Parliament: Questions and Answers - August 9
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Defence
1. DARROCH BALL (NZ
First) to the Minister of Defence:
What progress, if any, has been made regarding the
procurement of a flight simulator for the NH90 helicopter
Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Yesterday, I announced the purchase of a $42.73 million flight simulator for the New Zealand Air Force's fleet of eight NH90 helicopters. This purchase is funded from within the New Zealand Defence Force baseline—
Hon Member: Have you flown in it?
Hon RON MARK: Ha, ha! It will boost the availability rate for the NH90 fleet and free up more operational tasking hours that would have been used for training. The simulator facility will be ready for training activities at Ohākea in July 2020.
Darroch Ball: What will this purchase mean for the air force pilot training pipeline?
Hon RON MARK: Having a New Zealand - based simulator is the most efficient way to train and sustain the number of pilots in the fleet. It is projected to increase the number of trained NH90 pilots by over 30 percent by 2028 and will place less strain on the air force resources than the current system does. This will mean more pilots for supporting military operations in New Zealand and abroad, and undertaking other tasks for Government agencies and maintaining their search and rescue coverage.
Darroch Ball: What are the benefits of having a simulator based in New Zealand rather than overseas?
Hon RON MARK: Training for NH90 pilots currently includes simulator-based training in Germany and Australia, which involves pilots being away from New Zealand for several weeks at a time. Having a simulator in New Zealand will make more pilots and flight instructors available for deployment at short notice. The maintenance of the device will be provided by a contractor under an initial 13-year contract, which will provide three long-term jobs in the Manawatū region. The purchase follows the announcement earlier in the year of the lease of four new King Air aircraft as well.
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does her Government expect high standards from all Government departments and Ministers?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe that high standards have been met by police leadership in appointing Wally Haumaha as Deputy Police Commissioner?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Matters around the process for the appointment of Mr Haumaha are the subject of an inquiry, and I won't comment further on those matters at this time.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will she ask the police commissioner if he heard reports either formally or informally of intimidation towards women by Wally Haumaha in light of a story that's just come out today?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I repeat my earlier answer—
Mr SPEAKER: On behalf of the Prime Minister.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I'm sorry. On behalf of the Prime Minister, I repeat my earlier answer that matters around the appointment of Mr Haumaha are the subject of the inquiry. What I would add is any suggestion of bullying or intimidation in Government departments is unacceptable.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was very careful with that question, sir, that I didn't mention the inquiry or this being about it. It was about a particular new report that's come out today and wasn't about his appointment as such.
Mr SPEAKER: And in my view, the inquiry goes round the processes for establishing the suitability of a particular candidate, and therefore the question was not only addressed but answered.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the inquiry cover new allegations that have been put today of intimidation by Wally Haumaha to other public servants who were working with him?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I'm sorry, Mr Speaker. Can you just repeat the question? Sorry.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the inquiry cover allegations that have been put today about intimidation of Wally Haumaha towards public servants?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the inquiry has been set up to look into whether or not all relevant information was available in the appointment of Mr Haumaha. On the face of it, it would appear to me that those allegations fit within that category of the terms of reference.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will she be asking the chief executives of Corrections and Justice if they had reports from senior female employees that they wished not to be in the same room as Wally Haumaha?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I can assure the member that we will be following up with the chief executives of those agencies on the allegations that have been made in the article.
