Parliament: Questions and Answers - March 5
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 Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it fair that Kiwis on the average wage will lose $64,000 from their KiwiSaver over their lifetime due to the proposed capital gains tax?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will resume her seat. The question must be related to the original question.
Hon Simon Bridges: When she said that capital gains tax will be fair, is it fair that the Kiwis on an average wage will lose $64,000 from their KiwiSaver over their lifetime due to the proposed capital gains tax?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, this is an assertion that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition, and yet he is unwilling to release the calculations that he claims he is making, because I am told that the advice from IRD and Treasury is that someone earning $62,000 a year would be better off by $33,000 under the Tax Working Group's package as it relates to KiwiSaver. So, by all means, I am happy to debate the member, but I want to debate him on the facts.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does that include all of Michael Cullen's option one offsets, and can she commit to offsetting any capital gains tax with tax cuts for KiwiSavers?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It includes the offsets within KiwiSaver because the Tax Working Group did not just make one single recommendation; it recommended a suite of changes to KiwiSaver.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of Michael Cullen accepting $64,000 as accurate, how on earth can't she?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I absolutely disagree with the member's assertion.
Hon Grant Robertson: Is the Prime Minister aware that this figure of $64,000 was shopped around the press gallery by National last week and no one would pick it up?
SPEAKER: Order! And a warning to this side: I've already cut out one question here. The Minister of Finance knew that question was out of order. He was therefore disorderly and will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Grant Robertson: I withdraw and apologise.
David Seymour: Is it possible that a proposed capital gains tax could be revenue-neutral?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is certainly the request that we made of the Tax Working Group. It was to consider options around making the package revenue-neutral.
David Seymour: Why would a Government request advice that would make a tax system more complicated, to get the same amount of revenue?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Two points: firstly, to make the tax system fairer—which seems like a pretty good reason to members on this side of the House—and secondly, almost every member of the OECD manages to deal with what is being asserted to be complicated; why can't we?
Hon Simon Bridges: Will she commit to offsetting any capital gains tax with tax cuts for KiwiSavers?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member well knows that the Tax Working Group is currently being considered by the Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with what she's previously said in this House: "The difference is that we have prioritised things differently on this side of the Chamber. We have said, 'Yes, we need more revenue.' We'll bring in a capital gains tax."?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The reason we undertook this work was because we believed we needed more fairness in our system. That is why we undertook this work in the first place, and now we, as a Government, are considering the findings of the Tax Working Group.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of the comments on fairness, is it fair to impose a capital gains tax on every KiwiSaver account in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, if he has read the report he will have seen the recommendations adopted by the Tax Working Group mean that people earning less than $70,000 a year end up being better off as a result of those changes. I again reiterate, though, that the Tax Working Group made their recommendations and we are considering them all.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Put it on the Table.
Hon Dr Megan Woods: It is on the Table.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It's not on the Table.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is she explicitly committing to the offsets—
SPEAKER: Order! The member will his resume seat. Dr Woods and Mr Brownlee—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Good friends!
SPEAKER: I'm sure that's the case—and almost neighbours, I understand—but that means that you should probably carry on your conversations in some other place.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Is she, in her answers, explicitly committing to the offsets of KiwiSaver that Sir Michael Cullen has set out in the first of his three fiscal-neutral proposals?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, I am simply correcting the member because he is factually incorrect.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: Is it fair that, under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner—for example, a hairdresser or a plumber, who works hard to build up their business—
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member knows that questions and supplementary questions do not contain any superfluous wording. I was prepared to let the member have one set of superfluous wording—one phrase—but the member was on to a second. He will rephrase the question.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was seeking to put a particular scenario to the Prime Minister, to understand her position on that.
