Parliament: Questions and Answers - May 2
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the submissions heard at select committee yesterday that the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill decriminalises personal possession and use of drugs?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, what we are doing is cracking down on the suppliers and dealers of synthetic drugs by classifying the two main—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Not the question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —I'll send you a picture of it, because some people are a bit slower than others in this House—synthetic drugs as class A, giving the police stronger search and seizure powers.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What about the answer?
SPEAKER: No—Paula Bennett.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the submissions heard at select committee yesterday that the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, on top of what the acting Prime Minister has just said, also decriminalises personal possession and use of all drugs?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no, I do not agree with the import of that question. What's going to happen is a closer focus on the misuse of drugs and those that supply them. That's why we're giving the police the discretion to act, which hitherto hasn't been the case.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the Police Association, then, who believe compulsory discretion to not prosecute should not be put into law as this bill does?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I'm having one hell of a job understanding the import of that question.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think it's exceptional, then, that this bill codifies police discretion, given there are very few bills that codify such discretion into law, and is this simply a sop to the Greens' incessant desire to decriminalise drugs?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, first of all, that exception or that allowance of the police to have discretion can be found in a great number of our laws. It is nothing new and we don't want to dispute with a bunch of Philadelphia lawyers on the other side.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Name one other.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: One other? There are countless others—probably 10 others.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Name one.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, ask the question, then. [Interruption] No, not by way of interjection, Mr Brownlee. For the first time, do some work, come down prepared, and you'll get an answer.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The member should follow his own advice.
SPEAKER: The member doesn't help himself. I am going to remind the acting Prime Minister that he is answering for the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Sorry, but I'm not here as a clone. I'm answering it on behalf of the Prime Minister because she's not here.
SPEAKER: If the member wants to stand up and make that point, he may.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I want to make it very, very clear that what the Speaker—I'm not disputing your ruling; I'm just trying to understand it. How the Speaker expects me to get up and duplicate how the Prime Minister might behave might be a very admirable aspiration on his part, but it's not possible.
Hon Grant Robertson: That's right.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That's obvious, right? And that's why we're such a successful operation—because we've got so many characteristics.
SPEAKER: Enough of that. I accept that it's not possible, but I also require the Minister acting for the Prime Minister to make an attempt.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Could the Prime Minister, then, give us an example of a bill that has codified discretion into law?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I just say the anti-smacking legislation? That's one, all right? But let's get back to the real issue. This is not decriminalisation of use, as recommended by the mental health and addiction inquiry and many of our medical associations—we will respond to the inquiry next year. I want to say that illicit drugs, including synthetics and P, will remain illegal and there is still the ability within the legislation for an individual to be prosecuted for personal use and personal possession.
Hon Paula Bennett: Well, does she share the concerns of the Police Association that this bill is "decriminalising all drugs for personal use and tasking front-line police officers with enacting that"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no.
Hon Paula Bennett: So if there is compulsory discretion not to prosecute for possession of drugs, as the bill legislates, how does this differ to decriminalising personal possession of drugs?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I ask the member, what on earth does she mean by "compulsory discretion"? Because the second word suggests that the first word can't be correct.
SPEAKER: That might have been a good English lesson, but the member can't ask the Opposition a question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question has been phrased twice that way, and, on behalf of the Prime Minister—of course, being a nice person—I allowed the first mistake to be made, but when it's duplicated, I think we, and the public out there who are listening and watching on TV, are entitled to some clarity from their members of Parliament.
SPEAKER: And I think there's at least some implicit criticism of me in that. I probably should have ruled it out.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, does she believe someone repeatedly caught using methamphetamine should not be prosecuted?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I just say, amongst other things, it's only under 56 grams that the import of her question is even relevant in the first place.
Hon Paula Bennett: So does she believe someone repeatedly caught using heroin should not be prosecuted?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: First of all, that is not what the law says, but what this visionary Government intends to do is rather than just take a punitive approach, it seeks it seeks to turn the lives of those people around, and their families as well. I know it sounds difficult to do, but being a modern visionary Government, we just are not interested in sending people to prison; we want to save people's lives as soon as we possibly can.
Hon Paula Bennett: On that note, then, does he agree with New Zealand Drug Foundation executive director Ross Bell who said yesterday, "It's kind of pointless in making claims around wanting to treat drugs as a health issue, and doing some tinkering around a drug law, without backing that up with resources, intervention, education, and treatment."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I want to say that I agree with that comment. On behalf of the Prime Minister, I want to record that that gentleman was very supportive of the bill. On behalf of the Prime Minister, I want to say that there's a whole range of things we are doing, from getting 1,800 extra frontline police to enforce the law, and then to put the treatment and remedial actions in after we have arrested these people.
