Questions and Answers - June 24
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Mining in Conservations Areas—Commentary 1. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Co-Leader—Māori Party) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, that joint decision-making with the Minister for Energy and Resources on mining the conservation estate undermines the role of the Minister of Conservation as guardian of that estate, and how will he respond to her advice to Parliament that conservation should take precedence?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): No, I do not agree. The joint decision making applies only to significant tier 1 mining applications, and I actually find it both constructive and useful to have the input of the Minister for Energy and Resources, and the expertise of his ministry, into such decisions.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Oh, tell the truth. That can’t be true.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I note Ruth Dyson interjecting opposite. It would just be useful if she and Damien O’Connor were on the same page on such issues. We are a balanced Government that wants jobs and growth as well as conserving our special places and species. Over a third of New Zealand is in public conservation land. That includes a huge amount of minerals. This Government is of a view that we should use those minerals where it can be responsibly done.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Will the Minister investigate the opportunity to set aside the 55 ecological areas that are currently in the conservation estate and include them in schedule 4 as recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I am open-minded about reviewing areas of stewardship land that are of high value. I note that the member of Parliament for Auckland Central has advanced the stewardship land on Great Barrier Island being upgraded to a conservation park—
Hon David Parker: You’ve done nothing for 3 years—3 years you’ve been thinking about that.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: —and that is an idea that I am advancing. Not 3 years; she raised it last year, and Labour was in Government for 9 years and did nothing. Our Government’s view is that we do need to protect those very special areas, but we also need to acknowledge that there are significant parts of our public conservation land that are old gravels, ex-mining areas, and the like, and it would be foolish to lock it all up.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does the Minister agree that it is too easy to gain a consent to mine on conservation land?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I do not. We need only look at the approval process for the Bathurst mine on theDenniston Plateau to realise how slow and how difficult it is to get consent for mining on public conservation land. The application for that mine was originally lodged in 2008. I am embarrassed to note that there were over 30 hearings before commissioners, before the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court over that particular application, and I actually think it shows the opposite—that it is very difficult to get consent to mine on public conservation land.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Will the Minister respond to the recommendations of the report with proposals to ensure that mining operations on conservation land provide a net conservation benefit as well as compensating for damage that they cause?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I think the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s reports around net conservation benefit is where the new thinking is moving around trying to find this right balance. That was adopted, for instance, with the Bathurst mine where the department has been able to secure tens of millions of dollars of additional pest control work, which will result in thousands more kiwi, as compared with a very small number that are affected by the mine. So that is why my department is very open-minded about the net conservation benefit approach.
Economy—Cost of Living 2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that: for most New Zealanders an indicator of how well the economy is doing is whether or not they can keep up with the cost of living”; if so, is he satisfied that they currently can?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and we have official statistics that regularly measure those things. Last year, average weekly wages went up 3.2 percent while the cost of living measured by the CPI went up only 1.5 percent. The year before that it was 2.5 percent for wages and only 0.9 percent for inflation. In the year before that it was 3.4 percent for wages and only 1.6 percent for inflation. It is very clear that on average, wages have been rising considerably faster than inflation. It is no wonder most New Zealanders think the economy is doing well.
Hon David Cunliffe: In light of that answer, is it therefore acceptable to him that most figures show chief executive officer pay was 26.4 times that of an average employee last year, and that 46 percent of workers did not receive a pay rate increase in the last year at all?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the last point, the member is quite wrong and that is the labour cost index. The much better measure is the quarterly employment survey.
Hon David Cunliffe: As the Prime Minister likes to pick and choose his measures, in light of the Robert Walters survey showing that 49 percent of all New Zealand employers are intending to offer no pay increase to staff this year, what plans does he have to ensure workers get a fair share of the economy, and is he going to speak to Steven Joyce about his limit of 1 percent for Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment staff?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said, last year average weekly wages went up 3.2 percent against costs up 1.5 percent. I must point out that if the member wants to look at the labour cost index as the measure, and I would strongly suggest he does not, because it actually excludes so many things, the number of 45 percent of people is exactly the same as it was over Labour’s average last term.
Hon David Cunliffe: Would the Prime Minister like to explain to the House and to New Zealanders the difference between average incomes and median incomes, and can he confirm that for median income earners—that is one in the middle—the median income has gone down $19 a week since he took office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Seeing the member was so kind to answer his own question, I probably will not need to bother.
Hon David Cunliffe: I am very pleased that he has confirmed that wages have gone backwards under his Government—wages have gone backwards under National—so therefore is it acceptable to him that 2½ years after the recession has ended, there are still 42,000 more people unemployed than in December 2008, and will he now support Labour’s target to reduce unemployment to 4 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, the country has generated 84,000 jobs approximately over the last year and 1,500 people a week are going off welfare and into work. A target does not make a policy. I remember when the Leader of the Opposition said his target was to get Labour to 40 percent, not 23 percent.
Hon David Cunliffe: Since the Prime Minister is so fond of polls, would he like to comment on the one that says 81 percent of New Zealanders do not like coat-tailing and why he is still considering doing a shady deal with Colin Craig?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Notwithstanding I do not have ministerial responsibility for that, I am happy to say this: if the member wants to rule out dealing with the Internet Mana Party, which would be coming in under the coat-tailing, and say that to the House and to New Zealand today, I will take him seriously. But guess what? When you are 23 percent, you do not rule anybody out.
Hon David Cunliffe: If Labour is prepared to rule out a pre-election coalition deal with the Internet Mana Party, will the National Party rule out one with the Conservatives, ACT, and United Future?
Mr SPEAKER: The right honourable Prime Minister, in so far as there is responsibility.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the National Government is going to do, notwithstanding that I do not have ministerial responsibility for it, is make sure that we are honest, open, and transparent with the New Zealand public—something that David Cunliffe struggles quite a lot with these days.
