Questions and Answers - May 6
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Budget 2014—Economic Programme
1. CLAUDETTE HAUITI (National) to the Minister of Finance: How will the Budget next week help to lock in the benefits of sustainable economic growth to support more jobs and higher incomes for New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Budget next week will set out the next steps in the Government’s programme, which will build on the good economic momentum that New Zealanders have seen over the past year or so. It will show growing fiscal surpluses through to 2018, starting with a small surplus in 2014-15, and show debt beginning to decline as a percentage of the economy. Together with households and businesses, the Government will continue its programme of policy that supports the delivery of more jobs and higher incomes. We are seeing positive results. Employment is rising across the board. Wages on average are increasing ahead of the cost of living. Interest rates are near 50-year lows. The current account deficit is less than half what it was 6 years ago. Consumer and business confidence are high. Also, last week we heard that exports in March passed $5 billion for the first time, and annual exports exceeded $50 billion for the first time.
Claudette Hauiti: How is the higher growth outlook for the economy translating into higher wages for New Zealanders?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Everyone’s situation is different, and there are New Zealand families who are finding the economy challenging. But the benefits of a sustainably growing economy are tangible. Over the past 2 years the average full-time wage—that is, by the measure used to adjust national superannuation every year—has increased from $51,700 to $54,700, an increase of $3,000. Treasury’s preliminary Budget forecasts show that the average wage will rise further to almost $62,300 by 2018, another increase of $7,600 over the next 4 years. The forecasts also show that around 170,000 more people will be working by 2018, at the same time as the average wage will be running $7,600 higher than today.
Claudette Hauiti: What other steps will the Government take in the Budget to help support sustainable economic growth, more jobs, and higher incomes over the next few years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Two of the risks to the sustained economic recovery would be a blowout in Government spending and a runaway housing market. The Government is committed to thoughtful, targeted spending, not a large-scale spend-up, which would put pressure on interest rates for households and businesses. We will also continue to work to increase the supply of land and new housing to the housing market so that it can meet the unprecedented demand, particularly from the sharp turn-round in migration figures.
Claudette Hauiti: What measures would erode the good progress made in helping wages to increase faster than the cost of living over recent years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a number of possible measures, but I have seen one recently that involves cutting take-home pay by 15 percent, forcing New Zealanders into a compulsory savings scheme with contributions up to 15 percent. I heard a radio report yesterday where one person said: “I probably have more mortgage debt than I’ve got long-term savings, to be honest, so part of the way we save is to pay down our mortgage.” That person was David Cunliffe, but he wants to take that choice away from all other Kiwis.
Hon David Parker: Given that Treasury is forecasting that New Zealand’s current account deficit, under his economic settings, will worsen in the coming years, is he concerned that his Government is simply repeating the same mistakes of the last four decades, with a worsening external deficit and whistling in the wind as more and more money flows into the housing market rather than the productive sector?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are certainly keen to avoid the mistakes of the last Labour Government, on whose watch the current account deficit doubled from 4 percent to 8 percent. In fact, Treasury does regularly forecast the current account deficit to get worse, but it keeps getting better, and I am sure the member will be keen to see that laid out for him on Budget day.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister understand that the ongoing damage being done to the New Zealand environment under the policies of his Government will undermine New Zealand’s economic performance in the long term?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, because the statement is incorrect. Under this Government, we have introduced regulation of the exclusive economic zone, which did not exist before. There was no environmental regulation in our larger economic zone in the ocean—one of the largest in the world. It is now comprehensively regulated. Secondly, through a collaborative process, which a lot of the supporters of the member’s party have participated in, through the Land and Water Forum, we are introducing comprehensive regulation of the quality of our fresh water. That has never been done before. It is designed to ensure we get the right balance between the use of our natural resources, our environmental quality, and our economic opportunities.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister understand that under the water regulations promulgated by his Government, New Zealand rivers can have 4½ times as much nitrogen as the Yangtze River in China, and how does he think that will affect New Zealand’s brand being clean and green?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with that. There has just been an extensive consultation with the public and, prior to that, with all the interest groups that wanted to participate, about exactly what the standards of freshwater quality should be. Certainly there are some challenges, but there is general agreement on what those bottom lines ought to be and what exceptions there could be to them. We hope that the member will have the opportunity to support this Government in legislating and regulating for the first time ever for a comprehensive framework for the quality of fresh water in every water body in New Zealand.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister understand that the water regulations his Government is proposing would make water so toxic that it would not be safe to swim in, and it would be safe only to wade in because it is a wading standard rather than a swimming standard, and how well does he think that will go down in our export markets for our “100% Pure New Zealand”, “clean, green” brand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member is trying to dramatise this issue for his own political benefit. The fact is that we are setting up a process that will allow New Zealanders, community by community, to grapple with the hard issues of what the quality of their local freshwater supply ought to be. The member’s description of the existing or proposed quality is simply wrong. There has been plenty of public debate about this. There will be plenty more. In the end, it will be decided community by community, consistent with some national bottom lines.
