Questions & Answers - 25 August 2016
• ORAL QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the New Zealand economy and how does this compare to the international economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Last week the Moody's rating agency released its Global Macro Outlook for 2016-17. It is forecasting growth in the G20 advanced economies to remain stable at low levels, averaging 1.6 percent this year and 1.9 percent in 2017. In contrast, the Reserve Bank is forecasting the New Zealand economy to grow at more than double the G20 rate—at 3.4 percent for the year to March, and the same in the following year. So at a time when many major economies are treading water, the New Zealand economy is continuing with moderate, consistent growth.
Brett Hudson: What other international reports has he received about the New Zealand economic outlook?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As part of a range of international reports issued recently, the credit-rating agency Fitch Ratings affirmed New Zealand's AA rating, highlighting New Zealand's strong macroeconomic policy framework, prudent fiscal management, and sound business environment, which is rated among the best globally by the World Bank. It also, along with other credit rating agencies, pointed out New Zealand's exposure to international markets through higher levels of international debt, but, on their measures, New Zealand's position on debt owed to overseas lenders is improving.
Brett Hudson: What reports has he seen on recent developments in the domestic economy, particularly for our export industries?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Despite the downturn in dairy prices over the last 2 to 3 years, the New Zealand economy has continued to grow, and total exports have lifted. Tourism, beef, timber, wine, and international education have flourished, while the dairy sector had its resilience tested. Although there is ongoing volatility in international dairy prices, we welcome the lift in milk prices by just under 30 percent over the last month. It has led to a lift in forecast farm-gate prices, with Fonterra announcing a lift in the farm-gate milk price by 50c, to $4.75 a kilogram. That will be good news for farmers struggling through a cold, wet spring, but there is some way to go before most of them will be able to break even.
Brett Hudson: What does a growing economy mean for New Zealand families and households?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is a bit different for different members of the households. But, for instance, now that the construction industry has over 10,000 apprentices, it means that younger members of households can expect to see the best opportunity in a generation to get trades qualifications. That is just a part of the 105,000 extra jobs created last year, and the more than 250,000 jobs that have been created over the past 3 years.
• Health System—Reports
2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports has he received, if any, on the failures of the health system?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I have received a range of reports, mostly positive. Although there is always more to do, in general, health services have improved across the board.
Hon Annette King: Will he front up to public meetings to be held in Havelock North next week, when people are to discuss the failure of their drinking water, which put their health at risk, or does he stand by his statement that "We don't have these terrible water-borne epidemics in New Zealand.", made when he opposed legislation to improve drinking-water standards.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Of course, as usual, Mrs King does not give the full context to that quote. It was made back in 2007—a long time ago—and, actually, at the time, those comments were absolutely correct. So you should stop misleading people about what I have said—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: But she is.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, just—the last part will not help the order of the House. The question has been answered.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Not referring to the last comments, which you said were not appropriate, but I would seek leave to table the Minister's Hansard, so he can actually see what he said—
Mr SPEAKER: No. No. No. [Interruption] Order! No, the member is now trifling with me. Hansards are easily available to all members if they think it valuable to go back and do such research. [Interruption] Order! I have a point of order.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I would like to finish answering the question—
Mr SPEAKER: I will allow the Minister to finish answering the question.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: In terms of what has happened in Havelock North, obviously the Government has announced the terms of reference for an inquiry, and we are in the throes of putting that together—as was announced at the Prime Minister's press conference on Monday.
Hon Annette King: Will he now admit yet another failure in health, because some district health boards (DHBs) are refusing to sign his ill-conceived Compass Group hospital food deal, which means, according to the contract, DHBs like the Southern District Health Board are now going to have to pay more for their food than they do currently?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No, look—that is not correct. The DHBs are taking a whole-of-system approach, and in the end we have got to look at what is best for the health system across the board. So I have not had any reports of people refusing to sign those contracts. Sorry, I wait to be enlightened. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Just stand and ask for a supplementary question and we will move on.
