Parliament: Questions and Answers - March 14
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Finance: Has he carried out appropriate oversight in all of his responsibilities as Minister of Finance?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was he aware that Shane Jones had declared a conflict of interest with respect to the Kupe project when he allowed Minister Jones to remain in a meeting that considered funding for that project?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That information was provided to Ministers in the background documentation for that meeting.
Hon Paula Bennett: If he knew that Shane Jones had a conflict of interest, why did he allow the Minister to participate in the decision to fund the project?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I'm not sure it's a question of me allowing a Minister to do something. The Minister acted in accordance with advice that he was given around how to manage this particular conflict of interest.
Hon Paula Bennett: Can he confirm that he did not originally support the approval of funding for the project?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It's on the public record that I raised issues around governance and the commercial operations of the project. Subsequently, when the project funding was finally released—which I believe was in August of last year—changes had been made to the governance arrangements. So the issues that I raised at that meeting were indeed rectified.
Hon Paula Bennett: Can he confirm that Treasury did not support the funding of the project?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Treasury had concerns about the funding of the project, and I would state that that is not unusual when it comes to Treasury about virtually any spending that the Government does.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister: in terms of any financial, pecuniary, or personal advantage to be gained by Mr Jones, exactly who has laid out what the conflict of interest being complained of is?
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. He's not responsible for that.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did Shane Jones' comments about the governance structure of the project influence his decision to approve the funding of it?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I took that decision on my judgment. The role of the Far North District Council—or their holding company, Far North Holdings Ltd—in the arrangements was important, but what was more important was the change to the overall governance arrangements, which, as I say, when the project was finally agreed to in August, were completed.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why did the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) official in the meeting state that Jones provided reassurances about the project, and because of those references, "Minister Robertson was comfortable to sign the briefing"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: You would need to address that question to the MBIE official, but I presume it's because that's the MBIE official's recollection of events.
Hon Paula Bennett: So in light of the fact that Treasury did not support the funding, he did not originally support the funding, and he held a meeting specifically to seek reassurances about the governance structure of the project, isn't it evident that Shane Jones influenced the decision to fund the project despite declaring a conflict of interest?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I disagree with part of the premise of the member's question. The meeting was held as a regular meeting to assess a number of projects, as we've already traversed in these questions today. The issues I had around the governance arrangements of the project were resolved. I want to repeat an earlier answer: there are different types of conflicts of interest. They can be managed in different ways. For example, if someone or a member of their family were to be financially benefiting from an issue, then that may well be something that would require a person to step away or outside of a meeting. Other types of conflicts of interest, perhaps knowing somebody in the past who might have been involved in a trust, can be managed in a different way. That is the situation that occurred here.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: On what date was Sir Michael Cullen first appointed as chair of the Tax Working Group, and when will his contract end?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Sir Michael Cullen was appointed as the chair of the Tax Working Group on 22 December 2017. His contract was extended on 2 February 2019 to end on 30 June 2019. In practice, the contract is unlikely to be required until 30 June; this date was chosen as it is when the appropriation for the Tax Working Group expires. For completeness, I would note that the letter reappointing Sir Michael is date-stamped 30 January 2018, when, of course, it should be 2019.
Hon Amy Adams: Is it appropriate for Sir Michael Cullen to be undertaking political attacks while being paid more than $1,000 a day by taxpayers?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I believe it is appropriate for Sir Michael Cullen, as the chair of the Tax Working Group, to explain the recommendations of that working group while the matter is under consideration by the Government. If, as part of those explanations, he is required to correct misrepresentations and lies, that is the role he has.
Hon Amy Adams: Does it count as explaining the recommendations for Sir Michael Cullen to make statements describing the Opposition, and I quote, as "salivating like a bunch of guard Alsatians from the German army in World War II", and isn't that simply a political attack being funded from taxpayers' dollars?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Sir Michael Cullen is responsible for the words that he uses. A phrase does come to mind: "If the shoe fits".