2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I do.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he have confidence that all of his Ministers agree with his approach to Maurice Williamson—in that Maurice Williamson “crossed a line” by calling the police on behalf of Donghua Liu—given that the Minister of Justice, Judith Collins, on the weekend blamed Mr Williamson’s fall not on the actions of Mr Williamson but on the media?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part of the question, yes, I do. In answer to the second part of the question, I think the member has got that incorrect.
Dr Russel Norman: Why did the Minister of Justice attack the media and blame the media for Mr Williamson’s downfall, when clearly Mr Williamson intervened in a live police investigation regarding domestic violence issues in order to try to assist Mr Donghua Liu and help him avoid prosecution?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think, as the Minister herself has said, due to a series of allegations made that she believes are false, she overreached. In that regard she has apologised because she made a mistake. But, mind you, that member made a mistake when he went grovelling up to the Dotcom mansion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. It will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Are you going to allow the last part of that prime ministerial answer to stand? Can he just keep on doing it at the end of every answer today?
Mr SPEAKER: It was an unhelpful remark from the Prime Minister. The problem is that it was at the end of his answer. I could have thought about asking him to withdraw it. I did not think that was necessary—this is, after all, a debating chamber. But such quips from any Minister giving answers do not help the order of the House.
Dr Russel Norman: Do all his Ministers understand that New Zealand democracy is not for sale, given the repeated pattern by his Ministers in acting—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has a right to ask his question, provided it is within the Standing Orders. The member can start his question again.
Dr Russel Norman: Do all his Ministers understand that New Zealand democracy is not for sale, in light of the repeated examples of his Ministers intervening on behalf of donors to the National Party?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, we do, and I would make the point that the National Party records all of its donations and it makes sure that they are in the public domain, unlike, say, the Leader of the Opposition, who has got a secret trust that we do not know about.
3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Has Hon Judith Collins failed to meet the “high standards” he expects from Ministers; if so, how?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): No. Over the almost 6 years Judith Collins has been a Minister, she has made a significant contribution to the Government and the people of New Zealand and the portfolios that she has held. The House will be aware that in her recent actions in respect of Oravida she put herself in a situation where a perception of a conflict of interest has arisen. The Minister accepts this and she has apologised.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister remember giving Judith Collins a final warning about misleading by omission; if so, on what basis did he give that final warning?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It was in relation to the Oravida situation. I said there was other particular information. I have not seen any particular information come out, although I am waiting for the secret donors of David Cunliffe to come out.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister consider that Judith Collins misled the media with her comments about Television One journalist Katie Bradford; if so, why is she still a Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member is trying to relate that to the other issue, that was, as I said, in relation to Oravida. In relation to the comments that the Minister made about Katie Bradford, she has apologised for that. She herself has admitted that she overreached.
Hon David Cunliffe: Was the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office aware of all the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice and briefings relating to Judith Collins and Oravida when it provided him with advice on her conflict of interest?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am confident that the office is aware of all the pertinent information on the advice that it relayed to me.
