Questions and Answers - January 30
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Screen Production Industry—Government Support for International Productions Filmed in
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “the Government has actively supported the filming of the Hobbit movies in New Zealand because of the enormous economic benefits they are bringing to the country, including the creation of around 3,000 jobs”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Mr Speaker, before I begin, can I wish you the best for your final question time. I am sure that in London you will look back with warm memories of these times. The answer to the member’s question is yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How and when did he first learn of the 3,000 jobs figure?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot give the member the exact date. I do not have it with me. I am advised by the business manager, I think it is, of Peter Jackson that that is broadly the number directly involved, but, of course, there are many, many other businesses and people who were employed as a result of the movies. I point out to the member that the Hobbit production team alone booked 6,750 domestic flights, slept 93,000 bed nights in hotels, paid for 1,800 rental cars and 1,650 work vehicles, and spent $9 million on construction and $1.5 million on food. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How easily these toads are fooled. Why was there no Treasury report substantiating the 3,000 jobs figure and verifying the economic benefits of his $67 million handout to Warner Bros?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because one was not required. I mean, if the member is aware of the Large Budget Screen Production Grant Scheme, he will know that it is paid as, essentially, a percentage of the qualifying expenditure. So, by definition, if these sums are paid to Warner Bros, it is because that expenditure is undertaken in New Zealand. If, by definition, that expenditure was not undertaken in New Zealand, of course we would not pay it, and we would not get all of the economic activity. I might also point out to the member that if he wants to go and have a look, for instance, at Air New Zealand, its website visitation was up 73 percent—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I appreciate the member’s concern. He asked a question—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My question asked why there was no Treasury report. It is pretty simple. I do not want to hear a long tirade about what did not happen.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Well, actually, the Prime Minister did answer that. He said the reason why a report was not made is that it was not required. That is an answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are right. He answered the question and then he kept on going, vituperating on nothing. That is my point.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the member’s point that the Prime Minister’s answer was unnecessarily long, when the question was a fairly simple question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why was he prepared to give Warner Bros $67 million of taxpayers’ money, yet he could not stump up an extra $6 million so KiwiRail wagons could be built in New Zealand instead of in China, to save the Dunedin Hillside railway workshops jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, they are different issues. In terms of Warner Bros, that was part of the Large Budget Screen Production Grant Scheme, and that was the scheme that essentially was repayment of expenditure here. As we have already pointed out, there are around 3,000 jobs directly on the Hobbit movies alone plus all of the other ancillary benefits. In terms of KiwiRail, the longterm model did not actually support those jobs at Hillside.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he used the figure of 3,000 jobs, did he mean jobs for overseas actors, casual work for a few weeks, or serious jobs for New Zealanders, and did he have reliable information as to the status of the jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There would, of course, have been a wide range of jobs. It is interesting to note, actually, that the screen industry in New Zealand supports over 2,700 businesses. There were 15,500 people employed and so there would be a range.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question was a pretty straightforward question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not the case that the 3,000 jobs were like the computer-generated armies in The Lord of the Rings: pure fantasy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, they were real jobs, probably unlike the unreal caucus of New Zealand First, which has had one of its members AWOL.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Point of order the—[Interruption]—Order! A point of order has been called. The Rt Hon Winston Peters—[Interruption] Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker, you would not like your last day in this job to be remembered for that sort of intemperate behaviour from the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Members may recollect I am on my feet. The right honourable gentleman may reflect back on the question he asked, and that it was always going to provoke a fairly strong answer.
Prime Minister—Statements in Speeches and Address in Reply
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all the statements made in his prime ministerial speeches and in his Address in Reply speeches?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and in particular I stand by my statement in the 2011 Address in Reply debate that this Government has committed tens of millions of dollars to training places to make sure that we bring in the right skills, that we give young New Zealanders the opportunities, and that we encourage people to take up those opportunities. Just last week I announced an expanded and improved apprenticeship scheme called New Zealand Apprenticeships, which will lead to around 14,000 additional apprentices over the next 5 years. It was widely supported by the New Zealand public. No doubt Labour will oppose it. It opposes everything.
David Shearer: In light of his statement from 2011 that his year is about “building a brighter future” for New Zealanders and their families, does not the fact that unemployment has grown by 70,000, from 4.5 percent to 7.3 percent—the largest in 13 years—show that he has failed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. This Government is building a brighter future. That is why crime is at a 30-year low, that is why 65,000 more people have a job, that is why real after-tax wages have gone up 12 percent since September 2008, that is why we have had an average growth rate of 2 percent since the bottom of the recession, and that is why the lowest mortgage rates are in place in 50 years.
David Shearer: In light of his statement from 2012 that “In the world as it is today, the state of the country’s finances is all-important.”, does not the fact that New Zealand is projected by the IMF to have the worst current account deficit in the Western World show that he has failed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and if the member wants to understand the history of the Labour Party, he should go back and look at Michael Cullen’s speeches and see how he campaigned on halving the current account deficit only to just go and double it.
David Shearer: In light of his statement in 2010 that “The Government is committed to turning things around and in particular to closing the gap with Australia.”, do not the facts that the wage gap has grown by more than $30 a week and record numbers of people are going to Australia show that his policies have failed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not agree with that, at all. If we want to talk about failure, it will be the fact that house prices doubled between 2001 and 2007 under a party that is out there crying wolf at the moment.
David Shearer: Which of the 10 result areas he personally set was he referring to in his 2013 prime ministerial speech when he said that “some of them would not improve”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I would have to look at the context in which the member is reporting it, because, actually, from what I can see, all 10 of them are making progress. So if we want to talk about the one that sees 85 percent of young New Zealanders achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 under this Government, yes, it has gone up. If he wants to talk about the one about early childhood education participation—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not finished, actually—
Mr SPEAKER: Point of order, the Leader of the Opposition.
