Questions and Answers - May 28
Questions to Ministers
Social Services—Contracting Arrangements
1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social Development : Does she stand by her statement that “this Government is working with a number of service providers to make sure that those clients of Relationships Aotearoa are well looked after”?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes. I understand that a meeting has taken place today between the Ministry of Social Development, Relationships Aotearoa, Barnardos, Family Works, Stand Children’s Services, and Lifeline Aotearoa to discuss the continuation of counselling services to those clients.
Hon Annette King : Is she aware that Lifeline Aotearoa, which was not deemed good enough by the Ministry of Health to provide a national telehealth line, is now considered good enough by the Ministry of Social Development to provide Relationships Aotearoa’s clients with a service staffed by volunteers, and is that the quality service that she promised?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : First of all, the member is wrong. Although it is the Minister of Health who is handling it, it is my understanding that those negotiations have not been completed. Secondly, the member is correct: there is an 0800 number that the Ministry of Social Development has set up urgently with Lifeline Aotearoa. That number is: 0800 543 354. It would be more helpful if the member took account of the clients who are worried about these services and provided that emergency lifeline that has been made available to them because Relationships Aotearoa has closed its doors precipitately.
Hon Annette King : Why did she say that there were five organisations that the Ministry of Social Development and the Government were working with to replace services provided by Relationships Aotearoa when, in fact, one of them, Stand Children’s Services, only heard that it was to provide a service on the news this week?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : There are a number of organisations that have offered their services. I provided only the names of organisations that I had been advised were being dealt with by the Ministry of Social Development. As I say, there are a number of individuals and organisations throughout New Zealand who have offered to help.
Hon Annette King : Well, in light of the Minister’s confusion around who is providing what, does she believe that the named providers, who have no experience with very high-needs clients, are capable of providing a competent and safe service, as claimed by Mr Edridge yesterday?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : As I said in my answer to the substantive question, I am very confident that the work that the Ministry of Social Development is doing with a large number of providers around the country will see some of those extremely vulnerable people successfully transitioned and well supported. But the member would be far better not to go scaremongering on radio while we are all working to make sure that those support services are put in place for them.
Darroch Ball : How can the Minister guarantee that those clients of Relationships Aotearoa will be well looked after when one of the named replacement providers, Stand Children’s Services, is already resource-stretched, being able to provide just 17 social workers for around 8,000 students within the schools it provides services to?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Well, I am not taking part in the negotiations. As I said, they met today, and the Ministry of Social Development is determined to make sure that all of those clients are well supported into their new services. The difficulty that we have had is that Relationships Aotearoa demanded up to $2.4 million extra in order to transition the clients over the next 12 weeks, and that does not address its $1.5 million deficit. That is the difficulty that we have had. When it was refused, it closed its doors.
Hon Annette King : Is she aware that among the 500 serious and urgent cases requiring service are 22 suicidal clients, two homicidal clients, 25 severe domestic violence victims and offenders, and five sex offenders; and could she please name the organisations that are capable of handling these very complex cases right now?
Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Anne Tolley—either of those two supplementary questions.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : That is why I have been at pains to make sure that we have some emergency capability, and that is what that 0800 number for Lifeline Aotearoa is providing for them immediately so that there is emergency help for those people who need it. What that member needs to do is to stop playing politics with people’s lives and support us as we try to transition those very vulnerable clients.
Hon Annette King : Why did she claim that services could be provided by other organisations when Abuse and Rape Crisis Support Manawatu and Family Works South Canterbury, to name just two places, have said that they are already at maximum capacity and would struggle to provide any extra services?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : Obviously, around the country, judging from the offers that have come in from many, many organisations, there are people who are willing to step up and provide these services. So the member can play politics and scaremonger all she likes; this Government is focused on making sure that we have those services available, that those services transition those clients, and that those clients are well supported.