Hon David Cunliffe: When, therefore, did he first become aware of the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade briefings, which said that Judith Collins appeared at Oravida in China “To increase the profile of a successful importer and distributor of New Zealand products into China.”—i.e., an official function and not a private function?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I do not have those details with me, but I am happy if the member wants to ask me in writing for that. But what is actually quite interesting about the documents that the member is reading from is, in fact, that laced all the way through them—and not only in relation to the very busy schedule that the Minister had in relation to the justice portfolio—it was quite clear that this was a private dinner, and that was all the way through the emails, long before this issue ever came into the public domain. The one thing I do know is that lifting the profile of companies is very important. And Shane Jones believes in that; the Labour Party does not. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: Why is the Prime Minister holding this Minister, the Minister of Justice and a trained lawyer, to a lower standard than he has held the Hon Maurice Williamson, when that Minister, amongst other things, has publicly countermanded his decision about Mr Williamson?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not. I think it will be quite clear to everyone. In the case of Mr Williamson, he breached paragraph 4.14 of the Cabinet Manual. As I said, in relation to Ms Collins, she had a particular issue where the accumulation of events could have led to a perception of conflict of interest. But let us be honest about this: if your making a mistake means you are gone, that leader should have been gone a hell—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] When I rise to my feet, the Prime Minister should resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! It would be a shame if some Ministers had to leave the House so early in this new session.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why, then, was the Prime Minister willing to sack Maurice Williamson, Phil Heatley, Peter Dunne, and John Banks, but not Judith Collins? What is it about the Minister of Justice that he will not touch—is it her fund-raising ability or is it her influence in the caucus?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One thing that the member might want to learn if he wants to be an efficient leader is that, actually, every case is considered on a case by case basis. This Government has set high standards, and, yes, where Ministers have not met the standards, they have gone. But, then again, when he does not meet the standards, people go as well. It is called Shane Jones. He has gone from Labour—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: In light of that answer, can the Prime Minister tell the House why he has said that the rules of the Cabinet Manual have now become guidelines?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, actually, to be honest, I was paraphrasing Helen Clark.
4. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister for Economic
Development: What recent reports has he received on New Zealand’s export performance?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): I have seen the recent Statistics New Zealand overseas merchandise trade report for the first quarter of this year. I am pleased to announce to the House that March 2014 was a banner month for New Zealand exports. Exports rose by 15 percent compared with March 2013, exceeding $5 billion in value for the first time. There was a trade surplus of $920 million, the highest ever for a March month. Indeed, in the March quarter there was a trade surplus of $1.1 billion—the highest surplus for the series—and it was equating to a trade surplus in the last 6 months of almost $2.5 billion. Our current account deficit is now down to 3.4 percent of GDP. In 2008 it averaged over 8 percent. So the recently rumoured export crisis seems to be about as big a problem as the much talked about manufacturing crisis.
Jonathan Young: What is the Government doing to grow new and existing markets for New Zealand exporters?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As part of the Government’s comprehensive Business Growth Agenda, we have set an ambitious target of increasing the ratio of exports to GDP from 30 percent to 40 percent by 2025. A big part of achieving that target is developing new and existing international markets for our goods and services. For example, trade between New Zealand and China has grown dramatically over the last 5 years. The Minister of Trade, Tim Groser, has made excellent progress, signing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, overseeing the development of trade between New Zealand and Chinese Taipei, and advancing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the comprehensive regional partnership and free-trade agreements within the India, Korea, and the Gulf Cooperation Council. When you are developing exports, there is no substitute for hard work—and it is certainly not fiddling around with KiwiSaver when you do not know what you are doing.
Jonathan Young: What other reports has he seen on New Zealand’s export performance?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I saw a report as recently as last evening from a commentator who suggested that New Zealand’s positive export performance was down to just two industries: logs and dairy. I am pleased to advise that commentator that he is quite wrong. For example, the value of our high-tech manufacturing exports has grown from just $100 million in 1990 to $1.4 billion in 2012, exports of IT services have increased by 11 percent per year since 2002, exports of computer and information services have increased by 85 percent since 2006, and wine exports have increased from $300 million a year 10 years ago to over $1.3 billion in the year to March. These are amazing achievements from these new and growing industries, and can I suggest to that commentator that he go and see some of them, rather than get his information from that noted economic soothsayer David Parker.
Justice, Minister—Relationship with Oravida
5. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by all her statements regarding her relationships and interactions with Oravida Ltd?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Grant Robertson: Does she stand by her statement in this House on 19 March, in reference to her visit to Oravida’s headquarters in Shanghai: “The only other choice was either to go to the airport, or to go to Oravida and then to the airport.”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think it would be correct to say that I could have gone back to the hotel for a small dinner and then gone to the airport as well, or any other combination of that.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade from 9 October that is a timetable for the Minister of Justice’s visit to Shanghai, which includes, at the time she ended up going to Oravida, a business and law round table—
Mr SPEAKER: The document has been well described. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Grant Robertson: How can she say that the only option was to go straight to the airport or to Oravida when the programme for her visit actually had a business and legal round table in the timeslot that was used for her visit to Oravida?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Half a million dollars for the family.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I take exception to that comment. I would like to have it withdrawn, please.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has taken offence to the interjection that came from the Hon Trevor Mallard. Would he stand and withdraw that comment.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will deal with that afterwards. I have asked the member—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, I am not going to withdraw, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: That puts us in a very difficult position, where I have no choice but to then ask—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It was not an unparliamentary comment.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the member alluded to a substantial amount of money being the benefit to the family. The Minister has taken objection to that, I think, with justification. I will ask the member once more to stand and withdraw that comment. If not—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I will not withdraw the truth. Her—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Trevor Mallard will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] Hon Trevor Mallard withdrew from the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Did we get the supplementary question?
