Parliament: Questions and Answers - Nov 28
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements and actions, including her statement yesterday when asked about geometric mean growth she said "when taking into account spreading over that period of time, spreading over the increase is a much more accurate way of taking one month out of the year"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. The premise of the member's question is false and serves as proof of a poor understanding of basic facts. Her decision to try and explain that to a member needing numerical literacy was indeed a brave one.
Hon Simon Bridges: What did she mean when she said the geometric mean takes one month out of the year?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The use of the geometric mean measurement provides an estimate of what the typical or middle household is paying in rent. It's similar to the median in that regard, or the average in that regard. That's what that means.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why did she say yesterday that I had selectively chosen figures which showed the median rent has increased by $30 a week under her Government, compared to $12 a week under the previous Government?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because, unsurprisingly, the member came to this House with some false facts and thought to get them out in front of the public. Here are the real facts, though: if you go and look at, for example, 2017 rent increases, 4.8 percent; 2018, the first year of this Government, 4.8 percent; and way below the 5 percent when he was a Minister in 2015. That's what it means.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, wouldn't it in fact be selective to use anything other than the total rent increase under her Government with the total rent increase under the previous Government: $30 versus $13?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It would be well-known to anyone who is literate in both this issue, statistics, as well as the law or property that for many periods you have a long, flat period in rentals, then all of a sudden you have the spike. If you measure the spike and call it an average, you'll come up with the conclusion that member came up with in the House yesterday.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't she simply overcomplicating matters with gobbledegook like "geometric mean" because she doesn't want to face the facts of very significant rent increases in the last year due to her policies?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I do confess that I may have made a mistake yesterday in not referring that member, the leader of the National Party, to his spokesman on statistics in this country. Then he might have been better informed, rather than come down here, drag one month, call it 12, and come up with the cock-and-bull story in terms of stats he did yesterday.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her statement in relation to whether banning letting fees will see landlords increase rents to cover the cost, that she hopes that won't be the case?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Prime Minister's statement—and would be to this question as well—refers to the fact that the National Party is using selective data which varies significantly month to month. Everybody in the real estate market knows it, everybody in the rent market knows it, and the tenants know it, as well as the landlords. The Prime Minister described in the previous answer the benefits of the geometric mean, stating "arithmetic means are too sensitive to changes in the higher value."
Hon Gerry Brownlee: This is getting worse for the Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I've lost you a long time ago.
SPEAKER: That's sort of like even. Start again, please.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she still have hope her policy won't lead to higher rents when there are property companies emailing their clients telling them to increase rents by amounts such as $6 a week to recover the abolished letting fees?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I just say that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, as well as the Prime Minister—on behalf of the Prime Minister; and as well as yours truly, but answering for the Prime Minister—have said that there could be a temporary rise whilst we try and get on top of the massive shortage in supply of housing built up over the last nine years. Now, there used to be a time the National Party understood supply-side economics, but they don't when it comes to housing.
Hon Simon Bridges: How much will the temporary rise be, or does she not know because she's motivated by good intentions rather than any kind of evidence or good outcomes?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What I can say on behalf of the Prime Minister is that being motivated by ambitious intentions and positivism has seen a sizeable rise in the support of the coalition Government and its parties, heading towards 60 percent, and if you want ask what one of their coalition parties' potential polling at the moment might be, well, it's fully 3 percent higher than it was at election day in 2017—
Hon Simon Bridges: What's your polling? Tell us about yours.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, it's very positive, actually, and that's why we're going to Christmas with a present we didn't even ask for.
Hon Simon Bridges: How long will this temporary rise last, and how much will it be?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Government admitted when it saw the mess and the dysfunctionalism between supply and demand in housing in this country that we wouldn't be able to fix it up all in one year, or indeed two years, but because we were prepared to address a massive crisis in the housing situation of this country that we would be temporarily possibly advised the amount which we don't know, but then because we would be building 100,000-plus houses, we'd get on top of this problem. Not like the previous Government, that denied there was a crisis until the day after the election, then they discovered one, in the same way Columbus discovered America—purely by accident.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Today the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) released its December Quarterly Predictions showing that growth is expected to average about 3 percent per year over the next three years. The NZIER said that there are many favourable conditions supporting growth and that recent data points to solid activity, for example, in the retail, construction, and services sectors. They did warn about some risks to the New Zealand economy, including the international situation. However, the NZIER said they expect the effects of these risks on real activity to be muted.
