Questions and Answers - May 14
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, in particular our policies that support racial harmony every day of the year and the policies that support the rule of law, particularly when it comes to extradition.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it a measure of the success of 5½ years of his economic and social policies when new census data shows that the income gap between Auckland’s poorest and richest communities has widened?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government rejects the view that income inequality is widening in New Zealand.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it a measure of the success of his economic and social policies when the census data shows that the incomes of those living in South Auckland have fallen significantly over the last 7 years, while incomes in wealthier areas have risen by thousands of dollars?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a measure of success when the Government will have returned the books back to surplus after inheriting a complete and utter mess from the previous Government, having to endure the global financial crisis, and, of course, standing behind the people of Christchurch. It is not a measure of success when you have to take to the country and all of its citizens and make them suffer some form of inconvenience and cost, which has been the case from the Australian Budget because that Government inherited a Labor-Greens Government and its policies.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very specific question. The Prime Minister failed to address anything to do with income inequality.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question started with “Is it a measure of success”, and what the Prime Minister then did was talk about how he would measure success.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it a measure of success of his economic and social policies when census data—actual census data—reveals that a whole South Auckland community’s incomes have actually gone backwards by up to 20 percent in real terms over the last 7 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a measure of success when the Government, having inherited the economic mess that was delivered to it in 2008, managed to support policies like Working for Families for the least well-off New Zealanders in the most difficult times.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it a measure of success of his economic and social policies when in the New Zealand that we live in the richest 1 percent of New Zealanders now own 16 percent of all the wealth in the country, while half of all New Zealanders own just 5 percent of the wealth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a measure of success when the National-led Government over the last 5½ years could turn round the absolute mess we inherited from the previous Labour Government, its large spending policies, and the inefficiencies it had built into the economy, while at the same time standing behind Christchurch, making sure that there was over $15 billion there to support the people of Christchurch, maintaining Working for Families and accommodation supplements, and building a more efficient and effective New Zealand. Tomorrow I think New Zealanders will reflect on the success of this National Government and contrast it with what can only be described as the real mess that Tony Abbott had to inherit in Australia after a Labor-Greens Government.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it a measure of success of his economic and social policies when the NBR Rich List shows that the total wealth of New Zealand’s hundred or so richest individuals has soared by 50 percent since National took over as the Government, while working New Zealanders are still waiting for a real pay rise?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a real measure of success when 1,500 people a week are leaving welfare for work, when 84,000 jobs are created, when we have one of the fastest-growing economies in the OECD, and when we are exporting to parts of the world at record levels. One thing that can be taken from the member’s questions, and it is something that runs through both the Green Party and the Labour Party, is that those parties are not ambitious for New Zealanders to do well.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it a measure of success of his 5½ years of economic and social policies when middle-class families have been hit with a 20 percent increase in electricity prices, and on top of that they are facing a 34 percent increase in median house prices?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: At one level it probably is a measure of success when power prices have gone up by only 20 percent, given that they went up by 72 percent under the previous Labour Government. The one thing we do know is that if Labour and the Greens were to become the Government, power prices would rise by much more than that because of the expense of the emissions trading scheme and because of the electricity reforms the members want to undertake. I am so much looking forward to making sure that New Zealanders understand exactly how much extra they will have to pay per week under those kinds of policies while they are in the dole queue, because that is where they will be when enough jobs have been destroyed under those people.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it not actually a measure of the failure of his 5½ years of economic and social policies when the facts show that the wealthy are better off, the middle classes are struggling to get on top of their bills, and the poor are falling further behind under this Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The facts actually show quite a different picture, but what the facts also show is that after 5½ years of good economic leadership by the Government and a huge amount of hard work by New Zealanders, this country is on track to be back in surplus—one of the fastestgrowing economies in the world. I think that there are many, many Australians who will look across the Tasman today and say “Oh, the lucky country over there. It’s called New Zealand.”
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister seriously trying to claim that the census data that has been released very recently, which shows that the poorest communities in South Auckland have gone back by about 20 percent while the richest communities are thousands of dollars richer, is simply false?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I am saying is that I do not accept the interpretation of that data as presented by the member.
Dr Russel Norman: After nearly 6 years in Government—6 long years in Government—is it not time to accept the evidence that shows that his policies have made the poor poorer, the richer richer, and that everyone else is struggling to get by, and that it is time to stop blaming someone else for his own failures?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Far from blaming anyone for failures, the Government is actually very proud of its record of supporting the least well-off New Zealanders, supporting New Zealanders
right through the recession, and rebuilding things. All I can say is that I really hope that when the member was out at the Dotcom mansion drinking champagne—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister proudest of the fact that he increased the wealth of the hundred or so richest people in the country by 50 percent or is he proudest of the fact that he drove down the income of people in South Auckland by 20 percent in real terms—i.e., you made the rich richer and the poor poorer?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I reject the assertions in the member’s argument, but I am proudest of the fact that I did not go grovelling to the Dotcom mansion to a man who supports a “racist day”, and a man who wanted a favour from the member in Government, to make sure that Mr Dotcom was not extradited from—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise my point of order under Standing Order 383 around the content of replies. The Prime Minister in the answers to two of Russel Norman’s questions strayed well beyond his responsibilities and you did not pull him up. He then strayed beyond his responsibilities and you did pull him up, and then in the next answer he did exactly the same thing that you sat him down for. That is actually challenging your ruling. You have told members on this side of the House, when we do that, that we will be out and you have thrown people out.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! What I do is listen very carefully to the question as well, and in that last particular question there was a lot of political loading, with the Prime Minister driving up the wealth of the richest hundred and driving down the situation of the poorest 20 percent. [Interruption] Order! So it was, in my interpretation, a political question and that gave the Prime Minister a fair amount of licence. That is the way I interpreted that situation.
