Parliament: Questions and Answers - May 16
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: What priorities did the Budget Policy Statement 2018 set out?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The Budget Policy Statement 2018, released in December, was our first action in preparing Budget 2018. It sets out the key priorities, including building quality public services for all New Zealanders, such as health and education; taking action on child poverty and homelessness, on which we made a significant start in the 100-day plan; supporting families to get ahead and sharing the wealth generated by our economy with a wider range of New Zealanders; sustainable economic development; and supporting our regions. On Budget day, New Zealanders will see that we are delivering on our priorities as we set out the first steps of our plan to make our economy and communities stronger, more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive.
Dr Duncan Webb: What progress has the coalition Government already made on these priorities?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: When the coalition Government was formed, we immediately set about putting in place our 100-day plan and Families Package through the December mini-Budget. Our Families Package cancelled the previous Government's poorly focused tax-cut package and will instead see $5.5 billion over the next four years targeted at improving the incomes and living standards of those who need it the most. This includes, starting on 1 July, the Best Start payment, the winter energy payment, and increases to Working for Families.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Thank you.
Dr Duncan Webb: How will Budget 2018 further progress the Government's priorities?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Budget 2018 will make the investments required to begin rebuilding the critical public services that New Zealanders rely on. We can't fix every problem in one Budget, but health, education, and housing will finally receive the support they deserve under this Government's plan. We have a plan to progress our economy to be productive, sustainable, and inclusive, and we will protect and enhance our environment. We are a positive, stable, energetic Government, getting on with the job.
David Seymour: If the Minister characterises the previous tax cuts as "poorly targeted", how would he characterise giving the winter energy payment to millionaires?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I'd say is that I'd characterise the winter energy payment as "helping superannuitants get in the position to pay their bills throughout the year", because not every superannuitant has the opportunity to be employed as a celebrity dancer.
David Seymour: Was that really the Minister's best answer?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Actually, if we want to talk further about celebrity dancing, I can indulge the member. But, actually, what we're doing with the winter energy payment is recognising that there is an increased cost of living, not only for our superannuitants but for those on fixed incomes, and this Government is going to do something practically about that.
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's policies and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, as I did yesterday, the week before, the week before that, and I think, in fact, to probably every question I've been asked by that member.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why did her Government consider that nearly a billion dollars for foreign affairs was more important than delivering on their promise on cheaper GP visits for all New Zealanders?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would have hoped for the same reason that that last Government invested significant amounts in overseas aid and development as well. What we faced coming into Government was that the last Government allowed their official development assistance funding to drop to a point where even to keep the status quo required $590 million of investment. We are a Government who is focused on our international responsibilities, and we balance that against delivering for New Zealanders as well.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before I call the member, I am going to remind him of methods of interjection. While some members might be known universally by their first name, it's not appropriate to use it across the House.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can the Prime Minister confirm the billion dollars per year for Shane Jones' Provincial Growth Fund will all be new funding, and not simply reprioritised from other sources?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We've traversed this many times in the House. Substantively this is new, but we have reprioritised. We have prioritised elements of the Budget as well. Overall, I think what matters to the people most is the fact that we are actually investing in the regions that have experienced significant neglect over the last nine years, and reinvigorating those local economies.
