Questions and Answers - July 30
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement that “first home buyers are a priority for the Government”; if so, what is he doing to help Kiwis get into their first home?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes; the Government is doing a number of things. Firstly, the Government has reached an accord with Auckland, which will ensure that 39,000 new homes will be built over the next 3 years. The Government is undertaking reform of the Resource Management Act, which will allow streamlining of the process. The Government has been working on reforming the building and construction industry. Interestingly enough, the Government has managed to keep interest rates low through its fine economic management. If we go back and look at the time when the affordability index reached its highest point—where it is the least affordable—it was, funnily enough, in 2007, when it reached 107.3 percent. What we will not be doing is dreaming up some sort of policy on the seat of our pants—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister is not responsible for that matter.
David Shearer: If first-home buyers are a priority for this Government, will he exempt them from the loan-to-value ratios?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I think it is important to understand that if loan-to-value ratios are implemented, or there are restrictions on them, that is a matter for the Reserve Bank, and it has the independent authority to do so. But I think it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.
David Shearer: Why is he allowing offshore speculators to buy houses ahead of Kiwi families?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not allowing that, and I think it is worthy of noting that the rules have not changed, last time I looked, and any time soon. Between 1999—December, to be precise—and November 2008, I note that the national median sale price rose from $169,000 to $340,000—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a question that was asked. The member deserves an answer, and he cannot possibly hear it with the level of barracking that is coming from my left-hand side.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: So if we look at that price increase, it was 100 percent. From the time that the National Government has been in office it has risen—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a point of order from Mr Shearer.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer is nowhere near the question that I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion it is, and I invite the member to reconsider his question—why is the Prime Minister allowing offshore speculators to dominate the housing market, etc. It was a very political question that was asked, and the Prime Minister is giving a political response to it.
David Shearer: Is he aware that property companies are advertising Kiwi homes offshore, with sales pitches like: “Why New Zealand property? No capital gains tax, no transfer duty, few barriers to purchasing, so what are you waiting for?”; if so, why will not he put Kiwi home buyers ahead of offshore speculators?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, as I have said, actually the rules have not changed. They are the very same rules that were in place when Labour was in office. But, interestingly enough, I noted from downtown Seoul the policy suggestions of Mr Shearer. If that is the case, that offshore buyers are in fact the people who are driving the process, interestingly enough the architect of that policy we all know is not the Labour Party caucus, but Tony Alexander of the BNZ, and this is what Tony Alexander says about the very problem that the member is saying is a problem: “Here is a growing visceral perception that Chinese buyers are snapping up NZ houses, leaving them empty, pushing up prices, and making homeownership more difficult for Kiwis. The data”—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Point of order, the Hon Annette King.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have two points. First of all, answers are supposed to be to the point and succinct and, secondly, when you get to your feet the Prime Minister is supposed to stop speaking. Twice he has carried on speaking, and I am waiting for you to rule on that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister was giving an answer. He was addressing it, looking away from me, and I do not think for any minute he deliberately carried on. I called him to order and he sat down, as I would expect any member to do when a point of order is called. I invite the Labour members to consider the tone of the question that was asked. It was a political question that was asked, and it is likely to get a political answer back.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Since when did the New Zealand Parliament begin a convention that politicians cannot ask political questions? I mean, it is so nonsensical as to make this House look ridiculous. I would rather that you did that by yourself, not us.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can only assume the honourable member misheard me. I was saying that it was indeed a political question that was asked, and when asking a political question it is likely to get a political response.
Louise Upston: Has he seen any recent reports with alternative suggestions on housing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I have. I have seen the suggestion by the Labour Party that people offshore should not be able to buy houses, even if they are coming to New Zealand to work. But, interestingly enough, the architect of that policy, Mr Tony Alexander, said this: “Because I believe foreigners are not the driving force behind prices rising strongly I do not believe such rules would have much impact on prices—especially as no-one is able to provide data showing the Asian buyers they see at auctions are foreigners rather than Kiwis.” Shamubeel Eaqub—he went into slightly more colourful language—said that Labour Party policy was a “solution in search of a problem”.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister is not responsible for Labour Party policy.
David Shearer: If he stands by his statement that “The big thing that will get us through is supply.” and more homes need to be built, then how many new, affordable—affordable—homes will be built by this Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government does not build those houses, with the exception of when they are built for Housing New Zealand. But I have no doubt that as part of the 39,000 homes, a considerable number will be affordable. But this is what is interesting. The Labour Party’s old policy was theoretically to build 300,000 homes, and now—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a well and truly answered question.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion, I agree with David Shearer. Has the member got further supplementary questions?
Government Communications Security Bureau, Review of Compliance—Investigation into
Leak and Ministerial Involvement
2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Did his Chief of Staff, Wayne Eagleson, advise Parliamentary Service that United Future Leader Hon Peter Dunne had agreed to cooperate with the Henry inquiry and had consented to releasing his electronic phone logs; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I am advised that the answer is no.
