Questions and Answers - May 30
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Budget 2013—Support for Vulnerable Families
1. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Finance: How did the Budget balance the Government’s programme of responsible fiscal management with extra support for vulnerable families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): In the first place, the Government supported New Zealanders through the recession by borrowing to maintain support programmes, because we were confident that, even though we were borrowing, we could set a path back to surplus. The Budget also confirmed significant investment in programmes to support vulnerable families. This includes $189 million to assist people from welfare into work through work-focused case management and increased support for job readiness and job searching. The Government is also investing a record $2.9 billion in the Housing New Zealand Corporation, including 2,000 extra bedrooms on existing houses, and insulating around 46,000 homes for low-income families. This week we announced the KickStart Breakfast programme, which will expand to five mornings a week in decile 1 to 4 schools. High-decile schools can opt in during 2014.
Maggie Barry: What other measures were included in Budget 2013 for New Zealanders on lower incomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The other measures include a combination of existing, proven programmes and new initiatives that are targeted. I want to acknowledge the work of the Hon Tariana Turia and the Māori Party in this area. This includes $100 million over 3 years for the Warm Up New Zealand programme, targeting low-income households; $21 million over 4 years for rheumatic fever prevention; $1.5 million for budgeting services, on top of the $9 million already provided; a trial in Housing New Zealand Corporation properties of a warrant of fitness programme for rental housing; and a whiteware procurement programme to enable beneficiaries to buy new appliances under warranty. The Government is also investigating microfinance.
Maggie Barry: How is the Government investing to deliver better results in health and education?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, too often in health and education more and more money is put in as if more money were an indication of success. In fact, what this Government is doing is focusing on achieving better results for the existing spending and, of course, for any new spending. So there is a total of $5.1 billion in new operating spending over the next 4 years, but the key to the use of that money is targets such as, in health, more elective surgery and better immunisation rates, and, in education, more young New Zealanders achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 and achieving the national standards.
Maggie Barry: What steps is the Government taking to further reduce crime and maintain law and order?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: This is another area where the amount of money spent is not a good measure of how safe our communities are. When the Government came into office, justice sector spending was the fastest-rising cost in the Government. So we have set targets for reduced crime rates, and there has been encouraging progress: a 9 percent reduction in total crime and a 7 percent reduction in violent crime. This is coming about from building on a sophisticated analysis of what causes crime in our community, and police, corrections, and the courts working together in an unprecedented manner to make our communities safer.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe. Kia ora tātou. To what extent were Budget decisions to support vulnerable families influenced by the Ministerial Committee on Poverty, which was established as a result of the relationship accord between the Māori Party and the National Party?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Ministerial Committee on Poverty played a key role, and in particular the Māori Party played a key role, because the Māori Party brought to that committee a strong focus on getting change on the ground rather than more measuring and more strategies. That is reflected in the large number of practical initiatives designed to help those who suffer from the most persistent deprivation.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Does he agree with the Māori Party that extending breakfasts in schools and investing in KidsCan are not the only solutions to address child poverty; if so, what other priorities does he consider worth exploring?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do agree with the Māori Party. In fact, children who are hungry at school are often—as school principals have pointed out to me—symptoms of deeper problems in the family circumstances, rather than simple negligence. The Government has proceeded with the programme because whatever the problems are at home, the children need to be able to learn. In respect of other methods for addressing poverty, we believe that the $189 million going into the active management of up to 40 percent of our beneficiary population will have a significant impact, because it will assist people to get back to work—people who just need a bit of support and guidance and some encouragement to achieve that.
Hon David Parker: Is the Minister aware that both income and asset inequality are rising under National’s management of the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are any number of measures of that particular phenomenon. What I am aware of is that a recession and a weak economy have the biggest impact on those on the lowest incomes and with the least assets. This Government has set out, in the face of very poor economic circumstances in 2008, 2009, and 2010—partly a legacy of the previous Government—to protect the most vulnerable as best we could, and, actually, we have had some success in doing so.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree that spending $2 million per annum on food in schools, while handing over an additional $40 million to private schools, is an example of why inequality is widening in New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not. The Labour Party has never understood that every New Zealand child, by right of birth, has a right to a free education, and the money paid to private schools represents the cheapest free education that the Government can procure, because it pays only about 30 percent of the entitlement that every child has. Why does the Labour Party believe that some New Zealanders are not entitled to free education?
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the Prime Minister that the food in schools programme is “here to stay”; if so, does that mean that the high level of child poverty under this Government is set to become a permanent feature of New Zealand society?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do agree with the Prime Minister. With respect to levels of child poverty, the biggest puzzle on this issue in the last 15 years is how come it got so high, when the economy was apparently booming under the Labour Government. Despite the fact of the recession, this Government is wrestling with the complex issues of reducing child poverty and is having some success.
Jacinda Ardern: How many children has Treasury estimated will be lifted out of poverty by this Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not believe that Treasury has made that estimate directly, but I can tell the member that the $189 million committed to welfare will be spent on assisting, for instance, solo parent families off welfare and into work. And every single child who is in one of those families where the parent gains work will be lifted out of poverty. Question time interrupted.
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Commmunity Support—Community Response Fund and Community Needs
2. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Do the same needs in the community continue to exist now as they did in 2011 when she extended the life of the Community Response Fund stating “we listened to community organisations who were concerned the fund was ending while pressures remained, so we kept it going”; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister for Social
Development: Of course, some of the needs have not changed, but the context for families has changed. In 2009 when this fund was set up the economy was contracting, the world was facing a systemic financial crisis, and New Zealand was looking at a decade of deficits and ever-rising debt. Those circumstances have all changed. The funding was announced as, and always intended to be, a one-off fund. The member makes the mistake of thinking that the only way to get results is to spend more money. In fact, the Government is working intensively with the NGO sector to focus more on outcomes and use the money we have much more successfully. I have to say that the NGO sector is playing a very responsible and long-term role in those discussions.
