Parliament: Questions and Answers - August 16
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1 Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy
Leader—National) to the Prime
Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government's
statements and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, and when correctly stated in their context, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why did the Deputy Prime Minister say yesterday in relation to Wally Haumaha, "The fact is the person is not a witness. The person may be a complainant," when the New Zealand Herald report was very clear that the person was a witness?
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I happy to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member might want to seek leave to answer the out-of-order question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I seek leave to answer that abhorrent, out-of-order question.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member wants to seek leave in a straight manner—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Sorry, I seek leave to answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? There is none.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer is that the New Zealand Herald does not clearly, in the form of those two writers, understand the fundamentals of the law. They were wanting to make out a case of witness tampering, and to be able to do that they constructed a potential complainant, or three potential complainants as witnesses. My challenge to them is—witness where, in what inquiry, and saying what? Complainants they may be, but you can't call them witnesses.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there a further supplementary question to the Prime Minister?
Hon Paula Bennett: If her deputy is not involved in the process around Wally Haumaha, why does she think he thinks he has so much other information that others don't?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because it's not the habit of her deputy to go out and shoot off his mouth without the facts.
Mr SPEAKER: I'm going to remind the Deputy Prime Minister of the tradition in this House when one is answering even a supplementary for another Minister, to acknowledge that at the beginning of the answer, and that might just have an influence on the tone of the reply.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she know if her Deputy Prime Minister knows the identity of the witness or any of the complainants; and if so, how he might have found this information out?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the answer is: the deputy does not know the identity of the three potential complainants, but what the deputy does know is that on the two former promotions of Mr Haumaha in 2012 and in 2016 the National Party was in Government, the Commissioner of Police was their appointment—first Marshall and then Bush, so there are two occasions on which the kind of information which is being sought to be elicited now in an inquiry would have been covered at that point in time if the National Party was doing its job properly.
Hon Paula Bennett: Were previous promotions of Wally Haumaha statutory appointments that went through an honours committee and made by Ministers or the Prime Minister, then to the Governor-General?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I just ask the questioner—
Hon Members: On behalf of.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, can I ask the questioner, slowly and without interruption, what honours promotion is she talking about?
Hon Paula Bennett: In reference to the answer that the Prime Minister gave two questions ago, where she clearly stated that there'd been two promotions of Wally Haumaha previous to her being in Government, can she verify whether or not those were statutory appointments appointed by the Governor-General at the recommendation of the Prime Minister, or were they internal police promotions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can say, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that on the general manager Maori, Pacific and ethnic affairs 2012 to 2014 appointment, that was handled by the department. With respect to the deputy chief executive Māori, now a significantly larger promotion—happening under the National Party—2014 to 2018, that was handled by commissioner Mike Bush, also chosen by the National Party at the point in time. So you might say the National Party's DNA is all over this.
Hon Paula Bennett: In the context of the appointment of Wally Haumaha in recent months to the role of deputy police commissioner, which is a role made by her and her Cabinet, shouldn't she finally take some responsibility for what a fiasco it's turned out to be?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I just say, on behalf of the Prime Minister, the moment the Prime Minister knew about the allegations that were being made, the Prime Minister had two very singular thoughts—one at a time, of course. The first one is surely this information came out in 2014 and 2012 when the previous Government was handling the promotions, and second, we must have a full-scale inquiry and get to the truth of this matter as to process. That's what the Prime Minister did and thought.
Hon Paula Bennett: Would she support the State Services Commission doing an inquiry into the three totally different accounts of how the three women were treated by the State sector, as asked for by Chris Bishop via a letter to the commissioner today?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, the Bishop letter did not cover off—on behalf of the Prime Minister—the time of these alleged offences, rather conveniently, because it happened, as I understand, during the National Party's time in Government. The second thing is the State Services Commissioner has replied to Mr Bishop and said that they are considering his request. That's where things are precisely as we speak.
Hon Shane Jones: Is she confident that the terms of reference will be wide enough to identify those members of the police force importuned by Opposition members for private information?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that is a matter which, having been alluded to by the Minister, the consideration with respect to the inquiry must have. But it's being conducted by a QC, the wife of a former National Party Minister, and any allegation of bias is malice aforethought.
Hon Stuart Nash: Did the last Government provide Mr Haumaha with any sort of honour, and if so, would that have gone through a Cabinet committee and been approved by Cabinet?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a matter for the Prime Minister's responsibility.
