Questions and Answers - July 22
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Prime Minister—Statements 1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement: “We have a plan, and that plan is working for New Zealand.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Absolutely!
Hon Member: Just a few of them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: You will hear it in the campaign, son.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, you think manual labour is the Prime Minister of Mexico, don’t you?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The interjections coming from the right-hand back of the House will cease.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you for bringing order, Mr Speaker. If the plan is working, why are well over 148,000 Kiwis unemployed and a further 100,000 seeking much more work than they have currently got?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the unemployment rate in New Zealand is falling. The participation rate in New Zealand is dramatically increasing. I would be a bit cautious about quoting those numbers, because that is off the household labour force survey and it indicates anybody who is looking for 1 hour of work or more.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the plan is working, why is New Zealand’s total international debt at a staggering $150 billion?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It depends on how the member is measuring that, but I would indicate that, of course, over the last 5 or 6 years the Government has borrowed. If the member is going to come with me down to Christchurch and tell the people of Christchurch that New Zealand First does not care about them and would not have borrowed money to support them, then I really look forward to the member standing next to me and saying to the people of Christchurch: “It’s common sense just to leave you behind.” A National Government would not do that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the plan is working in what a former Prime Minister called a property-owning democracy, why is homeownership at its lowest percentage rate since 1951? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We might dispute the fact, but what we can say is that the Government has a comprehensive plan that is actually starting to work in relation to homeownership, and if the member wants to support us in terms of reform of the Resource Management Act, which will allow us to speed up that process even more, again, he should feel free to come over here and put his
warm little hand in mine and together we can sing a song. It is common sense to have reform of the Resource Management Act.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the plan is working in a country where a former National labour Minister knew the name of every unemployed person because there were only 29 of them, how come 22 percent of Māori and 25 percent of Pasifika people aged between 15 and 24 are unemployed in their own country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think that the time at which a Minister of Labour could name every single person who was unemployed was the time when moas were around in New Zealand. I do not think that has worked terribly well. But the reality is that the Government has been investing heavily in a range of areas to deliver economic growth and it is working for New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the National Party was “working for New Zealand”, why would it have to say it and spend millions in public relations trying to hawk that delusional message?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The party is running a campaign message that it is working for New Zealand because that reflects a Government that over the last 6 years has worked very hard for the people of New Zealand across a wide range of areas. It also reflects a party that has received significant support from New Zealanders on the back of the fact that they do believe, in fact, that it is working for New Zealand.
Regional Economies—Development and Employment 2. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on regional development, if so, how many regions of New Zealand now have a lower number of people unemployed according to the Household Labour Force Survey compared to when he took office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. Three regions currently have fewer people looking for work than in the March quarter of 2009. But, more important, eight regions have—
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister is not addressing the question, which was in how many regions there are a lower number of people unemployed. That is different from how many people are looking for work.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. I will listen to the answer that is given by the Prime Minister. My first indication is that he was addressing the question, but I will listen carefully and make a decision when he concludes his answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The answer is yes. Three regions currently have fewer people looking for work than in the March quarter of 2009, but, more important, eight regions have more people actually with a job than in March 2009, and across all of New Zealand in the last year 84,000 more people were employed, fewer people were unemployed, and the unemployment rate has dropped to 6 percent.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister understand that the regions are not doing well under his Government when the only region to have fewer people unemployed now is Canterbury, and despite the rebuild there are only 200 fewer people unemployed than in 2008, or is higher unemployment his definition of New Zealand working?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Actually, the regions are, for the most part, doing pretty well. But I know two ways to help the regions. One of them would be to ensure that when there is a natural disaster and timber is blown over in the regions, rather than allowing it to rot, you would actually pick it up, mill it, and create jobs. I know another way, and that is when 3,000 people’s jobs in Southland are on the line, you provide a bit of support to get them through it. But I do know of cases where unemployment might rise, and they are in Northland and Napier, and the reason I know that is that they are the places where Labour candidates have been talking to the Sunday Star-Times about the leader—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer will not help the order of this House.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister understand that people are not doing well in his regions when 13 out of 16 regions have lower weekly median incomes now than when he took office—13 out of 16 regions are worse off after his GST and price increases?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We do not accept the member’s numbers or versions of events. But here is what we do know about the regions: they rely very heavily on agriculture, on oil and gas, and on minerals. They also rely on businesses that are taxed fairly. What are the Labour Party policies? Oh, that is right! It is to get rid of agriculture with the Greens, get rid of oil and gas exploration, and put a capital gains tax on every business around the regions.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why is the Prime Minister pinning all his hopes for regional development on the dairy industry when dairy prices have already collapsed 30 percent in the last 6 months, and Federated Farmers has told me that 20 percent of farmers will go to the wall if the payout hits $6?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member has named more crises in the last 10 months than people who actually support him in his own caucus, so let us get that bit right for a start off. Secondly, yes, dairy prices have come off a little bit from their absolute high, but I am proud to lead a political party that actually supports agriculture and rural New Zealand. We support them with a fair emissions trading scheme, not one that is going to whack a massive price on agriculture. We support them through roading development in the regions. We support them with ultra-fast broadband. We support them with investment in science. We support them with irrigation and water schemes. We support them on a number of different fronts. When the member went to Federated Farmers, my understanding was that he got a reception very similar to the one he got at his caucus meeting today.
