Questions and Answers - December 5
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Climate Change, Doha Conference—Policy Directives
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: What policy directives has he given his two Ministers attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Doha?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I have not provided any specific directives to the two Ministers—in the same way that I did not provide a specific directive to the acting Leader of the House today on what colour to wear as she sat next to me. However, Cabinet has agreed to an updated international climate change negotiations mandate to guide New Zealand’s general approach to the Doha meeting. It is unlikely that there will be a breakthrough at these talks. Our broad goal is to make continued progress towards a comprehensive agreement by 2020.
Mr SPEAKER: Dr Russell Norman. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear this question.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister aware that delegates to the United Nations climate conference are discussing excluding New Zealand from international carbon markets because of the Government’s decision not to sign up to the second period of Kyoto commitments?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I am sure there are plenty of discussions going on, but New Zealand can hold its head up high when it comes to climate change. Half of all of our emissions come from agriculture. This is a Government that has led the charge when it has come to building global consensus for research in that area. That is likely to do more to actually lower global emissions than any of the wacky ideas that the Greens come up with.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he think it is in New Zealand’s best interests for it to be shut out of international carbon markets as a result of his Government’s decision not to sign up to further binding commitments?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would not want to pass comment on something the member says has been discussed, but certainly has not been agreed. But there would be some people who would believe that access to some of the international carbon markets that would see very cheaply priced carbon coming into New Zealand was not a good thing. I thought that was something that the member’s party was actually opposed to.
Dr Russel Norman: Is he aware of the distaste with which many European countries are viewing New Zealand at Doha because of the demand from his Government that New Zealand have full access to Kyoto-compliant units while rejecting a legal obligation to reduce emissions, which is the very reason the units were designed in the first place?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I take all of it with a bit of a grain of salt. For a start-off, the same European countries that that member is talking about support their agricultural industries with enormous subsidies. Secondly, 85 percent of world emissions are excluded, so if they do not like what New Zealand is doing, they do not like what 85 percent of the world emissions from countries
are doing. Thirdly, New Zealand will have its own, binding target. Fourthly, New Zealand actually met its target in the first commitment period. Under this Government, emissions targets were met. Under the previous Government, they went up by 23 percent.
Dr Russel Norman: Is he surprised that there is discussion on the possibility of excluding New Zealand from international carbon markets, given that the most senior United Nations climate change figure has said that she was very disappointed in New Zealand’s decision not to sign up for the second commitment period?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said, New Zealand finds itself with the majority of countries, which represent 85 percent of emissions. New Zealand is going down the convention path. New Zealand will next year set a binding target, and that is something that we will meet. But we need to understand the philosophical difference here, and that is that the Greens-Labour Government, if they ever get there, wants a target of between 25—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. Order! The Prime Minister is not actually responsible for a Greens - Labour Party Government, or what it might do.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a statement from Christiana Figueres saying that she is very disappointed that New Zealand will not enter Kyoto II. It is dated 9 November 2012.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he now accept that his Government’s decision not to sign up to binding reductions not only has damaged our international reputation but has threatened our access to the international carbon markets?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Dr Russel Norman: When his Minister delivers New Zealand’s main statement at Doha today, will he be arguing that the rest of the world step up action on climate change so that his Government can freeload on their efforts, and does he believe that that is doing our fair share?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know the exact details of Mr Groser’s speech, but I can say this: the argument that somehow New Zealand is freeloading is a joke. New Zealand is part of the Global Research Alliance, which is delivering international science and research that will reduce methane and nitrate emissions. They represent half of all of New Zealand’s emissions. The world is getting more populated and more hungry, so the Greens’ solution is to shoot one in five cows, and this Government’s solution—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is simply untrue, and not relevant to the answer. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not think I need any—[Interruption] Order! Order, I say to the PM.
Hon Trevor Mallard: If we did that, we would be out.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am not sure that members would want me to do that, because I suspect that they do want to be able to question the Prime Minister further. [Interruption] All I would say to the member—and a point of order has been raised, and these interjections should stop. It has been reasonably light-hearted. They should stop. But I say to the member that he accused the Government of freeloading—alleged in his question that the Government was freeloading—so the Prime Minister had some licence in responding. In the way he couched the statement, I think, anyone could understand that it was not really a serious description of any party’s policy.
