Parliament: Questions and Answers - April 11
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES
(Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime
Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government's
policies and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: On what date did she conclude that things were going so badly for the Government that the only option was to manufacture a crisis that standards of public service delivery really don't reflect?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, that was before the election, when the last Government was in, and I saw the deficits they were leaving.
Hon Simon Bridges: When will she stop blaming the former Government and use the healthy finances that she—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Simon Bridges: —has been left to get on with delivering the many promises that she campaigned on?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When I stop learning about issues like Middlemore Hospital and Dunedin Hospital, where they periodically cancel surgeries because there's water in the operating theatres. We did anticipate this issue; we absolutely did. We knew there was a deficit in health spending, and district health boards are now confirming that it could be to the tune of $200 million. That is why we said no to the tax cuts. That is why we put aside an operating allowance of $2.6 billion, when the last Government put away $1.7 billion, and we're putting more away for capital. We knew that problems existed, and we have a plan for them.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can her Government justify no new money for nurses when, amongst other things, she's thrown $2.8 billion at a fees freeze for students?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I reject the premise of that question. That's a negotiation that's currently under way. The idea that there's no new money for that negotiation is just a fallacy.
Mr SPEAKER: And I possibly should have ruled it out because there was an assertion in the question which I've certainly not seen the evidence for.
Hon Simon Bridges: How will her Government pay for the tram down Dominion Road when the focus groups start telling her that hitting regional New Zealand with higher fuel taxes isn't an acceptable way of funding it?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to ask the Leader of the Opposition to rephrase the question. The Prime Minister does not have responsibility for those groups.
Hon Simon Bridges: How will her Government pay for a tram down Dominion Road when it's quite clear that regional New Zealand rejects having to pay for it with higher fuel taxes?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is why we are not asking regional New Zealand to pay for it; we've asked Aucklanders to pay for it. We were very explicit before the election that Auckland's transport issues were significant. They suffered from neglect. We did make the decision around a regional fuel tax to reinvest, and there's acceptance from Aucklanders that that is what's required. When it comes to the regions, I think they'll be pleased to see that, instead of spending 25 percent of that fund on roads they don't use, we'll be doubling the money going into regional roads and increasing the number into local roads.
Hon Simon Bridges: When she gets back from her friendly town hall meeting with Justin Trudeau in London next week—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member will start his question with a question and will not have any irony in it, or he will start losing them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will she front to the people of Levin and tell them why they probably won't get their expressway when she gets back from her town hall meeting with Justin Trudeau in London next week?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Is the member willing to attend the meeting with me, because the circumstances under which Ōtaki is being considered are the same today as they were before. The New Zealand Transport Agency is still making route selection. It's then up to them to consult on that with the public, and so it's still ongoing. Yes, there is a new Government policy statement in place, but all we're asking them to consider is cost-benefit analysis, and who could argue with that?
Hon Simon Bridges: How's Phil Twyford getting on with building all those new houses?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Much better than the last Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: How will it work to have an acting Prime Minister when the actual Prime Minister is still in the country?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There is precedent for this; it's not new. If anyone has an illness or needs, for any purpose, to have an acting Prime Minister in place, then there is Cabinet guidance to deal with that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's (NZIER) quarterly survey of business opinion, released yesterday, has found that business confidence "dropped sharply in the wake of the new Labour-led Government taking office"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will well know that the most important indicator is business confidence in activity for themselves, because that is what then tells us the way that growth is going, and the member will well know that, on average, we're looking at a healthy 3 percent. We will continue to work on boosting business confidence, but in terms of economic indicators, they're all healthy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made two out of order interjections during that reply. She will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Paula Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister intend to adopt a local council's ruling this morning that all dangerous dogs will be muzzled?
Mr SPEAKER: I'm accepting the Deputy Prime Minister's word that there was such a ruling made this morning. If there was, like all of these other matters, it is a responsibility of the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: On the basis that that decision was made by Christchurch Council, I recommend the Leader of the Opposition doesn't go there.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will now stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: What's the Prime Minister's response to Liam Dann's commentary today that poor business confidence is partly due to "lingering dissatisfaction with the election result and policies of the new government", and ANZ, which highlighted an "uncertain policy environment" as a real cause for concern?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The uncertainty, I would argue, is created, unfortunately, more often by the Opposition than anything else. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely acknowledge that in the past we've had similar situations. The last time I've seen this kind of pattern—
Hon David Bennett: Yeah, last time Labour was in.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It was indeed, when Labour produced the strongest continuous economic growth since World War II, some of the lowest unemployment in the OECD, and got net core Crown debt near to zero. So if those are indications of a healthy economy, then that's where we should all be aspiring to be.