Hon Annette King: Why after years of National denying there is an obesity crisis in New Zealand, calling measures to address it "nanny State", has he put in place a childhood obesity plan that the New Zealand Medical Journal labels as "unlikely to solve the obesity crisis … based on a dated paradigm", and which shows "that the Government values corporate profit over public good."?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, do not forget Labour's answer to that was to ban all meals with sugar in them. The reason we have put the plan in place is that it is the right thing to do. And I just remind the member that we are one of the very few countries that has an obesity target as one of its headline health targets. We have got an evidence-based 22-point plan to address the issue. I think Mrs King would be better being actually constructive, because if she has got any sensible ideas, rather than just making up rubbish, she should put them on the table. [Interruption]
Dr David Clark: In light of the downgrade of training accreditation at Dunedin Hospital and out-of-date facilities, on what date does he expect the physical rebuild of the hospital to begin?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I reckon the member should be constructive, rather than talking down his local hospital. There is a very well defined Treasury and Ministry of Health process to take those papers through Cabinet. We have to make sure, actually, that we get the hospital properly developed. We have to make sure that we have got the services in there that are needed, rather than just—as Mr Clark wants to do—fire from the hip and announce a date. Actually, there are complex problems in Dunedin, and we are making good progress.
• Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles—Government Response
3. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Why has the Government not yet announced its response to the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles' recommendations, given he has been considering them since May 2016?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): It is important that the process for addressing pay equity claims is clear and workable for all parties. The Government acknowledges that this is a significant issue, and, although a lot of progress is already being made, including by the excellent efforts of the joint working group, it is important that we get the process right. Accordingly, the Government, in partnership with a range of interested parties, is still considering the recommendations of the joint working group. We expect to have a response in the not too distant future.
Jan Logie: Given the working group comprised unions, business, and Government, when will the Government announce its response to its work?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In the not too distant future.
Jan Logie: When can Kristine Bartlett and the 50,000 care and support workers in New Zealand expect to be paid fairly for their important and skilled work?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: When the process for considering the equity claim that they have is complete. The joint working group principles are a way of providing a sound framework and process for doing that, but, actually, they are still in a court process, and I should not comment any further on that.
Jan Logie: How has the Government found time to focus on things like Steven Joyce's space rockets law and Simon Bridges' pizza delivery drones when it does not seem to have made time to think about fair pay for women?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Michael Woodhouse.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: In respect of the last part of that question, quite the opposite. This Government—the Government that actually passed the Equal Pay Act 43 years ago—will also fashion a world-leading framework for the consideration of pay equity. But it is complex. The joint working group made excellent progress, but there were still questions left unanswered. We are going to make sure we get that right. I would rather get it right than get it early.
Jan Logie: How is it that the Government managed to take away carers' rights in a single day under urgency, like it did last term, but these negotiations to pay women fairly have already taken nearly a year?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The member is not clear about the first part of that question; therefore, I cannot answer it. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Jan Logie: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Then ask it.
Jan Logie: Does the Minister realise that the under-paying and under-valuing of traditional women's work, like caring, is a major contributor to the imbalance of men's and women's economic positions, as seen in this chart, which shows that the average wage of Pasifika women is just 67 percent that of Pākehā men?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Absolutely yes, and as one who, in a previous life, employed many of those caring women, I think I have a significant deal of empathy for the situation they face. That is why we are seeking a remedy. But I should add that the pay equity question is just one part of a broader programme of ensuring equal pay for women. I know that the Minister for Women is working incredibly hard on the many other things that we can do to ensure that women enter professions in equal numbers to men, are not penalised when they take time out of the workforce, and have access to directorships, and we are seeing significant progress in that regard.
