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Parliament: Questions and Answers - September 11

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in relation to the resignation of the former Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Tēnā koutou e Te Whare. Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: When did Clare Curran resign?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Mr Speaker, her formal resignation, as I've said, was tended mid-morning, around 10 a.m., on Friday.

Hon Simon Bridges: What time on Thursday evening was the Prime Minister called by Clare Curran about the resignation?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Mr Speaker, all of this I have talked about publicly before. I had an initial conversation with the Minister on Thursday evening. As is already on the public record, her official resignation was received on Friday morning.

Hon Simon Bridges: What time was the call on Thursday evening?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Sometime in the evening, Mr Speaker.

Hon Simon Bridges: When asked on Newstalk ZB on Friday morning if she had considered cutting ties with Clare Curran and she said, "No", had Clare Curran already resigned by that point; and, if she had, is the Prime Minister satisfied with the answer she gave?

Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Yes. The question I was asked, "Are you considering cutting ties with her or firing her?", I said no, I was not firing her, I did not fire her; the Minister made a decision to resign from her portfolios.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Prime Minister accept that whilst that answer may be technically true, it's incredibly misleading?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member is suggesting I should have cancelled all interviews, I don't think that's possible for anyone in my office. Of course, we conduct interviews like that all the time. I was asked whether I'd fired her or was considering firing her; I had not and I did not.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't the fact of the matter that in her press statement, in Clare Curran's press statement of Friday, and indeed in her later interviews, the tenor was very clear: she said, "Clare Curran contacted me last night to advise me that she'd decided and she wanted to resign from her portfolios. We talked it through. I accepted her resignation. End of story."?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The fact that the member has that level of detail is because we have been transparent around the process. I received a phone call on Thursday evening, indicating the member's views. She in the morning formally resigned. I've been very clear about this time line, and conducted interviews in between.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just to ensure the public does understand with clarity that words mean what they mean, if something's—

SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to sit down and I'm going to ask two people to do things: (1) I'm going to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to ask a question without a preface, and (2) I'm going to require Paula Bennett to stop interjecting.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Just to get this clear, is something that is technically true false, or is it true?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I believe that something that is technically true is indeed true.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why in the Prime Minister's statements on Friday did she make it clear that Clare Curran resigned and she accepted that on Thursday evening and yet this morning she changed her story, for example, telling Mike Hosking that Clare Curran didn't resign until Friday morning and that all she did on Thursday evening was talk about considering resigning, making her decision the next day?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because that is what happened. The Minister formally resigned at the time that I received her formal resignation. And, again, I was asked if I had fired her; I had not. Before a Minister resigns from their portfolio, of course they may choose to want to inform their family, to inform their staff. It's only right that we allow a member to undertake those things before it is publicly conveyed.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does this mean that if Clare Curran had changed her mind overnight, the Prime Minister would not have accepted her resignation?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That's a hypothetical. The member resigned on Friday morning formally, at the time that I received her resignation letter.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn't the Prime Minister just show some leadership and sack Clare Curran?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I removed her from Cabinet over the errors that she made. The decision to resign was hers.

Hon Simon Bridges: What did Greg O'Connor get wrong when he said, "There was a little [sort] of confusion about interviews on Friday morning—[you], can't have that. You leave gaps. That won't happen again, so I think everyone's learnt from it.", and, "It could have been done better. I don't think anyone will disagree with that. But I'll tell you what, it will be done better next time."?

SPEAKER: Order! No responsibility of the Prime Minister.

Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I'm asking the Prime Minister whether she agrees with a statement in relation to her handling of the resignation of a Minister. It's absolutely within the Speakers' rulings.

SPEAKER: Can the member read exactly his preface to the quotes?

Hon Simon Bridges: "What did Greg O'Connor get wrong"?

SPEAKER: That's not the Prime Minister's responsibility.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, can I have another go?

SPEAKER: Order! The answer to that is yes, but it counts.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with Greg O'Connor when he said, "There was a little [sort] of confusion about interviews on Friday morning—[you] can't have that. You leave gaps. That won't happen again, so I think everybody's learnt from it.", and, "It could have been done better. I don't think anyone will disagree with that. But I'll tell you what, it'll be done better next time."?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In this case, all of the learnings have been done by Greg O'Connor.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Prime Minister—

Hon Member: Who's the leak?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Prime Minister, Clare Curran had been responsible—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it's quite reasonable to expect that someone with the experience of the Deputy Prime Minister would begin a question with a question word.

