Questions and Answers - November 29
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Housing Affordability, Auckland—Progress
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Housing: What progress has the Government made in the provision of affordable home ownership in Auckland?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): We have recognised that you cannot fix housing affordability without fixing the underlying drivers of cost. The Government has recently set out its response to the Productivity Commission’s report. We will work with the Auckland Council to increase land supply and reduce the cost delays and uncertainty of the Resource Management Act, along with other measures. Interest rates are at record lows, saving Kiwis thousands of dollars in interest. In addition, over $8 million was invested in affordable housing projects in Auckland through the Social Housing Fund, and over the next 5 years, as part of its redevelopment work, the Housing New Zealand Corporation intends to provide 400 houses for affordable homeownership, along with 600 more affordable homes in Hobsonville.
Hon Annette King: Can he confirm that the Government’s affordable houses now to be built at Hobsonville will be indirectly subsidised by spreading their costs across the whole Hobsonville housing development, as stated by the Department of Building and Housing at the Social Services Committee yesterday?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: The houses at Hobsonville will not be subsidised. It is pretty usual in a development that there are a range of section sizes and house sizes sold at different values, and I think that indicates how much the Labour Party knows about subdivisions and the building industry.
Hon Annette King: Can he confirm at this stage that there are no criteria as to who would purchase his affordable homes at Hobsonville, there are no criteria for allocation, there is nothing stopping developers from buying them up and onselling them, and there is no requirement for them to go to first-home buyers, as confirmed by the Department of Building and Housing at the select committee yesterday?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I can confirm half of those things because they were in my speech in the announcement when I made it. I said that the Hobsonville Land Company was working through the details and would announce in the next few months exactly what the criteria were. So I announced that. I am glad that the member was listening.
Hon Annette King: Obviously no work done on it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that the Department of Building and Housing said at the select committee yesterday that the international measure of housing affordability is that a mortgage should not exceed 30 percent of the annual household income; if so, has he worked out that a buyer of one of his affordable houses at Hobsonville would need an annual income of $110,000? So who is going to buy these houses?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: We made it very clear that 10 percent of the houses at Hobsonville and units there would be under $400,000, another 5 percent under $450,000, and another 5 percent under $485,000. We called these houses more affordable because in the Auckland context houses are very expensive. We are not running up and down New Zealand saying that we can have 100,000 houses across this country—66,000 of them in Auckland—under $300,000 each. We are not claiming that.
Simon O’Connor: What reports has the Minister seen on alternative affordable housing proposals?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I have seen a report of a proposal to build 66,000 houses in Auckland for $300,000 or less each based on the winner of the Starter Home Design Competition. I thought it might be of interest to the House to know that the Housing New Zealand Corporation built that home in Ōtara, Auckland, and actually the estimated cost of building that starter home in Ōtara, Auckland, was, for the build, $170k; the site work, $25k; local authority costs, $10k; consultants and other costs, $10k; $27k for GST; and land, $120k. That starter home was $362,000. It is the flagship of the Labour Party policy.
Hon Annette King: Well, in light of that answer, can he confirm that the size of his affordable houses to be built at Hobsonville will be as small as 65 square metres, as stated by the Department of Building and Housing at the select committee yesterday; and did he confuse Hobsonville with Hobbiton?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: At the announcement I told the media and all there that the houses, the units, and the studio units would be one, two, or three-bedroom properties. I said what the costs were. I am not running up and down New Zealand saying I can build 100,000 houses—66,000 of them in Auckland—for less than $300,000 each. I am not making that claim. The Labour Party is making that claim.
Hon Annette King: I would like to table household plan delta No. 65, a household plan of a 65 square metre house, which is described as a cottage for holiday accommodation.
Mr SPEAKER: The source of this document is?
Hon Annette King: The source of this document is Investorhomes.co.nz—plans, minor dwellings.
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.
Simon O’Connor: Has the Minister received any reports on how many sections in Auckland are currently being advertised on TradeMe for under $100,000?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Yes. I did ask for a report on section prices in Auckland under $100,000, because I understood there could be many under $50,000. However, I have discovered that in Auckland there are sections under $100,000. The number of those sections is eight—eight!
Economies, International—Effect on New Zealand
2. PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the global economic situation and its expected impact on the New Zealand economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this week issued its updated forecast for the world economy. As the OECD Secretary-General said, the world economy is far from being out of the woods. Accordingly, the OECD has revised down its outlook for the world economy from its previous forecast in May. It now expects economic growth of only 1.4 percent across the OECD in 2013, which will match the expected growth for this year. This is forecast to rise to only 2.3 percent in 2014. The weaker position across developed economies is expected to moderate growth in this country, with a forecast
growth of 2.4 percent next year, which would make us in a stronger position than many other countries we compare with.
