Questions and Answers - November 5
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Programme—Support for New Zealand Families
1. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s economic programme supporting New Zealand families, particularly those on low incomes and with dependent children?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The most important thing the Government is doing is building a competitive economy that creates more jobs and supports higher incomes. Since the tax changes of 2010, households earning less than $60,000, which is around 50 percent of all households, receive more in income and accommodation support, paid parental leave, Working for Families, and welfare support than they pay in income tax—that is, they receive more income from the Government than they pay to the Government in tax. We have also provided extra support for the most vulnerable families. This includes, for instance, $190 million for the next stage of welfare changes to help more New Zealanders out of welfare dependency and into work, and $100 million to extend the home insulation programme, along with many other versions of support for our most vulnerable families.
John Hayes: According to the latest economic data, how are families benefiting from the improving economic outlook and the Government’s economic programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Every family’s situation is different and times remain challenging for many families, but there are encouraging indicators. Cost of living increases remain low at just over 1 percent and interest rates remain low. In fact, today first mortgage interest rates were about half what they were 5 years ago. In the past 2 years average wages have increased faster than inflation, and there are 65,000 more jobs in the economy than 2 years ago. But, most important, businesses are indicating that they are feeling more confident and more likely to hire and to provide wage increases, which will benefit families.
John Hayes: What reports has he received on how a so-called living wage would impact on a two-adult, two-child family?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government supports higher wages and incomes for all New Zealanders, including families. I have received a report from Treasury that shows that families with two adults and two children represent only 6 percent of the families who earn below $18.40 an hour. The vast majority, almost 80 percent of families earning below the so-called living wage, are either single adults or couples with no children. That makes the living wage an extremely poorly targeted intervention to support low-income families.
John Hayes: What other conclusions does Treasury’s analysis reach on the so-called living wage?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, Treasury, I am sure, believes that people being paid more is better for families and better for economies. It is just that everyone else in the country except for the
Labour Party knows that if you could legislate for income levels, then why would you not pick a wage of $25 an hour? Why is it being mean in picking $18.40? A Ministry of Social Development study also deals with the slogan that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Ministry of Social Development reports show that income inequality has been declining since the mid-2000s. Household incomes have been rising for all deciles except the top 10 percent of earners.
Insurance Industry—Prime Minister’s Statements
2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that the insurance industry is “a highly efficient market”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I will certainly stand still when I read back my statement. Yes, I do stand by it. According to the public register, believe it or not, a total of 96 insurance firms have a full licence from the Reserve Bank’s carry-on insurance business in New Zealand. I have heard of a group proposing to set up a 97th insurer. The only point of difference is that that insurance business would put hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money at risk by entering a market in which that group has no expertise and for which it cannot offer any competitive advantage. That cavalier attitude to taxpayers’ money comes from who else but the Labour Party.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that answer, would the Prime Minister rather put hundreds of millions of dollars at risk making the insurance market more competitive, or would he rather do a Soviet-style renationalisation of a large telecommunications company that he says is about to go broke?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member can rest assured that we are not about to take over some large telecommunications company. The second thing that has been quite useful, actually, in that question is that the member himself has admitted it would put hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money at risk. He clearly read the editorials today. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I am having difficulty hearing members.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that roughly 60 percent of the insurance market is owned by just two players, what percentage of the telecommunications market does the Prime Minister think is necessary to justify his Soviet-style renationalisation of Chorus?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, what the member is clearly demonstrating is that he is so out of touch with the issues that actually matter to New Zealanders that despite having hours and hours of warning, he put the wrong question down today. He did not ask me one about Chorus, so I am not going to give him an answer.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister got a little bit of whatever it is in his system out of his system, but he has not—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. When a member raises a point of order, they should succinctly and tersely come to the comment and not refer to the member. I will hear the member.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am interested in the point of order you were raising.
Grant Robertson: Indeed, thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. The point of order I was raising is that the Prime Minister failed to address the question as he is required to do under Standing Order 383.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, I believe the Prime Minister did address the question. I will give the member a supplementary question.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect—[Interruption] Is this a point—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. [Interruption] Order! Points of order will be heard in silence.
Grant Robertson: Although the question contained a phrase that might be regarded as perhaps outside the strict reading of Standing Orders, it was very similar to phrases that were in earlier questions from the National Party. The Prime Minister is required to at least address the question, and I invite you to tell me how he did that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, I will quite happily tell the member how he did that. The supplementary question was in two parts. It referred in the first instance to insurers, with two of them having 60 percent of the market, and then referred to telecommunications companies. The Prime Minister responded to the part on telecommunications companies.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that the Prime Minister’s party received over a million dollars in donations in 2005 from the insurance industry, how much in donations would it take for him to undertake a Soviet-style renationalisation of a large telecommunications company?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no responsibility for donations to the National Party. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, I agree.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table this rather charming DVD called The Hollow Men, which features the Prime Minister and backgrounds his receipt of a million dollars in donations from—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I understand—[Interruption] Order! I understand that the DVD is in the public arena.
Hon David Cunliffe: I am not sure it is very freely available. Perhaps members opposite could raise their hands if they have already received a copy. We would be happy—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The DVD is in the public arena. Does the member have another supplementary question?
Hon David Cunliffe: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Point of order—[Interruption] Order! There is just too much clatter going on during points of order. There will be silence while there are points of order.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table the hard copy of The Hollow Men, which in more detail points out the million dollars of donations that the Prime Minister’s party received from the insurance industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: That book is also in the public arena.
