Parliament: Questions and Answers - April 5
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, in their context.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement regarding Clare Curran's phone call to Richard Griffin on Thursday, 29 March that "she left a message with the chair around the possibility of correcting the record in writing" and the premise being that she wanted to correct the record as soon as possible?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the statements made by Richard Griffin in select committee today that "The Minister seemed to be labouring under the impression at the time she left the message that we were to appear that afternoon.", and that "she wanted me to write a letter to the chair of the select committee … which would then ensure that there wasn't a public hearing"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, Mr Griffin is a very, very experienced civil servant—so talented that he was that, when he was serving a former National Party Prime Minister, he was mistaken for being the Prime Minister. But as for not answering his phone, I can vouch for the fact that frequently he would not answer his phone—it was more common than not—and when he uses the words "seemed to be", that means that that's his impression, but it may not be a fact.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still stand by her statement that Clare Curran sought to contact Radio New Zealand to find an alternative so that they could correct the record immediately, in light of Richard Griffin's statement today that she wanted him to "write a letter to the chair of the select committee … which would … ensure that there wasn't a public hearing"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The most efficient way of handling the matter, and in the most expeditiousness of time, would be to write a letter rather than to waste everybody's time turning up to a hearing. That said, that's what the Prime Minister is relying on, and I think that unless the member can come up with something else, the molehill is going to remain a molehill.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does it appear to her that the reason Clare Curran wanted to have the record corrected on the Thursday that RNZ was due to appear was not about doing it as quickly as possible but to ensure that there wasn't a public hearing on the matter?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, for a start, there wasn't going to be a hearing that day, according to the previous question the member asked. So that disposes of that. The second thing is, Clare Curran, from any reasonable, sane reading of the actions, was seeking to expeditiously put the record straight, and she did.
Hon Paula Bennett: How does the Prime Minister reconcile the contradictory statements of Clare Curran and Richard Griffin, in regards to that phone call on Thursday?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because Mr Griffin used the words "seemed to be". That owns up to the possibility that he's wrong. He put it in his very words, and words matter, you know. You can't just, sort of, convict something because you don't like them or because you've lost power and you're in Opposition.
Hon Paula Bennett: Says more about him than me—has the Prime Minister sought—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. I'll ask people on both sides of the House just to settle down and I'll ask Paula Bennett to start her question again, without the preliminary comment.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has the Prime Minister sought an assurance from Clare Curran that the Minister never suggested to Mr Griffin that he did not or should not appear before the select committee in person, given Mr Griffin's understanding of the message he received?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Given that Mr Griffin made that public a few hours ago, it is quite possible that the Prime Minister has not had time at this point in time to react, particularly since Clare Curran is today, again, also not available, and that's—
Hon Amy Adams: Again?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, it's a Thursday, and where's your man? Where's your man? If it's Thursday, he's not—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, she started it, Mr Speaker.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I'm asking the Government backbenchers to be quiet.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Two points of order—first, the Deputy Prime Minister is answering in the House as if he's the Prime Minister. So simply saying that she is not available is not a way of answering. Saying "I am unable to answer that on behalf of" would be acceptable.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I'm in the middle of one.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. We'll finish this one.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: And the second one, of course, is referring to a member's absence is inappropriate. And while I'm on my feet, I do think the gratuitous flick at the end of the previous question—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. Right, I dealt with the third matter already. Going to the other matters, it was not helpful that the Deputy Prime Minister answering for the Prime Minister drew attention to the absence of a particular member. But I must say, it was very much in response to some interjections from the other side, as to the absence of the member he was referring to. I think we've just had evidence here of what happens when people, by way of interjection, make out of order comments or comments which are not helpful, which flow on to others. So I think what we'll say here is that there's been naughtiness all round and we'll go back to Paula Bennett for a further supplementary.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: So there were three points—you went three, two, and then forgot about one.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, sorry, I apologise for forgetting about one. I will remind the Deputy Prime Minister that when he is acting for the Prime Minister, he should use the first person in his answers, when he's answering in that way.
Hon Paula Bennett: In light of the select committee now asking that the recording of that voice message be made public to them, if that contradicts the statements of Clare Curran, does he expect that she will stay in the job?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We don't deal in hypotheticals; we deal with facts.
