Questions and Answers - November 25
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Prime Minister—Statements 1. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Why did he tell reporters that Cameron Slater’s decision to make a Official Information Act request for Phil Goff’s SIS briefing in 2011 was “nothing to do with my office”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because I believe that to be correct.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s report that found that his office was deeply involved in encouraging Mr Slater to make that Official Information Act request, does he now accept that his office was involved in assisting Mr Slater to make that Official Information Act request?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. In fact, the report does not show that my office was deeply involved. There were a series of claims made and not a single one of them has stacked up. That is why Phil Goff had to leak the report yesterday, because he knew it would not stand up on its own merits.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence wrong when she wrote: “information which his deputy chief of staff received from the NZSIS was used by Jason Eade, a senior adviser within the Prime Minister’s office, to assist Mr Slater in making the OIA request.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the full statement, actually, from the Inspector-General makes it quite clear that inasmuch as there were any discussions, they did not breach any obligations of confidentiality owed by the New Zealand SIS on the part of the Prime Minister’s office staff. It is quite contested about what discussions were held between Mr Eade and, ultimately, Mr Slater. But I make the point that there was a wide range of journalists who asked for exactly the same information. If the thing was germane to Mr Eade, how come all of the other journalists asked for that information?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just have a bit of assistance from members to my left with keeping the noise down so that I can hear the content of the answer.
Dr Russel Norman: So to be clear, is the Prime Minister saying that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security got it wrong when she wrote: “information which his deputy chief of staff received from the NZSIS was used by Jason Eade, a senior adviser within the Prime Minister’s office, to assist Mr Slater in making the OIA request.”—was she wrong?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would say that it was contested. Secondly, it is quite clear that what drove the Official Information Act request from a wide range of people—journalists and Mr Slater—was the public comments made by Mr Goff and the public comments made by me. If it was (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) solely germane to information from Mr Eade, how come every other journalist asked for the same information?
Dr Russel Norman: So is the Prime Minister now saying that he disagrees with the findings of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security that “information which his deputy chief of staff received from the NZSIS was used by Jason Eade, a senior adviser within the Prime Minister’s office, to assist Mr Slater in making the OIA request.”? Is he saying he no longer accepts the Inspector-General’s findings?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I did not say that. I am saying that I agree with the Inspector-General when she said that I personally played no involvement other than a phone call on 22 July, despite all the assertions made by the Opposition members. Secondly, I agree with the Inspector-General when she said that there was no breach of confidentiality owed to the NZSIS. I agree with the Inspector-General when she said that there was misleading information given to me, and, on that basis, I have accepted the apology from the SIS.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. I wish to hear it in silence.
Dr Russel Norman: I have now used three supplementary questions trying to get an answer to this question, and the Prime Minister has answered many other questions—which were interesting, I give you that—but he has not answered whether he accepts this finding of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I offer some assistance to the member. If he simply asks a concise question I can try to assist to get the answer. If the member looks at the last question, he will see that he finished with a part of the question that was concise enough but he had led in with quite a lot of extraneous material at the start of his question. So to move this matter forward I am going to give the member an additional supplementary question. I hope he uses it well.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he accept the findings of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security that “information which his deputy chief of staff received from the NZSIS was used by Jason Eade, a senior adviser within the Prime Minister’s office, to assist Mr Slater in making the OIA request.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I certainly accept there may well have been a discussion between Mr Eade and Cameron Slater on this matter. I also accept that it is quite contested and I also accept that it was not in breach of any obligations on them. Every single political party in this Parliament has staffers and politicians who talk to the media. Yesterday Phil Goff was talking to the media about the contents of this report, despite the fact of there being an embargo.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Dr Russel Norman: Does he now stand by his statement that “the OIA request was nothing to do with my office”, given that he just said in that answer that he accepted that Jason Eade and Cameron Slater, when Jason Eade was working in his office, discussed this very matter?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Absolutely it was nothing to do with my office. If you look at paragraph 225 of the report it says—
Hon Annette King: How can you say that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Oh well, you will not like to hear this because I know that it bursts your bubble, but here we go. It said: “The inspector did not find any indication of collusion by or direction to the New Zealand SIS over the request.” The simple facts of life are that a wide range of people asked for information. The SIS made a decision how to process it. The SIS made the decision when it was released. It was nothing to do with my office and nothing to do with me. That is the problem is it not?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I have called Dr Russel Norman for a supplementary question. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Dr Russel Norman: Given that in his earlier answers he conceded that Jason Eade and Cameron Slater did discuss this issue, when did he become aware that Jason Eade and Cameron Slater were discussing the issue of the release of the Goff briefing?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The first I would have been aware of it was when there was an allegation made in the book and then, ultimately, as a result of this there has obviously been an inspector’s report. What I have been made aware of is that there was no breach of any confidentiality or any information, that my office was not involved, and all the decisions were made by the SIS. I hate to tell the member that there is a good reason Phil Goff leaked it. It does not stack up today. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! And I say to the Prime Minister that when I am on my feet calling for order it is no excuse for the Prime Minister to interject.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the Prime Minister stand aside from his job as Prime Minister while a full royal commission can look into the truth around the dirty politics that he has operated out of the office of the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, but I will be interested in reading the police report of how Nicky Hager got stolen emails.