Hon Simon Bridges: For clarity, can the Prime Minister define "substantively new funding"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: One more sleep and the member will see the entire breakdown. But, again, we are absolutely proud of the huge investment that this coalition Government is making back into our regions, and I don't think you'll hear the local mayors making the same complaint that that member is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister confirm that some of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's new funding is to address declining trade from this country, some of which the previous Government promised not to do but after nine years delivered—failing trade against GDP?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. This is a Government that's focused on growing prosperity. That includes a focus on trade, that includes a focus on research and development, and that includes investment in trades, education, and training—all of those things the last Government did not invest appropriately in.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it still her Government's policy to add 1,800 new sworn police officers over the next three years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many of the 1,800 new police officers will have powers of arrest themselves and will not require a sworn officer to be with them to do so?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We had this period of education in the House the other day. The member seems to think that authorised officers cannot perform a suite of important roles as officers on the beat. In fact, I heard him even having a go at forensic accountants employed by the police, when they undertake work on child exploitation, human trafficking, anti - money-laundering, terrorist financing, illicit drug trafficking—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to interrupt the Prime Minister and I'm going to ask her to start her list, which will be heard in silence. When I can't hear the Prime Minister with the assistance of the mikes and the speakers which are aimed at me, I think the level of interjection has got too much. I am reluctant to intervene, but the Prime Minister will start that list again.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I was saying, I've heard the member criticise even the employment of forensic accountants by the police when they undertake work around child exploitation, human trafficking, anti - money-laundering, terrorist financing, illicit drug-trafficking, large-scale fraud, cyber-hacking, and weapons trading. The point I'm making is that authorised officers, warranted officers, and support staff are the entire suite that we need to have a well-functioning, well-resourced police, and that's what this Government will deliver.
Mr SPEAKER: As a result of the six interjections I heard from my left, there will be minus six. That's mitigated by the four that I heard from my right. So the National Party have lost only two.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Prime Minister trying to tell this House that accountants are the same as cops, who can actually arrest people on the beat?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. What I'm saying is that in this modern day and age, police officers can't do their job without that support too.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it still her Government's policy to add 1,800 new sworn police officers over the next three years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have said, yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Prime Minister as to whether the last question from the Leader of the Opposition was the same as the question he asked about five minutes ago?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, but the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are going to have some ministerial responsibility, and I don't think the Prime Minister is going to claim responsibility for that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it her Government's policy to plant one billion trees over 10 years, as initially said, or 500 million, as Shane Jones later clarified, or has that number fallen even further?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As a total, we will plant one billion trees.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it her Government's policy that KiwiBuild houses in Auckland will cost less than $600,000 as initially promised, or $650,000 as Phil Twyford later clarified, or has that number increased even further?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we have clarified in the House yesterday, it won't be a mystery to anyone in this House that over the two-year period since we developed KiwiBuild, the cost of building houses and supplies has increased. That's why this Government committed to a plan to do something about that, so first-home buyers can own their own home, rather than the last Government, which did nothing.
Hon Simon Bridges: How much will a KiwiBuild house in Auckland cost?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we've said many times before, for a one-bedroom home in Auckland and Queenstown the maximum price is $500,000, $600,000 for two bedrooms, and $650,000 for three. Outside of Auckland and Queenstown, the maximum is $500,000 for all houses.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it her Government's policy that superannuitants will not be worse off as a result of removing National's Family Incomes Package, and if so, why does the winter energy payment not come into force until 1 July, meaning superannuitants will be $267 worse off this year?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because it is one of the most significant changes to our welfare system in a decade. We had every expectation that we'd move to do it as soon as possible. That's why we moved this House into urgency in December to put it through. But we had to heed advice that said if we brought it in any earlier we might risk it falling over. We've done it as quickly as we could.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Nobody is concerned that we have robustness in this House. But when you see 12 members of one party shouting at the top of their mouths, that's probably in excess by about 10, and they should be asked to discipline themselves. Show some leadership.
Mr SPEAKER: I want to thank the member for his advice to me. I do agree with him, that the barracking—and I don't think it can be described in any other way—during that answer was unreasonable. It will not be tolerated, going forward. There is no right whatsoever to interject in this House. We have been liberal, as Speakers, over the years with it, normally on the basis that they're infrequent and preferably witty. We're missing out on both of those counts.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Winston used to stand up for old people.
Mr SPEAKER: Who was that one?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Mr Speaker, I said that Winston used to stand up for old people.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now—for reasons which I'm sure he's aware of—stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Is he confident that each of the decisions made as part of Budget 2018 and all savings made will improve the well-being of New Zealanders?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes. The Government has made a commitment to put improving the well-being of New Zealanders at the heart of what we do. As part of this, we have reviewed policies and spending to ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value for money and that the policies will benefit the greatest number of people, as every responsible Government would do. For example, the Government does not believe that spending $8.8 billion on untargeted tax cuts that would have given $1,000 to her or to me, or $327 million per kilometre on the world's most expensive road without any cost-benefit analysis are good examples of value-for-money spending that improves New Zealanders' well-being. I can say one thing for certain: I do not think New Zealanders' well-being is enhanced by adherence to trickle-down economics.
