Questions and Answers - July 29
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
TUESDAY, 29 JULY 2014
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Ministers—Confidence 1. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader - Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister agree with his Minister of Conservation that Fish and Game should be quiet and let our rivers become more polluted?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think that the member is misrepresenting the Minister of Conservation.
Metiria Turei: Well, does the Prime Minister then back the Minister of Conservation’s threats to sue David Haynes, the president of the Federation of Freshwater Anglers, and to stifle Fish and Game from advocating for cleaner rivers; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I am not sure that the Minister ever actually said that, and, secondly, the Minister has made it quite clear that he is not pursuing a course of legal action.
Metiria Turei: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in his Minister for Economic Development when he is planning to cut real funding to science and innovation by 21 percent over the next 10 years, or does he think that smart Green innovation is not the future for New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is quite wrong. She was wrong when she tried to say those things last week, and she is wrong this week.
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister retain confidence in the Minister for Social Development when she twice claimed not to have read the most important epidemiological research on the health impacts of poverty from Otago University, showing that in New Zealand one baby a week dies from conditions associated with low income?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have tremendous faith and confidence in the Minister for Social Development. I think when people look back on the history of this Government in many years to come, they will remark on what an incredible job she has done in terms of welfare reform, in terms of getting people into work, in terms of her caring about vulnerable children, and in terms of the work that she has done to shepherd that important issue through this Parliament. If that member could achieve about 10 percent of what the Minister for Social Development has, she would be doing well, but I do not hold out—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Metiria Turei: Does the Prime Minister back statements from his Minister for Social Development that she absolutely stood by her decision to deny newborn babies born into severe
poverty at serious risk the same baby payment that is given to other babies, or does he think that all children in New Zealand have the right to thrive?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, in the context she made them, which was around the in-work tax credit, which, I might point out, was actually a part of Working for Families. It was established and implemented by the previous Labour Government.
Metiria Turei: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in his Ministers when they are threatening Crown entities that stand up for the environment, meddling with scientific research, and deliberating denying support to the poorest newborn babies in New Zealand? Is that level of arrogance his idea of working for New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I would reject the characterisation that the member has made, but what I would say is that not only are we a group of people, on this side of the House, who are focused on the important issues—the economy, law and order, health, education, and the environment—but we are actually a group of people who agree on the direction in which we are going. Every time we see the Greens talking about what they might do with Labour, with Kim Dotcom, and with other political parties, we find complete and utter disagreement. No wonder it is a shambles—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he have confidence in the Minister of Immigration given that thousands of records from the immigration contact centre have gone missing as a result of an IT “upgrade”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I do have confidence in the Minister of Immigration.
Economic Programme—Progress 2. DAVID BENNETT (National - Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What progress has the Government made in delivering on its economic objectives for this term of Parliament?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has made good progress. That progress amounts to a significant, strong platform for further sustained growth in the New Zealand economy. For example, New Zealand’s economy grew by 3.8 percent in the year to March 2014—among the top half-dozen growth rates in the developed economies. Growth is forecast to reach 4 percent this year, a far cry from the deep domestic recession that began in 2008. This is delivering benefits to hard-working Kiwis. Average wages have increased by around $3,000 in the past 2 years to nearly $55,700. They are forecast to grow to $62,300 by 2018.
David Bennett: How are the benefits of the Government’s economic programme being reflected in the labour market, and how do average wage increases compare with cost of living changes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am pleased that member and the Opposition have raised the issue of jobs. In the past year alone, 84,000 new jobs were created across New Zealand, and Treasury forecasts another 172,000 over the next 4 years. As some members of the House will recall, back in 2011 there was a forecast of 171,000 new jobs to be added by 2015. The latest household labour force survey shows we are on track to achieve those 170,000 new jobs. This will bring unemployment down to 4.4 percent by mid-2018.