Economy—Growth 2. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received confirming the economy is continuing to grow and that this growth is supporting more jobs and higher incomes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): A number of reports show that New Zealand’s solid economic growth is supporting more jobs and higher incomes. Statistics New Zealand’s latest GDP data confirmed that the economy grew by 3.9 percent in the 12 months to June, the highest growth rate in 10 years, and a tribute to the extraordinary efforts of millions of New Zealanders in their homes and their workplaces. The latest household labour force survey confirmed that the unemployment rate fell to 5.4 percent in September—the lowest rate since March 2009—and an extra 72,000 jobs were created over the past year. In terms of higher incomes, the benchmark used by successive Governments over the years for setting New Zealand superannuation—that is, average hourly earnings—increased by 2.3 percent in the year, compared with inflation of 1 percent. So there are more jobs and real increases in incomes.
Andrew Bayly: What other economic indicators show that the growing economy is helping New Zealand families and households to get ahead under their own steam?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: At any given time there are economic indicators that illustrate the challenges for New Zealand—say, for instance, falling dairy prices—and there are others that are positive for families and households. Low global inflation, a strong Kiwi dollar, and more jobs mean that we are not seeing the kinds of inflation increases that usually come with this kind of economic growth. So New Zealanders have slightly more spending power, as, on average, their incomes are rising a bit faster than the cost of living.
Andrew Bayly: What global and domestic risks does the Minister see for the New Zealand economy over the next 1 or 2 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have some confidence that New Zealand will perform solidly over the next few years and deliver moderate increases in incomes for New Zealand households, but it is clear that there are some global risks. For instance, Europe and Japan appear to be headed for recession. There is some uncertainty about the Chinese and Australian economies, and some of those changes are having an impact on New Zealand. We have seen falls in global commodity prices such as forestry and dairy, which can have a negative impact on the economy. We have also seen falls in the price of oil, which will have a positive impact, particularly for households, at the petrol pump. However, we believe that the New Zealand economy is sufficiently resilient to handle these global challenges. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Andrew Bayly: What are the implications for Government revenue of the lower growth in the nominal or dollar value of New Zealand’s economic output?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The lower nominal growth that comes from, particularly in this current year, a drop in our terms of trade will affect farm and company incomes, and also some wages. We expect that this is likely to flow through to the Government’s books in smaller than forecast increases in revenue. This reinforces the need for the Government to continue to control its spending and to focus on returning to surplus next year. We are also focused on reducing net debt to below 20 percent of GDP by 2020. Treasury will include its best assessment of these circumstances in the half-year update next month. This is an unusual combination of economic circumstances, but we believe that the strength of the economy and constrained Government spending can deliver a surplus when the final accounts are published around this time next year.
