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Parliament: Oral Questions - 12 September 2018

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Housing and Urban Development

1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he believe that the residential property market, as currently regulated, leads to excessive profits for landlords?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Although steep rent rises have hurt low-income renters in many cases in recent years, in general I do not believe that the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 leads to excessive profits for landlords. I do, however, consider that the Act does not strike the right balance between landlords and tenants. That's why we've announced proposals to strike a new balance between providing tenants with more secure tenure and allowing them to make their house a home, while protecting the rights and interests of landlords.

David Seymour: If landlords are not making excessive profits, then who will pay the costs of the new standards the Minister intends to regulate for the upkeep of rented homes?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would expect that the cost of meeting the new standards, like those that are set out in the draft standards for the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act—like, for instance, putting in a heat pump or some insulation or draught-stopping or drainage—will be dealt with in exactly the same way as landlords do currently, as when the house needs painting or the roof needs replacing or the piles need fixing.

David Seymour: So is the Minister saying that landlords are not making excessive profit, tenants are hurt by steep rent increases, and, now, new costs will be put into the renting of property and that will somehow be paid for by magic?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, that's not at all what I said. I said that in some cases, in some regional housing markets, low-income renters have been hurt in recent years by rising rents, primarily caused by a lack of housing supply. But I would say that our Government is unapologetic about the fact that we are modernising the standards for rental properties, because in our view it's long past time that this country was sending 40,000 kids to hospital every year with infectious diseases, mostly because they're living in rental properties that are cold and damp.

David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was tight and asked who will pay the cost of improvements to homes. I don't believe the Minister even tried to address that basic kernel of who pays the cost.

SPEAKER: I think he did.

Paul Eagle: What changes is the Government proposing to how the residential property market is regulated?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Our tenancy laws are antiquated. They don't reflect the fact that renting is now a long-term reality for many, many families. The Government is proposing changes that will strike a fairer balance between providing tenants with security of tenure and allowing them to make their house a home while protecting the rights and interests of landlords. We know that the vast majority of landlords take good care of their properties and treat their tenants fairly. Those people will see no real change from the Government's reforms. However, the current law is so weak that it permits a small number of exploitative people to rent out unhealthy, dangerous houses and charge exorbitant rents. Our reforms will clean up the rental market, and that's good for the vast majority of landlords and their tenants.

• Question No. 2—Prime Minister

2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements and actions?

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

Hon Simon Bridges: Is it her Government's policy to increase the refugee quota to 1,500 or is that simply a "personal commitment" of Iain Lees-Galloway, as she described it?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've described to this House many, many times before, the policies of this coalition Government are contained in the confidence and supply agreement, the coalition document, and the Speech from the Throne. All other policies go through a Cabinet process.

Hon Simon Bridges: So is it her Government's policy to increase the refugee quota of 1,500 or is that simply a personal commitment of Iain Lees-Galloway?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've said many times before, all policies of this Government are contained in the confidence and supply agreement, the coalition document, the Speech from the Throne. All other policies go through a Cabinet process.

Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Government abolish starting-out wages by October 2018?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: A third time. Look, it's clear that we have established policy between this coalition Government that's set out in the public domain. Everything else goes through a Cabinet process. Now, I know the member continues to be jealous that he is not on this side of the House in the position to make the changes that this Government has made, and that we have achieved in one year more than that Government achieved in nine, but we stick to a process.

Hon Simon Bridges: So when Iain Lees-Galloway said in December in a ministerial press statement that the Government will abolish starting-out wages by October 2018, was that just a personal commitment?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, every policy we go through goes through a process. Now, the member on that side of the House seems to refuse to accept that it is possible to have three different parties with three different views, who are still able to increase wages for New Zealanders; deliver benefits for low-income families to the tune of, on average, $75 a week; make substantial changes in investment into transport in our regions; make $1 billion worth of investment into our regions—

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do want to warn the Prime Minister that when I stand and call for order, she sits.

Hon Simon Bridges: Can we no longer believe ministerial press statements unless they're signed off by Mr Peters?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No—ridiculous.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her Government's policy to create multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs), which has been through Cabinet, and would, for example, force a business in Timaru to have the same pay rates as one in Auckland, or is that another of Iain Lees-Galloway's personal commitments?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, the member is demonstrating a lack of knowledge around the policy that's in that bill. It is possible, as that legislation stands, for variable rates to be included in MECAs. So the member clearly does not understand the bill.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does Iain Lees-Galloway's Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which has been through Cabinet, have the full support of all parties in the coalition, or is that another personal commitment by the Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If I could reference a quote made by the Deputy Prime Minister when a journalist speculated in this regard—his response was they'd been interviewing their typewriter.

