Parliament: Questions and Answers - September 26
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I've seen a number of recent reports on the New Zealand economy that demonstrate it to be in good health. Last week's GDP numbers showed solid, real growth of 1 percent for the quarter, the strongest quarterly result since June 2016, and higher than Australia's. Growth was broad-based, with 15 of 16 industries growing in the June quarter, the strongest being agriculture, forestry, and fishing, and the services industry. I'd also note that business investment is up by 0.7 percent on a year ago, largely driven by investment in the productive economy—investment in plant, machinery, and equipment.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reports has he seen on business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I've seen an interesting report today, where the ANZ business confidence survey showed a lift in headline business confidence—up 12 points on the August result. Measures of businesses' own activity rose by 4 percent to a net 8 percent of firms expecting improved conditions. While I welcome this improved business confidence, on this side of the House we won't get complacent about that, and we will continue to focus on real data, showing a solid economy with good growth.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reports has he seen on employment confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The latest Westpac McDermott Miller employment confidence survey today said that employment confidence remains fairly buoyant, and that households are upbeat about their employment prospects. However, I do acknowledge the survey's finding that households are worried about wages, and that is why we have a plan to drive a more productive economy that delivers higher wages for hard-working New Zealanders. This is backed up by Treasury, which is forecasting wage growth to average around 3 percent per year out to 2022.
• Question No. 2—Prime
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government's statements and actions relating to Derek Handley and the Government Chief Technology Officer role?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Acting Prime Minister): Using Mr Bridges' standard measure, yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: When the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern was asked yesterday why she hadn't disclosed greater communications with Derek Handley, why did she respond "I have mentioned that I've known him for a number of years and that we've engaged with each other and that I do have messages and emails from him. I mentioned that from the moment I was asked.", given that when she was asked by me in Parliament whether "she had any conversations, emails, or texts with Derek Handley since she's been Prime Minister" she twice responded that she'd received just one text from Mr Handley.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because the questioner at the time, namely, the leader of the National Party, forgot to make the point that the first lots of admissions by the Prime Minister were to do with a position before the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) ever arose, and thereafter when it arose, no longer was it handled by the Prime Minister or mentioned. The distinction, of course, is that the member is putting a different question in the House today that they didn't put to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has been patently obvious about, and honest about, the matter.
Hon Simon Bridges: When the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern responded by text message to Mr Handley, "… I'll talk to the team about how we can make use of you and your kind offer.", does she stand by her statement in New York yesterday that finding a role for Mr Handley in New Zealand was "certainly not the expectation I was setting there. He wanted to catch up. That was simply responding to that request.", and does every one of her friends who simply wants to catch up get a text response saying, "I'll talk to the team about how we can make use of you and your kind offer."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, first of all, the Prime Minister is someone that does attract attention, unlike some leaders. Secondly, she's a very kind-hearted person who seeks any New Zealander now wanting to swarm back home to the great country that we're building, now that we're making New Zealand great again. The third thing is, the member has got to get back to understanding some simple legal precis when he's asks some questions: the facts matter and the CTO job was not raised.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of all the kindness the Acting Prime Minister's just referred to, was the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern kind to Derek Handley?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Let me say that even with the assistance of the former National Party president, Michelle Boag—I am holding up Mr Handley's comments right now. With the help of the former National Party president as his adviser, he says, "There's no smoking gun."
Hon Simon Bridges: When will the process of approving for release all communications from all parties in relation to Government's Chief Technology Officer role be completed?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: An army of people are working day and night at the moment. The release is very imminent. The release is very imminent and I've no doubt that some people will extrapolate out truths which don't exist and make up all sorts of statements in respect of this matter, but I can just say this, Mr Handley says, again—and he is our expert; not that member's expert, and that's the wonderful thing about this case—"There was nothing untoward or inappropriate."
Hon Simon Bridges: Sorry, how is Mr Handley, "our expert"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, well, perhaps one could come to that conclusion after the member going on day in, day out, day in, day out, and getting himself exactly nowhere. Because if he's not your expert, then why is he mentioned every five seconds to the media?
