Parliament: Questions and Answers - Dec 6
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her answers to oral questions in the last two weeks in relation to Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still say, "There's no way that I can answer that question." regarding who made representations on Karel Sroubek's behalf; and, if so, has she asked who made those representations?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, when the Deputy Prime Minister was answering for me, the National Party then admitted in the House on multiple occasions who the leak was.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: I don't think I need it. I will ask Ms Bennett to repeat her question.
Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you. Does she still say that, "There's no way that I can answer that question." regarding who made representations on Karel Sroubek's behalf; and, if so, has she asked who made those representations?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As much as one wants to, with integrity and sincerity, stand in for another member of Parliament, or Prime Minister in this case, when that person, the substitute, is asked what was in the mind of the primary person—in this case, the Prime Minister—one just cannot possibly answer the question because I just don't know. That's what I said. It wasn't the Prime Minister that made that statement; it was me on her behalf.
SPEAKER: No, I think there is slight misunderstanding occurring here, and I think people have put two statements together: one made by the right honourable gentleman on behalf of the Prime Minister in regard to the identity of the leak; the other relating to an answer to a supplementary question yesterday, where the Prime Minister indicated that she was not aware or could not be aware, hadn't been made aware, or something similar, about who had made submissions. So the question is, in light of that: does she stand by it and has she asked the Minister or asked someone for a list of the submitters?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the answer is we don't know, other than of the ones that did go public, such as Mr Sweeney—and there may be others, but we're not aware of them.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is she concerned that there might be Cabinet Ministers who have links to people who have made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We're not in the business of engaging in the permission of this House to allow someone to enter a fishing competition in the hope that somehow they might catch something. Here is the reality: I made a very clear statement, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that there are hundreds of people who would have been associated for a number of reasons with Mr Sroubek. To incriminate them all on the basis of their innocent association is just so wrong.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has she asked whether her Ministers have links to any of the people who made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer to that question is, on behalf of the Prime Minister, there will be a number of members of Parliament, who, if they go through their recent decade-old associations, would quite possibility, because of their sporting engagement and interest, have been associated. But that in no way means that they are responsible for the criminality for which Mr Sroubek's in prison at the moment.
Hon Paula Bennett: When she said yesterday that an issue of concern around the estranged wife's safety had been raised with her, when was it raised with her?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, despite the police offering safe house protection, on more than one occasion, the issue of that matter of safety was raised most profoundly in this House in 56 public statements by the National Party and 23 oral questions by the National Party.
SPEAKER: Although it might be repetition from yesterday—I think the question was, in fact, answered yesterday by the Prime Minister. It was more "how" than "when", but "It was raised publicly by the media" was the statement that the Prime Minister made yesterday, I think.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Certainly, sir; yesterday the Prime Minister made an answer to a question in this House. She said, "When the issue was first raised with me, I told the Minister directly about that issue", and I'm asking when that was first raised with her.
SPEAKER: Yes, and I think we've struck one of those situations which occur where someone's been asked for an exact date without a primary question heading in that direction, so it does becomes very hard to answer if the Minister acting on behalf of the Prime Minister indicated that he's not fixed with that knowledge. On behalf of the Prime Minister, that would probably suffice.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, if the member's asking the question and if the answer is "recently"—but as to the exact time and date, the Prime Minister wishes to check her diary.
Hon Paula Bennett: When she said yesterday that an issue of concern around the estranged wife's safety had been raised with her, who raised it with her?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister—the National Party, in this House: 56 times in public statements outside the House and 23 times in oral questions inside the House. In short, you've got someone who, for political purposes and for venal political purposes, at that, is being used as a trump by the Opposition members. That's how this matter has got so much publicity. So if protection and secrecy and privacy are core to this issue, then the National Party has been a major offender.
