Parliament: Questions and Answers - March 7
Oral Questions—Questions to Ministers
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he have responsibility for the Government's consideration and response to the Tax Working Group report?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): As a member of Cabinet, I am one of the Ministers responsible.
Hon Amy Adams: He can't give a straight answer to anything.
SPEAKER: Order! Was that the member who interjected or was it someone else?
Hon Amy Adams: I did interject.
SPEAKER: Well, the member either wants to ask a supplementary or she is going to object. When the Minister finishes his answer she takes the choice.
Hon Amy Adams: Why is Sir Michael Cullen to be paid more than $1,000 a day of taxpayer funds to engage in political debate for four months after the Tax Working Group has been disbanded, including two months after the Government will have announced its own position?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Sir Michael has had his contract extended because it's necessary to respond to all of the misrepresentation and lies about the report.
Hon Amy Adams: Has he seen the remarks from former Labour Party chief of staff Neale Jones that Dr Cullen wading into the political debate over capital gains tax isn't helpful and that Dr Cullen's comments are highly political?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I haven't seen those comments, but I am aware of the last Tax Working Group in 2010 set up by the previous Government where, several weeks after that was released, the chair of it, Mr Bob Buckle, was making a number of comments in the media.
Hon Amy Adams: Was any thought given then to extending the contracts of any of the dissenting members of the Tax Working Group to help inform the debate? [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Yes, the member knows exactly who was—if I can hear the member from here he must have been making a very loud noise, Mr Woodhouse.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Sir Michael is the chair of the working group. It's appropriate that his term is extended.
Hon Amy Adams: Is it appropriate that Treasury officials were used to send out a press release from Sir Michael Cullen on Monday evening attacking the Opposition, and Treasury officials were provided as the media point of contact for follow-ups?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Those officials are the secretariat for the Tax Working Group.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That's a useful statement but the question was about the appropriateness of Treasury officials being used in that way. To simply state that, I don't think addresses the question.
SPEAKER: And the Minister will answer it again. I think if he added—all he has to do is add one word to it.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I'm not a person to only add one word when you give me an opportunity. The officials who sent out the press release are those who have worked as the secretariat of the Tax Working Group. It's appropriate for people who are the secretariat of the working group to work as the secretariat of the working group.
Hon Amy Adams: Was Treasury instructed by either Sir Michael Cullen, the Minister, or his office to send out a political press release attacking the National Party?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. Sir Michael Cullen is the chair of the Tax Working Group and he's responding to the misinformation being spread about the report.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Government's position that the public should first be consulted from one end of the country to the other—business and workers and unions, the whole country—as a proper way of consultation, rather than opening one's mouth and letting the wind blow one's tongue around?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It's very important that we listen to the views of New Zealanders. One of those views was a farmer who I saw on TVNZ last night, who was one of the few people to attend a meeting that Nathan Guy organised, and when he was asked whether or not income should all be taxed the same, he couldn't answer, he said, because he might get in trouble with the National Party.
Hon Amy Adams: Isn't having Treasury officials send out Sir Michael Cullen's political press releases after the working group has been disbanded just another example of the politicisation of the Public Service that's happening under that Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, it's an example of a Treasury official having access to a computer and sending out the words of Sir Michael Cullen.
Hon Amy Adams: Has he had any advice or contact from the State Services Commission about Sir Michael Cullen's Monday press release sent out by Treasury?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Come on.
Question time interrupted.
• Oral questions
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 2—Housing and Urban Development
2. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How is he ensuring there is actual demand for the place and type of houses he is contracting for KiwiBuild?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The ministry advised me that they take 10 key steps to assess the level of demand for affordable housing and the locations in which it builds KiwiBuild homes: analysing the number of registrants on the KiwiBuild register in the relevant location and the typologies for which they've registered; analysing census data to assess the number of households with incomes sufficient to service a mortgage at KiwiBuild price points; analysing Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment data regarding the number of renting households in the area and the dollar value of the bonds lodged to assess how many households in the area can afford to service a KiwiBuild mortgage; analysing recent sales data in the area to assess the volume, value, and type of sales; assessing how many properties are for sale in the area and the average time taken for them to sell; talking to market participants such as valuers and real estate agents; contracting experts to provide opinions on these factors; obtaining a registered valuation; determining how many other KiwiBuild developments are going on in the area; and analysing local government plans and urban development strategies or targeted urban growth areas.
