Questions and Answers - March 21
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): Today Statistics New Zealand has released the gross domestic product data for the December 2012 quarter. It shows that the New Zealand economy grew 1.5 percent in the quarter—the highest quarterly growth since December 2009 and above market expectations. Annual growth was 3 percent year on year. The last time this was higher was before the global financial crisis and before the domestic recession that preceded that crisis. This is a reasonably encouraging result, particularly when New Zealand’s 3 percent growth in 2012 is compared with other countries: 1.6 percent in the US, 1.1 percent in Canada, 0.4 percent in Japan, 0.3 percent in the UK, and negative 0.9 percent in the euro area.
David Bennett: What are the main drivers of GDP growth in the December quarter?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Statistics New Zealand reports broad growth, with 15 of the 16 measured industries growing in the December quarter. The main drivers of growth in the December quarter were forestry, which grew 9 percent, the largest increase since 1999; retail accommodation and restaurants, up 2.3 percent, driven by retail activity; wholesale trade, up 2.1 percent, driven by equipment and machinery sales; and construction activity, up 1.8 percent, which was the fifth consecutive quarterly increase. Manufacturing activity in the December quarter was up 2.7 percent year on year, but down 0.5 percent in the quarter, and that was mainly due to a fall in oil production. Household consumption increased 1.6 percent, and exports increased 2.1 percent.
David Bennett: What is the outlook for New Zealand’s economic growth, and how does that compare with other developed countries?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Treasury and the Reserve Bank forecast that New Zealand’s economy can expect growth of 2 to 3 percent per year over the next 4 years. This is in spite of the headwinds of ongoing uncertainty in the world economy, an elevated exchange rate, deleveraging in the household and Government sectors, and, of course, this year’s drought. New Zealand’s forecast growth is higher than consensus forecasts for the eurozone, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Canada. It is in line with forecast growth in the United States of America and slightly below that of Australia. There remains work to do, but this shows that New Zealand is broadly heading in the right economic direction.
David Bennett: What are the risks to growth in the next few years, and what steps is the Government taking to manage these risks?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Although the world economy is showing some positive signs, recent events in Europe and questions about the process of unwinding central bank balance sheets shows that some uncertainty does remain. That is why the Government has focused on developing its
Business Growth Agenda, a comprehensive plan for building a productive and competitive economy and encouraging business investment and growth, and also raising national savings by getting back into surplus, and developing new financial stability tools, which include the macroprudential framework.
Hon David Parker: Why is the Minister claiming the economy is performing well, given that 23,000 people lost their jobs and 33,000 people left the workforce in the very same December quarter that he has been referring to?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is worth pointing out to the member that, actually, in the 2 years to December, job growth in the quarterly employment survey was 54,000 jobs. I appreciate that, you know, we still have not got a perfect economy, but if the member wants to criticise the Government for achieving 1.5 percent growth in one quarter, I say make him keep doing it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Before he begins crowing about the temporary state of the economy, will he tell the hundreds who cued outside a South Auckland factory 2 weeks ago, at Carter Holt Harvey’s Pakuranga factory, when they will get a job?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not think anybody has been crowing in this House recently, except the right honourable member, but the reality of it is that the New Zealand economy—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What on earth could that opening sentence have to do with an answer?
Mr SPEAKER: It was a very political question. I want to hear the—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: This is a political place.
Mr SPEAKER: That is absolutely right. Could the Minister please complete the answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We were listening to your response. We were having trouble hearing it because of the assistance you were getting from the Associate Minister of Finance and the Leader of the House. I do not know if there is something wrong with the sound system, but, Mr Speaker, while you were ruling, you were being overcalled by those two Ministers.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear a huge amount of interjection, but I fully accept there was some interjection. It goes to prove that interjection from either side of the House when I am making a comment to any member will lead to disorder. Would the Minister please now answer the question that was raised by the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I was pointing out to the member that the only one describing anything as crowing was the member himself. In terms of the job market, we certainly accept that the job market remains challenging. Although there has been job growth, it is not enough to actually meet the needs of all New Zealanders. That is why the Business Growth Agenda is very, very important in terms of encouraging opportunities for investment in the New Zealand economy.