Hon Simon Bridges: What then is her response to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Start again.
Hon Simon Bridges: What is her response to the NZIER, which yesterday said, "Employment law changes announced by the new Government, including the abolition of the 90-day trial period for new employees, are likely to have contributed to all the pessimism."?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, I would reject that. Everyone will have their own perspective on those policies, but ultimately, what we reached, collaboratively, was a compromise across our three parties when it came to 90 days, one which took into account the view of small businesses, but, ultimately, my expectation is that, as we continue to see growth improve, wages increase, and a healthy economy, we'll see that optimism increase.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What does the Government's Budget Policy Statement (BPS) say about capital allowances, and how does it compare with previous periods?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Capital allowances represent the amount a Government is setting aside for future targeted investments and capital infrastructure that the Government is responsible for, like hospitals and classrooms. The Budget Policy Statement shows a forecast capital allowance of $3.4 billion in Budget 2018, another $3.4 billion in Budget 2019, and $3.1 billion in Budget 2020, over the three years totalling $9.9 billion of new capital investments to be made by this Government. The previous forecast for capital allowances over these three years was contained in Budget 2017, showing a forecast of $2 billion for Budget 2018, and then $2.5 billion for each of 2019 and 2020, totalling $7 billion.
Kiritapu Allan: Why do the Government's capital allowances need to be larger than in previous periods?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Capital pressures have built up consistently over the past years. I have been advised that one of the key drivers of these capital pressures was the policy settings of the previous Government, notably operating expenditure constraints. What that means in practice is that the underfunding of operating costs has meant that money that would have been allocated to capital expenditure has had to be used for the day-to-day running of our public services. This is particularly evident in the health sector, where work by the Ministry of Health reveals that District Health Boards would require $14 billion of capital expenditure spread over the next 10 years, with nearly $10 billion of that being new capital from the Crown.
Kiritapu Allan: What commitment will the Government make to increase investment in health?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Government is committed to making necessary and important investments in our public services. We have a plan that includes increased funding for health, starting in Budget 2018 and continuing over a sustained period of time. This isn't just about big numbers on a spread sheet; it's about New Zealanders who should be able to access our public healthcare system without fear of being treated in hospitals with sewerage leaking in the walls or water pipes bursting and flooding wards. It will take more than one Budget to make up for nine years of neglect, but one of our top priorities as a Government is a health system that delivers to New Zealanders the levels of care they expect and deserve.
• Question No. 3—Housing and Urban Development
3. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What discussions has he had with the Member of Parliament for Mt Albert in relation to the proposed Unitec development for up to 4,000 houses?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I have had many discussions with the Prime Minister about both the Unitec development and our—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. I'm going to ask the member now to address the question, which is not the question that he started addressing.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I have had many discussions with the member for Mt Albert about both the Unitec development and our work to build affordable homes for Kiwi families. The member for Mt Albert has relayed to me how excited her constituents are about this investment in their community.
Hon Judith Collins: How does he anticipate addressing the concerns raised by the member of Parliament for Mt Albert, who has said, in relation to the Unitec development, "There are questions around what kind of urban design will that project have, will it have an effect on traffic; will it overflow our schools …"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There is much discussion going on about what kind of urban design we're going to have, and it's going to be a very high quality of urban design. Our Government is going to invest in the infrastructure and amenities that the new community at Unitec needs, because this Government believes that when population grows, you invest in the infrastructure to support that population.
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Can the Minister confirm that the member for Mt Albert has been continually supportive of the proposal at Unitec but, under its first iteration, when the member was in Opposition, raised the fact that, at that time, the Ministry of Education seemed unwilling to make sure that there was—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This Minister has no responsibility for what the member for Mt Albert said when she was in Opposition.
Hon Judith Collins: When he announced that there would be now up to 4,000 houses built on the Unitec site, had he considered the concerns of the MP for Mt Albert regarding the effect on traffic and local school capabilities?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I consider those concerns every day.