Hon Paula Bennett: When she said yesterday that she told the Minister directly about the safety issue that was of concern—so she indicated it was her yesterday that actually told the Minister directly about the safety that was of concern—which Minister did she talk to?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister and answering for her, the reality is that the Prime Minister discussed this matter—as you would expect her to—with the Minister of Immigration and, no doubt, the Minister of Police. The problem was she received advice that though the offer of safe protection had been made by the police on numerous occasions—a practice that Mr Mitchell would be well aware of because of his past career—she did not, the person in question, avail herself of that offer.
Hon Paula Bennett: When she said yesterday that the Minister followed up this safety issue, what was that follow-up?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, and to the best of the Prime Minister's knowledge, the Minister of Police would have appraised her of the fact that the police, on three occasions, had tried to ensure that there was protection if that was a concern, and the woman in question said that she did not want protection; she just wanted to speak to a lawyer. So they couldn't get to even offer the protection that seems so much central to this case right now from the Opposition.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was the estranged wife under the protection of police when an immigration officer visited with the police?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It would be very axiomatic that if on three occasions the police had offered protection and she hadn't availed herself of it, then maybe when the police came with the immigration officer, she wasn't under protection. It sort of follows like night follows day.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still believe the Deputy Prime Minister and Iain Lees-Galloway are the victims in all of this, as she said last week?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, when one is seeking to arbitrate or decide on a process and critical information is denied to that referee, arbitrator, or in this case judge, or in this case Minister, then, yes, they do become a victim, because the system that we would have expected and had a right to expect was in place when we became the Government was a system that would work, not one that was shot full of holes and inadequacy.
• Question No. 2—Immigration
2. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by all his statements and actions in relation to the deportation liability of Karel Sroubek?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Immigration: Yes, based on the information and advice that was available at the time.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has any staff from his office had any communications—whether a phone call, text message, email, or face-to-face conversation—with staff from the Minister of Police's office, the Minister himself, or New Zealand Police employees regarding Karel Sroubek?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I can't answer that in any great detail. I imagine there would have been conversations, certainly in the last 24 hours.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has any staff from his office had any communications—whether a phone call, text message, email, or face-to-face conversation—with staff from the Minister of Police's office, the Minister himself, or New Zealand Police employees regarding the personal contact details of the estranged wife of Karel Sroubek?
SPEAKER: On behalf of the Minister of Immigration.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: On behalf of the Minister, I have been advised in preparation for this question that the address of Mr Sroubek's estranged wife was already known to immigration officials.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Would it be appropriate for his staff to have had conversations with any other ministerial offices or agencies about locating the estranged wife of Karel Sroubek?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As I indicated in my answer to the previous question, they already had that information.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he agree with the comments of the police Minister in respect of Mr Sroubek's estranged wife: "There are some people who just need to be kept safe, and there is no way that anyone apart from police should know where that is."?
SPEAKER: I'm going to give the member another chance to sheet it home to the responsibility of the Minister of Immigration. Currently, that question would be fine for the Minister of Police or the Prime Minister, but not this Minister.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Speaking to that point, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: No—I've offered the member a chance to re-do the question.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Among his actions, is there agreement with the Minister of Police on his comments: "There are some people who just need to be kept safe, and there is no way that anyone apart from police should know where that is."?
SPEAKER: Now, the member's going to have a third chance to get the question right. An agreement is not an action.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen any reports of the Minister of Police saying "There are some people who just need to be kept safe, but there is no way that anyone apart from police should know where that is.", and does he agree with that statement?
SPEAKER: Well, I'll let the Minister answer it. In my view it still didn't get there.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: On behalf of the Minister, yes he has seen those reports and I reiterate what I said in my answer to the last two questions: immigration already had that information.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Why did he think Immigration New Zealand officials requested two police detectives to accompany the immigration officials to the home of the estranged wife of Karel Sroubek?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: That's an operational matter for those immigration officials.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): An excellent question. Over the past few days, reports of real data have continued to highlight the solid fundamentals of the New Zealand economy. Statistics New Zealand yesterday released data on building work put in place over the September quarter, showing that construction activity had continued to rise on a nationwide basis. The big story was in Auckland residential construction. Westpac economists noted that Auckland residential building levels were up 13 percent from a year ago, and that they expect building activity to remain strong in Auckland for "some time yet". This is welcome news given the significant amounts of private and Government investment required over the next few years to turn around the shortage in Auckland caused by the national housing crisis.
