Questions and Answers - May 8
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received about increasingly broad-based growth in the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Quite a range of reports. Building consents are at their highest level since 2007 and almost double the number of consents for new houses issued 3 years ago. Yesterday’s announcement of 41 new special housing areas in Auckland will fast track 18,000 more houses. Business confidence remains high and it is flowing through to increased investments, supporting longer-term productivity and wages. Yesterday’s employment figures show 84,000 more jobs in the year to March, the largest increase in employment since 2004. The BNZBusiness New Zealand Performance of Manufacturing Index shows 19 consecutive months of manufacturing growth, and, despite a strong exchange rate, annual exports recently passed $50 billion for the first time.
David Bennett: How does growth in employment over the last 3 years compare to forecasts for jobs growth in previous Budgets?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In Budget 2010 there was a forecast of 174,000 additional jobs in the economy by mid-2014. Yesterday’s figures confirm we are on track to meet these forecasts. Including the 84,000 new jobs created in the past year alone, there have been 160,000 jobs created since Budget 2010. I can also confirm we are ahead of job forecasts for the two Budgets and two half-year updates in 2012 and 2013. We are seeing increased confidence in our economy, more people investing, and more employment—that is, New Zealanders who did not have jobs getting jobs.
David Bennett: What evidence has he seen that increasing employment and rising wages are contributing to increasingly broad-based growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yesterday’s survey showed reasonably encouraging employment growth, although I acknowledge that it is not yet sufficient to reduce unemployment to the desirable levels that we would like to see. The survey does show encouraging growth in the regions and for traditionally disadvantaged groups. Employment growth in the year to March was strong in Auckland and Canterbury, but even without those centres employment increased 24,200—for instance, in the Bay of Plenty by 12 percent and in Otago by 7 percent. Youth employment increased by 15,600. Employment among Māori was up by 5.8 percent in the year to March, and among Pacific people employment was up by 8 percent. Next week’s Budget is about building on these gains and locking them in for all New Zealanders.
David Bennett: How will next week’s Budget continue the Government’s support for higher wages and more jobs for New Zealand families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget will underpin the conditions that allow for more investment and more jobs. Around 170,000 jobs are forecast to be added to the economy by mid 2018. The average full-time wage is forecast to increase to $62,300, up from $48,700 in 2010. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 4.4 percent. These forecasts, of course, depend on ongoing control of Government expenditure, so interest rates are not pushed higher than necessary, and also some cooling in the housing market, again to make sure interest rates do not go higher than necessary.
Hon David Parker: How can he say the benefits of economic growth are being shared broadly when yesterday’s official figures showed the annual increase in the median wage was the lowest in 13 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member keeps using a measure of wages that is not the one that is used, for instance, to set national superannuation. I take it from Labour’s policy that it is going to change the basis of setting relativity between national superannuation and wages. The average wage is the appropriate measure, and real average wages continue to rise, because wages are rising faster than the cost of living. Not every New Zealander has had the wage rise they want.
Hon David Parker: Is the broad-based growth he is referring to the enormous growth in house prices, up by 40 percent in Auckland to over $650,000; is it not the truth that it is the dropping homeownership and growing inequality that are broad based?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, that is not correct. One policy that will certainly create inequality is Labour’s variable savings rate, which could cut the take-home pay of thousands of New Zealanders by up to 15 percent if they are forced into a compulsory scheme. That would certainly make inequality worse.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As you are aware, the Minister has no responsibility for other parties’ policies and should not misrepresent them.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to go back and look at his two supplementary questions that he asked, and the wording to the effect “Is it not the truth?”. The Minister took the opportunity to respond the way he did.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify, because I do not want to start the day—
Hon David Parker: I am seeking clarification.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member is seeking clarification, I will listen to it.
Hon David Parker: I am seeking a clarification as to whether it is now in order for the Government to state what it believes Opposition parties’ policies to be, because that would be a new ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: No. What I am saying is that the member asked two questions, and the Minister in his response addressed the questions to my satisfaction.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify now that this is a fresh point of order, because my patience may not last for too much longer with Mr Parker.
Hon David Parker: It is a further clarification.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear one more clarification.
Hon David Parker: I did not say that he had not addressed the question. My point of order was not that he had not addressed the question, but that he has no responsibility for Opposition party policy and should not misrepresent it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is right in that the Minister does not have responsibility for Opposition party policy, but he can certainly bring a recent announcement by an Opposition party into his answer.
Budget 2014—Expenditure Figures
2. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he have confidence in the expenditure figures used in Budget 2014?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Budget is next week so the member will have to see just what the figures are. We do have confidence in the expenditure figures because this Government has taken a considered and consistent approach to controlling Government expenditure by focusing on getting better results for New Zealanders and their communities—that is, higher levels of achievement in school, lower levels of reoffending, and less child violence. Because we are getting good results like sharply dropping crime rates, we are able to control expenditure.
Hon David Parker: Why is there an agreement between the Hon Gerry Brownlee and the former Mayor of Christchurch Bob Parker to exempt the council 3-year plan from normal auditing processes until the end of 2014, after the election?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, you would need to talk to Mr Brownlee or Mr Parker about the details of that arrangement. What I can reassure the member about is that the Government is fully behind the recovery of Christchurch. Financing has not been a barrier or a hold-up to that recovery. We have invested up to $15 billion in the rebuild of Christchurch, despite the fact that we have had a recession and large deficits, and we will continue to invest more through this Budget.
Hon David Parker: Why does he have confidence in the estimated Canterbury rebuild costs in the upcoming Budget when it is clear from the KordaMentha report released yesterday that he is trading off the Christchurch rebuild for his arbitrary micro-surplus in Budget 2014?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the member is fantasising there, I can assure him of that. It is not a surprise that there is ongoing discussion between the Christchurch City Council, which has very significant financial burdens to shoulder, and the Government, which has indicated an open willingness to support the rebuild of Christchurch. I expect that those discussions will continue. There will be differences of views about figures, there will be negotiations, but there will certainly be further progress in the rebuild.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table the KordaMentha report, which shows a $534 million underestimate of council—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular KordaMentha report. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I seek leave to table the revised figure that was put together by the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and Treasury, along with other assistance, post the figure used by KordaMentha—the figure that the council agreed was appropriate for the cost-sharing agreement.