Dr Russel Norman: Why, then, did the Speaker advise me in an answer to a written question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no ministerial responsibility for any answer given by the Speaker of this Parliament.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question is not about your answer; it is about the David Henry inquiry and Wayne Eagleson.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept that. Word it in such a way that the Speaker is not brought into the debate.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister aware that his chief of staff wrote an email to Parliamentary Service authorising the release of email data, amongst other data, from Peter Dunne; if so, what did authority did his chief of staff have to authorise such a release?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not actually seen the email, but I will accept the member’s word that my chief of staff did that. The authority was the one that was set up when I set up the terms of the inquiry, which all Ministers and support staff of the Government would have seen. The terms of the inquiry were quite clear that phone logs and records would be accessed—as, actually, I am sure that member of Parliament would expect of me when we set up an inquiry; that we actually get to the bottom of the issues. If we do not do that, in fact that member is the first person to claim it is a whitewash.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr Dunne was in receipt of the report as the leader of the United Future party, not as a Minister, and that the email logs concerned were for his parliamentary email account, not his ministerial email account?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am aware that he was in receipt of the report, and I think it was quite clear that anybody who was in receipt of the report would be subject to the terms set up by the inquiry. I will make the point that no particular person—no one, indeed, at all—ever came to me and argued that the terms of reference were incorrectly set.
Dr Russel Norman: Was he aware that his chief of staff was in contact with Parliamentary Service in order to, let us say, pressure Parliamentary Service to release the information about Mr Dunne?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the premise of that question is quite incorrect. The terms and conditions of the inquiry were set out. They were very clear, and anyone in receipt of that information would need to release that information that was released.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether the Prime Minister was aware of it.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well—
Mr SPEAKER: Do you want to say that you are speaking to the point of order?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am happy to give an answer. I feel as if I can give an answer to it.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the Prime Minister please elaborate on his answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot say that I was absolutely aware, but the chief of staff acts on my instructions. It would be my expectation that he would have done that.
Dr Russel Norman: So—just for the purpose of clarity—was the Prime Minister aware that his chief of staff was in contact with Parliamentary Service in order to facilitate the release of Peter Dunne’s parliamentary email log?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would have to check, but to the best of my knowledge, no, I was not absolutely aware that he was doing that. But I was aware that I had set up the terms of the inquiry. It would be my expectation that, in carrying out those terms of inquiry as established by me, my chief of staff would have facilitated that taking place.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Prime Minister tell us whether his chief of staff was aware that the Henry inquiry was accessing information about a journalist?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that information with me, but I think it is important to understand that, as has been corrected today, in fact, by the Speaker on behalf of Parliamentary Service, the Henry inquiry did not ask for that information; that information was incorrectly sent by Parliamentary Service. In my view, they got it wrong. That was recognised by the Henry inquiry, and that information was never accessed.
Dr Russel Norman: Was his chief of staff aware that the Henry inquiry was accessing a journalist’s building movement records?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that information with me.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister entirely comfortable that his chief of staff was effectively leaning on Parliamentary Service to release information—what we are aware of is information about Peter Dunne, but potentially also information about a journalist’s movements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I completely reject the premise of the question.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, does the Prime Minister stand by his answer to written question No. 8179, when he was asked whether his office had directly asked Parliamentary Service for the metadata about Peter Dunne’s emails and he responded “My office directly asked Parliamentary Services …”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I stand by it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister saying that there is precedent, such as when a Privileges Committee in 2008 demanded of a member of Parliament his full telephone records, which were happily given over, and that demand was made by five political parties, including United Future, which all of a sudden now finds this information totally sacrosanct?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, there potentially is precedent. What I am saying quite clearly is that I do not believe that the release of information about a journalist or their records is appropriate. I do not believe it was part of the terms of the inquiry. In fact, that was backed up by the fact that the information, when it was inadvertently given by Parliamentary Service, was actually never opened, and rejected.
3. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on business confidence and intentions among companies to invest and hire more staff?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Last week the New Zealand Herald published its annual survey of New Zealand chief executives. The overwhelming majority of chief executives said they see New Zealand going forward in the next few years. In particular, they are more confident about employing more staff in the next 12 months, and more confident about investing in capital and information technology. In all, 88 percent of the group were optimistic about their businesses, 79 percent expect to make more revenue, and 72 percent expect to be more profitable. This is an encouraging result, and underlines the importance of the Government focusing its economic policy on encouraging businesses to invest and employ, because that is how the economy grows.
Jami-Lee Ross: How did the “Mood of the Boardroom” survey rate the Government’s economic programme, particularly its priorities of building growth and returning to surplus?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The survey respondents were significantly positive about the Government’s economic policy. They said it had been important to protect New Zealand’s households by maintaining fiscal discipline and helping keep interest rates low. Around threequarters said the Government was correctly focused on achieving a surplus, and that this would be achieved in 2014-15. Overall, the chief executive officers felt supported by policy that assisted them to make the decisions to invest and employ, but these decisions are made by the businesses, not by the Government.
Jami-Lee Ross: What did company chief executives say about the role of capital markets in helping to build a more competitive economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is has been a complaint of businesses in New Zealand for some time that it has been difficult to access capital. It was encouraging to see in this survey that the level of concern about the ability of businesses to raise capital, either through debt or equity, was surprisingly low. As the New Zealand Herald noted, this suggests that several years of low interest rates and a resurgent sharemarket may be providing the ignition the economy needs for more jobs and higher incomes. There was strong support for the Government’s share offer programme because of a view that the Government partially selling some of its assets into the stock market was encouraging other businesses to come to the stock market and raise tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars that allowed them to invest in their businesses and employ more people.