Tracey Martin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just seek clarification from you, either now or later. The Prime Minister, I believe, just accused Russel Norman of going to somebody’s mansion to gain something, and previously—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it must be heard in silence.
Tracey Martin: Previously you actually—I believe it was yesterday—stood up and quite clearly made a ruling that to impugn somebody’s reputation in such a way was not appropriate in this House. So I am not sure how there is a difference between accusing one group of people of taking something and another group of people taking something. It appears to be a double standard. [Interruption]
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. There was an interjection. I do not know where it came from, but it was down that quarter—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. If we are going to have a repetition of yesterday, with people interjecting when I am on my feet, someone will have to leave. The interjection was completely unnecessary and was not satisfactory. I require that member who said it to stand, withdraw, and apologise.
David Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I think the person who raised that point of order, Tracey Martin, misses the point. The question was asked of the Prime Minister—forgive my repeating of it, because it is a mangling of the English—“What was he most proudest of?”. He then gave an answer saying what he was most proudest of—it should have been “most proud of”, but that is the Australianisation of our parliamentary language. In that event, there was nothing at all—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee:—unparliamentary in the way in which he gave the answer. He is very proud that he has not grovelled to Dotcom.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a matter of whether—the last part of the Prime Minister’s answer made a suggestion to the member asking the question. If he is offended by that, then he should
immediately take a point of order and say that he is offended by that. [Interruption] Well, I am on my feet. I am on my feet, if the member had not noticed. That is the proper procedure, so I accept now that we will allow Russel Norman—if he raises a point of order that he is offended, then I will be asking somebody to withdraw that last part.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at the Prime Minister’s comment.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! In that case the member—[Interruption] Order! No, I will deal with this first. I will deal with this first. Dr Russel Norman has taken offence at the last part of the Prime Minister’s answer. I therefore ask the Prime Minister to stand and withdraw that part of his answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I withdraw.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It does raise a question about how Russel Norman can be offended by something the Prime Minister did not do.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not the point. The point—[Interruption] Order! The point is a member has been offended in this House by a comment that was made. Quite frequently members take offence at a comment and I am surprised they do, but that is not for me to determine. If a member takes offence, I will require the member who offended that member to withdraw.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are two points. The first is that, and I find myself in—
Mr SPEAKER: Can the member just get to his two points of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I find myself in the unusual position of defending the Prime Minister and disagreeing with Russel Norman. The Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings are very clear that if offence is taken, it must be taken immediately at the first opportunity. It was not. These things are not able to backdated. The second point is that you are still the arbiter of whether it is reasonable for someone to take offence. Otherwise people could say they were offended by things that are entirely unobjectionable. I think for you to say that if someone is offended, you will require withdrawal, goes too far.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There will be—
Gareth Hughes: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I will hear from the member if it is necessary. There will be on some occasions a situation where I cannot see any possibility of offence and I will not bother. But in this case, let us face it, some members are more sensitive than others about comments that are thrown around this House. It should have been raised immediately, but I accept there was a bit of hurlyburly and there were interjections around points of order. I will decide when to accept it.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would invite you to have a look of the tape of question No. 1, in the interests of good order in the House. Several things strike me, listening to the exchange that has followed. The first is that there were several repeat offences, as my colleague Mr Robertson has said, that were not pulled up by your good self. The second is that in the last answer the Prime Minister went on at some length in a conversation that was personal, that was derogatory, and that was out of order, and he was allowed to continue. What I would submit for your consideration is that your leniency to the Prime Minister has encouraged the kind of disorder from the Government benches that is now undermining your standing in this House—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now getting into very dangerous ground where he is effectively suggesting bias in the way I am interpreting the rules. I always review the Hansard after question time. I look very carefully at the way I have handled it. I accept the invitation raised by the member. I will be doing it later on this afternoon.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister proud of the fact that under his Government the richest 1 percent of New Zealanders now own 16 percent of all wealth in the country while half of New Zealand owns just 5 percent of the wealth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot verify the facts, but I am pretty sure that one of that 1 percent is Kim Dotcom.