Hon David Cunliffe: Is it not true that the Prime Minister called Kiwibank a “failing institution” after almost a million Kiwis signed up as customers; therefore, why could not KiwiAssure also provide a locally owned, competitive, and high-quality option in the insurance market?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is great that it has taken to supplementary question No. 4, but we will get to the heart of it. These are the reasons. For a start off, let us just take Kiwibank. Yes, it is a good little business. I might point out, though, that it has taken $860 million of taxpayers’ money and it has never paid a dividend in over 10 years. Secondly, the insurance market is hardly a free ride, because insurance companies happen to be in the process of paying $20 billion out in Christchurch. So if we had KiwiAssure, which the member wants to talk about, then New Zealand taxpayers would be paying a fortune into Christchurch. Thirdly, it is a competitive market at the moment. So if one assumes that they are just going to lay off their risk, they will be laying it off with the same reinsurers. Fourthly—
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not finished. Sit down.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No—[Interruption] The Prime Minister must yield to a point of order. I will rule whether the point of order is in order.
Hon David Cunliffe: Standing Orders provide that Ministers’ answers should be brief, to the point, and germane to the question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. I think the Prime Minister was doing his best to answer what was quite an expansive supplementary question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To my fourth point as to why an insurance company would be a bad idea—name another major bank that operates in New Zealand that has an insurance company. It would not make sense to lend money [Interruption]—no, lend money—and actually have the insurance on the same property they are renting. They do not do that.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given the fourth of his long answers there, is he aware that ASB Bank owns Tower Insurance; if he is, why is he asking such a stupid question?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and it does not provide insurance in the form that we are talking about.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the Prime Minister heard of KiwiAssure over the weekend, did he liken it to that brilliant policy announced by New Zealand First on 20 October called KiwiSure, and did it put him in mind of the famous English adage “Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: With the greatest of respect to the member, it did not get any better an idea when Labour announced it.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that the Prime Minister has now beaten up on Kiwibank, KiwiSaver, KiwiRail, and now KiwiAssure when these policies have all been very popular with New Zealanders, why is his Government so out of touch and why does he persist in being such a “KiwiSpoiler”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, we can go through them if you like, but, as we pointed out with Kiwibank, it has got $860 million of taxpayers’ money and has not paid a dividend. KiwiRail— well, that is very interesting, but if we want to go through the details of that, the Labour Government, as part of an election policy, decided to waste hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money paying Toll a huge amount of money. This is the same Labour Party that went into the election campaign in 2008 promising to underwrite deposits, which cost this Government $1 billion. There is one part—I am prepared to accept this bit. I am prepared to accept this bit. There is one gap in the market for insurance that KiwiAssure could provide. OK, I will accept that, and that is income continuity, because if you are about to lose your job because there is no place welcome for you in the Labour Party—like Trevor Mallard and Phil Goff—you would need—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member will—[Interruption] Order! Question No. 3, Katrina Shanks. [Interruption] Order! There is just too much noise. I am having difficulty hearing any of the participants.
Roading, Wellington—Transmission Gully
3. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister of Transport: How will the construction of Transmission Gully benefit the Wellington region?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): This is a vitally important piece of infrastructure, and the benefits of constructing the whole of the roads of national significance are large. Transmission Gully will help shave 40 minutes off the commute from Levin to Wellington. It will improve road safety, reducing the number of serious and fatal crashes; it will mean an alternative route exists in the event of a natural disaster; and it will contribute to jobs in the region. The National Government, with the support of the Māori Party, United Future, and ACT, is investing in the infrastructure of New Zealand, supporting cities like Wellington, when Labour and the Greens are abandoning them.
Katrina Shanks: What progress has been made towards the construction of Transmission Gully as part of the northern corridor road of national significance?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Last week the Prime Minister confirmed that this Government is committed to building the Transmission Gully road and that construction would begin in the middle of next year. This is a roading project that the National Government has progressed as part of the roads of national significance package, and we believe that the benefits of not only Transmission Gully but the northern corridor as a whole to the Wellington region will be substantial.
Katrina Shanks: Why is the Government proposing to build Transmission Gully using an availability model public-private partnership?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because it is a very efficient way of doing it. There has been a lot of misinformation surrounding the procurement of Transmission Gully via a public-private partnership, mostly from the Greens, but not from Labour because it has not decided yet whether or not to support it. The availability model means just that: the payment to the operator does not commence until the road is built and is made available. The operator is paid on availability and performance of the road. If the road is not available, it is not paid. At the end of the contract—25 years on—the asset becomes an asset of the State.
Hon Peter Dunne: Will the Minister be good enough to acknowledge that the construction of Transmission Gully as a public-private partnership was the first point in the National - United Future confidence and supply agreement, and also that the decision to proceed with this from next year will end some 75 years of uncertainty for Wellington people over northern access and egress?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, I do want to confirm those points raised by the Hon Peter Dunne. It would be fair to say that since he first came to Parliament in 1984 Mr Dunne has been a strong advocate for the road of national significance, and it was indeed a very important point in the coalition arrangement that was reached at the time of the last election. What that also shows is that a National-led Government is capable of giving very big wins to parties that choose to be in Government with it.
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with IAG’s submission to the Commerce Commission that “there is real potential for major banks to begin underwriting their own general insurance products, and to compete directly with the incumbent insurance companies at the underwriting level as they already do at a retail level of the insurance market”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I have no responsibility for the opinion of IAG New Zealand but I can give the member the benefit of the experience of watching and working closely with the Reserve Bank to reduce the risks of our banking system to the New Zealand taxpayer. There have been 3 or 4 years where capital requirements have been increased, the core funding ratio has been increased, and we have put in place an open bank resolution system. The idea of a bank taking on more insurance risk is about the dumbest proposal that could possibly be made in the light on the events following the global financial crisis. The member should think very carefully before putting forward a policy that heads in exactly the opposite direction to where every other country in the world is heading.