Security Intelligence Service—Release of Documents 3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader - Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement regarding the release of NZSIS documents to Cameron Slater that “The basic claim that somehow my office was either pressuring the system, speeding up the process, injecting itself in the process, all of that is flatly incorrect, the inspector when she goes and does her work and looks at it, will, I’m totally confident, demonstrate that”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Firstly, let me start by congratulating the Leader of the Opposition. Secondly, the answer to that question is yes, and I quote directly from the report, where it says: “The decision to release redacted copies of the meeting documents, the timing of the release and the decision to release information solely to Mr Slater were all made by NZSIS.”, without my office’s involvement.
Andrew Little: How does he reconcile that answer with the passage in paragraph 213 of the Inspector-General’s report, which states: “I did, however, find that Mr Ede had provided the details of the relevant documents to Mr Slater and was in fact speaking to Mr Slater by phone at the exact time that Mr Slater submitted his OIA request.”, showing his office was instrumental in the politicisation of information from the New ZealandSIS?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, far from it. There is obviously no doubt that Mr Ede had a discussion with Mr Slater, but, as I said, the fact that there was an Official Information Act request was not unique to Cameron Slater. It was put in by a wide range of other media outlets. The problem was that they asked them as media queries and not as Official Information Act requests, and therefore the New Zealand SIS treated them in a different way. That information was all in the public domain because of the stupid comments made by a number of people.
Andrew Little: Does he now accept, in light of the first answer he has given to my question, that denying that his office “injected itself in the process” is now demonstrably incorrect?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No—quite the contrary. If the member reads the report and looks at paragraph 225, he will see that it quite clearly says that the Inspector-General did not find any indication of collusion or direction to the New Zealand SIS over the request. Unfortunately for the Leader of the Opposition, this report does not stack up, and that is why his so-called mate leaked the report—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That is not going to help the order of this House. [Interruption] Order! The number of interjections coming from this side of the House, particularly from one very, very senior Minister, is unacceptable.
Andrew Little: When he made a political staffer the main point of contact for the SIS in his office and assigned a subordinate staffer to work with bloggers, what measures, if any, did he take to stop security agency information from being used for political purposes?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, firstly, they were not used for political purposes. That is actually quite clear. That is quite clear, and that is actually what the report finds. You see, that is the problem. That is why your mate Phil had to— (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Phil Goff: Is that an appropriate form of address for another member?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No it is—[Interruption] Order! It is not appropriate for that address, coming from the Prime Minister, and I do not want his answers to continue concluding with those sorts of remarks directed at the Hon Phil Goff.
Andrew Little: Given his personal apology to Cameron Slater for breaching his privacy, will he now apologise to Phil Goff for the partisan political attack launched by his office and his department via the Whale Oil blog; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The really interesting question here is whether Mr Goff owes me an apology. He made a series of statements prior to the election, all of which were demonstrably wrong, and they do not stack up in the report. And Phil Goff is laughing. He is laughing because (a) he is embarrassed and (b) he knocked you, Mr Leader of the Opposition, off the news. On the day you were releasing your line-up—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not going to help.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a point of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters. [Interruption] Order! Before the member starts, he will resume his seat. I have a point of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and I will hear it in silence. If there is an interjection from any member, that member will be leaving the Chamber.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker, you told the Prime Minister that you did not want to hear him concluding his answers like that, and you referred to what he was doing that offended the House or you. He went on to the next answer and did the same thing again. What strictures are you going to apply against him?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the latter part of the Prime Minister’s answer was not the same as the tone of his earlier address, whereby there was an absolute accusation that a particular member had leaked a report. That was the part that I was finding unsatisfactory, because there is no proof of that. That was not then mentioned by the Prime Minister in the last answer. [Interruption] Order! Having told the House that I do not want interjections during a point of order, I do not expect an interjection from a senior member, Winston Peters, after I have made a ruling—otherwise, I could deliver the same treatment.
Andrew Little: When will he apologise to New Zealanders for the political smear machine run out of his office and for the partisan use of security agencies?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would happily apologise if that is what this report from the Inspector-General demanded. It does not. What is true—what is absolutely true—is that advisers and politicians talk to the media. If it was solely on this side of the House, fair enough. But yesterday, on the basis of a report arguing about leaking information, Phil Goff leaked information—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat.