Hon Judith Collins: How would he address the reported concerns, and published concerns, of the MP for Mt Albert by increasing the number of homes built on the site from 2,600 to now almost 4,000 separate homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We're going to address those concerns by bringing the best of urban design to bear and investing in the infrastructure, open spaces, amenities, schools, and all the things that strong communities need.
Hon Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a document which is available on a pay basis but is unavailable to some members of Parliament. It is called "Chasing Labour votes in Middle Auckland" and it is—
Mr SPEAKER: Describe the source of the document.
Hon Judith Collins: It's a Politik document.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I am going to put it, but I think I know what the response is going to be.
Hon Grant Robertson: It's available to all of us for free.
Mr SPEAKER: Sorry?
Hon Grant Robertson: It's available to all of us for free.
Hon Member: No, it's not.
Hon Grant Robertson: The Parliamentary Library has a subscription.
Mr SPEAKER: The Parliamentary Library might have a subscription but it is a paid thing. I know that most members get it. I think the member has probably just cut Mr Harman's income, because some members have subscribed to it otherwise. But I am, in this case, going to put it to the House. Is there any objection to that document being tabled? [Interruption] There appears to be none.
Hon Tracey Martin: Actually, there was.
Mr SPEAKER: There was? OK. Can I just ask people, when they're objecting, on both sides, to do it in a forceful and confident manner.
• Question No. 4—Transport
4. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: How much is funding increasing by, in dollar terms, for the Local Road Improvements and Regional Improvements activity classes for the first three years of the draft Government Policy Statement on Land Transport?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Local road improvements increase to $1.03 billion over three years, from Government policy statement (GPS) 2015's funding of $720 million. That is an increase of $310 million over the next three years, or 43 percent. Regional improvements increase under the draft GPS to $530 million over three years, from GPS 2015's funding of $270 million. That is an increase of $260 million over the next three years, or nearly double.
Jami-Lee Ross: Was the Prime Minister accurate when she said in question time yesterday that over the three-year period, quote, "regional and local road improvements increase by $1.2 billion."?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Jami-Lee Ross: How can he say that local and regional improvements have increased by $1.2 billion when he just told us that those categories increased by $310 million and $260 million, which combined does not come to $1.2 billion?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The Prime Minister was including local roading improvements as well, and local road maintenance.
Jami-Lee Ross: I'll ask again. How can he say that the Prime Minister is accurate with her $1.2 billion figure when the figures he just gave us add up to $570 million?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The figures include local road maintenance, local road improvements, and regional improvements.
Jami-Lee Ross: Will he be advising the Prime Minister that her answer in the House yesterday was inaccurate and she should perhaps consider correcting it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I will not be.
• Question No. 5—Regional and Economic Development
5. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What assurances can he give the provinces in the wake of the announcement to the wind-down of public funding through Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd for large-scale irrigation?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): The provinces deserve assurances, and I, as their first citizen, wish them to be heartened by the fact that we understand how important water is. As we move through the transition economy, we don't want economies that are not futureproofed, but, at the same time, we don't want to acquiesce with the historical pattern of water degradation.
Mark Patterson: What role will the provincial growth fund play in terms of water and the growth of our provinces?
Hon SHANE JONES: All allocations via the provincial growth fund meet a very sturdy test. Anything below $20 million requires the sign-off of the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Transport, the Minister for the Environment, and my good self. To that end, environmentally robust sustainable water storage initiatives and water management—the road to the provincial growth fund for such matters is not unlike a primrose path.
Mark Patterson: Is the irrigation announcement an example of the Government turning its back on the regions?
Hon SHANE JONES: I stand as the champion of the provinces to strongly refute—refute—that allegation. We are committed not only to growing jobs in the provinces, enabling the transition to take place that moves us away from historic disrupted industries, but, on a regular basis, with suitable partnerships either by dint of grant, equity, or other arrangements, continue to spread the fiscal elixir. Thank you very much.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told a Rotorua audience last week, do not delay in applying to the fund because "Politicians live in time cycles and there are 29-odd months to the next election.", did he accept that some people would see that as confirmation that this is a political fund?
Hon SHANE JONES: I think most people would see that as the reflection of someone who believes in democracy and someone who is telling the civic leaders of the Bay of Plenty, "Do not wait aimlessly in line, as you suffered under the last regime."—lots of rhetoric, no mahi.