Willow-Jean Prime: What did the NZIER say about business activity?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The December Quarterly Predictions said that activity indicators suggested demand was holding up, despite business confidence remaining in the doldrums. The NZIER went on to say: "Despite weak business confidence, firms remain optimistic about increasing their headcount." They also said that wage growth is expected to pick up as firms invest to become more productive, leading to higher skilled jobs with higher wages for Kiwi workers.
Willow-Jean Prime: What other reports has he seen on actual business investment?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yesterday Statistics New Zealand released the latest merchandise trade data for October 2018. Westpac economists said that the imports data reflected some positive trends in domestic activity and said that firmness in demand has encouraged increased investment spending by businesses, with imports of machinery up 7.5 percent over the past year and imports of transport equipment up 10 percent. This is the real data which reflects real investment decisions made by businesses. In other words, there's serious momentum in the economy.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he consider it part of his role as Minister of Finance to ensure that the collection and use of tax revenue is undertaken carefully and in the best interests of all New Zealanders?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes.
Hon Amy Adams: As the Minister of Finance, does he accept that if the Government imposes higher taxes on the owners of residential rental properties, this will lead to higher rents for tenants?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, not necessarily. There is evidence on both sides of that argument internationally. What I do believe is that all New Zealanders should pay their fair share of tax.
Hon Amy Adams: So is the Minister of Finance really saying he doesn't accept that higher costs on landlords are likely to lead to lower supply and higher rents for tenants?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I said was that internationally there is conflicting evidence on this matter about whether or not those kinds of taxes lead to an increase in rentals, which is the question that the member asked. What I do know for sure is that if you have a Government that for nine years fails to address the supply of affordable housing in the economy, that really is going to put pressure on.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with the Tax Working Group that a capital gains tax would likely lead to increases in rents?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Tax Working Group—I presume the member is referring to their interim report—actually note exactly what I've said: that there is conflicting evidence on that matter.
Hon Amy Adams: So does he expect that the $325 million additional revenue that Budget 2018 says that this Government will take from landlords through ring-fencing losses is going to mean higher rents for tenants?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I've said there is conflicting evidence on the impact of those sorts of policies. What I do know is that the fundamental thing that will change the rental market in New Zealand is increasing the supply of housing.
Hon Amy Adams: Why is it that we have a Prime Minister who can answer that she expects rents to rise, but the Minister of Finance doesn't seem aware that that's how the market works?
SPEAKER: Well, inasmuch as the member has responsibility.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can only refer to what the Rt Hon Winston Peters said on behalf of the Prime Minister, which is that there may be some temporary increases there—the point being that the failure to create supply in the market over the last nine years will take a little bit of time to correct.
• Question No. 4—Health
4. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his actions and policies around the Northland meningococcal outbreak and all Government-funded immunisations?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and in particular the swift response to the declaration on 8 November of a community outbreak of meningococcal W in Northland.
Matt King: When was the Minister first made aware of the meningitis outbreak in Northland?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have been made aware over time of concern around meningococcal W. The outbreak itself was first confirmed on 8 November of this year. I had the response brought to my attention last week. The fact that they had moved very, very quickly and secured what are very hard-to-get vaccinations very quickly for New Zealand, and will have the needles in the arms of children within weeks—I congratulate the district health board (DHB), Pharmac, and the Ministry of Health for moving so quickly.
Dr Shane Reti: When did the ministry first receive requests for a meningitis vaccination programme from Northland DHB, in light of the internal memo from the CEO on Monday saying, "We have been strongly encouraging the Ministry of Health for some months to approve this"?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As the Minister who answered on my behalf said yesterday, there is a test for what constitutes a community outbreak. That was recognised on 8 November. But in answer to the member's question, the Government has acted swiftly on that expert advice. The conversations between Northland and the ministry have been ongoing for some time, as concerns were raised about isolated incidents of meningococcal W, and it is appropriate that they have been discussing these matters for some time.
Dr Shane Reti: Why has the ministry missed a meningitis outbreak when their own nationwide public health surveillance data for meningitis shows four cases in January, 10 cases in February, more than 20 cases in March, nearly 30 cases in April, and nearly 40 cases in May, which by that time was already nearly double 2017?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the assertion at the beginning of the member's question.
