Questions and Answers - March 18
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Programme —Focus
1. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that his approach is “to make New Zealand a better place for Kiwis and their families”; if so, will he commit to building a high-value, high-wage economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, the Prime Minister does stand by that statement and by the second statement as well. He also stands by other statements in the speech from which the member is quoting: “The economy is growing. More jobs are being created. Family incomes are rising. Crime is falling. More elective surgery is being done in public hospitals. Long-term welfare dependency is falling. And we’re continuing to help families and older New Zealanders with generous income support.” New Zealand is on the right track.
Hon David Cunliffe: How is his Government making New Zealand a better place, when the number of long-term unemployed has increased from 14,800 in December 2008 to 44,600 in December 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As has been pointed out in this House before, on “Planet Labour” there was no recession, but in the real world there was one. The best hope for those who do not have jobs is a strong economy generating new jobs, and that is what is happening. Of course there is more to be done, and if we persist with the Government’s current positive policies, a good number of those people will get jobs in the next couple of years.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why were 22.7 percent of young Māori and 20.1 percent of Pacific people aged 15 to 24 not in employment, education, or training last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: One reason is that quite a few of them went through our schooling system when there was a Government in charge that thought that because they were low income they could not learn. That deprived many of those young New Zealanders of opportunities they should have had. The Government is working intensively on the pipeline for young people into work and is making considerable progress.
Hon David Cunliffe: By what percentage did Pacific unemployment grow from December 2008 to December 2013?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot give the member the exact number, but what we do know is it was too much, and too many Pacific people do not have the jobs they deserve to have. But I can tell you that the Government is working very robustly to ensure that young Pacific people at our schools are treated with respect and as if they can learn, and that they do, in fact, learn. If the member wants one measure, in the last year the number of young Pasifika people achieving National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 went up by 7 percent.
Louise Upston: What reports has he seen supporting the Government’s approach to making New Zealand a better place for Kiwis and their families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Before I outline some of those reports, I would, of course, emphasise to the member that the Government believes there is much more to do to ensure that people get jobs and have higher incomes. But the indications are promising. Consumer confidence is running at a 9- year high. Business confidence is approaching a 20-year high, and that matters because it means businesses are more likely to invest capital in new jobs and in plant machinery, which creates higher incomes. We are particularly pleased to see that manufacturing activity has expanded for 16 consecutive months and around 66,000 extra jobs were created in the past year. The outlook is for further job growth.
Hon David Cunliffe: Has productivity growth grown faster in New Zealand than in Australia in the last 5 years; if so, why?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot answer that question in detail. What I do know is that the most recent figures—published, I think, today—had productivity growth at around 2.1 percent. We do not pretend it has been easy to turn round the damage done by the last Government; it has not. It has been quite difficult. A lot of New Zealanders are beginning to understand that putting the Labour Party back in power would give them 10 percent first mortgage rates.
Hon David Cunliffe: As one example of productivity, can the Prime Minister give us any rough idea of what proportion of New Zealand logs are being shipped overseas as raw logs rather than as processed timber or timber products?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I understand it, it has been a growing proportion, although I cannot give the member the exact number. I am familiar with that because a sawmill in my own electorate has gone into receivership. Fortunately, job growth in the South Island, and increasingly in the North Island, is so robust that we would expect almost all of those people who may lose their jobs—if they lose their jobs at that sawmill—to be able to get other jobs.
Louise Upston: What other reports has he received supporting the Government’s approach to making New Zealand a better place for Kiwis and their children?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Some of the most satisfying reports are the anecdotal ones of parents, for instance, who are now pleased that their schools are required to inform all parents—not just the ones who turn up at the school—of the progress their children are making on achievement. The other reports are from older people who are now starting to understand that their community is safer, because there is less crime, and particularly, less crime from younger people. But we are always trying to make New Zealand a better place for Kiwis and their families. For instance, we would quite like to make the Labour Party caucus—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Economic Programme—Support for New Zealand Families
2. Hon KATE WILKINSON (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s economic programme helping to control the cost of living for New Zealand families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government’s sound economic policy and maintaining of conventional monetary policy in the hands of an independent Reserve Bank have helped to control the cost of living for New Zealand families and are critical to controlling the cost of living for New Zealand families as the economy progresses with sustained growth. For example, the Government is working hard at getting back to surplus next year, containing Government spending, and ensuring that we avoid the mistakes of the last cycle, where big increases in Government spending put pressure on inflation, and therefore on interest rates, and therefore on New Zealand households.