Jami-Lee Ross: What did the “Mood of the Boardroom” survey conclude about alternative approaches to economic benefits?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The survey provided some reasonably clear conclusions. In fact, it was particularly decisive on this matter, even by the standards of any poll or survey. Asked if a certain alternative had been sufficiently credible to challenge the Government, not one of the 120 chief executives thought so. One said that Mr David Shearer was a major political asset for the Government, and 95 percent said he was not a credible leader.
Hon David Parker: Can he confirm that under his Budget the “upside scenario is based on higher prices for existing and new houses, along with an associated increase in complementary household spending.”, and that “In this scenario, households resume housing equity withdrawal to finance consumption,”; and why does he think business confidence built on imbalances in the economy is good news?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I cannot confirm exactly what the member has said. However, I will say this: they used to be very grumpy because they said there was no growth. Now that there is growth in investment, growth in jobs, and higher levels of confidence, it is the wrong sort of growth.
Housing, Affordable—Minister’s Statements
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “High house prices matter because many New Zealanders spend a large portion of their incomes on housing and that has helped fuel household debt and contribute to damaging imbalances in the economy”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, and that is why 3 years ago we initiated, as the first inquiry of the Productivity Commission, an inquiry into the issue of housing and housing supply in New Zealand, because we could see that there were significant problems created under the previous Labour Government when the housing cycle got out of control. As a result of the Productivity Commission’s extensive work with local councils, who are the people who make the key decisions in this area, the Government is responding with a comprehensive programme, including increasing land supply—and we look forward to the Labour Party support for our legislation to achieve this, over the next 6 or 8 weeks in this House—reducing the costs of Resource Management Act processes, improving the timely provision of infrastructure, and lifting productivity in the construction sector. The Government is getting on with the complex and
demanding job of improving housing supply, when that has not been considered a real issue for the last 20 years in New Zealand.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree that a capital gains tax targeting speculators in the property market will improve the affordability of owner-occupied housing; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, it probably would not make much difference. First, speculators do pay capital gains tax now—the member should look at the tax code—and the Inland Revenue Department is well funded to ensure that they do. At the moment it is getting back about $11 for every extra dollar that it is putting into compliance. Secondly, as the Productivity Commission pointed out, Australia has had a capital gains tax for quite some time—in fact, three different regimes, none of which appear to have had any impact on the housing cycle—and its housing is even less affordable than New Zealand’s.
Hon David Parker: Well, then, does he agree that building an additional 100,000 affordable homes over 10 years would increase supply and dampen the rampant double-digit house price inflation in Auckland that has been caused by his Government’s inaction?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member knows, the Government has set a target of 39,000 new houses to be built in New Zealand. The difference is that because these will be built by developers and the market, people will want to buy them. The 100,000 houses built by the Labour Party would make us look like the back end of Moscow.
Paul Goldsmith: What measures is the Government taking to make housing more affordable and, particularly, to prevent the economic imbalances caused by fast-rising house prices in the mid- 2000s?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We learnt from a number of the measures that the previous Labour Government actually tried to bring in at a time when it was facing rampant house price increases. Most of its measures, though, turned out to be ineffective, and that is why we are focusing strongly on increasing the supply of housing to the market. We agree with the Productivity Commission, which said we need to address the underlying driver, which is housing supply. In the Budget we confirmed a housing accord with the Auckland Council. We have introduced and we are in the process of passing legislation that will enable councils to make decisions much more quickly, and enable more houses to come into the market in special housing areas. If councils cannot meet the agreed targets, the Government retains the ability to issue the consents to build new houses, so that we get enough for all New Zealanders, to make houses more affordable.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree that reducing demand by restricting the purchase of secondhand houses to New Zealand citizens and residents would increase the affordability of housing for New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, we do not. We actually think it is much more important that we spend time getting consents for new houses through the Resource Management Act than spending time checking the passports of the 40 percent of Aucklanders who were born overseas.
Paul Goldsmith: What reports has he received confirming political support for the use of macroprudential tools such as loan-to-value ratio restrictions on bank lending for housing?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen two reports. One was published just before the 2000 election and reads—
Hon Members: 2000?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: —the 2011 election: “Reduce pressure on the exchange rate and the export sector by empowering the Reserve Bank with more tools to manage monetary and prudential policy beside the official cash rate. This would include, among other things, loan-to-value ratios.” The second report says: “We do support loan-to-value ratios. We have been calling for them for ages.” The first report is from the Greens’ election manifesto and the second is from Labour’s housing spokesman, Phil Twyford. At the time, they did not make a lot of mention of first-home buyers. In fact, they characterised the Government’s questioning of macro-prudential tools as “oldfashioned and out of touch”. In fact, they arrived at loan-to-value ratios before we did.
Hon David Parker: Given that he seems to be denying basic economic supply and demand theory, does he disagree also with the Australian real estate agent on One News last night who said that if Australia removed its foreign-buyer restrictions, house prices in Australia would go up?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Australian real estate agent probably should have been asked to explain why in the Australian market, with capital gains tax and whatever restrictions he is referring to, their houses are more expensive and less affordable than in New Zealand—and that is even with the advantage of much lower construction costs. We are focusing on the single biggest influence, which is getting a supply of houses to the market faster. It has turned out to be a difficult task, a complex one, but one on which our main city councils are now cooperating with the Government. We will put legislation through this House in the next 6 or 8 weeks to enable more New Zealanders to buy houses sooner at lower prices.
