Parliament: Questions and Answers - Nov 29
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all of her Ministers?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she have full confidence in the Minister of Immigration's handling of every aspect of the Karel Sroubek case?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, Mr Lees-Galloway inherited a defective, flawed, inadequate, and insufficient system of scrutiny for such applications. Ultimately, he himself became a victim of that inadequate system, admits that openly, and is committed to fixing it, and we have confidence in him doing so.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was the original decision to cancel Mr Sroubek's deportation liability and grant him residency the right one to make?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: With the evidence that Mr Lees-Galloway had at the time, and in the absence of the critical information he needed to know and was never presented to him—that Mr Sroubek had gone back to the Czech Republic on more than one occasion—Mr Lees-Galloway can be forgiven for making that decision.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why didn't the Hon Iain Lees-Galloway ask officials about the travel that was so clearly set out in the report and whether or not that travel included a visit back to the Czech Republic?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It would be axiomatic that if there was a proper, complete system in place, the officials would have presented all that information to Mr Lees-Galloway. He admits, and we know, that this system which we inherited is flawed, and we are intending to fix it up. This is the same system that allowed this following group of people to come to this country and stay: an Afghan convicted of sex crimes on Kiwi children, a grandfather-killer, and a woman who killed her husband, just to name but a few under the previous administration.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with Winston Peters, who said, and I quote, "I have got a full paper in front of me that tells me the details, and I am confident the Minister has made the right decision."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, most definitely so, given that Mr Peters himself was a victim of not having the information that should've been provided to him, such as that Mr Sroubek had falsely put in a claim with respect to his life being endangered should he have to go back to the Czech Republic, and he'd already gone back to the Czech Republic.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe her Minister should have given any weight to Mr Sroubek's claim that the Czech Republic, a European Union member, would "kill him while making it look like an accident.", and if he did give it weight, what implications would that have on foreign affairs?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, first of all, Mr Sroubek did not narrow it down to just one agency that may be threatening his life. But the reality is that the critical piece of information that Mr Lees-Galloway needed to have to override his humanitarian concern for his fear of Mr Sroubek losing his life was that he had gone back, contrary to his application, to the Czech Republic. That's what Mr Lees-Galloway—indeed, the Government—needed to know, and we were not afforded that information.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did the Minister of Immigration, the Prime Minister herself, and also her Deputy Prime Minister, having read the file, think it was justified to cancel the deportation liability on the information they had in front of them, which said that he was a fraudulent, lying, criminal drug dealer currently in jail?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: There was information that was provided by his wife, for example, who I understand is the National Party's informant on this matter. [Interruption] Don't deny it—that's a fact. His wife was backing him to the hilt. She was then but isn't now, but the one piece—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What's the problem with that?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, the problem with that is that the member's informant has changed her tune now. She asserted one thing when the process was in place—again, falsely—and said something else today. What's wrong with that is we were entitled to know that the very grounds on which a humanitarian decision was going to be made were, indeed, not extant. That's the fact of the matter. We didn't know that—and it's not in the file, by the way.
Hon Paula Bennett: What does she say to the over 600 families who have been denied residence in New Zealand in the past year in favour of giving a fraudulent, lying, drug-dealing criminal residency?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is that to make that statement is to pursue the most cheap line in politics, horrifying as it is—to follow cheap, nasty politics. These people have not been chosen as against Mr Sroubek's case; they're all examined independently.
Hon Paula Bennett: Based on the line that the Prime Minister is taking today of the concerns around Karel Sroubek's safety if he had gone back to the Czech Republic, were they putting the safety of him ahead of the public safety of New Zealanders?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, at the point in time, a whole lot of evidence existed that he was not a danger to New Zealand society—quite the contrary. But the real decision that the Minister had to make was going to be dependent upon whether or not his life was, in fact, endangered should he go back to the Czech Republic. Now, here comes the rub: he should never have made it to New Zealand in the first place, because he lied on his original application to get access to New Zealand, way back in 2003.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Yeah, but Labour gave him residency—Labour gave him residency.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is the Prime Minister claiming that someone that has imported 5 kilograms of Ecstasy into New Zealand, pleaded not guilty, then appealed that decision, and was denied parole, is not a danger to the safety of New Zealanders?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, that member's going to have to understand a bit more about the basis of the law in this country, because he appealed successfully—remember? He was not convicted—as that member said—on two occasions.