SPEAKER: And I'm sure that the Deputy Prime Minister will have another crack at it. I'm sure he's not helped by the second row of the Government interjecting while he's trying to ask a question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker, it seems that there was a hypothetical—it seems that you accepted a hypothetical from Mr Bridges two questions back. I'm just putting one directly with respect to Clare Curran, and it does require—being a question—for an "if" to be in front of it. That's usually what a question—

SPEAKER: And I was letting the Deputy Prime Minister run. There is no rule against asking hypothetical questions. You just don't have to answer them.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. If Clare Curran had been responsible for a leak damaging to the leadership, would she have fired her?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Who in her office provided the media with an inaccurate transcript of her interview with Chris Lynch?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think what the member might be referring to is a request that was made to my office to provide a transcript, which, I should point out, is publicly available. The interview was public. My understanding—I'm advised by my office that in providing that, they didn't repeat one of the questions from the interviewer. That obviously would have been obvious if the individual who asked had listened to the interview that's publicly available.

Hon Simon Bridges: So who provided it to the media?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'm not entirely sure who actually made the request. I'm not sure it was by the media.

Hon Simon Bridges: When did she first find out that her office had provided an inaccurate transcript of her interview?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I reject the premise of that question.

Hon Simon Bridges: What, was it not inaccurate?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding is that my statements were. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Prime Minister disputing that a doctored transcript went from her office to media on Friday?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is insinuating that my statements weren't accurately transcribed. My understanding is that the transcript—as so-called—didn't include the full questioner's details, rather than my answers. But, again, at the core of this issue is whether or not what I said was publicly available; it was, it was a radio interview.

Question No. 2—Finance

2. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): He pai atu te kōrero—more good news. I have seen ManpowerGroup's employment outlook survey, released this morning, of over 600 New Zealand employers, which showed a net 16 percent of employers expecting to increase staffing levels in the final quarter of this year. This result is up 6 percent on the previous quarter, and up 4 percent on a year ago. The outlook is positive across all organisation sizes, particularly medium and large businesses, whose expectations of increasing employment are at a net 26 and 27 percent respectively.

Kiritapu Allan: How do the responses of New Zealand employers compare with their international peers?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The survey results show the continued positive outlook of businesses in New Zealand when compared with other countries. New Zealand's net 16 percent employment outlook puts us in the top 10 countries surveyed—ahead of counterparts including Australia, Canada, Singapore, Germany, and the United Kingdom. This shows a healthy economic environment in New Zealand, where it is a good time for businesses to invest and employ more people, and for job seekers to find employment.

Kiritapu Allan: What other reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I've seen a number of recent reports showing the continued strength of the New Zealand economy. Statistics New Zealand's latest data on wholesale trade for the June quarter showed a seasonally adjusted rise of 2.6 percent for the quarter. The largest rise was in machinery and equipment—

Rt Hon Winston Peters: It's ka pai then.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —suggesting increased capital investment by New Zealand businesses. Yes, Mr Peters, it's all ka pai. Today Statistics New Zealand released retail card spending data for August, showing a seasonally adjusted 1 percent rise in total spending, and ANZ released its latest Truckometer indexes today, with the heavy traffic index rising 1.1 percent in August. We all know that the economy needs to go through a transition to be more productive and more sustainable, but there are plenty of examples of it going along at a steady pace.

Question No. 3—Prime Minister

3. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in relation to the standing down of the Minister of Customs?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Aē.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she asked Meka Whaitiri whether the allegations of assault on a staff member in her office are true?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've previously said, the allegations are contested, which is why they're being investigated by Ministerial Services.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she asked Meka Whaitiri whether the allegations of assault on a staff member in her office are true?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the matters that the member is raising are contested. I've put that on the public record. That is why Ministerial Services is investigating them. I'm not going to respond to the details of that until that investigation is complete. On this side of the House, we believe in natural justice.