Mr SPEAKER: 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 David Parker: Does he agree with the decision by the Hon Gerry Brownlee to commission Morrison Low to review the KordaMentha report; if so, why has it taken so long for the Government to consider an independent audit to find the true cost of the rebuild, or is not the truth of it just that he is delaying it until after the Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is simply wrong. The Government and the Christchurch City Council have been in discussion for at least 2 years over these issues. It has taken quite some time, particularly for the council but also for the Government, to understand the impact of the earthquake on Christchurch’s finances, but I have to say the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery has been exemplary in his focus on the detail of the financial arrangements. I can reassure
the House that the $15 billion committed by this Government to the rebuild of Christchurch is dayby- day achieving value for money and we will get a result we are proud of.
Hon David Parker: Will he revise the timing of the estimated Canterbury rebuild costs in his upcoming Budget, now that Fletcher Building has been downgraded by market analysts, due to the slow Canterbury rebuild progress, leading to sharply lower earnings?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member has pointed out, if Fletcher’s does not win all the tenders, it is hardly our fault. The numbers around Christchurch are revised regularly. What is actually striking is that estimates made 2 or 3 years ago, including for insurance liabilities, have proven to be remarkably stable. We have not had to deal with large, unexpected changes in the Government’s finances. The discussion with the Christchurch City Council will continue. Some of the numbers are agreed, some of them are disputed—that is hardly unusual.
Housing, Affordable—Progress in Auckland and Christchurch
3. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Housing: What progress is the Government making in addressing the housing supply and affordability issues, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): Yesterday I announced, with Mayor of Auckland Len Brown, a further 41 special housing areas, with the capacity for an additional 18,000 homes. This is on top of the 22 special housing areas announced last October and December, and brings the total special housing areas to 63, with the potential for over 33,000 plus homes. Work has also begun on the fourth tranche, which I expect to announce in August. I am also very encouraged by the latest building consent figures, which show the highest new house build rate in 7 years. In Christchurch an all-time record of 3,000 homes were built during the last year. In Auckland 6,500 homes were built, which is 40 percent up on last year. Nationally the house build rate has increased from 13,000 per year to 23,000 per year—that is, with increasing economic confidence and the Government changes in the regulatory environment, we are now building 10,000 more houses per year.
Melissa Lee: Has the Minister seen claims the Government is using Housing New Zealand as a cash cow, and can the Minister say how much money the Government is giving, and what it is getting, in dividends since it has been in Government, and how this compares with previously?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was just waiting to see whether you were going to rule on a question that did not have one or two legs but had four, and whether that sort of question is now acceptable as a supplementary question in the House.
Mr SPEAKER: I am certainly not going to rule it out. The question may have multiple legs. Many members ask supplementary questions with multiple legs. The Minister may then choose to answer just one of those.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you will find there are multiple Speakers’ rulings that say that supplementary questions are meant to have one leg but are sometimes allowed two. That question had four legs. It is a horse and it is baying like a donkey.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The question has been asked. I am not ruling it out.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The cash-cow claims are made by talking about only—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I cannot hear the answer, because of the level of interjection that is coming from my left-hand side. It will cease.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The cash-cow claims are made by talking about only the dividend from Housing New Zealand and not the huge Government payments of over half a billion dollars a year.
Phil Twyford: Rubbish.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Let me give the member the full numbers. The Government has increased the funding for housing vulnerable families every year that we have been in Government. The Government payment to Housing New Zealand has increased by 33 percent from $474 million
in 2008 to $633 million this year. It is also true that Housing New Zealand pays a dividend. The largest dividend that Housing New Zealand has ever made was $176 million.
Hon Tony Ryall: When?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: In 2003. The average dividend under the 5 years so far of this Government has been $88 million. The dividend this year is $90 million.
Phil Twyford: What about the net contribution? Talk about the net.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member asks rightly: “What’s the net?”. Let me give him the figures. The net figure under the last year of the previous Government was $341 million. The net figure, averaged over the last 5 years, under this Government is $478 million—$478 million more that the Government is putting into Housing New Zealand in each of the 5 years. We see the trickiness from Mr Cunliffe—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That answer has been going on substantially too long.
Melissa Lee: What progress has the Government made in negotiating further housing accords?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have completed discussions in Christchurch and a draft accord has been agreed, which is now subject to council consultation. It involves the Government partnering with the council to provide hundreds more houses for families in difficulty, on top of the hundreds already being built by Housing New Zealand and the temporary villages that are already operating. The Government is looking to contribute an additional $75 million on top of the over $1 billion that is being invested by Housing New Zealand and the millions that we have spent on temporary accommodation, on temporary allowances, and in growing the social housing projects with community providers. I am also in discussions on further housing accords in Wellington, in the Bay of Plenty, and this week I am having discussions in Queenstown. I seek leave of the House to table both sides of figures: the dividends as well as the Government contributions to Housing New Zealand since 2000, provided to me by officials.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular information. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
4. HOLLY WALKER (Green) to the Minister of Immigration: Has he discussed issues relating to his immigration portfolio at Cabinet Club events; if so, on how many occasions?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): I have no ministerial responsibility for “Cabinet club” events. I attend a number of events in my capacity as a National MP, and I discuss a range of issues and canvass my role as an MP from time to time. I also discuss matters that relate to all my portfolios, including immigration.
Holly Walker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was set down on notice and accepted by the Clerk’s Office—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! It is a question that is a marginal question. It has been allowed through after some discussion between the member who lodged the question and the Clerk. In these circumstances I am giving a fairly wide leeway to the way in which a Minister answers such a question, and on this occasion he has addressed the question to my satisfaction.
Holly Walker: Did he ever meet Donghua Liu at a “Cabinet club” event; if so did they discuss the immigrant investor category?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In answer to the first part of that question, no.