David Shearer: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
David Shearer: Thank you, Mr Speaker. That was a pretty straight question. It was referring to what he had already announced in his prime ministerial statement yesterday, and it was about which of those areas would not improve—not the ones that would improve.
Mr SPEAKER: I do accept that is the question the Leader of the Opposition asked. The Prime Minister was answering it in his way, where he was starting to go through them one at a time, looking at which ones were improving. He might have got to some that might not improve, but that was going to take too long. I accept the member’s concern, but I think it is probably best to go on to a further supplementary question.
David Shearer: In light of his statement that Hekia Parata is “one of the smoothest communicators” in his Government, what did she mean when she said: “We are very keen to look at how we can get the whole of life journey of a learner opportunity operating”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I do not want to put words in the mouth of the Minister, but I suspect she meant that we will actually do what this Government is doing, and that is make sure that they get a decent education so that for the rest of their lives they actually have the potential to earn. And I say this to the member: if he wants to go and compare speeches off the cuff from Hekia Parata to himself, he had better be careful, because he is OK in front of an autocue—maybe 3—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! That is not necessary to answer the question.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. What is meant—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Te Ururoa Flavell: What is meant by his statement that “Our focus is on changing the circumstances that trap people in poverty,”; and does he agree with the expert advisory group that the actions that will have the greatest impact on reducing child poverty will require significant new investment and enacting legislation that will measure and set short and long-term poverty reduction targets?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is in the process of forming its response to the expert advisory group, but what was meant by that statement is that it is quite clear that if we want to move people out of poverty, we fundamentally need to give them the opportunity where possible that they can work, and that means that they need the skills to be able to do that. That is why we are going to bring on 14,000 new apprentices over the course of the next 4 or 5 years. That is why we are prepared to demand national standards. That is why we are prepared to look at things like Whānau Ora and have a different way of looking at those issues. This Government is prepared to invest in those issues, despite the fact that these are economically very challenging times.
Economic Programme—2013 Focus
3. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: What will be the focus of the Government’s economic programme in 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): As the Prime Minister confirmed yesterday, the Government’s economic programme will be front and centre for 2013. The Government will be pursuing a clear plan to build a faster-growing economy that can support more jobs and continued rising incomes in the face of ongoing uncertainty in the rest of the world. Our four main priorities will be: to responsibly manage the Government’s finances so we can return to surplus and start repaying debt; pushing ahead with a wide-ranging programme of microeconomic reform to create a more productive and competitive economy; getting better results from public services; and supporting the rebuilding of Christchurch.
Todd McClay: What is the Government’s approach to supporting the investment and business growth needed to deliver more jobs and higher incomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the Prime Minister said in a speech recently, we want New Zealand to become a magnet for investment in competitive businesses, because, actually, the only way to get more real jobs is to create conditions where businesses make the decision to invest more and employ another person. The Government has laid out, through its Business Growth Agenda, literally hundreds of measures that it is taking to achieve this.
Todd McClay: What progress is the Government making in achieving its target of returning to fiscal surplus by 2014-15?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is making good progress. The deficit in the financial year 2010-11 was $18.4 billion, in 2011-12 it halved to $9.2 billion, and it is forecast to fall further to $7.3 billion in the current year and $2 billion and then returning to surplus in 2014-15. This is coming about from firm control of Government expenditure, which is essentially flat, while Government revenue grows as the economy grows.
Todd McClay: What are the overall prospects for New Zealand’s economy in 2013, and how is it performing compared with other developed economies?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We would expect continued moderate growth in New Zealand, despite the uncertain global environment. Since the low point of the recession in the June quarter of 2009 the economy has grown at an average of 2 percent a year in real terms—better than many developed world economies. Both Treasury and the Reserve Bank forecast our economy to grow at an average of 2.5 percent each year over the next 4 years. This is faster than the euro area, the United Kingdom, Japan, and Canada. Of course, we would like to see it grow faster than that, and will do everything we can to encourage faster growth and help New Zealand businesses take advantage of the positive opportunities that they have ahead of them.
Housing Affordability—Decrease in Affordability and Homeownership Rates
4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “I am keen to see New Zealanders be able to afford to buy a home”, given that the home ownership rate has continued to decline under his watch and home buying is becoming less affordable?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I am keen to see New Zealanders being able to afford to buy a home. That is why a comprehensive work programme will be under way to address the real issues of housing affordability, which are to do with land supply, building and resource consents, and the costs of building and materials.
Metiria Turei: Is the Prime Minister aware that since his Government came to office, seven Resource Management Act amendment bills and 11 local government amendment bills have been put before the House and none has improved home affordability, so why on earth would anyone believe that doing the same thing is going to get a different result?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would reject the proposition that none has done anything. Secondly, maybe the argument is that they have not gone far enough. But the new one probably will.
Metiria Turei: Why will he not support a policy by which the Government’s low cost of capital is shared with young families to help them buy their first home, as past National Governments did and as the Greens have proposed in our progressive ownership policies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not think that is actually going to resolve the fundamental issue. I mean, if one wants to talk about interest rates, interest rates got up to around about 11 percent under the previous Government. They are at about 5 percent at the moment, so they are not an awfully long way away from the Government borrowing rate, and they are an awfully long way away from where they were at levels of 20-odd percent and higher in our previous history. So, yes, interest rates are a big factor, but that is why good economic management is important. Of course, if one were to get out there and print billions of dollars, that would put inflation up, that would put mortgages up, and, of course, that would have Russel Norman having New Zealanders paying a lot more for their mortgage. I am sure they would be very disappointed about that.
Metiria Turei: Does he not agree that our home building programme for homes averaging around $300,000 plus a progressive ownership scheme that is deposit and mortgage-free for young families would give young families that pathway to owning those homes and therefore reverse the major decline that we have seen in homeownership rates?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but can I congratulate the member on at least sticking to arguing that they are going to build a four-bedroom home in Auckland for $300,000 or less, because Labour is up at $550,000 now and it will probably be at $750,000 by next week.