Grant Robertson: It’s not working.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, actually, there are very strong signs that it is working relative to the rest of the world. If the member would like me to run through again GDP growth relative to the rest of the world for his benefit, I would be happy to do so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Minister explain to the country why foreigners are coming here in their thousands on work permits, when a record number of young people who are New Zealanders cannot get a job in their own country?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I find both of the legs of the question from the member actually factually incorrect. The first leg of the question says that record numbers are coming to New Zealand. Well, that is obviously not correct when you look at the migration statistics—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This Minister was asked a straightforward question. The record numbers claim was to do with the record numbers of youth out of work, and that is a fact. So would you ask him now to address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister rose and straight away said he did not accept the question that was put by the member, and that is a perfectly satisfactory answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no—he claimed that I said that there were record numbers of foreigners coming in on work permits. I did not say that. The Hansard will prove that. Now make him answer the question, as you are required to do.
Mr SPEAKER: The member said that there were foreigners coming in in their thousands. The Minister satisfactorily addressed that question by disputing that. He is quite entitled to do so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Will he answer the question, then? Because he has not answered it yet.
Mr SPEAKER: He did answer the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, he did not. I raised a point of order on him, he stopped—
Mr SPEAKER: And I ruled that the question had been answered. The Minister said he just did not accept the supposition in the member’s question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, if he gets up and he claims I made a statement that I did not make, and the Hansard will show it, how then can you avoid making him answer the question?
Mr SPEAKER: Because I have told the member that I am satisfied that the member answered the question by saying he did not accept the suppositions that were raised by the member in asking the question.
Government Financial Position—Current Account Deficit
2. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with Westpac economist Nathan Penny that the increase in the annual current account deficit to $10.5 billion, 5 percent of GDP, is a “worrying symptom of New Zealand’s two-speed economy and re-emerging imbalances”; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): A range of views have been expressed on yesterday’s results, and not all the Minister would agree with. The Minister would agree with Mr Penny, who also said that the economy is clearly improving and “household spending and business confidence are on the up.” But if Mr Penny is concerned about the current account deficit now, then he must have been apoplectic about it when the current account deficit averaged over 8 percent under the previous Government.
Hon David Parker: If 30 percent of Mighty River Power shares being sold go offshore, will this have a further negative effect on New Zealand’s current account deficit?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In terms of the first part of his question—
Grant Robertson: Yes.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —in terms of the first part of his question, there is no indication that that is the case at all beyond Mr Cosgrove actually asserting it yesterday, and we generally do not take advice from Mr Cosgrove in these matters. But in terms of the member’s question with regards to investment and investment income, it all depends on the quality of that investment income. I would point out to the member that in the balance of payments yesterday, if you look at the investment flows, there were two main influences: New Zealanders were earning record amounts from their investments offshore, which I think the member would argue was a good thing; also those that are foreign investors investing in New Zealand invested something like 60 percent of their earnings back in the country, which is also a good thing. The third thing is, to point it out to the member, the actual investment balances—yes, they were affected by Government borrowing, and that is why the Government is very, very focused on getting back into surplus, which is something that his colleagues on the Opposition side do not seem to understand.
Hon David Parker: How can he credibly claim that his Government has rebalanced the economy, which was its stated objective, when there is double-digit housing inflation in Auckland, persistently high unemployment, and a large current account deficit?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I would have a look at the GDP statistics today if I was the member, which showed broad-based growth across the New Zealand economy in 15 of the 16
categories measured. The 16th was manufacturing. If you take oil and gas out of that, manufacturing was also positive over the quarter and over the year. In fact, the oil and gas one is the one, of course, that there is only one party in this House, or perhaps also the parties that work alongside—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a necessary part of the answer.
Hon David Parker: Why does he downplay the importance of his failure to rebalance the economy, when it is not just the Westpac economists but also the BNZ economist Doug Steel, who said that yesterday’s current account numbers are “part of the slippery slope that we think the external accounts are on,”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is just, you know, incredulous being lectured by that member, because from 2005 to 2008 the balance of payments deficit was 8 percent of GDP on average for the entire 3 years, so this Government is rebalancing the economy. But the mess we were left with—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That surely cannot be within the Standing Orders—to get up, make no attempt to address the question, and then start hammering on about some other party’s record, which he is not responsible for.