Hon Paula Bennett: If those chief executives heard that female employees had felt uncomfortable in the company of Wally Haumaha, would she expect them to have taken action?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I repeat that those are allegations, but, as I said in an earlier answer, we take very seriously any allegations of bullying or intimidation, and they are not acceptable and, of course, they should be followed up in circumstances where they are drawn to the attention of chief executives.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe the public can have faith in police leadership when they either didn't know or didn't act on issues around Wally Haumaha working with other public servants?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can't comment on the detail of that matter, except to note that these matters arose during 2016 and I'm not aware of all the information that would have been transferred at that time either to chief executives or indeed to members of the executive.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is she concerned that after 11 years of police working hard to change their culture towards victims of sexual assault and intimidation her Government's handling of the appointment of Wally Haumaha may now have victims feeling that they can't go forward to the police?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We would always want victims in any circumstances to feel comfortable that they can come forward. I reject parts of the question the member asked in the earlier part.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was there any involvement of New Zealand First Ministers or parliamentary under-secretaries either formally or informally in the promotion of Wally Haumaha?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the promotion of Mr Haumaha to Deputy Police Commissioner was dealt with through the normal processes. I'm not aware of any of the allegations that the member has made in her question.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received the Reserve Bank's Monetary Policy Statement released today that shows GDP growth forecasts in the coming year have fallen by 0.5 percent; if so, what effect would lower GDP have on Government revenue?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I have received the Reserve Bank's August Monetary Policy Statement (MPS). It does not show what the member's question suggests, as it appears that she has included figures from the June 2018 quarter, which is in the past—not the coming year—and added quarterly forecasts in a linear manner, rather than taking into the account the need to be cumulative.
Hon Amy Adams: Has he seen yesterday's Reserve Bank survey of expectations, which shows that GDP expectations for the next two years have also fallen by 0.5 percent; and, if so, is he concerned that the only time in the history of the survey that GDP expectations have fallen so fast were during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and the global financial crisis in 2008/9?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There are a number of different forecasts and commentary that make. For example, I have received advice today from the Treasury that the growth forecast in the August MPS for the coming year—that being the current third quarter of 2018 to the same quarter next year—shows expected GDP growth of 3.3 percent. There will always be a range of forecasts and expectations. Can I say, in answer to the second part of the member's question, that if she is seriously suggesting that a New Zealand economy growing at an average of 3 percent over the next few years is in any way akin to the global financial crisis, she really needs to do more homework.
Hon Amy Adams: Is he aware that the Reserve Bank today have noted that Government spending is underpinning our growth; and, if so, does he consider that economic growth based on Government spending is the sign of an economy that is either productive or sustainable?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Government spending in the form of the KiwiBuild investment and the Families Package is a very important and necessary part of managing the transition away from the previous Government's reliance on housing speculation and population growth to improve productivity. As we see the effect of research and development spending, the provincial growth rollout, more skills in our workforce—as announced in part today by the Prime Minister—we will see that transition, but is going to take some time to make up for nine years of neglect.
Hon Amy Adams: Has he seen comments today by former ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie that "The economy is not tracking as expected. The Treasury is projecting 3 percent plus growth. Something closer to half of that is on offer. We won't get that growth back. Each 1 percent change in growth is worth around $800m in revenue."; and, if so, is he still going to stand here and pretend that the economy is humming along nicely?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There are a range of different forecasts about where growth will reach. Today, Westpac believe that they think the Reserve Bank wasn't ambitious enough in terms of the forecasts; similarly, ASB thought the same thing. Mr Bagrie's entitled to his opinion on this, but we on this side of the House continue to believe—as, indeed, the Reserve Bank does—that we will average around 3 percent growth over the forecast period.
Hon Amy Adams: So what does he say to former ANZ chief economist Cameron Bagrie, who has also said today that "the Labour-led Government's fiscal hole is looking deeper by the day"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I would say to Mr Bagrie, and, indeed, to the member asking the question is, when her predecessor started digging the fiscal hole it didn't work out very well for him, and she shouldn't follow suit.
Hon Amy Adams: So in light of every bank and economic agency in the country revising down New Zealand's growth prospects since the Labour-led Government has taken office, with that list now including the Treasury and the Reserve Bank, why is he still in denial that the Government's economic policies are hurting the economy and reducing the living standards and future well-being of New Zealanders?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise of that question. If the member reads today's Monetary Policy Statement, she will see that, over the forecast period, the Reserve Bank is projecting 3 percent growth or thereabouts over the next few years. It is going to take some time to transition away from the economy that we were left by the National Party, that was based on housing speculation and population growth, but we are committed to building a modern economy for New Zealand.
