Questions and Answers - July 2
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he said on 25 September 2012 that he was not briefed on who would be involved in the Kim Dotcom raid, saying: “The activity in question did not require a ministerial warrant, and I am not briefed on operational matters on every operation it undertakes.”, was he telling the truth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he was asked on 25 September 2012 regarding when he was first briefed about the ministerial certificate that the Deputy Prime Minister signed on his behalf and he answered “Last night.”, was he telling the truth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When he replied to a question on 26 September 2012 on when other agencies knew about the Government Communications Security Bureau’s involvement in the Kim Dotcom case: “I am simply not in a position to understand whether those organisations knew that or not. What I do know is that the first I was aware of it was on Monday, 17 September. Whether those other organisations had some information I am not sure.”, was he telling the truth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: On 8 September 2011 when he said in regard to the appointment of Mr Ian Fletcher as the director of the Government Communications Security Bureau: “Mr Fletcher has extensive policy and operational experience …”and, further: “Mr Fletcher is a skilled leader who will make a valuable contribution to the bureau and wider New Zealand intelligence community.”, does he stand by those statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, particularly the one where I said: “Wow, it’s going to be an interesting 61 days before September.”
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement that “this Government is successfully managing the economy to make sure that New Zealanders can afford to buy a home.”; if so, can he guarantee that any of the 39,000 homes to be built in Auckland will be affordable to first-home buyers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, yes.
David Shearer: Can he guarantee that any of the 39,000 houses to be built in Auckland as part of that agreement will be affordable for first-home buyers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not responsible for the actual building of the homes, but in answer to the question, yes, I am pretty sure they will be.
David Shearer: What measures is he prepared to take to ensure first-home buyers are preferred over speculators in the 39,000 new homes that are going to be built in Auckland?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The first important step is to make sure that 39,000 homes are built. Supply is one of the big issues, because if we look at Auckland in recent times, the number of new homes and dwellings that have been built has been roughly around 3,500. The second thing, of course, is to make sure that New Zealanders have jobs, and increasingly that is the case. The third thing is to make sure they have affordable interest rates. Well, we know interest rates are about half what they were under a Labour Government. And making sure that consents can actually happen quickly is why there will be reform of the Resource Management Act under a National-led Government. I think the chances of a first-home buyer getting a home under a National Government are a lot greater than they would be under a Labour Government.
David Shearer: Given his statement: “I don’t think it should be a tool that is used to write high LVR ratios for a bunch of rich people, and lock out a whole lot of first-home buyers.”, what action has he taken to ensure the Reserve Bank does not do exactly that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, as the member will know, the Reserve Bank is going through a period of consultation at the moment, so the Government is talking to the Reserve Bank. I would point out, though, that the preference of the Government would be that the Reserve Bank actually does use the other tools that it has in the tool box—in particular, those macro-prudential tools that the member is talking about—as opposed to raising interest rates, which, of course, is the alternative. So the Government will be working—
Hon Members: Or a capital gains tax.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —alongside the Reserve Bank. Well, a capital gains tax actually will not work. It does not work anywhere in the world when it comes to that.
David Shearer: In light of his last answer, will he rewrite the agreement with the Reserve Bank to ensure that first-home buyers are preferred over speculators in the event that loan-to-value ratios are introduced?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a bit early to go through any sort of rewriting. The Reserve Bank is going through a consultation process. The Government will participate as part of that consultation process. But if the member seriously thinks that a capital gains tax is going to solve the problems, then he needs to think again. Show me any place in the world that has a capital gains tax and prove to me that it has stopped a bubble. And, as the member wells knows, a capital gains tax is a realisation tax. All that people do is buy it and do not sell.
David Shearer: Given that every OECD country bar the Netherlands has a capital gains tax on property, why will he not introduce a capital gains tax here to dampen demand and give first-home buyers a first, decent crack?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it actually would not dampen demand, and it has not dampened demand anywhere in the world that they have it. In fact, what happens with the OECD and the IMF when they recommend a capital gains tax—
Dr David Clark: Why is the OECD wrong? Why is the IMF wrong? Why is the Treasury wrong? Why is the Prime Minister the only person he believes this?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —is that they want a comprehensive capital gains tax. You see, the reason Mr Clark is trying to shout me out is a very good reason: he knows that, privately, within their caucus, those members are talking about putting a capital gains tax on the first home. That is what Labour is going to do, on the first home for New Zealanders.
3. PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on business and economic conditions in New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Last week the ANZ issued its business outlook survey for June. After a bit of a flat patch, which the Leader of the Opposition acknowledged at the weekend, the survey confirmed business confidence continued to lift across all sectors. The majority of component indicators are also rising. A net 50 percent of businesses expect general business conditions to improve over the next year. There were strong readings in construction, in agriculture, and in manufacturing, which posted a significantly higher reading for the outlook than a year ago.
Paul Goldsmith: What did the latest business outlook survey report about businesses’ views about prospects for their own operations over the next year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The survey confirmed that firms remain upbeat about prospects for their own businesses as well as for the wider economy. A net 45 percent of businesses expect better times over the year ahead for themselves. Similar positive themes were apparent across the rest of the survey. For instance, profit expectations are the highest since April 2010. Among the best news in the survey is that a net 17 percent of firms expect to increase employment, the highest reading in 2 years. Investment intentions are at their highest level since late 2003. Even excluding the construction sector, optimism is widespread with a net 48 percent of firms outside of construction expecting better times ahead, so the positive views are not all driven by construction.
Paul Goldsmith: What reports has he received on the employment intentions of businesses in light of the general pick-up in business conditions?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Westpac McDermot Miller Employment Confidence Index was issued this week—it increased for the fourth quarter in a row. The index now stands at cautiously optimistic levels—the highest levels since September 2011. The improvement in employment confidence is not surprising, following employment statistics showing that the unemployment rate is falling. The report also noted that the official data can be volatile, and job opportunities and the net percentage of people reporting wage increases had picked up. However, these levels remain low by pre-recession standards, and there is much more work to do to see the better outlook for business confidence actually translated into more jobs and higher incomes.
Hon David Parker: Has he been advised that the most recent ANZ Job Ads data shows job advertisements declining a seasonally adjusted 3.8 percent in May, which according to the ANZ “would be consistent with a sharp recoil in the unemployment rate”; if he has not seen that, has he seen the statistics from Statistics New Zealand that show that 44 percent of all working New Zealanders got no wage increase in the last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen those statistics, which is why I made the point that the indicators are cautiously optimistic, and I would emphasise the caution. Employment indicators have over the last 2 or 3 years been more volatile than was historically the case. However, in the light of forecasts of 2 to 3 percent growth in the economy and rising business confidence, the outlook for employment continues to improve rather than deteriorate.
Paul Goldsmith: If the Minister had to name one sector that has contributed to the more positive outlook for business conditions and the economy, what would that sector be?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are any number of sectors I could point to that have contributed. Some of them are totally opposed by the Opposition, such as the oil and gas sector. But one that has had its attention is the manufacturing sector, so I thought I would pick that one. Since the beginning of 2009 the manufacturing sector as a whole has grown by 9.2 percent—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How much?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: —9.2 percent—as measured by GDP by industry. However there was scope for it to grow because—
Andrew Little: How much did it fall in 2008-09?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is a very good point. In 2008, under the Labour Government, it shrank by 12 percent. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Government Communications Security Bureau—Investigation into Review of Compliance
4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his answer to written question 07314 (2013) when he said: “The inquiry team, itself, did not seek permission from Peter Dunne before it obtained his email logs” and does he think it should have?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): In answer to the first part of the question, yes, and in answer to the second part, no.
Dr Russel Norman: Did the Henry inquiry get written consent from Peter Dunne before obtaining his parliamentary email logs; and, for the purposes of clarity, we are talking about his parliamentary email logs, not his ministerial email logs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would need to check, but to the best of my knowledge, no.
Dr Russel Norman: Did Mr Dunne agree to cooperate with the Henry inquiry by agreeing for it to access his parliamentary email logs, and what evidence does he have of that agreement?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What is quite clear is that Mr Dunne actually did not agree to comply with the inquiry, because on numerous occasions his office—or he was directly asked—to release his emails and he refused to do so. In terms of the wider issue of the metadata, what I can say is that the terms of reference for the inquiry, on 15 April, made it quite clear that they would be accessed and no Minister raised any concerns with me about this fact.
Dr Russel Norman: So with regard to the letter in April, in which the Prime Minister says some form of consent was obtained—it would appear from his answer—did Mr Dunne reply to the terms in this letter by agreeing to cooperate with the inquiry by allowing his parliamentary email logs to be accessed by the inquiry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have the details of whether or not Mr Dunne wrote back. The member could put that down in writing to my office and we would be able to give him an answer. But I go back to the original point, which is that the terms of reference were quite clear, and they were: “Stage 1 will include reviewing communications and copying equipment and records, log books and any other material considered relevant of the persons (and/or their offices) who had or were likely to have had access to the compliance review report,”. No Minister raised any concerns with me. In fact, when I announced the inquiry and Dr Norman thought it was a member of National who might have leaked it, he was screaming for there to be an inquiry with access to all information and to get to the bottom of it.
