Questions and Answers - February 18
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that there are “plenty of jobs out there for people if they look really hard”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. For example, there is a chief of staff position in the Leader of the Opposition’s office, a senior adviser’s position in the same office, and a senior Television New Zealand executive position, which was formerly occupied by someone who wants to be a candidate of the Labour Party.
Hon David Cunliffe: It is all in the name of good sport. More seriously, will the Prime Minister assure all 125 skilled people losing jobs at Fitzroy Yachts and the 19 skilled tradesmen at engineering firm Tenix—both in New Plymouth—that they will find another job in New Plymouth “if they look really hard’?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The first thing I would say is that those people live in a part of New Zealand with one of the strongest growth rates and one of the lowest unemployment rates. That is, in principle, because this Government is supportive of what is driving the local economy there— namely, agriculture and also oil and gas exploration. What I would say to those people is that some of the policies that the Government has brought in over the course of the last 5 years, like the 90- day probationary periods, like reform to our planning process—all of these things will actually help support them to find employment. I say this last thing to those members, because I and others have been to Fitzroy Yachts, and it is simply that if they for one moment vote for Labour or the Greens, they will be voting for no jobs and for a low-growth economy.
Hon David Cunliffe: Will the 120 sacked mill workers at the Tachikawa Forest Products sawmill in Rotorua or the 200 workers sacked at Independent Fisheries in Christchurch be rehired in their community “if they look really hard”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: People make decisions all the time on their employment, but this is one thing that is important.
Iain Lees-Galloway: They chose to! They chose to lose their jobs!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Many of them probably will, but, firstly, it is very important to understand the following. The labour markets are very dynamic in New Zealand. In any one 3-month period 100,000 to 200,000 jobs are lost and 100,000 to 200,000 jobs are created. Under a National-led Government, actually there have been a huge number of jobs created, which is why we have the 12th lowest unemployment rate out of 34 in the OECD. It is why our unemployment rate is falling and the unemployment rate in Australia is rising. And if anyone wants proof of what happens when you have a Labour-Greens Government and what it does to jobs—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is of sufficient length to address the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given his answer, are women not looking really hard for jobs when there are over 27,000 more women unemployed now than when he became Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Obviously, the world has gone through dramatic change, but, actually, New Zealand has come through that much stronger than others. As an example, we now have 1,500 people a week going off welfare into work. If the member wants to have a serious conversation about which policies will create jobs and which policies will lose the jobs, then we are more than happy to have that because those nice people over there whom he wants to coalesce with hate jobs, they hate work, and they hate growth.
Hon David Cunliffe: Is he taking economic advice from Colin Craig and are Māori not looking really hard for jobs as the Māori unemployment rate has increased by 3 percent to almost 13 percent since December 2008?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Again, I go through the issues that have taken place over the course of the last 5 or 6 years. What I do know is that when this Government came in, there were predictions that unemployment would rise to over 10 percent. In fact, that never occurred. Unemployment topped out at, I think, 7.2 or 7.3 percent. It has been falling. Under a National-led Government, we have the lowest number of people going to Australia in a decade, 1,500 people a week are leaving welfare to work, and 66,000 jobs were created over the last 12 months. This Government has been pro-jobs and pro-growth, and every time we have stood up to try to do something that would support the workers of New Zealand, the Opposition has got up and rejected that. No one, David, is going to believe that you are pro-jobs, because, my friend, you are not. You are losing people in your staff like no tomorrow, but you are not pro-jobs.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that the Prime Minister campaigned on “Wave Goodbye to Higher Taxes.”—not including GST—“Not Your Loved Ones.”, what does he say to the families of the more than 200,000 New Zealanders who have voted with their feet and left the country they love since he became Prime Minister? What does he say to those, or is it just the “dynamic labour market” again?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The first thing I say to them is that we now have the lowest number of people going to Australia in a decade. That is the first thing. The second thing I say to them is very simple. I would say to them, on behalf of the Labour Party, that I apologise—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is the third or fourth answer that the Prime Minister has given where he has purported to speak on behalf of the Labour Party or the Green Party. That is not within Standing Orders, and it will lead to disorder in the House if the Prime Minister continues to do that.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need the help. The issue is, to be fair, that the question was quite a wide-ranging supplementary question, which certainly had political connotations. It is going to invite a political answer back. Are there further supplementary questions?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would just like to draw to your attention—[Interruption] That just exemplifies the point I was about to make. I had trouble hearing Mr Robertson’s point of order because the member sitting next to John Hayes and the member sitting next to Chris Auchinvole, neither of whom I am really sure I know—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The valid part of the member’s point of order is that there is a high level of noise coming from various parts of this House. It is to be tempered.
Infrastructure Investment Programme—Progress
2. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Finance: What progress is the Government making with its multibillion-dollar investment programme in modern infrastructure?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Despite the domestic recession and the global financial crisis, over the last 5 years the Government has set out a multibillion-dollar investment
programme in infrastructure for growth. This includes roads, rail, ultra-fast broadband, rural broadband, electricity transmission, and rebuilding Christchurch. The programme has added almost $16 billion worth of infrastructure assets to the Government’s books over the past 3 years alone and will certainly assist a growing economy over the next 5 years.
Maggie Barry: What recent reports has the Minister received providing a comprehensive analysis of the performance and the condition of New Zealand’s infrastructure networks?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The National Infrastructure Unit today issued its first evidence base report. Up until now policy making on infrastructure has lacked such evidence. Putting it together has involved the participation of Government agencies, local government, the private sector, as well as users of infrastructure. It is the first comprehensive analysis of the condition of New Zealand’s infrastructure networks. In particular, the evidence base concludes that good progress has been made in better planning of our national infrastructure investment. The National Infrastructure Evidence Base provides the essential information that will allow us to plan more accurately and to make sound investments in the future.
Maggie Barry: What does the National Infrastructure Evidence Base report say about the future challenges New Zealand faces in managing its infrastructure networks better?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The evidence base highlights the need to better understand what drives the future demand for infrastructure, and also to look more closely at the options for meeting that demand in a growing economy. Of course, some of these challenges relate to technological changes and others to demographic changes. Our traditional ways of spending more and building more infrastructure will need to change if we are going to manage demand effectively and invest carefully. With over $120 billion worth of taxpayer infrastructure assets, there is plenty of scope to manage existing infrastructure better, as well as to improve decisions about new infrastructure.