David Bennett: How has the Government’s economic programme helped to address the twin fiscal and current account deficits this Government inherited 6 years ago?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has more influence over the fiscal deficit than the current account deficit, where it has an indirect influence. When we came to office the previous Government’s final Budget predicted a $3.9 billion deficit in 2008-09 and never-ending deficits into the future. The current account deficit was between 7 and 8 percent of GDP—that is, at record high levels. Since then, of course, we have got back on track. In Budget 2014 we are on track to a small fiscal surplus in this next year, and the current account deficit has narrowed to 2.8 percent of GDP in the year to March, although it is forecast to increase over the next few years.
David Bennett: How is the Government’s economic programme helping to keep interest rates lower for longer, and what reports has the Minister received suggesting New Zealanders are supporting its programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are two things the Government can do to prevent us reaching Labour’s record interest rate levels, where first mortgage rates were over 10 percent in 2008. Those two things are to restrain Government spending and to limit, as far as we can, rapid increases in the price of houses. On both of those fronts we are making considerable progress. In answer to the second part of the question, New Zealanders are supporting this programme because they are staying home rather than leaving New Zealand. There was no net loss of New Zealanders to Australia in June. That is zero net outflow to Australia for the first time since 1991.
Unemployment—Prime Minister’s Statements 3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that there are “plenty of jobs out there”; if so, why are there 42,000 more people unemployed now than when he took office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I can certainly see why that member would be worried about unemployment. But to the first part of the question, yes. According to ANZ, 38,000 job advertisements appeared in the newspaper and on the internet in the month of June, up by almost 6 percent over the previous month. To the second part of the question, more people are looking for work and, subsequently, more people are becoming employed. Since we took office, over 100,000 more people have become employed. The combination has pushed New Zealand’s participation rate to 69.3 percent, which is the highest it has ever been since the household labour force survey began, and significantly higher than in Australia.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that the Prime Minister seems to think that unemployment is a joke, can he confirm that the number of jobless is now 50,000 higher today and that there are more jobless in every region of the country except Canterbury?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I cannot confirm that. What I can confirm is that there are 100,000 more people with jobs. As I said, I congratulate the member on getting through caucus—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That will not help.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does his definition of getting more people into jobs include by fair means or foul getting the ACT candidate for Epsom a job; if so, what will poor old Paul Goldsmith do for one?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We will see what the voters decide—we will see what the voters decide. All I do know is that on this side of the House people support the person who is the leader; on that side of the House they do not.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why is he finding a job for Peter Dunne in the Ōhariu electorate rather than campaigning for his own candidate, when Peter Dunne has never denied that he is the leaker of a sensitive classified document, or is that just “#teamleak”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What the Government is doing is making sure that New Zealanders are clear about both the direction we are taking the country and whom we will work with. The member might have some credibility if he was prepared to rule out Kim Dotcom and working with that party, but he will not. As I said, if the member really wants to be seriously focused on the issues that matter, he should focus on his own job, because what I keep hearing is that they are counting up the heads—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer is sufficient.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that the Prime Minister is quoted as saying he thinks ACT’sthree-strikes bill is “good policy”, why is he keeping Nick Smith in a job, when he struck one with a letter he wrote for Bronwyn Pullar to ACC, struck two with the Ruataniwha Dam, and now has struck three by attacking Fish and Game New Zealand for its statutorily required role?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I do not think the member should believe everything he hears on Radio New Zealand or reads in the paper. Secondly, if this is what Vote Positive looks like, I would hate to think what “Vote Negative” looks like. Oh, that is right, I know that: it is called the Labour Party caucus this morning. That was—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: Why is the Prime Minister keeping the Minister of Transport in his job when he is currently being investigated by his own officials for allegedly breaching the law and causing an airport security risk?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: They are not his own officials. There is an independent investigation going on, and I am not going to taint that investigation. But, as I say, it is good to see that Labour members kept the vote positive for a couple of days. All I can say is maybe they will need to go and change the billboards.