Hon Paula Bennett: So in light of police being part of the inquiry, can she please still verify that police will be able to make submissions to the QC in light of it being anonymous and them not going through threats; of actually them being able to speak the truth?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, she has a burning desire to repeat her statement of yesterday, which was exactly that. It hasn't changed in 24 hours. The new information we have got, of course, is that there was an honours committee nomination from the National Party; it went through their full honours committee, subcommittee, and Cabinet.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of the statements and actions of the Government in respect of the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were given and undertaken.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with the Minister for Small Business that it is concerning that business confidence is as low as it is, and that this is a challenge to his Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We've already said that we're working with the business community, and we'd like to see those numbers turn around. But I would note, on the matter of small business, that Craig Hudson from Xero yesterday said that Xero's Small Business Insights data challenges the notion that the economy is in a downturn.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he think that if he'd taken notice at the beginning of the year, when Infometrics warned him that economic growth was going to fall below forecasts because of this Government's policies, he could've acted then to do something to prevent the significant falls in business confidence that we've seen since then?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I've said a number of times in this House, business confidence ratings do tend to track who's in Government at any particular moment. Perhaps the member might want to reflect on whether or not, when GDP started to decline, or the trend started to decline at the beginning of 2017, her Government might've done something about it. This Government is doing something about it; we're actually transitioning away from her economy that she preferred, based on population growth and housing speculation.
Hon Amy Adams: So is he saying to this House, essentially, that he's not concerned if Government policies mean that growth is now clearly below what was forecast at the beginning of this year, even though that means New Zealand is missing out on prosperity that it could've and should've had?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I reject the latter part of that question. What we're talking about at the moment are forecasts, and those forecasts show that, on average, the economy will grow around about 3 percent over the three-year period. That is exactly what Treasury forecast, and we're working to make that happen.
Hon Amy Adams: So am I correct in understanding the Minister is saying that he doesn't understand that the proper way to measure the effectiveness of a Government's policies on the economy is not whether the economy is still growing but whether it's growing as strongly as it could've been if it wasn't for those policies?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There is no connection between the matters that the member is trying to draw. We are in a transition phase, away from an economy that was based on population growth and housing speculation. There will be bumps in the road there, but, on average, we're seeing forecast growth of 3 percent. If the member thinks everything was absolutely perfect in the economy, maybe she would like to justify having economic growth and the OECD saying, at the same time, that we've got the world's worst homelessness. That isn't success in the economy. We're doing something different.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he seen on how infrastructure will improve productivity and living standards in New Zealand?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): A report this week by Chapman Tripp outlined how the infrastructure deficit that has built up in New Zealand in recent years is significant, and that it will be difficult to unwind. The infrastructure deficit has contributed to housing becoming less affordable, has held back our ability to become a more productive economy, and it has had an impact on Kiwis' standards of living. The report says there is now increased demand on all forms of infrastructure, from electricity to water, and social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals, and says that the search for solutions to New Zealand's infrastructure problems is now urgent. Movement on this will help improve productivity and New Zealanders' living standards.
Dr Deborah Russell: What does the report say about the action required to close the infrastructure deficit?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The report makes a number of suggestions to address New Zealand's infrastructure deficit. These include a new look at how infrastructure is funded, including the use of private sector financing to break the funding deadlock, and the use of new financing tools. The recommendations include the creation of a national urban development authority and better coordination of the infrastructure pipeline to provide long-term support for the construction sector.
Dr Deborah Russell: What actions is the Government taking to close the infrastructure deficit?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Very similar to what's been recommended. Our plan is looking at how infrastructure is funded, including the use of private sector financing to break the funding deadlock and the use of new financing tools. We are creating a national urban development authority, and we will soon be announcing how we will better coordinate the infrastructure pipeline to provide long-term support for the construction sector. [Interruption] It's pleasing to see how popular this is with the Opposition, and that it aligns with the infrastructure sector. I and other Ministers look forward—
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the member—I think we've had enough.
• Question No. 4—Justice
4. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by his Government's policies and statements on electoral law, particularly those affecting the free speech of members of Parliament?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the statement contained in many constitutions in Western democracies that members of Parliament shall be representative of the whole people, they shall not be bound by any orders, instructions, or contracts, and they shall only be responsible to their conscience?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member would have to specify the countries, the constitutions, and the specific wording in each. But I do draw the House's attention to the sentiments that I think the member is trying to support in that question, and I'm left wondering why it is that he and members on his side of the House have proposed amendments to the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill that require party general secretaries and governing boards of parties to direct members of Parliament.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does his Government support MPs being subject to legally binding contracts where they have to personally pay their party $300,000 in the event that they fall out—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. It will become very obvious to you if that member's allowed to continue on that he's covering a subject which is not the responsibility of the Minister, and he should be brought back inside the Standing Orders.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: No.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I'm not familiar with any such arrangement, and it looks hypothetical to me. I have no further response on it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: A point of order, the Rt Hon Winston Peters—is this a point of order?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raised a point of order—
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —as to the appropriateness—
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: It wasn't a point of order, actually. It wasn't a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Excuse me, can I just—
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question was in order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, can I just point out to you that for the Minister to be asked and be responsible for answering the question, he has to be responsible for the base of it, which in this case was a party's constitution—not the coalition Government's constitution but a party's constitution—for which he is not responsible, with respect.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: And, in fairness, I think the Minister answered it quite correctly. It was a—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Because you didn't do your job—that's why.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: I don't think that that is appropriate. Point of order, the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it was speaking to the point of order. It is the Standing Orders—
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: Which point of order?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, that's right. I suppose—
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: The one that isn't a point of order?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, that's right. So I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker, in that case. I call the House's attention to the Standing Orders, which make it clear that Ministers can be asked to give an opinion.