No. 2—Māori Education
2. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education): What recent announcements has he made about growing and strengthening an education workforce that can integrate te reo Māori into the learning of all ākonga in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education): The Government has begun delivering on its plan to integrate Te Reo Māori across the education system with the launch of Te Ahu o Te Reo Māori, which will support the workforce to use Te Reo Māori correctly every day in every classroom. Te Ahu o Te Reo Māori is designed to improve all levels of Māori language ability across the education workforce. Staff can participate in a Kura Reo – style learning programme with support from a group of experts, some of which will be delivered through wānanga and online learning support. This Government has made it clear that by 2025, Te Reo Māori will be an integral part of all students' education. With the launch of Te Ahu o Te Reo Māori, we have begun delivering on that commitment.
Kiritapu Allan: Has he received any reports on the education workforce's reaction to the new initiative?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: We know there is increasing demand from students and whānau—Māori and non-Māori—to provide more Te Reo Māori in learning environments. Since the launch of Te Ahu o Te Reo, 304 registrations of interest have been received: 95 in Waikato, 79 in Te Waipounamu, 92 in Taranaki and Whanganui, and 40 in Kapiti-Horowhenua, and 71 percent of registrants identify and non-Māori, with 29 percent coming from those who identify as Māori.
• Question No.
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Is a strong employment market an important part of ensuring the well-being of New Zealanders; if so, can he confirm that job growth was negative in the first three months of this year?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): A strong employment market is an important part of ensuring the well-being of New Zealanders. In that light, I welcome today the announcement from the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Council of the Aotearoa New Zealand skills pledge, which commits signatories to doubling investment in reskilling and training hours by 2025. In terms of the second part of the question, the member knows that there are a number of ways that job growth is reported. Of the main ones used in yesterday's household labour force survey (HLFS) and quarterly employment survey, some are up and some are down for the first three months of this year. But as I was told regularly by the member's predecessor, one shouldn't focus so much on quarterly movements. So I'm pleased to remind the House that the HLFS shows annual employment growth of 38,000 from the March 2018 quarter.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, if he's so adamant that the employment data that came out yesterday was positive, then why, according to the Financial Times, did the New Zealand dollar drop so sharply, following negative job growth, in the first three months of the year?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I've learnt over a long period of time not to speculate on movements in the New Zealand dollar and the reasons for them. What I do know is that in yesterday's announcements, we saw the unemployment rate fall to 4.2 percent, wages grow 3.4 percent over the year, the underutilisation rate fall to 11.3 percent, and the NEET rate fall. So there's plenty of good news in there if the member chose to focus on that.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he seriously think the labour market is strong, when ASB said that yesterday's data showed "weak employment" readings, Westpac said "job growth has slowed", and ANZ said "momentum in the labour market appears to have slowed, consistent with softer GDP"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We can have a battle of the banks if we like. I can quote a bit of Westpac to the member, but I'll quote ANZ, who said—and I could have used this as an answer to the first part of the primary question—"The labour market is currently in good shape." I encourage the member to accentuate the positive.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, if, as he said, he's not interested in using quarterly data, will he take any responsibility for the fact that over the period he has been the Minister of Finance, New Zealand's working-age population has outgrown the number of new jobs by 44,000 jobs, meaning there are now fewer jobs for more people?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member is now moving around various parts of the dataset, which makes the very point I was making in my first answer to her question, which is that there are 38,000 more people in work according to the HLFS seasonally adjusted definition—that being a growth of 1.5 percent since March 2018.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister of Finance if he has seen any forecasts suggesting that in the longer term from 2019 the growth rate for New Zealand will be superior to that of any other OECD country?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have in fact seen forecasts of that—in fact, from the IMF and the World Bank just last week, where they said that New Zealand's growth, while it will be slower than it has been in the past, will still be in excess of advanced economies and many of our trading partners.
Hon Amy Adams: Is he aware that under the last two years of the previous Government, there were 57,000 more jobs created than working-age population growth, but under this Government the economy is consistently failing to create enough jobs to keep up with population growth?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I note the graph the member was holding—if she just flicked it up the other way, that would be the polls.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Which part of that was in answer to, or even an address of, the question?
SPEAKER: I think probably none of it.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don't have that data in front of me, but if the member wants to put that done as a question, I'll happily answer it for her.
Hon Amy Adams: Will he accept that the HLFS data shows that the economy he inherited was creating significantly more jobs and population growth, but his legacy is becoming fewer jobs for more people?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I don't accept the premise of that member's question. We've got 38,000 more people in work since March 2018. What the member is doing is trying to say that no conditions in the economy ever change. We've just had the question from the Deputy Prime Minister, where we've heard that New Zealand's economy is forecast to grow faster than other economies but overall the global economy is slowing. So for the member to compare those two periods isn't accurate. What I do know is that in the last year, 38,000 more people are in work, and that is a good thing.
• Question No. 4—Trade and Export
4. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: What progress, if any, is the Government making on increasing trade and export growth?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Trade and Export Growth): The coalition Government is making good progress on growing exports. From 2008 to 2016, exports decreased from 30 percent of GDP to 26.6 percent of GDP against the then target of an increase of 14 percent of GDP. In contrast, exports have since grown from 26.6 percent to 28.8 percent of GDP in 2018. In 2019, exports are continuing to grow—the March month saw the highest monthly growth in goods exports, an increase of 19 percent on the prior March. We're on the volume to value journey, and it's pleasing to see contributions from high technology, high value food and beverage, as well as the traditional high quality primary produce. Monthly figures can bounce around, but it's very pleasing that we're making substantial progress.
