Questions and Answers - April 17
strong>QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Transport—Prime Minister’s Statements
1. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree with all of the Prime Minister’s statements concerning transport?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Associate Minister of Transport) on behalf of the
Minister of Transport: Yes.
Denis O’Rourke: Does the Minister agree with this statement concerning the Napier-Gisborne rail link by the Prime Minister, which was reported in the Wairoa Star on 28 August 2012: “Government has some responsibility and does not want to see road as the only option.”?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am sure the Minister of Transport at the time did agree with the Prime Minister when he made that statement. We now know that there are very challenging issues with respect to the viability of that line and that it is unlikely to have any dividends. So I am quite sure that the Minister would agree with that statement if the Prime Minister were to make it today.
Denis O’Rourke: Does the Minister agree that short-term financial issues are not the only consideration in deciding whether to repair the Gisborne-Napier rail link and that the security of transport links and regional development are also important considerations?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Yes, I do. But I would also say that the long-term challenges are also insurmountable in that respect.
Denis O’Rourke: I understand that the Minister is visiting Napier on 23 April; if so, will he agree to meet local community representatives who support the urgent re-establishment of the Gisborne-Napier rail link; and if not, why not?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am unable to verify whether or not that is the case, but if the member puts the question down in writing I am sure the Minister would be able to answer it for him.
Denis O’Rourke: Is the very poor safety and reliability of KiwiRail’s Cook Strait ferries a concern to the Minister; if so, what is he doing about it?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The safety and reliability of the whole KiwiRail network is of concern to the Minister. Considering that this Government had to pick up the lemon that the previous Government bought and pump hundreds of millions of dollars into it as part of the Turnaround Plan, I am very confident that that is on track—pardon the pun.
Cost of Living—Reports
2. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on recent trends in the cost of living for New Zealanders? 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 2 of 14
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yesterday Statistics New Zealand released the consumer price index and noted that it increased by 0.3 percent in the March quarter and by 1.5 percent in the year. This was slightly below expectations and a very significant improvement on cost of living increases that peaked at more than 5 percent in late 2008, just before this Government gained office. Prices for package holidays, vegetables, breads, meat, and poultry all fell in the March quarter. As the Opposition finance spokesman helpfully pointed out yesterday, the good news for families is that—excluding excise tax increases on cigarettes and tobacco—there was actually no overall cost of living increase in the March quarter. So if you do not smoke, there was no cost of living increase at all in the 3 months to March.
Joanne Hayes: How do prices over the last 12 months compare to average cost of living increases in the 9 years to 2008?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The 1.5 percent increase in the cost of living over the last year compares with an average of 3.1 percent of annual increases every year in the 9 years to the end of 2008. The price of food increased 0.8 percent in the last 12 months—that is 0.8 percent for the price of food—compared with a 4 percent average annual increase between 1999 and 2008. Within this, fruit and vegetables actually fell in cost by 1.7 percent in the last year, compared with a 6 percent average yearly increase under the previous Government. Meat and fish were up 0.6 percent in the last year, against 5 percent a year under that Government. Petrol increased 0.3 percent in the last 12 months, compared with a 7.6 percent average annual increase under Labour. And, importantly, the price of electricity, which is often talked about, is up 2.9 percent in the last 12 months, compared with a 7.1 percent average annual increase under Labour. We see much the same pattern comparing the 9 years to 2008 with the 5 years and one quarter that has followed.
Joanne Hayes: How does the cost of living compare with recent wage increases?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Quite well, over the past 2 years. Over the past 2 years, as the economy has continued to pick up, the average full-time wage has increased from $51,700 a year to $54,700 a year—an increase of $3,000. Average weekly wages increased 2.8 percent in 2013. This compares with a 1.6 percent increase in the cost of living over the same period. Wages are expected to grow 2.8 percent in 2014, 3.5 percent in 2015, and about 4.7 percent in 2016, driven by higher labour demand and a continuing fall in unemployment. All these figures are significantly in excess of expected inflation over the same period.
Joanne Hayes: What recent reports has the Minister received confirming that the growing economy is delivering benefits to New Zealand households and businesses?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Although, of course, we welcome reports of a growing economy, what is important for families is more jobs and higher incomes. Looking ahead, Treasury’s preliminary Budget forecast shows that the average wage will rise to around $62,200 a year in 4 years’ time—an increase of a further $7,500 by 2018. This adds up to an average wage increase of around $10,500, or around 20 percent, over a 6-year period, compared with forecast inflation over the same period of around 12 percent. So the message is clear. Good fiscal management is helping to deliver higher wages and a lower cost of living for New Zealanders.