Hon David Cunliffe: If the Prime Minister cares so much about regional development, why was the best he could tell the Local Government New Zealand conference in Nelson this morning that he was going to hand it over to social media to come up with flimflam ideas on red tape because his team cannot do the work for themselves, and why will he not do something more constructive, like put up $200 million of major partnership projects like a Labour Government would, which was very well received by Local Government New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member got one thing right. I have got a team and I do not call my team members scabs.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order and I will hear it in silence.
Hon David Cunliffe: I have just sat back and watched the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member just come to his point of order—[Interruption] Order! I say to Mr Brownlee.
Hon David Cunliffe: —make insinuations about the Labour caucus, which had nothing to do with his portfolio or the answers to his questions. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: Mr Speaker, if I may, I want to put on record that my caucus is a hard-working—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Would the member—[Interruption] Order! I gave the member considerable opportunity to come to a point of order that may have been relevant. In my opinion, he did not.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a fresh point of order?
Hon David Cunliffe: Yes. Just to clarify your ruling, are you saying that the Prime Minister was within the Standing Orders with his last answer?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, I am. In light of the question that was asked, I am certainly not saying there was anything unparliamentary in the answer. The answer probably, in fact, certainly was not helpful to the order of the House. I then listened to the point of order, and the member was using the point of order to make a statement that was not actually relevant to the order of this House.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister think his personal brand of wit is going to help New Zealanders when half the families in Kawerau live on less than $40,000 a year, a third of the town depends on a benefit, and in other areas over half the families earn over $100,000 and less than 10 percent are dependent on a benefit, or is he happy with that kind of game of two halves and with making jokes about politics, instead of helping New Zealanders in their lives?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I could take the member seriously if he was actually prepared to support economic development initiatives, but unfortunately his record, and the Opposition’s record over the course of the last 6 years, has been to oppose every decent economic development initiative. If the member thinks whacking up a $200 million slush fund over 4 years to try to compensate for being opposed to agriculture, opposed to mining, putting on capital gains taxes, and increasing all sorts of other costs is somehow going to stop things—
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder whether you could clarify whether it is in order for the Prime Minister to mischaracterise Labour’s policies, instead of actually—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now, on two occasions, using a point of order to try to make what is effectively a political statement. He can do that by asking the right sort of question in the first place.
Hon David Cunliffe: When there are regions likeŌpōtiki where one in five working-age people are on a benefit and the community is crying out for job opportunities, does it not make sense to spend on projects to create an economic step change, rather than spend millions of dollars every year on welfare, or does he think that is a joke too?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It might make sense for individual projects, but I would make the point that every time the Government has suggested that there are individual projects that might have some merit, the Opposition has voted against them. So it is all very well coming into this House now, 61 days out, with a party that is in absolute disarray, trying to make out that he cares about New Zealanders, but he does not.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister understand that the regions of New Zealand are not doing well under his Government when the number of young people not in education, employment, or training has risen in three-quarters of the regions, under his Government, with devastating social consequences?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, a lot of the regions are doing particularly well, and they can do better when they are given the opportunities to do better, which is why reform of the Resource Management Act would help them. That is why irrigation schemes across New Zealand may make a significant difference. That is why expanding the oil and gas and mineral sectors across the regions might make a difference. The member’s own candidates are out there—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The answer is sufficient.