Budget 2015—Better Public Services
2. NUK KORAKO (National) to the Minister of Finance : How does Budget 2015 continue the Government’s plan to deliver better public services?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance : Three years ago the Prime Minister set 10 challenging targets for the Public Service. These included improving health and education outcomes, reducing crime, lowering welfare dependence, and increasing online connectivity. The framework has contributed some significant improvements. For instance, there has been a 38 percent reduction in youth crime since 2011, the number of teenage sole parents on a benefit has dropped by 40 percent since 2011, and the Government has recently revised upwards its workforce skills target due to better than expected results. Budget 2015 builds on this with a $790 million child hardship package, as well as more investment in health, education, welfare support, and the justice sector.
Nuk Korako : How did Budget 2015 deliver on the Government’s continued focus on supporting the most vulnerable New Zealanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : One of the most important things that we can do for vulnerable families is to help the parents into work, and that is why, in the Budget, we increased obligations on those on a benefit to be available for work. The solidly growing economy has produced 194,000 extra jobs since late 2010, meaning that we have already surpassed our aim of 170,000 jobs by the middle of this year, which we set in Budget 2011. Another 150,000 jobs are expected by 2019, and we are continuing our focus on helping those on welfare into work, where this is appropriate. We are having some success with this approach. Last year we reduced the expected cost of supporting current beneficiaries over their lifetime by $7.5 billion. A key part of this was getting more sole parents into work.
Nuk Korako : How is better data helping the Government to meet the needs of vulnerable New Zealanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : We are using data to get a better understanding of the people who use our services and need our support. For example, if you take the most vulnerable 1 percent of all 5-year-olds—that is around 600 children in a year, or a 20-year pipeline of 12,000 children—we know who these kids are and we also know that, on current trajectories, three-quarters of them would not get National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, that 40 percent would be on a benefit for more than 2 years before they are 21, and that a quarter of them would have been in prison by the time they are 35. They would face hardship, but, on average, these children would cost taxpayers $320,000 each before they turn 35, and some of them would cost well over $1 million. So we are changing services in order to intervene earlier to help people lead more fulfilling lives, and where this works, the Government’s books will also improve.
Nuk Korako : What other steps were taken in Budget 2015 to advance the Government’s focus on delivering Better Public Services?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The flagship initiative of Budget 2015 was the $790 million child hardship package, which provided more support for 160,000 beneficiary and working - families with incomes below $36,350 a year. As I mentioned earlier, the child hardship package also increased the requirements of those on a benefit to be available for work. The Budget also provides over $100 million for further initiatives to support vulnerable children, including $49.8 million to continue funding Whānau Ora navigators to help families tackle problems, $36 million over 4 years to support the Children’s Action Plan for at-risk children, and an extra $23 million to bolster the work of Child, Youth and Family.
3. JAMES SHAW (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs : Has a full and final settlement been reached with Mr Al Khalaf; if so, what is the total cost to taxpayers?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs): As I said to the House yesterday: “the New Zealand Government specifically resisted the concept of compensation to the Al Khalaf group”. Therefore, it is not appropriate to use the term “full and final settlement”. However, the Government is satisfied that the partnership outlined in the Cabinet paper I have previously tabled has fully resolved the prospect of any litigation.
James Shaw : Was the Government given a written assurance from Mr Al Khalaf that these payoffs constituted the equivalent of a full and final settlement?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : What I can say, as I said in the primary answer, is that in the process that played out, the Government was fully satisfied that the partnership outlined in the Cabinet paper that I have previously tabled fully resolved the prospect of any litigation.
James Shaw : So is the Minister saying that New Zealand taxpayers flew sheep to Saudi Arabia, built a farm in the middle of the Arabian Desert, bought out property in New Zealand, bribed a wealthy businessman, and yet have no written guarantees that they will not get sued in the future or be required to hand out more taxpayer dollars?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : No.
James Shaw : Why did the Minister agree to pay off Mr Al Khalaf with no legal advice about whether there was any credible cause of action?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : The Government took advice from very senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including from the legal division.
James Shaw : Is it normal practice to enter into a business arrangement on the basis of a strongly worded letter from Mai Chen?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : I have never received a strongly worded letter from Mai Chen in my life.
