Questions and Answers - November 13
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Programme—Support for New Zealand Families
1. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s economic programme helping New Zealand families by increasing savings, keeping interest rates low and minimising cost of living pressures?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has not even opened his mouth yet.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would just irritate them anyway. The Government is focusing strongly on building a more competitive economy, with a wide range of policies designed to assist businesses to make the decision to invest further and employ more people, therefore creating more jobs and higher incomes. We are also focusing on stable monetary policy, and on getting Government back to surplus on a moderate fiscal adjustment. We believe these are the best ways to help increase national savings, take pressure off inflation and interest rates, and ensure that future generations of New Zealanders are not saddled with excessive debt.
Katrina Shanks: What results has he seen of progress in the Government’s programme to build a more competitive economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have seen good, steady results, although, of course, not as strong or as quickly as we would wish. Despite the ongoing economic problems around many parts of the world, our economy grew by 2.6 percent in the year to June—better than most developed economies—the cost of living increased by just 0.8 percent in the year to September, and the annual increase in the food price index has been 0.3 percent in the last 12 months. Our responsible fiscal policy is helping take pressure off interest rates—a family with a $200,000 mortgage is paying $200 a week less than 4 years ago—and household savings are positive for the first time in more than a decade.
Katrina Shanks: What reports has he received on the current global economic situation and its likely impact on New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Treasury’s latest monthly Economic Indicators indicates that world growth has been below expectations in the past year or two. The IMF warns that not only is the outlook for the global economy weaker, but the downside risks are greater than before. Just last week the European Commission said that the eurozone will virtually grind to a halt next year and Germany will come close to recession. New Zealand is not immune from these forces.
Katrina Shanks: What reports has he received on alternative economic approaches that would leave New Zealanders worse off by pushing up their cost of living and their interest rates?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports on policies that would do just that. They would involve printing money, tinkering with monetary policy in the misguided belief that there is some kind of magic solution in changing monetary policy, borrowing and spending more for expensive
Government programmes, imposing more taxes on New Zealand businesses, and opposing every single policy that would create new jobs. That is Labour and Green policy.
Hon David Parker: Which of the recent economic statistics does he regard as best reflecting his success as Minister of Finance: the highest public debt in New Zealand history, the worst growth record of any New Zealand Government since GDP records started, the highest unemployment seen this century, or a world-leading current account deficit?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: None of those, because on “Planet Labour” the worst recession in two generations never happened, and that is what caused those figures.
Hon David Parker: Could he advise the House whether rising unemployment, falling business confidence, falling exports, and a rising balance of payments deficit represent a healthy, growing economy; if so, what would an unhealthy economy look like?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: None of those things reflects an unhealthy economy. What they reflect is New Zealand businesses and households adapting to some of the most difficult economic conditions in a generation. The Labour Party might think New Zealand businesses and households have failed. We do not. We believe they are doing the best they possibly can in the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves.
Jobs and Employment—Prime Minister’s Statements
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on jobs and employment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and, in particular, I stand by my statement that printing money, allowing more inflation in the economy, putting a capital gains tax on every business in New Zealand, and the other irresponsible policies of the Opposition would cost a huge number of jobs.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement “Our plan is working” when according to the household labour force survey, the standard internationally recognised measure of employment, there are now 70,000 more people unemployed than when he took office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. There are a few things I would point out. Firstly, it is good to see the Labour Party in Parliament now claiming the household labour force survey is the statistic to watch, because for months that has not been the one it has chosen to use. Secondly, I would simply just make the point that the household labour force survey is by definition a very broad definition of who is unemployed. It could somebody who is in education and is looking for a job. Interestingly enough, the last time the unemployment rate was at 7.3 percent in this country, in 1999, 150,000 were on the unemployment benefit. Today that number is under 50,000. Given the conditions that is not too bad.
David Shearer: In light of his last answer, which statement does he stand by: that the household labour force survey is “Just that, a survey that bumps around quite a lot. It is notoriously volatile.”, or his statement that the household labour force survey is the standard internationally recognised measure of employment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Both. It is the standard recognised and it does bounce around quite a lot, as does the support for David Shearer at the moment.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement: “I don’t think we should change course. I think we’re on the right track.”, and how much higher does unemployment need to go before he changes his policies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I definitely think we are on the right track. We grew at 1.6 percent for the first half of this year. As the Minister of Finance has said, this is a Government that has had to endure the worst global financial crisis in two generations and pay for the Christchurch earthquake. The question of what track we are on when it comes to jobs is “Who is going to be the leader of the Labour Party?”.