SPEAKER: And there was more than was necessary to build that scenario.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her comments on fairness, is it fair that under the proposed capital gains tax, the small-business owner will have to pay tax on a third of their business when they sell up for retirement?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, alongside the recommendations around a comprehensive capital gains tax, we've acknowledged that, for simplicity, that was what the Tax Working Group suggested. They also put alongside that, increasing the threshold for provisional tax from $1,500 to $5,000, increasing the closing stock adjustment, an increase in the automatic deduction for legal fees, a reduction in the number of depreciation rates. So there was a suite of options in there, and, again, Mr Speaker, as I know you know, but as I wish the Leader of the Opposition would hear: we have not settled on any of the final recommendations of the report. We are still considering them as a Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can she not say whether it's fair that when a small-business owner takes all the risk to start their own business, when they sell up that business for retirement, the Government takes a third?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Tax Working Group considered all income in the same way, including the way that it is treated by tax. So that's what they have put into the Tax Working Group: consistent treatment around all forms of income. We, of course, as a Government have to make a judgment over the consensus that we form over the Tax Working Group's recommendations.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the problem with answering my questions that she doesn't understand small business very well?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: When she told Mike Hosking last week and this morning that she'd run a small NGO that helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I did not tell him that this morning.
Hon Simon Bridges: When she said last week on Mike Hosking that her running a small NGO had helped her understand small business, what was that NGO?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I spent more time talking about the fact that my first jobs were all in small businesses. The point that I was making at that time—and actually, I continue to make—is that, as a Government, we are considering all of the issues that have been raised. That includes whether it be residential rentals, whether it be small business, whether it be KiwiSaver.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the NGO she spoke of the International Union of Socialist Youth?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member knows how to use Wikipedia—well done.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has talking to international comrades helped her with her small-business policy development in New Zealand?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the Prime Minister will sit down. We're not going to have that sort of seal-like approach in this House. It's a final warning, and I think Mr McClay will be the first out.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I stand by the fact that I have worked in small businesses, that I have been in charge of hiring and firing, and I'd be interested in how many times he's had to do that as a Crown prosecutor.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Ah, the businessman!
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Brownlee will now stand, withdraw and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. What was the problem there? I called him a businessman; I apologise for that.
SPEAKER: The member knows well that he interjected while a member was asking a question. He will now leave the Chamber.
Hon Gerry Brownlee withdrew from the Chamber.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given all the speculation since 21 February when the Tax Working Group's report was put to the public, is it the Government's position to consult with all sectors of New Zealand and by the end of April or thereabouts come to a decision as to what we will do with that report?
Hon Simon Bridges: End.
SPEAKER: Right. Who made that interjection?
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. And then, of course, after a decision is made, if there is a need for any legislation, that too will go through a full consultation process. There will be no lack of input from the New Zealand public.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it all getting too hard, and is that why the timetable's now slipped until the end of April?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Last week, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) released its quarterly predictions for the March 2019 quarter, showing a solid domestic outlook. The NZIER said global volatility in the form of the US-China trade dispute, slowing growth in the Chinese economy, and uncertainty over Brexit could weigh on export demand. The risks posed by the international situation continue to demonstrate the importance of our commitment to working on more diverse trade opportunities and agreements and to responsible fiscal management so that we are in a position to respond to any shocks.
Dr Deborah Russell: What did NZIER say about the domestic outlook?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: NZIER said that despite some of the global developments clouding the growth outlook, there remain many positive domestic factors underpinning growth in the New Zealand economy. Consumer spending is forecast to pick up on the back of rising wages as a result of a solid labour market and there is steady consumer confidence. This is backed up by the consumer confidence survey for February, which showed confidence at 121—around its historical average. The proportion of consumers who feel better off financially than a year ago lifted by 2 percentage points, and the proportion who think it's a good time to buy a major household item was also up three points. This confident domestic outlook shows that the economy has solid fundamentals as we continue to transition to a more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive economy.
Dr Deborah Russell: What reports has he seen on other indicators of the strength of the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: ANZ noted in its business outlook survey released last week that "regional economy is booming". This is backed up today by the regional roundup from Westpac in which it pointed out that a number of regions have built up quite a head of steam and are expected to roll through 2019 in fine form. We do acknowledge that some regions are not growing at such a pace, and that is why we have committed to growing jobs and business in regions through initiatives such as the Provincial Growth Fund.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the Government's Tax Working Group report: "I'm sure there are things in there that we will be able to accept and adopt"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, I stand by my full quotes in that article.
