Questions and Answers - April 9
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: In light of his statement that Rebecca Kitteridge was the right person to carry out the Government Communications Security Bureau review because “The simple facts of life are the GCSB made some pretty bad mistakes when it came to this Kim Dotcom case. We cannot, and I will not, tolerate a repeat of them.”, why does the Kitteridge report not include findings on illegal spying on Kim Dotcom?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member should wait until he has viewed the report. The report fulfils the terms of reference set out for Ms Kitteridge and it canvasses all the relevant issues. The issues around Kim Dotcom have been canvassed extensively through the courts.
David Shearer: Given the findings of the Kitteridge report and the implications for other intelligence agencies, does he now accept that there needs to be a fully independent inquiry across all our security agencies; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, the Government is not looking at a formal independent inquiry right across. In fact, the Prime Minister has been working with the intelligence agencies to make change since the time that he took office, because, I think, he became aware they were not in a state to deal with the new sorts of threats or, as has now become apparent, to deal with the level of legal compliance that they ought to be able to deal with.
David Shearer: Given that he claims to have first found out about the illegal spying on 17 December 2012, was he briefed on the outcome of discussions within the Government Communications Security Bureau with Paul Neazor about the ongoing legality of his agency’s spying in May 2012; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I simply cannot answer that question on behalf of the Prime Minister. I do not have the information.
David Shearer: Given his statement that major breaches in Government databases have been simple human error, does he believe that the information relating to the victims of crime needs to be held in a secure database; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not exactly sure what the member is referring to, but if he is referring to some publicity today around an attempt to hack the Ministry of Justice, that attempt failed.
David Shearer: Why is confidential Ministry of Justice information able to be accessed by a member of the public? [Interruption]
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can only take the advice of the relevant Minister, who says that it is not. But the issues the member is raising are issues that underline the importance of having our intelligence agencies in good shape, with updated law and technology, so that they, along with Government departments, can combat that kind of behaviour.
David Shearer: Following privacy breaches at the Earthquake Commission, the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Social Development, ACC, the Inland Revenue Department, Work and Income, Novopay, Housing New Zealand Corporation, the Ministry of Education, the Medical Council, and now the Ministry of Justice, when will the Prime Minister act to make sure that New Zealanders’ personal details are not being revealed?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: He certainly acted before the Leader of the Opposition revealed—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon BILL ENGLISH:—his personal details about his bank account in New York.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That sort of answer will not help the order of the House. Would the Deputy Prime Minister please address the question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister has acted. There has been an extensive review of the data-security procedures in all Government agencies. I think what has become apparent is that these kinds of events have almost certainly been going on for many years, but now they are drawing public attention and are unacceptable to the public. I can tell that member that the audit of security processes followed by agencies showed that under the previous Labour Government nothing was done. Many of them had no procedures whatsoever, and that is why the Government has to move decisively to upgrade those procedures.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the public have any confidence in the assurances that have just been given when the first thing that happened to the Kitteridge report was that it was leaked?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it is a more serious issue than the member is giving it credit for. Front-line public servants do need to understand that they will have to follow procedures with email that ensure that they do not email large amounts of information to the wrong place.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question is fairly basically about how we can have any confidence with the answers that the Prime Minister’s stand-in has given, when, in fact, the first thing that happened was that the Kitteridge report was leaked. That is pretty serious. I want him to explain that, not everything else that was ancillary to—
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please repeat his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the public have any confidence in the assurances that the Prime Minister is giving today, when the first thing that happened to the Kitteridge report was that it was leaked?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The assurances that have been given are that the Government is taking action. We cannot yet give the assurance that public servants and their organisations have the correct procedures in place to protect all individual information.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can he give the House an assurance that the leak did not come from any staff in the Prime Minister’s office; if so, what or who does he believe to be the source of this very serious leak?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can give that assurance. There is no reason at all why the Prime Minister’s department would behave in that way. In fact, as the member will know, the Prime Minister intended to release the report on his return from China next year, and present it to—
Hon Members: Next year!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: —next week—and present it to the Intelligence and Security Committee, which he would have been scheduled to attend, and release it afterwards.
2. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on progress in building economic growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): This week I have received Treasury’s latest monthly Economic Indicators report, which shows that the outlook for the economy is looking more positive following a robust 1.5 percent increase in GDP in the December 2012 quarter. Also, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research’s business opinion survey, out today, shows confidence up moderately in the March quarter to a 3-year high, pointing to growth of around 3 percent a year. I might point out that in the calendar year 2012 New Zealand grew 3 percent, and Australia, with its mining boom, grew 3.1 percent.