David Shearer: Why was he “surprised” at the recent unemployment figures given that unemployment has been rising every quarter since December 2011?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I was surprised because the consensus of economists including Treasury was that there would be a fall in those. I was surprised because the numbers we see on the unemployment benefit have actually been reducing. I was surprised because the view of the Reserve Bank is that Auckland has been pretty strong—as we are seeing with the housing market starting to move—and that is the area that according to the household labour force survey is demonstrating the highest increase in unemployment.
David Shearer: Has the number of people enrolled in Modern Apprenticeships increased or decreased since he became Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that exact number to hand, but what I can say is the Government has been committing huge resources in the area of training, particularly in Christchurch.
Michael Woodhouse: What reports has he seen of comments in support of certain jobs in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen the rather startling and, I think, very direct statement from Grant Robertson about the leadership coup this weekend: “I am backing David 100 percent.” The question is : “Which David?”. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I apologise to the member. A point of order has been called and it shall be heard in silence.
Grant Robertson: You have previously—and particularly on Government questions from Government members—indicated that they are not an appropriate vehicle by which to have political attacks across the House. I can go on to explain why that was an incorrect and totally false one, but you would sit me down.
Mr SPEAKER: Indeed I would—indeed I would. The member makes a perfectly reasonable point that it is not reasonable to use questions from members’ own parties to attack, or from the governing party’s own support parties or support to attack other members of the House. The question on the face of it was an acceptable question: what reports has the Prime Minister seen—
Hon Trevor Mallard: You knew where it was going.
Mr SPEAKER: And it is true that—members should not interject—it is not hard to probably pick where it is going, but the dilemma is one cannot stop it just because one thinks it might go there. At least it was mercifully brief. Had the Prime Minister gone on I would have certainly sat him down as I did previously when he started to—[Interruption] Order! When he started to criticise Opposition parties’ policy previously I sat him down. As much as I would like to try and get it right all the time it is very difficult when members do it very rapidly.
Child Abuse and Neglect—White Paper for Vulnerable Children Announcements
3. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements have been made as part of the Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children to take stronger action against child abusers?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): The Government is introducing a range of tough new measures targeting child abusers. The new initiatives are aimed at protecting children from offenders who present a high risk of continuing to hurt and abuse children. These measures include limiting guardianship rights for abusive parents, introducing child abuse prevention orders, and the tracking of high-risk offenders.
Tim Macindoe: Why is the Government making changes to limit guardianship rights for abusive parents?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This decision the Government has taken has not been made lightly. As the National Party, we trust families to know what is right for their children, but we know that, unfortunately, there are some people who are doing incomprehensible damage to some. For
example, one of the children in the State’s care, who was removed at birth and is now 5 years old, is in his third foster home, not because of Child, Youth and Family, not because of the placement, but because of the continued harassment and abuse by the boy’s parents. This change will ensure that children who require a safe fresh start can get it without that sort of harassment.
Tim Macindoe: What legislative changes will be made to limit guardianship rights?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Legislative changes will limit the guardianship rights of parents who present an ongoing, serious risk to their children. The Family Court would be able to make a determination, if it is necessary and in the child’s best interests, to limit a parent’s power to disrupt the child’s life on guardianship decisions such as medical procedures, school enrolment, and travelling overseas.
Jacinda Ardern: What initiatives are contained in her white paper to tackle child sexual abuse specifically, in light of Australia—which already carries out screening—instigating a royal commission into this issue, and the fact that substantiated cases in New Zealand have increased by roughly 50 percent on her watch?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: There are a range of initiatives that are going on that I think are addressing those historical abuse claims. For example, we have the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service, headed by Judge Henwood, which is making a difference for those people. This Government has actually addressed historical abuse claims at a rate far higher than any previous administration. We shall continue to do that; we put in another $14 million in the last Budget. We are already discussing what will happen in the next Budget for that. We take it seriously. We are addressing them, we are not trying to hide them, and I do not think there is quite the need that we have seen in Australia.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was specifically around initiatives contained in the white paper—
Mr SPEAKER: Indeed, the member’s question was—
Jacinda Ardern: —and the Minister did not address that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, if the Minister could. That is exactly what the question asked—what initiatives are contained in the Government’s white paper to deal with those issues.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think what I pointed out was that there are a range of initiatives that are already happening, so they are not specified particularly in the white paper.