Holly Walker: Does he think that Donghua Liu and others who paid thousands of dollars to meet him at meetings of the “Cabinet club” Chinese branch—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That statement has just been denied by the Minister in the answer to the previous question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member said that the gentleman paid the money to meet him—paid the money—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I will allow the member to ask the question again if I have missed it, but, if I recall the answer given by the Minister, the member is now effectively disputing the answer that was just given by the Minister.
Holly Walker: I can rephrase the question. Does he think that anyone who has paid thousands of dollars to meet him at meetings of the “Cabinet club” Chinese branch has done so because he was a National list MP or because he was the Minister of Immigration?
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the Minister to answer that in as far as there is ministerial responsibility.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I have no responsibility for “Cabinet club” events.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was not whether he was responsible. The question was, did he understand himself to be attending those events in his ministerial capacity in the context of those meetings? That is within his purview to answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The Minister made it very clear at the start that he attends a lot of meetings as a National member of Parliament. That should have given the questioner a fair guide. I think we have got to be very careful that we do not end up using question time on, I would say, the collision that there is between the executive and the House of Representatives, and effectively have a question time that regularly impugns the reputation of members of Parliament. We do not get, for example, to ask whether it is appropriate for a political party to have a cash for clemency arrangement with Dotcom.
Grant Robertson: The issue here, I think, is that the primary question was allowed and it did make reference to the Minister and “Cabinet club” in the question. The supplementary question that Holly Walker asked—the Minister has responsibility for himself, for his actions as a Minister. She asked in that supplementary question: when he was at a particular event, was he there as the Minister? To just get up and say: “I don’t have responsibility for that.” is not, I think, an acceptable answer. He could get up and say: “When I’m there, I don’t think I’m the Minister.” and that would be him answering in accordance with both the question that is here and his responsibility, but just saying that he has no responsibility when you have accepted the primary question, I do not think can stand.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The first point is that the Minister said he had no responsibility for “Cabinet club” arrangements. He has no more responsibility for arrangements that are made by National Party branches around the country than Grant Robertson does for Labour Party branches around the country, nor does he have any greater accountability than Grant Robertson would for the use of the war room on the third floor for Labour Party campaigning purposes. There are lots of areas where these things can be questioned. There is only one side of the House that has to answer the questions, and the Standing Orders should not be used to work in a way that impugns the reputation of members of Parliament who are simply—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the member to continue with the point of order. I am having trouble hearing it now because—[Interruption] Order! If the member wishes to stay for the balance of question time, she can also be quiet when I am on my feet.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The point is that it would be an odd thing if Ministers, in particular, did not speak about their portfolios when they are talking to groups of New Zealanders, regardless of the circumstances. I am speaking, for example, tomorrow at lunchtime to a group who I know have paid to be there. I am not being paid. The National Party is not getting any money from it, but the group itself is getting it. The problem here is—
Hon Trevor Mallard: That’s your job.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I gave a warning to the left-hand side of my House that if there was discussion during a point of order, a member would be ejected from this Chamber. It is very close to that on this occasion. I want to hear this point of order.
Grant Robertson: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I am hearing a point of order, Mr Robertson.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Interestingly, in his interjection the Hon Trevor Mallard made a valid point when he said: “That’s your job.” Politicians speak about politics. I am not responsible for the organisation that has invited me to be there tomorrow, but I am delighted to be there and to have the opportunity to give a very popular political message—something that troubles our opponents.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member speaking to the point of order?
Grant Robertson: I am. I have two points I wanted to make. The first of those is that there will be disorder in the House when a person taking a point of order introduces material that is not a point of order and that makes false accusations about another party. So although I understand your frustration at the noise, it is caused by the person taking the point of order. The second point I want to make in response to Mr Brownlee’s point of order is that there is a world of difference between going to speak at an engagement as a Minister in this way and something called the “Cabinet club”—or clubs, sorry, for those who do not understand; “Cabinet clubs”—that implies that they are a Minister. You have clearly accepted the question on the basis that there is something about the name “Cabinet clubs” that means that a Minister has some level of responsibility for that. Mr Woodhouse should at least answer the question, rather than simply say that he does not have responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The first point that I would make to the member is that the question has been accepted because it asks the member about discussions he had relating to his ministerial responsibility, not specifically the attendance at any “Cabinet club” or other fund-raising event. The difficulty I now have is that it is so long ago since the question was asked and answered that I think, to clarify the matter, we will go back to that stage. But before I allow that to happen, I say that at the time I was relatively comfortable with the way the Minister did answer that question in light of this difficult line that members face here in determining their role as a Minister, where they have ministerial responsibilities, and the role that every member of this House has as a member of a political party. All members are involved to some extent in concerns around the funding of their political parties. Where that crosses the line is a difficult and grey area, but I will go back to listening to the question carefully and listening to the answer, and then we will move forward.
Holly Walker: Does he think that attendees who paid thousands of dollars to meet him—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In this circumstance, that is an imputation that is completely unacceptable.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have already accepted this question as legitimate when you first allowed it through. You have asked my colleague to repeat that question. It is not appropriate for Gerry Brownlee to now contest your ruling that she now be allowed to repeat her question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think it is a very fair point that has been raised, but I do warn the member that in making a statement like that within a question, it gives a fairly wide licence to the Minister who is then going to answer the question. Holly Walker, could we get the question completed.
Holly Walker: Does he think that attendees who paid thousands of dollars to meet him—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am now going to ask you to refer to the Standing Order that makes that question in order. I am not disputing issues about whether the primary question is valid, but this is an important point. It would be like us asking whether the people who pay thousands of dollars to go to the Green Party conference, etc., are gaining—
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, they might laugh—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. That question, according to the Standing Orders, is not strictly in order, but most questions that are asked in this House day after day do not adhere strictly to the Standing Orders. I have allowed the question to be asked. It is to be repeated, and then we can move forward by listening to the answer from the Minister.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Standing Orders are there for a number of reasons, and one of those reasons is to protect members. Although I accept that often questions do stray beyond the strict bounds of Standing Order 377(1) through to (5), in this case, because the attempt of the questioner is to inflict reputational damage—which is completely undue—I think it is appropriate that the question is confined to the parameters of the Standing Orders.