Hon Tau Henare: What are some of the main contributions to the improving outlook?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Treasury reports a range of indicators looking reasonably positive. Commodity prices in March had the third-strongest rise on record, driven by dairy prices. Manufacturing and services industry indexes have both risen strongly, so there is clearly not a crisis in manufacturing when it is growing. Consumer confidence, business confidence, and firms’ reported outlook for activity are all around or above long-term averages, and our major trading partners Australia, China, the US, and Japan have generally reported economic data a bit ahead of expectations.
Hon Tau Henare: What reports has he received on the Government’s finances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government’s accounts for the 8 months to the end of February show that the deficit was $3 billion for the first 8 months of the financial year, $556 million lower than the deficit forecast back in December. This reflects good control of expenditure, as well as marginally higher revenues. The Crown’s operating balance, which records change in the value of all the Crown’s activities, including its investments, recorded a surplus of $4.3 billion. The Government is on track to surplus.
Hon Tau Henare: What independent comment has he seen about the Government’s economic programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen comments from the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, who said of New Zealand: “All I can tell you is the IMF is very supportive of what is being done by the Government …”—and—“If you look at the numbers, if you look whether it is growth, whether it is employment, whether it is inflation, whether it is debt, overall it is very stable and it is also very promising … it’s certainly a lot better than what we see in other parts of the world.” And she went on to say that the economic policies are supportive of good fundamentals and “policies we believe are sound and solid.”
Hon David Parker: Do the latest financial statements of the Government show that while “Total labour force earnings were in line with forecasts,”—this is because the fall in employment has been “concentrated at the lower end of the income scale”, meaning that the same amount of income was earned by fewer workers; and what further proof does he need to show that income inequality is growing wider and wider under the settings that his Government pursues?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is, I think, telling half the story there. As I understand it, what the figures showed was that employment for part-time and young workers reduced. It is still a bit of a puzzle because it is likely that one of the reasons it did that is because more of them are going into training. That, of course, is what that party advocates—that young people should not be in low-paid, part-time jobs, they should be in training. Well, they are moving from low-paid, parttime jobs into training and I thought he would have supported that.
State-owned Energy Companies, Shares—Expected Returns for Mighty River Power
3. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Have all the risks for potential investors in Mighty River Power been fully identified in the offer document; if so, does he expect the Crown will receive the best possible return for floating 49 percent of Mighty River Power?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): Yes, I am advised that the offer document does identify all material information and all risks material to Mighty River Power. Yes,
the Crown expects to get optimum value within our set of stated objectives, including widespread New Zealand ownership. The float of Mighty River Power remains on track, and is part of our wider economic plan to help control debt and to invest in important future infrastructure.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Has any member of the Mighty River Power board at any point threatened to resign or advised that they would not be seeking reappointment should their remuneration not be increased, given that he has stated that the significant increase in Mighty River Power directors’ fees was to be able to “retain” the services of the current directors?
Hon TONY RYALL: No, no director indicated that. But this Government is determined to make sure that we have a good quality board on Mighty River Power, a board that will help lead the stewardship of this company, which will effectively be the fourth or fifth-biggest company on the New Zealand Exchange.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does he agree with the Prime Minister that a 73 percent pay increase for the Mighty River Power directors is “realistic” and “sensible”, given that directors are already paid an additional $1,200 a day to prepare the company for sale; if so, does he also agree with the Prime Minister that the Government cannot afford to increase the $14.50-an-hour pay rate for aged carers and the people who clean the Prime Minister’s office?