Jobs and Environmental Protection—Prime Minister’s Statements
4. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “What we do environmentally matters a great deal, but we also want jobs and we also want to make sure we’re not prioritising that over everything else. I think we’ve got that balance about right”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Grant Robertson: When Cabinet made the decision for New Zealand to withdraw from the next commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, what advice did it receive on the possible impact of such a decision on New Zealand’s international reputation and “clean, green” brand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government received a wide range of advice on the overall issue of the implication of going down the convention track. What it is fair to say is that if New Zealand was in the firm binding commitment period for the second commitment period, when 85 percent of global emissions are not covered by that, in the view of the Government that would have quite an implication.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was about what advice the Government had received about the impact on New Zealand’s reputation. It is a very direct question and the Minister did not answer that. He said: “We’ve received a broad range of advice.”
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the member’s point. If the Prime Minister could cover—because the question focused exactly on that issue. The Prime Minister, in answer, said that the Government had
received a range of advice, but the question asked was on New Zealand’s international reputation in respect of our “clean, green” image. If the right honourable Prime Minister could answer that.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There was a wide range of advice. I cannot remember the specific advice in relation to the reputation.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Prime Minister.
Grant Robertson: Does he accept that New Zealand’s “clean, green” brand is worth hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy, in sectors such as the primary industry and tourism; if not, what is the latest estimate of its value?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is no doubt that New Zealand’s “clean, green” image has a very positive impact on the country, and I think this Government is maintaining that. It is why we are putting so much money into water quality. That is why we have been emphasising renewable energy. That is why we have been bringing out national policy statements. There is a wide range of things that we have been doing, but signing New Zealand up to a binding second commitment period when 85 percent of world emissions are not included, including countries like the United States, Canada, Russia, China, and India, does not, in my opinion, make any sense whatsoever.
Grant Robertson: Is he aware of studies that show that a 5 percent drop in New Zealand’s reputation for its “clean, green” image could cost the economy more than 22,000 jobs, an annual direct loss of $455 million in primary products sales, and a $155 million loss in international tourism, and why is he prepared to do this much damage to the New Zealand economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and we are not.
Grant Robertson: Why is he prepared to sacrifice thousands of jobs in the forestry sector by abandoning the Kyoto Protocol commitment and—as Brian Fallow, from the New Zealand Herald, has put it—putting the emissions trading scheme into “an induced coma”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is quite wrong. If there is to be—
Grant Robertson: I’m not wrong.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, you are, actually, in this particular instance. We are not abandoning Kyoto; New Zealand is going to have a firm and binding commitment, which we will announce next year. We are going down the convention track, which covers 85 percent of emissions. What we are not prepared to do is sign up to a binding second commitment period, just in the same way that that member is not prepared to bind himself to a commitment period of another year of David Shearer.
Grant Robertson: How is Geoff Thompson, a member of the Government’s own climate change review panel, wrong when he says that the Government’s inaction on climate change will see “our international reputation eroded … our trade reputation, our clean green image undermined,”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start-off, with the greatest respect to Geoff Thompson, he does not have all of the information that the Government has. Secondly, the Government is running an emissions trading scheme, the Government is going to come out with a binding target next year, and the Government is going to follow the UN convention track that the vast, overwhelming bulk of countries are going to. But if Grant Robertson wants to tell every New Zealand consumer and business that they have to pay more, and in the same breath get up and say that he is worried about jobs in New Zealand, then he should go out on the campaign trail when he is the leader in a few weeks’ time and say that.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 5, Jonathan Young. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! I think we will probably score that about one all, and we will cease these interjections.
Oil and Gas Exploration—2013 Block Offer
5. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and
Resources: What recent announcement has been made about Block Offer 2013?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Energy and Resources): The Government’s annual block offer process is an important part of developing our natural resources, and that is why I welcomed the announcement last week from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that it has released for consultation with relevant iwi and councils the proposed areas for onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration, as part of Block Offer 2013. Feedback received will inform final decisions about the make-up of the block offer. The tender is planned to commence in April next year. Furthermore, I hope to be in a position to award exploration permits to successful bidders for the 2012 block offer in December.