Hon Simon Bridges: Did the Minister deny the allegations of assault when the Prime Minister put them to her?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member is listening, for something to be contested, obviously I have to have some knowledge of it being contested. That is why it's being investigated by Ministerial Services. I want to let them do their job.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she believe what Meka Whaitiri told her?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've said, I'm letting this process run its course. I believe in natural justice. I want to make sure that Ministerial Services have the space to work through this matter appropriately and in good time. I have asked that it be dealt with as quickly as possible, but I will not make decisions until I have seen their report.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she decide who holds a ministerial warrant; and if so, then shouldn't she be asking Meka Whaitiri exactly what happened with her staff member in judging whether she is worthy of that warrant based on her word?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: So has she asked her, and does Meka Whaitiri deny that there was an assault?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've previously said, this is contested. The Minister wanted to ensure that there was a transparent process to look into the allegations that have been made. They are allegations, and she is fully cooperating while Ministerial Services look into this issue.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Prime Minister aware of any other cases where Ministerial Services has been involved in a formal process around the departure of a staff member from Meka Whaitiri's office this term?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am allowing this investigation to run its course, but I am advised that no personal grievances have been lodged against Meka Whaitiri since becoming a Minister.

Hon Simon Bridges: What support has been provided by the Prime Minister's office to the alleged victim of the assault?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding is that these issues have been dealt with appropriately.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she not checked?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, there are more than a number of entities involved; primarily, that responsibility does need to sit with Ministerial Services. I have been assured that appropriate support has been put in place, because of course I seek such assurances.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has she provided the same level of support to the alleged victim as she and her colleagues have provided, quite clearly and visibly, to Meka Whaitiri?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have sought assurances that support is being provided on both sides, and I've received the assurance that it has.

Question No. 4—Crown/Māori Relations

4. Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National) to the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations: Has the formation of the Crown-Māori Partnership Office been approved by Cabinet; if so, when?

Hon Member: Where is he?

Hon Amy Adams: What's the combination lock to his cupboard?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) on behalf of the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations: No; Cabinet is still to consider the final scope of the Crown/Māori relations portfolio, and number of other minor details as well.

Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a longstanding convention of this House not to reference the absence of members. Although that was happening in their interjection during that question, I think members across the House may be very well aware where Mr Davis is today.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Could he please explain what is meant by the statement that was made yesterday, in relation to the office, that one of his and the new agency's roles will be to "Develop engagement, co-design and partnership principles that ensure agencies generate the best solutions;"?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member will be well aware that his former role and my current role will shortly run out of work to do, because we will have, by and large, completed the Treaty settlement process. But, as Sir Robin Cooke said in 1987, the Treaty is alive, it is a relationship, and we have to think about what that relationship looks like and how it is conducted in the years ahead. That is what that set of words he referred to describes about the future for Aotearoa.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Does he support the Crown-Māori Partnership Office having the same status as Treasury, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the State Services Commission, and that the office will need to be consulted with on all Cabinet papers?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That detail has not been determined by Cabinet, but that member will be well aware of other offices of the State that are not complete departments. One is the Office of Treaty Settlements. That is clearly understood, has a very clear identity, and has a very clear role to play.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Could the Minister therefore confirm that yesterday a new office for Crown-Māori partnership was announced, but none of the detail has been worked out?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: What was announced yesterday was Cabinet's initial consideration of a paper that has been the result of extensive consultation—particularly with Māori and iwi and hapū, and many other people besides—as we head towards putting together the basis of conducting the Treaty relationship post the Treaty settlement period.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Can he please explain what exactly it means when it's said, as was said yesterday, that he and his agency will also work with the Minister of Justice to examine the constitutional and institutional arrangements supporting the Crown-Māori partnership in the long term?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Yes. It is pretty clear that the Treaty has a standing in our legal framework that has been confirmed by the Court of Appeal, by the Privy Council, and by our own Supreme Court now, and we have to make sure that the legal framework that we continue to operate under continues to maintain the status and place of Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Was it appropriate or dignified to have someone convicted of assaulting a sitting Prime Minister in the Cabinet room as part of the announcement of the establishment of the Crown-Māori Partnership Office?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: As that member will well know and as this House well knows, this is a Government that canvasses and consults widely, including, in other contexts, listening to the voices of offenders.

Question No. 5—Regional Economic Development

5. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent announcements has he made regarding the Provincial Growth Fund?

Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Ngā mihi i roto i Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. Recent provincial growth announcements were made in Gisborne, where provincial fortune met capital intervention. The capital intervention reflects not only the quality of the thinking and the policy but also the $152.7 million, which was announced by the Prime Minister, in an area that has been neglected, overlooked, and has finally enjoyed the attention that it deserves from this coalition Government.

Jenny Marcroft: How many jobs will be created in Tai Rāwhiti as a result of the Provincial Growth Fund announcements?