It's important to note that the housing and urban development ministry is trying to predict demand for something which doesn't exist in the current market: affordable housing. And, in some cases, the proposals are in new subdivisions, where historic data is either non-existent or not directly relevant.
Hon Judith Collins: Has his demand modelling considered specific demand for two-bedroom houses in places such as Huapai, north-west of Auckland?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Hon Judith Collins: If a demand model said a house would be sold but it was offered to the market and not sold, would he believe the demand model or would he believe the market?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, that's a hypothetical, particularly in the case of Huapai.
Hon Judith Collins: How do taxpayers benefit from underwriting houses in Huapai based on demand that has been modelled?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, taxpayers benefit and first-home buyers benefit when the organisation that KiwiBuild unit contracts in Huapai, with one of the country's leading residential builders, Mike Greer Homes, to build affordable homes at a price and a quantity that otherwise would not have happened, as Mike Greer himself has said in the media. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: The member's got to call if he wants to—
Kieran McAnulty: I did.
SPEAKER: Oh, well, not very loud, and he sat down afterwards as the Minister of Finance—
Kieran McAnulty: Supplementary, Mr Speaker. What work has the ministry undertaken to work out expected demand in each region?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as part of the establishment of KiwiBuild, officials provided an analysis of housing demand in key locations, and this reflects the difference between population growth adjusted for household size and the number of building consents issued between 2006 and 2017. That analysis showed that Auckland, during that period, developed a shortfall of over 44,000 homes; Wellington, 9,000 homes; Hamilton, nearly 6,000 homes; Napier-Hastings, nearly 1,800; and Queenstown Lakes was 1,600 homes short.
Hon Judith Collins: How does the KiwiBuild underwrite increase supply when photos show the houses in Huapai were already clad and roofed in September 2018, two months before he signed the underwrite?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because, as Mike Greer himself explained in the media, he'd been negotiating with the KiwiBuild unit for several months while he put that development together, and, as he said, the KiwiBuild underwrite allowed him to build a larger development with more affordable homes. It reduced his financing costs, enabled him to reduce his margin and build more affordable homes, and that's why the KiwiBuild homes are at a lower price than the other homes in that development.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Dealing with the issue of supply-side economics raised by the Hon Judith Collins, is it not a fact that last year the Government and the people of this country built more houses than any year since 1978?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, it's true that the Government is building, currently, more homes than has ever been the case since 1978. And the consent numbers—the private sector consenting numbers, a partial indicator of success—demonstrate that we have the highest build rate now since 2004.
Hon Judith Collins: Did he inform the Minister of Finance that the Huapai properties were already clad and roofed two months before he asked the Minister of Finance to sign the approval to underwrite?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: You'll have to ask the Minister of Finance. But, as the member says, he signed off the documents.
SPEAKER: No. That answer is not good enough—did he tell the Minister of Finance. Saying you've got to ask the Minister of Finance—he might have responsibility for what he hears, but the Minister has a responsibility for what he said.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No. I did not tell the Minister of Finance, because he's aware he signed off all of the documents on that project.
Hon Judith Collins: Well, if the Minister says that the Minister of Finance was aware when he signed off the documents but he didn't tell him, how does he believe that the Minister of Finance was aware?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Mr Speaker, I think I've answered that question.
SPEAKER: No. I think, if the member has answered, it's passed some of us by, so answer it again.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: So, as I pointed out to the member earlier, I did not directly inform the Minister of Finance, but the Minister of Finance is familiar with that project because he signed off all the documents relating to it.
Hon Judith Collins: How many other times has he approved underwrites for houses to be built when they have been already built?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I can't give a direct number on that, but the member needs to understand that we are in the business of getting affordable homes built, something that that Government never did, for nine years. I point her again to the comments of Mike Greer, who said that he was able to, because of KiwiBuild support, build more homes at a more affordable price than he would otherwise have been able to do.
• Question No.
3. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he seen on the international view of the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I've seen a range of reports that take a favourable view of recent developments in New Zealand and see a positive outlook for the economy, in particular from the global ratings agencies. Moody's latest credit opinion for the Government reaffirmed its Aaa stable credit rating. Moody's said, "The outlook is anchored by its expectation that, even in the face of shocks, New Zealand's credible institutions with highly effective policymaking and ample policy space will maintain economic and financial stability". Moody's commented on the Government's use of the well-being Budget, saying that the Government's "Ongoing focus on well-being denotes [its] very high institutional capacity and fiscal flexibility".
In its latest credit opinion, Standard & Poor's (S & P) revised its outlook on New Zealand's AA foreign and AA+ local currency credit ratings up to positive from stable. In its report titled "New Zealand's outlook revised position", S & P referenced our solid economic growth and specifically noted New Zealands per capita GDP growth continuing to outpace similarly rated peers.
Willow-Jean Prime: What reports has he seen on the outlook for the international economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Today, the OECD released its interim economic outlook, in which it downgraded global growth forecast for the next two years. The OECD said that policy uncertainty, ongoing trade tensions, and low business and consumer confidence are all contributing to the global slow down. It also pointed to the risk that the Chinese economy could slow more sharply than anticipated. The OECD is now projecting 3.3 percent global GDP growth in 2019. Its forecast growth was downgraded across most economies, including Australia, Canada, the UK, the US, the Euro area, and Japan. It's important to note that in New Zealand our own forecasts remain solid, with growth forecasts for 2019 near the 3 percent level, which puts us well ahead of those advanced economies I've just mentioned. These global risks do highlight the importance of our commitment to fiscal responsibility to ensure that the Government has options in the face of any shocks.
Willow-Jean Prime: How is the Government ensuring New Zealand is resilient in this global economic context?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We are doing that by our responsible fiscal management, but also by making important—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Poor tax!
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —investments into the—I know you won't understand investments, Gerry, so listen up.
SPEAKER: Order! Now, the member does know better than that, and he is the senior member of his party in the House at the moment. In fact, I'll say to both finance spokespeople that neither of them have been providing good examples, including that member interjecting during Ms Collins' questions earlier. So people will just settle down.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We're making a number of important investments into research and development through our training and skills programmes, such as Fees-free and He Poutama Rangatahi, through the Provincial Growth Fund, through the establishment of the Green Investment Fund, and through continuing to progress negotiations on free trade agreements. Through these initiatives, and many more, we will continue to deliver on our plan for a more resilient and productive economy that improves the lives and well-being of all New Zealanders.
• Question No. 4—Health
4. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: How many DHB-funded elective surgical procedures have been performed in the six months to 31 December 2018, and how does that compare with the corresponding period ended 31 December 2017?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): The previous Government chose a narrow definition for elective surgeries that excluded a range of procedures, such as carpal tunnel surgery, while including others, such as Avastin injections, that could be more appropriately delivered in out-patient or primary care settings. While we continue to count electives as the prior Government did, this distortion is the reason why we are moving away from a narrow set of political targets toward ensuring the best overall value for the taxpayer within the available health dollar. In terms of that measure—that we are still counting—in the six months to 31 December 2018 there were 100,339 elective surgical discharges delivered. In the six months to 31 December 2017 there were 103,041 elective surgical discharges delivered.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Doesn't data show that after years of steady increases in both the volume and the case weight of discharges, his first year in charge saw nearly no growth in throughput and in the year to date the numbers are now going backwards?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, can he confirm that nearly 2,000 fewer case weighted orthopaedic procedures have been done this year to date than what is required to simply be the same as last year?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: What I can confirm is that we are looking to see more procedures performed in the appropriate settings. We want to see those procedures that could be performed in surgical settings being performed there—those ones that are more appropriately performed in out-patient and primary care performed in those settings, so we get better value for the taxpayer from the available health dollar.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Goodness me, he knows how to run a health system. Does he think it's acceptable that hundreds more women requiring gynaecological procedures—
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wanted to draw your attention to the fact that we had a little chapeau to that question there from Mr Woodhouse—I'm not sure if you picked it up—and, also, in question No. 1 today we had interjections from Mr Woodhouse as well. I'm just wondering at what point your normal system applies.