Jacinda Ardern: Is the Minister aware that the south Wairarapa will lose its food bank coordinator as a result of the Community Response Fund coming to an end, a role that has seen more demand in the last 2 years than when she first introduced the fund; if so, what led her to decide that this organisation was no longer in need of support?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I am not aware of that. Of course, I would need to check up on the facts of that matter. We are engaging with NGOs on better ways of ensuring that the significant amounts of money that go into a community such as Wairarapa are used to achieve better outcomes. Too much of the money that goes in is dedicated to administration and fund-raising through large numbers of groups, some of which do not have the capacity they need for the problems they are trying to solve. Those discussions are ongoing. In fact, the total amount of money being paid out to these groups has risen from $280 million in 2009 to $320 million this year, and that is excluding the Community Response Fund.
Jacinda Ardern: Is the Minister aware that Rainbow Umbrella Charitable Trust, which provides after-school programmes for children and young people with disabilities, will close its doors today because of the end of the Community Response Fund, leaving up to 35 disabled children without specialised care; if so, what led her to decide that this organisation was no longer in need of support?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I am aware of that one, because it has been, I think, broadcast in the media. The fact is that the Community Response Fund was always very clearly specified as a fund put there in response to the very difficult pressures of recession. Despite the fact that the Community Response Fund has come to an end, overall funding has increased, but, more important, we are working with the NGO sector to get better value for the hundreds of millions that goes into that sector, too much of which is spent on administration and fund-raising. I invite the member to visit some of the projects around the country such as the social sector trials for youth, the child
health teams in Whangarei, and the education initiative in Rotorua, which are focused precisely on getting better use of the extensive resources available.
Jacinda Ardern: Is he aware that Age Concern, which provides professional help each year to 1,500 older people who are abused physically, emotionally, or financially, will lose services in Kaitāia, Rodney, Rotorua, Wairoa, and Marlborough due to the Community Response Fund coming to an end; or is he saying that they spent too much on administration and fundraising?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I am not aware of those particular changes. I can only reiterate the points I have made. Firstly, excluding the Community Response Fund, funding through these programmes has increased from $280 million to $320 million over the last 4 years. Secondly, the Community Response Fund was always a short-term fund and no one was misled about that. Thirdly, we are working with the NGO sector to make more effective use of the fragmented funding streams, of which there can be hundreds, into any individual community.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he have any plans to intervene for these organisations and the more than 290 others that will lose funding as a result of the Community Response Fund coming to an end, many of which will close their doors as a result, or is he content to simply blame fund-raising and administration for the fact that core services will be lost as of tomorrow?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course, if there are very significant needs here, I am sure the Minister for Social Development would pay some attention to it. But we need to be very clear that the Community Response Fund was always set up as a one-off fund. It was extended in the face of the extended recession. At the same time, we have spent several years working and negotiating with the NGO sector to ensure that we have better public services available to New Zealanders who are in need.
Jacinda Ardern: How much money was cancelled as a result of this Government putting an end to the Pathways to Partnership programme, and how much of that is now no longer going to the community sector as a result of the supposed Community Response Fund being cancelled?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot answer the question as to how much money was funded from Pathways to Partnership, except to say that the Labour Party Opposition’s thinking about social services is clearly anchored very deeply in 2005, when that was first set up. The world has changed. The NGO sector has moved on. There is a much more gritty and responsible discussion going on about how to use our resources more effectively. Far too often, more money is a signal of failure, not success.
Government Financial Position—Forecasts for External Debt
3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: By how much, in dollar terms, is the Treasury forecasting New Zealand’s external debt to increase between 2012 and 2017 as measured by the net international investment position?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): As we have said in the Budget, net international liabilities are expected to worsen over the next few years as insurance payouts for Canterbury continue. However, national saving is expected to rise, led by the Government getting its finances in order. In answer to the question, the net international investment position at the end of 2012 showed liabilities of $150 billion. Treasury forecasts this figure will be $206 billion by 2017. The difference is an increase in liabilities of $56 billion. At around 80 percent of GDP, that would still compare favourably with the peak of 85 percent of GDP in 2009, during a period when the economy had been going pretty well.
Dr Russel Norman: So is the Minister of Finance telling the House that under his economic plan for New Zealand, our national indebtedness will increase by nearly $60 billion over the next 5 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is the case, and that will be driven by a number of things, but substantially by growth in business credit as businesses invest in what is clearly now a recovering economy, and through this year it will be one of the better-performing economies in the developed
world. You would expect business to be investing, because that is how it will create all the new jobs that are going to be created. But the question is a bit rich coming from the member who is determined that, instead of doing the Government share offer and getting money from New Zealanders—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was not about me; it was about the Government’s financial and economic plan.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is not in order for the member asking the question to then insist on the answer by design. The answer very satisfactorily addressed the question that was raised by the member.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that his economic plan for New Zealand is to borrow a further $60 billion over 5 years, does he think that you can borrow your way to prosperity?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, again, do not bring the Speaker into the debate.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, you can borrow through a recession, as we have done in respect of the Government, as long as at the same time you have a plan for reducing that debt. One of the things that is going to reduce at least the Government contribution to it is that we sold Mighty River Power shares for $1.7 billion of cash, which is now in the Government bank account. That member is advocating that we borrow that money from overseas bankers. If he is so worried about how the debt is going to build up, why is he advocating that we borrow more and supporting a Labour Party that wants us to spend a whole lot more?
Dr Russel Norman: In reference to his so-called plan to reduce debt, can the Minister confirm, looking at New Zealand’s accounts under his Budget and his economic plan, that New Zealand’s external debt continues to increase in every year under his proposed economic plan for this country?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I cannot confirm that, but I am happy to look at the figures. What I can confirm is that the Government is outlining its plan to get on top of the debt we have built up through the recession paying New Zealand superannuation and maintaining public services. I did not hear the member opposing that at that time. If he was worried about debt he could have raised the issue then. And we will be making sure that we do not introduce a universal child benefit, extend Working for Families, write off 1 year of all student debt, cap all tertiary fees and phase out the fee system, and make all unemployed students eligible for the unemployment benefit, which, apparently, he is going to finance as Green Party policy not by borrowing money but by printing it.
Dr Russel Norman: Has he seen Treasury’s projections for the current account deficit, which show that the annual current account deficit will increase from $10 billion a year to $17 billion a year in 2017, according to the figures in his Budget; and does he believe that increasing the current account deficit year on year on year is the best way to rebalance the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen those projections and, in my view, Treasury is consistently more negative about the current account deficit than it should be, but we do have some choices. We could stop rebuilding Christchurch, to meet the member’s requirements. That may be possible. The fact is that the Government is doing its best by getting our finances back under control. The current account deficit today stands at half the level it was when Labour left office.
