Questions and Answers - July 24
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Inflation—Government Measures to Address 1. Hon PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Finance: What measures is the Government taking to help control inflation for New Zealand families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Among a number of sensible economic measures, the Government has maintained practical and predictable monetary policy in the hands of an independent Reserve Bank. This assists to control the cost of living. Among the policies, the Government is working hard to get back to surplus this year, and to ensure existing spending is focused on programmes that make a real difference to New Zealanders rather than going on a large spend-up, which puts pressure on interest rates and the cost of living. We are supporting businesses to invest and create jobs, and incomes are rising faster than inflation. Consumer prices rose by 1.6 percent in the year to 30 June and food prices were up by 1.2 percent for the year. That compares with overall inflation of 5.1 percent in 2008, when annual food prices jumped by 11 percent rather than by 1.2 percent.
Hon Phil Heatley: How did consumer price inflation for the last June year compare with market expectations and what were the main components of that annual result?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The quarterly Consumers Price Index increase of 0.3 percent and the annual rise of 1.6 percent were slightly below market expectations. Annual inflation remains in the lower half of the Reserve Bank’s 1 to 3 percent target zone, which is good news for households and businesses. In the June year the strong exchange rate was reflected in lower prices for audiovisual and computing equipment, lower vehicle prices, and a fall in prices for telecommunications services. These falls were offset by slightly higher prices for housing and household utility prices and increased costs for cigarettes and tobacco after an excise duty increase in January.
Hon David Parker: Is he aware that Consumers Price Index inflation does not incorporate interest rate increases, therefore hiding the significant increases to mortgage rates that have occurred over the past year because of his Government’s failure in Auckland housing policy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think any interest rates increases have been hidden. People have been getting notifications in the mail for the last 3 or 4 months about their interest rates going up. I would point out to the member that at 3.5 percent the official cash rate is less than half what it was when his Government left office in 2008, when it reached a record 8.25 percent. The interest rate that he is claiming is too high is 3.5 percent; when he was in charge it reached 8.25 percent.
Hon Phil Heatley: What recent reports has he received on likely future trends in the cost of living?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In its review of the official cash rate this morning the Reserve Bank said that overall “Inflation remains moderate, but strong growth in output has been absorbing spare capacity.” Its independent decision to raise the official cash rate to 3.5 percent is expected to keep
future average inflation near the 2 percent target and ensure that the economic expansion can be sustained. I am sure the House understands just how significant the Reserve Bank’s statements are. With the official cash rate at 3.5 percent the Reserve Bank is indicating that we can sustain growth around 3 percent. That is in sharp contrast to the interest rate structure under the previous Labour Government, when the official cash rate never fell below 4.75 percent in 9 years. When Labour left office it was at 8.25 percent, inflation was above 5 percent, floating mortgage interest rates were almost 11 percent, and house prices had doubled in the previous 7 years. It looks like we will be able to avoid all of those mistakes this time round.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister compares interest rates with the USA, China, Japan, the UK, and nearly all of Europe, is it not a fact that, comparatively, we are paying the highest interest rates in 50 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: New Zealand is paying the lowest interest rates it has had in 50 years, or just slightly above. Of course, if the member wants long-term recession and enormous Government debt like they have in the UK and Europe, then of course we would have zero to 1 percent interest rates. But, actually, this Government chooses more jobs, more investment, and more growth, and that is why we have higher interest rates than they do.
Hon Phil Heatley: What reports has he seen on alternative approaches to monetary policy and economic management, and what impact would they have on the cost of living for New Zealand families?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have just seen one alternative approach from the leader of New Zealand First, who is suggesting that we have large deficits, enormous Government debt, and low growth rates, and that, therefore, we would have low interest rates.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is out of order. He cannot say that and speak for another party, particularly one that knows what it is doing.
Mr SPEAKER: The Rt Hon Winston Peters raises a reasonable point. It is inappropriate for any member to ask a question that is simply a means of attacking another party. Does the Minister want to add further to the answer?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course I do.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Minister can, but it had better not be an attack on another political party.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports from parties that are so worried about the cost of living that they are going to put a $25 carbon tax on, which, of course, will raise the cost of living, not lower it.