Government Financial Position—Return to Surplus and Reduction in Borrowing
2. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making in managing its finances so it can return to surplus and start repaying debt?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Crown’s financial statements for the 4 months ending 31 October were issued today, showing a $2.87 billion operating deficit for the first 4 months of the financial year. This was close to expectations, being $169 million larger than the Budget forecasts. It reflected lower than expected expenses and lower than forecast revenue. Our net core Crown debt was 27.1 percent of GDP, or $55.5 billion. This was in line with Budget forecasts. It remains a considerable challenge to get the Budget back to surplus by 2014-15.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: According to the Crown accounts for the 4 months to October, what were the main factors behind the Government’s latest financial results?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The figures confirm that the Government is continuing to control its new spending, and that is because the Government is continuing to focus on getting better results from existing Government programmes. Tax revenue for the 4 months was $17.9 billion, which was a bit below Budget forecasts, reflecting the flatter economy in the second half of this year. However, it was good to see that the Inland Revenue Department’s tighter collection and enforcement policies resulted in higher effective tax rates for non-incorporated businesses.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: In light of difficult global economic conditions, what will the Government’s approach be to managing its finances over the next few years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It will be important that we remain focused on prudent and careful spending and, in particular, on making sure that the money we do spend achieves the results that the community wants to see and the Government wants to see. We will also continue to focus on assisting our businesses to be as competitive and productive as possible, because the Government’s principal sources of revenue will come from a faster-growing economy.
Hon David Parker: If the Minister of Finance, to use his words, believes he is sticking to a plan that is working, can he confirm that the operating deficit for the first 4 months of this financial year is 6.3 percent higher than forecast in his Budget, that the tax take is $292 million down, and that unemployment is at the highest rate in 13 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can confirm the numbers that are published in the accounts, which show that the operating balance excluding gains and losses is about $169 million larger than the Budget forecasts. That reflects the flatter economy, which has also helped to produce a higher unemployment number. However, these numbers do go up and down from month to month, and we are on track to surplus for 2014-15.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: Compared with the other developed countries, how is the New Zealand Government placed in reducing its deficit and returning to surplus, so that it can start repaying debt?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are going through a somewhat similar process to other developed countries. In fact, pretty much every developed country is trying to get back to surplus so that it can stop its Government debt levels rising further. We remain on track to achieve that, although I would have to say we are going through a more moderate adjustment than many other Governments. For instance, the Government of the state of Queensland, which is very similar in size to the New Zealand economy, announced in the last month or so the redundancy of 14,000 public servants in a Public Service roughly the same size as ours. We have not had to take that kind of drastic measure.
Hon David Parker: How can it be a moderate outcome when export values have declined 11 percent over the past year, next year’s current account deficit is forecast to be the worst in the developed world, income—
Hon Steven Joyce: Oh, what a load of rubbish!
Hon David Parker: That is correct. That is correct—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member—[Interruption] Order! Order! This must stop. The member must just ask his question. The more statements that are inserted into a question the more risk there is of interjection.
Hon DAVID PARKER: —income inequality is at its highest level ever recorded in New Zealand, and household savings have turned negative again?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have learnt to divide all the member’s numbers by seven, and then we can—seven is the magic number in the Greens-Labour Government—rely on them. I just disagree with the member. I think that it is pretty clear that the New Zealand economy is going through a more moderate and actually a more successful adjustment than many developed economies.
Hon John Banks—Confidence and Prime Minister’s Statements
3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his promise to New Zealanders that “I expect high standards from my Ministers…if they don’t meet the standards I set then obviously I will take action if necessary”; if so, how have his actions in respect of Hon John Banks this year upheld that promise?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I understand the point of order because the question actually was more than just asking whether the Prime Minister stood by his statement, and it is a primary question. It asked: if so, how have his actions in respect to the Hon John Banks this year upheld that promise. It is a primary question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. Where there have been questions raised, my office has sought and received assurances from Mr Banks.
Grant Robertson: With some months to reflect, does he not think he owed it to New Zealanders to actually read the police report into John Banks’ donations so that he could make a judgment on the facts as to whether Mr Banks was meeting the high standards he promised New Zealanders?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Grant Robertson: Why does he not think Mr Banks has lied when Mr Banks told his chief of staff earlier this year that he had not received a donation from Kim Dotcom, but only a couple of months earlier had told Mr Dotcom’s lawyer that he could not help him because of the election support?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because where questions have been raised by my office, we have sought assurances and received those assurances.
Grant Robertson: How can he claim Mr Banks has not lied when Mr Banks did not declare a donation from Skycity despite receiving it in an envelope at a meeting organised specifically to hand over the cheque and when his campaign treasurer sent a receipt for the donation to Skycity?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: My memory of the public relations that was put out by the police was that there was not a prima facie case in that instance.