Jonathan Young: Has the Minister seen any reports on the value of the oil and gas sector to the local and national economy?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Yes, I have a seen a number. One report from the ministry shows that the country is set to earn more than $3 billion in royalties from oil and gas fields already in production. If exploration increases as we hope it will, or is working as it will, $12.7 billion to New Zealand could be the collection. That is a lot of money for schools and hospitals and roads. I have also seen further reports of how the oil and gas industry currently supports about 7,700 indirect and direct jobs. It is clear that the oil and gas sector is a very important part of our economy. It has worked well alongside dairy farming and tourism in Taranaki. We believe it can expand to other regions, and that would be a good thing.
Mike Sabin: What reports has he seen on the response to the release of the Block Offer 2013 consultation?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I have seen a number of reports. I was delighted to see the support from the other side of the House, actually, on this important initiative, and I welcome the comments by the Hon Shane Jones. Mr Jones recently reported: “Let the information be uncovered first. It may be that the area is commercially barren, not unlike the minds conceiving that Green [Party] rhetoric.”, and “Let these decisions be made in a rational fashion, not this kneejerk emotionalism that … comes … from the Green Party.” This Government is committed to oil and gas exploration, and we thank Shane Jones for that support.
Question No. 6 to Minister
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): This question was lodged to the Prime Minister, and I seek the leave of the House to have it transferred back to the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): My question is to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment and asks: was the Prime Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That kind of interjection is unacceptable.
6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Tertiary Education,
Skills and Employment: Was the Prime Minister correct when he said on 12 October 2012 that “our unemployment rate’s not rising”; if so, why?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Yes; because the best advice the Prime Minister had at that time from Treasury, backed up by most private sector economists, was that the unemployment rate was likely to decrease. That was the basis on which he made that comment. Other statistics also back up his comment, particularly the number of people on unemployment benefits, which has dropped from 55,700 to 50,400 over the year to September. That is a number of around 5,300. It is also interesting to note that despite the fact the population of New Zealand has grown between 1999 and now, from 3.8 million to 4.4 million, the number of people on the unemployment benefit is around 100,000 less than in 1999,
despite apparently having an unemployment rate that is the same according to the household labour force survey.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that Statistics New Zealand shows that unemployment has risen in every quarter since December 2011, is it not simply a matter of fact that the Prime Minister was incorrect when he said that the unemployment rate is not rising, because, in fact, it was rising and it has continued to rise?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, because although it has risen in the household labour force survey, it has in fact dropped in what is a measure that is very important to New Zealand, and that is the number of people on the unemployment benefit, which is a measure of those people who need the support of the State because they are unemployed. The point I would make to the member is that, over the last year, it has dropped by around 5,300, and it is much, much lower than it was at the time of similar household labour force survey figures back in 1999—around 100,000.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a paper—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.
Dr Russel Norman: It is not like people going to Australia.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member should not do that.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a paper from the Parliamentary Library, showing that unemployment has risen for four consecutive quarters.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no—
Hon Anne Tolley: What is the document?
Mr SPEAKER: The document is from the Parliamentary Library—a document recording unemployment figures. 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: In light of the fact that this Government is now overseeing the highest unemployment that we have seen this century, does he now concede that the Government’s economic policies have failed to produce lower unemployment in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. I would refer the member to my previous answer, to both the primary question and the supplementary question, in relation to unemployment benefits. But I also point out to the member that, again, I think he is in danger of ignoring what has been going on in the wider world in relation to two matters in particular. First is the global financial crisis, which is ongoing, and I note this week there have been further issues in Europe in terms of a revision down of growth forecasts, and, of course, the US fiscal cliff issue is continuing, and we do actually live in the world. Also, there is the other challenge, which, of course, has been the Christchurch earthquake. Now that the rebuild is building up, we are seeing a drop in unemployment in Christchurch, but actually it has been difficult for New Zealand to grow over that period, because of the challenges of its second-largest city being very dramatically affected by the earthquakes.
Dr Russel Norman: Looking at the relative position of New Zealand in relation to the rest of the OECD, is it not a sign of economic failure by this Government when unemployment has grown more than one and a half times faster in New Zealand compared with the average of the OECD over the last 4 years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. I mean, I am sure the member is going to hold the graph in as many ways as he can, but the reality is New Zealand has actually an unemployment rate lower than the average across the OECD. It is better than that of many countries we compare ourselves with: for example, the United States; for example, the UK; and, for example, countries like Denmark, and Poland, and France, and Hungary, and Italy. It is interesting that the member raises the issue of Australia. Because we in New Zealand have a much higher participation rate than Australia, even though we have a higher unemployment rate we actually have a higher employment rate than Australia, as well—about 2 percent higher in New Zealand than in Australia.