Prime Minister—Statements 2. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon David Parker: Does he stand by his statement that “My style is to be open and transparent ...”; if so, why will he not be open and transparent and tell New Zealanders what Claudette Hauiti used her parliamentary charge card for and how much she spent?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister is the most open and transparent Prime Minister we have ever had, which accounts for why 70 percent of New Zealanders prefer him as Prime Minister and, I think, less than 7 percent prefer the Leader of the Opposition. In respect of Ms Hauiti, she has, of course, explained her expenditure this morning in some detail.
Hon David Parker: Why will the Prime Minister not disclose to New Zealanders what his office and chief of staff must have found out after investigations into this matter, especially when the Prime Minister has said of his chief of staff: “When they talk to him, they talk to me.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: My understanding is that the member in question has taken up the matter with the Parliamentary Service and with the Government whip, and believes, as she has said today,
that as of this morning all matters are resolved. The Prime Minister will not be aware of the details of that.
Hon David Parker: How is it open and transparent of the Prime Minister to refuse to read the police report about John Banks’ declaration of electoral donations, which allowed the Prime Minister to pretend that John Banks had done nothing wrong so that he could keep Mr Banks’ vote and prop up his Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is wrong on his description of those events. As I think Parliament is aware, Mr Banks has faced due process. There have been consequences for him and, actually, as far as Mr Banks, the courts, and Parliament are concerned, the matter is resolved.
Hon David Parker: How is it open and transparent to reinstate Peter Dunne as a Minister without first requiring Mr Dunne to state whether or not he did leak the Kitteridge report?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister has been completely open and transparent about those matters. Everyone knows Mr Dunne’s point of view about the events that he is referring to. Everyone knows what the Prime Minister has done. There is nothing secret about it. I just wish that the Labour Party would not try to keep secret how few people in its caucus support its leader.
Hon David Parker: Is he concerned that his pattern of behaviour is now so clear that newspapers today reported, in respect of this latest instance involving Claudette Hauiti, that “... Key’s promise of greater openness is looking threadbare.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Absolutely not. This is the most transparent, most accessible Prime Minister New Zealand has ever had. I can recall Helen Clark, as the previous Prime Minister, fighting the Ombudsman for 2 years to prevent transcripts of the post-Cabinet press conference being released. No one could imagine John Key doing that. He is very open and very transparent. That is one reason why even close to a majority of Labour voters now prefer John Key as Prime Minister, and, of course, we know why that is.
Education System—Public Achievement Information 3. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made on Public Achievement Information?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Today, I was delighted to release the latest public information from the Ministry of Education on participation and achievement across the education system, including at national, regional, territorial, local authority, and school levels. The information enables all New Zealanders to chart the progress of all children and young people at critical times in their educational journey. The Public Achievement Information released today shows we have more kids starting earlier, staying longer, and gaining better qualifications.
Dr Cam Calder: How is the reporting of achievement information useful?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is useful to parents who tell me they like to see how their kids are doing in relation to others, teachers who tell me it helps them to accelerate student progress, and principals who tell me it helps them to know how their school is doing as a whole and in their community. It is useful to kids who tell me they like being successful, to councils that tell me they like knowing how the schools in their areas are doing and about the link to their local economy and employment. It is useful to businesses that tell me this helps them identify opportunities to work more closely with their schools. Armed with this Public Achievement Information, we can all work together to help our kids succeed.