Holly Walker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need assistance. I have a lot of sympathy for the point the member is making, but he could consider where this matter has got to in the House. I listened to the question. I allowed it in the first place. On many occasions, I go back and look at the Hansard subsequently, and when you look at the supplementary questions that have been asked, I perhaps should have ruled them out of order. In this case I let it through on the first occasion, and to progress this matter, I have invited the member—having let it through on the first occasion—to repeat it. That is where the matter lies. It may upset Mr Brownlee, but that is the way we are going to move forward on this matter. [Interruption] Order!
Holly Walker: Does he think attendees who paid thousands of dollars to meet him at meetings of the “Cabinet club” Chinese branch did so because he was a National list MP or because he was the Minister of Immigration?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The questioner asks for an opinion about events over which I have no ministerial responsibility and, therefore, it would be inappropriate of me to offer such an opinion.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Has any member of his office staff, paid for by Ministerial Services, attended any “Cabinet club” meetings with him? And you have got to say yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is unacceptable. The question has been asked; we will listen for the response.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I do not have the information with me to answer that question, but if the member would like to put the question down in writing, I would be very happy to give him an answer.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Has he fulfilled his obligations under paragraph 2.53 of the Cabinet Manual by attending a chapter of a group that charges recent immigrants more than long-term New Zealand citizens?
Mr SPEAKER: In as far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Michael Woodhouse.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I must confess I am not sure what the member is asking, but I have every confidence that I have complied with all aspects of the Cabinet Manual.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 5, Phil Twyford. Oh, supplementary question, Holly Walker.
Holly Walker: We are only just getting started, Mr Speaker. Was it wise for him, as Minister of Immigration, to attend a “Cabinet club” Chinese branch event, given the risk outlined on the radio this morning by the former president of the Chinese Association that many new migrants may think it is possible to buy influence with Government Ministers because that is how business is done in their home countries?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am just waiting for a bit of a—the Hon Michael Woodhouse.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I will repeat my answer to the primary question, which was that I attend a number of events in a variety of forums wearing my hat as a member of Parliament or as a member of a party, and in my ministerial responsibility. As a guest, I generally do not have any
knowledge about the circumstances that lead to the other people in those events being there, so in that sense it would be inappropriate of me to offer an opinion.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister say whether he has ever attended a meeting at the wellknown Coatesville Mansion, where he might have discussed with the occupant the possibility of accepting an enormous amount of cash to not only give him immigration preference or citizenship but also to give him clemency against the law?
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question had no relevance to the primary question, and it had not been introduced in any of the answers.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear from the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I thought that the point of order would be another one. I thought you would have ruled the question out because, of course, it refers to a matter before the court. Mr Banks is the person who got the bag of money.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not ruling the question out.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I can give the member and this House an absolute guarantee that that has not happened, nor is it ever going to happen in the foreseeable future—unlike other members of this House.
Holly Walker: If he is not engaged in cash for access, how come people who cannot pay to meet him, like Murdoch Stephens, who runs the Doing Our Bit campaign to double New Zealand’s refugee quota, cannot get a meeting with him despite repeated requests, and people who pay thousands of dollars through the “Cabinet club” can?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am not aware of whether or not Mr Stephens has sought a meeting, but I am in reasonably frequent dialogue with him on social media, and I am very happy to hear from him in the future. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I am just waiting for the Hon Annette King.
Holly Walker: Would he agree that one way to help protect him from the awkward situation he has found himself in today would be for the Government to introduce a ministerial disclosure regime like that proposed by the Green Party, under which Ministers would report on who they discuss Government policy with in the interests of transparency and fairness?
Mr SPEAKER: Again, in so far as there is ministerial responsibility.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I refute the preface to the question. I am in no such awkward situation and need no such protection.
Holly Walker: How can he credibly argue that he did not attend these events in his ministerial capacity when he is the Minister of Immigration and he met with would-be migrants keen to discuss immigration policy at an event called the “Cabinet club”?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I repeat: I speak to a number of people in a number of forums: at the supermarket, at the service station, at the airport, in “Cabinet club” meetings, and in public meetings. They are interested in articulating their views on immigration policy, and I am happy to hear from them.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Given that he is now answering questions on the “Cabinet club”, does he ever think it likely that a Green member of Parliament would be a welcome speaker at such an event?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now that has stepped across the boundary. There is no ministerial responsibility. [Interruption] Order! Question No. 5, Phil Twyford. [Interruption] Order! I have called Mr Twyford.
5. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: Does he stand by his statement, “The Government is committed to supporting as many Kiwi families as possible to
achieve the goal of owning their own home”; if so, is homeownership increasing or decreasing according to the latest Census?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): I am totally committed to getting as many Kiwi families as possible into homeownership. That is why the Government has an active work programme on land supply, fast tracking consenting, development contributions, materials, projects like Weymouth and Hobsonville, Welcome Home Loans, KiwiSaver first-home deposit subsidies, and on our economic policies that are keeping interest rates lower for longer. The latest census data shows homeownership rates of 65 percent and a 2 percent decline over the preceding 7 years, covering both Labour and National periods in office. These rates declined every year under the previous Government, when house prices doubled and interest rates soared. I note that independent measures of housing affordability show they were at their worst in 2008 and have improved by 25 percent in the term of this Government.
Phil Twyford: To what extent will the collapse in homeownership on his watch be worsened by the collapse in affordability—the biggest monthly drop in affordability in 12 years—and record house prices in Auckland, up $86,000 in Auckland in the past year, and why does he think that parroting historical data from years ago helps Kiwi families now to get into their own homes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am very keen to share with the House the independent house affordability data that is collected both by Demographia and also by Roost. Both of those data show that housing affordability has improved. Let me give you the national results. The Roost Home Loan Affordability Report, which measures average house prices, average incomes, and interest rates, showed that the average in New Zealand was 83.4 percent—that is, a person on the average income with an 80 percent mortgage would need to spend 83.4 percent of that income on servicing a mortgage. That figure is currently at 57.6 percent. That is an improvement of 25 percent since that member’s party was in Government.