Hon Kate Wilkinson: How will expected interest rate increases from 50-year lows affect families, and what steps is the Government taking to prevent interest rates reaching the high levels of 6 years ago?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Given that interest rates have been at 50-year lows, it was inevitable that they would increase at some stage back to what have been the more normal levels for the New Zealand economy over the last 30 years. With average floating mortgage rates having fallen to less than 6 percent, from almost 11 percent in 2008, economists now expect that rates could rise by around 2 percentage points, back to more normal levels. But they do not expect rates to increase to anywhere near the levels of 6 years ago. So although mortgage holders can expect some rise in costs, savers will benefit from a bit more interest income, and slightly higher interest rates now will head off the possibility of sharply rising interest rates later and, for instance, 10 percent first mortgage rates, such as New Zealanders enjoyed under the previous Government.
Hon Kate Wilkinson: How have Government measures in the electricity sector helped to restrict increases in power prices and in containing the overall cost of living for households, particularly compared with price trends in previous years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We need to keep in mind the proportion that electricity prices represent of New Zealand household costs. In the consumer price index, the electricity sector represents 4 percent of the cost of living of households. Since 2008 the Government has made significant improvements to electricity generation and retailing sectors to increase competition. We have also invested heavily—following on from the previous Government—in transmission to improve the security of supply. These improvements helped to restrict price increases to around 3 percent in 2013. This compares with a 7 percent increase in electricity prices in 2006, a 6.5 percent increase in 2007, and an almost 8 percent increase in 2008. Overall, electricity prices jumped 72 percent in the 9 years to 2008. Increased market competition is helping to slow down the rate of increase in prices. Consumers benefit from greater electricity market competition.
Hon Kate Wilkinson: What reports has he seen on alternative approaches to monetary policy and economic management, and what impact would they have on the cost of living for New Zealand families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have heard some confusing reports from some who believe that if the Reserve Bank does not put interest rates up, then inflation rates would go higher, and that somehow that reduces the cost of living for New Zealand households. That is pretty confusing—that we should change the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act to allow for higher inflation as a way of cutting inflation in household costs. I am still waiting for an explanation for that ridiculous policy position held by the Labour Party.
3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Yes, but I have acknowledged that some of my earlier answers could have been broader, for which I have apologised.
Grant Robertson: When she said that she “popped into Oravida to have a cup of tea on the way to the airport”, was she referring to Shanghai Pudong airport?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I did not know there was more than one airport.
Grant Robertson: Is she aware that Oravida’s headquarters are 30 kilometres in the opposite direction from where her hotel and business meetings were held and not on the way to Pudong airport at all?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No, I have never been to Shanghai before except the transit lounge at the airport. So I had no idea where I was.
Grant Robertson: Will she now advise the Prime Minister, who repeated her claim that she had popped into Oravida on the way to the airport, that she has once again misled him given that the visit required an 80-kilometre round trip, starting in the opposite direction from the airport?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I can only tell the Prime Minister what I know. I was being driven around and I was assured by the ambassador that we could pop into Oravida on the way to the airport, or else I could have gone to the airport and I could have sat in the lounge for an extra long time.
Grant Robertson: Who paid for her dinner when she dined with Oravida executives and a Chinese border control official in Beijing?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Neither Margaret Malcolm, my senior adviser; the taxpayer; nor me, but I do not know the answer.
Grant Robertson: Is the reason that she will not identify who paid for the dinner that the official who was at the dinner was a very senior border control official who would have had some say in the entry of Oravida’s products into China, meaning that this was a business dinner?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No.
PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Paul Foster-Bell.
4. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister for Courts: What progress can he report on the Government’s efforts to modernise and speed up the court system?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts): I will put a focus on the courts turning round rising court wait times, because we simply accepted it takes a long time to get through courts and we have done that for far too long. I am pleased to report that we are starting to see good results. Last year, courts managed to bring down the average age of cases before the District Court by 8.9 percent, or 16 days. For criminal cases, they are now 18.3 percent, or 23 days, younger than previously. Jury trial cases, which by their nature are longer and more complex, are finally being disposed of faster, with an average age falling by 4 percent, or 15 days, last year. And the average age of Family Court cases is down by nearly 5 percent, or 12 days. This is just a first, small but positive step to deliver on our commitment to a faster and more effective court system.