Hon Trevor Mallard: 1 hour a week! 1 hour a week.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Stop making it up, Mr Mallard. We actually have a higher employment rate than Australia. Read it and weep, Trevor.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a paper prepared by the Parliamentary Library, showing that New Zealand’s unemployment has grown at one and a half times the OECD average over the last 4 years.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Russel Norman: What analysis has he done as to why his economic plan has resulted in New Zealand now having one of the fastest-growing rates of unemployment in the OECD, according to the relative statistics produced by the OECD?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member has obviously not listened to my previous answers. Let me just re-cover them for him. Firstly, it is not apparent that that is necessarily the case, particularly because of the declining number of people on the unemployment benefit in New Zealand, which includes a drop of around 5,000 over the last 12 months.
Jacinda Ardern: It has doubled. It has doubled.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It has dropped over the last 12 months. You can keep saying that as often as you like, but it has dropped. It is also because New Zealand has been working through—as the rest of the world has—the challenges of the global financial crisis, and, in addition to that, in the case of this country, the Canterbury earthquakes. And New Zealanders actually understand those challenges.
Dr Russel Norman: As one of the chief authors of National’s now failed economic plan, what changes is he recommending to that plan in light of the fact that we now have record unemployment figures—the highest this century—and that our unemployment is growing faster than the OECD average?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member will be pleased to note there will be no changes but we will be working even harder on opportunities to remove the barriers and delays for companies seeking to invest and grow jobs. There is a range of areas where the member could lend his moral support: oil and gas exploration, the expansion of intensive agriculture, the development of aquaculture, supporting our film industry, encouraging foreign investment, and progressing an International Convention Centre in Auckland. These are all things the Greens oppose, and all things that, particularly in relation to the International Convention Centre, they have sought to stop, which is the reason right now for 1,000 less jobs in this country than there would have been at this time.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he accept that his Government’s policy of backing winners of the “dig it, drill it, mine it” variety has now failed in the light of historically high unemployment figures after 4 years of Government, and is it not time to reconsider the green economic opportunities like those identified by the group of leading New Zealand business people in the Pure Advantage group?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This Government is guilty only of backing people who are prepared to invest their own money and not the printed money variety that the Greens advocate, which would send this country down the toilet.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the report from the Pure Advantage group called New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race, from May 2012.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
7. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement in September 2010 that “there is no doubt that unemployment has peaked”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I do stand by that statement.
Grant Robertson: Really?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do. Although the household labour force survey measure of unemployment has remained higher than anyone would have liked, the number of people actually receiving an unemployment benefit did peak in 2010. Currently, 50,000 people are receiving the unemployment benefit, which is 13,000 lower than in September 2010.
Hon David Parker: How does the third consecutive quarterly increase in the unemployed, to 175,000 New Zealanders, a 12.4 percent increase in just a year, show that the economy is in good health?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The figures on the household labour force survey reflect the weakening of the economy over recent months, and that is now widely seen as driven significantly by the state of the world economy. However, the number of people on an unemployment benefit has continued to drop. I will repeat what I have said to the member before. Currently there are under 50,000 people receiving the unemployment benefit, which is 13,000 lower than in September 2010. But both of these measures of unemployment indicate that it is hard for people to find jobs when they lose jobs. That is why we need to focus even more strongly on supporting businesses to hire more people.
Hon David Parker: Why did he not advise the Prime Minister that unemployment was on the rise, given that ANZ National Bank and Business and Economic Research had both predicted it would rise to 7 percent?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am always discussing these matters with the Prime Minister, but I do not think that even ANZ or Labour’s favourite forecaster, Business and Economic Research, forecasted that the household labour force survey would show a large increase in unemployment in Auckland at the same time as the number of people on a benefit in Auckland continues to drop. Nevertheless, the economy is weaker than we would want to see it, and I hope that the Labour Party will support the Government’s efforts to get behind businesses to help make it easier for them to create more jobs and pay higher incomes.
Hon David Parker: Does he stand by his acknowledgment that National promised that if it was elected there would be 170,000 more jobs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes.