• Health Services—First Specialist Assessments
4. BARBARA KURIGER (National—Taranaki - King Country) to the Minister of Health: Can he confirm that 551,000 patients received a First Specialist Assessment last year, and that this is more than one in 10 New Zealanders?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, and this is an extra 10,000 patients compared with last year. Overall, there has been an increase of 119,000 first specialist appointments per year, or 28 percent more than the 432,000 that were carried out in 2008-2009. The only answer to increasing demand is to do more, and this Government is.
Barbara Kuriger: What reports has he had on an increase in patients receiving elective surgery?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The rise in first specialist appointments has been accompanied by an increase in the number of people receiving the elective surgery that they need. The number of patients receiving elective surgery increased from 118,000 in 2007-2008 to 172,000 in 2015-16. That is nearly 54,000 more surgeries per year than 8 years ago, a 45 percent increase.
Hon Annette King: How many patients did not get referred for a first specialist assessment because, as GPs have said: "It's a waste of time—they won't be seen."?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: We are collecting data on first specialist assessments. All we know for sure is that in the last quarter of 2015, 87 percent of people referred from GPs to the hospital got a hospital appointment. Another 8 percent were sent away because they were sent to the wrong clinic or there was wrong information. It was only 5 percent who did not actually meet the threshold. That figure will change a bit over time, but the point is that this is the first Government to collect the data on access to hospital appointments, and that creates a picture that will enable us to do more. As I have said in the primary answer, we are doing more and more appointments all the time.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked how many patients did not—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! No, no, no. The Minister, I think, did not have the exact number, I accept that, but he went through and gave a fairly detailed explanation and ended up with a percentage of patients that he acknowledged may not have got their first specialist assessment. I think that question was very definitely addressed.
Hon Annette King: Will he now stop claiming that only 5 percent of patients are refused a first specialist assessment and sent back to their GP, which he said only a few weeks ago in this House, in light of the Ministry of Health stating that it may climb between 10 and 15 percent?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Once again, the member is making stuff up. I have always said that that 5 percent would probably settle out at 10 to 15 percent. I said that in my opening statement when we first reported these results, so Annette King should just stop making stuff up. It is not good.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is where we get frustration, because I can quote from a question in the House and I could table his press release, which has 10 to 15 percent, as the ministry said. He claimed in this House it was only 5 percent.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept and can sense the frustration from the member, but, equally, I find it very frustrating that when I was listening to the answer to try to ascertain what the Minister was not saying, I could not hear the answer because of the level of interjection coming from the member's colleagues.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Those interjections happen when the Minister is allowed to say that Annette King is making stuff up. It is that that causes the disorder.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is this time partially right, because the interjections certainly got louder with the last comment by the Minister, but the interjections started well before the Minister ended up with his final comments. [Interruption] Order! I am now going to ask for some cooperation from my left-hand side. If I continue to get interjection that is incessant, I will be asking a member to leave the Chamber.
• Lincoln University—Financial Position and Sustainability
5. TRACEY MARTIN (NZ First) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: What reports has he seen on the financial sustainability of Lincoln University?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Acting Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): I have seen a number of reports. Because of its small size, Lincoln University has struggled to be financially sustainable since before 2007, well before the Christchurch earthquakes. The Government, through the Tertiary Education Commission, is working to help Lincoln University to return to profitability. Having increased agricultural funding rates by over 50 percent across the last three Budgets, Government funding for Lincoln University has increased 65.3 percent since 2008, compared with a 24.2 percent increase for the university sector overall.
Tracey Martin: Is he aware of reports that the new vice-chancellor for Lincoln University last week told staff that "We have 1 year to get to a surplus, or we are dead."?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON: As I mentioned in my primary answer, there are some challenges for Lincoln University in returning to profitability, which the Tertiary Education Commission is supporting it with. In terms of options available and decisions to be made, they are decisions for Lincoln University.
Tracey Martin: What actions are his offices taking to pursue the previous vice-chancellor Andy West's mismanagement, and the dodgy awarding of taxpayer-funded contracts to his mates, such as Roger Pikia?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question makes a very serious allegation and should not stand.