Metiria Turei: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou e te Whare. Does the Prime Minister agree with the research from Otago University that shows that 40 percent of New Zealand’s children in the most deprived communities do not have a raincoat, among other essentials?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I cannot support that research, but what I can say is that the National-led Government, through KidsCan, has given considerable resources to make sure that there are things like raincoats and shoes for the most vulnerable children.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister agree with the research from Otago University that shows that 65 percent of children in the most deprived communities in New Zealand often go without fruit and vegetables because their families cannot afford to eat well?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Again, I cannot back up the research. What I can say is that the National-led Government has continued the Fruit in Schools programme. It has also introduced, with the support of Fonterra and Sanitarium, KickStart Breakfast, and, in the worst of economic times, the Government borrowed billions and billions of dollars to support the most vulnerable New Zealanders.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister agree with Jonathan Boston that the fact that huge proportions of New Zealand’s children living in the most deprived communities in this country go without the basics of life—such as raincoats, fresh food, and even play dates—showing that “Public help for many families is simply inadequate ...”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot support the research from Jonathan Boston. But what I can say is that the Government borrowed in excess of $5 billion a year to support the most vulnerable New Zealanders. I think one of the reasons why the Government actually does have widespread support is that New Zealanders recognise that the Government, through the worst of economic times, has been fair. The second thing the Government has been doing is working hard with New Zealanders to create jobs, and the fastest way to move those children out of vulnerable circumstances is to make sure their parents can work. The truth is that under a Greens administration those families would be in the dole queue.
Grant Robertson: Where’s the scarf?
Hon TAU HENARE: No, this is not about polls.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member just ask his question, and I would be grateful if there was less interjection from either side.
Hon TAU HENARE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. What reports has he received on inequality in New Zealand, and how do recent changes—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Well read, patsy.
Hon TAU HENARE: Shall I start again?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes. [Interruption] Order! The member can start again.
Hon TAU HENARE: My question is to the Minister of Finance. What reports has he received—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Keep going. 3. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on inequality in New Zealand, and how do recent changes in trends compare to other countries?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Last week the OECD released an updated report on income inequality for the period 2007 to 2011. The OECD finds that New Zealand is one of six countries out of 33 in which both market income inequality and disposable income inequality were flat or slightly better between 2007 and 2011, a period when New Zealand experienced its own recession plus a deeper recession caused by the global financial crisis—that is, the disposable income inequality and market inequality was flat or slightly better over that period. The report also finds that in New Zealand disposable incomes for the top 10 percent of income earners were hit harder in the global financial crisis than the bottom 10 percent of income earners. Across the whole OECD the opposite was true, with the bottom 10 percent of disposable incomes falling by twice as much through the global financial crisis.
Hon Tau Henare: What does the OECD report say about changes in relative poverty in New Zealand compared with other countries?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, there are quite a lot of different measures of poverty. The OECD uses a measure called relative income poverty, which shows that the share of New Zealand households in relative income poverty fell just marginally from 11 percent in 2007 to 9.8 percent in 2011. Relative poverty is the share of people with less than half of their country’s median income. The OECD also reports on something it calls anchored poverty, which is defined using an income threshold fixed in real terms in 2005. Here there was a small increase, with New Zealand around the middle of the OECD and below the average change across the OECD. These measures confirm that New Zealand has been able to find a balance in supporting the most vulnerable families through the global financial crisis, setting a path back to surplus, and getting the economy back to growth without increases in inequality of incomes.
Hon David Parker: Does that OECD report on household income show that during the period from 2008 to 2011 the bottom 10 percent of New Zealand households got poorer on average?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It shows, as I pointed out in my earlier answer, that the bottom 10 percent of household incomes dropped marginally in that period and the top 10 percent of incomes dropped further in that period.
Hon Tau Henare: How do the findings by the OECD compare with reports by the Ministry of Social Development on income inequality?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We will get an updated report from the Ministry of Social Development in the next month. It is generally considered the authoritative measure of income inequality and hardship in New Zealand. The most recently published full report in July 2013 found that income inequality in New Zealand has been flat or slightly declining in the mid-2000s, and that the share of income going to the top 1 percent has been flat in New Zealand since the mid-1990s, and well below that in the commonly quoted countries of the US and the UK. The OECD uses data from the Ministry of Social Development’s household incomes in New Zealand’s report and compares it with data from other developed economies.
Hon David Parker: Has the data released by Statistics New Zealand from this year’s census shown a marked increase in the gap between average household incomes in wealthier Auckland suburbs compared with lower-income suburbs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it does show something like that, but the member is working pretty hard to find what you would expect to find, and that is that if on average income inequality is about the same, you will find subgroups and you will find communities where income inequality has increased, and you will find others where income inequality has decreased. That is what you
would expect to find when you decompose national averages. But the national picture is clear: although most people believe that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, that is, in fact, not the case in New Zealand, despite the fact that we have had a major recession.
Hon Tau Henare: What alternative approaches to poverty reduction has he seen, and what lessons can we take from these approaches to achieve better outcomes for vulnerable families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the situation is summed up by one authoritative source—the Salvation Army. In 2008 it pointed out that there had been a 70 percent increase in spending on welfare, health, and education under the previous Government but there was very little social progress. If I can quote it: “measures of progress … should not just be those of how much our economy has grown … more relevant measures could be those of how few people are locked up in prison, how few violent crimes have been committed and how much better children in poorer schools are achieving.” We agree with those measures. That is why this Government has set results targets to report on regularly in each of those categories, and we are generating better outcomes for New Zealanders as well as holding the rate of income inequality.
Export Sector—Performance 4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with BERL that “outside of dairy and forestry, export receipts have effectively flatlined since April 2009” and that “The risks inherent in such a narrowing of our export base should be of concern to all”; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I would agree generally with the facts as Business and Economic Research Ltd outlined them, and they are that export receipts for categories other than the growing ones have been flat, which is a bit like saying that apart from the fact that the All Blacks scored some tries and kicked some goals, they actually lost to England.