Metiria Turei: Why does the Prime Minister continue to oppose any option that sees the Government help kids into safe, secure, and stable homes, when that was exactly what the Government did when he was a child?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I reject that proposition. The Government spends $2 billion on accommodation supplements and support alone.
Louise Upston: What reports, if any, has he received on alternative policies regarding housing affordability?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I have seen a report of a policy that would use the National Land Transport Fund, interestingly enough, to pay for a rent-to-buy housing scheme. The people who put up this policy seem to be unaware that the funding is collected from road users through fuel excise and road-user charges. Paying for houses from the National Land Transport Fund would cause serious problems for the funding of other things like road maintenance, road policing, and, of course, public transport, which I am sure the Greens would be very concerned about. But oh wait— that is right—it is the Greens’ policy.
Metiria Turei: Did the Prime Minister listen to Connal Townsend of the Property Council today, who said that were thousands of available sections in Auckland but the problem was that private developers could not build affordable housing on them and still meet their profit margins?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I have seen reports from the Property Council that say that there are probably about 4,000 to 5,000 commercially viable sections available. I have seen reports from Len Brown that there could be 15,000 sections available, although that number is being drilled into
rapidly as I speak. It started at 20,000 and we are at 15,000. It might be a bit lower. The interesting thing here, of course, is that if the Auckland Spatial Plan is right, then Auckland will need 13,000 new dwellings a year for each of the next 30 years. So even if there are 15,000, it is a year and a bit’s supply.
Metiria Turei: If the Prime Minister truly believes that building a $300,000 home in Auckland is impossible, as he said, has he never visited his own electorate and taken a look at homes such as those on Hobsonville Road, Cyril Crescent, and Mona Vale that are stand-alone family homes costing around $300,000?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have, and I have also seen reports from another member of this House that it is possible to get a four-bedroom home for less than $480,000 in Hobsonville. In fact, actually, yes, there are properties being built in Hobsonville for around $400,000 or less. They are one-person studios at the lowest end, or two or maybe three-bedroom terraced houses on 130 square metres. Actually, the average house price in Auckland is considerably higher than that, of course.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Is he satisfied with the progress made in actioning the recommendations of the Productivity Commission and the Auditor-General in relation to affordable housing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am satisfied we are making progress. We have picked up almost all of the recommendations in the Productivity Commission’s report, and we have established a comprehensive work programme with four key aims: increasing the land supply, reducing delays and costs of Resource Management Act processes associated with housing, improving the timely provision of infrastructure to support new housing, and improving productivity in the construction sector. Obviously, there is a lot more work that we want to do, and much will be the responsibility of local councils. We have also made changes to Kāinga Whenua to promote housing on multipleowned Māori land, which is included, not the least of them the increase in the income gap, from $120,000 per borrower to $160,000, to ensure that trusts are now eligible.
Metiria Turei: Given that there are homes for sale for around $300,000 in his own electorate, will the Prime Minister now concede that the problem is not that building a $300,000 home in Auckland is impossible but that it is that there are not enough of them and it is not in the interests of private developers to build more of them, and that that is why we need a Government-led building and progressive ownership programme of affordable homes for young Kiwi families who desperately need them?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Look, in relation to the last point, no. In relation to the first one, I have never said you cannot buy a house for $300,000 or less in New Zealand. What I have said is that it is disingenuous to argue that that is a four-bedroom home. And guess what? As I said yesterday, David Shearer had a road to Damascus experience—or, actually, it was a road to Ponsonby experience—and realised that it would cost a lot more than $300,000.
Economy—Projected Crown Revenue
5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Is he aware that anticipated Core Crown Revenue for the period 2012-2016 decreased by $13.2 billion between the October 2011 PREFU and the December 2012 HYEFU; if so, why has the Government lost $13.2 billion in projected revenue in little over a year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I think the black hole was what David Shearer is staring into. The other little thing was David Cunliffe getting ready to push him.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A member is entitled, when asking a question, to have their own visual aid. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with that at all. The Minister should at least attempt to answer the question before making that kind of comment.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There was actually nothing on the visual aid that related to the question, so I just made my own interpretation of it. In answer to the member’s question, first he needs to remember that over the period that he is referring to, the Government would expect to collect just under $300 billion of revenue, so that puts the $13 billion in perspective. The second thing is that
the $13 billion reduction in revenue over that period flows from the forecasts that Treasury did in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, which took account of two things: one is lower projections of real growth in the economy, and the second was lower inflation.
Hon David Parker: Is it correct that the forecast $13.2 billion hole in Crown revenue would be even worse were it not for the additional $1.5 billion New Zealanders will pay for fuel tax and ACC over the next 4 years as a result of the decisions he announced after Parliament rose at the end of last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course there would be less revenue forecast if we were going to be collecting less revenue. But, equally, the forecast would be worse if we, for instance, followed that member’s policies and let our spending get out of control, or if we went back to some of the crazy holes that that Government left in the tax system. There would also be less revenue collected, but it is well known that the forecasts for economic growth softened in the second half of last year, and it probably was not expected that inflation would be so low. That, of course, is a good thing for the cost of living for New Zealand households.
Hon David Parker: Given that, as he has already acknowledged, Treasury has stated that reductions in tax revenue across the forecast period are a result of a weaker economic outlook, does he bear any responsibility for that as Minister of Finance?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The economy is affected by a number of things. One is a range of external influences over which we have no control, and clearly do not bear responsibility for that. The other is domestic policy settings, which in the case of this Government are intended to improve the competitiveness of the economy and therefore its growth prospects. Of course, we could have gone faster and harder with some of those changes, and we take responsibility for that, but we believe this Government has struck about the right balance between encouraging investment and new jobs on the one hand, but on the other hand protecting New Zealand households as much as possible through the recession.