Grant Robertson: Is it not the case that he is just putting politics before principle to try to hang on to John Banks’ vote and he has broken the promise he made to New Zealanders?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Grant Robertson: If the Prime Minister is keeping his promise of high ethical standards for Ministers, why did he not ask John Banks to explain why he said: “No, I don’t know.” to the question of whether he knew Kim Dotcom had donated to his mayoral campaign, when the police file shows that Mr Banks sought the donation, he made suggestions to split it into two, he thanked Mr Dotcom for it, and he acknowledged to Mr Dotcom’s lawyer in February this year that he had received it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no ministerial responsibility for anything Mr Banks did prior to becoming a Minister.
Science and Manufacturing Funding—2013 Science Investment Round
4. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Science and Innovation: What investment is the Government making in new science projects?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Science and Innovation): Yesterday I called for applications for $52.8 million worth of Government research funding for the 2013 science investment round. This research funding is another part of the Government’s annual $1.25 billion cross-portfolio investment in science and innovation. Science and innovation are major drivers of progress and key strands of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda. We are focusing this particular investment on new science and research projects that will improve New Zealanders’ health and well-being in the areas of biological industries, high-value manufacturing and services, energy and minerals, and health and society. Researchers have until early April to submit proposals, which will then be peer reviewed and assessed by independent panels. The science board of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will decide which proposals get funded by August of next year.
Colin King: What other investments is the Government making in science?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Almost too many to mention. Last month saw the launch of the Great New Zealand Science Project to encourage New Zealanders to get involved in identifying our biggest science challenges. We have identified a number of illustrative challenges including our rich seas, land and water, food for health, advanced materials in manufacturing, New Zealand’s biodiversity, fighting disease, our changing climate, and resilience to natural hazards. We are seeking the public and the science communities to put forward their ideas, and in April next year, following public engagement and expert advice from a panel chaired by the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, Cabinet will decide which science challenges will be funded to make the biggest difference to New Zealand’s future.
Work and Income—Use of Transition to Work Grant
5. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: When was she first aware that the Transition to Work Grant had been used to pay for flights to Australia for job seekers who had an offer of employment?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): It was just after 1 p.m. yesterday that I was advised there might be cases where payment had been granted for flights to Australia. I am aware that there has been the odd request for airfares to Australia via correspondence to my office. I have been clear that my expectation is that they would not be paid. Transition to Work grants were introduced in 2007 under Labour. That year there were 16 cases where airfares were granted to Australia, and I have been informed that there have been six cases this year at a combined total cost of $4,600 approximately. I will be removing any ambiguity in the programme by a direction to the chief executive that will be tabled in this House.
Jacinda Ardern: Why did she claim in the House yesterday in relation to the Transition to Work grant being used for flights to Australia that “as far as I have seen to date, I do not have evidence of that.”, and yet that same afternoon she told journalists it had happened the odd time?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do stand by that, because I did not have evidence. As I said to the member yesterday, I was told that there might be, and so as a consequence I was very careful about my answers in this House. As I say, I have now found out that there were at least 16 in 2007 under Labour, which did introduce this programme. But I am certainly not happy that there has been some recently as well.
Mr SPEAKER: Jacinda Ardern. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear this question. Order! I say to the National front-benchers that I want to be able to hear the question.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she confirm that because the Transition to Work grant is a discretionary fund where direct monetary transfers are made directly to the client, there is no way that she will ever know how many occasions Work and Income case managers used it to pay for flights and passports for job seekers who had found employment in Australia, and, in fact, every case I have has not been reported as she has claimed?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: If the member has cases, then she is welcome to bring them to me, and I would be very interested in seeing them. As I say, what they have done is, no, there is not a box that they can tick in the system that then can be looked at from head office. What they can do, though, is search the system, because they still put the information in; they just do it under certain words, so a manual search has been done. As I say, to date we have got at least 16 in 2007, and to date we have six, certainly, in the last year.
Rt Hon John Key: Does the Minister find it unusual that a party that set up the fund and used it 16 times in the first year now finds in Opposition that it is opposed to its very own policy that it established?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I suppose I am not really that surprised. I find that that is kind of the sort of standard practice of—[Interruption]
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: It is a very obvious point of order. I thought you would have got to your feet on the basis of the fact that the Minister does not have responsibility for the policy.