Hon Amy Adams: Why is he so cavalier about paying a former Labour Minister $1,000 a day to undertake clearly political attacks?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I am not being cavalier about this. The pay rate that Sir Michael Cullen has is based on the Group 4, Level 1 body rate under the Cabinet fees framework.
Hon Amy Adams: Why is the Minister using taxpayer funds to pay Michael Cullen $1,000 a day to do, and I quote, "favours for the Government", as Willie Jackson stated in Parliament yesterday?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don't believe that's a fair characterisation of what was a very full and rich speech by the Hon Willie Jackson. There is, however, one element of the Hon Willie Jackson's speech that I am a little concerned about—or, actually, the comments he made after the speech—which was he told media that he was paid a thousand dollars to do a speech, by the ACT Party. I'm not sure what that says about the economic wisdom of the ACT Party.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it true to say that Dr Cullen is getting the same remuneration under the Cabinet fees framework as he got a number of times from the National Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Presuming that the National Party, when they appointed Sir Michael Cullen to various roles, obeyed the fees framework. Now, I don't have the information to support that, but certainly he was a person—and indeed he is a person, who is widely respected around New Zealand for his knowledge, and presumably that's why the National Party appointed him when they were in Government.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, is the employment Minister right that the reaction of average workers to Sir Michael Cullen's thousand-dollars-a-day payment to do this sort of work would be one of, I quote, "disgust"?
SPEAKER: Hang on, I just want to think about ministerial—I'm going to get the member to rephrase the question so it clearly gets into the responsibility of the Minister of Finance.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, does the Minister of Finance agree with the employment Minister when he said that the reaction of average workers to paying Sir Michael Cullen a thousand dollars a day to do this sort of work would be one of "disgust"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I've said, it was a full and rich speech by Minister Jackson, during which he made a number of comments about Sir Michael Cullen's role. They are Mr Jackson's to own. What I believe is that Sir Michael Cullen has done and is doing a great job for New Zealanders. He was being paid in accordance with the Cabinet fees framework, and, indeed, he was no doubt paid similar or larger amounts of money by the National Party when they employed him.
• Question No. 3—Finance
TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki): My question is to the Minister of Finance and asks—
Hon Amy Adams: Busy day for Grant.
SPEAKER: Order! Did—that member didn't? So it was only Amy Adams who interjected?
Hon Amy Adams: I did. I apologise.
SPEAKER: Well, stand up and apologise, all right?
Hon Amy Adams: Now that you've asked me to, I withdraw and apologise, sir.
SPEAKER: Thank you. Start again, Mr Coffey.
3. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Finance: What effect, if any, would Brexit have on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): We continue to pay close attention to how Brexit unfolds. The UK's departure from the EU would have a range of implications for New Zealand and New Zealanders. Current uncertainty means it is important for us to prepare for the full range of potential outcomes. Treasury's assessment is that a no-deal Brexit would likely have a small overall negative impact on the New Zealand economy, mainly due to disruption of some specific New Zealand businesses and industries. For example, UK tourist numbers could fall, Kiwi goods could face delays at the UK border, and importers could face supply disruptions. This morning the UK parliament voted to take a no-deal Brexit off the table permanently. However, as there remains no clear outcome to the Brexit process, we will continue to monitor and plan for all contingencies.
Tamati Coffey: How is the Government working to ensure stability for New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses through this uncertain period?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Our aim is to ensure maximum continuity and stability for New Zealand interests through the Brexit process and to help New Zealanders who could be affected by Brexit to prepare for the full range of possible outcomes. New Zealand Government officials have established an interagency task force that is analysing and identifying areas where New Zealanders may be affected, and is working to mitigate these risks. The Government has also been conducting outreach in the business community, including through a series of seminars led by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and involving other Government agencies to help businesses prepare for Brexit as well as a regular newsletter update to exporters. I encourage all New Zealand businesses that may be affected by Brexit to consider the implications of the full range of scenarios for their business and ensure that they have contingency plans in place.