Hon Amy Adams: Can he confirm, then, that the savings he's made and the Budget bids refused or scaled back will not lead to a reduction in the level of protection provided to vulnerable New Zealanders?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I am extremely confident that the package of measures we put through in the 100-day plan and in Budget 2018 will, in fact, enhance the lives of vulnerable New Zealanders.
Hon Amy Adams: Why, then, is this Government overseeing the Department of Internal Affairs, over coming months, slashing by one third the number of fully trained inspectors investigating the creation and distribution of child sex offence imagery, leaving more New Zealand victims unable to be identified and protected and more New Zealand perpetrators undetected?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don't have any direct ministerial responsibility for those matters, and I would have to check the accusation that the member's just made.
Hon Amy Adams: Given his Government and the Prime Minister's commitment, stated today, to standing by our international obligations, is he at all concerned that these cut backs will leave New Zealand in breach of its obligations to the global alliance combating the sexual abuse and exploitation of children online?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Again, that is a matter of detail within a portfolio area. I encourage the member to put a question down to the Minister responsible. What I can say is that this side of the House stands proudly on our record of protecting and enhancing the lives of vulnerable New Zealanders, and there are plenty of initiatives in the Budget that will show that.
Hon Amy Adams: When he made his Budget decisions, did he think that it was appropriate that, as a result of these changes under his watch, the only South Island office of this unit working with South Island victims of online sexual abuse will now no longer include a fully trained female investigator, given that those investigators have to make and have the most delicate and intimate discussions with young female victims of child sex abuse?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member started that question by talking about the Budget that will actually be announced tomorrow. I invite her to wait for the details of that.
• Question No. 4—Forestry
JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First): My question is to the Minister of Forestry and asks: what recent announcements—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to interrupt and ask members on both sides—both sides—to stop trading comments. Thank you. Jenny Marcroft, start again, please.
4. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister of Forestry: What recent announcements has he made regarding the one billion trees programme?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry): The 1 billion tree programme is sprouting and shooting forth. In Rotorua, supported by the Prime Minister and a host of other Ministers, we announced that the stand-alone agency will be located in Rotorua and it will continue to drive the status of the forest industry and move it beyond its current fiscal value.
Jenny Marcroft: Why is the new forest agency's head office based in Rotorua?
Hon SHANE JONES: It is reflective of the fact that Rotorua is the forestry capital of New Zealand, and it's a small part on a bigger journey of relocating various Government functions into the regions. Not only will it connect with the local landowners but in Rotorua, with the right husbandry, the billion-tree forest strategy will definitely bloom.
Jenny Marcroft: How can members of the public and Kiwiblog readers track progress towards the 1 billion trees target?
Hon SHANE JONES: We have a new website. That website is being developed in association with one of New Zealand's most successful businessmen, Sir Stephen Tindall. That is like a tree counter, and, as each tree counts, greater the popularity will be not only for the forest sector and for careers but also for the modest proponent, Matua Shane Jones!
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, you are allowed irony in answers, I suppose.
• Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development
5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by all his reported statements and promises?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes; except the ones I've corrected.
Hon Judith Collins: Ha, ha! Sorry, Mr Speaker. When he promised that the Government is going to build 100,000 KiwiBuild homes, did he mean that the Government is going to subsidise private investors to build the homes that the Government has promised but cannot itself build?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We've always talked about building 100,000 houses, and we've always talked about a number of ways that we will deliver KiwiBuild. One of the ways we have been saying, for the last six years, that we will deliver KiwiBuild houses is by working directly with the private sector; something that, frankly, I'm surprised that member of the House is so opposed to.
Hon Judith Collins: Which of these promises to build KiwiBuild houses is now correct: 1,000 in the first year of Government, 1,000 by 30 June 2019, 16,000 in 3 years, or 8,000 before the next election?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Our plan is to deliver 1,000 in the first year of the KiwiBuild programme, 5,000 in the second year, and 10,000 in the third year, and we will build 100,000 affordable homes for young Kiwi families by mid-2028.