Hon David Parker: Having last week disagreed with the head economist at the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research on his assertions about export performance, problems in the regions, and widening gaps, is he now saying that the head economist at Business and Economic Research Ltd is wrong to warn about the serious problems caused by the narrowing export performance of our country?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes. Just bear in mind the situation here. New Zealand has had a quite high exchange rate for 4 or 5 years. Exporters have done a great job of making progress against that head wind. In that context we have had higher prices for dairy, and that means that by value it has become a slighter bigger proportion of the export cake. But the member seems to be suggesting we would be better off if dairy prices dropped a long way because then we would have a more diversified export cake. Of course, that is silly. We have enjoyed the benefit of high prices for that category. Over the next 3 or 4 years we might enjoy the benefit of, for instance, fast-growing tourism numbers or a growing IT sector. It does not mean we are becoming less diversified.
Hon David Parker: How does a 19 percent real decline in non-primary manufacturing exports since 2008 show that the New Zealand economy is getting more diverse?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: What it shows is that the prices for some things in this period, like dairy products and logs, have been higher and therefore they have grown as a proportion of the total. It changes the composition of our exports. Dairy prices, however, have been dropping, and over the next 4 or 5 years as we see a burgeoning IT industry, for instance, and an increase in tourist numbers, it may well be that service exports are the star of the next 4 or 5 years. The good thing is we have got industries that are capable of competing globally. The Government does not believe it is a problem that the dairy industry has been successful and profitable.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question did not—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can assist the member. I listened to the question; I listened to the answer. Will the member resume his seat, please. The question has been addressed. The member has further supplementary questions if wishes to use them.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would appreciate my point of order being heard before it is ruled upon—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not need to listen any further to the member—
Hon David Parker: Oh!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Supplementary question, Tim Macindoe.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, Mr Parker was not even able to get out what his point of order was about. I do not know how you knew—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I can help the member. The point of order coming from the member was that the question had not been answered correctly. I ruled—[Interruption] Order! If the members wish to stay for the balance of question time—supplementary question, Tim Macindoe.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify that this is a fresh point of order.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I am seeking some advice from you.
Mr SPEAKER: Can we just clarify that the member is now raising a fresh point of order and is not in any way relitigating a decision I have just made? Fresh point of order, Hon Clayton Cosgrove.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: My question is, in respect of the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings, whether a member is entitled to raise a complete point of order as long as it is within those Standing Orders, and are you required to listen to the complete point of order?
Mr SPEAKER: No, there is no obligation on me to listen to the complete point of order. [Interruption] Order! If the member also wishes to stay, he will not interrupt when I am on my feet. I do not want to have to warn the Hon Clayton Cosgrove of that again today. There is no obligation on me to listen to a full point of order. Many points of order take too long. If I feel I have got the gist of the point of order, I will rule on that point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Again, can I just clarify that this is not an attempt to waste the time of the House—is it a fresh point of order?
Hon Trevor Mallard: It is not; it is a genuine request that you share—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will now hear the point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker, it is a request that you share with the House the source of your prescience so we can all read the future.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order, and it is the sort of thing that leads to disorder in this House. Equally, if the Hon Trevor Mallard does not start behaving himself today, he will not see the balance of question time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you tell us, as a matter of clarification, whether the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings of this House have changed?
Mr SPEAKER: Will the member please raise his point of order again?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could you please tell us, as a matter of clarification and for the edification of all of us, whether the Standing Orders and Speakers’ rulings of this House have changed?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, over the time that I have been here Standing Orders and Speakers’ ruling have changed considerably. I am sure—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Since yesterday?
Mr SPEAKER: Since yesterday? The House was not sitting yesterday. But, for the benefit of the member, there has been no very immediate change to the Standing Orders or Speakers’ rulings at all, but certainly over the time that I have been here and the time that the member has been here, there has been substantial change.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That is not what I meant.
Mr SPEAKER: The member might want to explain himself further. I will listen.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Since the House sat today or commenced its sitting, has there been a change in the Standing Orders or the Speakers’ rulings of this House?
Mr SPEAKER: I assume the member is now going back and relitigating a point I made earlier. If the member likes to refer to Speaker’s ruling 20/2, he will see that there is no obligation on a presiding officer to hear a full point of order. I presume that is the point the member is making, but no, Speakers’ rulings and Standing Orders do tend to change over time.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, before I hear the point of order, I just want to clarify that the member is not in any way relitigating where we have been in this discussion. If it is a fresh point of order, I am happy to hear it.
Gareth Hughes: It is related to the discussion. I seek to draw your attention to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. The member will sit down and resume his seat. We have now wasted a considerable amount of the House’s time. [Interruption] Order! We have now wasted a considerable amount of time. If the member wants further clarification on any decision I have made, I invite the member to come see me immediately after question time, but we are not having continual points of order being raised as a means of relitigating a decision I have made.
Tim Macindoe: What recent reports has the Minister seen on New Zealand’s export performance?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: New Zealand’s exports are growing—in fact, primary production exports passed $5 billion in a single month for the first time in March this year and annual primary production exports exceeded $50 billion for the first time also in March. I have also seen reports that the regions are performing particularly well, particularly those chosen by the Labour Party as the worst performing—for instance, Northland is at the top of the annual growth stakes. The report also notes that Otago is going well, particularly those parts represented by a National MP, I might say. International milk and timber prices have moved around in the last few years, so looking at shares of exports by value will be affected, both by the higher price and the increase in quantities, as exporters respond to higher profitability.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association that “If you look at New Zealand as a business, you’ve got two products and one customer. That’s not a very good business ... in terms of resilience ...”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Let us set the context for the share of exports. In in 2013 dairy good exports were 23 percent of all exports; non-dairy agricultural products 22 percent; non-agricultural products 30 percent—so dairy is not the biggest single category—and services exports 25 percent. That contrasts, for instance, with Australia, where hard commodities plus oil and gas constitute 70 percent of Australian exports and the bulk of the hard commodities go to one market, in China. So New Zealand has a relatively diversified range of exports. And, again—
Hon David Parker: It is narrowing.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the member is simply wrong. The fact that you get high prices in some periods for some exports does not mean the export base is narrowing. What it means is some exports have done pretty well in the recent years. Over the next 4 or 5 years it might be different exports that have higher prices. Higher prices in Labour’s world are bad. In our world higher prices for exports are good.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table a table, showing that non-primary manufactured exports are down—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just require the source of the document.