Family Justice System—Reports 4. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister of Justice: What recent reports has she received on the Family Dispute Resolution services in the reformed Family Justice system?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Four months after the Government’s Family Court reforms came into effect, it is clear they are having a very positive effect. The new family dispute resolution service has completed 562 assessments for mediation, and a further 530 are in progress. Of the 122 mediations completed, 71 percent have resolved all matters in dispute between the parties without going to court. This means that more parents are entering into parenting plans by agreement, fewer parents are going to court to resolve disputes over their children, and fewer children are being stressed by warring parents.
Joanne Hayes: What other statistics has she recently received on the new Family Court reforms?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: In the past 4 months 1,609 parents and family carers have undertaken the Government’s Parenting through Separation course, and 1,175 parties to parenting disputes have received or are receiving Government-funded legal assistance to prepare for family dispute resolution or standard court proceedings. Forty thousand parenting plans and booklets have been provided to agencies to assist family carers reach agreement on caring for their children, with a further 1,400 downloaded from the family justice website. The website has had around 1.7 million page views since its launch in March. Might I recommend it to the people opposite, who clearly need it.
Joanne Hayes: What impact are the family justice reforms having on the Family Court?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Before these reforms were introduced, the Family Court was experiencing huge delays with processing cases. The court was being clogged up with disputes over where children should spend Christmas or what after-school activities they might engage in. Most of these can now be dealt with in the family dispute resolution mediations instead of in court. Since the reforms have been introduced, the average number of guardianship applications—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of barrage from my left is now at an unacceptable level. I call the Hon Judith Collins to complete the answer, please.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Since the reforms have been introduced, the average number of guardianship applications has dropped from 481 per week to 231 per week. This means the court can focus on more serious matters. The overall reduction in new cases has meant that the court is able to dispose of cases more quickly. The Auckland court, in particular, now has 1,000 fewer applications on hand than it did at 31 March 2014.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I could see you becoming concerned at the level of interjection from the Opposition. The length of the answer invites disorder in the House, and it was longer than the Standing Orders would allow.
Mr SPEAKER: I will be the judge of the length of an answer, but on that occasion the answer was certainly getting towards the lengthy stage. It was not helped by the persistent level of interjection coming from two members to my left particularly.
Economy—Export Sector Performance and Government Financial Position 5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader - Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Will the forecasts in the Treasury PREFU include the effects of the recent fall in the overall value of exports, including log and dairy price drops?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): That will be a matter for Treasury. As the member knows, the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update is a fully independent forecast by Treasury. I am sure it will reflect a range of economic data, like 84,000 new jobs in the year to March, an increase in average weekly wages of 3.2 percent against inflation of 1.5 percent, GDP growth of 3.8 percent in the year to March, the current account deficit down to 2.8 percent, and the lowest net international investment position of 65 percent of GDP.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think he is finished.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is the second time consecutively that the member has taken the opportunity to tell me that. I will judge when an answer is going on too long. It is for me to do so, not for the member.
Hon David Parker: Is the level of exports as a percentage of GDP higher or lower now than when he took office?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would have to check those numbers, but, as usual, on “Planet Labour” there was no global recession, so Labour always counts the pre-recession numbers and compares them with today’s. What I can tell the member—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion, the question now has been answered. [Interruption] Order! I have concluded the answer.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table a table showing that export—
Mr SPEAKER: The source of the document?
Hon David Parker: The department of statistics’ figures.
Mr SPEAKER: No, if it is the department of statistics, those figures are freely available to all members.