Families—Government Support 3. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National - Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What measures has the Government taken to support New Zealand families – particularly through delivering better public services to those most in need?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Two years ago the Prime Minister set 10 challenging results targets for Ministers and the Public Service, which focus on helping some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable people. These targets are transparent and updated publicly every 6 months. The latest update yesterday confirmed that the Government is making good overall progress in reducing welfare dependency, supporting vulnerable children, boosting skills in employment, reducing crime, and improving citizens’ interaction with the Government. More school-leavers are retaining National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, for instance. More New Zealanders are moving off welfare into work, and crime is falling. As we said yesterday,
there is more to do in some areas, but overall these indicators show that we are moving in the right direction on some of our more challenging social problems.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did the Government set 10 challenging Public Service targets 2 years ago?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because we found that the Public Service, which had had large amounts of extra money up to 2008, was not thinking hard enough about what results the Government was trying to achieve for people, whereas it was quite good at thinking about how to get more funding for its departments. We also felt that the Government should put itself to the test by being held accountable as to whether it was achieving for New Zealanders the kind of results that taxpayers expect when they hand over billions of dollars a year to be spent on public services. What we have learnt from this exercise is that what works for the community—a safer community, a stronger community—is also good for the Government’s books.
Hon David Parker: Has he asked the Minister responsible for Better Public Services result No. 8, the Hon Judith Collins, why she did not inform him in 2012 that she knew that recorded crime statistics in her own electorate and South Auckland were incorrect, thus undermining the integrity of the Better Public Services results; and, if she did ask her, what was her answer; and, if he did not ask her, why has he not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I expect that the Minister was not asked that question. Crime is clearly falling. The police—
Hon Member: No, it’s not.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, it is—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Thank you.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We know the Labour Party does not trust the police, but we do. The Police Commissioner—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is question time. My question was specific. It had two parts. But it is not an opportunity for the Deputy Prime Minister to misrepresent Labour Party policy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I struggle to accept the member’s point that the question was specific. It was quite a long question. I accept it was in two parts. I attempted to write it down. I guess the way forward is to invite the member to ask his question again, but if he could make it more succinct it would help me perhaps get the answer the member might be expecting.
Hon David Parker: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Has he asked the Minister responsible for Better Public Services result No. 8, the Hon Judith Collins, why she did not inform him in 2012 that she knew that recorded crime statistics in her own electorate and South Auckland were incorrect; and, if he has not, why has he not asked her?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. The subsequent comments of the Minister of Police have indicated that the police have moved to deal with what they are quite sure is a one-off situation. This is a matter of trust in the police. The Government trusts the police. The Opposition clearly does not. But the public do, and that is not the first time the Opposition has been out of step.
Jami-Lee Ross: What recent reports has the Minister received on the impact of the Government’s significant support programmes on household incomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have received the latest annual household incomes report from the Ministry of Social Development, which is regarded as the most authoritative analysis on incomes in New Zealand. It notes that income inequality has been volatile in recent years, with the global financial crisis impacting on investment returns, employment, and wages. It concludes that there is no evidence of any general rise or fall in income inequality since the mid-1990s. The trend line is almost flat, and some people who have looked at it say that it is falling. There is no evidence of any general rise or fall in income inequality since the mid-1990s, so those who claim that income inequality in New Zealand is getting worse—that is, those who claim the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer—are simply not correct. The facts show that that is not the case.
Prime Minister—Government Policies 4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader - Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government’s policies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister accept that his policies have failed the 35,000 more children now living in severe poverty—that is, in families living on less than half the median income after housing costs—since he became Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Metiria Turei: Is his Government responsible at all for the fact that 205,000 New Zealand children are now living in severe poverty—that is, in families living on less than half the median income after housing costs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would question the member’s facts. Secondly, I would say that the Government is providing tremendous support across a range of different initiatives, and it has done so for a long time. It also borrowed significantly during the global financial crisis to support the most vulnerable New Zealanders. A number of parties in this Parliament already today have criticised the Government for borrowing to support those vulnerable New Zealanders, and I am a bit surprised by that.