Hon David Parker: Well, it is a spreadsheet based on Statistics New Zealand information.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not going to put the leave. New Zealand statistics are available to all members.
Tim Macindoe: What policies would put New Zealand’s outstanding recent export performance at risk, as occurred in the 2000s, when the export sector was put into recession?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Any number policies that I can think of, because I have heard them mentioned: a State-run monopoly electricity system, which would raise electricity prices; a $25 carbon tax, five times the world price and much higher than required; and, of course, runaway Government spending that sucked up resources that could otherwise be invested in our successful, productive, and resilient export sector.
Māori and Pasifika Trades Training Initiative—Progress 5. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What announcements has he made about the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Last Friday, along with my colleague the Hon Tariana Turia, I was pleased to announce the latest five groups selected for the Government’s Māori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative, which is working with young Māori and Pasifika people to gain qualifications and apprenticeships, and get into work. The Government is investing $43 million in this initiative as part of our Business Growth Agenda to help young people develop skills in important trades that are needed now and in the longer term. Three thousand places are available in this initiative around country. New Zealand’s economy is now growing strongly, and there are big opportunities over the next few years for anybody interested in trades careers to train and take up apprenticeships.
Dr Cam Calder: What groups will be delivering the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: One of the excellent things about it is that it is being delivered by a range of consortia around the country. All of them announced so far include employers, Māori and Pasifika organisations, and tertiary education organisations. Contracts have been signed with seven consortia to provide trades training in Hawke’s Bay, East Coast, Waikato, Wellington, and Canterbury. Officials have now signed contracts with five more groups, including the Te Tai Tokerau Māori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative in Northland, focused on the building and primary industries. In South Auckland, Unitec, the Manukau Institute of Technology, and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa will deliver the Auckland Māori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative focused on construction and infrastructure. Also in South Auckland, the Southern Initiative of the Auckland Council will focus on infrastructure trades.
Dr Cam Calder: What other investment in tertiary education is the Government making in South Auckland?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As the member will know, South Auckland is home to one of New Zealand’s fastest-growing and most youthful populations. As the region’s population grows, so too does demand for access to tertiary education at higher levels. This Government is very proud of its commitment to lift the number of places in tertiary education in South Auckland. Aside from the Māori and Pasifika Trades Training initiative, we have made a number of significant investments. For example, we announced that Auckland University of Technology will expand its Manukau campus to around 4,000 equivalent full-time students by 2020, and last Friday I was privileged to open the new Manukau Institute of Technology’s $100 million, seven-floor business and IT education facility in the Manukau city centre.
Government—Decision Making 6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s decisions?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by his Government’s decision to tender for oil exploration permits in over 3,000 square kilometres of the West Coast North Island marine mammal
sanctuary—a sanctuary that was established to protect the last 55Māui’s dolphins left on planet Earth?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. I am not surprised to see the Greens’ opposition to that, because they are fundamentally opposed to everything, but I was surprised to see the Labour leader come out and say that. The reason I say that is a very serious point. That is that 40 percent of New Zealand’s gas is included in Pohokura, so one can only assume, when that gasfield is closed down, what will happen to gas prices for New Zealanders. There are 23 permits for oil being drilled there, 18 of which were actually issued under a Labour Government. What the leader of the Labour Party is saying today—
Grant Robertson: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: This time I think he can speak.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I appreciate the comment from Grant Robertson.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister understand that there is a difference in the risk to Māui’s dolphins from existing production wells—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has a right to ask the question.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister understand that there is a difference in the risk to Māui’s dolphins from existing production wells and his Government’s decision to add new risks to Māui’s dolphins from new seismic surveying and new drilling of exploratory wells, which is what the Government has approved?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In a sort of phrase, I suppose, what a load of nonsense. If that was absolutely correct, then, given that we have been drilling in the Taranaki region since the 1960s and there has never been a situation where a Māui’s dolphin has been killed as a result of that, you would think it would have happened atsome time in the last 50 years. It is just the mumbo-jumbo that the Greens go on about, but—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Dr Russel Norman: Instead of the usual verbal abuse from the Prime Minister, will he engage in the science—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I ask the member to simply ask the supplementary question.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is one of the Standing Orders of question time that I can refer to the Minister’s answers. He chose to engage in that kind of attack, which is his right. I chose to respond to it, which is my right as well.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that is strictly true. Many supplementary questions probably are not within the strict interpretation of the Standing Orders. The reason I am asking for the member’s assistance in just simply asking his question is that his initial comments created a lot of disorder, so that none of the House could successfully hear the question. I invite the member to ask his supplementary question.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your ruling effectively says that if the Government members start shouting very loudly, you will rule the question out of order. That does not seem to me to be a very sound basis for ruling questions out of order.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not what I am doing at all. I am trying to assist the member so that he can ask his question and at least it can be heard, certainly by me, and then I can judge whether it has been addressed. I am trying to assist the member.
Dr Russel Norman: No, you’re not.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member does not want my assistance, we will move to the next question.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the Prime Minister for once engage in the science around the issue, and is he aware that the world’s largest professional scientific body dedicated to research on marine mammals has asked the Government to stop going ahead with this seismic surveying with the new exploration because it is a threat to the very existence of Māui’s dolphin?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the member is saying is based on a load of mumbo-jumbo. He wants to close down Taranaki and the thousands of jobs that are supported there, and what is incredible is that David Cunliffe wants to do that as well. Let us see what Andrew Little thinks about that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and it will be heard in silence.