Tamati Coffey: What are the potential implications of Brexit for trade policy and settings?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: New Zealand and the UK have signed two agreements that will help ensure continuity and stability in the regulatory arrangements underpinning New Zealand's trade. Looking ahead, both the UK and New Zealand Governments have publicly signalled their intention to negotiate a high-quality, comprehensive, bilateral free-trade agreement once the UK is in a position to do so. Beyond this we are also working to negotiate free-trade agreements with European Union, the Pacific Alliance, as well is continuing to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and upgrading our China free-trade agreement. By continuing to open up new markets we can ensure our export sector is more diversified and more resilient while continuing to grow.
Hon Todd McClay: What guarantees can the Government give exporters that tariff rates will not increase in a post hard Brexit—particularly for lamb and butter exports, which currently enter the UK at a zero tariff rate within special quotas—and why did the Government not raise this when the Prime Minister gave assurances that New Zealand exporters would be no worse off in the post-Brexit arrangement during her recent visit to the United Kingdom?
SPEAKER: The Minister may answer as many of the three questions as he wants to.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can answer on behalf of myself, which is issues around tariff rate quotas were something that I raised when I was in Brussels and the UK in January.
Hon Todd McClay: What guarantees can the Government give New Zealand exporters—particularly for butter and lamb exports to the United Kingdom—in the post-Brexit, hard Brexit arrangement that their tariff rate within that quota won't go up?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That is exactly the issue that I alluded to, where New Zealand is not alone in concerns about these issues, and we are continuing to raise them both in the European Union context and in the UK.
• Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development
4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Has the KiwiBuild underwrite of Mike Greer Homes passed the additionality test, and who undertakes and approves this test?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development assesses each development and I'm advised that that includes assessment of the additionality requirement.
Hon Judith Collins: How many of the 104 Mike Greer KiwiBuild homes were already built at the time he and Minister Robertson agreed to underwrite them?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: To the best of my knowledge, I think that for 11 of those 104 properties, construction was at least under way. But I want to reiterate the answer that I gave yesterday, and that is the additionality test for these developments is applied not on individual homes but on the contract as a whole. The Mike Greer contract delivered 104 affordable homes for first-home buyers.
Hon Judith Collins: Did he inform those that perform the additionality test that all 11 Mike Greer KiwiBuild houses so far offered to KiwiBuild buyers were already built when he agreed to underwrite them?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's the job of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to undertake those negotiations and apply the additionality test, so they did know.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked if the Minister advised them. He then told me that it was the job of the ministry to undertake the test. The point is, did the Minister know; did he advise the ministry of that?
SPEAKER: I thought right at the end of the answer, he did answer that.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: They already knew.
Hon Judith Collins: Oh, they already knew? OK. Can the Minister release the street addresses of each of the 104 Mike Greer KiwiBuild homes so that the public can be reassured that they were not already built when he has agreed to underwrite them?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I'd have to say I wouldn't be particularly keen on that, given the member's track record of personally targeting and harassing KiwiBuild homeowners.
Hon Judith Collins: In what month does he believe conversations with Mike Greer reached a level where Mike Greer was confident enough to change his designs to offer more affordable housing?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: You'd have to ask Mike Greer that question.
Hon Judith Collins: Is the Minister aware that the 12 houses at 27 Dida Park Drive, Huapai, were all built before the underwrite, marketed before the underwrite, and all done to a design dated February 2017?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I'm advised that the Huapai deal enabled Mike Greer to speed up that entire development and to bring it to market by June 2020, and reduced the prices in the Huapai development by $2.5 million.
Hon Judith Collins: I seek leave to table an overall floor plan dated 27 February 2017 for all of the properties at 27 Dida Park Drive, and before you ask me, Mr Speaker, I've had to obtain this from Auckland Council with payment of a fee and after waiting some days.