Justice, Minister—Visit to China
3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Justice: Did she meet with a senior official from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, also known as the AQSIQ, during her Ministerial visit to China in October 2013?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): I did not have any meetings in my ministerial capacity with any such person.
Grant Robertson: Will she rule out that the official who was at the dinner she attended in Beijing was from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, also known as the AQSIQ? 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 3 of 14
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: What I will rule out is that I would ever reveal the name or the employer of the official.
Grant Robertson: Can she rule out that she was introduced as a Minister of the Crown at the dinner or that there was discussion about Oravida and its border control issues, given that she is not fluent in Mandarin, which was being spoken by Mr Shi and the border control official at the dinner?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: What I can say is that it was a private dinner. There was no ministerial responsibility.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked the Minister whether she could rule out that she was introduced as a Minister of the Crown. That is a matter of ministerial responsibility for the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I considered the question very carefully and I considered the answer. I think the answer given was relevant to the question. If the member is unhappy with that answer, which I suspect he may well be, the way forward is to ask supplementary questions.
Grant Robertson: I have asked quite a few of them.
Mr SPEAKER: I agree; the member has. I am giving him a further opportunity.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table an email from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise dated Thursday, 17 October to two Oravida.com addresses about a workshop on General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine standards.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular New Zealand Trade and Enterprise email. Is there any objection? There appears to be no objection. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Grant Robertson: Does she stand by her statement yesterday that she did not know anything about the problems that Oravida was having importing products into China in the wake of the botulism scare, despite her friend Julia Xu publicly stating on television that that was so in September 2013, or that Oravida was in contact with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise about the changed standards in China?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I do not believe I made any such statement in a ministerial capacity in this House. If that member wants to say that I have made that statement, then I would like to see the proof of it.
Grant Robertson: You said it yesterday.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, I would like to see the proof of it. Thank you.
Grant Robertson: You said it yesterday.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Then where is the proof?
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer by the Minister, I seek leave of the House to table the transcript of her answers to questions in the House yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not prepared—the member has made his point and I am certainly not starting to table transcripts of yesterday’s questions. The member has further opportunities, I take it, with supplementary questions.
Grant Robertson: What discussions, if any, did she have after her dinner in Beijing with the New Zealand Ambassador to China about the dinner or the attendees who were at it?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It was a private dinner. I went to bed.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am going to invite the member to ask that question again.
Grant Robertson: What discussions, if any, did she have after her dinner with the New Zealand Ambassador to China about the dinner or the attendees who were there?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I cannot remember any discussions. 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 4 of 14
State-owned Assets, Sales—Progress
4. PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: What progress has the Government made on the mixed ownership model programme?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): Today’s float of Genesis Energy has brought the Government’s share offer programme to a successful close. The programme has been a real success, raising $4.7 billion, while retaining the Government’s majority control of these companies. A total of $4.7 billion has been realised, and, in a world moving to a phase of rising interest rates, controlling debt is increasingly important. Controlling debt while providing hundreds of millions for scarce capital for investments into important assets, such as Burwood Hospital and Christchurch Hospital, has been an important part of the Government’s successful wider economic programme, which sees it at the top end of the developed world for actual and forecast GDP and job growth.
Paul Goldsmith: How many of the five objects set for the wider share offer programme have been met?
Hon TONY RYALL: All of them. The Government has maintained at least 51 percent ownership of all the companies. New Zealanders were at the front of the queue. There were 250,000 people who took up shares, with 110,000 new common shareholder numbers issued. The companies will provide good opportunities for investors. The freed-up capital is being used to buy new public assets, and the Government is satisfied that industry-specific regulations will continue to protect New Zealand consumers. The Government campaigned up front on this programme, and the Opposition did everything it could to sabotage it. But the Government has delivered, and New Zealand and our public finances are better off because of this programme.
Paul Goldsmith: What other benefits are evident from the Government’s successful completion of the share float programme?
Hon TONY RYALL: Apart from providing hundreds of millions of dollars of scarce capital for hospitals and schools, KiwiRail, and other vital public assets, the Government share offer programme has also been instrumental in deepening New Zealand’s equity markets. Activity on the New Zealand Exchange in 2013 was at its highest level in over a decade, and 63 percent of the capital raised was due to the Government share offer programme. It has also spurred many New Zealanders to invest in the share market for the first time. Around a quarter of a million shareholders purchased shares, and around 110,000 were issued new common shareholder numbers. This means that tens of thousands of New Zealanders have invested in the stock market for the first time and are now earning dividends from shares.