SPEAKER: When I decide it will.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he think it's acceptable that hundreds more women requiring gynaecological procedures are still waiting because of a drop in throughput for those procedures in district health boards?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have not seen a particular cut of the figures that the member is using. I'm happy to answer questions if he wants to put down a specific question on those issues.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Can he confirm the Government appropriated $126 million in last year's Budget to meet growing demand for elective surgery, and what is he doing about the fact that that increasing demand is not being met with any more surgery?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Government inherited a public health service that has been underfunded for years. I take full responsibility for tackling that legacy.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: In view of that answer, to the Minister: is he telling the House that his response to what he describes as "years of underfunding" is to do less, not more?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.
• Question No.
5. MARJA LUBECK (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What feedback has he received during his visits to institutes of technology and polytechnics as part of consultation on the reform of vocational education?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Quite a lot. During my recent visits to NorthTec and Otago Polytechnic, both of those institutions presented me with detailed proposals for how they think an alternative vocational education system could work whilst improving the connections that currently exist between iwi, industry, employers, and other stakeholders in their region when it comes to delivering vocational education and training. I've been encouraging all of the stakeholders around the country who have a view on this to put forward their proposals and their views on the proposals that the Government has released, so that we can continue to refine and develop a new system for vocational education and training in New Zealand—something that almost everybody who has been contributing to this debate has argued is necessary.
Marja Lubeck: What other regions will he be visiting over the next few weeks?
MARJA LUBECK: Over the next few weeks I'll be in New Plymouth to visit theWestern Institute of Technology at Taranaki, I'll be in Palmerston North to visit the Universal College of Learning, and where possible I'll be visiting others around the country as part of the consultation exercise. In total there are 107 consultation engagement events throughout New Zealand over the next few weeks to ensure that everybody affected by, or with an interest in, the planned reforms of vocational education and training can have a say. Many of those, of course, I won't be at but we will be ensuring that the people who are there are able to engage, receive feedback, and answer any questions.
• Question No.
6. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Associate Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made regarding gifted children in New Zealand?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): Last Wednesday, I was very pleased to announce, at MindPlus East, a one-day school for gifted learners at Riverina School in Pakuranga, a $1.27 million package of funding that includes support for one-day schools for New Zealand gifted children. There are an estimated 40,000 gifted learners in New Zealand, and restoring support and funding for gifted education is a priority for this Government and is one of a suite of education policies inside our coalition agreement. Along with the funding for one-day schools we have upgraded the gifted website to help parents and teachers and introduced new awards for gifted students.
Jenny Marcroft: When was the last time funding for gifted children was addressed?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Gifted education funding was reduced in 2009, from $2.7 million down to $1.27 million. Since 2009, this funding was used solely for the professional development of teachers. This time it's all about the children. We have redirected the funding in recognition that these children require different interventions to have their needs met; for example, giving them the opportunity to learn alongside like-minded peers in one-day schools. We have developed this package in consultation with a group of experts and practitioners on gifted education. This group will also assist in the monitoring of how well the needs of gifted learners are met.
Jenny Marcroft: Supplementary?
SPEAKER: No, before the member does ask it, I'm going to insist that the Minister answer the question.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I believe there was possibly an enlightened Minister of Education in a previous Parliament—I'm not sure I can refer to him by name without actually breaching the Standing Orders—but I understand he was one of the wise individuals that originally noted gifted children needed this support.
Jenny Marcroft: And why do our gifted children need this support?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: As you possibly well know, every child should be supported to be the best they can be. We recognise that gifted learners are unique and have diverse needs. Just like other students with additional learning needs, gifted learners deserve the extra support to ensure that they receive the right educational opportunities. I am pleased that through this Government's prioritisation, we have been able to make this happen.
• Question No. 7—Energy
7. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she expect recent high wholesale electricity prices to be reflected in household power bills; if so, when?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Energy and Resources: No. Short-term peaks in wholesale electricity prices are unlikely to be reflected in consumer prices. Household power prices are driven by a number of factors, including line charges and customer service costs, as well as power companies' projections of long-term future demand, supply, and the need for investment. Wholesale price volatility is not generally a significant driver of household power pricing.