James Shaw : Can the Minister rule out that no other foreign businesses have been paid off to prevent lawsuits or influence trade outcomes?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : As I indicated to the House yesterday, I have not seen an example of the appalling behaviour by a Government that required rectification on the scale of this one.
James Shaw : So would he say—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Would the member start again.
James Shaw : Would he say: “Bribing a Saudi businessman ain’t working, that’s not the way you do it. He’s got your money for nothing and your sheep for free.”?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : No.
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs : Did he seek advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade about whether using the multimillion-dollar payment for the benefit of Hamood Al Ali Al Khalaf—a Saudi Arabian businessman—to cause the Saudi Arabian officials to advance the GCC FTA, which had stalled, breached the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Not specifically, but officials confirmed that the transaction was lawful and within the scope of the ministry’s appropriation.
Hon David Parker : If, as he has already acknowledged, he sought no advice on the OECD convention on bribery and no proper legal advice on the threatened lawsuit from Al Khalaf Group, does that not show he wanted to keep this pay-off under the table and avoid proper scrutiny by officials and by the Cabinet?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : A requirement of the convention that the member refers to is to have a domestic law that gives effect to the convention in New Zealand. I am satisfied that the ministry would have been aware of this in assuring me that the transaction was lawful.
Hon David Parker : I seek leave to table the OECD convention on bribery, which covers pecuniary advantage to a third party in order to get a public—
Mr SPEAKER : It is possibly freely available, but on the basis that the House can determine it, I will put the leave to table this particular copy of this convention. Is there any objection to it being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon David Parker : Why is there no record of this first multimillion-dollar deal with this Saudi businessman ever having been announced, when all other ventures are always proudly announced by him or his National Government colleagues?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : There have been various references to the establishment of the Saudi hub over the last couple of years.
Hon David Parker : I seek leave to table a 26-page list in typewritten script of all of Mr McCully’s releases since 2012 that relate to—
Mr SPEAKER : No, those releases are available to all members. Is there a supplementary question?
Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not seeking to release the releases; I was seeking to release the list of all the releases, none of which include these matters.
Mr SPEAKER : No, the point of tabling a document, as I have explained many times, is to further inform the House. What I think the member is attempting to do is make a political point. That is not the purpose of tabling. I am not putting the leave. Does the member wish to ask a further supplementary question?
Hon David Parker : Can he assure the House that neither the Saudi officials with links to the Al Khalaf group nor anyone in the Al Khalaf group had any involvement in the tender process for the second deal—the $6 million model farm deal?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : The arrangements with regard to the $6 million and the establishment of the hub were undertaken by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise in full, according to its normal practices.
Hon David Parker : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : I am going to invite the member to repeat the question because it has not been addressed.
Hon David Parker : Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can he assure the House that neither the Saudi officials with links to the Al Khalaf group nor anyone in the Al Khalaf group had any involvement in the tender process for the second deal—the $6 million model farm deal?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : I just want to be clear that I have no ministerial responsibility for trade and enterprise and therefore cannot give the precise answer that he requests. But I can say—
Hon David Parker : You fund it.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : —that is correct— that to the best of my understanding that is the case.
Hon David Parker : Has he received any reports that his unethical behaviour—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is going to end up with the question being ruled out of order. I invite the member to ask the question without that imputation.
Hon David Parker : Has he received any reports that this behaviour has set such a low standard that other organisations operating in the Middle East using Government-funded businesses have also been tainted?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : I have received a number of reports suggesting that it is a matter of great regret to the New Zealand business community that it had in place before 2008 a Government that was prepared to mislead investors in this country, and it required this Government to try to find a resolution. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Is this is a supplementary question from Fletcher Tabuteau?
Fletcher Tabuteau : Yes, it is.
Mr SPEAKER : Then you need to call.
Fletcher Tabuteau : Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can the Minister clarify for the House that it was never actually this National Government that entered into a contractual agreement to supply Mr Al Khalaf live sheep for him to export back to Saudi Arabia, before it was done in the form of compensation?