SPEAKER: I will put the question that that be tabled. Is there any objection? There is none. It may be tabled.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 5—Transport
5. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: Does he agree with New Zealand Transport Agency chairman Michael Stiassny, who told the Transport and Infrastructure Committee that "There is no doubt that the way the GPS has been written is more about safety, and the time spent between A to B is no longer a priority for us. The outcome of that will be, I think we could all agree, that it will take longer to get from A to B in a lot of places, and there will be more congestion"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes to the first part and no to the second.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, how does he account for the chair of his key transport agency having the wrong end of the stick?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, Mr Stiassny's quite right to say that our policy has prioritised safety, and, as the other top line objective in the Government policy statement, ensuring that New Zealanders have more options that give them access to the things they need.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So how can he say that reducing congestion is still a priority, when it is nowhere stated, and when the priority of improving access, which he points to, is fundamentally about getting people out of their cars?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because actually improving Kiwis' access to the things they need is fundamentally about improving congestion. Our approach—which is about giving people options, including much better public transport in our cities and walking and cycling—is about reducing the car dependency and congestion that got worse every year under the former Government, when they spent 40 percent of the transport budget on a handful of motorway projects that carried 4 percent of vehicle journeys.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So does he accept that having a priority to get people out of their cars is not the same thing as reducing congestion, especially given that some transport planners think that increasing congestion on the roads is the best way to get people out of their cars?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I can't speak for "some transport planners", but I'll say this to the member: providing people with modern public transport and rapid transit and walking and cycling is the best way to encourage some people to leave their cars at home. That allows the roads and the motorways to move more freely, and that is our policy.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So does he think Kiwis stuck in traffic—say on Auckland's Southern Motorway, or crawling into Tauranga from Ōmokoroa, or many other places—would agree that reducing congestion should no longer be a priority, as the chair of his New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) thinks?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Reducing congestion is a priority, but it's a subset of improving access. We had a nine-year experiment in the kind of policy that the member is promoting, and congestion and gridlock in our cities got worse every single year, and we saw a blowout in deaths and serious injuries on our roads.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So what does he say to the people of Tauranga, whose council has instructed the chief executive of Tauranga City Council to cease awarding any new contracts for transportation upgrade and safety projects because they no longer have agreement with NZTA to part-fund them, because they don't fit within the Government's new transport priorities?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, that's not at all what the mayor and chief executive of Tauranga City Council have said. They actually have raised with me that they are having trouble getting some decisions made as speedily to see projects rolled out. I've asked them for detail on that, because holding up any road projects or transport projects is the last thing that I want to see, and I've said I will chase that up for them.
• Question No. 6—Revenue
6. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Revenue: What recent steps, if any, has he taken to help combat international tax evasion?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue): I'm happy to inform the House that we are expanding our global information sharing network by adding 30 jurisdictions to our current list of 60 to help combat tax evasion.
Kieran McAnulty: Well done.
Hon STUART NASH: Thank you. The addition of 30 new territories, which includes Panama, Nigeria, and Switzerland, reflects increased international cooperation by OECD and G20 countries to crack down on tax evasion. This Government is committed to ensuring that everyone pays their fair share of tax, including those who have financial interests in other countries. It shines a spotlight on those who try to evade tax obligations by hiding their assets offshore.
Dr Deborah Russell: How does the automatic exchange of information ensure that all New Zealanders and foreign tax residents pay their fair share of tax in New Zealand and overseas?
Hon STUART NASH: Globalisation has made it easier for people to invest money outside of the tax residence jurisdiction, and this has provided opportunities for offshore tax evasion. The automatic exchange of information enables information sharing about details of accounts of New Zealand taxpayers in overseas financial institutions such as banks, private equity funds, and trusts. Inland Revenue will review the information and verify that correct tax is being paid on offshore investments. Since our first exchange in September 2018, New Zealand sent information on just over 600,000 accounts to 52 jurisdictions, and we received information on just over 724,000 accounts from 66 jurisdictions. The issue of multinational tax avoidance and evasion is a global issue and New Zealand is proud to be part of the global solution.
