Questions and Answers - November 28
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Sexual Violence Prevention—Funding
1. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development: When she said in her response to the 2010 Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence, that it was important to “consider future funding options to ensure the sector has greater certainty”, did she intend for that to mean funding may be cut?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): No, what I meant was exactly what I said, and that was: “establish what sexual violence services the Government is already purchasing, what the current and long-term demands are, and consider future funding options to ensure the sector has greater certainty around funding.”
Metiria Turei: If her intention was to retain adequate services, will she restore support to the eight sexual violence services that have told us that they have lost funding; if she will not restore that funding, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would need to see details on it. My understanding is that many of them have not, as such, lost funding, but the Community Response Fund is no longer operating, and many have not seen that as what it was, which was time-limited. Instead, they saw it as ongoing.
Metiria Turei: How can the Minister provide any certainty to the sector when her Government has broken its promises made over the task force report, including the axing of the Community Response Fund; the alternative trials process being canned; the specialist court victims’ advisers, nearly half of whom have never been appointed; and the stocktake of Government spending on sexual violence services, which has never been publicly released?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not agree with all of the member’s assertions. In fact, the member’s party itself got a copy of that stocktake when it asked for it. It has been made available to Te Ohaaki a Hine—National Network for Ending Sexual Violence Together as well. It has gone to that network, so it is there. Also, the Community Response Fund is always what it has been, so we have not misled anyone or services on that. It was time-limited funding, which we did extend further because we saw the need. But “time-limited” is exactly that.
Metiria Turei: How has the Government met its promise to continue to provide effective services to support those affected by sexual violence when Auckland’s helpline may now have to cut its 24-hour phone support service because it does not have enough funding to continue?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am aware that a number of agencies have been working with the Auckland helpline. Actually, we do see that service as important, but we are also in realities where times are tough and ongoing funding is difficult to find. The service is needing to have a look at how it cuts its cloth to match its funding, but I know that agencies combined have put more in this year to try to meet some of those shortfalls.
Metiria Turei: How does the axing of millions of dollars in funding, including the Community Response Fund, provide greater certainty to the survivors of sexual abuse and the services when agencies in Whangarei, in Nelson, and in Hāwera are saying that they may have to shut up shop because they do not have enough funding to continue?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member keeps asserting that we are cutting the Community Response Fund. We are not. We, in fact, put millions and millions of dollars more in at very difficult times. Certainly that should be acknowledged as our trying to actually come up with over—and carry over those difficult times for funding initiatives.
Sue Moroney: Given the police have recently confirmed that 2,235 family violence investigations have been undertaken in just the last 20 months where at least one sexual assault offence occurred, why has she cut her ministry’s funding of the Campaign for Action on Family Violence by 58 percent since 2009?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because we are far more interested in putting money into services. For example, we have increased money to family violence services by $4 million over the last 4 years. That is not time-limited funding. There was $40 million going in in 2008; there is now $44 million. In fact, we have had another increase in the last 12 months.
Metiria Turei: What does the Minister have to say to the survivors of sexual violence and their families in the Manawatū, whose crisis phone line was diverted last year to Hāwera, and who now do not know whether there is anywhere left for that crisis phone to be diverted to because of funding cuts to the Hāwera service?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What I am aware of is that there are at least nine different helplines across New Zealand that respond to sexual violence services. I think they are important, and they certainly have the respect of this Government. What we do need to look at is what is the most efficient way to use them and to run them—for example, Child, Youth and Family do not run a 24/7 service in every region. We run it nationally and then it can be extended out and we make sure that we see it regionally during the day. I do think we need to look at those services that are running, at how we can get them more efficient and actually meet the needs of people as they need them.
Metiria Turei: Can the Minister understand that after all the broken promises in relation to the task force report and the funding cuts and losses, the families of the survivors of sexual violence and the sector that supports those families now have no certainty about the continuation of those services; if so, will she commit to ensuring that these vital services remain open for those communities?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not agree with the member’s assertions. What I will say is, yes, we are committed to continuing to work with them, talk with them, and find solutions.
Screen Production Industry—Economic Outcomes
Hon TAU HENARE (National): My question is to the Minister of Finance: what contribution is the screen industry making—
Hon Trevor Mallard: He’s back in the tent. He’s back in the tent.
Hon TAU HENARE: We will start again, shall we? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Tau Henare. [Interruption]
Hon TAU HENARE: It is a hard job being Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
2. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Finance: What contribution is the screen industry making to the New Zealand economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Finance): Mr Speaker, may I be the first to wish you a happy “Hobbit Day”, and say that New Zealand has a vibrant screen industry, which directly supports more than 2,700 businesses, over 95 percent of which are involved in production and postproduction work. The Statistics New Zealand 2010-11 screen industry survey reported that revenue from the screen industry increased to almost $3 billion in 2011. Feature film revenue for New
Zealand has been trending up since the screen industry survey was first released in 2008. In 2011 feature film revenue increased by 15 percent to more than $700 million, and international revenue also grew by 17 percent, to more than $440 million, with almost $390 million coming from North America.