Dr Cam Calder: What progress is being made on national standards across the country?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We have seen some good progress all over the country over the last 2 years. Fifteen of our 16 regional council areas had increases from 2011 to 2013 in achievement against national standards, including gains for Māori students in 14 of those 16 areas. In the Auckland region, we now know that around 100,000 children are reported as being at or above the national standards for reading, writing, and maths in the 426 schools involved. In the West Coast
region over the last 2 years we have seen a 6.5 percent point increase in reading and writing. The reporting of this information involves more than 30,000 teachers in over 2,100 schools assessing the progress of over 400,000 primary kids. The overall consistency of the professional judgments made by these teachers give us confidence we are improving, but we have got more work to do. I want to thank each and every one of these teachers. I seek leave—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister may have finally been coming to the end of her answer, but I do support the notion that she has got more work to do, though.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a useful point of order in any way whatsoever.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I seek leave of the House to table an email exchange between a staff member of the Ministry of Education and the principal of Valley School Pukekohe from May this year. This exchange clearly shows that there was a fuller exchange—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon HEKIA PARATA: —than the selective email tabled in the House yesterday by Chris Hipkins.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The rules of Parliament mean there is a chance to describe the document, not to read out the content of the document. It is an email exchange between a principal and a Ministry of Education staffer. Leave is sought to table that exchange of emails. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to raise with you the issue around how that point of order was conducted. There were two things. One is that the Minister was seeking leave to table an email exchange, which she is perfectly at liberty to do. The second is that she appeared to be clarifying answers she gave in response to my questions yesterday, at the same time. There is a process to do both of them, and the Minister is perfectly entitled to do both of them, but she cannot do the second part as a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: It is an easy matter to resolve. The Minister is perfectly able, as is any member, to seek leave to table a document. If the document is something that is considered informative to members of the House, I will then put the leave to the House. It is then over to the House to decide whether that leave will be granted or denied. In this case the leave was granted. The document will be tabled.
Chris Hipkins: What confidence can the New Zealand public have that the national standards data she has just referred to are reliable measures of student achievement when a report released by her own ministry in September found that national standards had incorrectly measured the achievements of four out of every 10 students—40 percent?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: On that member’s record I would have to see the actual report that is being referred to for its reliability. What I can you is that the information we are releasing is based on schools’ own judgment, their own reporting, and their own data, and I am backing those teachers, unlike that member.
Roading—Hamilton to Tauranga Route 4. BRENDAN HORAN (Brendan Horan) to the Minister of Finance: Is he still of the view that a Hamilton to Tauranga route would have to be considered alongside three other projects?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): If the member is referring to some comments I made in the Waikato, I told the Waikato Times it was the Government’s approach to give long-term commitment to the regions so they have the security of knowing that there is an infrastructure plan in place and that there is long-term funding to match those plans, not just empty promises. I commented that we are doing a large building programme in Christchurch; Wellington will see Transmission Gully; in Auckland the largest project, theWaterview Connection, is well under way; and the Waikato Expressway is well under way. I also said that once we get through that programme, which is some years away, looking out to the mid-2020s is when you would get a
debate about other large projects. I told the newspaper there is no detailed planning about that yet, but it is good that people are thinking ahead.
Brendan Horan: Why should anyone believe National Party talk of plans when 6 long years ago John Key promised to four-lane the Tauranga central link—3 short kilometres—and not one dollar has been spent to do that work?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot comment in detail on that particular short piece of road, but I must say as a regular and recent visitor to Tauranga that the scope of new road building in Tauranga is such that you start wondering whether it does not exceed the growth in traffic. Because of the lobbying of local members and because of some robust analysis, there has been extensive expenditure in Tauranga. I am sure that if there is anything else there that warrants serious consideration, it will get it through the New Zealand Transport Agency process.
Brendan Horan: Has his Government not taken the people of Tauranga for granted for long enough, and will he advise the Prime Minister to apologise to the people of Tauranga tomorrow for this Government’s failure to fulfil an election promise made 6 long years ago?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: My colleague advises me that we said we would do it after the four roads of national significance were completed—four of them—and we are on track for that. I have noticed in Tauranga, though, that when the current member was elected, energetic advocacy for Tauranga rose significantly. It had already been much improved after Bob was elected, after the previous member, and with Simon Bridges’ election it has improved even more, and that accounts for the very substantial investment that is going on in Tauranga now. But for years before that, the advocacy was pretty hopeless and not much money was spent there.
Youth Programmes—Reports 5. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent reports has she received about the Government’s Youth Service initiative?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Youth Service, which is about reaching out early to young people on or at risk of going on a benefit and engaging them in education or training, is already producing great results. The latest evaluation report shows that four out of five young people enrolled in Youth Service are now in education or training, and 63 percent of 16 and 17-year-olds on the youth payment achieved National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) credits in their first year on the Youth Service, compared with just 24 percent of young people who were on the old independent youth benefit. Fourteen percent of those on the youth payment achieved NCEA level 2, compared with 5 percent before the Youth Service. Achieving NCEA level 2, of course, makes someone far more likely to be able to support themselves and be financially independent.