Metiria Turei: Can the Prime Minister confirm that his Better Public Services targets for reducing the Third World disease rheumatic fever are failing, and that, in fact, there were 26 more children hospitalised for rheumatic fever last year than the year before, and the overall rate of rheumatic fever has increased under his Government by 16 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not think it is right to say it is failing. The Government has invested over $65 million in rheumatic fever. I think what is fair to say is that there is much more awareness of rheumatic fever since there has been a lot more reporting. I think there is a lot more to be done in that case, but the Government is running an intensive programme in schools and in hospital facilities to try to get on top of rheumatic fever, and it will continue to invest in that area because it is a Third World disease that New Zealand needs to eradicate.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister accept that rheumatic fever is a disease of poverty?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think there are a number of reasons why there is rheumatic fever. It is largely attributed to overcrowding, but there are a range of reasons why there is rheumatic fever.
Metiria Turei: Is it not the truth that his own data from his own Government agencies and his own targets now prove that his policies are driving children into severe poverty, that they are getting sick and in some cases are dying as a result of that sickness, and that all children in New Zealand deserve a Government that will put their interests first?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I simply do not accept that. I think that the Government over the course of the last 6 years has done the best it can, in the conditions it has inherited, globally and domestically, to support the most vulnerable New Zealanders. I know that that member lives in a dream world where she believes she can say no to every economic initiative and at the same moment promise the earth to every New Zealander, but everybody knows she is not credible when it comes to that.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier on you admonished members on this side of the House for including political material in an inappropriate situation. The Prime Minister in pretty much every answer he has given today has done that. You have slowly risen to your feet occasionally to bring him to order, but you have actually not done so yet again here, and I just want to seek some clarification that the pattern will now continue where he can say whatever he likes—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no pattern in this House whereby the Prime Minister can say whatever he likes.
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If members want to stay for the balance of question time, I expect some cooperation when I am on my feet, and that includes the very front bench and senior members of
the Labour Party. I invite members, when they consider that question and answer, to go back and look at the tone of the question that was asked. Further supplementary—[Interruption] Order! I will issue the final warning to the Hon Annette King. If she interjects again like that, with that sort of barrage, I will be asking her to leave the Chamber.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister think that 205,000 children living in families with less than half the median wage have enough to thrive?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Sorry, I thought the member was finishing the question. What I do think is that the fastest way to move—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are just not paying attention, Mr Speaker, so—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will withdraw that remark immediately.
Metiria Turei: I withdraw. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given the Prime Minister’s failure to hear the question, I seek your leave to repeat the question for him.
Mr SPEAKER: Absolutely. That is in order, because he was not the only one who failed to hear the end of it; I failed to hear it, as well.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister think that the 205,000 children living in families with less than half the median wage have enough to thrive?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the fastest way to help those children out of poor economic conditions—although I do not necessarily accept her analysis of all of them—is to get those families into work. What I know is that the Green Party is opposed to jobs.
Welfare Reforms—Reports 5. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received about the progress of the Government’s welfare reforms?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): I have seen reports where over the last 2 years we have nearly 30,000 fewer children living in welfare-dependent homes. We are making great progress getting people off welfare and into work, with over 1,500 going into work each week. Overall, the number of people on a benefit has fallen by more than 16,000 over the last year. The number of people on a benefit peaked in December 2010 after the global financial crisis. There are now nearly 60,000 fewer people on a benefit than then, and sole parents continue to lead the way, with a significant 10.7 percent drop over the last year alone.
Alfred Ngaro: What progress has been made towards reaching the Better Public Services target of significantly reducing long-term benefit dependency?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am very pleased that we are on track to achieve a 30 percent reduction in the number of people who have been continuously receiving working-age job seeker support benefits for more than 12 months. Over the year to March 2014 the number of people on job seeker support for more than 12 months dropped by 6,434 to 68,932. That is an 8.5 percent decrease.
Jacinda Ardern: How many people have been affected by her decision to no longer allow a person working 30 hours a week to have their income topped up by a main benefit, even if their wages are so low they cannot support themselves or their family?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have that exact number in front of me, but what I will say is that for anyone working more than 20 hours a week, even on the minimum wage, by the time you add in the in-work tax credit, Working for Families, and the accommodation supplement that they are likely to be eligible for, they are better off than they would have been on benefit.
