Questions and Answers - September 25
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Recovery—Support for New Zealand Families
JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany): Thank you, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I had a significant number of complaints yesterday about the level of noise through question time. We cannot allow it to be at the same level as it was yesterday.
1. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government supporting New Zealand families through the economic recovery?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Despite large deficits, the Government is committed to supporting families through uncertain times. For instance, households earning less than $60,000 per annum, which is around 50 percent of all households, pay no net tax; that is, they get more in income and accommodation support, paid parental leave, Working for Families, and welfare support than they pay in tax. We have also focused assistance on those most in need, with $190 million for the next stage of welfare reforms to get people off benefits and into work; $100 million insulating 215,000 homes; $41 million extra for early childhood education for the most vulnerable; $24 million for rheumatic fever prevention, which is, again, focused on the most vulnerable families; and the KickStart Breakfast in schools programme, which is, again, focused on the most vulnerable families.
Jami-Lee Ross: What changes has the Government made to income tax rates and other taxes to help families get ahead?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The 2010 tax switch reduced taxes on work and savings and increased taxes on consumption and property speculation across all income levels. That 2010 Budget also provided for better targeting of Working for Families. Two-thirds of the value of the income tax cuts in 2010 went to reducing the bottom two tax rates. Someone on the average wage of around $50,000 was immediately $15 a week better off as a result of the tax changes. Three-quarters of taxpayers now face a top personal rate of 17.5 percent.
Jami-Lee Ross: What effect is the Government’s approach having on inequality, and how is the Government working to ensure households get a fair deal?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Ministry of Social Development tracks household incomes, and reports that income inequality is falling slightly after peaking in the mid-2000s, so we are starting to undo some of the damage done by the previous Labour Government to New Zealand’s equality. There are a variety of reasons for this. The tax and redistribution system favours the bottom 50 percent of households. Our investments in welfare, health, and education have been focused on the most disadvantaged. Whereas the previous Government focused on subsidies to people on middle incomes, we are focusing on solving long-running problems of welfare dependency, poor educational achievement, ill health, and family violence.
Jami-Lee Ross: What progress is the Government making in supporting more people into work, improving health care, and education outcomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member does not really need to ask this question, because you can track progress by going to the Government website and looking at the Better Public Services results. As at 30 June this year, the number of people continuously receiving a working-age benefit for over 12 months has fallen by almost 3,000. In March this year 89 percent of 8-month-olds had been immunised, and Māori immunisation rates are for the first time ever as high as mainstream immunisation rates, and, in fact, in some parts of the country are higher than among Pākehā children. The proportion of 18-year-olds with National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 has increased to 77 percent from 74 percent the previous year.
Hawke’s Bay Water Management—Ruataniwha Scheme
2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Has he or his Office sought an assurance from the Minister of Conservation that he did not know about the existence of the draft submission prepared by the Department of Conservation in early July relating to the Ruataniwha Dam, before 17 September 2013; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): No, an assurance was not required, because the Minister had advised this House in his answers to a number of questions that he had not seen the leaked draft submission until Tuesday, 17 September, and I take the Minister at his word. The Minister was aware that the Department of Conservation was working on a submission. He was not aware of the content of the leaked draft submission until Tuesday, 17 September. My office was advised by the Minister’s office on Tuesday, 17 September that the leaked draft submission was never sent to the Minister.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why does he take at his word the Minister of Conservation’s statement from Tuesday last week: “I did not know that this draft document even existed until this morning.”; if that were just proven to be incorrect, what action will he as Prime Minister take?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said, I take the member at his word. It would not be unusual for a Minister to ask to see a departmental submission.
Hon David Cunliffe: Is the Prime Minister concerned about reports that an official working on the Department of Conservation’s Ruataniwha Dam submissions has resigned as a result of his Minister’s involvement?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is no evidence that that claim is true.
Hon David Cunliffe: Exactly why does the Prime Minister think that the Director-General of the Department of Conservation or senior managers would email senior staff that the Minister is “concerned” with the submission, given that his Minister said in answer to whether he had raised concerns: “Did I give an indication? No, I did not.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Minister receives weekly departmental reports. This is not unusual. In that departmental report, I am advised, there were two sentences in it regarding lodging a submission in the name of the director-general. The Minister asked to see a final submission before it was made. On Wednesday, 31 July the Minister received a full briefing on the final submission. The leaked draft report appeared on Tuesday, 17 September, which was the first time the Minister had seen the leaked draft.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he stand by his statement “I expect high standards from my Ministers … if they don’t meet the standards I set then obviously I will take action if necessary”; if so, will he ask the Minister of Conservation, Nick Smith, to resign if it is proven that he indicated to the Department of Conservation that it should change its submission, or if it is shown that his statements to this House or to the media are incorrect?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Whatever the details the member thinks he is going to release or divulge, I would hope that at the same time he will divulge the final version of his CV.
Hon David Cunliffe: Is it true that a draft submission from the Ministry for Primary Industries expressed concerns over the economics of the Ruataniwha Dam but that the final submission reversed this finding; if so, why was this 180-degree turn made, and which Ministers and/or their staff were involved in any way?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have no advice on that matter. I think the member can be reassured, though, that all issues around the Ruataniwha Dam will be dealt with by the statutory processes that apply to a large project that has environmental and economic impact.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Acting Prime Minister explain to the House how it was possible for Nick Smith to say that he did not know the submission even existed until 17 September, yet the briefing note from 29 July includes a discussion of the very same submission?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I understand it, as Dr Smith has answered in the House, the note on 29 July said that the department was making a submission. He then asked to see the final submission, which is a legitimate, perfectly normal activity by any Minister of any department.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Prime Minister explain how it is possible to have a discussion about a submission—and the evidence shows that there was a discussion on 29 July—yet the Minister says that he did not know that the submission even existed until 17 September? How is it possible to have a discussion about a submission you do not know exists?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Again, as I understand it, the departmental weekly report said that the department was making a submission. The Minister had not seen that submission. When the department showed him a submission a couple of days later, as the final submission, he saw that submission. The draft the member is referring to appeared some time later on 17 September, which was the leaked draft submission, not the final submission. It does not matter how hard the member digs, there is no conspiracy here. It is pretty straightforward. The Minister asked to see a submission and he saw it.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that it may seem a fine point, and so you may not agree with my point of order, but there is a difference between whether you have seen a copy of it or whether you know—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, I have heard quite enough. The member can use further supplementary questions if he wants further detail from the Acting Prime Minister. The question was whether the Prime Minister can explain, and the Acting Prime Minister attempted to explain.