Hon Judith Collins: What percentage of the KiwiBuild homes that he says he's building will be priced at the reported cap of $650,000?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The cap is precisely that: it's a cap. I'm happy to have the opportunity to correct a number of misinformed comments in the media in recent days, who have interpreted the $650,000 Auckland and Queenstown price-cap as a target. It's not a target. And, in fact, in the member's own electorate, at McLennan, we're building three-bedroom homes that will sell for $579,000.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked about the percentage. We got nowhere near that—not even a guess.
Mr SPEAKER: The question was addressed.
Marja Lubeck: How will KiwiBuild build new affordable homes for Kiwi families?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I thank the member for that excellent question. Many residential developments across New Zealand have stalled because the developers are struggling to get finance on acceptable terms. We know that KiwiBuild rescuing these stalled developments will add new homes to the market. Forecasting investment in residential housing is inherently uncertain and depends on a number of assumptions, but the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment suggests that KiwiBuild could generate up to $11 billion in additional investment in residential housing over the next four years.
Hon Judith Collins: When he told the media yesterday, "We've been flat out trying to build more houses", has he built any in the 200 days that he's been in Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we've been very busy for the last six months, laying the foundations for the KiwiBuild programme. And I would note that the first Labour Government took two years to complete the first State house. I'm confident that the first KiwiBuild homes will be completed by September this year, less than a year after we were elected. I'm surprised, frankly, that the members across the House seem to be such experts in the building of affordable houses, given that they built none in nine years.
Marja Lubeck: What reports has the Minister seen on KiwiBuild's price points?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I've seen some bizarre comments about KiwiBuild's price points. In particular, a number of media commentators have said that these are the prices of KiwiBuild homes, rather than the price caps. KiwiBuild homes could range from $300,000 to $500,000, or $300,000 to $650,000 in Auckland and Queenstown. The first KiwiBuild homes at McLennan will be built for $579,000 for a three-bedroom home—that's $71,000 less than the maximum.
• Question No. 6—Regional Economic Development
6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he agree with MBIE Deputy Chief Executive Paul Stocks' 12 April comments to the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee in relation to the Provincial Growth Fund, "we are working on the basis that we want a good deal of sunlight where public money is involved"; if so, will he instruct his officials at MBIE to release any funding agreements between MBIE and the recipients of funds for the projects announced so far?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): In respect of said official's remarks, yes, I think that he's accurately reflected. We want a good deal of sunlight, and he also knows that sunrise is coming to the provinces politically.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a two-part question. He didn't answer the second part at all.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member can ask two parts. All the Minister has to do is address the question, and he certainly did.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understood, and perhaps I'm wrong, that for a primary question, where it had two parts, you are supposed to address both parts of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is probably right. I will ask the member to give some comments—[Interruption] When I'm ruling in favour of one of the member's colleagues, it's probably a good idea to keep the member's mouth shut, otherwise it might result in either a decision reversal or a further loss of a significant number supplementaries. The member is slightly lucky that I didn't get on my feet.
Hon SHANE JONES: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sir, there are distinctly two limbs to the question, and we all know that I have met the threshold by addressing the first limb.
Mr SPEAKER: If it was a supplementary question, the answer to that is yes. When it's a primary question and has two limbs, just saying "sunrise" doesn't get him there for the second part.
Hon SHANE JONES: In respect of instructing officials at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to release funding between MBIE and the recipients of funds for the projects announced so far, I think I'll take the advice of the former Auditor-General, who described funding under the last regime as not only non-transparent but very, very dangerous.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That did not at all answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think it did address the question. Does the member want a supplementary?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Bearing in mind Mr Stock's later comment to the same committee "Pretty hard to imagine that anyone is taking wholly a grant from the public purse—that there shouldn't be full transparency on that", when will he insist that his officials release basic information on these projects, beyond a few vague lines in a press release?
Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, the officials are providing me with advice, and I'm encouraging them to be proactive. I will remind said official that daylight is close to sunlight.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is the reason that the information isn't being released that some agreements are nothing more than a few scribbles on the back of an envelope?
Hon SHANE JONES: There's a host of proposals that have been provided by the work done by the last regime through regional action plans, and some, indeed, are not scribbled but are tedious, long-winded, and it takes a great deal of effort for the officials to wade through them all.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think that the Prime Minister's promise to lead the most open and transparent Government applies to him and the Provincial Growth Fund?
Hon SHANE JONES: As I've said earlier, not only will the growth fund allocations pass muster in terms of the four Ministers who must sign off the significant allocations; hefty allocations need to come to the entirety of the Cabinet, and as I said, "Auditor-General criticises Government's Primary Growth Partnership"—I promise not to go there—2015.
• Question No. 7—Housing and Urban Development
7. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What reports has he seen on the public housing waiting list?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): New figures showing the public housing waiting list has more than doubled over the last two years are both confronting and unsurprising. There are currently 7,890 families in need of public housing. We've known for some time that the national housing crisis and hidden homelessness were worse than we thought and will get worse before it gets better, but we are committed to building more State housing, providing more public housing places, and more support for people who are in urgent need.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What is the Government doing to reduce homelessness this winter?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, 1,500 fewer families will be living in cars and garages this winter. The Government has announced $100 million for the more than 1,500 additional transitional public and Housing First places, and Budget 2018 tomorrow will also fund Housing First services for more than 1,450 households over the next four years.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: In what regions is the need for public housing the greatest?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, compared to the same time last year, there's been a big increase in the number of public housing applicants in Wellington, up 94 percent; Hastings, up 87 percent; Auckland, up 57 percent; Napier, up 51 percent; and Hamilton and Christchurch, both up by over a third. There is growing demand for these services right across New Zealand, and we are working hard to address that need.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What is the Government doing to reduce the public housing register?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: This Government has an ambitious plan to tackle the national housing crisis. KiwiBuild could generate, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, up to $11 billion more investment in residential housing as it ramps up over the next four years. We're committed to increasing the supply of public housing, we're investing in more transitional Housing First places, and we're going to tackle every aspect of the national housing crisis to ensure that every family has a warm, dry, secure home.
Simon O'Connor: Does he agree with Property Institute of New Zealand chief executive Ashley Church that his Government's "ring-fencing of tax losses for property investors will almost certainly contribute to a worsening of the shortage of rental properties in our major cities over the next few years." and that his Government's consequent approach is directly contributing to the wait-list shortages he's lamenting?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I often agree with what Ashley Church has to say, but in this case I think he's completely wrong. Part of our policy programme to address the housing crisis is reining in the unchecked demand, and the tax preference for property speculation that led to house prices doubling under that Government over the last decade. Our Government's committed to doing something about it.
• Question No. 8—Transport
8. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by all his statements, actions, and policy commitments?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes, when described and reported accurately.
Jami-Lee Ross: Did he read the section of the KiwiRail briefing of 21 March 2018 about electric locomotives where KiwiRail stated that prior to the September 2017 election the Labour transport spokesman wrote to KiwiRail saying that a Labour Government would "issue a cease and desist notice on the de-electrification programme"; and, if so, when will he issue such a notice?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, conversations with the KiwiRail board and management on the de-electrification of the North Island main trunk line are ongoing.
Jami-Lee Ross: Does he agree with the rail and transport union when they accused his Government of breaking its promise to stop the removal of electric trains from the North Island main trunk line?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think when a conversation is ongoing and a matter is under active consideration, it's by definition not a broken promise.
Jami-Lee Ross: What value if any can be put on statements from his Government if they're happy to break promises made to the unions about rail, happy to break promises to New Zealanders about no new taxes—will he be joining the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, who breaks his promises too?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I utterly reject the old multiple premises in that member's question. This Government has a transport policy that we're proud of, to make sure that rail is part of the backbone of this country's transport system—both passenger rail and freight. We're committed to mode-neutral transport planning and decision-making. The big contrast is we're not going to waste billions of dollars on handpicked expressways simply for the purposes of pork barrel politics. That is the difference between that side of the House and this side.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I didn't interrupt, but I must say to the Minister of Finance and the Leader of the Opposition that when the volume of their conversation gets as loud as Mr Twyford's, it's getting a bit serious.