Inequality, Economic and Social—Government Policy
2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Has his Government delivered on his expectation of a “more equal society” and as a result is “every one of our children getting the very best start to life”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): What I actually said in relation to the first quote was the following: “We would prefer that we were a more equal society with less inequality, but what the report actually goes on to quite clearly demonstrate is that the vast bulk of the changes that have taken place is due to the global financial crisis. Fortunately, this Government has an economic plan that is seeing the economy grow and enabling people to get into work. This Government is focused on welfare reforms to get people into work. This Government has been quite prepared to put up over $350 million to insulate homes in New Zealand. This Government has supported under-6- year-olds to get free doctors’ visits. This Government has supported making sure we reduce rheumatic fever.”, and so on. Quite plainly not every child is getting the best start to life, which is why we are doing these things that I mentioned.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why have recorded offences of violence, sexual assaults, and neglect of children risen 68 percent on that Prime Minister’s watch, and, incidentally, what is his Government doing to bring back our girls?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the last part, I made it quite clear that the Government is deeply concerned by the actions of Boko Haram. That is one of the reasons that the Government listed Boko Haram as a terrorist group under the Terrorism Suppression Act.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the part of the question that the Prime Minister chose to answer, I am afraid he did not answer it. I asked what his Government was doing to bring back our girls. If listing Boko Haram was the sum total—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is actually questionable whether the second part of the question should have been allowed in relation to the primary question, but I let it through. The Prime Minister has addressed that question. [Interruption] Order! Again, I am on my feet. That may well be the opinion of the member, but the way I am going to advance the issue now is to ask for further, incisive supplementary questions.
Hon David Cunliffe: Plain and simple, will the Budget tomorrow lift the 285,000 New Zealand children currently living in poverty out of it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We do not agree with that number of 285,000.
Hon David Cunliffe: Would the Prime Minister care to tell the House how many New Zealand children are living in poverty and whether his Budget will do anything to help them?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have the most accurate number on me, but I know it is below 285,000.
Tim Macindoe: Has the Prime Minister seen any independent assessment of social outcomes in New Zealand?
Sue Moroney: Salvation Army.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, that is absolutely right. I have recently seen a quite sobering assessment that says: “The social outcomes which we as New Zealanders have achieved over the past five years are somewhat mixed and in some areas quite disappointing. More of our children appear to be at risk of harm, more of our young people are engaged in petty crime, there is more violent crime and more people in our jails. … While more New Zealanders are working than ever before … our incomes have risen only modestly, we are chronically indebted and home ownership rates have fallen. … What is perhaps most disappointing about these results is that as a country we have invested hugely in the core areas of social spending over the past five years. … While this social spending is essential it seems to have contributed very little to our social progress.” It was incredibly damning reading that I read from the Salvation Army in its state of the nation report. Oh yes, and that was the report from 2008.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Salvation Army’s social report this year gave his Government a D for child poverty?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I can confirm is that the report gave a much rosier picture of New Zealand.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need assistance. I invite the member to ask the question again.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the current year’s Salvation Army’s social report gave his Government a D for child poverty?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It may well have, but it also gave us a vastly improved report in many categories and a far better assessment than the last 5 years of the Labour Government. Yes, what this report says in 2008 was the failure—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question has now been answered.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In light of your previous ruling, where you generously afforded me the opportunity to repeat the question because it was not adequately answered—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just get to the point, please.
Hon David Cunliffe: I ask your leave to ask the question again, because the Prime Minister seems to be confused between a maybe and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I gave the opportunity for the member to ask the question again. He did, it was answered very quickly by the Prime Minister, and then there was some additional information, which I thought might have been helpful to the House. When I realised it was not actually going to inform the House, I then asked the Prime Minister to cease.
Hon David Cunliffe: Could the Prime Minister inform the House why more than 40,000 children have been hospitalised in New Zealand for diseases of poverty since 2008?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There will be a variety of reasons, but what I can confirm, though, is that this Government has spent more money on rheumatic fever prevention than any Government prior to it. This Government has spent more money insulating homes than before. This Government borrowed billions of dollars to support programmes like Working for Families for the most at-risk New Zealanders. This Government has spent money to insulate well over 340,000 homes. The Government has done a lot in that particular area.
Hon David Cunliffe: Is the Prime Minister comfortable that on his watch the income of the top 1 percent of New Zealanders has risen nearly 10 times faster than the bottom 10 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I reject the assertion.
Budget 2014—Economic Programme
3. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance: How will the Budget tomorrow support a growing economy, including jobs, higher wages, and delivery of better public services?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): New Zealand is making good progress. Our growth outlook is among the strongest in the OECD, and I note its report overnight, where it indicates that New Zealand is one of only two developed countries where income inequality has been relatively stable since the mid-1990s. Our public agencies are providing more elective operations, are ensuring that more of our young people leave schools with qualifications, and are keeping our communities safer. In the past year 84,000 more jobs were created across New Zealand. On average, wages are rising faster than the cost of living, and in the past 12 months nearly 15,000 New Zealanders were supported off welfare and into work. Tomorrow’s Budget will build on these gains.