Hon Simon Bridges: When the Prime Minister's chief of staff informed the Opposition last Friday that he would impose a 30 working day delay for the Official Information Act request made on 25 August about Clare Curran's initial demotion from Cabinet, which means a release date of Tuesday, 6 November, 72 days after the initial request, did that provide an indication of when all the other relevant material will be released?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What happened there was the then Minister was giving an answer as to the parameters of the disclosure. But being a No. 1 advocate for open and transparent Government, we've been able to move the date so much further forward. In fact, I would hold my breath because it's not very far away.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is 72 days a good example of an open and transparent Government?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Let me make it very clear that is a very artificial announcement that that member has made, given my assurance that very shortly there will be the full release. But let me say this: you know, we're talking about a party who in Government had to correct the oral and written questions in this House 966 times—966 times.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will the Prime Minister release every communication she has had with Derek Handley since becoming Prime Minister, to clear up the suspicion over the extent and the nature of their discussions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I think one could, with the greatest of assurance, say the Prime Minister is going to release all the information, which, being party to knowing what's going on, will utterly and entirely exonerate her from these awful claims being made by the member. She'll be totally exonerated from the claims.
• Question No.
3. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Employment: Is he confident his Government is bringing "Mana in Mahi"; if so, how?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Can I first of all thank that member for such a wonderful question. We're so pleased that the member is so interested in this Government's employment initiatives. So to answer the first part of the question, absolutely I'm confident in our Mana in Mahi programmes, which aim to help young New Zealanders into real jobs and ensure they gain valuable, sought-after skills and qualifications. To address the second part of the question, since phase one of Mana in Mahi was announced in August, we have received an overwhelming response from small to medium sized employers that have indicated they want to participate in the programme. I will be working closely with the Hon Shane Jones and the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to support our people with a $1 billion fund in the regions. Kia ora.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is it bringing "Mana in Mahi" to support an employer who has gone through hell over the last few weeks and wants to get on with the job, and does he think the employee might also have gone through hell?
SPEAKER: That may be the responsibility of Mr Lees-Galloway, but it's not the responsibility of this Minister.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked in my primary question about Mana in Mahi, and have been careful, actually, to go through and check it off against the responsibilities of the portfolio responsibilities, which are around the functioning of the labour market.
SPEAKER: And then the member asked a question on industrial relations.
Hon Paula Bennett: What message does he think it sends to young people who are looking for work when an employer, with all the power, is supported and believed ahead of an employee?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Well, that's not a good message.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does he believe supporting an employer over a victim without having read an incident report and relying just on the word of an employer brings mana to mahi and improves labour market conditions?
SPEAKER: I'll just say "ibid" for my previous ruling.
Jo Luxton: What has the response been from employers following the launch of phase one of Mana in Mahi?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Kia ora. Thank you for the question. I'm happy to inform the House today that so far during phase one of Mana in Mahi there have been 66 employer contacts created. The range of negotiation that is taking place ranges from general interest and eligibility queries through to finalising contracts. There are two contracts signed, with Wellington Hospitality Group and Vivo, and we are in contract negotiations with two national employers and three regional employers. The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) has also had discussions with 14 other organisations. They're a mix of industry training organisations, associations, and recruitment agencies. To finish off, we will be making a further announcement over the next few weeks alongside Downer Construction in Auckland.
Hon Paula Bennett: Would he expect, in his Mana in Mahi programme, if an employer is in an incident with an employee, that they might actually apologise to that employee?
SPEAKER: No, no. Again, it's not the Minister's responsibility.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was actually in the context of an employer in the Mana in Mahi programme, for which the Minister is responsible.
SPEAKER: Yes, and the Minister is responsible for the programme and for the financial support of the programme. He is not responsible for the industrial relations part of it. That is the responsibility of Mr Lees-Galloway.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In this instance, would the Minister be responsible for the expectations and outcomes from the programme?
SPEAKER: He might well be.