Hon David Parker: Am I correct, then, to infer that he does not support the creation of a Kiwibank-style insurer to serve New Zealand consumers, which would reduce the dominance of overseas-owned insurers, keep profits in New Zealand, and bring added competition, added flexibility, and choice to New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is exactly the misleading pitch around this proposition. If there is one thing every taxpayer in the developed world now understands but the Labour Party does not, it is that the risk would be on taxpayers—taxpayers in Ireland, Spain, the US, and the UK. A billiondollar impost on New Zealand taxpayers arises exactly from financial institutions taking too much risk and loading it on to the Government. That is why his proposition is stupid.
Hon David Parker: Why is spending hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money on a failed asset sale programme and $30 million on a taxpayer subsidy for the benefit of Rio Tinto a better use of taxpayer-funded resources than creating a publicly owned insurance company that acts in the interests of New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I will tell the member why: in the case of the electricity companies, everyone has now come to understand that electricity demand in New Zealand is
dropping and, secondly, there is a significant risk around weather carried by those companies. We have now shifted half of that risk off the taxpayer to investors in the public market because we want to avoid the taxpayer having to take the kinds of risks that have destroyed public finances in other developed countries. That is why the Government taking on even more insurance risk than it currently holds is crazy. We have already got to pay the bill for $7 billion worth of Earthquake Commission risk. Why would we take on more, other insurance risk?
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with Steven Joyce that a State-backed insurance company acting in a competitive market would be “a radical shift into a state-controlled economy reminiscent of the 1970s,”; if so, why would John Key take a “radical shift into a state-controlled economy” by proposing the Crown consider an equity stake in Chorus rather than just enforce the ultra-fast broadband contract?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I agree with Mr Joyce. I recall the Opposition being very critical of the National Government having to pay out $1 billion under the South Canterbury Finance guarantee. We also have to pay out billions to back the Earthquake Commission. We already have taken a lot of insurance risk that has gone wrong, and that is why I support Mr Joyce’s view, because there are international markets and insurance companies that are better able to manage insurance risk. In the last 5 years we have had plenty of examples of why the Government and the taxpayer are not in a good position to manage that risk or pay the bills when it goes wrong. It is a dumb idea.
Hon David Parker: Why would John Key take “a radical shift into a state-controlled economy” by proposing that the Crown consider an equity stake in Chorus rather than enforce the ultra-fast broadband contract?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, the Prime Minister has not proposed that. Secondly, what is surprising here is that when we have had the biggest manifestation of risk, it going wrong, and its impact on taxpayers in 100 years, the Labour Party still does not get it.
Hon David Parker: Why should anyone accept what the Minister of Finance says about KiwiAssure when 10 years ago he was pouring scorn on Kiwibank, saying it was “a small bank that has got no long-term viability.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is a small bank and it has never paid a dividend. It is great that it meets the needs of New Zealanders but it is certainly not an argument for creating a parallel insurance company. It is absolutely clear from our experience with the Earthquake Commission, AMI Insurance, and South Canterbury Finance that when the taxpayer has to underwrite this kind of risk, it can go wrong and taxpayers can be up for billions of dollars. Having low-income people working in the rain, paying their PAYE, and underwriting financial risk is as dumb an idea as you can have in the 2020s.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why would any sane New Zealander believe that last diatribe given that just 10 years ago, when the Cullen fund was announced, he said the very same thing about that, then went down just last week to its 10-year celebration and humbly had to admit what a fool he was?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, as the member will know, because he was there, I did not say that. I did praise Dr Cullen for finding a way of stopping the Labour caucus spending billions of dollars in surpluses. If Dr Cullen had been there, he would have said that that was why he set up the Superannuation Fund—to protect New Zealand from the Labour caucus.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Advice on Gambling-related Harm
5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Economic Development: Did his office withhold information about the harm caused by the SkyCity convention centre deal because it was considered sensitive by SkyCity; if so, why?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): No. As the member knows, a huge amount of material relating to the Government’s negotiations with Skycity has been released. On 8 July I released the Cabinet papers, the regulatory impact statement, and material relating to
social harm from Government agencies. On 17 July I released a larger amount of material relating to the negotiations, all the briefings to various Ministers for Economic Development, and emails between officials. As is appropriate when releasing information provided in confidence to the Government, Skycity was consulted about some of the material proposed for release. My office made it clear that the Government’s preference was to release as much information as possible, and only material genuinely commercially sensitive would be withheld.
Metiria Turei: Why did his office agree, after consulting with Skycity in July, to redact documents and withhold advice about gambling harm arising from the convention centre deal?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is simply incorrect. That was not the case. In fact, if you look through the correspondence that Mr Fisher from the New Zealand Herald has released, it says that my office is saying at various times to officials: “Looking for more material to release.”, “Why so much withheld?”, “Re-cut to release more, not less.”, “Provide more information.”, and so on. That was all prior to the big release on 17 July.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a page from the Official Information Act request dated 12 July, which says that the second tranche of information—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member has to state only what the material is and the source, and she has done that. Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have not had an opportunity to describe it. I can do so now if that would be helpful.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be useful for members of the House to have a little bit more information about the document, because I am unclear as to what it is.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am sorry. I thought that the member had made the comment and was then about to embellish it, and I wanted to have her desist from that. If I was a little bit triggerhappy, I apologise, but leave has been granted.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member made it abundantly clear what the document was.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is what I thought.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It is not appropriate for members to then read the contents of the document.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is exactly the point I have made. Members know the rules. [Interruption] No. I have dealt with it. If the member has another supplementary question, she should now progress with it.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you clarify as to whether leave has been sought—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave has been granted.