Better Public Services Targets—Justice Sector
3. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Justice: What recent Better Public Services results for the Justice Sector has she announced?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): The latest results to June 2013 show the justice sector is well on track to meet all of its Better Public Services targets by 2017. Total crime is down by 12 percent, violent crime is down by 8 percent, and reoffending is down by 11 percent. Youth crime has reduced by a huge 19 percent. As a result, the Better Public Services target for reduction in youth crime has been reset to 25 percent by 2017. I am delighted that the justice sector is working so well together, and I thank the Ministry of Justice, the New Zealand Police, and the Department of Corrections for their achievements and commitment to reducing crime, making New Zealand a safer place than it ever was under a previous Government.
Alfred Ngaro: How will the revised youth crime Better Public Services target assist in further reducing youth crime?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Targeting youth crime is a major focus for this Government. We know that the earlier young people begin offending the greater the chances are that they will reoffend and the harder it is to turn them away from a life of crime. The Government has a range of initiatives aimed at ensuring young people get the best possible opportunity to lead positive, fulfilled lives. This includes improving health and education responses for at-risk youth, improving school attendance and engagement, and improving youth mental health pathways. The youth crime
target was an interim target of 5 percent and measures the number of youth appearing in the Youth Court. These are the most difficult young reoffenders, for whom family group conferences and other programmes have not worked.
Alfred Ngaro: What other initiatives will help the justice sector reduce crime?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The justice sector board, made up of chief executives of justice, police, and corrections, are continually monitoring progress against our justice sector targets of reducing crime, reducing violent crime, reducing youth crime, and reducing reoffending. Across the justice sector, supporting work is under way including: Addressing the Drivers of Crime, Prevention First, Policing Excellence, improved corrections rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, alcohol and other drug treatment courts, the Hutt Valley Innovation Project, and expanding safe@home, to name just a few.
Health Services—Funding, Staffing, and Delivery
4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: Has the increase in health funding for 2013/14 been sufficient to stop cuts in health services and staffing?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The increase in available health funding for this year and for the next 4 years, averaging around $400 million a year, has actually been sufficient to improve, not reduce front-line services and staffing, like the 2,700 more nurses and 1,300 more doctors employed in our public hospitals. The Government is, however, very aware that there are always pressures on providers, such as on some general practices offering low-cost doctors visits to some in our most vulnerable communities. Consequently, although we have already increased the very low-cost access scheme subsidy to these practices by $11 million over the last 5 years—that is by 33 percent—and it is clear that some are finding it difficult to remain viable, and later on this afternoon the Government will be announcing an increase of a further $16 million over 4 years, or an 8 percent increase, to help these practices out.
Hon Annette King: If district health boards have sufficient funding why has Waitematā District Health Board now confirmed it is cutting mental health charge nurses in mental health units by 50 percent, why has it told staff that it intends to slash the numbers of mental health administrators by 14, and why is it removing cars from public health and community nurses because of “continuing cost pressures coupled with lower funding growth” ?
Hon TONY RYALL: My understanding is that the Waitematā District Health Board is continuing to invest more money in its mental health services, and that would certainly meet with the fact that we put an extra $31 million extra into the Waitematā District Health Board in this year’s Budget.
Hon Annette King: If the funding is sufficient why is the Waitematā District Health Board proposing to cut 10 doctors from the emergency department, not for clinical or quality reasons, but to save money; and does this not make a mockery of his letter of expectation to district health boards where he said they need to “improve clinical staff retention”?
Hon TONY RYALL: This is sort of what we have come to expect from this member, because—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a straight question. There is no need to have the beginning of his answer.
Mr SPEAKER: And I agree. Would the Minister just answer the question.
Hon TONY RYALL: My understanding is there is a consultation that will see that staffing mix at the Waitematā emergency department change to reflect the staffing mix at Auckland - Counties Manukau. But I cannot believe that the Opposition would ask a question about the North Shore’s Waitematā District Health Board emergency department when under its watch old people waited for 3 days on hospital trolleys under bright florescent lights and they do not do that any more.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is quite sufficient.
Chris Auchinvole: What progress is being made to improve health services on the West Coast?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am pleased to advise the member that later this afternoon the Government will announce that it has given the green light for a brand new West Coast hospital to be built at Greymouth, at an estimated cost of around $60 million. This new development will replace Grey Base Hospital with new wards, an emergency department, and new operating theatres. It will also include an integrated family health centre that will co-locate general practice on the Grey Base Hospital site. The Grey Base Hospital’s facilities have significant seismic issues, so this announcement is important for the 32,000 people who live on the West Coast and it gives them confidence in the future of their health services. Site work is expected to begin late next year, with the new hospital and facilities to be completed by the end of 2016. Even in the most difficult of economic times, this Government has found $60 million for that member’s electorate’s hospital.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, can he guarantee that with the building of the new Greymouth base hospital, Reefton Hospital will not be closed and patients shifted to Greymouth?
Hon TONY RYALL: What I can tell that member is—
Hon Annette King: Answer the question.
Hon TONY RYALL: Well, I give this assurance to the people of Greymouth. We are putting $60 million in, and once more I can say that there will be a further announcement this afternoon on a further investment on the West Coast, and I say to the member “Wait for that”.
