Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search

 


Questions and Answers - March 26


QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Ministers—Confidence

1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

David Shearer: How can he have confidence in a Minister who considers a breach affecting more than 80,000 confidential files from Canterbury households being “similar to someone putting the wrong address on an envelope.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In principle, if you were to post out the information that was emailed out, they would both be going to an address, and if the address was wrong the effect would be the same.

David Shearer: In light of repeated breaches by the Ministry of Social Development, ACC, the Inland Revenue Department, Work and Income, Novopay, the Department of Corrections, and now the Earthquake Commission, will he admit that there is a systemic failure of information management across the Government?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I think there is room for improvement, and the chief technology officer is working with all of those departments to ensure that they follow best practice. But we live in a world where technology is heavily used, where people do email, and, actually, from time to time people make mistakes. If the member is saying that we should go and sack this member of the Earthquake Commission—who, I understand, just from reading the newspaper today, is a highly valued member—then that is a pretty high standard, and actually not one that he held himself—

David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The latter part of that answer was well off the question, and actually it was wrong, in addition to that.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the question has been very adequately addressed.

David Shearer: Given the number and magnitude of these breaches, including the Ministry of Social Development, ACC, the Inland Revenue Department, Work and Income, Novopay, the Department of Corrections, and now the Earthquake Commission, when will he instigate a policy across the Government to protect confidential information, rather than dismissing it as he did yesterday, when he said that “all of us probably in our lives have sent an email by mistake …”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We probably all have made mistakes. I mean, this member cannot remember he has got a bank account offshore—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Supplementary question, David Shearer. [Interruption] Order! The Leader of the Opposition has every right to ask a supplementary question.

David Shearer: In light of the repeated breaches by the Ministry of Social Development, ACC, the Inland Revenue Department, Work and Income, Novopay, the Department of Corrections, and the Earthquake Commission, why has it not been made mandatory for all Government agencies to follow the advice of their very own information and communications technology agency policy to

use SEEMail, or Secure Electronic Environmental Mail, which is specifically designed to protect data when sending attachments?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: You know, very specific questions like that could be put down to the Minister, but my understanding is that that is the policy. My understanding also is that the chief technology officer will be, once again, reiterating to those departments that that is the process that should be followed. But I say that in a modern world of modern technology people will make mistakes.

David Shearer: What specific action will he take to give the public an assurance that their personal and private details are safe?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I am tempted to say: “Tell the Leader of the Opposition. He does not tell anyone about his private details.”

David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Prime Minister thinks that this is somehow some trivial matter that he can palm off, he is wrong, and I would appreciate it if he could answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite—[Interruption] Order! I invite the Leader of the Opposition to re-ask that question.

David Shearer: What specific action will he take to give the public an assurance that their personal and private details are safe?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I have said a couple of times in answering this question today, the chief technology officer is working with all of the technology teams to ensure that they follow best practice, and that matter of upgrading security has been in play for quite some time. But people will make mistakes. Last week, that member—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not necessary to the answer today.

David Shearer: Given that the leak of last week revealed that the Earthquake Commission has the information on claims at its fingertips, why are Cantabrians being kept in the dark, waiting for months, over the status of their Earthquake Commission claims?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have all the details on what was available, but what I can say, and what I understand, is that the person who emailed out that file did so in a way—not maliciously; not with the intention to embarrass other people, but they made a mistake. Last week, that member made a mistake—

David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I find this unbelievable. This is something—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order will be heard in silence.

David Shearer: This is an email with 80,000 people’s confidential information being made available right across the public arena, and that Prime Minister will not—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not sure what the point of order is. I can help the member there. The member asked about the Prime Minister’s specific action that he would take—

David Shearer: No, I asked about why it was that the Earthquake Commission had all the data, but was not—

Mr SPEAKER: —and the Prime Minister’s answer was that he did not have that detail and he then went on to elaborate.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is, why are you allowing the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings to be flouted—on this occasion, four separate times—when the Prime Minister concluded his answer with an unqualified attack on someone else in the House? Each time you did precisely nothing.

Mr SPEAKER: No, that is—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] The member will resume his seat. The member—thank you. On both occasions I rose to my feet and told the Prime Minister that his answer was well and truly completed.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the question then is, what about the other two occasions? And if it is three strikes and we lose out, maybe the fourth time you could actually take some action.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To complete what I was trying to say, it was that you cannot think that just by stopping him on four occasions that that is an adequate response from the Speaker. Surely, after three warnings or three stoppages you should have said that he should exit the House, or is there a different set of rules for him and a different one for the rest of us?