Hon Paula Bennett: Could she have saved the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of dollars, maintained actual confidence in the immigration system, and not put New Zealanders at risk by simply ensuring her Minister of Immigration made the right decision in the first place?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The National Party and the member can make all sorts of claims, but the reality is that over a hundred people came in under the defunct, deficient, flawed system that the National Party, for nine years, left to my colleague, and he is setting out—having made only one mistake in a year—to fix it up.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The Reserve Bank's financial stability report released this week says that the country's financial system, which is deeply integrated into the New Zealand economy, is sound and that the risks to it have abated a little. Talking more broadly about New Zealand's economic structure, Standard & Poor's, in a report this week, said that the economic structure of New Zealand benefits from being an open, prosperous, flexible, and resilient economy. Based on this, Standard & Poor's is expecting economic growth to be "robust", at 2.8 percent a year—
Hon Dr David Clark: Oh, serious momentum.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —between 2018 and 2020, which is in the range of other forecasts and—yes, Dr Clark—represents serious momentum, as the Leader of the Opposition has said. These reports provide further confirmation that this coalition Government's plan to build a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy is working.
Kiritapu Allan: Why is a resilient economy important for the Government's economic strategy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It's important because resilience and strong underlying fundamentals are essential to improving the well-being of New Zealanders and their families. If we continued to base our economic growth on selling houses to one another and on population growth, we will end up—as we have—with infrastructure deficits, services struggling to keep up, and rising inequality. We need to change the quality of economic growth so that it is productive, providing more higher-wage jobs; sustainable, and not running down our natural resources; and inclusive, providing opportunities for everyone. We need to transition the economy to make sure that every New Zealander has the possibility to succeed.
Kiritapu Allan: What is the next step in the Government's plan for economic transformation?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In our next month's Budget Policy Statement, we'll guide the way to the 2019 Wellbeing Budget. It will show how the Government will produce Budgets that include a wider range of factors of success—not just our fiscal success but also how we're ensuring that our people, our environment, and our communities are strengthened. Additionally, while continuing to meet our Budget responsibility rules, the 2019 Wellbeing Budget will deliver policies to support continued productive, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth. Economic growth is not an end in itself, but an important means by which we improve the living standards and well-being of all New Zealanders.
• Question No. 3—Immigration
3. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by all his statements and actions in respect of the deportation liability of Mr Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, based on the information and advice available to me at the time.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: When he said today "We are not a country that sends people to their death.", why was Karel Sroubek's fears that Czech authorities would "kill him and make it look like an accident"—a key factor in his initial decision to cancel deportation, but not a factor in his new decision to order deportation?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because in the second—when I considered the matter for a second time, I had information that Mr Sroubek had been back to the Czech Republic. That significantly undermined his claims.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is he, therefore, telling the House that he made his original decision with the belief that Mr Sroubek's life would be in jeopardy if he returned?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I assessed the claims made by Mr Sroubek, and I ultimately determined—in the context of a judge previously having determined that returning him to the Czech Republic would pose a significant threat to his personal safety—that there was a risk that I had to consider.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: When he read in September—[Interruption]
Hon Michael Woodhouse: When he read in September that Mr Sroubek had been convicted and sentenced for grievously injuring two police officers, did it not cross his mind that Sroubek's stated fear of Czech police had more to do with his own actions than those of police and that he simply didn't want to be sent home to serve a jail term?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I certainly considered it.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: If, as he states, "some of that information was not available to me when I made the original decision that included new information", how does he reconcile that statement with Deputy Chief Executive of Immigration New Zealand Greg Patchell, who said this morning that this new information "was in the original file"?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No, there was—Mr Patchell and I are both being very clear on this: that there was information regarding that conviction in the original file but that in the second file there was considerably more information that Immigration New Zealand had secured from Interpol.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Which of the following of his statements is true: the statement to Radio New Zealand, "I wasn't totally convinced that returning to the Czech Republic [was] a risk to [public] safety.", or his comments to Newstalk ZB "We're a country that believes that people shouldn't be sent to a situation where their personal safety is at risk."