Paul Goldsmith: What are some of the factors behind the OECD’s weaker forecasts for global growth?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There is a range of factors. If we look around the OECD, according to the OECD’s latest forecasts the US economy will grow by 2 percent in 2013, with the Japanese economy expanding by only 0.7 percent, while the euro area will remain in recession until early next year. The OECD has observed that if the US fiscal cliff materialises, it could tip, in fact, an already weak US economy into recession. The OECD says that Governments in the euro area and the US must act decisively using all the tools at their disposal to turn confidence round and boost growth and jobs, and that is exactly what the New Zealand Government is doing in this country.
Paul Goldsmith: What observations does the OECD make about the New Zealand economy and its outlook for the next few years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The OECD observes that the New Zealand economy is likely to continue expanding at a moderate pace. It notes that there will be headwinds from weak external demand, a resulting strong currency, high household indebtedness, and fiscal consolidation. However I have said that its forecast growth of 2.4 percent for New Zealand in 2013 and 2.9 percent in 2014 would leave us relatively well placed against other countries in the OECD. That relatively good position was confirmed today by Statistics New Zealand, which showed average household incomes increased by 2.3 percent in the year to June 2012, while housing costs, for example, were unchanged in that year. So times remain challenging for many households, but, on average, incomes are rising faster than the cost of living.
Andrew Williams: What is his response to a report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research this week that warns that New Zealand exports to Australia, our largest export market, declined sharply by almost 10 percent in the last 6 months; and how does he expect this to impact on the New Zealand economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: My understanding is that is partly in the petroleum space, so I would need to go back and have a look as to what is driving that particular figure. But I would say to the member that, yes, it remains a challenging time, and, of course, we all watch with close interest what is happening with Australia, because the eastern states of Australia, particularly New South Wales and Victoria, are showing signs of struggling, and a lot of our goods do go into those markets, whereas the states such as Western Australia, and particularly central Queensland, is where most of the Australian growth is occurring. So I think that underscores the challenging nature of the economy that we are in and the constant work we all have to do to improve the competitiveness of the environment that our businesses operate in.
Paul Goldsmith: What can New Zealand learn from the experiences of other countries in light of the latest OECD forecasts?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, there are probably three main lessons. Firstly, we must continue with the Government’s wide-ranging economic programme, which is focused on responsible fiscal and economic management and also improving the competitiveness of our businesses through the Business Growth Agenda. Secondly, New Zealand is better placed than most other countries in the OECD and now is not the time for risky and untried economic experiments. And the third lesson is probably that promises of more borrowing and more spending, including, for example, a very large housing programme that was uncosted, or, perhaps, doubling paid parental leave, should simply not be approached at this time, given the fragility of the world economy.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions—New Zealand’s 1990-2010 Ranking
3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: How does New Zealand rank internationally, in terms of net emissions, in the latest United Nations national greenhouse gas inventory data for the period 1990-2010?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): The latest UN report on inventory data for this period shows that New Zealand’s net emissions in 2010 are ranked 29th out of the 42 annex 1 countries—roughly, developed countries—in a recent summary by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the report accurate, then, when it showed New Zealand had the secondlargest increase in net emissions of the 41 annex 1 countries in the report?
Hon TIM GROSER: It is a different issue about the rate of change going back over 20 years and six or seven Parliaments. All I can say is that in the course of the life of this Government, net emissions have decreased.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very straight question. I asked whether the report was accurate when it said we had the second-largest increase in net emissions.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point is correct in that it was a very simple question. If the Minister does not have that information, then that is one thing, but I think he should attempt to answer the question.
Hon TIM GROSER: The answer is straightforward. As far as I understand, the answer is yes over a 20-year period. The point I am making is that in the period for which this Government has had responsibility, New Zealand’s emissions in net terms have decreased.
Dr Russel Norman: Are not New Zealand’s net emissions going to increase even further because his Government gutted the emissions trading scheme, and is he aiming to become the country with the biggest increase in emissions, a race this Government seems determined to win?
Hon TIM GROSER: I am confident that the one commitment that we have taken, which is to reduce our emissions according to our original Kyoto Protocol commitment, will be fully met.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister think that Kiwis will be “loving it”, in the words of the Prime Minister, that New Zealand’s net emissions, which increased by 60 percent in this period, are now going to go through the ceiling because the bottom has fallen out of the emissions trading scheme, and New Zealand now faces another chainsaw massacre in forestry job losses?