John Hayes: What Budget announcements, including benefits to more New Zealand families, has the Government already made?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Quite a number of announcements, actually. Over the past fortnight we have announced $22 million over 4 years for community budgeting services to help families help themselves, $10.4 million over 2 years to support front-line sexual violence services, $20 million more over 4 years for extra support for children at risk of rheumatic fever, an extra $6.3 million over 4 years for bilateral cochlear implants, $20 million for an extra 6,000 places in the apprenticeship reboot scheme, and $3.5 million to provide $3,000 for up to 1,000 beneficiaries who are prepared to move to Canterbury for work. There have been early indications of significant inquiries to take part in that scheme.
John Hayes: How does New Zealand’s economic outlook compare with that of Australia’s in the wake of last night’s Budget in Australia?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the Government there has been saying for a while that the outlook for the Australian economy is perhaps a bit better than if you listened to Australian commentary. The Australian Budget forecasts average growth over the next 3 years of 2.75 percent, which is lower than New Zealand’s but still significant. It is focusing on a return to surplus and long-term debt reduction. Here in New Zealand the Budget will show a surplus. It will show that the country is on track for growth of around 10 percentage points over the next 3 years, and forecasts are showing 172,000 more jobs by 2018, with annual rises, and the average wage reaching $62,300 by 2018.
John Hayes: What alternative approaches to economic management has he seen, and what impact would they have on jobs and incomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have taken particular note of those proposals that are likely to prevent the creation of new jobs, if not get rid of existing jobs—that is, opposition to oil and gas exploration on the East Coast and in Taranaki, opposition to any further growth in our agricultural industries, opposition to water storage, opposition to the expansion of aquaculture, opposition to filming The Hobbit in New Zealand, and opposition to coalmining on the West Coast . It is not surprising that these are the positions of Opposition parties, because they are opposing everything. They have now promised low unemployment. So their recipe is that there will be no new jobs, because they are against all growth, but they are going to get unemployment down.
Budget 2014—Economic and Social Inequality
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Will Budget 2014 continue the trend of widening inequality between the wealthy and poorer areas of New Zealand, as shown by the University of Otago 2013 index of deprivation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The answer to that is you will have to wait and see when you get the Budget . I do notice that the Opposition used to talk about income inequality across the country, but because the national measures show that income inequality has not got worse in New Zealand, those members are now looking at disaggregated measures, and, of course, it is not surprising that there may be some suburbs somewhere where incomes have risen less than in other suburbs. On average across New Zealand, income inequality has not got worse. In fact, we are one of two developed countries where the OECD as recently as yesterday has said that it has been stable since 1994—and the Opposition should take some credit for that.
Hon David Parker: Are three-quarters of New Zealanders wrong to say that the gap between the haves and the have-nots has grown after five of his Budgets, then?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: On the measures that are used generally through the Government publication, three-quarters of New Zealanders are not correct in their assumption that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting—
Grant Robertson: Ah! He was going to say they were wrong.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the facts as laid out in the annual report issued by the Government agency initiated by the previous Labour Government, and now backed up by the OECD, show that
income inequality in New Zealand has been flat to falling in recent years, and, on average, it has remained unchanged for the last 15 years.
Hon David Parker: Why, after five of his Budgets, has homeownership dropped to its lowest level in more than half a century, and is this not one of the most important measures of rising inequality?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: You would need to talk to homeowners and renters about the choices that they make, but the Government has noticed that each of the measures it has taken to undo the damage of the doubling of house prices under the previous Labour Government has been opposed by the Labour Party in this Parliament. We have moved consistently over 3 years to improve supply to the housing market because that is the best long-run solution to rapidly rising house prices, and the Labour Party has opposed every single measure this Government has taken, because, I presume, it feels guilty about house prices doubling while it was the Government.
Hon David Parker: Does the Perry income inequality figure that he likes quoting exclude capital gains?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The definition of it is income inequality as set up by the previous Government, to be published every year as a measure of progress on these issues, and on that measure, New Zealand income inequality is flat to falling. That is very clear from the official statistics put out by the public agency. Because the Opposition members do not like that measure, they have now tried to move to others, such as wealth. I agree with the member that the housing market can be a driver of wealth inequality, so the Opposition should be supporting the Government’s measures, which are thorough and assertive, to change the dynamics of the housing market where we can influence them.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a long and interesting answer, but my question was very specific and asked whether that measure included capital gains, and that has not been addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: It is a marginal call, to be honest. I think it probably was addressed. The Minister talked about income and then talked about the creation of wealth. On that occasion the Minister has addressed the question to my satisfaction. It may not be to the member’s, and I accept that. He can ask further supplementary questions.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table the Perry report’s definition of income and the datasets, which show that it excludes capital gains.
Mr SPEAKER: 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.
Louise Upston: According to the Salvation Army in 2008, in what direction were social measures heading and what does this say about fiscal management?
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I may have missed the very first words of the question, but the finance Minister is not responsible for what happened in 2008. He was not the Minister then. We are not allowed to ask him about things that he did in 2008.
Mr SPEAKER: Just because he was not the Minister does not mean he has no responsibility for reports that were tabled about that Army in 2008 time or published about that time. The difficulty I have is that I could not hear the question because of the noise coming from both sides of the House. I ask Louise Upston to repeat the question.