Maggie Barry: What have been some of the Government’s main infrastructure investments over the past few years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has added around $16 billion worth of infrastructure assets to its balance sheet in recent years. Just some examples are that around $950 million has been, or will be, spent on the electricity grid; $690 million has been invested in rolling out ultra-fast broadband; the Government is executing a $12 billion National Land Transport Programme, the largest ever in New Zealand, including very significant expenditure on public transport; around $1 billion has been allocated for the 21st Century School Building Programme in Christchurch; and much more.
Point of Order—Tabling of Letter
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your forbearance. Last week I tabled a letter to the chairman of the Commerce Commission, and, after some confusion, it was accepted by the House that the letter could be tabled. Later on in the afternoon the Clerk of the House, as is her prerogative, identified that the letter could not be released by her, for fear of becoming embroiled in defamation proceedings. I seek some direction from you, given that our ability to function effectively as parliamentarians, traceable back to the Bill of Rights 1688, incorporated into British statutory law in 1689—I do not want to overstate the fact, but it is a key feature of being a parliamentarian. The final point I would say is that although there is the prospect of defamation proceedings in the mind of the Clerk, there is also the ability of parliamentarians to fulfil their obligations on behalf of the broader public interest. I have taken the time to study earlier pronouncements on the matter and, indeed, not unlike Gerry Brownlee, I have come armed with Erskine May. But the most important thing is that I feel this has a chilling effect on the ability of parliamentarians to speak truth in the face of adversity. If we do not back down to this type of threatening behaviour, I fear it will be no different from the Mongrel Mob mayhem on Manchester Street.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I think the Hon Shane Jones raises a very interesting point, which is probably worth some discussion away from the floor of the House today. The point I think he makes is that if a member is tabling something as evidence of a comment that was made under the protection of the House for the rest of the House to be able to verify the reason for the utterance, but that apparently cannot be tabled because it might lead to officers of the Parliament in fact being pursued through the courts, then that is an unreasonable block on the freedoms that Parliament claims and that you, on our behalf, claim of the Crown. So I would suggest that this is a matter that is probably not going to be dealt with now but does need some discussion fairly urgently, perhaps by the Standing Orders Committee in the next very short while.
Mr SPEAKER: This is an important issue, and both members raised this point because it has long-term ramifications. Can I refer members to Speaker’s ruling 146/1, and there members will note that, as Speaker Wilson ruled in 2007, “The general presumption is that documents tabled by leave will be made available on request, the House having accepted them …”, but it needs to be clearly understood that it is only where a document is published under the authority of the House that it is protected by parliamentary privilege in respect of any subsequent publication. The tabling of a document does not mean that the House has ordered or authorised the publication of that document. It simply allows for the information contained in the document to be conveyed to members of the House. Publication of the document to persons outside the House is done at the risk of the person who publishes it. In that respect, “published” means delivering, showing, or disclosing it to any other person. Where there is risk of legal liability arising from publication, the Clerk will permit members to have access to the copy provided to her but will not disclose it to anyone else. All requests are referred to the member who tabled the document. While this is not a regular occurrence, the Clerk does have to be mindful of possible legal risk. The Clerk has informed me of her decision not to publicly release the document. The matter is therefore one where the member must take responsibility for the release of the document. It will be published by the Clerk only if the House were to order or authorise its publication.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I so move—that the House give approval for the publication.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought now for a letter that was tabled here last Thursday, which at this stage has not been published—[Interruption] Yes, I am just making sure that members understand. The leave is sought first for this motion to be moved. Is there any objection to that leave? There is not.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I move, That the House give permission for the Clerk of the House to publish to the media and outside interests—
Hon Trevor Mallard: To direct—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Pardon?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Direct, not permission—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. Can I just—[Interruption] Authorise.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I will amend it slightly. I move, That the House direct the Clerk of the House to distribute the document tabled in the name of Shane Jones about which this discussion—
Mr SPEAKER: The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion will say Aye—[Interruption] Are you just speaking, Mr Brownlee, before I put the motion?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): It is more of a point of order, in fact. No disrespect to Mr Peters. I know what he is trying to achieve, but I do not think that Parliament directs the Clerk. I think what happens is that Parliament authorises the publication, and I think that would be a far better set of words in the motion. So I do not want to amend the motion. The member might like to consider putting it again. It is slightly semantic. Rather than us directing, Parliament would be choosing to authorise publication.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Can I speak to that?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a very important matter that this House gets right, so I am prepared to accept the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): The reason that I gave some advice to the member moving the motion to make it clear that it was a direction was that an authorisation would, in fact, still leave the Clerk with a discretion whether or not to make it available. My objective in suggesting that the word “direct’ be used is to make sure that the Clerk of the House is not herself subject to legal action.
Mr SPEAKER: I have just sought some advice from the Clerk, and the following points before I put the motion may be relevant. The allegations contained in the letter are potentially actionable and run the risk of being seen to in effect repeat statements made in the House by the member last Wednesday. This does have a chilling effect. Such a matter might usefully be considered by the Privileges Committee. However, the motion, I think, now modified, is, That the House order the publication of the document.
Hon SHANE JONES (Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want you to be utterly explicit that in passing this motion the doctrine of absolute privilege will now cover that letter.
Mr SPEAKER: My understanding is that if the House is prepared to accept the motion, then that is indeed the case.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The wording that I wish is, That this House direct the Clerk of the House to publish the document in question—not authorise it, to direct that she do so.
Mr SPEAKER: Does not that then fit with the wording that I put here—that the House order the publication of the document?
Hon John Banks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Speaking to the point of order—and then I think we have had enough discussion. The House knows the seriousness of the situation. I will put the motion, but before that I will hear from the Hon John Banks.
Hon JOHN BANKS (Leader—ACT): A point of clarification. If we follow this track to its conclusion, does this mean that this House is open to legal redress from parties outside the House, and is not the simple remedy for Mr Jones to take the document out to the steps of Parliament and distribute it to the press if that is what he believes?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The first part of the question asked by the member—if Parliament so moves today, then it itself is protected by parliamentary privilege. The motion is, That the House order the publication of the document. Those of that opinion will say Aye, to the contrary, No. The Ayes have it. It will be published.
