Questions and Answers - August 20
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
GCSB—Interception Powers and Legislative Reform
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister responsible for the GCSB: Will the Government Communications Security Bureau be able to access the content of any New Zealander’s communications under the cybersecurity provisions of the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Minister responsible for the GCSB): I am advised that a combination of the provisions in the bill, specifically sections 8A, 15A, and 15C, means that the answer is no, not in the first instance. However, approval will be considered for the GCSB to access content if a specific and serious cyber-intrusion has been detected against a New Zealander. In those circumstances, the Commissioner of Security Warrants and I will need to be convinced that the action is necessary, falls within the function of protection, and will be limited to content that is related to the cyber-attack. The cyber-security function of bill clearly states that it is to protect the security and integrity of communications. It is not for spying or putting people under surveillance.
Dr Russel Norman: So is it correct to paraphrase the Prime Minister’s answer as: “No, it cannot access the content of New Zealanders’ communications, but, yes, it can access the content of the communications under certain circumstances.”, and how are those two answers compatible?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In principle, yes, but it is worth remembering that in the event that content was looked at, it would require another warrant. It would be highly specific, it would be for the purposes of protection, and it would almost certainly be with the agreement of the New Zealander.
Dr Russel Norman: As he has now admitted that in principle, yes, the GCSB will be able to access the content of New Zealanders’ emails, did he tell New Zealand on Campbell Live last week that “they would not have access”—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just ask you to consider the supplementary question that is being asked, because it makes a strong assertion at the beginning of what we hope will become a question. That is outside the Standing Orders, and I think it is not appropriate for a matter like this to have such gross misrepresentation allowed in the House.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from Dr Russel Norman.
Dr Russel Norman: As I am sure you have realised, the difficulty is that the answer to the primary question originally was “no”, but then the Prime Minister went on and said: “But, in principle, yes.” The problem that we are dealing with is that the Minister’s answer is incoherent, so we are trying to deal with that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, well, I certainly do not think that last point of order was helpful. If I go back to the very first answer to the supplementary question, the member’s interpretation of that answer is incorrect, and I think that is the point that Mr Brownlee is now raising about the
continued paraphrasing of the answer in the opinion of the member. I do not agree with the way that it has been paraphrased. I ask the member to continue asking supplementary questions but to bring them within the Standing Orders.
Dr Russel Norman: Why did he tell New Zealanders on Campbell Live last week, his sole substantial television interview on this issue, that the GCSB would not have access to the content of their emails—to quote the Prime Minister—when he has just told us, just now, that in principle, under certain circumstances, it would?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, the member should stand corrected, because it is not my only television appearance on the matter. Secondly, the answer is correct that I gave on Campbell Live: no, it is not possible, but it would be possible to go and get a further warrant and do some work if required.
Dr Russel Norman: OK. Then is the Prime Minister prepared to consider an amendment to make it abundantly clear to everybody, including those of us in the Opposition who struggle to understand these things, that the bill will not allow access by the GCSB to the content of the communications?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not necessary. It is already in the law. In fact, the function of cybersecurity is clearly to protect, not spy. If the member wants to know what spying looks like, which is the claim he is making, he needs to go and look at section 8B, where the GCSB work is all about gathering intelligence, and the capabilities, intentions, and activities of people. Of course, that is in relation to foreigners. The member should tell me where he can see those provisions in the cybersecurity. He cannot. The truth is that no one on that side of the House understood the legislation. That is why they spend so much time filibustering and wasting time instead of understanding the law. The people who look like fools are on that side of the House—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer is quite sufficient.
Louise Upston: Has the Prime Minister seen any reports about the importance of security legislation like the GCSB legislation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have. I have seen a report stating that “… the security of the realm should transcend party politics.” and: “… I recognise the support that members of the Opposition are giving to the passage of this bill.” That statement came from none other than David Cunliffe during the debates in 2003 on the GCSB. They are the leadership qualities the Labour Party—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not in order. [Interruption] Order! I have an interruption coming from Grant Robertson. Does the member want to take a point of order?
Dr Russel Norman: Does the GCSB receive funding directly or indirectly from the Government of the United States?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not in my interest or the national interest for me to answer that question. I do not think any Minister responsible for the GCSB would do so.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a long-term tradition in this House that a member’s interests—and the Prime Minister has said it is not in his interests to answer the question. He can say it is not in the national interest, but we know it is not in his interests already.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister, I think, stumbled over the first words as he started that answer. He said that it is not in the country’s interest for him to continue to answer that question, and that is a perfectly satisfactory answer.
