovery proposal that they submitted to his Government?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am a bit nonplussed here. He is basically saying that a company that has got $300 million worth of debt and has lost about $100 million or $120 million on this mine should somehow keep it operating, and yet Labour is not stepping up to join the Government’s proposal to say to the objectors to the other mine, which is economic, that they should, perhaps, drop their objections so that they can actually have economic jobs on the West Coast. It is just unbelievable.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table a document called the Solid Energy Design Pack, dated 29 August 2012, which states very clearly that the key principles of the proposed structure for Solid Energy are to, in summary, meet the Government’s objectives of its mixed-ownership model.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: The—[Interruption] Order! The Hon David Cunliffe, supplementary— [Interruption] Order! Order! Order! I say to both—well, mainly the National Party front-bench that I want to hear the Hon David Cunliffe’s supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Has he delayed the release date of the natural resources Business Growth Agenda report because after the public relations failure of the last two releases officials have been tasked with urgently adding new content; if he denies that the release date has been delayed, then when is the scheduled release date?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I mean, I am sorry, you are a trainspotter, Mr Cunliffe. You really are.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think I can anticipate the member’s point of order. I say to the Minister that that is not the way to assist with good order in the House, and not the way for a Minister to answer a question. He has been asked about the release date of a certain report and the Minister should answer the question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The reason I referred to him in that manner is that there is nothing about that supposition that is correct.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Despite the Minister’s inimitable style the question was quite straight. It asked him whether the release date had been delayed, and it asked him, if not, what the scheduled release date was. He has denied it was delayed. He has not addressed that part of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: In fairness, with a supplementary question the Minister does have to answer only one part, but if the Minister had the information on the release date it would be helpful.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not releasing a date today.
Mr SPEAKER: He is not prepared to release that date.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question on notice was what the impact was of his Business Growth Agenda on a number of entities, including Solid Energy—the relevant report, we are told, being the natural resources chapter. It is, therefore, on notice for him to be asked about that. It is, perhaps, a surprise to the House that the Minister has no idea—
Mr SPEAKER: No, order! Order! No, no, there is no reason why the Minister should have anticipated that specific question about a report, given that primary question.
Parole—Reduction in Unnecessary Hearings
5. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Justice: What steps is the Government taking to reduce the stress on victims caused by unnecessary parole hearings?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): I have today introduced legislation to implement the Government’s post-election action plan to reduce the number of unnecessary parole hearings where the offender has little prospect of release. This will help to reduce the stress caused
to victims by having to attend unnecessary parole hearings and relive their traumatic experiences when the offender is not genuinely ready for parole. It is estimated that these changes will mean 800 fewer parole hearings each year.
Ian McKelvie: How will the changes to the parole regime operate?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The Parole Amendment Bill increases the time between parole hearings from once every year to once every 2 years, and for those serving indeterminate sentences or sentences of 10 or more years the maximum time between parole hearings increases from 3 years to 5 years. Inmates will be encouraged to comply with offender plans, which will have agreed goals that aim to reduce the likelihood of future offending. Hearing dates will be aligned with the completion of milestones. Early hearings can be held for offenders who achieve early completion of goals.
Hon John Banks—Inquiry into Electoral Returns
6. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement to the House yesterday, “The police statement quite clearly said that there was insufficient evidence, that there is a statute of limitations, and that he has complied with the law.”; if so, where in the police statement do they say that Mr Banks complied with the law?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I stand by my statements that the police statement quite clearly says that there is insufficient evidence and that there is a statute of limitations. What I should have said was that I believe that Mr Banks complied with the law.
Grant Robertson: How does submitting a false return, which the Prime Minister acknowledged Mr Banks did, constitute complying with the law?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, no charges have been laid against Mr Banks.
Grant Robertson: Does he think that Mr Banks receiving a cheque by hand in an envelope from Skycity chief executive Nigel Morrison, having a receipt for that cheque sent to Skycity, and then listing the donation as anonymous complies with the law?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite possibly. That is my belief. If you look at the police statement that they issued on 26 July, it stated that “[it] established that the return was compiled by a campaign volunteer who assured Mr Banks it was accurate ...”. As the police said in their statement, there was insufficient evidence, and although they concluded, yes, that the return was false, they could not prove that Mr Banks would have known that when he signed it.