• Question No. 9—Immigration
9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by his response to Oral Questions on Thursday 10 May that his Government was working to turn Labour's "manifesto commitments into policy that can be implemented" and we "will see the fruition of that work in the very near future"; if so, when specifically will he implement those policies?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): In answer to the first part of the question: yes. In answer to the second part of the question: in the even nearer future.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did he agree with advice from officials in November that recommended to "analyse whether further changes are needed to meet your policy objectives. If the recent reduction in international students studying sub-degree programmes is sustained, it is unlikely that there will be a need for further revisions to in-study work rights."?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: All the advice that I've received on in-study work rights is under active consideration, and the member will see the results of that in due course.
Greg O'Connor: What are the Government's priorities on immigration?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: We have two overarching priorities for immigration. The first is better matching the skills and talents that people bring to the skills that we need and where we need them. The second is tackling the rampant exploitation of migrant workers and students.
Greg O'Connor: What has the Minister been hearing around New Zealand about the current immigration settings?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, what I've been hearing as I've been visiting chambers of commerce, Federated Farmers, and other groups around the country is that the changes that were made in August last year are causing far more consternation than anything that the current Government is proposing.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did the Minister agree to officials' proposal to provide advice to him in October this year on whether change is even needed to settings for in-study work rights; and doesn't that suggest that the Government is far from convinced of its own policies?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, I continue to receive advice from officials on an almost daily basis. I agreed to receive that advice. What we do with it is a matter for this Government to decide, and the member will see the results of that very soon.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: The very near future, he says. Isn't it the case that despite the drum-beating rhetoric of the campaign trail, the failure by the Minister to implement a single campaign policy and those delays constitute another broken promise?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, my approach to policy development is strongly guided by the lesson I learnt from that member when he was a Minister, when he tinkered for years and then rushed out policy at the last minute before the election—policy that I hear on a day-to-day basis is causing havoc around the country.
• Question No. 10—Health
10. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What are the priorities for health in Budget 2018?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Budget 2018 will set out the Government's plan to rebuild our health services. This will include fixing our hospitals, making sure more people get the care they need, and turning around nine years of underinvestment and neglect of health.
Dr Liz Craig: How will Budget 2018 address capital spending required in health?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Spending on health capital is a priority for Budget 2018. We know that significant capital investment is required so that New Zealanders have health facilities that are at the standard they expect. This Government is committed to rebuilding core public services like health, and committed to addressing the nine years of neglect by the previous Government.
Dr Liz Craig: So how will Budget 2018 assist district health boards (DHBs) to respond to capital needs?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Investing in capital will allow DHBs to plan ahead with more certainty. It will also ensure that those DHBs which receive that funding do not have to spend ever-increasing amounts on maintenance costs for assets past their use-by date. For example, this half-century-old hot water system at Auckland DHB has been leaking excessively over a period of years and will now be able to be replaced.
• Question No. 11—Police
11. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Why did he receive a paper entitled "Alternative Five Year Phasing Options for 1,800 New Police" on 29 March, and what were the main recommendations of that paper?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Police: On behalf of the Minister of Police, the Hon Stuart Nash Esq., the reply is as follows. A draft paper was prepared by police officials in response to a request from Treasury as part of the normal Budget process. The three-page paper noted there were phasing options of three, four, and five years to recruit police staff. That paper was never presented to Cabinet, and, of course, as some members understand, if Treasury had their way phasing would be over 50 years.
Chris Bishop: Why did Treasury discuss and propose phasing in the 1,800 new sworn police over five years rather than the coalition commitment of three?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Neither the Deputy Prime Minister nor the Minister has responsibility for that. Further supplementary?