• Question No. 2—Children
2. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister for Children: What progress has Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children made in its first year of existence?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister for Children): Kia ora, Mr Speaker. The first year of Oranga Tamariki has been about getting the ministry set up, building its capacity, and improving its core services. It has 160 more social workers, and it has 150 more carers. We have developed and begun implementing a new social work practice framework. We have developed new options and facilities for keeping children out of police cells. We have started giving specialist training and support to people who care for our children and young people, and we have provided care to an additional 500 children.
Darroch Ball: Why has there been an increase in the number of children in the care of Oranga Tamariki?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: The number of children and young people in care and protection has increased over the last six to nine months, primarily because the age of care and protection has increased, so there are now more 17-year-olds in care. Children and young people are also generally spending more time in care, and this is because the ministry is working with children and young people and their caregivers for longer, to make a better transition to a permanent home.
Darroch Ball: What are the priorities for Oranga Tamariki for its next year?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: This year, Oranga Tamariki will be focused on improving services for children and young people in the three following areas: driving up the consistency and quality of front-line social work practice; ensuring there are more caregivers, better support for those caregivers, and a higher quality of care placements; and developing new partnerships and strengthening existing partnerships with iwi, Māori communities, and NGOs who provide services to our children and our young people.
Darroch Ball: What decisions need to be made on the future services of Oranga Tamariki beyond this year?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: As I have previously strongly supported the decision made to create Oranga Tamariki, I have done so in this House. However, there are still a number of decisions to make on what particular services are required, how they will be provided, and how these will be funded. We need to be clear that Oranga Tamariki was funded on a set-up basis only. This Government believes that New Zealand has the potential to build a world-leading child and youth protection service. However, at the time of last year's general election, further decisions remained on the implementation of the recommendations outlined in the expert advisory panel report. This Government now needs to make those decisions and to find the money to implement them.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What other tax increases, or new taxes, might New Zealanders face over the remainder of this Government's term?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Acting Minister of Finance): The Tax Working Group is looking into the structure, balance, and fairness of the tax system. Any recommendations they make will, as indicated months ago, not come into force until 2021. Beyond that, as noted before the election and as the Prime Minister reiterated yesterday, alcohol, petrol, and tobacco levies will be adjusted as per normal Government practice. I would urge the member to think back to her time in Government, when her party lifted—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Amy Adams: How much money, then, does he suggest Kiwi families should set aside for possible upcoming taxes, given he's not prepared to rule out even more surprises coming their way?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Less than they would have, under the previous Government.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he stand by his statement that the Government haven't introduced new taxes, when in the first six months we've already seen a capital gains tax on houses sold within five years, a new regional fuel tax, and now a significant hike in petrol tax?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: All of those were well signalled in the campaign.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is this excise new, or is there a precedent for it?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I can inform the House that this excise goes back, I believe, to 1927. In October 2009, it was increased—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. Thank you.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he really think that when motorists are filling up their cars and find themselves paying up to 25c a litre more, thanks to this Government, that they will agree with the Prime Minister's statement and his statement that the new regional fuel tax and the fuel excise tax increase are not, in fact, new taxes?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We were clear on this matter during the election campaign. Aucklanders stuck in traffic understand why this Government is willing to allow Auckland Council to levy a regional fuel tax in Auckland: because, after nine years of neglect, that city is a transport basket case. It's losing $1.3 billion a year in lost productivity because of congestion after a decade of drift and neglect.
Hon Amy Adams: How can the Government claim to be making families better off when this Government has cancelled tax cuts worth $1,000 per year, left 40 percent of children in hardship ineligible for winter heating payments, and made filling up a car around $15 more expensive each time in taxes that Auckland Action Against Poverty have today described as an attack on the poor?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am not responsible for that member's policy of tax cuts for the wealthiest New Zealanders while other children lived in cars and garages.
• Question No. 4—Transport
4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree that the total funding for the State Highway Improvement activity class for the next ten years would be $13.75 billion if the midpoint level of funding proposed in the 2018/19 year continued at that level for ten years without reduction in the draft Government Policy Statement, and what is the difference between that scenario and the total midpoint funding of $8.4 billion that has been proposed?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): To the first part of the question, I'm advised by the Ministry of Transport that the member's arithmetic is correct. The Ministry of Transport advises me that the member's suggestion would require either a substantial decrease in other activity classes or a substantial increase in fuel excise duty and road user charges. To the second part of the member's question, the difference between the two scenarios is that the draft Government policy statement, out for public consultation now, rebalances spending towards safety and local and regional roads, and adopts a smaller fuel excise duty and road-user charge increase than what was being considered by the previous Government up until the election.