Hon David Parker: Does he admit that the $13.2 billion fiscal hole is a measure of his failure to grow jobs in the economy over the past year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. It is actually that the $13.2 billion refers to a reduction in the forecast tax revenue, not a fiscal hole. The picture for the Government is pretty straightforward: we are holding expenditure at similar levels this year to last year, and revenue continues to grow in line with the forecast growth of the economy. These forecasts will all be redone in the next couple of months, in time for the Budget, and no doubt we can have this discussion all over again.
Paul Goldsmith: What does the December 2012 Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update show in terms of the Government’s control over its spending?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a couple of factors that the half-year update confirms. It forecasts that core Crown expenditure will fall from a peak of around 35 percent of GDP over the next 4 years to 30 percent of GDP. Secondly, it shows that the track to surplus is occurring because the Government is essentially holding its expenditure to quite low or no growth, at the same time as revenue is gradually picking up as the economy grows. Of course, if the economy grows faster, that revenue will pick up faster. If many of the Government’s projects in respect of improving the quality of expenditure come to fruition, as some are, then we may even see a drop-off in Government expenditure, because we are getting better results, such as less crime, fewer young people going on benefit, and a more efficient police force.
Hon David Parker: Do the latest reports and forecasts that he has received show that after a $10 billion external deficit last year, the external deficit for New Zealand is projected to grow and is predicted by the International Monetary Fund to be the worst in the developed world in 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, the Labour Party should not be lecturing anyone about the current account deficit—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I can—well, I will hear the member’s point of order.
Hon David Parker: I was not lecturing anyone. I was asking him a question as to what the reports showed about his own performance.
Mr SPEAKER: And I think that is a fair point. The Minister should answer the question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot confirm whether they forecast New Zealand’s current account deficit relevant to others. What I can say is that New Zealand’s current account deficit in recent years has regularly been a bit better than the forecasts. As I have said to the member before, I happen to disagree with the Treasury and Reserve Bank view that the current account deficit will deteriorate anywhere near the levels at which the previous Labour Government left it. Having campaigned to halve it, it ended up doubling it to 8 percent for 3 years—the worst performance ever by the New Zealand economy.
6. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and
Employment: What recent announcements has the Government made about boosting the number of people being trained in apprenticeships?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Last week the Prime Minister announced a number of changes to the industry training system to boost skills and support jobs. Our initiatives include that from 1 January next year we will combine Modern Apprenticeships and other apprenticeship-type training under an expanded and improved scheme called New Zealand Apprenticeships, where apprentices will be provided with the same level of subsidy and support regardless of age. We will boost overall funding for apprenticeships by around $12 million in the first year, rising over time. We will boost the educational content of apprenticeships to at least 120 credits, resulting in trainees gaining a level 4 qualification. We will set clearer roles and performance expectations for industry training organisations, increase competition by allowing employers access to industry training funding, and raise the profile and participation of apprenticeships through a reboot initiative.
Colin King: What does the apprenticeship reboot initiative involve and where has the funding come from?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Under our reboot initiative, we will give the first 10,000 new apprentices who enrol after 1 April this year $1,000 towards their tools and off-job course costs, or $2,000 if they are in priority construction trades. The same amount will also be paid to their employers in support of their costs in taking on an apprentice. The apprenticeship reboot and the general increase in funding to support New Zealand apprentices is being funded from the savings the Government has achieved by removing phantom trainees from the industry training system. When we came into Government, about 100,000 people a year were listed as being in industry training who were not actually achieving anything at all, and in fact 11 of them—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We all know that this Minister has had notice of this question and the supplementary question as well, probably, and surely he could be far more terse and to the point than that. It is tiresome.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister was actually giving information he was asked for in the question, and that is why I did not stop him, but it was getting longish. I think the Minister had got through most of his answer though, had he not?
Colin King: How will the Government’s changes to industry training support the Christchurch rebuild?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: These announcements form part of a comprehensive plan to boost trades training to take advantage of the Christchurch rebuild. Over the last 2 years, despite the memory fade of the Opposition, the Government has invested $64 million in trades training through Skills for Canterbury, which has provided 12,000 additional places in polytechs in 2011, more than 2,500 last year, and a similar number this year, plus, of course, our successful Māori and Pasifika
trades training initiatives. This announcement will invest $106 million more in New Zealand Apprenticeships and wider industry training, as the construction phase picks up in Christchurch and employers look to take on more staff.
Grant Robertson: Does the $106 million in funding for the apprenticeship package that was announced last week include the increased funding required to cover the base training costs of the additional 14,000 apprentices over the next 5 years that were part of the package?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, the $106 million was calculated from the actual increase to those apprentices who are already in the system and, on top of that, the apprenticeship reboot, and also the increase in subsidy for industry training. The actual money for the additional 14,000 is on top of that again, which just increases the size of the Government’s investment.
Grant Robertson: So can he then confirm that the package did not include that base training cost for the 14,000 extra apprentices, which means, using his own funding rate, there is a more than $50 million hole in the package he announced last week?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, not at all. The member is simply incorrect.
Chris Hipkins: Where’s the money coming from?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I will tell the member where the money is coming from. Removing some of the 100,000 phantom trainees has saved us, in fact, $40 million to $50 million a year. That money has been used to put into these new initiatives. I am absolutely confident we have the funding not just for the reboot, not just for the increase in subsidy for apprentices, not just for the increase in subsidy for industry trainees but also for the ramp-up of the additional 14,000 apprentices.