Hon Nathan Guy: Has the Minister seen Mark Patterson's comments in the local Southland paper, in his recent column, where he said that irrigation equals more cows and more pollution; and how would the Minister respond to those comments from one of his caucus members?
Hon SHANE JONES: As a lad who was born on a farm, as someone who grew up milking cows, the inevitability of more water in an indiscriminate fashion down in the South Island has led to not only more cows but a gross degradation of water in some areas, which is why the Hurunui irrigation scheme was hopelessly divided between people who wanted it and people who did not want it.
• Question No. 6—Attorney-General
6. Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National) to the Attorney-General: Does he stand by all his statements and actions regarding New Zealand Bill of Rights vetting?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Attorney-General): Yes, in the context in which they were given.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Does he accept that his responsibility as Attorney-General in vetting the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act was as senior law officer of the Crown, not a Minister; and, if so, how can he possibly have concluded that political proportionality is more important than freedom of speech and association protected under the Bill of Rights?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, and in the same way in which the Solicitors-General, in 1999 and 2005, under the then process, reached the same conclusion.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: When vetting the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, did he obtain advice from the Attorneys-General of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, on any Bill of Rights - consistent interpretations they may have adopted regarding their own laws which allow a party leader to dismiss an MP?
Mr SPEAKER: No, before the member answers, I'm just going to consider whether—I just want to check that there are Attorneys-General in those countries in a similar form. I'm sure that the member will be able to assure me.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Yeah, well, so far as I am aware, the answer is yes.
Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I did not, but I am aware that Japan and Portugal have similar laws, and I do remain of the view that as important as freedom of expression and association are, preserving the balance of representation in accordance with the wishes of the electorate is sufficiently strong democratic purpose to justify the limitations.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen the Human Rights Review Tribunal decision of 26 March and the scathing comments they had to do with the former Attorney-General and the way he behaved? It's all here.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Human Rights Review Tribunal is a step away from Bill of Rights vettings on the part of this Attorney-General. I'm ruling the question out.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Why doesn't he simply follow the example of his immediate predecessor, who always stood up to his ministerial colleagues and issued section 7 reports where necessary, rather than allowing political considerations and the needs of Mr Peters to trump the Bill of Rights?
Hon DAVID PARKER: There are two points I'd make in response to that. The first is that on occasions where determinations such as this are finely balanced as to whether a section 7 report should be provided, I'm advised by officials that it's the judgment of the Attorney-General that is required, which the prior Attorney-General exercised when dealing with the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill. Secondly, I would also note that when his Government abolished Environment Canterbury in 2010—now close to a decade—it was that member's independent judgment that that was proportionate.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A supplementary question—the Rt Hon Winston Peters—a point—sorry.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Very serious issue of misrepresentation—I had no role in vetting the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member I think is experienced enough to know that if he disagrees with an answer, disagreeing by way of point of order is not appropriate. The member may, if he wishes, at the end of the question, seek the leave of the House for a personal explanation to set the record straight, and if the member really wants to, I suggest that he take that approach.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Speaking to the point of order, if I can assist, I didn't mean to—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It wasn't a point of order, obviously.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, no, I'm happy to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! If the member wants to sort out his position, I think he has to seek the leave to correct his answer.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I seek leave to make it clear that the Attorney-General delegated it to someone else. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to the Attorney-General making such a statement? Right, well—have we finished?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, I just make that point: the Attorney-General delegated—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, no. The member did not get leave to do it.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I thought I'd been granted leave. Sorry, sir.
Mr SPEAKER: No. Well, I will take the member's word, but I am saying that he is an experienced enough member to know that he needs to be called for something like that.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen the legal cases surrounding the 26 March hearing which described the former Attorney-General's behaviour with respect to rationale and reasoning for the decision as being non-existent?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You've already ruled that question out of order, so why was it allowed to be asked at such length?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Speaking to the point of order—and I say to the right honourable gentleman that I much prefer him doing it this way than from his seat.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What—the objections, you mean?
Mr SPEAKER: For you, speaking to the point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: The difference between the first question and the second question related not to the tribunal but to the surrounding court cases, which would make the Attorney-General relevant in that situation.
Mr SPEAKER: And unless I'm convinced that there's a matter of vetting involved, then I'm not going to allow the question. Are there any further supplementaries?
• Question No. 7—Agriculture
7. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Yes.