Paul Foster-Bell: What programmes and changes have created these positive results?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: These results have taken focused efforts from court staff as well as new policy settings. This Government has rolled out new technology into courts such as video links to allow prisoners to appear in court without leaving the prison gate, which saves time and increases community safety. We have passed and successfully implemented the largest reforms in 50 years of the way our criminal courts work to simply speed up processes. Court staff are now focused on delivering quick customer-focused justice, ensuring that their processes eliminate any unnecessary delays. The Ministry of Justice has set an ambitious target of a 50 percent reduction in court wait times by 2017—a target it is well on the way to reaching.
Paul Foster-Bell: How have others who play a role in the courts such as police, lawyers, and judges contributed to these results?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: The entire justice system is working together on this. Police, who prosecute most people placed before our courts, have embraced the new criminal procedure reforms. The legal community has also constructively engaged with these changes, recognising that delayed justice benefits no one. The judiciary has lent its considerable authority and mana to this effort, working with our court staff to prioritise older cases and prevent unnecessary delays. I want to acknowledge and thank all the other participants in the justice sector for joining in the team effort to deliver faster justice.
Schools—Role of Achievement Data in Funding and Pay
5. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she considering a greater role for national standards and NCEA achievement data in school funding and teacher pay decisions; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): No.
Chris Hipkins: Did she tell the Herald on Sunday that in her view the most successful education systems were those that “have strongly incentivised a focus on ‘What difference I have made in my teaching and learning in the 6-month period?’, not just ‘What’s the final result, are these kids above or at the national standards, or have these kids passed NCEA?’”; if so, what incentives was she referring to if she did not mean funding?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: What I actually said was: “Having had a look at a lot of the educational systems and wishing to cherry-pick characteristics that we might want to incorporate here, systems that have been most successful in closing the equity excellence gap are the ones that have strongly incentivised the focus on ‘What difference have I made in my teaching and learning in a 6-month period?’, not just ‘What’s in my final result?’.”
Chris Hipkins: Is she denying that she made the quote I just read to her?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am confirming what I actually said.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very specific question to the Minister, which she basically did not address. In clarity I then used a further supplementary question to get a more explicit answer to that first question. She has answered neither of those.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the first question was adequately addressed. With regard to the second one, I can understand why the member is disappointed. I think to move forward I will allow the member an additional question.
Chris Hipkins: When asked by the Herald on Sunday if she was talking about performance payment for schools, did she reply: “Well that’s what I’m saying—it’s complicated.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I gave a full interview to the Herald on Sunday and I gave them a full range of characteristics that would need to be considered in a funding system. To cherry-pick two words out of several pages is misleading and unhelpful. What I actually said was: “There is substantive and consistent feedback from the system that the decile funding system does not work for them.” That member knows that to be the truth, because under the former Minister of Education, a full select committee inquiry was held on the matter.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Once again, that was actually a very specific question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That question was specifically addressed, in my opinion. The member can carry on with further supplementary—
Chris Hipkins: Well, did she say it or not?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member wants to ask a supplementary question, I invite him to do it. Otherwise, we can quickly move to the next question.
Chris Hipkins: When she stated on Q+A last weekend, in response to a question on how to determine whether a teacher was a good teacher or a bad teacher: “Well, there’s two main ways. One is the actual results and the other is the value-add—the difference made in the actual teaching.”, how did she propose to measure an individual teacher’s value-add?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: What I was being asked, I answered. There are two main ways. That is not to suggest that we have gone on to develop a funding system that reflects those two main ways. In fact, our Government introduced national standards with the clear expectation that every 6 months, at least, plain English reporting to parents about the difference that has been made would be required. That is exactly what we are doing.
Chris Hipkins: Will she now categorically rule out using student achievement data as a basis for school funding and teacher pay decisions; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: No funding system is based on one characteristic alone. Indeed, the decile funding system we have now is based on seven. So of course we are interested in how well students do, as parents are—because that is why they send them to school.