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that the—
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Give up, old girl.
Hon Annette King: I beg your pardon, Attorney-General? Did you hear that, Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: That type of interjection is totally unhelpful to the order of this House. Would the honourable member start—[Interruption] Order! Would the honourable member start her question again. [Interruption]
Hon Annette King: He just did it again, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not catch where that interjection came from, but—[Interruption] Order! We are getting to the stage now where, unfortunately, I am going to be asking members who constantly interject to leave. That is a warning I am giving to all members on both sides of this House. I ask the Hon Annette King to continue with her line of questioning.
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that the emergency department at Waitakere Hospital is being discussed at a closed board session today; if so, will he guarantee that the emergency services at this hospital will not be compromised by a lack of funding and staffing?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Waitematā District Health Board’s budget has increased by $30 million this year. There are 268 more nurses and 114 more doctors. What I can say regarding this Government’s record with the Waitakere emergency department is that we have improved that service beyond whatever existed under the previous Labour Government, which is opposite. We now have 24-hour emergency department services at Waitakere Hospital, far more than that party opposite ever delivered to those people.
Hon Annette King: Did he raise the amount of funding Waitemata District Health Board received when he phoned the chair and the chief executive officer to pressure them after being questioned about proposed cuts in Parliament 2 weeks ago, and did they tell him that under his watch the additional funding this board has received in 2013-2014 is half what it received in 2007- 2008, which might account for its current financial situation? He might like to have a look at this graph, which shows that the level of increased funding he is crowing about is now halved.
Hon TONY RYALL: I just have to say that I am glad the member has admitted finally that this Government increases health funding, because she constantly paints the picture that we have reduced health funding. We have increased it year on year, an average of $500 million. I can tell this to the people of Waitematā: because of our investment in a 24-hour emergency department at Waitakere and tens of millions of dollars in a new emergency department at North Shore, they are getting faster and better emergency department care than was ever offered when that member was the Minister of Health.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a copy of the Minister of Health’s letter of expectation, which is not readily available, saying that he wants district health boards to improve their staff retention.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table an expectation letter from the Minister. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a copy of the consultation document from Waitemata District Health Board on mental health services, of 26 August this year, which states cost pressures and lower funding growth are the reason for cuts.
Mr SPEAKER: Is that document freely available?
Hon Annette King: No, it is not available, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the consultation document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a graph of additional funding per year at Waitemata District Health Board—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is that the graph the member was using?
Hon Annette King: It is. Here is the—
Mr SPEAKER: I am not prepared to put that leave. [Interruption] Order!
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I please know why you would not let me table a graph that comes from district annual plans?
Mr SPEAKER: I am happy to catch up with the member and deal with her later. It is a Speaker’s ruling. If the member is seeking leave to table a graph that has been prepared for a political point, it is not—[Interruption]
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The graph in question comes from the Waitemata District Health Board planning department and from its annual planning process, so it has not been prepared for any purpose other than for the Waitemata District Health Board, and I think you should put the leave.
Mr SPEAKER: I have already ruled that I am not putting the leave.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A fresh point of order?
Hon Annette King: No, I want to table another document. I seek leave to table an email sent to John Key, Campbell Live, and myself from a constituent from North Shore about the lack of proper care at North Shore Hospital because doctors and nurses have said—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there objection? There is objection.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do think we need some clarity from you around what the basis of the ruling is. I accept that there may be a Speaker’s ruling that we are not aware of, but it would be good to know because there will be other occasions we want to table documents like this.
Mr SPEAKER: There will be, and I suggest the member look at a page full of Speaker’s rulings 148.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A page full of rulings will have about half a dozen different reasons. I think what my colleague was asking was for the reason—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member now is disputing my ruling, which will lead to disorder. There are a number of rulings there. I am suggesting he read them all, which would help him.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. Is this a fresh point of order? Because any attempt to dispute a ruling that has been made—
Chris Hipkins: It is seeking clarity from you.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it is any way disputing a ruling I have made?
Chris Hipkins: No, it is not disputing; it is seeking some clarity.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins: Thank you. I am relatively familiar with the issue of the tabling of documents, because you will be aware that it was raised by the Standing Orders Committee of the last Parliament, and significant changes were made to reduce the scope for the tabling of documents. But the critical issue there was that the Standing Orders Committee did not want to in any way curtail a member’s right to seek leave; it wanted to provided further clarity as to what was legitimately to be tabled. Information that is not publicly available is a legitimate thing for a member to seek to table, and the Standing Orders Committee was very careful not to overly restrict what sort of format that might be in. So I just want to get some clarity. Annette King indicated that the document she sought to table was not publicly available, or may not be available to members. The principle behind the tabling of documents is that it is in order to provide members with information that they might not have readily available to them, and it seems to me that without hearing a proper description of the document and without actually putting it to the House, we cannot judge whether the House would like to have that information.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the member for his point. The issue I think that may be of confusion to me is the authenticity of the document. If it has been prepared by the member for the point of making a political point, then I will not be prepared to put the leave. If the member rises and says that it has not been prepared by the member and is of an authentic source, the easiest way forward—[Interruption] Order! The easiest way forward, once I am convinced of that, is that I will put the leave. I am asking the Hon Annette King for clarification.
Hon Annette King: The data is sourced from the Waitematā District Health Board’s annual plans for 2008, 2009—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not ask where the data came from; I asked for the authenticity of the graph. Is it a graph that the member has prepared herself?
Hon Annette King: Yes, but—
Mr SPEAKER: That is all I need to know, thank—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a point of clarification. Could you please explain to the House—[Interruption] Well, I am entitled to ask for a point of order— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: —in silence.
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please continue with her point of order.