Dr Russel Norman: So is the Prime Minister saying that the extent of the consent obtained by the Henry inquiry, acting under the authority of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, was simply that the terms of the inquiry were published, and there was no reply from Mr Dunne agreeing to those terms of inquiry, and there was no explicit consent from Mr Dunne for Mr Henry to access Mr Dunne’s parliamentary email log?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All of those can be checked in case there is other correspondence, but I think it was quite clear, if one looks at the terms of reference, what was going to be accessed. As I said, no Minister made it clear that they had concerns, but what is becoming increasingly clear, actually, is that if the Greens were ever in Government with Labour they are obviously concerned that they might do such dodgy things that they want nothing—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is an unnecessary part to the answer.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that Mr Dunne received the Kitteridge report as leader of the United Future party, not as a Minister; given that the emails concerned were parliamentary, not ministerial emails; and given that Mr Dunne never gave his consent for the Henry inquiry to access his
parliamentary email account, under what authority did Mr Henry access Mr Dunne’s parliamentary email log?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In my view the authority that was vested in him when I asked him to conduct the inquiry, when I made it quite clear that all communications, copying equipment, records, and log books would be looked at, that no Minister raised concerns, and when the member himself went on to say that not only was this a very serious matter but that if I did not know who had leaked the report, I should launch an inquiry and get to the bottom of it, and that, fundamentally, I should leave no stone unturned to get an answer.
Dr Russel Norman: So is the Prime Minister saying that the authority of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, which was the sole authority that the Henry inquiry had, is sufficient authority to access the parliamentary server and parliamentary emails without the consent of the member of Parliament concerned?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I think this is going to come as a shock to the member, but, for very good reasons, when a ministerial inquiry of this nature is established, then, actually, there is a responsibility to try to get to the bottom of that. And, in fact—as I have just tried to point out with what the member himself was saying when he thought it was a National member—he was quite happy for all information to be accessed. No Minister and no staff member at any time, from the moment we actually went out there and put out the terms of reference, ever came and complained or was upset by that.
Dr Russel Norman: So the Prime Minister is now giving himself and his staff the authority, or the Henry inquiry appointed by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet—and only with the authority of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet—the right to access the parliamentary emails and parliamentary email logs of members of Parliament, without first obtaining the consent of those members of Parliament?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, the member is not correct. No emails have actually been looked at. What has been established is an inquiry, the terms of reference of which made it quite clear that communications, log books, records, and other material considered relevant would be reviewed. I think, as I have said earlier, the member would be—because he was, already—one of the first to be off out of the blocks claiming that this was a serious matter, that I needed to find who leaked the report, and that I should “get to the bottom of it”, and all of those things, but, today, all of a sudden, he does not like it.
Grant Robertson: Did his office request the email metadata from the Parliamentary Service that identified there were 86 emails between Peter Dunne and a journalist, discussing the Kitteridge report?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, that was done by Mr Henry, as he conducted the report.
Grant Robertson: Is it correct that his office became aware of 86 emails between Peter Dunne and a journalist discussing the Kitteridge report on 22 May, and why did he come to this House on 29 May and say he did not believe for a moment that any of his Ministers were involved in leaking the report?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the first bit, that is probably correct—that is probably the right date, although I do not have that with me; I would have to check it, and the member is often wrong. In relation to 29 May—because that is what I believed to be correct.
Transport Projects, Auckland—Delivery
5. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Transport: How will the Government progress the delivery of the next generation of transport projects for Auckland?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): On Friday the Prime Minister announced this Government’s commitment to begin work on a new generation of transport projects to futureproof the development of Auckland as our major urban centre. We have taken an approach that incorporates rail, roading, public transport, and some tunnelling solutions. Combined, they will
greatly expand the capacity of Auckland transport to carry people and freight as the population expands. We look forward to other parties supporting these excellent initiatives.
Simon O’Connor: What are the Government’s priority projects to enhance and futureproof the Auckland transport network?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government sees an opportunity to build on the work already started in Auckland by speeding up the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative project and combining it with the East-West Link project. These projects will improve connections to the State highway network, and upgrade the links connecting to the eastern suburbs, East Tāmaki’s industrial area. The Government’s other key priorities are the second Waitematā Harbour crossing and the City Rail Link. Route protection on the City Rail Link began earlier this year, and we expect to have the preferred alignment for the Waitematā Harbour tunnel by the end of this year. The Government also intends to speed up three motorway projects that will, one: deliver a complete motorway to motorway link between the upper harbour highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive, upgrade the Greville Road Interchange and improve the Northern Busway; two, widen the southern motorway between Manukau and Papakura; and, three, reduce delays on the final stage of the State Highway 20A link to the airport from the north, by upgrading it to motorway standard. We look forward to the support of other parties, particularly New Zealand First, which seems over-eager to get these jobs done.