Grant Robertson: Is supplying a false return an offence under the Local Electoral Act 2001?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It depends on the timing, but there is no particular belief that Mr Banks has broken the law.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that in the past you have been wary of Ministers offering legal opinions, but on this particular matter the Prime Minister has offered legal opinions over the past 2 or 3 weeks, and I think in that context the question I asked was a direct one and a reasonable one.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the dilemma—I mean, I accept the member’s point that the Prime Minister has not answered his question. But the issue is that Ministers are not required to—that was a particular question that asked for a legal opinion on whether something complied with the law. If a Minister chooses to give—[Interruption] Order! If a Minister chooses to make some comment on it or give a legal opinion, that is their business, but to ask them directly for a legal opinion, I do not think I can force a Minister to give a legal opinion.
Grant Robertson: Why is the editorial writer of the Dominion Post wrong when they said last week: “Mr Banks has now lost all credibility and Mr Key’s will be steadily eroded the longer he stands by him.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because I accept the member at his word. In truth, if one wants to run the country off editorials, then I could pull out a few about Mr Shearer and how he is a lost cause, if you want.
Grant Robertson: Why does he not accept the sworn statement of Greg Towers that Mr Banks told him on 8 February this year that he could not help Dotcom because of the election support?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said the other day, support can take various forms. Mr Towers, as I saw in the Dominion Post, also said that he was unaware of any donation from Dotcom to Mr Banks.
Grant Robertson: Why is he continuing to protect Mr Banks when sworn statements from the chief executive of Skycity and a senior partner at Simpson Grierson show that he lied to the New Zealand public while he was a Minister of the Crown?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I would reject that, as the police statement says there is insufficient evidence. As the police statement also says—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —although the return was false, they could not prove that Mr Banks had known, and what the police statement says is that they have established that the return was compiled by the campaign volunteer. You see, the problem is that those members cannot join the dots enough, and they just do not like it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that it is extraordinarily unusual for a Minister in this House or a member to be accused of being a liar, or to have lied, and for you to do nothing about it from the Chair. That is extraordinary. I have never seen that before. I am asking you: are you going to act in this case or not?
Mr SPEAKER: I think the point the member raises is an interesting point. The member may notice that it was in a question that I did not object. I did start to object to the interjections accusing a member of lying, but I think that in a question the language being used is hugely important. If a member were to construct a question that included the word “lie” or “lied” in a way that was outrageous—that accused a member of outrageous lying or something like that—I would certainly object, but I think we can get too precious about some of these things. One should remember that the Minister being questioned has the chance to respond. I think it is a very different situation, and that is why I do not—interjections should not be responded to, and that is why I do not accept members should desist from interjecting that any member lied. I will not tolerate that. But I think that the wording of questions, so long as the construction is careful and the question does not make an outrageous assertion, I have not—the same thing came up last week, I think, from memory, and I did not intervene. Part of the reason for that is that the Minister has the chance to respond in answer, but I would intervene if the construction of the question was such that it, in my view, was outrageous.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I cannot put my finger on this, because it is outside of the Standing Orders, but if a member of this House is not in a position to defend himself, it surely behoves somebody in this House, including, perhaps, you, to do that for him, if it is capable to be done, which is my point.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept that it is an interesting point that the member raises. But I invite him to reflect on the fact that where a question is being asked, and as long as the language is moderate, the Minister being questioned has the chance to defend the other Minister, if it is involving another Minister, and the member may note that the Rt Hon Prime Minister has done that. He has defended the Minister at some length. So it is an interesting issue. I certainly do not want to hear members accusing other members across the House of lying. I do not want to hear that at all. I do not want to hear even accusations like that being made in debate. In question time, as long as the construction is careful and moderate, I am certainly prepared to listen to the advice of the House on it, but I do not want to keep intervening all the time. To me the important thing is the construction of the question and whether it is making an outrageous assertion. I mean, it seems to me that, where there are questions around the accuracy of information, certainly in this particular document, there is a question here. There seem to be some arguments around whether or not the information is accurate.