Jo Luxton: What export market has seen the strongest growth for New Zealand?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The most improved market in March was China, with goods exports increasing by 52 percent, to $1.5 billion for the month—a new record. I note this came at a time when some in the House were incorrectly claiming that New Zealand's trading relationship with China was on the rocks. This Government continues to build New Zealand's trade relationship with China. Following the Prime Minister's visit to Beijing to meet President Xi last week, I took a business delegation to China. We had representatives of some of New Zealand's biggest exports as well as our start-ups. The visit was highly successful. There were productive engagements at both a ministerial and business level, and I thank the business leaders for helping make this mission a success.
Jo Luxton: What were some of the highlights of the trade mission to China?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I had a fruitful and productive bilateral meeting with the Chinese commerce Minister, Zhong Shan, in Beijing. Following on from the agreement between the Prime Minister and President Xi, China and New Zealand are advancing towards a mutually beneficial upgrade of the China free-trade agreement (FTA) as soon as possible. I also met with the environment Minister, and we discussed achieving economic growth within environmental limits. Although we're living in turbulent times in the world for trade, it's pleasing that we're making progress and that the next round of the FTA negotiations are occurring just this month.
Jo Luxton: How has the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership helped support exports to Japan, Canada, and Mexico—three G20 countries that we previously did not have any bilateral trade agreement with?
Hon DAVID PARKER: There's good news there too. Under the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the exports to Canada have increased in the quarter by an average of 8.4 percent; exports to Mexico have gone up by a similar amount, 5.9 percent; and the standout increase has actually been to Japan, where meat exports overall are up 25 percent compared with a year ago, and beef exports are 40 percent higher.
Jo Luxton: What role is the New Zealand Government taking in trying to find a solution to the issues with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Appellate Body?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Appellate Body is very important to our trade, our ability to export. We raised these issues in discussions with our Chinese counterparts, but in addition to that, it's noteworthy that the Government's senior representative to Geneva, Mr David Walker, has been appointed by the General Council to the World Trade Organization to try and see if a way through can be found between the different views held by different members of the WTO Appellate Body. If that is not resolved by the end of the year, the Appellate Body ceases to function.
• Question No.
5. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: When was he first advised by Police that there had been an alleged unauthorised disclosure of Police information to a media outlet, and when was he first advised that the Police Commissioner had directed an investigation be commenced into that disclosure?
Hon Stuart Nash: Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: The Hon Stuart Nash, with the caveat that, once again, this is likely to be longer than normal.
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I first became aware of the allegations when I read them in the newspaper on Sunday the 28th. I subsequently spoke to the Commissioner of Police and asked him to get to the bottom of this, including whether an investigation needed to be conducted. On the morning of Monday the 29th, the commissioner briefed me in my office and assured me that no top-secret information had been released. I reiterated my expectation for an investigation into any breach of operational protocols, and I informed the House of this expectation on Tuesday. On the morning of Tuesday the 30th, my office was informed of Police's intention to conduct an investigation but that details had not been finalised, and it would have been inappropriate for me to make any public comments in case it compromised Police's next steps. I updated the House about the commencement of an investigation the next day.
Chris Bishop: Why did he refuse to confirm to Parliament on Tuesday that an investigation was under way, when I asked him a specific question about that?
Hon STUART NASH: I will reiterate that on the morning of Tuesday the 30th, my office was informed of Police's intention to conduct an investigation but that details had not been finalised, and it would have been inappropriate for me to make any public comment in case it compromised Police's next steps. I updated the House about the commencement of an investigation the next day.
Chris Bishop: Why, on Tuesday afternoon, did he not repeat the words that the Police Commissioner used the next morning that the unauthorised release of this material was of significant concern and very serious?
SPEAKER: I'm going to ask the member to rephrase the question, given what happened earlier.
Chris Bishop: Why, on Tuesday in question time, did he not use the same language the Police Commissioner used the next morning when announcing the investigation that the alleged unauthorised disclosure of material was very significant and very serious?
Hon STUART NASH: I have always made it clear that both the Commissioner of Police and myself take any breaches of police protocol very seriously. On Tuesday, during question time, I reiterated my expectation that if such a breach had occurred, I would expect an investigation to be undertaken. These expectations have subsequently been met.
Greg O'Connor: What are the consequences of the unauthorised release of information?
Hon STUART NASH: My primary objective on Tuesday was to assure the House and the public that no top-secret information had been leaked. The unauthorised release of top-secret information not only has the potential to harm lives, it has the potential for our international partners to stop cooperating with us on matters of international security and intelligence. That's why the penalty for unauthorised disclosure of classified information is up to five years in jail under the Crimes Act. If an MP wants to attack police he better gets his facts straight. The member claimed, Mr Speaker—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Don't come in here threatening like that. That's an outrageous response to this House.