Simon O’Connor: What enhancements has this Government undertaken so far to develop the Auckland transport network?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The member will be aware that this Government has taken a very proactive approach to developing a transport system in Auckland. We take a network-wide approach. We have supported the route protection for the City Rail Link, funded the purchase of new rolling stock for the train network, and fast tracked new major new roading projects such as the Victoria Park Tunnel. In 2017 we will see delivery of the Waterview Connection. That is a project that will be New Zealand’s largest roading project ever. Along with this, the State Highway 16 upgrade, which of course Phil Twyford opposed, will greatly enhance connections and improve movements in and around Auckland. The Government sees Auckland transport in a network sense, not in the narrow sense projected by other parties.
Question No. 4 to Minister
GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour): In light of the Prime Minister’s answers to the questions earlier—I know this is unusual—I seek leave to table written question No. 7472—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. [Interruption] Order! They are available to all members.
Point of Order—Prime Minister’s Replies
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we are getting to a point where the Prime Minister is regularly saying that he doubts members’ words and their figures. When someone is quoting from the Prime Minister I do not think they should be disparaged in that way. If it was wrong, it was his fault.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I am more than happy for members, if they want me to, to go back and look at all the quotes that they have put to me and you will find that more often than not they are not accurately reported, they are quite incorrect, and I can only accept the member’s word if I think it is right. Often it is not right.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard quite enough. The reason members seek to table a document is to help further inform members. When it is an answer to a written question they are published and are available to all members and it is not necessary for them to be tabled.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I think you missed my point of order. Members are not meant to doubt members’ words in this House without some sort of evidence. The Prime Minister did that to Mr Robertson.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to go back and have a look at the Hansard. The member quoted a specific date—from memory 22 May—and the Prime Minister said he could not be absolutely sure, offhand, that it was 22 May. It was certainly not helpful for the Prime Minister to then add the point that the interjection from Grant Robertson has just made.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: If it is afresh point of order, I am happy to hear it.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is. I am going to agree with you but suggest that we look at that tape together. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can deal with this very quickly. [Interruption] Order! I can deal with this very quickly. The Hon Trevor Mallard is always welcome to come and see me after question time.
State-owned Energy Companies, Sales—Use of Proceeds
6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Are the proceeds from selling power companies and other assets being used to pay down debt, to build schools and hospitals, to fund irrigation projects, to rebuild Christchurch, or to fund Auckland transport projects?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has been clear that the proceeds of the share offer programme will be used to buy a variety of new public assets and will help the Government avoid having to borrow to procure those assets. The Future Investment Fund was outlined in Budget 2012 and further details were provided in Budget 2013. The purpose of that fund is to ensure complete transparency about the spending of the proceeds from asset sales. The Budget confirmed another $1.5 billion of these proceeds will be invested in schools, Christchurch hospitals, KiwiRail, and irrigation projects. However, the share offer proceeds are only a proportion of the Government’s overall new capital spending.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with John Key that asset sales are necessary to “avoid a credit downgrade”, or does he agree with Tony Ryall that asset sales are necessary to pay down debt, or does he agree with another John Key that asset sales would be used to build new schools and hospitals, or does he agree with Nathan Guy that money would be used to subsidise irrigation on multimillion-dollar farms, or does he agree with Gerry Brownlee that asset sales money be used to rebuild Christchurch, or does he agree with yet another John Key that asset sales will fund the Auckland rail link?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes.
Hon David Parker: How much funding has already been allocated for spending from asset sales via the Future Investment Fund, and how much has actually been raised for the Future Investment Fund from asset sales to date?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The details of that are set out in the Budget, but, as the member will be aware, the Government’s programme hopes to realise between $5 billion and $7 billion, which is, actually, quite a lot of money. I would have to say that that $5 billion to $7 billion is much more useful as cash than it is as 49 percent shares in electricity companies owned by the Government.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table documents showing that $1.7 billion has so far been raised—
Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of the document?
Hon David Parker: There is a combination of documents: the National Party manifesto and Treasury documents.
Mr SPEAKER: No, both are freely available to members if they so want it. Has the member got a supplementary question?