Jami-Lee Ross: Can he confirm that the advice he's received from the Ministry of Transport is that the reduction in State highway improvement activity class is $5.35 billion?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Jami-Lee Ross: How can he claim to be helping the regions when cutting $5 billion out of the State highways' funding will put at risk important regional roading projects across the country that he's now expecting people to pay more at the petrol pump for?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I reject the premise of the member's question that reducing State highway improvements is the same thing as taking money away from the regions. For the last nine years, that Government spent 40 percent of the transport budget on a handful of State highway projects that carry 4 percent of vehicle journeys.
Hon Nathan Guy: How will the reductions to State highway funding affect the construction of the Ōtaki to Levin regional expressway that was described recently as a—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member's finished his question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) decides which transport projects proceed after an independent analysis of their costs and benefits. The purpose of this system is to ensure that such decisions are free from political interference—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That's enough as well.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How will the significant reductions to State highway improvement funding affect Nelson's Southern Link highway, that had a funding commitment of $135 million, and other significant improvements to State Highway 6 and 60 with the region's very high population, export, and tourism growth?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Mr Speaker, I'm happy to explain again how transport funding decisions are made, if you would like me to.
Mr SPEAKER: No. If the member's not going to add anything to his previous supplementary answer, no.
Lawrence Yule: How will the significant reductions in the State highway improvement funding affect the four-laneing of the Hawke's Bay Expressway, that will support the expansion—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member's finished his question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I encourage the member to listen more closely to my previous answers.
Matt King: How will significant reductions to the State highway improvement funding affect the construction of the new Pūhoi to Whangarei regional road that has been identified in the Northland economic action plan as the single biggest driver of growth in the region?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I recommend that the member listen more closely to my answers.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why isn't he willing to make any commitments to supporting the regional roads that he's just been asked about, but, when it came to the East-West Link, he was happy to exercise the political interference that he now complains about?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Our Government's committed to spending more money on roads in the regions. We're going to spend money on road safety. The choice that the public have today is between a Government that will spend money on passing lanes, on median strips, on side barriers, and on upgraded intersections or a Government of the past that ploughed 40 percent of the entire transport budget into a handful of expressway projects—gold-plated expressways that carried only 4 percent of vehicle journeys.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that the East-West Link costing, which is influencing this Government, was $100,000 per metre?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, it was. The East-West Link solution that was proposed by the former Government would have been the most expensive road project in the world, at $327 million per kilometre.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why did he exercise political interference over decisions around the East-West Link?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: When we took Government, we informed the New Zealand Transport Agency that we expect to see value for money in road projects. The effect of that instruction was that NZTA decided to pull the plug on the gold-plated, wasteful intervention on the East-West Link that that National Party Government was proposing to do.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just noticed that you were being quite tight on the questions—and fair enough. I hope you're going to be equally tight, and I saw the same evidence, with the answers. But in this case, we had answers to this question—I'll just ask you to review it later—where the Minister said, "Well, it's nothing to do with me. It's an outside body that's independent." but then has gone on to answer a number of questions explaining how much it was to do with him. I think some consistency from Ministers would be helpful.
Mr SPEAKER: Sure.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Even though it's a difficult one for him to answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member would have noticed that when the House was relatively quiet and there weren't a lot of interjections for the Minister to respond to and he went on too long, I stopped him. When he was invited to go on by multiple interjections from my left, I left him to respond to them.
• Question No. 5—Transport
5. KIERAN McANULTY (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: By how much will investment in local and regional roads increase under the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Under the draft Government policy statement on land transport, the amount able to be spent on local and regional roads increases considerably. The regional road improvements activity class nearly doubles over the next three years, spending on local roads increases by 43 percent, and we increased State highway maintenance and local road maintenance too. This Government is committed to improving roads in the regions. Half of all vehicle journeys are not on State highways but are on local roads, yet less than 5 percent of the National Land Transport Fund under National's policy was spent on improving them. This is going to change.
Kieran McAnulty: How does this compare to past National Land Transport Fund spending?
Mr SPEAKER: With a warning that the member is going to have to be very careful.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Regional and local roads are in need of serious investment. National Land Transport Fund spending was reduced in some regions by as much as 30 percent. The amount of the National Land Transport Fund spent on the West Coast, Taranaki, Southland, Otago, Northland, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, and the Bay of Plenty was significantly reduced between 2009 and 2018. This Government policy statement will stop those cuts and invest in our regions.