Hon Paula Bennett: Just speaking to the point of order—
SPEAKER: No, I've dealt with the point of order—there isn't one.
Hon Paula Bennett: Well, I just want to check for the future, if I'm asking a question, sir—is what I'm checking.
SPEAKER: Well, the member can have a go.
Hon Paula Bennett: So if, in the future, we have an incident with young people in one of the Mana in Mahi programmes, and there are incidences with the employer and they've placed young people in it, will we not be able to ask questions on that?
SPEAKER: That will be, in the end, a matter for the Government as to who answers the question. My expectation would be, if it's an industrial relations matter, that the Government would transfer it to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, but that is their decision, not mine.
Hon Paula Bennett: In his Mana in Mahi programme, does he expect the young people that are placed in that programme to be safe and be under all employment relations legislation?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Absolutely.
• Question No. 4—Housing and Urban
SPEAKER: Before I get the member to ask the question, I will inform the House that this question is substantially shorter and more direct than that which was submitted. I'd like members who are submitting questions to consider making sure that they do not have unnecessary material as part of them and to make sure that they're not attempting advertising banners by way of parliamentary question.
4. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What steps, if any, is the Government taking to ensure Housing New Zealand is a landlord focused on tenant well-being?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): On Friday, the Government announced that it will legislate new social objectives for Housing New Zealand. These objectives will require Housing New Zealand to provide good quality, warm, dry, and healthy rental housing for those who need it most; to be a fair, compassionate, and reasonable landlord; to treat tenants and their neighbours with respect, integrity, and honesty; and to help sustain tenancies.
Paul Eagle: Why is the Government enshrining these objectives in legislation?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, Housing New Zealand's report into methamphetamine contamination highlights that instructions to focus on its core functions as a landlord led to Housing New Zealand taking a hard-line approach that ignored tenant well-being. This legislation will prevent future Governments from instructing Housing New Zealand to ignore well-being and prioritise dividends over tenant well-being.
Paul Eagle: What will this mean to Housing New Zealand's day-to-day operations?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: What it means is that Housing New Zealand will now reinvest its surplus funds into building more houses or improving services for their tenants, and will focus on sustaining tenancies. We know that stable housing is one of the most important things for the well-being of children. That's why we're focused on supporting families to stay in their homes.
• Question No. 5—Māori Crown Relations: Te
5. Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (National) to the Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti): Yes, in the context they were made and taken.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: How does he reconcile his statement last Thursday agreeing that an important role of Te Arawhiti is to ensure that the Treaty is a successful partnership between the Crown and Māori with the statement of Winston Peters last week denying the existence of any such partnership?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: It's because it's true that the Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti agency is there to strengthen the relationship to make sure the public sector is the best partner it can be with Māori.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Well, who's right: him, who agrees that it's an important role of Te Arawhiti to ensure that the Treaty is a successful partnership, or Winston Peters, who said last week that he never believed the Treaty is a partnership between Crown and Māori?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We both are, because we know that Te Tiriti o Waitangi is a partnership between Māori and the Crown at the time, but also it's about the relationship between the Crown agencies—departments of the Government—to make sure that we can ensure that Māori tribes, Māori groups, organisations, are successful in whatever they try to do so that we can work together to fulfil their aspirations.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: What did he mean when he said in the House last Thursday that one role of Te Arawhiti will be to "co-design partnership principles"?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Well, exactly what it says. We will work together with Māori to design the principles around the partnership. I think it's self-explanatory.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Do his answers to my questions today show that the Government really doesn't have to justify the way it operates to anyone, be it on this issue or, as he said in the House yesterday, on the Meka Whaitiri scandal?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I was full of admiration for the work that the former Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations did and the Māori / Crown relations portfolio is a natural extension of that work. It's a pity that he's now working and talking to undermine the very work that he did when he was the Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Whatever the relationship, is it a fact that he intends his new ministry to have a profound effect in the settlement of the Ngāpuhi claim which has languished so long under the former Minister?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Much as the Minister responsible for employment can't answer questions about employment relations, we think it inappropriate that the Minister for Crown/Māori Relations, whether it's a partnership or not, can't answer a question about Treaty settlements.