Hon Amy Adams: Having previously refused to commit to a tax-neutral package, is having a capital gains tax on KiwiSaver schemes that leaves the average income earner worse off than they otherwise would have been at retirement one of the things he plans to adopt?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise in that question.
Hon Amy Adams: Is imposing a capital gains tax on the family home, if deductions are made for its use as a home office, something he plans to adopt, despite having told New Zealanders their family home would be exempt?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We haven't made any final decisions on those matters. I would note that, currently, there are deduction rules around the use of parts of your family home as an office, so the member is probably going down a path she doesn't want to in that area.
Hon Amy Adams: Is imposing a capital gains tax on 160,000 lifestyle blocks, despite them being people's family homes, something he's planning to adopt?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We have not made any final decisions on those matters, but I would note that the rules around the question of what defines a family home and the land around it are actually currently in operation and were in operation under the previous Government as well.
Hon Amy Adams: So having said that he plans to adopt some of the recommendations in the Government's Tax Working Group report, doesn't he think that the 2.9 million New Zealanders with KiwiSaver accounts, the 500,000 small-business owners, the 160,000 lifestyle block owners, the 120,000 family bach owners, and the 50,000 farm owners, who are right now staring down the barrel of a capital gains tax, deserve to know exactly what it is that he plans to adopt?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That's precisely the process that the Government is going through to work through all of those recommendations. And I think New Zealanders respect and understand that this is a Government that doesn't hide away from difficult issues and that faces up to the big challenges of our time. And what I would say to the member, specifically in respect of KiwiSaver, is that I also don't believe that New Zealanders will have forgotten the $2.6 billion gutting of KiwiSaver balances caused by that Government when the member tax credit was cut by her Government and the employer contribution tax exemption was removed—$2.6 billion taken away from KiwiSaver. We're proud of KiwiSaver on this side of the House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just for the clarity of the Government and the public's understanding, does he regard—
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was entirely superfluous.
Hon Simon Bridges: That was entirely superfluous from the Deputy Prime Minister.
SPEAKER: That might be your opinion. The Rt Hon Winston Peters will start his question again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister, for the purpose of public understanding, does he regard the brightline test introduced by the National Party as being a capital gains tax?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: Order! The member can answer the question with the deletion of the reference to the Opposition.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I am not the only person who believes that, and, in fact, interestingly there has been a lot of commentary recently about the place of the family home and whether or not a big family home should be exempted. The brightline test exempts the family home. It's an interesting thing, isn't it?
• Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development
4. GREG O'CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Will the healthy homes standards reduce hospitalisations for housing-related illnesses; if so, how?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Ministry of Health data shows that at least 6,000 children are admitted each year for what they call "housing sensitive hospitalisations". Otago University recently found that homes that are damp or mouldy cause more than 35,000 nights in hospital and report problems with damp or mould. The study found that the statistics are worse the lower the income of the household, and that rental properties are the most problematic. The healthy homes standards will set minimum standards for insulation, heating, ventilation, moisture, and draughts so that rental homes are warm and dry. They're part of the Government's plan to improve the health and well-being of children.
Greg O'Connor: Why is the Government focusing on rental homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: What we're doing is lifting standards to stop the bottom end of the market undercutting decent landlords. A report from Otago University highlighted that 15 percent of owner-occupied homes were reported to be cold, compared to 35 percent of rental homes. Only 3 percent of owner-occupied homes were damp or mouldy, compared to 12 percent of rentals.
Greg O'Connor: Will the healthy homes standards reduce the health costs of tenants?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the heating standard alone is predicted to reduce the costs incurred by tenants because of ill health by $129 million over the forecast 15-year period. That excludes non-quantifiable benefits, such as increased school attendance, greater educational attainment, mental health well-being, and comfort. This is all additional to the predicted $476 million in energy savings.