• Question No. 4—Finance
4. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he seen on the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Today, the Reserve Bank released its August Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) and its official cash rate (OCR) decision. This will be beneficial for members, with the OCR left on hold at 1.75 percent. The MPS forecast that the slowdown in GDP growth, which began at the start of 2016, should turn around from the June quarter this year, with GDP growth of 3.2 percent forecast in the year to June 2019. The Reserve Bank notes that over the medium term, growth is expected to be supported by fiscal policy, export growth, and supportive monetary policy settings, and that GDP growth should average a little above 3 percent over the next 3 years.
Tamati Coffey: What did the Reserve Bank say in the Monetary Policy Statement about recent and future growth trends?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Reserve Bank said that growth in the March quarter had been soft in services, construction, and primary production—the latter being due to weather-related events and the effects of Mycoplasma bovis. It noted recent weakness in business confidence surveys and weaker than expected house price inflation. However, the MPS shows that the Reserve Bank expects growth to pick up over the rest of 2018 and for medium-term growth of about 3 percent a year, to be supported by monetary policy, fiscal policy, business investment, and net exports.
Tamati Coffey: What risks did the Reserve Bank highlight in the Monetary Policy Statement?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, it always pays to keep an eye on these risks. The Reserve Bank said that, while there is still a positive global economic environment, downside risks to the global outlook had increased since May, in particular due to trade tensions overseas. The Reserve Bank also noted that there is a potential for low business confidence to feed through into firms, delaying investment. However, they said the outlook for business investment is positive, in part due to low interest rates continuing to support greater investment.
• Question No. 5—Police
CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South): To the Minister of Police, does he stand by all his statements in regard to the Government inquiry into the appointment of the Deputy Police Commissioner?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will read the question as it's printed.
5. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by all his statements with regard to the appointment of Wally Haumaha as Deputy Commissioner of Police?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes, in the context within which they were given and knowledge at the time.
Chris Bishop: Does Mr Haumaha enjoy his confidence as Deputy Commissioner of Police?
Hon STUART NASH: There is an inquiry under way which will determine the process under which the senior State servant was appointed, and I think we need to let that play out.
Chris Bishop: Is he aware that Mr Haumaha was asked in his interview for the Deputy Commissioner of Police job, "Is there anything you need to disclose that we should know before we make our decision on this appointment that might cause damage to the police or the Government?" and that he answered no; and does he think that statement is correct?
Hon STUART NASH: I wasn't sitting on the panel.
Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement that he would have "done things slightly differently" if he was aware of Mr Haumaha's statements to the Operation Austin inquiry before he was promoted; and in light of today's new allegations, what would he have done differently?
Hon STUART NASH: Yes.
Chris Bishop: Is it correct that Mike Clement, who graduated from the Police College with Police Commissioner Mike Bush, warned Mr Bush about Wally Haumaha and the potential risk to the reputation of police if he was promoted to assistant commissioner, which occurred just 12 months before he was appointed to the deputy commissioner role?
Hon STUART NASH: I suggest that member ask deputy commissioner Mike Clement those questions.
Chris Bishop: Was Mr Haumaha invited to apply for the role of Deputy Commissioner of Police, which the publicly available State Services paper says some people were invited to do; if so, who invited him to apply.
Hon STUART NASH: My understanding is the State Services Commission invited a number of people to apply for the role. They sent out a letter to all people who they thought may well have been appropriate.
Chris Bishop: Can he confirm that when he captioned his now infamous weightlifting video in the parliamentary gym—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will ask the question conforming to the Standing Orders and Speakers' rulings.
Chris Bishop: Can he confirm that when he captioned his weightlifting video in the parliamentary gym, "Peeni Henare, Wally and Alf - just calling those out who doubted …", the "Wally" in the caption was a reference to Wally Haumaha?
Hon STUART NASH: Yes.
• Question No. 6—Revenue
6. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Revenue: What recent steps has he taken to prevent the misuse of tax treaties by multinationals to avoid or minimise tax?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: This is a very important member.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before the member answers, who made that interjection?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It was me. I was speaking to my colleague.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member wasn't. The member boomed across the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I have a naturally large voice.
Mr SPEAKER: That's right; well, we'll deal with it.