Dr Duncan Webb: What reports has he seen on the impact on the economy of the strength of the New Zealand jobs market?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The ANZ Job Ads series released this week showed an annual rise in job ads of 6.4 percent in November, compared to 6 percent growth in October. Yesterday's release from ANZ was a real indicator of the growing economic confidence in the regions. Job ads in the Gisborne region are up 45 percent from a year ago; 39 percent in Taranaki; in Northland and Hawke's Bay 25 percent growth; and Southland and the West Coast 20 percent annual growth in job ads. That is serious momentum.
Dr Duncan Webb: What reports has he seen on how this economic data is being interpreted?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Kiwibank economists this morning said that the strength of the New Zealand labour market confirmed the strong economic growth we're recording, with the economy growing at trend and likely to grow above trend next year. These economists said New Zealand's economy was "in a bit of a sweet spot" and that "the fiscal position is strong and interest rates have fallen and will remain low". They added that wages are finally starting to lift and should pick up further over 2019-20. As always, we're keeping an eye on international developments and the risks that they pose to the New Zealand economy, but it is good to see further evidence of the serious momentum in the economy.
• Question No. 4—Finance
4. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions in relation to his role?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in so far as my powers as the Minister of Finance can extend—
Hon Shane Jones: Vast—vast!
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —including my powers of comprehension, Mr Jones.
Hon Amy Adams: Did he agree, as the Minister of Finance, to change the KiwiBuild policy so that buyers will now be immediately entitled to keep 70 percent of the profit they make from the sale of the house?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I was part of that decision-making process that contractually obliges KiwiBuild owners to retain ownership of their home for at least three years.
Hon Amy Adams: Did he consult with the Prime Minister before agreeing to allow KiwiBuild owners to sell the properties immediately and retain 70 percent of any capital gain?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As was stated yesterday by Minister Twyford, delegated powers for that decision were given to Minister Twyford, myself, and Minister Jones.
SPEAKER: No. Please answer the question.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: So consultation was not required.
SPEAKER: And it still doesn't answer the question. The question was not whether it was required but whether the Minister did consult.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, because it was not required.
Hon Amy Adams: Why did he, as Minister of Finance, decide that somebody who wins the right to buy a KiwiBuild house from the ballot should be allowed to sell that house for potentially a large profit the next day and still retain 70 percent of that profit?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The decision was made because, in the circumstances that we're facing at the moment, those people will have signed a covenant saying that they won't sell it. This was the practical way of dealing with those who would break that covenant. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, that can be revisited if that turns out to be a situation that occurs regularly.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If, as the Opposition has argued, these houses are overpriced, what's the likelihood of someone making a massive profit the next day?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That is indeed a very, very good point, that the opportunity here for a giant windfall gain appears to be relatively slim. I'd also say that it is quite interesting hearing what appears now to be a call from the Opposition for a 100 percent capital gains tax.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, if the KiwiBuild properties are properties that were being built anyway and have just been bought off the plan and they're sold at full market price so that no immediate capital gain is made, then exactly what are taxpayers getting for their $2 billion?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise of the first part of the member's question. In answer to the second part of the member's question, what New Zealand taxpayers are finally getting are affordable homes for first-home buyers, sadly missing for the last nine years.
Hon Amy Adams: Does the Minister still think he made the right decision to change the policy, when the Prime Minister said yesterday that the Government would be reviewing the policy if even a small number of owners took advantage of the change that he signed off?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As always, I respect and agree with the Prime Minister's views.
• Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development
SPEAKER: Question No. 6—Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki.
ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour): Kia ora e Te Mana Whakawā. He pātai ki te Minita o Housing and Urban Development: what interest, if any—
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Oh, I apologise. I have skipped Ms Collins' question.
Hon Judith Collins: How could you forget me, Mr Speaker?
SPEAKER: I think, like many others, I find it impossible.