Hon Tau Henare: How are the Hobbit films supporting New Zealand jobs and the wider community?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Hobbit films have led to around 3,000 jobs to date, with about $1.5 million per week being paid to the crew. There has also been a significant flow-on effect: 93,000 hotel beds have been occupied, 1,800 rental cars and 1,650 other vehicles used, just over $9 million spent with local suppliers for set construction, and just under $1.5 million spent with local food suppliers. Further, the media exposure for New Zealand tourism from the films and from today’s world premiere will be felt for years to come. The Government realised the benefits that would come from making these films in this country, and is proud to have actively supported The Hobbit films from the very beginning.
Hon Tau Henare: What reports has he seen opposing development of the New Zealand screen industry?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen a number of comments, which included, firstly, opposing and, then, pledging to repeal the legislation passed to enable the filming of The Hobbit, even if it meant losing the films offshore. I have seen other comments that label the passing of that legislation as “staggering”, “a day of shame”, and also “a disgrace”. I note with interest, though, that these people, who are loosely described by the media as “Hobbit-haters”, have clearly changed their tune, with a number of their rank now attending the red carpet world premiere of The Hobbit in Wellington this afternoon. These same people will no doubt attend the opening of the Auckland International Convention Centre when it happens, will no doubt attend the opening of the Denniston mine when it happens—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the question has been answered.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the large-screen film grant extended by this Government; if so, did he consult with the Prime Minister, who previously had called it a waste of money?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I understand it was extended, yes.
Hon Tau Henare: What reports has he seen about other potential productions we might see in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Word has reached me of a drama that is currently playing out, which might be suited to the big screen or perhaps go straight to DVD. In this particular performance—it is a very similar movie—the “Fellowship” is led by a tall, thinning, grey wizard, who surrounds himself with a loyal legion of—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! A point of order has been called, and it must be treated with respect.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question specifically asked for what other reports. The Minister began by saying: “Word has reached me …”. That is not a report. He is being frivolous with this House at a very busy time in our—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member needs to forgive me but I seem to recollect the member himself in the past treating verbal reports as reports.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a DVD copy of a film called The Hollow Men, showing that it has already made it to the big screen! [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. The member may be pleased that I do not seek the leave of the House, because he may not be able to table it, and the Standing Orders require documents to be tabled.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In this particular performance, the “Fellowship” is led by a tall, thinning, grey wizard, who surrounds himself with a loyal legion of halflings sworn to protect him against a slimy, bearded creature hiding and plotting in the darkness, consumed by jealousy, and
relentlessly in pursuit of his “precious”. Their journey is made more difficult by the presence of a number of goblins still loyal to their former leader, an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing eye, watching from a distance—roughly, between here and New York. We are due to hear more about the conclusion of this particular story in February of next year, but I understand that it might be a little bit of a flop, because, rather than giant eagles, the fellowship have decided to put their faith in an elderly mallard.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We all like a good joke, but, frankly, if—[Interruption]—no, no, no—that is—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. Points of order must be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: We all like a good joke, and that member is special at it, but I want to say that if that is a precedent for the way we can answer—with that length of time and with that obvious lack of reference—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not sure what the member’s point of order is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am getting to it right now.
Mr SPEAKER: Huh!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, you heard him out for about half an—
Mr SPEAKER: No, order! The member will resume his seat. I think the House can occasionally stand a little humour without getting too upset over it.
Visitor Visas—China Southern Airlines Frequent Flyer Scheme
3. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: What advice has he received about a new agreement between the New Zealand Government and China Southern Airlines in respect of visa processing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I have received advice that this agreement will streamline and facilitate travel by high-value, low-risk Chinese visitors. Visitors from China are growing by 30 to 40 percent a year, with 215,000 forecast in 2012 alone. We need to tap into the opportunities presented by our fastest-growing visitor market, and this includes making border processing easier for some of our most valuable visitors.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Government lowering entry requirements for Chinese nationals when the Chinese Government requires New Zealanders wanting a visa to China to provide evidence of income and a letter from their future employer in China, none of which is required in the arrangement that he has just agreed to?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is because the proposal that is in place for China Southern Airlines and will be in place for other airlines like Air New Zealand as well is fundamentally suited to the New Zealand conditions. It is consistent with the Approved Destination Status scheme, which we already have in operation. In principal, the only real difference that is required is that the person does not have to deliver a note from their employer or show their wealth, and that is because they will have travelled 40,000 kilometres with China Southern Airlines, and on that basis one can assume that they are a reasonably high net worth individual.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the Government decide to relax visa applications for China Southern Airlines’ frequent flyers, some of whom can fly and return with China Southern Airlines for $400, when China Southern Airlines accounts for less than 15 percent of visitor arrivals from China?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a couple of reasons. Firstly, the member is right that they count for less than 15 percent, but what he is not right about, or may not know, is that the significant growth that has been happening in recent times from China can be attributed to China Southern Airlines’ presence. Secondly, the member may or may not know that 70 million Chinese visitors are expected to travel abroad this year, that that number is expected to grow to 100 million within a couple of years, and that New Zealand is looking to have about 425,000 Chinese visitors come to New
Zealand by 2018. So why would a country that has tourism as one of the important parts of its economy not want to attract these sorts of visitors from China?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How could Skycity Casino, China Southern Airlines, and Auckland Airport all be boasting before June 2012 of special fast-track visa procedures despite his allowing his Minister of Immigration to claim in this House that the Government department that he is a head of was not involved at that time? How did that happen?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: You would have to put the direct part of that question to others who are involved. All I can say is that in the early or mid part of 2012, as a result of a trip to China, there was a request made by China Southern Airlines. Work began on that work by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment about 4 September. It noted to my office that there was a programme under development, and I was formally advised that it had gone live some time just after 1 November. I am hugely supportive of what is going on. It is consistent with the programme that is in Australia.