Kieran McAnulty: How will the Government make local roads safer?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Early work suggests that there may be around $800 million worth of high-value road safety improvements in need of funding on local roads alone. It's estimated that, once complete, these improvements could prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries per year. That's less than half the cost of the previous Government's East-West Link project. Road deaths are not an inevitability; they are the result of choices. This Government will choose to ensure that our family and friends come home safe at the end of the day.
Jami-Lee Ross: How does the $70 million increase in the regional improvements category compensate for the $5 billion cut in the State highway budget?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's part of a package of spending on every other activity class other than State highway improvements, including a 43 percent increase in local roads.
• Question No. 6—Regional Economic Development
6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all his Government's policies and decisions regarding the Provincial Growth Fund?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why did he arrange for Kelvin Davis to "make the decision"—that's the phrase he used on radio this morning—on the fund's $4.6 million grant to the proposed Manea Footprints of Kupe cultural tourism experience in Ōpōnoni?
Hon SHANE JONES: It's necessary for me to seek advice from time to time from the Cabinet Office. As a consequence of having known the late Whetū Naera, chief of Hokianga, a key proponent of this proposal, and having been a champion for the proposal in a distant time when I was a Labour MP, I decided to disclose that and stand back from the decision.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Beyond knowing the trustees, what is his connection to the Te Hua o Te Kawariki Trust, who will receive the money?
Hon SHANE JONES: When I was 25, I led a protest movement party called the Kawariki. That's the only connection I have with any organisation that has "Kawariki" in its name.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So is it the case that when he has a connection to a group receiving money from the fund, he asks Kelvin Davis to make the decision, and when Kelvin Davis has a connection to the group receiving the money, as in the case with money going to Ngāti Hine, he makes the decision?
Hon SHANE JONES: I don't know of any connection that Kelvin Davis has to the hapū of Ngāti Hine, and I would warn the Pākehā members of Parliament not to read too much malice into genealogical ties from hapū to hapū.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When the Minister said, on Tuesday, that even if he had been aware of the Ministry for the Environment's advice that the proposed waste-to-energy scheme did not stack up economically or environmentally, "It makes not one jot of difference to me.", did he mean that he did not need advice?
Hon SHANE JONES: During the preparation of the announcements, of which the West Coast waste project was one, it has been pointed out to me that my officials did brief me, which I have acknowledged obviously happened, but I find there's a connection between bureaucratic dross and political amnesia from time to time.
• Question No. 7—Education
7. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What is the Government doing to take a more strategic approach to early learning?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Thank you. Today, I released the terms of reference for an early learning strategic plan. To inform the development of the plan, I've established a ministerial advisory group and reference group made up of sector representatives and experts. Public consultation on the strategic plan will occur later this year. Key themes will be raising quality, improving equity, and the role of choice.
Jan Tinetti: Why does he think that the early learning sector needs a strategic plan?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: This Government is very clear that we want to take a comprehensive approach to driving up quality in early childhood education. We cannot do everything overnight. That will take time. We need to agree on a shared set of priorities with those who operate early childhood services, amongst others. By taking a more strategic approach, we can get that level of agreement, and we can make progress over a longer term.
Jan Tinetti: Will the plan address issues in home-based early childhood education?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. While the plan is being developed, the officials will also be undertaking a full review of the home-based early childhood education. It is the most rapidly growing part of the early childhood sector, with an over 158 percent increase in enrolments during the early 2000s. So we know the benefits of early childhood education are conditional on quality, and that is what we are committed to delivering in all parts of the early childhood sector.
• Question No. 8—Local Government
8. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Local Government: What discussions has she had with the Minister of Transport about any proposed changes to the funding assistance rates and any expectation of local government's share of projects funded under the scheme?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Local Government): None.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Is it her expectation as Minister of Local Government that councils who are missing out on new roading projects due to the $5 billion decline in State highway funding should apply to the provincial growth fund to get the funding they need?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to ask the member to repeat the question. I'm just trying to drive down to whether there's actually ministerial responsibility, as opposed to expectations or views.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Is it her expectation as Minister of Local Government that councils, for whom she is the Minister, who are missing out on new roading projects due to the $5 billion decline in State highway funding should apply to the provincial growth fund to get the funding they need?