Hon TONY RYALL: I always agree with the Prime Minister. The Mighty River Power directors have received and are going to receive an increase in their fee because of the substantial extra work that will be required in becoming directors of a publicly listed company. It certainly is very, very comparable with the $115,000 a year that the Contact Energy directors get, and also the fee paid to the directors of TrustPower, which is a much smaller company. The member may be wanting to talk down the prospects of this company. This Government does not want to.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Why, according to the Mighty River Power offer document, will the joint lead managers—Goldman Sachs, Macquarie, and First NZ Capital—in addition to their base fees of $666,666, be paid 0.4 percent commission to sell shares to New Zealand institutional investors, yet—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: 0.04?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: —0.4 percent—will be paid 0.8 percent, double the amount, in commission to sell shares to institutional investors outside New Zealand?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is not unusual to have a fee structure that reflects the relative responsibilities of the people participating. But at the end of all of this process, the Government has made it absolutely clear that 85 to 90 percent of this company will remain in New Zealand ownership. I know that that member has spent 18 months trying to talk down the prospects of—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I think the Minister, in quite a detailed fashion, answered the question, then went on with other, extraneous matters. I was just wondering whether you were going to stop him.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I assumed the member was interested in the answer, but if the member is now absolutely satisfied with the answer, we will move to the next supplementary question.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I seek leave to table page 238 of the Mighty River Power offer document, which verifies that these people get a greater commission to flog off the power shares overseas than they do to—
Mr SPEAKER: I am sure that information is freely available on the website to anybody.
Government Communications Security Bureau—Kitteridge Report
4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: What is the security classification of the full report by Rebecca Kitteridge into the Government Communications Security Bureau, and who in his Government had access to the full report?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): The report has not had a national security classification, with the exception of some of the appendices, which will not be released. It has been classified according to normal Cabinet procedure, rather than securities procedure. The Prime Minister’s office has kept copies of the report in the
office safe when they have not been required. On behalf of the Prime Minister, I can give the House an assurance that the copy of the report that has been leaked has not come from the office of the Prime Minister.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There were two legs to the question, and I acknowledge that the Minister answered the first. But with regard to the second, the question was who had access to the full report. The Acting Prime Minister has said that the Prime Minister’s office had access to the full report. It was not clear from his answer whether it was only the Prime Minister’s office.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the Minister happy to expand on the answer?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Sorry, to complete the answer, I cannot give the member a list of exactly who has had it, because the Government has not inquired into that as yet. But the report in the last couple of weeks would have had fairly broad circulation through a number of agencies and Ministers’ offices.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a question on notice. It was very specific. It asked who in his Government had access to the full report. He has had a number of hours to ascertain the answer. He has come to the House and failed to answer the question on notice.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister may want to elaborate, but he said quite clearly initially in his answer that it was around the Prime Minister’s office and addressed that very specifically, and then he went on to say that it has been distributed to a number of agencies. He was not specific as to the number of agencies, and I am not sure, even though the question is on notice, whether it would be fair to expect the Minister to list every agency that has had access to this report.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have made it clear to me in a letter that you wrote to me that where a question directly seeks factual material, an informative reply must be given. I think it is reasonable for the Acting Prime Minister, in the hours since the question was lodged, to provide us with a list—I cannot imagine that it is very long—of who has had access to the full report. It is not difficult.
Hon Trevor Mallard: This is a matter that has to do with a report into a security agency. I think you are aware that these things are closely held, often with numbered copies, often with drafts and numbers across them, and lists kept. Lists are always kept of these confidential documents as to their circulation. The question did not ask which public servants have it; it asked which parts of his Government have it. It was a fairly simple question to answer, and so far we have seen the House being treated with contempt by the Acting Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that last part is fair, but I do accept the point raised by Dr Russel Norman and by the Hon Trevor Mallard, and I wonder whether I can ask the Acting Prime Minister to be more specific about who in Government had access to the full report.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot be more specific at the moment. I simply do not have that information in detail for the member, and some of it may be confidential, so we would have to work through that process before the information could be made available.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is the very point. We know how the system operates. That question would have come in a long time ago. It would have been assigned to a responsible staff member to complete it factually and make sure that the answer to at least the primary question gives people the information that they are seeking. He cannot come down here and say: “Well, I don’t have it at the moment.” We want an explanation now as to why he did not bother to treat this Parliament with respect and come down properly provisioned with the information he had hours to an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Again, the Minister has now stood up and said that he cannot give an answer. That is unfortunate. I accept the point that Russel Norman has made, that this was a question on notice. The Acting Prime Minister has simply said that he has come to the House and he does not have that specific information, and then alluded to the fact that it may well be classified and he does not want it released. If that is his answer, that is his answer. I cannot do any more to elicit a more accurate answer, but the member has further supplementary questions, and I would invite him to use them to try to elicit more information.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave for this question to be set down for further supplementary questions after question No. 12 today in order for the Acting Prime Minister to brief himself on a suitable answer to the primary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the fact that the cover note on the report says that the appendices are legally privileged and highly classified, does he believe that the leaking of the full Kitteridge report is a serious offence?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That may be possible, but we have yet to see what aspects of the report have been leaked.