Supermarkets—Management of Supply Contracts
3. Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce: Was he made aware of any concerns regarding the behaviour of supermarkets towards suppliers prior to 12 February 2014?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Commerce): Yes, but I was not aware of the specific behaviours raised by that member, alleging blackmail, extortion, and retrospective payments in the New Zealand supermarket sector.
Hon Shane Jones: Is he concerned that, despite anonymity in this case, in terms of an investigation by the Commerce Commission, New Zealand - based suppliers are fearful that what they tell the regulator could be passed on to the Australian Woolworths supermarket chain and they could end up being blacklisted off Australian supermarket shelves?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I understand that the Commerce Commission itself has actually issued a press release reinforcing the confidential nature of any complaint. The Commerce Commission, as part of its normal business, is dealing with sensitive affairs at all times and, as in that press release, treats matters in confidence and very sensitively.
Hon Shane Jones: Is the Minister prepared to release to the public what correspondence he has received in respect of this egregious behaviour by Australian-based supermarkets in the world of New Zealand commerce?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: As I noted in the answer to the primary question, in regard to the specific allegations of blackmail, of extortion, and of retrospective payments that the member made, I am not aware of receiving any information along those lines.
Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not specify the language used in his response. I invited him to declare to the House that he would release correspondence he has received in respect of egregious supermarket behaviour.
Mr SPEAKER: And as I understood the answer, the Minister said—he may want to elaborate— that he was unaware of any correspondence to that effect. Does the Minister want to elaborate?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Correspondence that I have had since these allegations were raised I will be treating in confidence and sending to the Commerce Commission.
Hon Shane Jones: Will the Minister support my call to broaden the terms of the Commerce Commission inquiry into excess power wielded by the supermarkets, especially Australian, over suppliers and customers?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: This issue has been around for quite some time in regard to the supermarket sector. I note that the former Minister of Commerce the Hon Lianne Dalziel put her mind to this matter way back in 2008. It is ongoing. I think that it is right and appropriate that we wait for the formal, proper process of the Commerce Commission to deliver its findings.
Hon Shane Jones: Why is it his first instinct to back the Aussie-owned supermarket Countdown rather than to back New Zealand businesses and workers, and what telephone lobbying has he received to that end?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I resent that accusation. I am not the one who made allegations of blackmail. If the member has allegations of blackmail, that member should go to the police. I have faith in the processes of this Government and of this Parliament, which have been enduring for quite some time. I back competition in New Zealand, which, under the Commerce Act, allows the best prices for New Zealand consumers to be found over time.
4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Why does he stand by his climate change policies when official projections from his own Government show that under his climate change policies New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions will rise 50 percent in the next decade?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because I believe them to be appropriate, relative to what other countries in the world are doing.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he consider that his Government’s climate policies are successful, given that Ministry for the Environment projections show that our greenhouse emissions will increase 50 percent in the next decade?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I believe them to be appropriate. I think it is worth noting for the House that New Zealand’s emissions profile is considerably different from most other countries in the world. Over half of our emissions come from agricultural emissions. The Government is part of a global greenhouse gas alliance that is investing considerably to try to find scientific solutions to that. In relation to other parts of the economy that emit greenhouse gases, one of the benefits of having a flexible approach to electricity, for instance, is that it will allow fossil fuels, which currently make up 25 percent of electricity generation in New Zealand, to be phased out rather than locked in. I note that the member’s policy in relation to that would do exactly that—lock in a poor18 Feb 2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 7 of 19 performing, high-emitting plant like Huntly over and above a new renewable energy that could be brought on stream.
Dr Russel Norman: So with regard to the Government’s electricity policies, is he aware that according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and his own Government’s statistics—the forecast officially produced by his Government—his Government is not on target to meet its goal of 90 percent renewable generation by 2025?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, that is 11 years away. What I can say is that we have policies in place that are promoting renewable energies. We have also got significant policies to insulate homes. We have insulated over 320,000 homes in the time that we have been in office, including every State house that can be insulated. The Government has led the charge on this. I note that the Green Party wants to lock us into coal-fired power plants, and I am surprised the Green Party wants to do that.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that his Government’s climate policies are driving up New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions, and his Government’s own projections show that they will not meet the 90 percent renewable electricity goals by 2025, will he support policies to turn this around, including the Green Party’s solar homes policy, which is designed to encourage the uptake of distributed renewable generation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I reject the premise of the member’s question. But in relation to solar energy, I think there are a few things that would be important. The first is that the member actually needs to be upfront and honest with the New Zealand public and say that when there is a subsidy involved, that involves one group of New Zealanders paying another. Secondly, the member needs to read the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website, which makes it actually quite clear that “these systems will never pay for themselves”. He seems to also forget that solar energy is three times more expensive—
Grant Robertson: So grumpy today!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —than other renewable energies. Actually, I am not grumpy. I hear your caucus did not go too well—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: Why is he so opposed to the Green Party’s Solar Homes initiative, which will cost the taxpayer virtually nothing and involves no subsidies from the taxpayer, yet it will enable tens of thousands of ordinary Kiwi families to generate their own power, reduce their power bills, and be part of a clean energy future?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The good news is that this afternoon the member and I have found something we can agree on. He does deal in virtual dollars and that is virtually going to be the cost of the solar energy. If we go and have a look at the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority website, let me quote for you: “As you will generally be selling excess electricity for significantly less than the retail price, most grid-connected systems will never pay for themselves, let alone reduce your energy bills, or make you money.”; and “Since our grid electricity is very low carbon, switching to solar for some of your electricity use won’t reduce your carbon emissions.”; or this from Consumer, which said at length, “These things don’t stack up.” The fastest way to increase New Zealand’s renewable energies from the ordinary impressive 75 percent, for instance, would be to reform the Resource Management Act and allow new hydro, new wind, and, potentially, new geothermal capabilities to come online. Those members oppose that. What they want to do is for other taxpayers to subsidise another group to pay for electricity that is three times more expensive than the existing electricity that we can bring on stream. No wonder they want to get together with the Labour Party.