Tertiary Education—South Auckland Initiatives
5. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and
Employment: What steps is the Government taking to raise achievement and participation in tertiary education by students in South Auckland?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): During the adjournment I announced that the Tertiary Education Commission will support the Auckland University of Technology’s planned expansion of its Manukau campus with a total investment of around $90 million. The expansion will see the number of equivalent full-time students at Auckland University of Technology’s Manukau campus increase from the current 940 equivalent full-time students to 4,100 equivalent full-time students by 2020. South Auckland is home to one of New Zealand’s fastest growing and most youthful populations, with 40 percent of its residents under the age of 25. The quadrupling of full-time places at Manukau is a very significant milestone in the work that the Government is undertaking to make tertiary education more accessible to this fastgrowing, aspirational group.
Dr Cam Calder: What is the demand for tertiary education in the region?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In 2011 there were 13,000 students from Manukau enrolled at universities across New Zealand. That number is expected to reach 18,000 by 2021. That is why it is important that we make the investment in expansion in the region now. The current Auckland University of Technology campus in Manukau has been successful in raising aspirations and improving participation for our priority students. Nearly two-thirds of current students are from decile 1 to 3 schools; 62 percent of students are Māori or Pasifika. This expansion will increase the opportunities available for those priority students.
Dr Cam Calder: What will the expansion allow Auckland University of Technology to provide in the region?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The expansion of the Manukau campus will allow Auckland University of Technology to develop a more comprehensive university presence in South Auckland, delivering more degree-level programmes and of a wider range than is currently available. Students will eventually no longer have to travel out of Manukau into Auckland City to complete their degrees. Auckland University of Technology will also be able to develop postgraduate programmes and research infrastructure in South Auckland. Finally, the expansion will also see 300 new teaching jobs created, along with 200 support positions, including administration, technician, and management roles.
6. 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: Does he stand by his statement: “I don’t think foreigners buying the odd house in New Zealand is what’s driving the escalation of prices.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he think it fair that New Zealanders struggling to buy their first home have to compete with overseas buyers—
Hon Steven Joyce: They don’t; that’s just you making it up, Winston.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —financed by State-owned banks, with interest rates five times—no, my name is not Joyce.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You, Mr Joyce, make it up; I do not.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, can you tell “Big Ears” to keep quiet.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is a very good example of disorder that is possible because of interjections while the member is asking his question. Would the member please start his question again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he think it fair that New Zealanders struggling to buy their first home have to compete with overseas buyers financed by State-owned banks, with interest rates five times lower than the New Zealand buyer has to pay?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, firstly, I am pleased the member has raised the topic of interest rates, because under a National-led Government a family with a $300,000 mortgage in New Zealand is saving about $230 a week, as a result of the good economic management of this Government. Secondly, if we do want to inject just a few facts into this issue, house prices have risen from November 2008 to June 2013, in terms of the national median sale price—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The critical part of the question is the issue of fairness based on the disparity of interest rates.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is the issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot raise a legitimate point of order saying that the pertinent part or the critical part of the question is whatever. The member asked the question. The Prime Minister has the opportunity to answer the question. At this stage I think he has addressed—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, my subtle point is that he is not answering it.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, on this occasion I do not agree with the member. I think the Prime Minister—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: And why am I not surprised?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the Prime Minister is in the process of addressing the question as it was asked by the member.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: So to continue, the second point is that median house prices have risen under a National-led Government in that period of time, 2008 to 2013, by 12 percent, and by a Labour Government in its time in office by over 100 percent. But if the member wants to ask specifically about interest rates, actually a New Zealander could borrow money on the international market and enjoy those cheap interest rates. For instance, David Shearer could take the money—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a point of order from the right honourable member, and it will be heard in—[Interruption] Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My point of order was that he was asked a question on the issue of fairness as it relates to the disparity of overseas buyers who can access State banks and funds at less than 1 percent interest, as opposed to a New Zealand buyer paying a minimum 5 to 6 percent interest. I asked a question about whether he agreed it was fair or not. He made no attempt to answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am sorry, but I do not agree with the member. It was a very long-winded answer, and the final point that the Prime Minister raised was that there is the ability for a New Zealand borrower to equally borrow from a foreign bank at those rates if they so choose.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the final point he raised was the access to a member of Parliament’s private bank account. That is the final point he raised. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That was an unnecessary part of the answer. As soon as the Prime Minister attempted to address that, I stood and asked the Prime Minister to cease. Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, well of course I do.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! Supplementary question, Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: As frustrating as it is in this place. Why does his Government allow foreigners to buy houses here when New Zealanders are not allowed to buy houses in those countries from which those foreigners are coming?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In many jurisdictions around the world, of course, New Zealanders are entitled to buy houses. But just to put a bit of reality into this, let us quote someone who might know what they are talking about in this area, and that is Shamubeel Eaqub, who said: “House prices for the past 15 years have trended up relative to incomes and rents for that entire period. To suggest that’s because of foreign interest in the property market seems ludicrous.” He said that it reeks of poor policy making, and it reeks of xenophobia. It is the—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Again my point is that I am asking the Prime Minister why it is fair to allow foreigners to buy here when the country from which those foreigners come denies New Zealanders the chance to buy a house there. It is a pretty simple question.