Hon Annette King: Could you please explain to the House when sources of information that come from an independent source are a political item?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! What we are talking about here is the tabling of a document that the member herself has prepared. I invited the shadow Leader of the House to have a look at Speakers’ Rulings, and he should do so. If it has been prepared simply for the point of making a political point by the member, regardless of where the data has come from, I am not prepared to put that leave, and that is the end of the matter. If any member wants to question it further, I will have no choice but to ask that member to leave the Chamber. I call question No. 5, Dr Russel Norman. [Interruption] Order! I have called Dr Russel Norman. [Interruption] Would Chris Hipkins stand, withdraw, and apologise for that remark.
Chris Hipkins: I withdraw and apologise.
Hawke’s Bay Water Management—Meeting with Officials
5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Conservation: What did he say in his meeting with officials on 29 July that led Department of Conservation Deputy Director-General Doris Johnston to write in an email later that day that he is “… likely to query whether we leave it all to the EPA to consider”?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Conservation: Nothing. The Minister did express concern that he did not have enough information about the submission, which was due to be lodged on Friday, 2 August, and asked to see a copy of the submission before it was lodged.
Dr Russel Norman: So are we to understand that Deputy Director-General Doris Johnston wrote in an email to other senior Department—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Will the member carry on.
Dr Russel Norman: So are we to understand that Deputy Director-General Doris Johnston wrote an email to other senior managers within the Department of Conservation, saying that the Hon Dr Nick Smith is “likely to query whether we leave it all to the EPA to consider.”? Did she write that email in response to Mr Smith’s saying nothing?
Hon TONY RYALL: Yes. As Doris Johnston has said herself: “The concern was that he did not have enough information. We didn’t have a long discussion on the ins and outs that might be in it. We just talked about him wanting some more information and he gave no direction.”
Dr Russel Norman: So when Deputy Director-General Doris Johnston wrote this email to all these other senior managers within the Department of Conservation saying that Nick Smith was “likely to query whether we leave it all to the EPA to consider.”—that is, that they drop their submission—did she write that email for random reasons, no reason at all, or just because she felt like writing the email?
Hon TONY RYALL: You would have to ask Mrs Johnston to explain her motivations for those emails, other than the fact that I could say that what she has said is “the Minister did not play any role in my decision-making”. And in respect of matters in that note, she has made it clear that “the concern was that the Minister did not have enough information. We did not have a long discussion on the ins and outs that might be in it. We just talked about him wanting some more information and he gave no direction.”
Dr Russel Norman: Is it standard practice for senior officials within the Department of Conservation to write emails talking about the Minister of Conservation and saying that the Minister of Conservation is likely to query whether the department should just leave it all up to the Environmental Protection Authority and not make a submission—is it standard practice in the Department of Conservation for senior officials to write such emails in response to the Minister saying nothing?
Hon TONY RYALL: Look, I would not be in a position to be able to answer that question, particularly as a Minister in Nick Smith’s stead today. But what I would point to are the comments that Doris Johnston herself has made publicly, where she refers to that line in the email as saying that “the concern was that he did not have enough information. We did not have a long discussion on the ins and outs that might be in it. We just talked about him wanting some more information and he gave no direction.” But, more important, is the comment that she made: “The Minister did not play any role in my decision-making.”
Dr Russel Norman: Did Nick Smith find it difficult to have the conversation with Doris Johnston about the draft submission that the department was about to submit when Mr Smith says that he did not even know that this submission existed until 6 weeks later? How do you have a conversation about a submission without knowing that the submission exists?
Hon TONY RYALL: Because the note that he got with his weekly report is quite clear that the department was evaluating the proposed plan change and resource consents, and that a submission should be lodged.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister aware that in the document he has just been reading from, it actually says it is the department’s preliminary view that a submission should be lodged on the plan change; if so, how is it possible for the Minister to claim he did not know that this draft submission existed when it is both in the briefing note, and, as he has just said, it was mentioned in the conversation that he had with his officials?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is clear that the Minister got a copy of the final submission on 31 July. He has made it publicly clear that he was unaware that there was an earlier draft, which he became aware of after a Radio New Zealand National report this month.
Dr Russel Norman: Is he aware that departmental officials met about a week before 29 July or thereabouts and had a significant discussion as to whether they should lodge the submission because they knew that it would be controversial, and they made a decision to continue to go ahead with the submission in spite of the fact that it would be controversial, and that the submission was withdrawn only after Nick Smith intervened in the process on 29 July?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am disappointed that that member thinks that Doris Johnston is a liar. She has been a loyal public servant—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That does not help answer the question. As a way forward I am going to ask Dr Russel Norman to repeat that question.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister aware that senior Department of Conservation officials met about a week before the 29 July meeting with the Minister and decided to proceed with the submission, even though they knew it would be controversial? Is he aware of that fact and that the submission was only withdrawn after the meeting with the Minister on 29 July?
Hon TONY RYALL: As the Minister in his stead today, I am not able to answer specifically whether the Minister knew of that meeting. But what I do know is that the premise of that member’s question is that what Mrs Johnston has been saying is not true, because that member is saying that Nick Smith influenced the decision making. Mrs Johnston says: “The Minister did not play any role in my decision making.” My understanding as Minister answering this question today is that Doris Johnston has been a thoroughly professional and loyal public servant to both sides of this House. I am disappointed that her word is being denounced by that member.
6. Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Productivity Commission that the “growing gap in labour productivity has been the main driver of an increasing disparity in GDP per capita between the two trans-Tasman economies,” and given double-digit house price inflation in Auckland, doesn’t this show the Government’s efforts to rebalance the economy towards productive exports and jobs has failed?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): In answer to the second part of the question, no. The commission’s full comment refers to New Zealand’s relative decline since the mid-1970s. The Government understands those issues and has a programme in place of tax reform, upgrading educational achievement and skills training, building more infrastructure, rolling out ultra-fast broadband—perhaps some 10 years ahead of when it would have turned up in the market—and getting the Government back to surplus. We believe that this programme and hundreds of other initiatives will contribute to closing the productivity gap with Australia.