Dr Deborah Russell: What other measures is he taking to ensure multinational companies and individuals pay their fair share of tax?
Hon STUART NASH: This Government has an intensive work programme as we actively seek to tighten our international tax laws. Last year, we ratified the multinational instrument and passed the base erosion and profit shifting bill, which modified thousands of existing international tax treaties to incorporate the OECD treaty recommendations on anti-abuse, transfer pricing, dispute resolution, and the rules on hybrid mismatches. We've a bill in the House that proposes GST on imported low-value goods to even the playing field for New Zealand retailers, and we wish the Opposition would actually support this measure. We are also looking to consult on the design of changes to tax rules, which currently allow multinational companies in the digital services field to do business here without paying income tax. This Government is focused on strengthening our international tax laws. This should give New Zealanders confidence that our tax system treats everyone the same, whether an individual or a large corporate. We all have to pay our fair share.
• Question No. 4 to Minister—Amended Answer
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): If I may just correct one answer I gave to an earlier question in relation to the number of homes in the Mike Greer KiwiBuild contract.
SPEAKER: The member's seeking leave to make a personal explanation in order to correct an answer. Is there any objection? There is none.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I said that to the best of my recollection there were 11 homes. I think the member opposite said 12. In fact, the correct number was 13.
• Question No. 7—Small Business
7. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Small Business: Has he undertaken any formal consultation with any small businesses on a capital gains tax since last Thursday; if not, why not?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister for Small Business): No, because if the member is referring to the recommendations of the independent Tax Working Group, then I can remind the member of my answers of the last two sitting weeks, the answers from the Minister of Finance, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister for Economic Development, and the answers from the Prime Minister that no decisions have been made and the Government will respond to this report in April. So I'm hardly likely to formally consult, when there is nothing to consult on.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Wouldn't it be prudent to be talking with small business to inform the Government's response to the Tax Working Group?
Hon STUART NASH: I speak to many small businesses most weeks about measures that the Government is bringing in, like R & D tax credits, like the Provincial Growth Fund, like a whole lot of measures we are bringing in. But one thing I will say: when I said I'm not consulting on a capital gains tax, I'm also not consulting on the 19 measures that the Tax Working Group considers would reduce compliance cost to small to medium enterprises.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Why not? [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Jacqui Dean.
Hon STUART NASH: Because—can I say this again—there have been absolutely no decisions made on this, so why would I formally consult when there's absolutely nothing to consult on.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does the Minister for Small Business support small business?
Hon STUART NASH: Unequivocally, and I am part of a Government that I think is doing a hell of a lot for small business, as mentioned: the billion dollar R & D tax credit, the Provincial Growth Fund, putting GST on low-value goods imported from companies offshore. We are supporting small business in a way that the previous Government never did.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does the Minister not wish to hear the views of small business on the capital gains tax?
Hon STUART NASH: Mr Speaker, I know that you don't like hearing repetition, however, there is nothing to consult small businesses on when it comes to a hypothetical capital gains tax because there is nothing out there. Let me say once again: we are open-minded, we are listening, it was an independent Tax Working Group report, we are working through the recommendations, and, as the Minister of Finance has said probably about 800,000 times, we will present our recommendations in April. Until that point in time, there is nothing to consult on.
• Question No. 8—Energy and Resources
JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Energy and Resources and asks—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Oh, look! Order! The member will resume his seat. Amy Adams will stand, withdraw, and apologise again.
Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn): I withdraw and apologise.
8. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she expect the increases in long-term wholesale electricity prices to be reflected in household power bills; if so, when?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Short-term peaks in wholesale electricity prices driven by short-term gas infrastructure issues are unlikely to be passed on to the consumer as a result of how retailers manage risks and by smoothing their pricing structures. Under current market conditions, gentailers may choose to pass on longer-term increases in wholesale prices; however, this is likely to occur over a longer period of time. Longer-term price increases are likely to encourage new builds, and the Government is looking forward to seeing new renewable generation being built, as this—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Name one proposal.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: —is the lowest-cost generation. Finally, we're currently seeing slightly elevated prices on the ASX futures market, which reflects participants' guesses of what prices might be in the future. We're also seeing new generation being built, which would see downward pressure on those prices.
Jonathan Young: Will the wholesale electricity prices for calendar year 2020, which are 40 percent higher than this time last year, be passed on to consumers, and if not, why not?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: What the member is talking about is the ASX futures prices that are being projected out. This is, essentially, risk-pricing or insurance that people take to hedge. What happens with that as new generation comes on board and is built is we will see those—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Name one—one project.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: —prices fall. We had 2,000 megawatts of consented wind electricity—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: There's none.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Near where that member lives, there's currently a new wind farm that is being consented, at Waverley, and is currently likely to come on stream. As they come on board, those futures prices will fall.
SPEAKER: Order! Mr Brownlee, the member might take a call if he wants to ask a question. Actually, he's asked the same question from his seat at least five times, and it was actually answered.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No it wasn't.
SPEAKER: Yes it was. The member should listen.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that the question was very straightforward, and the answer was full of conjecture around future builds. I asked whether the futures price that people are paying today, which is 40 percent higher than last year, will be reflected in future consumer prices, and, if not, why not?
SPEAKER: And the Minister said—and anyone who knows anything about the issue—that will depend on future builds. She should've said it more succinctly so the House can understand.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a question around prices that have been contracted for the year 2020, so this is just over a year away, and the infrastructure the Minister is talking about—they haven't even turned a sod in the ground.
SPEAKER: Look, I'm probably suffering from too much experience for three periods as being Minister of Energy, none of which I asked for, but what the House has been told is absolutely accurate—that future builds are built into contracting both for wholesale and retail pricing. That's what the Minister said, not clearly enough and in an extended manner, but the member's question has been answered.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to your assistance to the House, Mr Speaker, I would point out that there was no forward market during your time as Minister of Energy; and, second, it is a price being paid now, and the question is whether that will be recovered by generators.
SPEAKER: Well, I don't want to get into a debate in answering the member, but I give him an absolute assurance that power prices were being laid off between companies during that time, and there was a market for retail contracts.
Jonathan Young: So can the Minister inform the House that, apart from the Waverley project of a 100-megawatt wind farm, how many new generation builds will take place that will affect the 2020 electricity prices—it's just over a year away?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I also explained in my primary answer to the member: in the short term, because of the way the market works, those forward prices don't necessarily flow through. There are over 2,000 megawatts of consented wind. We currently have a programme of work in place around updating those consents. If the member wants to put in writing a request for a list of projects, I will happily furnish it to him.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In terms of the complained of electricity pricing structures market, precisely who was responsible for it?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: This is a Government that has some concerns about the prices that consumers are paying for electricity. That is why we are currently undertaking a review. We have a view that for many people, the market is broken. I note that the member who has been asking me questions thinks that we shouldn't meddle with it. We think we should have the backs of consumers.
Jonathan Young: So how many megawatts of extra generation will come on stream within the next 12 months?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: More than are needed. I think the member is the only person who is scaremongering. What we know about forward projections of what we need over the long term, which will have the largest impact on futures markets, is that we need roughly a doubling of our generation by 2050. That member should stop scaremongering.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe I asked a reasonable question. The Minister has been defending against my questions—
SPEAKER: No, no, get to the point of order.
Jonathan Young: Well, sir, she didn't answer the question.