To me, to pussyfoot too much around the language, I think, is just being excessively pedantic, as long as the use of the language is not outrageous.
7. HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she think it acceptable that the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders reliant on government benefits face the predicament each and every week, such as the case of Sam Kuha in Kaikohe, who is left to survive on $18.00 a week for food?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): To the first part, no, I do not. But to the second part, the information that is being reported is factually incorrect. They are not the circumstances of Sam Kuha. The member, in fact, puts me in a difficult situation, because those members are the first to kind of criticise me when I do put the right, correct information out there, so I will just state that it is not correct, and that is not the amount that he is living on each week.
Hone Harawira: Does the Minister agree with the view of Dr Lance O’Sullivan, who says that it is an appalling state of affairs that people are forced to take extreme measures, such as going on hunger strike, to bring to her attention the crippling levels of poverty that her benefit cuts have caused, which are leading to more and more poor children going without food every week; if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: There have not been benefit cuts, to start with. The other part is that actually my office has been in touch with the doctor this week to make sure we are giving that right kind of support to Mr Kuha. Particularly, they have had at least four different interventions with him. He is entitled to other support. We would like to get that to him. If he could just make himself available, I believe they have plans to home-visit him on Friday. I think that is the right thing to do. I hope we can work together so that we find a solution for him.
Hone Harawira: What has she done to ensure that the hunger strike of Sam Kuha, undertaken in protest at the Government’s welfare policies, which he says are actually hurting children more than anyone else, does not lead to a severe disintegration of his health and well-being, and if nothing has yet been done, what does she intend to do?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think I did just address that but I am happy to again. Work and Income has been in contact, actually, with his agent, and has met with them, I believe, at least twice, but there has, in fact, been about five meetings from 14 September, and a letter was sent out to him today addressing it. I also instructed someone to make contact with the doctor, because I thought maybe we could get other supports around him that were not coming from Work and Income. There are issues I think of accessibility because of his disability, and there is other assistance that could come, actually, from other agencies. So we are pretty keen to make sure that that is all coming round him. As I say, there is, I believe—I have been told—a meeting this Friday where the budget adviser and others are going to meet with him at his home and make sure that he is getting all of his entitlements.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. How is cutting the benefits of the parents of children who are living in poverty and those who are struggling with drug issues a longterm solution for beneficiary dependence?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I suppose particularly up north—because those are the sorts of cases we are talking about—there are jobs up there that people could take on if they were not actually drug dependent.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Where?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: For many it will be—well, particularly in forestry, and I can show the member articles in newspapers about employers who say that if people were to pass a drug test they could give them a job. The other part of that is that if they do have an addiction, they can get help, and this might be the first time, actually, that their addiction is identified. That might be a good
thing, as we can get other services around them to help them with their addiction issues. If they have addiction issues, their benefits will not be cut.
Child Protection—Role of Social Workers
8. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister for Social Development: What difference do social workers make in protecting our most vulnerable children from abuse and neglect?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Around 1,300 Child, Youth and Family social workers deal with more than 400 notifications of abuse and neglect every day in New Zealand. Social workers often bear the brunt of criticism when things go wrong, but the fact is they do the job because they care, and every day they do the best they can to protect New Zealand. Ultimately, they save children’s lives. Today is National Social Workers Day, and I think it is our chance to thank them for the job they do on behalf of our children and most vulnerable families.
Mike Sabin: How is the Government supporting more services to families who might benefit from working with a social worker?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I have said, we know that social workers can and do make a difference with our families, and particularly those who are most vulnerable. That is why this Government has provided extra funding to increase the number of front-line social workers. There will be 80 new front-line social workers with 16 new supervisors, and more than half of that number are already at work now. We have also announced an extra 149 full-time social workers in our lowdecile schools. Most of them are on board, working and making a difference.
