Parliament: Questions and Answers - Dec 18
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions in relation to Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, and season's greetings to the member.
Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you. Will she release the precise content of the text message she received from Richie Hardcore about Karel Sroubek; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've already indicated in public interviews, I am concerned around precedent setting. Obviously, I receive hundreds of messages from members of the public on issues where I have no clear involvement or decision-making role. I have, however, given an indication of the content of that text. I've acknowledged that Mr Hardcore acknowledged to me that he knew Mr Sroubek and, of course, that he agreed and commended the decision because he knew Mr Sroubek. I've also acknowledged that I did not respond and that I received the message after the decision was made and after it was in the public domain.
Hon Simon Bridges: What exactly did the text message say?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I've said, I wish to seek some advice from the Ombudsman on the handling of information that I receive from members of the public, because I receive hundreds of messages. Indeed, on this case, I have received over a hundred messages—obviously, some not so favourable. I am seeking some guidance from the Ombudsman as to how I handle each of those individual pieces of correspondence.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was it a thank-you text?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When we went down and advised ourselves that I had received that message—openly—I acknowledged that it commended the Government on its decision.
Hon Simon Bridges: How many text messages has she received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I just simply cannot answer that. I have said from the outset that I've known Mr Hardcore for a number of years. My recollection is primarily that it was through his role with Community Alcohol & Drug Services as an anti - drug and alcohol campaigner based in Auckland, and subsequently his involvement as an anti - violence and sexual violence campaigner. My understanding is that he'll know a number of members on that side of the House, as he does in Parliament generally.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is this the only text message she's received from Richie Hardcore while Prime Minister: one solitary text message about Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I've already acknowledged that I know Mr Hardcore through a range of his work and functions and roles. I've already acknowledged that publicly. This is the only text I received on the matter of Mr Sroubek. It's the only communication I had with him on Mr Sroubek. I've had no conversations with Mr Hardcore on this case, nor would it have been appropriate. Again, as I've said time and time again in this House, I had no involvement in this case, no knowledge of it until it was in the public domain, and the member very well knows that the Minister himself made the decision one afternoon, with officials in the room, after no conversations with any other members of Parliament. It's quite simple, Simon.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn't she directly answer—
SPEAKER: No, I'm sorry; I am going to interrupt. It's not an appropriate term to use for the Leader of the Opposition. The Prime Minister will withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why didn't she directly answer Susie Ferguson's question today on Richie Hardcore on Morning Report: "How would you characterise him? Is he a friend or a family friend?"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I would not characterise him as a family friend. He's someone I've known for a number of years, and I've been very open about that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know why he has repeatedly, in the recent past, described her as someone he's lucky enough to call a friend?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have no qualms about him doing so. What is at question and in play here is whether or not I had any engagement with Mr Hardcore over this case, and as I've repeatedly pointed out, the answer is no. In fact, when his name was first raised in Parliament, it was myself and my office that proactively acknowledged that I had received a message from him.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Iain Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to decide the Sroubek matter?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, and this raises the contradiction in the member's line of questioning, he has consistently criticised the Minister for making the decision the same day he was informed of the case but, at the same time, has tried to imply there was inappropriate involvement from other members and Ministers. The fact is the Minister has always acknowledged he made the decision on the day it was given to him, the first time he was told of the case, when he was in a closed room with officials.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Sroubek is a gang-affiliated, convicted drug dealer?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'm sorry, Mr Speaker; I didn't hear the question. Can you please repeat it?
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Karel Sroubek is a gang-affiliated, convicted drug dealer?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I accept that the Minister of Immigration has now made a decision that would lead to the deportation of that individual.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Richie Hardcore made representations for Sroubek that are on the deportation file the Minister considered?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I can only rely on what the Minister of Immigration has said in this House because I am not aware and do not know who made representations, but my understanding is that last week in the House, the Minister of Immigration ruled out him being involved or making representations on this deportation order.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that she knows that same Richie Hardcore well?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I've acknowledged that in the House; I've made no secret of that. I have known Mr Hardcore for a number of years in a number of guises.