Mr SPEAKER: And it is certainly not desirable for the Minister to start with such a personal attack. It is a political contest, but it would be helpful if Ministers would, frankly, just answer the question.
Youth Employment—Work Opportunities
3. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister of Labour: What action is the Government taking to improve work opportunities for young people?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Labour): The passage of the Minimum Wage (Startingout Wage) Amendment Bill today will, from 1 May, create a wage for 16 to 19-year-olds entering the workforce, coming off a benefit, or undertaking training. Young people who do not successfully move into work or who are unemployed for long periods face a real risk of long-term unemployment. The starting-out wage will provide an incentive for employers to help give young people a foot in the door and start building their skills and experience.
Chris Auchinvole: How have young people been affected by the recession and current wage settings?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Young people have been more negatively affected—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Young people have been more negatively affected in employment terms by the recession than older workers. The minimum wage settings of the Labour Government did not help. The new entrants wage it established is estimated to have cost up to 9,000 jobs and is currently being used by only 2 percent of employers. This Government wants New Zealanders who are able to work to do so. The starting-out wage will help set young people up for a lifetime of meaningful employment.
State-owned Enterprises—Ministers’ Statements
4. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Does he stand by all statements he and his Ministerial colleagues have made regarding State-owned enterprises?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): on behalf of the Minister for
State Owned Enterprises: Within the context they were made the Minister stands by all his statements. In regard to the likely hundreds of statements made by 20-plus ministerial colleagues in relation to all State-owned enterprises over 5 years, that is just a little bit difficult to check out in 3 hours’ prep time.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does he agree with the Prime Minister that an inquiry into Solid Energy will not achieve anything even though $389 million of taxpayers’ money is in jeopardy and over 400 miners and associated staff have lost their jobs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, the Minister agrees with the Prime Minister. The issues that Solid Energy has had in regard to its business over the last couple of years are very well traversed and there are some excellent articles in the media the member might like to read to assist with that. The focus of the Government is on working through the situation with Solid Energy board and management to maximise the outcome for the company.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: In the absence of an inquiry into the near collapse of Solid Energy, where hundreds of miners and associated staff have lost their livelihoods, where $389 million worth of taxpayers’ money is in jeopardy, and where he did nothing to stop this from happening, how does he expect the public to have confidence in him as Minister for State Owned Enterprises when under his watch an export award - winning company has been driven into the ground?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate that that was a very politically loaded question from the member, but the answer—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: It was a factual question; just answer it.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it is not a factual question, actually, but the answer in terms of the position of the Minister for State Owned Enterprises, as the member knows, is that the responsibility for the investment decisions made by the company fall to the board and management, and the responsibility for coal prices actually falls to the world market.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: In the absence of any inquiry into the near collapse of Solid Energy, where hundreds of miners and associated staff have lost their livelihoods and $389 million worth of taxpayers’ money is in jeopardy, and where, again, he did nothing to stop this happening, how does he expect the public to have confidence in his ability to restore Solid Energy to the export award - winning company it once was under the previous Government?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I suspect Mr Cosgrove is claiming responsibility for world coal prices.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Minister support the National Party members who blocked an inquiry into Solid Energy; and how can employees have any confidence in their future if the Government refuses to investigate what has gone wrong inside the company in the last few years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am reasonably new here, but I understand select committees are in charge of their own destiny. The member and his colleague are on that select committee. I take it they were unable to persuade their colleagues of the merits of an inquiry.
Immigration—Parent Category Numbers
5. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by his statements made in Question Time on 12 March 2013?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Yes.
Denis O’Rourke: How can the Minister assert “This Government is colour-blind and not designed to favour any nationality over another.”, when in the year ending June 2012 parents admitted from China were more than 120 percent of skilled immigrants from China, although parent immigration from other countries did not exceed 24 percent of skilled immigrants?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I stand by the answer to that question, which is that every single one of the residents who qualified under the parent category did so because they met the criteria. But in respect of the comparison between the proportion of those accepted in a year under the parent category relative to the same countries’ skilled migrants, I should point out that the parent category applicants generally come at least 5 years after their children are accepted under the skilled migrant category, and the comparison is completely flawed.