Melissa Lee: What evidence has she seen that the Youth Service is working to stop young people becoming dependent on the benefit in the long term?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is early days but I am pleased that we are already seeing a drop in the number of young people on the youth payment who go on to a main benefit when they turn 18. Seventy percent of young people on the youth payment did not go on to a main benefit when they turned 18 in the year to March 2014. These are young people who have often come from very difficult backgrounds. Wrapping support around them early and ensuring that they are not on a lifetime of welfare is what our Youth Service is all about.
Better Public Services Targets—Participation in Early Childhood Education 6. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Education: What was the split, if any, by percentage, of enrolment into private, public and home-based ECE in the Better Public Service targets “Result 2: Increase Participation in ECE”, and what was the relative increases/decreases, for each, from the previous year?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education):
We do not use enrolments in specific early childhood education centres to measure the Better Public Services goal. Instead, we use the prior participation rate, which measures whether or not a child participated in early childhood education before starting school. The Government is strongly committed to getting more kids into early childhood education in whatever kind of provider those parents choose, so that they are much better placed when they get to school.
Catherine Delahunty: Given her public service figures show an increase in the number of children in home-based early childhood education, does the Minister accept that the only way she was able to meet her Better Public Services targets was by forcing children to enrol into low-quality home-based early childhood education?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: No. Enrolments in home-based services made up 9.37 percent of total enrolments in both 2012 and 2013, while community-based services in 2012 were 53.1 percent and in private services it was 46.9 percent. In 2013 it was 50.8 percent for community-based services and 49.2 percent for private services.
Catherine Delahunty: Is she confident that all children who account for the increase in enrolment figures are enrolled in quality early childhood education services; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am confident that children are enrolled in the early childhood education provision that is the choice of their parents. These can be parent-based and home-based. They can be teacher-led and centre-based. They can be in Te Reo Māori, It is up to the parents as to where they enrol them and to make those determinations.
Catherine Delahunty: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the Minister’s answer but my question was about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I heard the question and I heard the answer. The question was addressed. If the member wants to take the matter further, use further supplementary questions. In fact, I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.
Catherine Delahunty: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given that the Minister canned the review of home-based early childhood education and refuses to set a requirement for 100-percent qualified teachers, how can she guarantee that children in the early childhood education services are getting quality education?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: 95.1 percent of teacher-led centres are funded at a rate of 80-plus percent for the qualified teachers. We have now 6,500 more qualified early childhood education teachers than there were in 2008. In terms of the home-based education, we continue, through a working group, to work with the home-based providers to determine how quality can be assured in that area. So the member is quite wrong in both her assertions.
Catherine Delahunty: Given that in 2011 the Minister of Education promised a specific review into home-based early childhood education because of the concerns about the sector, why is she saying that that is not going to happen?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have not said that that is not going to happen. What I have said—and just a few minutes ago—is that there is a working group on home-based provision in train now. Secondly, I have indicated that with the significant investment into ELI, the Early Learning Information System, which will give us more accurate data on both child places and hour placements—that will give us a better basis for making a determination. Thirdly, we are engaged in a funding review. By the confluence of all of this work, we will be in a better position to determine the contribution that the home-based services make to the early childhood education sector.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. E te Minita, tēnā koe. Has the Minister seen any reports on progress in increasing Māori participation in the early childhood education area in regions where participation is low, which addresses one of the milestones set out in the relationship accord with the Māori Party?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koe, te Pāti Māori. Thank you for that question. Yes. I am happy to tell you that in the past 2 years we have seen a 3 percent increase in Māori participation in early childhood education, which brings the overall total to 93 percent, and
our target is 98 percent. So it has risen significantly. We have more work to do. Region by region it is also rising. Happily, our Public Achievement Information framework will provide us with the story, by 16 regional councils and by territorial local authority, and therefore in terms of
Catherine Delahunty: Does the Minister agree with the National Health Committee when it said that poor quality early childhood education can do more harm than not participating in early childhood education at all?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Well, I have not seen that particular report, but the reports that I have seen have told us that the opportunity—
Chris Hipkins: She doesn’t read many.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I read a lot of reports, not always the Sunday Star-Times, though, and what I do know is that quality is made up of a range of things. It includes the qualifications of the teachers. It includes the involvement of parents. It includes the ratio of participation. It includes the affiliation to All of those together make up quality. Of course, the other members of the House are not interested in quality.
Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table the National Health Committee findings on the quality of early childhood education being dangerous if children do not receive—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just clarify. Is this not a document—[Interruption] Order! Is this not a document that was distributed to all members of Parliament?
Catherine Delahunty: Well, the Minister has not seen it and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not prepared to—[Interruption] Order! That document has been distributed to everybody. It will not be tabled.
Catherine Delahunty: Why has the Minister been so intent on driving the numbers of enrolments up without focusing on quality, as the Green Party is proposing to do by committing to having 100-percent qualified teachers in teacher-led early childhood services?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yet another question that is an assertion and has no fact. I am interested in how we get more kids involved in early childhood education, how we raise the diversity of choice for parents to decide for themselves where they want to send their children, and how we invest in quality. I have just told the House that 95 percent of teacher-led centres are funded at 80 percent and above. This Government has also nearly doubled the spending into early childhood education from $800 million to $1.5 billion. It is now 32 percent more affordable than it was in 2008. For every dollar a parent spends, this Government spends $3.45. Next year, for the first time, this Government has already funded a postgraduate qualification for teachers. We do what we say, rather than—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. By sitting down the Minister has answered my point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: It probably was not an appropriate point of order then.
Health, Minister—Statements 7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement that resources in Budget 2014 “will help us continue to improve frontline health services for New Zealanders”?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration) on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes. The best example of this is free doctor visits and prescriptions for under-13-year-olds from July next year, with 400,000 children benefiting. The member will be interested to hear that we have been able to afford this because we have turned around Labour’s district health board deficit of $200 million to just $20 million.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, why, then, are orthopaedic patients referred to the Hutt Valley District Health Board being told that only urgent cases can now be done, and is that the improvement New Zealanders would get under a National Government?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In respect of orthopaedic services, a lot of work has been done to ensure that only the most urgent cases are referred to orthopaedic specialists. The general practitioners with special interests programme has been a very good strategy for making sure that there is an appropriate filter through which patients are referred. Indeed, as a consequence of smart thinking by this Government, significant increases in elective surgery, including orthopaedic surgery, have been achieved.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, then, have orthopaedic operations increased or decreased per 100,000 of population under a National Government in the following district health boards: Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Capital and Coast, Northland, Tairāwhiti, Wairarapa, West Coast, and South Canterbury—in other words, half of the district health boards?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Obviously, that is a very detailed question for which I do not have the answer to hand, but I would be very happy to reply if the member would put it down in writing.
Hon Annette King: I could answer it all if you like, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member might have to wait for the luck of a general election to have the opportunity.
Hon Annette King: If there is sufficient funding in Budget 2014, why is the Waikato District Health Board telling health professionals that services involving psychologists have increased beyond their capacity to deliver, and children with autism spectrum disorder, learning difficulties, and intellectual disabilities will have to wait longer for appointments, and is that an improvement for kids in New Zealand under a National Government?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Obviously I would have to go and fact-check the paraphrasing that the member has included in his question, but what I would say is that under this Government, district health boards—
Hon Members: Her.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Did I say “his”? I do apologise—her question. But I can say that under this Government, district health boards have been innovative in ensuring that they can produce much more output for a moderate increase in budget, and they have been spectacularly successful in doing so.