Phil Twyford: Can he confirm that the Roost Home Loan Affordability Report indicated that the March figures were the biggest monthly drop in home affordability in 12 years?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am happy to share the housing affordability data studied by the Roost survey. Let me give the numbers. Nationally, it peaked at 83.4 percent in 2008. Currently, it was 57.6 percent in March 2013, and 58.7 percent in February 2014. If we look at Auckland, the Auckland data peaked at its worst in the previous Government’s last year in office, when 101 percent of an average Aucklander’s income would be required to service an 80 percent mortgage. The current figure is 77.6 percent, an improvement in Auckland of about 23 percent under this Government.
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I deliberately asked a very narrow and specific question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will invite the member to ask that question again.
Phil Twyford: Can the Minister confirm that the Roost Home Loan Affordability Report for March indicated that the month of March saw the biggest drop in home affordability in 12 years?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The figures that I have been provided with by officials are that the Roost survey March 2014 data showed that the average New Zealand family would need to spend 57.6 percent of their income. What it also showed was that figure was 83.4 percent in 2008.
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I repeated at your direction a very specific question.
Mr SPEAKER: And I have sympathy for the member. The member has put the question twice now. The answer has been given, and we can certainly say it addressed it. Whether it was to the member’s satisfaction or the House’s satisfaction is for the member and the House to decide. The member has further supplementaries.
Grant Robertson: Can we have a vote?
Mr SPEAKER: No, you cannot have a vote, Mr Robertson.
Phil Twyford: How many of the 18,000 new homes he promised yesterday will be affordable for average Kiwi families when Auckland real estate agents are now marketing $800,000 homes as affordable, or is $800,000 affordable under his failed housing policies, when houses in Auckland have risen by $235 a day over the past year on his watch?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would note that largest increase in Auckland house prices occurred between 2000 and 2008—
Phil Twyford: That’s history.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —when they more than doubled. The member can say that it is history, but actually it is the changes that occurred over that decade that have really made the marked decline in housing ownership and housing affordability. In terms of the 18,000 houses that we are freeing up the regulation to build, the reality is that unless you are going to install a Stalinist economy where the Government and councils decide the price people can sell their home for, nobody in this Parliament can say exactly what those houses will sell for. What all the economic data shows, though, including the latest report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, is that the best way to make houses more affordable is to get rid of the stupid metropolitan urban limit that was strongly endorsed by members opposite.
Phil Twyford: Were the 18,000 houses that he promised yesterday included in the 39,000 houses he has already promised for Auckland—are they new houses or is he double-counting again—and why will these new special housing areas be more successful than the last ones when only 13 resource consents were issued in the first 6 months of his special housing areas being in operation?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is no question that the level of house building in Auckland is growing at an all-time rate. It has increased by 40 percent. The number of building consents—
Phil Twyford: That’s not true. That’s simply not true.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, the number of building consents this year is hugely increased on last year, and is continuing to grow. The 18,000 additional homes announced in the special housing areas is part of the delivery of those 39,000 homes in the accord, and just show how successfully this Government is working with the Auckland Council to address the affordability issues that developed in Auckland when the previous Labour Government allowed house prices to double.
Phil Twyford: Is he proud of the fact that house prices are skyrocketing to the highest levels in history, that families are being shut out of homeownership in record numbers, that interest rates are rising, that speculators are having a field day, and that absentee foreign ownership is rampant, and will he now concede that he should have just adopted Labour’s popular KiwiBuild policy?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am more than happy to comment on KiwiBuild. It is about as stupid as saying that the way to get food prices down is to have the Government own all the supermarkets, or that the way to get car prices down is to have the Government own all the car companies. I would note that since the Opposition announced its KiwiBuild policy, the private sector is actually building 10,000 more houses per year by increasing confidence and getting the regulatory environment correct.
Drugs, Control—Removal of Psychoactive Substances from Market
6. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister of Police: What steps are the Police taking to ensure psychoactive substances are removed from the market?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): From today all psychoactive substances must be removed from the market. It is now illegal to possess, supply, and sell these products. In the lead-up to the new law coming into force, police and Ministry of Health enforcement officers visited retailers and provided advice on the psychoactive product recall, how to comply with the recall, and what addiction services are available for users. At midnight police began Operation Recall, which will see all 148 licensed retailers visited to ensure they have taken appropriate steps to remove these products from sale and return them to suppliers. This operation is prioritising those retailers who
trade 24/7 or who have previously been identified as high-volume or problem traders. By lunchtime over half of all retailers had been visited and all were complying with the new law.
Mike Sabin: How will the police ensure that psychoactive substances remain off the market following Operation Recall?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Police and Ministry of Health enforcement officers will continue to monitor the situation and respond to community concerns. There will be ongoing visits to retailers to ensure that the products remain off the shelves, and police will monitor the internet for illegal advertising and sales. This may include conducting what they call controlled purchase operations— which are obviously undercover attempts to buy the products—to ensure that sales are no longer occurring. But if members of the public have concerns about the illegal sale or distribution of these products, I strongly encourage them to contact the police or Crimestoppers so that the appropriate enforcement action can be taken.
Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill—
7. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Will he use a financial veto on the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill to stop families from having 26 weeks paid parental leave?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The member will just have to wait and see. It will depend on the progress of the bill through the House. No decision has been made yet, because it is not required.
Sue Moroney: In response to that answer, why has National used a range of delaying tactics, including the threat of a financial veto, an extension of the report-back date from the Government Administration Committee, and filibustering on members’ day to prevent a second vote from taking place to progress extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility; the Hon Bill English.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not sure what the member is referring to, but the House has processes to ensure that policies that members propose through members’ bills have the opportunity to be improved. The member maybe has not taken all those opportunities.