Hon Steven Joyce: Has he considered getting a really big colour photocopier and printing off enough money to pay off New Zealand’s international liabilities, on behalf of all New Zealanders, sometime next week?
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that is a helpful question, but if the Minister wishes to answer it the Minister can.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have been advised to consider it, but I understand that the whole supply of them has been bought up by the Green Party, in anticipation of its opportunity.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister of Finance tell us what happened to the Southland farmer who used to be a Minister of Finance who once said that the nation had to live within its means and that our income had to match our expenditure, and why has this Southland farmer been replaced by
a Parnell banker who believes that New Zealand can borrow money indefinitely, as he projects to do in his own economic forecasts in Budget 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: What happened, I think, to the Southland farmers is that they get very worried that the Greens are going to shut down the farming industry and so they will have to print money because New Zealand will not be earning any.
Dr Russel Norman: Why did the Minister of Finance say the word “rebalancing” more than 50 times in the House in 2010, yet fail to mention it once in Budget 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Actually, I cannot answer that particular question, but I can tell you that whatever the number of words in the Budget, the Government’s focus on rebalancing the economy remains as consistent today as it was then. We need to move from an economy driven by excessive borrowing and consumption, as advocated by those parties, towards one built on investment, exports, job creation, and savings. Economic circumstances have made that difficult, but we will see it through.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise this at the first opportunity after the question time of Mr Norman. To his first point of order you said this: “The Minister very satisfactorily answered the question.” To say that the Minister answered the question is one thing, but then to throw in your subjective judgment is what is so contestable to this side of the House. All I am asking is that if the answer is that you think the Minister has answered the question, well fine. If you are going to keep on throwing in that he answered very satisfactorily, some of us are going to contest that because it is a judgment you should not be making.
Mr SPEAKER: I will look carefully at the point the member is raising. The question was raised whether the question had been addressed. I have to judge whether I think the question has been addressed.
Budget 2013—International Education Sector
4. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and
Employment: How is the Government investing in New Zealand’s export education sector in Budget 2013?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): The Government’s internationally focused growth package of $400 million over 4 years includes an investment of $40 million to market and promote New Zealand’s international education industry. In 2012 there were nearly 100,000 enrolments of international students in New Zealand, and the industry contributed more than $2 billion to our economy and supported around 32,000 jobs. The Government has identified international education as an important area for growth, recognising that, in addition to the substantial revenues it generates, former students go on to become wonderful ambassadors for New Zealand internationally and create strong people-to-people links with New Zealanders doing business abroad.
Dr Cam Calder: What targets has the Government set to boost the value of international education in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As part of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda we have set a bold target to double the value of international education to $5 billion by 2025. To achieve this goal we will need to continue to strengthen our presence in markets such as China, India, South-east Asia, and Latin America, both through investing more in education in New Zealand and, of course, through ministerial and trade visits. The boost in funding provided by Budget 2013 and the internationally focused growth fund will enable our education industry to market New Zealand in these new and developing markets, highlighting our world-class institutions, our outstanding teaching and research staff, and qualifications that are valued and transferable throughout the world.
Dr Cam Calder: What wider benefits do international students bring to New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: International students bring back to their home countries a greater understanding of New Zealand. We are, of course, a small country that depends for our prosperity
on international trade in goods and services. International education is one important way in which we increase awareness of New Zealand in the countries we trade with, and this can only be good for growing New Zealand exports, for jobs and growth, and for incomes for the benefit of Kiwi families.
Government Communications Security Bureau—Investigation into Review of Compliance
5. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Prime Minister: In the inquiry being conducted by David Henry into the leaking of the Kitteridge report on the GCSB, are Ministers being interviewed on oath; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister): On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am advised that the inquiry commissioned by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Chief Executive, Andrew Kibblewhite, and Government Communications Security Bureau Director, Ian Fletcher, has not interviewed Ministers under oath. The inquiry is not yet complete, and I do not think it is appropriate to get into discussions about the detail of it while it is being conducted, in order to preserve its independence. I can inform the member that the Prime Minister’s office and the chief executive of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet made it clear to all ministerial offices that they are expected to cooperate fully with the inquiry. The terms of reference for the inquiry were publicly released in April and are available to members.
Chris Hipkins: Were Ministers interviewed during the Rebstock inquiry into the leak of foreign affairs documents interviewed under oath; if so, why is the same standard not being applied in this case?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a matter for Mr David Henry who is conducting the inquiry. He has that capacity, but I have to say that trying to direct him in how to conduct the inquiry would probably lead to stronger criticism that it is no longer independent. It is an independent inquiry by a senior civil servant who has served not only both Governments but also in the Australian and New Zealand Public Services, and it is our view that he is best left to conduct the inquiry according to the procedures he believes will be effective. The report, of course, will be available to everybody.
Chris Hipkins: Will all Ministers in receipt of the report prior to its leaking to the media be questioned on oath in the investigation; if not, why are some Ministers being interviewed but not others?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a matter for Mr David Henry. I am quite sure that if the Prime Minister’s office was issuing instructions daily to him about how to conduct the inquiry, we would be getting ferociously questioned in here about interfering with it. So it is either independent or it is not. In this case it is independent. It is not how the previous Labour Government did it, but it is how we did it. In fact, I am sure that anyone being questioned in this inquiry will be held to a very high standard of transparency and honesty.