Metiria Turei: What reasons did Skycity give to the Minister or to his officials for wanting information withheld about gambling harm from the casino operation, and was one of those reasons commercial sensitivity?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Just for the member’s benefit, to clarify what I thought I had already said in a previous answer, nothing directly related to harm or harm minimisation was withheld at Skycity’s request. The Skycity-related material that was withheld relates solely to information that was provided in confidence and would have the potential to unreasonably prejudice Skycity’s commercial position. It was not in relation to harm or harm minimisation.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a second document from the same package of information, dated 7 July, describing how substantially more material on harm minimisation would have been released but for the commercial sensitivity provisions.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: And what was the origin of that, sorry?
Metiria Turei: The origin of this document is the Official Information Act.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: An Official Information Act request. Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? It appears not. Leave is granted. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Metiria Turei: Was he deliberately misleading the House when he said on 10 July 2013 that “my understanding is we have released most of the information that we have ... I think particularly the key elements in relation to potential harm have been released and are also very adequately traversed in the regulatory impact statement.” when, in fact, the papers now show that but for commercial sensitivity from Skycity there would be substantially more material released?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, the member is wrong. Can I point out to her that the two items that she has tabled relate to correspondence that I understand are from the period around 8 July. There was a subsequent further release of information on 17 July—a larger amount of information. Again, I will restate that I have sought to release every single piece of information I possibly can and have withheld only anything in relation to commercial sensitivity.
Metiria Turei: Is it not the case that Skycity and the Minister have conspired to keep harm minimisation information secret because neither wants the public to know how much Skycity relies on problem gamblers to fuel its profits?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. The member can ask the question six times if she likes, but the answer remains the same. She is simply wrong and she is, once again, seeing conspiracies where there are none.
Metiria Turei: Given that we—
Maggie Barry: Tell us about your housing policy.
Metiria Turei: OK. What an opportunity. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member should not be distracted.
Metiria Turei: It is very difficult to focus when there is this kind of chatter from behind, so perhaps—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. If the member responds to an interjection, she has to take the consequences. I gave her the floor, and she now has it for her supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem is that the questioner is trying to put the question but there is a barrage of an uncultivated, uncultured voice from behind her. It is a very raucous voice. It may be suitable for TV, but not for Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: I have to say that I agree with the member, and I have put up with it from both sides from the very first point of question time today. I, for one, would certainly appreciate more decorum from all members around the asking of questions.
Metiria Turei: Given that we now know that he and Skycity wanted harm minimisation information kept secret because of the extent—
Hon Steven Joyce: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member is starting with a supposition that is in direct contradiction of every answer that I have given today. Surely she could just ask the question.
Metiria Turei: The question I am asking is directly related to the information that I have tabled and the evidence that I have presented to the House, which has been accepted for tabling in this House, regardless of Mr Joyce’s answers.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. Look, I think we are getting into some difficulty, and I am just trying to put my hand on the Speaker’s ruling that says that a supplementary question should not start with the word “given”. The Clerk will give it to me, but it is, I think, about page 164—
Grant Robertson: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am on my feet. That has been a longstanding principle of questions in this House. If it has been relaxed of late, the consequence is pretty evident today. No member can actually say “given”. It is Standing Order 170(5), and I ask members to have a look at it. [Interruption] Standing Order 170(5). It has long been the tradition of this House that supplementary questions should not start with the word “given”. A supplementary question is, in itself, that. It is a question; it is not a statement of fact.
Hon Trevor Mallard: 170(5) of the Standing Orders has nothing to do with that at all.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, 170(8)—170(8).
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is no 170(8) in the Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: Speaker’s ruling 170/8. I am sorry—Speaker’s ruling 170/8.
Metiria Turei: Will the Minister now release all the information he and his office have relating to the harm caused by the Skycity convention centre deal, given that we now know that he and Skycity wanted harm minimisation information kept secret, in part because of the extent to which problem gambling contributes to Skycity profits; if he will not release that information, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, given that I already have released the information, how many more times would the member like me to release the same information? If I was her, I would read the information that is there. It has all been released. The only thing that has been withheld is in relation to anything that would unreasonably prejudice Skycity’s commercial position.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table a report of the Prime Minister’s comments this morning, which reports that consideration was being given to the Government to all options, including taking an equity stake in Chorus.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Sorry, the source of that?
Hon David Parker: Yes, it is from interest.co.nz.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: So it is a public website. No, it is a public document.
Christchurch, Recovery—University of Canterbury Rebuild
6. NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for Tertiary
Education, Skills and Employment: What progress has been made in the rebuild of the University of Canterbury?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Last week I was very pleased to announce that the Government will provide up to $260 million to the University of Canterbury to support its rebuild programme following the Canterbury earthquakes. As a result of the quakes, student numbers were down 15 percent in 2012, compared with the previous 3-year average. It has been a tough time for everyone at the university. It has developed an excellent campus-wide redevelopment programme to refresh and modernise its campus and supporting infrastructure for the benefit of its students. The new campus will truly be world leading. There will be a new integrated regional science centre, fully modern science teaching and research facilities, as well as an expanded and fully modernised College of Engineering and other facilities. The Government is delighted to make this contribution to assist in the Canterbury recovery.
Nicky Wagner: What will be the total investment by the university in the rebuild of the campus?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is a very significant programme. The university’s total programme of investment is costed at $1.1 billion over a period of 10 years. The university estimates that it will actually spend in the local economy in total, in both capital and operating expenditure, about $4 billion over the next 10 years, as well as bring an additional 3,000 domestic and international student places into the region. The rebuild of the university is another very significant injection into
the already fast-growing Canterbury economy, and a significant part of the wider earthquake recovery in the region, because it is, of course, a very important part of the region—that is, its leading university.