?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Both of them.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why does he think the safety of a Czech national is more important than the public safety of New Zealanders?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I don't. And as I've said a number of times, in weighing up the safety of the New Zealand public, I took into consideration the official documents that stated (1) that he posed a very low risk of reoffending, (2) that he had no violent history in New Zealand, and (3) that he had no gang associations.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: If grievously injuring three police officers and a taxi driver, disorderly conduct, damaging property, false declarations, identity theft, passport fraud, and drug smuggling are not sufficient grounds for deportation, what on earth is?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Depends on the circumstances of each case.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why doesn't the Minister just admit what the whole country knew a month ago—that his judgment falls well below that required of a Minister—and resign?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because I disagree with the member's assessment.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does he agree with the Prime Minister's answer in question No. 1 that he actually did make a mistake in his original ruling?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I certainly believe that had I had the information that I had in making the second ruling, I would've reached a different decision the first time around.
• Question No. 4—Social Development
4. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What recognition has the Ministry of Social Development recently received for its communication with clients?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Better Letters project team won this year's award for Plain English Champion in the Best Plain English Sentence Transformation at the Plain English Awards. Winning these awards reflects the hard work of the Better Letters team, who have navigated a complex range of technology, systems, complexity, policy, and legal considerations to create letters that are more accessible and empathetic for MSD clients, and shows this Government's commitment to improving the experience of clients who interact with Work and Income.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Why is the Better Letters project important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Clients and staff at MSD said that previous MSD letters had been difficult to understand and the tone wasn't reflective of how staff wanted to engage with clients. As part of improving culture at Work and Income, an important starting point was making sure that communication is clear and accessible. Each letter is also an opportunity to show that we care about our clients. Making our letters clearer and more compassionate reflects the Ministry of Social Development's commitment to mana manaaki, a positive experience every time, reflecting that MSD will be warm, welcoming, fair, and compassionate to all New Zealanders.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What are the next steps for the Better Letters project?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The Better Letters team has also been working on improving and simplifying the wording on main benefit application obligations forms. These will be rolled out in service centres from 10 December onwards. These changes will make it easier for our clients to understand how we will work together, what they need to do to ensure we are supporting them in the right way, and what is required of them while they are receiving financial assistance. Once these new forms are rolled out, we will continue to evaluate and refine them based on client feedback to ensure they are concise, clear, and accessible.
SPEAKER: I'm sure there'll be some staff that can be seconded to the Minister's office to help draft answers to questions.
• Question No. 5—Finance
5. 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, which is why we cancelled the previous Government's tax cuts, which would have disproportionately benefited the wealthiest New Zealanders and instead brought in a Families Package, which is boosting the incomes of hundreds of thousands of middle and low-income families.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, speaking of low-income families, is he aware that—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Now, the member will start her question with a question word rather than a statement.
Hon Amy Adams: Certainly, Mr Speaker. Is he aware that if the $325 million in extra tax the Government is set to collect from landlords over the next three years is passed on to tenants, it would mean an extra $500 in rent for the average renting household?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don't have those figures in front of me. What I do know is that what the member has heard several times this week from a number of Ministers—that the biggest determinant in rents and rents going up, which they do most years in New Zealand—is the supply of rental housing, which that Government failed to do anything to contribute to.
Hon Amy Adams: Has he seen the Stuff story today which quotes property manager Matthew McMillan confirming that rents are already going up to cover the Government's decision to ban letting fees and saying that the idea that this ban won't result in higher rents "just doesn't hold water."; and, if so, does he stand by his answer yesterday that he's not convinced that imposing more costs on landlords will see rents rise?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I haven't seen that Stuff story, but I have seen another Stuff story from this week describing that member's tax policy as meaningless, unworkable, or irresponsible.