Catherine Delahunty: Did she tell the Herald on Sunday that, separate from the routine census decile ratings review, she was, in her words, “particularly interested in changes to the overall funding mechanism that would fund schools according to which school is delivering achievement.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: No.
Catherine Delahunty: Can she promise kids in lower decile schools that, aside from the routine post-census decile ratings review currently under way, their school will not get less funding than other schools if it cannot meet any future achievement or progress requirements?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I can promise the member that this Government is committed to quality education for every child, regardless of what decile school they are in. We will target resources to meet that need, and that is why we are seeing achievement go up—
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very direct question: can she promise the kids that the school will not get less funding.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister was attempting to answer it. The member cannot expect a categoric answer to a question like that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Who’s in charge here?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! For the benefit of the Hon Trevor Mallard, I was elected the Speaker of this Parliament, if that is what the member is referring to.
Catherine Delahunty: Will she promise to tell parents before the election whether any proposals she may be looking at would change the school funding system to peg funding to school achievement in any way?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: My education agenda is clear and transparent and responsive. It is clear we want to review our professional learning and development, we want to reduce the compliance on schools, and we want to raise achievement for five out of five. Unlike everybody else on that side of this House, we really do think kids are entitled to an excellent education and the opportunity to get that. We will target resources to get that outcome, which is exactly what we are getting, and I make no apology for that.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Minister, but I did ask you—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question was addressed. The member asked what the Minister would be telling parents before the election, and she told her.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to draw your attention. We got a large number of answers, but the specific question was around pegging funding after the election. That point was not even addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am not sure whether the member heard my rulings, but I ruled that on the occasions when it was questioned as to whether the question had been adequately addressed, it had been.
Justice, Minister—Visit to China and Potential Conflict of Interest
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Does she still stand by her claim that Oravida business was not discussed at her dinner in Beijing at which Oravida personnel were present as well as a senior Chinese Government Customs official?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Yes, but I do need to correct the member’s question. As I have said before, guests at the dinner included a senior Chinese Government border control official and Ms Margaret Malcolm.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can she confirm, therefore, that she and Margaret Malcolm are fluent in Mandarin, and were therefore able to understand everything that was said during the dinner?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No. I can, however, assure the member that I am fluent in English and I can understand when someone is talking to me in English—normally.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That being the case, can she confirm that because the senior Government customs official—or border official, as she says—did not understand English, he said nothing to anyone during the dinner and just sat there mute the whole time?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The senior Chinese Government official did have some English, but it was limited. I did my very best to talk about what a great country New Zealand is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is she saying that there was a dinner meeting involving a senior New Zealand Minister, an adviser, a senior Chinese customs or border official, and business personnel from Oravida, which is having trouble with customs and entering China, and yet not one person during that dinner mentioned that subject?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that she said that there were language issues at that meeting when the Prime Minister spoke to her on this matter, did he question her public assurance that Oravida business and customs entry problems were not discussed, knowing, as he did, that neither she nor Ms Malcolm speak Mandarin and therefore could not give such an assurance?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Given that it was a very short dinner—
Hon Annette King: How short?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: —well, it was a very short dinner—and the language being spoken was English, or forms thereof, I actually can give that assurance to the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given the acknowledgment that the border customs official spoke little English at all, is it not a fact that her claim that Oravida business was not discussed was false, as is the Prime Minister’s claim of receiving such an assurance from her, which means that both she and he—the Prime Minister—are knowingly involved in a cover-up of a serious breach of the Cabinet Manual?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I challenge that member’s assumptions, and I would have to say that since I was there and he was not, he should stop making it up.
Grant Robertson: Why will she not reveal the rank or identity of the Chinese official?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Because I have been advised by the Prime Minister’s office that we never reveal those matters.
7. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What announcements has the Government made to further improve maternity services?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I think there are a couple of noteworthy announcements. Firstly, the Government has allocated $1.5 million to assist communities to better integrate local maternity services. Three district health boards will work together as demonstrations with their local providers to evaluate the effectiveness of current services and to take steps to further integrate them. The second announcement is that I am sure the House would want to congratulate Simon and Natalie Bridges on the birth of their second child at Tauranga Hospital this morning. There was a suggestion that the baby would be called “J K” Bridges, but I am advised that both baby, Harry, and the mother are doing well.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What is the purpose of today’s announcement?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government is keen to build on a more integrated maternity system that brings pregnant women into the system much earlier, as recommended by the Health Committee report. This is about demonstrating at a local level some ways to do this. One great example is the new maternity drop-in centre in Tūrangi. The centre provides a range of assistance for mums and families, including maternity, child health, and social support services such as Well Child / Tāmariki Ora and Family Start.
Transport Funding—Roads of National Significance and Value for Money
8. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Can he confirm that by the end of this fiscal year the Government will have spent $1.5 billion on work classified as having a “low” benefit to cost ratio under its Roads of National Significance programme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): The analysis the questioner relies on is provided by the New Zealand Transport Agency. The Government makes its own decisions, though, about value-for-money expenditure. It is not a slave to bureaucratic formula and therefore considers other matters in making its decisions. The Government considers the roads of national significance to be excellent expenditure.
Julie Anne Genter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a question on notice and it was a yes or no question, and I did not hear a yes or a no in the Minister’s answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, the Standing Orders are quite clear that no member can demand a yes or no answer. Again, I can understand why the member does not feel that it was adequately addressed, and I accept that. On this occasion, the question, in my opinion, has been addressed, but I will allow the member an additional supplementary question to try to tease it out to the member’s satisfaction.
Julie Anne Genter: For clarity, has he spent $1.5 billion on low-value work under the roads of national significance programme, as stated in his answer to written question No. 813, and is he now trying to justify that waste by calling it strategic?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The question the member asked me to respond to indicates the benefit-cost ratio on both the 6 percent and 8 percent discount rate for a number of roads. The roads that she is most likely to be focusing on are the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link road, and the Wellington Northern Corridor. The Government considers those to be very important. They are strategic, and we most certainly do not agree with the Green Party that it is inappropriate or low-value expenditure.
Julie Anne Genter: Given that none of the spending on the roads of national significance has been high value and that nearly half the spending on walking and cycling in the last year was high value, would it not be a better use of taxpayer money to prioritise high-value walking and cycling projects?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: One of the problems the member would leave unanswered is what you would do with the volumes of freight that have to get moved around New Zealand if you required them to be moved by bicycle or pushcart.
Julie Anne Genter: In light of the National Freight Demands Study released last week, which shows that road freight has fallen since 2006 and that the expected rate of growth is less than was forecast when his Government began this roads of national significance programme, is now not an appropriate time to reconsider whether spending billions of dollars on projects that his own Government considers low value is the best use of taxpayer money?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The first point is that I dispute the analysis that the freight volumes have fallen. What I would say is that vehicle kilometres travelled have fallen, and that is largely due to a more efficient roading network, which has an excellent outcome for greenhouse gas emissions.
Julie Anne Genter: Does he stand by his reply to my question last week that the only reason he does not support the Greens’ plan to take a tiny amount of money—$50 million a year—from lowvalue projects and invest it in high-value walking and cycling projects is that “I am a member of the National Party.”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a very, very selective quote. I think it was most unkind for the member to throw that at me without the full qualification of what I actually said. That was that, simply, there is no Government in New Zealand’s history that has ever spent as much on walking and cycling as this Government, and we will continue to do so where it makes good sense. But that will not mean that we stop building roads, which drive the economy.
Julie Anne Genter: So is the Minister really saying that he is going to continue to prioritise projects that have low economic efficiency rather than spending that money on projects that will have greater economic benefits, greater transport benefits, and greater benefits for the environment and public health?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, that is not the case. What we are doing is spending money to get an efficient transport network. We are also spending a lot of money to give people choice about their pedestrian and cycling options. No Government has ever spent more on that than we are. I do not know why the Greens cannot congratulate us on that.
Julie Anne Genter: Does the Minister understand that duplicating motorways to the Kāpiti coast or Wellsford does nothing to alleviate serious congestion in our city centres—in fact, according to the New Zealand Transport Agency, they make congestion worse—whereas investing in smart projects like walking and cycling to school take cars off the road, eases congestion, and improves public health?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It also very seriously inconveniences the people who pay for those roads, and their commitment to these projects will be seen at the ballot box.