Hon Shane Jones: Why does he believe the Government’s current economic settings are correct, when the Productivity Commission says that New Zealand’s productivity performance shows no evidence of catching up to other countries?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have looked at that evidence pretty hard, and we believe that the programme the Government has outlined will make a difference. I must say that in trying to turn round productivity decline dating back to the 1970s, it will take persistence over time, with sensible policies and public support. That is the recipe that this Government is following. We welcome suggestions from the retread economic spokespersons on the Opposition front bench that will assist in that project.
David Bennett: When did the New Zealand economy first show signs of imbalance in the current economic cycle?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, between 2001 and 2007 house prices doubled. By 2007 first mortgage interest rates were at 10 percent. They are currently half of that. In the 5 years to 2008
public spending increased by 50 percent. The result of that was that in 2005 the export sector in New Zealand went into recession, when the rest of the globe was enjoying an economic boom. It was a pretty amazing achievement.
David Bennett: What is the outlook for the New Zealand economy and how does that compare to the situation in 2008?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The current economic outlook is for 2 to 3 percent growth over the next 3 years, with export growth of 2 to 3 percent, once the effects of the drought are over. The Government is expected to be in surplus in 2014-15. This compares favourably to the situation in 2006 to 2008, when the housing market was booming, first mortgage interest rates were at 10 percent, but the export sector had already been in recession for a couple of years. In the next 2 or 3 years New Zealand will be one of the fastest-growing developed economies and one of a handful in surplus, but there is a lot of work to do yet, particularly on productivity.
Darien Fenton: Given that the Productivity Commission’s report shows that the long hours New Zealanders work has not helped improve wages or productivity, will he support an amendment to the Employment Relations Act that would require employment agreements to have a clear indication of the hours that employees must work rather than the completely deregulated system we have now, where some workers are working dangerously long hours?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No workers should be put in the position where the hours of work they have are dangerous. If that is the situation, then their employers are breaching their statutory responsibilities. I know the member has, for instance, been supporting a campaign around the forestry industry, which I think has had some impact on that industry, that is positive for workers in reducing the dangers posed by long hours.
David Bennett: What alternative economic proposals has he seen and what effect would those proposals have on productivity and the tradable sector?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen a number of proposals over recent weeks, which I think come from somewhere in the 1960s and 1970s, around how to try to legislate for a stronger economy, with higher taxes, more spending, and bigger Government. I have also seen a number of proposals to shut down the dairy industry, close down the smelter, prevent all mining, and stop any new irrigation, at the same time as people are proposing more jobs and regional development. It clearly does not make sense.
Hon Shane Jones: Does he agree that the 2.5 percent decline in productivity recorded by Statistics New Zealand in the fishing and forestry industries since 2008—the first productivity decline in those crucial regional sectors since records began—is directly linked to his Government’s cuts to regional training; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I certainly do not agree with that, although the reasons for that decline are not well understood. My colleague Minister Joyce and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment are doing a lot of sectoral work to understand changes in productivity. In respect of training schemes, we are still cleaning up the mess left by the last Government of billions of dollars of wasted spending—misleading young New Zealanders that they were getting tradable skills when they were not. But the clean-up is almost over and help is on its way for those young New Zealanders who do want better skills.
Hon Shane Jones: How will he achieve his promise to close the wage gap with Australia, when the Productivity Commission says that under his current economic settings New Zealand’s productivity performance shows no evidence of catching up?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said before, the Government has outlined its plan. It is all set out in detail in the Business Growth Agenda, which has been thoroughly discussed with business, with iwi, with tertiary institutions, and with industry groups. And if the member has another suggestion or two to add to the 300 policy initiatives, they are most welcome.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Question No. 7.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question? Oh, question No. 7. Very eager today.
Whānau Ora—Minister’s Statements
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): This—[Interruption] Well, he is clearly finished.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have now called the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister for Whānau Ora: Does she stand by her answers to Oral Question No. 4 yesterday?
Hon TARIANA TURIA (Minister for Whānau Ora): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When she was asked yesterday, and I repeat, “Has she ever offered resources and staff, such as report writers, to prepare Whānau Ora commissioning agency bid documentation;”, why did she answer “No.”?
Hon TARIANA TURIA: Because that is the truth.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How could that possibly be the truth when she knew of funds being given to the National Hauora Coalition and when an Official Information Act document from Te Puni Kōkiri supports that, showing that this money was “to enable the National Hauora Coalition to test the broader applicability of its key framework consistent with the Government’s Whānau Ora approach and, further, that this takes in Whānau Ora outcomes, Whānau Ora assessments, and Whānau Ora case management.”? How can her denial possibly be credible?
Hon TARIANA TURIA: The Rt Hon Winston Peters was very specific in his question yesterday. He asked whether I gave $500,000 plus expert help to the National Hauora Coalition to prepare its bid for Whānau Ora money—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. I have a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You will recall that my first supplementary question recited the question of yesterday, which was the first supplementary question yesterday as well, and which went this way—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am trying to hear the point of order, and it would be helpful if there was no objection or interjection during that point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My supplementary questions are based on the first supplementary question today, as it was yesterday, which was whether she has ever offered resources and staff such as report writers to prepare etc., etc. That is what I want answered today.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member raised a supplementary question, and it began with “How can that possibly be the truth?”. The Minister was answering that with a full explanation as to how that could possibly be the truth. If the member does not like that answer, do not raise a point of order; ask a further supplementary question. It is not for me to justify the answers given by Ministers in this House if the question has been addressed. Does the Hon Tariana Turia want to complete the answer, or has she done so?