Hon David Parker: Yes. Why does he continue to claim asset sales will reduce debt when Treasury—his own department—states that from 2017 the Crown is worse off to the tune of $50 million a year, growing to $100 million a year worse off because of asset sales thereafter?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do not claim it will reduce debt. What we have said it will mean is that the Crown does not have to go and borrow the money from overseas bankers. We have never understood why Labour and the Greens would rather borrow money from offshore bankers than get the money from New Zealanders who want to invest in a large New Zealand company.
Hon David Parker: Has he been advised that in January 2011 John Key said the Government needed to sell power companies and other State assets to avoid a credit downgrade; if so, is he aware that 8 months later New Zealand was downgraded by both Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I am aware of those things. I am also aware that the sale of the assets means that 49 percent of the ownership has gone largely to New Zealanders but also to some offshore investors. In return for that, they have put cash in the Government’s bank account. I know it is profoundly irritating to the Labour Party, but we are able to use that cash to buy new public assets. The public is starting to understand that Labour’s arguments against the asset sales were poorly conceived and wrong.
Crime Prevention—Use of Technology
7. IAN McKELVIE (National—Rangitīkei) to the Minister of Police: What updates has she received on how Police are using technology to prevent crime?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): Today police have completed their initial roll-out of 6,259 smartphones and 3,702 tablets to front-line police officers throughout the country. These smart devices allow officers to view offenders’ photographs, input and access information, access email and maps, dictate information, and take photos, all while out in the community. The access to this information means that police will spend less time in police stations accessing databases and doing paperwork, and much more time being visible out on the streets, tackling and preventing crime.
Ian McKelvie: How are smartphones and tablets being used to prevent crime?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Smartphones and tablets allow our front-line officers to have access to critical information when they need it, allowing them to make better-informed decisions. An 11- month trial last year found that the use of these smart devices allowed each front-line officer to spend an extra 30 minutes per shift out in their community. This translates to an additional 543,000 front-line police hours per year, or the equivalent of an extra 354 front-line staff out there focused on preventing crime. And this is all on top of the 600 extra police delivered by this Government and a 70 percent increase in foot patrols, which has seen the lowest crime rate in 30 years.
Kris Faafoi: What risks were highlighted by police for the use of mobile devices, especially in situations of major events where mobile coverage can be overloaded; and does she think it is appropriate that details like this were blacked out in an Official Information Act response, preventing the full picture of the roll-out from being presented?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Well, as I said, there was an 11-month trial of these devices run across four different districts of New Zealand last year, including the West Coast, which we all know has difficulty with some of its coverage for mobile devices. This has been identified and taken up with the suppliers. This very good contract, which has been negotiated by Deputy Commissioner Bush, is particularly focused on the service that was delivered, rather than on the capital expenditure. So those risks have been clearly identified and are being addressed by the suppliers of the equipment. And, in fact, if the member goes to the police website this afternoon, he will see that there is in fact a comment from a West Coast officer detailing when he was able to use his mobile device to locate and find two lost hunters.
Kris Faafoi: I seek leave to table the business case for police mobility, dated 14 November 2012, where the main risks and the key risks to this project were blacked out.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is.
Income Gap, Domestic—Government Initiatives to Address Inequality
8. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with The Economist that “inequality is one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time”; if so, what is his Government doing to address the fact that New Zealand now has the widest income gap since detailed records began?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No, I have not seen The Economist piece, so I cannot comment on that, but I can tell the member that her assertion about the situation in New Zealand is wrong. The widest gap between incomes in New Zealand actually occurred in the mid- 2000s and peaked in 2004. Incomes were more unequal in the mid-2000s than they are today and more unequal than they were in the 1990s. That information is from the most recently available Ministry of Social Development incomes report, which also shows that income inequality in New Zealand is close to the OECD median, similar to that in Australia, Ireland, and Canada, and that redistribution through transfers, which we have maintained, like benefits, Working for Families, and accommodation subsidies, reduce inequality significantly.
Jacinda Ardern: Can he confirm that, despite his claim that New Zealanders are better off, in the last year 44 percent of people’s incomes did not increase but the cost of living continued to rise?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Surveys of the labour force have always shown that in any given year a proportion of the workforce does not receive a wage increase. Given that we have been in a period of relatively high unemployment and emerging from a recession, it is not a surprise that a proportion of the workforce did not receive a pay increase. However, over time, disposable incomes in New Zealand have risen consistently each year, and that is unusual among developed countries.