Mr SPEAKER: And the Prime Minister answered that—and the member can go back and look at the transcript—by saying that he does not agree with the way the member has phrased the question. New Zealanders are able to buy in some markets overseas.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a letter written by a New Zealander dated 24 June, name taken off for obvious reasons, explaining why it is so unfair and one-sided that he cannot buy a house in China and they can buy a house in New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection to it being tabled? Yes, there is.
Water Quality—Suitability for Swimming Report
7. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: What percentage of sites identified as a river in the Suitability for Swimming indicator report released yesterday were categorised as “Very Good” or “Good” and therefore were safe for swimming?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): I do not accept the member’s assertion that only rivers classified as very good or good are safe for swimming. The report takes a precautionary approach to any potential health risks, and the report shows that most sites are safe for swimming most of the time, with fair and poor sites also suitable at most times that people will be using them. However, to respond to the member’s question, of the sites monitored and specifically identified as a river, 19 percent are rated as very good or good. Across all sites measured, 47 percent are classified as good or very good. It should be noted that the specific monitoring sites are not a representative sample. They tend to be sites that councils manage because there is a known risk, so affected sites are likely to be overrepresented.
Eugenie Sage: When 61 percent of monitored sites on New Zealand rivers are unsafe for swimming, and nitrate concentrations at a quarter of the river sites have increased over the 10 years
from 2000 to 2010, how can the Minister conclude that “water quality is generally improving.”, as she did yesterday?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Very simply, because the two reports that the member has referred to— Suitability for Swimming and the river condition report—show that in the vast majority of rivers the sites are either stable or improving against all the nutrients we manage. Ninety percent of those rivers are stable or improving for four of the five measures recorded. For nitrates, there are 25 percent that are deteriorating, but there is also a number that are significantly improving. I think the relevant points are that for the E. coli measure 92 percent of our rivers are stable or improving, and that for the nitrate level 99 percent of our rivers are below the nitrate level at which significant ecological impact could be expected. Our water quality is very good, but we need to do better still.
Eugenie Sage: When her Government’s National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management gives councils until December 2030 to establish contaminant limits in waterways and few councils have done so, does she accept that New Zealanders are watching the rivers that they want to swim in get worse rather than better?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I think the relevant point there is that this is a Government that has actually introduced a national policy statement on fresh water, for the first time requiring councils to ensure that all water bodies are maintained or improved, something the Labour Government, backed up by the Greens, failed to do in 9 years, and something that that member in her previous profession failed to do in Canterbury for many more years. This is a Government that has spent five times what the previous Government did in cleaning up waterways. This is a Government that has launched a programme of water reform, which will be absolutely transformative in this country. I think members on the Opposition benches should be ashamed of their record in this area.
Eugenie Sage: Is the Minister saying that New Zealanders just have to accept that in over 40 percent of the monitored river sites—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am having trouble hearing the question. Would the member please start again.
Eugenie Sage: Is the Minister saying that New Zealanders just have to accept that in 40 percent of the monitored river sites there is E. coli, which is an indicator of animal faeces, and that it is at levels that her own ministry describes as having a significant risk of causing high levels of minor illness? Is the Minister saying we just have to accept that?
Hon AMY ADAMS: No. What I am saying is that the figures show that 92 percent of our rivers have stable or improving E. coli numbers, which I think is a very good thing. Yes, we do absolutely want to continue to target the remaining 8 percent, but I would draw the member’s attention to the part of the report on page 4 that makes the point that rivers and streams in, or downstream of, urban areas are those that have the highest concentrations of nutrients and bacteria, and the lowest macroinvertebrate health. Those members may wish to remember that when they continue their attack on New Zealand’s biggest industries.
Children’s Action Plan—Children’s Teams
8. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements has she made about the first Children’s Teams, part of the Government’s Children’s Action Plan?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yesterday, the Rotorua Children’s Team began working with children and families for the first time. It is taking children who are just below the threshold for Child, Youth and Family, and, as we have seen just far too often, we have a number of agencies that hold small pieces of the puzzle but have not actually brought them together for the real outcomes that these children need. They are an essential part of our Children’s Action Plan, working with vulnerable children and their families to ensure that children are safe from abuse.
Louise Upston: How will the Rotorua Children’s Team ensure that agencies are engaged and involved in protecting children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, because it has designed it. It has been designed locally by Rotorua people for their own children. It is grassroots and it is made up of Rotorua-based senior professionals representing health, education, welfare, and NGO social services. It is starting very small, with just a small number of children, and will build up over time as it builds its capacity, but it is already making a difference.
Louise Upston: What plans are there for further roll-out of the Children’s Teams?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Rotorua and Whangarei are the first demonstration sites. As I have just said, Rotorua has started; Whangarei starts in October. Further Children’s Teams are going to be rolled out pretty quickly after that, particularly because we will then have a template to go by.
Teacher Competence—Minister of Finance’s Statements
9. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with the Minister of Finance that “The Government is focusing on ensuring that every teacher put in front of our children is competent”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, because teachers are the most powerful in-school influence on learning.