Mr SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not going to litigate your ruling, but the very point I was making was that this person made an honest mistake. That is my point. That member claims he also made an honest mistake.

Mr SPEAKER: Thank you. That was not a point of order, either. Does the member have further supplementary questions to ask? Then we—[Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! I have attempted to be very patient and make sure that no one has had to leave the House during my time as Speaker. I will continue to try to keep that patience, but it will not be helped if I get a barracking from either side of the House. I am calling question No. 2—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, what would stop the barracking is that you have been asked to make a ruling. You simply did not reply to Mr Peters. You did not make a ruling on what action—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I did reply to Mr Peters. I have called question No. 2—Peseta—

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a further point of order from Dr Russel Norman. Is it a fresh point of order?

Dr Russel Norman: It is seeking clarity on your ruling. Are you ruling that the Prime Minister’s answers were in order or not?

Mr SPEAKER: I have covered that point, I think, quite adequately for the rest of the House. But for the benefit of the member, the Prime Minister certainly addressed the questions that were asked to my satisfaction, but he added political points towards the end, I think, of two questions—and if Mr Peters says it was four, it may have been more than two questions—that were certainly not helpful to the order of the House, as has been evidenced today.

Economic Programme—Progress

2. Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making in its programme to build a more competitive and productive economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The economy is growing and we are making reasonable progress. The Government has set out a wide-ranging programme to put the economy on a more competitive footing. Particularly we have embarked on more than 300 initiatives to build export markets, innovation, skills, capital markets, natural resources, and improve infrastructure. This is helping to give business the confidence to invest, grow, and hire new staff. In addition sensible fiscal and monetary policy is helping to keep interest rates and inflation rates low.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What do the latest statistics show about the economy’s performance, and what are the key factors driving this?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: One should always be careful with the use, particularly, of economic statistics covering short periods of time. However, last week Statistics New Zealand announced growth of 1.5 percent in the December quarter. This growth was broad based with 15 of the 16 measured industries growing. What is probably more important than the quarterly growth rate, though, is the annual growth rate, which showed that in 2012 the New Zealand economy grew by 3

percent, a bit faster than we might have expected, and fairly comparable to the Australian growth rate for the same period, of 3.1 percent, at a time when it had a very significant boom in capital investment in minerals and resources.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What independent reports has he received about the Government’s economic programme and the progress being made to put the economy on a sound footing?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is any number of reports that support the Government’s general economic direction, but more recently some comments in the IMF’s latest concluding statement on New Zealand were supportive. It concluded that the Government’s fiscal consolidation strikes the right balance between sustaining growth and limiting increase in Government debt to reinforce the Government’s intention to stay on track to surplus in 2014-15. Although there are risks with the global economy and the housing sector, the IMF says New Zealand is well positioned to respond to any other unexpected events through its monetary and fiscal policy settings.

Hon David Parker: How can he claim pride in the performance of the economy when in the December 2012 quarter 23,000 jobs were lost, and in each of the last three quarters total hours worked has decreased so that there is now less work than when he took office in 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, as we have discussed in the House before, quarterly employment numbers are somewhat volatile and difficult to predict. It is difficult to work out exactly what is happening when in that quarter the economy grew by 1.5 percent, which, if you took it at face value, would be one of the fastest-growing quarterly rates in the developed world. Let us just see how it unfolds. What we do know is we are on track for 2 to 3 percent economic growth over the next 12 months and further reductions in unemployment.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What reports has he received on particular sectors of the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have paid particular attention to reports on the manufacturing sector. Excluding oil production, manufacturing grew by 1.5 percent for the December quarter, and overall through 2012 the manufacturing sector grew by 2.7 percent. It grew by 2.7 percent. So I was not surprised to see a report with the headline “Index shows ‘no crisis’ in manufacturing sector”. Not for the first time, the facts are somewhat at odds with what the Opposition is claiming.

Prime Minister—Statements

3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Grant Robertson: Does he stand by his statement that the household labour force survey is “the most rigorous form of measuring employment in the economy”, and can he confirm that it showed a net job loss of 23,000 jobs in the last quarter?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but it is also important to look at the quarterly employment survey, which is the one Labour used to quote from.