5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What is the total estimated value of the 3,826 houses contracted for build under the KiwiBuild programme and is he confident in the ability to sell them under it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The total estimated value is $2 billion. The member should note that the 3,826 homes contracted does not include the KiwiBuild homes in Māngere, Mount Roskill, Unitec, or Porirua, and yes.
Hon Judith Collins: Why has he contracted the building of $2 billion worth of housing when he only has, according to his website, 293 pre-qualified applications?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because we are very confident that the houses that are being built will be sold.
Hon Judith Collins: Is media reporting correct that five of the 25 Onehunga KiwiBuild apartments remain unsold three months after ballots first opened?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: So at the development in Onehunga, there have been 16 unconditional sales, four conditional sales, and the homes at the Onehunga development are not due to be completed until August or September 2019.
SPEAKER: I think there's one extra number that was asked for that needs confirmation or denial.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Could you repeat the question?
Hon Judith Collins: With pleasure. Is media reporting correct that five of the 25 Onehunga KiwiBuild apartments remain unsold three months after ballots first opened?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, and approximately 10 months before the homes are due to even be completed.
Hon Judith Collins: Why did he underwrite the sale of 175 homes in Te Kauwhata—a town of fewer than 2,000 residents?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I don't know if the member's aware, but Te Kauwhata is in the northern Waikato. It's one of the parts of the country that's experiencing extremely strong growth pressures. The net population growth in that district over the last 15 years was 39 percent above the wider Auckland regional average. Te Kauwhata itself has experienced a surge in residential consents over the last two years. It is a major growth area, and, according to the modelling we've done, there is significant demand for housing.
Hon Judith Collins: So how many of the first 10 Te Kauwhata houses, where ballots opened in October, remain unsold?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There are currently no houses sold in Te Kauwhata, but the houses are not due to be completed until June 2020 at the latest.
• Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development
6. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What interest, if any, has there been in KiwiBuild's off-site manufacturing invitation to pitch?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The KiwiBuild unit has received 102 responses to its invitation to pitch (ITP) from off-site manufacturers and investors. KiwiBuild asked companies to propose ways that they could help KiwiBuild boost New Zealand's housing supply, raise productivity, and build affordable homes for first-home buyers.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: Why is the Government incorporating off-site manufacturing into KiwiBuild?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because KiwiBuild not only aims to build affordable homes for young families; it's also about transforming how we build homes to reduce construction costs, deliver consistent high quality design, increase capacity of the construction sector, and get homes completed faster. Housing New Zealand recently started to use off-site manufacturing as part of this Government's build programme. Their first cross-laminated timber development was constructed in 4½ months, compared to the 14 to 18 months it would normally take using conventional methods.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What reports has he seen about KiwiBuild's off-site manufacturing ITP?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We're very pleased to see the calibre of the companies and the entrepreneurs pitching to KiwiBuild—in particular, the New Zealand Herald's report that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund was interested in being part of off-site manufacturing in New Zealand, and Sir Stephen Tindall's comment that KiwiBuild could be, and I quote, "a mechanism for innovation that could smash the price of home building in New Zealand."
• Question No. 7—Foreign Affairs
8. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he stand by all his statements on the United Nations Global Compact for Migration?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Yes.
Hon Todd McClay: Has Cabinet decided to commit New Zealand to the United Nations global compact for migration, to be signed in Morocco next week?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer is no, at this time, because we are dealing with a compact process that was signed up to by the then National Party on 19 December 2016—committed New Zealand to signing the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and to have the process of time going forward to this time in 2018. This is the document the National Party signed up to in a resolution, and it was signed in New York unanimously—a process that Murray McCully, my predecessor but one, signed this country up to.
Hon Todd McClay: Is he aware that the agreement that has been negotiated by his Government makes no distinction between legal and illegal migration and calls for restrictions on freedom of speech and the media?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer is that I've studied very carefully those allegations that have been made by some countries around the world and some people in a worldwide campaign. Both those allegations are demonstrably false.