Grant Robertson: Given that she was in China as Minister of Justice, why was a business and legal round table removed from her programme and replaced at her request with a visit to Oravida?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The member is wrong in that question. The document that he refers to is one of a draft of itineraries prepared—I think it was on 9 October, he said—by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. That meeting—or that dinner—did not go ahead, and that was not actually at my request.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a document from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade that shows that the request for the visit to Oravida came directly from the Minister’s office.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It’s a different thing.
Mr SPEAKER: It may well be a different thing, but leave has been sought to table that particular Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade document. I am going to put the leave. The House can decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Why does he not just save us a bit of time and table the whole Official Information Act papers—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a legitimate point of order, and the Minister knows it.
Grant Robertson: How is it consistent with her responsibilities as a Cabinet Minister for her to remove a justice-related visit from her programme and to replace it with a visit to “raise the profile” of a company that her husband is a director of?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I utterly and totally reject the allegations made in that question.
Grant Robertson: Did her programme provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade include a business and legal round table, which was replaced by a visit to Oravida at her request?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Of course no. The draft itinerary at one—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has been asked a question. She must be given the opportunity to answer.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: No. It was very clear that this was one of a range of items that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had suggested in a draft itinerary weeks before I attended in China. The fact is that I at no stage required it to be removed, and that member is quite incorrect in his statement.
Grant Robertson: Why was it necessary for her to tell the New Zealand ambassador that “nothing untoward” occurred at a private dinner?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It was, of course, not necessary for me to do so, but I did.
Grant Robertson: What was it that led her to believe that it was necessary for her to tell the New Zealand ambassador that nothing untoward occurred? Was it the presence of someone at that dinner whom the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade was so concerned about that it still provided her with briefing notes about that person?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That member has again stated some matters as fact, which are not fact. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not give me a briefing about the friend of Mr Shi who was at the dinner, and the member is quite wrong to say so. It did not give me a briefing on it.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table an email exchange between the director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s North Asia division and the New Zealand ambassador, providing notes for a person who was to be at the dinner—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: The notes were provided on Friday, 18 October.
Mr SPEAKER: That document and email trail has now been well described to the House. Leave is sought now to table it. Is there any objection?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, as long it’s what it actually says—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It has been well described by the member. I am putting the leave. The House can decide.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Not accurately.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member is misdescribing something he is seeking to table, that would be a serious offence that would be subsequently dealt with. Leave is sought to table that email trail. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Budget 2014—Budgeting Services
ALFRED NGARO (National): To the Minister for Social Development: what recent announcements has she made about the Government’s—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member. We have got a bit of excitement down here on my right. I am calling Alfred Ngaro.
6. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made about the Government’s support for budgeting services?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yesterday the Prime Minister and I announced $22 million in new funding for budgeting services over the next 4 years. Budgeting services provide critical help to thousands of Kiwis, who are able to make a real difference to their own lives by developing good money management skills. As a Government we are committed to helping people to help themselves, and it is far better for people to learn and develop budgeting skills by the great work of these many non-governmental organisations. This injection of funds represents a 61 percent increase in funding for the sector by 2015-16.
Alfred Ngaro: What other announcements has she made about assisting people on low incomes?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yesterday I also announced a partnership between the Government, the Bank of New Zealand, Good Shepherd, and the Salvation Army to provide low-income people with no or low-interest loans. Too often, people who can least afford it are tempted into highinterest loans that they cannot pay back, and, as a result, get themselves in real trouble. The BNZ is putting $10 million into the programme, which provides a real alternative to those dodgy lenders. Low-income people will be able to get loans to pay for things like cars, which are a particular area where they need the loans. [Interruption] The Labour Party members do not like it, do they? They could not do it. They could not actually help people who do need assistance who are on low incomes. They just sit there and snipe, snipe, snipe.
Sue Moroney: We came up with it first.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, I will tell you what. This Government is making a difference for those very low-income people.