Madam DEPUTY SPEAKER: That's correct.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was the Minister aware, when he introduced new section 5D in his Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill requiring that party rules must be followed, that the New Zealand First Party, in its constitution under rule 57D, requires that members of Parliament sign a contract imposing a personal liability of $300,000 in the event that they fall out with their party?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: There are two points I would make in relation to that. No, I wasn't aware of that, and in any event any arrangement that purports to substitute the judgment of an individual member with that of somebody from outside this House is a breach of parliamentary privilege, and so cannot hold; and, secondly, I would point out that the Supreme Court when it considered the case of Donna Awatere Huata in relation to the ACT Party found that it was a matter of party business whether or not a member of Parliament representing a party complied with the party rules in that case in relation to paying their fees.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why would it be acceptable under our electoral laws for members of Parliament to be subject to a contract including a $300,000 personal liability in the event that they fall out with their party, when such provisions would be illegal in any employment contract and amount to indentured labour?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That's the traditional and expected flowery and flamboyant approach that that member takes to characterising issues, but I simply draw that member's attention yet again to the Supreme Court decision—
Hon Kris Faafoi: That's the medication.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: —in Awatere Huata v Prebble, where that court, the highest court in the land, said that members of Parliament with party obligations are required to meet those party obligations, and that is not an interference in the functioning of Parliament.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question?
Mr SPEAKER: No, before either member goes, Darroch Ball will stand, withdraw, and apologise. Was he the member who made that interjection? [Member shakes his head] Was it the member in front of him?
Hon Member: No.
Mr SPEAKER: No? Well, one of those members.
Hon Kris Faafoi: I stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Right, there will be five additional supplementary questions for the National Party.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Seeing as opinion has been put into the mix here—in his opinion, what is the democratic principle when two times the prior questioner has led the charge to expel two National MPs from the caucus?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing Orders and Speakers' rulings are very clear that where a member has given a personal explanation and said that a claim is false, the member must be taken at his word.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Speaking to the point of order. Thursday two weeks ago, that member asked for time to make a personal explanation. It was granted by the House, whereupon he just got up and said the statement was false. The reality is that I did not allege that he moved the motion. I said he led the charge to get rid of two former MPs, and I know that one personally, and Maurice Williamson was the other one.
Mr SPEAKER: Well—[Interruption] No, I think, before we go any further, I'm now going to ask the Hon Dr Nick Smith, because I can't remember the details of this personal explanation—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: —no, no, no. Sorry.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, no. I want to get to a point where the member might have one.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, I think I've got one now—a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I'll be tolerant.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr Speaker, the question itself asks the Minister to reflect on a member. That is contrary to Standing Orders.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the question was actually asking to reflect on a circumstance, rather than a member. But let's go back to Dr Smith and seek an assurance from him that, in his opinion, the assertion in the question was contrary to the personal explanation that he made.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Correct. That is that the Rt Hon Winston Peters has twice claimed in this House that I led the charge or had some leading role in the decision of the National caucus to suspend the then member of Parliament Maurice Williamson. In my personal explanation, I said then and I say now: that is incorrect.
Mr SPEAKER: OK, and there was a further case which he referenced. Let's get both of them out of the way.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What was the other reference, I'm sorry?
Mr SPEAKER: His own. Just to make it clear, the Rt Hon Winston Peters indicated that he was part of the caucus when the member led the charge to get rid of him.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Well, Mr Speaker, it is obvious I was a member of the caucus. I've been a member of the National Party caucus very proudly for 28 years. The claim that is incorrect by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, that I in any way led the decisions at that time—that is false. It was false then; it's false now.