Jonathan Young: Considering that answer, does the Minister consider that the long-term wholesale electricity prices, which have increased by 30 percent over this last year, will not be passed through to households at some point.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, one can gauge what is happening simply on the facts of the matter, and there has been some commentary in relation to some short-term outage of gas supply and the fact that the hydro lakes in the South Island are lower at this time of the year than they were previously—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No they're not.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: They're 12 percent lower than the long-term average of those lake levels. Those sorts of things often lead to commentary about pressure on both wholesale prices and household prices, but there is no evidence that household prices are rising because of generation capacity.
Jonathan Young: So is she saying that businesses whose base costs are rising won't pass that on to consumers?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf the Minister, the original question related to wholesale prices. There are then additional costs such as line charges and customer service costs, and I am aware that some of the power companies are reconsidering prices because of customer service charges and line charges that are beyond their control.
Jonathan Young: Will she therefore guarantee that household electricity prices will increase at no more than the same rate as over the last 10 years?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Again on behalf of the Minister, I can't give any guarantees about what will happen in a market which is widely now accepted as somewhat flawed. That is why we are doing an electricity pricing review. That is yet to come up with a series of recommendations that will improve the market, but measures such as this Government has taken like the winter energy payment are about alleviating the pressure on households.
Jonathan Young: Well, how can the Minister say that the wholesale prices won't be passed through to households but won't guarantee that prices will not increase higher than the last 10 years?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf the Minister, the member seems to be confusing the different sources of price pressure on electricity. Wholesale power prices relate to generation capacity, and the power companies have it in their hands to make their decisions on projections of long-term demand and supply and the investment decisions they make. We know now from recent commentary that investment in renewable sources of energy is cheaper than fossil - fuel based sources of energy, and we expect power companies to be investing in that. That will, in the long run, bring prices down.
Jonathan Young: So is the Minister saying that the long-term wholesale price out to 2022, that's currently at just under $92 a megawatt hour, increased from $70 a megawatt hour a year ago, is not going to be passed on to consumers?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf the Minister, what I am saying is speaking basic, orthodox market principles, and that is that those who are selling power to consumers, when they set that price, take into account a number of factors. The wholesale price is driven by generation capacity. That is affected by short-term measures such as lower than usual hydro lakes; such as both planned and unplanned outages of, for example, gas supply. That is affecting household prices at the moment, but that is not expected to have a material impact on household prices in the long run.
Jonathan Young: I think I need to ask that same question, Mr Speaker, because—
SPEAKER: Well, the member's allowed to ask it again.
Jonathan Young: Thank you. So is the Minister saying that wholesale prices won't be passed through to households yet won't guarantee that prices will not increase any faster than they have in the last 10 years?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf the Minister, there are a number of factors that contribute to the household price of electricity. The member's original question related to the wholesale price of electricity, and there are a number of factors that go to make that up. What the consumer and the household pays for their price relates not only to household electricity prices but to line charges, to customer service charges, and to other things that the electricity retailers add on to their customers. The member is conflating different aspects of the market to all impinge on the household price, and the member himself is confused about what it is that is relevant to household electricity pricing.
Jonathan Young: So, to make it clear, is the Minister saying that any household increases in electricity prices will be exclusive of increases in the wholesale price?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, the market, in the way it operates at the moment—we know from the Electricity Commission's recent report—is flawed. That is why change is about to happen to it. We know that those selling electricity to households take into account a number of factors when they are setting that price. To the extent that that member is implying that volatility in wholesale electricity prices is a driver, or the main or principal driver, of household electricity prices, he is wrong. There are a number of factors that go into it, but the reality is that for the vast majority of households, when they come to pay their power bill, the price they pay is driven by a range of factors and is not directly impacted by wholesale power prices.
Jonathan Young: So is the Minister, to make it clear, saying to this House that increases in the household price of electricity are completely exclusive to any increase in the wholesale price of electricity?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: On behalf of the Minister, no, that is not what I have said. In the many answers I seem to have given today, I have said that volatility in wholesale electricity prices is not a driver of household electricity prices.