Chris Hipkins: Will those teaching in charter schools be required to have an appropriate teaching qualification; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I assume that the member is referring to partnership schools and kura hourua. We are still going through the process of confirming them and they will have the ability to propose that a percentage of their staff are not registered teachers, but being unregistered is not the same as being unqualified.
Chris Hipkins: What will be the minimum qualification requirement for those teaching in charter schools?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I said, we have not yet completed the process for selecting partnership schools kura hourua and what the ultimate outcome will be is that they will have a fixed-term, specified contract for delivering outcomes and that they will, therefore, employ people who have the competencies to deliver those outcomes.
Chris Hipkins: Given that her answer appears to be none, does she agree—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Would the member start the question again.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.
Chris Hipkins: I am happy to start my question again, but if you could indicate to me which part of the question you had a problem with, I would be happy to do so.
Mr SPEAKER: And that will create disorder, with a point of order like that. The member has been given the opportunity to ask a supplementary question. I would give him the advice that he should use it.
Chris Hipkins: Given that her answer appears to be none, does she—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member wants the opportunity to continue asking supplementary questions, would the member take that opportunity and simply ask the supplementary question.
Chris Hipkins: In question time, Ministers answer questions—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a point of order?
Chris Hipkins: A point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, it is now a point of order. Then it is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.
Chris Hipkins: In question time members ask questions, Ministers answer them, and members are then at liberty to ask supplementary questions based on the Ministers’ answers. Otherwise, what is the point?
Mr SPEAKER: I advise the member to go back and look at his question and to go back and look at the answer that was given. The member asked what would be the minimum qualifications, and the Minister effectively said that the criteria had not yet been established. She answered the question. [Interruption] Order! That does not mean none, at all. So the member—
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you indicating that in deciding which supplementary questions will be allowed, you are going to give an interpretation of a Minister’s answer that was not in their answer and then determine that a supplementary question is out of order?
Mr SPEAKER: No, what I am saying to the member—and I will give him one more chance—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has long been established that a question cannot contain an inference, and that is the offence that the member commits.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, speaking to that point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: There was no such inference made. There was a statement made by the Minister. The Minister made it clear that, to date, no requirements for qualifications had been made. None had been made. She indicated that it was possible, but none had been made, and my view is that you have inferred something that was not implied by the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is perfectly entitled to that interpretation of the answer. I did not interpret the answer in the way that the Hon Trevor Mallard has interpreted the answer; that can often happen. What I ask the member to do is to refer to Standing Order 377, which will explain to him that questions must be concise. They must not contain arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, ironical expressions, etc., and I ask the member to simply ask the supplementary question.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept absolutely that the Standing Order that you have quoted is right, but we have in this House now—and in this term of Parliament, particularly—moved to a position where members will regularly begin their questions with “Given that”. That is now common practice in the House, including by members of the Government. So are you indicating now that that practice is out of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Chris Hipkins: —because that would be a significant change—
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Chris Hipkins: —to what has become—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not doing that. I am inviting the member to continue with his line of questioning, but to adhere to the Standing Orders. If the member does not wish to do that, I will move immediately to question No. 10.
Chris Hipkins: Have any minimum qualification requirements for those teaching in charter schools been established? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to now ask the member to say that again because of the interjection. I had trouble hearing that question.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure that the Minister heard it.
Mr SPEAKER: I need to—
Hon Members: Oh!
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Chris Hipkins: It was her side that was interjecting.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need to hear the question so that I can determine whether it has been satisfactorily addressed for my satisfaction. I did not hear it. I am asking the member to ask it again.
Chris Hipkins: Have any qualification requirements for those teaching in charter schools been established?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes. It is a requirement of partnership schools kura hourua to propose, in addition to registered teachers, what other staffing they may have. But as yet the process is still under way and I cannot confirm what the final result will be.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are now in a difficult position where the Minister of Education’s answer in that one seems to contradict what she said before when she said it had not been established yet.
Mr SPEAKER: That is then a matter of debate. The member has further supplementary questions, I take it?
Chris Hipkins: Does she agree with Bill English’s further statement that parents want to see the teaching profession set the hurdles high enough so that they can assume their children will always get a competent effective teacher; if so, why is she intending to allow unqualified, unregistered teachers to teach in charter schools?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, I do agree with the Minister of Finance’s comments in that regard. Can I remind that member that in the 2,500 schools this country has we already have a provision for limited authorities to teach for people who do not hold a teaching qualification. May I further remind the member that in order for our young people to be successful in many of our vocational pathways, bricklayers, builders, baristas, and bakers do impart skills that make it possible for them to have a better choice at a future career pathway, and that that is in addition to the vast majority of registered teachers.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have listened to these questions very, very carefully. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The essence of the questions on which the member sought to ask further questions was: have any minimum standards been established? That is the essence of what was asked and we are still no wiser. Despite your rulings and points of order, we are now here on the critical issue of this subject—have any minimum standards been established—and the Minister has failed to answer. What is your interpretation of what she said?
Mr SPEAKER: I gave that earlier in a point of order, saying that I understood from a very early answer to this that the Minister is saying they are still working on the criteria.
Hon Hekia Parata: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In one of the answers I gave, I said there will be a requirement for registered teachers but a proportion may not be required to hold a registered teacher’s qualification. That means that a proportion will indeed hold minimum registered teacher qualifications.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure that is a helpful point of order either.