Dr Russel Norman: Does that mean that the Prime Minister will not deny that the GCSB has received funding from the Government of the United States?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. It means that it is not in the national interest for me to discuss those matters.
Louise Upston: Can the Prime Minister outline for the House the increasing threat that the National Cyber Security Centre has reported on?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I can. The National Cyber Security Centre reported that in 2011 it had 90 incidents lodged with it. These constitute serious incidents that do damage or compromise the target or company involved. In 2012 that number increased from 90 to 134. The number this year is already standing at 204, and we are not even near the end of the year. These attacks are steeply rising and putting at risk our Government and our private sector security. The GCSB has a vital role to play in combating this, and that is why it is crucial the legislation is passed by the House.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister believe it is right or, indeed, lawful for the GCSB to receive funding from a foreign Government without informing this Parliament?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member should be very careful about jumping to any conclusions. It is not in the national interest for me to discuss those kinds of matters. But what is really interesting is that 24 hours before we finally pass the GCSB legislation, that member does not even have a question on the matter.
Louise Upston: Has the Prime Minister seen any other reports relating to the process under which the GCSB legislation is passed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have. I have seen the criticism from Sir Geoffrey Palmer of the process the bill has gone through. I have also seen a report that the State-Owned Enterprises Bill, which was passed in Sir Geoffrey’s name in 1986, had all of its final stages after the select committee stage taken in one day, including Sir Geoffrey’s reading the third reading on a Saturday. That was a bill that completely redefined the Government’s role in business and corporatised Government Stateowned enterprises and set them up to be privatised, including the sale, under Labour, of New Zealand Steel, Petrocorp, the Post Office, Air New Zealand, State Insurance, and Telecom. If he wants to know about process, clearly he is an expert in the matter. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister believe in the basic principles of parliamentary responsibility for the Government’s finances—that is, Parliament must know when the Government receives funding—if so, how can an agency like the GCSB receive money from a foreign Government without Parliament knowing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not saying it is, or it is not.
2. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received confirming a further improvement in business and consumer confidence in New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): It is reasonably clear now that consumer confidence and business confidence is becoming stronger. The BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index increased 4.3 points to a seasonally adjusted 59.5. This is the highest July reading since 2002. This is clearly an indication of the kind of thing the Opposition calls a crisis in manufacturing, where it is expanding faster than it has in the last 10 years. Consumer confidence also rose over the last couple of months.
Maggie Barry: How is the improvement in consumer and business confidence being reflected in other economic indicators such as job advertising and retail spending?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it is important to remember that businesses and households remain cautious overall about their spending and investment decisions, and any one of these indicators can fluctuate from month to month, reflecting that caution. However, there are signs of improvement on the back of a gradually improving economic outlook. Job advertising across newspaper and internet increased by 3.5 percent, seasonally adjusted, in July, and the ANZ Job Ads index is now 4.5 percent higher than a year ago. Of course this is not yet happening fast enough, because there are still too many people without jobs. That is why the Government intends to persevere with its Business Growth Agenda to assist businesses to make the decisions that will allow them to invest and employ.
Maggie Barry: What were some of the contributors to the overall improvement in the BNZBusiness New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index in July, and how was this interpreted by analysts?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The improvement was reasonably broad-based across the whole manufacturing sector. Food and beverages had a reading in the manufacturing index of 69.6, which is very high. Petroleum, coal, chemical, and associated product manufacturing was 65.8. Machinery and equipment was also strong. BNZ economists confirmed that they had maintained a positive outlook for the domestic manufacturing sector for some time, linked to an upswing in construction and broader domestic demand improvement. So this is simply further evidence that a recovery is under way. It is still gradual, and still not yet leading to a sufficient decrease in unemployment, but the signs are promising.
Maggie Barry: How does the state of New Zealand manufacturing compare with the manufacturing sectors of other countries?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It depends on who you listen to. If you listen to Labour and the Greens, they say New Zealand manufacturing is in a crisis. However, if you look at the facts, according to the manufacturing indexes New Zealand has one of the highest readings in the world. The New Zealand performance of manufacturing index is 59.2. A reading above 50 means expansion. In Australia, the performance of manufacturing index is only 42, which corresponds to a slower growth outlook in Australia and a higher exchange rate. China’s performance of manufacturing index is just above 50, as is Japan and the eurozone. In the UK and the US it is 54 and 55, which is positive, but not growing as fast as New Zealand manufacturing. If this is a definition of a crisis, then we would be pleased to have more of them.