Dr Russel Norman: How does he consider that his climate change policies are successful when as a result of his policies New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Ministry for the Environment, will increase 50 percent in a decade? How is that a successful policy that he wants to keep continuing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I said in answer to the question was that I believe that they are appropriate. But, actually, I appreciate the member raising this question in the House, and I hope many New Zealanders will get to see this exchange today. I say that in all sincerity, because the reason Dr Norman is raising this issue is he is making sure that New Zealanders are aware that under a Green-led Government, there will be a significant increase in the emissions trading scheme and a significant increase in the cost to consumers. We have estimated that to be around about $500 a year per household. So New Zealanders who are looking at this exchange are under absolutely no illusion: if you want to do more in this space, it will cost consumers and it will cost jobs. Now that we have sorted that out, we can take that to the New Zealand public and see which one they want to vote for.
Dr Russel Norman: What does the Prime Minister think will be the result if every country on the planet increases its net greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent in the next decade, which is what this Government is proposing? Does he understand that the result of that will be out of control, human-caused climate change, and that politicians like him will be responsible for the climate disaster that our children will inherit?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I reject the premise of the question. Secondly, let us make it quite clear: New Zealand has 0.2 percent of world emissions. So, actually, I do come from the school of thought that believes for New Zealand to make a difference, it also requires those very big emitters around the world—China, India, the United States, and others—to play their part. But, as I said earlier—and here is where the rubber literally hits the road—the member is making it quite clear to New Zealanders today that if the Greens are part of a Labour Government, there will be a significant increase in costs to consumers. That is fine to have as a policy, but let us not shy away from this when we are on the campaign trail, because, Dr Norman, what you are telling New Zealanders is that they will pay at least $500 a year—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: The Prime Minister has disputed the claims, so I seek leave to table the documents. There are two documents—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table documents. I want a description of the documents and the sources.
Dr Russel Norman: The first document is the projections on not achieving the 90 percent renewable by 2025—the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment paper—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That information is very easily available to members.
Dr Russel Norman: Well, apparently not to the Prime—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: So the other disputed fact—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the member resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! If the member wants to seek leave to table a document, he needs to rise to his feet and, without adding any other words, describe the document and then the source, and I will consider whether it is worthy to put the leave to the House.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek to leave—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And, secondly, any point of order will be heard in silence.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the table on page 60 of the Ministry for the Environment’s report—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need to hear any more. Again, that information is freely available.
Question No. 1 to Minister
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition): I seek leave to table a data series from the Statistics New Zealand Infoshare series proving that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again—[Interruption] Order! The member, again, is attempting to abuse the privilege of seeking to table a document. New Zealand statistics are freely available. The point of tabling a document is not to further debate the issue; it is a matter of adding information that is valuable to members of the House.
GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier in this sitting session you gave a ruling that enabled members of the House to table a document where, particularly, their word had been questioned. Twice today we have seen—both with Dr Russel Norman and earlier on with David Cunliffe—the Prime Minister questioning the word of a member. The one way of dealing with that is for the member to be able to table a document that shows that what they were saying was true. You did say that there was going to be some licence to do that. Just because an item is in the public arena, it does not mean that it does not meet your test.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): Mr Speaker, I think you are on the right track with the way in which you have described these documents and have therefore taken the approach that has become common in the House over the last 5 years or so. If every time the Prime Minister disagrees with Mr Cunliffe it was seen as not taking him at his word, or anything else, then there would be no political debate. I think that there is a crossover here between two things. One is that the ability to disagree should prevail, as opposed to having to agree for fear of hurt feelings on the part of the Hon David Cunliffe.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition): Two points for your consideration. The first is whether there is a difference in your ruling between a document that has previously been published and something that is in the public domain—the two being different. In this case it is a data series that, although contained on the website, has had to be extracted for presentation to the House. That is the first question. Secondly, I just draw your attention to the fact that you have previously allowed the Prime Minister to table documentary evidence to substantiate an exchange of statistics between us, and I just seek the opportunity to do the same, in reverse.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am unaware of the last occasion that the member refers to. In seeking to table documentation, if it is some obscure documentation that may well have been published but is not easy for members to find, then I think there are occasions when such information is worth putting to the House. I want to also comment on the point raised by Grant Robertson. There will be, on occasions, an opportunity to table a document when it has become the source of an argument between various politicians. But at most question times one side will lead with one argument and the other side will lead with an alternative argument. That is the nature of political debate. To move this matter forward on this particular occasion, I will allow the member to seek his leave and the House will decide. The Hon David Cunliffe is seeking to table an extended list of statistics that prove—if the member could just briefly summarise exactly what he is seeking to table.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition): The statistics from Statistics New Zealand Infoshare indicate that the lowest level of trans-Tasman migration—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That is enough of an explanation. I have said that leave will be put for that purpose. Is there any objection to that information being tabled? There is.
National Certificate of Educational Achievement—2013 Results
5. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcement has she made on the increase in students achieving NCEA level 2?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yesterday I was pleased to announce the provisional results for 2013 and that the number of students leaving school with a National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2 qualification has seen a significant lift across the board in 2013. We had a 2.5 percent overall increase in the number of students leaving school with at least NCEA level 2. That is an increase of over 10 percentage points since 2008. What does this mean in real terms? Every year we have around 60,000 students leaving school. In
2009 just over 39,000 left school with NCEA level 2. Last year it was 46,000. In this last year this was an increase of around 1,500 school-leavers, which is the equivalent, for instance, of the total population of Bulls, Coromandel, or Kawakawa, or the combined rolls of McAuley High School, Henderson High School, and Heretaunga College. Those students, their teachers, and school-leavers deserve to be congratulated on achieving these outstanding results.
Tim Macindoe: What was the lift in achievement for Māori and Pasifika students?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Just this year we have seen a lift of 4 percentage points and 7 percentage points amongst Māori and Pasifika students respectively. That means 1,000 more Māori and Pasifika students left school with NCEA level 2 in 2013. In 2008 about half of our Pasifika students were getting NCEA level 2, and now almost three-quarters are leaving school with NCEA level 2. In 2008 less than half of our Māori students were getting NCEA level 2, and now it is getting closer to two-thirds. We have maintained the growth in achievement and improved it, year on year. What teachers do in the classroom makes a difference, and this Government is backing them to win.