Mr SPEAKER: The member's word is accepted. Further supplementary questions?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister aware of any other political party in New Zealand or in any other parliamentary democracy where members of Parliament must sign a contract before taking up their seats in Parliament that imposes a personal financial liability of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the event that they have a falling out with their party?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Even accepting that member's word in previous questions about this matter, I think he is drawing a very long bow in the way he has characterised what he describes as these provisions in party constitution rules, individual contracts with members. The rules of parliamentary privilege are very clear: members cannot be instructed, obliged to, or somehow led by those outside this House; they must act in accordance with the rules of this House and make their own judgments with their own colleagues.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave of the House to table clause 57H of the New Zealand First Party constitution, that does as I say.
Mr SPEAKER: Is that document publicly available?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It is not available on the New Zealand First website. I was able to obtain a paper copy from the New Zealand Electoral Commission.
Mr SPEAKER: My view is that it is publicly available. And can I say for Ms Martin that her assistance to me has resulted in the Opposition having a further three supplementaries.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister aware of Justice Fisher's ruling of 1993, which, in summation, said that political parties have the right to determine their own rules?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I am not familiar with the detail of that judgment but I am well aware of that judge, and I go back to the principle that, I think, was very clear from the Supreme Court decision in the Awatere Huata case, which is that there is a basis on which MPs as members of their party and with obligations to their party, as with any incorporated or unincorporated society—as opposed to members with obligations to this Parliament and the rules of parliamentary privilege. It is possible to draw that distinction.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was it his intention, when he introduced new section 5D in his Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill requiring that party rules must be complied with, to give greater legal weight to enable $300,000 good-behaviour bonds required by New Zealand First to be more easily able to be enforced?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The objective of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is to ensure that the fundamental principle of MMP, that proportionality of party representation, is maintained. And to the extent that that member is concerned about threats to freedom of speech, he should have been conscious of that when he and his party brought in the abolition of the members of the Environment Canterbury Regional Council and, indeed, his actions towards shutting down Bronwyn Pullar over her complaint about privacy in ACC.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister, having expressed concern about the privileges of this House and members not being subject to any outside legal threat or instruction, support my complaint to the Privileges Committee against these obnoxious contracts that New Zealand First MPs are required to sign?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Once again, I hear this new word "abnoxious" being used, and I am still unfamiliar with it. It might not be "abnoxious", but it may—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to interrupt the member. Often in this House, members mispronounce words—
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: But not repeatedly, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Little, you will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that, on occasions, some members, including members on his own side of the House, repeatedly mispronounce words. I think that focusing on that in a reply lowers the tone of the House, and I'm asking the Minister to stop doing it.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. That, unfortunately, has distracted me from recalling what the question was. I'd appreciate hearing the question again.
Mr SPEAKER: The question, I remind the member, goes to the contracts and whether they were obnoxious or not, and whether the member had them in mind when he was legislating.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With due respect, that was not the question—
Mr SPEAKER: All right. Ask it again.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Thank you. Will the Minister—having expressed concern in this House about its privileges and members of Parliament not being subject to any outside instruction or contract—support a complaint to the Privileges Committee in respect of the contracts that New Zealand First MPs are required to sign involving a civil liability of $300,000 if they fall out with their party?
Mr SPEAKER: Well, that wasn't quite what the member said earlier, but away you go.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I am not familiar with the claimed underlying premise of any such parliamentary privileges complaint, and therefore I do not see myself supporting a complaint if I don't know the detail of it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree, in respect of the Government electoral law changes, with a quote from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and I quote, "members of Parliament have to be free to follow their conscience. They were elected to represent their constituents, not to swear an oath of blind allegiance to a political party."; if so, does he believe MPs can follow their conscience when they face a personal liability of $300,000 if they fall out with the New Zealand First party?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Yes and yes.
• Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development
5. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he have confidence in Housing New Zealand's tenancy management and the way it manages the State housing stock?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes.
Simon O'Connor: Is it acceptable to him that State housing tenants are currently renting out their State houses on Airbnb?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I'm not aware that they are, and if the member has information about that, I would be happy to look into it.
Simon O'Connor: How can he not be aware if his officials advised the Social Services Committee yesterday that this is definitively the case?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I was aware that the Ministry of Social Development officials at select committee talked about the effect of Airbnb in regional housing markets and the effect it's having on housing demand. But I have to say I wasn't aware that there was any suggestion that Housing New Zealand tenants were leasing out their properties on Airbnb.
Simon O'Connor: Will he be taking any steps to stop this happening, and if so how?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I will certainly look into it.
Jo Luxton: What progress has Housing New Zealand made in increasing the State housing stock?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We are making very good progress building more public housing. Housing New Zealand built 598 new properties in the June quarter, and there are 1,643 new Housing New Zealand properties currently under construction. This Government is committed to rebuilding State housing in New Zealand after nine years of neglect and selling off of State housing.