Hon Amy Adams: Very childish. How can he justify to New Zealand families, who now face paying hundreds of dollars a year more on petrol and rents thanks to this Government, that the Government has just bought and then mulched $160,000 worth of seedlings?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I know that those members of the public see from this Government is a Government that's committed to making sure that we have a fair and balanced tax system, one where people pay their fair share. That's why we set up the Tax Working Group and we await its outcomes.
Hon Amy Adams: How can he justify to New Zealand families who pay those taxes and who face higher costs of living because of the taxes imposed by this Government that the Government has spent $107,000 of taxpayer money to pay out the proposed Chief Technology Officer for a job that this Government designed, advertised, interviewed for, and then abandoned?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What I know is that on this side of the House we take seriously our responsibility to deliver for all New Zealanders. Each Government will have to justify the decisions it makes just like the previous Government might like to justify the $11 million it spent on a sheep farm in the Saudi desert.
Hon Amy Adams: How much taxpayers' money has the Government spent on having to review Iain Lees-Galloway's decision to grant residency to Karel Sroubek?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I'm not aware of any cost beyond baselines regarding that matter.
• Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is he confident that KiwiBuild will meet its targets?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The KiwiBuild unit is working incredibly hard to build homes. We've had to start from scratch and build development capacity within the Government to, in turn, build homes. So far, we've contracted more than 3,800 KiwiBuild homes and announced nearly 10,000 KiwiBuild homes in our large-scale developments including at Unitec, Māngere, Porirua, and Mount Roskill. There is still more to do but I'm hopeful we will meet our targets.
Andrew Bayly: Has the Minister seen estimates utilised by the Reserve Bank for the November 2018 Monetary Policy Statement that assumed KiwiBuild will deliver only 7,000 to 14,000 additional homes by July 2022, between a quarter and a half of the number of houses he is targeting?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I don't accept those estimates.
Hon Judith Collins: Is he aware that the Reserve Bank November forecast remains consistent with the forecast from Treasury that he criticised, in May this year, as being done "by kids in Treasury completely disconnected from reality"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I'm far more interested in how many young Kiwi families we get into homes rather than the level of residential investment that is modelled by those agencies.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he stand by his statement, in May this year, that "I agree with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance that Treasury's forecast is wrong.", and does he now also view the Reserve Bank numbers as wrong?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's always wise to agree with both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he still believe that Treasury "is disconnected from reality" when its views on KiwiBuild targets have now been echoed by the Reserve Bank?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I sometimes find myself agreeing with Treasury, but much of the time I don't.
Hon Judith Collins: When he confirmed his KiwiBuild targets, did he consider how he would increase the capacity in the construction industry rather than simply displacing the private sector, as the Reserve Bank believes he has done?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we've always acknowledged the scale of the challenges that we inherited. We are 71,000 homes short. We've inherited a building and construction industry that is locked in low productivity and already at capacity. There's a shortage of skilled tradespeople because of a failure to invest in our workforce. We have a planning system that restricts development instead of encouraging it, and a broken system for financing infrastructure. In order to deliver our KiwiBuild targets, we are tackling all of those obstacles that we inherited.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I note that that was quite a long answer, but my question was "When the Minister confirmed the KiwiBuild targets, did he consider that he would need to increase the capacity in the building industry?" I don't believe he's addressed that.
SPEAKER: And the member, I think, also talked about displacement, didn't she? And he certainly addressed that part of the question, and that's all he has to do.
• Question No. 7—Health
7. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Health: When will the Government formally respond to the report of the mental health and addiction inquiry?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yesterday, I received the report of the inquiry into mental health and addition. The report is 200 pages long and contains 40 recommendations. It's a substantial and considered piece of work, and I want to thank inquiry chair Paterson and the panel for their hard work and for honouring the voices of all those who made submissions to the inquiry. It will take some time to fully digest the report. The Government intends to formally respond to the inquiry report in March next year.