Mr SPEAKER : If you want the question repeated I can get it repeated.
Hon Murray McCully : Thank you.
Mr SPEAKER : Because it was quite a complex question, could the question be repeated? [Interruption] And could I have some silence on my right-hand side?
Fletcher Tabuteau : I just want clarification, to establish that it was never actually the Government that entered into a contractual agreement to supply Mr Al Khalaf live sheep for him to export back to Saudi Arabia, before it actually became a compensation exercise.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : I hope I am addressing the question that the member is trying to ask. If he is asking me whether the original business that Mr Al Khalaf was involved in was business with the New Zealand Government, the answer to that is no. The issues that have arisen with Mr Al Khalaf relate to events more recently as a result of the change to Government policy.
Hon David Parker : In light of his answer to my last supplementary question to him, is he aware that every Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Trade, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Agriculture in the Clark Government, going back to 2005—that is, Messrs Clark, Cullen, Peters, Goff, and Anderton—have all confirmed that they never once had an approach from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of the allegations he said were behind his facilitation payment?
Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Murray McCully, if he has the knowledge to answer that.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : What I am prepared to say is that the statement made in the Cabinet paper I released about the concerns that Mr Al Khalaf raised about being misled were verified by me by looking back over the history of this matter, but some of the references were redacted from the paper because I wanted to remove material that would be prejudicial to New Zealand’s interests, so I will not take that matter any further than that.
Hon David Parker : Has he heard of any complaints about how the New Zealand Middle East Business Council, which is part-funded by the Government, has been operating; if so, what are those complaints he has heard of?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : No, I have not.
Fletcher Tabuteau : Given the answer to my earlier supplementary question, is this then or precursor of the investor States dispute settlement clauses within the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, for example. We have not even signed a free-trade agreement with the Middle East, and yet the Government is being sued by foreign business because this Government exercised its sovereign right to implement our own laws?
Hon MURRAY McCULLY : That question might more properly be addressed to my colleague the Minister of Trade and, should the member ask it, I am sure he will get a lengthy and very interesting answer.
James Shaw : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table my letter today to the Auditor-General for her to investigate procedural improprieties with the contracts—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, that is not going to inform the members of the House. That is simply an attempt to make a political point.
Chris Hipkins : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I waited until the end, Mr Speaker. In one of his answers earlier, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, indicated he had no ministerial responsibility for New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. The previous position of the House and the previous rules of the House have been that where a Minister delegates one of their functions to an Associate Minister, the primary Minister still remains answerable and accountable to the House for that delegation.
Hon Steven Joyce : Speaking to the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I will hear from the Hon Steven Joyce.
Hon Steven Joyce : My understanding is that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is overseen by the Minister of Trade and the Minister for Economic Development, not the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Mr SPEAKER : And that is certainly my understanding.
Hon Trevor Mallard : Their web page, which, of course, I am not seeking to table, does indicate that the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs is one of three Ministers responsible: Mr Groser, Mr Joyce, and Mr McClay, who is down as Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Hon Steven Joyce : Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : No, I do not need further assistance, but I do appreciate the points that have been raised. At the end of the day the matter that is important here is for the Minister to be responsible for his answers. He has made an answer to this House. If he regrets that, he has got the ability to change it. If other members think that it has been an answer deliberately misleading the House, they also have a process.
Budget 2015—Ultra-fast Broadband
5. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister for Communications : How does Budget 2015 continue the Government’s commitment to the Ultra-Fast Broadband programme?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications): Budget 2015 shows this Government’s strong commitment to investing in communications infrastructure through our Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative. With the first phase of the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative running 10 percent ahead of schedule and within budget, this Government is delivering on our election commitment to expand our investment in high-speed internet connectivity. That is why the Budget included up to $210 million in capital funding from the Future Investment Fund, which will allow us to expand the coverage of ultra-fast broadband to reach at least 80 percent of New Zealanders. That is an estimated extra 200,000 New Zealanders, and it brings this Government’s total investment in improving connectivity to $2 billion.
Brett Hudson : How can communities who want to be part of the next phase of the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative get involved?