Hon David Parker: How much has he raised from the asset sales process and is this less than the $5 billion to $7 billion he predicted; if so, how can he claim that it is a success?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government has raised $4.7 billion worth of cash and when the Government was aiming for $5 billion to $7 billion of shares, that included Solid Energy, which has been severely affected by the collapse in world coal prices. So, actually, I think that to get to $4.7 billion with only four of the five companies is a great success, and it means that we have money in the bank. Unlike the Opposition, we do not have to go to borrow from foreign bankers.
Hon David Parker: Supplementary question.
Hon Annette King: Where do you borrow from if it’s not from foreign bankers?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am just waiting for the Hon Annette King.
Hon David Parker: Will he apologise to New Zealand taxpayers for the $120 million he gave away from the many to the few by underpricing the Genesis Energy shares that have listed today on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars he has already lost on asset sales, and for running Solid Energy into the ground?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government ran a transparent and commercial process when it came to set the price for Genesis Energy. I have to say that the Opposition criticises whatever the price is. Over the last three floats we have had, we have heard that we sold them too cheap, we have sold 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 5 of 14 them too dear, we have not sold them to the right people, and we sold them to too many Kiwi mums and dads. The Opposition seems to have all sorts of positions on this, reflecting the fact that it made this the centrepiece of the 2011 election campaign. It failed and New Zealanders have won with $4.7 billion worth of cash.
5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, in the context in which they were made. However, I do need to note that there needs to be some form of statute of limitations if the member wants to discuss economic policy from the 1970s. That is a long time ago and I may not be able to recall every statement I made when I was still at school.
Hon David Parker: Does he stand by his statement that the export manufacturing sector is in good heart, given that manufactured exports outside of the primary sector have declined 21.3 percent in real terms since he took office?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think that the member is once again trying to take the manufacturing statistics—he needs to tell us what sort of primary sector manufacturing, which is after all, weirdly, a fair bit of New Zealand’s manufacturing, he is removing. He pulls that statistic out and then he tries to discuss about it in real terms despite the global financial crisis. So I have no idea how he has managed to concoct this particular question, but the reality is manufacturing in this country is in expansion and has been for the last 19 months.
Hon David Parker: Are manufactured exports in the non-primary sector down 21.3 percent in real dollars from December 2008 to December 2013—the latest dates for which we have statistics?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, asking the same question by reading it off the BlackBerry does not change the question and it does not change the answer. I know that the member wants to talk New Zealand manufacturing down, but he cannot. It is growing strongly in this country.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very specific question and it has not been addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: The difficulty I have is that it was effectively a repeat of the earlier question, and there was no doubt in my mind that that was addressed by the Minister in quite a lengthy fashion in the previous answer. The second supplementary question, in my mind, effectively asked the same question again.
Hon David Parker: Speaking to the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I would be grateful for the assistance.
Hon David Parker: You have told members on this side of the House, Mr Speaker, that if a question is not properly addressed to the satisfaction of the Opposition, we have to remedy that by effectively asking it again. I have done that and the question still has not been answered.
Mr SPEAKER: No, my difficulty is that the question, in my mind, was quite adequately answered in the answer to the first supplementary question. I accept that it was not to the member’s satisfaction, but the Minister went through quite a detailed explanation of it—[Interruption] I am on my feet and I am saying that, to me, he did, anyway. I will accept that he might not have done that to the satisfaction of the member, but he went through quite a detailed explanation about how New Zealand is a primary exporter and therefore a lot of our manufacturing is associated with the primary sector etc., and he gave justification for that. The member then rose and repeated a second question, which was effectively the same one, and I ruled that it had been addressed in answer to the first question.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Every member of the House is entitled to ask the questions they want, as long as they are within the Standing Orders. My colleague David Parker did that. The second question he asked was actually more specific and included up-to-date 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 6 of 14 statistics. The Minister could get up and repeat the answer that he had given. Instead, he gave another answer that attacked various people and did not address the question. I believe that the Minister has a responsibility to answer the question that the Hon David Parker asked. Perhaps he could ask it again and we could actually get an answer to it.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the way forward—I will hear from the Hon Steven Joyce.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The difficulty that I was trying to point out to the member is that it is very difficult because he often tries to come up with different statistics that are in a different— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —area from the manufacturing sector. I am happy to repeat it again. It is difficult to know what he means by “primary sector”. Does he include, for example, forestry processing services—those sorts of things? If he wants to put it down as a written question, I would be happy to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Well, I accepted that it was a point of order. It was helping me with making further—I think the way forward is that I will allow the member to ask an additional supplementary question. I certainly hope we get a new supplementary question, but I cannot instruct the member the Hon David Parker that it must be one.