Mr SPEAKER: The first part—[Interruption] Order! I heard the first part of the question, and there was absolutely no problem with that. I did not hear the second part because, again, of noise coming from the member's own colleague. I will invite the member to ask the question again. If it is in order, we will proceed. If the member adds something that is out of order and makes an allegation, she risks losing the opportunity for that question.
Tracey Martin: What actions are his offices taking to pursue the previous vice-chancellor Andy West's mismanagement, and the dodgy awarding of taxpayer-funded contracts to Andy West's mates, such as Roger Pikia?
Mr SPEAKER: The question is in order.
Hon LOUISE UPSTON: Decisions for Lincoln University are matters for the university to consider, and those relate to anything to do with the vice-chancellor.
Tracey Martin: Is he concerned that Lincoln University may be so financially damaged by these recent vice-chancellor decisions that the 2017 Future Footprint is also now under threat?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON: I simply refer the member to my answer to the primary question, which talked about the levels of funding and support over and above other universities that this Government has made. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Mark, this will be the last time I ask you to cease interjections, certainly in that tone as well.
• Economic Growth—Household Incomes
6. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Are working people getting a fair share of economic growth when real median household incomes increased by 1 percent between 2008 and 2015?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): It was always going to raise questions about that calculation when real wages have risen by around 12 percent over that time. It appears that the member's calculation is probably wrong. Following the right procedure gives a 2.8 percent real increase on that measure according to that Statistics New Zealand database. However, when you use a more complete and realistic definition of household income, officials advise that median—
Grant Robertson: Oh, a more complete one!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member should listen. Median household incomes rose by 9 percent in real terms between 2010 and 2015. The member's calculation simply is not credible in light of the fact that real wages rose 12 percent, and a comprehensive definition of household income rose by 9 percent in real terms.
Grant Robertson: Is it correct that the New Zealand Income Survey shows that, in contrast to the 1 percent growth in real median household incomes under his watch, there was a 27 percent increase from 1999 to 2008; or, using his calculation, that would have been the difference between a 2.8 percent increase and a 25 percent increase?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have not looked in detail at those figures. I would simply reiterate what I can tell him today, and that is that his calculation of 1 percent simply misrepresents what has actually happened. Under a comprehensive definition of household income, the median household income rose by 9 percent in real terms between 2010 and 2015.
Grant Robertson: Did 44 percent of New Zealanders get no pay rise at all last year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Probably, because that is what normally happens. It is pretty standard that somewhere between 45 to 50 percent of the workforce gets a pay increase in any given year, and that can be simply because, as with many public servants, their pay round only comes up every second or third year.
Grant Robertson: Is lifting real median household incomes by a higher percentage than 2.8 percent, or even 1 percent, a priority for his Government?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Lifting income certainly is a priority, and by any reasonable measure, incomes have increased. As I said earlier to the member, his 1 percent figure, wherever he got it from, simply is not credible when it is put alongside the measures using comprehensive household income, which, even using the median, has risen by 9 percent in real terms between 2010 and 2015. In any case, this Parliament has chosen the ordinary after-tax weekly wage as the benchmark for national superannuation, and that has gone up by something like 25 percent in the last 7 or 8 years.
Grant Robertson: Does he think that with some of the highest increases in housing costs in the world in the last year that that is actually contributing to working people feeling that they are working harder than ever but that they are not getting a decent share in prosperity?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think that rising housing costs, as a proportion of household income, is a significant issue. That is why this Government has devoted 5 or 6 years to undoing the damage of 30 years of misguided planning, which has had the effect that the member has said. That is why the Auckland Unitary Plan is such a big step forward, because, for the first time in 30 years, our biggest city has decided to allow growth at a level that, in the future, may be affordable.