Tim Macindoe: What approach is the Government taking to lift achievement for all students?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Over the last 5 years we have focused on collecting data so we can see where we need to target resources. Vote Education has gone up to its highest ever, at $9.7 billion. We have been able to identify which students need what kind of support, through programmes such as Youth Guarantee, trades academies, Achievement 2013-17, Positive Behaviour for Learning, Pasifika Power Up, and then to work with particular schools and their communities. We are focused on 85 percent of all 18-year-olds achieving NCEA level 2 or an equivalent in 2017. Although these results are great, it is important that now, together with parents, schools, and local communities, we all keep up this momentum so that even more young people can achieve educational success.
Paid Parental Leave—Prime Minister’s Statements
6. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in regard to proposals to extend paid parental leave, “It’s an important time they bond with their children. Everyone acknowledges having more time with their infants would be an important thing to support”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I do stand by that statement. I also went on to say that the Government’s No. 1 priority was getting the books back to surplus because that provides greater strength for families overall. It is not just paid parental leave we support; it is Working for Families, access to early childhood education, and many other initiatives. At the time, the member wanted a substantial increase in paid parental leave, when at that point the Budget deficit was $9.2 billion.
Sue Moroney: Will his party support the second reading of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill, in my name, or will he wait until the third reading to use a financial veto?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member will need to wait and see.
Sue Moroney: Does he stand by his statement: “I’m not saying it’s not important and I’m not saying there couldn’t be some modest expansion.”; if so, could he explain to Kiwi parents exactly what he is saying about paid parental leave?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: With pleasure I am happy to say that to New Zealanders. Currently, for the 14 weeks of paid parental leave the Government contribution is $176 million per year. To increase that to 26 weeks would cost an additional $130 million to $140 million a year. Only about 40 percent of New Zealanders get paid parental leave. To pay for this it would effectively require, we think, along with the other policies that the Labour Party announced, an increase in taxes, as we saw in the weekend. Actually, I do not think New Zealanders do support that in isolation. The Government will have its own contribution over time to this debate, but it will be done in a way that
is responsible, affordable, and is set against the other priorities like more cancer drugs, more nurses, and more support for many other areas in the community.
Sue Moroney: What assurance can he give to women like Nicola—whom I met with recently in Hamilton and whose twins are due on 9 July this year—that they can plan for extended paid parental leave for the benefit of their children?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I can guarantee Nicola that there will be a scheme of 14 weeks or more, depending on the outcome of the election and depending on any announcements that we might make. But I can also say this to Nicola, and that is—
Hon David Cunliffe: There’s a Freudian slip. Never waste a Royal visit.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, to be perfectly frank, if you want to have it next month, I am more than happy to have it.
Sue Moroney: To the Prime Minister, when he is ready—when he is ready, Mr Speaker. What proportion of the additional $1 billion that his Government intends to spend in this year’s Budget is he then prepared to put toward important initiatives for families, like extending paid parental leave?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In the fullness of time, the Minister of Finance will read the Budget and New Zealanders will get a sense of where that allocation goes. But the member actually raises a very interesting point. The new Budget spend under this Government, for four of the five Budgets, has for all intents and purposes been zero. Last year, the Minister of Finance was in a position to spend an additional $1 billion. When the Labour Party made the announcements around paid parental leave, it agreed that it would commit—
Grant Robertson: What responsibility would he have for that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —well, it is actually germane to the question that she asked—a further $572 million annually. The very point is that if the member is going to be part of a Government that would be fiscally responsible, is she really saying that she is going to have all total expenditure at about $450 million? Every New Zealander knows—
Sue Moroney: No.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, exactly—no. So the very point that the Labour Party is making is that it is going to spend a lot more money, which means taxes are going up, which means borrowing is going up, which means interest rates—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grandparents and Other Kin Carers—Support
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei): My question is to the Minister for Social Development and asks what reports has she received about the support the Government is providing to grandparents—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to have to—[Interruption] Order! We need a more sensible and rational approach to announcing an election date. Can we have question No. 7 from the Hon Phil Heatley, please.
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Social Development—
Hon John Banks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It would be helpful if you could tell Robertson and his crowd over there to shut up, because I cannot hear the member Phil Heatley behind me.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The problem on this occasion is that there is a conversation going across both sides of the House. If both members could cease, we could then hear the question from the Hon Phil Heatley.
7. Hon PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received about the support the Government is providing to grandparents and other family members raising children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Last year I announced that the Government was providing new financial support to grandparents and wider family members raising children whose parents cannot look after them. I am very pleased to say that I have received a report that shows that nearly 6,000 children are already benefiting from the new payments, which are worth almost $3 million. One of the payments—the start of the year payment, worth up to $550—provides a bit of extra help for items like school uniforms and other costs at the beginning of a school year.
Hon Phil Heatley: What other support can these carers access?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Family caregivers do an amazing job by taking on these children and providing them with stability and care, which have often been lacking in their lives. It can be expensive to take on a child at first, so, in addition to the start of the year payment, carers receiving the unsupported child’s benefit or orphans benefit can also get a one-off grant of $350 when they first take the child into their home.
Hon Phil Heatley: Why is it important to support grandparents and other relatives raising children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Around 12,400 children, some of whom have been neglected or abused by their parents, are cared for by grandparents and wider family members. These children often need more help than most to reach their potential. I would also like to add that nominations for the start-up payment for the beginning of the year close at the end of the month, so if members would like to let any constituents know that they are eligible to apply, we would welcome receiving applications from them.
8. ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First) to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: Are there any areas where he believes war veterans are not receiving adequate support for their service to our country?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Veterans’ Affairs): Yes. Although I think that veterans are generally very well supported, the Law Commission review identified a number of improvements to the level of that support, which is why this Government agreed a $60 million package to better support veterans, including a complete rewrite of the 60-year-old War Pensions Act. I was pleased to introduce the Veterans’ Support Bill into the House last year. It is before the Social Services Committee and I look forward to its report. I should also add that the Government increased war pensions and surviving spouse pensions by 5 percent over and above the rate of inflation, and I think that is a tangible sign of the extra support that this Government is providing.