Dr Shane Reti: When officials say selected schools will receive the meningitis vaccination, who will decide which students will have a chance of protection and which students will miss out?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The programme is targeted at those aged from nine months to four years, because they are the ones most at risk—inclusive. Also, a focus will be on students aged 13 to 19, because teenagers are those who carry and spread the disease. That's been identified as the best way to target and arrest the spread of meningococcal W, and that's the basis upon which the programme is based.
Dr Shane Reti: How will the Minister and his officials reach senior students, particularly the 13 to 19-year-olds in the target group which he's just mentioned, who have already left school for the year?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Members of the community will certainly be encouraged to participate. These are the problems that have presented in previous meningococcal and other vaccination campaigns, and, fortunately, in Northland they are experienced in dealing with these things. I congratulate the staff for acting quickly, and I know they have the expertise to handle this in the best way possible.
Dr Shane Reti: Was the Minister made aware of the increasing monthly cases of meningitis in his own ministry's monthly notifiable disease surveillance reports?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: If the member wants to ask specific questions about when I was notified and on which particular outbreaks around the country—he will know there's many; he's a clinician—I would be happy to have those questions written down, and I will answer them.
• Question No. 5—Health
5. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has he made about capital investment in hospitals?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): More good news: last Wednesday, I joined the Prime Minister at Middlemore Hospital to announce that the Government had set aside $80 million to fix longstanding building and infrastructure issues at Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB). Earlier that week, I was on the West Coast to confirm a $20 million investment in the Buller Integrated Family Health Centre. Staff and patients in our public health service deserve high-quality facilities—this Government is committed to delivering on them.
Rino Tirikatene: How will the $80 million investment at Counties Manukau DHB improve facilities?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Well, the building issues at Middlemore, including rot and mould in the walls, will be well-known to members. The DHB can now plan with certainty for four important projects that will tackle those legacy issues and better position it to cope with a growing population with complex needs. Those projects are re-cladding the KidzFirst building, relocating the radiology department to a more modern and suitable building, establishing a radiology hub at the Manukau super-clinic site, and improving critical infrastructure at the super-clinic, including new plant room IT and medical gases. Further investment will be required at Counties Manukau in coming years, but these projects will make a real difference to staff and patients.
Rino Tirikatene: How much of the $750 million the Government invested in Budget 2018 for capital works in health has now been allocated or prioritised for specific projects?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: That is the biggest capital injection in about a decade into our health system, and in recent months we've announced $275 million for critical infrastructure at Auckland DHB, $200 million for a new elective surgery unit at North Shore Hospital, $24 million for new endoscopy and cardiac care capacity at Whangarei Hospital, $7.1 million for Bay of Islands Hospital, $8.4 million for individualised units for people with severe mental health and intellectual disability needs, and $21.3 million additional to the new children's hospital in Wellington, and, of course, that's all additional to the $80 million for Counties Manukau that we've just announced. So, in total, since Budget 2018, we've announced investments in our hospitals of more than $600 million. More will be needed, but this is a sign that this Government is committed to our public system and to our public hospitals.
• Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is he satisfied that the KiwiBuild programme will achieve good outcomes for communities?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes. KiwiBuild has four primary aims. The first is to increase homeownership as we build more affordable homes that require a smaller upfront deposit for the estimated 162,000 renters who could service a KiwiBuild mortgage; the second is that we want to increase the supply of homes that if not bought by first-home buyers will provide much-needed affordable warm, dry rental homes; scale and pipeline that will enable investors to invest in innovative construction methods like offsite manufacturing; and, fourth, to incentivise the construction of higher-quality homes, including through the KiwiBuild design standard, which will mean homes are affordable to run and energy-efficient.
Hon Judith Collins: Why is he supporting a KiwiBuild development in Marfell, New Plymouth, when a proposal had already been received by Housing New Zealand to build social housing on the site for around $100,000 less per house?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because our goal at Marfell is to regenerate and revitalise a neighbourhood that for the last decade was allowed to sit vacant. After neglected homes were demolished, that suburb was left isolated and vacant, full of social problems. Our Government is going to revitalise Marfell with warm, dry, affordable homes for young families, and we're building 29 extra State houses in New Plymouth.