Hon Nathan Guy: How does the Minister justify winding down support for some irrigation projects without even meeting or consulting Crown Irrigation officials ever since becoming Minister?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Officials from my office have been in regular contact with Crown Irrigation Ltd. They never sought to have a meeting with myself as Minister, and I have been in a number of meetings where I have met and spoken informally with officials from Crown—
Hon Nathan Guy: Oh.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: —Irrigation Investment Ltd.
Hon Nathan Guy: Does the Minister consider Hunter Downs being offered an investment term sheet to be a legal or moral obligation for the Crown to continue to back this scheme?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: A judgment call was made on where—
Hon Nathan Guy: Ah!
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: —there were obligations from the Crown—
Hon Nathan Guy: Yep.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: —to irrigation schemes that were—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I'm just going to ask Mr Guy—there's a very serious matter and I want to hear it without his constant loud interjections through his open mike.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Thank you, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Starting again.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Judgments were made on which irrigation schemes had progressed far enough to warrant ongoing Government support. In announcing our policy, we had always said we would honour existing agreements. These irrigation schemes were at different levels of commitment. The judgment was that term sheets signed by the two schemes plus the scheme that was under construction were worthy of ongoing Government support. Hunter Downs was not at that stage. I believe that the scheme will proceed regardless of Government's decision in this area.
• Question No. 8—Education
8. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Education: How have the funding challenges for the early childhood education sector that he acknowledged to the House yesterday impacted upon ECE services?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Thank you. Early childhood education (ECE) is a sector under strain. Education Review Office reports have highlighted significant issues, including the number of reviews that have uncovered significant concerns to warrant another review within a year doubling within two years, and the percentage of reviews resulting in gold-star standard being achieved dropping from 14 percent to 11 percent. The early childhood sector has done an amazing job of trying to maintain quality, given a near decade of funding freezes, but it's clear that quality will be seriously compromised if that freeze continues.
Jo Luxton: What reliable information does the Government hold on the impact that lower funding for ECE has had on fees paid by New Zealand parents for their kids' ECE?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It would be fair to say that data held by the Ministry of Education is limited. A survey from 2013, which was released in 2015, shows that fees for parents have increased, most significantly in the kindergarten sector. The survey was repeated in 2015 but was never analysed and never published and, mysteriously, the survey was not subsequently repeated.
Jo Luxton: What advice has he seen about the funding pressures in early childhood education?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I've seen advice from kindergarten head teacher Virginia Oakley, who said that, "Some services have got rid of qualified teachers, replaced them with unqualified staff that are cheaper to pay for and we've had to cut maintenance for our buildings …". I've also seen advice from Peter Reynolds, the chief executive of the Early Childhood Council, who said that, "The average childcare service is losing around about $105,000 since 2011 by our calculation … it's not a rosy picture for childcare centres."
• Question No.9—Children
9. Hon ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Children: What work does she have underway in her portfolio?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister for Children): Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry for Children, as a team and together, we have a large body of work under way, which includes continuing our social worker recruitment drive, developing new ways to recruit kin carers by working in partnership with iwi and our Pasifika community, piloting a 24/7 caregiver support and enquiry line and improving inductions for caregivers, increasing the number of safe and loving places available for children when home isn't working, and including specific placements for high- and complex-needs children and for children in crisis. We've rolled out a practice framework for all social workers, and we'll be evaluating this framework. We are also developing new trauma-informed practice guidelines for front-line staff. We now have more than 70 percent of our contract funding, and in multiple-year contracts we are working with partners, including iwi and NGOs, to build and commission stronger services for children. We are working with iwi to enable them to lead family group conferences. We are working to implement the new legislative changes, including care standards, information sharing, transition to independence, and the increase in age for both—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to ask the member to stop. This is an Opposition question, it is a very broad question, and it is an area that most members of the House think is important. I'm going to ask members on my left to stop their interjecting, and I'm going to ask members on my right to stop encouraging them. Complete the answer.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Do you want me to start from the beginning?