Hon Simon Bridges: Was the Deputy Prime Minister correct yesterday when he stated that the Employment Relations Amendment Bill was a "work in progress", and, if so, what changes to the bill is her Government considering?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have outlined many, many times before, we utilise the Cabinet process to agree everything that this Government declares and puts before this House.

Hon Simon Bridges: It's a simple question: are changes afoot to the Employment Relations Amendment Bill?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My response is that Cabinet determines any changes to legislation.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is the reality that she's confused about the progress of Iain Lees-Galloway's bill, when Winston Peters says employment law changes are a "work in progress" and Clayton Mitchell says New Zealand First are proud to be supporting the bill?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The only one that's confused is the member asking the question.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does anything Iain Lees-Galloway say have the support of the Government, or has he simply gone rogue?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We support the Minister in his work fully.

Hon Simon Bridges: I'll go to the real Prime Minister tomorrow.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! If the member wants to ask another question, he stands up.

• Question No. 3—Finance

3. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: What actions, if any, has he taken to enhance New Zealand's fiscal settings and framework?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Today, I announced our plan to update and enhance a key part of the Government's financial framework. In particular, this means embedding a well-being focus into the Public Finance Act. The proposed changes would require New Zealand Governments to set out well-being objectives alongside fiscal objectives that will guide budget decisions, and would also require Treasury to report on the well-being indicators, alongside traditional economic and fiscal indicators. Thirty years on from the establishment of both the State Sector Act and the Public Finance Act, it is past time for us to modernise these pieces of legislation to reflect not just fiscal accountability, but also ensure that the Government takes an approach that takes into account the overall well-being of all New Zealanders.

Dr Duncan Webb: What other actions has the Government taken to enhance New Zealand's fiscal settings?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Today, we have also released more details on the Government's planned independent fiscal institution as foreshadowed at Budget time. This institution would monitor the Government's adherence to its Budget responsibility rules and provide political parties with the opportunity for independent costings of their policies. This type of institution is common across the world, including in 26 OECD countries. It would add to the quality of debate in New Zealand by providing an independent, authoritative voice on matters that affect public finances.

Dr Duncan Webb: Why are these changes necessary?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The primary goal of this Government is to enhance the well-being and living standards of all New Zealanders. The changes we are proposing put this goal at the heart of how Governments make fiscal decisions whilst also strengthening a responsible approach to fiscal management as required under the Public Finance Act. These changes are part of the Government's wider modernisation of our institutional framework, including reforms of the State Sector Act and the Reserve Bank, and these will ensure our economy and its systems are fit for purpose for the 21st century.

• Question No. 4—Finance

4. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of the Government's statements and actions in relation to the New Zealand economy?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Āe, in the context in which they were made and undertaken.

Hon Amy Adams: Does he stand by his answer in the House yesterday, when asked about the economy now being forecast to be $2.2 billion smaller than projected in the Budget, that "The economy is still growing", and does that mean he's not concerned about the missed opportunities that lower growth represents for New Zealanders?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I am always looking for opportunities to increase sustainable growth in New Zealand. But I cannot put it better than how Craig Hudson, the managing director of Xero, put it today when he said, "Truckometer and consumer spending numbers are out and both look good. It's time to stop focussing on business sentiment surveys and focus on real data. Xero's July numbers show cash flow is better and employment numbers are up." On this side of the House, we're focused on real data.

Hon Amy Adams: Does he not understand that even if the economy is still growing, if it's growing more slowly than it should be, that means fewer opportunities for New Zealanders?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We need sustainable and productive economic growth. The member well knows that the trend around GDP began declining at the beginning of 2017.

Hon Amy Adams: So we just need growth, Grant.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, the member says we just need growth. That was the problem of the last nine years—that that Government thought having growth rates of 3.5 percent but the world's worst homelessness was OK. We don't think that on this side of the House.