Denis O’Rourke: In view of the Government’s 2012 policy change designed to rebalance the parent category, will the Minister now give an assurance that parent category numbers from China will not exceed the number of skilled immigrants from China in the current year?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, I reiterate the assurance that I gave last week, which is that everybody who comes in under that category will do so, because they meet the criteria. But I note that in the 8 months since those new criteria have taken effect, the proportion of Chinese parent category visas that have been approved has nearly halved and that the proportion of approvals from other countries has gone up. That is as a consequence of the changed criteria.
Denis O’Rourke: If, as the Minister says, “... last year we made changes to give priority to migrants who can make a real contribution ...”, will he adopt the New Zealand First policy to cap parent category migrants from each country to 20 percent of the skilled migrants from that country?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: No, I will not give that assurance. I note for the benefit of the colleague sitting beside the member, Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor, who tweeted during last week’s question time, “Why is National giving priority to Chinese over Pacific Islanders?”, that the country with the highest proportion of parent category visas related to skilled migrant visas is Samoa.
Public Transport, Auckland—City Rail Link
6. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Has he read the City Centre Future Access Study which found that, of the options for Auckland CBD’s transport infrastructure, the City Rail Link “has the highest road network speeds within the City Centre”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Yes, I have, but I am not sure that the member has correctly interpreted this research. The city rail loop would not be part of the road network. From a road safety perspective, I would ask that she please not drive her car along railway lines.
Julie Anne Genter: Given his focus on reducing travel time for New Zealand motorists, why is his Government blocking progress on the city rail link, which will reduce rail journey times by as much as 60 percent and result in faster travel times for hundreds of thousands of Auckland motorists?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We are not blocking progress on the rail loop. We are in discussions with Auckland Transport and Auckland Council on what are the best options for them moving forward. What we do know is that even if the rail loop were to be built, by 2030 the congestion situation in Auckland would be no better than it is now.
Julie Anne Genter: Is he denying that building the city rail link would give much better transport options to tens of thousands of Aucklanders in 2030?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Julie Anne Genter: How will the Government provide adequate transport options for the 100,000 people who will be commuting to Auckland’s central business district every weekday by 2021 if he continues to say no to the city rail link, which will move the most people the fastest with the least congestion?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Even if the city rail loop were in place right now, it would have minimal effect on the total number of journeys into the city by cars by 2021. The reality is that either way, you are looking at an increased number of cars coming into the central city, so simply saying “Let’s build this $2.4 billion rail loop to overcome a problem.” is not recognising what the problem is.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this graph from Auckland Transport, showing that the number of people travelling by car entering Auckland central business district from 2001 to 2012 reduced significantly, by 20 percent, while the number coming by public transport increased by 50 percent.
Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of the document?
Julie Anne Genter: This is data provided by Auckland Transport to myself. I do not believe it is publicly available.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Julie Anne Genter: Does he disagree with the recommendation of the Governmentcommissioned Enright report on New Zealand’s competitiveness, which stated that the Auckland rail link must be the priority to improve productivity; if so, why?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I neither agree nor disagree. What we are doing at the moment is trying to work out whether or not that rail loop should progress, and, secondly, if it were to, what would be the optimal time for it to progress. I would point that, counter to what the member has just said about the reduced number of journeys into the city in 2021 should that rail loop go ahead, my information suggests it would be around about a 1,600 reduction—not the numbers the member is claiming.
Julie Anne Genter: How many more reports does he need to conclude that the city rail link is necessary, given that we have had the Enright report, the City Centre Future Access Study, and the 2010 Auckland city rail link business case, before he will get on board with this project that the people of Auckland and the businesses of Auckland want?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is the problem, you see. Here is the report that the member speaks to—a very large volume. It is accompanied by many other large volumes, and they do not, either individually or collectively, reach the conclusions she claims. This is a $2.4 billion project, in today’s terms, for a relatively short piece of rail for very modest gains.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this page from the Enright report, which states that the Auckland city rail link should be a priority for lifting productivity—
Mr SPEAKER: Is the Enright report available to members?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: It is. Then it will not be tabled.