Dr Liz Craig: What advice will he take when considering the response to the inquiry report?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have no doubt there will be plenty of advice for the Government, both official and unofficial. The Government is committed to working with people with lived experience. Their voices are critical as we respond to the inquiry. Obviously, official advice from the Ministry of Health will also be key, and I expect officials to talk with the health sector and the community. I am aware of some disquiet around the make-up of a previously established mental health and addiction health sector leadership group. I am advised that the group has recognised that it needs a more diverse membership and is seeking more members with lived experience. And, finally, I would add that it will be the Government that responds to this inquiry, not the ministry.
Dr Liz Craig: When will the report be release?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I appreciate there is considerable public interest in this report, which will shape our approach to mental health and addiction for years to come. It is best practice to have an inquiry report reviewed for legal, technical, and privacy considerations before it is released. That is standard practice for all inquiries. I am advised that that work is progressing well, and I intend to release the report as soon as I am able to.
• Question No. 8—Health
8. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his actions and policies around meningococcal disease and the meningitis outbreak in Northland?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and the good news is that I have had confirmation that the first 10,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday already.
Matt King: Have at least two Northland children died of meningococcal W between May this year and his announcement of a vaccine programme this week?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: People have died of meningococcal disease across New Zealand, sadly. That happens. When an outbreak is triggered, it is imperative that we move swiftly to respond. An outbreak was declared on 8 November, and we have moved very swiftly.
Dr Shane Reti: Did the Ministry know there was a meningococcal disease outbreak as far back as May this year?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There was not.
Dr Shane Reti: Why, then, does the ministry's own immunisation update from May this year have a whole section titled "Outbreaks—Meningococcal Disease"?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Look, if that language has been used in a casual form, then that may be so. I would like the member to understand that I am briefed frequently by the ministry on cases of meningococcal disease—it's something we take very seriously. For the member's benefit, I will demonstrate with this chart. Meningococcal disease notifications are monitored closely. If you look in 1989, there was a significant rise in cases through the 1990s. It came down in the early 2000s dramatically. Meningococcal disease remained flat in recent years. There is a slight rise in meningococcal disease recently, and we are monitoring that very closely because we do not want to see the spike that we saw through the 90s. We are a proactive Government that will make sure that we respond as soon as an outbreak is declared, as it was on 8 November. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Before the member calls out again, I have had in recent days a number of complaints from members of the public about not being able to hear answers to questions as a result of the noise in the Chamber. This is a very important area. It is a matter of life and death, and I think it ill behoves the House to shout the Minister down when he is replying.
Dr Shane Reti: If the ministry's own immunisation update is describing a meningococcal outbreak as far back as May this year, will he now submit all his actions on this matter for further scrutiny?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There will be ongoing scrutiny of the Minister of Health—that's the job of this House—and my Cabinet colleagues hold me to account, too. I'm happy to be held to account, and I'm delighted—because this is a very serious matter—that the Ministry of Health and Pharmac moved very quickly to secure a vaccine to address an outbreak after it was declared on 8 November. I would warn the member, too, to be very careful about fearmongering. He is a clinician; he knows better than that.
• Question No. 9—Police
9. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes.
Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his statement that "men going through a sort of mid-life crisis" should possibly pass "a certain sort of test to legally ride powerful motorcycles"; and, if so, what steps will he be taking to take this idea forward?
Hon STUART NASH: I was commenting on the fact that in 1986, ninety people under the age of 24 died in motorcycle accidents and about six over the age of 40 did, whereas in 2016, six people under the age of 24 died in motorcycle accidents and about 38 over the age of 50 did. This was actually backed up by a number of riders who said "Yeah, this is what's happening. A whole lot of old guys are riding motorbikes and they don't know how to control them."
SPEAKER: Order! As long as the member's not suggesting someone over 50 is old.
Chris Bishop: Why did he say in October that his promise of 1,800 additional new police was on track when only 329 new police were added between 1 November 2017 and 1 November 2018?
Hon STUART NASH: That member uses statistics like a drunk man uses a lamp post: for support and not illumination.
Chris Bishop: No answer; just abuse. Why did he say that he would count the extra 1,800 new police from the date the Labour-led Government took office and then try and claim last week that he would actually count them from June 2017, during the former Government's time in office?