Julie Anne Genter: Is an accurate summary of the situation that the Government has spent $1.5 billion on low-value pet projects while underfunding high-value walking and cycling projects and dismissing low-cost, high-value plans such as the Greens’ safe walking and cycling to school policy, which is not only good for kids but good for road users because it is better value for money?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. The truth is that the Government is spending on the seven roads of national significance and has considerable public support for continuing to do so. The Government is spending an enormous amount of money on cycling and pedestrian initiatives and will continue to do so. It is a shame that the Green Party cannot see that the only way that you are going to get better environmental outcomes is to have a stronger economy, which since Roman times has meant to have good roads.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table a report from the OECD that shows that there is no correlation between investment in motorways in New Zealand and economic growth.
Mr SPEAKER: On the basis that it might be difficult for members to track that—[Interruption] The member wants to know from what year is the OECD report.
Julie Anne Genter: It was from 2008.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a 2008 OECD report. There is objection.
9. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: Does he stand by all his statements on housing?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Housing) on behalf of the Minister of
Phil Twyford: What impact has his use of a fake figure of a 26 percent rise in Auckland house prices under his Government had on the credibility of the Real Estate Institute and its statistical series when the real figure is 40 percent, and will he apologise to the institute for embarrassing it, and to the media and the public for misleading them, by feeding out fake figures in a desperate attempt to cover up a failed housing policy?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No—in fact, absolutely not. The reality is, to put it quite simply for the member, that what the Minister has done is he has actually taken the median price over a year. What the Labour Party has done is it has taken a point in time in a particular year. Anyone would say that our calculation of a median price over a 12-month period is far more honest. What I will say, though, and what the member is actually missing, is that under Labour house prices went up significantly more, no matter which median price you take, than they did under National, as did electricity prices.
Phil Twyford: Why did he choose 2 random months out of a 5-year period in order to find the 26 percent answer, and why did he feel the need to pass off such a poorly prepared table from his office as the work of the Real Estate Institute, a table which, on top of his errors in calculating the percentage change, made such basic mistakes as getting the date wrong, reporting an average as a median, and putting in the wrong figure for Canterbury-Westland, and is it because his track record on housing is so appalling and he is so desperate to cover it up?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Quite simply, the member did not listen to the answer. What they did is they took the average median house price for 2000, 2008, 2009, and 2013 for the whole calendar year and worked out the percentage difference. That is how it was calculated. The member is saying a particular month was chosen. That is not correct.
Phil Twyford: When he said that the Government was spending $2.7 billion over the next 3 years to improve State housing stock, did he include the Christchurch insurance payout in that figure, and can he confirm that no new additional money beyond that already in the Budget is included; if so, how can he be sure that his numbers are correct, after the Real Estate Institute fiasco, or is it just another example of him playing fast and loose with the numbers?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: To the second part of that question, which I choose to answer, quite frankly, the member is incorrect. He has not listened to the original answers. There is no factual misconception of what those previous numbers were, and he is just choosing to pick his own numbers throughout it.
Primary Sector Development—Sustainable Farming Fund
10. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister for Primary
Industries: What progress can he report on innovation investment through the sustainable farming fund?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): The Sustainable Farming Fund, which invests in grassroots innovation projects in the primary sector, has now received $122.8 million in Government funding across 906 projects. An independent evaluation has shown that this programme has been a success, leading to innovative approaches to environmental challenges while maintaining optimal production. The evaluation also shows that this programme has led to significant co-investment from industry and the development of new technology and environmentally sustainable practices. Overall it has contributed to protecting and growing the economic value of our important primary industries.
Shane Ardern: What other progress has the Government made in increasing innovation investment in the primary sector?
Hon NATHAN GUY: This Government has taken a long-term approach to innovation in the sector. That is why we have also introduced the Primary Growth Partnership. This initiative invests in large-scale, game-changing innovative projects and has so far committed over $700 million of new spending by industry and Government across 17 projects. The Sustainable Farming Fund and the Primary Growth Partnership are just two programmes the Government is using to significantly boost innovation, providing success across our primary industries.