Hon TIM GROSER: I think New Zealanders will be “loving it” that they are run by a Government that is putting the interests of households, jobs, and industries first.
Dr Russel Norman: Well, does the Minister think that Kiwis will be “loving it”, in the words of the Prime Minister, that his changes to the emissions trading scheme are going to cost taxpayers $328 million, according to Treasury’s paper that went to Cabinet—$328 million that has been transferred from polluters on to taxpayers?
Hon TIM GROSER: This is treading over very well trodden ground. That represents a figure of revenue that would have occurred had we decided to increase charges to taxpayers and households. Eighty percent of that figure would have been borne by households and businesses.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister think that Kiwis will be “loving it”, in the words of the Prime Minister, that the Small Island States chair, Nauru’s Marlene Moses, has said that she is disappointed and mystified by New Zealand’s refusal to sign up to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol?
Hon TIM GROSER: I think we will be able to clarify the situation when we have the opportunity to speak directly to the Nauruan delegation.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the Minister agree to sign this letter to the future generations of New Zealanders, saying “I am sorry. I knew what the right thing was to do, but I chose not to do it. Tim Groser.”?
Hon TIM GROSER: I do not think I can possibly answer the question. I have no idea what this letter is or what the organisation he has referred to is—unless it is the delegation of New Zealand youth leaders to the conference in Qatar, which is going to include as a so-called youth leader a political adviser of the Green Party.
Dr Russel Norman: How—[Interruption] Did you pick him?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Dr Russel—[Interruption] Order! I must hear the question.
Dr Russel Norman: How can we ask the rest of the world to make the necessary cuts to avoid out-of-control climate change, when we ourselves are refusing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and we have the second-largest increase according to the United Nations?
Hon TIM GROSER: The whole purpose of this conference that Mr Bridges and I will be going to is to try to ensure that the future agreement encompasses 85 percent of countries outside the Kyoto Protocol, so that we have a serious opportunity for the first time of getting on top of the problem. I think that is an entirely reasonable position for any New Zealand Government to take.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a draft letter from the Hon Tim Groser apologising to future—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The source of this document?
Dr Russel Norman: I wrote it for him.
Mr SPEAKER: No, we do not—
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the United Nations’ latest update on greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr SPEAKER: That is available to all members—the latest document.
Todd McClay: Has the Minister come across any other recent reports on New Zealand’s current international standing in respect of our relative environmental impact?
Hon TIM GROSER: Yes. I have seen another report, the so-called PLOS ONE report, which attracted media comment this week, called Evaluating the Relative Environmental Impact of Countries, which notes, I have to say, that we are well off the pace set by the top 10 best performers, which include Tajikistan, Djibouti, the Central African Republic, and Swaziland. But I am sure that we could achieve parity with these leading performers if we adopted the economic policies pursued by the Green Party.
Welfare Reforms—Initiatives Targeting Young People
4. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement “No one wants to see young people floundering on benefits and we will keep the focus on our youth, however evidence tells us the programmes this Government has introduced are making a difference”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes. In fact, since I made that statement in July 2011, the total number of young people on benefit has fallen by 4,100, and 33,648 young people have cancelled their benefit to go into work.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she confirm the answers provided to questions to the Ministry of Social Development that of the 1,300 young people who participated in the Limited Service Volunteer course in the last year, more than 1,000 either failed to complete the course or were still on a benefit 3 months later?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I can. It is for a variety of reasons. We have some who fall out early because of medical reasons. I mean, it is quite an active and quite an intense kind of course, particularly in those first few weeks. We also have a number who fall out because they get homesick, to be honest—because they get away from home for the first time. We also have some it does not suit. We are getting those numbers up, as far as those we are getting into training and to work and have got a completely different way of looking at it.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she consider more than 50 percent of young people still being on a benefit after completing that programme evidence that her programme is not making a difference, or evidence that her Government is not making a difference and that the jobs just are not there?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Actually, Limited Service Volunteer is making a difference, and we have seen the numbers—[Interruption] Well, if you want to listen to the answer, then just zip it, sweetie, I am getting there. So what it is is that actually what you have got is you have got a number of people who do fall out in the first few—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you heard what the Minister said.