Mr SPEAKER: I'm going to allow the question, but I am going to say that I think it's probably just over the line where I should have ruled it out.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order, the Hon Gerry—are you going to argue with my decision to allow it?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, I'm going to help you.
Mr SPEAKER: Ha! You're here to help, yes.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Help you feel more comfortable about your decision. The matter in question—because it's not the last question around this—relates to statements that are in the Government's policy statement on transport, and refers entirely to local government. That's why the opening question was, in fact, to find out how much the Minister knew about that.
Mr SPEAKER: Yeah, I could understand the initial question, but after that I'm not sure that they necessarily flow. There's clear ministerial responsibility for two Ministers, Mr Twyford and Mr Jones, but Nanaia Mahuta—I'm being generous, seeing it's Thursday—can answer the question.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: It is my expectation that local government and the local government sector will engage in feeding back on the Government policy statement on land transport. I'm encouraged by the fact that the Minister responsible for these issues, the Hon Phil Twyford, will be hosting a transport summit in Wellington on Monday 16 April, and that's a very good way in which they can engage.
Hon Jacqui Dean: What assurance can she give, given her expectation that councils have to apply to the provincial growth fund, that all councils will be treated equally?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: My expectation is that the Government policy statement will reset the priorities as stated by the Minister responsible for transport to ensure that the long-term strategic view of what gets prioritised will lift the emphasis around safety and the funding for regional and local roads.
Virginia Andersen: How will she represent local government interests during the development and implementation of the funding assistance rates (FAR)?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The Government is concerned with costs facing local government and their local communities. I've already stated in this House that I am committed to undertaking a comprehensive review on this matter. My role as local government Minister is to have an overview of local government as a whole, and to ensure that the relationship between central and local government operates well and in the context of a partnership. Within this approach, I expect issues affecting local government to be managed appropriately between agencies and the local government sector. A partnership approach—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It's too long.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Where are councils not identified as "surge regions" meant to turn to for assistance if they cannot meet the higher FAR contributions expected of them, as stated on page 10 of the Government's new Government policy statement Q and A sheet this week?
Mr SPEAKER: No. Order! That's beyond the responsibility of this Minister. That's clearly roading and the provincial growth fund, neither of which is this Minister's responsibility. Question No. 9—David Seymour.
David Seymour: Thank you, Mr Speaker—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, no—supplementary. Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it's a supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I've called Mr Seymour.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, I was calling for a supplementary when you—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I didn't hear the Minister, and I heard Mr Seymour—the member.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, not many times you don't hear me, Mr Speaker, for goodness' sake!
Mr SPEAKER: I'm going to—Mr Seymour doesn't mind waiting?
David Seymour: No problem.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That's all he ever does.
Mr SPEAKER: Any further comment before I call Mr Brownlee again?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Would the Minister consider it appropriate, within the expectations of the Local Government Act, for councils that are struggling to meet the requirements of the FAR formula to make applications for funding from the provincial growth fund to meet that difference?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Much of that policy responsibility falls outside of my portfolio.
• Question No. 9—Finance
9. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government introduce any of the following taxes which were raised by Sir Michael Cullen on 2 March 2018; a financial transactions tax, a wealth tax, an equalisation tax, a capital gains tax, a land tax, a progressive company tax, environmental taxes, and behavioural taxes?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Acting Minister of Finance): On behalf of the Minister of Finance, all of these are matters for the tax working group to make recommendations on, but, to reiterate, no outcomes as a result of that tax working group will be implemented until April 2021 at the earliest, as committed to in the election campaign.
David Seymour: Is it not the case that the Minister is using taxpayer money to fund a thinktank for the Labour Party's next election campaign?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.
David Seymour: Why, then, is he using taxpayer money to fund a study into taxes that this Government, as currently elected, has no intention of implementing?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It can't possibly be a proper question. This Government is not a time-limited organisation, as the member knows.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: This Parliament is time-limited; Governments are not, as many long years on both sides have shown.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Surely, he should at least have an opportunity to answer the question himself.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I ruled it out because there was a non sequitur in it.