Chris Hipkins: What proportion of teachers will be required to hold a registered teaching qualification?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: A significant proportion. That has been clear in the legislation, considered by the Education and Science Committee, on which that member sat. It was made clear that sponsors would be able to propose a proportion that did not hold a registered teacher’s qualification.
Chris Hipkins: Does she agree with Bill English’s further statement that the core problem is that the teaching profession does not have clear standards for who can be a teacher, and that the vague standards it does have are not often implemented; if so, how does removing the requirement for teachers in charter schools to be registered at all address the problem?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am not sure whether that is an accurate quote or not of what the Minister of Finance said. What I do know is that we, as a Government, are focused on raising the quality of teaching. We have put significant money where our mouths are, unlike the Opposition members, while they were in administration, who sat around wringing their hands and then allowing a decline in the achievement of all students. This Government is not prepared to do that because we know that every New Zealand child deserves a better education and we are funding for that outcome.
Schools, Building Projects—Funding
10. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Associate Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made regarding school property?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Associate Minister of Education): I was pleased to recently announce a $10 million investment in new school buildings for 26 schools around New Zealand. This investment is part of a programme designed to ensure schools have facilities to match their growth. These schools will receive additional funding to help them extend libraries and build multi-purpose spaces. I have seen reports from some school principals that have described this additional funding as very exciting. I have seen another report from a principal who said it is like winning the lottery. Another principal has said that this is brilliant news. The additional funding for schools is another step towards the Government’s goal of providing more modern learning environments to increase learning opportunities and achievement for all students.
Mike Sabin: What additional funding has been provided for schools in Northland?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: That is an excellent question. Ōturu School in Kaitāia will be receiving an additional $569,000. This additional funding will enable Ōturu School to put funding towards a project that best suits its need. It could include a library extension or a new multi-purpose space. This funding announcement is another example of this Government supporting schools both small and large across New Zealand, and I am delighted with the feedback that I have received from principals across New Zealand.
11. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: When he said critics of the Government Communications Security Bureau bill are “misinformed”, is he saying that the Law Society, the Human Rights Commission, and the Privacy Commissioner are all misinformed by saying that the bill is rushed, intrusive, and inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In principle and in parts, yes. If I go to the Government Communications Security Bureau Act 2003, it states that the Government Communications Security Bureau can assist “any public authority or other entity, in New Zealand or abroad”. Further, it allows it to do that “on any matter that is relevant (a) to the functions of the public authority or other entity”. That is extremely wide. As the member knows, because he has heard the arguments, in fact actually the new legislation not only significantly increases the oversight, but also actually narrows the mandate that the Government Communications Security Bureau can operate within.
David Shearer: Will the bill govern the collection of metadata collected by the Government Communications Security Bureau?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. The metadata is treated the same as the content of communication in the bill, and there is no difference.
David Shearer: In the light of his answer, how will the collection of metadata of New Zealanders be regulated, and in particular will there be a requirement for either an interception warrant or an access authorisation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the last part of the question, yes.
David Shearer: Does he think there are adequate checks and balances of the Government Communications Security Bureau, given that as the Prime Minister he has the final say on the appointment of the head of the bureau, who reports solely to him, he chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, which has oversight, he sets that committee’s agenda and he has the casting vote on that, and he recommends the appointment of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security and the Commissioner of Security Warrants; and does he not think that is a little too much power in one person’s hands?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. I think the reality is that the oversight of the Government Communications Security Bureau is, as a result of the legislation, significantly improved and enhanced, and that includes everything from, basically, a three-person panel with two other people to assist with what is happening in terms of what the inspector-general does. It also includes registration annually of the amount of information that is collected by those agencies—and transparently. It includes changes to the Intelligence and Security Committee, so that the inspectorgeneral comes along once a year—and obviously others—and the committee can do its work. It includes a review starting in 2015, and a review every 5 to 7 years. What I have seen is members like Phil Goff going on about them not—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No, I think the question has been adequately addressed.
David Shearer: Why did he, as chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, oppose the opportunity for us to hear from the New Zealand Defence Force, the SIS, and the police about why they needed Government Communications Security Bureau assistance, rather than allowing them to give evidence before us?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, any of those organisations were free to put in a submission. We did not stop them doing that. Secondly, I would have thought it is inherent in the legislation. The very purpose of the legislation is to re-implement the 2003 Act that Labour passed that allows assistance to those agencies, except we are doing it up front, in a way where it is transparent, with much better oversight. I go back to the point I was about to make before. There are many people on the other side who used all of this information. They were more than happy when it was in a much broader framework, but now they do not want it. I find myself looking at, I think, the only Leader of the Opposition around the world who does not think their citizens should have decent security and decent rights.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is raising a point of order?
David Shearer: Yes, Mr Speaker. That last comment was out of line. We are here today to ask questions of that Government about the behaviour and the actions of a future Government Communications Security Bureau, which people have lost confidence in. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has a perfect right to raise a point of order. On this occasion I do not agree with the member. I do not believe the answer given to the question that was raised was out of order at all.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It must have been obvious to the Speaker that throughout that point of order we had a barrage of interjection from the Government, which the Speaker did not address. I am asking you why that was the case.