Hon TARIANA TURIA: In response to the questions that the Rt Hon Winston Peters asked yesterday, I answered those questions exactly as they were, and I repeat those answers today.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, if that is possibly true, why yesterday, immediately following question time, did she approach me and state her awareness that Te Puni Kōkiri had paid $500,000 to the National Hauora Coalition—
Hon Judith Collins: She’s not the Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —which was what she denied in answer to my second supplementary question yesterday, which was whether she has ever offered resources and staff? Everyone knows that Te Puni Kōkiri is the funder of Whānau Ora, and that is the problem. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have got a Minister over here—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! What is the point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: My point of order is that Te Puni Kōkiri is the funder of Whānau Ora.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. [Interruption] Order! If the members want to stay for the balance of question time—[Interruption] Would the member please resume his seat. What
the member is raising there is not a point of order; it is a matter of debate or a matter for clarification. It is not a point of order to raise with the Speaker of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a fresh point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: This was my question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I know full well what the question was.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which was what?
Mr SPEAKER: You have asked the Minister to explain the answer yesterday compared with the information you are laying before the House now. That is the question. It is then for the Minister to answer. If the Minister addresses the question and the member then wants further clarification, the member does that with a further supplementary question, not by point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister indulging in attempted semantics in respect of Whānau Ora funding when she knows it is administered by Te Puni Kōkiri, but that does not admonish her from responsibility, and when, under the Official Information Act release just the other day, we have this circumstance of a contract for $500,000, as alleged by me, and then a further contract of $1,500 excluding GST on a private contract, as alleged by me? How can she possibly deny that she had knowledge as she told me outside and as these documents—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now the question is getting excessively long.
Hon TARIANA TURIA: Mr Peters asked me yesterday whether I gave $500,000 plus expert help to the National Hauora Coalition to prepare its bid for Whānau Ora money. I did not give it $500,000 to prepare its bid for Whānau Ora money.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Minister denying knowledge of her involvement, when the whole sets of contracts that I have referred to in my supplementary question about offering resources and staff, such as report writers—two contracts referred to the total connectedness with the Whānau Ora programme? Why is she trying to defy gravity here?
Hon TARIANA TURIA: Yesterday the member said that I offered that not to the National Hauora Coalition but to the Iwi Leaders Forum, which was disputed—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise again to the Minister. I have a point of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: This is the second attempt for me to get a Minister to refer to the question being asked. I did not refer to other supplementary questions from yesterday. I am referring to the specific one about resources and staff—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! This is now one of the numerous attempts when the member is obviously not satisfied with the answer and he attempts to raise it as a point of order. He must use his supplementary questions. If he has got none left today, then he will have another go tomorrow. Provided the question is addressed, then I am no longer responsible for the answer that is given. The member must solve his problem by asking a supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not a question of whether I am satisfied with the answer. My point of order is that the Minister has made no attempt to answer the specific question, which is what you should be ruling on.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have ruled on it. I said that the Minister has made a genuine attempt to address the question. Question No. 8, Phil Twyford.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. Is this a fresh point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Of course it is a fresh point of order. That is why I am raising it.
Mr SPEAKER: OK. We will have a fresh point of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the Official Information Act report from Te Puni Kōkiri dated 3 September, which shows the two contracts administered under Whānau Ora funding.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular report. Is there any objection to that course of action? There appears to be none. It can be so tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Housing, Affordable—First-home Buyers and Mortgages
8. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: What does he say to the almost 80 percent of people looking to buy their first homes who say they cannot afford the 20 percent deposit or will need family help because of LVR lending limits?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Housing: First, it is easy to understand the frustration of first-home buyers. It has always been difficult to get into a first home. We would say to those first-home buyers that we will do everything we can to give them a fair shot at the dream of homeownership. In particular, they will have a better chance for an affordable home if we get a more flexible and faster growing supply of new houses on the ground, and if we follow policies that prevent interest rates going to 10 percent, as they were under the previous Labour Government.
Phil Twyford: Why did he fail to advise the Minister of Finance that loan-to-value ratio lending limits would have negative consequences for first-home buyers, before that Minister signed off the memorandum of understanding with the Reserve Bank that triggered the loan-to-value ratios?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: First, the member is wrong. The loan-to-value ratio rules were triggered by the Reserve Bank Governor using the tool kit that has actually always been available to him. The member continues to misrepresent that, which I take as the Labour Party being keen to remove the independence of the Reserve Bank. I invite those members to explain to the public of New Zealand that they will now run interest rate policy, banking supervision, and financial stability. I cannot remember what the rest of the question was.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was listening to the Minister’s answer and for the vast bulk of the Minister’s answer he was outlining what he was purporting or what he thought the Labour Party’s policy was and inviting the Labour Party to explain its policy. Since when has that been an acceptable form of an answer?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There was a portion where he certainly did that. [Interruption] Order! I took the answer to be an explanation around the continued independence of the Reserve Bank. In my opinion, that question had two parts to it. He certainly addressed one part of it. The member has further supplementary questions, if he wants to use them.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to seek some clarification from you. Is it your view that when the Minister does what he did there, when he went into a long part of his answer on matters for which he is not responsible, you want us to take points of order? Is that your position?
Mr SPEAKER: No. If the Minister is attempting to address the second part of the question, that seems to me to be perfectly satisfactory. The Minister called at the end that he had forgotten the first part of the question—
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I can answer it now.
Mr SPEAKER: —and if the member wants that raised, in the normal course of events I would have expected the member to say that he wanted the first part answered. The difficulty the member gets into is when he raises a supplementary question with two parts. In the meantime, I have heard an interjection from the Hon Bill English that he now does recall the first part, so I think the best way forward on this occasion—
Grant Robertson: We’ll do it again.
Mr SPEAKER: —no—is to allow the Minister to stand and answer the first part of the question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Minister of Housing did advise the Minister of Finance of that fact.