Job Creation—Information and Communications Technology Sector
7. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Economic
Development: What contribution, if any, will the ICT sector make to the Government’s stated 2011 Budget commitment to 170,000 net new jobs being created by 2015?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): According to projections released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment—and it is important to point out that these are never exact numbers, because you are asking for individual occupational groups—the computing professionals’ sector is expected to grow by 8,000 in the 2010-15 period, an annual growth rate of 4.4 percent, the highest of any profession. My hope is that that growth will be larger, based on the anecdotal experience of a lot of people looking for information and communications technology professionals at the moment. Orion Health, which recently created 100 new jobs, has said it is a very tight market, and that if it could find more people, it would mean more development. It said that if it cannot find the people “we will have no choice but to hire people elsewhere.” The Government recognises the potential the information and communications technology sector has to grow the New Zealand economy, which is why we are investing significant additional sums in tertiary courses in science and engineering over the next 4 years.
Clare Curran: Is he aware that Telecom has said it will soon announce job cuts “well into the hundreds”, with industry indications as high as 1,500, making it the largest loss of jobs from a single New Zealand company in recent decades, at the very least, and what has he or his ministry done to mitigate the impact on the information and communications technology workforce of these extraordinary job losses?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am aware, in general terms, of Telecom’s plan in terms of its job changes.
Grant Robertson: What are you doing?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I am actually very confident for the sector, because the information and communications technology sector is probably the sector with the highest demand that is unmet for skilled information and communications technology workers from around the country. For example, there was an article in the New Zealand Herald as recently as last Friday, talking about the fact that there was one website showing 1,300 information and communications technology vacancies in Auckland alone, with pay rates of up to $1,500 a day. So I am confident that if the numbers the member talks about—and I have no awareness of those numbers—are true, those people will be very quickly snapped up in the information and communications technology sector.
Clare Curran: Given it was he who drove through the legislation to separate Telecom in 2011 to build his ultra-fast broadband network, and that it has been signalled that Telecom would need to shed staff to be competitive, where is his industry plan for job growth in this sector, and just how many jobs will it create?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it may come as a surprise to the member that generally Government strategies are not very good at creating jobs. But if it helps the member, can I say to the member in terms of the information and communications technology sector, there was a very helpful release just 2 days ago from Statistics New Zealand, which points out how rapidly and quickly the information and communications technology sector in this country is growing—now up to $23 billion worth of economic activity. Again, the member may wring her hands, but I am confident for the information and communications technology sector in this country.
Clare Curran: Does he regard Telecom’s impending massive job losses as a matter for Government intervention; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is an interesting question. I am not quite sure what the member would seek the Government do—ring Telecom up and stop them changing its work programme? Obviously, there is a concern when people have to lose their jobs in an economy, but the reality is that that happens every year. Roughly 250,000 jobs are created and lost every year in the New Zealand economy. The interesting thing is that the left wing thinks you can stop the world all the time and halt everything in place; the centre-right understands it is about encouraging investment opportunities. Truly, the information and communications technology sector is one of those sectors that is growing very well and will quickly absorb whatever available people there are as a result of the Telecom changes.
Clare Curran: Is he aware that his own ministry, embarrassed by the lack of a credible economic agenda by the Government, is attempting to stage a late intervention in the Telecom situation, in order to dampen the effects of his Government’s failed economic policies?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I am not explicitly aware of that. What I can tell the member, though, is that my office has spoken to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment asking if there is a way of facilitating the opportunities. The reality is that I go around the country all the time, talking to information and communications technology companies that cannot get enough staff. So I actually said to the ministry that there was an opportunity for it to get together with Telecom and those companies and see if it can arrange those people to have the opportunity to look into new jobs. I think that is a good thing, and that is actually something this Government should be encouraged to do.
Clare Curran: Is it true that staff from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have approached Telecom offering help with recruitment agencies; is that not the job of Work and Income, and should not he, as the Minister, be instructing his own ministry to develop an industry plan for the information and communications technology sector?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: A very straightforward point is that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has quite possibly approached Telecom, because I made an inquiry from my office, to see if there was any way it could assist to match some of the people who may not
be staying at Telecom to any jobs around the country that the organisation is aware of. I think that is an excellent thing, if it is possible, but, again the member is barking up the wrong tree here. The information and communications technology sector has massive vacancies and a massive demand for jobs. If the ministry can facilitate the information between those people working for Telecom and those with other companies, I think that that is a wonderful thing. I thank the member for the question.