No. 8—Small Business
8. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Small Business: Has he sought specific advice on the impact of a capital gains tax on New Zealand's 500,000 small businesses; if so, what did that advice say?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister for Small Business): No, I have not, but I am aware the Minister of Revenue has seen advice on matters arising from the Tax Working Group report.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Has the Minister of Revenue reported to the Minister for Small Business on those reports?
Hon STUART NASH: Not officially, no, but what I can tell you is the Minister of Revenue has seen a report that says, and I quote, "The extent of additional tax that would be payable by small businesses under an extended tax on capital income is not known." But I would like to reiterate that no decisions have been made. We're listening to feedback from right across the community, and we're carefully considering all options.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Is he concerned about the impact of a capital gains tax on small business?
Hon STUART NASH: That's a purely hypothetical question. The reason I say that is, I will repeat, that there have been absolutely no decisions made at all. We are carefully considering all the options, and we will do this before we make any decision.
Hon Jacqui Dean: So what does he say to the small-business owner who said about a capital gains tax—I quote—"I just don't understand why on earth they are looking at crippling small and medium businesses. We make up over 90 percent of New Zealand's economy, and I'm astounded that Labour don't recognise that we contribute to New Zealand's wealth."?
Hon STUART NASH: What I would say to that small-business owner is that the Tax Working Group listed 19 measures that the Government could consider with the aim of reducing compliance costs to small businesses. Of these, eight are considered a major impact. Then there were three other productivity-enhancing measures, about one of which the Tax Working Group said, and I quote, "The last of these will have significant benefit to small businesses." But I would like to reiterate that there has been absolutely no decision made on the recommendations put forward by the Tax Working Group. We are carefully considering all the options, and we will make decisions in about April.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Will he guarantee that a small business with a home office will not be subject to a capital gains tax?
Hon STUART NASH: I will repeat, for the third time, that absolutely no decisions have been made on any of the recommendations put forward by the Tax Working Group. We are listening to all sectors. We are carefully considering all the options, and we will make recommendations in good time.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Has he heard from any small businesses about their views on a capital gains tax?
Hon STUART NASH: What I have heard is a lot of nonsense put forward by the Opposition which is simply not grounded in reality. I suspect that that member has actually not even read the report. This is not play school.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, before the right honourable gentleman goes, we're going to have an answer to the question.
Hon STUART NASH: At this point, I'm not consulting with small business on a capital gains tax, because there is no proposal out there to implement a capital gains tax.
SPEAKER: OK. I'm now going to, very directly, ask the Minister to answer the question, and I will ask Jacqui Dean to repeat it so it is clear.
Hon Jacqui Dean: To the Minister, has he heard from any small businesses about their views on a capital gains tax?
Hon STUART NASH: No. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Quiet now! Could I ask the Minister as to whether it's a fact that, since 21 February, all 500,000 small businesses in this country have had a chance or will have a chance over the next few weeks to get in contact with his office or any member of Parliament, including, if they are desperate, the National Party?
Hon STUART NASH: The Deputy Prime Minister makes a very good point. What I will say is, I have heard a lot of feedback from small businesses on the R & D tax credit, on what we're doing to tax multinationals, on how we are putting GST on low-value goods—these are the impacts that are making a real difference to the competitiveness of our economy for small businesses.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In that exchange on the issue of the capital gains and small business, the Minister first said he hadn't seen a report, but then quoted from a report. Can he table that report?
SPEAKER: Does the Minister have the report he was referring to in the House?
Hon STUART NASH: No. I don't have it in the House.
SPEAKER: No, he doesn't have it in the House. Therefore, he can't be required to table it.
• Question No.
9. GREG O'CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister of Justice: What recent reports has he seen regarding victims' views of the criminal justice system?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): I have seen the preliminary results of the Strengthening the Criminal Justice System for Victims survey, run by the Chief Victims Advisor. The survey shows that, of the participants who responded, 76 percent felt that their views, concerns, and needs weren't listened to throughout the justice process, while 79 percent felt that they hadn't had the information or support that they needed. As the survey shows, we have to do better for victims of crime, and this Government is committed to making reforms in our criminal justice system that does just that.