Simon O'Connor: How can it be that a State house tenant can rent out their surplus rooms on Airbnb, and yet his tenancy managers cannot find rooms for the people who need them?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, if State house tenants are leasing out their homes on Airbnb, then I'll be looking into that.
Simon O'Connor: Is it acceptable, Minister, for existing State house tenants to rent out houses and homes when we have the largest waiting list in history, under this Government.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we have the largest waiting list in history because the former Government allowed the housing crisis to spin out of control. We have seen the worst homelessness in living memory for the last three winters, and that Government sold off State housing for nine years, reducing the total stock of public housing by 1,500 in the middle of a housing crisis.
• Question No. 6—Health
6. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he support the decisions made by the Southern District Health Board contained in the primary maternity decision document released last Friday?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Given the strength of public feeling on this matter, I asked Ministry of Health experts to review the Southern District Health Board's (DHB's) decision, to provide me with assurance that mothers and babies will continue to receive the high-quality care they deserve. I have received that assurance. I'm advised that the new configuration will cost approximately the same as the current primary system but will be better integrated into other healthcare services. This will result in an overall higher level of services for women in the district. Given these assurances, my answer to the member's question is yes.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: How can he support the decision to downgrade Lumsden Maternity Centre from a birthing unit to a non-birthing unit, when it was made on the basis of flawed data and the reviewers did not even visit the Lumsden Maternity Centre to verify that data?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Ministry reviewed Southern DHB's decision and raised no concerns about the quality of data used in reaching that decision.
Hamish Walker: Supplementary?
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary, Tim van de Molen.
Hamish Walker: Can he guarantee—
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, Hamish Walker. I apologise.
Hamish Walker: Thanks. I knew you'd get there. No worries.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to both members.
Hamish Walker: Can the Minister guarantee that mothers and babies in northern Southland won't die or suffer permanent injury because they are too far away from a specialist maternity unit in their greatest time of need?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Due to the intense community interest and the impact of travel distances, I'm advised the Southern DHB sought external advice from midwifery consultants to help them understand this risk. The external advisers provided their opinion that there is no additional clinical risk in moving Lumsden to a maternal and child hub, as opposed to a birthing facility, if Southern DBH implements the required mitigation. These mitigations include the provision of equipment and processes to support urgent births and greater support to ensure the sustainability of community midwifes, who can help women plan to manage the travel required.
Hamish Walker: What is that guarantee worth when the data used is wrong, when the birthing unit at the Lumsden Maternity Centre is closing, and the Te Ānau air ambulance service that takes urgent cases to the right facilities is also at risk?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the first premise in the member's question.
Hon Jacqui Dean: How can he support the decision not to establish a birthing unit in Wānaka, one of the fastest-growing areas in the South Island, before the results of census 2018 are known?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: For the first time, there is likely to be a new maternal and child hub in Wānaka. The previous Government didn't put one there.
Hon Jacqui Dean: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was specific to the Minister and asked why the decision was not to establish a birthing unit in Wānaka. I didn't mention a birthing hub.
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member really want him to have another go?
Hon Jacqui Dean: I'd be delighted to.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister will answer the question again.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Thank you, Mr Speaker, and thank you to the member. The changes the DHB is proposing to make are to increase the services available to women across the district. They will improve the quality of services. The previous Government didn't put any services there for the women who wanted to give birth; we are.
• Question No. 7—Education
7. SIMEON BROWN (National—Pakuranga) on behalf of Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: What advice has he received on the likelihood of a two-day primary teacher strike and the potential impact that would have on students' learning?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Government's committed to going back to the negotiating table with teachers and principals next week. We are listening to their concerns and are committed to good faith bargaining. Discussion of further strike action is premature, and I've yet to receive any advice on it.
Simeon Brown: What advice can he give to frustrated parents who are now facing the prospect of another longer two-day strike?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The same advice that I gave them this morning and yesterday: that talk of any further strike action is premature. Negotiations will resume week.
Jamie Strange: What advice has he received on the concerns of primary school teachers?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I've received a wide range of advice on the concerns of primary school teachers. I won't go through all of it today. I understand that primary school teachers are concerned that there aren't enough of them, and the Government's taken action, putting a $30 million package in place to attract new people to the profession. I've received feedback that national standards led to a significant increase in the workload without any corresponding increase in student achievement, and the Government has abolished them. And I've received advice that there is significant unmet demand—or significant extra demand, I should say—for learning support in our school system for kids with additional learning needs, and the Government provided the biggest increase in learning support funding in a decade in this year's Budget.