Hon David Parker: Are non-primary manufactured exports, as measured by Statistics New Zealand, down 21.3 percent in real dollars between December 2008 and December 2013?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It depends on what the member means by “non -primary-sector manufactured exports”. [Interruption] For example, if you include the construction sector, which, of course, includes timber processing, that would be one. That has actually gone down, but is now coming up again.
Hon Phil Goff: Just say “Yes.”
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I will not just say “Yes” because the Opposition members think so. They need to go and have a little weekend off.
Hon David Parker: Why will he not support the manufacturing export sector and the jobs therein by introducing accelerated depreciation for capital investment, given that under current settings investment, jobs, and exports in that sector are all down?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That is where the member is incorrect. They are not down; they are up and they are growing. Employment is growing. The performance of the BNZ-Business New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index has been in positive growth territory now for 19 months. If the member thinks that placing a capital gains tax and a higher-cost emissions trading scheme on productive businesses on the one hand and then trying to mitigate it a little bit by giving them accelerated depreciation would actually grow the manufacturing sector, then he is sadly wrong.
Hon David Parker: Why did the Minister of Finance criticise Steven Joyce and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment when he said regarding Chorus and broadband last week: “You’d think Government would have enough regulatory experience to understand the implications of that sort of provision, and I don’t think they did,”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I am confident that he did not criticise the other Minister. Actually, the other Minister is a very good friend of mine, and I think that he does a pretty good job on behalf of the Minister of Finance.
Clare Curran: Why did he, as Minister of Finance, think that Steven Joyce, as the former Minister for Communications and Information Technology, got it wrong regarding Chorus on copper network pricing, when he said: “If you think the result … was unpredictable, then that’s poor policy process when the provisions went in the legislation,”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This is a good day to be answering questions on the Minister’s behalf, and I disagree with the member’s interpretation. Actually, it is a challenging policy area, but it is 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 7 of 14 important to point out that the ultra-fast broadband is 25 percent built now, and if that member had had her way, we would not have even started.
6. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent reports has she received about the number of people on a benefit?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): I am very pleased to announce that quarterly benefit figures released today show that the number of people on benefit is at a 5-year low, back to where it was prior to the global recession. At the end of the March quarter there were 295,320 people on a benefit. This is 15,000 fewer people than at the same time last year. During the recession the number of people on a benefit peaked at 352,707, in December 2010. There are nearly 60,000 fewer people on the benefit today. When this Government took office the global recession was beginning to bite, but we did the right thing in maintaining vital financial support for the most vulnerable. Now our welfare reforms and the strengthening economy are both contributing to significant numbers of people coming off benefit.
Alfred Ngaro: What does the drop in the number of people on a benefit mean for children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We all know that one of the best things that we can do for children is to ensure their parents are in work and not on a benefit. The Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty report said that “having a parent in paid employment is the most important way to move a child out of poverty”. That is why I am so pleased to see that there are 8,600 fewer sole parents on a benefit, and there are also 17,700 fewer children now living in beneficiary households compared with March last year, and a whopping 29,500 children fewer than 2 years ago. This Government’s investment in supporting sole parents is paying off.
Alfred Ngaro: What else do the figures show about how welfare reforms are helping children?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Fewer teenagers are having babies and going on the benefit. There are fewer of those beneficiaries. That means that the fewer whom we have going on now, the fewer we will have in the longer term, because they are the group that is most likely to stay there the longest. Teen pregnancy is falling, with 3,303 babies being born to mothers under 20 in 2013. That figure is down by 36 percent from 2008.
Hon Anne Tolley: That’s excellent.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, it is. It is really amazing. The benefit figures also show a 13.4 percent decrease in young parents aged 18 and under getting the young parent payment. This is a significant policy development in this area, and one that is great for teenagers and those babies.
Sue Moroney: What proportion of people coming off benefits are going into paid work?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have the proportion, but it is the highest proportion out of anyone. What we are seeing on average is 1,500 people a week going into work, and so those people are going into paid jobs. Those sole parents whom we talk about are going into work, predominantly, and not just going off benefit.
Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table answers from the Minister to questions that I have asked—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! If you are seeking leave to table answers to written questions, they are freely available.