3. 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: Is it correct that section 14 of the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, which prevents targeting of New Zealand citizens for intelligence-gathering purposes, does not prevent targeting of New Zealanders for cyber-security purposes, as outlined under section 8A of the bill?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Section 8A makes it quite clear, in terms of cyber-security, what the purpose is. In particular, it says: “to do everything that is necessary or desirable to protect the security and integrity of the communications and information infrastructures …”. That is backed up by section 15A, which makes it also quite clear under what purposes a warrant can be issued, which, of course, would be required. It says it has to fit the purpose of performing the function under section 8A. I am sorry the member does not understand the law, but that is his problem, not mine.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific. It actually asked about section 14 of the bill—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to invite the member to repeat his question.
David Shearer: Thank you. Is it correct that section 14 of the Government Communications Security Bureau and Related Legislation Amendment Bill, which prevents targeting of New Zealand citizens for intelligence-gathering purposes, does not prevent targeting of New Zealanders for cyber-security purposes, as outlined under section 8A of the bill?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is getting confused. Section 14 applies to New Zealanders, not in relation to cyber-security. That is section 8C. Section 8A is in relation to cyber-security.
David Shearer: Would it not be better that the protection of New Zealanders against cyberintrusion by the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) be stated clearly in the bill to give them reassurance that their content will not be accessed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is the very point; it is in the law already. It is in the law and—
Hon Members: No, it isn’t.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, it is. I am afraid it is in the law. It is in relation to section 8A, which makes it quite clear in terms of cyber-security that the function is for protection, not for surveillance. Section 15A makes it quite clear that a warrant is required. I have made it quite clear that within those warrants—and I am spelling out what no other Prime Minister before me has actually ever done, and that is tell the House how I am going to be using the warranting provisions.
David Shearer: Is there a specific clause in the bill that will allow a two-stage warrant process, as he has outlined?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. What I have said is under section 15A of the bill a warrant will be required that has to fit the purpose of section 8A, and that is about the protection of data. I also made it quite clear that those warrants will exclude content being viewed from New Zealanders—
David Shearer: No, it won’t.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, it will, and the member, who is a member on the Intelligence and Security Committee, will be able to check up any time he likes by asking the director when they come once a year.
David Shearer: That is reassuring! Does he agree that the fact that he has needed to clarify the law through the media and through a third reading speech, which we are expecting, show that rushing through legislation as important as this in an ad hoc manner does not give New Zealanders reassurance?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, the opposite. Actually, this side of the House completely understands the legislation, and has. This side of the House has made it quite clear right the way though that the cyber-security function is about the protection of data. It is about protecting secrets, not getting other people’s secrets, which is what section 8C is all about. This side of the House came into the Parliament to debate the legislation, understanding it. That side of the House had absolutely no clue, spent hours and hours and hours on Part 1, making stuff up through a filibustering process, and now, when it finally understands the law, it wants to—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that has gone on long enough.
Mr SPEAKER: The member might well say that, but that is not a point of order, and it is not his role to determine whether it has gone on too long.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. I have a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a point of order. I want to know why you did not stop the Prime Minister in that finishing diatribe—it went on for a long time.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I am the one who determines when a question has gone on for long enough. In that particular case I was rising to my feet as the member David Shearer rose to his feet. But I, not the right honourable gentleman, will judge the length of answers and the length of questions.
David Shearer: Is he prepared to include a protection of New Zealanders against cyberintrusions in his legislation and support my Supplementary Order Paper on the matter?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is already there.
David Shearer: No, it’s not.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: You see, when you do not understand the law, and then all of a sudden you act like a bush lawyer—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is not going to help the order of the House.
David Shearer: Is the Prime Minister saying that the Law Society, the Human Rights Commission, the Privacy Commissioner, Geoffrey Palmer and many others also do not understand the law?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.