Hon Amy Adams: So when he says he doesn't want to have an economy that's reliant on population growth, was he aware that GDP per person, which of course removes the population growth component, averaged more than 1.6 percent a year under the previous Government but actually declined in the last quarter?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member will need to look at the last few years of the previous Government to see where the trend began on that. But I repeat: if we continued with the previous Government's approach of relying on population growth, relying on an overheated housing market, then we won't have the standard of living we need for New Zealanders into the middle part of the 21st century. There are two options here: drift along like the previous Government did or actually do something about making sure our economy is fit for purpose. We're getting on with the latter.

Hon Amy Adams: Is he aware that costs for businesses as measured by the producer price index (PPI) have gone up 3.4 percent a year under this Government compared to just 1.2 percent per annum under the previous Government; and, if so, is he concerned that those higher costs are going to be passed on as a higher cost of living for New Zealanders?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It's true that in the June 2018 quarter, producer input prices were up 1 percent, which is similar to the rise in output prices of 0.9 percent in the same quarter—

Hon Amy Adams: It's not what we're talking about. Look at the PPI.

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, but that's exactly what the PPI is. This compares to an increase of 1.5 percent in import prices in the June quarter last year, when output prices rose 1.3 percent.

Hon Amy Adams: So is it fair to say, then, that when he talks about transitioning the New Zealand economy, he's really talking about transitioning us to lower growth, higher costs, and lowered standard of living?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, what it means is that I'm talking about a transition to an economy where we actually invest in 21st century transport systems, where we make sure that the people in our regions of New Zealand get a fair go, where we see wages lift, and we have a reason for New Zealanders to stay here in this country. The last Government decided that they were going to ignore all of those forward-looking things. We're not, and I really do encourage the member to listen to what Craig Hudson had to say. In businesses around New Zealand they understand—they understand—that there is a good environment now to do business and employ people. The member should get alongside them.

• Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development

5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he agree with all the reported statements of his Government on KiwiBuild?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I stand by such statements, if correctly reported and in their context, including the statement from the Prime Minister that she is proud to lead a Government that is making housing more affordable.

Hon Judith Collins: Was the Mount Roskill development that he announced on Saturday the same project that started under National in October 2016, or is this a different project now because it's been rebranded KiwiBuild?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's a different project because it's got a light rail line running right through the middle of the community, and not only has this Government committed to building 10,000 new houses, but 2,400 of them are going to be affordable KiwiBuild houses for young families to live in.

Hon Judith Collins: Is $2 billion of capital allocation in Budget 2018 likely to be sufficient to "deliver 100,000 quality, affordable homes throughout New Zealand within a decade.", or does he anticipate that more money will needed from future Budgets?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The answer's yes, to the first part of the question.

Hon Judith Collins: Oh, so it will be sufficient—OK. Are the KiwiBuild projects that have been announced so far likely to deliver a profit to the Crown to be reinvested in future projects?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the KiwiBuild homes that are going to be built in these large projects will be supported through the $2 billion recycling fund, but, actually, those large projects in general are expected to wash their face—that is, they are expected to break even over time.

Hon Judith Collins: Does he, then, agree with HLC—formerly Hobsonville Land Company—chief executive Chris Aiken, who said the cost of the Mount Roskill redevelopment project alone would be $4 billion, and that net cost "zeroes off to a break-even position"?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I agree with Chris Aiken. He's an excellent, excellent public servant, and he's right; that development will break even.

Hon Judith Collins: Is it correct that if KiwiBuild projects only break even, in order to deliver 100,000 homes with a budget of $2 billion, money will have to be recycled through the fund once every three months, and is this likely to occur?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Over the 10-year period, a high level of recycling of that fund will take place. We're talking about investing and redeveloping an asset base that is worth billions of dollars. I know that the members opposite don't think it's possible to build affordable homes for New Zealanders. They don't think it's possible to build whole new communities, which is what we used to do in this country routinely a generation ago. It's a shame that for nine years, they had so little ambition. That's the reason we got into the housing crisis in the first place.

• Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development

6. MICHAEL WOOD (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What progress, if any, has been made towards the Government's KiwiBuild homes targets?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Well, it's more good news from the Government. On Sunday, the Government announced another large-scale development—a transformational project to build 10,000 new homes for families in Mount Roskill. This development will include more than 2,400 modest, affordable KiwiBuild homes for first-home buyers, around 3,000 homes to be sold on the market, and more than 3,000 new, warm, dry State houses. Building in Mount Roskill South has started already. In stage one, 80 new State homes will be built, with the first ready to move into by next year. Stage two will begin mid-next year and will see 90 worn out old State houses replaced with around 300 new homes, including 95—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Thank you.