Mr SPEAKER: I certainly did not hear what the Minister said, because the noise level was too high.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, we could hear it on this side, and I suggest that if you had listened you could have heard it. It was exceptionally offensive. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not hear what the Minister said—I honestly did not—because the noise level was too high. When members interject excessively, they may get a reaction. However, if the Minister said something that has caused offence, I would ask her to withdraw it. But I do not know what she said. I leave it to the Minister.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Speaking to that point of order, Mr Speaker, what I said was “zip it, sweetie”, because she had said—and within three words—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, I did not actually call the member to speak to a point of order. I actually asked her—[Interruption] Order! That will do. I asked the Minister, if she had said something offensive, to withdraw it. It appeared, though, it was not. Compared with other language I have heard used around this House, it would appear that it was not that offensive. [Interruption] Order! It related to excessive interjections, and the Minister says she said “zip it”—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, no, no—she said “zip it, sweetie”. That’s what she said. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I ask the—[Interruption] No, order! Order! I am now on my feet. Thank you. If we get too offended by that sort of thing—had it come out without provocation, I would have treated it far more seriously. But given that there was so much interjection that I could not even hear it—and members have got to think about this. If they interject excessively, they may get comments back that are not great. If it was outrageously offensive, I would have required it to be withdrawn. But no one can say that was outrageously offensive.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker, if that term was used to a member who was not a younger woman member—in that sort of approach—I think you would find it offensive. We certainly found it offensive here, and I ask you whether that term is something that is appropriate. “Zip it” might have been all right but—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Look, there is a myth that there are certain terms that are ruled out in this House. It is a myth—there are none. Members should treat this place, this House, with respect and members should treat each other with courtesy. If members interject in a rude manner, they may get a less than perfect reaction from the Minister. The level of interjection was so high that I did not hear what the Minister had said. I accept my hearing is less than ideal. I fully accept that, and I apologise for it. But I believe that if we allow ourselves to get worked up over that, we are just being unnecessarily petty. The solution is simple: do not interject so much. It was not necessary. The member had asked a question and should be interested in the answer. It was difficult to hear the answer, so the Minister felt provoked and said something that was less than ideal, but under the circumstances I am not going to ask the Minister to withdraw and apologise for it.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am going to answer the question, if I might. So, for the 50 percent, what we have seen is an increase in the numbers that have actually been going into work and training in the last 12 months. What we have tried to do is get better connection into training establishments and into the workforce, so they now hold workforce seminars, which are making a bit of a difference. We are seeing more connection into jobs. We have Work and Income working with them over the whole 6 weeks while they are in Limited Service Volunteers. These are people who have been on benefit. It is not easy for them to find work, but we have been getting better results more recently than we ever have, and I think we can continue to grow on that.
Jacinda Ardern: If there are jobs out there, why did the Prime Minister recently write letters to employers, asking them to take on Limited Service Volunteer graduates, with the sweetener that they can be paid less?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, that sweetener is actually about our connecting them with the Job Streams, which means that they can get a part subsidy, which is something that the Opposition is constantly calling out for. So it is effectively a wage subsidy that helps those people in the first 6 months in their jobs, or even through to a year now when we individualise it more. The Prime Minister is pretty passionate about getting young people into work. The fact that he is now shouting out to employers and saying: “Here are some young people who are ready, who are active, who are turned on to the facts of going on to jobs. I would like you to give them a chance.” I think is absolutely positive stuff, and good on him for actually getting ahead of it.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: How can she stand by her answer to the primary question when unemployment among Pacific youth has reached up to 40 percent under this Government?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The number that the member is talking about is actually around the household labour force survey and not about those who are on benefits. But we know there is work to be done. We have seen improvements with those numbers on the unemployment benefit since January 2011, when it peaked under the recession. We have been making headway with the numbers of those who are stuck on benefits over longer periods of time, and we think that we can continue to do that.
Jacinda Ardern: Does the Minister believe that the job market is so bouncy that it is justification for her decision to change the number of times she reports on benefit figures from 12 times a year to just four times a year?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Let us be clear: we have got a whole new way of reforms that are going through under welfare. So what we are going to be seeing is an investment approach. We are going to be getting much better information out there. It will be far more robust. And, yes, actually, things do change month to month. Reporting on a quarterly basis— which we have been signalling for more than 12 months now, I might like to say to the member—will show that we are being more robust, and show more information, I think, that will make more sense.