Michael Woodhouse: What else is the Government doing to attract Chinese visitors to New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We are being very innovative when it comes to China. Tourism New Zealand has been working with Chinese superstar Yao Chen as a brand ambassador for New Zealand. She is actually going to be on the red carpet with David Shearer this afternoon at the Hobbit premiere. She was married in Queenstown last week. [Interruption] No, she will not be physically with him in that sense. This was the highest-trending topic for days in Chinese social media. We know that Chinese people are very interested in New Zealand, and we need to translate that interest into even higher visitor numbers. That will provide jobs for New Zealanders, and I think that is something that should be supported.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why on earth, when you have got other airlines such as Air New Zealand bringing far more Chinese people to New Zealand, along with other airlines that are not from southern China, would the special deal be arranged with China Southern Airlines when it, at that point in time and according to what he just said, brought so few Chinese in percentage terms to this country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let us run through the facts, because I deal in the facts. Just dealing with the facts, most of the growth has been occurring with China Southern Airlines. It is not a deal unique to China Southern Airlines; it is consistent with the approved destination status that is already in place. And, by the way, it is consistent with a similar scheme that has been in place with Australia, and, by the way, the sky did not cave in over there either.
Better Public Services Targets—Rheumatic Fever
4. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on rheumatic fever that “Tackling this disease is something I am personally championing. It’s so important to achieve results in this area, that I’ve made it one of our top 10 results areas”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, that is why I am taking on rheumatic fever as part of my Better Public Services challenge to support vulnerable children and that is why the National Government with the Māori Party is spending $24 million targeting at-risk children in eight of our most vulnerable areas. Can I say that one of the shocking statistics I have is that this Third World disease had an increase in the rates of youngsters who were subject to rheumatic fever in the period of time under the past Labour Government.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement that rheumatic fever is often put down to inadequate housing; if so, what has he done to ensure that rental accommodation is warm and dry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and I am surprised that the member has the shame of asking that question. It certainly applies that if you have warmer, drier homes, it is less likely a child will get rheumatic fever. In fact, a child who lives in a cold, overcrowded home is likely to get rheumatic
fever at 20 to 37 times the usual rate. So let us have a think about the insulation under a National Government, because in the last 4 years this Government has insulated 188,500 homes. Let us compare it with the previous Labour Government, which insulated 4,000.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! It would be now be quite helpful were the Prime Minister to actually answer the question, because the question asked what had been done to improve the conditions of rental properties.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sorry. I should have started with that point. I am pleased to say that under this Government by the end of 2013 every Housing New Zealand Corporation State home will be insulated—something that Labour Government failed to do.
David Shearer: Is he aware that only 5 percent of rental property owners—5 percent—have taken up the Warm Up New Zealand scheme, and what is he going to do about that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have all of those details, but what I can say is that there are plenty of low-income New Zealanders who own their home who have had their homes insulated—plenty of low-income homes—so the test is not just rental. And, by the way, if the member wants to make it even more expensive and even worse for those people, well, put a capital gains tax on and they will have their rents going up as well.
David Shearer: Why will he not require all landlords to provide rental housing that is warm and dry, to ensure that New Zealand children are no longer vulnerable to Third World diseases such as rheumatic fever?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is interested in trying to encourage those who are landlords to insulate their homes. That is why we have put $360 million into an insulation programme. That is why we are insulating every State house under our watch. This question is coming from a party that had 9 years and plenty of surpluses, and did nothing.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a pretty straight question about what he would do about landlords providing warm and dry housing.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What’s the point? There’s no point of order for that.
Mr SPEAKER: The Leader of the House should know better than to interject, and it compounds the problem when I am on my feet. The member asking the question did ask a straight question: what was being done with respect specifically to rental accommodation? OK, that does include, obviously, State houses as well. I think this is a topic where there is some passion around the issues, but the House has to be reasonable about it. The Prime Minister gave some answer. Admittedly, it went on, I think, longer than necessary, and it attacked the questioner more than was necessary, but I think the member has further supplementary questions to pursue the issue further.