Yemen—Death of New Zealand Citizen
7. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he support or condemn the killing of a New Zealand citizen by a United States drone strike in Yemen last year?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Prime
Minister: The Prime Minister neither supports nor condemns the death of a New Zealander in a counter-terrorism operation in Yemen. There are two additional points I would like to make. There was no New Zealand involvement in, or prior awareness of, the operation, and I would also point 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 8 of 14 out that the New Zealander involved worked alongside known al-Qaeda operatives of his own free will.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Just to be clear and explicit, did any agency of the New Zealand Government provide information to the United States or its allies that could have assisted in the killing of the New Zealand citizen?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Prime Minister can confirm for the member that there was no New Zealand involvement in, or prior awareness of, this operation at all.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Has the Prime Minister asked—and if not, will he ask—the US Government whether the New Zealander was deliberately targeted or “collateral damage”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This was not an operation that New Zealand was involved in. We did not have any involvement in it or prior awareness of it. This is a matter for the United States, not a matter for us.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Has the US Government expressed any regret to the New Zealand Government regarding the killing of the New Zealander?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not in a position to answer that question today.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is the Prime Minister aware that in a Pew Research Center Global Attitudes Project survey, 17 out of 20 countries showed a majority of people disapproving of US drone attacks, including 59 percent in Germany and 63 percent in France?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not aware of those specific numbers, but it is important to point out to the member that, of course, all weapons are lethal, and all conflict is dangerous. Generally, most people would prefer that it did not take place; it is just a matter of the world in which we live in terms of some of the issues that are faced over time.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Prime Minister agree with the opinion advanced in a joint Stanford Law School - New York University School of Law legal publication that “Unchecked armed drone proliferation poses a threat to global stability…”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member is in danger of inviting the Prime Minister to offer an opinion on this particular incident, and I think that that is really a matter for those who carry out those drone strikes. I do not think any member in this House is in a position to form a view in terms of the level of appropriateness or otherwise of the incident, because it has taken place right outside the purview of New Zealanders.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you noticed that members of the National backbench made inappropriate and quite gross jokes about the death of a New Zealand citizen while my colleague asked his question. I ask that they be asked to be silent. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I certainly did not hear any interjection that I would consider to be cast as a joke. This is a very serious matter, and I accept that point. I think that if members are going to interject, they need to be mindful of the seriousness of this situation.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would invite you to look again at the tape of this, especially during the point of order that Ms Turei took, where there were interjections. While you were on your feet, Mr Bennett constantly interjected; he was not reprimanded.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you very much to the Hon Trevor Mallard. I appreciate his invitation.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Prime Minister consider extrajudicial killings of New Zealanders on foreign soil to be legitimate and/or legal?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not think that either the member or I is in a position to be able to characterise this particular incident in that way.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Just by way of follow-up to that, does he agree or disagree with the UN special rapporteur, UK jurist Ben Emmerson that “where no official conflict exists, lethal action will rarely be lawful.”? 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 9 of 14
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not going to offer a view on that particular comment from that particular jurist, but it is important that we realise that addressing the threat of global terrorism is a very important responsibility for Governments around the world. We are talking about the security of countries and the security of their citizens. We in this country have had New Zealanders killed in a number of overseas terrorist incidents. I think that offering an opinion in principle and seeking to apply it to a particular incident is a very difficult thing to do, indeed, and invites a level of judgment that I think the member needs to be careful about making.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Prime Minister agree with the UN special rapporteur who said that “The single greatest obstacle to an evaluation of … drone strikes is lack of transparency,” and who does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding all relevant data?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not aware of those particular views, but I think this is a matter for those countries that do carry out drone strikes from time to time, and New Zealand is not one of them.
Dr Kennedy Graham: If the Prime Minister believes that the US President should have the power to order New Zealanders to be executed through targeting or simply killed as collateral damage, with no due process, what power does he believe that the US President should not have?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I go back to the initial answer, and that is that the Prime Minister neither supports nor condemns the incident that led to the death of the New Zealander in a counterterrorism operation in Yemen. I repeat for the member, who seems to be seeking to conflate the New Zealand approach with the approach of the Americans, that there was no New Zealand involvement in, or prior awareness of, that operation. Again, I would point out that the New Zealander involved worked alongside known al-Qaeda operatives of his own free will and he did have known terrorist links.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave of the House to table one document, being the one I mentioned in one of the questions, from the Pew Research Center, and the opinion poll headed “Drone strikes widely opposed”—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Teachers—Initial Teacher Education
8. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made on further Initial Teacher Education provision?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): This week I announced that the Government will partner with the University of Auckland, the University of Canterbury, Massey University, Victoria University, and the Auckland University of Technology to provide further postgraduatelevel initial teacher education qualifications from 2015. These programmes reflect our experience over time of striking a better balance between theory and practice. Improving the quality of initial teacher education provision is part of our drive to strengthen the teaching profession and raise achievement for kids.