Hon David Parker: Given that exports have dropped as a percentage of GDP, does he now accept that National is failing to achieve its promise to raise exports as a percentage of GDP—its promise being to raise them to 40 percent of GDP by 2025—given that they have fallen from 33 percent when he took office to 29 percent now, and that the Treasury forecast shows them falling even further to just 26 percent of GDP?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. What I can tell the member is that in the year to June, the value of exported goods increased by 12 percent to a record high of $51.2 billion. Actually, our export sector has done a remarkably good job in the face of the stiff headwinds of a high exchange rate. New Zealanders have been able to buy more with their Kiwi dollar than ever, and exporters have continued to create jobs, make profits, and pay tax, and they should be supported for it, not criticised for it.
Hon David Parker: Why does he think that the narrowing of New Zealand’s exports towards primary products that have now collapsed in value was a good idea?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I simply disagree with the member, but it would not surprise me if the policy of the Labour-Greens Opposition was that the dairy industry should be shut down and should not sell—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Louise Upston: How does the Minister expect thePre-election Economic and Fiscal Update of 2014 to compare with forecasts in Treasury’s Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update of 2008, which was delivered under the previous Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Treasury Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update under the Labour Government said this: “Households and businesses have come under increasing cost pressures—electricity, interest rates, fuel and food—which are dampening private consumption and firm profitability.” It also said: “We are now expecting weaker economic growth ... slower growth in tax revenue and higher Government expenditure. Combined with increases in the costs of some existing policies, these factors lead to sustained operating balance deficits”. I am pleased that this Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update will not say any of these things. In fact, it will say the opposite in every respect.
Hon David Parker: Given that exports have peaked and are now dropping, 147,000 people are still unemployed, wages are stagnant, homeownership rates are dropping, and severe child poverty is increasing, why does he refuse to tackle the imbalances in the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are tackling the imbalances in the New Zealand economy, including the reference the member has made to inequality. In fact, there has been slight improvement in the measures of income equality in New Zealand.
Sue Moroney: No, there hasn’t.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I know the Opposition does not like hearing it, but actually it is flat to better, despite the fact that we have had a major recession. We will be campaigning hard for the right to improve the performance of the economy and to improve equality in the economy.
Students—Management of Behavioural Issues 6. TIM MACINDOE (National - Hamilton West) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made on schools addressing difficult behaviours of students?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Today I was pleased to announce that student stand-downs, suspensions, and exclusions have reached 14-year lows. Early leaving exemptions have dropped by 89 percent between 2006 and 2013. Since 2008 there have been 4,700 fewer stand-downs, a reduction of 24 percent; 1,292 fewer suspensions, a reduction of 30 percent; and 300 fewer exclusions, a reduction of 22 percent. Under this Government we are seeing far fewer kids being removed from school and more students staying longer and gaining better qualifications.
Tim Macindoe: What approaches are being taken to help pupils stay at school longer and leave better qualified?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We have a range of initiatives investing into safe and positive school environments to keep kids at school longer, and there are more educational pathways to choose from so that they can be successful. They include, for example, a $145 million investment into Positive Behaviour for Learning school-wide programmes, which will involve 800 schools by 2017; a $15 million investment by the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project initiatives for youth resilience programmes; a much improved nationwide integrated attendance service; and more kids are leaving with National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2 results through a mix of very targeted support and options such as trades academies coupled with clear vocational pathways that are seeing kids getting NCEA level 2 because they can see the practical application of their learning. More kids are starting earlier, staying longer, and leaving better qualified under this Government.
Child Poverty—Government Initiatives to Address 7. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s statement that “the fastest way to get children and grown up New Zealanders out of poverty is through work”, when the latest report on household incomes states that two out of five children living in poverty are in households where at least one adult is in full time work or self-employed?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, there are some people in work who are struggling but they have access to a range of support including in-work tax credits, the accommodation supplement, and childcare assistance, and I certainly encourage people to check their entitlement, as often people do not know that they can get that. Being in work is also the best
way to gain skills and experience that could lead to a wage increase, more hours, or even a higher paying job.