Simeon Brown: Does he think that teachers were too quick in launching strike action, and does he have any plans to meet with union representatives himself to try and support a quick resolution to negotiations?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The decision to take strike action was one taken by the teachers. I do know that they would not have taken that decision lightly. Of course, from a Government perspective, we would prefer to be sitting around the bargaining table with them rather than have them on strike.
Simeon Brown: Does he stand by the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday "We gave a 45 percent increase for operational funding." when his Budget statement said the operational funding had increased by 1.6 percent, and does he think it is helpful for the Prime Minister to exaggerate by more than 25-fold?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think that the percentage figures the Prime Minister was referring to were the percentage increases over and above the increases that were given in the last Budget by the previous National Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it a fact that the spokesperson for the protest yesterday on the forecourt of Parliament said that the reason they were protesting was nine years of National neglect?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. He has no responsibility for the—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: He does it all the time, poor old chap.
Mr SPEAKER: And the member comments all the time.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, but mine are good.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, how can I deal with it if the members advise me constantly?
Simeon Brown: When he said that the offer was "fair", is he saying, as David Clark did for nurses, that that "there is no more money"?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: When I say that the offer is fair, I've been pointing out that the offer is more than double anything that the teachers were offered and settled for under the previous National Government. I'm also saying that the offer is fair because the Government has made a clear commitment to address many of the non-pay issues that teachers have raised during their settlement. I say that the offer is fair because it is significantly ahead—significantly ahead—of what the previous Government were willing to even contemplate offering teachers.
• Question No. 8—Housing and Urban Development
8. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What progress, if any, has been made in implementing the Government's KiwiBuild programme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): On Monday, pre-qualification opened, and the first families have now fully completed the KiwiBuild application process ahead of the first ballots next month. So far, more than 1,800 applicants have started their applications and have taken the first step to owning their own KiwiBuild home. This comes on top of the now over 40,000 Kiwis who have expressed an interest in owning their own home through KiwiBuild.
Tamati Coffey: What does the pre-qualification process entail?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The pre-qualification process is where potential KiwiBuild buyers show that they meet the eligibility criteria, declare that they will live in their home, and organise finance. There is no rush, and families should take their time to organise their finance and documentation. There will always be plenty of notice, and the KiwiBuild unit will let them know as new homes come on to the market in the coming months.
Tamati Coffey: Are banks supporting the pre-qualification process?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, they are. The major banks have been very supportive of KiwiBuild and have been willing and open to help make the dream of homeownership come true for more New Zealanders. On Monday, Kiwibank also announced it is putting itself out there as the first choice for KiwiBuild participants. They will pre-approve customers for up to 90 percent of the value of a KiwiBuild home, meaning that Kiwi families will only need a 10 percent deposit on these new builds. Kiwibank has also announced that it will contribute $2,000 to moving or legal expenses.
• Question No. 9—Environment
9. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for the Environment: What success, if any, has he had in establishing Kahui Wai Māori - the Māori Freshwater Forum?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Nominations for Kāhui Wai Māori were opened a week ago. The Government has already received a substantial number of nominations and expressions of interest from Māori groups and individuals.
Hon Scott Simpson: What consultation, if any, did the Government undertake with Iwi Chairs Forum on the establishment of Kāhui Wai Māori?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Minister for Crown/Māori Relations has met on a number of occasions with iwi chairs and iwi leaders and had made clear the interest of the Government to have a broader conversation with Māoridom that is inclusive of that group but not limited to it.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does his failure to consult fully with the Iwi Chairs Forum on the establishment of Kāhui Wai Māori meet the level of partnership referred to the Prime Minister at Waitangi earlier this year, and, if not, why not?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Iwi Chairs Forum is one of a number of Māori leadership bodies. Others include the New Zealand Māori Council, which has a statutory role and, of course, is one of the claimants to the Waitangi Tribunal claim in respect to water and was one of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court decision relating to Mighty River Power and the sell-off by the last Government of shares in State-owned enterprises. We believe that they and the Federation of Māori Authorities and others ought to be also consulted.
Nuk Korako: What does real partnership with Māori entail in relation to freshwater rights?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We believe that it's already apparent that Māori are involved in decision-making processes in respect of water at all levels of Government. The three parties of the coalition all have Māori in leadership roles. The Labour Party holds all of the Māori electorates and has the highest number of MPs of Māori descent that any party has ever had in New Zealand. We also respect the different views of Māoridom outside of Parliament, and, working together, we will do our best to resolve these complex issues.
Hon Shane Jones: In the context of Māori freshwater issues, what obstacles now lie in front of him as a consequence of the words of appeasement offered by the last Government to buy off the iwi leaders at the Supreme Court to the detriment of the "Indians and cowboys"?