Hon AMY ADAMS : As part of the extension of the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative, we are asking councils and communities to work with us to get the best result out of the investment. This could involve providing local knowledge on existing networks and infrastructure, working with IT companies to make sure the builds can be faster and cheaper, or having specific plans and opportunities ready to make the most of the social and economic gains that ultra-fast broadband can deliver. This gives communities the chance to be involved from the outset and to work with us to ensure we design the best programme possible for stage two of the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative. The process closes on 3 July, and I urge all councils to take up this exciting opportunity to help us bring faster connectivity to their communities.
Health and Safety Reform Bill—Progress
6. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety : What is the status of the Health and Safety Reform Bill, and what feedback has he received on it?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety : My understanding is that the bill is at select committee. The Minister has received a wide range of feedback—in fact, you could say the full 360 degrees of possible feedback—over many months, for what is a significant piece of legislation.
Clayton Mitchell : Given this Minister and the Minister before him were warned as far back as 2013 that the vast definition of a “person conducting business or an undertaking” was a bridge too far, does he accept that several years should have been ample time to, and I quote his spokesperson, “get it right”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I think the member should of course appreciate that this is a very complex piece of legislation. There are 289 pages in the bill, and actually there is a wide range of views. The member represents one view; there are many other views. It is important we land this piece of legislation in a way that achieves the aim of dealing with the challenges of workplace safety, but takes a risk-based approach.
Clayton Mitchell : Does the time extension for this bill reflect that National Party backbenchers like the Hon Maurice Williamson were prepared to cross the floor and support it, as reported by Richard Harman—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is absolutely no ministerial responsibility for that.
Clayton Mitchell : When the Hon Judith Collins says about the bill, and I quote her from Stuff: “I just think it needs a bit of tweaking, and that’s the right thing to do.”, would the “bit of tweaking” really need 2 months?
Mr SPEAKER : That is a marginal question as well, but the last part of the question can be answered.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The National Party caucus and, more particularly, the select committee will continue to deliberate on it because it is important that we do end with a piece of legislation that achieves—[Interruption] Shh! Be quiet, Mr Shearer. You are one who does not have a caucus. You do not have a caucus at all, mate.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The interjections from both sides were not helpful to the order of the House.
Clayton Mitchell : I will just have to wipe the smirk off my face as well.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member, when he is called to ask a supplementary question, will rise and ask it; no more.
Clayton Mitchell : Given that New Zealand First is the only party to lodge a minority report expressing concerns that the bill opens up a legal Pandora’s box for farming, small business, clubs, and even bodies corporate, does this show the Minister is out of touch with his own MPs, as he is with business—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Again, there is no ministerial responsibility. The member is referring to something that is currently before a select committee. [Interruption] Order! If members are keen to leave early for the afternoon, they could encourage me to do that.
7. ALASTAIR SCOTT (National—Wairarapa) to the Associate Minister for Primary Industries : What recent Government initiatives encourage the planting of forests in New Zealand’s regions?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister for Primary Industries): We have recently confirmed a $22.5 million reboot of the Afforestation Grants Scheme. We understand that forestry is a long-term game, and this Government knows that start-up costs can be a huge barrier. This scheme invests into grants to lower the establishment costs of new forest planting in our regions. It is expected to result in 15,000 hectares of new forest. This scheme was announced in the Wairarapa electorate, on Jamie Falloon’s property. Those who attended the launch were shown forestry areas that were established under the previous Afforestation Grants Scheme. Therefore, they saw the considerable benefits.
Alastair Scott : What other environmental benefits will this scheme achieve?
Hon JO GOODHEW : Based on the previous Afforestation Grants Scheme, this new scheme will increase the productivity of erosion-prone land, improve water quality, and reduce the impact of severe flooding. In other words, this is an ideal scheme for erosion-prone and other under-utilised land. The scheme is also expected to result in 1.9 million tonnes of additional carbon dioxide stored in our forests.