Greg O'Connor: How do the healthy homes standards fit in with other policies aiming to reduce hospitalisations for housing-related illnesses?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The healthy homes standards are just one part of the Government's plan to improve the well-being of New Zealanders, particularly children. Warmer Kiwi Homes provides grants covering two-thirds of the cost of installing ceiling and underfloor insulation, topped up wherever possible by third-party funding to make insulation as low cost as possible. The winter energy payment provides $450 for a single person and $700 for a couple over the five months of winter to make sure that beneficiaries and those on super can afford to turn the heater on.
• Question No. 5—Economic Development
5. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he think that increasing the tax burden on productive businesses would help or hinder New Zealand's economic development?
Hon SHANE JONES (Acting Minister for Economic Development): The connection between tax burden and productive businesses is a complex matter. I would say, however, that in cases where a Government seeks fairness and identifies productive businesses that might be multinational, a better tax burden shared with them is probably a better societal outcome.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told the House on 31 July 2008, "we're changing the investment signals so that more capital goes to the productive export economy rather than unproductive speculation;"—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just make it very clear that while we take responsibility for a lot of things in politics, the year 2008 is surely not the responsibility—
Hon Member: 2018.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That's what he said—2008. Words matter. Thank you, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: He did. We would have got to it. Start again, please.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told the House on 31 July, 2018, "we're changing the investment signals so that more capital goes to the productive export economy rather than unproductive speculation;", how does he intend to engineer this change?
Hon SHANE JONES: Well, obviously, in terms of affecting the transfer of capital from speculative assets to productive assets, we have already supported the former Government in terms of the bright-line test.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that the country's economic development depends, in large measure, on private sector investment—someone somewhere deciding to put their money into starting a business and building it?
Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, indeed. People do take risks. Up and down the country, people are assessing opportunities. For those reasons, those are the very people that our Government is consulting with and discussing the proposals from Dr Cullen's committee.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he expect that increasing the tax burden on investment would lead to more investment?
Hon SHANE JONES: As I've said, there are a myriad of taxpayers in New Zealand. If I can identify one segment who might be called part of the productive taxpaying base—multinationals—it may well very come to pass that they are not paying their way.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What fault can he find with Peter Beck's view that taxing the capital gains on intellectual property and stock "will decimate the already fragile New Zealand start-up industry."?
Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, that inventor, that entrepreneur, his efforts should be celebrated, and he's been supported by the public with the allocation of public funding. His warning is a sensible admonition, but he is not the exclusive authority on matters to do with tax.
• Question No. 6—Agriculture
6. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Yes.
Hon Nathan Guy: Does he stand by his statement last year to Rural News that when it comes to increasing costs on farmers, they should, and I'll quote, "get used to it"?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Our Government is clearly committed to increase water quality, to commit to climate change international obligations, and to put farmers in a more sustainable space for their production. I have been honest with them and said some of those things may cost farmers, but what we will do as a Government is assist them get more for everything that they produce and sell.
Hon Nathan Guy: Does he stand by his statement on Radio New Zealand on 22 February that "capital gains is the ultimate goal of a farmer", and was that based on any official advice?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: What I did say—and I'd need to clarify what the member has said—is that for many farmers, it has been the ultimate goal that they have been prepared to work for a 2 percent return on their equity in the hope that at the end of the day, when they finish their 20- or 30- or 40-year farming career, when they sell up, they'll have enough money to retire. In the 1980s, when one of the previous National Governments was highly subsidising the productive sector, the farmers, they were capitalising into the value of the land all of those subsidies and farmers were advised at that point to stop farming for capital gains. A brave Labour Government took off subsidies. If that member is now proposing to put subsidies back on to farmers, he should front up with it.
Hon Nathan Guy: When he said on Radio New Zealand last night that "farming for capital gains is flawed and it's something that needs to be looked at", does he support implementing a capital gains tax?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I won't get into the detail of what is an independent report that Government is currently considering and will be consulting on across the sector. I stand by my statement that if farmers are farming for capital gains, it is a flawed approach. The biggest challenge in agriculture at the moment is succession, and that is the ability to pass farms on into the hands of young New Zealand farmers. That is getting increasingly difficult, and what might happen, were a capital gains to be brought in, is that it may mean that farms are more affordable for young New Zealanders, and that would be better for New Zealand.