• Question No. 2—Regional Economic Development
2. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent Provincial Growth Fund announcements has he made?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Upon arriving at Ōpōtiki, a neglected area, we announced several important grants—the first being the allocation of money to develop water storage for 640 hectares of land in Raukōkore, a sum of over $700,000; a key feature which will enable the Government to create better land use outcomes for Māori landowners and a practical demonstration of what it might mean to find water-based solutions for Māori landowners. The most important thing was that we are continuing to shrink the $145 million cost of the Ōpōtiki harbour and wharf suggestion by allocating, on top of the $4.5 million, approximately, spent by the last regime, an additional $750,000 so that Ōpōtiki can achieve some happiness with being endowed with that infrastructure. And we are also supporting aquaculture.
Jenny Marcroft: How will these projects benefit the communities in the Eastern Bay of Plenty?
Hon SHANE JONES: The Eastern Bay of Plenty has been inhibited over a long period of time because of poor attention from successive Governments. With the allocation subject to a suitable feasibility study of up to $19 million to expedite the growth of aquaculture, the development of value-added products, this will give genuine hope, jobs, and economic development to a township where successive parliamentarians have arrived, made promises, but never delivered.
Kiritapu Allan: How have the latest Provincial Growth Fund announcements being received?
Hon SHANE JONES: The Māori language that was used to receive the first citizen of the provinces—the term "Haere mai, haere mai, haere mai" was exchanged for "Ho, ho, ho" as a demonstration that at long last those communities are seeing a Government that is willing to allocate genuine capital to grow jobs and to move on from what has been a retarded status, because the last regime talked a lot and did zero.
Jenny Marcroft: Why is digital connectivity so important for the regions?
Hon SHANE JONES: A sum of $40 million has been made available for various regions. Anyone who has travelled through Taika Waititi's homeland would know that although it has created a great deal of talented individuals, it's hard for them to communicate with each other when cellphones don't work.
David Seymour: Before they received $1 million from the Provincial Growth Fund, was the Minister satisfied that the Whakatōhea trust had been properly exonerated from the investigation ordered just a few months ago by the Minister for Māori Development?
Hon SHANE JONES: Heron QC undertook an investigation. He found no case of egregious wrongdoing, a few loose ends—and it's sad that it's actually the wandering ways of the Waitangi Tribunal that have worsened the prospects of Whakatōhea.
• Question No. 3—Corrections
3. GINNY ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Corrections: What reports has he seen on the current prison population?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Corrections): Reports from March this year showed the prison population peaking at 10,820. That number has been declining since April this year. Last Thursday our prison population was 9,661—that's down 1,159, or a reduction of more than 10 percent, in the last nine months. This change hasn't happened by accident. It has come about through innovative programmes and proactive engagement, and by simply helping people to navigate their way through the system.
Ginny Andersen: Has the decline in the prison population had any effect on the safety of our communities?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No. When this Government announced its intention to reduce the prison population, some suggested that it was impossible, was reckless, and would make New Zealanders less safe. I'm happy to say that while the prison population has been decreasing, so has the number of victimisations recorded by police, which has fallen by 3.5 percent—that's 1,304 fewer crimes against a person. Maybe what could be considered reckless and unsafe is instead the Opposition scaremongering over the reforms—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member can't use a patsy question to attack the Oppostion.
Ginny Andersen: What actions has he taken to reduce the prison population?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: To be clear, the people who should be in prison are in prison. The changes we have made have improved people's access to justice. It involves simple things: helping illiterate people fill in bail forms, giving people access to their phones so they can supply the phone numbers needed for the bail process, getting prisoners better ready for parole hearings. People that end up in prison have their freedom taken away as a punishment for their crimes; our job, as corrections and as a Government, is to help them and their whānau while they do their time, so that when they leave prison they never come back.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he think that there's a serious problem and, if so, what's he going to do about it, when prison numbers are going down in accordance with the Government's plans and programme, as he said, and yet 143,000 people signed a petition, delivered today at Parliament, calling for tougher sentences around the death of Nathan Kraatskow?
SPEAKER: Order! Hang on. I'm trying to work out the responsibility of the Minister of Corrections for this justice issue. Maybe the member could try rephrasing it.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he think that there is a serious problem and, if so, what will he do about it, when his plans that he's just outlined are seeing prison numbers go down, and yet today a petition's been delivered to this House with 143,000 signatures, seeking tougher sentences, given the death of Nathan Kraatskow?