Chris Hipkins: Do the terms of references for the inquiry into the unauthorised release of information relating to the Government Communications Security Bureau compliance review report allow for “the conduct of formal interviews if the inquirer believes these are warranted by the facts …”; if so, why has one Minister been interviewed several times but others have not been interviewed, at all?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a matter for Mr David Henry, who is conducting the inquiry. As I understand it, the inquiry has some time to run, and he will have the opportunity to interview whomever he likes and ask any question he likes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has this inquirer not asked the various Ministers, and Mr Peter Dunne in particular, for their phone records where the evidence is available—
Hon Tau Henare: Why don’t you ask him?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —and why not—I am asking the Minister responsible, all right? Why are the phone records, in which the evidence lies in this case, not being asked of Ministers, in particular Mr Peter Dunne?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member cannot actually know how the inquiry is being conducted. It is being conducted by Mr David Henry as an independent inquiry by a senior civil servant. I am sure that he will make whatever inquiries he needs to in order to try to achieve the objective of finding out how the report was leaked.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would anyone have confidence in an inquiry headed by David Henry, who is not taking evidence on oath, not keeping an electronic record of witnesses’ answers to questions, not demanding phone records of particular Ministers, and whose forensic investigation incompetence was revealed when he jumped ship before the Winebox Inquiry? Why would we not believe—[Interruption] Oh no—oh yes, he did. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There may be some controversy in the question, but the member has a right to ask it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I will ask it again. Why would anyone have confidence in an inquiry headed by David Henry, who is not taking evidence on oath, not keeping an electronic record of witnesses’ answers to questions—
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member asked a question, I was getting ready to answer it, and he popped up to ask it again.
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty I have is the member was halfway through his question. He had not finished. I could not hear, because of the level of interjection that was occurring on the National benches. The member would please ask his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am dying to ask this question. Why would anyone have confidence in an inquiry headed by David Henry, who is not taking evidence on oath, not keeping an electronic record of witnesses’ answers to questions, not demanding phone records, and whose forensic incompetence saw him jump ship from the Inland Revenue Department just before the Winebox Inquiry was so damning to the Inland Revenue Department? What about this bespeaks an in-house snow job?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I wonder whether we should have an inquiry into how that member seems to know so much about how the inquiry is being conducted.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He cannot turn a question—a very legitimate one—into that sort of answer, but I did write to David Henry and I got an answer that said: “I won’t tell you.”
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. Would Bill English, on behalf of the Prime Minister, please answer the question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not know how Mr Henry is conducting his inquiry. I am surprised that that member seems to have detailed knowledge of it. I cannot help wondering whether his criticism of the inquiry may be preparing the ground for the fact that he cannot quite prove the allegations he made yesterday, and he is now going to blame the inquiry for failing to back him up.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, all the Minister has to do is answer the question. He did not.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I believe that the Minister answered the question adequately.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue here is about Standing Order 383(2), which says that “The reply to any question must be concise and confined to the subjectmatter of the question asked,”. Mr Peters was not the subject matter of the question. The Minister’s answer was an attack on Mr Peters and he brought him into it in various ways. If Mr Peters had put himself in the question, fair enough, but he was not in the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member, when he returns to his office, to look very carefully at the question that was asked. It certainly had a good level of opinion from the member who asked the question.
Chris Hipkins: In light of the Minister’s comment just now, does he intend to open a further inquiry to ascertain who leaked to the Rt Hon Winston Peters the fact that the Hon Peter Dunne had been interviewed about the leak of the Kitteridge report; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, we will not be opening another inquiry, because this one is independent and will report fully. I have noticed, though, that when there is an inquiry into a leak to the Labour Party, it is called a witch-hunt, and when there is an inquiry into some other kind of leak, they say it is incompetent.
Chris Hipkins: Why will he not launch an inquiry into the leak about the inquiry into the leak?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The reason is that I suspect Mr Peters already knows the outcome of the inquiry into the inquiry about the leak.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will just try to get some silence. [Interruption] Order! A point of order has been raised. The member has a right to raise a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Deputy Prime Minister is going to keep drawing me into the inquiry, then I am going to short-circuit things by saying all the evidence is in those phone records, and your Minister is gone.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not believe that is an adequate point of order, at all.
Aviation—Pilot Licensing Criteria
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Something new.
Hon Steven Joyce: Something borrowed, something blue.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, the Minister of Transport—[Interruption] But the same sort of incompetence, of course.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Why does Civil Aviation Rule Part 67 require that the applicant for a commercial or airline transport pilot licence have no deficit of colour vision to an extent that is of “aeromedical significance”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of
Transport: Civil Aviation Rule Part 67 contains colour vision requirements that are designed to meet the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization—known as ICAO—in line with annex 1 of the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation. Annex 1 requires contracting States to the convention, of which New Zealand is one, to test applicants to ensure there is no colour vision deficiency that could interfere with the safe performance of a pilot’s duties. In practical terms, pilots need to be able to discern different colours used in aviation—for example, on navigation charts, in cockpit instruments, in airport lighting, and in air navigation lights.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware that Australia’s implementation of the Aviation Colour Perception Standard enables pilots with all types and degrees of severity of defective colour vision to operate VH-registered aircraft across the globe, and that these operatives are flying planes into New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The reality is, in relation to Australia, that New Zealand and Australia do apply the same standards, as required by the International Civil Aviation Organization—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, they don’t.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —well, just hear me out—and use the same primary screening method. However, in Australia’s case the Australian Administrative Appeals Tribunal has made some decisions on some individual cases that require the Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia, which is the safety regulator there, to issue medical certificates to applicants with some colour deficiency. The authority endorses the individual’s medical certificate as not conforming with the requirements of annex 1 of the convention, and commercial pilots are limited to co-pilot duties only and, I understand, are not able to fly commercially into New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware that these colour vision defective pilots in Australia continue to meet the most stringent of operational training, testing, and ongoing review requirements imposed by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia and their airline employers, and that these operatives have been for the last 25 years flying into New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I am advised that that is not the case. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia requires pilots to get approvals from the regulator of the country that they are flying into. In the absence of any such approvals, the Minister is not aware of any Australian colour vision deficient commercial pilots flying in New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware that over the 23 years that Australia has followed this implementation of the Aviation Colour Perception Standard there have been no accidents or accidents reported in which the colour vision status of the pilot has been found to be implicated causally, so why is he insisting upon fictional standards unsupported by countries like Australia?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am sorry, but that does not appear to be the case in relation to the matters that the member has raised.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You don’t know what’s going on, that’s why.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, you are wrong, Mr Peters. The reality of the situation is that the Chicago convention requires New Zealand to sign up to the same tests. Australia has the same tests, as I have explained to the member. It has an appeals tribunal that has allowed some pilots to fly, but with restricted practices. In terms of New Zealand’s standards relative to the rest of the world, we are seen as having standards that are more liberal than some countries and also slightly more requiring than others, but all are under the Chicago convention.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, that is the point. I have done my homework and you have not.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If there has not been one recorded aviation-related fatality anywhere in the world in which the colour vision of the pilot has been implicated causally, can he provide the evidence upon which the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority continues to justify its implementation of the Aviation Colour Perception Standard, whereby New Zealand certified pilots with defective colour vision have imposed upon them restrictions so severe that they make a professional career—