Phil Twyford: Did he advise the Minister of Finance that not seeking advice from Treasury on the impact on first-home buyers of the loan-to-value ratio lending limits until a month after that Minister signed off the agreement with the Reserve Bank would seriously undermine the Government’s housing policy and shatter the dreams of thousands of first-home buyers?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, he did not advise the Minister of Finance of that, because it is simply not the case. But the Minister of Housing has advised the Minister of Finance that first-home buyers will benefit from a more rapid supply of houses to the market, and that the legislative and planning regime is now in place to achieve that. First-home buyers would be brutally punished by policies that pushed first mortgage interest rates up to 10 percent, which is where they were in 2008 after the previous Labour Government spent 9 years not solving the housing problem.
Phil Twyford: When he became aware that the Minister of Finance intended to speak to the banks to ask them to prioritise or protect first-home buyers before loan-to-value ratio lending limits came into force, why did he remain silent and refuse to go in to bat for first-home buyers?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: You could actually ask the Minister of Finance whether he went in to bat for first-home buyers, and I can assure that member that he did.
Phil Twyford: How would he interpret the banks’ response to the finance Minister’s panicked request, given that none of them has prioritised first-home buyers and that the ASB Bank yesterday put up a third-tier manager to respond to the finance Minister’s attack on that bank, demonstrating that the Government has no credibility with any of the trading banks on this issue?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the trading banks’ problem is that they did not accord any credibility to the Governor of the Reserve Bank. And ASB has found out that when the Governor of the Reserve Bank says that he is considering bringing in limits, then it ought to listen and stop promising young New Zealanders a loan that it knows that it probably cannot deliver on.
Better Public Services Targets—Rheumatic Fever
9. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What progress is the Government making on its rheumatic fever programme?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): By early next year, more than 50,000 children in 200 schools will be participating in the Government’s schools-based throat-swabbing campaign, which is timely progress given that this Sunday is World Heart Day, where the theme is all about adopting heart-healthy behaviours from a young age. Following representations from the MP for Papakura, a further eight Papakura schools are scheduled to become part of the throat-swabbing campaign by October 2013. The campaign, which aims to reduce the incidence of rheumatic fever by two-thirds by June 2017, received an additional $21.6 million over 4 years in Budget 2013, bringing the total Government investment to $45 million.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What community work is currently being done to help reduce rheumatic fever?
Hon TONY RYALL: Local communities and health providers are working together in at-risk communities that experience the highest rates of disease, such as Auckland and Porirua. Soon the Associate Minister of Health the Hon Tariana Turia will announce details of the free sore throat rapid response clinics that will target families whose children do not attend schools with throat swabbing services, and an Auckland-wide healthy homes initiative will address poor-quality housing and overcrowding, which are contributors to this disease, particularly in Auckland. Other initiatives, like research into a rheumatic fever vaccine and a targeted awareness campaign, will also help families understand how to protect their children from this very serious Third World disease.
Hawke’s Bay Water Management—Ruataniwha Scheme
10. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister of Conservation: Did he receive the draft submission on the Ruataniwha Dam proposal, which was requested by Doris
Johnston, Deputy Director-General at the Department of Conservation, to be delivered on Tuesday 30 July 2013; if so, on what date?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Conservation: I am advised, as he has previously advised, that he did not receive the draft referred to until Tuesday last week, after hearing about it on Radio New Zealand National’s Morning Report. He did receive the final submission on Wednesday, 31 July.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Were the contents of the submission he received consistent with the briefing on the draft submission he received on Monday, 29 July; if not, did he question the inconsistency?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am unable to give an answer specifically on that, other than to say that as Doris Johnston has said previously, the Minister never saw the draft submission that is being talked about. It was never provided to his office. It was an internal working draft that managers accessed. They then decided that they would not make that submission.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Why did he say to reporters on Thursday, 19 September: “There was no mention to me of a draft submission. I did not know of the existence of a draft submission.”, when he was briefed on the content of that draft submission on Monday, 29 July, expressed concern about it, and asked for a copy of it before it was submitted?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Minister has been quite clear. If you look at the note that he has received he has been advised that the Department of Conservation was evaluating the proposed plan, and a preliminary view is that a submission should be lodged on the plan. As Doris Johnston made very clear: “The Minister did not play any role in my decision making.”
Hon Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to interrupt my colleague but three times the Hon Ruth Dyson accused the Minister of lying. That is not parliamentary language, and I ask her to withdraw that.
Mr SPEAKER: If the Hon Ruth Dyson did so, that is unparliamentary. Would she stand and withdraw.
Hon Ruth Dyson: I withdraw and apologise. When and how was he informed that a senior staff member resigned—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the member to start that again. I could not hear above the interjection.
Hon Ruth Dyson: When and how was he informed that a senior staff member resigned because the original submission on the Ruataniwha Water Storage proposal was withdrawn?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Minister has made it clear that he had not been informed of those circumstances when he last answered that question in the House, which I think was yesterday.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Is he ruling out any link between the withdrawal of the original submission and the staff member’s resignation?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am not in a position, as the Minister answering in his stead, to be able to comment on that, because that would actually be up to the employee to talk about. The real issue, though, here is the suggestion that the Minister—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister made it clear that he was unable to answer that question. There is nothing more that he can add to the situation, apart from getting the Minister down here.
Mr SPEAKER: And on this occasion I finally agree with Grant Robertson.
Drugs, Illegal—Customs Operations
11. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Customs: What is Customs doing to stem the tide of illegal psychoactive substances?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister of Customs): The New Zealand Customs Service is dedicating a lot of time and resource to stopping illegal psychoactive substances from crossing our border. Just yesterday I announced that tens of millions of dollars of psychoactive substances had been intercepted at our border in a 7-month operation called Operation Static. The harm
prevented to our communities is substantial. For example, seizing 80 kilograms of class C analogues, worth $21 million, prevents $32 million of harm in our community.