Nicky Wagner: What other steps is the Government taking to assist tertiary education in Canterbury?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Of course, the tertiary education sector was hit hard by the earthquakes. Since the earthquakes, student achievement component funding for Canterbury tertiary institutions has been maintained at 2011 levels, despite the downturn in students. Institutions have also been exempted from funding recoveries where enrolments did not reach expected levels. The Tertiary Education Commission has recently approved a continuation of this exemption for 2014. Recently, of course, I announced that the Government would inject just under $19 million into the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology to enable it to further expand its trade training capacity. The expansion means that the institute will be able to once again grow its numbers of students in trade training by a further 1,000 student places each year through until 2018.
Ministers—Confidence in Advice Received
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the advice his Ministers receive from Government departments?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): As Prime Minister I do not see or receive all the advice provided to Ministers by Government departments. I do, however, have confidence that Ministers are generally well served by their departments, but that does not mean, of course, that the Government always agrees with departments’ advice.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have any confidence in, for example, Treasury, when it has urged the Deputy Prime Minister to tell the Minister of Education to scale back policy and to sneak through education changes in order to minimise public opposition?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Treasury, like all Government departments, provides a lot of advice to Ministers. Ministers sometimes accept it and sometimes they reject it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Ah, so you accept it, then. Thank you very much. Was the advice received by the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Bill English, urging him to rein in Minister Parata and advising how to spin education changes to the public requested by the Deputy Prime Minister or his staff; if so, how long has Treasury been advising his Government on spin and how to deceive the public of the country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not seen that advice. You would need to put the question down to the Minister of Finance, but I would be very surprised if Treasury used the word “spin”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a press statement, to relieve the Prime Minister of his surprise, which says precisely that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: What is the source of the press statement?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The press.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is a public statement. It is in the public arena.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I seek leave to table the register of ownership of Tower Insurance. The Leader of the Opposition might find that ASB does not own any shares in it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There appears not. Leave is granted. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Hang on. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I am trying to hear.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, first of all—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Has the member got a supplementary question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. First of all, how about dealing with my request to table a document?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is in the public arena.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Then you can show the Prime Minister deference; after you have dealt with the business of the House first.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I have already ruled on that.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In relation to that point of order, last week the Speaker—I think it was in relation to Mr Cunliffe—ruled that where a member’s word was called into question, evidence could be tabled, even though it was in the public arena, if it refuted directly and backed the member’s word. The Speaker did allow that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is a matter of dealing with each case as it actually comes along. You are calling for an instantaneous response, and I think that, on balance, I got it right on this occasion. I will stick by that.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, I have dealt with that point of order.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I am not challenging your ruling, but you may or may not be aware— and it was me who put this to the Speaker last week—that discussions had occurred with him, Mrs King, and me about this very point. He agreed to consider the procedure and agreed to put it into place, as he did with Mr Cunliffe. The ruling, as I understand it, was that if a claim was made and that was refuted, and a member had, say, a press statement that backed up the quote, or a press clipping that backed it up, or a documentation that was in the public arena, then in that case the Speaker, I think, in the last session, allowed it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It was a press statement that was available to members; it was not an opportunity to make a statement. The tabling of a document is to inform the House, not to make statements. So if the purpose is to actually release a press statement that is in the form of a statement, it is moving beyond the bounds of what is acceptable.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To clarify what you have just said—all I did was get up and say that I wished, in an effort to remove the Prime Minister’s doubt about the existence of this document, to present a press statement, after he raised the question as to whether it existed.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The issue, though, is that the press statement is already released and available, and the member is using that in the purpose of making a statement. I thought we were clear about that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister received any advice from officials on who the top 20 shareholders are in Tower Insurance?
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Standing Orders are very clear that the Prime Minister has to have some level of ministerial responsibility for a question like that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will uphold the point of order. The Prime Minister does not have ministerial responsibility for that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am asking a supplementary question in respect of the question that asked whether he has confidence in the advice his Ministers receive from Government departments. I asked what advice he has had from officials about a particular matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: In relation to the ownership or the shareholding of a company that the Government does not own, and I have ruled that the Prime Minister has no responsibility for that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to think very carefully—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! A point of order is being heard. Silence!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I would ask you to think very carefully about whether you should rule out of order a question that seeks to understand whether the Prime Minister has received advice about a shareholding in a company, or, for that matter, advice, because you would find, I think, that there will be other circumstances. There was even an issue brought up earlier today by the Opposition that would mean the Prime Minister is immune from answering questions about some of these matters.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Government has no responsibility for Tower Insurance shareholders, and I have ruled on that aspect.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question that is on the sheet, the primary question, talks about confidence in advice from officials. Officials give advice on a range of things. I am simply asking whether he has had advice about who are the top 20 shareholders in Tower Insurance, and I am doing that because the Leader of the Opposition has made a completely unsubstantiated comment—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He has moved well outside the boundaries of a point of order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! We already have a point of order. I will hear the member.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have heard enough from the member. [Interruption] Order! I really do not need any assistance. I have ruled on this matter. This came from a primary question that was in the broadest possible sense, and we are moving on. I have ruled that the Prime Minister has no responsibility for the shareholders of Tower Insurance, and that is the way I interpreted the question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not ask him any question that related to responsibility for Tower Insurance. I asked him about advice that he had had from officials. If that is ruled out of order, the Prime Minister becomes immune from all sorts of questions from the Opposition. I do not think that is good for Parliament.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are two points in relation to this. The first of these is that you have made a ruling, and it has now been challenged by the Leader of the House three times. Members on this side of the House have been thrown out of the debating chamber for exactly that point. There is no justification for the Leader of the House to continue in this way.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The question I am answering here, from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, is in relation to advice. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Silence!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The question I have got here, on the sheet, from Mr Peters is in relation to Government advice. The member has asked me a question about advice I received from officials. That has to be in line. Secondly, in just the question before that, Metiria Turei asked Steven Joyce a question about advice in relation to Skycity. He was expected to answer that, and the Government has no ownership of Skycity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I am standing on the ruling that I have made, in that we have moved completely beyond where the primary question was.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Has the Prime Minister received any advice during question time today that would lead him to believe that the allegations made by the Leader of the Opposition were incorrect?