SPEAKER: She addressed it. [Interruption] I have a suggestion that there's a number of members who could be hooked up to it.
• Question No. 9—Commerce and Consumer Affairs
9. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What recent legislative measures has the Government taken to ensure continued access to key global financial markets?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): Recently, the Financial Markets (Derivatives Margin and Benchmarking Reform) Amendment Bill passed its first reading—
Hon Member: Say that again.
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: It's a snappy title. The amendments in the bill will align us with recent changes to international regulations designed to strengthen the resilience of global financial markets and reduce risk. By aligning our financial markets legislation with international best practice, New Zealand will help make aspects of the global financial system more resilient and more resistant to manipulation. The Government is committed to improving the integrity of our financial system and ensuring New Zealand entities continue to access important international financial markets.
Dr Duncan Webb: What does the bill implement?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Thank you—an excellent question. The bill has two parts, each of which respond to different international developments. The first responds to G20 requirements related to over-the–counter derivatives. Part 2 of the bill responds to a separate international development around a new regulatory regime for financial benchmarks. While the changes are technical, this is, however, a critical piece of legislation that will allow major New Zealand financial institutions to continue to transact with important overseas parties in order to manage financial risk, raise capital, and continue to effectively engage in international financial markets.
Dr Duncan Webb: How will this bill benefit New Zealand?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Thank you—another sharp question. Without these amendments, New Zealand's financial institutions could lose access to offshore funding markets because they don't comply with new requirements that have resulted from overseas reforms; therefore, these changes ensure we avoid potential damage to the economy. Not having access to these markets could also see an increase in the cost of raising capital, leading to higher interest rates, and this would affect all New Zealanders directly or indirectly, potentially costing millions of dollars to the economy. It could also have a negative impact on financial stability if it meant New Zealand entities were raising funds from riskier sources or were no longer able to hedge certain risks. The Government is futureproofing a significant part of our financial markets for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
• Question No. 10—Regional Economic Development
10. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: On reflection, does he think it was appropriate for him to call journalist Hamish Rutherford a bunny boiler?
Hon SHANE JONES: I have been counselled about my relationship with the fourth estate. Obviously, references, colourful they may be, offered in the robustness of exchanges that one has with the media—I don't think anyone should be offended. And I understand the man wears that badge with an element of pride.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he think his "message to corporate New Zealand" yesterday, which included criticisms of Spark CEO Simon Moutter, will help improve business confidence levels throughout the regions?
Hon SHANE JONES: Strangely enough, my remarks are based directly on feedback from senior commercial leaders from the export community. They observed their understanding of the statutory obligation that that CEO was under. They described his reaction as going straight to the nuclear button, and I suspect an agenda.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Who does he plan to attack next?
Hon SHANE JONES: I do not go around examining, reviewing, inspecting, or investigating; it's his leader who is being investigated.
• Question No. 11—Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media
11. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media: Does he stand by all the actions of his advisers, advisory groups, and officials?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media): As far as I am aware of those actions, yes.
Melissa Lee: What does he think is reasonable for one of his advisers, advisory groups, or officials to disclose as a perceived or actual conflict of interest?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Anything that that person might think is a perceived conflict of interest.
Melissa Lee: What would he think if one of his ministerial public media advisory group members had failed to disclose 2,777 shares in a company that calls itself "the Netflix of educational content"?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I have been assured by officials that all conflicts of interest with that advisory group have been managed well. If that person has not disclosed, then I would suggest that they might have to have a rethink.
Melissa Lee: What would he think if one of his ministerial public media advisory group members had failed to disclose directorships and shareholdings in companies such as a media company whose music catalogue includes multiple NZ On Air - funded artists, a company which he jointly holds shares in with a John Barnett, a known public media advocate who met with the former broadcasting Minister in January last year prior to his advisory group member being appointed as the chair of the group?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: As that member would know—
SPEAKER: Sorry; I'm going to ask the member to ask the question again, because I think there's a big bit in there that this Minister certainly doesn't have responsibility for. He doesn't have responsibility for Mr Barnett—who many of us have met many times—meeting with third parties. Try again.