Budget 2015—Spending Commitments
8. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance : Does he stand by all the spending commitments made in Budget 2015?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance): on behalf of the Minister of Finance : Yes, I particularly stand by our commitment not to means test superannuation. I also stand by our commitment to increase benefit payments for families with children by $25 per week, the first increase in real terms since 1972. I stand by our commitment to increase health and education spending by $1.7 billion and $680 million respectively over the next 4 years. I thank the member for his question.
Grant Robertson : In light of that answer, does he stand by the statement in Budget 2014: “The share sale proceeds saw $4.7 billion go to the Future Investment Fund and we said we would spend $1 billion of that on schools, and a further $1 billion on health,”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I cannot recall the exact details—and, knowing the member, I would like to check them—but I can say that the Future Investment Fund has been of great benefit to New Zealand, not just in education and health but in broadband, the rail network, and in a whole range of things that would not be existing today if we had taken the advice of the other side of the House and not proceeded with the share offers.
Grant Robertson : Is it correct that, as stated in his media release last week, so far $635.6 million in education funding and $684 million in health funding have been allocated from the Future Investment Fund?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : If it is in my press release, I am happy to vouch for it.
Grant Robertson : Is it further correct, as stated by Minister Nathan Guy, that $400 million has been allocated from the Future Investment Fund for irrigation, of which $120 million has been spent so far?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The Government has made a commitment to, over time, invest $400 million if it is required, and certainly $120 million has been committed so far. In terms of whether it all comes from the Future Investment Fund, that will all be out in the fullness of time.
Grant Robertson : Given that page 41 of the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update 2015 states that there is $526 million left in the Future Investment Fund, how will he pay for the $680 million required to meet his promises for health and education and the $280 million that he has promised for irrigation from the Future Investment Fund, meaning a total shortfall of $424 million?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : I would say to the member that probably equates to the amount that the Government did not make because of the appalling political behaviour by the Opposition during the floating of those companies. But the member shall find out in the fullness of time—there are at least 2 more Budgets before the next election.
Grant Robertson : So which of the following is correct: that he has now promised $424 million more spending from the Future Investment Fund than is actually in the fund, or that he will break his promises on funding for health, education, or irrigation? Which of them is correct, Steven?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : What is correct is that once the Future Investment Fund finishes—
Grant Robertson : You’ve run out of money.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Well, no, actually, Grant. The Government will actually continue to have capital expenditure allowances, including in Budget 2016 and Budget 2017—and, for all we know, Grant, maybe even in Budget 2018. We will just have to wait and see.
Corrections, Department—Staff Safety
9. TODD BARCLAY (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Corrections : What announcements has he made regarding the roll-out of new stab-proof vests to Corrections officers?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Minister of Corrections): Malo le soifua. [Samoan text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.] Earlier this month I announced that the Department of Corrections would invest nearly $4 million to roll out around 3,500 lightweight, stab-resistant vests to all front-line corrections officers. Our corrections officers work in some of the most challenging and often high-risk conditions, and these vests will provide them with another level of protection within the prison environment. Although assaults with stabbing weapons are rare, these newer, lighter vests will enhance the current stock of response vests, which are bulkier and not suitable for prolonged daily use. The investment of nearly $4 million in these New Zealand - made vests is a result of our comprehensive safety plan and aligns the Department of Corrections with the same type of vest issued to New Zealand police and courts staff.
Todd Barclay : What other measures has this Government delivered to help improve the safety of our corrections officers?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA : Good question. The safety of our staff is of paramount importance. We want to create a safe working environment where staff and offenders interact without violence. The Department of Corrections launched its staff safety plan in 2014, which focused on five key priorities: visible leadership, increased training, effective communication, enhanced resources, and appropriate tools and improved resources.
10. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister of Conservation : What action, if any, is she going to take to prevent Māui’s dolphin going extinct by 2029 given new research showing the population has declined from an estimated 55 adult dolphins to an estimated 43 to 47 adult Māui’s dolphins?