Andrew Williams: Why have almost 7,000 veterans’ applications—nearly half of all applications—been declined in the last 3 years, often on the grounds that the veterans’ medical records were either incomplete or had been lost or misplaced?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The member is referring to a reply to an Official Information Act request provided to him in a letter dated 15 November 2013. I should point out to the member that “Information is unable to be provided in relation to why claims have been declined.” The Secretary for War Pensions then very helpfully provided data on all claims accepted and declined over a 4-year period. That was probably not helpful in understanding the reasons for them, nor whether this indicated the number of claimants who were declined. I would be very happy to work with the member to further explain what that table meant.
Andrew Williams: Does the Minister know that in 2008 at the Tribute 08 Government apology to Viet Nam veterans the then Chief of Defence Force, Sir Jerry Mateparae, assured veterans that their medical applications would be given the benefit of the doubt if their medical records were poorly maintained or misplaced by the New Zealand Defence Force, and why is this not happening?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Yes, I am. I am very well aware of the speech that the then Chief of Defence Force gave to Viet Nam veterans in 2008 and of the commitment made. To the
degree that there are some service records, including medical records, missing or incomplete, where those claims are made on the basis of the presumptive list of conditions connected with the service, the absence of any medical record would not be an impediment to the acceptance of the claim. But I do accept that there have been some tensions around whether that particular commitment has been met, and I am very happy to work with the member on any individual cases that he has, recognising that I, as Minister, cannot interfere with the decision-making process.
Andrew Williams: In the Minister’s professional opinion, having previously also worked in the health sector, does he consider the treatment of nuclear veterans and their children as adequate duty of care?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, I do not think my background as a health service manager provides any greater insight into that, but I am satisfied that the treatment of nuclear veterans is both evidence-based and presumptive, in so far as certain conditions are automatically accepted for those people who were, for example, involved in Mururoa or Operation Grapple.
Andrew Williams: How does he respond to the fact that some veterans at the Mosgiel RSA, in his own area of Dunedin, can afford to eat only every second day, and that the RSA is providing food parcels to those veterans?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I would be concerned to the extent that any veteran was not receiving the entitlements that were available to them and that they were eligible for. So if there are any specific concerns, I would be very happy to hear them.
Public Transport, Auckland—City Rail Link Commencement Date
9. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: Why is the construction of the City Rail Link only beginning in 2020?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): That is the Government’s preferred time line. The proposed construction date has been set, from our perspective, at 2020, even though analysis suggests that this is 5 years before it is required to meet demand generated from employment and passenger patronage. We are moving forward to that date because we believe in the future of Auckland as a powerhouse of our economy.
Darien Fenton: What does he say to Precinct Properties, the owner of the Downtown Shopping Centre, which is offering to dig part of the tunnel itself so it can get started on the redevelopment of its site, and the owners of the $300 million Elliot Tower project, which would like to start by 2016 but because of his playing politics with Auckland’s future will be held up by 5 years?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are a couple of points. Firstly, there is nothing to stop the Downtown project progressing as the owners have suggested. There is no particular involvement of the rail loop with the other project that is mentioned there. In any event, it would be odd for the Government to commit to a $3 billion project for a $200 million project. I think the other point is that this was well signalled in June of last year, and there were criteria laid down that were perfectly reasonable. The City Centre Future Access Study suggested that there would be 46 percent growth in employment and up to 20 million passenger movements by 2020. The most recent information we have is that neither of those statistics is likely to be anywhere near achieved, and nor are the much lesser and more generous criteria laid down by the Prime Minister—those being 25 percent growth in employment in the central business district and 20 million passenger movements as a trend. Neither of those is happening.
Phil Twyford: Why did he deliberately pick the trigger of rail passenger trips exceeding 20 million for the release of funding when he knew full well that rail passenger trips are not projected to reach that target, even by 2020, and is this just another example of playing politics with the prosperity and growth of Auckland?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, the figure was, in fact, from the City Centre Future Access Study, not cooked up by the Government. We are not playing politics. We have made it clear that we would like to fund the project from 2020. If those two criteria can be met—two criteria that are
about half of what the access study claimed would happen—then it could come forward. But there is no trend in the December 2013 analysis to suggest that the time line of 2020 is anything other than reasonable.
Darien Fenton: Is he aware that by next year the Britomart station will be at capacity for train movements, and that by 2020 morning traffic in Auckland will be so congested that it will have slowed to 7 kilometres per hour?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are two things. Firstly, there is the commitment that the Government has made to electrification: $1.6 billion including new electric trains. But once you have got those trains and once you have got the electrified system, what is really important to make it work is to have people on it. Although the train stations might be chocker with trains, if people are not using them, there is little point in investing further.
Phil Twyford: Was the Government’s backflip on the City Rail Link a genuine commitment to the project—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I ask the member to start again.
Phil Twyford: Was the Government’s backflip on the City Rail Link a genuine commitment to the project or an act of political expediency, and given that bringing the start date forward to 2015- 16 would not cost the taxpayer or the ratepayer an extra cent, does his refusal to bring it forward not indicate the latter?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government has not done a backflip on the City Rail Link. What we have said is that we will fund it from 2020 or sooner if the criteria set down by the Government—much more generous criteria and much more easily achieved than the City Centre Future Access Study suggested—are met. Then it would be brought forward.
Criminal History Employment Checks—Reciprocal Information-sharing with Australia
10. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Justice: What progress has been made on criminal history sharing for employment vetting between Australia and New Zealand?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): The Attorney-General of Australia, Senator George Brandis QC, and I have jointly announced the expansion of the successful pilot on sharing criminal history information for the purposes of employment vetting. This means in future it will be easier for eligible employers in Australia and New Zealand to be able to check criminal backgrounds of potential employees, particularly where they are working with children or vulnerable people. With the ease of travel between our two countries, it is vital to have systems in place to protect our communities from people who may pose such a risk. The expansion of the trial means all states of Australia will, in future, participate in the scheme.