Alfred Ngaro: Why are these two initiatives important for people on low incomes?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Both of these initiatives have the ability to make a real difference in those people’s lives. There is no denying that it can be hard to survive on a low income. But, instead of the victimising and sympathy we get from the Labour Party, this side of the House is making a real difference to those people and in their lives.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a question from the Government benches to the Minister, and twice the Minister used it as an occasion to attack the Labour Party. The Minister has no responsibility for that, and it is particularly egregious because it—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have some sympathy for the point the member is raising. The difficulty was that, in actual fact, the Minister, through her answer, was then responding to quite a level of interjection coming from the Labour Party. If members start interjecting, they are likely to get a political response back again.
Domestic Violence—Support for Victims
7. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister of Justice: Does she stand by her statement “we need to encourage these women and children to be comfortable coming forward to report domestic and sexual violence”; if so, what has she done to encourage women to report domestic violence?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Yes; the Government has already achieved significant progress with improving the support for victims of domestic and sexual violence. As a result of the $50 offender levy, $12.6 million has been collected since July 2010. There are 15 new grants and services available to victims, including discretionary grants to support victims of sexual violence and funding for the national Sexual Violence Survivor Advocate, as well as specialist victim advisers to provide assistance for parents or caregivers who attend court to support child witnesses. As Minister of Justice I have initiated a major work stream, which is nearing completion and which will include a range of further initiatives to provide better support and access to justice for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Jan Logie: Will women feel encouraged to report domestic violence when they see her, the Minister of Justice, defending Maurice Williamson’s interference—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That question now has no connection with the primary question. I invite the member—I do not want to take supplementary questions away from her. I invite her to ask a question that is in relation to the primary question.
Hon Members: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I cannot take three at once. I will not take any; they have all sat down.
Jan Logie: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My initial question was relating to encouraging women to report. My second question was whether women will feel encouraged to report, based on the leadership provided by that Minister. It was directly relevant.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member simply asks that question, it will be in order, but when it is a reference to a resignation that has occurred, etc., that is not in order. So if the member wants to stand and ask the question that she has just raised in the point of order, it may well be acceptable.
Jan Logie: Will women feel encouraged to report domestic violence when they see her, the Minister of Justice, providing leadership in domestic violence, supporting a Minister’s interference in a police case?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I gave the member one more chance. She was on the right track until the last part. I will give her only one—[Interruption] Order! I will give her one more opportunity. Otherwise, we will move to the next question.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to reflect on that ruling you have just made. The question from Jan Logie was a broad statement around domestic and sexual violence. She has asked a question of the Minister. I cannot understand why her referencing a matter that is in the public arena rules the question out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Well, the member might not understand it, but I invite the member to look very carefully at the Standing Orders—
Grant Robertson: Which one?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, 384, if the member needs it, and I invite him to read it if he wants to. Supplementary questions are at the discretion of the Speaker. I have been very patient with the member. I will give the member her last opportunity. Otherwise, we are moving to the next question.
Jan Logie: Will women feel encouraged to report domestic violence when they see her, the Minister of Justice, providing public defence in relation to a high-profile case of domestic violence?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Of course I have not done that. What I have done is to say that the Prime Minister was quite right to receive the resignation of my colleague Mr Williamson in the circumstances. I have also, at the same time—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: On three occasions you found that the original question was erroneous or outside of the Standing Orders because of a reference to a certain case. Now you find that the Minister of Justice is quite within the borders of the Standing Orders, having referred to the case that you ruled out from being referred to in the first place. Can we have some consistency here, please.
Mr SPEAKER: I would have thought the Minister’s answer was helpful to the House, but if the member is objecting to the answer, then I will curtail the answer and we will move on. Are there further supplementary questions?
Jan Logie: If tackling domestic violence is a priority, why has the Ministry of Justice funding for family and domestic violence services dropped under her Government from $8.7 million in 2010 to $7.3 million in 2013, despite an increase in family violence arrests last year?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: These days we take much more of a cross-Government approach to the funding of domestic violence and sexual violence. In fact, I can tell the member that the Ministry of Social Development is also contributing to the funding. Also, in addition to that, another portfolio, accident compensation, has spent—I think it is, from memory—around $40 million a year on sensitive claims resulting from sexual violence.