Hon Annette King: Was Treasury correct in its recently released Budget report when it said “The funding package requires a very real challenge to district health boards, and given the fiscal environment there is a risk of longer waiting times for patients and unforeseen health consequences.”?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Obviously, the calculations of an appropriate budget increase to meet the changing needs of New Zealanders, including an ageing and different geographic and ethnic mix, is always a very complicated process. Nevertheless, we have been able to achieve significant increases, and I should point out that doing the same thing year in year out would have got us the same result, which is why, under this Government, we have been innovative in investing in things like increasing childhood immunisation, investing in rheumatic fever management, and warming up our homes, so that we prevent those conditions from occurring in the first place.
Hon Annette King: Were district health boards told that Budget 2014 funding was for demographic pressures, with “a contribution to cost pressures”, and has that led to district health boards offering a 0.7 percent pay increase to staff, while inflation is predicted to be 2.2 percent in 2014-15, according to Treasury?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In respect of the first half of the question, although I cannot verify the quote, I have no reason to suspect that it is incorrect, because, indeed, that was what the
budgetary increase was designed to achieve. But as I say, we have been very impressed with the manner in which district health boards have been able to do a lot more with a little more.
Flooding, Northland—Enhanced Taskforce Green Assistance 8. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What recent announcements has he made regarding Government support for the primary sector in Northland?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Last week I declared a medium-scale adverse event for the primary sector in Northland. This declaration provides the overarching framework for any Government support. This includes more funding for the Northland Rural Support Trust, which plays a coordination and emotional support role for farmers and growers. The Inland Revenue Department is offering tax flexibility, and the Ministry of Social Development is providing Enhanced Taskforce Green to help with the clean-up.
Mike Sabin: What impacts has the storm had on the primary sector in Northland?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The storm impacted around 80 percent of the Northland primary sector. With spring calving already under way and avocados close to harvest, the storm could not have come at a worse time. However, farmers and growers are extremely resilient and the majority are coping well. The Northland community, assisted by local MP Mike Sabin, has done a great job of pulling together and supporting one another as they move into the recovery phase.
Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill—Compliance with Treaty of Waitangi 9. Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: E whakamanawa ana a ia kei te hangai Te Pire Reo Māori ki ngā mātāpono o Te Tiriti o Waitangi?
Translation: Is he confident that the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill is consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs): Clause 12(c) notes that Te Mātāwai will “give effect … to the relationship of the Crown with iwi and Māori contemplated by the Treaty of Waitangi in relation to the Māori language.”
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: What advice did he receive from officials to assess whether the bill is consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: As I have just explained, it is the advice that came through all the way. This whole thing is about the Treaty relationship between Māori and the Government. We have an iwi in all Māori. We have got letters here from six iwi—the biggest in the country—supporting the bill.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Will he support my motion to have the bill referred to the Waitangi Tribunal in order for the tribunal to report on whether the provisions of the bill are contrary to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi; if not, why not?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES:
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: In light of that response, can the Minister direct the House to the submissions that support the proposals in the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: You will find that right throughout the bill the references to the Treaty, what it stands for, and how it is represented there, but particularly in clause 12(c), where it explains it.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Twice I raised the point with the Minister whether he could identify exactly the advice that he received—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. With regard to the first question when the member sought information as to where the advice came from, that was satisfactorily answered. I think, to be fair to you, on the second question regarding whether the Minister can point to any submissions, the Minister may not have accurately heard that question, so I am going to ask you to repeat that particular question.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister advise or direct the House to the submissions that confirm the detail of the Māori Language (Te Reo Māori) Bill and the clauses that he is pointing to?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: What I will refer to are the 21 hui that were held throughout the country and the letters from people like Rahui Papa, chief of Waikato-Tainui, Ngāhiwi Tomoana from Ngāti Kahungunu, Sonny Tau from Te Tai Tokerau,
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does the Minister consider that the bill takes away the ongoing responsibility of the Crown to actively protect Te Reo me ngā tikanga Māori; if not, why not?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES:
Public Transport, Auckland—Funding and Priority 10. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Will he increase investment in better public transport infrastructure in light of the poll this week showing Aucklanders favour public transport spending by a four-to-one margin over roads?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Mr Speaker—
Hon Member: Roadrunner!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I will try to run through this question if I can. The answer to the question about whether we will invest more is yes, because that has been our record over the last 6 years—to continue investing in public transport—but in reaction to the poll, the answer would be no, because our record speaks for itself.