Michael Wood: How will the Government ensure that local residents are able to rent or buy homes in the completed Mount Roskill development?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I'm determined that the local community benefits from this redevelopment and are not simply priced out of the new homes. HLC are working to keep the prices of KiwiBuild homes as low as possible, and we're working on long-term rent and shared-equity options. For KiwiBuild, we will be using priority ballots to ensure that local residents in Roskill have the first shot at owning their own home in their own community.

Michael Wood: How does the Mount Roskill development fit within the Government's plans for large-scale urban development?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, this Mount Roskill development is the second fully integrated transport and housing development. HLC and the KiwiBuild unit are working closely with the New Zealand Transport Agency - led light rail project, to ensure that they are both fully integrated. Integrating transport and housing is how we invest in the infrastructure needed to get ahead of the growth. The Roskill development joins Unitech, Northcote, and Māngere as initial large-scale developments, where this Government is building starter homes for young Kiwi families.

Michael Wood: What progress is being made on the Government's immediate target of 1,000 KiwiBuild homes in 2018-19?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, on Monday the Prime Minister also announced that the ballot had opened for the first 18 KiwiBuild homes at McLennan, and our Government is opening the door to families locked out of homeownership by building affordable starter homes where the market has failed. Another 12 properties are already under construction, and a further 58 of mainly three-bedroom homes will be built at McLennan. In the coming weeks, I'll be announcing more KiwiBuild projects, and tomorrow our Government will be announcing the first homes to be built through the Buying off the Plans initiative.

• Question No. 7—Finance

7. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What components of the Business Partnership Agenda are designed to increase productivity and improve our economy's international competitiveness?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): All of them.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: How will increasing the minimum wage by 27 percent in the next three years increase our international competitiveness?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: More productive businesses and more productive workers will improve our international competitiveness.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So what is the process that leads to an increase in the minimum wage automatically leading to higher productivity?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I wouldn't say it's automatic, but making sure that we lift the wages that New Zealanders get will mean that, firstly, they'll be spending more money in the economy, which we know that those on the minimum wage do. The member needs to get alongside the businesses in New Zealand who are involving themselves in things like high performance engagement programmes, which, actually, lift both—[Interruption] Well, I'm glad to see the members opposite laughing at some of our largest companies improving their bottom line, improving the prospects of their workers, and lifting their wages. It's possible to do all of them, Mr Goldsmith.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: What would he say to an exporter whose products require a lot of labour and who doesn't believe he or she can remain in business while increasing their wages 27 percent?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That is hypothetical. The exporters that I talk to are ambitious for New Zealand. They want to get alongside the Government with our plan to lift investment in research and development, to build the infrastructure that will support them, and to get the free-trade deals that those exporters want. I think the member needs to be more optimistic about our exporters' prospects.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he concerned that the Provincial Growth Fund, which he hopes will be a driver in productivity, has so far devoted less than 1.5 percent of its funds to the entire South Island, and, if so, is it fair to conclude that the Government is not focused on South Island productivity?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Absolutely not. As somebody who grew up in South Dunedin, I can tell you that this Government has got a laser-like focus on all of the regions of New Zealand. And, indeed, Mr Shane Jones, the provincial champion, has been touring both the North and the South Island to some acclaim all over the provinces of New Zealand, and I have great confidence in him that we will see the fruits of the Provincial Growth Fund spread widely—I hesitate to use the word "seed"; the fruits, anyway—across the sector.

• Question No. 8—State Services

8. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of State Services: Has the process for appointing the Government's Chief Technology Officer been consistent with the commitment "to be the most open, most transparent Government that New Zealand has ever had"?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of State Services): No.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was Derek Handley offered the appointment?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I don't believe it's in the interests of natural justice or the public interest to comment on the process while it is still a live process.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was the successful candidate for the Government's chief technical officer advised at or around 14 August, in light of his answer to written question No. 17144 that unsuccessful candidates were advised on that date?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I indicated in my previous supplementary question answer, while it is a live process, I don't believe it is in the interests of natural justice or the public interest to comment further.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Are there further undisclosed emails through former Minister Clare Curran's private Gmail account in respect of the appointment of the Government's Chief Technology Officer?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: My understanding is that all of Clare Curran's Gmails that relate to this issue are being archived—handed over for archiving—so they are part of the public record. Therefore, they are subject to the Official Information Act, and, therefore, they will be fully captured and disclosed, if required, under the relevant processes.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was a very direct one: are there further emails that were not disclosed of Clare Curran in respect of the appointment of the Government's chief technical officer? The Minister did not address that.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm happy to address it—