Louise Upston: According to the Salvation, in what direction were social measures heading and what does this say about fiscal management?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: When I became the Minister of Finance in 2008, one of the first things I did was get out the Salvation Army report on social progress. It was a frank report, and what it pointed to were rising numbers of children in Child, Youth and Family Services care, rising youth offending, rising teenage pregnancy, and rising levels of serious crime. I can confirm that each of
these measures has seen significant improvement despite the fact that we have had a major recession and despite the fact that we have had much tighter Government spending than under the previous Government. In fact, the Salvation Army said this: “What is perhaps most disappointing … is that as a country we have invested hugely in areas of core social spending over the past five years … and it seems to have contributed very little to our social progress—”
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the answer now is long enough.
Hon David Parker: Is he aware that according to the OECD income inequality in New Zealand is in the worst half of developed countries in the world, and is that not one of the reasons that overall inequality, including home ownership rates, gets worse every year in New Zealand under his watch?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I just do not agree with the member. Now that he realises that income inequality in New Zealand is not getting worse, he says that it is in the second half of the OECD, which is actually not correct. It is about the middle. So we can have a debate about whether that should or should not be the case, but it certainly does not avoid the fact that income inequality in New Zealand, according to the OECD, has been roughly flat since 1994 and, in fact, in the last few years there is some indication that it has fallen slightly.
Budget 2014—Sexual Violence Crisis and Prevention Services
5. Hon PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcement has the Government made about funding for sexual violence services?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): As part of Budget 2014, I recently announced $10.4 million in new funding to support sexual violence services. Sexual violence services do a fantastic job at providing much needed support for victims and their families, and often at a time of crisis. I have listened to the sector’s call for some immediate funding to ensure victims can continue to access services and providers can remain financially viable. The extra funding includes support for front-line crisis response services, community-based treatment services, services for male survivors, and people accessing medical and forensic services.
Hon Phil Heatley: I am interested to know—how does this compare with how the sector has been supported in the past?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We know that sexual violence is a serious problem, and we also think it is a basic right that people should feel safe, secure, and free of fear, which is too often taken away from people through sexual violence. A 2006 Treasury estimate found that sexual offending costs us about $1.2 billion a year. Not only has there been significant underfunding of services for some years but funding has often been provided in a piecemeal way. By taking responsibility across portfolios for this area, we are able to see a cross-agency project that identifies the gaps, and we are able to put the funding where it is most needed.
Hon Phil Heatley: What kind of response has the announcement drawn from the sector?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What we are hearing from providers is that this gives them the sustainability that they need to be able to provide these most necessary services over the next 2 years, and also means that we can then look at their long-term funding and identify where the gaps are. A Wellington Rape Crisis spokesperson said: “We are heartened by Minister Bennett’s announcements … and applaud the Government’s decision to focus on frontline services for survivors right now, and plan for prevention to be addressed in the longer term.”
Home Insulation—Relationship Accords with Māori Party
6. Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs) to the Minister of Energy and
Resources: How many homes have been insulated as a result of the Relationship Accords signed with the Māori Party in 2008 and 2011, and of these, how many were in low income households?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): In total, as a result of the relationship accords, 28,000 low-income homes have been insulated at a cost of more than $50
million in Government grants. In total, under both the Warm Up New Zealand programmes, more than 112,000 low-income homes have been insulated, and this number will continue to grow. I would like to thank the Māori Party for its strong support and commitment to helping those most in need live in warmer, drier, healthier homes.
Hon Dr Pita Sharples: What geographic regions have been covered by the Warm Up New Zealand home insulation initiatives, and what areas are still outstanding?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Since the Warm Up New Zealand initiatives began in 2009, all regions of the country have been covered. The Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme coverage is dependent on third-party providers like iwi, district health boards, and community trusts. The first round of the programme, which started in September last year, has seen extremely good coverage from Northland to Southland. There are still some areas that the healthy homes initiative is not getting to—for example, the West Coast, the top of the South Island, and parts of the central North Island—and I encourage third-party providers to come on board in these areas in the future.
Hon Dr Pita Sharples: Has the Minister conducted any evaluations of the impact of the schemes on whānau health; if so, what are the findings?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Yes. An independent evaluation of the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart programme showed that the greatest benefits from insulation are for people on low incomes facing a higher risk of health issues. The report found that the avoided health costs to the Government from insulating a house average $850 a year for community services cardholders, compared with only $335 a year for non-cardholders. This was one of the main drivers for the decision in last year’s Budget to target low-income households with high health needs under the new healthy homes scheme.
Budget 2014—Vote Health Allocation
7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: Will the total allocated funding for Vote Health in Budget 2014 be sufficient to keep pace with population growth, ageing, and increased costs?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The member will have to wait until tomorrow, but what I can tell the member is that the appropriation for health has gone up an average of $500 million a year under this Government, which stands in huge contrast to yesterday’s Australian Budget, which is taking about $10 billion out of Vote Health there over the next 4 years.