Jacinda Ardern: Based on that answer, is the Minister saying that the 80 percent of Kiwis who when recently surveyed said that they were either no better off or worse off than they were 2 years ago are, in fact, wrong about their own circumstances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is almost always the case that New Zealand households feel the pressure of constrained budgets. Whether they get pay rises or they do not, it never feels like a lot more than the expenditure. However, the facts are reasonably clear, and that is, on average, disposable incomes have risen moderately in the last 4 or 5 years. The factors behind that are pretty well understood—the lowest interest rates in 50 years and the highest purchasing power of the New Zealand dollar in 30 or 40 years. That has helped to sustain household incomes through a period when across most of the developed world household incomes have dropped.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he agree with the IMF that inequality limits growth by denying lowincome families the money they need to invest in their children’s future and by allowing top-income earners to influence politicians to pass laws that favour their interests, not those of the wider economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do, and that is why the Opposition should be supporting two particular Government policies. The first is the implementation of national standards in our schools, to ensure that every young New Zealander gets the proper rewards of a public education system, and that is the social mobility that goes with educational achievement. The Labour Party should also be supporting our changes to ensure a greater supply of housing, particularly in the Auckland market, because planning rules there reinforce the wealth of those who already own expensive houses, and lock out those who want access to the housing market. I look forward to support from Labour on both of those policies, to prove its integrity on these issues.
Jacinda Ardern: How do national standards or Resource Management Act reforms help the 63- year-old woman who cleans the Prime Minister’s office and is still on just $14.60 an hour, after 19 years of cleaning at Parliament?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the ways that I outlined—to ensure that her children or grandchildren actually get the social mobility that a public education system promises them, and I hope that the Labour Party does not agree with the teacher unions that her grandchildren cannot learn because they are poor and schools cannot do anything about it. But I understand that that is the Labour Party
position—that if you are the grandchild of the cleaner of the Prime Minister’s office, then you probably cannot achieve, because it is the family’s fault and not the schools’ fault.
Criminal Justice System—Improvements
9. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Justice: How is the Government improving its justice and other services to local communities?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): I have recently launched the Hutt Valley mobile community office. This is an initiative by 13 front-line service providers in the Hutt Valley area. Some months earlier the justice sector began a discussion about improving front-line community services. That discussion resulted in this specially fitted out mobile van, which will deliver a range of justice, health, and social services, including victim support, neighbourhood support, health immunisations, Plunket, Work and Income services, ACC services, budget advice, and probation services. The police, health, corrections, and local bodies will all be providing staff to the mobile office, which will operate throughout the Hutt Valley, including Wainuiōmata. They may even have some anger management courses available.
Paul Foster-Bell: How does the mobile community office contribute to the Government’s Better Public Services?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yet another excellent question. The whole justice sector, including the police, corrections, and the courts, is focused on driving initiatives that make a real difference for New Zealanders. The Hutt Valley mobile community office is a first for New Zealand because it delivers a range of public services from different agencies through a single community office. The justice sector is delivering on its Better Public Services targets of reducing crime, reducing reoffending, and reducing youth crime. Bringing services into local neighbourhoods delivers on these promises to keep our community safe.
Christchurch City Council—Processing of Resource Consents
10. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister for Canterbury
Earthquake Recovery: When was he first made aware of the September IANZ report which warned the Christchurch City Council that “Continued accreditation beyond May 2013 will depend on a satisfactory outcome of that assessment” and was he advised by CERA or a Ministerial colleague?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): I was advised on 7 June that International Accreditation New Zealand had had concerns about the Christchurch City Council consenting process from as far back as 2007. At that point I decided that this situation was intolerable and we have been taking action since that time. We will have further discussions with the city council tomorrow because this situation cannot continue.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: How did the Minister not know about the assessment report that was prepared by International Accreditation New Zealand back in September, given to the council in October, and copied to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment the same month; were they not monitoring that process, and did the Minister not bring it to the Cabinet committee?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I certainly knew that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had been working with the Christchurch City Council for a very long period of time, and I have on numerous occasions expressed to the city council concerns about its consenting processes. But I would note that the Christchurch City Council has at all times been responsible for its own consenting. There has been quite a bit of public concern about the degree to which the Government was getting involved in council activities; most of that was expressed by the member asking these questions.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is the Minister telling the House that he was not aware that the September International Accreditation New Zealand review identified building consents that did not meet the requirements of the code and/or the Act, these having the potential to cause damage to the property,