• Question No. 10—Commerce and Consumer Affairs
10. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What benefits to consumers will be provided by the Commerce Amendment Bill?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue) on behalf of the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: On behalf of the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, I can inform the member that the most significant element of the Commerce Amendment Bill introduced into the House last week is to enable the Commerce Commission to undertake market studies. Market studies will ensure New Zealand consumers get fair and appropriate treatment by ensuring competitive markets and supporting honest business. This Government is committed to supporting a more competitive, confident, and productive business environment that delivers positive outcomes for all New Zealanders—
Mr SPEAKER: That's enough. Thank you.
• Question No. 11—Health
11. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statements and actions regarding Deloitte's appointment as the independent reviewer of the National Oracle Solution IT Programme?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, in the context they were made and taken.
Dr Shane Reti: Have Deloitte and Deloitte-related entities received up to $20 million in funding over the life of the programme?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don't have those exact figures in front of me, but I can assure the member that their programme has been extraordinary expensive, has blown out under the previous Government's watch, and needs review as a result of that Government's failure of oversight.
Dr Shane Reti: If Deloitte and Deloitte-related entities have received millions of dollars in funding over the life of the programme, will Deloitte be removed as the independent reviewer?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have been assured that real, actual, or perceived conflicts of interest were appropriately declared before the review was undertaken.
Dr Shane Reti: Was the Minister made aware that New Zealand company Asparona, the implementation partner to the programme, is a subsidiary of Deloitte before or after the appointment of Deloitte?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I was not made aware of this appointment initially. I would not expect to be, as Minister. It was done through the all-of-Government process, as the member knows, which was set up by the previous Government.
Dr Shane Reti: When he said in oral question No. 8 yesterday that he will consider releasing Deloitte's conflict of interest statement, will he also now consider referring the appointment of Deloitte as independent reviewer to the Office of the Auditor-General?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have no reason to do that currently.
• Question No. 12—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media
MELISSA LEE (National): I seek leave to have this question held over until the Minister is able to answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the member seeking for it to be an additional question next week?
MELISSA LEE: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is. Does the member want to proceed with the question?
12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she stand by all her statements and actions regarding her meeting with Carol Hirschfeld on 5 December last year?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): on behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: On behalf of the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, clearly I made a mistake in viewing my breakfast meeting with Carol Hirschfeld as an informal meeting. As soon as I realised, I corrected the record and I've apologised. I stand by my other statements and actions.
Melissa Lee: Who asked the Leader of the House to provide her with advice that she could call Richard Griffin about his recalled select committee appearance?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Leader of the House offered that advice in his discussions with me about the matter.
Melissa Lee: Does she agree with the statement given today by Richard Griffin that she wanted him to write a letter to the chair of the select committee which could ensure that there wasn't a public hearing involving Radio New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I indicated in my answer earlier in the week, my primary concern was ensuring that the record was corrected as quickly as possible, and that was what my message to Mr Griffin was designed to achieve.
Melissa Lee: Does she accept that on the second occasion her office phoned Radio New Zealand, the purpose of the call was not to tell RNZ the select committee had been misled, as she claimed to media on 27 March?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The phone call to Radio New Zealand on the second occasion had a number of purposes. It was clear during that meeting that it was stressed to Radio New Zealand once again that there was an inconsistency in what they had been saying with the facts.
MELISSA LEE: Does she believe that Mr Griffin's recollection of events was an accurate portrayal of what occurred?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: That is a matter for Mr Griffin.
Melissa Lee: Which part of Mr Griffin's recollection of events was not accurate?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm not going to provide a blow-by-blow commentary on everything Mr Griffin said, particularly as I was not at the meeting where he said them.
Melissa Lee: Did her staff call Mr Griffin on 22 March and tell him that there was an oral question in the House that the issue of the 5 December meeting may arise, and that they expected there would be no comment from Radio New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I can answer clearly to the first part of the question: yes. I'm not in a position to answer to the second part of the question.
Melissa Lee: On what date was the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister's office first made aware that the Leader of the House was providing her, or had provided her, with advice?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to ask the member to rephrase it to include the responsibility for the Minister. It might be "When did she or her office first make aware", but the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media does not have a general responsibility for the information flow to the Prime Minister or her office.
Melissa Lee: On what date was the Minister or her office advised of the fact that the Prime Minister or the Prime Minister's office was first made aware that the Leader of the House was providing her, or had provided her, with advice?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm not sure on what date the Minister's office was informed. The Minister was aware on the day that the Leader of the House provided her with the advice that the Leader of the House had done so, because she received it, and she has also subsequently been advised by the Leader of the House that he informed the Prime Minister of that advice on the same day.