Child Poverty—Prime Minister’s Statements
7. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “I am deeply concerned about every child in New Zealand who is in poverty”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he stand by his statement on Firstline this morning, when asked about child poverty, that “there are … isolated examples that are being reported of a child being hungry …”; if so, how many isolated cases are there?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot give the member the exact number, but, in relation to all of the children who go to school, that number would be relatively small. But the Government has been aware of that. That is why I have extended the contribution to Fruit in Schools, that is why we have extended the money we give to KidsCan, that is why we have supported Fonterra’s milk in schools programme.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he agree with the charity Variety that children in poverty in New Zealand should be assisted through a $1 a day - style sponsorship programme; if so, will he be sponsoring a child?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, firstly, I welcome what Variety is doing. We welcome private sector and not-for-profits actually helping New Zealand families. It is not new; that particular programme might be, but there are other great examples of charities. The Government needs partners to work alongside it. The Government itself is doing a huge number of things in this area. Just for the member’s education, in case she has forgotten, the Government, for instance, has rolled out the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme for a lot of New Zealanders. It has increased the funding for early childhood education. It is running a very extensive rheumatic fever programme. It has now ensured that there are free doctors’ visits and after-hours visits for 6-year-olds. It has improved maternity services—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is well beyond the question asked.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he believe that the two out of five children living in poverty in the homes of families where their parents are in work should have to rely on charity to survive?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. It would be my preference that they would not. That is why the Government has supported Working for Families and supports the in-work tax credit. But I simply make this one point, because I think it is a fair point around the overall debate of the member. In 2007 this country posted a $7 billion surplus. At the time, what was reported in terms of the number of children likely to be living in poverty was somewhere between 170,000 and 240,000. So when we had a $7 billion surplus we had up to a quarter of a million New Zealand children in poverty. So this issue ain’t new.
Climate Change Policy—Government Priorities
8. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Why didn’t he mention climate change yesterday when he outlined his Government’s priorities for the year in his statement to Parliament?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): The statement to Parliament does not list everything the Government intends to do in the year, and the overall structure of the Government’s emissions trading scheme going forward was well established last year.
Dr Russel Norman: Was the reason he did not talk about climate change in his statement for the year that addressing climate change is not a priority for his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, that is not the reason. The Government has some very clear top priorities, and climate change is an important issue. That is why we have an emissions trading scheme, and that is why this year we will have a binding emissions target. Well, actually, interestingly enough, let us quote what Labour’s increase in emissions was when it was in office. Oh, that is right, it was 23 percent, and under National emissions went down.
Dr Russel Norman: Was it more important to use his speech to talk about the Green Party 11 times and the Labour Party 23 times and to make a joke about putting a bell on David Cunliffe, rather than discuss the biggest threat facing the planet and how New Zealand could do its share?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, one of the biggest threats facing New Zealand could be a Labour- Greens Government. Let us get it right. The Green Party policy—correct me if I am wrong—is that it supports a target of between 25 and 40 percent reduction in global emissions by 2020. It would demand a huge increase in the emissions trading scheme and the cost on New Zealand families. Let us be upfront. Let us have that debate when we are on TV in those debates talking about how the Green Party is going to force New Zealand consumers to pay a truckload more money every single week, and let us see whether New Zealand consumers like it. If they do, good luck; you will be Minister of Finance.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Prime Minister confirm that under his Government he is proposing to put the costs on to taxpayers rather than consumers, so taxpayers are subsidising greenhouse pollution, which is the exact opposite of what you should do for those of us who believe in using market instruments to reduce greenhouse emissions?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not agree with that, and I go back to the fundamental point. If the member wants to see New Zealand with a more significantly increased target, as he does—fair enough; that is the Green Party’s policy—then let us understand what that means. It means much bigger costs for New Zealand consumers and New Zealand businesses. That means fewer jobs, and that means New Zealand being less competitive while the rest of the world is doing very little. If that is the member’s policy, fair enough. That is why he wants to be the Minister of Finance. But in the world that we live in over here, which is the real world, we do not support his view on climate change.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it his plan to subsidise polluting industries and hence lock in old investments rather than encourage new investments? Is that plan consistent with his plan as a Prime Minister to put off all the hard issues because he would rather make jokes than make tough calls?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Dr Russel Norman: Will he commit to accepting Pacific climate change refugees in light of comments from the President of Kiribati, who said: “Climate change is eating away [our children’s] future … For low-lying countries, such as Kiribati, which are at the frontline of climate change, the threat it poses is real and immediate.”? It is no joke, Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is right, and that is why this Government will have a firm binding target in its long-term plan for reductions in global emissions. That is why we have an emissions trading scheme, and that is why we are investing in the greenhouse gas alliance. I go back to the point I made earlier. The member wants New Zealand to have an emissions trading scheme and a cost on its consumers way above everywhere else in the world—fair enough. He wants New Zealand consumers to pay way more than the average American, way more than the average Australian, way more than the average Canadian, and way more, actually, than people in Europe— fair enough. But he should go into the election campaign and be honest with those New Zealand voters: vote Greens; you will pay a lot more money.
Housing Affordability—Government Measures to Address
9. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Prime Minister: Following his decision to appoint a new Minister of Housing, what new policies, if any, does he expect his new Minister to implement to address the growing housing affordability issues in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I expect the Minister to work with his colleagues on policies to address the real issues of housing affordability, which, as I have said before, are to do with land supply, building and resource consents, and the cost of building materials. I also expect all Ministers to support the Government’s policy of keeping spending tightly under control. This is keeping interest rates lower than they would otherwise be and making a big difference to New Zealanders’ mortgages.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, where did he get the information that led him to state last week that it is ridiculous that developers can wait 6 to 18 months for resource consents to build residential homes in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is the advice my office has received, but over the years, actually, I have met—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked where he got the information— not just saying “from my office”. I asked where he got the information—
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point is fairly made. She did ask where— [Interruption] Order! She did ask where the information came from. I guess what is not automatically clear is whether that is to the Prime Minister’s office or to the Prime Minister, but since the Prime Minister is answering, one assumes it is to the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would have to check with my office. I am not going to go and mislead Parliament. But I can tell the member that in the time that I have been Prime Minister I have heard much worse horror stories than 6 to 18 months in terms of getting resource consents. Maybe that is the reason why house prices doubled between 2001 and 2007 under a Labour Government. Maybe that is the reason, or one of the reasons, why section prices went up, and maybe that is the reason why New Zealanders were paying twice as much for their mortgages under Labour as they are under the National Government.