Mr SPEAKER : In calling the Minister, can I advise that my office has been advised that the answer may be longer than normal.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. We are already taking significant action. The most recent abundance survey for Māui’s dolphin is between 48 and 69 adults, which gives us the approximate number of 55 individuals, which is the scientifically accepted number, and that number has not changed. In 2012 we extended the set-net ban area by 350 square kilometres and put in place a 100 percent observer coverage on all fishing beyond this area, a total of 6,200 square kilometres. That adds up to more than 100 square kilometres of set-net ban area for each of the 55 Māui’s dolphins. The Māui Dolphin Research Advisory Group will be set up next year to provide independent and balanced advice to the Government on the dolphins’ recovery. We are carrying out an extensive abundance survey that will be completed next year, and that covers 1,600 kilometres of surveys. It is being done by taking skin samples, which are then analysed for DNA, from dolphins across two sighting seasons. That is required to give us scientifically robust and rigorous figures rather than non - peer reviewed, computer-based modelling based on old data from 2012.
Eugenie Sage : When 95 percent of all human-induced Māui’s dolphins’ deaths are from being caught in trawl nets and set nets, is allowing trawling in 95 percent of Māui’s dolphins’ habitat and set-netting in 81 percent of their habitat consistent with protecting Māui’s dolphin from extinction?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY : That is not correct. Let us be really clear on this. There have been no confirmed records of Māui’s dolphins outside the set-net ban area. The predominant area they inhabit is between Kaipara Harbour and Kāwhia Harbour, which is completely covered by the set-net ban, which already extends between Maunganui Bluff and Hāwera. It is important to know that it is impossible for experts to tell the difference between a Māui’s dolphin and a Hector’s dolphin, without DNA sampling and “necropantsy”—whoops, necropsy; it is a terrible word. It basically means examining them when they are dead.
Mr SPEAKER : Carry on.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY : But the Department of Conservation—thank you very much, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : Bring your answer to a conclusion.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY : It is very important to know that even the experts cannot tell a Māui’s dolphin at a glance. You do need to do those figures and those studies first. Thank you.
Eugenie Sage : Does the Minister accept the 2014 recommendations of the Scientific Committee of the International Whaling Commission that Māui’s dolphins should be fully protected from set-netting and trawling across their entire range, from Maunganui Bluff in the north to the Whanganui River in the south, 20 nautical miles offshore; if not, why not?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY : No, we do not expect that or accept it in any way. As far as we are concerned, and as I have said in my previous answer—and I do not want to extend the Speaker’s patience around this, but, at the risk of repeating myself—we have already put in place all the set-net bans that are required for any recorded sightings. They have been verified scientifically. We have that all covered off. So, no, we do not accept the committee’s recommendations.
Eugenie Sage : Does the Minister agree with Auckland University’s Dr Rochelle Constantine that “What we do know is that we need to do everything we can to help this dolphin survive”; if so, how is allowing trawling and set-netting in the marine mammal sanctuary doing everything we can to help Māui’s dolphin survive?
Mr SPEAKER : The Hon Maggie Barry—either of those two supplementary questions.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY : We are doing everything that we can to protect the Māui’s dolphin. We have put a great deal of money into it; some three-quarters of a million dollars, which is what we spent on kākāpō recovery, actually. We are vigilant. We are working across the Government with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation. We have put independent observers on the boats. We have banned set nets in the areas where they are. All of those things that we have taken—they are prudent. If that member from that party wants to do bans across all the fishing areas, in the same way that a former member of your party wanted to stop seismic testing and all of the rest of it in areas that would cost this country $3 billion in mining and exploration, that is not the kind of financial wisdom that this Government will ever accept, because it will take us to hell in a handcart.
Eugenie Sage : I seek leave to table the 2015 report by Barbara Maas of NABU International to the International Whaling Commission, entitled “Estimated Population Size and Decline of Māui’s Dolphin”.