Hon Judith Collins: Is KiwiBuild offering a better product to the Marfell community than the alternative proposal received that would have included a rent-to-buy scheme targeted at low-income earners?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: So we are building warm, dry, modern homes for first-home buyers—that's the superior option. We're revitalising a community that was left to languish for a decade under the former Government. We're also working with New Plymouth city council to build a road that will connect Banks Street to Cook Street, meaning it's no longer a cul-de-sac. It is a fine development and the superior option.
Jonathan Young: So will low-income earners in the Marfell community be better off now that three-bedroom houses are being sold for around $400,000 via a ballot, instead of in the low $300,000s, as proposed by a local rent-to-buy scheme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, there are very few low-income residents in the Marfell community because there are very few homes left in the Marfell community, because that Government left the land lying vacant for nine long years. Low-income families who want to have a crack at homeownership or public housing are going to get a better chance after nine years, because we're building KiwiBuild homes and State housing in New Plymouth, and that member should be grateful for it.
Hon Judith Collins: Why does the Minister not agree with a local rent-to-buy scheme at around $300,000 for people who are low-income, rather than a $400,000 KiwiBuild scheme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I'm very gratified to see that the member, after nine years of denying there was a housing crisis, has now become an advocate for housing for low-income families. Welcome to the real world. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: No, you don't need the point of order. Answer the question.
Hon Carmel Sepuloni: A hypothetical scheme—they never introduced anything.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It is a hypothetical scheme. That Government never did anything for nine years. We're building KiwiBuild affordable homes and State housing in New Plymouth. That Government never built any State housing for nine long years. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member did, in the very beginning, address the question—very tangentially, I might say. But he did.
• Question No. 7—Forestry
7. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Forestry: Does he stand by all his statements and actions regarding the One Billion Trees Programme?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry): Yes, within the context they were provided.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why did he tell the House in August that the $485 million injection into forestry from the Provincial Growth Fund would lead to "at least 2,000 jobs.", when his own department's estimate is less than half that, with 1,000 forestry jobs replacing the unknown number of jobs that the land is currently supporting?
Hon SHANE JONES: Well, obviously, the member has taken a remarkably short period of time to focus upon given it takes 28 years for a pine forest to mature, 100 years for tōtara and kauri. So if he waits a bit longer, that figure will come true.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is it possible that once we account for the job losses in the pastoral sector, if land is converted from sheep and beef to forestry, that there will be fewer than 500 genuinely new jobs for our $485 million investment—around $1 million a job?
Hon SHANE JONES: The vision of the right tree, the right place, at the right time embraces both the desire to see further farming practices take place that in this case will include more trees. It is wrong to scaremonger that men and women are being driven off the land as a consequence of this visionary billion tree strategy.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told the National Business Review that we have to make sure that "We've got enough nephs or if necessary a few Melanesians to help plant the trees.", what proportion of any new forestry jobs does he expect to be filled by Melanesians, presumably by the way of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme?
Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, well, from Melanesia we already draw a host of RSE workers and policy is being looked at, but the preference is to get the proverbial nephs off the couch. It is proving to be a challenge as a consequence of the last nine years of Kaikohe, Kaitāia, Gisborne, Hastings, and a whole host of other places—and I would remind the member that $50 million was put aside by his Government and not a single neph got off any couch, because they never spent any of that money.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was what proportion and he made no reference to anything like that.
SPEAKER: Right, I think the Minister can have another go.
Hon SHANE JONES: In terms of proportions between workers that may or may not come from Melanesia and the nephs, such a policy is under active consideration.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that the fame of this visionary policy has been so far-reaching that countries in the Pacific and Pacific Islands are now mustering their workforce to assist the member in the implementation of his plan?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Come off it. What a load of rubbish.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know you are.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Come on. That's not how I like to be described.
Hon SHANE JONES: It's well known that under the last regime the RSE scheme could have been expanded but it was thwarted, and there is considerable scope to expand the RSE as a part of our Pacific reset, and—who knows?—a significant portion of them would be very convenient in terms of the leaders' aspirations of the Pacific to see a friend like New Zealand absorb some of their people whilst training our own indigenous people.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why does he think it's a priority to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to provide work opportunities for itinerant overseas workers?