SPEAKER: The Minister can answer the first part of the question. He has no responsibility for the second.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The prison population has gone down because corrections has sought efficiencies and effectiveness within the system. No laws have been changed, and it's only in the National Party where efficiency, effectiveness, and the saving of taxpayer money is seen as a bad thing.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Is the policy he's implementing, effectively, fewer criminals, more victims?
SPEAKER: Order! The Minister has no responsibility for that.
• Question No. 4—Prime Minister
4. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, and compliments of the season.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statements in relation to the safety of Karel Sroubek's estranged wife: "My expectation would be that if we had information brought to us that raised concerns around her safety, we act appropriately on that."?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in relation to Karel Sroubek's estranged wife: "She asserted one thing when the process was in place—again, falsely—and said something else today." and she has "changed her tune now."?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, a range of questions have been asked and answered on my behalf, as well as to me directly. But, to clarify, of course, the action that was taken, when—I believe on 31 October—I was first advised via a journalist of allegations that Mr Sroubek's ex-wife's safety may have been at risk was that I immediately raised that issue directly with the Minister of Immigration. This prompted the Minister to follow up. An investigation was launched, I understand, within 24 hours of that issue being raised directly with him.
Hon Paula Bennett: If that is the case, then why has she repeatedly since then, even on her behalf, actually denigrated the ex-wife and made her out to not be a victim?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not believe that I have done that. When concerns around Mr Sroubek's ex-wife's safety were raised with me, I raised it directly with those who had the most direct contact and the ability to offer that support and investigation—that was with the Minister of Immigration. It also came to my attention further down the track that the member Mark Mitchell had raised concerns with the Minister of Police. As soon as I was aware of that I followed up with the Minister of Police to gain assurances that he also had appropriately followed up on those concerns, and I'm advised that that was also done.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was Iain Lees-Galloway or anyone in her ministry at any point advised about the prison phone call of Karel Sroubek with his estranged wife where he threatened to send somebody to talk to her and said "This makes me angry so much." and "I'm going to [effing] let this go. [eff] off."?
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: My understanding is that the Minister of Immigration was not aware that that phone call had taken place.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is she aware that questions to her from me on 8 November raised questions around this phone call, and was it followed up by any of those people whom she said did?
Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern: Actually, it was followed up before that. As I said, the first time these issues were raised with me and my office—in more general terms; I don't believe at that time it was specific as to say a phone call, but in general terms around the safety issues—was, as I say, I believe on 31 October. That same day I raised it with the Minister of Immigration, and I understand within 24 hours he had officials following up on that issue.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement that Iain Lees-Galloway was the victim in all of this?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In my recollection, of course, that was I statement that was made, I think, in the context of a set of wider issues, on my behalf when I was, unfortunately, unavailable in the House.
Hon Paula Bennett: Who does she believe: the drug-dealing thug Karel Sroubek, who claims that this is all just a property dispute, or his estranged wife, who was screamed at, threatened, and placed under police—
SPEAKER: Order! No prime ministerial responsibility for that.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think she's made it clear in the past that, actually, in answers to questions in this House—
SPEAKER: Well, I should have ruled it out.
Hon Paula Bennett: Well then, does she stand by her previous statement that she asserted one thing in regards to the estranged wife, she asserted one thing when the process was in place—again, falsely—where she is saying that she doesn't believe the ex-wife, and does she still stand by that?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have reiterated, the moment that I heard these allegations, I acted. Of course I was concerned around any claims that were made around coercion, threats of violence—anything in that regard. I raised it immediately with the Minister of Immigration, who acted, and I understand work was undertaken straight away as a result of those allegations, as it should have.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have a situation where I've got her saying one thing in this House. Since then, I'm asking her if she still stands by that—
SPEAKER: You mean the Prime Minister?
Hon Paula Bennett: Yes, I do, sorry; the Prime Minister, sorry. I have the Prime Minister, who has said something in this House in recent weeks in regards to the ex-wife. I have the direct quote. I'm asking her if she still stands by it, the Prime Minister, and I can't get an answer to that, and it is in quite contrast to the answer she's giving me today.
SPEAKER: I'm going to ask the member to ask it again, but I also want to make clear that the Prime Minister indicated that the important answer was one given on her behalf, which does give her some room to move away.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don't ask for a ruling today, but I do ask you to reflect. As someone that used to answer on behalf of a Prime Minister, it was made extremely clear to us that our words were not our own in this House when answering on behalf; they were certainly the words of the Prime Minister, and that is something I took very seriously.
SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat. I think the member has heard me say this to the Deputy Prime Minister when he's been acting for the Prime Minister, as may have been indicated to that member on occasion: that the voice being used was not exactly the one that the Prime Minister would have used.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she stand by her statement in relation to Karel Sroubek's estranged wife: "She asserted one thing when the process was in place—again, falsely—and said something else today.", and she "has changed her tune now."?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I have reiterated several times both what I have directly stated and the action that I have directly undertaken. Those have been utterly consistent. I cannot hand on heart answer now as to whether the Deputy Prime Minister, when answering on my behalf, knew of the actions I had undertaken directly with the Minister of Immigration when I was advised by a journalist of concerns for her safety, but I'm being utterly clear with the House now about the action that I took.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was the Deputy Prime Minister, when answering on her behalf, wrong to claim it like that?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, without having the full transcript and context of the conversation, what I am outlining here is, again, the direct action that I undertook, and I absolutely stand by that.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I acknowledge that it's the second to last day, and it may be next year but I do think that we need a more solid ruling on when speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister, that those words are the words of the Prime Minister. If there needs to be a correction to that record, there is a tradition and a way to do that in this House.
SPEAKER: I don't think we need an additional ruling; the rulings on the matter are very clear. If someone answers a question and it's grossly wrong, then there's an obligation for that to be corrected. If members came back, on both sides of the House, to correct every error they made, we would be spending a lot of time doing it.
• Question No. 5—Finance
5. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The BNZ and Business New Zealand have released their Performance of Manufacturing and Performance of Services indices for November. The Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) showed the sector continued to expand faster than the historical average in November. The seasonally adjusted PMI was 53.5, underpinned by a pick-up in new orders to 56.3. Business New Zealand said the result "bodes well for the year to end on more of a positive note". In addition, the Performance of Services Index showed the services sector also continued to expand in November. And in breaking news, the ANZ Business Outlook, a document much loved on the other side of the House, saw business confidence rise 13 percent and own activity up by 6 percent—a little Christmas cheer for the Opposition.
Tamati Coffey: What reports has he seen on business conditions in New Zealand?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yesterday, the BNZ published the results of its new Business Banker Survey, showing positive business conditions in quarter four. The index measured overall business conditions at plus-17 due to strong trading conditions and profitability—this was stronger than in Australia. Business confidence came in at plus-four, in line with levels reported in Australia. In addition, capital expenditure conditions measured plus-15. These results show that businesses recognise that the economy is in good health and that now is a good time to invest, which supports our plan for more productive growth. That being said, we recognise that the biggest influence on confidence in the survey was the availability of suitable labour. That's why we are working with businesses to address gaps through programmes such as Mana in Mahi and the skills shift initiative in the manufacturing sector being led by ManufacturingNZ.
Tamati Coffey: How do these reports align with recent Treasury forecasts?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: These reports are consistent with Treasury's recent forecasts in the 2018 Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, which shows serious momentum in the economy over the next few years. GDP is forecast to grow by around 3 percent per year into 2021, underpinned by investment, productivity, and wage growth. This shows the coalition Government's plan to help transition the economy to being more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive is working well.
• Question No. 6—Finance
6. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Can he confirm HYEFU 2018 shows that, when compared to PREFU 2017, core Crown tax revenue is forecast to be $17.7 billion higher over the period 2018/19 to 2021/22?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The short answer to the member's question is: no. The slightly longer answer is that Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update 2017 does not contain a forecast for the 2021/22 year, but rather a projection that is based on a mathematical model. Forecasts are subject to a much more rigorous approach than projections, and therefore it is not appropriate to compare the two periods as the member attempts to do in her question.
Hon Amy Adams: I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library that compares the core Crown tax revenue over the four years in the primary question and calculates the difference in each year.
SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Is there any objection? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Amy Adams: Is he aware that $5.1 billion of the extra tax has been added to the projections in just the six months since Budget 2018 when real economic growth over those same four years is now forecast as being lower than was provided for in the Budget just six months ago?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don't have that number in front of me, but what I have been advised is that the vast bulk of the lift in revenue actually comes because people are earning higher wages and there are more jobs—something to celebrate.