Grant Robertson: Is he really saying to working New Zealanders who have only got a small share of the growth in the economy that after 8 years the best he can do is blame somebody else for planning decisions, instead of the fact that he has done very little to lift household incomes and control the housing crisis?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, what we are saying to them is that this Government, at least, has gone to the trouble of understanding what it is that is putting pressure on household budgets. Those households have benefited on the one hand from low interest rates across the board, which is to some extent a global phenomenon and to some extent to do with New Zealand policy, but at the same time, the capital value of houses has gone up faster than it should have. That is why we have gone to all the trouble of trying to change the planning system that has restricted the supply of houses, driven up the price of them, and, therefore, put pressure on low and middle income households. Actually, I think the Labour Party knows that that is correct.
Question No. 2 to Minister
RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to draw your attention to Speaker's ruling 47/4 with regard to the interchange between Minister Coleman and Annette King, which Mr Parker drew your attention to, and your ruling on that, alluding to the fact that that sort of interchange would lead to disorder in the House. I actually believe it goes further than that. Speaker's ruling 47/4 says that a member "must not accuse another member of making a statement that member knew to be incorrect.", and for the Minister to say that Mrs King was making stuff up, I believe, is covered by this ruling. It is akin to saying that the member lied, and I wonder whether you might give some consideration to the possibility of asking the Minister to withdraw that comment and apologise for it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is talking about Speaker's ruling 47/4. The member is right: if any Minister, in responding, went so far as Mr Prosser says could have happened and had suggested a member is lying, that is completely out of order and would be dealt with severely. Quite often Ministers, in answering questions, say that they disagree with the member who has asked a question. That would happen very, very frequently. It is not helpful to the order of the House when any Minister says that another member is making it up, and I accept that point. [Interruption] Order! I do not need assistance from the Hon Annette King, although she is very keen to give it. I will look carefully at the Hansard at the end of the day.
MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri): My question is to the Minister of Education and asks—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Mr Faafoi, Mr Doocey has as much opportunity to ask a question as anybody else.
7. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has the Government made about investment in education infrastructure in Christchurch? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just ask—I know the member Dr Megan Woods sits very close, and so every interjection I do hear. Could she please desist, with less interjection, as I call the Hon Hekia Parata.
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Since June of this year, Minister Kaye and I have announced over $67 million in projects to build new schools and classrooms in Christchurch. This spending is part of the $276 million being invested in Canterbury's school infrastructure as part of Budget 2016. The total investment package is made up of around $168 million towards the Christchurch schools rebuild programme, $100 million to build two new schools and deliver two relocated and rebuilt schools, around $8 million for new roll growth classrooms, and $6 million for a seismic strengthening fund for integrated schools. Additionally, yesterday the Hon Nikki Kaye announced revitalisation of the city's CBD as the Government announced the site for the new $30 million Christchurch school Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery, which will be a significant step towards the revitalisation of the CBD.
Matt Doocey: What investment in schooling infrastructure is under way in Kaiapoi?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: In the last week Minister Kaye and I announced the Government would invest a further $6.6 million in the redevelopment of Kaiapoi High School in North Canterbury, on top of the $15.5 million already announced for the project. Kaiapoi High School is one of 115 schools that are being remodelled, rebuilt, or repaired as part of the 10-year, billion-dollar Christchurch schools rebuild programme. This programme is now in its third year and is making excellent progress, with seven schools completed, 10 in construction, 21 in design, and nine in the planning stage. I am looking forward to visiting Kaiapoi North School tomorrow—with the fabulous local member of Parliament—where construction work is starting on its redevelopment.
• Homelessness—Government Response
8. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Social Housing: Does she agree with the Prime Minister when he said, "We've actually got quite a strong plan for dealing with the homelessness issue, I don't think we need a summit …"?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Housing): Yes. We have an extensive work plan that is going on, particularly with emergency housing but also with that pipeline of social houses that are coming through. We are the first Government to actually fund emergency housing providers. That is already making a big difference, and, of course, we have got a lot more work that we are progressing as we go.