Greg O'Connor: What other results did the survey show?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The survey results also showed that 83 percent of participants don't feel that the criminal justice system is safe and secure for victims. That accords with what victims and their advocates are telling me. They wanted to know clearly where they stand and what their place is in the system, and they want to be respected and treated with dignity in it.
Greg O'Connor: Why is it important that the Government hear from victims of crime?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: One thing that sets victims apart from every other participant in the criminal justice system is that they haven't made any choice to be there. I was privileged to attend a workshop this week of victims and their advocates, and their message to me was very clear: victims want their voices heard, they want access to support, and they want to be treated with dignity. Our criminal justice reforms must ensure that justice is done, not just to offenders and the community but also to victims.
• Question No.
10. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: Which demographics and areas of New Zealand were most under-reported in Census 2018, and what impact does he expect that will have on those areas and demographics?
SPEAKER: The Hon James Shaw—as far as he is responsible.
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): The member is, effectively, asking me to divulge the results of the census before they have been released by the Government Statistician; to do so would be a breach of the Statistics Act 1975. As has been previously indicated, the Government Statistician will, in April, announce a release schedule for the 2018 Census data. I understand the frustration that the member and others may be feeling in relation to the delay in the release of the 2018 Census data. It is of—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The next thing you're about to say is rubbish. It was the Government's census.
Hon JAMES SHAW: It is of—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Some members of this House, including me, think this is a very serious issue. And it is not being helped by anticipatory interjections from the Hon Gerry Brownlee. The responses to this question and its supplementaries will be heard in silence, but with that comes a clear indication to the Minister answering the questions that he is to play a straight bat.
Hon JAMES SHAW: That's a shame! I understand the frustration that the members and others may be feeling in relation to the delay in the release of the 2018 Census data. It is of utmost importance that officials do continue to work through the process of delivering a high-quality data set. This is analogous to asking for the results of an exam that is still being marked.
Dr Jian Yang: What's his response to a question listed in Statistics New Zealand's question and answer sheet: "The response rates for Māori are likely to be much lower than other population groups. How will this affect Treaty claims?"
Hon JAMES SHAW: Stats NZ are continuing to build a picture of the impact of lower individual response rates for Māori descent and iwi affiliation data. They are increasing their engagement with Māori interest organisations and with iwi to both confirm data needs and to look to develop complementary strategies where needed.
Dr Jian Yang: Is he concerned that Statistics New Zealand have stated, "Secondary data sources cannot provide some information, such as Māori population statistics and iwi affiliation."?
Hon JAMES SHAW: The reason why it's taking longer than normal to report on the output of a census is because Stats NZ are working with administrative data to supplement the results of the census to produce a very high-quality data set. They are doing this very thoroughly. It is taking some time, but I do believe that we'll be able to give people what they need when they need it.
Dr Jian Yang: Has he seen an article by Tahu Kukutai and Donna Cormack in the New Zealand Population Review that notes Statistics New Zealand may use Census 2013 data to impute who is Māori and who is not, and that this may "undermine rights of Māori to self-identify, [including] the right to refuse, … to, identify to the Crown."?
Hon JAMES SHAW: No, I have not seen that article.
Dr Jian Yang: Which demographics and areas of New Zealand are most likely to be impacted if the census data is not available for the electoral boundary redraw before the September 2019 deadline?
Hon JAMES SHAW: As I said in my answer to the primary question, I can't talk about the results of the census before they've been released by the Government Statistician. She intends to release a schedule of census data releases in April, and my understanding is that Statistics New Zealand are highly confident of being able to deliver a high-quality data set to the Electoral Commission by the time the Electoral Commission needs it.
Dr Jian Yang: Well, does it remain the case that Statistics New Zealand is not in a position to complete a new census by 2021 and, therefore, Census 2013 will remain the most recent alternative census available for the next two elections?