SPEAKER: He was asked about—I think, paraphrasing—the input that his agency might have under that process and he can certainly answer that.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: My role is to support my colleague the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations, Andrew Little, in the fine job that he's doing to settle the Ngāpuhi claim. [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Ho, ho, Billy Bunter.
SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Prime Minister—the Acting Prime Minister—actually, the Prime Minister, will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: And the National Party can have an additional six supplementary questions.
• Question No.
6. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Has he seen reports that "the cost of living is rising before our eyes"; if so, does he accept that this Government's policies are increasing the cost of living for New Zealanders?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, and no.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with the article from Stuff yesterday that states, "Fuel, rent, insurance, rates, electricity, cigarettes and food; they're all increasing in price, and some as a direct result of Government policy."?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There are many assertions in that article and I certainly do not agree with all of them. I just caution the member if she starts to talk about the issue of the increases in fuel taxes and rent increases, that I do have the Advertising Standards Authority complaints ruling about National's previous attempt on that at hand.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, with petrol prices and rental prices now at record levels, does he think he should have paid more attention to officials' advice that told the Government that their policies were always likely to have exactly this impact?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premises in that question. The median rent in New Zealand has been flat since February according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Hon Amy Adams: What advice did he seek on the cost of living impacts of the Government's oil and gas decisions after reading the regulatory impact statement for those decisions, which said that energy prices can also be expected to increase as a result of those decisions?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It may surprise the member but my focus is on New Zealanders today, not the possible cost of living increases in 2027 based on information about unknown unknowns.
Hon Amy Adams: With petrol prices at record highs, rent prices at record highs according to TradeMe, a number of other cost of living indicators clearly moving upwards, and firms' pricing intentions also rising, does he now understand why consumer confidence is at a six-year low and business confidence remains at a 10-year low?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I don't think the member can draw all of those matters together. What we do know on this side of the House is that we are in the process at the moment of wanting to build a sustainable transport network, and part of that is the fuel excise duty going up, as it went up under the previous Government by 40 percent—40 percent.
• Question No. 7—Energy and
7. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by her reported statement that she will "consider giving the oil companies more time to fulfil their commitments on the permits"; if so, which permits are currently facing a "drill or drop" decision in the next two years?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes, I am in discussion with officials regarding the possibility of exercising my statutory powers, as the responsible Minister, to make changes to petroleum exploration permits. Any such change would be made on a case by case basis under the current law. There are 16 permits with "drill or drop" decisions in the next two years. More information about all active petroleum exploration permits, including "drill or drop decision" points, is publicly available on the New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website. As the member is aware, our Government is committed to a long-term transition away from reliance on fossil fuels, and the introduction of legislation this week reflects exactly that commitment.
Gareth Hughes: Does she stand by the Government's historic decision to halt offshore oil and gas exploration, and if so, does she think a long tail of up to 16 active permits undermines this decision?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: In answer to the first part of the question, yes, and in answer to the second part, no. As we've been clear, the Government is committed to a long-term transition away from fossil fuel exploration and a clear plan for our future. We're achieving this by issuing no further offshore exploration permits, while also protecting the existing exploration permits that cover 100,000 square kilometres, to enable a smooth transition over the coming decades. This is a sensible approach that allows regions, communities, industry, and the workforce a just transition to a low-carbon future and avoids sudden economic shocks like we saw in the 1980s.
Gareth Hughes: Does she agree with recent comments by our climate ambassador Jo Tyndall that this Government has sent a clear signal to industry that we are phasing out oil and gas extraction, and if so, does relaxing the work programme deadlines on permits undermine that message?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I do agree and am proud that we are ending offshore exploration and are committed to a just transition, and we're not relaxing those conditions.
Gareth Hughes: If the Minister grants extensions to any offshore permits, will she limit their duration, and if so, what time frame will she use?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I indicated in my primary question, each of these needs to be on a case by case basis, and I will consider those applications on a case by case basis.