Hon Todd McClay: Does he agree with New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, who said this week that the problem with agreements like this is that non-binding sometimes becomes binding, and, if so, why is his Government still considering signing New Zealand up to this UN agreement?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer to that is that the wisdom of sound decision-making is that if there are eight facets to a decision, then each one has to be examined. The then answer by the Minister was to say that all eight aspects would be looked at, and they have been looked at, and what has been alarming, though, is that a process that the National Party was once for, they're now against.
Clayton Mitchell: Has the Minister seen any statements which say that the UN compact could restrict the ability of future Governments to set immigration and foreign policy?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer to that is yes, there are two statements in circulation. The National Party issued a statement which says—to quote them—"the Compact could restrict the ability of future governments to set immigration … policy", and then there is the text of the compact. I draw the House and the National Party to this text because it's apparent that they have not read this document.
Hon Todd McClay: Is he aware that Australia, the US, Israel, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia have all said that they will not sign the agreement, citing concerns over sovereignty, and, if so, why is the Government still considering giving the UN a say over New Zealand immigration policy?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It begs the question that if that was the concern of the member and the Opposition, why did they, in September of 2016, sign us up to it?
Hon Todd McClay: Will the Government release all advice it has received on the UN migration compact negotiated by his Government and allow Parliament to vote on this agreement before committing New Zealand to it next week?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I say that when the previous Government, in September 2016, at the General Assembly, signed up to a resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 19 September, unanimously, no such requirement for a reference to the House was then made. The second thing, of course, is that because it's not legally binding, why would such a democratic decision be made in this House, and if it was required, why didn't they insist upon it back then in 2016?
Hon Todd McClay: When the Minister says that it's non-binding, is he also aware that the Paris Agreement on climate change is non-binding—an agreement that is having an effect upon New Zealand legislation and decisions made by his Government?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality, of course, is that these are two utterly different subjects—utterly different subjects. One is one of the greatest issues of our age, recognised internationally, and it's an issue that we need to have, surely, if possible, bipartisan support from reasonable, sane, sound politicians. There used to be bipartisanship on foreign policy, and, indeed, on this policy as well. The then Opposition did not protest back in September 2016 about what National was doing, but now that the shoe's on the other foot, so to speak, they've done a double take and they want to get out.
• Question No. 8—Education
8. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What announcements has he made about providing classrooms for students in Marlborough?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yesterday, I announced that work will begin to co-locate Marlborough Girls' College and Marlborough Boys' College on the existing Marlborough Girls' College and Bohally Intermediate school sites, after many years of failing to secure a new site for the co-located colleges. Bohally Intermediate will be relocated and rebuilt on the existing Marlborough Boys' College site. Both of the secondary schools have facilities that are in very poor condition, and I'm pleased that the Government's been able to move this decision forward and provide certainty to the community, who have been waiting a very long time.
Jan Tinetti: What was the reason for the delay in securing a site to co-locate the two schools?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The announcement to co-locate the schools was made in 2015, and a budget of $63.5 million was set aside for that. By the time we came into Government, no site had been secured, and negotiations with possible sellers had stalled completely. I was then informed that the costings were too low and that it would cost over $100 million to build the new site. I therefore set a deadline for a new greenfield site to be secured and made it clear that if a new site had not been secured by that time, we would look to alternative options. We have now done so. The alternative option is co-location on one of the existing sites. That decision has now been made, and they can get on with it.
• Question No. 9—Defence
9. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister of Defence: What announcements has he made regarding the security implications of climate change?
Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): Thank you for the question. Look, earlier this year, the coalition Government released its Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018, which recognised the impact climate change will have on defence operations, particularly in the Pacific. Therefore, it stood to reason that we needed to look closer and understand the human security defence implications of climate change. Consequently, today, the Hon James Shaw and I released a document called the The Climate Crisis Defence Readiness and Responsibilities. It's available. This assessment explores the implications of climate change for the New Zealand Defence Force operations, and it identifies climate change as one of the most significant security threats of our time and one that is already having adverse impacts both at home and in New Zealand's neighbourhood.