David Shearer: Did he or anyone in his office ever contact the Labour Party to obtain broader support for the bill?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot believe the member is asking that question. If he wants me to answer it, I will get on my feet and do so.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that was a question. Did he or anyone in his office ever contact the Labour Party to obtain broader support for the bill—did you contact me?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: OK—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: OK. Yes, Mr Speaker. After one of the Intelligence and Security Committee meetings, I asked Mr Shearer whether he would like to come to my office to have a discussion. We sat down and had about a 30-minute discussion where Mr Shearer said: “Keep this confidential. If you come out and say we’ve done it, that won’t look good and I don’t want you shouting it out about the House.” My deputy chief of staff went to see Mr Goff and also went to see Mr Robertson. On numerous occasions we reached out and at one point—
Grant Robertson: No, no, no. Don’t make stuff up.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member really wants to get down and dirty, members of the Labour Party said they did not understand the law.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Bledisloe Cup was on Saturday.
David Shearer: So he is saying that he initiated contact with me after the—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has every right to have his supplementary question heard.
David Shearer: Is he saying that he made contact with me after the Intelligence and Security Committee meeting and that it was my request that he should remember that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am afraid the member is wrong. I went up to the member after the Intelligence and Security Committee meeting and said “Do you want to come to my office?”, to which the member said yes, and I said that we would probably take the stairs to avoid the other guys. We actually waited for the other members, in particular, Dr Norman, to leave so that he did not see the member coming up to my office.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If members on the right-hand side wish to see the balance of question time, they should respect the position I take when I stand and call for order.
David Shearer: In the course of that discussion, did he say to me that he did not really care whether we supported it or not because he already had Peter Dunne over the line?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I did not say exactly that I did not care. What I—[Interruption] No. I will paraphrase the words roughly. What I said was that we had the numbers to pass the legislation and I knew that if for political reasons he was just going to carry on the way he was going because Grant Robertson was calling the shots, fair enough—we would just get on and do it. The member also said he wanted a sunset clause, and I said you have got to have rocks in your head if you want to have that, because if you ever want to be the Prime Minister, you will never get the Greens over the line.
Dairy Industry—Joint Ministerial Inquiry into Whey Protein Contamination
4. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country) to the Minister for Primary
Industries: What announcements has he made on a Ministerial inquiry into the recent whey protein contamination situation?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yesterday the Minister for Food Safety and I announced that the Government has agreed in principle to establish a joint ministerialled inquiry. We have released the draft terms of inquiry for the Government’s investigation into the whey protein concentrate contamination incident. We also announced that we have invited Miriam Dean QC to chair the inquiry. The terms of reference and the appointment of the chair will be formalised once the Inquiries Bill has completed its legislative passage.
Shane Ardern: What will the ministerial inquiry cover?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The inquiry is split into three parts. Part A will report into how the potentially contaminated whey protein concentrate entered the New Zealand and international market and how this was subsequently addressed. Part B will report into the regulatory and bestpractice requirements that govern the food safety regime against the background of this incident in relation to the dairy industry. The final part compares practice across international jurisdictions.
Shane Ardern: Why is the Government establishing a ministerial inquiry?
Hon NATHAN GUY: New Zealand’s primary sector exports are crucial to our economy, making up over 70 percent of our total merchandise exports. New Zealand has a strong reputation as a trusted exporter—in particular, a trusted exporter of safe and quality food. This inquiry is about strengthening our already strong system and ensuring that New Zealand continues to uphold this strong international reputation.
5. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all of his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister of Trade kept him abreast of all aspects of the Trans- Pacific Partnership negotiations; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is fair to say that the Minister of Trade keeps me up to date on an ongoing basis. We do not go through every chapter line by line, but he does give me an indication of how things are progressing.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has his Minister of Trade informed him as to whether or not contained within the secret pages of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is the ability for foreign companies to sue the New Zealand Government—yes or no?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the final parts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership look like in relation to companies and the way that they can operate have not been concluded yet, so it is not possible to say whether that would or would not happen. There are various technical provisions that might be contained in the legislation when it ultimately goes through the agreement, but they have not been finalised yet.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Finalised or not, in these negotiations are there provisions within the Trans-Pacific Partnership thus far—draft form or otherwise—that would see or enable foreign companies to sue the New Zealand Government—yes or no?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not going to go through the individual parts of it now, because this is a negotiation that is being held with all of the interested parties—in fact, the Minister is in Brunei at the moment undertaking those negotiations—and they have not been finalised yet.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the deal is for the betterment of the New Zealand people, why is he keeping this matter secret from them and also from this Parliament, in contrast to the US Government having kept its US Congress members informed? Why are we—both outside of this Parliament as New Zealanders and inside this Parliament—being treated differently?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: My understanding is that this is a fairly stock standard way of New Zealand undertaking free-trade agreements—that there are negotiations that occur, and they, for logical reasons, occur behind closed doors, but fully in the knowledge, ultimately, that not only will the deal be made fully public but it actually has to be ratified by the Parliament—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, what about now?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, there is no point in doing it now—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, we do not know what is actually on the table and what is off. We will know that when we get to see a final deal. Even I have not seen that yet.
6. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
David Shearer: Did his Minister for Primary Industries brief him on the options for snapper management before he put them out for consultation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the question is whether the Minister took it to Cabinet, no, he did not. He could have if he had wanted to, but also it was OK that he did not.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question really was about briefing him, not taking it to Cabinet.
Mr SPEAKER: Can the right honourable Prime Minister please address that part. It was not whether it went to Cabinet; it was whether the Prime Minister had been briefed.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I was not briefed about that particular point, but what is true is that when I saw the initial discussion that took place in the media, there was then a discussion that was actually prior to the point where they went out to consultation.
David Shearer: Will he be attending any of the public meetings called by recreational fishers to specifically discuss the options for changing snapper quota?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I probably will not be attending any of the meetings, but interestingly enough it is the issue that does get raised with me, as I have said, when I go around the country from one end to the other. The interesting thing at all those public meetings is that I have had a lot of feedback from New Zealanders because they constantly raise this issue.
David Shearer: Has he or any of his Ministers spoken to Peter Goodfellow, the National Party president, about the snapper quota levels?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
David Shearer: Does he agree with the view that “What we want is a sustainable fishery. Secondly, we’ve got to put the rights of New Zealanders to go out and catch fish as the top priority, and then we look after the commercial catch after that. We don’t reverse that order. That has to be the order because that is our right as New Zealanders.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but I am also aware of the fact that what has actually taken place in relation to significant natural area 1, which is the area that is in question, is that after some scientific work done by the Ministry for Primary Industries there have been concerns about decreasing snapper fisheries in the Bay of Plenty area. As a result of that, the decision was made to go and have a look at consultation. From the top of my head, there is 7,200 tonnes of fish estimated to be caught in significant natural area 1, with 4,600 of those tonnes being taken by commercial fishers. At the moment about 2,600 tonnes are taken by recreational fishers, but because recreational fishers are more in number and they are becoming more efficient at catching fish, the estimates from the ministry is that they are possibly taking an extra 1,000 tonnes on top of that. The process now is to go through to see whether there need to be changes to either the balance between commercial and recreational fishers, the size of the fish, or the bag limit to see whether it is possible to ensure that the fishery is sustainable. I think that is what all New Zealanders want. I realise that there is emotion around the issue, but the Government is carefully feeling its way through so that it is not just us who can catch the fish but other people can.
David Shearer: Does he think it is fair that a commercial fisher can catch a snapper as small as 25 centimetres, but a recreational fisher has to go to 36 centimetres—like these fish—is that fair?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In the weekend I took the liberty of reading John Armstrong’s column, which was about his new chief of staff. If she is really advising him to come into Parliament—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Now would the Prime Minister address the question that was asked.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That may or may not be fair. I seek leave for the member to table the 36- centimetre snapper—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. Question No. 7, Alfred Ngaro. [Interruption] Order! I have called Alfred Ngaro.
Child Abuse and Neglect—Government Measures to Address
7. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements has she made to better protect children from abuse and neglect?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): More than 50 children have died in the last 5 years because of extreme abuse, and we know many of their names. We have all had enough and it just has to stop. In the next month we will be introducing to the House significant legislation with sweeping changes to protect vulnerable children.
Alfred Ngaro: What changes does the legislation introduce to get tougher on those who abuse children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: One of the changes that this legislation will introduce is the new child harm prevention orders targeting adults who pose a high risk of going on to hurt more children, by imposing tough conditions and restrictions. The court will be able to place these new civil orders on adults with a history of serious convictions or those who, on the balance of probabilities, are believed to have been responsible for seriously abusing or killing a child.
Alfred Ngaro: How will these changes better protect children in situations where children have previously been removed from parents?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This is an area that has been of concern for some time, but, under these changes, parents who have seriously abused or killed children will have to prove they are safe to parent again if they go on to have another child. Currently, it is only when those abusive parents have a subsequent child and come to the attention of Child, Youth and Family that the child’s safety is assessed. Child, Youth and Family then has to prove that the child would be unsafe in order to remove them. We will reverse this burden of proof, and the parent will have to prove that their child will be safe in their care.