Dr Russel Norman: If it does turn out that the full report has been leaked by someone in his Government, what consequences should face the person who leaked this information, which the Government Communications Security Bureau describes as legally privileged and highly classified? What consequences should that person face?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If appendices that have been given a security classification have been leaked, then there would be significant consequences for the person who leaked them.
Dr Russel Norman: Why does the Prime Minister seem confident that the appendices have not been leaked?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is a matter of whether they appear in the public arena. The Prime Minister does not have the capacity to guess whether someone has them sitting in a shoebox under their bed, but I assume that if they think there is some political effect from leaking those appendices that is worth the risk, then we will eventually see them. They are not in the newspaper today.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that so far the only member of his Government who, he has told us, has had access to this report is the office of the Prime Minister, did he or a member of his staff leak the report?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is not what I said, actually. What I said to the member was that the report has been circulated fairly broadly across Government agencies in the last couple of weeks.
Dr Russel Norman: If he does not know who leaked the report, will he launch an inquiry to get to the bottom of it, given his previous support for an inquiry into a leak at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade over documents that were probably quite considerably less sensitive?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government simply has not considered that at any length. Our primary concern has been that, given the leak of the document, it is important that the document is in the public arena so that people can see the significant issues that it raises in respect of our security agencies. The other issue has been less important than that today, but who knows? The person who leaked it might own up tomorrow and there would not need to be any kind of inquiry.
Dr Russel Norman: If it is found that over 80 people were illegally spied on by the Government Communications Security Bureau, as is suggested in the report, will he apologise to them as he apologised to Kim Dotcom, and will he ensure that all the people who have been illegally spied on are given access to all the information that was illegally obtained?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I think the member is jumping to conclusions. I think the report shows there has been a very thorough investigation of the activities of the bureau, now going back to the year 2003, which includes the period of the previous Government, and it does raise the question of whether the legislation passed by the previous Government was fundamentally flawed. Whether any individual has been illegally spied on is yet to be determined.
Grant Robertson: Given that his own staff took the precaution of locking the report in the safe in their office, why has the Government not launched an inquiry into the leaking of a document deemed so sensitive that it needed to be locked in the safe in his office?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I assume the staff of the Prime Minister’s office were following the usual procedure they would with documents that were labelled sensitive in the Cabinet process. As I said, a couple of the appendices have a security classification, and of course they would be handled very carefully. Of course the Government will turn its mind to the issue of the leak, but if the member thinks that we behave like the previous Labour Government—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is quite a sufficient answer.
Welfare Reforms—Application and Addressing Long-term Welfare Dependence
5. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister for Social Development: How are the Government’s welfare changes ensuring a fairer welfare system, and tackling long-term welfare dependence?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): These changes will deliver real change, transforming New Zealand’s welfare system into an active and work-focused approach. A key part of reforms is that the focus is on not only those who are currently long-term beneficiaries but, more important, those who are most likely to turn out to be long-term beneficiaries. The investment approach gives us information like we have never had before. This will mean that we can spend extra money on extra support where it will make the biggest difference.
Mike Sabin: What changes are being introduced to ensure welfare is work-focused?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Alongside the significant changes through the investment approach, we are also making sensible changes that are long overdue. Those who have a current warrant out for their arrest and who are avoiding the police will have their benefit cancelled. We will now require job seekers to be drug-free. Up until now people could decline to apply for an available drug-tested job, because they would not pass the test—without a consequence. It is a straightforward expectation: drug use should not get in the way of getting a job if you are on a benefit.
Mike Sabin: What reports has she received about the new work focus requirements?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Over 40 percent of the jobs that come in through Work and Income require a drug test. Last week in Dunedin I spoke with two of the large employers for the South Island. Both of these employers drug test and said how much of a difference this will make for them. We also know that in Canterbury as part of the reconstruction work most of the jobs that are there require people to pass a drug test prior to employment. It is a straightforward expectation, and one that I am surprised that the Opposition is not on board with, because this will help people get work.