Andrew Williams: Was the Prime Minister correct to say to media last week that “we’ve grown 57,000 jobs in the last 12-18 months.”, given that the Minister of Finance then told 3 News’ Duncan Garner on Friday that the number of new jobs created in the past 2 years is, in fact, 26,000?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I would need to verify just what the member is quoting from, but there is no doubt that there have been fewer new jobs created than was expected. I think that is pretty clear. For people out in the market, it is pretty tough trying to find a job. I would hope that that party will also get behind the Government’s efforts to assist businesses and to make it easier for them to hire more people, because that is actually where new jobs come from.
Andrew Williams: I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library that contains a quote from the Prime Minister stating that 57,000 new jobs have been created in the last 12-18 months.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Andrew Williams: I also seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library that contains a quote from the Minister of Finance stating that only 26,000 jobs have been created in the past 2 years, contradicting Mr Key’s claims.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is. Just before I call the honourable member, it just seems odd to me to have documents prepared by the Parliamentary Library that allegedly contain just one statement. That sees somewhat odd, but, anyhow, it is up to the House whether it—
Andrew Williams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to clarify, these were media things that were then confirmed by the Parliamentary Library and parliamentary research—parliamentary research. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That was probably the very issue I was trying to get at. We have managed to get rid of seeking leave to table press clippings and that kind of thing. Dressing them up as reports from the Parliamentary Library will not do in the future.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: What is the unemployment rate for Pacific Island people in the latest household labour force survey, and does he agree that this is an appalling figure?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it is around the 15 percent mark, and it is an appalling figure. That is why the Government is focusing very strongly, particularly for young Pasifika people, on attainment in secondary school—that is, getting more students through National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2. The Minister of Education is visiting schools and discussing with them how to get particular numbers, such as 17 or 25 more, of Pasifika students through level 2. We have then put in place a wider series of options and pathways for those students who choose not to go to university and want to find their way into the kind of training they need for further employment. We believe we are making significant progress in assisting precisely that group to increase its employment rate.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was actually asking what the unemployment rate is, and I did not hear the unemployment rate in the answer.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! I apologise to the member, because what is unfair is where a member from the back of the House is asking a question and there is too much interjection from members from a party that was not involved in the asking of the question. It is very hard for the member to hear. The Minister actually, from memory, said “15 percent” and he agreed that it was appalling, which is exactly what the member asked, so I believe her question was answered. But I do ask members to be more reasonable when a member from another party is asking questions.
Emissions Trading Scheme—Proposed Restrictions for Units
8. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What steps is he taking to ensure the environmental integrity of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): If we expect our households and our businesses to pay for the costs of an emissions trading scheme, it is extremely important that they know it is achieving the effects intended. So today I have announced that I will begin very short consultations on the environmental integrity of certain types of units for which there are legitimate reasons for concern, and I am sure that when we finally announce our decisions in a couple of weeks’ time, that will help restore confidence in the scheme’s trading units.
Todd McClay: What impact will banning these international units have on the liquidity of the New Zealand emissions trading scheme?
Hon TIM GROSER: Well, given that—from memory—some 230 million units have been traded during the first commitment period, and about one-third of them are, indeed, these particular units, it may have some impact on liquidity. It may somewhat raise the average price in our register, but I think that is a price worth paying to maintain the environmental integrity.
Todd McClay: How does banning these particular units align with policies of other developed countries?
Hon TIM GROSER: It will put us in the same space as the European Union, which will—my understanding is—ban these units from 1 January 2013.
Charles Chauvel: What advice have he or his colleagues received about the likely effect of last Thursday’s decision to quit the Kyoto Protocol on support amongst developing countries for New Zealand’s intended bid for a seat on the Security Council?
Hon TIM GROSER: I have received no such advice and I would be very surprised if I did receive such advice. They are completely unrelated matters.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table a letter dated 8 November from the chair of the Least Developed Countries Group at the UN climate change negotiations to President Obama stressing the importance of the second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. [Interruption] Order! Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Charles Chauvel: Does the Minister agree with his predecessor, Nick Smith, who said on climate policy on 15 September last year: “Australia is particularly significant given the extent that our economies are integrated. … the two schemes will be closely aligned ...”; if so, what logical explanation can there be for last Thursday’s decision to quit the Kyoto Protocol the same day that Australia affirmed its commitment to that protocol?
Hon TIM GROSER: The member is mistaken. We are not quitting the Kyoto Protocol. We are fulfilling our obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. The reason why it is no longer possible is that the Australian Government—the member can surely remember this—has changed its domestic policy completely from having an emissions trading scheme to having a carbon tax. Therefore, it is actually impossible for us to align with Australia, at least until 2015, when it may move towards an emissions trading scheme.