Sue Moroney: Given that answer and given that there is a bill currently before the House from the Labour Party that proposes to extend paid parental leave, will he propose amendments to that bill to progress any proposals to extend paid parental leave and therefore honour the commitment made by his party to me last year, or will he play politics and continue to delay and oppose that bill?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have to say that we spend a bit less time worrying about the progress of Labour members’ bills than we do about ensuring that the Government sustains its ability to support hundreds of thousands of families. The Labour Party has picked out one group that it favours. It is not the only group of families. The Government will continue with its position, which it has always had, and that is that when the extension of paid parental leave, which currently costs around $370 million or more, is affordable, we will look at it.
Sue Moroney: Can he assure the House, then, that his proposal for families who are currently not eligible for paid parental leave will be superior to the $60 per week extra these families would get under Labour’s Best Start package?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is hard to know what families would get under Labour’s Best Start policy, because Labour is confused about it itself and has misled the public by not announcing that it was abolishing some support for families. So the answer is no. We find it difficult to compare because, like most Labour policies, it is misleading and hard to understand.
Sue Moroney: Does he accept, then, that Colmar Brunton found that 62 percent of New Zealanders support Labour’s bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, that the select committee heard submissions where 99.6 percent were in favour, that the bill has a parliamentary
majority, and that the only thing standing between families and 26 weeks of paid parental leave is National’s financial veto?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am surprised it was only 62 percent. What happened to the other 38 percent who did not support getting some extra free stuff from the Government? The Government, of course, has got to balance up the natural desire of New Zealanders to see children better supported with the long-run sustainability of those schemes. I would have to say that New Zealand families have done an extremely good job through difficult times, and we have been able to sustain extensive support for families through the recession. As the economy continues to recover, we might have more choices.
Minerals Exploration, Central North Island—Pureora Forest Park
8. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Will he rule out granting mineral exploration permits in Pureora Forest Park?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): Kia ora to the member. No. As has been the case for many years in New Zealand, any operator who wants to undertake exploration activity in any conservation area, excluding schedule 4 land and World Heritage sites, would first need to meet all the strict regulatory requirements set out by the Department of Conservation and also the local authorities.
Catherine Delahunty: Why would the Minister grant an exploration permit over some of our precious conservation land that could allow drilling rigs, construction of sedimentation ponds, and cutting down of some of our last remaining ancient tōtara?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I appreciate the member’s pre-announcement publicity, but I will be making announcements in relation to the competitive tender tomorrow and not today.
Catherine Delahunty: Is he telling Stephen King and others that their protest high up in the trees of Pureora in the 1970s was for nothing, and that the trees they sacrificed so much to protect might now be felled to make way for gold drilling rigs?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No, I am not.
Catherine Delahunty: Should not visitors to Pureora be able to hear the haunting call of the endangered kōkako that live there, rather than the drone of drilling rigs; if so, will he promise to keep drilling rigs out of the kōkako habitats?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I think that the kōkako—and the mollyhawks for that matter—will still be singing loudly for some time to come.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a charming reply but it did not answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: In my opinion it did address the question.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table this recording of the call of the kōkako—
Mr SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] Order! The member is wasting the time of the House.
Immigration New Zealand—Investor Plus Scheme
9. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Did the Government instruct Immigration New Zealand to review the Investor Plus scheme of $10 million; if so, for what reason?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): The business migration package was introduced in 2009, with a scheduled review 1 year after its implementation. That was reported back to Cabinet in 2011. A further review of the investor categories commenced in 2012, to check that they were still fit for purpose, and that review is ongoing.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: For how long did he meet with Mr Liu at Mr Liu’s hotel and what changes to immigration rules did Mr Liu specifically ask for?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The meeting lasted for about 1 hour, and I cannot be more specific about the exact changes that were called for. There was certainly a question mark about
whether the $10 million threshold was too high. I pointed out to him, as I have to many others, that simply lowering the threshold would not be appropriate. I am sure there was a range of other things, but I cannot recall them right now.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I take it from his primary answer that he asked for his department to continue work on these changes and the intention to bring in a third investor category with absolutely no English language requirement?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: As I said, the review is ongoing and no options, apart from the one I mentioned, have been specifically ruled out.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Was the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of Immigration had arranged to meet with Mr Liu, and was the Prime Minister’s awareness before or after the meeting? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not hear the interjection, unfortunately. I have called Michael Woodhouse.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am absolutely certain that the Prime Minister had no knowledge of the meeting at the time that it was taking place.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When was he, as Minister of Immigration, aware that the Prime Minister supported Mr Liu’s proposed changes to immigration laws, and was the date of this awareness before his meeting with Mr Liu?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am not aware that the Prime Minister supports any of the proposed changes that Mr Liu put forward either then or now.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table two letters. One is a letter dated 4 April 2012 pointing out the third category, about which my questions were shaped, and having these words in it: “We have received strong expressions of support for this approach from the Prime Minister.”
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And the second letter?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The second letter is dated 13 February 2012 and it reads: “We look forward to building on the engagement that one of our members, Mr Liu of the Alpers Avenue Development Group, had with the Prime Minister.”
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Those documents have now been described. Leave is sought to table those two particular letters. Is there any objection to them being tabled? There is none. They can be tabled. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact from these letters that the only reason he went on bended knee to a seedy hotel to speak with a woman-basher was because the woman-basher—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That question is out of order. I will give the member the opportunity to rephrase it, but there is a case before the courts in this regard at the moment.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the man has pleaded guilty to the offence. It is not sub judice. What is the offence you wish to raise now?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am advised that the matter is before the courts, with a further hearing in June. That is the advice I have been given. If the member can get the question in without referring to a current—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Is your advice from the Clerk that this matter is sub judice or not?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, it is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, she is wrong.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is entitled to his opinion. If he wants to ask—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, no. There are ample Speakers’ rulings that say that a matter that has been published by the media—and he has admitted the offence—is capable of being repeated in this Parliament. I am not referring to his being sentenced. That is a sub judice matter. I am talking about the offence he has already acknowledged he committed. That is not sub judice—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard the point and the member will resume his seat, and I will seek some advice from the Clerk.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I will wait. The member has raised a point of order and I want the advice first. I am advised that the fact that the matter is before the court is the important thing and that this House sets itself a substantially higher standard than what the media may well do. In that case, I am accepting the Clerk’s advice that this is sub judice. The member has not had that question taken off him. He has the opportunity to ask a question, but it must not refer to the case that is currently before the court.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify that it is not in any way disputing the ruling I have just given.