Mr SPEAKER: The question did not actually ask about policy detail. The question asked the Minister’s opinion—whether the Minister would find it unusual were something to have happened—and I have got to confess that I do not believe that the Standing Orders rule that out. If the Minister had started to comment on detail of what Labour’s policy had been, then—well, in fact, Ministers do have a reporting responsibility for past policy. What they must not do is pass an opinion on current Opposition party policies. But I believe the question—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Whoa, whoa.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, you should not dip, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not dipping; I am standing very steadily, I think. The matter is pretty simple. These days Ministers can be asked their opinions, and the Prime Minister asked whether the Minister thought it was unusual. I was listening to the answer quite carefully to try to make sure it did not transgress, and I had not heard it transgressing to that point.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point was that the very question was out of order, because it asked the Minister to express an opinion on an issue for which she was not responsible, and that was an apparent change of policy.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I do not think that the Minister was specifically asked to comment on a change of policy. She was asked whether or not she thought it was unusual for a party to have implemented a policy and now be criticising the outcome. You know, this is a robust place. Members of the Opposition get to ask questions that I am sure many Ministers do not like. We have heard a couple today that I think Ministers have not felt that comfortable with. Likewise, governing party members do have the chance to ask questions that other members of the House may not like, either. But I definitely draw the line where the Minister must not—and the member today saw me sit the Prime Minister down on a straight question when he started to make some allegation about what the Green Party’s policy may have been. These rules have to be interpreted very carefully and I try to be fair on this. I have tried to be fair today, and I think I would have been unfair had I ruled that out. I think, though, the question was answered.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she confirm that a number of the cases she has alluded to under Labour included domestic violence whereas more recent cases of overseas flights have simply involved a client finding a job?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Speaking to that, I say that actually this is the Transition to Work programme. There are other ways that they can get funding to help with those circumstances, but it is not through the Transition to Work programme. As far as I am aware and have been advised, those 16 cases were to help people into work in Australia.
Jacinda Ardern: Has she examined every single use of the Transition to Work grant— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. I need to be able to hear, and there is just too much interjection. I apologise.
Jacinda Ardern: Has she examined every single use of the Transition to Work grant over the years 2008, 2009, 2010, to date, and can she assure the House that it has been used as many times as she has told us today?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The numbers I have given are from 2007 and then recently. No, we have not gone through every single one of them, but what we have done is look at airfares—
Jacinda Ardern: You’ve picked a year.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, the member asked about airfares to Australia, and that is what we have looked at and that is what we have done. We are still going through the files. I welcome giving the member other years as they come up, but we have got 2007 and we have got 2012, 16 under Labour, which, quite frankly, did introduce this policy with a major hole in it and did nothing to actually fix it.
Prostitution Reform Act 2003—Prime Minister’s Statement
6. Le’aufa’amulia ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his reported statement that the Prostitution Law Reform Act 2003 “hasn’t actually worked”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, one of the key purposes of the Prostitution Law Reform Act was to prohibit prostitution for under-18-year-olds. I do not believe that it has stopped under-age prostitution, sadly.
Le'aufa'amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Given that answer, what will the Government do to address the issue of street prostitution?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: My understanding is that the Government has sought advice about the rights of councils. It is the belief, I think, of Crown Law that councils can pass by-laws to prohibit street prostitution, or at least to control that activity. The Government will also be looking through the Local Government Act to change the fines that are possible to assist local government. The Government’s concern about specific bills that look at one particular area is that it may be unfair on other parts of the country that may be experiencing exactly the same issue, so we are looking for a nationwide solution.
Le'aufa'amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Given that acknowledgment, will the Government give priority to legislation to allow local authorities the power to ban street prostitution in designated areas; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: My understanding, I may be wrong, is that the advice from Crown Law is it is the belief that councils already have the capacity to make by-laws specifying places and districts where the business of prostitution or commercial sexual services may or may not occur. As I said, the Government is looking to, through the Local Government Act, make other changes that would support local government.
Le'aufa'amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Is he aware that the southern local boards of Auckland Council have received written support for the Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill from Christchurch City Council, Palmerston North City Council, Waitomo District Council, Rangitīkei District Council, and Southland District Council?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and does that not exactly make the point I am making: that if all of these other councils feel compelled enough to write in support of a bill that would actually change the law in relation to the activities being undertaken in Manukau City—the old Manukau City, which is now part of Auckland City—then it argues the very reason why a nationwide solution is required.
Le'aufa'amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: When can the communities of South Auckland and Papatoetoe, Manurewa, Ōtara, Ōtāhuhu, Palmerston North, Waitomo, Rangitīkei, Christchurch, and Southland expect there to be laws in place to control street prostitution? [Interruption] Listen, sweetie. I am asking the question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: When their local councils act by passing a by-law.