Andrew Little: When will the Prime Minister commit to all New Zealanders to lift his Government out of the sleaze and the sludge and stop the abuse of State power for political ends?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am very proud of the way this Government operates, and I am very, very confident that the discussions and briefings that political staffers and politicians have on this side of the House are absolutely consistent with the other side of the House. And, by the way, if they are different, here is an interesting point. When I became Prime Minister, members of the press gallery asked me whether I would be keeping up with the same level of “briefings” they got from Helen Clark.
Free-trade Agreement—New Zealand - South Korea 4. MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Trade: What progress has been made on negotiations towards a free-trade agreement with South Korea? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade): Excellent progress, and it is further evidence that this Government is focused on issues that will affect for the better the long-term social and economic trajectory of our country.
Mark Mitchell: Who stands to benefit from this agreement once it comes into force?
Hon TIM GROSER: There will be a range of our exporters that will achieve both immediate and, in the long term, very substantial benefits across agriculture, forestry, and seafood. I would like to particularly focus on our kiwifruit exporters, who will be relieved in only 6 years’ time of a 45 percent tariff that was driving them out of the market. It is worth about $20 million to them.
Security Intelligence Service—Release of Documents 5. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Prime Minister: Does he take responsibility for his office staff passing on information obtained from the NZSIS to Cameron Slater in 2011 for political purposes?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I take responsibility for my staff, although I would note that the inspector-general specifically says in paragraph 17 of her report that the disclosure of any information did not breach any obligations or confidentiality. I go back to the point I made earlier. Cameron Slater may well have asked for an Official Information Act request; so did a whole lot of media at exactly the same time. The problem was they did not ask for it in the form of an Official Information Act request.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security therefore accurate in stating in her report on page 8, paragraph 17: “The New Zealand Intelligence Security Service information was disclosed by a member of the staff of the Prime Minister’s office to Cameron Slater for political purposes.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is her assessment that there was a discussion, but she goes on to say that it did not breach any obligations of confidentiality owed to the New Zealand SIS on the part of the Prime Minister’s office staff. Would that be any different from coming down to this House and releasing documents and file notes from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in relation to one of the members of this side of the House—gone by lunchtime? Does that mean anything to you, Phil—Mr Goff, I mean—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister has answered the question. [Interruption] Order! I will just wait for a little bit of silence. There is a discussion across the floor. [Interruption] Order!
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I cannot hear a word you are saying because the Prime Minister is interjecting, constantly.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I was equally having trouble hearing. That was why I was trying to get some silence. But I can assure the member that the interjections were not coming from just my right; they were coming equally from my left.
Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister’s answer to the last question imply that he feels that the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was not accurate in stating explicitly that material from the SIS was transferred by his office staff to Cameron Slater, and is she wrong in saying that the very moment that Cameron Slater pushed the button to send the Official Information Act request on the SIS, your staff member and senior adviser Jason Ede was on the phone to Cameron Slater?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It certainly was not my staff. The Prime Minister can answer either of those supplementary questions.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said, I am not questioning that there was a discussion and I am not questioning that there is a contested view on information. I am sure that is right. But what is also absolutely clear is that the inspector-general has made it clear that any discussions and any information, if it was exchanged, did not breach any obligations of confidentiality. They are quite free to do that. What is a breach of confidentiality is when someone goes to the media a day before a report is due to be released, because it is embargoed— (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! I would be very reluctant to ask the Prime Minister not to be here to answer the rest of question time.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Prime Minister ready—ready to tell the truth?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the House will not settle down, it leaves me with no choice but to ask members, regardless of their seniority, to leave the Chamber. The member Phil Goff will ask a supplementary question without interjection, and there is certainly to be no interjection from my right-hand side.
Hon Phil Goff: Why was it appropriate for Jason Ede to pass on information to Cameron Slater so that he could put in an Official Information Act request for party political purposes, when the Prime Minister constantly tells this House that he wants security intelligence matters to be dealt with on a non-partisan basis, when his very office made the SIS a highly politicised organisation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is quite the contrary. In fact, actually, what the report absolutely indicates is that there was no indication of collusion or direction by the New Zealand SIS. It made all of the decisions itself. In fact, all the claims made by Mr Goff prior to the election do not stack up. So now we have only one question: Mr Goff, will you deny that you leaked it yesterday?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is not the Prime Minister’s job to be asking supplementary questions.