Hon Nathan Guy: Thank you for that. How will the Tax Working Group recommendations of a capital gains tax, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, a nitrate tax, and an agricultural emissions tax have an impact on already low—
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That list of things in the member's question is simply not—a number of them are things that are not in the Tax Working Group.
SPEAKER: As long as I have the assurance of the Hon Nathan Guy that they are all recommendations in that—[Interruption] No, I'm prepared to take the member's assurance. It would be very serious if it was breached. He can rephrase his question if he wants to, but he will ask his question again, and I will accept him at his word.
Hon Nathan Guy: How will the Tax Working Group discussion points and recommendations of a capital gains tax, water tax, fertiliser tax, nitrate tax, and animal emissions coming into the emissions trading scheme impact on farmer confidence, that is already at an all-time low since 2009?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: The independent Tax Working Group has put out a report that we are considering comprehensively. Can I say that farmers will look with some concern at some of those recommendations. That's why the Government will work through it carefully. If it's anything to go by, the huge crowd of about 15 people who turned out to that member's meeting yesterday indicates that there's not a huge amount of concern out there. What I would like to do and request is that that member tables the calculations upon which he based his ridiculous assertions around the cost to individual farmers. What the Tax Working Group hasn't specifically recommended is an increase in GST, a brightline on capital gains, taxing employer KiwiSaver contributions, a border tax, tobacco tax rises, digital purchase tax, and numerous increases in petrol taxes. They were all taxes imposed on the rural sector by the last National Government, and it didn't ruin the rural sector.
• Question No. 7—Agriculture
7. GARETH HUGHES (Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does the Minister have any plans to review the use of farrowing crates?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Look, as that member is aware, the use of farrowing crates and mating stalls are subject to court proceedings which it would be inappropriate for me to comment on in detail. I do, however, acknowledge the petition before the Primary Production Committee and will consider and act on any recommendations if presented. That member will also be aware that the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee's last review of the use of farrowing crates in 2016 advised that crates currently provide the best balance between sow and piglet welfare and acknowledge issues with alternative systems.
Gareth Hughes: In reference to that 2016 report, does he agree with the view of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee from last year that "current approaches where farrowing crates are used for up to four weeks post farrowing do not provide for every behavioural need of sows and that sows have their activity restricted for a longer period than is necessary."?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Look, given that the report may form a part of evidential basis on which the court—I'm reluctant to make any comment given that I'm one of the defendants, I understand, in the court proceedings.
Gareth Hughes: Well, does the Minister have any welfare concerns about farrowing crates given a 2018 report from Professor Andrew Knight that describes the practice as "confined within [spaces] barely larger than their own bodies" with "minimal amounts of straw (if any), sows are unable to forage, … root within natural [substance]"—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! That quote is, again, longer than necessary for the question. Do the question bit.
Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister have any animal welfare concerns given the expert advice of Professor Andrew Knight?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Once again, I won't comment on what might form evidence in a court case. I will say that, though, I'm prepared to listen to the petition that's currently before the Primary Production Committee and look at it at that time and work with the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
Gareth Hughes: Separate to that court case, does he agree with the concerns of numerous experts in New Zealand that the codes of welfare, including the farrowing crates, are acting as inferior minimum standards not actually consistent with our Animal Welfare Act?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: While I have been involved in pig farming in my early, early years on the home farm, I'm not an expert and I do rely on the advice of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
Gareth Hughes: What is the Minister's message to the 15,000 people who signed a Labour Party petition in 2014 to "end cruel farming practices like farrowing crates"?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Look, our agenda as a Government is already set out in four public-facing documents: the Speech from the Throne, from my Prime Minister; the coalition agreement with New Zealand First, and confidence and supply agreement with the Greens; and our plan. Between them, these documents set out our key policy areas that we'll be focusing that the Government also will progress over this term.