Jacinda Ardern: How many more individuals will have extra work-testing obligations under her welfare reforms, and how does this compare with the number of jobs created by her Government?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What the Opposition does not get is that it is not actually the Government that creates jobs; it is businesses. Unless someone in a town or in a city turns round and says that they want to take on someone extra, then that person cannot get a job. So what happened in the 2000s was that Labour, in Government, tried to magic up a whole pile of jobs, and what happened was that when things got tough people fell out of them and had to go on to welfare. We have seen an increase in those who will be work tested. If they cannot find a job, they will not be sanctioned, they will not face any penalties—but you will not find a job unless you are looking for one.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Point of order—[Interruption] Point of order—[Interruption] Order! The point of order will be heard in silence.
Jacinda Ardern: The Government’s own Budget statements claimed that there would be 170,000 jobs under this Government. I do not think it is unfair to ask for the Minister to produce under a straight question some straight numbers around how many more people—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. That is not a point of order; the question was addressed.
Overseas Investment Rules—Good Character Test for Investors
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Land Information: Is it Government policy that a person or company involved in the 2008 melamine scandal would fail the good character test under section 18(1)(c) of the Overseas Investment Act 2005; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister for Land
Information: It is Government policy that the good-character test should be applied when applications under the Act are being considered. The policy is applied to all applications and considers a wide variety of matters. Involvement in the 2008 melamine scandal could be a matter for consideration. I note that there has been no application from any party found culpable, charged, or convicted in the melamine scandal.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would the good-character test not be stringently applied to Yashili New Zealand Dairy Company when it was involved in the melamine scandal?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Firstly, all these matters are investigated by the Overseas Investment Office. In the case of Yashili, and, in fact, another company, called Yili Group, they were recipients of milk that had been tampered with in the melamine scandal. They were not found culpable themselves.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is New Zealand’s most valuable asset—its reputation as a source of high-quality food—being put at risk by allowing Yashili to set up a food processing plant right here in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That may be a question better asked of another Minister, but what I would say is that the very reason these companies want to set up in this country is because of the certainty that they can have around the supply of raw milk to their factories here in New Zealand— a certainty they clearly cannot get in China.
Earthquake Commission—Freeze of Information and Communications Technology Systems
7. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister responsible for
the Earthquake Commission: When will EQC staff be able to email documents to customers?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission): The Earthquake Commission is able to engage with clients by email now, but cannot send attachments through email. The member will appreciate the seriousness of the privacy breaches, including one that was subject to an urgent question in the House on 28 March. At this time I cannot give a date on which the Earthquake Commission will be able to email documents to claimants, but as soon as systems are in place to prevent accidental privacy breaches the Earthquake Commission will be able to resume normal engagement. I note the concerns that her party has about privacy breaches and security, as mentioned in question No. 1 today.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Does he stand by his statement that sending massive amounts of information by email is the same as putting the wrong address on an envelope, or does he now accept that data protection systems are required to mitigate human error?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: My quote there has, I think, been significantly misused by people who want to create a degree of menace. The reality is that email is, in fact, a form of mail system, and when the wrong material gets attached by human error, it is a disaster. That is why we have shut the system down and will not be opening it up until we can have some certainty about its security.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Why was it necessary to take such dramatic steps, which further delayed the processing of claims, in light of the two major breaches involving Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, and why was it not simply that the Earthquake Commission was required to stop sending Microsoft Excel spreadsheets by email?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I note that this matter was the subject of an urgent question here in the House, with the House setting aside time to deal with it because it was of such huge public importance, and I agree with that. I note also that the member over there was calling for my resignation over this matter. To think that we would not react in a way that took it very seriously is as ridiculous as most of her other statements on earthquake recovery.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Why has the Earthquake Commission closed down its Twitter account, and when will it be reinstated?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have no idea when it will be reinstated, and, frankly, I did not know that it even had one.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table a snapshot of the Twitter account, which shows that it blocked me: “Sorry, you can’t”—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is available to any member who wants to see it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How can a snapshot of someone’s Twitter account—from her account—possibly be publicly available?
Mr SPEAKER: And I think the more important point is that it has been shut down, so I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection. There is.
Cyber-bullying—Measures to Address
8. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister of Justice: What announcements has she recently made to address the harm caused by cyberbullying?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Cyber-bullies are able to harass their targets 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the trail of abuse lives on in cyberspace, following victims for years. This Government is introducing new legislation to stop the growing incidence of cyberbullying and its devastating effects, particularly for young people, and the new anti - cyber-bullying proposals protect victims and hold perpetrators to account, sending a very clear message to cyberbullies that their behaviour must stop.