Hon Phil Goff: When the Prime Minister has spent 3 years denying that his office had anything to do with passing information from the SIS to Cameron Slater, did his staff members Phil de Joux and Jason Ede lie to him about that; if not, why did he mislead the country?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not. Mr Slater put in an Official Information Act request—he is quite free to do that—and so did other members of the media. Unless all of them were on the same conversation, then one has to assume that the reason the Official Information Act request came in from the media and from, actually, Mr Slater was as a result of the statements made by Mr Goff and myself—and I am prepared to accept that both of us relied on misleading information. That is actually why both of us have got an apology today.
Immigration—Incentives for New Zealanders 6. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: How is the Government encouraging more Kiwis to return home, to provide skills for New Zealand businesses and contribute to economic growth?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): In a number of ways. Over the weekend I attended the first of four job fairs we are holding in capital cities across Australia. The first job fair, held in Perth, saw some 1,650 people, the majority of whom were Kiwis, turning up to talk to the 35 employers and business groups represented. The Perth fair, along with one to be held in Sydney this coming weekend and fairs in Brisbane and Melbourne early next year, are designed to encourage more Kiwis, and, indeed, more skilled Australians, to move here to help contribute to our growing New Zealand economy.
Melissa Lee: What was the feedback from jobseekers and employers at the job fair?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: What was evident for those attending the job fair is that they consider Australia and New Zealand to be a single job market. There was a lot of interest from people living and working in Perth and Western Australia about the positive performance of the New Zealand economy, particularly from those who have been there a number of years. Understandably, some of the desire to return to New Zealand stems from lifestyle or family reasons, but what is clear is that it is the growth in the New Zealand economy and its employment rates that are now attracting people back. I understand that the employers present have brought back a significant number of CVs and lists of potential employees who will help with the 1,200 or so vacancies advertised at the fair.
Melissa Lee: What recent reports has he seen on migration?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is very interesting, actually. Yesterday the international travel and migration statistics for October were released. They showed that last month, for the first time since December 1993, there were more people arriving in New Zealand from Australia than were moving (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) out to Australia from New Zealand—the first time since December 1993. It is not a massive number, but it is a significant trend. To put that in some context, between 2000 and 2005 alone, there were 110,000 net departures from New Zealand to Australia. So although it is true that there has been an increase in unemployment in Australia, unemployment in New Zealand is now at its lowest level since March 2009. The New Zealand economy is growing strongly and more and more Kiwis want to be part of it here in New Zealand.
Prime Minister—Statements 7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader - NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in regard to the book Dirty Politics that “They’re based on one perspective and probably a bit out of context and with a whole bunch of assumptions that either aren’t correct or are made up, and now can’t be backed up.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. That statement is absolutely correct, as demonstrated by the fact that the book made the assumption that my office directed the SIS. It did not. The book made claims about Judith Collins. They were incorrect. The book made claims about Rodney Hide. They were incorrect. There was a whole wide range of assumptions made in that book—based on stolen emails—that were just simply wrong and incorrect.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the investigation carried out by the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, did she interview him, as the then Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service and the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: She did not, and she makes it quite clear in paragraph 222 of the report that if it had been necessary she would have sought my appearance before the inquiry. She did not do it because despite all the claims made by Mr Goff—made on nationwide television and on every radio station that would listen—weeks before an election in an attempt to skew the scrum, they were all wrong. I was out of the country. I have not handled an Official Information Act request in the entire time I have been the Prime Minister. Phil Goff should apologise—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister answered the question right at the very start.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If one of the central allegations was that the Prime Minister was aware, why would the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security not actually ask him that question as to his knowledge?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: She makes it quite clear in the report. She went through all of the source documents and could see I played absolutely no part—