Welfare Reforms—Minister’s Statements
9. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement that “the Government is taking an active, work-based approach” to her welfare reforms?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, because unlike the previous Government that left people to languish on benefits long-term, and actually moved people around benefits—onto the sickness benefit and onto the invalids benefit—to get those unemployment benefit numbers down, this National-led Government is taking an active work-based approach.
Jacinda Ardern: Given that there were fewer people on the benefit under Labour without her punitive changes to social security, how can she justify her crusade to push people off Government support when unemployment is at its highest level this century?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I know that on “Planet Labour” there was no economic recession. I know that on “Planet Labour” we have not actually seen some of the toughest times worldwide. What we have seen is actually New Zealanders being remarkably resilient. What we have seen, for example, is 21,328 young people aged between 18 and 24 leave the unemployment benefit last year. That is compared with only 18,090 in 2008. An increase of 164 percent of young people went into work last year compared with 2008.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she confirm that since June 2009 18,180 people have stopped receiving a benefit because they left New Zealand to try their luck somewhere where they are not even eligible for Government support rather than to have their plight ignored by this Government?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have that particular number but I did ask that question before I came into the House today. In the year to October 3 percent of working-age people left a benefit to go overseas, and in 2008 2 percent left. So we have actually seen just a 1 percent increase in the last 4 years.
Jacinda Ardern: On what basis does she believe that “There are jobs out there for people who are stepping out,”, given that unemployment is at its highest level this century, or did she literally mean stepping out of the country?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: If the member had listened to the answer to the previous question she would have heard that actually it is only 3 percent to October this year who have left in that time. But let me give the member an example. The Warehouse Group has 300 full-time and part-time jobs, across three stores, available between October and January. Brightwater Engineers Ltd is looking for 40 staff at the moment. Mitre 10 is opening a store in Rotorua, and it wants 50 permanent—[Interruption]. Well, the member asked where the jobs are, and I am giving her an example. Forty staff are required for the new Bunnings warehouse in New Plymouth. Taylor Preston meatworks has got 160 jobs that are opening in October. A New World store that is opening in Paraparaumu—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. It is a long—
Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister has made her point.
Jacinda Ardern: If there are jobs out there freely available why have unemployment benefit numbers doubled on her watch?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No one is saying they are freely available; they are the member’s own words. What I am saying is that it is tough out there, but there are jobs and people will get one only if they are looking. So people need to be actively looking to be able to take up the opportunities that are out there. It is as simple as that.
District Health Boards—Involvement in Pharmacy Services Agreement
10. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that District Health Boards have done enough to promote understanding of the Pharmacy Services Agreement?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Acting Minister of Health): From the latest advice I have received, I am satisfied that district health boards are generally on track with implementing the new agreement, which has the support of the Pharmacy Guild and most pharmacists. The new agreement is a complex project, transitioning 947 pharmacies to a more patient-centred service arrangement. This is the biggest change to our pharmacy services in over 50 years, and with the complexity of the change there have been a small number of businesses that have raised issues.
Barbara Stewart: What feedback has he received on the agreement from individual community pharmacy owners?
Hon JO GOODHEW: It is very difficult for me to answer that in terms of the individual feedback that the Minister has had. However, I am aware that what has been set in place for individual pharmacies that have concerns is that each of the district health boards has appointed a portfolio manager, who will liaise with the pharmacies that have any queries or questions. There have been workshops throughout the country—some 30 workshops—on long-term conditions, and they have been resoundingly endorsed by the pharmacists appearing at those workshops in large numbers. So what I can say is that feedback to the Minister, and certainly to the sector, has meant that there have been lots of ways in which the pharmacists can work through the issues over this 3- year transition period.
Barbara Stewart: As audit issues emerge, is there the ability to respond quickly enough to ensure that the district health board funds are not used inappropriately?
Hon JO GOODHEW: I have not been advised of any audit issues. I have been advised, nevertheless, that there certainly are issues that are being worked through regarding how this will transition and how it will roll out. I do want to reassure the member again that, in fact, there is a good process in place to work through the issues as they arise. I would encourage her to bring any audit issues to the attention of the Minister, if they have not been brought to the attention of the portfolio managers in the district health boards.
Barbara Stewart: When will he institute a review via the DHB Shared Services as to how the agreement is actually working so as to close the loopholes—the many loopholes—that have been identified by pharmacists; if he will not, why not?