Hon Member: Who wrote that question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I am able to write my own question, not like the bozo over there, all right? I am able to write my own question, not like the dumbo over there.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not going to help the order of the House. It starts because of interjections from my right-hand side. Would the member please complete his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: So here we go—whereby New Zealand certified pilots with defective colour vision have imposed up on them restrictions so severe that they make a professional career in aviation a practical impossibility in their own country, and yet if they get a job in Australia, they could fly planes into New Zealand? How ridiculous is that?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: First let me say that I think the House must admire the generosity of the member in bringing this issue up, because he is not known for colour blindness himself. But the reality—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member raising a point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes I am, and it is that the Minister, as the Standing Orders require, should try to answer the question—he has never been much of a wit; in fact, he has been half of a wit most of the time—and get on with being a responsible Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the Minister please just address the question to help the order of the House.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I suppose you could call that one all, but I do not think so. The reality of the issue that the member raises is a very important issue, because if you look at some of the
examples—he asked whether it has ever effected any accidents anywhere in the world. There are actually two documented aviation incidents—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, there are not.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —and one accident in the United States where colour vision was seen as a contributing factor.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, that’s been contested—overruled.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, the member can say that, but, actually, the job of the air safety regulator is to ensure that it meets the international rules, and that is what it is doing in this case. If the member is saying that he knows better than the aeronautical regulator, that he should be trusted to make some judgments that, actually, our tests do not need to be as strong as they are internationally, well, he is fine to have that view, but the reality is that we trust our regulator every day to provide the sort of safety that New Zealanders depend upon. It is a serious subject, and, actually, we are required to sign up to the international regulations.
Budget 2013—Social Housing Initiatives
7. Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Housing: How will Budget 2013 contribute to delivering more affordable housing and better social housing?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): We are tackling the issue of supply identified by the Productivity Commission with the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill, which will enable 39,000 homes to be built at pace in Auckland over the next 3 years. I have also had a constructive discussion with other councils on how these tools might help improve supply and affordability in other parts of New Zealand. The Budget also makes major inroads on social housing. It opens up access to the income-related subsidy, as part of the Government’s plan to grow the community social housing sector. It also provides for a record $2.9 billion being invested over the next 3 years in upgrading Housing New Zealand Corporation’s stock, with a real focus on improved quality.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What specific steps is the Government taking to improve quality and to better match social housing to tenants’ needs?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is a big focus on home insulation, and every single State house that can be insulated will be insulated by the end of this year. Already the Government has invested in providing insulation for 230,000 privately owned homes, and the Budget provided a further $100 million so that a further 46,000 homes will be able to be insulated. The Budget also provides for Project 324&5 an investment of $260 million in adding 3,000 additional bedrooms on to threebedroom homes to better match them to tenants’ needs. This initiative will reduce over-crowding, and will be welcomed by many large low-income families around New Zealand.
Health Targets—District Health Board Performance
8. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: Are all district health boards meeting his expectations of providing timely, quality health services; if not, which DHBs are failing to provide “Better, Sooner, More Convenient” health care?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Generally, yes, although there is always room for improvement. District health boards are receiving over $1 billion extra over the next 4 years, and they are doing a very good job in tight financial times. The last quarterly national health targets, published this week, show that New Zealanders are receiving even more checks for diabetes and heart disease, more help to quit smoking, and they are getting more elective operations faster. The Government inherited a health service on track to ruin, but, thanks to strong financial management across the sector, we are now able to invest more in the changing needs of our population.
Hon Annette King: He is a joker, is he not! Well, in light of that answer—[Interruption] The optics are not good for you today, Steven.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member ask—
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, is it acceptable for a patient to wait 12 months for an endoscopy at Southern District Health Board?
Hon TONY RYALL: I would have to check whether that data is correct or not. It would depend on whether or not the patient had been booked in advance for a regular check-up. That is the reason why they would be waiting a year, as we have a number of cases like that. But I am determined that we actually have faster access for those sorts of services, and that is the reason why the Government is closely monitoring those. We are ensuring, as part of our faster cancer treatment and better access to diagnostics, that we can improve those waiting times.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, is it acceptable for a patient who finds it difficult to eat because of reflux and nausea, who vomits blood, and who has black, tarry stools to wait 12 months for an endoscopy at Southern District Health Board?
Hon TONY RYALL: Certainly, if they have got those symptoms, they need to go and talk to their GP and get prioritised to go and be seen there. There have been longstanding issues at Southern District Health Board. I highlighted those in a press release last week.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister whether it was acceptable for that condition—
Mr SPEAKER: And the Minister was explaining that there have been issues at the hospital. Would the Minister please continue his answer.
Hon TONY RYALL: As I was saying to the member, there are issues at Southern District Health Board. I identified them in a press release last week—what the Government is working on. Those problems are long standing. They include, for example, Southern District Health Board stopping the provision of surveillance colonoscopies to hundreds of patients in 2006-07.
Hon Annette King: Is it acceptable for patients at Waikato District Health Board to wait on average 31 days for urgent magnetic resonance imaging, 128 days for semi-urgent magnetic resonance imaging, and 174 days for a routine one, and what impact will those delays have on patients?
Hon TONY RYALL: I would have to check that information. What I can tell the member is that, as we said in the statement last week, 75 percent of patients are getting a CT scan within 6 weeks, and just over half of our patients are receiving magnetic resonance imaging within 6 weeks. Certainly those who are needing them urgently are getting them faster.
Hon Annette King: Is it acceptable for patients at Waikato District Health Board to wait on average 81 days for an urgent ultrasound, and no routine ultrasounds being undertaken at all?
Hon TONY RYALL: I would have to check that information, because I simply do not believe that is correct. I would suspect that the member has received information under the Official Information Act, and she has not provided any coherence around what actual information she has asked the district health boards to provide.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table, from the Waikato District Health Board under the Official Information Act, information exactly as I set it out, including that those who are not accepted—those who cannot even get a routine one—are returned to the referrer because they are unable to be completed within 6 months. That is the evidence he wanted—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that letter from the Waikato District Health Board. Is there any objection? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: Why did he re-announce his so-called new gold standard for diagnostic tests as new policy last week, when he had already announced it last year, and does he think that reannouncing policy actually gives patients better, sooner, more convenient health care?