• Question No. 8—Education
8. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he have confidence in the current consultation process around the Tomorrow's Schools Review?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes. I support the work that the independent task force is doing over the four-month consultation period with the draft recommendations from the report and the consultation that they had with the stakeholder groups since April 2018 that led to the creation of the draft recommendations currently being discussed.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does he believe that for the biggest education reform in 30 years, there should be only 3½ weeks between when the consultation closes on the current proposals and the report back to the Minister?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On behalf of the Minister, at this stage our understanding is that that time is adequate, considering the at least year-long process that the task force has already taken to form their draft recommendations and the number of groups that they have spoken to during that period of time. Of course, it is always an option for the task force to come back and ask the Minister for more time should they need it before they provide their final recommendations.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Has he received any estimate of the potential cost of the Tomorrow's Schools reform, and, if so, what is that estimate?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On behalf of the Minister, I'm not aware of any estimates of cost being provided to the Minister, because no final decisions have been made. That is the purpose of the consultation process on the draft recommendations that will lead to final recommendations that will then require the Government to consider those recommendations before making any final decisions.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he agree to give the task force additional time, given that the Cabinet paper requires a report back by 30 April, and will he ensure that there is an estimate of costs provided publicly prior to the consultation closing given this is the largest education reform in 30 years?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On behalf of the Minister, in answer to the first part of the question, the Minister's door is always open to the task force, whenever they would like to walk through it and have a discussion with him about the time frames that have been put into place. With regard to the second part of the question, considering these are draft recommendations that will lead to final recommendations that will need to be considered by the Government before they make any decision, it would be inappropriate to put any money around them.
• Question No. 9—Research, Science and Innovation
9. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: What recent reports has she seen about the growth of R & D spending across New Zealand?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): I've seen the report of the 2018 R & D survey results released by Statistics New Zealand on 28 February 2019. It showed that total R & D spending grew by $758 million to $3.9 billion since the last survey, in 2016. This Government has set a goal of reaching 2 percent of GDP as R & D by 2027. The survey shows an increase from 1.23 percent to 1.37 percent. While this is certainly encouraging progress, there is still plenty to do.
Jo Luxton: What is the Government doing to build on the results outlined in this report?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Despite this progress, we're still near the bottom of the OECD rankings when it comes to R & D spending, and that's why this Government is introducing the R & D tax incentive on 1 April. This will mean even more companies will be able to access R & D support, which will help them lift their spend on science and innovation.
Jo Luxton: How does increasing R & D spend contribute to the Government's overall economic goals?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: High levels of R & D spend are linked to higher levels of productivity. New Zealand has struggled with how to increase our productivity for a long time. Introducing the tax incentive will help alleviate this issue by helping more businesses invest in R & D. This is part of our Government's plan to transform the economy to be more productive, sustainable, and inclusive.
• Question No. 10—Education
10. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his policies and actions around the review of vocational education and his work in the portfolio?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes, in the context in which they occurred.
Sarah Dowie: Will he give the hundreds of Southlanders who met him last Friday in Invercargill what they want and not include the Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) and the polytech mega-merger?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On behalf of the Minister, it is interesting; I'm not quite sure that's actually what SIT has asked for. I am aware that the Associate Minister of Education has met with Penny Simmonds and had a conversation, one on one, about the concerns that they have with regard to the vocational training discussion document, and they have not yet put their submission in writing. They have not yet made clear, and Ms Simmonds is working to do that so that the Government can consider all the challenges raised by SIT and by other polytechs throughout New Zealand while we have this discussion.
Dr Shane Reti: When he replied to a large Invercargill audience last Friday that, yes, he would resign if the reforms were not successful, what specific criteria will be used to assess a resignation?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On behalf of the Minister, first of all I would have to check the validity of the statement by the member, as I do not have a transcript of the actual statements made by the Minister at that meeting. With regard to the criteria, again, I would have to go and seek advice about what those criteria might look like, because success is different for different people at different times.