David Shearer: What specifically will he do to ensure that landlords are able to provide warm and dry housing so that we will not have the incidence of rheumatic fever that we are seeing in New Zealand at the moment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Two things. Firstly, the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart campaign is being more heavily redefined to low-income New Zealanders, particularly those who are renting. Secondly, every State house under our watch will be insulated by 2013. Thirdly, although it is not directly to do with landlords, this is a Government that is out there running significant programmes right across New Zealand schools to the point where at the moment there are 23,000 children covered by the 139 schools. I say that these are all the things that this National Government has done in the tightest of economic times, and that previous Government did zero.
David Shearer: Will he take action to ensure that the 95 percent of private rentals that do not provide warm and dry housing actually do that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member cannot make the statement that 95 percent are not insulated.
Hon Members: Yes, he can.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, how would you know whether they are insulated or not? Secondly, what the Government is doing is a proper programme of dealing with the issue in schools, it is
doing a proper programme in terms of insulation, and it is actually doing something about it. This is the Leader of the Opposition, who has got amnesia about the failure of that Government. It spent lots of money on its own advertising campaigns and not a hell of a lot on vulnerable kids.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave of the House to introduce the Green Party’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation (Warm Healthy Rentals Warrant of Fitness) Amendment Bill for its first reading on the next member’s day.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action to be followed. Is there any objection? There is objection.
5. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister of Health: What progress is the Government making on the national health targets?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The latest national health target results show that the Government is well on track to achieve its Better Public Services immunisation target. The latest results show that 87 percent of our 8-month-olds are now fully immunised. This exceeds the step target that 85 percent of 8-month-olds will be vaccinated on time by July 2013. Children are most vulnerable to infectious diseases between 3 and 18 months of age. Our new target will ensure these babies are immunised on time and better protected from childhood diseases like whooping cough. That is why this Government has introduced at-birth enrolment in general practice and Well Child services.
Dr Cam Calder: How has the progress made with immunisations been achieved?
Hon TONY RYALL: This is a great achievement, which is the result of a lot of hard work and commitment by general practice clinics, Well Child providers, community outreach staff, midwives, district health boards, and the National Immunisation Register team. General practices and immunisation teams in the Capital and Coast District Health Board region here in Wellington and the Southern District Health Board region were outstanding performers this quarter, with an incredible 93 percent of all kids under 8 fully immunised. I would like to thank these front-line teams across the country for their commitment and support, which has seen New Zealand go from one of the lowest immunisation rates in the developed world to one of the best over the past few years.
Schools, Canterbury—Effect of Proposed Closures and Mergers
6. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Education: What evidence, if any, has she received that creating bigger, super schools in Christchurch will benefit students and their communities?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā hoki koe e te Kaiwhakawā. Tēnā tātou e te Whare. Tēnā koe e te kaipatapatai. I am not proposing bigger super-schools in Christchurch. What I am proposing are fit for purpose 21st century educational environments focused on better outcomes for all of our children. This will include some small schools and some big schools, and will retain diversity and choice in the system.
Catherine Delahunty: Why do the Ministry of Education criteria for assessing schools in the Christchurch renewal project show that schools with 150 students or fewer get a black mark against their name?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The evidence is very clear that there are 9,500 fewer students in the Christchurch education network, so we have to look at what spaces are vacant across classrooms. The size of schools and the utility of the schools have been a consideration, and in all the schools we have considered there has been underutilisation.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table the Belfast learning community cluster document, which shows schools of 150 pupils or fewer in the negative column.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection?
Hon Member: Where did it come from?
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, I beg your pardon, members. I have not made it clear to the members where the document came from. The source of the document?
Catherine Delahunty: It was a document that was sent to schools by the Ministry of Education called Catalyst for Change: Proposal.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Catherine Delahunty: What is wrong with smaller schools like Ōuruhia that have robust rolls, population growth in their area, great Education Review Office reports, and no quake damage? Why are they on her blacklist simply because they are small?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is not about the size of the school. It is about the quality and teaching that occurs in the school. The Ōuruhia school has a proposal in front of it that has not yet been decided upon.
Nicky Wagner: Where can members of the public get information about this Government’s education renewal plan?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am in a consultation process with schools. All the material information about education renewal in Greater Christchurch is publicly available on the www.shapingeducation.minedu.govt.nz website. There are no secret agendas.
Dr Megan Woods: Why did the Minister wait until Friday, 23 November to finally release the alterative options for schools and clusters that her officials had presented her with?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: All of the information material to the proposals before schools was made available to them on 13 October. The information that I released on Friday was additional background information.