Hon STUART NASH: —that top-secret information had been released. It had not. He needs—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: You're the one under scrutiny fella.
SPEAKER: Order! Who made that comment?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I did. Think about what he just said; that's outrageous what he just said.
SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, you cannot sit there and allow a Minister to make an unveiled threat, like the Minister has just done. That is completely unacceptable in this House.
SPEAKER: Well, I was listening very carefully. I heard no threat; I heard a reference to me. There was a factual statement made by the Minister as to what occurred earlier in the House and the problems with it.
Hon STUART NASH: That member claimed that top-secret information had been released. It had not. That member needs to be careful with his words; I am careful with mine when national and international security and police operations are at stake.
Chris Bishop: Why, on Tuesday in question time, did the Minister take issue with the particular designation given by the media to the information—not by me—thereby, giving the impression a leak had not taken place when one clearly has?
Hon STUART NASH: I would like to reiterate that the question that I was asked on Tuesday, and the allegation in the media, was that top-secret information had been leaked. It was my responsibility to ensure this House and members of the public that top-secret information had not been leaked.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the Minister was asked that question on Tuesday, was there a differentiation between the Minister's phrasing of the question and the media's phrasing of it, in terms of the words "top secret"?
SPEAKER: Order! You mean the member's, not the Minister's.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no, I mean the member's and the media's. He's hiding behind the media now, when he used the words on Tuesday.
SPEAKER: I'm going to ask the Deputy Prime Minister to ask the supplementary again.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: When the Minister heard the question on Tuesday, did he realise that there was a distinction between what the member was saying, in terms of "top secret", and what the media has written as "top secret", or did he think that the member had distinguished that that wasn't his view, just the media's view that it was top secret?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It's very hard to see how the Minister has any responsibility for deciding how anybody else might've interpreted the media reports.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Speaking to the point of order, on Tuesday, I distinctly heard Mr Bishop use the words "top secret", and he did not distinguish it as being the words of the media. He made it his words.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Those words are, of course, part of the confirmation process before the question can even be asked in the House. So to say that they belong to Mr Bishop is quite unreasonable, given that the question is approved for asking in the House. [Interruption] Yes, I know you're trying to stay awake—I know. Keep waving the hand.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! When I stand up, the member sits down and the acting Prime Minister is quiet. My memory is, and we are relying on my memory, that those words were not within a quote and, therefore, must be owned by the member, and, if that is the case—and if I'm wrong, I'll expect Mr Bishop to correct me—they are the words of the member.
Hon STUART NASH: As the Deputy Prime Minister has said a number of times, words matter. It was my primary objective on Tuesday to assure the House and the public that no top secret information had been leaked.
Chris Bishop: In light of the Minister's commitment to transparency and what he just said, why did he not at least admit to the House on Tuesday that albeit that top-secret security material had not been released to media, some confidential, serious information had somehow found its way from the police into the media's hands?
Hon STUART NASH: I'll reiterate: that was not the question I was asked, and I will also reiterate that my primary objective on Tuesday was to assure the House and the public that no top-secret information had been leaked.
• Question No.
6. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Health: What is his best estimate of the cost of increasing access to mental health and addiction services from the current target of 3 percent to 20 percent of the population, which was identified as an indicative target in the Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): None of the recommendations of the inquiry refer to a 20 percent access target, indicative or otherwise. It is this Government's task to respond to the report's 40 recommendations. I presume the member is referring to a passage on page 110 of the report, which states, when referring to an indicative target, "We recognise that further work will be required to identify a specific coverage target". The actual recommendation of the inquiry is to "significantly increase access to publicly funded mental health and addiction services". The member will have to wait until the Budget to learn more.
Matt Doocey: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was a primary on notice. I take the Minister's point; it was not in the primary recommendation of the inquiry for increasing access. The indicative target is referenced at several points through the inquiry report, and is the rationale for underpinning the recommendation of increasing access. The inquiry panel refers several times—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, no—has the member got a point of order, as opposed to not liking the answer?
Matt Doocey: Well, he didn't address the question, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Well, I think he did. You know, the Minister is in some danger if that figure is through the report as an indicative target, but the Minister's assuring me it's not, and we'll go to another supplementary.
Matt Doocey: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I just point out that in the primary question, I do not reference the indicative target as a recommendation; I reference it from the report.
SPEAKER: And I have had an indication from the—well, I have it verbally rather than by head nods and shakes.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker. Would you like me to read the passage from the paper, because I think the context is important? The figure 20 percent is in there. It says "may be" and it also says "We recognise that further work will [need to be done] in order to identify a specific coverage target"—so it's saying that that is not the specific coverage target that it thinks will be required—"(since not everyone will need or want to access a service),". And it also recognises that further work will need to be done on definitions of services and access, how access might be expanded over time, and a cost-effective way to achieve whatever the objective is. So it's a very general reference, and—
SPEAKER: The member can resume his seat. I think it would have been more helpful—I don't normally encourage Ministers to have longer answers, but that could in this particular circumstance have been useful.