Jan Logie: I seek leave to table a report compiled by the library showing a decrease in funding from the Government, from the Ministry of Social Development, as well as the Ministry of Justice, as well as the It’s Not OK campaign—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It has been well described. On the basis that it is not freely available to members, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table this library report on a funding trend. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Jan Logie: How can women feel comfortable reporting domestic violence when Ministers have slashed funding for family violence and used their power to help a man charged with abuse simply—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, we are right back in the same position we were earlier. I will invite the member—[Interruption] Order! I will invite the member to re-ask her question. I suggest that if she just keeps it to the first part, it will be in order.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Justice herself introduced the Mr Williamson case. That is what the Minister did. It is now on the record. We now have a right to respond—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A member sitting not too far from the member took objection to the Minister raising that. On that basis, I curtailed the answer. [Interruption] Order! We can move on very quickly. I have been exceedingly patient with the member. I will ask her, if she wants to ask further supplementary questions, that she does it according to the Standing Orders.
Jan Logie: How can women feel comfortable reporting domestic violence when Ministers have slashed funding for support, prevention, and treatment services, and lost their way in terms of providing political leadership on the importance of a consistent response to domestic violence?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I reject the allegation in the second part of that member’s question. I can say to that member that this Government is deeply committed to bringing an end to domestic and sexual violence. In fact, that member well knows and many people in this House will well know that there are people in this House whose close family members have been killed as a result of domestic violence.
Justice, Minister—Relationship with Oravida
8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Justice: Why does she stand by all her statements regarding Oravida Ltd?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Because, to the best of my knowledge and recollection, my statements are true.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is the case, why did she say that her trip to the Oravida office in Shanghai was just a “cup of tea on the way to the airport”, when official documents revealed demonstrably that her comments are false?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I reject the allegations made by that member.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When her office emailed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on 2 October last year to ensure that a certain named person would be at the pre-arranged Beijing dinner with Stone Shi, Julia Xu, and her, who was that person?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Actually, that member is wrong. That was not a named person at a dinner; that was actually at a drinks matter. The member has completely confused himself around those two issues.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table the 2 October email that came from her office to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the pre-organising of her engagements with Oravida in China shows 22 emails between her office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and when internally, within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, there were countless emails around her engagement with Oravida—all at the taxpayers’ expense—why did she not just tell the truth when answering the questions of the media?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have told the truth.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When this matter first arose and she had, as a result, discussions with the Cabinet Office and later the Prime Minister, did she lay all of the facts before them; if not, why not?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: As I have said on numerous occasions, I did not have discussions with the Cabinet Office; the Prime Minister did.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister tell us why she will not be here on Thursday this week and Tuesday and Wednesday next week to do her job—as she is paid to do by the taxpayer— and to be held accountable to Parliament? What makes her so special that she can take a walk?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That member seems to know more about my diary than I do. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am now trying to get a bit of order so I can hear a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I wish to table 100 media outlets’ reports saying that that Minister is going to be away.
Mr SPEAKER: No. Media documents are freely available already to all members.
Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes—Water Quality
9. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent announcements has the Government made regarding the restoration of the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): Last week I was pleased to announce the reallocation of $24 million to new projects, which will reduce nitrogen inflows into Lake Rotorua through initiatives such as a nitrogen trading scheme and buybacks, gorse removal, and trials of low nitrogen land uses. The funding is part of a $72 million commitment by the Government to the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes programme to clean up lakes Rotorua, Rotoiti, Ōkareka, and Rotoehu, with a total project cost of $144 million. Water quality in the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes region has improved markedly since 2010, and of the priority lakes, Lake Rotoiti’s water quality target has been met for the first time and is now the best since monitoring began in 1991. Although this is encouraging, further work is required.
Louise Upston: Why was the funding change made?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The Rotorua community had asked the Government to shift existing funding commitments to a land use management and change project as part of the Rotorua Te Arawa Lakes water quality improvements project. The new project will ultimately reduce the amount of nitrogen leaching into the lake by half, which will enable community-agreed water quality targets to be met. I am particularly pleased to see that this project has the backing of the primary sector and of iwi, as part of collaborative efforts to clean up water quality in these iconic lakes. The lakes’ stakeholder advisory group, with the help of local MP Todd McClay, has devised the scheme to enable water quality to be improved while ensuring that the pastoral sector remains sustainable, which is a win-win for both the economy and the environment.