Catherine Delahunty: Will she remove this 150 pupil minimum category from the negative column on the basis—here it is—that there is no evidence that small schools are bad and that communities do not want their schools super-sized?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I will just repeat that it is not the size of a school; it is the quality of teaching and learning that occurs there.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was straightforward. Will she—
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s question, indeed, did not ask that. The question asked whether the Minister would remove the schools of fewer than 150 pupils from what was described as a negative column in some ministry publication. That is what the question was.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: No, that document is in the public domain together with the wider context, which allows full and intelligent consideration of the total proposal.
Catherine Delahunty: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a point of order?
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not ask whether it was in the public domain—
Mr SPEAKER: No, order! [Interruption] Order! The Minister has absolutely answered the question now. The member asked whether the Minister would remove those schools from what was described as a negative list, and the Minister has said no.
Child Protection—Support for Communities
7. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister for Social Development: How is the Government supporting communities to make a difference for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): The Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children addresses how all New Zealanders can play their part to better protect our
most vulnerable children from abuse and neglect. Quite frankly, the focus and resources that are going on to maltreated children are unprecedented in New Zealand.
Mike Sabin: How will the children’s team pilot in Whangarei make changes to the way professionals work with one another?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It will look different from the one that we have announced in Rotorua, and I think that that is significant. So where the Government works towards the common assessment framework, where it looks at the compliance that we put round it and how we put the right resources in, it is actually not a franchise that we are putting out there. It looks different in different communities, and they are actually—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, it’s a franchise now?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, it is not one. Use your ears, because I deal in the facts, and the fact is that it will be quite different—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That Minister is so close to you that she cannot offend you by telling you to use your ears. That is not acceptable here.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is correct that she should not ask the Speaker to use his ears.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Thank you, Mr Speaker; I am sorry about that. What we are doing in Whangarei is you will see a common assessment framework. However, what you will not see is it looking exactly the same as other children’s teams that have been set up. What we have got to acknowledge is the strength that is on the ground, the way we can get agencies working together, and the resources and the attention that are going on to those children who are most at risk of abuse and neglect.
Mike Sabin: How are local leaders responding to the Government’s white paper proposals?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Government has held more than 30 public meetings now over the last 6 weeks, since we put out the white paper, and I myself have headed about 10 of them. So we literally have got thousands of New Zealanders who are coming out to hear this work and to see what is happening, and to question how they can play a part in that. Yesterday I met with iwi and community leaders in Kaikohe, and to say that they were rather forward in what their opinions were on what we could be doing would be an understatement. But the bottom line is that it is the attention that is going on those children, and then recognising that, actually, the biggest change will come from the ground up.
Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister assure the House that no community organisations that work to support vulnerable children have had their funding cut under her watch?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Oh, absolutely not. We are going to put money where it matters most. We are going to hold people to account where they have been misusing money. We are going to take them to task when we know that it can be done better. So, unlike the previous Government, which liked to close its eyes, pretend everything was OK, and just throw more funding at it, we are going to hold them to account and make sure the funding is getting to the kids who need it most.
New Zealand Air Force—2010 Anzac Day Helicopter Accident
8. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister of Defence: Has he read all the Defence Force reports regarding the accident involving a RNZAF Iroquois on ANZAC Day 2010; if so, what action has he taken?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Defence): I have read the report of the court of inquiry, the accident analysis report, and update reports. I have made it clear to the Air Force that I expect all the recommendations of the court of inquiry to be implemented. I have ordered an independent inquiry into Air Force progress in implementing those recommendations. As the Minister of State Services, I have ordered a further inquiry into how civilian agencies dealt with their responsibilities for investigating the crash and whether this process is fit for purpose.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the accident analysis report indicate that the decision not to preposition aircraft on the day before Anzac Day was made to avoid accommodation costs of around $600?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The accident analysis report informs the court of inquiry, and the court of inquiry is very clear about what the causes of the crash were. Budgetary considerations were not listed as a cause of the Anzac Day crash.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about the content of the accident analysis report, not the court of inquiry report. I would appreciate it if the Minister could answer regarding the content of that report, not another report.
Mr SPEAKER: Indeed, the member did ask about that.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: What the report says is that the decision not to pre-position an aircraft was not a cause of the accident, regardless of what factors might have informed that decision not to pre-position the aircraft. There were things like whether it could be completed within the available crewing rosters. There was also the factor that the Air Force was in discussion with Wellington airport and could not fly down there after dark.
Hon David Parker: Did the report say that? What did the report say?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: So the report was very clear that that budgetary factor was not a cause of the crash.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether he has read the accident analysis report, and, if so, does it indicate that the decision not to pre-position aircraft on the day before Anzac Day was made to avoid accommodation costs of around $600. I listened very carefully to that answer, and I could not tell whether it was a yes or a no.