Matt Doocey: So is the Minister saying a Government-initiated inquiry that was initiated in April 2018, reported back in December, delayed in March, and delayed in April—the main recommendation of the inquiry was to increase access, with an indicative target of up to—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! If the member has a further supplementary, he may ask it. A question, not a speech—a question.
Matt Doocey: Is the Minister telling the House that for a Government initiated inquiry with an indicative target for the main recommendation, there's been no costings for that indicative target?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I accept that a key recommendation of the inquiry is increased access to mental health services for people in distress, and that is a recommendation this Government is looking to address. But, of course, I'm not about to make any Budget announcements today. What I can assure the House is that it won't take this Government nine years to belatedly realise mental health is an issue, only to come up with an unallocated contingency of just $100 million spread over four years.
Matt Doocey: Would he expect the extra annual funding for mental health services, based on the current formula of $1.35 billion for the current target of 3 percent to be less or more than $6 billion across four years if you chose to reach the 20 percent target?
SPEAKER: Well, I won't make any choice, but answer the question anyway.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don't think it's useful for the member to be cute with numbers. I think what he will accept is that the 3 percent for whom the services are currently focused are those with the greatest need for mental health support—those at the most difficult end of the mental health spectrum. Those who the inquiry recommends ought to be able to access services more broadly are those with mild to moderate conditions, and this Government is focused on the recommendations of the report.
Matt Doocey: If the current cost of mental health provision in New Zealand for a target of 3 percent of the population is $1.35 billion annually, what would he expect that amount to be for 20 percent of the population?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: More than the current funding.
Matt Doocey: What does the Minister say to the 2,000 people who turned up to 26 locations for public meetings, the 5,200 people—
SPEAKER: Order! Get to the question.
Matt Doocey: —that made a submission, when he has done no costings for the indicative target for the main recommendation of the mental health inquiry that the Government initiated?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Firstly, I have already rejected the premise of that member's question, based on that being the main recommendation of the report. It's just not true. Secondly, I would say thank you to those people who turned up, that made submissions, and that did present in public. This is an incredibly important inquiry, and I would point out that it is something that every party in this coalition and confidence and supply Government campaigned on, because we thought it was time to have a good hard look at the delivery of mental health services. Unfortunately, the then Government didn't support an inquiry, and that is shame on them.
• Question No. 7—Building and
7. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister for Building and Construction: What recent announcements has she made about the building and construction industry in New Zealand?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction): Mr Speaker, thank you. A few weeks ago, the Prime Minister and I, alongside fellow Ministers and industry leaders, announced the launch of the Construction Sector Accord. This accord is a shared commitment between Government and industry to transform the construction sector. It is a joint response to the challenges facing this sector, which include skills and labour shortages, poor risk management, unclear regulations and pipeline, and a lack of coordinated leadership. As regulator and a major client, the Government has an important role to play in supporting the construction sector. This accord is a new way for Government and industry to work together to create lasting positive behavioural change in the sector.
Paul Eagle: What commitments have been made through the Construction Sector Accord?
Hon JENNY SALESA: This is a comprehensive agreement that sets out the commitment for Government and industry in nine areas of work, and this is the first time that a Government in this country has done this. The Government commitments are to have better procurement practices, an improved pipeline management of work from Government, and to improve the building regulatory system and consenting processes. The shared Government and industry commitments are to grow the workforce capability and capacity, have better risk management and fairer risk allocation, more houses and better durability, and to improve health and have better safety at work. The industry commitments are to have enhanced industry leadership and collaboration, improve culture and reputation, and to have better business performance.
Paul Eagle: What feedback has the Minister seen following the launch of the Construction Sector Accord?
Hon JENNY SALESA: There have been very positive responses from the construction industry. A number of key industry leaders have already signed up and made a pledge under this accord, and there have been many more in the sector who are wanting to get involved. Most people are actually aware that things need to improve in the building and construction sector. Both Government and industry agree that we cannot change the sector on our own. The Construction Sector Accord is the platform for change and for transforming the sector. Phase two of this work is finalising an implementation plan, which will include key performance indicators, and we've made a pledge to hold each other accountable to this accord and to challenge contrary behaviour.
Andrew Bayly: Thank you. After 18 months in office, when is she going to announce concrete and specific measures to improve the building and construction sector, rather than just announcing yet another working group?
Hon JENNY SALESA: This Construction Sector Accord is concrete action. We have made nine commitments. This is not an announcement of a working group; this is an accord with actual commitments, nine areas of work. The member was in a Government for nine years that should've tackled this issue. We are addressing this because the last Government did not.
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That's probably enough, because he has never been in Government.
• Question No.
8. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Employment: Does he stand by his approach to Mana in Mahi, and how many Māori participants are involved in the Mana in Mahi programme?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): To answer the first part of the question, yes, I stand by the approach that this Government has taken, which is to deliver Mana in Mahi in a phased approach. To answer the second part of the question, a total of 143 clients have been placed in Mana in Mahi so far. Of these participants, 75 have identified as Māori—52 percent.
Hon Paula Bennett: Well, how does he determine whether the Māori in the Mana in Mahi programme are Māori enough to be counted?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Well, that's easy—that's easy. It's a well-known fact in this country that if you acknowledge your whakapapa Māori, you can be part of the setup. It's a little bit unlike when the National Party used to measure Māori by half-castes and by how much of a percentage you had. We brought in this rule that if you whakapapa to Māori, like the good member does over there, then you're Māori.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does he respect Māori participating in Mana in Mahi regardless of their background or skin colour, or, as he ascertained yesterday in this House, whether or not he thinks they're Māori on that day or not?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I think the member might be talking about herself. The reality is that I have total respect for Māori, whether they speak the language, whether they were brought up in a Pākehā environment, Asian environment. If they choose to whakapapa to Māori, like the good member, I respect her and any other Māori.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister what happens when your discovery of whakapapa Māori is rather like Columbus' discovery of America—purely by accident?
Hon Paula Bennett: Do the Māori in the Mana in Mahi programme need a Māori-sounding surname to participate, or will he be telling people with names like the name Bidois that they should go back to Italy?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I mean, these types of silly questions are not necessary. The reality is, and the member should know, that a general debate is a general debate, so get over it.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does he expect, then, men in the Mana in Mahi programme to tell women, like he did yesterday, that they are useless while they're working?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I take offence at that. I just said that some of the Māori MPs in National were useless, like that member.
Kieran McAnulty: Why has the Minister taken a phased approach to Mana in Mahi?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: Thank you very much. What a great question. A phased approach has been taken to allow the initiative to be trialled and tested in order for us to be confident that we can provide a service that best supports our young people so that they can obtain the skills they need to have a secure long-term employment pathway. We're so pleased with this, that we're able to invest in this programme. Young people who never had a chance under the previous Government, who would have left them unemployed for ever—
SPEAKER: Order! That's enough.
Fletcher Tabuteau: Can the Minister confirm for the House: is the name Bidois French or Italian?
SPEAKER: Order! We can stretch things a long way, but that's not something he has responsibility for, neither does he have responsibility for the questions asked by the deputy leader of the National Party.
• Question No. 9—Housing and Urban
9. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: When can renters expect to see legislation introduced to reform the Residential Tenancies Act and protect their right to a secure home?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The Government is committed to improving the balance between providing renters with security of tenure and allowing them to make their house a home while protecting the rights and interests of landlords. Officials received over 4,500 submissions on the policy proposals. We're currently working on the policy and, with Cabinet's agreement, we're aiming to introduce legislation this calendar year.
Marama Davidson: Does he continue to support ending no-cause tenancy terminations?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we're committed to improving the security of tenure for renters and striking the right balance between a tenant's right to make a house a home and ensuring that landlords can still get rid of rogue tenants. Cabinet will be making policy decisions in due course on this, but we consulted on removing no-cause terminations because we want renters to be able to put down roots in their communities.
Marama Davidson: Has he instructed officials to consider how to prohibit rental bidding so that property managers are no longer able to run rental tenders like the one Cutlers recently advertised in Dunedin?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, it was disappointing to see that property management company treating the renting out of properties to students as some kind of contest or a game. Having a home is a basic necessity, and making students compete against each other for a flat is distasteful. Officials are currently looking at considering the options on banning rental bidding.
Marama Davidson: Does he agree that our law needs more protections against frequent and significant rent increases?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as the Reserve Bank says, rents are set primarily by supply and demand, which is why so many of our policies are designed to increase the supply of housing. We consulted on limiting rent increases to one per year, because in a rising market, as we've seen over the last decade in so many parts of New Zealand, frequent and large rent increases can have a punishing effect on renters.
Angie Warren-Clark: What other changes has the Government made to make life better for renters?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the healthy homes standards will set minimum standards for insulation, heating, ventilation, moisture, and draft control so that rental homes are warm and dry. They are part of the Government's plan to improve the health and well-being of children. Ministry of Health data shows that at least 6,000 children are admitted each year for what they call housing-sensitive hospitalisations, and Otago University recently found that homes that are damp or mouldy cause more than 35,000 nights in hospital.
• Question No.
10. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does she accept responsibility for waiting times for early intervention support climbing from an average of 74 days in May 2018 to an average of 106 days now, and by what date will she deliver a reduction in waiting times to fewer than 74 days?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): In answer to the first part of the question, considering that less than $1.3 million was directly invested in early intervention specialist service providers between 2009 and Budget 2017, I will take responsibility for ensuring that the $21.5 million that this Government has invested in early intervention services, combined with the roll-out of the learning support delivery model and the $217 million over four years for the first tranche of learning support coordinators, will, over the four-year period, as pledged, lower the wait times. In answer to the second part of the question, I answered that yesterday.