Katrina Shanks: What first line of support is the Government putting in place for victims of cyber-bullying?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: We are creating a new civil enforcement regime and setting up or appointing an approved agency as the first port of call for complaints. The new approved agency will help people get the support they need to stop cyber-bullying quickly, including liaison with website hosts and internet service providers to request take-down or moderation of clearly offensive posts. The agency will also be able to investigate and resolve complaints directly, and will be able to refer the most serious complaints to the District Court, which can issue sanctions such as takedown orders and cease and desist notices.
Katrina Shanks: What other steps are being taken to eliminate cyber-bullying?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Serious ongoing recidivist cyber-bullies can expect to be punished by up to 3 months’ imprisonment or a $2,000 fine for posting material online that is grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing, or knowingly false. We are creating a new offence of incitement to commit suicide, even in situations when a person does not attempt to take their own life, punishable by up to 3 years’ imprisonment, and the Harassment Act, the Privacy Act, and the Human Rights Act will be amended to ensure that they are up to date for digital communications. This Government is putting the right support in place and is modernising our outdated laws so victims of cyber-bullying, particularly our young people, no longer have to suffer as they have been.
Resource Management Act Reforms—Environmental Protection
9. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: How will the second round of proposed changes to the Resource Management Act 1991 as they are currently expressed maintain the protection of the environment?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): The changes as proposed maintain protection of the environment in a number of ways, including ensuring the overall purpose of the Resource Management Act in section 5 remains—promoting the sustainable management of natural and physical resources, including safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems. The proposals also provide that environmental matters of national importance in section 6 are all being maintained, and we have also retained the directive wording of “preserve” and “protect”, despite technical advice to remove these words. Where the proposals include the removal of second order matters in section 7, this is only where it has been demonstrated that they
are adequately provided for in other parts of the Act. In addition, the changes proposed in the second phase of the Resource Management Act go further than simply maintaining protections, and include for the first time introducing national bottom lines for the quality of our waterways—for the first time in New Zealand’s history, thanks to this National-led Government, which prioritises action in this space, something that the Labour-Greens Government never did.
Hon Maryan Street: What is the import of deleting the words “the maintenance and enhancement of public access” to waterways from the current Part 2 of the Act, which, as the Minister knows, outlines the purpose and principles of the Act, and their replacement with the words “the value of public access” to these waterways, and how does she see that as maintaining the protection of the environment?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The proposals provide that the decision makers must recognise and provide for the value of public access to and along the coastal marine area, wetlands, lakes, and rivers. That is what we put out for consultation. We are satisfied that that adequately and properly provides for those matters, and we are looking forward to receiving feedback on it.
Hon Maryan Street: What is the import of the deletion from the current Part 2 of the Act of these words “the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values:”, “intrinsic values of ecosystems:”, “maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment:”, and “the protection of the habitat of trout and salmon:”, and how does she see these deletions as maintaining the protection of the environment?
Hon AMY ADAMS: As I mentioned in the answer to the primary question, where we are suggesting that matters currently in section 7, which is second order considerations in Part 2 of the Act, are removed, it is only on the basis of independent technical expert evidence we have had that outlines that in each case they are adequately and properly provided for in other parts of the Act. In particular, I refer to the member’s comment around amenity values. We note that they are already an explicit component of the environment, as defined, which must be sustainably managed under section 5. In respect of the habitat of trout and salmon, I would draw her attention to the fact that the proposal now goes further than simply protecting the habitats of trout and salmon, and provides for the protection of aquatic habitats generally, including the protection of trout and salmon. We are improving protection.
Hon Maryan Street: Does the Minister believe that the report of the independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, from whom I have been quoting in the last two supplementary questions, has any warning bells attaching to it for her; and, if so, what changes does she intend to make to the proposals in order for them not to become simply a charter for big business to exploit the environment?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I have read the submissions from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment on both the resource management and the water proposals, and I note that in some instances she concurs that the changes are much needed and in other areas she raises concern. But I do note that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment suggests that economic development is not a relevant consideration under the Resource Management Act. It is the view of this Government that economic development, jobs, and cheaper housing are all absolutely valid considerations for our planning infrastructure, and it is our view that New Zealanders do want things like the provision of jobs and cheaper housing to be relevant considerations under our planning legislation.