Grant Robertson: That is now the third answer in a row where the Prime Minister has breached the Standing Orders and you have been forced to stand up and bring him back into order. I wonder how long this will go on for.
Mr SPEAKER: Hopefully three times is enough. I hope so.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by Nick Smith, and by his comments, when Nick Smith told the House last week that there had been no sightings of Māui’s dolphins in the oil exploration area?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have those details to hand, but what I do know is that there has not been a single recorded incident involving a Māui’s dolphin and the oil and gas industry in the last 40 years in the Taranaki region.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table a map, prepared by the Green Party research unit, which overlays the sightings—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The tabling of documents is to inform members; it is not to reinforce a political point that has been made.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is a new piece of information that should or could be of interest to the House. I do not see that it is at all political.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the easiest way to sort this out is that I will put the leave, if that is what the member wants, and then the House can decide. Leave is sought to table this particular map. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is objection.
Dr Russel Norman: How can he be confident that his Ministers and his Government are making the right decision with regard to new oil exploration in the Māui’s dolphin sanctuary, when the Minister of Conservation is entirely wrong when he states that there have not been sightings of Māui’s dolphins in the oil exploration area, when the evidence is to the contrary?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government is very confident of the advice on which it based the decisions for the block offers. What I would say to New Zealanders is this: if a Labour-Greens administration gets into power and it closes down every gasfield and every oil field in Taranaki, it will be to the cost of New Zealand consumers, it will be to the cost of the environment, and it is called—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have heard enough.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Robertson raised with you the issue—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Dr Russel Norman: Yes. Mr Robertson raised with you the issue of the Prime Minister repeatedly abusing the Standing Orders in his answers. I would ask you to address Mr Robertson’s point.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not believe—[Interruption] I will listen to the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Stating a fact, which is what I am doing, is not abusing the Standing Orders. It is quite germane to the answer. The member has asked me about essentially closing down oil and gasfields in the Taranaki. I am simply pointing out that there is wide support in the Opposition to do that, and it would have an extremely large impact on the people of Taranaki.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! It is open to members how long they are here for question time. I will hear from the Hon David Parker.
Hon David Parker: What is going on here is an assertion by the Prime Minister that is propaganda under the guise of question time, which is meant by you to be controlled to factual answers to questions asked, not speculation about other parties’ policies.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member makes a point, except that when I listened to the question, the assertion from the member who asked the question was that a particular Minister had been wrong in information that he had given. So I think that widened the answer. I do not believe—[Interruption] Order! I am getting to the stage where I am going to have to ask the Hon David Parker to shortly leave the Chamber. I do not want to do that, but when I am on my feet ruling, and I am hearing constant interjections from the Hon David Parker, that must cease. The question was addressed. I invite—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: This had better be a point of order.
Hon David Parker: My point of order was that none of those questions were asked by the Labour Party and the assertions were about the Labour Party, and that was not even addressed in your answer, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I will reflect on the answer when I consider Hansard later on today.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a fresh point of order?
Dr Russel Norman: It is in relation to your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. I have already ruled. I will look at the Hansard afterwards, but if the member wants to discuss it further, I—as I frequently do—invite him to come and see me after question time.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission has said that current activities threaten the Māui’s dolphin with extinction, how do his proposed activities to increase oil exploration—not existing production, but increased oil exploration—help the Māui’s dolphin avoid extinction, or is it much more likely that his legacy to this country will be to drive the Māui’s dolphin towards extinction?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I reject the assertion. Secondly, conservation was consulted, actually, as part of the process that we went through. It is really as simple as this. If the member is right, then over the last 54 years a Māui’s dolphin would have been killed as a result of the exploration activity. Not one single dolphin has been. So we have had a 54-year experiment and nothing has happened, and now the Opposition, including Labour, wants to close down—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is now long enough.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: As New Zealand’s domestic oil and gas supplies dwindle, what would be the effect on the New Zealand economy if they are not replaced by new discovery?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, of course, the country would have to import more of those fuels, which would have an effect on our balance of payments; New Zealand would not earn the nearly $1 billion in royalties and taxes it earns a year; and thousands and thousands and thousands of people who are employed in Taranaki, a place that we know well, would lose their jobs. I look forward to campaigning in Taranaki and telling them: “Here’s your stark choice.” [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I call for order from the Hon Simon Bridges.
Housing Accords—Progress 7. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Housing: What progress has he made with local government in securing Housing Accords under the legislation passed last year, and how are they increasing the supply and affordability of housing?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): The first housing accord, with Auckland, was signed on 3 October last year, and we are on target to exceed the additional 9,000 homes and sections in the first year. Next week the Government will formally gazette the third tranche of 44 special housing areas, which amounts to a fast-tracked zoning of an additional 18,000 sections. The
Christchurch Housing Accord is focused on the distinct issues from the earthquake around temporary and social housing, and is currently out for consultation. Today I signed with Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown a new housing accord with the capital. The council has identified areas where fast-tracked planning would bring on-stream additional housing, and the accord sets a target of an additional 7,000 homes and sections over the next 5 years. We are also progressing accords with Western Bay of Plenty, Queenstown, and Tauranga, all of which have different issues, but all of which will help with supply and affordability.
Paul Foster-Bell: What reports has the Minister received on residential construction activity, and how many homes does he expect will be built this year?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Statistics New Zealand last week released its quarterly report on building activity, which showed the largest increase in construction activity in 14 years—up 12.5 percent on last year—which is very encouraging. The latest building consent figures are similarly impressive. In the year to April 2014, there were 23,000 new homes consented, which is up from just 13,000 a couple of years ago. Christchurch consents were more than double last year’s consents, Auckland’s consents were up by 41 percent, and nationally the increase was 27 percent. I am advised that we expect to build 25,000 new homes this calendar year, which is the largest number in a decade.