Dr Cam Calder: Why is the Government investing in improving the quality of initial teacher education provision?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Expectations of education systems are changing and teachers entering the profession need to have the knowledge and expertise to work effectively with an increasingly diverse student population. We want to drive up both the quality and the status of the profession. Postgraduate initial teacher education helps with both. Parents and their children have the right to expect quality teaching, and we want to see every one of them succeed.
Dr Cam Calder: What other steps is the Government taking to strengthen the teaching profession and raise student achievement? 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 10 of 14
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We have just hosted a most successful International Summit on the Teaching Profession, which included over 26 international delegations, including Ministers, union leaders, teacher leaders, and, of course, observers from our own New Zealand profession. It was truly the World Cup of education. We also held education festivals in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch—
Hon Tony Ryall: Thousands.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: —which received a wide range—indeed, thousands—of visitors, educators, students, agencies, and community members. We are establishing a new professional body, the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, which will be the cornerstone of our quality teaching agenda. The Prime Minister announced a $359 million investment in professional career pathways over the next 4 years. That will support—
Hon Tony Ryall: How much?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: $359 million. That will support teachers and principals to lift student achievement at every school. And we have the inaugural Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards in June to celebrate the profession. In law, in policy, in practice, and in funding, this Government is backing our teaching profession to win.
Chris Hipkins: What was the total cost to the taxpayer of the festivals of education and the hosting of the International Summit on the Teaching Profession?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We do not yet have the final cost, but they were carried out in partnership with Cognition Education, which was the budget holder; with the profession; and with a diverse range of education providers, both nationally and internationally. It involved nearly 30,000 New Zealanders coming to celebrate education. When we have the final number I will be happy to provide that, because I am confident that they were dollars well spent.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not directly related to the Minister’s answer; it is actually related to asking you to give a considered ruling on the issue of written parliamentary questions. I have put to the Minister a number of questions regarding the cost of the festivals of education. She has indicated that she will not answer them because the festivals were contracted to Cognition Education. The question I am asking for a considered ruling on is whether, in fact, Ministers remain accountable for how taxpayers’ funding is spent, and are therefore answerable to the House, even if a third party is involved in the spending of that money.
Mr SPEAKER: I will consider the point the member has raised, but in the answer just given by the Minister, the Minister actually said that they had not yet finished collating the figures but she will be happy to tell you once they are finalised.
9. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Police: Does she stand by her statements that police are “much happier under a National-led Government” and that, “there have been no police budget cuts”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): Yes. This Government has backed the police and maintained their budget. Those statements were made in this House last year in response to a question from Labour about a Police Association survey. That survey found that union police members were more concerned about front-line resourcing under the previous Labour Government than they were under this Government. This is backed up by the police’s own survey results, which have found that staff engagement levels have improved significantly under this National-led Government. Under Labour, in 2007, only 13 percent of police staff were fully engaged and nearly a quarter of staff were actively disengaged. Last year nearly 25 percent were fully engaged and only 15 percent were disengaged. The results speak for themselves. Under this Government, crime is falling, public confidence is higher, and police are certainly happier. 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 11 of 14
Jacinda Ardern: Has the current or past Police Commissioner expressed any concerns over the additional pressure they have faced since her Government reduced the total appropriation for Vote Police by nearly $36 million in the last Budget?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have repeated in this House, and at estimates select committees, that this Government has maintained the police budget. Like any other agency, the police are expected to live within their budget, and police are continuing to do that.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked whether or not the current or past Commissioner of Police had expressed any concerns about the change in the police budget—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member had asked that question, I could assist her. She asked that and then she went on to talk about an underfunding that occurred—a reduced appropriation, I think, of $36 million. The Minister chose to respond to that part of the question. I invite the member to continue her supplementary questions.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I added in the amount that it had been reduced by in order to give the context of whether or not the commissioner had raised that specific reduction in budget.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has her own good reasons for adding in the amount, but subsequent to adding in the amount, she then gave the ability to the Minister to answer that part, which she did. She frankly disagrees that there has been an undercutting to the appropriation. The answer has been relevant. It has addressed the question. The member may have a further supplementary question. I suggest she uses it.