Hon SHANE JONES: Tahi, rua, toru, whā—hundreds of jobs. The reference to the jobs is at least 100, and they were created the moment that the Prime Minister made her announcements. Many more will come as a consequence of the New Zealand Transport Agency reflecting the revamp of the principles governing the allocation of that independent transport fund into the regions. The Gisborne District Council has already begun working on developing cadres of workers to be trained to take on the roles of the opportunities that will come from mount Titirangi, Cooks Landing. It's Māori Language Week: Titirangi means "to pierce the heavens"—somewhat like our aspirations.

Jenny Marcroft: How will this Government funding improve the economic and social well-being of the region?

Hon SHANE JONES: The Tai Rāwhiti area comprises about 49,000 people, and it's important that we understand—and we will repeat it with great regularity—that as a consequence of regional transportation funding changes and the Provincial Growth Fund, nigh on $390 million has now been committed to the Tai Rāwhiti over the three-year period, possibly a bit longer. This represents a pipeline of infrastructure activity. It represents an opportunity to turn around the fortunes of that part of the economy, because without robust, well-funded infrastructure, where will tertiary investment come from? That was the nature, given with my characteristic modesty, of the delivery in Tūranga-nui-a-Kiwa—Gisborne—last week.

Question No. 6—Finance

6. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Has he seen the latest NZIER consensus forecasts; if so, can he confirm that the September forecast for GDP has been revised down compared to the June forecast for both the remaining full years of the Government's term, being the current 2018/19 year and the 2019/20 year?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, and, in addition, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research's (NZIER's) consensus forecasts still show very close to 3 percent growth over the two-year period.

Hon Amy Adams: Is the reason his answer to the primary question is seemingly unconcerned about the drop that he is unconcerned or unaware that these forecasts indicate that the economy will now be $2.2 billion smaller by the end of this Government's term than was predicted in this year's Budget?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, the answer to that question is that I continue to be concerned about working with business and getting a strong relationship and getting the economy growing on a productive and sustainable basis.

Hon Amy Adams: Is he aware that when this Government's policies contribute to reducing the likely size of the economy by $2.2 billion in 2020, that's a loss greater than the entire size of the regional Tai Rāwhiti or West Coast economies?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member is at risk of catastrophising here. The economy is still growing. The economy is forecast to grow at around 3 percent. Unemployment is forecast to come down to around 4 percent. We're getting on with the job of building an economy fit for the 21st century, after a near decade of sitting on the sidelines by the previous Government.

Hon Amy Adams: Is he concerned that the NZIER consensus forecasts have not only further revised GDP growth down over the last quarter; they've now also significantly reduced the forecast Government surpluses over the remainder of this term, and they're predicting smaller wage growth, and the only things that they've revised upwards were the cost of living and unemployment?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. In fact, unemployment is forecast to fall to 4.1 percent over the next four years. Employment growth is forecast to be stronger than in the previous forecasts. Wages are forecast to grow by more than 3 percent on average over the next two years.

Question No. 7—Foreign Affairs

7. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Why didn't he condemn the Russian Government for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury in his written statement issued on 6 September?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Kia ora; tēnā koutou katoa. Sadly, the member is mistaken. I did. The statement on 6 September was issued after my return from the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru as an immediate means of expressing support for the UK. The NZ Government's position is clear, as emphasised in the subsequent comments to the media. We have consistently supported the United Kingdom in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Salisbury the moment there emerged clear evidence attributing the attack to Russia.

Hon Todd McClay: Is it usual practice for the Government to release a holding statement on an area of important international significance, then follow it up with a further statement but not proactively release that statement until after questions had been asked by the media almost 24 hours later, as the Prime Minister said yesterday.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Alas, that member is again mistaken. The reality is I was flying back overnight from Nauru, awaiting an impending speech by Prime Minister May in the British House of Commons, and we already had a clear idea what we thought it was going to be about, but we didn't have her speech. And, being like a well-trained lawyer, we usually wait for the facts before we beat our gums off.

Hon Todd McClay: Why then, following his statement, did it take an appeal from a British Minister for New Zealand to join other allies to actually condemn Russia for the nerve agent attacks in Salisbury before his Government did so?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, I think the member is mistaken, because I have here—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: No he's not. He's exactly right.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, Nick. The member, your colleague, is mistaken, and shouting out every day—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Dr Smith.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, he might be a doctor to you, but—he's a doctor that makes people sick.