Phil Twyford: Can he confirm that more than a year after he announced the Auckland Housing Accord and promised Aucklanders 39,000 houses, he has not built a single new house in the special housing areas that anyone is living in, and will he also confirm that he in on the phone to any mayor who will take his phone calls, begging them to sign up to one of his housing accords because he is so desperate to make it look as if he doing something about the housing crisis?
Mr SPEAKER: Either of those supplementary questions—the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The irony of that question is that only 12 months ago that was the member who was accusing me of not working closely enough with local government and now he accuses me of working too closely with local government.
Phil Twyford: How many have you built?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am proud of the fact that building consent figures show that the number of consents this year is up by 27 percent on last year, and I would welcome taking Mr Phil Twyford down to the very first housing area, show him the bulldozers, show him the houses that are being built—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is long enough.
District Health Boards—Health Benefits Ltd 8. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: What was the original forecast cost for Health Benefits Limited and what is the revised forecast cost now, if any?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I am advised that the answer to the member’s question is complex, because Health Benefits Ltd’s budget changes as the various programmes advance. Health Benefits Ltd receives a budget allocation of around $6 million per annum for its operating costs. In addition it receives funding from district health boards for each business case to progress business case implementation.
Hon Annette King: Have the benefits of Health Benefits Ltd’s finance and procurement supply programme been reduced by at least a third, have costs ballooned by 35 percent, has the payback period been pushed out to more than 60 years, and is the programme now running 2 years late; if not, what are the revised projections?
Hon JO GOODHEW: I am certainly unable to confirm the veracity of those particular claims, but what I am able to confirm is that the Health Benefits Ltd programme’s importance to the health sector is currently this: it was set up to enable district health boards to live within their means, to meet the Government’s expectations for health service delivery, and to deliver cost savings to each district health board for front-line services.
Hon Annette King: Has the Minister been alerted to the prospect that Health Benefits Ltd will not seek re-approval from district health boards before siphoning off more of their health dollars to their Health Benefits Ltd programme, that there will be reduced benefits, and that the payback period is to be extended, and does that sound like a Ponzi scheme, rather than a poncy scheme; if not, what is it?
Hon JO GOODHEW: I am certainly advised that the Minister is well aware that the district health boards will play a very big part in any further cost to them of achieving the savings in the future. I would also suggest that any claims of Ponzi schemes 12 weeks out from an election certainly sound like the sort of political rhetoric we would expect.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, why has Health Benefits Ltd’s work programme been described as “manifesting all the hallmarks of large-scale, high-profile public and private sector failure, but its similarities with Ponzi schemes are striking.”?
Hon JO GOODHEW: That may well be the opinion of someone. However, it is the opinion of this Government that the savings that have been achieved by Health Benefits Ltd, alongside of district health boards, are certainly worthy of happening. I give as examples $16 million this year on banking and insurance, $34 million this year on regional shared services initiatives, and $6 million on the procurement of gloves, which I am told is probably 500 hip operations. It is very important to this side of the House.
Hon Annette King: In light of the growing concerns about cost escalation, lack of transparency, delays in implementation, reduced benefits, and risk to the health services, as quoted by the chief financial officers of district health boards, is he prepared to ask the Auditor-General to urgently investigate Health Benefit Ltd’s programme; if not, why not?
Hon JO GOODHEW: What I can advise the House is that the governance arrangements for the four committees—that is, theFinance, Procurement and Supply Chain Committee, the Procurement and Supply Chain Subcommittee, theFinance Subcommittee, and theDesign Authority—were set in place during the period of March and April this year. I am also advised that the—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will recall that I asked, in light of a number of issues, was the Government prepared—
Mr SPEAKER: The essence of the question is whether the Minister was prepared to ask the Auditor-General.
Hon Annette King: Yes, thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: That was the question. Could the Minister address that part of that question.
Hon JO GOODHEW: I am advised that the Minister is well aware of the concerns of some of the chief financial officers, which was certainly part of the member’s question, and that the Minister has certainly been encouraging the chief financial officers to continue to work with Health Benefits Ltd to achieve the savings. However, it is completely understandable that people who are in the midst of this significant change will be asking questions and will be concerned for their very own jobs.
Question No. 6 to Minister—Amended Answer
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to make a personal explanation on question No. 6.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to question No. 6 I reflected and used the word “permits” instead of “wells”. What I should have said is that of the 23 wells drilled in the marine mammal sanctuary, 18 were drilled by Labour Governments.
Student Achievement—Initiatives 9. MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made on the Government’s $359 million investment to raise student achievement?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Earlier this month I announced receipt of, and then published, the sector working group report on our $359 million investment to lift the quality and consistency of teaching and leadership across the education system. Unions and other sector groups worked closely with the Ministry of Education to produce the report, which supports the main features of the initiative. The recommended further work is under way, maintaining the momentum to begin implementation from next year.
Maggie Barry: What were the findings of the working group report?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The working group welcomed the $10 million teacher-led innovation fund, the availability of both relief time for roles and inquiry time for schools, and considered the allowances an important incentive. I want to thank the working group for its constructive collaboration over the opportunity to design a big initiative with such far-reaching potential.
Maggie Barry: What are the next steps in investing in educational success?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The next steps are ensuring that parents have the information they need; establishing the ongoing advisory group of six respected academics and working group members, which has its second meeting today; undertaking work on implementation for a 2015 start; bargaining for variations; and continuing work streams on communities of schools and on selection, appointment, and appraisal. A group of experts meets this week to begin development of professional standards and criteria. It is great that we are all committed to investing in educational success for all.