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question is out of order for the same reason that you ruled the previous question out of order. The member is now trifling with you, and you should eject him from the Chamber if he continues.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will determine whether or not it is in or out of order.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: During question time we heard Mr Cunliffe say, basically, what sort of bozo would not know that ASB owned Tower Insurance. For the record, I have received some
advice about the top 20 shareholders. For instance, No. 1 is T.E.A. Custodians, No. 2 is Accident Compensation Corporation—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister is traversing material that you have just ruled out of order in this House. I cannot understand why it was out of order before, and now it is in order. I would ask for your ruling to be consistent on this matter.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: We are going to move on—
Hon David Parker: Has he received any advice that ASB in fact owns Sovereign Assurance?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Ah yes. Thank goodness! The Opposition spokesman on finance knows something even if the leader is completely misguided. Yes, it does own Sovereign, and—hold on— let us get to the better bit. Let us replay the video of when I answered the question, which was: “It’s not very smart to be a bank like Kiwibank, lend money, and then issue fire and general insurance against that.”, at which point the Leader of the Opposition got to his feet. Sovereign provides life insurance, and the way he is going he will need life insurance, I reckon.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Is this a point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: It is a point of order. A serious development has crept into this Parliament, and it is that a number of people in this Parliament, without anything so much as an appreciation of what is going on, just wantonly clap when their leader sits down. Now, thankfully— [Interruption] No, no, no, no.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am on my feet. [Interruption] Order! That is not a helpful point of order.
Rt Hon John Key: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I suggest to the member if he did not kick people out when there was no cause to do so, they might still clap for him.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, I have got one here.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have acknowledged the member Gerry Brownlee for a point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I am concerned about the ruling that you gave earlier. I am simply, as members often do, asking—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: For consideration?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Particularly in light of the question that was allowed from the Hon David Parker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will give the matter some consideration and bring a finding back to the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker, I want to know why you—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, it is. It is a point of order. Why did you give the Prime Minister licence to make that claim as a point of order when he knows full well that, unlike him, we do not prop up crooks?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order.
Brendan Horan: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Look, excuse me for a moment. Points of order will be heard in silence. The House is in a very fractious mood, but we will abide by the tradition of the House that points of order will be heard in silence. If members continue to interject during points of order, some of them will be taking an early shower.
Brendan Horan: I would like clarification from that member—if he was referring to me
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, that is not a point of order.
Brendan Horan: Well, I take offence at that member’s last comment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: A point of clarification is not a point of order.
Young Offenders—Review of Youth Offending Strategy
8. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Associate Minister of Justice: What has been the outcome of his review of the 2002 Youth Offending Strategy?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Associate Minister of Justice): Youth justice in New Zealand has seen significant changes since the 2002 strategy was set, including the very successful 2010 Fresh Start reforms. This has seen real reductions in youth crime, with appearances before the Youth Court coming down 19 percent—well on our way to delivering our ambitious Better Public Services target of a 25 percent reduction by 2017. Last week I released a replacement document for the 2002 strategy to take what we have learnt over the last decade and set the direction for youth justice over the next decade. The Youth Crime Action Plan reflects what those on the front line have told us: that we are world leading in youth justice, but we need further gains and need to lift our performance at every point across the system. The plan is a package of changes across the youth justice system that will do just that.
Mike Sabin: How will the Youth Crime Action Plan deliver on the ambitious targets?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: The plan identifies three key areas where we will focus our efforts over the next 10 years: working in closer partnership with community organisations, preventing unnecessary escalation of young people into the system, and creating more opportunities to get young offenders safely out of the system and to keep them out. It includes 30 specific actions over the next 2 years covering these areas and Government support for the sector. It keeps us accountable to the communities we serve, including regular opportunities to review progress and set new actions that respond to emerging challenges and opportunities.
Mike Sabin: What are some of the actions that the Youth Crime Action Plan sets for the next 2 years?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: It sets specific actions including working with communities to create local plans that address specific challenges in their communities, making family group conferences as user-friendly as possible so that families get the best possible resolution for them, improving planning and support for youth returning to the community after an out-of-home court order, ensuring that every possible youth offender is referred to police youth aid, and increasing the use of supported and electronically monitored bail to reduce the number of young people held on remand in youth justice residences.
Courts—Trial Processes for Sexual Abuse Cases
9. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Will she reconsider an alternative trial process for sexual abuse cases following Police statements that girls targeted by the Roast Busters group have not been “brave enough” to bring a complaint; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): No. Alternative trial processes will not alter the fact that victims still need to come forward to make complaints and ,ultimately, give evidence against an accused person. There are very serious concerns about how inquisitorial trial processes would work in this country. A lot of work has been done, and is continuing to be done, across the justice sector to find ways to make it less traumatic for abuse victims to lodge complaints and, ultimately, give evidence in court. I have here a copy of a police booklet, Information for Victims of Sexual Assault, which is available on the police website, and prepared with assistance from Louise Nicholas. It explains the support available for victims and makes clear statements about how they can be helped. As Louise Nicholas has said, for these crimes to be dealt with, the girls do need to come forward and talk to police. I would counsel that member not to make comments that, ultimately, could result in trials being aborted.