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. No responsibility.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does the Minister consider it consistent with the principles of the Treaty partnership for the Government to insist that it will choose who represent Māori on Kāhui Wai Māori?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The point that we've made is that we actually don't want to start another journey to bring up to speed people that don't already have a deep understanding of the complexity around water issues. New Zealand has been grappling with these issues for over a decade. The last Government, with the Freshwater Iwi Leaders Group, was unable to resolve the curly issues that lie at the bottom of this. We wanted to engage with all viewpoints within Māoridom. We do have a role in appointing those positions through Cabinet, which, as I said, has representatives of Māori embedded within it, because we want to be able to move forward in a way that meets the proper interests of our country.
Hon Scott Simpson: What discussions has he had with iwi on the Government's proposal to introduce a levy on bottled water, given previous statements that it was "so easy it could be done by lunchtime" and that 300 lunchtimes have passed without progress?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, no—the member will resume his seat. That is not a question which relates to the primary question or to any of the previous supplementaries.
Hon Shane Jones: Can the Minister confirm that the New Zealand Māori Council and the Federation of Māori Authorities played a key and critical role in advancing litigation pertaining to other natural resources, including fisheries and forestry?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Those are not matters which the Minister has responsibility for.
Hon Shane Jones: Speaking to the point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, there's not a point of order.
Hon Shane Jones: No, no, there is.
Mr SPEAKER: I've ruled, Mr Jones.
Hon Shane Jones: Well, that's disappointing.
• Question No. 10—Statistics
10. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: Does he have confidence in Statistics New Zealand?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): Yes, I do, and so should he.
Dr Jian Yang: What is his response to reports that some houses in the Coromandel area were deliberately missed, with census fieldworkers "advised not to bother with some hard-to-reach properties"?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Statistics New Zealand has assured me that field teams were instructed to visit all the households on their lists and to record any challenges, including any safety concerns, with visiting a property so that a decision could be made by their team leader about further follow-up. For this year's census, field officers had new processes to follow to support the collection of data from every household. Field officers completed nearly one million visits over seven weeks of follow-up across the country.
Dr Jian Yang: What is his response to Northland District Health Board's chief executive who said access to the census for Northland has been a big issue and that, "Lots of people never received their access code, which means the whole campaign could have been a waste of time."?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I do understand how important census data is for calculating the distribution of health funds. However, as I've said in answers to previous questions, Statistics New Zealand is still working through the census reconciliation process and will not be in a position to make an announcement about census response and coverage rates until after they have completed this work. The initial release of data is likely to be in March of next year. I want to stress that I do have full confidence in our national statistics agency and in the work that they are doing on the census. While the response rate in this census appears to be lower than was planned for, Statistics New Zealand will make use of reliable Government data to fill in any gaps. The use of administrative data was a core part of the future census strategy that the previous National Government signed off on in 2014.
Dr Jian Yang: What is his response to census fieldworkers who said, "There was a complete sense of panic towards the end that it hadn't worked out like the Government hoped."?
Hon JAMES SHAW: As I said in response to the previous supplementary question, fieldworkers who had worked on the census in previous censuses who also worked on this census, did have to change their methodology, and that involved for some of them some discomfort because they had been used to previous processes.
Dr Jian Yang: Is he concerned that the problems and historical low participation rate of Census 2018 will result in an inaccurate picture of New Zealand's population, particularly for rural, Māori, and ethnic communities?
Hon JAMES SHAW: As I have said in answers to previous supplementaries on this and in response to previous questions in the House by Dr Nick Smith, while the response rate in the census appears to be lower than planned for, Statistics New Zealand will make use of reliable Government data to fill in any gaps. The use of administrative data was a core part of the future census strategy that the previous Government signed off on in 2014.
• Question No. 11—Energy and Resources
11. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent announcements has she made to help facilitate greater uptake of electric vehicles in New Zealand?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Last week, I travelled to Porirua Motors with the local member Kris Faafoi, where I announced funding of $3.87 million for 19 new projects across New Zealand as part of the latest round in the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund. The fund is administered by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and encourages innovation and investment to accelerate the uptake of electric and other low-emission—
Mr SPEAKER: That's enough, thank you.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: —vehicles in New Zealand, which might not otherwise happen.