Hon TONY RYALL: We were updating the public on the success that we are having in this. When I became Minister of Health, Ministers could not actually tell people how long they were waiting for magnetic resonance imaging and CT scans, because Annette King would not put any
money into asking the question. The reason that they would not ask the question was that a whole lot of people in Dunedin were being denied regular colonoscopies, because that Government did not want to know. What we updated and announced last week was that because of our new monitoring system, we can tell patients that 75 percent of New Zealanders are getting their CT scans within 6 weeks, and 50 percent are getting magnetic resonance imaging within 6 weeks, far better than under—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that is quite a satisfactory—a long enough answer.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table two documents.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table two documents. A brief description, please.
Hon Annette King: Certainly. A letter from a patient from Southern District Health Board, saying that he has to wait 12 months for an endoscopy, and he has all the symptoms that I have already described. I have his permission to table it.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. And the second one?
Hon Annette King: The second one is a letter from the Southern District Health Board—and the Minister wanted proof of this—saying that he has to wait for approximately 12 months for that endoscopy.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
School Network Upgrade Project—Progress
9. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Associate Minister of Education: What recent announcements has the Government made regarding the School Network Upgrade Project?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Associate Minister of Education): I was pleased to announce recently that the Government will be investing $136 million over the next 4 years to enable the completion of the School Network Upgrade Project by 2016. This is great news for New Zealand schools, because it means that the School Network Upgrade Project will be delivered 2 years early. Under our Government, over 1,400 schools are now involved in the School Network Upgrade Project. That is over 60 percent of all eligible State and State integrated schools. This announcement is about providing better internet connections for students and teachers. Our Government is committed to providing modern learning environments that create more learning opportunities for all young New Zealanders. This is great news for New Zealand schools.
Colin King: What other information can the Minister provide on the completion of the School Network Upgrade Project?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: In addition to providing additional money to speed up the School Network Upgrade Project initiative, I am pleased that from June 2013, wireless capacity will be included in the School Network Upgrade Project process. The inclusion of wireless in the upgrade process will allow students to be able to learn from more places in their school. This is just another step towards ensuring that students and teachers around New Zealand can take full advantage of our $1.35 billion investment in ultra-fast broadband.
Clare Curran: Is it correct that $86 million of the funding that Budget 2013 provides for the School Network Upgrade Project in fact comes from previous allocations and underspends; if so, does that not mean that the School Network Upgrade Project is actually behind schedule?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: No.
Question No. 10 to Minister
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour): I seek leave of the House for this question to be set down for a day when the Minister of Justice is here to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to do that. Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is.
Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner—Appointment Process
10. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Justice: How many expressions of interest or nominations for the position of Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner were received by the Ministry of Justice after the advertised deadline of 13 October 2012?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Minister of
Justice: The member is still, regrettably, wrong in his assertion that there was an advertised deadline. The Ministry of Justice does not determine any deadline or closing date for a ministerial appointment. Any advertised dates, either in public advertisements or in the letters the Minister sent seeking nominations, are for administrative purposes only. The Ministry of Justice acts in a purely administrative support role at the Minister’s direction, to support the Minister’s process and timetable.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was the same answer that the Minister of Justice gave yesterday to this question. At that point you ruled that that was an unhelpful answer, which I agreed with, and you gave us additional supplementary questions. Will you be doing that now?
Mr SPEAKER: No, on this occasion I will not be. The member still has supplementary questions. That was an answer that was far more clear as to the reason. The Attorney-General clearly explained what he thought was a reasonable difference between the advertised deadline, which I have a copy of in front of me, and the reasons why he did not think that was the Minister’s deadline. It has been addressed adequately. The member certainly has some additional supplementary questions anyway.
Grant Robertson: Why was Jackie Blue’s expression of interest for the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner position treated differently from the expressions of interest from other members of the public?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I think it is important to say that there were various ways in which expressions of interest could be received. There was the advertisement and the reference to the Ministry of Justice website—I think that is what the member is perhaps fixated on—and the Minister wrote to support parties, so there were various ways. What, at the end of the day, the Minister is guided by are the statutory requirements set out in section 29 of the Crown Entities Act 2004 and the relevant sections of the Human Rights Act 1993. The Minister also received guidance on relevant UN resolutions as to the appointment to this particular kind of position.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, how is it in line with those processes that the Minister has outlined for the Minister to withhold the name of one of the members of the appointment panel for a position such as this—a person who looks after the human rights of New Zealanders? Do not New Zealanders deserve to know that, and why would you withhold that name?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Because she respects the requirements of the Privacy Act. There are certain requirements under the Human Rights Act, the Crown Entities Act, and the Paris principles as to the way in which these interviews should be conducted. It is a very senior position; I am surprised the Opposition is treating this as a matter of frivolity.
11. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Health: How many New Zealanders are expected to have diabetes in 2021, and what is the expected cost of providing health services for them?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): A number of studies have attempted to estimate the number of people who may have diabetes in the future. It is a very complex issue to calculate and I am advised there is not yet an agreed methodology amongst the experts. I am advised by officials that a report produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008 has put the cost of diabetes rising from approximately $600 million in 2008 to $1.5 billion in 2022. A New Zealand study by Jo, Tobias,
and Yeh predicts a 20 percent increase in the prevalence of diabetes from 2012 to 2021, which would mean 271,000 New Zealanders. I am aware of further advice from the head of the diabetes advisory committee that the number could be 386,000 if there is no change in practice or management. The Government is committed to improving health services for diabetes and heart disease, with a strong focus on prevention. In Budget 2013 we announced a boost of new funding for New Zealanders with, or at risk of, developing diabetes and heart disease.