Hon SHANE JONES: More of this Epson-based scaremongering. The policy associated with the billion-tree strategy has a clear focus. Along with my well-known social crusader colleague Mr Willie Jackson, and where necessary, as the industry seeks additional workers, if it's appropriate we will find a way to blend both an indigenous workforce and a Melanesian workforce, but that policy is under active consideration—something that was sadly absent from the last nine years of Pacific RSE development.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Can he give the House an assurance that the 400,000 seedlings mulched after they couldn't be planted on the Ngāti Hine site are the only ones purchased with Government money that haven't been mulched or wasted?
Hon SHANE JONES: This reference to the 400,000 seedlings is best described as a hiatus. By and large, the majority of such seedlings were planted and it's a sad consequence for the Crown's partner Ngāti Hine that as a consequence of their enthusiasm they are going to bear a substantial portion of the cost of that $160,000, and it's my expectation going forward we will not be applying Masport mowers to seedlings in the future.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He didn't answer that question at all.
SPEAKER: Well, I think he did actually.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Really? OK, all right. If he is still worried about getting the nephs off the couch—returning to the couch—in Northland, why is he supporting his Government's proposal to remove or weaken sanctions against beneficiaries who are not prepared to work?
SPEAKER: Order! That's not the responsibility of the Minister of Forestry. Further question?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Could I reword it or not?
SPEAKER: Oh, have a go. I'm generous today.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I'll reword it quite substantially. How does he think the jobs created by the $1 million Lake Ellesmere restoration project, for example, will be filled when up the road in Ashburton there are currently 500 job vacancies that employers are struggling to fill?
SPEAKER: That was more than a fine tuning.
Hon SHANE JONES: In terms of Ashburton, I can only comment on the fact that his information obviously is coming from the member of that area, so I'm not confident that it's fully accurate. Secondly, the Lake Ellesmere, Waihora kaupapa is well and truly supported by the community, the tangata whenua, and already great steps are being taken.
• Question No. 8—Justice
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know from our dealings with you as we lodge questions each day, that you are somewhat of a stickler for the grammar that goes into questions, so I wonder if you can give us some clarification about the meaning of this particular question? Is it a case where "for" should perhaps be "by", or does it simply mean a ban on New Zealanders voting for prisoners?
SPEAKER: In this particular case I take full responsibility for the grammar in the question, which is about a quarter of the length of the one which was lodged.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, it doesn't help us. What's the question?
SPEAKER: No, well, it should be "by", and it's my fault because I took about three-quarters of the wording out of the question that was lodged; all right? I apologise to the member for embarrassing her in front of the House by rewording her question in a way which was not up to my normal standards.
Hon Christopher Finlayson: Write it out a hundred times.
SPEAKER: Mr Finlayson, you can include that in your valedictory if you want to be in the House on the 18th.
• Question No. 8—Justice
8. GOLRIZ GHAHRAMAN (Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand) to the Minister of Justice: Will he commit to overturning the ban on voting for people in prison?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: On behalf of the Minister of Justice, the Supreme Court decision was that the 2010 ban on prisoner voting is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. The first efforts of the Government to consider the Supreme Court ruling have regard to declarations of inconsistency. Every now and again, Parliament does pass a law that isn't consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act. Earlier this year, Cabinet agreed in principle that the senior court should have the power to declare legislation inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and to provide a mechanism for the Government and Parliament to respond. We are continuing this work. On prisoner voting rights, while we understand the issue, the Government is yet to consider it, and it is not a priority for the time being. The Government is committed to reforming the criminal justice system, and this takes priority for now.
Golriz Ghahraman: Does the Minister agree with a 2014 statement from then New Zealand First justice spokesperson Denis O'Rourke, who said, "Prisoners should have the right to vote. When people are sentenced to prison, their punishment is imprisonment; it's not the loss of human rights or democratic rights."?
Hon STUART NASH: On behalf of the Minister, Denis O'Rourke is a good man, and I do agree with him, but, as mentioned, this issue is not our number one priority at this stage—reforming the criminal justice system is, and we look forward to working with the Green Party in really making a difference in this space.
Golriz Ghahraman: Does the Minister agree with his own 2014 statement on people in prison voting, "The current law, in our view is wrong, and it needs to be changed, and we will change it."?
Hon STUART NASH: On behalf of the Minister, as an MP, of course I agree with statements I have made; however, speaking as a Minister, this Government has not had a discussion around this issue and therefore does not have a position.