Hon JAMES SHAW: In answer to the first part of the question, I've been advised that running a census in 2021 would be high risk, with less time to submit a business case and to obtain funding, set up the census programme and team, and go through the procurement processes to bring on board suppliers and to build and test changes to collection processes and systems to ensure a successful outcome. In other words, abandoning the results of the 2018 Census before they've been completed and running an urgent census would be a higher risk and, actually, probably would produce a worse outcome. It is a large logistical exercise. It takes five to seven years to put together a census, and so running one in three years would simply be inappropriate.
Dr Jian Yang: Given the likelihood of under-report of the Māori population, has the Minister met with the Labour Māori caucus to discuss the implications of the Census 2018 shortcomings?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I've not met with the caucus as a group, but I've have had conversations with a couple of members of that caucus. However, this is one of those areas where the Government's chief statistician and Stats NZ have operational control, and so I have encouraged them to reach out to Stats NZ to have those conversations directly.
• Question No.
11. SIMEON BROWN (National—Pakuranga) 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 CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes.
Simeon Brown: Is legislation in the process of being drafted to reform vocational education?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There are a variety of work streams on this, one of which is looking at if the model as proposed proceeds, what legislation would be required to enact that. As part of that, they're also canvassing other alternatives as well.
Simeon Brown: What functions will be centralised into the proposed single national polytechnic, and has any modelling been undertaken to determine how many jobs will move from local polytechnics to Wellington?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In answer to the first part of the question, decisions haven't been made on that yet, which means the answer to the second part of the question is no.
Simeon Brown: Will he commit to ensuring any jobs established by the consolidation of back-office functions are kept out of Wellington and kept in the regions, especially given the Labour - New Zealand First coalition agreement, which commits to "relocate Government functions into the regions".
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes.
Simeon Brown: Did he listen to concerns from Otago Polytechnic on Tuesday that brand matters for polytechnics, and will he commit to local polytechnics such as Otago polytech retaining their own local brand and brand name?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In answer to the first part of the question, yes. In answer to the second part of the question, that's something we're getting a lot of feedback on, and I think they're making a very compelling case.
• Question No. 12—Māori
12. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Māori Development: Is the Ahuwhenua Trophy important for Māori agribusiness; if so, how?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister for Māori Development): The Ahuwhenua Trophy is the most prestigious award in Māori agriculture, and it highlights the huge contribution that Māori have made to the agricultural sector. This year, there are three finalists—and, much to the pleasure of our colleague Meka Whaitiri, all from Te Tai Rāwhiti—in the beef and sheep category of this competition. The Māori economy is worth $50 billion to Aotearoa. Over the past three decades, the Māori agribusiness sector has grown exponentially, not only in sheep and beef but also in dairy. I'm pleased to announce that horticulture will be a new category added to the competition and will be recognised for the first time next year. Māori are seeking to move into the value-add space, increasing returns from their whenua and contributing to the well-being of their whānau, community, and the New Zealand economy, and the Government wants that success to grow.
Rino Tirikatene: What is the long-term prognosis for Māori agriculture?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Well, while we don't have a crystal ball, and while we celebrate the success of Māori in the agricultural sector, we can always do more. Over 40 percent of Māori land is considered underutilised; there are thousands of acres of undeveloped Māori land with no governance structure and many small land blocks with fragmented ownership that inhibits the viability of their development potential. We're making changes to support a package of reforms that will comprise targeted amendments to the Te Ture Whenua Maori Act, an improved data and information base to assist governance and land capability decisions, and support for Māori landowners to organise themselves to plan towards their development aspirations for their whenua and whānau. We want Māori landowners to tap into the potential of their land by encouraging hands-on participation, good governance, and decision making. These reforms will help deliver intergenerational change and better well-being outcomes for whānau.
Rino Tirikatene: What role does the recent $100 million whenua fund announcement play in growing the potential of Māori agriculture?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Fantastic question, and thanks to our coalition partners of the Government, the announcement of the $100 million Whenua Māori Fund within the context of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is designed to support the move towards higher-value land use, complement other whenua initiatives that ensure there is end-to-end support for Māori landowners such as capability building and feasibility work, and enable Māori to access capital required to progress projects which are investment-ready. The PGF funding will not only help Māori landowners who find it difficult to raise mainstream bank finance but also make our regions more prosperous, just like we said we would.