Economy—Impact of Dairy Prices 6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader - Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Has he seen reports that $4 billion to $5 billion will be sucked out of the economy due to the 35 percent fall in
dairy prices since February, and what policy responses, if any, does he intend to make to counteract this?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I have seen some reports that show that, like opinion polls, dairy prices go up and down. I can tell the member that we do not intend to counteract the drop in dairy prices by trying to shut down the industry, as Labour and the Greens are promising.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with Goldman Sachs andRabobank that there will be an oversupply of dairy products worldwide for the next 5 years, putting more downward pressure on prices, and what plan does he have to improve the New Zealand economy in light of that?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, the dairy industry itself has a proud record of global competitiveness and resilience, and I am quite confident that it will manage any fluctuation in prices that occur over the next few years. I might say that prices right now are still at relatively high levels. The decrease we have seen has been from record highs. The decrease was not unexpected. As I said, the dairy industry will deal with it. The Government, of course, is proceeding with its Business Growth Agenda, which is producing some quite impressive results—for instance, a significant number of IT companies now listing for the first time on the stock exchange, enabling diversification of investment for New Zealand savers.
Hon David Parker: Well, then does he not regret doing virtually nothing about the wood-processing industry decline, which has seen large job losses that are concentrated in the regions, and now, after having less added value and fewer jobs, face the consequences of a massive drop in log prices?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, there have been some job losses in that sector, including, I might say, in my own electorate. But the member is painting a partial picture. There have, of course, been very high returns in the industry to forest owners and there have been significant other new investments in further processing. In any case, after 30 years of the Labour Party talking about trying to add more added value in timber in New Zealand, it has never come up with a scheme that succeeds and, of course, it never will. Bureaucrats and politicians do not understand the complexity of managing the risks of producing a natural product and selling it halfway across the world. Our timber industry does understand those risks. It does a remarkably good job of it in sometimes difficult circumstances.
Hon David Parker: Well, then, has he missed the public comments from the chief executive of Red Stag Timber who said that if Labour’s forestry package was implemented, Red Stag Timber would invest immediately an additional $120 million in forest processing?
Mr SPEAKER: I call the Hon Bill English, in as far as he has ministerial responsibility.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen the comments, and it is not surprising that the person leading that company would invest more if he thought the Government was going to underwrite his risks. A lot of people would. Whether, of course, that is sustainable is a completely different issue.
Hon David Parker: Given that the trade-weighted index and the New Zealand dollar are still at elevated levels despite the prices of two of our major exports, logs and dairy, collapsing in recent months, does he now accept that there is something wrong with monetary policy as well as tax and savings settings, or does he blame it on his failed housing policy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Now that the member has labelled it a crisis, I am sure it will start coming right, because that is the same thing that has happened with the regional crisis, the infrastructure crisis, the employment crisis, and the manufacturing crisis. Yes, the dollar is at elevated levels. One of the reasons for that, which the member should keep in mind, is the relatively strong performance of the New Zealand economy compared with other economies. The Kiwi dollar can buy more for households today than at any time in the last 50 years. We see that as a success, but, of course, it is an ongoing challenge for our export sector, and we back them by taking every measure we can to improve their competitiveness. The Opposition’s policies are designed to hamstring, if not shut down, big parts of our export sector.
Better Public Services Targets—Student Achievement 7. LOUISE UPSTON (National - Taupō) to the Minister of Education: What progress is being made on Better Public Services targets in education?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): I can advise that good progress overall across the country is being made towards these targets. With early childhood education participation, the recent increase to 95.9 percent gives many more children the right start in life. For 18-year-olds with a minimum National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2 qualification, achievement is up more than 10 percentage points since 2008. This shows what happens when school leaders, teachers, parents, communities, and public servants work together with a focus on achievement. This year I wrote to the principals and board chairs of nearly 80 schools that had significantly increased achievement in NCEA and congratulated them on their success. We should all applaud them for their efforts.
Louise Upston: Can the Minister advise what approaches she is aware of that are making a difference to student achievement?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: A number of approaches are making a difference, and central to these is collaboration. For example, we have around 200 secondary schools—about half of all secondary schools—participating in a targeted achievement drive, where the Ministry of Education, schools themselves, parents, and the communities are focused on identifying which children need support, what their needs are, and how to bring quality teaching and strong parental involvement to meet their needs. Although we are making good progress, it will get tougher as we continue towards our target. We are not shying away from that. That is why we are investing more in collaboration and the quality of teaching and leadership.