Hon Annette King: Was the Ministry of Health estimate of the shortfall in funding in the health sector operating allowance $376 million in Budget 2012 and $343 million in Budget 2013; if not, what was the stated shortfall in funding requiring efficiency and/or reprioritisation?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am not really sure exactly what those numbers refer to. The member would have to set them down in a written question. What I am quite confident about is that I can say that our average $500 million increase in the appropriation has meant that, Budget on Budget, we have been able to cover—particularly with reference to district health boards—inflation and the demography change.
Hon Annette King: Does Vote Health require an increase of $499 million in this year’s Budget to maintain the current level of service, as stated by an economist yesterday; if not, has the level of funding recommended by the Ministry of Health increased or decreased from its 4-year Budget plan?
Hon TONY RYALL: The member will have to wait until the Budget tomorrow to see what the numbers are in respect of the 4-year outlook for Vote Health. I would have to say that this Government has increased the appropriation by an average of $500 million a year. But, actually, it is not just the amount of money that counts in respect of health services; it is what is delivered for that money. We would stand on our record as opposed to another record, which is that you double the health budget and have fewer operations, which is—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: Did funds from efficiency and reprioritisation by district health boards and Health Benefits Ltd provide Vote Health with an additional $128 million in 2013, as stated in the Ministry of Health’s 4-year Budget plan; if not, what were the savings made in that year?
Hon TONY RYALL: I would have to check those numbers; I do not have them here with me. It is quite clear that what this Government does every year is we make sure we get new money available for health, we look at, for example, the lowest 0.5 percent of spending, and we make those savings available for spending the next year, because we think we should continue to find those savings and provide more money for patients’ services. That is how we have increased elective surgery by 40,000 extra operations a year compared with when that member was last in Government.
Hon Annette King: How much in the funding of Vote Health 2014 will come from reprioritisation and savings made by Health Benefits Ltd and district health boards—something he claimed would be $700 million in savings by 2015?
Hon TONY RYALL: I would reject the premise that that member is making, because that is certainly not what we have said. She will have to wait until the Budget. The member knows that finance Ministers and all Ministers cannot give comments on the Budget just days before it. That was certainly the case when that member was campaigning against Sir Robert Muldoon—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In light of the Minister’s answer, which I am sure you listened carefully to, he said he disputed that he had ever claimed they would make $700 million in savings. I seek leave to table a press report from the New Zealand Herald in 2012, where he does make that claim.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! First point—if the member wants to seek leave to table a document, the member should stand, nominate the document, and give the date, etc. without making a political point at the start, and then I will put the leave. If it is a New Zealand Herald column, it is available for all members to research if they want it.
Budget 2014—Foreign Ownership of New Zealand Property and Assets
8. ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First) to the Minister of Finance: Will the 2014 Budget contain specific measures to improve tighter rules on foreign ownership of New Zealand land, businesses and other New Zealand-owned assets; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The member will just have to wait until tomorrow to hear what is in the Budget. But I could point out to the member that the nearby market, Australia, has some restrictions, and housing in Australia is relatively more expensive than it is in New Zealand. In terms of the restrictions on overseas buyers of these assets, we think the current framework, introduced under the previous Government—in fact, I think, overseen by the Minister at the time, Winston Peters—strikes about the right balance.
Andrew Williams: Given that as at 31 December 2013 New Zealand’s net international investment position was a deficit of $147.5 billion, equivalent to negative 66.6 percent of GDP, how is continuing to sell our assets overseas going to solve our debt problem?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am interested the member raises the net international investment position. I think 4 years ago it was minus 85 percent of GDP, and it has improved more quickly and further than I think anyone anticipated just 4 or 5 years ago, to minus 65 percent of GDP. If it improves further, to somewhere around 50 percent, that would put us around the kind of national norm for our type of open economy. So we are actually making quite significant progress, assisted, no doubt, by the processes put in place by Winston Peters to ensure that foreign investment in New Zealand was useful for New Zealand.
Andrew Williams: Why does the Government continue to talk of foreign investment, when most foreign takeovers are simply a transfer of ownership that creates no new asset?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The thing is that with a small, open economy we generally benefit from being open to other people’s capital. They bring in other ideas. Foreign companies are not too bad at picking businesses in New Zealand that they can grow into something better and more productive. It would be a bit odd to do what all Opposition parties are now promising to do, which is essentially stop overseas capital coming into New Zealand. That is a guarantee to destroy jobs, reduce incomes, and destroy wealth.
Andrew Williams: Why is the Government avoiding developing a comprehensive registry of foreign ownership if not to hide the true extent of foreign ownership in New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is a matter of imposing more compliance costs only if we think there is a benefit that is larger than those costs. It may be possible to track every single so-called foreign buyer, although a lot of them who look foreign are actually New Zealand residents. A lot of New Zealand citizens actually live offshore. It would be a fairly large, complex exercise. The Government’s view is that in light of the fact that somewhere around maybe 2 to 4 percent of our housing stock is owned by foreigners and around 2 to 4 percent of housing sales are likely to foreigners, including expat Kiwis, it is not a large influence on house prices. A much bigger influence is the decisions made by councils to restrict supply, driving up house prices, particularly in our larger cities.