Jenny Marcroft: What does climate change mean for defence?
Hon RON MARK: With changing weather patterns we're seeing an increasing frequency of more extreme and violent weather events at home and overseas, particularly in the Pacific. Our requirement to respond is only going to increase. The assessment released today also identifies that real security impacts may arise over the longer term, including vulnerable populations losing their economic livelihoods, increased food and water scarcity, malnutrition, increased droughts, increasing competition for resources and population displacement leading to land disputes, and changes in the Southern Ocean which will require us to adapt how we are able to operate in that theatre. The Ministry of Defence will need to equip and train and prepare so that it can respond adequately in times of crisis on a far more frequent basis.
Jenny Marcroft: Supplementary?
SPEAKER: Yes—on the basis that we don't have another thesis.
Jenny Marcroft: What are the next steps following the release of this report?
Hon RON MARK: Defence is working to have an implementation plan in place next year. The Defence Force will also start planning for increasingly concurrent operations in the South Pacific due to the impacts of climate change. Already the report is actively informing a review of the Defence Capability Plan, which I hope to release next year, and following the release of the capability plan, it will continue to influence the capability procurement decisions we take this term.
• Question No. 10—Minister of Health
10. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his actions and policies around meningococcal disease and the current meningococcal vaccination campaign?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and in particular the targeted vaccination campaign in Northland, which started yesterday with the vaccination of 1,091 people on the first day. I do note that there have been a total of seven meningococcal W cases in Northland this year. When the clinical test for an outbreak was reached and declared on 8 November, the Ministry, Pharmac, and the district health board (DHB) all moved quickly to a response.
Matt King: How will he further resource Northland DHB's vaccination campaign, following reports yesterday that parents were told not to turn up as the queues were too long?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I'm not clear that people were told not to turn up by authorities, but I am not surprised there was a big demand yesterday for the vaccination centres, and I'd expect similar today. It is understandable that parents want their children to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. The DHB has carefully planned this programme and has started in the biggest population centres first. It will reach smaller communities in the second and third week of the campaign. I'm advised Northland DHB is telling the community it has plenty of vaccine available for the target groups, and the risk of contracting meningococcal disease remains low.
Dr Shane Reti: Did Pharmac's immunisation subcommittee discuss a vaccination programme incorporating meningitis W in May this year?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: To the best of my knowledge, no, because no community outbreak from meningococcal disease had been triggered in May. I note further for the record that in June of this year there was not a single case in New Zealand of meningococcal W disease. The member has raised a lot of fear about two isolated cases in Northland in April this year that caused some concern and clinicians to communicate with each other, which is entirely appropriate. There has been a close watch on this because, although there have been only seven cases this year, in Northland, the potential consequences of a case are significant. That's why they did move quickly following 8 November, when the clinical test for an outbreak was triggered; people moved quickly to make sure the response was in place.
Dr Shane Reti: Which members of Pharmac's immunisation subcommittee, if any, have lobbied Pharmac for a meningitis W vaccination programme before the community outbreak was decided?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am not aware of that. If the member has information on a particular lobbying campaign for meningococcal W vaccine before an outbreak was declared, that's interesting. I'm willing to look into the matter for the member; he can be in touch. But what I would say is that there were conversations around the country. This is a serious disease when it strikes. It's, as I say, very rare. There were no cases in New Zealand at all in June this year, but when it does hit, it's a serious disease. And that's why clinicians were talking to each other when they saw even isolated cases earlier this year. And that's why, when it became apparent that there was something that met the community outbreak definition, a definition long relied upon by Governments of different stripes, when that was triggered—albeit a low bar—they moved swiftly, from 8 November onwards, to a response.
Dr Shane Reti: Is the Minister saying that the monthly surveillance data for April and May did not declare meningitis W cases?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: That's what I am saying—not an outbreak. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to be clear; I may have misheard the member's question. Could he repeat the question?
SPEAKER: We'll ask him to ask it again.