Jacinda Ardern: If work alone is the answer and the Government has in place all of those additional entitlements she has listed, why are working families still living in poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is because their income is not sufficient, which is why we give them extra assistance. We also believe that work is the way out of poverty. The percentage of those who are working and are in poverty is far fewer than those who are in benefit-dependent households. It is also a fact that they can gain skills and experience, which means that they are more likely to get wage increases and are more likely to get higher paying jobs. The best thing that we can do is keep on our track of improving the economy.
Jacinda Ardern: Given that she has acknowledged that for some families their wages are insufficient, has she advocated for a greater increase in the minimum wage to ease the pressure on working families; if not, why not?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because I want jobs to be available for New Zealanders, and we have evidence that says that increasing the minimum wage beyond what businesses can afford to pay means that jobs will be cut from the economy. That is the last thing we want to see, because people are far more likely to be in poverty if they are on a benefit. There is also plenty of evidence that says that our minimum wage is the seventh highest in dollar terms in the OECD and on a percentage basis it is actually the highest.
Jacinda Ardern: Are the additional entitlements the Minister has listed as coming from the Government supplementing the fact that we have a low-wage economy and employers who are not paying working families sufficiently?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, considering that certainly the in-work tax credits and the Working for Families were brought in under the previous Labour Government, I acknowledge that that was to supplement those people who are working and struggling to get by. It may be because of the hours that they are working and a range of other factors like the number of children they have got. So, yes, we acknowledge that some people need a boost and we are prepared to give them that, but actually being in work is the best way to get ahead.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she stand by her statement that “another target that I can well and truly point to is making sure that we have more jobs and better paying jobs in New Zealand.”; if so, what evidence does she have that she has achieved her target of better paying jobs?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Speaking to the first part of that statement, the fact that we have 22,000 new jobs in the economy in the quarter just to March actually shows that we are making a difference for those people—that is a fact.
Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I gave a quote that the Minister had previously given, but I asked her to reference the evidence around better paying jobs.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The difficulty is that the member asked a supplementary question to which there were two legs, and the Minister has addressed the first leg of that question.
Immigration, Minister—Performance 8. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Is he satisfied that the current Minister of Immigration is working for all New Zealanders?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is the Minister working for all New Zealanders when record net migration numbers are fuelling the Auckland housing crisis and the Reserve Bank’s raising of interest rates to deal—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member complete his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes. How is the Minister working for all New Zealanders when record net migration numbers are fuelling the Auckland housing crisis and the Reserve Bank’s raising of interest rates to deal with the Auckland housing bubble is adversely affecting the entire country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, there is a number of factors that drive net migration in New Zealand, but the most pronounced of those, of course, is that New Zealanders are not leaving for Australia in droves as they were under the previous Labour Government. Secondly, there are certain aspects of migration policy that are, for want of a better description, out of the control of the Government—that is, Australians, for instance, are free to come to New Zealand. I do not think the member is really saying that he is going to stop Australians coming over, and 25,000 of those come every year. We then have people who come under the Pacific category. Is the member actually saying he does not want people to come under the Treaty of Friendship with Samoa? I could go on. The truth of it is that this is a Government that is working so well for New Zealand that New Zealanders want to stay here and be part of it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How is the current immigration Minister working for all New Zealanders when there is record net migration at a time when there are almost 150,000 unemployed New Zealanders and half the workforce got no pay increase last year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member should really avoid using data that he probably does not understand. That is the labour cost index. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. I want to hear it in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just because the Prime Minister’s embarrassed, that is not reason to start with a character assassination or attack on a member of Parliament doing his humble duty.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion the member makes a reasonable point. Would the Prime Minister just address the question.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I was simply trying to be helpful to the member. The labour cost index does not actually measure what he said. If he would like me to send around one of the Treasury officials to take him through it, I am more than happy to do that. The second point is that it is not record-high migration. I can actually point to a time not that long ago when there were high levels of net migration under the previous Labour Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What does he say to New Zealanders concerned at the high ratios of non-skilled, non-working immigrants last year, when 49 percent of immigrants were granted permanent residence under family, parent, and humanitarian categories?