White Paper for Vulnerable Children—Public Involvement
5. Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister for Social
Development: What opportunities does the Government’s White Paper for Vulnerable Children provide for New Zealanders to get involved?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): The white paper Children’s Action Plan looks to all New Zealanders to get involved—individuals, communities, and corporate organisations. They have their part to play in supporting these vulnerable children. We want to set up an independent trust to support education and training awards and scholarships for vulnerable children. The trust will be tasked with growing the scholarship programme and attracting support from individuals, communities, and also corporate organisations.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What progress has she seen of mentoring programmes that are working with children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Last night I attended the launch of the Big Brothers Big Sisters in Auckland. It currently has 15 locations around the country and is now moving there. It has already made 25 matches of big brothers or big sisters with young people who really need that kind of support. It has also partnered with UBS, and I want to congratulate UBS on that corporate partnership, which I think makes a big difference in seeing the dollars going to those young people who really need it.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: How can these mentoring programmes make a difference for children and young people?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The fact is we know that there can be a powerful impact on young people if they are connected to an adult who mentors them and stays with them over a period of time. We have some fantastic organisations throughout this country that head up those mentoring programmes, like TYLA, Project K, First Foundation, Big Buddy, Challenge for Change, and many others. I am going to support them, as the Government will support them, more when we see that connection with young people and those mentors that they need most.
Public Transport, Auckland—City Rail Link
6. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport: Does he still “take big issue with the suggestion that the City Rail Link is useful or popular”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Yes.
Phil Twyford: What will be the impact on productivity and economic growth in Auckland, with rush hour traffic slowing to walking pace within 10 years under his transport policies?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think the first point is that if this project were to go ahead it would make around about a 20 percent difference to some traffic coming in, as low as a 10 percent difference to traffic that would be coming by way of cars, and around about a 20 percent difference to people travelling by buses. When you have a growing problem, with a projected big number at the end of it, yet relatively manageable percentages around the size of the problem, I think you have got to be very careful before you commit $3 billion minimum or around about $1 million per metre for a tunnel project that will do so little.
Phil Twyford: What is his plan to ease central city congestion and remove the network constraints on Auckland’s public transport system?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government will work with Auckland Transport, which has a very important role to play, and when we have all of the information in front of us the Government will be able to work out exactly what we might do. What I can say to the member is that I would be prepared to consider any information that does come to us.
Phil Twyford: Why does his Government refuse to listen to the Auckland Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern), which says that building a city rail link is a no-brainer, and the 64 percent of Aucklanders who say they support building the rail link?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Sixty-four percent of Aucklanders do not make that comment, but 100 percent of Aucklanders will notice how much the Government is spending to try to improve both the roading network and public transport in Auckland. The 64 percent figure the member refers to was from a HorizonPoll, which previously predicted a very bad result for this current Government in the last election. It was wildly inaccurate, as I believe it is on this.
Phil Twyford: I seek leave of the House to table Horizon Research results that say that 64 percent of Aucklanders support the city rail link project.
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.
Phil Twyford: Why does he rule out funding options for Auckland’s transport agenda, including a regional fuel tax, congestion charging, and funding by central government, when he is doing everything he can to add funding options for his roads of national significance, like borrowing, public-private partnerships, raising the petrol tax, and raising road-user charges?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: To make that assertion without all of the information yet compiled on what would be the most effective way to ease Auckland’s projected congestion in the future is rather silly. What I will say to the member is that I would consider hiring Lyle Lanley and associates to do a scoping study for us on the city rail link. I know that they have done very good work on similar projects in Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and if they think this stacks up we will give it some further consideration.
Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart—Progress
7. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent announcement has he made about the Warm Up New Zealand programme?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Energy and Resources): It was my pleasure to announce today that the insulation programme has reached its original target of insulating 188,500 homes ahead of schedule and ahead of budget. This successful programme has directly improved the living conditions of many thousands of New Zealanders. The programme has also supported manufacturing in New Zealand and created approximately 2,000 jobs. Anecdotal evidence tells us that tenants and homebuyers are now far more likely to ask about the insulation of a house they want to buy or rent because they know it will be warmer, drier, and healthier. I would like to thank the Māori Party and the Green Party for their support of this worthwhile programme.
Mark Mitchell: What does the Government now expect to deliver for the budget of $347 million?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Earlier this year, the Government announced that the scheme will be extended to insulate a further 41,500 homes, taking the total to 230,000 for the original funding of $347 million. In particular, I would like to highlight the difference the scheme has made to lowincome New Zealanders. Under the original target, 60,000 low-income homes were to be insulated. This target was increased to 88,000 homes. We now expect to insulate 105,000 low-income homes in total—45,000 more than the original target.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister tell us what role he had to play in agreeing with the Māori Party to have pilot programmes for Ngati Porou on the east coast of the North Island and Ngāpuhi in Northland, two of the warmest areas in the country where Māori live, while leaving the rest of the Māori population in freezing cold places freezing?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: One of the beauties of this programme is that it is open to every family in New Zealand to take part, because we believe that regardless of their geographic position in this country or their income, they deserve to live more warmly if they choose to do so and take up this subsidy.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Te Ururoa Flavell.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Kia ora tātou.
Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon. The Māori Party has actually already used its allocation of questions this week. Is National meant to have—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, you are not allowed to do a late notification. That is what you told us, sweetie.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have to be absolutely fair in this, and the members on my left have reminded me that I did not allow a question to be transferred that I had not been advised of in reasonably recent time. It would be unfair to allow a transfer that I had not been advised of from the members on my right. I accept the member’s point.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I seek leave of the House to allow for this question to be put to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.
John Hayes: What specific progress has been made in reaching the milestone negotiated by the Māori Party in the 2011 relationship accord with National for 20,000 low-income homes to be targeted for home insulation in the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Of the 20,000 homes that the Māori Party negotiated to insulate, we have done 16,000. Clearly—and this is to help David Parker—that means there are 4,000 left to do. I am just helping him with the maths there. But actually, overall we will be doing about 105,000 low-income households—if David Parker can deal with those calculations.
Inland Revenue Department—Business Transformation Project
8. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Revenue: Before the launch of their September 2011 “Transformation Programme Planning Services” Registration of Interest, how many companies did IRD expect would comply with the mandatory requirements listed in 4.3 of the Registration of Interest, and of those, how many were expected to be New Zealand-owned companies?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue): The purpose of the registration of interest was to identify companies or consortiums, regardless of where they were based, that have the capacity and the capability to provide the services necessary for that particular phase of the Inland Revenue Department’s transformation programme. The Inland Revenue Department had no expectation of how many New Zealand based businesses would register their interest either individually or as part of a consortium.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very straight question on notice, and I do not feel that it was adequately addressed. It was not clear that there was no expectation.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister has indicated in his answer that he simply does not have that information. I take it the Minister is telling the House there was no record of expectation with respect to New Zealand - owned or foreign-owned companies.
Hon PETER DUNNE: There was no question of an expectation. We simply asked for a registration of interest, and we did not have a figure in mind at the outset as to how many from New Zealand or elsewhere would seek to register.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that seems to be a pretty clear answer.
Dr David Clark: Unbelievable. What conversations has the Inland Revenue Department or its project consultant Capgemini had with Accenture about its Aspire system; and given the close working relationship between Capgemini and Accenture in previous projects overseas, how will their consultants manage conflicts of interest in tender processes?
Hon PETER DUNNE: I think the problem is that the member fundamentally misunderstands what is going on. Capgemini’s involvement with this particular aspect of the project ceased with the presentation of its report in July, and in fact it did work in partnership with a local company, Tenzing Ltd, who are management and technology consultants. The next phase of the project will be subject to an open tender process.
Dr David Clark: What involvement has David Butler, former Commissioner of Inland Revenue, who subsequently managed the troubled change programme in the Australian Taxation Office, had in advising on the Inland Revenue Department’s business transformation programme; and is the Minister aware of blowouts in the Australian experience that doubled the cost of implementation of the Accenture package, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, after David Butler went on record saying the Australians would have been crazy not to go with Accenture?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Can I answer that question in two parts. Firstly, when we began this transformation process work under the previous Government in about 2007, a very conscious decision was made not to go down the path that the Australians had gone down, for precisely the feared reasons at that point that the member has now advanced. With regard to Mr Butler’s involvement, or alleged involvement, I am not aware of any role that he has played in respect of this process.
Dr David Clark: Why has the Inland Revenue Department blocked access to anything but the title and date of 80 documents relating to the department’s business transformation programme, including its engagement processes, and does the Minister not think it is in the public interest for transparency of process to apply in the case of a project where Ministers in his own Cabinet have estimated costs at between $700 million and $1.5 billion of taxpayer money?
Hon PETER DUNNE: For precisely the reasons, again, implied in the member’s question. These are commercially sensitive matters. The process is ongoing and has not yet been finalised. It
has been a longstanding practice, supported by the previous Ombudsman, that where papers relating to work that is currently under way have been sought, it is perfectly appropriate for the Government to withhold those until such time as the projects and the decisions have been made, and that is exactly the practice that has been followed in this particular instance.
Dr David Clark: Did Capgemini or any of its recent employees have any formal or informal role in shaping the department’s 2011 registration of interest?
Hon PETER DUNNE: To my knowledge the answer to that question is no, because we were inviting an expression of interest from various potential suppliers at that time. Capgemini, through the consortium that I referred to earlier, became the preferred operator after that process. It would have been illogical for it to have had any involvement in its design.
Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table the registration of interest document for the provision of transformation programme planning services—the source is the Inland Revenue Department; it is no longer available, as far as I am aware, on the website—with particular reference to the mandatory requirements under 4.3.
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.
9. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Courts: What progress can he report in improving safety in our courts?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts): Court in New Zealand is becoming a safer place. Since we came into Government we have tripled the number of people who are being screened before going into the courthouse, and this is delivering great results. It has resulted in a 35 percent drop in security incidents in courts in just 2 years, and has produced a 63 percent drop in serious security incidents such as serious assaults.
Alfred Ngaro: What mechanisms have been used to achieve these improved results in courthouse security?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: In this Government’s first Budget we recognised the need to improve court security, and made an investment of $9 million over 4 years for this. This has allowed the Ministry of Justice to add 45 new court security officers, eight new metal detectors, and 10 new X-ray machines to courts around the country, and has also funded a complete redesign of the entrance to the Manukau District Court, the busiest criminal court in the country.
Human Rights, West Papua—Role of New Zealand Community Policing Projects
10. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he consider that New Zealand’s community policing projects in West Papua have improved adherence to human rights and access to justice in West Papua; if so, why?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs: A small-scale pilot Community Policing Project was conducted in Papua between 2009 and 2010. It involved four New Zealand police officers. The objective of the project was to improve the professionalisation of the Indonesian National Police in a place that has had significant challenges. Overall, the assessment is that the project has had a positive influence in a very difficult environment.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the Minister’s answer, but I did specifically ask whether the programme had improved adherence to human rights and access to justice.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister implied in her answer, I believe, that it had. She said the evaluation had indicated positive outcomes. The member has got further supplementary questions. I think that we cannot be that pedantic.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table the country summary of Human Rights Watch 2012, which documents the State violence against citizens of West Papua.
Mr SPEAKER: The source of this document?
Catherine Delahunty: The Human Rights Watch library, 2012.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Catherine Delahunty: Will New Zealand continue to train Indonesian police in West Papua, in light of their recent and well-documented human rights abuses; if so, will he ensure the training includes education on torture, as is required under international law?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: My understanding is that the New Zealand Police has undertaken a scoping design, in terms of whether or not it could provide more community policing assistance. But in terms of torture, and training in it, I think the member may have meant training in not using torture.
Catherine Delahunty: Thank you for that. Has the New Zealand Government raised any concerns with Indonesia regarding the recent killing of civilians by police in West Papua, or does he agree with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that the issue of West Papua is not one that causes any friction between Indonesia and New Zealand?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not aware of the answer to that question.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table the Official Information Act response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, its advice to the Prime Minister this year, showing that the ministry has no real concerns about Indonesian human rights.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Catherine Delahunty: Will he seek out the input of West Papuan leaders regarding any future deployment of our police in West Papua prior to any deployment; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Since the matter is actually subject to a scoping design by the New Zealand Police, and the New Zealand Police is operationally independent, I would have thought that the answer would be no.
Catherine Delahunty: Why is the New Zealand Government considering sending our police to work with a police force and judiciary that arrests and jails West Papuans for up to 15 years for raising the Morning Star flag?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I thought I had made it plain that the scoping design is currently being undertaken, or is about to be completed. On that basis, I would have thought that any interaction of the New Zealand Police, which I believe is the finest police anywhere in the world, would be of advantage, and I would have thought that member would support it, frankly.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table the Morning Star flag of West Papua.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that flag. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Mental Health Services—Performance
BARBARA STEWART (NZ First): My question is to the Associate Minister of Health— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear this question. Order! I want to hear the question—Barbara Stewart.
11. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is he satisfied with current mental health services in New Zealand?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, I am. Although I believe we should always strive for improvement, I have got the utmost respect for the work that is being done by our mental health professionals in what is a highly complex field.
Barbara Stewart: How can he be satisfied with mental health services when we have seen many cases recently of mental health unit outpatients committing serious crimes and committing suicide, yet district health boards are usually underspent in this area?
Hon PETER DUNNE: With regard to the incidence of suicide that the member refers to, last year’s figures were an unusual blip and in fact the trend line revealed this year shows a much lower rate. I am not satisfied with any suicides in those situations, but obviously events like that will occur from time to time.
Barbara Stewart: What is being done to ensure that when patients are discharged from a mental health unit or facility, they can cope independently in the community?