other adjoining property, or injury to people; if so, how on earth is this the coordination role that we are expecting from the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: If I were to know that level of detail from inside the council, then the allegations made by the member that we have been overly meddling in council affairs might be reasonable. The reality is that it is now exposed, we are very unhappy with it, and we are doing something about it.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is the Minister telling the House that there was nobody within the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority tasked to go next door to the council building to see how it was getting on with accreditation, when it was given 17 corrective action requests in September, reported to it in October, and obviously was not met, because now we have the situation with the Christchurch City Council losing its accreditation next Monday?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Firstly, I have already said that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was working with the council for quite a time on its issues. But I would also point out to the member that she wrote a letter to the Prime Minister on 4 December, lamenting, in her words, the loss of democracy in Christchurch, referring to the dictatorial and disempowering nature of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s involvement in Christchurch, and now she comes into the House and says “Although we were criticising the department for being involved, we actually think they should have been more involved.” Well, I am grateful to the member that we have at least one mayoral candidate in the Christchurch election who wants the Government to get more involved with the council. We will certainly take that invitation up should the unlikely event of her winning occur.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I wish to table the three International Accreditation New Zealand reports— the one from 24-28 September 2012, the one from Monday, 27 May 2013, and the most recent one, which is dated 1 July 2013.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those three International Accreditation New Zealand reports. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I seek leave to table the open letter to the Prime Minister sent by the Hon Lianne Dalziel, quoting even the Chief Human Rights Commissioner, lamenting—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought—[Interruption] That is enough information. Leave is sought to table the open letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It will also be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Television, Switch-over to Digital—Progress
11. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What progress has been made on the regional rollout of the digital switchover for New Zealand television viewers?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Broadcasting): At the end of April the remaining areas of the South Island had successfully made the switch to digital television. Recent research shows that at the end of April 99 percent of South Island homes had switched over to digital. I would like to congratulate the South Island households on a very smooth transition to digital TV. That is a significant milestone in a project, with fewer than 6 months to go until the remainder of New Zealand is entirely digital. We are looking to the North Island to make the move to digital TV just as successfully. Many households have gone digital and are enjoying more channels, more choice, and better-quality pictures and services. Going digital will free up the radio spectrum for the next generation of mobile phone and data services, benefiting New Zealand families and supporting our continued economic growth.
Jonathan Young: Which is the next region to go digital?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: The lower North Island, including Taranaki, and the East Coast will go digital on 29 September. We recently marked 100 days until these areas make the switch to go digital. To keep watching TV, households need to go digital by getting FreeView, Sky, Igloo, or Vodafone cable TV in Wellington. I must remind listeners that they do not need a TV to go digital. Practically any TV can go digital with the right equipment.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Of course you need a TV to go digital.
Hon CRAIG FOSS: People wanting to find out what they need to do to go digital—including members opposite—can go to www.goingdigital.co.nz or call 0800 838 800.
12. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Will he implement the recommendations to protect Maui’s dolphins contained in the report of this year’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission Scientific Committee; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): The Government will certainly be giving careful consideration to the committee’s advice, released over the weekend, as part of our review of the threat management plan for Māui’s dolphin. In respect of the member’s “why”, I note four points about the committee’s report. Firstly, the committee commends the Government on its interim measures to protect Māui’s dolphin. Secondly, it acknowledges a mistake in last year’s report, which is not a criticism, but notes that it is not foolproof. Thirdly, it has dropped last year’s advice that the gill-net and trawl fisheries ban extend offshore to the 100-metre depth contour—a provision the member was insisting last month that we implement. And, fourthly, I note this is the committee’s recommendation to the International Whaling Commission, which has not yet considered or adopted the report.
Gareth Hughes: If so, then will he implement the International Whaling Commission recommendation for “full closure of any fisheries within the range of Māui’s dolphins that are known to pose a risk of bycatch”; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The key issue is about defining where that habitat is. At the moment we have an area of many thousands of square kilometres included in the trawl ban and also included in the set-net ban. The question is how wide out that should be. We do not want to be in the business of either banning trawling or set-netting where the Māui’s dolphin is not, but we are also determined to make sure that we do all practical steps to ensure the survival of this pretty special species.
Gareth Hughes: Given that both trawl nets and set nets can kill a Māui’s dolphin, why is the Minister currently allowing lethal trawling in areas where set nets are already prohibited to protect Māui’s dolphins?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, by nature, fishing is somewhat lethal; it catches fish. The question is that—
Gareth Hughes: 55 left; 55 left.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, let us be clear about the numbers over the period of the last decade. Last year there was one dolphin caught. The Government immediately responded by banning set-netting in that area and extending the role of observers. Sometimes I wonder whether the only way to satisfy the Green Party would be to shut down the entire fishing industry.