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue) I'm happy to inform the House that the OECD's Multilateral Instrument, or MLI, has now been ratified and will enter into force for New Zealand on 1 October 2018. The misuse of tax treaties by multinationals to avoid or minimise tax was one of the key concerns of the OECD/G20 Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) Action Plan sought to address. The MLI is a key component of the BEPS response, as it will quickly and efficiently modify thousands of existing international tax treaties to incorporate the OECD treaty recommendations on anti-abuse, transfer pricing, and dispute resolution.
Dr Deborah Russell: How does the Multilateral Instrument ensure that multinational companies pay their fair share of tax in New Zealand?
Hon STUART NASH: Double tax agreements are tax treaties that aim to mitigate double taxation across borders and border transactions between countries. However, there was evidence that there was wide misuse of these treaties by multinational companies to reduce or eliminate their worldwide tax. The MLI provides New Zealand and other jurisdictions with the ability to swiftly close the identified loopholes by adjusting most existing international treaty clauses automatically rather than renegotiating each treaty individually.
Dr Deborah Russell: What other measures is the Minister taking to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share of tax?
Hon STUART NASH: In addition to the MLI, the BEPS Act, and the up and coming first exchange of information under the automatic exchange of financial account information initiative, this Government has also not fully ruled out a diverted profits tax or equalisation tax to further address tax avoidance by multinationals. I expect further discussions with officials once the BEPS measures are bedded down.
• Question No. 7—Internal Affairs
7. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does she stand by all her statements around the Government inquiry into the appointment of the Deputy Commissioner of Police?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Internal Affairs: Yes, in the context they were given, except for one of my supplementary question answers yesterday, which I corrected later in the day.
Chris Bishop: Will she make amendments to the terms of reference of the Government inquiry into the appointment of the Deputy Commissioner of Police to incorporate the issue of whether Police Commissioner Mike Bush was told about the allegations revealed in the New Zealand Herald this afternoon; if not, why not?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As has already been answered in the House today, the terms of reference don't need to be adjusted for that matter to be investigated as part of the inquiry. It is certainly within the scope of the existing inquiry, as the terms of reference make very clear.
Chris Bishop: Why did she say yesterday, in relation to the Government inquiry into the appointment of the Deputy Commissioner of Police, "I will not be overseeing the inquiry; I'm just the Minister of Internal Affairs.", when, as that Minister, she is the appointing Minister for the inquiry, and the inquiry reports to her?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In that regard, the Minister is acting on behalf of the whole executive—Cabinet. The appointment of the person to conduct the inquiry is a matter that the Minister takes to Cabinet, and the ultimate report of the inquiry will also go to the whole Cabinet.
Chris Bishop: Why did Cabinet make her the appointing Minister for the Government inquiry when the Minister of Internal Affairs has never been an appointing Minister for any Government inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2013?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because Cabinet felt that I was the most appropriate Minister to undertake that role. I'd note that there are many Ministers in Government who have not, or whose portfolios have not, overseen an inquiry; that doesn't mean that they can't do so in the future.
Chris Bishop: What is the reason she considered candidates to be the member of the Government inquiry into the appointment of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in two tranches, with—quoting her—"at least five in the first tranche, and then another five in the second tranche"?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: To get the right person.
Chris Bishop: Can she confirm the Cabinet paper proposing the establishment of the Government inquiry is in her name, the terms of reference for the inquiry were proposed by her to Cabinet, she is the appointing Minister and formally appointed the inquiry member, and the inquiry reports back to her as Minister of Internal Affairs?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes, yes, yes, and yes, and the Minister does so, basically, on behalf of the Cabinet.