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that comprehensive data is provided to the Government from the Ministry for the Environment on councils and resource consents, that the same data was provided to the Productivity Commission for its housing affordability report, and neither of which backs up his figures of 6 to 18 months; if so, why has he resorted to exaggeration and blaming councils when he should be focusing on the real issues that are stopping New Zealanders getting their first homes?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I am aware of the first point. Secondly, let me make this point. Interestingly enough, the Productivity Commission’s report that was released, which the
Government is looking to follow, looks at the areas that we think are the real issues behind housing. They are land supply, building consents, resource consents, and the like. By the way, that happens to mirror the work and the report that were done by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet for Helen Clark. She sat around with half of the department working on that, for years. By the way, here are the results under Labour: house prices doubled, mortgage rates went through the roof, and housing affordability was awful.
Hon Annette King: What factors have now enabled the Government to have built homes up to 300 square metres with four bedrooms for under $485,000 on prime land at Hobsonville, according to the Department of Building and Housing—not the one-bedroom or terraced housing that he claimed in answer to an earlier question today?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have got to be blunt: I am getting a bit giddy on the numbers. They started at $300,000, then they were $550,000, now they are $485,000.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called. [Interruption] Order! There must be silence.
Hon Annette King: My question related to the Government having built homes at Hobsonville that are 300 square metres, that have four bedrooms, that are being built for under—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now actually using the point of order to enter debating material. The question was a pretty clear question. I think the Prime Minister should treat it as such.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There will be, across New Zealand and across Auckland, a range of prices to build a house. There will not be a four-bedroom house for $300,000, as David Shearer was trying to tell people. Interestingly enough, here is one mildly interesting statistic that the House might be interested in. I have seen reports that the basis for some of Labour members’ arguments is the Housing Foundation. Interestingly enough, it has produced 15 units with an estimated price of $425,000. What Labour forgot to tell New Zealanders is that, by the way, of that $6 million investment the Government had to—
Hon Member: You’re making it up.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —I am not making it up; it gets real good, though—we had to put in $2 million. So guess what?
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You did hear my question clearly. I asked about Hobsonville. The Prime Minister then answered about the rest of New Zealand and then about Labour’s policy. Why does he not address the question, which specifically asked about Hobsonville, about four bedrooms, and about 300 square metres?
Mr SPEAKER: I—[Interruption] Order! The member is not helping herself by bellowing that across the House. Because of the time that has elapsed I will invite the member to repeat her question, but it must be exactly that same question.
Hon Annette King: Exactly as I asked it. What factors have now enabled the Government to have built homes up to 300 square metres with four bedrooms for under $485,000 on prime land at Hobsonville in Auckland, according to the Department of Building and Housing—not the onebedroom or terraced housing he claimed earlier in question time?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start-off, this is not our policy. This is Labour’s policy that you can build a four-bedroom house, which they told us was for 300 grand. Secondly, if those members want to go directly to Hobsonville—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I think I can predict the member’s point of order, but I will hear it to make sure.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: The question related to the houses built by the Prime Minister’s Government. He has talked about every other entity building houses, not the houses that his Government built.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member. The question asked what factors have enabled houses to be built at Hobsonville of a certain size for under a certain price. That was a very straightforward
question. It seemed to claim that the basis of the information appeared to be Housing New Zealand Corporation statistics, and I think that is what is causing the disruption in the House—[Interruption] That member will not be doing too well, either, if he keeps interjecting when the Speaker is on his feet. It was a reasonable question. The member claims that houses of that size are being built for that figure, and is asking what factors enable that to be. I think that is not an unreasonable question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised that houses in Hobsonville—I do not have the numbers on $485,000, but I am advised that for $400,000—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Your Government built them.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, we did not. We do not have a bunch of builders out there. We use the private sector. But going back to one thing, for $400,000 you get a one-person studio at the lower end, or a two to three-bedroom terraced house on 130 square metres. But if it is all so easy, there is no housing problem, then.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps I could clarify for the Prime Minister where I got the data—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No, order! The member must not do that when I am on my feet. Look, I gave the member the opportunity to repeat her question, and the Prime Minister clearly has a different view of the information. [Interruption] Order! He has answered the question by basically disputing the information, and he is at liberty to do that. He is at liberty to do that. The member can pursue it with further supplementary questions.
Louise Upston: What reports, if any, has he received on alternative policies that claim to address the issue of housing affordability?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen reports of a policy to build around 66,000 houses for $300,000 each. Then the policy got changed to be about building small apartments and terraced houses in Auckland. Then the cost went up to a maximum of $550,000. Then today I see it is back down to—I cannot actually work out whether it is $300,000, $400,000, or $485,000—which makes me tempted to think that Labour makes it up on the fly. But if I go back to my point about the KiwiBuild scheme, the example of the Housing Foundation, where the Government put in $2 million, the interesting point there is that if we were to do the same thing for an estimated price of $425,000, that would translate to 66,000 homes at a cost of $8.8 billion. That is the level of subsidy required.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a report from the Parliamentary Library for me, regarding council resource consents, which states that the figures Mr Key quoted cannot have come from the Ministry for the Environment survey, and it does not know where he has sourced them.
Mr SPEAKER: I—[Interruption] Order! The member is telling the House that this report from the Parliamentary Library states that?
Hon Annette King: Yes, it does.
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.