Andrew Williams: Will the Government commit to New Zealand First’s policy of collecting comprehensive data on the extent of foreign ownership in New Zealand so that the public can actually see what land and assets have gone into foreign ownership?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is the least harmful aspect of New Zealand First’s policy. Its real policy is to ban foreign investment of all sorts and, I suspect, ban foreigners.
Tracey Martin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has no responsibility for New Zealand First policy—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need assistance, but I invite the member to go back and look at her colleague’s question. It asked for comment on New Zealand First policy.
Andrew Williams: Is the Government’s refusal to have the full picture revealed to the public on the true extent of foreign ownership because it knows that the real figure is much higher than the figure it has been citing from the BNZ of 8 percent, and even the Inland Revenue Department’s figure of 11 percent; if so, will it finally commit to New Zealand First’s policy of establishing a land register?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I stand by the rough estimates we have used. The 11 percent is 11 percent of investment housing stock, which means about 3 or 4 percent of all housing stock. But the member should be pleased that the Labour Party—the party that is meant to be friendly to the migrant communities—has, essentially, adopted New Zealand First policy of banning foreign investors.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table a 2013 article titled “Economic Inequality in New Zealand”, showing that in 2009 New Zealand was 14th—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I just need the source of the article.
Hon David Parker: It is authored by Brian Easton.
Mr SPEAKER: Is it published in one of the daily papers?
Hon David Parker: No, no, it is published in a journal, but I cannot remember which one.
Mr SPEAKER: On the basis that it is a Brian Easton article, it is published in a journal, and it may not be freely available to members, I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Andrew Williams: I seek leave of the House to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library showing that properties that are rental properties and other properties owned offshore are between 6.4 percent—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The information has been described. Leave is sought to table that particular information prepared by the Parliamentary Library for the member. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the Treasury report Data on Foreign Ownership of New Zealand Housing, showing that approximately 22,000 homes, or 1.2 percent, are owned by people who live overseas—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, that has been described well enough. Leave is sought now to table this particular Treasury report. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
9. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Health: What is the Government doing to increase awareness of prostate cancer?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The Government has previously allocated $4.3 million to raise awareness for prostate cancer and to ensure that men have fair access to quality information and care. Previously, advice on prostate cancer tests and management was confusing, and there was a great deal of conflicting information. Consistent prostate cancer resources for patients have now been made available to every general practice and general practice team in the country, and guidance, training, and advice tools have also been made available to general practices. This will help men, their families, and general practices to have a more informed discussion about prostate cancer and help health professionals to provide consistent quality prostate care.
Dr Cam Calder: Why is it important to raise awareness of prostate cancer?
Hon TONY RYALL: That is a very good question, because over 3,000 New Zealand men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. The Government is committed to improving outcomes for patients with cancer and ensuring that New Zealanders are properly informed about prostate cancer so that it can be detected early. Initiatives such as this will lead to improved diagnosis, treatment, and care.
10. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe families with newborn babies are currently receiving adequate support via Government-funded tax credits and paid parental leave?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, but of course we can always do better. The support that they currently get, of course, sits alongside significant subsidies for early childhood education, which have increased quite dramatically over the last 4 or 5 years, free visits to doctors for children under the age of 6, and extensive maternity and maternal support services.
Jacinda Ardern: Of the almost 95 percent of new parents eligible for an income boost through Labour’s Best Start policy, which of those parents does he think should not get anything?
Mr SPEAKER: In as far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Bill English.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I could answer that question if Labour knew what its policy was. Unfortunately, I thought the policy was the one that its leader announced on the day, but apparently, I am told, that is not its policy because the document covered something else. So when Labour members clear up that confusion among themselves, then I may be able to answer the question.
Jacinda Ardern: Does his previously expressed concern that a large number of parents are not eligible for either paid parental leave or the parental tax credit extend to parents who might be in receipt of a Government benefit when their baby arrives; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is concerned about those parents who do not qualify for paid parental leave, and in particular the most vulnerable of that group, who are young parents of young children. In fact, I think figures used in this House indicate that as a result of the very good work done by the Minister for Social Development and others, the number of sole parents under the age of 20 has in the last 5 years dropped from 4,300 to 2,600. The Government provides an intensive support and supervision service for each one of those parents. That is how much care and regard we have for them and their aspirations. I have to say that that is something that the previous Government did not think of, let alone do.
Jacinda Ardern: Did work on the rumoured additional support that he is considering for families with newborn babies start before or after Labour announced its Best Start policy and Sue Moroney’s paid parental leave bill?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said, I could answer that question if Labour’s policy was clearer, but I guess it indicates that Labour is more concerned about the politics of whether it can claim credit than it is about the very real progress that the Government has made with the most vulnerable families. I look forward to the member congratulating the Minister for Social Development on the excellent work that she has done for New Zealand’s most vulnerable children, and they are the young children of teenaged parents.