David Seymour: Has his rapacious overtaxation of hard-working Kiwis—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat.
David Seymour: Point of order.
SPEAKER: No. The question is out of order, the member knows it, and I'm not taking any argument.
Hon Amy Adams: Given the Minister's reference to wages, is he aware that in the half year update, real wage growth forecast for the next four years has also declined since Budget 2018?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What they say is that wages will grow an average of around 3 percent a year, which is a significant improvement and lift on the record of the member's Government.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise of point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked very specifically about real wage growth. He answered about a different set of numbers, which are nominal wage growth. The Minister of Finance, I'm sure, knows the difference.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Speaking to the point of order?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I was going to add to the answer if that's—
SPEAKER: Well, if the member wants to—away you go.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It may well show that, but that's because those forecasts do get revised between the Budget Economic and Fiscal Update and the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update. They still represent good, solid wage growth for New Zealanders.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he still stand by his statement made earlier this year: "We're actually transitioning away from an economy based on population growth" in light of the half year update showing economic growth per person is lower every single year over the forecast period than the average over the five years before he took office?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We most certainly are in the transition that the member talks about in her question, and it's a transition that, as I've said many times, will take some time. We can't make up for nine years of neglect in one year, but what we are seeing is a Government that is finally committed to investing not only in the transition to an economy that's got a lower carbon output, but also to one where we actually include people all over New Zealand, including in the regions.
Hon Amy Adams: Isn't the real story of last week's half year update that growth and growth per person forecasts are down, inflation and the cost of living have gone up, and, despite all of that, the amount of tax New Zealanders are having to hand over the Government has gone up significantly?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. The real story of the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update is that the Government is managing the books well, is making sure that we're investing in the things that matter to New Zealanders, and is that we have got a vision for an economy where everyone gets to share in prosperity.
• Question No. 7—Regional Economic Development
7. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all of his responses to Oral Question No. 3 on 5 December 2018; if not, why not?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes. On said day, I identified, indirectly and directly, 4,000 jobs. I can report that that has now grown to 7,000 jobs.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Was the figure of 4,000 new jobs, now 7,000, created by the Provincial Growth Fund so far, supplied by an official, or was it based on his own arithmetic?
Hon SHANE JONES: The process of job creation is organic. Job creation is a reflection of demand, and demand grows once capital is invested. Substantial amounts of capital are being deployed into the regions. The point at which a job is created and then filled—there could be a slight time period between the two.
SPEAKER: No, no, the member might've added some fertiliser to the organic approach, but he didn't answer the question.
Hon SHANE JONES: Well, I can assure you, I won't tax it. Those officials found—those reports—and I'm advised by my officials, both the 7,000 figure and the 4,000 figure.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Of the 4,000 jobs he states have been created by the Provincial Growth Fund so far, how many new, permanent full-time jobs have been filled to date?
Hon SHANE JONES: As I said, the Provincial Growth Fund makes decisions shared by four Ministers. Funds are allocated, and then as projects grow, as they navigate through resource consent requirements, and as they put together business propositions, then it is our estimation over the life, such as the Tai Rāwhiti roading project of five years, that figure will be achieved. As of today, that figure is not as large as I indicated because many of the projects are still in implementation stage.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you satisfied with that answer? I asked how many have been filled to date, and he said—he didn't really give an answer to that at all.
SPEAKER: Well, I think he did say, "not as many as I previously indicated".
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Would that figure be closer to 100 or 200?
Hon SHANE JONES: We have a situation where two parliamentarians are looking at numerical data. It is not unlike two parliamentarians studying an elephant: one sees tusks; the other sees a vacuum cleaner. The process is still being implemented, and it's unwise to pick a figure at a time where the regions, the business leaders, and the civic leaders are implementing the projects being funded by the Provincial Growth Fund.
SPEAKER: No, I'm going to ask the Minister to answer the question.
Hon SHANE JONES: Sorry?
SPEAKER: Answer the question, please.
Hon SHANE JONES: The question is, is it 100 or 200?
Hon Members: Closer to.
Hon SHANE JONES: Yes. Was it closer to 100 or 200, was that it?
SPEAKER: That's roughly the question, yes.