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As the member knows, there is a parent category, and that category allowed 4,000 parents to come in under family reunification. The member also knows that the Government actually changed that back in 2012. The member also knows that for a very, very long period of time, New Zealand has agreed to take 750 refugees, and that happened the entire time that the member was Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What does he say to New Zealanders concerned that with 44 percent of recent migrants from China being aged 50 and over, there will be a serious impact on health care, aged care, and New Zealand superannuation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would have to check that fact, and I am not entirely sure—
Hon Member: You should know that.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I have learnt to be cautious, you know. I am not entirely sure that that fact is right. But what I can say is that if you look at migration overall in terms of people who come to New Zealand, the vast, overwhelming bulk of them actually add to New Zealand. They come in all sorts of areas, from students who come and study in New Zealand, many of whom may well stay and add to our economy. They come in the highly skilled labour markets where they are needed, they come with capital that they bring to New Zealand, and they come with the right attitude towards New Zealand. If you look at the entire time that I have been Prime Minister, the average net increase in the population per year has been under 10,000 people. For a country the size, roughly, of Great Britain, to increase our population by 10,000 people or fewer a year is hardly some sort of crisis that we cannot cope with.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the immigration Minister, who was working for all New Zealanders, expand work permits to over 79,000 foreign students, which means it is not export education at all, and when Australia abolished the—
Hon Steven Joyce: What a load of rubbish!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know you are a load of rubbish, but I would like to ask my question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just ask—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I stick to my question, not you?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will just complete his question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, you heard what he said.
Mr SPEAKER: Just complete the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a certain member over there who has barracked every time a question was asked, from the very beginning. Frankly, he is tiresome and boring—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now the member—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —and you should stop him.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to allow this member the opportunity to ask his supplementary question and I do not want any interjections coming from my right-hand side.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why did the immigration Minister, who was supposedly working for all New Zealanders, expand work permits to around 79,000 foreign students, which means it is not export education at all that is happening there for them, when Australia abolished these work permits after it realised that foreign students were earning money in Australia to repay loans back in their own countries for their international school fees in Australia?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I am not sure that the member is right that all of them got work permits. Secondly, if you look at export education, it is an industry that earns New Zealand about $2.6 billion a year. It has added 28,000 jobs to New Zealand. Actually, the member is right about one thing, and that is that quite a lot of these students who come to New Zealand from countries all around the world do get off their backsides and work in a cafeteria, they do go and work in bars around New Zealand, they do clean motels around New Zealand to pay for their education, and what happens with many of them is they actually stay in New Zealand. They become long-term citizens of this country and they add to the fabric—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I have not finished my answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The thrust of this question simply is that if a student is working in New Zealand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. If the member wants another supplementary, I can—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I haven’t finished it yet.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. Would the Prime Minister please complete his answer?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The point I am making is that a great many of these international students who come to New Zealand do actually work part-time. That gives them some money to pay for the time that they are in New Zealand, but it also demonstrates that they are committed to our country and that they have got a good work ethic, and I think they add enormously to New Zealand. If New Zealand First does not want these people coming to New Zealand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer is now long enough.
Fishing, Recreational—Minister’s Statements 9. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by his statement that “the Government needs to take a broader perspective than just Fish and Game’s advocacy for their recreational fishing”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Yes.
Eugenie Sage: Is the Minister concerned that the Department of Conservation has reduced by more than two-thirds the number of Resource Management Act plans and consent applications it has submitted on in the last 3 years, leaving Fish and Game and community organisations to stand up for our rivers?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I am not concerned, because I hold a strong view that you make best progress on issues like freshwater quality through collaborative processes, rather than conflict, which is the approach that the Greens seem to thrive on.