SPEAKER: Speaking to the point of order—

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm happy to address it further, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: Well, the member can.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think it was inherent in my answer that in the archiving process, of course, any further emails to those already disclosed will be identified.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Has the Minister directly asked former Minister Clare Curran whether there are further undisclosed emails through her private Gmail account in regard to the appointment of the Government's Chief Technology Officer?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I've not personally had that conversation, but I do understand that conversation has been held within the Government.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Who has specifically had the discussion with former Minister Clare Curran on what private emails exist in respect of the appointment of the Government's Chief Technology Officer?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think it's been held relatively publicly, but I also understand that the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's office have had conversations along those lines with Clare Curran.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does the Minister accept that the process of appointment has been so tainted, by the secret emails and meetings by the former Minister and with the comments from the industry, that the appointment is now so tainted that it cannot have credibility and that the Government needs to start the appointment process all over again and try to get it right third time round?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Consistent with my earlier supplementary question answers, I don't believe it's in the public interest to comment on that matter while there is a live process.

• Question No. 9—Education

9. JAMIE STRANGE (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education: What actions, if any, has the Government taken to provide more options for children and young people with complex and challenging learning-support needs and their families?

Hon Tracey Martin: Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: the Hon Tracey—

Hon Tracey Martin: Martin.

SPEAKER: Martin—sorry.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): Kia ora, thank you.

SPEAKER: I was going to call you Tracey Nelson. I don't know why.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It's all right. Other speakers have called me other things too.

SPEAKER: Yes, so have I.

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On 23 August, the Minister of Education and I announced a new direct access pathway for students with complex learning support needs to attend residential schools. This will mean that more children and young people will be able to enrol in Government-funded places at our three residential special schools: Halswell, Salisbury, and Westbridge. We are delivering on a commitment to ensure that our young people can access the support they believe provides the best option to participate in and progress their learning.

Jamie Strange: How does the new direct access pathway make it easier for children and young people to apply to enrol in residential schools?

Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Previously, access to a residential special school was via the Intensive Wraparound Service. The direct access pathway will allow children and young people to be assessed by independent regional panels—as they are for the Intensive Wraparound Service—to enrol at the school without having to be accepted into the Intensive Wraparound Service first. Families are able to put in their enrolment applications now, with the new pathway commencing in term 4. Residential schools and parents have been asking for some years to establish another enrolment pathway for young people with complex needs to go into residential schools. We made this commitment, and we are pleased to have been able to deliver on it.

• Question No. 10—Prime Minister

10. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?

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

Hon Paula Bennett: Has the Prime Minister asked Clare Curran whether there are more emails between her and Derek Handley?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I believe I advised yesterday, I have had the assurance from Minister Curran's office that she will be ensuring that all relevant correspondence across all forums are appropriately archived. Those will then be able to be accessed.

Hon Paula Bennett: Has the Prime Minister had any conversations, emails, or texts with Derek Handley?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have in the past had correspondence with Mr Handley. It's on the public record that I've known him for a number of years.

Hon Paula Bennett: Will the Prime Minister publicly disclose those conversations, emails, or texts?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am subject to the Official Information Act, as everyone else in this House is.

Hon Paula Bennett: When Meka Whaitiri told her she did not assault her staff member, did she believe her?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said in the House yesterday, this is a contested allegation. That is why it's being investigated by Ministerial Services.

Hon Paula Bennett: Can her Ministers have confidence in her to take them at their word and not question whether they are telling the truth and then get Ministerial Services to investigate them?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have advised this House recently, when I contacted Minister Whaitiri, she wanted this process to be transparent and open. She has been fully cooperating, and Ministerial Services, as is rightly so, is undertaking an investigation in a transparent way.

Hon Paula Bennett: When she said in the House yesterday that "no personal grievances have been lodged against Meka Whaitiri since becoming a Minister.", is she aware of any other staffing issues in Meka Whaitiri's office where Ministerial Services have been involved?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I advised what my office had been advised in relation to personal grievances. We are otherwise investigating this specific allegation via Ministerial Services.

SPEAKER: Question No. 11—Jonathan Young—

Hon Simon Bridges: Shifty.