• Question No. 8—Justice
8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Justice: Does he agree, in respect of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill, with the description by his ministerial colleague Eugenie Sage that it is a "dead rat that we have to swallow", and by Greens at Vic that "The bill is a threat to democracy and terrible legislation"; if so, why is he continuing to argue for its passage?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): In answer to the first part of the question, the Hon Eugenie Sage is entitled to her view; in answer to the second part of the question, no; and in answer to the third part of the question, because this Government is committed to ensuring the maintenance of the fundamental principle of MMP, that party-proportional representation in Parliament has to be protected.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he accept the view of the Victoria University (Vic) Greens in describing the legislation as terrible and that it would breach the constitution of MMP in Germany, which states that MPs must be "representatives of the whole people, not bound by orders and instructions, and subject only to their conscience.", and why should MPs in New Zealand not also be only subject to their conscience and the public good?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: In response to the first part of the question, no.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the statement on his bill by Newsroom, titled "Power corrupts", that quotes former Green MPs Sue Bradford, Jeanette Fitzsimons, and Keith Locke, stating that this Government was founded on the dishonourable foundation of these terrible electoral law changes?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: If I understand the question correctly, the answer is no, I don't agree with those propositions.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the further statement by the Greens at Vic, "There is no justification for this legislation. There has just been three defectors in the past 18 years. The Government should just be honest and state the only reason they are passing this bill is to grab power."?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary, Mr Speaker
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 9—Jan Tinetti—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary—he answered a little quicker.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, sorry—supplementary question, the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: When he stated, "There has been a lot of scaremongering on this bill. They are all wrong.", was he referring to the Greens at Vic, his ministerial colleague Eugenie Sage, the 23 constitutional academics, the Legislation Advisory Committee, the Human Rights Commission, the Clerk's Office, former Speakers, or past Green MPs, all of whom have been highly critical of his bill?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No—just that member.
• Question No. 9—Immigration
9. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration: What announcements has he made on post-study work rights for international students?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yesterday, I announced a package of changes to post-study work rights for international students. The changes remove a channel of exploitation through the removal of employer-assisted visas, and provide open work visas of varying lengths depending on course and location of study.
Jan Tinetti: Why has he made these changes?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The changes are designed to achieve four things: one, to improve student experience, including by reducing avenues for exploitation; two, by lifting the value proposition of our international education offering; three, to better match the courses of studies undertaken by international students with the skills needed in New Zealand, if those students wish to settle in New Zealand; and, fourthly, to support regional development and skills training.
Jan Tinetti: How does New Zealand compare with other nations in relation to post-study work rights?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Of our comparator countries, only Canada has more generous work rights. New Zealand now compares favourably to Australia, the US, the UK, and Ireland across all levels of study.
Jan Tinetti: What has the reaction of the sector been to his announcement?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Overwhelmingly positive. I will choose just two quotes. Auckland University's Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jenny Dixon says, "This modernisation of work rights supports our efforts to recruit high quality, high achieving students who enhance our learning community at the University of Auckland." John Diggins, head deputy chief executive of the private training establishment Te Rito Maioha, said, "We very much support what the Minister has said today."
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it still the Government's intention to make further changes to post-study work rights to meet their stated objective of a 12 to 20 percent reduction in those student visas, or is this it?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: That is not a stated objective of the Government. We took some policy proposals out to the sector. We listened to them. We are a Government that works with the sectors that we regulate.
• Question No. 10—Building and Construction
10. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister for Building and Construction: What are the key elements to be addressed in the "risk and liability reallocation" work in relation to the construction industry she announced yesterday during question time?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development) on behalf of the Minister for Building and Construction: Two key elements are investigating how we can ensure that consumers are protected through mechanisms such as insurance-backed warranties, and whether we should limit or alter the liability of certain parties under the Building Act. We know that unbalanced risk affects how people procure, design, and construct buildings, and it makes building consent authorities risk-averse and slow to authorise innovative and more efficient construction techniques and products.
Andrew Bayly: When is it appropriate for design risks to be novated from Government agencies to their contracting counterparties?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That's a question that I think is best dealt with in the detail, and I'm not going to express a view about that here and now. We're committed as a Government to reviewing risk and liability, not only in the residential sector but across the broader industry. There's work under way by the ministry on that now, and the Minister expects to be able to take proposals to Cabinet on this towards the end of the year.
Andrew Bayly: How should civil construction risks be apportioned between the Government agencies and their contracting counterparties?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the question of civil construction risk is not contained in the primary question, which was about risk and liability reallocation work that the Minister announced in yesterday's question time.
Andrew Bayly: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question relates to construction and relates to risks.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, but the specific primary question relates to an announcement yesterday during question time. I think the Minister acting for the Minister who made the announcement has made that reference, and, therefore, while the member might not be satisfied with the answer, it's certainly been addressed.