Clare Curran: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is a document from the Parliamentary Library, which says that—it is a report on job losses.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a publication?
Clare Curran: It is a publication of job—
Mr SPEAKER: Then it is available to the members.
Clare Curran: No, no, no—it is not a publication. It is an analysis—
Mr SPEAKER: And it was done for the member?
Clare Curran: —done for the member—which has been unable to find any job losses over 1,000 in any New Zealand company.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that Parliamentary Library document. Is there any objection? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Clare Curran: The second document is the transcript from the financial review of the Ministry of Economic Development in December 2012 in which the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is definitely something that is available to all members.
Clare Curran: It may be available to—
Mr SPEAKER: Then it is available to all members. They do not need it to fulfil their information. It is on the website, I am advised.
Tourism—“100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand” Campaign
8. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Tourism: What is Tourism New Zealand doing to promote New Zealand as the first Hobbit movie is released on DVD?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of
Tourism: The first Hobbit DVD was released yesterday in North America and is soon to be released worldwide. The DVD includes a 6-minute promotional video with endorsements of New Zealand by The Hobbit’s stars and sweeping shots of New Zealand landscapes and film locations. Tourism New Zealand is promoting the feature through its website, Facebook, and YouTube channels to reach as many potential travellers as possible and to back its “100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand” campaign. This is great news.
Dr Jian Yang: What will be the benefits to New Zealand of the promotional video?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: The video will give New Zealand immense exposure, going into millions of homes around the world. This will build on the impact of the movies, which we are already seeing. In January, preference for a New Zealand holiday was up from 43 percent to 52 percent in the USA. Visitors from the US were up 16 percent on January last year, and visits from Japan were up 10 percent. This is why during negotiations with Warner Bros the Government sought for the promotional video to be included in the DVD, so that we could maximise the ongoing opportunity to attract more visitors to New Zealand.
Dr Jian Yang: What other ongoing activities is Tourism New Zealand doing to leverage The Hobbit movies?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Tourism New Zealand has launched the “100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand” campaign in Australia, Japan, Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and China. Eight out of 10 people who were actively considering New Zealand as a destination say they are more interested in travelling here after seeing these advertisements. It was
voted the world’s leading destination marketing campaign at the 2012 World Travel Awards, highlighting the great success of the campaign and the importance of The Hobbit movies to our tourism industry.
9. Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Is she satisfied with the spending decisions made by the Families Commission in the last three financial years?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Associate Minister for Social Development) on behalf of the
Minister for Social Development: I am reserving judgment at this stage because Audit New Zealand is currently undertaking a review. There are some concerns, and I share them. That is why they have written to the Minister and asked for the auditors to report.
Dr Rajen Prasad: Does she believe it is acceptable that the Families Commission spent almost the equivalent amount on one contractor in the last financial year to that which was spent on the entire White Ribbon campaign against family violence?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: I am reserving my judgment in respect of that particular matter. The report will be due, hopefully, shortly. It will be made publicly available.
Dr Rajen Prasad: What is the connection between the departure of the chief executive and the chief commissioner and the excessive expenditure unearthed at the select committee yesterday?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: As I am answering on behalf of the Minister, I do not have that information.
Dr Rajen Prasad: In the light of the Auditor-General being asked to review the commission’s sensitive expenditures policy, what action will she be taking to ensure appropriate use of taxpayer funding within the Families Commission?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: Appropriate use of taxpayers’ money is always a concern for any Minister, and particularly is for the Minister for Social Development. We look forward to the publication of that report, we are happy to release it publicly, and I am sure that decisions will be made as a result of that.
Jacinda Ardern: If she is so willing to express dissatisfaction with the Families Commission’s use of contractors, will she likewise investigate her own department, which spent, for instance, more than $350,000 on consultants for the core Government business of managing the green paper process?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: Dissatisfaction has not been expressed. Judgment has been reserved.
Accident Compensation Corporation—Customer Service Training
10. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister for ACC: What is ACC doing to ensure that frontline staff are adequately trained to provide excellent customer service?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): In addition to current staff training to improve the customer experience, ACC is developing an ACC Academy with independent tertiary providers to strengthen the focus on managing client relationships in the best possible way. ACC also has privacy awareness training that is now compulsory for all staff.