Canterbury, Recovery—Progress of Canterbury Home Repair Programme
10. NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) to the Minister responsible for
the Earthquake Commission: What progress has been made in the repair of homes in Canterbury by the EQR Repair Programme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission): I am pleased to report to the House that 30,748 homes have been completed under the Earthquake Commission Canterbury Home Repair Programme. The total expenditure on this project now exceeds $1 billion. These are homes that have damage costing more than $15,000 but less than the $100,000 cap. In addition, more than 47,000 emergency repairs have been completed and 18,000 heating units have been installed. There are approximately 84,000 of the 180,000 houses in
Christchurch in this programme, which means that now about one-third of those repairs have been completed.
Nicky Wagner: How many houses does he expect to be repaired in 2013?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The programme is now repairing in excess of 2,000 houses each month. It would hope to have completed over half the required repairs by the end of this year. As building standards and foundation designs have become clearer with the ground settling, work will increase on repairs exceeding $50,000. These projects will take a little longer, but Fletcher EQR should complete in excess of 50,000 repairs by the end of this year.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Does he stand by the Fletcher EQR repair strategy for damaged homes with asbestos in light of the medical officer of health describing it as a future “landmine”; if so, why?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have to very clearly say that I think the medical officer of health may have been misled as to the extent of the problem when he made his statements.
Question No. 11 to Minister
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wish to raise a point of order with you under Speaker’s ruling 151/5 relating to the transfer of this question. I will let you look that one up, but while you do that, this question was originally set down to the Minister of Education. In setting it down to the Minister of Education we needed to provide some authentication for the issue raising strained relations in the primary question. The authentication that we provided made it very clear that the strained relations being referred to were between the Minister of Education and the Secretary for Education. The wording was negotiated with the Office of the Clerk, once we had presented that authentication to them, to make it clear where we were going with the question. Speaker’s ruling 151/5 prevents the transfer of a question where only one Minister or the Minister that the question had originally been put to could be expected to have the knowledge in order to answer the question and the issues around that. A breakdown in a relationship between a Minister and a chief executive is really something that only the Minister, whose relationship has broken down, can be expected to answer for. Therefore, the transfer of this question to the Minister of State Services seems to be an abuse of the transfer process, in that it is allowing a Minister to escape answering for their own actions and the breakdown of the relationship with their own chief executive.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I think the first point is that the Opposition has relied, in getting this question on the sheet, on statements that were not made by the Minister, but by the other party. Therefore, they are of an allegatory nature. But it is a well-known and established precedent that the employment relationship with a chief executive is with the State Services Commissioner, and it is therefore appropriate that the Minister of State Services is the one who would answer in matters of such a breakdown. Otherwise, you could have chief executives making all sorts of allegations about Ministers and then the Opposition assuming that that gave it carte blanche to ask those Ministers any questions it likes.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is an interesting point the member makes. There is a fundamental principle that questions can be transferred—and the member is quite correct—except where that would be objectionable in so far as the Minister it has been transferred away from is the only person who could possibly have the information. It is interesting, though, to look—the member, in raising his point of order, referred to the material provided to validate the question. He will recollect from that material that the view that there had been strained relations was the view of the State Services Commissioner, and therefore one cannot necessarily automatically assume it is the view also of the Minister.
Hon Member: I think it was.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no. The validation contained the view of the State Services Commissioner. I had a look at this, because I suspected when it was transferred that the point may
be raised. Given that the view the member is referring to is the view of the State Services Commissioner, in addition to the point raised by the honourable Leader of the House that the State Services Commissioner is responsible for these matters, it seems not unreasonable that the question could be transferred to the Minister responsible, the Minister of State Services.
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will not go on further on this subject, but I do want to just raise one last point on this matter. If the Minister disagreed with the view put forward by the State Services Commissioner, the only person, really, who can answer that is the Minister of Education, not the Minister of State Services, so you have actually just reinforced the point that I was trying to make.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to that point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. I do not think I need any further assistance—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, I think it is an important one, because we do not want to establish precedent for the House. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will hear from the Leader of the House, indeed. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! Order! I will hear from the Leader of the House.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): If you were to accept Mr Hipkins’ point, you would deny the opportunity that Mr Hipkins has to ask that direct question.
Mr SPEAKER: Look, I will hear briefly from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, because there is no need to take up more time of the House.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): We can solve this problem because the expert on this question is here, and I seek leave for the Minister of Education to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member cannot seek leave for another person to answer a question. Look— [Interruption] Order! This matter is easily dealt with. I have allowed the House time to explore it. The Government had an absolute right to transfer this question, and the member should proceed with his question.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My understanding is that the House is actually the master of its own decisions and by leave can, essentially, do anything. The Rt Hon Winston Peters sought leave for a question to be transferred back again. My view is that you have got to put that to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the matter can probably be easily dealt with. I will check up to make sure. It seems to me that the member makes a reasonable point, that the House is the master of its own destiny, so I am happy to put the leave. Leave is sought for—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If that is the way you go, then I would suggest that we go through Speakers’ rulings one by one, seeing whether the House wishes to reconfirm them, because that is where we are getting to.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Order! I think on this issue that it is—[Interruption] That is not very helpful, I say to the right honourable gentleman. Leave is easily denied. I will check further, to check on the specific issue around questions. Certainly, there are some limits around what can be covered by leave, but I am not aware of any reason why this should be limited. I think—the point that has been made to me by the Clerk is a very good point. If the leave had been sought for the question to be transferred to another Minister, that would be the more appropriate way for the leave to be put to the House, because I am concerned about, you know, leave being sought for specific questions to be answered by one or another person. So if the leave is rephrased, I am happy to put it. The Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Does that mean that the House determines now which Minister answers questions, as opposed to the Government?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The Government determines which Minister should answer a question, but there is no reason why, just as a member can seek leave to have their question deferred, leave could not be sought for a question to be transferred to another Minister, because it is very much in the hands of any member to deny it. It is not as if it is putting the House at any risk at all. It would be, I think, extremely inappropriate were leave to be regularly sought. This is an issue where a question was transferred that has caused some concern. I believe the transfer of the question was absolutely legitimate on the evidence I have seen, and there is no reason for it not to have been transferred. However, leave is now sought for it to be transferred back, and I am prepared to entertain putting that leave.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave for question No. 11 in the name of Chris Hipkins to be transferred to another Minister or, more specifically, back to the Minister of Education.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection—[Interruption] Order! That matter is now dealt with.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would call your attention to Speaker’s ruling 151/3, and ask you to give us a fairly prompt ruling as to whether or not that Speaker’s ruling stands, because it says in the Speaker’s ruling:“It is not for the Speaker or the House to determine which Minister has responsibility for a question.” It seems to me that in that circumstance either that ruling has been dispensed with or the House has just committed itself to a leave process that is contrary to the spirit of that Speaker’s ruling.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): It is quite clear that it is in the power of the House to move away from a particular Speaker’s ruling, if it so chooses unanimously.