Crime Statistics—Reporting by Counties-Manukau Police 8. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister of Police: When was the Minister of Police first informed of the misreporting of Police statistics in Counties Manukau, and what did she do with the information when she first received it?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): I was briefed by Deputy Police Commissioner Bush on 21 May 2012 that a small number of staff in Counties Manukau south had been found to be incorrectly recoding burglaries and that employment investigations of the staff involved would be undertaken. During this briefing, I sought and received assurances that this was an isolated event and that police have appropriate checks and balances in place to ensure that crime statistics are accurate, including regular spot checks and audits. I also gave Minister Collins, as the local MP, a heads-up on this matter following this briefing. Since 2012 police have established a national data coordinator, recruited champions in each district to provide expertise to staff on data entry standards, and have ongoing programmes of education and training to ensure staff fully meet requirements when entering data into the police system.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she believe it was appropriate for Judith Collins to choose not to pass on information relating to the misreporting of police statistics when she was made aware of it earlier in 2012?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have no ministerial responsibility for any information that another Minister might have. However, I am aware that when I briefed Minister Collins, following my verbal briefing, she had heard some gossip about a senior—[Interruption] If you let me finish—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Allow the Minister to complete her answer.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Thank you, Mr Speaker. She had heard some gossip about a senior police officer leaving the police.
Hon Member: What was the gossip?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This Government does not deal in gossip; this Government deals in facts, and the facts are that crime has fallen over the last 4 years by 20 percent. This Government
supports the police, while the previous Government, under which crime rose, continues to try to undermine our police.
Jacinda Ardern: When the Minister advised Judith Collins of the situation, did Judith Collins give her an explanation as to why she did not ask the police to investigate what she has labelled as gossip?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I repeat that I have no ministerial responsibility for the actions of another Minister. My responsibility—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has absolute responsibility for whether she asked, and that is what she was asking, and to say that she does not is incorrect.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is responsible now to answer to the House, and how she decides to answer to the House is for her to judge, and it is then for this House and the public of New Zealand to judge the answer.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have no responsibility for other Ministers receiving gossip. What I had the responsibility for as the Minister of Police was receiving information from the police that there had been a problem—a small problem—with statistics. Less than 0.5 percentof 1 percent of the Counties Manukau statistics had been incorrectly coded. What I had responsibility for was making sure that a full investigation had taken place and seeking assurances from the police that this was a small, isolated incident that had been amended and that there was no further danger of statistics being wrong.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the Minister tell us whether under her watch and Ms Collins’ watch the numbers of police per capita have gone down or up? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Does the Minister want the question again? Could the member please repeat the question as clearly as he can?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The police numbers per thousand under Ms Collins and herself—have the numbers gone done or up after 2008?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is very wide of the primary question. However—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I have allowed the question, so the Minister can address it.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am happy to say that there has been, per capita, as the population has risen—and despite the fact that this Government has paid for an extra 600 police—a slight decrease, but this Government has provided the police with mobile phones and iPads, and that has produced—[Interruption] Members may laugh, but, actually, that has produced an efficiency the equivalent of an extra 354 police per year. So that has increased the per capita.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she believe it was appropriate for Judith Collins, in 2014 when discussing the declining crimes statistics, to say “The results are due to the hard work and dedication of many sectors within justice, and I know our Counties Manukau divisions are a big part of that.”, given that she was made aware of the misreporting of statistics in Counties Manukau in 2012 and did not disclose that information to her or to the public?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I think it is absolutely in order for Minister Collins to praise the hard work of the police in Counties Manukau, which has seen an extraordinary drop in reported crime right across the whole of Counties Manukau, and this Government—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Could Mr Mallard please get himself under control.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: What I do find astounding is that the members of the Opposition are determined to undermine the fantastic work of our police right across the country when today’s front page of the New Zealand Herald actually talks about the hard work that they are doing on behalf of New Zealand citizens.
Jacinda Ardern: When she indicated that she was satisfied that misreporting of crimes statistics from 2009 was an isolated incident, what evidence had she seen to give her this confidence?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I sought assurances from the Commissioner of Police—and I trust the Commissioner of Police; I do not believe that the Commissioner of Police lies—and he assured me
that they had conducted spot audits. We are talking about 696 recoded burglaries out of a total of 1.25 million recorded offences. That is in the margin of error, probably where the Labour Opposition enjoys wallowing.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Better Public Services Targets—Justice Sector
Hon Maryan Street: Last chance, Tau.