Hon Trevor Mallard: No. What it is asking you to do—
Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, the point of order is to ask you to present a considered ruling to the House that goes to the background of the reasons for the sub judice rule, which are—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough. That is a reasonable request and I will give a considered ruling.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that the only reason he went on bended knee to a seedy hotel to speak to a certain person was that that person had given the National Party $22,000 to let in his not-so-rich mates who cannot speak English?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! In as far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Michael Woodhouse.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I have no knowledge of or responsibility for any donations given by one person to another party. Secondly, as Minister of Immigration I go on bended knee to no one.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask you to reflect on that answer and that the Minister, who has publicly admitted knowledge of the donation, just said that he had no knowledge of it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has asked me to reflect on that answer and I will do so.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a time line of the National Party’s Ministers of Immigration Guy and Woodhouse with Mr Liu.
Mr SPEAKER: Where is the source of the document?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: An impeccable source. I prepared it myself.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. I think it will be fairly easily decided. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a National Party “Cabinet club” initiative set out for the Invercargill electorate, talking about coming along to hear somebody who one day might be—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It has been well described. 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.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a “Cabinet club” 2014 subscription, at $1,000 a pop, from the Invercargill electorate.
Mr SPEAKER: 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.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a further document. It is an invitation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just clarify, because this is now taking—are there more documents? I want them put all at once.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: There are plenty more, but not today. Just this one.
Mr SPEAKER: This is the last one?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is right.
Mr SPEAKER: Then I am absolutely delighted. Let us hear about it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: So am I, actually, because you can only take so much at once, can you not?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Let us hear it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: OK. The third one is an Invercargill “Cabinet club” invite to come along and hear Judith Collins, the much-vaunted future leader—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that particular invitation. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I would like to ask the House’s indulgence to take a little more time than usual for the tabling of a document, if I am granted leave to table it. The document I seek to table is a National Party document from the early 1990s for a fund-raiser where it was touted that the Rt Hon Winston Peters may well become New Zealand’s first Māori Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Budget 2014—Rheumatic Fever Prevention
10. CLAUDETTE HAUITI (National) to the Minister of Health: What investment will the Government make in Budget 2014 to help fight rheumatic fever?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Last week the Associate Minister of Health, the Hon Tariana Turia, and I announced that Budget 2014 will invest an extra $20 million over the next 4 years to combat New Zealand’s high rate of rheumatic fever, bringing the Government’s total investment in rheumatic fever prevention to more than $65.3 million over 6 years. Free drop-in sore throat clinics will be expanded to target a further 90,000 children and young people who are at risk of getting rheumatic fever. Excellent work is already going on across the country, and expanding these initiatives, such as the healthy homes initiatives, will help reach more families whose children are at risk of developing this serious illness.
Claudette Hauiti: What have the results been so far of the Government’s investment in rheumatic fever prevention?
Hon TONY RYALL: Between July and December last year 70,000 children had a sore throat swabbed at school, and of those 70,000 about 8,000 returned a positive result for strep throat and were treated. That is 8,000 kids who should be at a significantly lower risk of contracting rheumatic fever. As we raise public awareness of this disease we are finding and treating more children, and this is a very worthwhile investment in New Zealand children’s health by the John Key - led National Government.
Youth Unemployment—Statistics for Māori
11. HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government able to claim its management of the economy is “on the right track” when Māori youth unemployment continues to be unacceptably high at 22.1 percent, which is higher than when they took office, and nearly four times higher than the latest population-wide unemployment rate?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): An economy headed in the right direction, including for Māori youth, is one that is growing consistently and generating thousands of more jobs. We do have one of those economies. There are a number of ways of calculating the rate of
unemployment for youth. In the case of the figure the member mentioned, for instance, about a third of the 22 percent is classified as caregivers. However, the number is certainly too high. I have to say this Government, though, has a good track record of concentrating on those factors that will assist Māori youth to get better access to the labour market, such as getting better results from school, and ensuring that our training systems actually give those young people qualifications, not just a place to go to. For instance, National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 achievement by Māori school-leavers has improved from 44 percent in 2008 to almost 59 percent in 2013. We are also supporting them through initiatives such as Youth Guarantee, New Zealand Apprenticeships, and the persistent work the Māori Party has done to introduce Māori Trade Training, which has provided opportunities for hundreds of young Māori. I think the Government, though, would collectively agree that this result is not good enough. It is another reason why we need a persistently growing economy and a strong focus on results.
Hone Harawira: Does the fact that tens of thousands of Māori have already left our shores in search of jobs in Australia mean that the Māori youth unemployment rate would probably be twice as high as the current rate of 22.1 percent if they all stayed at home?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is something in the view that as fewer people leave New Zealand—and a lot fewer are leaving—it makes it a bit more difficult for those who are here and without jobs to find jobs. I share with the member his concern that too many Māori have left, particularly the far north, and that is why it is good to see that he is taking a bit more of a positive approach to economic development up there. Although I respect his view that he is opposed to mining, he does, I understand, work constructively to enable Treaty settlements in the far north, where several hundreds of millions of dollars are waiting in the Government’s bank account simply for Ngāpuhi to agree to accept it.
Hone Harawira: What kind of future can young Māori possibly have in Aotearoa, when the statistics show that they are destined for long-term, consistently high levels of unemployment under National, and why has this Government, along with its friends in the Māori Party, failed so spectacularly to address the appalling racism inherent in these figures?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the difference between the National Party and the Māori Party, on the one hand, and that member and his fellow travellers in the Labour Party is that we do not accept that that is the destiny of young Māori. It does not matter how many statistics he quotes. It does not matter what the track record has been. This Government has committed to changing that trajectory, starting right from participation in early childhood education through to higher levels of achievement at secondary school. That is the difference. We do not accept that being a poor Māori from the far north means you are destined to no hope. We have set out on the path to give them hope, and I particularly compliment the Māori Party on its efforts in that respect.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: In light of that response, is it acceptable that the rate of Māori youth not in employment, education, or training has stagnated under his Government at 21.9 percent, and that this compounds the fact that long-term unemployment trends for young Māori is the brighter future that they can look forward to under a National Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, it is not acceptable and that is why this Government has worked very hard to undo all the damage the last Government did by wasting hundreds of millions of dollars on training that took people nowhere and giving young people false hope that if they went along to some course, they would get a job.