Julie Anne Genter: What specific new public transport infrastructure projects has his Government committed to funding over the next 3 years, excluding rail electrification and the Developing Auckland’s Rail Transport projects, which were committed by the last Labour Government?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The member would need to look at the draft Government policy statement on transport to see that there are numerous intentions for spending there that relate to public transport. But I would also say that we are about to enter a period where parties are going to compete for votes from electors, and the member should stand by to receive some of the policy information from the National Party that I am sure she will be willing to support.
Julie Anne Genter: Does he consider his budget for new infrastructure in the Government policy statement, which he just referenced, shown in this graph I am holding, to be the balanced spend and better public transport infrastructure that most Kiwis have said that they want?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think the member needs to recognise that about 3 percent of all kilometres travelled are undertaken on public transport by New Zealanders. The member might also like to reflect that buses, and often bikes, need roads to run on.
Julie Anne Genter: Does the Minister acknowledge that people cannot take public transport that does not exist or is not reliable, and that is why they would like his Government to invest in better public transport, so they will not be forced to clog up the roads with their cars?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The problem we have is that the public transport services that are available now are very expensive. The subsidy rate on those trips is enormous. If someone is taking a train trip from Papakura into Britomart, the subsidy is in excess of $24 each way. Along the way there will be other stations where there are similar sorts of subsidies but at lesser levels. It is also worth noting that if you were to take a bus trip on motorways, a bus trip on roads, the subsidy gets down to about $2.22 on average across the country. So to simply say to stop building the infrastructure and put it all into public transport denies the fact that public transport needs roading infrastructure to operate.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table research showing the average public transport subsidy across the country—
Mr SPEAKER: The source of the research?
Julie Anne Genter: It is a research report completed for the New Zealand Transport Agency.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave, on the basis that it might be difficult for members to obtain. They can make their choice. Leave is sought to table that particular research document. Is there any objection? It can be tabled.
Julie Anne Genter: Will he commit to start the City Rail Link on time next year if rail patronage growth, released tomorrow, shows 13 percent growth on last year and thus on a path to achieve the patronage target set by his Government; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because the question is self-evident. If it is on a path, then it will reach a point where we would have that agreement. But “on a path” is not reaching the point.
Julie Anne Genter: Given the Minister’s distaste for queuing, which was demonstrated today, why is his Government pursuing an unbalanced transport policy that will lead to more New Zealanders being stuck in traffic queues?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not think we are doing that. We are spending an enormous amount on infrastructure throughout the country, including in the regions, and in the particular case of Auckland, which was the basis of the question today, the Government is spending on average about $190 million on public transport.
Denis O'Rourke: Why does the Government have no plans for further rail electrification, such as Papakura to Pukekohe, in its land transport plans?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think it would be helpful to the member if I were to give him some information about the level of subsidy that is required over and above any infrastructure costs that might be required in those services. As I said before, if someone is travelling from Papakura into the city of Auckland, the subsidy each way is about $24.90, which is $50 per trip. It does not matter whether or not the subsidy is less because the distance is less, the cost of providing the service remains the same. So what has to happen for public transport to get bigger and better investment is usage, and that is not something that we are seeing at the moment.
Denis O'Rourke: Does the Minister agree that bigger penalties are needed to ensure public compliance with airport security requirements?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I can only say that I do respect the laws. When they are broken by people, then they should be very sorry for doing so.
Phil Twyford: Why does the Prime Minister’s leaked announcement of an accelerated time frame for Auckland’s second harbour crossing not include rail and road as recommended by the Auckland Plan?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I would not speculate on the contents of a leaked document.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Can he confirm that the Government’s walking and cycling policy has now been extended to include the Minister of Transport himself undertaking a pilot project into running, which he launched at Christchurch airport today?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I would recommend to anybody the opportunities to either run, cycle, or walk for its health benefits but, frankly, not for its political benefits.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I seek leave, for the edification of the House, to table two documents. One is entitled “How to Go Through Airport Security Smoothly”, by a publication called wikiHow.