Children, State Care—Access to Health and Education Services
7. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Social Development: What progress has been made to ensure children in care have access to the health and education services they need?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): I am pleased to be able to inform the House that since July 2011 1,048 children and young people involved with Child, Youth and Family have received a Gateway assessment. Gateway targets children and young people coming into care who are often disconnected from regular health and education services. Identifying and responding to their health and education needs is a critical step in enabling them to thrive. A Gateway assessment is very extensive and enables us to build a complete picture of their needs and then act accordingly.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What did these Gateway assessments find?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, every single child of those 1,048 has presented with significant health issues—3 issues on average—ranging from heart murmurs to dental problems and hearing loss. Emotional or behavioural needs have been identified in 53 percent of those assessed. A developmental delay has been found among 16 percent of children, hearing problems with 17 percent, and 14 percent would seem to have speech problems. Other issues included incomplete immunisations, skin problems, dental issues, and parental mental health. The research has said that we would find them, and we have.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What is the Government’s commitment to the future of Gateway assessments?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Evidence to date, as I have just outlined, shows us that we really do need them. These Gateway assessments will now be available for up to 4,200 children and young people each financial year. Five hundred of these are for children and young people already in care, 2,200 of these are for children entering care, and the balance are for children who have been referred for care and protection via a family group conference. The process is well and truly up and running. Nineteen of the district health boards are on board, and Hawke’s Bay will be starting early next year.
Government Borrowing—Transport Funding
8. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “there is no suggestion of the Government borrowing billions of dollars for motorways”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I stand by my full statement, which was: “There is no suggestion of the Government borrowing millions of dollars for motorways. The motorway investment is largely funded … from the dedicated road-user charges and excise tax that go into the road-user fund.” Between 2009 and 2012 the National Land Transport Fund spent around $4.8 billion on State highways and around $1.9 billion for its share of spending on local roads. Over the same period fuel excise duties and road-user charges raised about $7.5 billion.
Julie Anne Genter: How does he reconcile that answer with this letter addressed to the Minister of Finance from the New Zealand Transport Agency, dated 2 October 2012, which states that the planned public-private partnership will “allow the NZTA to borrow”— that is, enter into a longterm repayment obligation—“for the Transmission Gully project”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is the nature of the public-private partnership financing method, but all the costs of that financing comes from the National Land Transport Fund, funded by the users of the roads, through road-user charges. We do not go to the bond market to raise that money, but we do account for it as if it is debt of the Government.
Julie Anne Genter: What is the total projected cost of the loan that the Government will be taking out for the Transmission Gully public-private partnership?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not have that detail here.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this calculation done by the Parliamentary Library that shows that the payments would total $3 billion over the life of the public-private partnership.
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.
Julie Anne Genter: Why is his Government planning to borrow $3 billion for Transmission Gully, when New Zealand Transport Agency’s own reports shows the project will increase congestion south of Levin through to central Wellington, and return only $360 million to $500 million worth of benefit?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We can argue about what the $3 billion figure she is quoting means. In fact the cost of that project is considerably less than that. It probably includes all the road-user charges and petrol excise tax, which would be used to pay for the project over the life of the project. But the reason the Government is interested in proceeding with that project is its benefit to the region, because it does deal with a particular vulnerability of Wellington—having only one coastal route north of the city—and is part of a well-signalled corridor of development stretching from Levin to the airport.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this Ministry of Transport report from 2008, released under the Official Information Act, which shows that the project will increase congestion and will deliver a benefit-cost ratio of 0.36 to 0.5.
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.
Julie Anne Genter: What is his response to Professor John Goldberg, who has undertaken an analysis of public-private roading partnerships in Australia, who says: “The public-private partnership concept has failed in Australia and should serve as a warning to superannuation funds of the high risk of investment in road infrastructure.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The professor may be right in pointing out that some Australian projects have failed. But the lesson there is that those risks were carried by the shareholders and the large companies that operated those roads. The failures did not fall on the taxpayer, and that is one of the reasons that public-private partnerships are attractive to Governments.
Julie Anne Genter: Is it not the case that the availability payment model that the New Zealand Transport Agency is looking at for the Transmission Gully public-private partnership actually transfers the demand risk to the Government, because it would not be able to get private investors to invest in such a poor project; thus, will it not be future taxpayers who are carrying the risk of this $3 billion loan well into the future?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government carries so-called demand risk on every road in New Zealand at the moment because we have not transferred that demand risk to anyone else, in any example that I can recall right now. Actually, I thought the Greens would be pleased about those projects failing, because if they failed, it was because fewer cars showed up, and given that the Greens and Labour Opposition are opposed to cars, they should think that is a good thing.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table traffic volumes for the Wellington region, which show that traffic volumes have not been growing as expected and therefore the benefits—
Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of the document?