Grant Robertson: Can he confirm that in the last quarter of the household labour force survey 30,000 people left the labour force, and that had they still been in the labour force, the unemployment rate in New Zealand would be 8.4 percent?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but that is also a function of the participation rate. It is also a very large drop in part-time numbers. We can question those, but, as I said, the quarterly employment survey showed an increase of 54,000 jobs over the last 2 years. It is not as good as it could be, but it is not too bad.

Grant Robertson: What more evidence does he need that his Government is failing on jobs than 200 people queuing for seven jobs in South Auckland or the front page of the Nelson Mail showing hundreds of people chasing a single job at Nelson Hospital, or does he not think that his Government has got a part to play in actually helping to create jobs, not just destroy them?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not unusual when you have a lot of people chasing one job. My understanding is that all 38—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —members of the Labour caucus are chasing that job.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is not helpful to the order of the House.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. By my reckoning, that is six times today the Prime Minister—five in a question—[Interruption] Let me finish, all right? It is five times in a question and once in a point of order. If we are going to have a point of order system, surely it applies to every MP—

Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please proceed with his point of order.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: —and your job is to defend the interests of minorities in this House. It is one of the oldest rules of a Speaker, in case some people do not know it. That is five times today in questions, and once in a point of order, that he has said that, so my question to you is: when are you going to do something about it?

Mr SPEAKER: As I said to the member earlier, this is a political debating chamber. The question itself was reasonably political. It got a political answer. As I realised where the Prime Minister was going, I stood and closed him down.

Grant Robertson: If the Prime Minister thinks that the loss of jobs and the number of people queuing for jobs is such a laughing and relaxed matter, will he decide to follow the narrative today and show up at the Department of Conservation and defend 140 more people losing jobs on his watch?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Of course people feel for the people in the Department of Conservation who may be losing their jobs. But it is also important to understand that the process actually started under Labour, in the Chris Carter review. It is also true that there are more people in the Department of Conservation today than there were when Labour took the number from 1,500 up to 2,100. It is also true that the director-general is working hard to make sure that at least one in two of those people will be offered another job. It is also true that organisations do need to restructure. In fact, the director-general said it would not matter how much money they gave him, he would still be taking the course of action that he is today.

Prisons—Introduction of Performance Timetables

4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Corrections: What announcements has she made on the introduction of prison performance tables?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): Today I released New Zealand’s first-ever prison performance tables. All 17 prisons are now measured and compared with each other on a range of security criteria, as well as on the work they are doing to rehabilitate prisoners. The prisons are grouped into four categories, ranging from “exceptional” to “needs improvement”. The tables will be released quarterly, providing greater transparency for, and accountability to, taxpayers.

Jami-Lee Ross: How will the introduction of performance tables improve the management of New Zealand prisons?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The performance tables will allow prison managers to identify and share successful practices and focus on areas that need improvement. They will also allow communities to see how well their prisons are operating, and will provide meaningful comparison between publicly managed and privately managed prisons. It is worth noting that the Serco-managed private prison at Mt Eden is in the “exceeding” category and is ranked as one of the best-performing prisons in New Zealand.

Department of Conservation—Projected Job Losses

5. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister of Conservation: What is the total number of staff that will lose their jobs at the Department of Conservation as a result of staff cuts announced today, and how many, if any, of those are “frontline” staff?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): It is not yet possible to determine the total number of staff who will lose their jobs. There is the loss of 140 mainly middle-management positions, but the department, for the last 18 months, had a recruitment freeze so that 166 permanent positions remain open. Many of these fourth and fifth-tier managers will be offered this permanent range of positions, but they also may choose to take redundancy. We will know the final number in July.

Hon Ruth Dyson: What is the expectation of the advocacy role of the Department of Conservation following the latest round of cuts, and will this expectation lead to an increase in the number of Department of Conservation representations in resource management hearings, which fell from 98 in 2011 to just 48 in 2012?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have made it plain to the Director-General of Conservation that in their advocacy role they need to focus on where the department is adding value, particularly in the biodiversity area. When it comes to an area of landscape where, actually, it is very much in the eye of the beholder, it is not my view that the Department of Conservation adds tremendous value to those Environment Court or council hearings. I very much hold the view that we should let elected representatives on their local councils decide where those landscape values are the priority, so that is the change I have made. I am not in favour of the Department of Conservation making submissions to stop people getting jobs.