Hon TAU HENARE: Your last chance. What recent Better Public Services—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member like to start again and could those on my left hand side cease the interjections, please.
Hon TAU HENARE: What recent Better Public Services—[Interruption] Oh, talk to your husband.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I know it is a big moment for the member, so I invite him to ask his question and I will not accept any interjection from my left. 9. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Justice: What recent Better Public Services results has she announced for the justice sector?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): I am delighted to have announced yesterday that the justice sector has already surpassed two of its four Better Public Services targets. As at 31 March the total crime rate was down by 16 percent against a 2017 target of 15 percent, and Youth Court appearances were down by 30 percent against a 2017 target of 25 percent. In addition, violent crime—and Mr Mallard might want to hear about this—was down by 11 percent against a target of 20 percent. The reoffending rate—yes, Mr Mallard again—was down by 12.2 percent against a target of 25 percent. Together with the Attorney-General, the Minister of Police, the Minister of Corrections, and the Minister for Courts I congratulate the justice sector agencies on their commitment to reducing crime and making New Zealand an even safer place for us all.
Hon Tau Henare: What justice sector initiatives will further reduce crime?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The justice sector has a range of collaborative initiatives, including extending the very successful Hutt Valley innovation project to three additional areas, to enhance on-the-ground cooperation between agencies, and a major focus on family violence through the recently announced all-of-Government family violence response, which will include GPS monitoring of high-risk offenders, alarms for high-risk victims, improved court systems and processes to deal better with family violence, a review of the Domestic Violence Act, and additional community support to encourage communities to reject family violence. The sector, as a whole, is committed to continuing to reduce crime in New Zealand.
Andrew Little: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. What improvements are her Better Public Services measures showing in relation to access to justice following the 35 percent cut in legal aid funding since 2010, cuts in support for parties to Family Court proceedings, and cuts in court registry staff, causing more delays and greater injustice?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: What we are seeing is a reduction in crime and a reduction in the number of people needing to use the courts. I have just received recently an oral report regarding the Family Court reforms that has shown that so far they have been very successful in helping to keep people out of court. Also, when it comes to people not committing crime, we do not need to have legal aid to help them, because they are not actually in court.
Student Achievement—Investing in Educational Success Programme 10. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour - Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: What evidence does she have that the Government’s Investing in Educational Success programme, which removes teachers and principals from their classrooms for two days a week, is the best way to spend over $359 million in order to raise student achievement?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Evidence from New Zealand and around the world informed the Government’s Investing in Educational Success initiative. To save the House time, I would refer the member back to my response to question No. 7 from that member on 10 April of this year and to my subsequent responses to his repeated questions on the same subject. I suggest that the member spend time reading it as opposed to the other activities that the member might be spending his time less constructively on. In New Zealand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that answer is complete.
Chris Hipkins: Did she read the Treasury-commissioned working paper that found that smaller class sizes were associated with more completed education as of age 21, a lower incidence of unemployment, and shorter durations of unemployment for those who did experience it; if so, why did she instead choose to pay just 2 percent of teachers more, rather than lowering class sizes?
Mr SPEAKER: Hon Hekia Parata, either of those questions.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did not read that, although I did read theSunday Star-Times. Professor Hattie, in his responses, talked about the fact that, certainly, by reducing class sizes by two or three, you will not see the difference at all. This has been tried in many, many countries and, quite frankly, it is not going to make a difference at all. However, can I also remind the member that in the period from 1998 to 2002, teacher numbers went up by 20 percent while student numbers went up by 5 percent, and yet achievement flat-lined under that former administration. Under our Government, teacher numbers have gone up by 15 percent while student numbers have gone up by 0.7 percent, and achievement has grown. So it is not either/or, I say to that member; it is how you invest in both the number of teachers and the quality of their teaching practice. That is what this is Government is doing.
Chris Hipkins: Which of the following factors does she believe will be enhanced by the National Government’s policy of bigger class sizes: teacher one-to-one time with each student, a teacher’s ability to manage student behaviour, reciprocal teaching, feedback between teachers and students, and teacher professional development—all of which rank higher in John Hattie’s meta-study, which she just quoted, than many of the failed Government policies like charter schools and constant test-taking?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is quite wrong. That is not our policy. Our policy is about an additional $359 million, investing quality teaching and leadership time. It is based on research from around the world. Indeed, the member is well aware that in many collective agreement negotiations, unions that support the member’s party have argued for exactly this. What we are doing is recognising the education profession. We are proposing that 1,000 teachers will be recognised for their expertise—that is, one in 50 teachers across the country—and that 5,000 lead teachers will remain in their classrooms and continue to spread their expertise. It is based not only on research but on actual practice here in New Zealand.