Scott Simpson: How do employers access that information?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Eligible organisations are those approved by the police and registered to use the vetting service. They need to establish that their staff care for children, older people, people with special needs, or other vulnerable persons. Applications will be made by the approved agency to the police with the consent of the potential employee for their criminal history. There are approximately 8,000 approved agencies in New Zealand, such as the Teachers Council, schools, universities, the Ministry of Health, and Immigration New Zealand. This is an important scheme to support the free movement of people between two countries while continuing to reduce harm from criminal activity.
Andrew Little: What provision has been made in the arrangements with Australia to safeguard the rights of New Zealanders both here and in Australia under the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The clean slate law will apply to potential employees’ histories so that people will be protected.
Internal Affairs, Minister—Statement
11. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does he stand by his answers to all supplementary questions to Oral Questions in the House this year; if so, why?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Internal Affairs): Yes, because they accord with my ministerial responsibility.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he accept he has responsibility in this House for the security of Government information; if so, will he now make it clear that he is a suitable person for holding that role by stating that he did not make the draft Kitteridge report on the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) available to a Fairfax journalist?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Peter Dunne—the first part of that question is acceptable.
Hon PETER DUNNE: I have answered that question—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you attempted to edit my question.
Mr SPEAKER: I have.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Can you—and, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I have. I can help the member. There were two parts to that supplementary question. The second part of the supplementary question is out of order. The first part of the supplementary question is in order, and that one can be answered.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member wish to proceed?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to refer you to Speaker’s Ruling 155/3, which relates to the Prime Minister’s requirements for the suitability of Ministers to hold roles. I am not asking the member whether he leaked the document; what I am asking him is to demonstrate—as is allowed under Speaker’s Ruling 155/3—that he is a suitable person for holding a role as a Minister in this House. The question was very—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can help the member. If the member now rephrases both parts of his question, it will be over to the Minister which one he will address. But if the member rephrases the second part of his supplementary question in line with the words he just used, that will be in order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is he prepared to demonstrate to the House today that he is a suitable person for holding the role of security of Government information by directly denying that he made the draft Kitteridge report on the GCSB available to a Fairfax journalist?
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty we have now got to is that the member is not repeating the first part of the question he raised.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Interestingly, I think that the first part of the question that the Hon Trevor Mallard asked could stand, but then he deviated and was in contravention of Standing Order 377(1)(b). There is clearly a breach of that particular Standing Order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: The question was very clear, and was whether he is prepared to demonstrate that he is a suitable person by doing X. I have not asked him whether or not he leaked the report on the GCSB to a Fairfax reporter; I am asking him to demonstrate his suitability by denying that in the House. Clearly, any person who was a Minister and leaked that report would not be suitable.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If he had put a full stop after “demonstrate” or “demonstrate to the House”, that would be fine, but to go on and make a requirement that is by any reasonable assessment an imputation, an inference, or even an argument, and quite possibly a discreditable reference, it then falls outside the Standing Orders.
Hon David Parker: If that was the concern of the Minister in response to a question, he would just deny the allegation. It is very proper for the Opposition to try to highlight matters that are
disreputable on the part of Ministers. This is an example where we are trying to do that, and that is quite within the Standing Orders.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If that were the case, then any old question could be asked any old time. There would be no need to have Standing Order 377, “Content of questions”.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to allow the member an opportunity to repeat his question as he first asked it, because the question has changed quite substantially. The member has every right to ask the current Minister of Internal Affairs something for which he has been responsible since he was appointed as Minister of Internal Affairs, and if the question is along those lines, I will rule it in order. If the member then tries to tease it back to occurrences that occurred some time before the Minister was appointed as the Minister of Internal Affairs, I will be inclined to rule it out of order, and that will be the end of the matter.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is he prepared in the House today to demonstrate today that he is a suitable person to have custody of public information, by denying that he made that document available to a Fairfax reporter?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! To progress the matter, the Minister can answer the question up until the final addition of that information.
Hon PETER DUNNE: That question has been asked in a couple of forms on 30 January and 11 February. I stand by the answers given on both of those occasions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a matter that has been well traversed by a select committee and by inquiries inside and outside this House. With respect, if the Minister is being asked to demonstrate a present action that is required of him now—a certain fact that relates to his qualifications for the job—that is still a present matter that the House would like to be assured of. It is not, therefore, a past matter, which is the qualification that Mr Brownlee tried to put on it. Frankly, if we cannot hear the truth behind this, then this is no longer a House of Parliament that gets to the bottom of the matter.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What Mr Peters is saying is that—the question implicitly makes an allegation. Otherwise there would be no need for the use of the word “deny”. That is not within the Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the point that the member Mr Peters is raising. My job is to adhere to the Standing Orders. Therefore, this is question time, where Ministers can be asked questions where they have ministerial responsibility. What the member is attempting to do is devise a system whereby he asks the Minister to deny an action that occurred prior to him being a Minister. The Standing Orders do not allow that to happen in this House.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue that I want to raise with you goes to the issues around the character of Ministers and whether or not actions prior to their becoming Ministers can be questioned in relation to their character and suitability to hold the roles. I can recall examples—for example, Ms Collins questioned previous Ministers in the Labour Government over actions that they took even prior to their being members of Parliament and the implication that that had for their current ministerial roles. What Mr Dunne is being questioned on is something that related to his conduct prior to his holding the current ministerial role, but that is no different to Ms Collins’ questions to someone who was not even a member of Parliament when they did the things that she was questioning them on.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I would like to draw your attention back to a question earlier today, where you allowed Mr Williams to ask a question of the Hon Mr Woodhouse that related to his experience prior to being a member of Parliament, and you allowed Mr Woodhouse to answer it. What I am asking for is some consistency.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, but I do recall the answer from Mr Woodhouse was that he replied to the effect that that was not relevant to the answer, and then proceeded to answer the question. The Minister has now answered the question. If the member still has a further supplementary question, I will listen to it. But—
Hon David Parker: You wouldn’t let him answer the second part.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I appreciate the assistance from the Hon David Parker, but the Minister has answered that question. Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I certainly do. In light of his answers last week, has he given any assurance to the Prime Minister on the question of his suitability to hold his current role, with regard to the security of Government information, other than through the media in June last year?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Prior to taking up this appointment, which actually pre-dates the period of ministerial responsibility, the Prime Minister and I discussed the role and what it entailed, and the outcome of that was that he offered me the job.