Gareth Hughes: It is a clear question. Will the Minister prohibit trawling in areas where set nets are currently prohibited to protect the last 55 Māui’s dolphins?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Currently, we have prohibited set-net fishing in an area of 6,000 square kilometres—that is, 100 square kilometres per dolphin. In respect of the trawl ban, we have banned trawling in 1,700 square kilometres for 55 dolphins. So a huge area has been set aside for the very reason that we want to ensure the survival of this species.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a simple question: will he ban trawling in the areas where he has banned—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has very adequately addressed the question.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Will the Minister be promoting a precautionary approach in the areas where Māui’s dolphins have been found, rather than continuing the debate about whether they are found in those areas, given that there are currently only 55 adult Māui’s dolphins left, which is predicted to go to 10 within our lifetimes, or will he put his name alongside the extinction of that species?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is very easy to say precautionary; the question is how precautionary, because, if you want to be absolutely precautionary about protection of the Māui’s dolphin, then you would ban fishing around New Zealand’s entire coast. That would be impractical. What I do say to the member is that this Government will take all practical steps to ensure the survival of the Māui’s dolphin, but we are not going to ban fishing in areas where it is highly unlikely that there will be a Māui’s dolphin.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
2013-14 Estimates Review for Vote Social Development—Written Responses to Pre-hearing
1. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: On which date and time, if any, did he receive the Minister for Social Development’s written responses to the pre-hearing questions for the 2013/14 Estimates review for Vote Social Development?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. As yet, the responses to pre-hearing questions for Vote Social Development have not been received by the Social Services Committee. However, I am advised by the clerk that the responses will be provided this afternoon.
Jacinda Ardern: On what date were the written responses to the pre-hearing questions for the 2013-14 estimates for Vote Social Development due, and what explanation has he received as chair of the select committee for the delay?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: The request was sent out on 30 May. The responses were expected by Tuesday, 4 June, given the hearing was scheduled for 5 June, and in the interim period there was Queen’s Birthday on the Monday. The ministry has advised the clerk that the Minister’s office has asked to inform that the answers will be provided in one lot in due course.
2013-14 Estimates Review for Vote Social Development—Date of Minister’s Appearance
before Social Services Committee
2. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: On what date did the Minister for Social Development appear before the committee to answer questions regarding the 2013/14 Estimates review for Vote Social Development?
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): The Minister appeared on 11 June 2013.
Jacinda Ardern: Given the significant delay between the Minister’s appearance and the completion of what were meant to be pre-hearing questions, has the chair approached the Minister or her staff about the potential for having her reappear before the committee, as Minister Parata offered to do?
Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: No, I have not, and that is not my role as chair of the committee.
2013/14 Estimates Review for Vote Education—Further Appearance of Minister of Education
3. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Chairperson of the Education and
Science Committee: Did he consider inviting the Minister to appear again to answer questions around responses to questions on the 2013/14 Estimates for Vote Education, if so, did he receive any advice about the Minister’s willingness to appear again?
Dr CAM CALDER (Chairperson of the Education and Science Committee): Kia ora te Kaihautū. No. The chairman is a servant of the committee. Following her lengthy appearance and her comprehensive answers to the wide variety of questions posed by members, the committee resolved not to ask her to return.
Dr Megan Woods: Has he received any briefings or advice as to whether the Minister of Education, her staff, or her officials contacted her Government colleagues on the committee to discuss her willingness—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Megan Woods: —to return—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That question is not in order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you explain why the chairman of the committee receiving advice from the clerk of the committee is out of order to be the subject of questions in this House?
Mr SPEAKER: Because I did not understand the question to be from the clerk of the committee. I understood it to be whether the member Cam Calder had been talking to the Minister’s office and staff.
Chris Hipkins: It asked about advice.
Mr SPEAKER: Let us be clear. We will have the question read again, but it better be in order this time.
Dr Megan Woods: OK. Has he received any briefings or advice as to whether the Minister of Education, her staff, or her officials contacted her Government colleagues on the committee to discuss her willingness or otherwise to return to the committee at a later date to answer questions around the responses to the 2013-14 estimates review for Vote Education questions received by the committee; if so, from whom and what was the nature of those briefings or advice?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. That question is not in order. The chairperson, as the chairperson of the committee, is not responsible for the actions of the Minister. The question must relate to a matter that the member, as the chair, is responsible for. I refer the member to Speakers’ ruling 175/7.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Repeatedly in this House Ministers are asked about reports they have received or advice they have received. This question was very clearly and very carefully drafted to include advice that that member, as chairman, could have received from the clerk of the committee. If the member receives advice from the clerk of the committee that is about a matter that the clerk should not be advising on, that does not exclude it from examination in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: I have ruled on the matter. If the member wants that particular question, the member should frame it in such way that it is a question to the Minister.