Kevin Hague: Does the Minister dispute the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ estimate of $1.78 billion in expenditure in 2021; and does he accept the findings of the University of Otago research recently published showing that a much higher prevalence of diabetes and pre-diabetes in the New Zealand population, currently one in four adult New Zealanders and higher prevalence in other population groups, means that that is likely to be a significant underestimate?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think that the answer I gave to the member indicates that, depending on the assumptions that you use and the various numbers that you put in, you can get a range of results. What I do think the member has touched on quite rightly, though, is the importance of investing in prevention, but particularly in the identification of pre-diabetes. The biggest increasing pressure in much of this space is pre-diabetes and that is the reason why achieving 90 percent of New Zealanders getting a heart and diabetes check means that we can actually identify those at risk of pre-diabetes and enable them to make the vital lifestyle changes needed in order to prevent themselves from getting that disease.
Kevin Hague: What is the likely availability of funds to meet the costs of diabetes treatment services that should be anticipated in 2021, which are likely to more than treble over that 8-year period and exceed $1.78 billion in 2021 alone?
Hon TONY RYALL: The advice that I have is that those numbers are premised on no change in the way that we manage diabetes or the activities we have in order to prevent diabetes, or, more important in many ways, the development of pre-diabetes amongst individuals. That is why the Government is focused very much on increasing the number of heart and diabetes checks in order for those people at risk to have that identified by their general practitioner and be able to get the lifestyle changes that they need. Also in this year’s Budget the Government has invested significant new money in expanding local diabetes care improvement programmes. We have provided additional money for encouraging more checks, and also a very significant investment in doubling the number of green prescriptions that general practitioners can refer patients to.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question related to the availability of funds to meet the sum PricewaterhouseCoopers anticipated would be required—and I think most would accept it is going to be more than that $1.78 billion in 2021. The Minister, in his earlier answer, indicated that there was some dispute about what the number was, but that did not prevent him, in fact, from responding about what the likely availability would be, say, on a range of—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I accept the point of order the member is making. To be fair to the Minister, he tried to very adequately address the question, but if the Minister wants to address just the part about the availability of additional funding, that would be helpful.
Hon TONY RYALL: What will be important for the availability of funds for affording the demands of diabetes and any other health disease is that New Zealand has a strong, growing economy—an economy where taxes are low, where regulations are under control, where Government spending is well spent. I do not think we will meet those costs by printing the money in 2021.
Kevin Hague: In light of the Minister’s apparent confidence that there will be available funds to meet a $1.78 billion health services bill for diabetes in 2021 alone, could I ask the Minister how much money would it have been rational to invest in obesity prevention in this year’s Budget, and how much would it have cost to reinstate the healthy food requirements in schools?
Hon TONY RYALL: Look, I think it would have been rational to have the investment that this Government is making in the area of diabetes and helping people manage their weight. The
Government is spending $60 million a year on prevention initiatives, which include Fruit in Schools, the funding for which was going to be stopped under Labour; a range of nutrition and breastfeeding programmes; and a very significant investment in Kiwisport. So it is across the range and across the life course.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I clarify whether the Minister’s answer is that the Government invested the perfect rational amount in obesity prevention?
Mr SPEAKER: That is how I took the answer, effectively, yes.
Kevin Hague: I seek leave to table two documents. The first is the PricewaterhouseCoopers report for Diabetes New Zealand entitled—
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify how available that is for members?
Kevin Hague: It is not readily available.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, I will take the member’s word for it.
Kevin Hague: That is from September 2008. The second document is the report of the research by Coppell, Mann, and others entitled Prevalence of diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes and prediabetes in New Zealand: findings from the 2008/09 Adult Nutrition Survey.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those two documents. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a report from Stuff where the Minister of—
Mr SPEAKER: No, Stuff is—[Interruption] Order! Stuff is freely available.
Brendan Horan: Does the Minister expect that the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders forecast to have diabetes by 2021 should have access to accurate and reliable blood sugar kits, and is he aware of the many expressions of concern from both health professionals and diabetics around the new sole supply CareSens kits, with life-threatening reports of inaccurate meter readings and faulty test strips?
Hon TONY RYALL: Pharmac has moved to a sole supply arrangement for most people for their blood glucose testing kits. I have to say that, as I have been travelling around the country, I think the transition has gone remarkably well, actually. About 90 percent of those people on the previous meters have now transitioned, and I think that most people are finding the service is up to what they might have expected. We have had very, very little feedback counter to that in the last few months.
Health and Safety, Workplace—Hazardous Substances Guide
12. Hon PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent announcements has the Government made to help businesses understand and manage the risks posed by hazardous substances?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): Yesterday I launched a new multimedia tool box to raise awareness amongst small and medium sized businesses about the risks of working with hazardous substances such as paints, solvents, and liquid agrichemicals, and provided simple tools they can use to minimise those risks. Chronic health problems caused by exposure to hazardous substances all too often lead to disabilities and early death. Businesses and workers need to make themselves more aware of the risks involved and of the simple actions they can take to prevent exposure to hazardous substances. The tool box is part of a wider package to improve compliance with hazardous substances requirements, including a comprehensive review of the hazardous substances and new organisms legislation, a 3-year campaign to raise public awareness of the importance of the safe handling of chemicals at use at home and at work, and an increase in compliance monitoring.
Hon Phil Heatley: Why is it important to improve the management of hazardous substance risk?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The Opposition might think this is a joke, but research shows that every year approximately 500 to 800 New Zealanders die due to industrial illness—more than double the road toll—and many of those are due to exposure to hazardous substances. But a recent survey has shown that only 25 percent of businesses comply with best practice in eight key areas. That is simply not good enough. We have a comprehensive regime in place, but awareness and response to critical risks is too low. The Kiwi “She’ll be right” attitude is literally killing us. Exposure to hazardous substances is largely preventable with the right combination of education, enforcement, and greater investment by industry in modernising safety systems. The announcements we have made signal that this is a priority issue for this Government, and we are aimed at making a real difference to the safety of New Zealanders.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill—Closing Date for Submissions
1. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: When do submissions to the Social Services Committee on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill close?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): Submissions on this bill close today: Thursday, 30 May 2013.