Gareth Hughes: Will the Minister commit to passing more wide-ranging changes to the Crown Minerals Act (CMA) this term to ensure New Zealand does transition away from fossil fuel extraction?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As the member knows, the first tranche of the CMA reforms was introduced this week. This legislation is to give effect to the Government's decision about the future of offshore petroleum exploration. Our intention is to begin tranche two following the passage of this legislation, and we've long signalled that tranche two will involve a comprehensive review of the CMA and will engage with a wide range of stakeholders to ensure the legislation is fit for purpose as we make this transition. The Government's decision about—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! That's enough. That's enough.
• Question No.
8. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Conservation: Will she postpone the cull of tahr announced to commence this weekend until a more sustainable plan has been developed and consulted on with hunter groups and the Game Animal Council?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Conservation): The Himalayan Tahr Control Plan was approved by a former conservation Minister. Consultation took around two years. I will not postpone control work, because, unlike the previous Government, that allowed tahr numbers to explode, I'm committed to protecting our indigenous plants, particularly our alpine plants, and working with responsible hunting stakeholders to do that. The Department of Conservation (DOC) is not carrying out any tahr control work before the next meeting of the tahr liaison group. An operational plan will be confirmed after that meeting.
Hon Todd McClay: When she said in question time yesterday that further discussions were to take place with stakeholders, does she not realise this will be pointless if her mass cull goes ahead this weekend to start the slaughter of up to 25,000 tahr?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The member is obviously not listening. The department is proposing to control 10,000 animals. Could I remind the member of what the former Minister of Conservation, the Hon Denis Marshall said, "If there were no tahr in New Zealand, I would not support their introduction into the wild." If it was possible, eradication would be the preferred option, but it's not currently possible. Once again, the National Party is flip-flopping from being concerned about indigenous ecosystems to protecting hunters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether this tweet is true, that the Minister is arming DOC rangers and chartering helicopters, and the cull starts this weekend? Is that National Party tweet true or false?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: There will be control by air, but there is a further—
Hon Members: Ha, ha!
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The balance of this reply will be heard in silence.
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I am meeting with a Professional Hunting Guides Association representative this afternoon. The Tahr Liaison Group is meeting next week. An operational plan will be finalised after that meeting.
Hon Todd McClay: Why has she instructed the Department of Conservation to cull bull tahr against the advice of representatives on her Tahr Liaison Group and tourism operators that this will cost the industry tens of millions of dollars?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: We are having to control bull tahr because the former National Government, through its neglect, through its underfunding of conservation, through its failure to control a ballooning tahr population, means that we need to step in now and address that neglect. The tahr population is estimated at 35,000—more than double what the plan approved under a former National Government allows.
Hon Todd McClay: Is the real reason she's climbed down from her decision yesterday to push ahead with a mass cull of tahr this weekend because the Department of Conservation has advised her that she hasn't properly consulted with recreational hunters, tourism groups, or the Game Animal Council?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: No. It is not a mass cull of tahr; it is a controlled operation by the department of 10,000 operators. All of the hunting interests that I have spoken to recognise that tahr numbers are too high and need to come down.
Hon Todd McClay: Is the real reason that the Minister has climbed down from her mass cull of tahr, announced in the House yesterday, because ammunition importers, who don't support her decision, won't sell DOC the ammunition that they need?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I have not climbed down; the control operation will proceed after further discussion with stakeholders.
Hon Todd McClay: I ask again: given that more than 20,000 people have expressed their concern over her plan to cull up to 25,000 tahr, originally starting this weekend, until proper consultation has taken place—
SPEAKER: Get to the question, please.
Hon Todd McClay: —will she postpone this until proper consultation has taken place, or at least until the Department of Conservation has enough bullets?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The member exaggerates. The department is proposing to control 10,000 tahr. It's working with stakeholders to see what they can contribute. It needs to be done this summer, before the tahr population explodes further. This Government is interested in protecting our Alpine landscapes, not sitting on the side of an invasive species like tahr.
• Question No.
9. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Is she confident of the Government's spending priorities in the education portfolio?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Acting Minister of Education): Yes, but is she confident in the previous Government's spend—
SPEAKER: Order! What we're going to have is that answer again—a straight answer without a flick.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Yes.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Why did the Government prioritise $2.8 billion for tertiary students instead of providing adequate funding to get a settlement for primary teachers?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: First of all, there was no negotiation for a settlement for primary teachers at the time that this Government passed the $2.8 billion for students. Secondly, many of the students are actually teachers, and this Government believes that taking away crippling debt from our young people is worthy.
Hon Nikki Kaye: If primary teachers reject the Government's offer today, will she prioritise spending for parents who can't take time off work or find childcare during the strikes?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It would be pre-emptive of me to decide what the NZEI will do with the negotiations they are currently in.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not—
SPEAKER: It was a hypothetical question. There's no requirement to answer it.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will she reverse the Government's new position regarding delaying maternity grants to teachers, given the harsh impact on new mums and dads?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It would be irresponsible of me to discuss negotiations in this House, and I would have thought a previous Minister of Education would actually know that.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will the Government prioritise additional spending to ensure parents do not face multiple primary and secondary strikes over the coming months.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It would be irresponsible for a Minister in this House to stand up and talk about negotiations and other money or any other thing while there are negotiations under way, and I would have thought a previous Minister of Education would have known that.
Jan Tinetti: What investment has this Government made to address the teacher supply pressures that had built up over nine years?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: When we took office, teachers were demoralised, and many of them had left the profession; the number of young people going into teacher training had dropped by 40 percent; and classrooms were regularly doubled up as teachers couldn't be found to fill the places. To date, we have funded over 1,000 enrolments in the Teacher Education Refresh Programme to remove the cost barriers so teachers can stay in and return to teaching. We have seen the approval of almost 190 overseas relocation grants. We've expanded the Auckland Beginning Teacher Project to sixty places in 2018, and a further 60 in 2019. We've increased the numbers of new teachers training through Teach First to 80 in 2018 and in 2019 and made 300 teachers who started their teaching in 2018 eligible for the Voluntary Bonding Scheme. This is a start to what we are doing to assist to repair the damage done over the last nine years.
• Question No.
10. GREG O'CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister of Police: What recent announcements, if any, has the Government made to support crime prevention in our communities?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): One of the main priorities of this Government's plan is improving the well-being of New Zealanders by supporting safer communities. Off the back of the single biggest investment in our police service through Budget 2018, we have announced that last Thursday the 11th recruit wing graduated since this coalition Government took office, with 98 new constables appointed all around the country, one of the largest wings in well over a decade. This brings the total number of new officers to 786 who are now out on the front line. The Dame Annette King wing, which started this week, has taken the total number of new recruits to start Police College to 940, which is the largest annual figure for new recruits in well over 20 years.
Greg O'Connor: How is the Government supporting the fight against organised crime?
Hon STUART NASH: Yesterday, we endorsed the Commissioner of Police's decision on how to allocate the extra resources for organised crime, funded as part of the coalition agreement with New Zealand First. Areas of focus of these 500 specialist officers include disrupting transnational criminal groups, national and local gangs, cybercrime, money laundering, and child exploitation. This is the new front line of criminal offending. Increasing the specialist capacities of police is crucial in order to adapt to the challenges of 21st century policing.
Greg O'Connor: How is the roll-out of additional police officers and resources supporting vulnerable small businesses?
Hon STUART NASH: One hundred and twenty-one extra officers have been allocated to precision targeting teams. These teams target prolific offenders to strengthen community resilience. In addition, since I've made it a lot easier and cheaper for small-business owners to access the crime prevention fund, there has been enthusiastic uptake. In contrast to the one small business in the previous Government, latest figures show that 303 premises have installed fog cannons. These are an important deterrent and safety mechanism for our small retailers in the event of an aggravated robbery.
Chris Bishop: Why does his commitment to crime prevention and organised crime not extend to supporting initiatives like firearms prohibition orders, that are backed by the police, the Police Association, and Parliament's Law and Order Committee?