Julie Anne Genter: The New Zealand Transport Agency road monitoring.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Oil, Gas, and Mineral Resources—Iwi Consultation
9. Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Energy and
Resources: Does he agree with Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui that iwi are more likely to be on the ground in respect of oil and mineral operations, and therefore inclusion of iwi in the assessment of health, safety and environmental requirements is essential; if so, how does he intend to demonstrate this?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of
Energy and Resources: The Government does recognise that iwi have a particular interest in respect of some oil and mineral operations in the energy and resources sector, as do other New Zealanders at different times. That is precisely why we are introducing a number of measures to strengthen the relationship between permit holders and iwi. However, we believe that it is the role of the regulator to properly undertake the assessments that the member mentions.
Hon Tariana Turia: Is the Minister aware that Ngāti Ruanui, as part of the Iwi Leaders Forum mandated group to lead the oil and minerals kaupapa, has suggested that an inclusive approach on the development of the Crown minerals bill was not honoured, despite early concerns raised by iwi; if so, how will he address their concerns?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am advised that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has had in fact numerous engagements with Ngāti Ruanui and other iwi on the Crown minerals regime throughout 2012. This engagement has included never previously offered opportunities, such as reviewing early drafts of the bill, and also minerals programmes. Further, the Minister has met with Ngāti Ruanui personally on a number of occasions this year. I am advised that although this process has not gone as far as Ngāti Ruanui desired, it is clear that the level of engagement has been a very marked improvement on what the iwi experienced previously.
Hon Tariana Turia: How will the Minister respond to the concerns of Ngāti Ruanui, that not recognising iwi in the permitting process could create inefficiency and frustration, and that, further, more exclusions will only drive opposition and reinforce barriers?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I have said in my earlier answers, the Government believes that it is the role of the relevant regulator to be the decision maker in the permitting process. Officials are committed to engaging with iwi constructively, and I believe that iwi will find that the cumulative effect of the amendments proposed in the bill that is before the House and the minerals programmes, as well as the operational changes implemented by officials, add up to very significant improvements in both engagement and consultation practice.
Foreign Affairs, Minister—Appointments and Compliance with Cabinet Manual
10. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Is he aware of the requirement in the Cabinet Manual “to behave in a way that upholds and is seen to uphold the highest ethical standards” and have the appointments he has made as Minister met that requirement?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Yes.
Hon Phil Goff: When he appointed Peter Kiely as director of the Pacific Forum Line in July 2009 was he aware that Mr Kiely was, from November 2008, listed under the Companies Register as a shareholder in a competing shipping company, Sofrana, and that he held those shares right through until 10 August 2012?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: If the member wants to ask a specific question about a specific appointment with that level of detail he will have to put down a separate question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a question of whether the Minister was aware; it was not of detail of the appointment. The Minister either was aware or he was not.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member raises a reasonable point. He did ask whether the Minister was aware. If the Minister could assist with an answer.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: In answering a question with that degree of specificity I would want to check the information that was made available to me at the time, so that I could give the House an accurate answer, and if the member was to give me notice that that information was being sought, I would do so.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a fair answer.
Hon Phil Goff: Was it appropriate for Mr Kiely to have been a shareholder in Sofrana and not disclose that information to his Minister or to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade when Mr Kiely was involved in giving advice to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on the sale of the Pacific Forum Line and when the preferred bidder was in fact the Sofrana shipping line?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The member should be careful, because I think he is getting into territory that calls into question the reputation of an upstanding individual who has rendered excellent service to Governments, I think from both sides of the House, in a variety of ways. I would want to check the information that the member has asserted across the House before giving a specific answer.
Hon Phil Goff: Do sections 139 and 140 of the Companies Act 1993 require that a director must disclose any such interest, and is that, likewise, a requirement under the Government’s Owner’s Expectations Manual for State-Owned Enterprises for its directors?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister, the first part of that question did seek a legal opinion, because it asked whether it is correct that certain parts of an Act mean something, or require something—which is a legal opinion. I would invite the member to rephrase his question to avoid asking the Minister for a legal opinion.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Minister aware that the Government’s Owner’s Expectations Manual for State-Owned Enterprises, which governs directors appointed by the Government, requires the disclosure of any interest and potential conflict of interest and that that is, likewise, a requirement under the Institute of Directors’ code of ethics, and, likewise, a statutory requirement?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I can confirm that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to any appointment of the sort would go through the normal procedures, which require certain certificates to be completed, and I am sure that it did so. But, by way of further elaboration, can I say that Mr Kiely was invited by me to join the board of the Pacific Forum Line because that line was in some significant difficulty, requiring some specialist skills and background knowledge in relation to that company. These circumstances arose because the previous Government had appointed to the board a Labour Party flunkey called Dave Morgan, who was partly responsible for that company losing $14 million in the space of 2 years, and I needed somebody to fix it.