Phil Twyford: Is that plan the one that includes paying people to get out of town, flying squads that do not exist, block-booking motels, and hiring international consultants to propose things like putting the homeless in army barracks, tents, and warehouses?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Predominantly, the plan is about us building more social houses, particularly in Auckland, where they are most needed. We can see that pipeline of build coming through. We can see more community housing providers getting involved and actually building more. We can see the support that is going on around emergency housing. It is an announcement that this Government has made about supporting the Housing First initiative, where we see that going to be rolled out within west Auckland, central Auckland, and South Auckland, which of course will make a huge difference as well.
Phil Twyford: Is it ambitious for New Zealand that after 8 years of her centercenter PAGE \ MERGEFORMAT 100 PAGE \ MERGEFORMAT 1Government there are 16,000 people in paid work or study who are homeless?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I simply do not agree that there are 16,000 people who are homeless. But what I would say is that you can see more work going on in this area than ever before and that we have New Zealanders who are living in a better quality of home because of the rebuild programme that is going on. In the member's own electorate there is a massive rebuild programme that is really making a difference. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Gerry Brownlee, I also need to now ask you to make substantially fewer interjections. You have been very vocal throughout question time, and it is not helpful to the order of this House.
Phil Twyford: Are we still on the cusp of something special when most homeless are families with children, according to the latest independent research from Otago University?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: That is simply not true, so it is simply not true, actually, for the numbers that are—
Hon Member: The research is wrong!
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Actually, the research is wrong, so let us get it absolutely right. If you break down the figures, there are simply not 41,000 people in a situation most New Zealanders would call homelessness or living rough. For example, the number of people living rough or in an impoverished dwelling was 1,413 in 2013, and it is now down slightly in 2016.
Phil Twyford: Why will she not admit that she is not coping and that her response to homelessness is farcical, and will she reconsider the invitation to join the Cross-Party Homelessness Inquiry so that she can find some lasting solutions to this crisis?
Mr SPEAKER: There are two supplementary questions there.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: While that member is getting emotive, I am getting on with action. Actually, there is more going on in this area than there ever has been before. We take the issues around housing some of our least fortunate very, very seriously. We can see progress happening, more money being spent, and more attention on this than ever before.
Marama Davidson: How could she claim, in response to my question on Tuesday, that the reason the Government did not join the Cross-Party Homelessness Inquiry is that "We did it over 10 months ago.", when she said in answer to written questions from May this year that she had no research into the cost to the taxpayer of homelessness or any idea as to what the levels of homelessness actually are?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because they are completely different questions.
Marama Davidson: Will the Government join us at the remaining inquiry hearings, given the words from a father who was living homeless under her watch and who now volunteers at Te Puea Marae, who said: "What's John Key going to do? He should be here, looking at the problem. You fellas are looking at the problem."?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am sure that what Te Puea Marae has also been saying is that it got extensive support from this Government, with, actually, a number of officials who were on the ground there, every single day, to help those families as they came forward, and they are still working with them. So this Government is actually taking it seriously and is making a difference.
9. TODD BARCLAY (National—Clutha-Southland) to the Minister of Tourism: What announcements has the Government made on its commitment to supporting tourism in the regions?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of Tourism: The Government is committed to ensuring that regional tourism benefits from the fantastic growth that we are seeing in the sector. Last week, it announced that it had ring-fenced half of its $8 million Tourism Growth Partnership fund exclusively for projects in the regions that will both help grow jobs and attract new visitors. It also announced that applications are now open for our $12 million Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund, which communities can apply for if they need funding help for infrastructure due to visitors.
Todd Barclay: How will the changes to the Tourism Growth Partnership help build tourism businesses in the regions?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is often harder for regional businesses to attract investment to get started. The changes we have made will give people in the regions more opportunity to turn a great idea into a business reality. Those who want to start a new regional tourism venture can apply to the fund. I really encourage them to go to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) website, where there are more details on how that is structured and where they can get their application forms.