Golriz Ghahraman: Does the Minister agree with National Party MP Harete Hipango, who said, during a 25 October public hearing of the Justice Committee, that she supported people in prisons voting because the current law was an impediment to Māori engagement in the electoral system?
Hon STUART NASH: On behalf of the Minister, the decision in 2010 to ban all prisoners from voting was led by the National Government and the National Party. Therefore, I can only assume that the member is very disappointed in her own party. The legislation was passed despite no doubt very wise and considered counsel from the former Attorney-General but ignored, which is very disappointing.
Hon Judith Collins: Private member's bill!
Golriz Ghahraman: Given support from across the political spectrum—
Hon Amy Adams: You're the Government now; you can change it!
SPEAKER: Order! Both of you—two senior members. Start again, please.
Golriz Ghahraman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Given support from across the political spectrum and the New Zealand Supreme Court's unprecedented declaration that banning people in prisons from voting is a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act, will the Government introduce a bill to reinstate people's right to vote?
Hon STUART NASH: On behalf of the Minister, as the Government has not had that discussion yet, it would be inappropriate for me to express a view on behalf of the coalition, but as stated, this Government is committed to broader criminal justice reform, which will have a positive impact—
SPEAKER: Order! We've had that before, and the member has answered the question.
• Question No. 9—Health
9. Hon MAGGIE BARRY (National—North Shore) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is she aware of the recent international study that highlighted non-existent or sub-standard testing on surgical mesh products; if so, can she guarantee those unsafe products are not being used currently in New Zealand?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I am aware of a recent report highlighting concerns with surgical mesh and faulty medical devices, which, sadly, are not unique to New Zealand. Concerns about the safety of some surgical mesh products and particular procedures that affect women have led to this issue being a high priority for this Government and particularly for my work as Associate Minister of Health with responsibility for women's health. That is why within two months of this Government coming to power, we took stronger action than the previous Government took in nine years. New Zealand is now one of only two countries in the world to have taken regulatory action, restricting the availability of some surgical mesh products which are deemed to be unsafe. We are establishing provider-led registries to increase oversight more quickly. We have established a credentialing standard to ensure surgeons are properly qualified. Thirteen district health boards are no longer undertaking the procedures due to the actions taken by this Government, and we are progressing rigorous informed consent processes for patients. I note that New Zealand is a small part of a large global market and that we will always have limits on our technical regulatory capacity, but I can assure the member that this Government is very engaged on the surgical mesh issue. We are progressing significant work that the previous Government neglected to undertake.
Hon Maggie Barry: Will the Minister commit today, as a matter of urgency, to establish a retrospective register for surgical mesh use, as National has committed to do, and as Labour and the Greens promised to do in the lead-up to the election?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'd like to congratulate that member and her party for finally recognising the need for action on this issue. It's a shame they didn't take action sooner. But when it comes to a registry, what this Government did undertake immediately was a cost-benefit analysis and an assessment of what was required to set up a registry. [Interruption] Perhaps the members aren't interested in hearing the response?
SPEAKER: In fact, I agree with the member. That's enough. Thank you.
Hon Maggie Barry: Will the Minister follow the lead of Australia, the UK, and the EU, and direct that surgical mesh should not be used as the first surgical option, and go even further and apply Scotland's approach and have surgical mesh offered only as the last available option?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'm not convinced that that member is exactly correct in her interpretation of what other jurisdictions have directed. Our understanding is that the United Kingdom has only put a temporary pause on the use of surgical mesh. I will reiterate that New Zealand is now one of only two countries in the world, with Australia, to take regulatory action on surgical mesh products, and we have progressed a work programme, writing to district health boards, requiring and setting up a credentialing of surgeons. We are doing everything we can to guarantee women are protected from unsafe products.
Hon Maggie Barry: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don't believe that the Minister responded to the question, and perhaps she misunderstood what the question was alluding to.
SPEAKER: I think right at the beginning—I probably should have stopped the Minister because she continued on for too long. Right at the beginning, she certainly did address the question.
Hon Maggie Barry: Does the Minister agree with the statement "I can't understand why there hasn't been a surgical mesh registry formed, and if there is a good reason, I haven't heard it"—from Labour's health spokesperson David Clark, in October last year?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Ah—
SPEAKER: Well, do you agree with it? No responsibility, but do you agree? So the member can answer it.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Now, I don't think I'm responsible for that. That's not my ministerial responsibility. But, Mr Speaker, if you would allow me to, perhaps I could give the member some indication as to—
SPEAKER: I'm only going to allow you if it relates to something that Dr Clark said.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I would like to let the member know what we are progressing, in terms of a registry. No? OK.