Hon Ruth Dyson: How will replacing skilled and experienced front-line conservation staff with volunteers improve the protection of our conservation estate and our “100% Pure New Zealand” brand?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, that is not what is occurring. What has happened is that prior to the global financial crisis, when the previous Government thought that money grew on trees, the department expanded its staff numbers by 500 and more than doubled its budget. We are a Government that believes in balancing the budget. That means that the Department of Conservation has to play its part like every other agency. This flattened structure will enable us to deliver better conservation and value for money for the taxpayer.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Has he corrected the error of the Prime Minister, who said that the latest Department of Conservation restructuring will not affect front-line staff, given that the regional programme managers include activities such as species recovery and track building, and that 22 of the proposed job losses are rangers’—or are species recovery, track building, and rangers no longer front-line positions?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The bulk of the reduced positions are in middle-management. There are a number that are, for instance, not middle-managers—for people who are, for instance, infrastructure planners. I do not think this House considers infrastructure planners as front line. What I will say to the member is that at the end of this restructuring, there will be more rangers— more rangers—in the Department of Conservation than there ever was, which is very much the practical brand of conservation that this Government stands for.

Jacinda Ardern: How does he expect Department of Conservation staff to do their job after today’s cuts and protect vulnerable species, like this black petrel that was killed through commercial fishing, when staff across the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation are already too stretched to ensure compliance with the rules that are meant to protect these birds?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I share the member’s passion for the protection of our birds, but I would note this—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Since I was the Minister in the late 1990s the department today and next year will have 200 more staff. It will have over $100 million more in real terms than what there was a decade ago, and I think that really does just show the level of commitment that there genuinely is to conservation and the survival of our native species.

Jacinda Ardern: Will the Minister guarantee the survival of the black petrel in light of today’s cuts, when there are only roughly 1,000 breeding pairs remaining, there is no action plan to ensure its survival, and his Government’s last round of so-called non - front-line reductions led to cuts in departmental staff on Great Barrier Island, the only place where this bird continues to breed?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I rate the chances of the black petrel surviving far greater than that of the Leader of the Opposition.

Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a straight question to the Minister. I think it deserved an answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Can I—

Jacinda Ardern: Could you even hear it?

Mr SPEAKER: Can I invite the member to have a very good look at the content and length of her question.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Minister consider the staff at the Golden Bay office in Tākaka to be front-line staff; if so, why has he cut staff from 3.5 down to just one?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member’s figures are totally incorrect, and I would be happy to table—

Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope the Minister can table. He has just—

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister can rise and say he does not accept your figures. That is quite acceptable.

Hon Trevor Mallard: That’s not what he said.

Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a straight question.

Mr SPEAKER: Mr Mallard is interjecting that I did not hear the question and the answer. It is because of the level of noise. I invite the member to ask his question again.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Minister consider staff at the Golden Bay office in Tākaka to be front-line staff; if so, why has he cut staff from 3.5 down to just one?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would be happy to have a bet with the member opposite for the best bottle of Nelson wine that after this restructuring there will be a lot more than one staff in Tākaka— happy to take that bet. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The member has a right to have his point of order heard in silence, so we will wait until there is enough silence for the member to have his point of order heard.

Hon Damien O’Connor: That member made the same bet over electricity prices. I am still waiting for the bottle of wine.

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, but we will consider it one-all.

Child Protection—Social Workers in Schools

6. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: How is the Government’s Social Workers in Schools initiative making a difference for vulnerable children?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): This Government’s expansion of Social Workers in Schools continues. By intervening early, social workers in schools are able to work with children and their families to protect vulnerable children and ensure their safety and well-being. We committed funding to increase the number of social workers in schools—an extra 149, at a cost of $11.1 million per annum. By the end of 2013 an additional 70,786 children and their families will have access to the Social Workers in Schools service.

Melissa Lee: How are children, families, and communities benefiting from having social workers in schools?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Social Workers in Schools workers are from local trusted NGO providers, and have been incredibly successful in building relationships of trust with families,

breaking down some of the historical barriers to asking for help. They also have broken down the barriers in working more collaboratively in their communities and are making a substantial difference.

Melissa Lee: What feedback has she received about the difference Social Workers in Schools is making?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We expanded Social Workers in Schools following calls from particularly those in lower decile schools to provide specialist support for children in schools. Recently a principal wrote to me and said: “We see our social worker’s role as a broad one that helps us achieve our school vision. Everyone in the school benefits. The teachers are supported in their work, the children have another skilled adult to talk to and problem solve with, and the parents get help to access community support and assistance.”