David Clendon: Does the Minister agree with Mr Warrick Low of Venture Southland that a border levy to pay for regional tourism infrastructure would not discourage people from coming to this country; or does he agree with Maggie Barry's comment that a border levy would be a "big deterrent" to tourism?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It will be really interesting to see the applications that we get for the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund—and I think that is going to give us a real indication of what is happening locally. Some people think we will not get many, others say we are going to be well oversubscribed—so I think that is going to give us a really good indication. In response to the member's absolute question, other countries have tourism levies as such. I do not think it has really affected their tourism numbers, but it is something that needs to be investigated from all avenues, and I think that is what is happening at the moment.
David Clendon: Does the Minister believe that $7 million a year is sufficient help for small regions struggling to pay for much-needed tourism infrastructure, or would the $20 million that the Green Party's Taonga Levy would raise each year serve that need much better?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I said, we have now opened applications. It will be really interesting to see what comes in, and, as I say, we do not really know. We are hearing different stories about what the need will be. We have got a massive increase now, but the forecast of more visitors coming means that that will continue to have an effect not just on smaller towns that are struggling with their infrastructure but, equally, on our Department of Conservation estate, which I know is something that the members have raised as well. We will be interested in seeing that work that is coming through from the private sector, and will be looking at it with an open mind.
Fletcher Tabuteau: How will Franz Josef—which has only 400 permanent residents but 10 times that number of tourists on any given night—afford to replace its waste-water treatment plant costing $6.5 million, given it is one town of many contesting that $12 million fund?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am fully aware of the issues that are going on in Franz Josef, and there is actually work going on at the moment from a range of officials and a range of agencies looking at what can be done. They do have, I think, quite a unique challenge, not just with the size of their ratepayer base but, equally, with their location—where they are—and some of the effects that they are seeing. We will be talking to them and making sure that we can help with an outcome.
Todd Barclay: How do the changes outlined earlier in this question complement the Government's wider regional economic development work?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What is really important to Tourism New Zealand, and, equally, to this Government, is that we see the regions benefit from that increase in tourist numbers coming to New Zealand. We know that there is every opportunity for them to travel more extensively than just through the three hot spots of Auckland, Rotorua, and Queenstown. We have seen an increase in each region—as far as the number of visitors—and, more importantly, in the financial benefits and economic benefits that they are getting. We have completed regional growth studies through the work that has been going in MBIE, and we really see this as complementing that.
• Social Development, Minister—Statements
10. CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour—Kelston) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her statements?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Yes, in the context in which they were made.
Carmel Sepuloni: Does she stand by her statement that getting off a benefit and into employment or study "allows individuals and families to thrive", when nearly 52 percent of homeless people are actually working or studying according to a recent University of Auckland study?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes. This Government does believe that the best way out of poverty for people is to be independent, to be able to support their families, and, of course, to be in employment.
Carmel Sepuloni: Does she stand by her statement that her electorate is "pumping", given the Bay of Plenty's and Gisborne's increase in homelessness, and does this not mean she has failed her own electorate, like she has failed New Zealand?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: If you go back to the primary question and my answer, I think it behoves the member to actually be correct when she tries to quote me.
Carmel Sepuloni: I seek leave to table a speech by the Minister that she gave in the House where she refers to her electorate as "pumping".
Mr SPEAKER: That speech will be available, I assume, to all members if they want it. There is no need to table it.
Carmel Sepuloni: Does she stand by her statement that "The greatest resource that this country has is its workface, is its people."; if so, what will she be doing to address the issue of Pacific people—a big part of our workforce—being 10 times more at risk of homelessness than any other New Zealander?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, I do stand by that quote. That is an accurate quote. This Government is doing a tremendous amount, and I refer to my colleague who leads the Pacific plan. The education, qualifications, and performance of Pasifika pupils have risen considerably under this Government. The participation and employment of Pasifika people have risen considerably under this Government. We do not say that we have got all the issues nailed. There is still much work to do, but this is a Government that is aspirational for all people, and particularly Pacific people.