Mr SPEAKER: No.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: So, picking up where I left off, we are working to implement the new legislative changes including care standards, information sharing, transition to independence, and the increase in age for both care and protection in youth justice children and young people. We are testing a remand option investigation tool that helps agencies provide better information to the Youth Court. We are working with the Pasifika panel to develop the Pasifika strategy around practice, placements, and partnerships. We are also working, between my role in Minister for Children and Associate Minister of Education, around the support for children with high learning needs that are often also Oranga Tamariki children, and, as Minister for Children, I am also co-lead of the child well-being strategy. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Alfred Ngaro: Which of the 10 building blocks in the Children's Convention Monitoring Group report released today does she intend to implement?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: We have actually, with the child well-being strategy, started to implement, or will be implementing, one of the major building blocks that has been required of this Government after the last 25 years of being a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC). This Government is also committed to making major progress on children's well-being and reducing child poverty; our Child Poverty Reduction Bill addresses this. We have also established a royal commission to investigate historical abuse and violence towards children in State care, and our Families Package will bump up the incomes of many families. We want New Zealand to be the best place in the world to be a child and we take our commitment to UNCROC seriously.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: Does that include recommendation No. 5, which says in 5.1, to "Develop a child rights and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)-compliant data infrastructure that generates high quality disaggregated data which is used to inform policies, legislation, and practices."?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: This Government is actually working in a large area around how Government departments use, monitor, collect, and interact with each other around the use of data. We are breaking down silos for the betterment of our children.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: How disappointed is she that, to date, there has been no work in progressing the social investment agency under this new Government which is vital to implementing recommendation No. 5?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I think that's a matter of perspective as to whether there's only one way to implement that particular goal, but I would say I am disappointed that after nine years, this Government in only five months has probably done more for our children.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: How does she expect to handle the increase in the number of children and young people in care and protection without implementing recommendation No. 5 and also recommendation No. 6, which focuses on budgeting?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: The member suggests, and has questioned, that we are not addressing those recommendations. We just may not be addressing them in the way he may want us to do so.
• Question No. 10—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media
10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Hon CLARE CURRAN (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media): Yes, in the context that they were made and taken.
Melissa Lee: Why did she not disclose the full nature of a meeting with Carol Hirschfeld when Richard Griffin asked her, back on 28 February, whether "there is anything she is concerned about or would like to raise in relation to the select committee meeting"?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: I have given an account of that meeting to this House.
Melissa Lee: Why did she not at any point make contact with the chair of the economic development select committee, the clerk of the committee, the Clerk of the House, or the Speaker to inform them that they may have been misled by Radio New Zealand (RNZ)?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A Minister is not responsible for contacting the chair of a select committee, or the Speaker or the Clerk or any of the others who have been contacted, if somebody else has supplied false information to a select committee. That is a matter for the person or the organisation that has supplied false information. It is not a matter that the Minister has ministerial responsibility for.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That's an interesting comment from the Leader of the House, except in this case the organisation was, effectively, misrepresenting the Minister. So for a Minister to say that it's not their responsibility, or they have no responsibility for correcting their own department's misrepresentation of them is a complete obfuscation of political responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: All right. I accept that, in fact, no member has responsibility for informing a select committee that they've been told something in error by a third person. That is not a direct responsibility, either ministerial or otherwise. There is still a question, though—it is still a possibility that a Minister could have chosen to take that action, and I'm taking this question as why the Minister chose not to do so.
Hon CLARE CURRAN: My office made contact with RNZ on two occasions to correct—to inform them that the information provided at select committee was incorrect.
Melissa Lee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was why she did not actually contact the clerk of the committee, the chairman of the committee, the Clerk of the House, or the Speaker, not RNZ.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I am going to ask the Minister to address that question, with just the minor correction that we'll deal with "clarks", not "clerks", thank you.
Hon CLARE CURRAN: I believed it was appropriate that my office contacted RNZ on two occasions.
Melissa Lee: In the interests of openness and transparency, will she ask Richard Griffin to release the voice mail she left on his phone; if not, why not?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: That's a matter for Mr Griffin and the select committee.
Melissa Lee: Does she believe that taxpayers received value for money from having the broadcasting Minister attend the Commonwealth Games, given the criticism of the coverage of gold medal events following her attendance?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: Thanks for that question. I visited the Commonwealth Games to gain a hands-on insight into how a mega sports event is broadcast across multiple platforms. I visited the International Broadcast Centre to see first-hand the operations of games broadcasters, including TVNZ, Channel 7, and BBC Sport. That trip also provided the opportunity to meet with key portfolio stakeholders, including discussions with TVNZ's leadership, a dinner with the CEOs of local New Zealand production companies, and a visit to Optus's live showcase. I attended at the invitation—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think we're all convinced that the Minister was busy.