Department of Conservation—Impact of Job Losses

7. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Can he guarantee that any job cuts announced today will not impact on the Department of Conservation’s ability to protect the conservation estate?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Yes. The changes are about a more efficient and outward-looking department. The positions being disestablished are fourth and fifthtier managers at regional and area offices. The department is maintaining all of its network of 99 field centres, and the number of rangers is also being maintained.

Eugenie Sage: How is this outward-looking focus and having volunteers and business take the place of Department of Conservation experts going to improve the chances of our 2,800 threatened species?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: With this restructuring, the department will have 1,730 staff and a budget of $330 million per year. But it is also true that even if you print money, there will not be enough to meet all of New Zealand’s conservation challenges. If we can partner with business and community groups to do more, then I am all for it.

Eugenie Sage: Why is he confident that volunteers or corporate sponsorship can fill the gap created by the loss of 140 jobs, when managing threatened species, such as the Ōkārito brown kiwi, such as the New Zealand fairy tern, requires dedicated professional expertise?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I can guarantee to the member that there will not be a single volunteer who is replacing the fourth and fifth-tier managers, who are predominantly doing paperwork in area and regional offices. Where I think volunteers have played an incredibly important role in conservation is over the last 20 years, where there has been a real growth all over the country in community groups becoming more active in conservation. That is to be welcomed, and the department needs to reorganise itself so it can engage and work with them more effectively.

Eugenie Sage: Is it not, as Rachel Stewart puts it in the Taranaki Daily News, that getting sponsorship from companies like Fonterra like the Ministry of Health receiving sponsorship from a tobacco company in this brand new partnership model?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: For the Green Party to make the analogy between New Zealand’s biggest exporting company, Fonterra, and a tobacco company is, I find, frankly, offensive. I also say to the Green Party that I welcome businesses, whether they be Air New Zealand, whether they be Fonterra, whether they be Dulux New Zealand, or others, that are prepared to work with the Department of Conservation to get good outcomes. What this has exposed is that the Green Party is not a green party; it is just an anti-business party.

Eugenie Sage: How can he be confident that Department of Conservation staff will be in touch with, and understand, the conservation work needed on the ground, when this Government has overseen the loss of 232 staff and another 140 today, and is now proposing to halve the number of regionally focused conservancies?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In the 3 years that I was a Minister of Conservation, back in the 1990s, we had a staff of 1,500. With this restructuring, we will still have 1,730 people within the Department of Conservation. We will also have $100 million per year in real terms for conservation, as compared with that. It is true that Labour went on a massive spending spree in conservation in last decade, as it did in every single area of the public sector. If you want to rack up a whole lot of debt and have decades of deficits, that is a good way to do it. We are not there. We are about balancing budgets, we are about efficient Government departments, and we can deliver for conservation with this reorganised department.

Eugenie Sage: By reducing the number of conservancies from 11 to six, will he also be cutting the number of conservation boards from 13 to six and reducing the public’s ability to have a say on the department’s plans and priorities?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Following the decisions on the restructuring, it is my intention to review the number of conservation boards and to see how we can most effectively integrate that with the restructured department. I do not intend to initiate that process until consultations with staff and the final decisions are made on this new structure.

Eugenie Sage: When funding cuts for conservation by this Government have resulted in the loss of 232 jobs since 2009 and another 140 jobs today, are not Department of Conservation staff now an endangered species?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The members’ figures are incorrect. The number of staff—

Hon Ruth Dyson: No, they’re not.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: , Well, let me give you the exact numbers. The number of staff that the Department of Conservation had in 2000 was 1,522. Prior to the global financial crisis, when the previous Government expanded hugely, it peaked at 2,063. The number that we are having in out years—2013-14 and into the future—is 1,731.

Environment, Minister—Commentary on Environmental Standards

8. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does she agree with Guy Salmon’s comment that she is a Minister who wants to lower environmental standards?

Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): No.

Dr Russel Norman: Well, then, what does she say to Guy Salmon, an ecologist, a former National Party candidate, co-author of the National Party’s Bluegreens vision statement, and one of the architects of the Land and Water Forum, who said about her: “This is the first time I have dealt with a Minister who has been wanting to lower environmental standards. This shouldn’t be happening in New Zealand.”?