Holly Walker: Did he consult with the Minister of Housing or his staff before making the decision to close submissions on this date?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The difficulty the member has with any supplementary questions is that they must be something that is a matter of the responsibility of the chairman. As advised by the Clerk, that one does not meet the Standing Orders. I invite the member to rephrase her question or attempt to rephrase her question—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet—to make sure that it is within Standing Orders, and then I will accept a supplementary question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not the responsibility of the Clerk, and for you to say you were advised by the Clerk that a particular supplementary question is out of order is not satisfactory. You have to rule it out of order, and you can choose whether or not you say why.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has been here long enough to know that although I accept the responsibility for any decision I make, I am on regular occasions advised by the Clerk. I have ruled that question out. I have invited the member to rephrase it in a way that is acceptable.
Holly Walker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just like to seek your guidance. The question was in relation to whom the chairperson of the committee consulted with in his capacity as chair before making the decision about the closing date. I do not see how that is out of order—
Mr SPEAKER: The member is now starting to question my ruling—[Interruption] Order! I am trying to assist the member. Would she ask a question that is in order, and then we will make progress. At the end of this time, the ability to ask a supplementary question is entirely at the discretion of the Speaker. If we are not going to make progress here, then I suggest that the member will not get opportunities to ask—[Interruption] Order!
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not trying to trifle with you, at all. It is a clarification of whether you are changing the rule of Speaker Smith in Speaker’s ruling 159/2 on this very point, which is that a chair can be questioned on whether they have acted independently in making this very specific decision.
Mr SPEAKER: And I invite the member to look at Speaker’s ruling 159/2: “The chair of a committee is empowered to call for submissions. The chair does not [have to seek] the approval of the committee to call for submissions. The chair can call for submissions,” and then subsequently have them confirmed by the committee. Would the member please proceed—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member attempting to question my decision on this—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Yes, I am—
Mr SPEAKER: —because I would take that quite seriously.
Hon Trevor Mallard: —because it is inconsistent with the Speaker’s ruling you have just read out.
Mr SPEAKER: Then I will hear from the member.
Hon Trevor Mallard: When you read that Speaker’s ruling, you indicated, quite properly—and we all know—that the chairman has the right to make that decision without consultation. However, the member asked whether or not, in coming to that decision, he consulted with the Minister or the office. Asking a person how they came to a decision they are responsible for is, in my submission, within the Standing Orders and is not inconsistent with Speaker’s ruling 159/1. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the member to repeat the question as asked.
Holly Walker: Did he consult with the Minister of Housing or his staff before making the decision to close submissions on this date?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Under Standing Order 192(1), as chairman I can set a closing date and advertise—
Hon Annette King: No, no, no.
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Let me finish, ma’am. Let me finish.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Let the member—
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I can, as chairperson, set a closing date and advertise for submissions or invite submissions from interested parties. As chairman of the Social Services Committee I did make that decision, and that decision was confirmed by the committee at yesterday’s meeting, on 29 May. As that member knows, though, the bill was referred to our committee on Budget night, 16 May 2013—Mr Speaker, if you could bear with me—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is becoming a very long answer to what was a relatively simple question.
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: —and 10 weeks were due for committee consideration. So prior to the bill being referred, I did ask senior Opposition members on the committee seeking leave to meet on Friday—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now the answer has gone on quite sufficiently long enough. The member was simply asked whether he consulted with the Minister and his office. Could the member please answer that question.
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: After the bill was referred to our committee on the night of Budget night, I made—in my own decision—the decision to set a 13-day period for submissions.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please—[Interruption] Order! Would the member just answer the question. I am going to ask the member Holly Walker to ask the question again.
Holly Walker: Did he consult with the Minister of Housing or his staff before making the decision to close submissions on this date?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: After the bill was referred to us on the night of Budget night, I made this decision on my own, as is my discretion under the Standing Orders.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No one has disputed that. The question was whether consultation occurred. After, I think, four attempts, that has not even been addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I am going to ask the member Holly Walker to ask the question again, and let us hope that on this occasion we get a simple answer to a simple question.
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The bill was referred on the night of Budget night, 16 May, and I did not consult with the Minister. I made this decision on my own.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you for that answer.
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill—Time Allocated for Submissions
2. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: What is the length of the period for submissions to the Social Services Committee for the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): The public call for submissions was made on 17 May 2013. Submissions, as I said in the answer to question No. 1, closed today. The length of time, therefore, was just under 2 weeks.
Holly Walker: Is 10 working days sufficient time for members of the public and key stakeholders to engage with the 52-page bill and prepare detailed submissions?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Yes, it is.
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill—Requests for Submissions
3. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: Has he, as chairperson of the Social Services Committee, written to anyone soliciting submissions on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill; if so, who?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): No.
Holly Walker: Given that the regulatory impact statement accompanying the bill stated that the bill was developed with very limited consultation, why did he not proactively alert key stakeholders to the existence of the bill and the opportunity to make a submission?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to let the member answer it, but I would have thought that was clearly a responsibility for the committee, rather than the chairman. Does Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga want to add to that question?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Mr Speaker, as you said, it is a matter for the committee to decide that.
Holly Walker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In his earlier answers, the chair clearly referred to the fact that he used his delegated authority under the Standing Orders to make this decision, so the question about who to write to was part of that delegated authority that he used. Therefore, I think it is legitimate to ask why—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member, if she wants the opportunity, to ask question No. 4. Would she ask question No. 4.
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill—Submissions Received
4. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: How many submissions have been received on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): I am aware that some submissions have been received. The total number of submissions received will not be known until submissions close later today.
Holly Walker: How many have been received to date?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: At this moment in time I am not aware of the total number of submissions that have been received.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a simple question that was set down today at 10.30. Although I can accept that the member might not know how many have been received between the time that he prepared his answer and now, when the question simply asks how many have been received, he should be able to give a number.
Mr SPEAKER: The submissions will then be received by the Clerk, but, as chairman, he would not necessarily need to know.
Hon Member: He could ask.
Mr SPEAKER: I am quite satisfied with the answer that the member has given to Holly Walker.
Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill—Closing Date for Submissions
5. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: Did he decide that submissions to the Social Services Committee on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill will close today; if so, why?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): As I said, under Standing Order 192(1) I have the discretion to determine the closing date. I felt that the closing date of today was the appropriate amount of time for submissions, giving a 10-week turnround period for the closing date.
Holly Walker: Will he extend the submission period to allow New Zealanders to have their say on this significant piece of legislation; if not, why not?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I do not have the power to extend the submission date. It can be extended by the committee, but that is a matter for the committee to decide.