Mike Sabin: What have been some of the recent data trends of New Zealand’s child abuse statistics?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It has been quite interesting. In the most recent Child, Youth and Family figures we have seen the first drop in substantiated cases of abuse for at least the last 8 years—granted, by only 4 percent in findings of substantiated abuse. However, notifications have gone up—those that required further action—so follow-up went up, but actual, substantiated cases have gone down. I think it is too soon to tell whether that will continue, whether it is a trend, but it would be fair to say that it is, if nothing else, encouraging. Also, Child, Youth and Family met or exceeded 97 percent of its targets in the year 2011-12, including notification response, compared with in 2005-06, where it was meeting only about 42 percent. So, I mean, it has doubled its response time and we are seeing fewer substantiated cases of abuse.
Television, Public Service Channels—Captioning
9. MOJO MATHERS (Green) to the Minister of Broadcasting: Will he consider using regulation to increase New Zealand’s levels of captioning for free-to-air television; if not, why not?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Broadcasting): I have considered this, but I do not think that regulation is necessary at the moment, given the large increase in voluntary captioning by free-toair broadcasters. For example, 100 percent of prime-time Television One and TV2 is now captioned.
Mojo Mathers: Is he aware that Australia has committed to 100 percent captioning for all freeto- air TV channels from 6 o’clock in the morning to midnight by the end of 2012, and will his Government commit to ensuring similar levels of captioning in New Zealand?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I am aware of that move in Australia. It is an admirable move, and I fully encourage New Zealand broadcasters and entities in this space to follow their Australian cousins.
Mojo Mathers: Does he believe that a hands-off approach to regulation will achieve full captioning in New Zealand, given the low levels of captioning on TV3 during prime time, which is only 53 percent according to figures from 2011?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: As I understand the question, I do acknowledge that TV3 levels are lower than Television One and TV2, but I also note that total captioning hours have moved from 70 hours
a week in 2000 to 240. In a competitive environment and market, I am quite sure that those at MediaWorks TV3 will be paying attention to these questions.
Mojo Mathers: Will he rule out pay-to-view companies such as Sky television receiving funding until free-to-air captioning is at an acceptable level?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I do understand that Sky has, particularly via Prime Television on free-toview, been in discussions trying to gain assistance to provide captioning. I do also note that of its own volition it has invested funds in captioning in a very competitive market. I will repeat the answer to my previous questions: I am quite sure competitors in this space will take strong notice of today’s discussions and what the competitors are doing.
Government Communications Security Bureau—Prime Ministerial Responsibility
10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he accept that under the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, section 8(3) that the performance of the GCSB’s functions is, in the absence of any warrant or vested authority, subject to the control of the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I agree on the wording of the legislation, but, as I said yesterday, I am responsible for the direction and priorities of my agencies but I am not briefed, nor would I expect to be briefed, on every operation they undertake.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he concerned that it took nearly 40 days for the Deputy Prime Minister to inform him of the signing of the ministerial certificate, which withheld information from the public regarding Government Communications Security Bureau operations in the Dotcom raid?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, because that was the litigation technique used.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When was his chief of staff first informed about the Deputy Prime Minister signing a ministerial certificate on 16 August, which withheld information from the public regarding Government Communications Security Bureau operations in the Dotcom raid?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not exactly know, but to the best of my knowledge it was on Monday the 17th when I knew.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Did the Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Coordination, comprising the police department, the Government Communications Security Bureau, the SIS, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, know about the Government Communications Security Bureau’s involvement in the Dotcom case; if so, when?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am simply not in a position to understand whether those organisations knew that or not. What I do know is that the first I was aware of it was on Monday, 17 September. Whether those other organisations had some information, I am not sure.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yesterday the Prime Minister advised that he learnt of the ministerial certificate on the evening of 24 September.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, Monday the 17th.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no. When he was asked yesterday he said “last night”—that was the 24th. It is in the Hansard. Now he says that the chief of staff knew on the 17th and he did, too. Which answer is correct is what I am trying to find out now.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that is a very good question for the member to ask. It is not actually a point of order; it is a question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: All right. Mr Speaker, I have got only a limited number of questions— we all know that. Righto. Did he seek an explanation from the Deputy Prime Minister on the evening of the 24th—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is a question from the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am happy for him to clear it up if he wants to.