Grant Robertson: You’ve done nothing.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In fact, I invite the members opposite to go along and talk to all the people involved in Youth Guarantee, in Youth Service, in the pipeline work that has been done, in the trades academies, and in the Māori Trade Training programme. They will tell those members that this Government has done more than any previous Government. In fact, those members criticised the Minister of Education for trying too hard and going out and pushing schools to actually teach these kids.
12. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Immigration: Why did he personally call on Donghua Liu to receive his representations on immigration policy following Donghua Liu making a donation to the National Party?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): Firstly, this was not a personal call. I have no personal relationship with Mr Liu, and I want to make it absolutely clear that I have no knowledge or responsibility for donations to the National Party. When I met Mr Liu in 2013 I had no idea he had made a donation. I meet with a number of people up and down the country in my role as the Minister of Immigration, and there is nothing unusual about that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: When did he first become aware that this meeting was controversial as a result of Mr Liu’s donation?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Michael Woodhouse.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I do not accept that the meeting was controversial then or is controversial now. It is perfectly appropriate for Ministers to hear from a range of people on a range of views, and that is what happened.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did Mr Liu offer cash?
Mr SPEAKER: I just want to consider that question. I will allow it. It is a marginal question. I will allow it, but it gives a very wide—
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I will give the answer, but I do want to point out that Speaker’s ruling 50, I think, or something like that, is very clear about imputations of corruption on members. That is what that question is. The answer is emphatically no.
Mr SPEAKER: I agree—[Interruption] Order! I agree this question is very close to implying cash for access. I am left with two choices: to rule it out, which I am tempted to do; or to leave it there for the Minister to respond to, and it gives a very wide leeway for the Minister to respond. That is probably the best way forward on this occasion.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In fact, the Minister has responded and has responded appropriately.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the response, then.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, he is happy to give it again, but the real point here is that there is a point where Speakers’ rulings and the Standing Orders can be determined somewhat by what happens in the House. I did not speak about this at the start of the question because I am very confident about the position that the Hon Michael Woodhouse is in, in relation to this, and because the question comes from someone who is well known for spraying this sort of thing out there—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Stick to the point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: My point, though, is that I think there has to be some bounds established by way of a Speaker’s ruling. Otherwise, every time we hear that someone from the Labour Party, for example, has gone to speak to someone at a union, we would be wanting to know how much was involved in that deal, etc., etc. Somehow that seems to be acceptable. Similarly, no one has yet been told how much the Green Party has got from the visit to the Coatesville mansion.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are now straying from the original point of order. [Interruption] Order! I am aware of the difficulty around this question. There was significant discussion around its acceptance, and, as Speaker’s ruling 153/5 acknowledges, there was the requirement then for some give and take before the final questioning was accepted. I am aware that both the Minister and, in fact, the questioner are unhappy with the question. The issue, then, of allowing it was, as I say, a marginal call and gave considerable license to the Minister in response. On reflecting on the particular supplementary question that has been asked, I have now decided that it is a supplementary question that will lead to disorder. It is, effectively, implying cash for access, and I am ruling that supplementary question out of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would again just ask you to look at the question. The question did not in any way imply that the Minister took the cash that was offered.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is a most unhelpful point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. I will listen to the member in a minute. That is most unacceptable and that equally leads to disorder. That sort of behaviour will leave me with little choice but to conclude this particular question. I will hear from the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker, I called first.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I took the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The comment made by Trevor Mallard needs to be expunged from the Hansard record. It is extremely offensive to everyone on this side of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member has taken offence, then the Hon Trevor Mallard will stand and withdraw that comment. [Interruption] Order! A member has taken offence at that remark. Some members of the House have taken offence. I have instructed the Hon Trevor Mallard to stand and withdraw that remark. [Interruption] Chris Hipkins will immediately leave the Chamber. Chris Hipkins withdrew from the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Trevor Mallard, stand and withdraw that remark.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I decline to. It was not unparliamentary.
Mr SPEAKER: Then the Hon Trevor Mallard will leave the Chamber. Hon Trevor Mallard withdrew from the Chamber.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. May I remind you that when Mr Mallard was taking his point of order, I was calling at the same time. That is why—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not see that and that has been established. Now, would the member give his point of order and do it rapidly.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You have made a ruling based on an appeal by Mr Brownlee, whose integrity in respect of that appeal was destroyed when he attacked both the Labour Party and the Greens during his complaint. Therefore, if that was a valid complaint he made, why did you not rule him out of order at the time?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Let me explain it very carefully. As I mentioned earlier, supplementary questions are questions that I need to make a relatively quick decision on. For that particular supplementary question, when I reflected on it and listened to Mr Brownlee’s point of order I reconsidered my original decision and ruled the question out of order. That is the end of that matter. With regard to Mr Brownlee then straying into some further superfluous information after his point of order, that was not helpful, and on that occasion I stood and told Mr Brownlee to cease.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a separate point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I am looking forward to it.
Grant Robertson: During the exchange that took place before, Anne Tolley made a statement suggesting that the Labour Party took cash for policy. I take great offence at that and I would ask that it be withdrawn.
Mr SPEAKER: I certainly did not hear the interjection. If that interjection was made by the member, she is now required to stand and withdraw that comment.
Hon Anne Tolley: I withdraw.
Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that he has not met with Mr Donghua Liu at any other time to discuss immigration policy?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Yes, I can.
Grant Robertson: On how many occasions has Mr Liu raised or attempted to raise with him specific immigration cases?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I have met Mr Liu on one occasion, and it was on that occasion that he raised immigration issues. As far as I can recall, that is the only time.