Jacinda Ardern: How much in total has been budgeted to fully implement her child protection legislation across the next 3 financial years?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would need to go back and have a look, but, from memory, around $20 million.
Welfare Reforms—Minister’s Statements and Commentary
8. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that one of his main priorities for 2013 is to “bed in” welfare reforms “because that is where by far the biggest fiscal benefits lie”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, but I would point out to the member that any fiscal benefits arise from getting people off dependency on welfare and into work, which has a benefit for them and a benefit for the community. It also benefits the Government’s books. I might say that the early signs of the impact of welfare reform are positive.
Hon David Parker: When he was weighing up the $30 million taxpayer-funded corporate welfare payment to Rio Tinto, why did he decide that getting the Meridian Energy fire sale through was more important than securing genuine—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I ask the member to look at the preliminary question that has been asked. He must ask a supplementary that is connected to that.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It might be convenient for the Government for us to completely signal everything in a primary question, but it was about welfare payments, and so is the supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I certainly did not hear that part. I will invite the member to ask his question again, but if it is in relation to welfare and the welfare system, I will accept that argument from the member.
Hon David Parker: When he was weighing up the $30 million taxpayer-funded corporate welfare payment to Rio Tinto, why did he decide that getting the Meridian Energy fire sale through was more important—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Questions need to be based on reasonable propositions. You cannot make an assertion like that and expect that the Minister would treat it seriously. To suggest that there is a whole activity taking place here—
Hon David Cunliffe: That’s not a point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It is, actually. [Interruption] Well, he would be very encouraged—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member just finish his point of order. I did not catch who was interrupting.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, he referred to a fire sale. That is not a reasonable thing to do in a question, even if it were close to the primary question, which relates to welfare reform.
Hon Trevor Mallard: There are lots of types of welfare. Some of it is the sort that Paula Bennett is in charge of, and some of it is of the sort that the Minister of Finance is more directly responsible for, and tends to be in the form of one-off grants to companies. This question did not refer at any time—at any time—to the type of welfare for which Ms Bennett is responsible.
Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient. On this occasion, I agree with the points raised by the Hon David Parker and the Hon Trevor Mallard. It does refer to welfare. I think it is a long bow, but it still does refer to welfare, and I will accept the question. In regard to the point made by the Hon Gerry Brownlee, quite often supplementary questions have some quite significant assertions—some wild assertions, on occasion. I leave it then for the Minister to deal with that in the way the Minister chooses when he answers. So we will now have the question repeated by the Hon David Parker.
Hon David Parker: When he was weighing up the $30 million taxpayer-funded corporate welfare payment to Rio Tinto, why did he decide that getting the Meridian Energy fire sale through was more important than securing genuine employment guarantees for the smelter workforce?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We do not apologise for having a bias in favour of jobs. That runs through the wide range of policy, including welfare policy. We understand that the Opposition is against jobs, but we are for them.
Hon David Parker: Why has he added Chorus to the corporate welfare beneficiary list by overriding the Commerce Commission’s determination regarding copper broadband pricing, resulting in a wealth transfer of up to $160 million from consumers to Chorus shareholders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is speculating on what might or might not happen in respect of the Commerce Commission’s determination. But as I understand it, that member’s party is in favour of the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband—
Hon Steven Joyce: No, no—they’re against.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Oh, they are against it now? OK, so they are against the jobs at the smelter, they are against the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband, they are against mining on the West Coast, and they are against drilling for oil—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is sufficient.
Hon David Parker: Given that his Government has signalled its intent to override the determination of the Commerce Commission on copper broadband pricing, how can other businesses and investors expect a level playing field, when his Government continues to pick winners and dole out corporate welfare when it suits?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member will know from his interactions with businesses, their confidence is generally rising. They have got a pretty high level of confidence, actually, in the Government’s policy framework. That member will also know that business sees the Government as reasonably pragmatic. Occasionally we make decisions, such as in the case of the smelter, to ensure that the contract was signed and completed. It is not the preference of the Government to do that regularly, if at all, but in that case we believe it was warranted. If we had not made that
payment and had that contract secured, the Opposition would be saying today that we were indifferent to the jobs of several thousand people in Invercargill.