Jan Logie: Does she accept evidence that over 90 percent of sexual abuse victims do not make formal complaints, often because they know they will be re-traumatised by the process?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure that that can actually be labelled as evidence, if the complaints have not been made. However, I do accept that there are many people who are victims
of sexual abuse, who do not choose to take a complaint forward to police—and that is for a variety of reasons—and they are both male and female. But I also know that in this House we do not do victims any favour by interfering in police investigations and by possibly tainting trials.
Jan Logie: Is justice denied to sexual violence survivors if the current pre-trial and trial system precludes them from making a complaint?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I do not agree with that member’s assertion, because she is presuming that the system currently precludes people from making complaints. Quite clearly, it does not.
Jan Logie: Against all the evidence. When it is clear from evidence that survivors fear the entire trial process and when they need to be brave enough to even make a complaint, will the Minister be brave enough to look again at some of the real solutions that experts have given her?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I actually find that question just so insulting and, frankly, it absolutely belittles this House. That member should think about it before she asks questions like that.
Jan Logie: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a straight question and I would like an answer.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: And the member got a straight answer.
Andrew Little: Will the Minister implement the recommendation of the Law Commission, made in March this year, to modify the law on evidence in sexual offence cases so that victims are not revictimised when giving evidence on offences against them?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No, and the reason for that is that—as that member must well know because I made media comment at the time—we would then have an entirely different system of law for sex trials, an inquisitorial system, than we would for kidnapping trials, which often go along with the sex trials. This would actually re-victimise victims by making them have to give evidence twice—not once.
Andrew Little: In the face of the serious allegations of predatory gang-based sexual violation that have surfaced in the last 2 days, why has her only response been to bring forward a bill that she first discussed nearly 6 months ago, which merely discourages putting up images of such offending on social media?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, that member is again wrong. That bill, the Harmful Digital Communications Bill, was due to be tabled today. The first I knew about these disgusting events was yesterday after Cabinet. For him to imply that that is my response is absolutely disgraceful, and frankly—
Andrew Little: That’s exactly what I’m implying.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Is that what it is? Well, then, he should stand up and apologise, because the man clearly lacks the courage to say what he means.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You would have heard the expression: “the man lacks the courage to say what he means.” That is unparliamentary—that is unparliamentary. We all know it, and I want to know what you are going to do about it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: In the manner in which it was phrased, it is a reasonably frequent occurrence in this House. There are several layers beyond that, which have been ruled out of order.
Jan Logie: Will the Minister consider some of the other recommended solutions separate to an inquisitorial system, such as specialist sexual violence courts, independent sexual violence advisers, or one-stop shops for sexual abuse survivors; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: There are quite a lot of these services already available, but I am always willing to look at what victims ask for. For instance, we now have specialist Victim Support. We have no real limitation period on making a complaint. We have the victim’s identity automatically suppressed in any criminal proceedings. Victims do not have to face the accused; they can give evidence from behind a screen. They are allowed a support person with them in court while giving evidence, and we have a dedicated sexual violence victims’ adviser to support victims.
There is also counselling and financial support available. Actually, for a member of Parliament to come to the House and say that there is nothing available for victims simply discourages victims from coming forward to the police. There is a lot available now and I would like them to come forward.
10. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her statement on Q+A in relation to child poverty that “So why do an official measure that then by very definition still has, quite frankly, you know, it’s, sort of, wherever you put the measure, you’re always going to have people in poverty …”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, but I think I put a bit of a different emphasis on it. Look, we have a number of measures. We report on them both domestically and internationally, but making one measure official will not make a difference.
Jacinda Ardern: Why will she not adopt the strong recommendation by the Children’s Commissioner’s expert advisory group to measure and set targets to reduce child poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We do measure poverty. In fact, as I say, there are a number of measures. We use them domestically. We actually report internationally on them. What we do not agree with is that you need to have one official measure, and that is because we think what the children need most is action. They need action on the ground, and you can see that in what we are putting in. We are putting more than $15 million into the Children’s Action Plan, and $188 million has gone into welfare reforms. We are seeing more than 7,000 sole parents going into work more recently, and that makes the biggest difference for those children.
Jacinda Ardern: What are the five measures of poverty that the Children’s Commissioner’s expert advisory group has recommended that the Government adopt?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have them in front of me right now.
Jacinda Ardern: Is she embarrassed that her Government’s refusal to measure child poverty officially means that the Children’s Commissioner has had to get money from a charitable trust to do the job himself?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: There are plenty of measures out there. The Children’s Commissioner is independent. If he wishes to do that, then he is perfectly entitled to. I want to commend things like the $377 million going into State housing for more bedrooms and to make sure that we have got extra room for those kids, and the clean-up that has had to be done on those State houses because they were neglected for so long, which led to unhealthy children. For under-6- year-olds, we are seeing care for them 24/7 now, and we are addressing rheumatic fever. There is an emphasis on early childhood education for those children who were the most disadvantaged and were not getting it. That is just the start. When we talk about the economy and the difference it is making in jobs, we see an emphasis on business so that businesses can employ more people, and so that those children are living in a household with more income. The support for hardship assistance is at more than $266 million. The list is long. That is what children need.
Jacinda Ardern: If the Government measures child poverty, as she claims, can she tell the House how much she has reduced it by; if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I stand by my original comment. You are more interested in the measures on the other side of the House—
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am interested in holding the Government to account on its progress. I asked a straight question: if she measures child poverty, then how much has she reduced it by?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: And the member has answered her.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If I could ask that question again, because I think you would find it is not in the transcript.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, then, ask the question again.