Grant Robertson: Apart from the phone calls.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY:—other than a phone call on 22 July. That is exactly right, and I can tell the member about the phone call. In the phone call I said that I saw in the paper that Mr Goff said he was not briefed. I said to Dr Tucker: “That is surprising because you told me, Dr Tucker, that, actually, you did brief Mr Goff.” He said: “Yes, I did brief him.” I said: “I am going on Q+A, I am doing a pre-record in Washington, and I intend to say that.” He told me that was totally and utterly fine.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If one of the central allegations is not as to the Prime Minister’s role or part but as to his knowledge, why would she have not asked him whether he had any knowledge at all—not his role or his part but whether he as Prime Minister and head of the SIS had knowledge?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I had no knowledge of these matters other than the phone call I had on 22 July. That is not contested by anyone. The reason the member asks that question is the same reason that Phil Goff leaked the report—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister will resume his seat. Supplementary question—[Interruption] Order! This is a conversation you can have after question time, if you so desire. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why has he argued that his staff were not involved in a smear campaign, when the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has confirmed that they were?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: My staff were not involved in a smear campaign. My staff responded to an Official Information Act request . But here is a very interesting fact: Mr Goff has now said no one saw a copy of the report, but that does not mean he did not talk to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister has answered the question.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want you to clarify your earlier statement to the Prime Minister about what material he should add at the end of answers, because he has consistently done it on every single question, in defiance of your instruction.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept this point. The Prime Minister has continued to add to the end of his answers comments that will not help the order of the House. I have consistently sat the Prime Minister down. I should not have to do so. The Prime Minister should accept my ruling and simply answer the questions that are asked.
Dr Megan Woods: Did his staff member Jason Ede dictate the Official Information Act request to Cameron Slater?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no knowledge of that, but not as far as I can see from the public statements that Mr Slater made on Radio Live today.
Dr Megan Woods: Did he or his chief of staff discuss with Jason Ede the circumstances that led to the filing of Cameron Slater’s Official Information Act request in 2011; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that Mr de Joux and Mr Ede, of his office, are said in the report to have “treated information that they were given as available for release for political purposes unless they had been advised otherwise.”, can he assure this House that the security services have not been used for political purposes on occasions other than this?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and they were not on any other occasion either.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Is he expecting the public to believe that his staff got information seriously damaging to the then Leader of the Opposition, and yet did not tell him, as their boss?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. Amongst a whole bunch of things, I was on holiday at the time. It is worth remembering—because all of this is forgotten—that, actually, Mr Goff made some statements that I believed to be wrong. They were based on the information given to me by Dr Tucker. I sought to make sure I was right, and then I corrected those statements onQ+A. That is why a whole bunch of people put in requests for information. It was nothing to do with, in my opinion, the issue with Jason Ede particularly. But as the inspector has said, and I go back to this point, insomuch that there was any discussion between Jason Ede and Cameron Slater, it did not breach any obligations of confidentiality owed by the New Zealand SIS. The claims made by the Opposition—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The answer now is quite long enough.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister not admit that this is rather strange when it comes to the SIS, of which he was the then Minister responsible, the Government Communications Security Bureau, which he was at the time responsible for, or the Helensville raid, when a cast of thousands knew but he did not know, and that this defence of “I was not told.” is starting to run very, very thin.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member may not like the truth, but that is the truth. I actually fondly remember being in this House prior to the 2008 election when the Rt Hon Winston Peters was Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I think he missed Air New Zealand dropping some people in Afghanistan or something, and “he had not read the papers”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is a point of—well, I am certainly hoping that it is a genuine point of order. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, Mr Speaker, it certainly is, because you have, of your own volition, got up and asked the Prime Minister to stick to the facts, and he did not. He ignored you constantly for the whole time. But here is the real point: I want the Prime Minister to table that, because he is talking drivel.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I accept I am wrong. It was Iraq.
Economy—Surplus Target 8. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement with regard to the 2014/15 surplus target that “we will achieve one”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, but we will not know for sure until the Government’s annual accounts are published late next year for the actual outcome for the 2014-15 year. As I said publicly last week, I believe that the strength of the economy and constrained Government spending can deliver a surplus when those accounts are published. I would note that that member, Grant Robertson, in his many spokesman roles over the last 6 years, has opposed every measure the Government has taken to controlled spending.