Eugenie Sage: Can the Minister confirm to the House that he has not initiated any work to weaken the powers and ability of Fish and Game councils to advocate for the protection of sports fish and game habitats, including clean water in our rivers and lakes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I can. I think actions speak louder than words. After the council meeting that has caused some controversy, the weekend before last, I approved a modest increase in Fish and Game’s licence fees. This was before the controversy arose. It will actually increase the funding that Fish and Game has this year by about $330,000 a year, and that is why there are these sorts of conspiracy theories around me trying to stop its role. My advice to Fish and Game was that it needs to focus on being pro - freshwater quality and not anti-dairy and anti-farming.
Eugenie Sage: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a straight question, asking whether he could confirm whether he has initiated any—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And the very first word given in the answer was “yes”.
Eugenie Sage: Will the Minister apologise to Fish and Game for giving the impression that if Fish and Game councils did not pull back on their advocacy for clean and healthy rivers he would consider removing or weakening the organisation’s statutory powers, or was that his intent?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, but I do find it interesting that the key protagonist, Mr David Haynes, immediately after the meeting wrote a blog. I will quote the blog: “Smith delivered his opinions and thoughts as professionally as ever,”. That is what Mr Haynes said. This is the same Mr Haynes who a week later said that I was bullying and threatening. Well, being bullying and threatening is not being professional. That is, Mr Haynes could not have been telling the truth both times.
Transport, Minister—Statements 10. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour - Te Atatū) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Yes, in so much as they are accurately reported.
Phil Twyford: Does he stand by his statement “I unreservedly apologise to those people who felt, and were, compromised by my actions.”; if so, has he apologised in writing to all those workers who were compromised by his actions last week? If so, when; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I most certainly stand by that statement. I sent a note to the airport company to that effect. If there are others, then I will certainly get to them.
Phil Twyford: Outside of the current investigation, is this the first and only time he has breached airport security or operating procedure; if not, when else has he done so?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, it is.
Phil Twyford: Has he been interviewed as part of the Civil Aviation Authority investigation into his security breach; if not, when will he be interviewed, when will the official version of events be
made public, and can he reassure the House that no Ministry of Transport officials will be involved in the investigation into his security breach?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have not been interviewed at this point, and those other matters are all for the investigators.
Phil Twyford: Why has he not followed standard Cabinet procedure and resigned while he is under investigation by his own agency?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I did tender a resignation. A decision was made about that. I have relinquished responsibility for the Civil Aviation Authority. The member misleads the House by saying that there is any further requirement in theCabinet Manual.
Rt Hon John Key: Has the Minister seen any reports about whether the previous Prime Minister resigned when she was under investigation for fraud?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. There is no transport ministerial responsibility for that. [Interruption] Order! The question is out of order. There is no ministerial responsibility.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is no ministerial responsibility? Well, can I not—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I was asked whether I had seen reports.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not see that a report would be part of the member’s ministerial responsibility. [Interruption] Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not often in this House that you hear someone accusing a former Prime Minister of fraud. It is a most serious allegation, and I thought you would have done something to ask him to apologise for it. Either make out the case or apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is no member here who I think would be offended by that particular remark—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, I would.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the Rt Hon Winston Peters is saying that he was offended by that remark, then I will ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that remark. [Interruption] Order! The member has said he is offended; that surprises me. He has said he is offended. I am asking the Prime—[Interruption] Order! I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that remark.
Rt Hon John Key: I withdraw.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.
Kidney Transplants—Funding and Initiatives
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Dr Paul Hutchison to ask question No. 11. 11. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National - Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What investment has the Government made to increase the number of live kidney donor transplantations in New Zealand?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): An extra $4 million has been allocated to establish a national renal transplant service to increase the number of live kidney donor transplantations over the next few years. The target is to increase transplants by 10 per year, year on year, over 4 years, which will mean that an extra 100 people will receive kidney transplants over the next 4 years. The new renal transplant service will be led by doctors, nurses, and renal transplant experts and will help us better coordinate and improve transplantation services across the nation.