Jacinda Ardern: If the Government measures child poverty, as she claims, can she tell the House how much she has reduced it by; if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member can get on her high horse as much as she likes, but the reality is—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: A point of order—[Interruption] Let the member finish.
Grant Robertson: The point I want to raise is that the Minister, having been asked a straight question, began her answer in a way that attacked the member. That has previously been ruled by Speakers to be unacceptable.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I accept that point of order. The member should not have been so derogatory. Just let us answer the question.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Getting on your high horse is now derogatory, so that is all right then, particularly on Melbourne Cup day. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Oh, this is ridiculous! To the member, right? I think that what we are doing here is fundamentally making a difference. I do not have the numbers in front of me, as the member says. She asked for those measures. I think that what the kids need most is action. That side of the House is more interested in counting it. We are interested in making a difference on the ground, and that is what those children need.
Question No. 5 to Minister
BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest of respect, the Speaker said, when elected—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: What is the point of order?
BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): —“a Speaker who upholds the democratic traditions of Parliament and respects the right of every one of you elected to this House”. Earlier, the Rt Hon Winston Peters’ words were out of order and I take offence. I ask you to uphold the great office of Speaker and require that member to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, I have no recollection of precisely what the member is referring to, and I have no recollection of any words being directed at the member. The third thing is that the member should raise a point of order at the time. The member chose to raise a point of order and ask for clarification. Clarification is not a point of order.
11. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister of Housing: What progress has the Government made in growing the community housing sector?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): We are on target to treble the size of the community housing providers through this term of Parliament to over 1,000 homes, with both grants and legislative reform. Over the past month the Government has entered into partnership agreements with Accessible Properties, Habitat for Humanity, Comcare Trust, VisionWest Community Trust, the New Zealand Housing Foundation, and the Chinese New Settlers Services Trust for the construction of 158 homes in Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Tauranga, and Auckland, with the average contribution of taxpayers being about $180,000 per home. The other changes that we are making with the Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment) Bill, which we hope to have passed by Christmas, will further help the growth of the sector.
Alfred Ngaro: What are the advantages of having a more diverse social housing sector involving community organisations, and what has the Government learnt from international experience?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first is that social housing tenants often have complex needs. They need more than just a roof over their heads; they need specialist community providers that are able
to provide those wraparound services that make a real difference for families. The second is that community organisations do a better job of stretching the taxpayer dollar and getting more homes for the taxpayer dollar. The third is that if we look at community housing organisations, which are huge in places like the United Kingdom and Australia, they have a far better record of consistently managing the quality of their housing, far more than State housing organisations, not just in New Zealand but internationally. Our long-term goal is in fact to grow the community housing sector to up to 20 percent of New Zealand’s social housing.
Alfred Ngaro: How do the Government’s social housing reforms fit with the Government’s broader programme to improve access to affordable housing?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The changes that we are making in social housing are just a part of the programme. We have announced changes in past legislation to free up land supply. We have expanded support for first-home buyers with our changes to KiwiSaver and Welcome Home Loans. We have legislation that will be coming into Parliament around development contributions. Tomorrow I will be announcing, along with my colleague the Minister of Commerce, the results of our market study into building materials costs, because all of these measures are required if we are going to give Kiwi families access to more affordable housing.
Telecommunications Infrastructure, Pricing—Commerce Commission Decision
12. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Minister for Communications and
Information Technology: Will the Government abide by the final Unbundled Bitstream Access Service Price Review determination issued by the Commerce Commission today?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): Following the announcement this morning of the Commerce Commission’s final Unbundled Bitstream Access (UBA) price, the Government is currently working through the implications of that decision and has not made any decisions.
Clare Curran: Given the Commerce Commission’s final price determination announced today followed “to the letter of the law” a process set down in 2011 in the Government’s own legislation, will the Government enforce its contract with Chorus and tell it to get on with the job of rolling out ultra-fast broadband according to the price and conditions negotiated under that contract?
Hon AMY ADAMS: We expect all parties to perform their contractual obligations with the Government and, to date, all of the local fibre company partners have been doing that very well.
Clare Curran: Does the Government’s ultra-fast broadband contract with Chorus contain an expectation by Chorus that the copper price would be held at a certain level above the price announced today by the Commerce Commission?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I have no knowledge of any such provision.
Clare Curran: If Chorus cannot deliver on the negotiated contract and continues to press for Government intervention in the price of copper or for the Government to give it more money to roll out fibre, will the Government declare that Chorus has defaulted on the contract and re-tender it?
Hon AMY ADAMS: As I said in the answer to the primary question, the Government has not made any decisions. What I will say is that the concern for the Government is not about Chorus. The concern for the Government is about ensuring that the end-users of telecommunication services in New Zealand get access to high-quality, high-speed, and world-leading telecommunications. That is what we are committed to and that is what we are determined to see happen.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with recently “Nationalised” pollster and blogger Kiwiblog that the Government should “please please please … don’t just take Chorus’ words for it, and make a decision based on a press release.” and instead call in the best independent accountants to verify Chorus’ claims; if so, does the Minister’s right hand know what the righter hand is doing?
Hon AMY ADAMS: As far as I can even understand the member’s question, I can assure that member that the Government does not make decisions based on press releases, which is why we are now, as I have said, carefully working through the implications of the pricing decision. We will do
that very carefully before we make any decision. Can I reiterate to that member that our concern is to ensure that New Zealand gets access to ultra-fast fibre communications, because that is what is in the long-term interests of New Zealand. That is our focus in that regard, and that has always been our focus. But if that member is alleging that Chorus is making its numbers up—and I think comments to that effect have been made—then I would suggest that that is a very serious allegation. Chorus are under very strong disclosure obligations. If that is a concern that he has, then he should raise that with the appropriate authorities.