Mr SPEAKER: I think we do not need to spend more time on this issue today. I mean, the fundamental rule remains. It is the Government’s responsibility to determine which Minister answers a question. Concern was raised over the transferral of this question. I have ruled that it was perfectly in order for the question to be transferred, and then leave has been sought for the question to be transferred back. The House is the master of its own destiny. Seeking such leave is never going to work. In fact, it is hard to conceive how it would ever work, because the Government does have control over that, and that is why, were it to become a regular practice, I think the matter would need to be dealt with more clearly. But I have got no problem with the procedures followed today, and so I think question No. 11 should now be put to the Minister of State Services.
Education, Ministry—Resignation of Secretary for Education
11. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of State Services: What were the factors that contributed to the strained relations that resulted in the resignation of Lesley Longstone as Secretary of Education?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of State Services): As the member will be aware, there were several high profile matters in education last year that contributed to strained relations across the education sector. Ms Longstone’s reasons for her resignation are a matter between her and the State Services Commissioner.
Chris Hipkins: Was the State Services Commissioner correct in stating that strained relations with the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, were largely to blame for Lesley Longstone’s resignation?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: He did not say that they were largely to blame for the resignation. Ms Longstone reached her own decision, which she conveyed in writing to the State Services Commissioner. And I would make the point that employment matters such as this are a matter between the employee and the State Services Commissioner.
Chris Hipkins: Was it a ministerial decision to increase class sizes in last year’s Budget, a ministerial decision to propose closures and mergers for schools in Christchurch, a ministerial decision to close Salisbury School—a decision overturned by the court—and a ministerial decision
to sign off the implementation of Novopay; if so, why is the Secretary for Education being asked to fall on her sword rather than the Minister who actually made the decisions?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The Secretary for Education has not been asked to fall on her sword.
Chris Hipkins: Does he believe that the Minister of Education’s remark on the way to the House today that the Ministry of Education not paying its staff today was “karma” is going to lead to an improvement or a further deterioration in the relationship between that great communicator Hekia Parata and her officials?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, I am not going to rely on any report of a remark given by that member, because I could not be sure that he is reporting it accurately.
Chris Hipkins: Why should the New Zealand public have faith that the right person has resigned, given that the Minister who made all the decisions that led to the major controversies in education remains in office but has had all of her major responsibilities apparently taken off her, and now is not even being allowed by the Government to answer her own questions in the House?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member is allowed to answer her own questions.
Prisoners, Employment Training—Government Measures to Address
12. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Corrections: What steps is the Government taking to improve prisoner employment training in New Zealand prisons?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): The Government will be establishing Auckland Women’s Centre, Rolleston Prison, and Tongariro/Rangipō Prison as full working prisons. All prisoners at these three prisons will be engaged in a structured 40-hour week of employment and rehabilitation activities. Many prisoners have poor employment histories. Over 50 percent of prisoners did not have a job when they came into prison—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hate to do this on your last question. I do not know whether it is the ambient noise in the Chamber or whether something has happened with the volume, but I think we are not getting it over here. We had a bit of trouble hearing the question, and the answer also is not coming through very clearly.
Mr SPEAKER: I would ask the Minister to maybe speak a little closer to the microphone, if it is difficult to hear.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Do you want me to start again?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I would not ask the Minister to start again. Please, if she could just finish her answer. [Interruption] Order! Order!
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Over 50 percent of prisoners did not have a job when they came to prison, and most have no formal qualifications. Working prisons will ensure that more prisoners have the opportunity to gain work experience and qualifications, which will increase their chances of finding employment on their release.
Jacqui Dean: Why is employment training important in rehabilitating prisoners?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Prisoner employment has been shown to have a significant impact on reoffending rates. Research undertaken by the Department of Corrections has shown that the reoffending rates were reduced by over 8 percent for prisoners who participated in prison-based employment activities, and over 16 percent for prisoners on the Release to Work programme. International studies have shown that having a job after release is a critical element to leading someone away from a life of crime. That is why this Government is committed to increasing that employment and skills training for prisoners significantly over the next 5 years as part of its programme to reduce reoffending by 25 percent.
Hon Peter Dunne: Does the Minister see the provisions in the National - United Future confidence and supply agreement regarding mandatory alcohol and drug pre-release assessments for prisoners as complementary to the employment training strategy and helping position those inmates for long-term employment once they are released?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, we agree that drug and alcohol addiction is a major driver of crime. In order to reach that 25 percent reduction in reoffending we need to not only train the prisoners so that they have the skills to get a job but also treat their addiction issues. That is why this Government is significantly increasing drug and alcohol treatment both for prisoners and for offenders in the community. An extra 33,000 of them will get some form of drug and alcohol addiction treatment. Pre-release drug and alcohol assessments will complement all of these efforts and will help ensure that prisoners have the assistance that they need to overcome their addiction issues and remain in stable employment.
Mr SPEAKER: That brings to a close my final question time. I fear I have blotted my copybook, in that it has taken somewhat longer than usual.