Rt Hon John Key: Can the Minister confirm that the actual test of whether someone serves as a Minister is whether they enjoy the confidence of the Prime Minister of the day, and can the member confirm whether he believes he has the full confidence of the Prime Minister of the day, and can the Minister confirm that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We have now had—[Interruption] I will hear from the right honourable—[Interruption] Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The first question is of the Prime Minister, not the Minister—[Interruption] No, even though he sought to put it to Mr Dunne, it is only the Prime Minister that has the confidence, and the second question should have been ruled out because it was a second question.
Mr SPEAKER: If anybody wants to ask a supplementary question, they should ask a single supplementary question. In my opinion, the first supplementary question asked by the Prime Minister was completely in order and the Minister can answer it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In order to help the Prime Minister, I seek leave of the House for the full supplementary question of the Prime Minister to be answered by Mr Dunne.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members must still abide by the Standing Orders.
Hon PETER DUNNE: I can only assume that, because the Prime Minister offered to appoint me as the Minister of Internal Affairs, he has full confidence in my ability to do the job, and I intend to reflect that confidence in the way that I carry out this role.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the supplementary question asked by the Prime Minister and the Minister’s answer, did the Prime Minister then ask him whether he leaked the report?
Hon PETER DUNNE: That question was put to the Prime Minister last week, and I refer the member to the answer he gave, which I am not going to disagree with.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary—[Interruption] Order! Order! I need to hear the supplementary question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the Prime Minister’s question and the supplementary answer, did the Minister give the Prime Minister any information relating to the making available of the Kitteridge report to a reporter, other than through the media?
Mr SPEAKER: I do not accept that that question has any ministerial responsibility in respect of the current Minister of Internal Affairs.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question has more ministerial responsibility in it than the one that you allowed from the Prime Minister, which went to the Prime Minister’s responsibilities.
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the member, rather than forfeiting a question, to have an attempt at asking a question in line with the current ministerial responsibility of the Minister.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am confused—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a point of order.
Hon David Parker: I am confused as to how a Speaker can find it in order for the Prime Minister to ask a Minister whether he has his confidence but then an Opposition member is not able
to ask a question of whether the Prime Minister checked whether the Minister leaked a report before he said he was confident in him.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need assistance. I am here to help the member’s confusion. My duty is to instantly judge how appropriate the question is to the Minister’s current responsibility. I have invited—[Interruption] Order! I have invited the member to attempt to rephrase his question. Otherwise we will simply move on in this matter.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the Prime Minister’s question, which indicated that he has confidence in Mr Dunne, was one of the factors in building that confidence his making clear to the Prime Minister that he did not leak the Kitteridge report to a Fairfax reporter?
Hon PETER DUNNE: The discussion we had was wide ranging and dealt with matters relating to the internal affairs portfolio to which the Prime Minister subsequently appointed me.
Student Allowances—Changes and Impact on Postgraduate Enrolments
HOLLY WALKER (Green): My question is to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, and Employment—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to start the question again.
12. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and
Employment: Does he share the concerns of the New Zealand Psychological Society and the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists that his decision to cut postgraduate student allowances could significantly impact the future psychology workforce in New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): No, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, postgraduate psychology students are able to borrow interest-free from the student loan scheme, which remains one of the most generous schemes in the world. Secondly, like all postgraduate students, psychology students earn considerably more once they stop studying and go into the workforce than students who graduate with lower-level qualifications. They are, therefore, in a much better position to pay back an interest-free student loan.
Holly Walker: How are final-year psychology students expected to support themselves without a student allowance when they have to work 32 hours per week in unpaid internships in addition to a full course load?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I believe that I answered that question in my primary answer by saying that they could borrow from the student loan scheme, which provides them with a similar level of living costs to what they would have received from a student allowance. They will have to make a payment back in due course, but, of course, it is interest-free and taxpayers write off about 40 percent of the value of that loan.
Holly Walker: How can psychology students expect greater earning power when they have to drop out of their courses during their studies due to the cuts that he has made, and is New Zealand facing a shortage of clinical psychologists because of these cuts, given that a new survey of undergraduate psychology students found that 75 percent were less likely to continue into postgraduate study?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In answer to the first part of your question, no, because—as I have pointed out to the member twice now, I think—they have the opportunity to borrow from the student loan scheme, so they do not have to drop out. Most Master’s degree - level students are actually earning on average around 75 percent more than the median wage 5 years after they leave university, so it is a bit hard to expect those who do not attend university to pay for their allowances at that time. Secondly, no, I do not believe that there will be a shortage. The indications that we have had so far in the period this policy has been in place are that there has been no reduction in postgraduate study, particularly at Master’s degree level and doctorate level.
Holly Walker: Given that demand for clinical psychologists already outstrips supply, and psychology remains on New Zealand’s long-term skills shortage list, and professional bodies are
now worried that these allowance cuts will gut their profession, why is he stubbornly refusing to reconsider his short-sighted decision to cut postgraduate student allowances?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If we strip away the hyperbole from that question, the simple reality is that I have had a number of bits of correspondence from the New Zealand Psychological Society and so on and, yes, they do not like the policy because they would rather that their students managed to keep having free student allowances. Well, the cost of student allowances was going up dramatically. In 2007-08 it was $385 million per year, and in 2010-11 it was $620 million a year, as a result of policies under the Labour-Greens Government of that time. It was unaffordable. It remains unaffordable. Postgraduate students get to borrow interest-free from the student loan scheme. I think that most New Zealanders see that as very fair. I appreciate that Mr Grant Robertson does not, but he has not seen a student he does not want to throw more money at.
Holly Walker: I seek leave to table research by the New Zealand Psychological Society and the New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists on the effects of the student allowance cuts on their profession.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table research done by the society. Is there any objection to that research being tabled? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Holly Walker: I seek leave for the Education (Student Allowances Availability) Amendment Bill, a member’s bill in my name, to be introduced and set down as members’ order of the day No. 1.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to move forward a member’s bill. There is objection.