Hon PETER DUNNE: We are currently reviewing the Mental Health and Addiction Service Development Plan, and I expect to release before Christmas a new service development plan covering the next 5-year period. That will be spelling out clear responsibilities for district health boards, a greater involvement of the NGO sector, as well as the work of the Ministry of Health, in terms of ensuring that our mental health patients get the care and the treatment that they deserve.
Education, Associate Minister—Confidence
12. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does her Associate Minister’s handling of his delegated responsibility for Novopay give her confidence in his ability to fulfil his other duties?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of
Education: Yes. The Minister has full confidence in the Associate Minister’s ability to fulfil his other duties. She thinks he has done a good job of a hard job.
Chris Hipkins: Is she satisfied that Craig Foss carried out proper oversight of Novopay’s implementation, and that he fully considered all of the risks when deciding that Novopay should go live on 20 August; if so, why?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Yes.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did ask him “if so, why?”. It is not an unreasonable question to expect an answer to.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it is a second part to the question. It is a supplementary question, and the Minister is not obliged to answer both parts.
Chris Hipkins: Why?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: As the Associate Minister noted in the House yesterday, he took advice and recommendations from the Ministry of Education and the Novopay board.
Chris Hipkins: Has she seen the comment this morning from the Ministry of Education’s group manager who said: “There were functions of the system that simply weren’t working when we went live,”; if so, why does she have confidence in Craig Foss’ decision to sign off on the implementation?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I cannot say if she is aware of that particular comment or not.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was on notice. I appreciate that the Associate Minister is answering on behalf of another Minister. But it is not unreasonable to expect that he would prepare and have that answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Well—[Interruption] Order! A point of order has been raised. The dilemma is that in the absence of the Minister, I guess, the Associate Minister cannot, if he has not been able to get hold of her, tell the House whether or not she has heard that comment this morning that the member raised. That is why I think the House has to accept the Associate Minister’s answer in that regard.
Chris Hipkins: Does she believe that the role of Ministers is to simply sign off whatever recommendations officials present to them, or does the role extend to questioning that advice and making sure that officials have done their jobs properly; if so, does she believe that this Government has executed that responsibility appropriately in signing off on the implementation of Novopay before the results of system testing were even known?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The Minister has full confidence in the Associate Minister’s ability to do, and continue to do, a good job of a hard job regarding Novopay.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion, I think I can assist the honourable member. I do not think that answered any part of the question. So I invite the member to repeat his question.
Chris Hipkins: Does she believe that the role of Ministers is to simply sign off whatever recommendations officials present to them, or does their role extend to questioning that advice and making sure that officials have done their jobs properly; if so, does she believe that this Government has executed that responsibility appropriately in signing off the implementation of Novopay before the results of the system testing were even known?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: No.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member just said no, I take it that it was the first part of the question to which the answer was no. So if the Minister is going to answer only one part of a question, he has got to indicate which part he is saying no to. I invite the member to repeat his question, and the Minister, if he continues to give the answer no, to indicate which part.
Chris Hipkins: Does she believe that the role of Ministers is to simply sign off whatever recommendations officials present to them, or does their role extend to questioning that advice and making sure that officials have done their jobs properly; if so, does she believe that this Government has executed that responsibility appropriately in signing off on the implementation of Novopay before the results of system testing were even known?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: No, to the first part.
Chris Hipkins: Did she sign off on the decision on 5 June to go live with Novopay; if so, why has she tried to create the impression that it was all Craig Foss’ fault?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I reject the second part of that question.
Chris Hipkins: Did she sign off on the decision on 5 June to go live with Novopay?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The Minister received recommendations from the Associate Minister of Education regarding his accepting of recommendations from Novopay and the ministry to go live with Novopay.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very straight question: did she sign off. We still have not had a yes or no; we heard that advice was taken, but we did not get a yes or no on whether she signed it off.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member makes a valid point. That last question was a very clear, particular question: did the Minister sign off on Novopay going live. The point is well made that whether or not the Minister took advice does not answer whether or not she signed off on it.
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Thank you, Mr Speaker—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That would depend entirely on what the delegation leader says—
Mr SPEAKER: But the Minister is perfectly capable of answering that. [Interruption] Order! Well, it is just that members are meant to treat each other in this House with some courtesy. OK, if I provoke the honourable member and he responds that way, I guess that is my fault, but I was actually assisting the honourable member, and therefore a little courtesy might be a little more appropriate.
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Yes, the Minister received advice from the Associate Minister, who followed advice as outlined earlier to go ahead and go live with Novopay. The answer is yes.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister said the answer is yes. The Minister said the answer is yes, and I believe that brings to a close questions for oral answer.