Chris Hipkins: Has she seen the comment from Takapuna Normal Intermediate School principal, Owen Alexander, who echoed widely held concerns when he stated, of the new principal roles: “I couldn’t do it. I have been employed to run my school in the most effective and efficient way to do what is best for my students. To think that I could actually go and spend time giving advice and managing 10 other schools as well, would take up more than two days worth of my time and energy,”; if so, why is she pressing ahead with these new roles, when the people who are supposed to do them say they will not work?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: So we have one person expressing that point of view—and I have not seen that comment—out of over two and a half thousand. But the comment that I have seen is “Research here and around the world clearly shows that quality teaching has the greatest in-school influence on student achievement. Quality teaching is more likely to happen in a collaborative educational environment than a competitive one. Schools should collaborate, teachers should be part of collaborative professional networks, and the sink-or-swim mentality of Tomorrow’s Schools needs to change.” That was a speech by Chris Hipkins to the Auckland Primary Principals Association.
Chris Hipkins: It was a very good speech. I seek leave to table it.
Mr SPEAKER: No; if members really want it, I am sure they will find it.
Chris Hipkins: Is she satisfied that the policy is robust and will actually lift student achievement, when respected school principals, including a whole group of principals in Auckland, are saying that it lacks evidence to support it, it does not stand up to closer scrutiny, it does nothing to address inequality, and the process around its development has been “professionally insulting”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes.
Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority—Legal Fees 10. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: How much has the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority spent on legal fees in the last 3 years?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): The legal fees spent by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority are in two parts: departmental and non-departmental. They include the costs of settlement of 7,157 residential properties and 255 commercial properties, as well as defence of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act and a
number of other contractual matters that it has had to engage legal services for. The two amounts are, for departmental, $3.382 million over 4 years, and, for non-departmental, $11.335 million over 4 years. A simple calculation about conveyancing costs of the purchase of 7,100 properties alone would tell you that that is reasonable. It is less than 1 percent of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority’s total expenditure.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Was he correctly quoted in thePress this morning in saying: “Labour’s policy of paying the same amount to people who didn’t purchase insurance as those who did is simply reckless.”; if so, can he name one insurance company that offers insurance cover for bare land—just one?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do stand by my statements, and, further, can I say that not even the Earthquake Commission offers full cover for land.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Did he promise John Key when he came to Canterbury that “no one would be worse off as a result of the quakes”, that bare land owners who cannot buy insurance, rather than choose not to, were going to be offered only 50 percent of the 2007 rateable value of their land when they were red-zoned, and that, actually, they were going to be a lot worse off?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: At the time the statement was made by the Prime Minister, we were in fact looking at very substantial devastation of residential property across what are now the red zones of Christchurch. It was some months later when it became clear that there was a difficulty around some properties that may be uninsured. Can I say that the experience so far has been that less than 1.5 percent of those who were affected did not have insurance. The point would be that in a country that has such a heavy commitment to insurance, the Government stepping in to say you no longer need that insurance would be reckless.
Hon Ruth Dyson: If committing less than $25 million to fairly compensate red zone property owners is reckless, as he described our policy pledge yesterday, what adjective would he use to describe the Government’s use of $30 million of taxpayers’ money to build a playground in the central business district?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is very easy to conflate two entirely different things to try to create an impression that suits a political view. The reality is that for a Government to say to people in New Zealand: “Do not bother about covering yourselves for natural disaster because the Government will be there to help you.” would be plain reckless.
Hon Ruth Dyson: If the Quake Outcasts case to the Supreme Court is successful, will he offer the residents a fair payout offer of 100 percent of the 2007 RV; if so, will he do it promptly?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As the House will be aware, that is a case before the court at the present time. It will be heard beginning on 29 July, and I am unable to make a comment about it while it is a live case before the court.
Land Transport—Plan 11. DENIS O'ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport: When will the Government provide a comprehensive and integrated land transport plan for New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Last week.
Denis O'Rourke: Why is so little priority given to rail and to public transport in the recently released Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2015/16 - 2024/25?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government has made a massive commitment to rail, having so far spent almost $1 billion on the KiwiRail recovery plan, having spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new trains for the commuter services in Auckland and Wellington, and having spent similarly a lot of money on the electrification infrastructure in Wellington and Auckland. The Government policy statement predicts that over the next 3 years there would be $1.2 billion spent on public transport. I hardly think that is inadequate.
Denis O'Rourke: Why is the Government not addressing Auckland’s congestion problems by giving the Auckland City Rail Link the go-ahead right now?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government is making a commitment to get Auckland moving. That was seen in our recent decision to accelerate a number of projects in the roading sphere around Auckland. We have made it very clear to the Auckland Council that the targets it sets for patronage on the rail were ridiculous. We reduced them substantially and it is still not getting anywhere near it. It has brought in a previously reputable accounting firm to say “If those targets cannot be reached, they are unreasonable, and just spend the money anyway.” We are committed from 2020. That remains our position.
Denis O'Rourke: Why is the Government not addressing Christchurch’s chronic congestion on the Northern Motorway by ensuring the early introduction of passenger rail from and to Rangiora and other towns north of Christchurch?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: At the present time there is a request in front of KiwiRail from the regional council there, Environment Canterbury. I am not sure exactly where that is at the present moment, but the most pressing thing would be to get the northern arterial road out of the city sorted out. It may surprise people in this House to know that Mr O’Rourke was one of the Christchurch city councillors who voted that project down in the early 1990s.
Denis O'Rourke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order.
Denis O'Rourke: The statement by the Minister is a misrepresentation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a valid point of order. The member will have an opportunity at some stage to debate that. To dispute a fact that has been given in an answer is not a legitimate use of a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is no doubt that past Speakers have found certain conduct in this House to be totally disorderly. The Minister made an allegation that is entirely incorrect. The member of Parliament voted the other way when he was on the council, but do not tell lies—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat because that, again, is not the way to use a point of order.
Denis O'Rourke: Why are there no plans for further rail electrification in the recently released Government Policy Statement on Land Transport 2015/16 – 2024/25?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not hear the interjection, but the level of the barrage from that member is completely unacceptable. He has asked a question. He should show some courtesy to the House now to allow the Minister to answer it.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Where commuter services can be made effective, then of course there would be a desire to have a look at those projects. We have done that in Auckland, we have done that in Wellington, and, as I have said before, there is a proposal in Christchurch but it does have to stack up.