Mining, Marine—Consistency of Supplementary Order Paper 205 with New Zealand Bill of
10. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Has he requested that the Attorney-General assess Supplementary Order Paper No 205 to the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill for consistency with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): No.
Gareth Hughes: Given that several highly respected legal professionals believe his Supplementary Order Paper breaches international law in human rights, will he now request that the Attorney-General undertake a New Zealand Bill of Rights assessment of his amendment?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No.
Gareth Hughes: Will the Minister support leave being sought to return the Crown Minerals (Permitting and Crown Land) Bill to the select committee to allow for expert scrutiny and public consultation on this amendment, which has significant constitutional, democratic, and human rights implications?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I refer the member to my earlier answers.
Gareth Hughes: Why is the Minister rushing ahead to pass this amendment, which highly respected New Zealand legal professionals have said is in breach of international law and an attack on democratic rights, without any select committee scrutiny, without any public consultation, and without a New Zealand Bill of Rights analysis by the Attorney-General?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: We are not rushing ahead. This was signalled in the previous Minister’s first reading speech. I expect vigorous debate in this House this week, where all the views can be frankly canvassed.
Government Communications Security Bureau—Process for Appointment of Director
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour): I seek leave to table the question that I intend to ask the Prime Minister next week on his involvement in the appointment of Ian Fletcher, so he might prepare an answer for it.
Mr SPEAKER: I just warn the member—[Interruption] I do not think it is funny at all. Leave is sought. I am going to put the leave, and leave it for the House to decide. Is there any objection to that? There is objection.
11. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Why was only one candidate interviewed for the position of Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau in July 2011?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): The recruitment process had identified only one candidate who was interested in the position and who had the mix of skills and experience needed to lead the Government Communications Security Bureau, given the challenges facing the agency, some of which have been set out in detail in the Kitteridge report, released today.
Grant Robertson: What opportunity was there for other candidates to be considered for the position of Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau, given that Ian Fletcher was the only person interviewed only 5 days after his phone call to Mr Fletcher and the scrapping of the short list?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There was plenty of opportunity. As the Prime Minister and the State Services Commissioner have outlined, they had a discussion about a short list of four people who presumably had been through a process to get to a short list, and the State Services Commissioner had the view that none of them had the required qualities to do the job that was ahead of them.
Grant Robertson: In light of the Acting Prime Minister’s primary answer mentioning the Kitteridge review, does he still claim that he was not briefed by Ian Fletcher about unlawful spying until September 2012, when paragraph 25 of the Kitteridge report says that the legality of spying was being discussed at the Government Communications Security Bureau all the way from May 2012 to September 2012?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister stands by his statements on that matter.
Grant Robertson: Why is the Prime Minister’s oversight of a security agency that can spy on people so lax that he was not even aware, according to his statements, that there were discussions about unlawful spying taking place from May to September 2012?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I simply do not agree with the member’s assertion that the oversight was lax, and, actually, the report sets out a description of an agency where there was not a strong focus on compliance.
Grant Robertson: Can the Prime Minister assure the House today that he was not briefed about unlawful spying by the Government Communications Security Bureau, or allegations of unlawful spying by the Government Communications Security Bureau, before September 2012?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can only repeat the earlier answer: the Prime Minister stands by his statements on that matter.
Early Childhood Education—Participation Rates
12. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Education: What progress has she made against the Government’s early childhood education priorities?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Today I have the pleasure of announcing an increase in the number of children participating in early childhood education. Provisional data for the first quarter of 2013 shows that around 95.5 percent of children who were starting school had participated in early childhood education. That is over 2,500 more children than the same period last year. The provisional data also shows increased participation from Māori and Pasifika children, with just under 92 percent of Māori children and around 88 percent of Pacific Island children attending early childhood education before they start school. That is a 1.4 percent and 1.9 percent increase, respectively, on the same period last year.
Tim Macindoe: What else is this Government doing to get children into early childhood education?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: In Budget 2012 we invested $1.4 billion in early childhood education, which included 20 hours’ early childhood education funding for all families as well as over $48 million in equity funding to target children and communities who have not traditionally participated. We have established an early learning task force, which is working with communities and neighbourhoods to apply or develop models that will work for them, and we are taking early learning opportunities to the families, whānau, and aiga where there is either limited provision or low uptake. As can be seen by the provisional data, these issues are working.