Andrew Bayly: What other risks is she proposing to reallocate to Government agencies from contracting counterparties under the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Government procurement guidelines?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: So in relation to the matter raised in the primary question, there are no other risks being allocated in the way the member refers within the risk and liability reallocation work that I referred to in yesterday's question time.
Andrew Bayly: What new initiatives has she announced to protect subcontractors against the risk when construction companies fail?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The question of risk allocation between head contractors and subcontractors is not dealt with within the risk and liability reallocation work that I referred to in yesterday's question time.
• Question No. 11—Employment
11. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Employment: What recent announcements has the Government made to support employers and young people?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Mr Speaker, kia ora. I'm really pleased to inform the House that this morning, the Prime Minister, Minister Sepuloni, and I jointly announced Mana in Mahi - Strength in Work, which is a programme that will support young people to transition from benefit into employment while, at the same time, working towards level 4 or industry-required qualifications, and working with our small to medium sized enterprise partners to address our skills shortage across a range of key industries that are vital to the New Zealand economy.
Rino Tirikatene: What are the key components of Mana in Mahi - Strength in Work?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Mana in Mahi is for people who are receiving a benefit, particularly those aged 18 to 24. Young people who take part will be paid, and they'll work towards recognised training qualifications—real qualifications that employers are looking for. This initiative will also include different industry qualifications, alongside those that can be obtained as New Zealand Apprenticeships. We're very pleased to support this strategy from our Prime Minister, which has been one of compassion from the start of her tenure here in Government.
Rino Tirikatene: How will Mana in Mahi support employers?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Employers will get a wage subsidy to help with the cost of hiring a young person getting a benefit and supporting them to get these qualifications. This will cover the real costs that businesses face in taking on a young person and getting them trained up, and it will encourage employers to give young people on a benefit a chance. At the same time, this is another pathway to addressing the skills shortage that many of our industries are facing.
• Question No. 12—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media
12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in the broadcasting, communications, and digital media portfolio?
Hon CLARE CURRAN (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media): Yes, in the context that they were made and taken.
Melissa Lee: How will she allay the fears of independent and commercial media providers that say "there is a genuine risk that the Government, through its owned media channels, may become the only broadcaster in New Zealand"?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: The Government is clearly focused on investing in funding for public media, which in this country is woefully low and has undergone frozen funding for around a decade. Compared with other comparable countries, our investment in public interest media and in our culture has been woeful in the last decade. We are aware of the pressures generally on the media sector. I do not believe there is any direct correlation between investment in public media and the impact on commercial television.
Melissa Lee: Does she agree with statements by Stuff Ltd that an expanded RNZ+ service "will not achieve the desired end of delivering sustainable, quality, trusted journalism in NZ.", and if not, what evidence does she have that the expanded services will deliver sustainable, quality, trusted journalism in New Zealand?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: No, and investment in non-commercial public interest media in this country—as I've said in my previous answer—and having a strong commercial media sector are two things that can coexist at the same time.
Melissa Lee: Why is she continuing to pursue her existing plans for public media in New Zealand when her own advisory group has been told by stakeholders that "RNZ does not have the history, skills, experience, or infrastructure necessary to fill [the] gap in local coverage."?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: The advisory group which I appointed has undergone a first round of consultation, largely with the commercial media sector, and of course they would say that. The advisory group is currently undergoing another round of consultation now that it's got more time, with a wider range of stakeholders, and I look forward to their advice.
Melissa Lee: Does she believe RNZ would be able to meet the needs to fill the gap in local coverage if she had actually followed through on her $38-million-a-year plan for public broadcasting, prior to Budget 2018?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: As I have said numerous times inside and outside this House, the investment in this Budget in this financial year in public interest media is the biggest in a decade and it is a down payment on an ongoing investment in our national identity and our culture, in our ability to tell our stories no matter where we are in New Zealand, across Māori and Pacific, and an investment in public interest journalism and an investment in our regions. These things are critical, and I would hope that all of us in the House actually adhered to that and actually believed that.
Melissa Lee: Supplementary?
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member has used her supplementary questions.