Hon SHANE JONES: So, roughly, the answer is 200 and above.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How can we have confidence in a Minister who uses Parliament to trumpet 4,000 jobs created so far when he has no idea how many permanent jobs have actually been filled right here, right now for all the millions that he spent?
Hon SHANE JONES: I repeat that since the Provincial Growth Fund, a highly successful and popular policy, has been implemented and acclaimed by every regional leader, obviously it takes time before this fiscal tree takes root, and as the projects are implemented, then we will achieve our figure of 7,000, but jobs are an organic feature of the economy.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I'd ask you to have a look at the transcript of the series of answers just been given to those questions, as it would seem that he was asked initially "Does he stand by the 4,000?" He says, "Yes, but I'm updating it to 7,000." and then has gone on to explain that, actually, "Well, it may not be 7,000 just now; it could be at some future time. I'm not sure about when it's going to be." Now, the public, of course, will draw their own conclusions about all of those things, but it is a little disappointing that that sort of cavalier approach comes on a day where you appear to have ruled that Speakers' rulings 175/6, 7, 8, and 9 are no longer to be relied on by the Opposition. So if we cannot have a situation where a Minister acting for a Minister speaks for the Minister, as is required—
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! No, the member will resume his seat. He's not seriously going back to a matter that I've ruled on 20 minutes ago?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, of course not.
SPEAKER: No, he certainly won't.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, I won't.
SPEAKER: Well, don't refer to that again.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Of course I can refer to your ruling. It would be ridiculous if I can't—
SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. I made a ruling earlier, and, actually, even then it would have been disorderly for the member to challenge it. To come to the party 20 minutes later to be disorderly, to me, is just outrageous, especially on what is clearly a pretext around this answer, which had no relationship to the matter that he's now raising. The member knows—he's been round here for a long time—that points of order are to be made immediately, and they're not to be made 20 minutes later, when the member thinks he has a point.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to my point of order—
SPEAKER: No, no, the member will resume his seat.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: A further, unrelated point of order, Mr Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I can't say it's unrelated, because you haven't dealt with my point of order.
SPEAKER: Well, if the member can't say it's unrelated, he will resume his seat. [Interruption] The member will resume his seat.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr, Speaker, I've got a point of order. I think you should hear it, and you're not—
SPEAKER: I've heard you say that now at least four times, and I have instructed you to resume your seat.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, let me finish my point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, that is just a waste of time being here.
SPEAKER: Well, that might be the member's opinion, and others might share it.
• Question No. 8—Social Development
8. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What evidence, if any, is there of the success of the Ministry of Social Development's service delivery changes?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): We've seen clients overwhelmingly positive about front-of-house changes. The eligibility guide has had 166,000 visits since its launch, in June. Manual suspensions and cancellations have dropped by 42 percent. We've forged 26 new partnerships with industry employers and have extended 10 existing partnerships. We've had a decrease in the number of reviews of decisions over the last year, compared to the year before, and over 75 percent of Ministry of Social Development (MSD) staff report feeling much safer with the new security measures being implemented. There is so much more to do, but one year in and we know we're heading in the right direction.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What feedback has the Minister received about those changes?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: At a recent meeting with social service providers in West Auckland, I was told that they feel more confident now that their clients' issues will be resolved when sending them to Work and Income. We're now regularly receiving positive feedback on people's experiences with MSD. In fact, one client wrote to MSD recently to say "Thank you, Work and Income, for giving staff further training in customer service. I've really noticed the difference in how I'm treated when I go into the office or need to call the contact centre. Keep up the great mahi." There's still more to do but, with the support of our hard-working MSD staff, we're definitely on the right track.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Why are these changes important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The Ministry of Social Development (MSD) provides much-needed support to over 1 million New Zealanders every year, from all walks of life. The reality is that most New Zealanders, for one reason or another, will interact with MSD over their lifetime, whether that's through study, when looking for work, or when they reach retirement age. New Zealanders deserve to experience a service that treats them with respect and dignity no matter their personal circumstances, and through our efforts to improve service delivery, we are well on our way towards that goal.
• Question No. 9—Housing and Urban Development
9. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many KiwiBuild houses have been sold in Te Kauwhata, and what measures, if any, has the Government taken to improve its ability to sell KiwiBuild homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): As I told the member last week, I'm advised that no unconditional sale and purchase agreements have been entered into so far at Te Kauwhata. However, as the homes are not built until 2020, I'm advised that that's not unusual. No specific changes have been made to the way KiwiBuild sells homes, and I'm confident that the homes at Te Kauwhata will be sold during construction or once they are completed.