Dr Shane Reti: Is the Minister saying that the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Ltd's monthly surveillance data from April and May was not declaring meningitis W cases?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I did mishear the member, so I am glad we're asking the question again. There were cases in April and May, and a community outbreak was not triggered. There were two distinct individual cases in Northland, and that did not reach the clinical definition of an outbreak. I'll read it again for the House, just so that we can be clear. The definition of a community outbreak of meningococcal disease is three or more confirmed cases of the same strain within a three-month period that are not linked and are within a specific age group or community group and the rate of disease is at least 10 cases per 100,000 people. That clinical definition was not triggered until 8 November, whereupon a swift response ensued. That is the definition that's been relied upon by previous Governments, by previous Ministers of Health—National Ministers of Health as well. It is, I am convinced, the right threshold. When it was triggered, I am delighted that there was a swift response.
• Question No. 11—Disability Issues
11. GREG O'CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister for Disability Issues: What recent announcements has she made about making information more accessible?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Disability Issues): On Monday, as part of the international day for the rights of persons with disabilities, it was my privilege to be able to launch the Accessibility Guide, entitled Leading the way in accessible information. The Accessibility Guide gives the State sector guidance on how to increase accessibility to information through the use of inclusive language and design, and alternative formats such as New Zealand Sign Language, Easyread, and Braille. Government agencies that are signed up to the Government's accessibility charter will be able to use these guidelines to help them to make good on their commitments to accessibility.
Greg O'Connor: Why is accessibility important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Issues around accessibility affect us all. There are currently an estimated 1.1 million disabled people in New Zealand. Moreover, accessibility is not purely a disability issue. It also affects groups such as seniors, carers of young children, and those for whom English is a second language. Having limited opportunities to participate can lead to isolation, poor educational and employment outcomes, and preventable health issues. Accessibility is intimately linked to participation and well-being, and that's why this Government is taking the issue seriously.
Greg O'Connor: What other steps has she taken to improve accessibility in New Zealand?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: On Monday, Cabinet approved a work programme to explore how we can achieve full accessibility for all New Zealanders. The work programme will involve collaboration with a wide variety of stakeholders, including disability groups, businesses, and families. It will look at how to define full accessibility, the challenges and opportunities of different approaches, and whether legislation is needed for mandatory codes and standards for accessibility. This is a vital step in the right direction for all New Zealanders experiencing barriers to participation, and we are proud, as a Government, to be getting on and doing this important work.
• Question No. 12—Transport
12. Hon ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Associate Minister of Transport: How many children in the past year drowned as a result of not wearing lifejackets, and what actions will she take so that more children wear lifejackets this summer?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Transport): In answer to the first part of the question, Maritime New Zealand advises me that no children under the age of 18 drowned as a result of not wearing lifejackets in recreational boating incidents. Over the summer, Maritime New Zealand will spend $450,000 to fund safe boating education to over 5,000 children and provide 4,000 new lifejackets. I am pleased that Maritime New Zealand reports very high rates of children wearing lifejackets on small recreational boats.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: Will the Minister support my legislation to make lifejackets compulsory for children on vessels less than six metres? When Drowning Prevention Auckland have noted 105 drownings, with nine children who have drowned, and when the Coastguard and the sea scouts too, and those throughout the sector have indicated that there is a need for wearing lifejackets, will the Minister support my legislation to make lifejackets compulsory for children?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I believe that the report that the member is referring to does not establish that the drownings would be avoided by lifejackets. Of the drownings under the age of 15, over half of them were in home pools, and there's no data in the report that establishes that the drownings were on recreational vessels. In fact, the best data we have from Maritime New Zealand—and this is a very comprehensive table I'd be happy to table; it's a detailed table of recreational fatalities from 1 January 2016 to 18 September—shows that there have been zero fatalities for recreational boaters under the age of 18. Of the other fatalities for recreational boaters, all of them have been adults and a certain percentage of them could be avoided through wearing lifejackets. So it is unclear from the data that a single death would be prevented by the member's bill.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I move that the Lifejackets for Children and Young Persons Bill, a member's bill in my name, be set down as a members' order of the day—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member can't move a motion like that. He knows that. He's been around for a long time. Has the member finished his questions?