Hon AMY ADAMS: It is not for me to speculate on Mr Salmon’s motives, but I would say to him what I have said to everyone who has asked me that question, which is that absolutely the fundamental purpose and protections in section 5 of the Act have not been proposed to be changed. Where we have proposed sections for deletion from section 5, it is on the basis of expert, highly respected legal and professional advice. On the contrary, Mr Salmon and fellow commentators have provided no evidence whatsoever to back up their wild assumptions.

Dr Russel Norman: Does she agree with Guy Salmon, an ecologist, former National Party candidate, co-author of the National Party’s Bluegreens vision statement, and architect of the collaborative Land and Water Forum, that her proposed changes to the Resource Management Act are “really tantamount to having the Minister direct whether a development goes ahead or not. This is how they do things in China.”?

Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, of course not. I would simply say that Mr Salmon, in those comments, is once more wrong and has shown that he has not understood exactly what was being proposed, which is that central government would be able to intervene only where a clearly stated national objective has not been fulfilled. I point out to that member that it is his own party that has

been calling for stronger central government leadership to protect environmental standards, and that is exactly what we are proposing.

Dr Russel Norman: Why does she think Guy Salmon, the architect of the collaborative Land and Water Forum, said of her changes to the Resource Management Act, allowing Ministers to overrule water conservation orders, that “That really completely undermines the purpose of having a collaborative process in the first place. It is going back to Think Big days.”?

Hon AMY ADAMS: I have no ministerial responsibility for what goes on in Mr Salmon’s head, so I could not comment.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the criticism by Mr Salmon of this Government’s environmental policy not simply a reflection of the fact that since the 2011 election the Government has been taken over by Ministers like Steven Joyce with an anti-environmental agenda, a takeover by a faction that opposes everything the Bluegreens says it ever stood for?

Hon AMY ADAMS: No.

International Education—2012 Revenue

9. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and

Employment: What has New Zealand’s income from international education been for the past 12 months?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): I am pleased to advise the House that total international tuition revenues have increased to $745.7 million in 2012, which is an increase of 2 percent on 2011, to the highest level of revenue recorded since 2004. This includes an increase in university revenues of 6 percent, up from $292.7 million in 2011 to $308.9 million in 2012.

Dr Cam Calder: What has been the impact of the Canterbury earthquakes on international student numbers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Unfortunately, the consequences of the Christchurch earthquake are continuing to impact the international education industry, with a 31 percent fall in the Canterbury region enrolments in 2012. This contributed to an overall decline nationally in international student enrolments of 6 percent. The numbers would be just 3 percent if you exclude the impact of Canterbury, and that would compare with Australia, which has had a 1-year decline in numbers of 7 percent. It is pleasing to see that the number of students coming here from China, who make up 27 percent of New Zealand’s international students, has increased. There has, however, been a drop in Indian students of 8 percent. Australia has suffered a dramatic reduction in Indian students of 25 percent.

Dr Cam Calder: What is the Government doing to encourage more international students to study here?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government has identified developing the international education industry as an important part of our Business Growth Agenda and the target of increasing exports from 30 percent of GDP in 2012 to 40 percent by 2025.

Hon David Parker: Well, that’s not working.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: You should look at the numbers for today. We are developing new education opportunities with our ASEAN partners and looking to expand on existing programmes, like, for example, 400 additional accounting students coming here from Malaysia as part of an agreement signed last year. We are targeting an increase of 20 percent in the key Chinese and Indian markets. We are opening up new markets in South America, where the Prime Minister in Chile this month witnessed the announcement of more than doubling the number of Chilean students coming here under the Penguins Without Borders programme.

Question No. 5 to Minister

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): I seek leave of the House to table the Department of Conservation figures on the future number of staff in Tākaka, which is 16.3 and not the one claimed by the member for West Coast - Tasman.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those staff numbers for the Tākaka office. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Trade, New Zealand - China—Impact of Potential Kiwifruit Import Fraud