Hon Phil Goff: Is his Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade correct in the answer that it has given to me that in the proposed sale of shares in the Pacific Forum Line and in the consideration of their disposal no director of the line disclosed any conflict of interest?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I cannot comment on a document that the member is quoting from without notice and the opportunity to check, because I would obviously want to give the House an accurate answer. But I do want to repeat that Mr Kiely has, in my long experience, always behaved as a person of absolute integrity and great professionalism. He was invited to do a very difficult job because the previous Government had made a highly political appointment of an inappropriate person.
Hon Phil Goff: Is Mr Kiely a personal friend of the Minister, and has been for 40 years; is he likewise an active member of the National Party, representing the National Party legally; and is he likewise a friend and a legal adviser to the Prime Minister, Mr Key?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The member would need to ask the Prime Minister in relation to his own legal representation. What I can say to him is that Mr Kiely has not acted for me, but I have known him for a long period of time and I can vouch for his integrity. I also say that I have found him to be a person who renders the highest level of competent service to Governments from both sides of this House over a long period of time. If the member wants to besmirch people’s reputations, he should be extremely careful doing so inside the House.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a number of documents. The first document is an extract from the Companies Register showing that Mr Kiely became a shareholder as of 3 November 2008 in Sofrana and did not relinquish those shares until 10 August 2012.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to the effect that Mr Kiely gave advice to the Government on the sale of Pacific Forum Line shares, and further, that no director of the line disclosed any conflict of interest in the proposed sale of the shares.
Mr SPEAKER: This is a Ministry of Foreign and Affairs and Trade document?
Hon Phil Goff: These are answers—I do not know yet whether tabled—for the financial review by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee.
Mr SPEAKER: We have got to be a bit careful if they are not—
Hon Phil Goff: They are not public yet.
Mr SPEAKER: But—[Interruption] Order! These answers are the property of the committee. I would need to seek advice as to whether the House is at liberty to—[Interruption] The advice is, as one might have expected, that the House can, should it choose, give leave for confidential documents of the committee to be tabled. Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a reply to a request under the Official Information Act dated 19 November 2012, from Mr McCully to me, refusing to disclose any documents on the sale of New Zealand shares in the Pacific Forum Line.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table an extract from the New Zealand Government’s Owner’s Expectations Manual for State-Owned Enterprises, July 2012, which says that a conflict of interest arises when a director’s duties or responsibilities to the company could be affected by some other interest or duty and that directors must disclose any relationship and/or matters that give rise to an actual or potential conflict of interest.
Hon Phil Goff: Finally, I seek the leave of the House to table an extract from the Institute of Directors’ Code of Ethics and the Code of Practice for Directors, which says that the companies legislation requires directors having a conflict of interest to disclose the nature and extent of their interest—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
11. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister for Food Safety: What progress has been made to reduce the incidence of food poisoning in New Zealand?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister for Food Safety): I am pleased to report that very good progress has been made in reducing the incidence of food poisoning in New Zealand. Back in 2007 there were approximately 160 cases of food-related campylobacter per 100,000 people. This year that figure is expected to have halved to approximately 80 cases per 100,000 people. In 2007 there were also approximately 14 cases of salmonella per 100,000 people, compared with 11 cases per 100,000 people this year. What this means is that around 3,300 fewer New Zealanders got sick from campylobacter this year than 5 years ago, with more than 100 Kiwis escaping illness from salmonella. According to the Ministry for Primary Industries this reduction in food poisoning has produced savings of around $40 million per year. This is good news for New Zealanders, good news for our food industry, and it translates to significant savings for the economy.
Dr Jian Yang: What has the Government done to achieve this result, and how can improvements continue to be made?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The Government has funded research to identify likely sources of the illnesses and the Ministry for Primary Industries has done a good job working closely with relevant food sectors and businesses to improve food control measures. We have also mandated a performance target for control of campylobacter in chicken slaughter and dressing premises, which has resulted in significant improvements in this sector. We are currently reviewing this performance target and we will provide further guidance for control of food-borne hazards in each sector as appropriate under the proposed Food Bill regime. As we scrape down the barbecue over the festive season, it is a good time to remember to do the food safety basics: do not cross-contaminate surfaces, properly cook chicken, and make sure the whole family washes their hands before eating—or, in other words, cook, cover, chill, and clean, not necessarily in that order.
12. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is it fair that his Government is offering to acquire land from owners of insured commercial premises and owners of bare sections at only 50 percent of the rating valuation, when he said 100 percent was a fair offer to insured homeowners in those areas, even when they were losing tens of thousands of dollars?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. I think that in terms of commercial properties they were entitled to nothing, so the Government is actually stepping up and giving them a lot more. In the case of residential homeowners, the Government has been exceedingly generous. The reason it has done that is to try to recognise the plight that people were in in Christchurch.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How is it fair that his Government is offering to buy out central city property owners for less than half the value of the land, leaving them with insufficient funds to reestablish their businesses elsewhere, under the threat of compulsory acquisition and holding up the funds for at least another 12 months?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The advice I have had from the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery is that they are looking at all these properties. They have done the best they can to come up with a proposal that is fair on the valuations. But in principle there is always the risk that some people will be left worse off. That is a statement of fact because of the situation that they find
themselves in in Christchurch. But the Government, I think, cannot be accused of being cheap when it comes to Christchurch. We have put in billions and billions of dollars to support Cantabrians.
Clare Curran: In regard to his statement on Monday on KiwiRail that “when the board informed us of the likely intention to close Hillside we pushed back reasonably strongly and asked them to fully examine their decision,” what specific actions did he or his Ministers take to push back against the KiwiRail board?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I remember being in the meeting—I cannot exactly tell the member the date—with the chairman of KiwiRail. He and the chief executive came in and they gave us an early indication that it was likely that they would not find a sale for the part of Hillside—not the foundry, but the other part of the business. We said to them that there would be significant implications, clearly, for those people, and that there were real issues for those families. We asked them to go back one more time and have a very good look at the situation and be absolutely sure. In principle, we tried to do whatever we could. The advice we got from KiwiRail in the end was that if we wanted to keep Hillside going, then we would actually end up having to make a subsidy payment on the back of that.
Clare Curran: When he said on Monday that the only way to keep Hillside going was for the Government to financially compensate KiwiRail, how much compensation would have been required to build wagons at Hillside?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have the exact number, but it is millions of dollars.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does he stand by his commitment to the families of the Pike River miners that recovery of the miners’ bodies would remain “an absolute priority” and “it’s not an issue of money”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is absolutely right. The member may or may not be aware that I am writing back to Bernie Monk. I will be doing that. I am visiting the West Coast next week on the 13th. The letter, which no doubt will find its way into the public domain, also goes to all of the families. It spells out what the Government is prepared to do and all of the risks that are there, but it also summarises the very substantial risks that have been identified in going into the main workings of the mine. It references back to Professor Galvin and the comments that he has made in the royal commission’s report, which goes on to say that, irrelevant of the spending of any amount of money, the risks of going into that mine are very substantial. That member should know that if more people get killed on the West Coast going into the main workings of the Pike River mine, that would be an utter travesty, and I am surprised he is supporting that, when he himself knows the risks.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Will that Prime Minister honour his commitment to do everything possible, and will he commit to recover the drift of the Pike River mine, which is, by all accounts and the advice of the three independent experts, quite achievable, quite possible, and quite safe?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It would be quite wrong of me to give the member that information before it is communicated to Mr Monk and the families, but I can tell the member that in the letter the Government’s position is very clearly spelt out. Secondly, I can tell the member that I will be sleeping very peacefully tonight with the commitments that I have made. And I go back to the final point, which is that, in relation to the main workings of the mine, all of the advice we have received is that it is a very, very substantial risk. If the member goes and looks at that letter—
Grant Robertson: Stop trying to spin it.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not spinning it. I am actually doing what is right for the health of people.
Grant Robertson: He mentioned the drift.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If that member wants to kill people going in the mine—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No. Order! I am on my feet.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will wait a moment until the House settles down. This is a tense issue, but we cannot have that kind of exchange.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I was very careful with my question. I appreciate the Prime Minister’s answer on this. I was asking in relation to the drift, and if the Prime Minister could answer the question of when, that would satisfy my request.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the member’s point. He did ask specifically in relation to the drift.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I was quite clear in my answer. I can give the member an answer. I have an answer. I will not give the member an answer, and the reason I will not give him an answer is that the answer is spelt out in a letter to Bernie Monk and the families, and surely that member can understand that those families—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No. Order! The Prime Minister must not say that under a point of order. This was under a point of order, not a further answer, and I think, though, he has explained why he cannot answer that part of the question. I must accept that, as Speaker.