Chris Hipkins: What specific research can she point to that proves that the removal of a primary school teacher from their classroom for 2 out of 5 days in the week in every week will not impact on the achievement of their students?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The 4.5 million release time hours that we already provide to schools every year. They develop their professional practice, they develop their expertise, and they come back into their classrooms better off as a result—4.5 million hours of teacher release time.
Chris Hipkins: Has she seen the report from the National Education Policy Center in the US that found that “Research supports the common-sense notion that children learn more and teachers are more effective in smaller classes.”; if so, why does she continue to argue that paying 2 percent of teachers more is a better way of raising achievement for all students?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have not seen that particular piece of research, but it also commented, by the way, on partnership schools.
Chris Hipkins: Was it not in the Sunday Star-Times?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Well, you have more familiarity with the Sunday Star-Times, Mr Hipkins, than I do. What we do know is that unless the quality of the teaching improves, it does not have an effect, and so we are doing both. We have increased the number of teachers and are increasing our investment in the quality of their teaching practice.
Chris Hipkins: You didn’t increase the number of teachers at all.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We have, by 15 percent—if the member was listening—in the last 5 years, while student numbers have gone up by 0.7 percent. Perhaps the member might like to use another supplementary question rather than barracking and not listening to my answers, which is so helpful!
Mr SPEAKER: And that will be over to the member to determine.
Native Birds—Conservation Initiatives 11. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Conservation: What new initiatives has the Government taken in the Rimutakas and other areas to help the recovery of endangered native bird populations?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Last Friday, with the strong encouragement of Chris Bishop, the local National candidate, I announced a new conservation partnership with the Rimutaka Forest Park Charitable Trust for the recovery of the North Island brown kiwi. The initiative is particularly special because it will enable a vibrant population of kiwi over 7,000 hectares of forest, in close proximity to the capital and a large urban population. I am advised that without such initiatives, kiwi populations in the wild will go the way of the moa.
Paul Foster-Bell: Is the Minister considering reintroduction of moa to the Rimutaka Forest, as suggested by a local MP; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No. National’s focus is on practical conservation initiatives, rather than pipedreams. But I do note that kiwi and moa are from the same ancient descendants of the family of birds, and we could call this the mini-moa programme. I also note that the more distant relative of the kiwi and the moa, the mallard, is becoming increasingly endangered in the Rimutakas, but there is little support for a local recovery programme, and I am advised that it is likely to become extinct in late September.
Finance, Minister—Statements 12. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does he stand by his statement to a public meeting at the Kelston Community Centre on 15 July that action on climate change is “a non-issue at the moment, because there are more pressing concerns.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I did make comments to that effect. I said the main issue is not climate change. There are a lot of other issues to work on before we get to that. I also said we can talk about this at a meeting, but people struggling to put food on the table have greater issues to worry about. The problem with the Greens is they do not see success when it is staring them in the face: low carbon prices, the shift to fuel-efficient technologies, and less use of cars.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does he stand by his statement of the same day, at the same meeting, that there is “a debate about the evidence on climate change, such as sea level rise”, despite overwhelming scientific agreement that it is a fact?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think there is much debate about some aspects, such as the idea that more carbon produces global warming, but, as with any complex scientific idea, these different hypotheses are getting tested. Some will stand those tests, and some will not. But, again, I do not think that would be a topic high on the agenda at the kitchen tables in Kelston. I think that in Kelston they are probably more worried about the prospects of keeping their jobs, getting a new job,
and where they can go to vote for the National Government, which seems to be really helping them out.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does he understand that climate change means more extreme weather events like the floods and more droughts as those of 2013, which cost New Zealand’s economy more than $2 billion?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It may, or it may not. I have to say that explaining those floods in those terms is not a high priority for the Government. We have got to get in there and help clean up in Northland. We have got to pay attention to the resilience of the infrastructure, because we believe that adaptation to climate change is really important, and we want to get on with that.