Hon Alfred Ngaro: Supplementary?
SPEAKER: I'm very tempted not to continue with the supplementaries. I know it's a very important issue, and I will allow it. But if members are deliberately disorderly in the way that that member was then, they are tempting me to use the powers given to me by the House not to continue supplementaries on an issue. Because this is an important issue and because the member is generally well behaved, I will let him continue.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: Sorry, Mr Speaker. My wording was incorrect. I do take a point of order. I seek leave of the House to correct and to—
SPEAKER: Well, I'm prepared to put the leave to the House. Is there any objection? Yes, there is. [Interruption] No, I had called Mr Ngaro for a supplementary question before he took his point of order.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: In light of the Minister turning down my legislation and my request, what is her plan to reduce the drownings in New Zealand for those children not wearing lifejackets, when at the AGM it was—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I'm going to get the member to start his question again in a way which is within the Standing Orders and does not start with something which, in my understanding of listening to the answer—because I did—included something which the Minister didn't say.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: If the House won't accept the legislation that I put in my member's bill, will the Minister then accept the request from those in the sector who have repeatedly endorsed and advocated for the mandatory wearing of lifejackets for all children under the age of 15 so that it is mandatory and clear right throughout the whole of New Zealand?
SPEAKER: OK. So it is a hypothetical question. The member can address it if she wants to.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I'll reiterate for the benefit of that member that no recreational boater under 18 has died in 2016, 2017, or 2018. In 2015, one child died from traumatic injuries from a collision between two craft, and one child on a stand-up paddleboard fell and was pulled under a yacht despite wearing a lifejacket. In 2013, one child and adult, when a kayak capsized, died, but the child was wearing an adult lifejacket. So if the member is serious about addressing preventable deaths, he might want to focus the legislation on the group that's actually most at risk, which is adult males over the age of 40.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question.
SPEAKER: No, before we do that, I just want to indicate to the Minister that she should refer to the member and not me.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just to get it clear, is it the fact that the Government is not proposing to legislate to make it compulsory for children to wear lifejackets in swimming pools, as the question suggested?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Minister can answer the first part of the question, which was really the only part—the only question that was there. The additional fact, the additional assertion, is not her responsibility.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Sorry, Mr Speaker. Could the member repeat the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just to make it clear, is the Government proposing to legislate for children to be required to wear lifejackets in swimming pools—yes or no?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: No, it is not.
Hon Alfred Ngaro: Will the Minister then commit here today in front of the House and in front of the New Zealand public at home to ask the Minister of Transport to raise an Order in Council in Cabinet to make wearing of lifejackets on boats compulsory for children across New Zealand, as has been advocated by a number in the sector, because of the fact that even one life of a child drowned is one life too many.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member finished his question in about two phrases.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I agree with the member that it's very important that we have safety, that we prevent deaths out on the water, and I note that if the National Party was really serious about doing this, then former Minister of Transport Simon Bridges or previous Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee could have accelerated this legislation.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Before you conclude, what was that last remark that brought my name into the debate?
SPEAKER: I know that focus had been lost somewhat by a number of members, but what the Associate Minister indicated was that if it was a matter of importance, then it could have been taken up and advanced by previous Ministers of Transport, including that member and one of his colleagues.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order.
SPEAKER: Well, it's the member's own point of order. It's probably a new one.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, no, it's not. It's the same one, because if you look at the Standing Orders, that is a clear inference, which sits outside of the Standing Orders for how questions should be answered. In any event, there is any number of things that the current Government perhaps should not be doing because the previous Government had previously done them. Where do we stop and start in all this stuff? That was a straight out, gratuitous, political flick and there should be some cost to the Green Party for it.
SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. That was, I think, a not outrageous answer to a question which in itself, if I'd been more vigilant and done what the member recommended that I do on Tuesday and be much tighter on questions and answers, I would have ruled out.