Shane Ardern: Why is the Government investing in primary sector innovation?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The primary sector is the backbone of this economy, and this Government has a goal of doubling primary sector exports by the year 2025. To do this we simply cannot continue with business as usual. We need to encourage more innovation and encourage the private sector to lift its innovation investment. This is why the Government is co-investing alongside industry to increase research and development, get new products and markets, and manage the impact of production on the environment.
11. Su’a WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs: Does he have confidence that the Government is “achieving better outcomes for Pacific peoples in New Zealand”?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Pacific Island Affairs): Yes, I have great confidence that Pacific people are reaching their potential. The number of Pacific people employed in our nation has risen 10,500 since 2009. Achievement of level 2 National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) among Pacific students has risen to nearly 72 percent—up 16.5 percentage points since 2008. This Government is also making a significant contribution to supporting the use of Pacific languages in early childhood education.
Su’a William Sio: Does the Minister agree that Pasifika people have been left out of National’s promise of a brighter future, with unemployment rising from 7.8 percent in 2008 to 13.7 percent in 2013?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: No, I do not agree with that. What I will say is that the figures that have come to hand, to me, show that since the fourth quarter of 2009, when the full effects of that Labour administration took their full force, it was 14.3 percent. In the fourth quarter of 2013 it is 13.7 percent, so we have seen an improvement since that administration left the Treasury benches.
Su’a William Sio: Why has his Government failed to close the income gap with median weekly income for Pacific people falling by $74 a week since 2008 while income for European Pākehā rose by $51 a week during the same period?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I do not have those figures to hand, but what I do have to hand is that there are 10,000 more people working in quarter four 2013 compared with quarter four 2009 when that Labour-led administration left a mess of an economy to us, the National Government.
Su’a William Sio: If Pasifika people are doing so well under the National Government’s promise of a brighter future, why did the Salvation Army give out nearly 5,000 more food parcels in 2002 than in 2008 to Pasifika clients?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Well, I do not take any responsibility for what the Labour Government did between 2002 and 2008. But what I will say is that $2.5 billion is spent every year on Working for Families, $4.5 billion is spent on benefits, $1.8 billion is spent on subsidising housing through income-related rents, and all State houses under this Government, the National Government, are insulated, whereas that previous Labour Government left that stock depleted and dilapidated.
Su’a William Sio: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was supposed to be 2012 from 2008. I heard the Minister refer to 2002-2008. The correct quote should be 2012-2008. He did not respond—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I understand the point. [Interruption] Order! I do not need assistance. I understand the point the member is making but it does not change the fact as whether the question has been addressed. In my opinion that question has been addressed.
Carol Beaumont: Given that Pacific women are the lowest-paid workers in New Zealand, what will he do to achieve better outcomes for this group of hard-working women?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As the Minister of Finance, the Deputy Prime Minister, has said, the key to unlocking the potential of not just Pacific women but Pacific people is through education. On that front this National Government has improved access to, and participation in, early childhood education. It has improved achievement in NCEA level 2 for Pacific people—it is now over 70 percent—and it has improved the completion rates for Pacific people at university.
Carol Beaumont: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was asking about wages paid to women who are in the workforce and what he was going to do to make a difference for that group.
Mr SPEAKER: That is right, and the Minister told you what he is going to do.
Carol Beaumont: I seek leave to table a chart. This is women’s pay by ethnicity, relative to other groups.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just need the source of the document.
Carol Beaumont: The source of this is the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions submission to the minimum wage review.
Mr SPEAKER: On the basis that it is not freely available to all members, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions presentation. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Roading—High Productivity Motor Vehicles Routes
12. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Transport: What progress is being made on the Government’s high-productivity motor vehicles routes programme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Good progress is being made. The Government has invested $45 million in improving bridges nationwide so heavier loads can be carried on them. The first of a number of these have been completed on State Highway 1 near Whangarei. The Otaika Stream Bridge No. 85 and the Kauri railway overbridge are now operating as high-productivity motor vehicles routes.
David Bennett: What are the benefits of the high-productivity motor vehicles routes programme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It means that motor vehicles can carry more freight per trip. Accordingly, they reduce the number of trips that need to be taken. For example, the Otaika Stream Bridge took approximately 56 truck crossings a day, 6 days a week, making this part of a nationwide high-productivity motor vehicles route. It means that it saves about 14 truck movements a day. As well as productivity gains, that is also good for the environment.