Hon David Parker: Why does his Government treat big businesses much more generously— Chorus, Rio Tinto, and Skycity—while thousands of smaller businesses and other smaller telecommunications companies that follow the rules continue to struggle?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is simply not correct. In each of the examples that he quotes, the Government has made some pragmatic decisions, such as in the case of Chorus, to secure the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband. If the member believes that he could have secured that— perhaps up to 10 years earlier than the network might have been completed—by some other method, then he should let us know. The Government does not apologise for the occasional pragmatic decision to achieve the greater good. In respect of smaller businesses the Government has an extensive programme, much larger than it was under the previous Government, to support businesses of all sizes to innovate, to invest another dollar, and to employ another person, and it seems to be working.
Housing, Affordable—Assistance for First-home Buyers
9. Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Housing: How is the Government making KiwiSaver support for first home buyers and the Welcome Home Loan scheme fairer?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): The two schemes are about helping families on modest incomes get into modest first homes. But the income and house price caps have been out of date, and this has created unfairness. For instance, as many people in Southland are getting assistance as those in Auckland, where the housing challenges and population are far greater. We are increasing the house price caps by $100,000 in Christchurch, $85,000 in Auckland, and $50,000 in areas like Hamilton, Tauranga, and Nelson. Lifting these house price caps and the income limits will help KiwiSavers access a bigger deposit when buying their first home. We are also trebling the number of Welcome Home Loans to 2,500 per year. This will ensure, in light of today’s announcement from the Reserve Bank, that first-home buyers who are buying modest homes will get preference in respect of mortgage finance.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What specific progress has the Government made in the last month in its housing affordability work programme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Work is progressing at pace on the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill, which has been reported back to the House and is crucial to increasing land supply, particularly in Auckland. Major reforms to the Resource Management Act were announced on 10 August, which will require councils to make provision for at least a 10-year supply of land. We also announced changes last week to development contributions. These have risen more than any other component of new house price over the past decade, and can be as much as $64,000 per section. The previous Government in 2002 expanded these charges and took away any right of appeal. We will be introducing amendments to Parliament later this year that will constrain these costs and help both the affordability and supply of housing.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions—2020 Target
10. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he agree with the statement made in 2009 by then Minister for Climate Change Issues, Hon Dr Nick Smith, in reference to New Zealand’s previous target of 10 to 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 that “…a less ambitious target would undermine New Zealand’s clean, green environmental reputation”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Acting Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes, and that target of 10 to 20 percent below 1990 levels still stands. Just as was the case when the Hon Dr Nick Smith made those comments, that target is conditional on there being a comprehensive global agreement.
In addition to this, just last week we announced an unconditional target of 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 that we will meet irrespective of what other nations are doing. This unconditional target makes it clear that New Zealand is absolutely doing its fair share to address global climate change.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why has this new, unconditional target been described by New Zealand’s leading climate policy and science experts, including Associate Professors James Renwick and Ralph Chapman and Professor Jonathan Boston at Victoria University, as “disappointing and inadequate” and that it “does not provide the leadership on climate change that New Zealand needs.”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Dr Boston fundamentally got a number of technical matters just plain wrong. He should go back and do his homework before he starts lecturing the Government. The fact of the matter is that the international reputation of this country in terms of our unconditional target has been enhanced. It has been seen around the world as acting progressively and responsibly and as creating a positive precedent. Countries have been impressed not only that we have set a firm target but that we are leading the way by applying the Kyoto Protocol rules outside of the Kyoto Protocol under the convention.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Which other developed country does the Minister plan to nominate to make up New Zealand’s shortfall, given that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prescribes 25 to 40 percent cuts for developed countries by 2020, but New Zealand is committing to 5 percent?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I am not in the business of telling other countries what to do, but the fact of the matter is that our unconditional target compares very favourably with our traditional trading partners’ actions. If we go through the countries, the fact is that when you look at Australia, America, and Canada—trading partners of New Zealand—we have a good unconditional target that shows us absolutely doing our fair share.
Moana Mackey: Is he concerned that a recently released section 89 report shows a huge increase in deforestation and foresters exiting the emissions trading scheme in droves over the last year, which will make achieving even his very modest target difficult; if so, what is he planning to do about it?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, I am not concerned. The fact of the matter is that Moana Mackey plainly has her facts wrong again. More trees have been planted than cut down since National has been in Government. Although 26,000 hectares of forest have been cut down, under our Government 42,700 hectares have been replanted. The fact of the matter is that—I know that, again, Moana Mackey does not get this—foresters plant, they cut down, and they replant again, and under this Government they have replanted more than they have cut down.