Mr SPEAKER: It was certainly obvious to me that there was a barrage of interjection. I had difficulty hearing the member. I was concentrating on hearing him. The barrage was coming from, I think, a significant number of members. I would have been unable to identify a specific single member at all.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a further point of order?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Yes, Mr Speaker. I do not accept your explanation. If you looked to your right you would have seen the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the Leader of the House. If you picked just one or two, you might have been able to stop it. You ignored it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need any assistance. I accept the point the member is making. If I had looked and attempted to identify a member, I am sure I would have found plenty, so I accept the point the Hon Trevor Mallard made. I was having difficulty hearing David Shearer, and I was concentrating very much. I was looking at David Shearer, trying to interpret him. But I do accept the point the member has made.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker, I make the point very simply. It is not a point of order that the Leader of the Opposition does not like something I say. If he does not like it, he can take offence and ask me to withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a helpful point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Hon Trevor Mallard raised a point of order with you, and you accepted it. It therefore no longer existed. So why did you give the Prime Minister a chance to speak to it, to reopen the point of order?
Mr SPEAKER: Because at the time the Prime Minister raised it, he said he wanted to speak to the point of order and I was unsure particularly what he was going to raise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister’s words, after you had accepted Mr Mallard’s explanation and agreed with him, were “Speaking to the point of order”. It was not a new point of order, but the point of order you had just disposed of. Why did you allow him this special privilege?
Mr SPEAKER: Because I was not aware of what he would raise at the time he said he was going to speak to the point of order. [Interruption] Order! This matter is now disrupting question time, and the House is becoming disorderly. I will not take a further point of order.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The last question that was asked by David Shearer asked why a certain group of organisations had not been brought in front of the select committee when they had been asked to be. The incident that caused disorder was the Prime Minister moving on to personally attack the Leader of the Opposition about his interests in security matters. That is what caused disorder in the House, and that is why David Shearer took a point of order. That is the issue of order—the Prime Minister’s behaviour in going beyond the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Except that the original question from David Shearer asked why did the Prime Minister, as chair, oppose, so it was quite a direct question, in my opinion, to the Prime Minister himself.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I certainly hope that this is a fresh point of order that is being raised by the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Could you tell us, given that it was a direct question to the Prime Minister—if it was not a direct question, should it have been directed at somebody else, and whom should that have been? It was a direct, non-political question. Why did he oppose certain agencies coming before the select committee, not political, straight—
Mr SPEAKER: Can I ask the member, if he wants to raise a point of order, to think carefully about it. That is not a legitimate point of order. It was a question that was directed to the Prime Minister as the chair. That is not out of order at all. It was a political question to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister responded.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If this is a fresh point of order, I will hear it, but if it is relitigating this particular matter, then I will be asking the member to leave the Chamber.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a fresh point of order?
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is a fresh point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: If it is a fresh point of order, then I am happy to hear it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: When you go to Government House, you ask for freedom of speech and the right of members to speak in here. Included in that is the right of people to ask direct questions of the executive. The question that I have to you is when are we going to get an arrangement whereby, when people have asked questions in an absolutely proper way in an area for which a Minister has responsibility, even more responsibility than a normal select committee chair, because they are the member in charge of a bill as well as being in charge of a statutory committee—what
remedy do members have when they are accused of not taking into account the security of New Zealanders, which is, effectively, treason? That is—
Hon Members: Oh!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: That is effectively the accusation, and it is something that members on this side find very offensive. My question to you is what remedies do members have under these rulings.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If members are offended, then they do have recourse under the Standing Orders to raise that matter and to have the offence struck out. That has long been established. But I think the bigger problem here is the failure on the part of questioners today—on numerous occasions, I might say—to recognise that when some answers to questions that are asked stray into an area that points out some of the inconsistencies in the public view held by the person asking a question, there is suddenly a leaping to the feet to, in fact, deny the very free speech that Mr Mallard is talking of. I think you have been right to rule that there are sometimes questions that are asked with a particular political outcome in mind or a particular answer in mind, which does make it a much more political question than the obviously political questions asked each day. That is where we are getting into, I think, some difficulty. But it comes down to, I think, as you have previously ruled, that if people want to go down that track, then they should expect the sorts of answers that they are getting and finding very uncomfortable.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the point the member makes. At this stage I do not intend to rule further on this matter. When the member the Hon Trevor Mallard raises an issue and suggests that what we have heard is actually going as far as treason, that becomes, in my mind, a very, very serious matter. On that basis I want to take the opportunity of reviewing the Hansard, particularly in light of the whole of this question, before I come back to the House.
Border Control, SmartGate System—Expansion of Eligibility
12. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Customs: What is the Government doing to improve border processing?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister of Customs): I announced yesterday that SmartGate, which is the Customs Service’s automated passenger-processing system, is now open to United States and UK travellers with an e-passport. However, I have also seen a report that in the unlikely event of a Labour Government getting elected, the number of UK and US people wanting to even come to New Zealand might be small enough that we can process them by hand.
John Hayes: What information has he seen regarding the success of SmartGate?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: There is overwhelming evidence of its success. Since 2009 more than 6 million New Zealanders and Australians have used SmartGate when arriving—that is way ahead of initial estimates—and now, with the one-terminal SmartGate Plus, which is the onestop shop, we have already had 13,000 people using that on departure.