Nicola Willis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked to address the question. I am not aware that referring to an answer yesterday when the question was put on notice is acceptable. I would like to know the answer—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume her seat. The fact that the member is not aware of it is not a point of order.
Nicola Willis: Will she confirm that the average waiting time for early intervention support had been trending down, from 97 days in 2013-14 to 71 days in 2016-17, under National, and is it just a coincidence that waiting times have skyrocketed under her watch?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I would need to go and check the member's figures for the first part of her question, but what I can tell her for the second part of the question is that between 2013 and 2017, we had a 21 percent increase in behavioural needs; between 2013 and 2017, we had a 15 percent increase in communication service needs; and between 2013 and 2017, we had a 15 percent increase in early intervention services. Unfortunately, the workforce planning required to address the percentage increases and the specialists that we needed was not done during that same period of time. We have hired another 120 specialists in this area, and we will continue to work on those times.
Nicola Willis: Why did the Prime Minister make a promise in May 2018 to halve waiting lists for early intervention support if, in fact, it's all too hard and nothing will be delivered for another four years?
SPEAKER: Well, let's assume that the Minister has responsibility, shall we?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I'm assuming that the member is referring to the Prime Minister's speech in May 2018. If she goes and has a look at the speech—the Prime Minister did not put a date on the moment that the timing would be halved, but she did address the question that the funding was over a four-year period. I would assume that a logical, reasonable person would make a connection between four years' worth of funding and the period of time that funding would take effect.
Nicola Willis: So do we take it that the Prime Minister's target is just aspirational; and, if so, can the Minister explain how that aspiration without a target will make any difference to a family of a three- or four-year-old child who is stuck on a waiting list today and hungry for help?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: One, I find the tone of the questioning, considering that this has been a problem created over a nine-year period, somewhat disappointing—the fact that 120 more specialists have been employed since this Government has been in place; the fact that in some areas, the waiting times have gone down, in other areas they have gone up; the fact that it takes between five and seven years to train a workforce, where there was no workforce planning done when we came into the seat. So we are constantly aspirational for the well-being of children, which is more than can be said for that member and that party.
Nicola Willis: Will she recalibrate the Prime Minister's target to halve waiting lists; and, if so, will she consider taking advice from her ministerial colleague Phil Twyford on how to go about this?
SPEAKER: No. The member knows that's out of order. She's been around the building for a long time.
Nicola Willis: By what date will the Government deliver any meaningful improvement for parents and children in Wellington who today are waiting an average of 178 days for early intervention support?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: In the last 10 months, the average waiting time in Wellington has lowered by 22 days. What I can say to the member is that one needs to take account—and this is complicated, so I'll go slowly—of the fact that, if you take a case in Wellington where there were 432 days, approximately, for this particular family, at the request of the parent the application for assistance was placed on pause. However, the Ministry of Education does not stop the clock when the parent asks us to pause on that application. When the Ministry of Education went back to the parent at the end of that time period, they said that the service was no longer required. I am aware that the member has put in 30 written questions around this particular topic. She might like to wait until she gets the answers before she asks more oral questions.
• Question No.
11. JAMIE STRANGE (Labour) to the Minister of Employment: What recent reports has he seen on the labour market?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON (Minister of Employment): Yesterday, like the Minister of Finance said, the household labour force survey was released and we were very pleased to see a drop in the unemployment rate to—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. Mr Bennett, can you just try and control yourself. I had meetings with primates recently who made more intelligent noises.
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I just wanted to support much of what the Minister of Finance said—that we both saw the household labour force survey that was released and we're very pleased to see the drop in the unemployment rate to 4.2 percent, the second-lowest in 10 years, and that wages grew 3.4 percent over the year to March 31, which shows the Government's approach to supporting employment is working remarkably well.
Jamie Strange: What did the household labour force survey release indicate for Māori?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: I was encouraged to see that Māori employment has continued to head in the right direction—5,100 more Māori were employed and the underutilisation rates for Māori fell 1.7 percentage points to a low of 19.1 percent. Māori unemployment fell a whole percentage point to 8.6 percent, I believe the lowest ever in the history of the survey. These figures represent real people, real whānau, and real communities who are seeing a difference in their lives, and we should all celebrate that this Government is doing such a fantastic job at the moment.
Jamie Strange: What did the household labour force survey say for those young people who are not engaged in earning or learning?
Hon WILLIE JACKSON: The survey released yesterday was positive, with the rate for those not engaged in education, training, or employment falling to 13.2 percent. Obviously we still need to reduce this number further, which is why the delivery of our training and employment programmes such as Mana in Mahi, He Poutama Rangatahi, Pae Aronui, and first year fees-free tertiary education are vital to the long-term success of our rangatahi—our young people.
• Question No.
12. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: Does he stand by his statement regarding Census 2018 that "the input was sub-optimal, but the output is optimal"?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister of Statistics): Yes.
Dr Jian Yang: Is he aware that Statistics New Zealand changed the definition of non-response for Census 2018, and that if the past definition were applied to Census 2018, the response rate of the census would actually drop from 90 percent to 85 percent?