Primary Industries, Ministry—Standards for Recognised Agencies
11. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast - Tasman) to the Minister for
Primary Industries: Does he have confidence in the Ministry for Primary Industries’ standards for approving recognised agents?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes, because the base requirements confirm that agencies must have the right competencies, qualifications, skills, and experience, and meet performance standards. These have not changed since 1999. Many of these standards are based on international standards from the International Organization for Standardization, and these are used worldwide. However, it is worth noting that yesterday the Government announced details of a proposed ministerial inquiry into the recent whey protein concentrate contamination issue. Part B of the inquiry will report back on any recommended legal, regulatory, or operational changes, and the Government will consider these recommendations very carefully.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Has the establishment of a joint venture between AsureQuality and China’s No. 1 dairy company, Mengniu, in any way compromised the ability of New Zealand food producers to have the world’s best testing and monitoring of their products prior to export?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I do not believe so.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Given the discovery in China of high nitrates, dicyandiamide, and melamine in our dairy products, and the failure to detect these in New Zealand, does he believe that the $26 million in cuts from the Ministry for Primary Industries have affected the quality and capability of the food safety system?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The member keeps using that $26 million figure, and that is factually incorrect—factually incorrect. The latest budget for the food safety budget has decreased by only $340,000. The member should get his facts correct.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Given the statement by the Prime Minister in a speech to the New Zealand - China forum in April this year in China that “we have very high food safety standards, backed up with world-leading technology, so that consumers can have the utmost confidence in our products.”, does the Minister consider that both he and the Prime Minister have failed in their promise to the Chinese people?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No. The reason why we have established the ministerial inquiry—and it is worthwhile for the member to have a read of that, because Part B is going to address some of the issues in order to show to New Zealand domestic consumers and to our international trading partners the seriousness with which we treat our food safety systems. We need to reassure them that we have strong and robust systems in place.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Supplementary, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: No. I am advised that Labour has used its full number of supplementary questions.
Health Targets—Surgical First Specialist Assessments
12. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made on providing better access to surgical first specialist assessments?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I am pleased to advise that the number of New Zealanders getting assessed by hospital specialists to see whether they need elective surgery has risen by 40,000 under this Government to a record 294,000 assessments. This is a 16 percent increase under this Government—an average increase of 8,000 a year. This stands in stark contrast to the period between 2001 and 2007-08 when the number of people who were able to access surgical specialist appointments basically flat-lined.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You heard the last part of that answer. Where in the primary question was that sought by the questioner, and why did you allow him to finish that way?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has a perfect right to answer the question as he sees fit. There was nothing out of order with the answer from the Minister.
Paul Foster-Bell: What advice has he received on the benefits for patients of this significant increase in first specialist assessments?
Hon TONY RYALL: Surgical specialist assessments are the gateway to elective surgery, which can relieve pain and restore quality of life. As an example, the number of patients who have received an orthopaedic first specialist assessment is now 20 percent more. Nearly 10,000 more orthopaedic assessments are being delivered each year, compared with 2008 under the Labour - New Zealand First Government. This is a great credit—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There he goes again, and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member just give his point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, I am.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, do it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If you do not mind, I got just a few words out.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member has raised a number of points of order today that have not been valid. I give the opportunity for the member to stand again and raise a point of order, but without the introduction.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that the Minister has repeated the same offence that I complained about before, and that is that he is now talking about, for example, a New Zealand First - Labour Government. There never was one. That was misinformation for a start. It is not part of the supplementary question being asked in the first place. That is the point of order I seek to raise, and I have a right to raise it in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has a right to raise a point of order, and on this occasion he has raised it. I have ruled that I did not think the answer was out of order. I had already done that, so the member is effectively questioning my ruling. I will not continue to take it from the member.
Hon TONY RYALL: An example is that the number of patients who have received an orthopaedic first specialist assessment is now 20 percent more. Nearly 10,000 more orthopaedic assessments have been delivered each year than in 2008. This is—[Interruption] Who was in Government then?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a part—
Hon TONY RYALL: This a great credit to the hard-working staff involved, and I want to thank them for their effort in providing even better services for New Zealand patients.