Economy, Rebalancing—Household Savings
10. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “we’ve done a lot of work to rebalance our economy towards exports, savings and investment in a bid to lift sustainable economic growth”; if so, what is the current level of household savings in New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I do stand by that statement, and I will tell the member why. We are seeing a range of positive indicators in the economy: 66,000 more jobs in the last year; wages on average up 2.8 percent, which is well ahead of inflation; economic growth of 3.1 percent, which is up 0.9 percent on the December 2013 quarter; an increase in manufacturing, a sector that added 14,300 jobs in 2013; and investment in plant and machinery, which Statistics New Zealand reports is now at its highest level ever. Alongside that, exports are reaching $50 billion,
which is a figure quoted by my colleague Minister Joyce. On the household savings rate, the most recent data shows it at minus 0.7 percent of household income. That compares with an average of minus 4.5 percent in the 5 years from 2003 to 2008, when all that member’s theories were tried out.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the Prime Minister that “a lower exchange rate will enable us to promote economic growth faster.” And that “the most likely way to achieve a more realistic exchange rate is one where we see an example of good monetary policy where interest rates are lower, and that is why taking pressure off that is important.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do agree with the Prime Minister. We are on track to have significantly lower interest rates through this cycle than the last—
Iain Lees-Galloway: No, the interest rates are going up.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the member talks as if interest rates today are a huge problem. In fact, they are just above the lowest interest rates we have had since Keith Holyoake started out being Prime Minister back in the 1960s. That is how low they have been. We will certainly avoid reaching almost 11 percent first mortgage rates, which is the level that they reached under the previous Labour Government, which tried out all the theories that this member is now proposing to try out again. Doing the same thing over and over again with the same results, particularly when they are negative, is a form of insanity.
Hon David Parker: Speaking of Mr Muldoon, I seek leave—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a point of order?
Hon David Parker: It is. I seek leave to table a press release from the time showing that actually Mr Muldoon killed universal savings—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now trifling with the point of order process. I will ask him to deliver his supplementary question.
Hon David Parker: Does he accept that Treasury’s forecasts for the current account deficit to head north of 5 percent within 2 years on his current economic settings show that he has not successfully rebalanced the economy towards exports, savings, and investment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, and I will tell the member why. For each of the last 3 years, Treasury has forecast that the current account deficit will go back to about 6 percent. Today it is just over 3 percent, so Treasury has been consistently wrong in its forecasts. I know the member would prefer it to be right, but it has been wrong. It forecast the current account deficit to be 6 percent today—in fact, it is closer to 3 percent. Some economists say it will go under 3 percent, to 2.5 percent. That will be very disappointing to the Labour Party, particularly when it left it with an average of minus 8 percent for the last 3 years it was in Government. Labour tried all the member’s theories as recently as 2005-08. They did not work then, and we will certainly avoid trying to implement them now.
Tim Macindoe: What reports has the Minister received on proposals that would do very little, if anything, to rebalance the economy towards exports, savings, and investment?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, I call the Hon Bill English.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have received reports about a proposal that concerns me as the Minister of Finance because it would force hard-working Kiwis who are struggling to pay their mortgage to give up 15 percent of their take-home pay in order to put it into KiwiSaver. I can report, though, that the proposal is confusing. Asked about how much the compulsory KiwiSaver rate would have to rise for the proposal to have any impact on interest rates, one senior source told Radio New Zealand National this morning: “I’m not in a position to give you a particular number on that point.” Asked again, he then said: “I don’t have that number on me.”, as if he had left it back in the locker somewhere. He then added, unusually and exceptionally: “I’m not going to make up a number.” But that was David Cunliffe.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is quite long enough.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the 2007 version of Bill English, who said that rural communities like Southland are “paying the price” of a high exchange rate; the 2012 version of Bill
English, who said that the exchange rate is a “headwind for exporters”; the 2013 version of Bill English, who said that “The exchange rate is still too high.”; or the current version of Bill English, who now says that a lower exchange rate would be toxic?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: All of them, because I am pleased to tell the member I have improved with age.
Teachers—Support for Māori Students
11. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Education: Ka tuku pūrongo Te Tari Arotake Mātauranga mō ōna hiahia i ngā kaiako mō ā rātou tauira, ā mēnā āē, he aha ngā huarahi kei a rātou ki te whakautu i tā Hana Turner kōrero e mea ane “very negative opinions about their Māori students”? [Does the Education Review Office report on teacher expectations of students; if so, what mechanisms do they have in place to address what Hana Turner has described as teachers having “very negative opinions about their Māori students”?]