Mike Sabin: Does ACC have any other programmes in place to ensure a positive client experience?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, ACC is piloting an extended 12-month induction programme for case managers. An induction programme for new managers is expected to roll out later this year. ACC also has modular training on core competency areas, such as understanding the legislation, and the rights of clients.
New Zealand Defence Force—Non-combat Casualties
11. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Defence: Will he rule out “systemic health and safety issues throughout the Defence Force” being a cause of Defence Force fatalities, in light of revelations surrounding the non-combat deaths of Defence personnel over the last three years; if not, why not?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Defence): I am not ruling such issues in, and I am not ruling them out. What I can say is that there is an extensive programme of health and safety work that has been under way for some time. I also note that the final court of inquiry report and recommendations relating to the Private Ross tragedy are yet to be released.
Hon Phil Goff: Do the interim findings of the court of inquiry into the tragic death of Private Michael Ross, which the Minister has been briefed on, suggest that there was not just one error, but a whole of catalogue of errors and mistakes that contributed to Michael Ross’ death and that the loss of life of Michael Ross was entirely avoidable?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I want to acknowledge first that this was a very real tragedy, and there will be very hard lessons to be learnt from this. The gist of the report in the Sunday Star-Times is indeed correct, and it looks like there were multiple safety failings in what is a very tragic case. My condolences go to the family. I think we will find that there have been major errors that need to be corrected, so that this can never happen again.
Hon Phil Goff: How does he explain the catalogue of errors that he has been advised on that led to Private Michael Ross’ death, which included, first of all, the boat he was travelling in not being inflated so that he was thrown out of it; secondly, its engine breaking down, so they could not turn round to pick him up; thirdly, the fact that the gas canister that would have inflated his life jacket was empty and had not been checked; fourthly, the fact that the life jacket was in fact a navy jacket, and not suitable for the equipment that army personnel hold; fifthly, the fact that the safety boat was not accompanying the boat that Private Ross was travelling in; and, sixthly, when it finally turned up, it did not have the complement of crew necessary to actually provide any assistance?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am not going to deny any of those facts, but what I am going to say is that I am awaiting the final court of inquiry recommendations, which will be acted on. I also want to say that the police have investigated this. There is a separate Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investigation, which has the power to lay charges, and a military police investigation. This is a very serious matter, which has to be taken seriously.
Hon Phil Goff: Does the Minister recall the findings of the court of inquiry into the Iroquois crash on Anzac Day, which pointed out that the crew was neither adequately prepared nor trained; that there were deficiencies in the orders, management, and operational environment within which the air force was operating in at the time; and that these were key contributing factors in that tragedy? And what lessons have been learnt and what changes have been made in the 3 years that have elapsed since then?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: All I can say about the Iroquois crash is that there were six key causes—basically relating to culture, to oversight of orders, and to adherence to orders. One of the key things that was said in the report findings was that the genesis of that accident goes back 10 years to 2001, when changes were made in an attempt to make our operations more efficient and cost-effective. At the time, two layers of flying command and supervision, along with staff support, were removed from the organisation. That was in 2001. You wanted to know what has been done in the period since. This will take some time, but I am quite happy to relay the answer for the House if the member so wishes.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member wants—
Hon Phil Goff: Supplementary question.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am asking—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. You are required only to answer one part of a supplementary question.
Hon Phil Goff: Has it occurred to him that a culture where operational orders were not being followed and basic mistakes were being made might have been, in part at least, an outcome of the fact that at the time of Private Michael Ross’ death, the morale in the Defence Force was the lowest ever on record, according to the Minister’s own surveys; that there had been a massive loss of skilled and experienced people of over 1,000 Defence Force personnel that year; and that there was a situation where a very high level of attrition—in fact, the highest in recent history—meant that people were in a mind-set and lacked the training that then allowed that catalogue of errors to occur?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I completely reject those assertions and think it is pretty low that an absolute tragedy would be utilised by that member to try to make a political point.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is a comment that is bound to cause disorder in the House. Michael Ross happened to have been a family friend, and I despise the Minister for making that sort of accusation.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It would be helpful if the Minister could address the question.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, I have made my point that this tragedy has nothing to do with attrition and morale, and I will reassert my point that this member should not be attempting—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is a sufficient answer.