Hon STUART NASH: I have always been very clear about this. The 1,800 new officers promised by the Labour - New Zealand First Government—and I thank New Zealand First for helping us to get this across the line—was always about taking the national 880 over four years, being a hell of a lot more aspirational, adding 920 and going to 1,800. Of those we've graduated, in that cohort they have all graduated since we've been in Government—and I've been to every single graduation except one—but the funding for that started in the July 2017 period. I've always been very clear about that.
Ginny Andersen: Does the Minister stand by his statements that the standard of police recruits will remain high under this Government?
Hon STUART NASH: Yes, there is a significant drive to get quality and diverse men and women into the New Zealand police service. For example, the latest police recruit video has reached in excess of 4.3 million people. Of the applicants received since this video screened, 62 percent have either been female, Māori, Asian, or Pasifika, and overall, we have had 2,770 people start the application process to become a police officer in the New Zealand police service.
Chris Bishop: Why did he recently claim that the $300 million appropriated to Vote Police in the 2018 Budget provided for 1,800 extra front-line police, when the official police advice to him is that $515 million over four years is required to achieve that—i.e., a gap of $250 million?
Hon STUART NASH: We are on course to deliver 1,800 more police over three years. And the thing I don't quite get is, of the recruits that we have already put out there, 122 have gone into the Wellington region alone. I would have thought that member would be backing the New Zealand police, like we do on this side of the House.
• Question No. 10—Police
10. GREG O'CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister of Police: What support is the Government providing to help the police improve their digital connections with the public?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Off the back of the single biggest investment in our police service through Budget 2018, this week I was pleased to open the new police digital services and communication centre in Kāpiti. The specialist service made possible by this new facility signals a transformation in the way police connect with the public. For example, the centre will receive the majority of the over one million non-urgent calls made to police stations around the country. It will employ 200 people, once the training process is complete. I would like to acknowledge the work of the local MP, the Hon Kris Faafoi, and the local Porirua and Kāpiti councils for their commitment to helping us build safer and more connected communities.
Greg O'Connor: What other capital investment projects has the Government funded to support safer and more connected communities?
Hon STUART NASH: Under the previous Government, 150 front counters were closed due to health and safety concerns, the staff, or because of difficulties with public access. I am pleased to report that 82 of those sites, including Kawakawa in the far north and Mosgiel in the deep South, have now been refurbished, upgraded, and reopened. Work is under way for the remaining 68 sites, including the Lower Hutt station and two sites in Tauranga to be completed by early 2019.
Greg O'Connor: How is this improved police presence reflected in our provinces and regions and in smaller centres?
Hon STUART NASH: This Government is a champion of the regions in so many ways. For example, members are already aware that Northland will see a 25 percent increase in the number of constables we allocate out of the extra 1,800 police. In that district alone, new capital investment has allowed for upgrades to police sites in Dargaville, Kawakawa, Kaikohe, Kamo, Paihia, and Manganui. Work is also under way on other Northland sites in Kaitāia, Ruakākā, Kerikeri, Russell, and Onerahi. This Government is committed to investing in healthier, safer, and more connected communities.
SPEAKER: Even with a Minister who defines himself as elderly, apparently.
• Question No. 11—Social Development
11. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: Has she been advised of the date that the member for Dunedin South or her office delivered Labour Party pamphlets to Ministry of Social Development sites in Dunedin South and Mosgiel; if so, what is that date?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): I have been advised that staff from the office of the local member of Parliament for Dunedin South left 20 copies of a parliamentary-crested booklet titled A Guide to Services in our Community, which contained the Labour Party logo, to the Dunedin South Work and Income site around a month ago for their approval to be put on display. Due to a miscommunication in the South Dunedin Work and Income office, these booklets were put on display, not by the MP for Dunedin South staff, and transported to the Mosgiel site without the approval of the service centre manager. On 20 November, the matter was raised with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), and the following day, when the southern regional staff were advised, they checked their offices and immediately removed the materials.