Jacinda Ardern: Does he agree with Steven Joyce’s sentiment that investing in a child’s early years amounted to “bribing” the people “the moment we get a lift in the economy”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the Minister was referring to Labour’s shambolic policy announcement, not to the families who may be the victims of it. The Government has demonstrated its willingness to invest now for pay-offs later. It has developed a comprehensive analysis and performance framework that enables us to confidently do what we have done, and that is to spend of millions of dollars over and above our welfare benefits on those most vulnerable families, with a pretty good level of assurance that we will get long-term pay-offs. I look forward to the Government getting re-elected, because we could take that framework an awful long way in New Zealand in the next 3 or 4 years. If the Government did change, the framework would get trashed.
Census 2013—Release and Use of Data
11. CLAUDETTE HAUITI (National) to the Minister of Statistics: What reports has she received on how the 2013 Census data will help shape communities and inform decision making?
Hon NICKY WAGNER (Minister of Statistics): Statistics New Zealand yesterday published 2013 Census QuickStats about a place. This is an online tool that uses a combination of census data and other statistics to give people access to quality information so they can understand their neighbourhoods, cities, districts, and regions across topics such as population, incomes, housing, cultural diversity, age, and sex.
Claudette Hauiti: What has census data revealed about the earthquakes’ impact on Canterbury?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: The census data gives us vital information for the rebuild by providing a graphic illustration of how Christchurch and wider Canterbury have changed. Quality information underpins good decision-making, and knowing where people are now living and working allows central and local government to plan where essential services are needed.
Housing, Affordable—Impact of Overseas Buyers
12. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: Does he stand by his statement that collecting the data on offshore ownership of houses “would be a waste of public money”; if so, what would the cost be?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): The conclusion of Treasury, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment , the Inland Revenue Department , and the Productivity Commission is that overseas ownership of housing in New Zealand is small. The Inland Revenue Department data I released yesterday shows that 22,000 rented properties are owned by people
living overseas, which works out at 1.2 percent of our 1.8 million homes. This number has barely changed in the last 5 years. The biggest group of these absentee owners are New Zealand citizens currently living overseas, like those doing an OE . I do stand by my statement that a register would be a waste of money. My advice from officials is that it would cost many millions of dollars. I cannot justify the spending on trying to work out whether it is 1.2 percent or 1.3 percent. My focus is on the real issues that will increase the affordability of homeownership of Kiwi families, rather than on chasing these red herrings.
Phil Twyford: Why did he say this morning that it would be a wild goose chase and a waste of public money to collect data on foreign ownership of houses when the Reserve Bank deputy governor also said this morning that it would be useful if the Government started collecting data on foreign buyers; what makes him right and the Reserve Bank wrong?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Because the member only half quotes what the Reserve Bank governor said. He said that that is something that the Government would have to look at more broadly. I am quite satisfied with the data that we have from the Inland Revenue Department. It says the number is 22,000. That includes many New Zealand citizens who own property in New Zealand. I just say to members opposite, let us focus on the issues that matter and will actually make Kiwi homes more affordable.
Phil Twyford: Why will the Government not require the conveyancing solicitor at point of sale to certify whether the purchaser is a resident or citizen and apply the Overseas Investment Act criteria in the case of trusts and companies; and would that not be a reasonable and cost-effective way to gather reliable data?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am just not satisfied that that information will provide any useful purpose to the challenge our country has of making houses more affordable. You see, we had a Productivity Commission report. It independently received submissions from all over New Zealand. It said there are five very important things that we need to do. It did not mention foreign ownership, because it will have no material effect. It is just the cheapest trick in the political book to blame the foreigners when New Zealand has a challenge.
Phil Twyford: Why has he been going around saying his data shows there are only 20,000 houses—or 1 percent of homes—owned offshore when he knows full well that that figure is 20,000 offshore owners, and given the high incidence of multiple property ownership, does he not realise that the real figure is likely to be about three times more than that?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The report from the Inland Revenue Department said that there were 20,000 overseas owners. The first thing it also says is that the largest number of those are New Zealand citizens who own property in New Zealand. I challenge the member opposite: is he going to ban the Kiwi who does his overseas experience from being able to own a home in New Zealand? The further point is that the next-biggest group are Australians. Are members opposite proposing to ban Australians from being able to own homes in New Zealand? It is a non-issue. It has not changed in the 5 years that we have been in Government. Let us focus on the things that matter.
Phil Twyford: Why should Kiwi first-home buyers have to put up with being outbid at auctions by offshore speculators bidding on the end of a telephone, and what is the benefit to New Zealand of his putting the interests of cashed-up offshore speculators ahead of New Zealanders?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This Government is totally committed to improving both the affordability and the ownership of homes. That is shown by the fact that independent studies show that housing affordability has improved 30 percent since house prices doubled and interest rates went through the roof under members opposite. I say to members opposite as well that it is the cheapest trick in the political book—whether it is joblessness or whether it is crime—to somehow invent the idea that it is the foreigners when all the advice from officials is that they are having negligible effect.