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the member is asking a question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: OK. Did he seek an explanation from the Deputy PM, Mr English, on the evening of 24 September for his not having told the Prime Minister about the substance of the ministerial certificate he signed on 16 August while acting in the Prime Minister’s stead?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member’s dates are all wrong. I could be wrong but, from memory, Bill English met with the Government Communications Security Bureau, as Acting Prime Minister, on 17 August, not 16 August. I was advised by the Government Communications Security Bureau on 17 September. I did a press conference this week, which was on the 24th. The reason I did it on the 24th was that on the 17th , at the time I was told, I immediately said—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We cannot get anywhere on this, because the date on this certificate is 16 August, not 17 August.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There has been a bit of cross-purposes here, I think, and because I am uncertain I invite the member to repeat his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: OK. Did he seek an explanation from the Deputy Prime Minister on the evening of 24 September, as he told the House, just 2 days ago, for his not having told the Prime Minister about the substance of the ministerial certificate he had signed on 16 August, which is the date on the certificate, whilst acting in the Prime Minister’s stead?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not sure I would phrase it as I asked for an explanation. Obviously, we had a discussion about it. He was of the view that the Government Communications Security Bureau would probably inform me of that matter.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister accept that the Deputy Prime Minister, in signing out the ministerial certificate on 16 August, against a backdrop of Government Communications Security Bureau illegal activity, was an attempt by the Deputy Prime Minister to cover up that illegality?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, that is nonsense. The advice that the Acting Prime Minister had at the time was that the Government Communications Security Bureau was acting lawfully. The certificate he signed was a suppression order for the courts. That was the advice and belief of the Government Communications Security Bureau.
Schools, Canterbury and Christchurch—Proposed Closures and Mergers
11. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Are reports that she intends to write to Christchurch schools within the next fortnight to begin the formal consultation process required to close or merge them correct; if so, what was the purpose of the “open consultation” process she began on 13 September?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): In answer to the first part of the question, yes. In answer to the second part, I made a deliberate decision to announce the proposals and give all 215 schools time to absorb the information before I started the formal consultation process for the much smaller group of schools that are directly affected in different ways. I do not resile from that decision. I am committed to genuine consultation, and there have been no decisions made in advance of the full process. I have confidence that having these difficult conversations is in the best interests of the current and future learners of Canterbury and their families. I genuinely believe that we owe it to all students to build better educational facilities than were there before.
Chris Hipkins: Who did she consult about the specific closures, mergers, and consolidations proposed in her announcement of 13 September, given the Directions for Education Renewal in Greater Christchurch document makes it clear that consultation up to that point had been focused on “the future of education—from early childhood through to tertiary (not the future of individual schools or services/ facilities).”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: That is what this phase of the consultation is on.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think I heard you ask “Who did she consult”, indeed. The question asked who did the Minister consult, given the statement made in a certain report that talked about
consultation up to that point. The question was asking who was involved in that consultation. The member can repeat his question if the Minister—
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, please.
Chris Hipkins: Who did she consult about the specific closures, mergers, and consolidations proposed in her announcement of 13 September, given the Directions for Education Renewal in Greater Christchurch document makes it clear that consultation up to that point had been focused on “the future of education—from early childhood through to tertiary (not the future of individual schools or services/facilities).”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have made it clear, so has the ministry, and those documents do too, that we have been going through phases of consultation, which are becoming ever finer-grained. So those consultations were at the very high level—the first lot in October. They led to Directions for Education, which was released in May, from which we got further submissions, and that has allowed us to put these proposals before these particular schools.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suspect you know what the point of order is—
Mr SPEAKER: I do.
Chris Hipkins: It was actually a relatively specific question. I know it was a long question, but it was quite specifically about “Who did she consult”.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is the crucial thing. The question actually contained some quotes in it to identify the period of consultation that the member was referring to in his question. But the Minister still has not answered his question. The only reference the Minister has made is that consultations took place at a high level. But “high level” is not actually telling the House who she consulted. I mean, I think it is not unreasonable. The document says consultations took place, and the question has asked who did the Minister consult up to that point.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point is that the consultations taking place, as they are quoted in that document, relate to the particular consultations that took place. The member is—[Interruption] Well, the consultations that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. [Interruption] Order!