Hon STUART NASH: Ah, that member should wait. There's a lot of work being done in this area at this point in time.
• Question No.
11—Workplace Relations and
11. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Does he stand by his answer in the House last week where he stated he was confident the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, as reported back by select committee, had a parliamentary majority?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): Yes.
Hon Scott Simpson: How then does he reconcile with the Prime Minister's statement on The Nation over the weekend that "We are working through some issues around employment legislation and continue to do so."?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, because what I also said last week was that should the Government see the opportunity to improve the bill in any way, we will take that opportunity at the committee of the whole House. We are a collaborative coalition Government. We're constantly talking with each other about how we can form the very best legislation, and that's exactly what we're doing.
Hon Scott Simpson: So just exactly what aspects of the bill that were reported back after the select committee are still being negotiated with New Zealand First?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As the Prime Minister said, when it's finalised, we'll make it public.
Hon Scott Simpson: Why, after almost a year since the bill first went through Cabinet, and after it's been through an entire select committee process with a Government majority on that select committee, can he not give any certainty to businesses in New Zealand or workers as to what the final version of his bill will look like?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Similar to when the previous Government passed the employment standards legislation and made significant changes at the committee of the whole House, there's always an opportunity to make legislation better, and it would be a foolish Government not to take that opportunity.
Hon Scott Simpson: So in the Minister's view, what are the specific improvements that can be made to the bill?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: There are always opportunities to make improvements, and when the details have been finalised and the Cabinet decision has been made, they will be made public.
• Question No. 12—State
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of State Services: How many incorrect statements have now been made by Ministers over the process, appointment, disclosures, and non-disclosures over the Government's Chief Technology Officer, and who is responsible for these?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Acting Minister of State Services): In response to the second part of the question, in my role as the Acting Minister of State Services, I am responsible for statements made by myself and all other Ministers in respect of the appointment of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO). In response to the first part of the question, this is a Government that acknowledges its mistakes and focuses on putting them right, as I did yesterday by apologising to Mr Handley. I do note, for example, that both Minister Robertson and myself did correct statements made yesterday, and, of course, Ms Curran was incorrect in omitting her meeting with Mr Handley from a written question response.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is it that Derek Handley can publish all his texts and emails in two days, but Government Ministers, with dozens of staff and hundreds of officials, have still not been able to release all their texts and emails, despite first being asked for these in question time more than three weeks ago?
SPEAKER: All right. Now I am going to ask the member to rephrase the question so there's a supplementary to the primary or the answer.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can you clarify in that the issue is around the provision of information. The issue is that we have had multiple mistakes over the provision of information, and I think it is a reasonable question, particularly—
SPEAKER: It might be a reasonable question, but the member has to link it either to the primary question—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: OK, I'll try again.
SPEAKER: —or to the answer.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Well, Mr Speaker, I thought you'd be a champion for disclosure in this area.
SPEAKER: Order! The National Party just lost the additional supplementary questions.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is it that Derek Handley can accurately publish all his texts and emails in two days, but Government Ministers, with dozens of staff and hundreds of officials, can now, after more than three weeks from first requested, not provide this Parliament with all Ministers' texts and emails?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Well, I—yeah.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I'm happy to answer it.
SPEAKER: I'm not sure there was much of an improvement, but I will let it go.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I'm more than happy to answer it, Mr Speaker. Of course, Mr Handley is a private individual and not under the same obligations as a Government around the release of information. We had begun work preparing that raw material for a full release—[Interruption]
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: —later this week. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. This is an area of particular constitutional importance and a new area for consideration by this House. What I want is I want to be able to hear the answer, and I think other members should too. This reply will be heard in silence.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Mr Handley is of course a private individual and not under the same obligations as a Government around the release of information. We had begun preparing materials for a full release later this week. On Monday, as the Acting Minister of State Services, I discussed the release with Department of Internal Affairs officials, and it was decided that State Services would liaise with Mr Handley regarding the release of his part of the correspondence. Of course, events overtook this. Furthermore, we are dealing with considerably more material than Mr Handley, as we also have internal communications to gather and prepare for release. We expect to release this information in the next day or so.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Who was responsible for the Minister of State Services last week after dozens of questions in this House that were evaded and a very clear directive from the Speaker to bring all emails to this House for three significant emails being omitted?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I just indicated in the answer that I just gave, the Government has prepared the collating and redaction of the material for release to be consistent with its obligations as a Government. This is expected to be released in the next day or so.