Hon Louise Upston: How long were the pamphlets left in the offices before workers at the site were made available and removed them?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: As mentioned in the response to the primary question, the materials were left at the Work and Income office around a month ago, and on 20 November, when MSD were informed, they acted quickly, and on 21 November they were removed.
Hon Louise Upston: In her answer to the primary question, is the Minister now saying that it was entirely appropriate, as long as permission was granted by MSD, to have Labour Party - branded material in a Work and Income site?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: No.
Hon Louise Upston: Has she advised the Hon Clare Curran and other Labour MPs about the inappropriateness of their actions; if not, why not?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: When the question and the issue came to my attention, what I did was try to ascertain how the situation came about. It is great we're having this conversation in the House. Everyone now knows that even if it is parliamentary-crested information, if it has a political logo on it, it is not appropriate to leave it in a Government agency.
Hon Louise Upston: Does she expect better from a former Minister of the Crown?
SPEAKER: Order! No responsibility.
Hon Louise Upston: I seek leave to table a document in the House. It is entitled A Guide to Services in your Community, which is clearly printed with a Labour Party—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! [Interruption] Order! The member has described it. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There is none; it may be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Louise Upston: I seek leave to table a document which has not yet been published. It is a response to a written question from the Minister of State Services that says material that promotes a political party—
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Louise Upston: —must not be displayed.
SPEAKER: Order! When I call order, the member stops. The member seeks to table to table a response to a written question from the Minister of State Services, not yet published. Is there any objection?
SPEAKER: There appears to be none.
Hon Carmel Sepuloni: Objection—it hasn't been published. It hasn't been published, so I object to—
SPEAKER: Well, no, the House can grant leave.
Hon Dr David Clark: We objected.
SPEAKER: Sorry? There is objection—I apologise. Please do it more quickly in future.
• Question No. 8 to Minister
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Mr Speaker, I seek your guidance. I want to seek leave to table a document that is available on the internet. It relates to the question around the meningococcal outbreak that we were discussing before. The reason I seek your guidance about this is because you yourself indicated in a ruling during the question that this is a very serious, life-or-death matter. The May Ministry of Health immunisation update that Mr Reti used as one part of his question—well, frankly, he's misrepresented it, and I seek leave to table it in the House now.
SPEAKER: Well, that's a very serious allegation. We have an experienced member in Dr Reti, someone who is right across the area, and to suggest—I know the member didn't quite suggest that he deliberately misrepresented something, but to suggest that he—oh, I can't get a word to get the proper description—is something which I am concerned about. Having said that, because of the serious nature of this, I am prepared to put the leave, which of course any member can reject. Leave is sought for the tabling of the document, which is, I presume, a printout from a website. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 12—Internal Affairs
12. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: What recent announcements has she made about community benefit from the America's Cup?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): Thank you. A special time-limited lottery fund has been created to help maximise the benefit across New Zealand from hosting the 2021 America's Cup. Twenty million dollars of funding generated from lotteries has been allocated for community groups across New Zealand. So while the America's Cup will be held in Auckland, we want to ensure that this fund can spread the gains to communities across the whole of the country.
Mark Patterson: What can the funds be used for?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: The fund is for capital projects and items that relate to the hosting of the 2021 America's Cup or that connect New Zealanders to the America's Cup, in particular for projects that, one, will benefit the community in the lead-up to, during, and after the 2021 event; show they are the right size and scale for their community; provide opportunities for a diverse group of people to actively participate, interact, or connect; and have community support. For example, a yacht club might apply for a grant for an accessible yacht to teach sailing in their community to those who might otherwise not have this opportunity, due to, perhaps—or they could be members of a disability community for example. And that has lots of positive benefits that last a lot longer after the America's Cup.
Mark Patterson: Why are you making this announcement now?
SPEAKER: No—why is the Minister making the announcement now. I could have made it earlier, but the Minister could make it now.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I want to publicise the fund so that community groups can apply. The committee members have just been appointed and will meet for the first time in December. The fund will be open until the end of 2020, so there's plenty of time for community groups to apply for this funding, but it is time limited, so I want to make sure that they know it's available to them.