Mr SPEAKER: The interesting point that has been raised in this point of order is the question did not ask whether the decision not to position an aircraft the night before or the day before caused the accident; the question asked whether the decision was made to avoid a certain cost. In answering, the Minister referred to the elements of the report that describe causes of the accident, but did not actually cover the specific point the member’s question focused on. And it was a very straightforward question. I would ask the Minister to answer that question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not going to take time off my colleague, who is answering perfectly adequately, but I would ask you to have a look at the Hansard of the answer that he gave, because it would be my contention that he did answer that question by making it very clear that in the decision to not pre-position there were no factors other than those he mentioned in his answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think the House needs to take more time on this. I will certainly check in case I am wrong here. If I am wrong, no harm is done. If I am wrong, the Minister can simply point out where I have been wrong—in his further answer—when I have asked him to answer that particular issue raised in the question because the question was a very straight question. If I am wrong, the Minister is most at liberty to point out that I am wrong—I have got no problem with that—and that will save a lot of time.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, there are two parts to the question. To the first part, yes.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the accident analysis report indicate that a decision was made not to pre-position the aircraft in order to avoid accommodation costs of around $600?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The report indicates there were a number of considerations and factors taken into account. That was one of a number, the key point being that it was not a cause of the crash. I urge the member to focus on the cause of the crash, rather than try to cause a cheap beat-up out of this.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the Air Force internal accident analysis says as follows: “the need to minimise accommodation costs incurred by 3 Squadron due to pressure on the
accommodation budget was recognised and contributed to the … decision [not to fly the day before].”, and, further, it found there were no instructor manuals or guides, because of resourcing issues; if that is a fact, when are he and the Prime Minister going to apologise to those three families for their inhuman cost-cutting exercise in the Air Force?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, we deal in facts, and what I can say is that the person in charge of the inquiry—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why don’t you resign?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: This is a direct quote and it is from the court of inquiry. It says: “When considering the report, I could not help thinking that the genesis of this accident goes back some 10 years when changes to RNZAF command and control”—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I gave him two direct quotes from the report and I asked him to confirm whether they were in fact from the report. Why does he not answer the question?
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s question went a little beyond that. The Minister is, in my view, answering the question in a way he is entitled to.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: In answer to the member’s question, the quote from the person in charge of the inquiry is that “When considering the report, I could not help thinking that the genesis of this accident goes back some 10 years when changes to RNZAF command and control were made in an attempt to make our operations more efficient and cost effective.” So it was under that Labour Party Government’s watch.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Iain Lees-Galloway: Is he aware that the operational order for Anzac Day fly-pasts ordered that No. 3 Squadron pre-position aircraft on the day before Anzac Day in order to mitigate both noise abatement regulations and the risk of poor weather, and does he know why this order was not followed?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, the member cannot have it both ways. He is trying to make out—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The question was a reasonable question. There is no expectation that the Minister would necessarily know the answer to it, because it is, clearly, an operational issue who gives orders. But it does not allow that kind of answer. It was a reasonable question, but the Minister may not, in fact, have that information.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The fact is that the pre-positioning or lack of in regard to those aircraft was not a cause of the accident, and the court of inquiry is very clear about that.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I can assist. [Interruption] Order! The question simply asked whether the Minister could tell the House who gave—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, “Is he aware …”.
Mr SPEAKER: —is he aware of—the order, the alleged order, I must stress, for the aircraft to be pre-positioned the day before. That is all that the question is asking. The Minister may or may not know, but it would not be unreasonable for the Minister—unless it is not in the public interest— to actually answer it.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I do not agree with the assertion that he is putting to the House, and I would have to check that fact, because, you know, I am not too certain that he has got his facts correct.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Is he aware that the accident analysis report also indicates that training manuals for the use of night-vision equipment and night flying were not current at the time of the accident because resources had not been allocated to keeping those materials up to date, and does he think that contributed to the accident?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: And I refer that member to the court of inquiry report, which is informed by the accident analysis report, which lists quite clearly the causes of the
accident. Basically, they were around culture, a lack of adherence to the rules, and lack of oversight. It is very clear.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My questions—all of them—have been about the accident analysis report—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am on my feet. I have assisted the member with answers where he has got good grounds, but he may recollect that the last part of that question asked the Minister whether he thought those matters contributed to the accident. The Minister in his answer covered that issue very clearly.
Iain Lees-Galloway: When will the Minister take responsibility for the fact that it is his Government’s policy to cut costs and cut corners that has put pressure on Defence Force personnel, compromised the safety of those personnel, and contributed to the accident that occurred on Anzac Day 2010?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, I would just refer the member to this fact: Labour’s spending on pilot training—the Labour Government’s spending—was cut from $66 million in 1999 to $45 million in 2008. There you go. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Both sides, both National and Labour, will comply with the rules of this House. When a point of order is called, they will cease that kind of interjection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The Minister was asked to account for actions, or inactions, during his time or his Government’s time. He cannot rise to his feet and begin with a diatribe about the former Government.