SPEAKER: Order! I let the Minister run, but I just want to make a brief comment about concerns that I have, that happen both in questions and in answers, where assertions are made that members either answering or asking questions are not factually accurate. When a member is reading something like that out, we have to work on the assumption that they are factually accurate, and to do otherwise is to doubt their word. The problem that I have—it's been the long tradition of Speakers not to refer people to the Privileges Committee for deliberate errors, or what are perceived as deliberate errors, made either in a response to a supplementary question by a Minister or in a supplementary question from a member. I must say that I'm getting quite tempted to move away from that practice, because I have seen evidence, from both sides, of gross inaccuracy bordering on incompetence—either incompetence or deliberate misleading of the House—as part of the supplementary question process, and, frankly, it's not good enough. So it's a warning to both sides: be accurate. Don't make assertions unless you can back them up. Thank you.
Dr Shane Reti: How can the Minister present major reforms for industry training and polytechnics without doing any modelling on the cost of the reforms, as confirmed in written question No. 4689 (2019)?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On behalf of the Minister, again, this is a discussion document. The actual final form of the reforms will not be known until we have taken on board the comments from exactly people like SIT and Otago. To do so before that would suggest that the Government has predetermined an outcome, which it has not.
Dr Shane Reti: By what specific measures does the six-week vocational education consultation period align with Treaty of Waitangi and Māori time frames for consultation?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: On behalf of the Minister, I'm afraid I'm unable to answer that question. If the member would like to put it down in writing, I'll make sure the iwi office responds.
• Question No. 11—Prime Minister
11. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: By what date can the public expect to know the question they are voting on to legalise recreational marijuana?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not have a firm date, but it will be in good time.
Hon Paula Bennett: In light of her saying "it will be in good time." and last week saying "We will ensure that there's enough time for the public to properly engage", how much time is enough?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Perhaps I would be well advised to go back and look at some of the time frames around the flag referendum, but we'll make sure that people have enough time to engage in the question. We're flagging well in advance, obviously, that this will be put in 2020 so people are already aware that the question will be asked.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the cannabis referendum bill, set to be enacted by December 2019, simply enable the referendum, or will it also outline the regulated framework for recreational marijuana use?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: These are all things that we will announce once Cabinet has finalised its decisions.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the Government have drafted any legislation that will regulate the market for recreational marijuana use which the public will see before deciding their vote at the referendum?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: These are all details we'll announce once Cabinet has made decisions.
• Question No. 12—Commerce and Consumer Affairs
12. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What measures is the Government considering to protect consumers from ticket scalpers?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): The Government wants to stop the practice of ticket scalping in New Zealand, which is harming Kiwi consumers and the creative and cultural sector. The measures we have planned include a price cap on resale tickets, enforcing rules around the information that needs to be disclosed to better inform consumers, and banning ticket-buying bots. We are concerned to hear that a growing number of Kiwis are missing out on events or being ripped off because of ticket scalping. We will ensure this will stop.
Tamati Coffey: What advice has he seen on how bad the harm is in New Zealand?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Work undertaken by officials has shown that the profit margins on the resale of tickets are reaching 205 percent, although I have heard reports of mark-ups of up to 400 percent. Research undertaken by Consumer New Zealand showed that 54 percent of people who responded had paid more than the face value for tickets, 38 percent had been charged hidden fees, 13 percent had paid for tickets that never arrived, and 6 percent for tickets that were fake. This extra money goes to scalpers instead of the events' creators or remaining in the pockets of consumers.
Hon Shane Jones: Blues tickets—what about Blues tickets?
Tamati Coffey: What sort of ticket reselling activity does the Government want to target?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: It is important to differentiate between ticket scalping and ticket on-selling. When people can no longer attend the event they purchased the tickets for, because of unexpected events, they should be allowed to resell their tickets and recover the money. Ticket scalpers, on the other hand, purchase tickets specifically to resell them and make an exorbitant profit, taking advantage of vulnerable consumers who may not know who the official ticket reseller is and exploiting their willingness to pay by overcharging them. The Government is committed to protecting consumers and ensuring that markets are working fairly and competitively.
SPEAKER: That concludes oral questions. I will say to the Hon Shane Jones that there's no market for scalping Blues tickets at the moment.