• Question No. 11—Energy and Resources

JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth): My question is to the Minister of—

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The Leader of the Opposition will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.

11. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes.

Jonathan Young: After saying New Zealanders deserve affordable electricity, will she guarantee that electricity price rises will be lower in the next three years than they have been in the last three years?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: This Government was proud yesterday to release the first phase of a report in a two-part process. This outlined the issues that we have to deal with, and that identified in the report that we have a two-tier electricity market developing in this country. I note that the member who asked the question doesn't think there's anything wrong, but on this side of the House, when we think there are 103,000 households who are defined as being in energy hardship, we do see there is a problem. That is why phase two of the process will be examining those remedies.

SPEAKER: Question No. 12—[Interruption] No, the Opposition's supplementaries have been used—

Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don't think that the question was addressed and answered.

SPEAKER: Ask it again.

Jonathan Young: Will she guarantee that electricity price rises will be lower in the next three years than they have been in the last three years?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I have previously answered the member, what was released yesterday was phase one of a two-part review that we are doing on electricity prices. That member does not think it is a problem that 103,000 households are defined as being in energy hardship. This is a Government that does see that as a problem. We are embarking on phase two. We will be looking for remedies. What I can guarantee that member is we will not bury our heads in the sand and think that there isn't a problem.

SPEAKER: That was a very good answer for a different question. The member will have another crack.

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Phase two of the report will be looking at remedies. What I can guarantee that member is that this is a Government that is committed to seeing those 103,000 households who are in energy hardship offered some release. We will be looking for remedies, and in terms of guarantees, I invite that member to submit his ideas into phase two of the review.

Jonathan Young: Thank you. Does she agree with the Electricity Price Review chair's comments yesterday that the sharing of costs may need to be reallocated, and if so, how should they be reallocated?

Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I again point the member to the fact that this is phase one of a two-part review. I absolutely agree with the chair of the Electricity Price Review, Miriam Dean, who has done a wonderful job and produced a very accessible document, that these are questions that we need to think about. What we have seen since the 1990s is a 79 percent increase in electricity prices for households. That has not been matched by business or industry, and that is a conversation that we need to have from here.

• Question No. 12—Education

12. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Associate Minister of Education: He aha ngā hīkoitanga e takahia ana e ia ki te whakatairanga i Te Reo i roto i ngā kura, ā, me te neke whakamua atu i te wāteatanga whānui o Te Reo i ngā kōeke tau katoa?

[What steps is he taking to promote Te Reo in schools and move towards universally available Te Reo at all year levels?]

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education):

[Authorised Te Reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

[Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

SPEAKER: I think we might've had a polite interpretation there.

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Gordon Campbell: On The Tax Working Group’s Road Map

Trying to analyse the interim report on the Tax Working Group (TWG) is like trying to review an entire All Blacks game, but at the half- time mark.

With so much still to be finalised, Sir Michael Cullen and his colleagues are going to need all the All Blacks’ fabled finishing skills to get a coherent, fiscally neutral package together by the February 2019 deadline. More>>

 

Meth Testing Report: Housing NZ "To Right Wrong"

Phil Twyford “Housing NZ acknowledges that around 800 tenants suffered by either losing their tenancies, losing their possessions, being suspended from the public housing waiting list, negative effects on their credit ratings or, in the worst cases, being made homeless.” More>>

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No Reshuffle: Meka Whaitiri Removed As A Minister

Meka Whaitiri will be removed as a Minister with immediate effect... The decision was made after receiving a report into an incident that occurred on 27 August in Gisborne, involving Meka Whaitiri and one of her staff. More>>

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Pay Equity Bill: Making History For Women’s Pay

The Equal Pay Amendment Bill, introduced to the House today, will make it easier for workers to make a pay equity claim , using a more simple and accessible process within New Zealand’s existing bargaining framework. More>>

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Suffrage 125: NZ A Trailblazer For Women

“We acknowledge the work of Kate Sheppard, Meri Te Tai Mangakāhia, and all of the suffragists who tirelessly campaigned for the vote… Today we also need to ask each other: how we can continue to make our country a fairer and better place to continue the legacy of the suffragists.” More>>

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Asylum: Refugee Quota Increasing To 1500

“The quota increase will take place from July 2020. In the meantime, we will work to increase the number and spread of refugee resettlement and support services. We need to make sure we’re prepared for this change in policy.” More>>

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