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Āe [Yes]; from March 2010 the Education Review Office has made it clear that schools can achieve a high-performance standard only when their Māori students’ progress in achievement is in line with other students in the school. Since then, the Education Review Office has published guidelines on self-review to help schools ensure that they are working towards that outcome for every one of their students.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Will she ask the Education Review Office to actively encourage schools to implement Tātaiako: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As that member will be aware, Tātaiako is a cultural competency framework that was developed and introduced by his colleague and mine, the Associate Minister of Education the Hon Dr Sharples to help all educators think about what it takes to successfully secure educational success in Māori students. All of the Education Review Office reviewers are trained in Tātaiako. They conduct their reviews in the context of Tātaiako. The New Zealand Teachers Council is influenced and assesses its initial teacher education programme through the lens of Tātaiako. The Ministry of Education has incorporated Tātaiako into its Māori education strategy Ka Hikitia. New professional learning and development contracts from this year will be required to demonstrate responsiveness under Tātaiako, and the new providers of our Building on Success programme, which is targeted to 100 schools this year, are required not only to incorporate Tātaiako but also to be able to report against it.
Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the Minister and the explanation she gave, but the question was really around the Education Review Office. I accept all those other departments do play their part, but the key in the question was a link back to the original question around the Education Review Office.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the Minister on this occasion addressed that question, but I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Kei te pai. Thank you. Does the Minister agree that Hana Turner’s research into teacher expectations, ethnicity, and the achievement gap mirrors similar research 30 years ago, such as Dr Alton-Lee’s Take your brown hand off my book, and when will she take urgent action to address the systemic factors of institutional racism and teacher bias?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have not read either of those pieces of research, but what I can say is that under this coalition Government Māori participation and achievement has increased, and we will continue our relentless focus on raising achievement for all students, Māori included. Can I repeat that in answer to the first supplementary question I started my answer by saying that all Education Review Office officers are trained in Tātaiako and they use it in their reviews.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Can the Minister advise the House as to when the Tātaiako programme will be compulsory for all schools?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have no intention of making that compulsory. We have self-managing schools. What we focus on instead is raising the expectation of student achievement out of each and every school and providing the tools and support that will assist those schools to be successful, and Tātaiako is a key tool in that support.
12. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Police: Is she satisfied with the role she has played as Minister of Police in the events that led up to Hon Maurice Williamson’s resignation last week?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): Yes. I had no role to play in the investigation or in the events that led up to the resignation of the Hon Maurice Williamson.
Jacinda Ardern: When was she first informed that Maurice Williamson had placed a phone call to senior police officers regarding an active criminal investigation, and whom was she informed by?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The police commissioner verbally briefed me on the afternoon of 28 April 2014.
Jacinda Ardern: If she has a no-surprises policy with the police why did it take from 23 January, when Maurice Williamson made the call to the police, until 28 April for her to be informed?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: The police decide if and when an issue should be brought to my attention and how much information they should give me. I back the police to make that decision.
Jacinda Ardern: At the time she was briefed about the Official Information Act request relating to Maurice Williamson’s contact with the police, what date did the police discuss releasing this information to the New Zealand Herald?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: From memory, the police commissioner indicated to me that they had informed the reporter that they were going to hold the Official Information Act request until after the appearance in court in the following week.
Jacinda Ardern: Did she believe that it was acceptable to sit on information relating to her ministerial colleague’s interference in an active criminal case until June, which is when the New Zealand Herald reporter was told by the police, on Tuesday, that the information would be released to him?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am sorry. I could not understand from the question—
Mr SPEAKER: The easiest way forward is to ask the member to repeat the question.
Jacinda Ardern: I am happy to repeat the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes please.
Jacinda Ardern: Why did she believe it was acceptable to sit on information relating to her ministerial colleague’s interference in an active criminal case until June, which is the date the New Zealand Herald reporter was given by the police for the release of the Official Information Act information—the day after she was briefed?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Well, first of all, I did not sit on any information. I had no knowledge that there was an Official Information Act request in. I had no knowledge of Maurice Williamson’s phone call until 28 April, Monday, when the police commissioner briefed me. If the member is asking about the appropriateness of the police, then that is an operational issue and I trust the police to deal with that in the manner in which they have operational independence.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the member may have misinterpreted my question. My question related to the date that the police gave her that they would be releasing the information to the New Zealand Herald, which was 2 months after she was briefed about the Official Information Act request.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the question, as you have explained it, was the way I understood it as well. The Minister said she certainly did not sit on any information and then she went on to say that if the
police have indicated another date, that was an operational matter. The Minister has addressed that question.
Jacinda Ardern: Was the Minister informed by the police that they would not release the information about Maurice Williamson’s emails until June, which is what the New Zealand Herald reporter was told?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: In an earlier answer to that member I told her that the police commissioner informed me they had informed the reporter that because the man was due to appear in court in the following week they did not intend to release the emails prior to that court appearance. That is entirely up to the police to decide that.