Chris Bishop: Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who has just said to the House that there will be 1,800 sworn police on the beat over the next three years, when he said on The Nation TV programme that 250 of the 1,800 are only authorised officers and that only 1,100 of those 1,800 will be front-line police?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, if that member thinks that cybercrime isn't the front line, then he needs to wake up; or that child sex exploitation on the internet is not the front line; or that human trafficking is not on the front line; or that anti - money-laundering is not on the front line; or that terrorist funding is not on the front line; or that illicit drug-trafficking is not on the front line; or that large-scale fraud, cyber-hacking, and weapons trading is not on the front line—then he must wake up.
Chris Bishop: Is it correct that the police have warned him that delivering 1,800 sworn front-line police over three years will be challenging, and that they recommended to him phasing it in over five years rather than three?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, that is not correct. The reality is that the police have told the Minister and the Government that they can train the requisite number over three years. That's why our promise at the beginning was to strive towards that number. But I want to make it very clear—I want to make it very clear—unlike that previous Government, that gave the numbers out and never financed them or gave any forward planning, we have the money assigned to it. And one last thing: we are not talking about 2,680 new police officers; we're talking about 1,800. Do the maths.
• Question No. 12—Social Development
12. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her Ministry's recent decisions and actions?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): I stand 100 percent behind my ministry and the thousands of front-line staff who work every day to support New Zealanders in need of assistance. However, for nine years, they worked under the previous Government's punitive and deficit-focused policy settings. This influenced practice at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and, as a result, some mistakes still occur.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I'm working with MSD—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! A point of order, the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You've been very, very good, I think, at making sure that Ministers answered questions that related to their ministries without making reference to the past Government or past policies, or other such. How do your past rulings sit with the way that question has just been answered, which is highly political and making points that are not relevant to the question but are gratuitous in the extreme.
Mr SPEAKER: And I think if the member had listened to the phrase after the one he objected to, he would have seen the context which, in my opinion, made it—while marginal—an acceptable answer.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If we are then to learn that from the phrase and the ability of a phrase to put something into context, can we now expect to be able to use that same technique in the asking of primary questions?
Mr SPEAKER: I will consider primary questions on a case by case basis.
Hon Louise Upston: Supplementary question—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the member hadn't finished.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: This influenced practice at MSD and, as a result, some mistakes still occur. I'm working with MSD to undo the damage to ensure every New Zealander seeking support—whether they be a young unemployed person, a solo parent, a disabled person, or a superannuitant—gets the absolute best advice and support we can give. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was the aspect that offended the rulings of the Speaker, because I genuinely would like to learn.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, if the member doesn't understand that, I'm happy to give him a tutorial later, but I don't think we need to have it in front of the whole House.
Hon Louise Upston: Will the decision to cease the role of the Regional Commissioner for Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast and to have this role done by the Wellington commissioner improve services in these regions?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Despite this being an operational matter, I cannot consider this move as a mistake. Nelson is not being absorbed into Wellington. It will continue to be an MSD region in its own right with its own senior management team. Work and Income has a significant presence regionally, and I am assured that MSD is committed to maintaining the excellent level of service the region expects.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can I just recommend to members that they be very careful about the nature of their interjections.
Hon Louise Upston: How is the decision to relocate the MSD Regional Commissioner for Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast to Wellington consistent with the coalition agreement and promise that states the Government will relocate Government services to the regions?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: As I stated in my previous answer, this is an operational matter, but I can assure those living in Nelson that they will continue to get the excellent service from their local Work and Income New Zealand office and MSD that they can reasonably expect.
Maureen Pugh: Does the Government now consider the West Coast to be part of Wellington?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There's no responsibility for that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order—she's not the "Minister for Geography".
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, that's quite right, and quite evident from the way she's behaving in her ministry.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member have a point of order?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I do, because the question simply asked in response to the answers given by the Minister: does the Government consider that the West Coast is now part of Wellington? What's wrong with that? If that is—it's obviously the case, because it's what they're doing.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I mean, I don't know if the member's sort of serious in his approach. If the member wanted to ask that question in relation to MSD districts or Work and Income districts or where commissioners cover, then some of that should've been included in the question. None of it was. That concludes oral questions. [Interruption] Sorry. One more. Sorry—no. No more. I apologise. The Opposition's run out of supplementary questions.