SPEAKER: No, no, no, no. Be seated—be seated. Now, the Deputy Prime Minister knows that that's disorderly—both the comment and the reply to me. He will withdraw and apologise.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise, sir, but there are some doctors that make you well, and some make you sick.

SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will withdraw—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: We'll take five.

SPEAKER: I was just about to award some bonus questions to the member's side, and he just lost them. The Deputy Prime Minister with withdraw and apologise unreservedly.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I unreservedly withdraw and apologise.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. The member has one last chance to withdraw in the appropriate form.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise.

SPEAKER: Thank you.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: May I answer the question?

SPEAKER: Yes.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Thank you very much; I am indebted to you. The member's mistaken because on this date—on 7 September—the British High Commissioner, Laura Clarke, was saying this in a tweet: "welcome New Zealand's clear and unequivocal support for conclusions of UK investigation and condemnation of Russia's use of chemical weapons." It's all there.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he realise that since becoming foreign Minister, he's not once criticised Russia in the House before today for anything, and why is that?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Sadly, the member's getting more mistaken as the questions proceed—13 March: the foreign Minister's office has a mention of Russia in that press statement, then—

Hon Todd McClay: You had to change that press statement.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no, no, no—16 March: the Prime Minister's and Deputy Prime Minister's joint statement also mentioned Russia. Now, 22 March—again, mention of Russia three times. Then, on 29 March, the whole press statement was a criticism of what had gone on, and 29 March, again, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister again mentioned Russia. And then, on the 6th, we put out the other statement, which got the grateful acknowledgment from the British High Commissioner.

Hon Todd McClay: Does he now accept that the Russian Government was responsible for the downing of Flight MH370, the hacking of emails from the US Democratic Party, interference with the 2016 US presidential elections, the poisoning of people on British soil, and the funding of anti-establishment movements and some political parties around the world, and will he condemn them for these actions?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can answer the question—

SPEAKER: No, no, the member can't answer the question.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, some of them, I can. One of them, I can.

SPEAKER: No, it very clearly does not flow from the original question. There's a whole list of other events unrelated to the primary question.

Hon Todd McClay: Point of order.

SPEAKER: Does the member want to have another go?

Hon Todd McClay: No. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you, Mr Speaker. You're right that the primary question was very clear. The Minister, since then, has spoken to a number of statements he believes the Government has made—that he is part of—that actually come to all of these issues. I believe it is within—

SPEAKER: Can I seek an assurance from the Deputy Prime Minister that the statements that he was referring to do not relate, or not all of them relate, to the Salisbury attack.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Sir, the statements that were in the question are pretty wide. Some of them would be within the ambit of a New Zealand foreign Minister and some are clearly not. For example—

SPEAKER: Sorry, I just want clarification that the Deputy Prime Minister—the Minister of Foreign Affairs ran through a list of statements that he had issued, some of them with the Prime Minister. Were those related to the Salisbury matter or other matters?

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Sir, I believe they were related to Salisbury.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Perhaps we could have those papers tabled, because it's quite clear that some of those matters referred to occurred before Salisbury.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Speaking to the point of order, these have been in the public domain since they were released on the very day.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, put them on the Table.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, get off your backside and go to them yourself.

SPEAKER: Right. Does the member have another supplementary? Question No. 8, Angie Warren-Clark.

Angie Warren-Clark: Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā. Kei te Minita o ngā take Energy and Resources: What recent announcements has she made with the review of electricity prices in New Zealand?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—sorry. It was a legitimate request before that the Minister referring to papers that he held in the House table those papers. For him to tell us to go and look in the public domain—that's not reasonable.

SPEAKER: Well, I—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Speaking to the point of order—

SPEAKER: No, I'm going to make it absolutely clear. They're press statements. They are in the public domain, and I am not going to put leave—as my predecessors have not put leave—for matters which have clearly already been in the public domain.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has claimed—and you have accepted—that they only relate to Salisbury. But we have a recollection of the list that he gave, some of which refer to matters that occurred before the Salisbury poisoning. So it's not unreasonable that we ask the Minister to table the documents that he was relying on that ultimately led to his not being required to answer a perfectly legitimate question that we would see in the context of his answer using those papers.