Jacinda Ardern: Has the current or past Commissioner of Police expressed any concerns over the current level of the police budget?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not think there has been a Commissioner of Police or a chief executive who has not said they could do other things if they had more money. However, this Government has focused its resources on getting more effective and more efficient use of resources, and that is what I have asked of the commissioner. Actually, it has worked. We have got recorded crime at a 29-year low.
Jacinda Ardern: If the police are much happier, why has the resignation rate for front-line police officers almost tripled—tripled—since 2009, as shown in this chart I am holding, with more than 350 police not retiring but leaving the force in the last year alone?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We have been through a recession that has seen the lowest attrition rate from police in something like 40 years. In fact, it was down at about 2.7 percent at one stage.
Jacinda Ardern: It has tripled!
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Well, you can hold up charts—I mean, who knows what the figures are on either side? What we have now, I understand, is an average attrition rate of around 5.7 percent, which is significantly below the average public sector attrition rate, which sits at around 15 percent. Actually, the police are incredibly happy. They are better resourced, they are better tooled, and they are better able to get out and prevent crime, and the results speak for themselves.
Jacinda Ardern: I seek leave to table an Excel spreadsheet of police resignations produced by the Parliamentary Library and based on the New Zealand Police magazine Ten One, which documents resignations across the force.
Mr SPEAKER: The easiest way of resolving the matter is for the House to decide. Leave is sought to table a spreadsheet prepared by the Parliamentary Library. The source of some of the information was, I think, described as a police magazine. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jacinda Ardern: Is the Minister telling the House that a police force that has experienced a reduction in budget, a huge restructure, a loss of support staff, a tripling of front-line resignations, 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 12 of 14 station closures, and a loss of resources like training and vehicles are still happier under her Government?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am not telling the House any of that because none of it is true. What that member has done is continue to undermine the police, who have produced a reduction in crime in each of the last 4 years, and now reported crime is at a 29-year low. I do not know why Labour is not celebrating that.
10. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Associate Minister of Transport: What recent initiatives has the Government announced to help improve safety on our roads?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Associate Minister of Transport): Under the 10-year Safer Journeys road safety strategy, the Government is pressing ahead with initiatives to make our roads safer. The Government announced that electronic stability control will become mandatory for both new and used vehicles imported into New Zealand, with a staged timetable over the next 5 years. It was described by the Automobile Association and many road safety experts as the most significant advance in vehicle safety since the seatbelt, with research suggesting electronic stability control can reduce the risk of crashing as the result of loss of control by around 30 percent.
Chris Auchinvole: What other steps has the Government taken to improve road safety?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: There are many, but I will name just three. We have identified New Zealand’s 100 highest-risk intersections in order that we can target safety improvements, and last month I released that list. I have also asked for a special project to be started that aims to improve safety on roads in the lower South Island. This is a result of concerns about both overseas and out-of-district drivers. Furthermore, I have addressed the New Zealand Cycle Safety Summit to kick off the work that the Cycle Safety Panel will be doing to find ways to make cycling safer in New Zealand. But we are approaching an extended and possibly weather-affected Easter and Anzac Day period, and I want to take this opportunity to wish all road users a safe holiday. I know our fantastic police force will be out there trying to keep us safe, and I urge drivers to take extra care behind the wheel.
Hon David Parker: Is there any safety reason behind his Government’s refusal to drop registration fees—but not warrants—for the 600,000 light trailers and caravans, and, given that it is just a revenue grab, what sense does it make to collect $28 a trailer when 25 percent of the costs go to compliance costs?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: There are many reasons, but the No. 1 reason is that this Government focuses on the transport issues that matter in reducing death and injury on our roads— not on sideshows like clip-on roads and trucks in the fast lane.
Christchurch, Recovery—Prioritisation of Job Opportunities and Protection of Migrant
11. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration: What steps has he taken to ensure that New Zealand workers are given priority for jobs in the Christchurch rebuild and migrant workers given temporary visas are protected?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): In answer to the first question, the No. 1 priority is jobs for New Zealanders. I work with my colleagues the Minister for Social Development and the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment to ensure appropriately skilled Kiwis are at the front of the queue for jobs. We have introduced the Canterbury Skills and Employment Hub, where jobseekers, employers, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and the Ministry of Social Development all come together to make sure that New Zealanders are at the front of that queue. But there is no doubt we will also need workers from overseas. So in respect of the second question, we have introduced legislation with tough new penalties for exploiting migrant workers—and I have asked officials to turn their turrets 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 13 of 14 on employers, not employees—and we have provided support to employers on issues with migrant workers. We are regularly engaging with migrant communities to help them spread the message that the rule of law in New Zealand is important to all workers regardless of their visa status.