Hon Tau Henare: What message does this latest customs operation send?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: This latest operation sends a very clear message to criminals that we will stop their vile drugs and we will go after them. Eleven people have been arrested so far, and more arrests are pending. If people want to take a chance on their liberty by importing illegal psychoactive substances, they can expect to get caught.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Foregone Television New Zealand Dividends
12. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Minister of Finance: What is the expected value of the dividends from TVNZ that the Crown will forego as a result of the dividend relief agreement related to the SkyCity deal?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has agreed to dividend relief for Television New Zealand (TVNZ) to help it cover the cost of a significant investment in the major refurbishment of the central Auckland building that it currently occupies. Some of the refurbishment costs will be met by $10.6 million that the company will receive from the sale of a package of land to Skycity. The rest will be met through foregone dividends. TVNZ is currently in discussions with contractors regarding refurbishment, and I would prefer not to release an estimate of the dividend relief while they are undertaking commercial negotiations, but I am happy to do so when those negotiations are finished.
Denise Roche: Why was the cost to the Crown in lost TVNZ dividends not included in the assessment of the value of the Skycity deal, which is looking better for Skycity and worse for New Zealand by the day?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because it was not part of any consideration of the arrangements around Skycity. In fact, I think the catalyst for it was the idea that Telecom had emptied a building and there would be an opportunity for TVNZ to use that building in transition while the main TVNZ building was being refurbished. Those issues have only ever been considered in the last 3 months or 4 months.
Denise Roche: I seek leave to table a letter from Minister Foss saying that TVNZ could reduce the dividends to facilitate the sale of land to Skycity.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table—it is a letter from Minister Foss?
Denise Roche: Minister Foss.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Denise Roche: What is the value of the social and economic harm that will arise from increased gambling and gambling harm in New Zealand resulting from this deal?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: This deal has not been part of the considerations around Skycity, although I know the Greens do not count jobs as having any social benefit. This deal, like the Skycity deal, will create more jobs, certainly in the transition, but it is an investment that TVNZ is making for its own future. It happens that selling those buildings to Skycity enables Skycity to have a better convention centre. In that sense it is a win-win.
Denise Roche: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about the value of the social and economic costs, and the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member did not use that question. She used “What is the value of the social and economic harm?”. In that, she put an opinion. She may well be able to justify that opinion, but the Minister then addressed the question.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very direct question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just clarify—is the member disputing a ruling I have just given? Because if so, I am—
Dr Russel Norman: No.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if it is a fresh point of order, I will happily hear it. But it better be.
Dr Russel Norman: The Minister used the occasion of his answer to make derogatory comments about the Green Party. It has nothing—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member finds those comments derogatory to the Green Party, then I suggest he is just too sensitive. [Interruption] Order! I have a point of order here. Points of order will be heard in silence.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Previously—and there are several Speakers’ rulings regarding this—members have been told that we can expect a like style of answer to a like question. So straight questions—
Mr SPEAKER: Could I just ask the member to refer me to which Speakers’ rulings he is referring to?
Chris Hipkins: I have not actually got the exact numbers, but I am sure the Clerk will be able to tell you which ones. But anyway, the principle behind them is that a like question gets a like answer. So if it is a straight question, you get a straight answer. If it is a political question, you get a political answer. Repeatedly, what we have seen here is the member asking what I think are relatively straight questions, and the Minister has used that to attack the position or the supposed position of the person—
Mr SPEAKER: The member obviously did not listen to my answer to the point of order. The question had a level of politics in it when it talked about the social and economic harm being done by the casino deal. The Minister took the opportunity to respond by saying “What about the jobs?”. Listen, this is a political debating chamber. The question was with an element of politics. The answer given had an element of politics. If the Greens find that—I have forgotten the word the member used—derogatory, I do not believe that it was so.
Denise Roche: How can the Government be sure—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the member now start her question again.
Denise Roche: How can the Government be sure that the economic case for the Skycity deal stacks up when it does not know what the cost will be and is relying on Skycity’s numbers for estimates of the benefits?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, in respect of this deal, it would not have been included in calculations about costs or benefits, because it is really an opportunity that arose out of the fact that the Skycity deal was eventually completed, and Skycity, on completion of that deal, has been looking to make sure that the convention centre is as economic as possible. The Government has been looking at whether TVNZ ought to consolidate its buildings from, I think, three or four buildings into one. That one building needs refurbishment. That will come at some cost. The Government as an owner has been willing to invest in that alongside the proceeds of the sale of land to Skycity. That is how it has worked, so that is why this deal has not been included in any calculation of costs or benefits around Skycity.
Denise Roche: I seek leave to table an email from an independent adviser to the Ministry of Economic Development saying that all the Government’s numbers come from Skycity and are not independently verified.
Mr SPEAKER: We need to know who the author of that document is.
Denise Roche: It is from an independent adviser and it is to Roger Wigglesworth. It was given to us in confidence.
Mr SPEAKER: The easiest way is to put the leave. Is there any objection to that anonymous email being presented? There is objection.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill—Oral Submissions
1. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Chairperson of the Commerce Committee: Did SkyCity present an oral submission to the Committee regarding the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill?
JONATHAN YOUNG (Chairperson of the Commerce Committee): No.
Denise Roche: Can the chair confirm that Skycity, the main beneficiary of this legislation, did not appear before the committee to answer Parliament’s questions?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I would have thought—let us allow the member to answer the question. [Interruption] I thought it had actually been answered in the preliminary question, but let us have it again.
Denise Roche: Can the chair confirm that Skycity, the main beneficiary of this legislation, did not appear before the committee to answer Parliament’s questions?
JONATHAN YOUNG: No, it did not appear before the committee.
New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill—Oral Submissions
2. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Chairperson of the Commerce Committee: Did he invite SkyCity to present an oral submission to the Committee regarding the New Zealand International Convention Centre Bill; if not, why not?
JONATHAN YOUNG (Chairperson of the Commerce Committee): No, because I left this matter for the committee to decide.
Denise Roche: For clarity, is it correct that despite the fact that the legislation extends Skycity Casino’s licence, the chair did not ask the prime beneficiary of this legislation to appear—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has just answered that question.