Hon HEKIA PARATA: —took place were on the future of education in Christchurch, from which we drew up a document that then went to the kinds of facilities and options that would be desirable—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is not really now a point of order. The Minister has acknowledged that consultations took place on the broader issues involved, and the member asked who did the Minister consult in that. It is not unreasonable to ask that, and Ministers are accountable for who they consult. That is a very clear issue of accountability. It may be ministry officials, it may be school principals—anything, whatever happened—but just to say “high level” is not really telling the House anything.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Drawing from the information that arose through the over 700 submissions we received, as a context, drawing from the data that has been collected by school-byschool assessments, and drawing from ministry advice, these next set of proposals have been developed for consultation.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will repeat only the first part of the question. The first part of the question says “Who did she consult about the specific closures, mergers, and consolidations proposed in her announcement of 13 September,”. The Minister has had three goes, but still has not actually addressed that question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has a legitimate grievance. The question, as he has boiled it down now, is exactly what he asked. That is the substance of the question: who did the Minister consult prior to the announcement of the release of a certain document to do with mergers and closures, and what have you, in Christchurch. That is a fair question. Ministers are accountable for
who they have consulted. It is not unreasonable for a member to ask that, and so far we have not had any indication at all of who the Minister consulted.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: To pedantically use that term “consult” then, I consulted specific people—[Interruption] Well—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She just cannot comment on your rulings like that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Speaker is actually trying to assist the House in obtaining information, and he does not need that sort of point of order interrupting. The Minister, I think, was about to give us some information.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I consulted the submissions that had been submitted. I consulted with ministry staff, who in turn had consulted with ranges of individuals across the greater Christchurch, Waimakariri, and Selwyn districts.
Chris Hipkins: Is she satisfied that a consultation time frame of 5 to 6 weeks, as ministry officials have suggested, will be sufficient for students, parents, teachers, and others in the community to have their say, particularly given it is likely to overlap both with school holidays and senior student exams; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The specifics of the details of consultation under the formal process will be advised to schools, which should be the first to know, and then I will take feedback from them.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, that was not actually my question—
Mr SPEAKER: I think I can see the member’s point of order. The question actually asked whether the Minister considered that 5 weeks was sufficient time for consultation—that is the question that was asked—given when holidays and exams occur. That was the question asked. It is an opinion. There is no specific answer, but I would ask the Minister to try to answer it.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Well, that presumes that the time period is accurate, and what I have said is that the specifics of the consultation process to be engaged in have to be advised to schools, and that is what is going to occur.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Ministry of Education and circulated to schools summarising a meeting on 20 September, which states that the ministry’s— well, I will not quote exactly, but it is basically suggesting that the Minister’s time frame will be 5 to 6 weeks.
Dr Megan Woods: Does the Minister have confidence that she has accurate and adequate demographic information on which to base her decisions, given the ministry’s own document Directions for Educational Renewal in Greater Christchurch states that “At this stage it is difficult to tell how many families have moved permanently ...”; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, I am confident of the ministry’s advice, because that advice is set in particular times. So, for instance, roll projections for next year are set on the basis of a specific roll count at a specific time, in the knowledge that families move in and out, and based on longerterm projections. So there is no one precise time at which everybody stays still, except for the 5- yearly census.
Dr Megan Woods: What specific data set or data sets are her proposals for closures, mergers, and relocations of Christchurch schools, under her plans, based on?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: They are based on roll returns and roll projections, as well as local information provided through the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, as well as some information that has been—
Dr Russel Norman: Consultation!
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Thank you—and also from consultation.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table source data provided by the Christchurch Press of the results of their online poll that indicate—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a press clipping?
Chris Hipkins: No, no. It is not available online.
Mr SPEAKER: It is not available—[Interruption] Order!