SPEAKER: And—

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Speaking to the point of order. The complaint is that the press statements refer to matters before Salisbury. I'm afraid, sir, they do not. I recited as my first evidence a press statement from 30 March. That was as a response to Salisbury, and the member's misleading the House in other respects.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: That admission, sir, surely brings the question that the Hon Todd McClay asked into the ambit of this afternoon's proceedings.

SPEAKER: No, I think it's quite the opposite.

Question No. 8—Energy and Resources

8. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent announcements has she made about the review of electricity prices in New Zealand?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā. Today, I was pleased to release a report following the conclusion of stage one of the electricity price review. The review formed part of the coalition agreement with New Zealand First and was initiated because we're well aware that for many New Zealanders, power bills are becoming unmanageable. The report is a clear demonstration that many New Zealanders aren't getting the benefits from the retail market, and it appears a two-tier structure is emerging. The report also highlights the major changes that are facing the sector in coming years and the need for Government to be planning ahead. The report has been deliberately written to be accessible to a wide audience to ensure everyone can have a say, and I encourage people to do so.

Angie Warren-Clark: What steps has this Government already taken to help vulnerable people with high power prices?

SPEAKER: No, that does not relate to the review.

Angie Warren-Clark: How does the Government intend to respond to the report?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Obviously, we're keeping an open mind about changes that may be needed until we receive the final report. Once that comes in, we'd expect to consider those recommendations and make changes that we believe appropriate. We're committed to affordable power for Kiwi families. The report is just one part of the Government's aim to help address the high cost of living for many New Zealanders.

Question No. 9—Justice

9. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: Does he still defend the cost of the coalition Government's two-day Criminal Justice Summit of $1.5 million?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā o Te Whare. While the costs seem somewhat excessive, I can say that the summit, which was held over three days, was an important first step to fixing our criminal justice system to ensure that we have less offending, less reoffending, and fewer victims of crime, and, thereby, safer communities. What stuns me is that the members opposite were quite happy to preside over an increase in locking up prisoners, to the tune of $500 million a year and more, and didn't bat an eyelid.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he support the Prime Minister's opinion that the cost of the justice summit is indefensible?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I agree with the Prime Minister that the costs are excessive and that departments should stick to their budgets.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he think a budget of $2,500 per participant represents value for the taxpayer, and what lessons will he take from this exercise as he starts planning more summits?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I'm very glad that the members opposite are now concerned about the cost of our corrections system, given the massive increase in it during their time in Government. But for the cost of locking up 15 prisoners a year, to try to reduce the number by over 3,000, you've got to start somewhere, and you've got to start with getting the ideas out and engaging with people who have a contribution to make, and that's what the summit achieved.

Hon Mark Mitchell: What does he think is a better use of taxpayers' money, funding croissants and luxury pies or supporting victims and their families through the Integrated Safety Response pilot his Government refuses to fund?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I think what would've been a better use of money—if that member and his three colleagues who attended for less than one hour on one of the days—[Interruption] Should've been there for the whole lot. But I actually think it's a waste of money to be locking up thousands more people and seeing our reoffending rate the same level that it was 20 years ago because those members opposite were happy to lock people up and ask no questions about what was the cause behind it.

Question No. 11—Employment

11. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by the Government's statements and commitments with regard to employment?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Yes—in the context, of course, in which they were made.

Hon Paula Bennett: Does his Government remain committed to abolishing starting-out rates, as previously stated, or has he done another deal with a coalition partner?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Mr Speaker—

SPEAKER: Order! I just want to make sure that this is an area that the Minister is responsible for.

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: No, I have no ministerial responsibility for youth rates. The member will need to direct that question to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety.

Hon Paula Bennett: As he stated on Q+A that there's "huge investment in terms of the regions" and "there is going to be more employment—there has to be", was he referring to projects like the Kawakawa tourism hub, which is predicted to cost $2.4 million and produce just three jobs?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: No.

Hon Paula Bennett: When he said on Q+A in relation to abolishing starting-out rates that they would no longer be abolished and that that was simply a campaign and not something that this Government stood by, had he seen the press release by Iain Lees-Galloway in December which clearly stated it was a Government intention?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I can't remember that press release.

Jo Luxton: What other Government commitments does he stand by?

Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I stand by this Government's commitment to our rangatahi, our young people, and I stand by that commitment to reduce the constant deficit between the unemployment rate of the general population and that experienced by Māori and Pasifika communities. I think it's an outrage when you look at the average wages of Pākehā, Māori, and Pasifika. For European it's $69,056, for Māori it's $54,000.80, and for Pasifika it's $48,256—

SPEAKER: Order! The member's answered the question and might be answering questions to other Ministers.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he conflicted by the fact that you've got Northland MPs from all parties backing the Kawakawa project to the hilt, yet the front bench of the National Party's opposing it? And which one would he prefer?