Taxpayer’s Simplification Panel—Objectives 12. PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Revenue: What is the objective of the Government’s recently announced Taxpayer’s Simplification Panel?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister of Revenue): The Taxpayer’s Simplification Panel will give New Zealanders a greater say in simplifying, modernising, and transforming the way we pay tax. We want to hear Kiwis’ opinions on the Inland Revenue Department’s processes, for them to tell us about how paying tax can be made easier for them, and for them to submit ideas about how things can be done better. As well as individual taxpayers, we are keen to hear from small to medium sized business owners about how red tape and tax compliance can be reduced. For them, after all, every extra hour they spend on compliance is another hour they cannot spend growing their businesses or creating jobs.
Paul Goldsmith: How will the Taxpayer’s Simplification Panel work?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: It’s simple.
Hon TODD McCLAY: It is simple. The panel is part of the IR4U programme of better engaging with the public. It will consist of representatives of individual taxpayers, small businesses, and also the tax advisory community. It will be managed by the Inland Revenue Department and will report both to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue and the Minister on a regular basis, with recommendations gained from that feedback. This means for New Zealanders that they will have a say in how to make the tax system serve them better.
Paul Goldsmith: What other initiatives are under way to help make tax compliance easier for New Zealanders?
Hon TODD McCLAY: The Government is putting a lot of effort into making tax compliance easier. For example, 1 million people now use Voice ID, a secure digital identification service that allows taxpayers to verify their identities and access automated tax self-service. More than 1.7 million people have registered for myIR, a secure online service that allows people to check their tax details, child support, and Working for Families details, and to submit GST returns. Parents no longer have to be verified in person to get an IRD number for their newborn. Instead, they can apply for this IRD number when they register the birth of that child with the Department of Internal Affairs. These and many other initiatives are making paying tax easier and faster for New Zealanders.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill—Progress 1. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Member in charge of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill: Does the member intend to proceed with the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill this year; if not, why not?
SUE MORONEY (Member in charge of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months' Paid Leave) Amendment Bill): Yes, I do intend to proceed with my bill extending paid parental leave to 6 months, which is set down for its Committee stage debate tomorrow, because it has growing majority support in Parliament. The good news is that with one further members’ day left before Parliament rises for the election, there is time for my bill to proceed to its third reading and be passed before the election. The only thing that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member has actually answered the question right at the start. I have given her some liberty—[Interruption] Order! The answer is long enough.
Hon Ruth Dyson: What is the additional cost of her bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks?
SUE MORONEY: My bill now has only National standing between it and enactment, because National has threatened financial veto. An amendment that I will introduce today means there will be no impact on the forthcoming financial year, and therefore no justification for the current Government to use a financial veto. My bill will now be based on the election pledge from Labour to increase paid—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Quite apart from the fact that that answer was well past what is reasonable for an answer to a member’s question—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I would be reluctant to ask members to leave. We have got so far through question time without having to do so, but this is a point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What are the Speakers’ rulings around pre-emption of business, as was the centrepiece of that particular answer?
Mr SPEAKER: The issue of pre-empting business is technically something that should not be pre-empted in debate earlier, but I think the more important thing is that the length of the answer is too long. The question was what the additional cost was. The member very quickly said she is
proposing an amendment so there will be no additional cost. That is a sufficient answer to this question. It is not a chance to use this as a speech. I will allow the member to now ask the second question. The answer is completed.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you, as you have said you will do, to go back and look at the tape and transcript of today, and perhaps, as just one example, compare the length of answers from Sue Moroney with those from Mr Joyce in response to a question from one of his members. You will find they were shorter.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept that point, but questions to members are always handled in a more concise way than questions to Ministers. The second point is that the member himself cannot have it both ways. On many occasions he has interrupted an answer being given by the Minister—quite correctly—and said that the question had been answered and there is no need to add to it. I am ruling the same way, for the benefit of the member, this time.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am really just speaking to the point of order that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have dealt with that—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume her seat. I have dealt with that. If the member wants to raise a fresh point of order, I will listen to it, but to now try to talk to one that I have already dealt with is in itself out of order.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There have been questions set down to me as a member in charge of a bill, and I am attempting to let the House know about an amendment—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. At this rate she will not get to answer her second question. I have ruled that the question has been answered. I cannot be clearer than that.
Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill—Purpose 2. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Member in charge of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill: Why is the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Six Months’ Paid Leave) Amendment Bill necessary?
SUE MORONEY (Labour): There are many reasons. The purpose is to give families the time to spend with their newborn baby in those precious early months and to support exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months. Research and evidence shows that this approach will improve the health and education outcomes and the social development of children. It also aims to increase employment opportunities created by longer periods of leave requiring more need for temporary job replacements.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Dr Russel Norman: They used science again, didn’t they, Gerry. Not science! They used science.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Dr Russel Norman will stand and withdraw that interjection.
Dr Russel Norman: I withdraw.
Mr SPEAKER: I am hearing a point of order from the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I have not wanted to bring this up before, because we are coming to the end of the Parliament. Everyone gets a bit excited and people do want—
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member just get to his point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, questions to members are supposed to be about procedural matters, not policy, which is being outlined in the current answer.
Mr SPEAKER: The question was accepted—“why is it necessary”. I am prepared to give the member an opportunity to answer that. I did. It was a fairly long-winded answer again.
Hon Ruth Dyson: What support has she seen in favour of her bill to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks?
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the question, Sue Moroney, provided the answer is relatively terse.
SUE MORONEY: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Apart from the support of 99.6 percent of the 3,807 submitters on the bill and 62 percent of New Zealanders polled by Colmar Brunton last year, I have also seen a press statement from Plunket after the National Government’s decision for a small extension to paid parental leave in Budget 2014. It called for paid parental leave to be increased to 26 weeks as a medium-term goal. That is exactly what my bill does.