Carmel Sepuloni: How can she claim sole parents as her "biggest success" when sole parents and their children are six times more likely to be homeless than couples with children?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have never claimed that sole parents were my success. It is their success in getting themselves educated and independent from the State and able to support themselves and their family. I think this House should be congratulating every single one of those sole parents who have managed to get off a benefit and into employment, and we should be backing them 100 percent.
Carmel Sepuloni: I seek leave to table an interview where the Minister is saying that the biggest success they have had is with sole parents.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just need the source of this interview.
Carmel Sepuloni: Newshub.
Mr SPEAKER: No. That is available to all members if they want it.
Carmel Sepuloni: Is she concerned that her Government's target of a reduction in beneficiaries has led to working families being no better off than when they were on a benefit?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I entirely refute that assertion. There is no doubt—and the research and the evidence is clear. That is why this Government works to support people off benefits and into employment—because it is better for them economically, it is better for their health, and it is better for their social connections. What is more, it is much better for their children.
Carmel Sepuloni: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I understand that Labour has used its full allocation today.
• Border Control—Illegal Child Sexual Abuse Materials Interception
11. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Customs: What updates has she received regarding the interception of child sexual abuse material at the border?
Hon NICKY WAGNER (Minister of Customs): In the past financial year the Customs Service prosecuted six individuals caught travelling with child sexual abuse material or sharing it through the internet. Forensic examination of their computers and phones located 537,636 images and videos. In one of the Customs Service's largest cases by volume, one man was arrested after being caught online with over 400,000 images. This investigation was launched after a referral from the US authorities. The Customs Service is focused on targeting and prosecuting people who possess and share child sexual abuse material, to protect children in New Zealand and internationally.
Melissa Lee: How is the Customs Service working with Government departments and international agencies to fight child sex abuse crimes?
Hon NICKY WAGNER: The Customs Service and agencies collaborate through shared intelligence, both locally and internationally. A recent letter from Interpol has praised New Zealand as an example to the rest of the world on how online child exploitation is dealt with, especially the working relationships between the Department of Internal Affairs, the New Zealand Police, and the Customs Service. Behind every image and every video of a child, someone was suffering horrendous abuse. People who keep and share these publications make victims' suffering even worse.
• Health, Minister—Statements
12. BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement, "Budget 2016 will help New Zealanders continue to access the healthcare they need"?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes. Budget 2016 allocated an extra $2.2 billion to health over the next 4 years. As part of that, the Government is spending $124 million for Pharmac to provide more access to new medicines, $96 million to provide more elective surgery, and $39 million to start the roll-out of the bowel screening programme. There is also an extra $25 million for primary care in the Budget, and over time we have increased the number of doctors and nurses in the system by 6,000.
BARBARA STEWART: Does he believe New Zealanders are continuing to access the healthcare they need, when Waitematā District Health Board (DHB) bowel cancer sufferers have to wash and reuse catheters, even though the catheter packaging states they are for single use only, because the DHB is supplying only half the number needed for patients?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, and that sounds pretty operational to me.
Barbara Stewart: Does he think it appropriate that New Zealanders, predominantly elderly New Zealanders, are being asked to wash and reuse the catheters, resulting in multiple infections, so that DHBs can save just over $1 per day, and is this an example of the efficiency savings he is demanding of DHBs?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Look, while it is operational, I find that pretty unlikely because that would be a source of infection, so that would not be correct for the core practice, and I would find it hard to believe that is really happening. So come and see me about it.
Barbara Stewart: Does he think it appropriate that when constituents do complain directly to his office of this exact situation they receive one box of additional catheters, and then no changes are made to the long-term care for that constituent?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, what I would say is that I am a local MP in the Waitematā DHB catchment area and we have had fantastic feedback about the performance of the Waitematā District Health Board over time—the services there have just got better and better. It is very well run by Mr Levy and Dale Bramley, and people are actually really happy with the service because they are getting more and more access to the quality healthcare they need all the time. So, look, if there a problem with the catheters, come and see me.