Melissa Lee: What would he think if one of his ministerial public media advisory group members had failed to disclose directorships and shareholdings in companies, such as a media company whose music catalogue includes multiple NZ On Air – funded artists as well as a company which he jointly holds shares in with another person, named John Barnett, a known public media advocate who met with a former broadcasting Minister in January—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member can answer the first part of the question. The second part is not an area that he has any responsibility for.
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: As the member would be well aware, the ministerial advisory group drawn from people with experience in the sector, so it's highly likely that there would be, in some cases, something to declare as a potential conflict of interest. As I say, officials have said that that has been managed well to date. If someone has not disclosed, then, as I have said before, they might need to have a rethink.
Melissa Lee: Is the fact that none of these matters were disclosed as actual or perceived current or former interests of members of the public media ministerial advisory group concerning for the Minister in light of the fact that $15 million of funding that this Government has already undertaken was as a result of the advice to Ministers received from the advisory group?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I would like to think that the members of the ministerial advisory group—or any advisory group that I have oversight over—would take their conflicts of interest responsibilities seriously. If there are things that haven't been disclosed that should be disclosed, then, as I say, they need to have a rethink.
Melissa Lee: I'd like to seek leave to table excerpts of two Official Information Act (OIA) responses dated 23 January and 5 March from Te Manatū Taonga, Ministry of Culture and Heritage, listing relevant conflicts of interest—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I just want to check; are they personal to the member or are they on the website?
Melissa Lee: They were given to me as an OIA answer, so—
SPEAKER: So they're answers to the member?
Melissa Lee: Yes.
SPEAKER: So there are two OIA responses that the member has received from the ministry. Is there any objection to those being tabled? There is none. They may be tabled.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 12—Housing and Urban Development
12. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is he committed to energy efficiency in KiwiBuild and State homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes.
Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister agree with Judith Collins that it's ridiculous that LED bulbs are not mandatory?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think—knowing Mrs Collins—that if they were mandatory she'd criticise that too. If she really—
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If I can have your guidance—I've actually said that in relation to KiwiBuild homes, not—[Interruption] Authentication would show that I did not say that for all homes.
SPEAKER: I think that's what the question was—KiwiBuild and State housing. That's what the member was responding to.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Come down prepared—a bit of research first.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I just wanted the opportunity to speak—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The pair of you—come on! I know it's Thursday, but we can settle down.
Gareth Hughes: Will the Minister work towards overturning the decision that doesn't require LED lights in all new KiwiBuild and State houses, because they use 85 percent less power and last 15 times longer?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the first thing to say is that there wasn't a decision not to require LED lights in KiwiBuild homes, but I'll say this: LED lights are rapidly becoming the industry standard. The great majority of both new State house builds—which we do have some, now—and KiwiBuild homes do have LED light bulbs. I've got work under way that's setting standards for all Government-backed home building programmes, including KiwiBuild and State housing. It will include energy efficiency, and, undoubtedly, will include the use of the LED bulbs.
Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister agree that energy efficient KiwiBuilds and new State homes create a massive opportunity to drive better design practices and lower costs for everyone in New Zealand?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, actually, one of the great opportunities offered by a Government house-building programme is the chance to use Government procurement to set standards—whether it's for energy efficiency, whether it's for universal design, high quality architecture, and urban design, it's a chance to build stronger communities and warm, dry homes.
Gareth Hughes: Does the Minister agree that energy efficient KiwiBuilds could not just provide 100,000 houses, they could also deliver 100,000 cheaper power bills?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes. Reducing the operating costs of houses for the people who live in them is one of the best things we can do. The Government's commitment to the healthy homes guarantee and warmer Kiwi homes—these are also very important public health reforms.