Grant Robertson: Who is correct: him, who continues to claim a surplus will be achieved, or the Prime Minister, who now acknowledges that the surplus has disappeared?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will have to get a bit more familiar with the facts if he is going to be the finance spokesman. The numbers, of course, will be discussed at the half-year update. As we have indicated, weakness in international dairy prices is likely to flow through to Government revenue in the shorter term. We have confidence we can achieve surplus for the 2014-15 year, but we will not know that for sure until about October next year.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, does he agree with his own statement that lower commodity prices mean the economy will not grow as fast as expected, or does he agree with the Prime Minister that dairy prices will rebound and “fundamentally the pathway’s going to be back the other way”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We certainly have confidence in the future track for dairy prices in New Zealand. I know that the Opposition parties believe that dairy has done too well. Well, let us try what it is like when the prices are down. Actually, it would be good if the dairy industry was successful—good for the New Zealand economy.
Grant Robertson: When the Prime Minister said there were other options to achieving surplus in the face of a $5 billion hit from lower commodity prices, did he mean cutting spending; if so, what programmes will be cut to ensure he makes his meagre surplus?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The economy has a broad base of growth at the moment. The other options for achieving surplus are simply that the strength of the rest of the economy—whether it is through high commodity prices for quite a range of New Zealand products, a burgeoning IT sector, or a big inflow of New Zealanders coming back from Australia—all of these things will help to offset the impact of lower dairy prices on the Government’s books. Actually, the growth outlook for New Zealand is probably improving slightly as we head into a more sustainable economic cycle than we have had for some time.
Rt Hon John Key: Has the Minister of Finance seen any reports that it is an unusual thing to get control of the numbers and to have to understand and digest the numbers, when you are a person who has twice failed to get the numbers?
Mr SPEAKER: That question is certainly out of order, but I will take a supplementary question from Grant Robertson.
Grant Robertson: Supplementary question. Here is a number. I have a number for you, Bill—22. That is the number for you, Bill.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will now look forward to the supplementary question.
Grant Robertson: In light of his promise, first made in 2011, of a “meaningful surplus for 2014-15”, what dollar figure will constitute a meaningful surplus? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon BILL ENGLISH: You will have to wait for the out-turn. But what we do know is that in the Labour caucus one MP who promised Grant Robertson a vote did not deliver it, and that changed the leadership of the Labour Party. So a small number can make a big difference.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Out of that highly irrelevant answer, can I get another supplementary question?
Mr SPEAKER: The member may. The latter part was not helpful for the order of the House, I accept, but the member—[Interruption] I am on my feet, if the member had not noticed. He has raised a point of order and said the answer was irrelevant. I think the answer did address the question. He simply said he is not prepared to put a dollar figure on it until the December Economic and Fiscal Update is released later.
Accelerated Regional Roading Package—Reports 9. JONATHAN YOUNG (National - New Plymouth) to the Minister of Transport: What recent reports has he received on the Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Package?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): I am pleased to inform the House that work has started on the first project to be delivered by the Government’s $212 million Accelerated Regional Roading Package. Once finished in the first half of 2015, the $1.2 million of roading improvements at Panakou Hill and Wallace Hill on State Highway 35, north of Gisborne, will help drivers keep themselves, their passengers, and fellow road users safe as they travel around their region.
Jonathan Young: What commitments has the Government made as part of the accelerated regional roading package?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Earlier this year the Government announced that it is investing $212 million from the Future Investment Fund in a package of 14 regionally important roads and State highway projects. The Government has committed up to $80 million to accelerate five critically important regional roading projects in Northland, the East Coast, Taranaki, Canterbury, and Otago. These projects are fully investigated and designed, and address current safety, resilience, and productivity issues. Through the Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Package we are ensuring that New Zealand’s regions, which are a key driver of our economy, have modern transport infrastructure.