Darien Fenton: Why has he granted visas for migrant workers to work in jobs like forklift drivers, builders’ labourers, clerical administrative workers, labourers, painters, and truck drivers when these types of jobs could have easily gone to our out-of-work Kiwi workers, with minimal training?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, I repeat my answer to the primary question. We are very focused on ensuring that an appropriate number of skilled New Zealanders are at the front of the queue, but the task of rebuilding Canterbury is going to be a massive one, and there is no doubt that there are going to be high levels of requirements for migrant workers.
Darien Fenton: Why have no prosecutions been completed in the last year under either the Immigration Act or labour laws for migrant workers, despite repeated complaints of migrant worker abuse?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: A prosecution is not necessarily a sign of success. It may well be a sign of failure. I know that the labour inspectorate and the immigration compliance team work extremely hard when they receive complaints in order to solve the problem before a prosecution becomes necessary. I am very satisfied that as long as complaints are reported to those agencies, that system is working. But if the member has cases where she believes action is not being taken, I would be very happy to hear from her.
Darien Fenton: Why does Immigration New Zealand not record the number of complaints from workers on temporary visas, thus making it impossible for him to know the size of the problem or whether the problems have, in fact, been fixed?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Immigration New Zealand is not the only source of complaints. They come through the 0800 number on the Immigration New Zealand line. They go to the labour inspectorate. They go to the police. To simply say that Immigration New Zealand is the only source of that data would probably understate, and be misleading about, the scale of the problem.
Darien Fenton: How can he be confident he is promoting Kiwi jobs and protecting migrant workers when Immigration New Zealand is approving migrants in low-skilled jobs, not prosecuting breaches, and not even collecting the data?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The significant data, which I think was mentioned by the Minister for Social Development in an answer to an earlier question, showed that there has been a significant reduction in the number of unemployed people in New Zealand since 2010, and that more than half of young male Christchurch residents now have work, when they did not a couple of years ago. There is no doubt that Kiwis are getting those jobs, but there is also no doubt that foreign migrant workers are going to be required to rebuild that city.
Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill—Iwi Concerns
12. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister for Primary
Industries: Is he aware of the concerns of the Chairman of Te Rūnanga ā Iwi o Ngāpuhi that the revised policy laid out in the Fisheries (Foreign Charter Vessels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill will disproportionately affect iwi owners of settlement quota who lack the scale, capital and flexibility of other quota owners to make other arrangements for catching their annual catch entitlement; if so, what is he doing to address these concerns?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Primary Industries) on behalf of the Minister
for Primary Industries: Yes, the Minister is aware of those concerns. He has had several conversations with Sonny Tau about the impact of this legislation on iwi, and in particular the impact on Ngāpuhi. The Minister is also aware of other iwi and non-iwi parties who have concerns over the effects of this bill, and others who support it. He acknowledges that this bill will have some 17/04/2014 Questions for Oral Answer Page 14 of 14 impact on business, but he is not prepared to allow behaviour that has been described as slavery at sea to continue in New Zealand waters. This bill is an essential step to stamp out this behaviour and to uphold New Zealand’s international reputation.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Why has the Minister not considered a phased-in approach, which will achieve his objectives as well as minimise the loss of economic value, and which this Government often provides to other sectors of the economy when making similar changes?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The Government response to the ministerial inquiry is a phased-in approach. Operators have been aware of the proposed changes since 2012. Therefore, the Government has enabled a 4-year transition period for operators to begin adjusting their business settings to the new reflagging regime. We have also worked closely with iwi and industry to try to minimise the impact of reflagging where possible, through streamlining reflagging processes. The Ministry for Primary Industries and other agencies will continue to support all parties during this transition period. The new regime will mean more secure market access arrangements and an improved international reputation for products caught in our waters. Ultimately, this will prove positive for iwi quota holders.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Bearing in mind that the ability of Māori to move into the fisheries came out of an actual fisheries claim, can the Minister tell the House how this policy does not breach, firstly, the Treaty of Waitangi, and, secondly, the Māori fisheries claim?
Hon JO GOODHEW: I am advised that there is a clear principle that settlements do not impinge on the Crown’s right to develop policy in response to contemporary issues, such as the management of foreign chartered vessels.