Mr SPEAKER: The question contained a lot of statement of the member’s views as to what had happened. The Minister is absolutely at liberty, when asked that kind of question, to express his views in return. On the straightforward questions asked previously, I made sure the Minister answered them. On questions like that last one, the Minister has got some licence in his answer. The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman is welcome to give further answer.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Sure. Look, I would just refer to my previous quote from that report. The person in charge of the court of inquiry says that “When considering the report, I could not help thinking that the genesis of this accident goes back some 10 years”—when Labour was in charge—“when changes to RNZAF command and control were made in an attempt to make our operations more efficient and cost effective.” So those changes happened on your Government’s watch. I am afraid that is the truth.
Oil and Gas Extraction—Interim Report on Hydraulic Fracturing
9. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What is the Government’s response to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s recently released interim report on fracking?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yesterday the Minister for the Environment and I welcomed the commissioner’s interim report on her investigation into fracking. The report finds that the environmental risks associated with fracking can be effectively managed, providing that best operational practices are implemented and enforced through regulation. We also welcome the objective, not subjective, view that the evidence she has considered to date has revealed no basis to call for a nationwide moratorium on fracking.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What reports has the Minister seen on responses to the report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on fracking?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I have heard one report on Radio New Zealand National when a member of this House questioned whether the commissioner succumbed to pressure from the oil industry, saying “We don’t know what kind of pressure she was under by the oil industry or Government MPs.” It is disturbing that the commissioner’s independence and integrity has been
called into question by Gareth Hughes. I have consistently said that I have been looking forward to the outcome of the inquiry, and that it will set out fact from fiction.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What has the Minister to say to people who run a nationwide campaign against fracking, saying that it must be banned, who demand an independent inquiry and welcome it when it is announced, but then bag its evidence-based conclusions when it does not meet their doctrinaire views?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would have thought that the experienced former Minister would know that questions should involve some element of ministerial responsibility. Certainly, in this day and age, opinions can be sought, but it just seemed to me that the question asked what the Minister would say to people for whom the Minister has no responsibility whatsoever. I am prepared to allow the member to reframe his question to bring it somewhat more within the Standing Orders.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister think an intelligent debate about using New Zealand’s energy resources, for which he has responsibility, is helped by people who demand bans and demand an inquiry but, when they get an inquiry, bag its conclusions?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I say that it is best to deal in the facts. New Zealand’s policy must be based on evidence. If we allow fear to stop every new opportunity, our country will go backwards, both economically and environmentally. We certainly will not get new jobs or a growing economy if we oppose marine farming, exploration, Skycity, irrigation, and even the hobbits.
10. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that his health targets are working for those that need them the most?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Yes, and we can, and will, continue to do better. Patients, especially those most in need, benefit from 35,000 more elective operations a year under our Government. The proportion of patients being seen in emergency departments within 6 hours has lifted, from 61 percent to 92 percent in some district health boards. All cancer patients ready for radiation and chemotherapy now have that commencing within 4 weeks. In 2007 the immunisation rate for 2-year-olds was 67 percent; it is now 93 percent. Ninety-four percent of patients who smoke are given advice to quit, not to mention the huge increase in cigarette taxes. In relation to heart and diabetes checks, a new, more challenging target has just commenced for these checks, and 52 percent of the eligible population have had their cardiovascular risk assessments done.
Hon Maryan Street: Is there, in his view, any risk that numbers of elective procedures will overtake need, and that district health boards might be inclined to do two simple operations in order to fill monthly targets in preference to one more complex operation that might see them undershoot their targets?
Hon TONY RYALL: The district health boards have been working very hard, and for the last few years they have achieved over target. The advice that I have received is that the complexity of the operations performed, as a whole, is relatively unchanged.
Hon Maryan Street: What does he say, then, to the parents of a little boy with a congenital eye problem that could be corrected by surgery whose scheduled surgery was cancelled because two cataract operations needed to be done that afternoon in order to meet target numbers?
Hon TONY RYALL: The target applies to a 12 month period. I would be very happy to look into that case for the member if she actually brought it to my attention.
Hon Maryan Street: Has he spoken to specialists who have made decisions such as these for reasons of achieving the Minister’s targets and who have described the whole process to me as demoralising; if so, what has he said to them?
Hon TONY RYALL: No. I have met a lot of surgeons and nurses who are rapt that 35,000 extra people a year are getting the elective operations they need. They remember when that party opposite cut over 30,000 people off waiting lists just to dress the books up.
Hon Maryan Street: What does he say, then, to the solo mother of three children, one of whom needs a first specialist assessment to determine whether or not surgery is required to correct her 4- year-old’s emerging speech defect, who has received a letter saying that Isabelle does not qualify for a first specialist assessment because she is not urgent enough—although how that is determined without a first specialist assessment is hard to know—and is this what he means by better, sooner, and more convenient health-care?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to reflect on how that question is allowable but the question from the Hon Dr Nick Smith earlier was not allowable.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it is an interesting point that the member raises. I think it is reasonable where the question specifically relates to issues of health care for which the Minister is responsible. Ultimately, the Minister has responsibility for the overall effectiveness of the health system. Therefore, I think that is rather different from asking a Minister for opinions, or for his view, or what he would say to other people for whom he has no responsibility. This Minister does have responsibility for how the health system treats New Zealanders, and I think that is not unreasonable.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: But it’s totally hypothetical.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, hypothetical questions are allowed to be asked.