SPEAKER: That's not—no, I don't need a point of order. That's not the question that was asked.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The person that would be responsible would have been the Acting Minister of State Services last week, the Hon Grant Robertson.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does she stand by her answer yesterday, and I quote, "The Prime Minister did not communicate with Mr Handley by either text message or her private email address about the CTO role", when Mr Handley has stated, and I quote him, "There were eight communications by text and email with the PM that I considered related to the CTO role."? Who is not telling the truth?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes, I do stand by my statement, because, as Mr Handley makes quite clear in what is released, both the text and email regarding the CTO position that were sent to the Prime Minister where not responded to.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary—
SPEAKER: No. No, the Opposition's supplementaries have all been used.
Hon Stuart Nash: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the member Chris Bishop stated that the police supported his Arms (Firearms Prohibition Orders) Amendment Bill. They, in fact, do not—
Hon Stuart Nash: —and I think he should stand up and apologise.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member knows that if a member has misled the House, there is an appropriate approach to take, and taking a point of order on it is not that approach.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, in advising the House on that last question, you made the comment that this was new territory, new ground, very important—etc. The Minister of Energy and Resources, in her answer, spoke about the Government having to take, obviously, a lot longer time than any private individual would because of the obligations that are incumbent on a Government. Now, we know up to this point what those obligations are, and they would not seem to be supporting a view that it should take a very long time at all to do these things. So I wonder: would be reasonable to ask the Minister to table any new obligations that the Government now feels—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: —in the release of these materials?
SPEAKER: No, no. The point that I was referring to was that I am not aware of a similar circumstance of ministerial communications from a former Minister not being immediately available to their successors. I think there's an important point around the collective responsibility and the continuity of the ministry, and it's an area which I haven't seen any discussion on previously. I have made it clear, including in a way which was probably beyond my powers, that I think there is a responsibility for Ministers to obtain, as quickly as possible, the correspondence of former Ministers in order to ascertain what communications, and especially what obligations, have been entered into on the part of the Government by former Ministers. That is quite separate to the Government's responsibilities under the Public Records Act or under the Official Information Act.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: A new point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Well, can we finish this one first?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: That really is my point. The information given to the House over the last few weeks has been—the starting point was, well, all of Clare Curran's papers are off to the archives, and there'll have to be some sort of a negotiation with the archivist—
SPEAKER: Can the member resume his seat. I have made it clear in the House that the Chief Archivist does not override the powers of this House, and Ministers are responsible to this House, and not to the Chief Archivist. In fact, if the member read my letter, which I tabled in the House last week, I indicated that fairly plainly to the Chief Archivist.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My new point of order is that it is a custom, that you have carried on, that sometimes a Minister is not able to provide the information that's sought in the question, and a Minister sometimes says, "I'll provide that information for the House" or "the member". You'll be aware, over this four-week sitting, that there have been a number of occasions on this issue where reference has been made to that. What I'm seeking your guidance on is the timetable for that being met, because there are four specific elements where Ministers said they would provide information last week that has not yet been provided, and I was seeking your help to ensure that would be met by the end of this sitting, tomorrow.
SPEAKER: I cannot and will not give that guarantee. We've had an undertaking from the Minister currently in charge of the area that release of the material is imminent. But the point that I will make to the member—and where I said we're tip-toeing in new constitutional grounds—is the right of Ministers to obtain the records of previous Ministers. That is something which is not absolutely clear. In my opinion, it should be the case, and it should be automatic, and we might be developing a new constitutional convention as we talk about it. For that reason, I'm not in a position to make such a requirement.