10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Trade: Does he believe that a multi-million dollar fraud case involving one of Zespri’s import agents in China has hurt New Zealand’s international trading reputation?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Trade): No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he concerned that the Zespri case will damage New Zealand’s trade and diplomatic relations with China, given that the Chinese authorities are trying to crack down on fraud and corruption, and Zespri’s Asian manager, Yu-Jan Chen, has a detention order placed on him by the Chinese authorities?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In answer to the first part of the question, no. But this case does serve, I think, as an important reminder to all New Zealand companies operating in international markets that they must ensure that they and their management understand and comply with local laws, no matter which market they operate in.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware of any costs incurred by New Zealand parties as a result of the fraud case against Zespri Chinese import agents; if so, what is the estimated total figure?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If the member is referring to cost to Zespri, I am sure there have been some costs, and, no, I am not aware of the number. If he is referring to an impact on trade, my understanding at this point is that the case has had no impact on the company’s sales in China.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he received any reports about how much foreknowledge Zespri management in New Zealand had of smuggling practices in China; if so, why did he not release that information to the public?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: To the extent that I am able to answer the question on the Minister’s behalf, the answer is no.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: If there are reports from the New Zealand Customs Service concerning incorrect documentation of Zespri kiwifruit exports to China, what has he done about it, instead of swanning around the world trying to get a job at the World Trade Organization?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I will ignore the last part of that member’s question. The point is— [Interruption] Well, I thought that in this country we had a bipartisan approach to encouraging senior New Zealand figures to participate in world multilateral organisations, but obviously that is off as well. But the point is that the case serves as an important reminder to all companies operating in international markets that they must ensure that they meet the local laws, no matter which market they operate in. I am sure that all New Zealand exporters will take cognisance of what has happened in this case.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not asking about the market or whatever everybody else should do; I am asking him what he has done about Customs Service reports of incorrect documentation. The question is pretty precise.

Mr SPEAKER: The problem is the addition of a further part to the supplementary question. But let us just have that part and see whether the Minister would just—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: All right, let me ask him this. If there are reports from the New Zealand Customs Service concerning incorrect documentation of Zespri kiwifruit exports to China, what has he done about it?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The question is hypothetical because, as I think I answered in the previous question, the Minister, to the best of my knowledge, was not aware of any such situation. But perhaps as a wider point it is important that the companies take responsibility for their activities, and that is truly the responsibility of the companies, not the responsibility of the Minister.

Education, Ministry—Confidence

11. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she have confidence in the Ministry of Education; if so, why?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, I do. The ministry has been working hard to deliver on key Government priorities, including greater participation in early childhood education, implementing national standards, and improving National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) achievement. However, I acknowledge that there is always room for improvement.

Chris Hipkins: Does she have confidence in the information and analysis the Ministry of Education provided her as the basis for her decision-making around the future of schools in Christchurch; if so, why?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, I do, bearing in mind that we are in the stage that relates to interim decisions, so no final decisions have been made. But, yes, I do have confidence.

Chris Hipkins: Did she express to the State Services Commission that she had a lack of confidence in Lesley Longstone as the Secretary for Education; if so, why?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have previously acknowledged the contribution that the previous secretary made and I would refer all employment matters to the chief commissioner.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very straightforward question—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will ask his question again.

Chris Hipkins: Did she express to the State Services Commission that she had a lack of confidence in Lesley Longstone as the Secretary for Education; if so, why?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No.

Chris Hipkins: Did the State Services Commission consult her prior to accepting the resignation of Lesley Longstone as the Secretary for Education; if so, what did she say to them?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No.

Chris Hipkins: Did the State Services Commission consult, inform, or in any other way communicate to her that Lesley Longstone would receive a $425,000 payout following her resignation; if so, when did they do that?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, I was advised of it after the decision had been made.

Chris Hipkins: If she did not indicate a lack of confidence in Lesley Longstone as the Secretary for Education to the State Services Commission, was she advised why Lesley Longstone departed from her contract early with a $425,000 payout?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Those are matters that should be directed to the State Services Commission as the chief commissioner oversaw that process not me.

Chris Hipkins: Point of order, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: I am going to ask the member to ask the question again, but it is within the responsibility of the Minister to answer that question that was directed to the Minister.

Chris Hipkins: If she did not indicate a lack of confidence in Lesley Longstone to the State Services Commission, was she advised why Lesley Longstone departed from her contract early with a $425,000 payout?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I was not given all of the reasons. This is a matter of employment between the State Services Commissioner and the former Secretary for Education.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept that to some extent that is an answer from the Minister, but you will recall we put these questions to the Minister who is

responsible for the State Services Commissioner in the House and his answer was “you should ask the Minister of Education”. I have just done that now and she is not answering it.

Mr SPEAKER: Which you have done. No, no, I think you are right, accepting that the Minister has now addressed that question—maybe not to your satisfaction—but I think on this occasion she carefully listened to it the second time and she has certainly addressed the question. The member has further supplementary questions.