SPEAKER: Order! None of that is the member's responsibility.

Question No. 12—Greater Christchurch Regeneration

12. Hon NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration): Tēnā koe e Te Mana Whakawā. Yes.

Hon Nicky Wagner: Why has she not provided new letters of expectations to Ōtākaro and Southern Response after 10 months in office, when according to the Statutory Crown Entities: A Guide for Ministers this is the first step in setting strategic direction and the annual performance of Crown entities?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Mr Speaker, given that we have changed expectations from the previous Government for both entities i.e., finally delivering anchor projects on time and on budget and a speedier claim settlement, we took a pragmatic view that there was nothing to be gained by both agencies producing two statements. On 30 April, I wrote to both these agencies around the letter of intent. We are taking a pragmatic view in light of the exceptional circumstances, and I've received advice from Treasury that this is an acceptable course of action.

Hon Nicky Wagner: How does this fit with her commitment to seeing more momentum in the Christchurch rebuild and her statement that, "We can't keep on doing the same thing and magically expect a different outcome", when Ōtākaro and Southern Response are still working to the letters of expectation they received from the previous Minister, Gerry Brownlee?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: E Te Mana Whakawā, this fits very neatly with my statements around how we're not prepared to keep doing the same thing and magically expect a different outcome, because we have a very different set of expectations for those agencies in Christchurch. We are not content to be a Government that did not deliver a single anchor project on time or on budget. So that is how those statements gel together.

Hon Nicky Wagner: Can she confirm that when she became a Minister she said, "We need to show the people of Canterbury that there's been a change of Government.", and, if so—when her key organisations are still working to these expectations of the former National Government?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Mr Speaker, what I would like to point out to that member is that we've made it very clear to those organisations that there are a changed set of expectations, and I have met with them on several occasions to do so. In fact, I'm the first Minister to have ever attended an annual general meeting of Southern Response. We have made it abundantly clear that through preventing the cost blowout at Metro Sports Facility and finally getting the project back on track, we've got on with stumping up the funds, finally, for a stadium in Christchurch and initiating the business case. We've got under way with construction on the convention centre, and we have identified alternative claims resolution services at Southern Response that is finally seeing some momentum around Canterbury people getting their insurance claims settled and getting on with their lives—something that member failed to do as a Minister.

Hon Nicky Wagner: So when will the Minister produce a letter of expectation to guide both Ōtākaro and Southern Response?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Imminently, Mr Speaker.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Please, Minister, can you confirm that no longer for Christchurch will it be "Billy Bunter Lazy Street"?

SPEAKER: Order! Well, the Minister's certainly not going to answer the question.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Oh, she wants to.

SPEAKER: And the Deputy Prime Minister's trying my patience.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is all very well for you to say that your patience is tried, but the fact is that there was a terrible insult just laid at the feet of Megan Woods, and I think you should do something about that.

SPEAKER: We come to questions for members.


QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS

Question No. 1—Education and Workforce Committee

1. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Chairperson of the Education and Workforce Committee: What will she do if the committee does not have a quorum for its meeting this Wednesday for hearings in Auckland?

Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) Chairperson of the Education and Workforce Committee: I'm really concerned that there may not be a quorum for this meeting—

SPEAKER: Order! It's a very direct question. The member will answer it.

Dr PARMJEET PARMAR: The fact that two education bills have been put on the Order Paper for this Wednesday means—

SPEAKER: Order! The member will answer the question.

Dr PARMJEET PARMAR: It will be embarrassing for the whole parliamentary and—

SPEAKER: Order! Question No. 2.

Question No. 2—Education and Workforce Committee

2. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Chairperson of the Education and Workforce Committee: Did she call a committee meeting in Auckland on Wednesday this week?

Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) Chairperson of the Education and Workforce Committee: The request for leave to meet in Auckland—

SPEAKER: Order! The member will answer the question—directly.

Dr PARMJEET PARMAR: Yes, I did. The request to—

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat.

Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave for Government orders of the day Nos 3 and 4 be moved to the bottom of the Order Paper.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? There is.

Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: Mr Speaker—

SPEAKER: No, it's my turn.


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