Hon Phil Goff: Is it satisfactory that Crib 19, on which Corporal Doug Hughes took his own life, was deployed when the warrant officer responsible for pre-deployment training said that they had not been adequately trained, that they had received 60 percent of the training that they had needed, and that, actually, one of the components that was missing from the training was identification of stress and management of stress? Why did the Minister allow that to happen, and what inquiry has he done into that fact?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member knows that what he is asserting there is actually incorrect. The warrant officer’s report that he refers to—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to replay a point of order from yesterday. You know that there is only one way of suggesting that members have breached privilege. To suggest that a member has said something in the House that they know is incorrect is a breach of privilege. It has long been ruled by Speakers that you cannot make an accusation that a member is doing that, as that member just did, and, actually, as members did yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just say that we are dealing with what is a very sensitive issue. I am going to invite the member to ask his question again, because it has now passed by quite some time.
Hon Phil Goff: Is it satisfactory that Crib 19, on which Corporal Doug Hughes lost his life, was deployed when the warrant officer responsible for the pre-deployment training of that crib is on record as saying that the group was not adequately trained—they had done 60 percent of the training—but he had no option but to deploy them? Is it true that one of the components on which they had not received training in pre-deployment was the identification of stress and management of stress, which were obviously relevant to Corporal Hughes taking his own life?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 12, Dr Kennedy Graham. [Interruption] Order! I have called— [Interruption] Order! I have called Dr Kennedy Graham for question No. 12.
12. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does he have confidence in the Minister for Climate Change Issues, Tim Groser, to do his climate change job when he is spending so much time and public funds travelling the world promoting his candidacy for a new job as head of the World Trade Organisation (WTO)?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes. The achievements of Mr Groser in that regard speak for themselves.
Grant Robertson: Oh no, he’ll speak about them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It would be helpful if the Minister—
Hon David Parker: He’s never lost for words.
Mr SPEAKER: Some interjections are very good. It would be helpful now—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, I am not lost for words; I am stunned by one of the best contributions he has ever made to a debate. Can I say that the record of the Hon Tim Groser as Minister speaks for itself. During the years 2000 to 2008 emissions from this country rose by 23 percent. In the last few years they have fallen.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am just checking whether it is appropriate for you as Speaker to say “hear, hear” to Grant Robertson’s interjection like that.
Mr SPEAKER: And I did not do so.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave to table a document listing the 16 capitals Mr Groser has visited in the past 8 weeks.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a document that lists where Minister Groser has been. Is there any objection? [Interruption] Order! Was there any objection? There appears to be no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Will he direct Mr Groser to find time before the end of his natural term in office to sit down and work out the greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for 2020 and a pathway to it, given that his almost continuous absence is holding up the process?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am quite sure that Mr Groser, who is well-known for his capacity to engage in conversation, will be raising climate change issues with people in each of those 16 countries he visits.
Dr Kennedy Graham: When Mr Groser recently urged trade colleagues in Geneva to “never underestimate the power of ideas”, as part of his WTO candidacy, did he have in mind a vision of a world with a stable climate or a world where he gets the job he wants?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: If the House had the time, I would spend it conveying Mr Groser’s visions on many matters.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is there a new visionary ministerial portfolio for job hunting given Mr Groser has taken to adding “candidate for the position of World Trade Organization Director- General” as part of his title on his press releases?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The question line today simply confirms that the Greens do not want this country to progress in an economic sense, and see no value in trade liberalisation throughout the world. A party that preaches about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Dr Kennedy Graham: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point of my questioning was not an opportunity for the Minister to extol trade virtues and our trade interests. It is a question of focusing on climate change issues.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I ask the member to at some stage over the next 24 hours have a look at his question, which talked about Mr Groser talking to trade Ministers. It was a pretty political question. It certainly was not a tight question. It gave every opportunity for the Minister to respond as he did.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Does he have confidence in the Minister of Justice in appointing Dame Susan Devoy as Race Relations Commissioner, who has
already courted controversy with her views that burkas are “disconcerting” and that Waitangi Day should be replaced with a new national holiday?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes. I have confidence in the Minister who was responsible for appointing a strong independent person to this important office. I think it is appropriate that whoever has that office does engage in a dialogue with New Zealanders about matters they are concerned about.