Mr SPEAKER: And the second document?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: And the second document is entitled “Idiot’s guide to The Airport”, by a publication of Victoria University. I think it is called Salient.
Mr SPEAKER: The documents have been described—it is Thursday. I will put the leave to table those two documents. It is over for the House to decide. Leave is sought. Is there any objection? They will be tabled.
Financial Services—Registration of Providers 11. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs: What changes have recently come into force that strengthen financial service provider registration?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Consumer Affairs): This month a range of new measures to strengthen the financial service provider registration and dispute resolutions regime came into effect. We have made improvements to the financial service provider registration rules and we have introduced new powers to allow the Financial Markets Authority to block the registration of financial service providers if needed. These registration changes help to protect New Zealand’s international reputation as one of the best and most trusted places to do business. These changes are part of the recently passed Credit Contracts and Financial Services Reform Bill, which brings in tougher laws to target loan sharks and help consumers, New Zealanders, make more informed decisions.
Dr Jian Yang: What other changes were made to consumer credit contract legislation to ensure more informed borrowers and more responsible lenders?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: We have improved protections for borrowers and targeted unscrupulous lending practices by, first, requiring lenders to comply with lender responsibility principles and requiring more timely and complete disclosure of loan terms so that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions, and strengthening repossession rules, including prohibiting some essential household items such as beds and heaters from being repossessed, and boosting enforcement powers and penalties to crack down on those lenders who breach the law. These changes are good for consumers, they protect New Zealanders, and meet the objectives outlined in the National Government’s Business Growth Agenda.
Local Government Reforms—Commentary 12. Su’a WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) to the Minister of Local Government: Did the Deputy Mayor of Napier, Mrs Fay White, raise with her recently at a public meeting that the issue of local government amalgamation should be taken seriously by National during this general election; if so, what were her specific concerns?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Local Government): Yes, she did raise the issue of amalgamations at a public meeting. I do not have notes about her concerns, but they were broadly about how Labour has politicised the amalgamation process in Hawke’s Bay.
Su’a William Sio: Did the Deputy Mayor, Mrs Fay White, say to her that the amalgamation issue could very well lose the election for National in the seat of Napier?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: She certainly did identify that she felt it was an issue in the Hawke’s Bay. I made the point to her that I felt that her anger with the process was actually stopping Hawke’s Bay from thinking about the bigger picture of what it is as a region and how it moves forward.
Su’a William Sio: Is it not true that Mrs Fay White was trying to warn her and her Government that pursuing a forced amalgamation agenda for local government would lead to National losing the Napier seat to Labour’s Mr Stuart Nash?
Mr SPEAKER: In as far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Paula Bennett.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I reject completely that there is any forced amalgamation for Hawke’s Bay. It is a process where it will certainly see itself voting for what it wants for the region. I also reject that there is any chance that Stuart Nash will take the seat.
Su’a William Sio: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the member, he must just make sure that his questions are suitable to address to the responsibility of a Minister.
Su’a William Sio: Is it not true that in 2009 her Government amended the Local Government Act 2002, effectively clearing the way for the forced amalgamation of the local government sector?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No.
Question No. 10 to Minister—Amended Answer
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is none.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Two mistakes in 1 day?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Everyone has a bad day. When you are having a bad 3 years, it is something—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the Minister just correct his answer so that we can move forward.
Hon Annette King: Hey, but that’s you, Gerry. You’ve had 3 bad years.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, that is right. In my answer I said that the subsidy rate for travel between, I think I said, Papakura and the city was $24.80. It should have been Pukekohe.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill—Report Back 1. H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour—Manukau East) to the Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee: When will the Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill be reported to the House?
Maggie Barry (Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment Committee): The date by which the committee must report back to the House is 14 August 2014. The bill is still before the committee and subject to the usual rules around select committee confidentiality. I refer the member to Standing Orders 236 and 238.
H V Ross Robertson: Will the chairperson direct the committee to issue an interim report before the election, as has been done previously by the former chairperson, the Hon Nicky Wagner, and, if not before the election, when will she do that?
MAGGIE BARRY: As the member is aware, that matter was discussed and voted on at this afternoon’s meeting, and there is not going to be an interim report.