Chris Hipkins: This is the source data of it, which shows that 80 percent of the respondents believe that the handling of this situation by the Minister has either been poor or very—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No 12. [Interruption] Order! That question is dealt with. I have called question No 12.
Fuel Efficiency—Heavy Vehicle Fuel Efficiency Programme
12. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What progress has the Government made on promoting fuel efficiency in heavy road vehicles?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Energy and Resources): Last week I launched the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s Heavy Vehicle Fuel Efficiency programme, which will help fleet operators cut their fuel bills by 10 percent on average, with some achieving savings of up to 20 percent. If all heavy vehicle fleets in New Zealand reduce their fuel bills by 10 percent, nationwide savings could total $130 million each year. This initiative will help our vehicle fleet to become significantly more fuel efficient, with the wider economy and the environment reaping the rewards.
Mark Mitchell: How important is the heavy fleet sector for fuel efficiency?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Transport makes up around 40 percent of New Zealand’s energy use, and New Zealand’s heavy vehicle fleet of 127,000 makes up about a fifth of this. At an individual company level, a fleet of 25 trucks using 1 million litres of fuel annually, which is not unusual, could realistically make savings of $130,000 per annum. With a very competitive industry and with small profit margins, these savings are very significant to the bottom line of companies.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill—
Effect on Exchange Rate
ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First): My question is to the member in charge of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill. What will the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill enable— [Interruption] Sorry, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I think the member has not finished asking his question yet. [Interruption] Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was such a barrage over here that I could not hear—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! The National backbench will come to order. I think the right honourable gentleman has a legitimate grievance. It was difficult to hear, because of the level of noise, and I do not think that is necessary, at least on this first question. Andrew Williams may start his question again—question No. 1.
ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I actually deliberately stopped and I was hoping to gain your attention—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have invited the member to start his question again. He does not need to waste the time of the House.
1. ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First)to the Member in charge of the Reserve Bank of New
Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill: What will the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill enable the Reserve Bank to do to address the overvalued dollar?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Member in charge of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
(Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill): Our bill would enable the Reserve Bank to use a range of tools to address the problem of an overvalued exchange rate. The most direct way, of course, is by intervention. The last time the bank used its powers to intervene was in 2007 when the dollar reached US80c. The bank intervened, the dollar came down, and the bank made a profit of $411 million. However, the bank would have to also make better use of supplementary stabilisation instruments, such as, for example, reserve ratios or mortgage interest levies and other counter-inflationary measures intended to take pressure off the overvalued exchange rate.
Andrew Williams: Is the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill “populist garbage”?
Hon Members: Yes!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! I apologise to the Rt Hon Winston Peters. I had actually called the member for a supplementary question, but, just so that everyone knows what has happened, he has chosen to go to question No. 2. So we are now doing question No. 2.
Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill—
2. ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First) to the Member in charge of the Reserve Bank of New
Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill: Is the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill “populist garbage”?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Member in charge of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
(Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill): Of course not. The honourable member who dismissed the Reserve Bank of New Zealand bill that we are talking about as populist garbage has portrayed his remarkable ignorance of New Zealand’s prevailing economic conditions and the issues that our bill is designed to address. On our side are, for example, the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, and a whole lot of other Governments that have made these substantial changes we advocate. And after 24 years of doing nothing it is well time to act. But, of course, that is the kind of response you will get from someone who arranged a radio licence deferral—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! That has nothing to do with the question asked whatsoever.
Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill—
Effect on Export Sector
3. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Member in charge of the Reserve Bank of New
Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill: What is the importance of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill to New Zealand exporters?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Member in charge of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand
(Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill): It is beginning to look like it is the only hope that they have currently got. For us to be internationally competitive, the critical thing is the level of the dollar. Exporters have been struggling with a chronically overvalued exchange rate for years. You have got closures, you have got cutbacks, you have got all sorts of people losing their jobs, you have got relocations offshore, and you have got 54,000 now leaving every year because we have failed to act in the national interest of an export-dependent economy. I hope before
17 October enough of rural New Zealand will have persuaded these recalcitrants to do their duty by their country.