SPEAKER: Question number 10—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question.
SPEAKER: A point of order, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I want to ask the member a supplementary question.
SPEAKER: No, I've called question 10. We can't go backwards. [Chris Penk gestures to member to sit down] Now, that member, if he does that, will be out. Sit down. Now, when I call the subsequent question, we don't go backwards.
• Question No. 10—Courts
SPEAKER: The member is on a warning that only one of us is going to chair the House.
10. CHRIS PENK (National—Helensville) to the Minister for Courts: Does he have confidence in the Ministry of Justice's response to lightning strikes by court staff?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police) on behalf of the Minister for Courts: On behalf of the Minister, yes.
Chris Penk: Does he agree with the comment of the Chief District Court Judge that as a result of lightning strikes "there may very well be a miscarriage of justice arising out of undue delay.", and if not, why not?
Hon STUART NASH: That is the fine judge's opinion.
Hon Simon Bridges: Put away the ring binder, Stu.
SPEAKER: Order! The Leader of the Opposition will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.
Chris Penk: Does he agree with the Secretary for Justice that ongoing strike action undertaken by court staff is "irresponsible" and "unsafe", and if not, why not?
Hon STUART NASH: I'm not going to enter into any debate about negotiations that are under way at present.
Chris Penk: Has he seen the statement by the Law Society that a particular alleged assault that took place in a courtroom would not have happened but for the strike action undertaken by court staff, and if so, is he concerned for the safety of those in courtrooms as a result of ongoing strike action?
Hon STUART NASH: I haven't seen that statement.
• Question No. 11—Pacific Peoples
11. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Pacific Peoples: What recent reports has he seen on the Pacific economy?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO (Minister for Pacific Peoples): At the Pacific Aotearoa Summit held on 13 November, the Minister of Finance, the Hon Grant Robertson, launched the Treasury report The New Zealand Pacific Economy, which highlights the significant contribution Pacific New Zealanders make to the economy. The report is the first of its kind, provides us with a rich source of information in understanding the actual scope and range of areas where Pacific New Zealanders make their contribution. The report is useful for Government ministries and agencies at both national and regional levels, including local government, to better engage with Pacific peoples.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What are some of the findings of the report?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: Some key findings show Pacific peoples contribute $8 billion towards New Zealand's GDP, that there are approximately 1,500 Pacific business employers and 500 not-for-profit organisations, with assets totalling $8.3 billion. The report confirms that Pacific peoples are active in almost every area of the New Zealand economy. The report also recognises the significant contribution Pacific New Zealanders are making to our cultural and community well-being. Pacific people spend at least 27,000 hours per week on voluntary unpaid activities that directly contribute to community stability, cohesion, and well-being.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What is the significance of this report?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: It highlights that despite the inequalities that Pacific people face in areas such as health, housing, education, and employment, they still make a valuable contribution to the economy. This report challenges us to consider how much more Pacific peoples could achieve for themselves and for our country if we were to work together to reduce the inequities and barriers they face. There is more to the monetary aspect of this report, as Pacific people define wealth more broadly in terms of family, faith, language, culture, and knowledge, and these broader aspects will be taken into account as the Government develops the well-being budget.
• Question No. 12—Statistics
12. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: Does he have confidence in Statistics New Zealand's handling of Census 2018 and does he stand by all his statements regarding Census 2018?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): In response to the first part of the question, yes; and in response to the second part of the question, yes, in the context in which they were made.
Dr Jian Yang: Does he still stand by his statement that "this census looks to be more successful than previous censuses", when the release of census data will now be delayed for at least a second time?
Hon JAMES SHAW: In the context that I made that statement, I was referring to the response rates to the online census, which were substantially above the response rates that they were projecting—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Can the member just resume his seat. I'd like the member to make that answer again without the support from his right—my left—which is coming through his mike and meaning that people at this end can't hear.
Hon JAMES SHAW: I just assumed they weren't interested in the answer. So the context that I made that statement was in response to a question about the online response rate, which was substantially higher than projections.
Dr Jian Yang: What does he say to the Ministry of Education, district health boards, and others who rely on this data to budget for much-needed services?