Andrew Bayly: Will the decision to increase the price cap for a HomeStart grant to $500,000 allow KiwiBuild buyers in Te Kauwhata to potentially access a subsidy of up to $20,000?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Andrew Bayly: What Budget allocation will the cost of these HomeStart grants to KiwiBuild house buyers come from?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The additional cost projected for the raising of the price caps for HomeStart and Welcome Home is estimated to be approximately $3 million a year. That will be funded within the existing KiwiSaver deposit subsidy and Housing New Zealand budgets.
Andrew Bayly: Does that mean he is, effectively, using the HomeStart grant Budget allocation as a way to subsidise the purchase of KiwiBuild houses in Te Kauwhata?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, it means we've fixed an anomaly in the HomeStart and Welcome Home price caps. We've now made those homebuyer supports available to an expected extra 230 first-home buyers around the country.
Jamie Strange: What other changes has the Government made to help first-home buyers in rural centres like Te Kauwhata to buy KiwiBuild homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Housing New Zealand's HomeStart grant and Welcome Home loan house price caps for new builds in areas outside the main centres are increasing, from $450,000 to $500,000, to match the KiwiBuild price cap. Regional New Zealand is the big winner out of these changes, particularly areas such as the Waikato, Northland, the Hawke's Bay, and Otago. All these areas have relatively high house prices, so moving the cap will help young families in these areas the most.
• Question No. 10—Foreign Affairs
10. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Has he made a decision whether New Zealand will sign up to the United Nations global compact for migration?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member continues to display a fundamental misunderstanding of the diplomatic processes that apply. There is no document to be signed; there is a vote.
Hon Todd McClay: Why has the Government not yet been able to make a decision, given he has had the draft text of the UN compact since July?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, because we are carefully checking all of the facts, including the irresponsible and incorrect assertions that this somehow curbs the sovereignty of countries that vote for the compact.
Hon Todd McClay: Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs confirm that the Government have been negotiating the compact since February, they've had the draft text since July, adopted it in Morocco last week, and are actually just keeping Kiwis in the dark until after Parliament has lifted for the summer recess?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, no. I can confirm that the gymnastics of the Opposition, who signed up to the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants on—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Stop telling lies.
Hon DAVID PARKER: —19 September 2016—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, it should be something that you would pick up, if someone is putting a gross mistruth to the Parliament.
SPEAKER: The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise again.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Because it seems the rules are changing, could you advise the House what we do if a Minister stands up and says something that is grossly untrue?
SPEAKER: If the member is convinced that a Minister said something that is grossly untrue and it is a deliberate act, he writes me a letter. The member has been here since 1996; he knows that and is being disorderly and asking the question.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the circumstances, sir, I seek leave to table the resolution adopted by the general assembly on 19 September 2016, which is titled the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which the National Party in Government voted in favour of.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Todd McClay: Was the Prime Minister correct on NewstalkZB this morning when she said that it's Winston Peters who would be making the decision to sign the UN compact later this week and not Cabinet?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I have seen the transcript of that interview, and that is an improper characterisation of it. [Interruption] It's an incorrect characterisation of it. Can I further—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. I'm going to let the Minister answer the question, but I don't want him to in any way imply that it was a deliberate misquoting of the Prime Minister, because if that was the case that would also be a breach of privilege and the Minister can't do that by implication. So I'd ask the Minister to just take care with his words.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It's very clear in past Speakers' rulings that where there is an assertion in a question, a Minister is absolutely at liberty to reject the assertion, which is what the Minister did. I don't think he said that the member had been deliberately misleading. He said it was a mischaracterisation. He is challenging the assertion; that is absolutely a legitimate thing for a Minister to do.
SPEAKER: The Leader of the House does have a good point, but I think in the circumstances of today I'll just ask people to take care.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Further, sir, I would say that if New Zealand does take the decision, which is likely to be made by the end of the week, to vote in favour of the resolution, I'm advised that the countries likely to vote in favour of the resolution are on that sheet [Holds sheet] and the countries in the world likely to vote against it, on that [Holds sheet]. The National Party is very lonely in their populist gymnastics.