Security Intelligence Service—Confidence 10. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader - Green) to the Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service: Does he have confidence in the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister in charge of the NZ Security Intelligence Service): Yes.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister consider it appropriate for the SIS director, Rebecca Kitteridge, to have made public statements in defence of the Prime Minister’s office during an election campaign and prior to the Inspector-General’s investigation into the role of the Prime Minister’s office in releasing SIS information?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: That is a malignant description of what the director said. The director had made it clear, soon after her appointment, that after a 6-months settling in period she would make a number of public statements. That she did. As I say, the member’s characterisation of what Ms Kitteridge did is wrong, and it is malignant.
Metiria Turei: Given that two directors of the SIS have now interfered with a general election—Dr Tucker in 2011 and Ms Kitteridge in 2014—why would the New Zealand public have any confidence that the SIS will use its intended extended powers in the public interest, as opposed to National’s party political purposes? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: If the previous question was malignant, then that question was especially malignant. She does no service to her party or this place by asking filth like that. The director of the SIS is a highly professional woman who is doing a great job and is acting on the recommendations of the Inspector-General in a very careful and professional manner.
Sexual Violence—Victim Support Initiatives 11. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Justice: What steps has she taken towards improving the trial and pre-trial experience for victims of sexual violence?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister of Justice): Today I have asked the Law Commission to resume its work on improving the trial and pre-trial experience for victims in cases of sexual violence. Victims of sexual violence have already faced a brutal ordeal, and we need to ensure that the court processes are as supportive of them as they can be. It is my expectation that this, along with other work the Government has under way, will make a meaningful contribution to improving the court experience of victims of sexual offending.
Jacqui Dean: Is she considering as part of this work reversing the burden of proof in sexual violence cases?
Hon AMY ADAMS: No, I am not. It is important to strike the right balance between making the process easier for victims and protecting the right of defendants to face a fair trial. This Government recognises that the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial are fundamental parts of our criminal justice system protected under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. To my mind, reversing the burden of proof would be a step too far.
Employment—Compliance with Wages Protection Act 12. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Is he confident that employers’ obligations under the Wages Protection Act 1983 are being complied with in light of recent reports of workers’ pay being docked to recover the cost of theft by customers at service stations and supermarkets?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): I am confident that the overwhelming majority of employers are acting appropriately and within the Wages Protection Act, but I am concerned about the incidences and reports of deductions for drive-offs at service stations and thefts at supermarkets. I am advised that it is almost certain to be unlawful. To my mind, it is absolutely unacceptable.
Iain Lees-Galloway: What actions has the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment taken to ensure that workers whose pay has been docked illegally recover their lost wages?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am advised that in respect of the cases that have been brought to attention by the media, there is an active investigation under way. But in general, the labour inspectorate will investigate and require remedies to be made. What those remedies are may depend on the individual circumstances, but I am satisfied that the labour inspectorate is taking those matters seriously.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Given that answer and given that there are just 35 labour inspectors nationwide, which is one for every 63,000 workers, how can the Government adequately monitor and enforce workers’ rights against this kind of illegal activity by rogue employers?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In Budget 2014 there was a significant increase in the resource available to the labour inspectorate, and the number of labour inspectors is now 41. That is a 24 percent increase on the number of labour inspectors who are employed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment from the time we came to office. I am satisfied that there are sufficient resources—
Andrew Little: You don’t care about low-paid workers. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, as to the member who is interjecting, I say that we certainly care about workers. We certainly would not fire officials for one lapse of judgment. We certainly believe that a 90-day trial is appropriate, but I would certainly not support a 365-day trial.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Is the Minister aware of any collective employment agreements that do not adhere to the Wages Protection Act; if not, what impact will removing the duty to conclude collective bargaining, removing the right for new workers to be offered the same terms and conditions as any collective agreement in place, and blocking workplace access for union representatives have on the number of employment agreements that do not adhere to the Act?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, no employment agreement should be in breach of any Act. It is as simple as that. But the member raises questions about changes to the Employment Relations Act that this Government has made. They are fair, they are appropriate, and they create a flexible working environment that is good for both workers and employers.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Minister believe that a worker on a 90-day trial would be likely to speak up if their employer was acting illegally?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Well, yes, I would, and I certainly would expect that person to speak up a lot more readily than somebody who is on a 365-day trial would.