Dr Paul Hutchison: Why has this Government made investing in kidney transplantations a priority?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is part of a wider plan that the Government has had to improve organ donation rates in New Zealand. The new service includes specialised staff to support donors and recipients throughout the transplantation process, from providing education for interested potential
donors to organising blood tests and carrying out pre-surgery preparation. This increase in funding—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister, but it is difficult to hear because the Minister is talking and addressing the person who has asked the question. It is very difficult to hear the answer.
Hon TONY RYALL: This investment is part of a wider plan that this Government has to increase the rates of organ donation in New Zealand. It builds on an investment of $4 million that was made in Budget 2012 to improve donation services. This additional $4 million will provide new services from specialised staff to support donors and recipients, to providing education to interested potential donors, and to organising blood tests and carrying out pre-surgery preparation. As I said earlier on, this certainly is yet another part of this Government’s plan to increase kidney transplants in New Zealand.
Conservation, Minister—Statements 12. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour - Port Hills) to the Minister of Conservation: Does he stand by all his recent statements?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): Yes, particularly my statement to the Fish and Game Council and to Federated Farmers that New Zealand will make more progress on improving water quality through collaboration than through conflict.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Why did he say that Fish and Game struggles with the concept of being a statutory body but behaves like a rabid NGO, and that it had to decide which it wanted to be or “the perks of being statutory body could go”, if not to threaten it with that loss?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I dispute those statements as to what was said at the meeting. I think it is a bit of a commentary of the season that exaggeration and overstatement just go with the time of the year. I think the notes that were taken by an independent Department of Conservation official are a pretty accurate record. Actually, David Haynes’ original comments that my contribution was very professional I thought were also quite accurate.
Hon Ruth Dyson: When he said, as recorded by his Department of Conservation official, that Fish and Game needed to work out what it wanted to be, a statutory body with legislation and a relationship with Government, or an NGO, did he threaten its statutory monopoly; if not, what does the further comment recorded by the Department of Conservation official—“Statutory monopoly! Big issue.”—mean in the notes?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I get lots of commentary from rural Fish and Game licence holders who object to having to pay compulsory fees to an organisation that then uses that money to criticise the very industries that sustain those rural communities. I did say to the Fish and Game Council that it needs to ensure that it is pro - freshwater quality and does not get in the space of being anti - rural industries like farming.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Why did he describe the Fish and Game irrigation billboard campaign “How much is too much?” as “a problem politically” and then say to Fish and Game that when you cause trouble, you burn good will, and how do those comments relate to its legal obligation to maintain, manage, and enhance fish stock?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I made some generic comments to Fish and Game that it needed to be more collaborative in improving fresh water. It was actually a member of the Fish and Game Council itself that raised criticisms of the billboard campaign. It was a member of the council who actually said they thought it was unwise and they voted against it, but the director of Fish and Game wanted to proceed. I actually do not think that billboard campaign did anything to advance the key issue of freshwater quality.
Rt Hon John Key: Speaking of billboards, is the Government running any kind of programme around recycling of billboards, because I can feel about 20,000 “Vote Positive” ones that need to be taken down—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, no—[Interruption] Order! Settle down. Settle down. There is no ministerial responsibility for the Minister of Conservation. [Interruption] Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave for the Prime Minister to ask a similar question again so that he can make a fool of himself twice.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member knows he cannot seek leave for another member.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Has the Minister rung Mr Lindsay Lyons of the Fish and Game Council or six of the other participants who have been reported as being prepared to swear under oath the accuracy of Mr Haynes’ comments about his threats, and has he threatened them with legal action as well?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I spoke to Mr Lyons on the telephone last Friday. He apologised to me for what had occurred after the meeting, saying it was not intended as a public meeting and that the public comments were most unfortunate. I feel this is simply a matter of election season. It is a season of exaggeration and misquotation. I stand by the written records of the meeting that were taken at the time.