Hon JO GOODHEW: I think it would be premature to talk about a review when we are talking about a 3-year process that is unequivocally changing the way pharmacy funding is delivered to a much more patient-centred focus than ever before. Over 3 years the issues that are raised will be worked through. It is this Government’s belief that this is a much better way to look after the pharmacy needs of patients—working together with general practice, with pharmacists, and with the patients. Three years for transition is a long time. Maybe a review at the end of that? I guess that will be the time when we should ask the Minister.
Health Services—Hepatitis C Support and Awareness
11. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Health: What is the Government doing to promote awareness and support those with hepatitis C?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Acting Minister of Health): The Government is investing $5.2 million in a new scheme to assess and support people with hepatitis C in the Bay of Plenty and in Wellington. This is yet another preventative health initiative. The scheme will help support the 50,000 New Zealanders who have hepatitis C. It will comprise community-based assessment and support to address what is a major health burden. It has received wide support from the health service and will be run in association with the New Zealand Hepatitis Foundation.
Dr Jackie Blue: How will the scheme work?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The Capital and Coast District Health Board, the Hutt Valley District Health Board, and the Wairarapa District Health Board will employ hepatitis C nurses in community clinics, who will use a liver ultrasound to check for signs of hepatitis C. Nurses will be able to refer those who require it for further treatment or assessment. The scheme will be evaluated in 2014, and it is intended that a national programme will be rolled out between 2015 and 2020.
Climate Change Policy—Kyoto Protocol Second Commitment Period
12. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Has he received any advice on the impact on New Zealand trade resulting from his decision not to sign up to the Second Commitment Period under the Kyoto Protocol; if so, what was it?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): No. As the Minister for Climate Change Issues I have not received any advice, but I have taken the precaution of asking the Minister of Trade—this is a politically seamless Government—and the Minister of Trade assures me that although he has received a torrent of speculation on this matter not a single piece of evidence exists to support this political fantasy.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Having the Minister explore his eternal circular logic between his ministerial brains, does he agree with his Prime Minister, John Key, who once said: “New Zealand must take credible steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or risk becoming a trading pariah.”, and does his action risk making us that pariah?
Hon TIM GROSER: I absolutely agree with the Prime Minister. I am not quite sure of the context of the remarks, but, as it is stated, I absolutely agree. I think it is very important that the House recognises the enormous progress New Zealand has made in being the most carbon-efficient agricultural country in the world, which is why the Daily Mail, focusing on this lovely picture of a Romney sheep and its spring lamb, has urged the British middle class to descend like the proverbial wolf on the fold to consume it, in order to save the planet.
Mr SPEAKER: Dr Kennedy Graham. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear Dr Kennedy Graham. [Interruption] Order! I must say to both sides, please, I want to hear Dr Kennedy Graham’s question.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Returning to the serious plain of analysis, how many jobs and trade opportunities could be created from investing the $1 billion taxpayers’ subsidy for pollution under the emissions trading scheme in research and development investment and other job-rich initiatives?
Hon TIM GROSER: I have no idea what set of statistics the member has in mind. What I know is that we could certainly destroy a great number of jobs if we loaded costs on to households and businesses in the naïve belief that somehow this would make a large material difference to this issue.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Can the Minister explain to the House why the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement congratulating Australia’s Prime Minister on her leadership in signing up to a second commitment period but remained silent on New Zealand’s decision not to do so?
Hon TIM GROSER: No, I have not been in touch recently with the Secretary-General.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called.
Dr Kennedy Graham: The question is not answered. It was not whether he has been in touch; it was whether he can explain the Secretary-General’s silence.
Mr SPEAKER: I think, in fairness, the Minister said that he cannot because he has not been in touch with the Secretary-General, and, I guess, to understand what the Secretary-General is on about, he probably would have had to be. I mean, that is one possible—it is not an unreasonable answer.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave to table some documents that will help the Minister. One is the press release from the United Nations, dated 10 November, explaining the Secretary-General’s congratulations to Australia on its decision.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Dr Kennedy Graham: A Radio New Zealand release—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no; not local press releases.
Dr Kennedy Graham: A press release from the Sustainability Council—
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Dr Kennedy Graham: A press release—
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member does have further supplementary questions, though, should he wish to use them. I beg your pardon; no, he does not. I beg your pardon, my counting is wrong. I beg your pardon.