Hon JAMES SHAW: We've had a delay in the census before. For the last census, there was a seven-year delay—sorry. It was seven years; a two-year delay, because of the earthquake, and all of the agencies were able to cope with the information that they had at the time. Statistics New Zealand are currently working with key stakeholders including iwi and other public agencies to make sure that any delay to the census data doesn't affect their operations.
Dr Jian Yang: Well, does he now agree with former Labour Party president Mike Williams when he said the census was an "industrial strength fiasco" and the census should be "done again properly"?
Hon JAMES SHAW: No, I don't, but I'd like to point out that the former John Key - led National Government received a quantitative risk assessment in 2014 that highlighted that the costs of the census would increase over the coming five-year period. Despite this, the John Key – led National Government cut the Budget by 5 percent. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Enough from both sides. We will hear the balance of this supplementary answer in silence.
Hon JAMES SHAW: At the same time, the former John Key - led National Government signed off on a complete change in the census methodology, from a primarily paper-based exercise to a primarily online exercise, and, at the same time, they chewed through five Ministers in four years, which would have meant poor oversight by Cabinet. It also shows that they didn't see the stats portfolio as a priority. So you had a Cabinet that completely changed the census methodology—[Interruption]
Hon JAMES SHAW: —cut the budget despite knowing what the risks were, and weren't paying attention in a governance capacity.
SPEAKER: Right. There were four different members who interjected when they were told to be silent, all from my left, including one member who did it twice. Any further supplementaries now—they'll come off tomorrow.
• Question No. Question No. 10—Amended Answer
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police) on behalf of the Minister for Courts: I seek leave to correct an answer given on behalf of the Minister of Justice.
SPEAKER: The member seeks leave to correct an answer he gave on behalf of the Minister of Justice. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none.
Hon STUART NASH: I can confirm that the Minister of Justice has seen the statement from the Law Society which Mr Penk referred to.
CHRIS PENK (National—Helensville): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was to the Minister for Courts rather than the Minister of Justice.
Hon Stuart Nash: Can I—
SPEAKER: That Minister saw it too. OK? Can we accept that? Thank you.
• Point of Order—Penalties
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam):: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You just, I think, have indicated that we're losing four supplementary questions—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Five—five tomorrow. Well, of course, that, sir, would be because of your lack of acceptance of the outrage expressed by people on this side of the House at the very provocative answers given to questions by the Minister of Statistics. The reality is that it is his responsibility, and he had plenty of time to be able to ensure for himself that the census would go appropriately. It hasn't, and he has to be responsible. For him to try and sheet that home to a previous Government is completely unacceptable, and for us to lose the opportunity to question Ministers simply because we expressed some degree of surprise that a Minister would be so audacious as to try and obfuscate his own responsibilities by pushing them off on the previous Government like this I think is extremely unfair.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Mr Speaker.
Hon James Shaw: Point of order.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): The fact of the matter is that laying out the chronology of events with respect to the decision making is surely not provocative. It was a plain statement of fact, and if the member can't handle that, then he should find a new profession.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: With all due respect, Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: Well, does James Shaw have anything positive to add?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): I just wanted to point out that I have actually referred to the member Mr Brownlee before for using points of order to try and make debating points, and if he wants to have a general debate slot on the census, he's welcome to do so, or if he wants to try and call an urgent debate—
SPEAKER: I think that member's just compounding the problem. Now, the issue that I have is that in the initial part of the last supplementary answer that the Minister was giving, both sides of the House erupted, clearly with contrary points of view on whether a few months was a reasonable amount of time to correct what are alleged errors in the preparation of the census. There were different points of view, and members were expressing that quite loudly from both sides, to the extent where I was having trouble hearing the Minister. I then required members to be quiet, to be silent, other than the Minister in replying. That was understood by all members, up to a point where one very loud member, on a couple of occasions, and three other members made interjections absolutely contrary to what my instructions were. I'm at a loss what to do. Should I toss them all out? I mean, there might be a problem for a subsequent debate if I did. Or do we keep going on the basis that I did previously?
Maybe, seeing it's Wednesday, I'll be a little bit reasonable and revoke my decision, but I do want to say to members that when I require silence—but I will also say to the Minister, when he is answering under that sort of requirement, he does have an obligation to cut down the politics and just stick with the facts a bit more.