Hon TONY RYALL: What I would say is a number of things. That member is invited to bring that case to me to have a look at. What I would say is this. Under our Government we are doing thousands and thousands and thousands of more first specialist assessments than were ever done under the previous Labour Government. What I have to tell that member is when that Government culled 35,000 people off waiting lists without any treatment or review, many of those thousands included children.
Student Achievement—Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017
11. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to raise educational achievement for Pasifika students?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Last week I launched the Pasifika Education Plan 2013-2017, which reflected considerable involvement by Pacific communities committed to their children getting a better education, and I thank them for that. The plan builds on the increase in Pasifika participation at all levels of education, including a 7 percent increase in National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2 in the past 4 years. Although that is very positive growth we need to treble that in the next 5 years so that 85 percent of Pasifika 18-year-olds are achieving NCEA level 2 by 2017. We plan to do that by continuing to work with parents, families, aiga, with Pacific communities and churches, and with schools like Sylvia Park School and those in the Manaiakalani cluster at Point England School, which put every child at the centre of their learning programme.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: What about Ōtara, Ōtāhuhu?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: All schools. My unrelenting focus is on ensuring that communities are empowered with good data around participation at early childhood education, primary, and secondary. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Nikki Kaye: How ambitious are the Government’s targets?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Very ambitious. By 2030 a quarter of Auckland’s job entrants will be Pasifika New Zealanders. Successful Pasifika people are making, and will make, a significant contribution to our economy and society. Education is the key to realising this potential. It is essential that our targets be ambitious. They are that. In 2016, 85 percent of Pasifika children starting school will have participated in quality early learning and 85 percent are achieving NCEA level 2 in 2017. These are not targets that the Government alone can produce. We must all work together.
Teachers and Support Staff—Implementation of Novopay Payment System
12. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Associate Minister of Education: What is the difference between a trial and a test when it comes to ICT systems in light of his answer to a supplementary question on Oral Question No 10 yesterday?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Associate Minister of Education): In relation to the Novopay information and communications technology payroll system, the difference is that a trial would have involved actual users inputting their data into a live system. A test would include a range of simulation activities, such as running a virtual pay. The Ministry of Education and the Novopay board decided to undertake substantial testing, and not a trial.
Chris Hipkins: Were the results of the pre-implementation testing considered prior to the decision to go live with the new system; if not, why not?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Yes, they were.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to members that I take it that their colleague is asking serious questions, and therefore we should not have loud, raucous interjections, because we cannot hear answers if we do.
Chris Hipkins: What was the point of the pre-implementation testing of the Novopay system, given that those tests revealed a multitude of problems, including 757 individuals being paid incorrectly, 1,321 staff leave records being calculated incorrectly, 3,159 staff service accumulation records being calculated incorrectly, and other problems, and yet the implementation went ahead anyway?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Most of that question he should address to the Novopay board and the ministry, but I fully acknowledge that the first two pay rounds were not at all satisfactory and quite regrettable for those who were responsible for it.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I actually addressed my question to him. He is the Minister. I know there was quite a bit to it, but it was a relatively straightforward question.
Mr SPEAKER: I guess, though, the Minister in answering can claim that it is an operational matter. That is his right to claim that. People can make their—[Interruption] Order! The member should not interject. [Interruption] Order! The member should not interject like that. I am making no judgment over the quality of an answer. I am just accepting that that is an answer.
Chris Hipkins: Why did he sign off on the implementation of the Novopay payroll system, given that the pre-implementation testing revealed a string of errors, such as those I listed in my previous question?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I followed the recommendation of the expert panel, the Ministry of Education, and the Novopay board, which recommended to me, after considering all such matters, that Novopay go live.
Chris Hipkins: Why did the actual implementation process differ from the original plan to roll out Novopay only in the South Island first, and then in the North Island several months later?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I am glad the member asked that, because there have been many changes to the implementation of Novopay. The first change was in 2005 when the Labour Government contracted—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question asked very simply why the decision was made to roll out the Novopay system nationwide instead of first in the South Island. The member is certainly welcome to add context information once he has answered the question, but he should answer the question first.
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Because that was the recommendation of the ministry and the Novopay board. There have been many changes to the original plans of Novopay, which was first contracted by the Labour Government in 2005, which was rescinded by the Labour Government in 2007, and which was re-contracted by the Labour Government in 2005 by the current senior education spokesman for Labour. There have been many changes to the implementation of Novopay over the last 5 or 6 years.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a relatively simple question, which asked why the implementation process was different from that contained in the document—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! But the Minister has answered that. He said it was because he was advised to do it, and that is an answer. Members can judge the quality of the answer as they choose, but that is an answer. He was advised to allow that change.