Chris Hipkins: Did Lesley Longstone undertake any action in her role as Secretary for Education that was contrary to the Government’s expectations; if so, what did she do?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I think it is pretty clear that last year there were a number of educational challenges in the portfolio, and those matters have been dealt with.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That did not address the question in any way.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to ask that question again.

Chris Hipkins: Did Lesley Longstone undertake any action in her role as Secretary for Education that was contrary to the Government’s expectations; if so, what did she do?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I cannot think of a specific action that the member might be seeking.

Treaty of Waitangi Settlements—Progress

12. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi

Negotiations: What recent progress has been made towards the settlement of historical Treaty of Waitangi claims?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Excellent progress. Last Friday, I initialled two deeds of settlement with negotiators of claimant groups. The first was with Maungaharuru Tangitu hapū; the second was with Ngāi Tūhoe. The negotiators will now seek ratification of those deeds of settlement by their people. If they are ratified, they will be signed, and then legislation to give effect to them will be introduced in the next few months.

Louise Upston: What does this recent progress mean for this Government’s record on Treaty settlements?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, we are getting the job done. Since the beginning of 2009 there have been 216 milestones achieved by this Government, including 33 deeds of settlement, which is over twice as many as the 15 deeds signed in the 9 years before that and more than half the total since the Treaty settlement work began in the mid-1990s.

Chris Hipkins: So much for bipartisanship.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Here comes the bipartisanship. With the assistance of this House, and I acknowledge it, deeds have been given effect to by legislation far more quickly than had previously been the case. Indeed, 12 bills were passed last year.

ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Patience: Drive Safe

Be patient before passing is the AA's message for drivers this Labour weekend.

"People taking crazy risks to get past other vehicles is one of the most dangerous things on the road,” says AA spokesperson Dylan Thomsen.

“The weather is looking good for the long weekend so the roads will be busy. Unfortunately, that also increases the chances of people getting frustrated and trying a risky passing manoeuvre. When they get past, there will probably be more traffic up ahead anyway so it won’t get people there faster.” More>>

 
 

Parliament Today:

Employment Relations Bill: Govt Strains To Get Tea Break Law Through

The Government has been left with egg on its face - failing to get its much-vaunted, but hugely unpopular, meal break law passed in the first week of its new term, Labour spokesperson on Labour Issues Andrew Little says. More>>

ALSO:

Guns: Police Association Call To Arm Police Full Time

"The new minister gave his view, that Police do not need to be armed, while standing on the forecourt of parliament. The dark irony was that the interview followed immediately after breaking news of a gunman running amok in the Canadian parliament in Ottawa..." More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Tokenism Of New Zealand's Role Against Islamic State

Our contribution against IS will be to send SAS forces to train the Iraqis? That’s like offering trainers to General Custer just as the 7th cavalry reached the Little Big Horn. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Shell And Todd Caught Drilling Without Approval

Multi-national oil company Shell’s New Zealand arm and local energy giant Todd Energy have breached the new law governing New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the Environmental Protection Authority says in an Oct. 10 document released by the Green Party. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Pharmac, Gough Whitlam And Sleater-Kinney

We’re not at the outset of these negotiations. The outset was six years ago, and negotiators were hoping to have some sort of ‘framework’ deal finished in time for the APEC meeting in a few weeks’ time. These ‘extreme’ positions are what we’ve reached near the intended end of the negotiations… More>>

ALSO:

PM Of Many Hats: Questions, No Answers On Whale Oil

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader – Green) to the Prime Minister: How many times since November 2008 has he spoken with blogger Cameron Slater on the phone and how many times, if any, has he texted him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): None in my capacity as Prime Minister. More>>

ALSO:

Aussie Investigation Dropped: Call On Minister McCully To Pursue The Case Of Balibo Five

West Papua Action is deeply concerned at the lack of any clear outcome from the Australian Federal Police inquiry into the 1975 deaths of the ‘Balibo Five’ including NZ journalist Gary Cunningham. More>>

ALSO:

'Feed The Kids' Bill: Metiria Turei To Lead Fight On Feeding Hungry Children

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei is urging all political parties to support the Feed the Kids Bill which she inherited today from Mana leader Hone Harawira. More>>

ALSO:

Parliament Today: State Opening Of Parliament

The House sat at 10.30am on Tuesday before MPs were summoned to hear the Speech from the Throne in the Legislative Council Chamber. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Parliament
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news