Mr SPEAKER : I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Health and Safety Reform Bill—Prime Minister’s Statements
11. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety : Does he agree with the Prime Minister who said yesterday that the Health and Safety Reform Bill needs more work because “despite what we might say there isn’t great divisions, there are just interest in making sure we get it right”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety : Absolutely. The Government strongly believes that every New Zealander who goes to work in the morning should return home safe and well at the end of each day. We are committed to passing workable and effective risk-based health and safety legislation to help reduce the rate of serious harm in our workplaces.
Iain Lees-Galloway : If he does agree with the Prime Minister that the bill needs more work, why did he originally ask Jonathan Young to call a meeting of the select committee to conclude deliberation on the bill a day early because he wanted to proudly reveal the contents of the bill when he addressed the Safeguard National Health and Safety Conference at Skycity this morning?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : The matters of the select committee are for the select committee.
Iain Lees-Galloway : How disappointed is he to have been rolled by his own caucus on a bill that he is proud of and was eager to talk about publicly?
Mr SPEAKER : In so far as there may be some ministerial responsibility, the Hon Steven Joyce.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Unlike the Labour Party, we do not discuss what happens in our caucus. And unlike the Labour Party, we do not have three ex-leaders, something like five or six aspiring leaders, and no actual leaders sitting over there.
Grant Robertson : I seek leave of the House to table the transcript of the 7-minute interview Judith Collins—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! It will not be necessary to put that leave.
Iain Lees-Galloway : What advice has he received from National MPs about changes that need to be made to the bill that have not already been recommended by the select committee?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : We are constantly reprising and considering our views on a range of legislation. This is a very busy Government, as we know. This is a 289-page bill. It is a complex bill, and it is important that we all get it right, because this has an impact on all sorts of businesses and people up and down the country.
Iain Lees-Galloway : Has he been advised which National MPs are revolting against his bill? Is it Chester Borrows, the good bloke sidelined by the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! There is no ministerial responsibility for that.
Iain Lees-Galloway : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked my question very carefully, and I asked whether the Minister has been advised. It is a question about advice he has received relating to a bill he is in charge of.
Mr SPEAKER : I will allow that question that has just been asked, but there was no need to add names, as the member was heading on down to do in his first supplementary question. I will allow the Minister to answer that part of the question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : What was the question?
Iain Lees-Galloway : I will repeat the question—
Mr SPEAKER : Just that question, or else I will rule it out.
Iain Lees-Galloway : Well, I have got to give him some help. My question to the Minister is: has he been advised which National MPs are revolting against his bill?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE : Can I say to the member that his salivation at the prospect of that occurring is about 3,000 percent in excess of any chance of it actually occurring.
Budget 2015—Kiwi Conservation
12. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Conservation : How does Budget 2015 help to secure the future of the kiwi?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Our national bird, the kiwi, will receive $11.2 million in operating funding over the next 4 years, and that is on top of the $4 million the Department of Conservation currently spends every year on kiwi work. Predators like rats, stoats, and ferrets mean that kiwi numbers are declining by 2 percent a year and there is a very real risk that our national bird will be extinct on the mainland in our grandchildren’s lifetime. My aim is to turn this 2 percent decline into a 2 percent annual increase as a matter of urgency. The Department of Conservation will work closely with the Kiwis for Kiwi trust over the next 4 years to distribute $3.5 million among community initiatives to boost breeding programmes, extend predator control systems, and establish a robust monitoring programme that includes acoustic recording devices and intensive tracking.
Scott Simpson : How will this investment be used to boost kiwi numbers in the wild?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY : The extra $11.2 million of funding announced last week means that the Department of Conservation will be able to more than double the area of public conservation land that is actively managed for kiwi. This means additional predator control of more than half a million hectares. The existing Kiwi Crèche kōhanga sanctuaries around New Zealand are very successful, and we will be expanding on these, collecting and raising chicks in protected sanctuaries until they are approximately 1 kilogram in weight, when they are better able to survive predator attacks in the wild and can be released. There will also be a programme of research to implement new tools and techniques for kiwi protection, in conjunction with New Zealand’s biological and scientific challenges. [Interruption] Although the Opposition may think it is a joke, our kiwi are under threat, and this Government takes it very seriously.