Dr Duncan Webb: Would supporting the compact bind the New Zealand Government on future immigration policy or otherwise limit the sovereignty of the current and future Governments?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, because of the falsehoods that have been spread about this compact, the Government has sought legal advice on its effect to be absolutely sure that supporting the compact would in no way restrict or limit New Zealand's sovereignty, including our ability to set our migration policies. So the answer to the question is no.
Hon Todd McClay: Does he agree with the statement that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters, made to media that the problem with these non-binding agreements is over time they become binding; and, if so, will he inform his Cabinet colleagues of his long-held position on UN agreements?
SPEAKER: I'm going to remind the member that he is, I think, speaking as Winston Peters at the moment.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Thank you, Mr Speaker—that gives me considerable latitude. The first point to make would be that I'm sure that the Minister of Foreign Affairs was speaking in respect of treaties. This is not a treaty. The second point I would make is that the reversal by the National Party on its earlier position is desperate, opportunist flip-flop, which appears to show that the National Party takeover by Judith Collins is just about complete.
SPEAKER: Question No. 11—Kiritapu Allan.
Hon Member: Is that in order?
KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour): My question is—
SPEAKER: Sorry, would the member resume her seat. There are questions about whether that was in order or not. It was, I think, a reasonable response to a pretty aggressive political question.
• Question No. 11—Immigration
11. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration: What announcements has he made regarding immigration policy today?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): This morning in Ashburton, I announced consultation on significant changes to temporary work visa settings. I proposed to move from a one-size-fits-all model to a more regional and industry-based approach. This involves better connections between the immigration, education, skills, welfare, and employment systems to deliver better labour market outcomes for everyone working in New Zealand.
Kiritapu Allan: How will the changes benefit regional business?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The proposals will result in a much simpler and easy to understand system for employers. We'll also make it easier for employers with a proven track record of training and looking after their workers to recruit from overseas. I also propose to take a different approach to immigration regionally and recognise that Queenstown is different from Kaitāia, and both are different from Auckland.
Kiritapu Allan: How will the changes benefit working people?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: The proposals provide greater scrutiny on risky employers and those who employ significant numbers of migrants. Alongside the Government's work to detect and deter migrant exploitation, this will help to stamp out those unfair practices.
Kiritapu Allan: What feedback has the Minister received related to the proposals?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Upon my return to Parliament today, I received a petition and letter, hand delivered to me by the National Party MP Barbara Kuriger. The letter encouraged the Government to take immigration policies that differ from region to region, noting that it is archaic to suggest that a one-size-fits-all approach to immigration can meet New Zealand's needs, and stated that current policy settings are crippling regional communities, hindering industries, and dehumanising hard-working people. I thank the member for her advocacy in this matter.
• Question No. 12—Corrections
12. Hon DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Corrections: Does the prison population of 9,844 as at 30 November 2018 reflect the Government's policy to have a 30 percent reduction in the prison population over the next 15 years?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Corrections): Yes; so does the prison population of 9,661 as of 13 December 2018.
Hon David Bennett: When the Minister says there is no effect on the safety of communities with the 1,159 reduction in prisoners, what evidence does he have that none of those 1,159 released prisoners haven't re-offended?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: First of all, it's important to note that there have been no legislative changes, so the settings that we're operating under are the same as were operating under the previous Government; we're just being more efficient and effective. I am advised that 17 people who engaged with the bail support service or EM Bail Ready Advisers have reoffended while on bail, but bear in mind that between 21 October 2018 and 30 November 2018, 85 people engaged with these teams and none of them have been convicted for re-offending.
Hon David Bennett: How can the Minister reconcile his statement that there is no effect on communities and that when they leave prison they never come back when, on average, 32 percent of prisoners are re-imprisoned within 12 months of release and 47 percent are re-convicted within 12 months of release?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: It's interesting, because I'm of the understanding that under their regime, some 60 percent of people reoffended within two years, so it's already an improvement.
Hon David Bennett: When the Minister says all offenders that should be are in prison, then how can he guarantee this when many recently released remand prisoners are yet to be sentenced?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: It's also important for the House to note that decisions to grant bail are made by a judge in court and not by corrections.
Hon Paula Bennett: Supplementary.
SPEAKER: No, the Opposition has used all its supplementary questions.