Melissa Lee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the question was "Does she believe that the taxpayers received value for money?"
Mr SPEAKER: And my view was that anyone who listened carefully got an answer from that.
Melissa Lee: Is she satisfied that the taxpayer is getting value for money out of TVNZ broadcast coverage of events when New Zealand has won gold, like in the lawn bowls, squash, and hammer throw?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That now gets to a straight editorial matter, for which there is not responsibility.
• Question No. 11—Health
11. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Health: What major capital projects are being progressed in health?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): We have inherited a long list of building problems that require attention. Among the immediate priorities is work on Middlemore's Scott building and the rebuild of the Dunedin Hospital, where, because of asbestos, staff are having to recover patient records in hazmat suits. The upcoming Budget will include a significant injection of capital funding to tackle the most urgent issues and start addressing the under-investment of the last nine years.
Rino Tirikatene: Why is there such a backlog of building issues in health?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I think it's clear to New Zealanders that the public health service has been neglected over the last nine years in pursuit of surpluses and tax cuts—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. To give that sort of answer, he's got to hang it on something he has responsibility for.
Rino Tirikatene: What planning is under way to avoid the mould, rot, and sewage issues experienced at Middlemore Hospital?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There are clear processes in place for district health boards to put forward capital projects for funding. However, I am concerned that there is no comprehensive assessment of the state of our health assets, and I have work under way to address this. We need a proper national asset management plan so we can make sure New Zealanders get treated in quality facilities and we don't have to see, routinely, asbestos hazards signs up in our public hospitals. I have with me a photo of some recent visitors to Dunedin Hospital making their way past asbestos hazard signs, including the current and former Opposition health spokespersons.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is the Minister prepared to release the advice on a $14 billion funding gap that he has mentioned today and that the Minister of Finance mentioned today and in his post-Cabinet press conference?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: [Holds up photograph] I will consider that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Yes, and the member had finished using the visual aid and should not have used it again. For that reason, if Mr Woodhouse wants to have another question, he may.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Apart from Middlemore Hospital's leaky buildings issue and the Dunedin Hospital situation, can the Minister name any other asset issues that were not previously made public by his or the previous Government?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have encountered many, many issues in my time as Minister. Just to name one, in Nelson/Marlborough, their buildings clearly need replacing with the fullness of time. There are plenty of buildings around the country, and we need to understand better and have a baseline so that we can have a comprehensive assessment. That's why I've asked for a national asset management plan, because there is no comprehensive assessment of which buildings are at what standard, and that is an absolute shame and a sign of the neglect of the last nine years.
• Question No. 12—Building and Construction
12. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Can she confirm that there are no buildings under construction in New Zealand that have or are proposing to install aluminium composite panel cladding?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction): Day-to-day decisions on whether proposed building work complies with the building code are made by building consent authorities and held by territorial local authorities. I'm advised that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) does not hold this information.
Andrew Bayly: Isn't fire safety in multi-storey buildings an important safety issue, following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in London last year; and, if so, why has she not suspended the use of aluminium composite panels?
Hon JENNY SALESA: Fire safety is indeed very important to this Government, but can I just say to the member that the circumstances around the Grenfell fire tragedy are very different to the New Zealand regulatory environment. So, unlike the UK, a building similar to Grenfell Tower constructed in New Zealand would have smoke detection, it would have a building-wide fire alarm, it would have an automatic sprinkler system, and an all-out evacuation plan. Grenfell Tower did not have all of these features.
Andrew Bayly: Why has she ignored the recommendations she received, as Minister, four months ago from expert fire engineer Dr Tony Enright to suspend the use and installation of aluminium composite panels on multi-storey buildings?
Hon JENNY SALESA: MBIE advice is that the report the member is referring to did not have sufficient supporting material to justify further action. Officials have sought an independent peer review, which is expected in the next few weeks.
Andrew Bayly: Why is she still refusing to even publish Dr Enright's four-month-old report, so apartment and commercial property owners can read for themselves about the use of aluminium composite panels on their buildings?
Hon JENNY SALESA: The report that the member is referring to is currently being peer reviewed. But can I also state that we are very confident that the appropriate fair and robust process is currently being followed. Suspending code mark certificates without adequate evidence would have a considerable consequence, and so MBIE is going through the right process. We're making sure that this report the member's referring to is peer reviewed.