Hon JAMES SHAW: It's obvious that over the course of the last 12 months since the census, a great deal of work has gone on to make sure that the output of the census is optimal—as I was explaining—and that that has involved a great deal of work that would have been normally scheduled for the 2023 census, and has, effectively, been brought forward.
Dr Jian Yang: Will the results from Census 2018 be able to specify the address on census night of the 10 percent of New Zealanders who were not included in any 2018 census form?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I would have to check with Statistics New Zealand on that because I think that's an operational matter. But if I could hazard a guess, I would say that one of the most important functions of a census is, actually, that people's personal data is protected, and that, actually, people's personal addresses and so on are not available as a result of the publication of census data.
Dr Jian Yang: How can secondary data sources capture the specific address of New Zealanders on census night, when data provided to Government organisations like hospitals may have been provided months or years before census night?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Statistics New Zealand have said that they have compiled what they consider to be the most accurate population count file, according to the business plan that was signed off by the last Government in 2015, which specifically called for the use of administrative data over the coming censuses. So what they have done is exactly what the previous Government called for them to do in the next census, and they've simply brought that work programme forward. The population count file is the most accurate that it has ever been, and that is because of the work that they have done over the course of the last 12 months. Now, the methodology that Statistics New Zealand have used to compile this population file has been independently reviewed, and the methodology that they used to compile both the population-level sets and then all of the other data sets that go out—those methodologies are also published alongside the data when it's released. That is available for academics and anybody else to critique at the time. That's standard practice and has happened at every other census in recent times.
Dr Jian Yang: How can the public have confidence in election boundary information for the next election, when a high proportion of people may have moved between the time secondary data was captured and census night?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, as I said, Statistics New Zealand have said that they have the most accurate population file ever, and that the—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Of course they're going to say that.
Hon JAMES SHAW: Minister Brownlee is asking questions again. So should I respond to Mr Brownlee or Mr Yang?
SPEAKER: I've generally found that pointless.
Hon JAMES SHAW: As they have said, the most important uses of the census are electorates, electorate boundaries, population-based funding—for example district health board funding—and school deciles. This census looks to be more accurate than the output of the 2013 census. In response to Mr Brownlee's specific point: if he's worried about why it is that the public is losing confidence in New Zealand's system of national statistics, it would help if Mr Brownlee and his colleagues stopped trying to undermine public confidence in our system of national statistics. Otherwise, the next time they get into Government, they won't be able to rely on a single statistic, and will not have the trust of the public to make any decision at all. Otherwise he's just going to have to make up every single decision based on gut instinct alone.
Dr Jian Yang: Do I have more questions?
SPEAKER: Oh, go for it. Everyone thinks we're making a lot of progress here!
Dr Jian Yang: If the data on who is Māori is sub-optimal, will he consider simply asking his ministerial colleague Willie Jackson to tell us all who is and isn't a real Māori?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I think we're in dangerous territory there. Māori ethnicity and Māori descent is more accurate in this population file than it has ever been before. The gap is in iwi affiliation data. In other words, when somebody in our administrative data has identified as Māori, either by ethnicity or by descent, the next question that we need to ask is "And which iwi do you affiliate to?" And Statistics New Zealand are now working with both iwi and other Government agencies to ensure that we start to collect that data to make sure that in future, we've got a more accurate file. As I said in response to questions yesterday and before, Government agencies have, in fact, never been terribly good at gathering iwi affiliation data. The fact that there is a weakness in our national data set does indicate that we've got more work to do there. But when it comes to Māori ethnicity and descent, this population file is more accurate than it has ever been before.
Dr Jian Yang: Can I have one more?
SPEAKER: Oh, at least!
Dr Jian Yang: Is the Minister concerned that Census 2018 will not be able to accurately report the religious affiliation of New Zealanders?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Sorry, I couldn't hear part of his question over his colleagues' comments.
Dr Jian Yang: Is the Minister concerned that Census 2018 will not be able to accurately report the religious affiliation of New Zealanders?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I'd have to take advice on that specific point from Statistics New Zealand. As the Government Statistician said on Monday, there are some gaps in the data below the level of the general population count, and they will be publishing those later on in the year. So I don't have a list of all of the areas. Religion will be one of the ones I can ask about on his behalf.
Dr Jian Yang: I seek leave to table a report titled Census 2018: A Multifold Debacle to assist the Minister in understanding the census.
SPEAKER: Whose report is it?
Dr Jian Yang: My report.
SPEAKER: Your report? I'm going to give the member a chance to apologise for that. If he was a more senior member, he would be leaving the House. That is a gross breach of the procedures of the House.
Dr Jian Yang: I apologise.
Hon James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: I'm putting the member on warning that it better be a proper point of order.
Hon James Shaw: Well, I mean, I actually would be very curious to read the member's report. I would ask leave of the House that it is actually tabled so that we can read it.
SPEAKER: Well, the member can't.