Angie Warren-Clark: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: No, we're not going to have any more supplementaries on this question. The Minister was instructed to sit down and she didn't. She continued. We'll move on to question No. 12.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it does set somewhat of a dangerous precedent for the House, and for you as Speaker, where you prevent members from asking questions based on the conduct of Ministers. I think it's fair to sanction a Minister. I don't think it's fair to take away the right—I think the Opposition would have a huge concern if an answer that I gave therefore meant that they weren't allowed to ask a question.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and I clearly didn't do that. What I've done is stop the further promotion by way of Dorothy Dix or donkey-drop type questions, which are, overall, undesirable, where everything that the Minister had said was in the paper last week. I asked her to sit down and she did not. There is no question of a reduction in the accountability of the Government through the decision that I have just made.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the last Standing Orders' review, a recommendation was considered to remove the right of Government backbench members to ask questions of Ministers, and that was clearly rejected. It is the decision of the whole House to continue to allow Government backbench members to question Ministers.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 12, Dr Parmjeet Parmar.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A backbench member of the Government was seeking to ask a supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: And I have indicated to the House, because of the behaviour of the Minister and the nature of the question, that the questioning on that question was curtailed.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Not wishing to contest your ruling, but can I suggest that your ruling be taken as a warning on this occasion rather than absolute and final, and give the backbench member a chance to ask her question.
Mr SPEAKER: I think it can be taken as a warning to Ministers for the future to sit down when I tell them to.
• Question No. 12—Research, Science and Innovation
12. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: What advice, if any, has she received on the effect of the Government's proposed R & D tax incentive on businesses that are yet to record a positive cash-flow?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): As was clearly stated in the tax incentive discussion document published in April this year, the Government recognises that it is important to support R & D businesses in tax loss or which have insufficient taxable income to use their tax credit. The Government is committed to providing a better policy option to support these businesses. We understand the challenges of pre-profit businesses and recognise the need for additional encouragement into research and development. We're committed to finding solutions. I've received many pieces of advice on this topic, including the feedback we received through the consultation period on the R & D tax incentive, which is helping officials to develop the best policy for pre-profit businesses. The individual feedback has been crucial in the discussions we're now having about the final design of the tax incentive. I look forward to making an announcement on how this Government will be investing $1 billion of new money on the R & D tax incentive in due course.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What proportion of businesses that undertake R & D in New Zealand are in a pre-profit stage?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: What I can tell the member, of the 300 businesses that currently receive a growth grant through Callaghan Innovation, around 200 of those 300 are in a pre-profit situation. What I can tell that member is under the R & D tax credit, rather than the 300 that will helped through a growth grant, around 3,000 businesses will be assisted through that incentive. I fully expect a large proportion of them will be pre-profit, but—
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about the proportion—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat. The Minister's answering the question. You can't complain about an answer that hasn't finished.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Thank you. I'll continue my answer—thank you, Mr Speaker. Since the previous Government's support only stretched to 300, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is currently doing the numbers on the vastly expanded number of businesses that will receive support from this Government to increase their R & D.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was "What proportion of businesses that undertake R & D in New Zealand are in a pre-profit stage?", not about the number of businesses that receive growth grants versus the number of businesses that will receive R & D tax credit.
Mr SPEAKER: And I heard the Minister say, in summary, that they don't yet have the information, but she gave an indicator of what the proportion was under a previous fund.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Has she seen official advice from MBIE provided to her in November 2017, that the proposed tax credit rate is a reduction to the subsidy rate and is likely to reduce the growth in business R & D by existing performers?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The issue the member is alluding to is, of course, the difference between a net and a gross figure. A growth grant is currently set at 20 percent, but when netted out, that is roughly around 14.5 percent for the business. We went out to consultation on a 12.5 percent tax incentive, but, as I reminded that member at the end of my last answer, we are currently working through the final design options on the final outcome of the R & D tax incentive, and we will have announcements to make in due course.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: I seek leave to table this briefing document obtained under the Official Information Act after going through the ombudsman's office. It's dated 2 November 2017. The title of the document is "Initial advice about introducing an R & D tax credit".
Mr SPEAKER: Has that document been placed on the website?
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: No, as far as I know.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to the document being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Did she not take the MBIE advice seriously because, like the Hon Phil Twyford's view about Treasury advisers, she also thinks that MBIE advisers are kids?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I completely reject the premise of that question.
• Question No. 5 to Minister—Amended Answer
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to correct an answer that I gave to a question earlier in question time.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? You'd better tell us which question it is.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It was question No. 5, I believe.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection? There appears to be none.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: In answer to the member's first supplementary, I stated that I wasn't aware of a reported case of a Housing New Zealand tenant renting out their home on Airbnb. For the member's information, I have subsequently been advised there is only one known case of this happening. It happened more than a year ago—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just check with the Minister—is this information that he has received since he made his answer? Well, the member cannot correct an answer when he said he wasn't aware of something then, for the fact that he's aware of it now. The answer was accurate at the time.