Parliament: Questions and Answers - May 9
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Education
1. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: Is he confident that recent incentives for teacher recruitment and training will address projected teacher shortages in coming years; if so, why?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes. The Ministry of Education's forecasted estimates of the number of additional teachers needed to meet demand are based on nothing additional being done to address teacher supply in the meantime. They show that for primary, the gap was forecast to be closed by 2023, but, for secondary, we would need 2,210 additional teachers by 2025. What the Government has put in place since it came into office will provide funding to attract an additional 4,000 primary and secondary teachers over the next four years, and that does not include the 1,500 teachers who have been supported to undertake refresher training.
Jan Tinetti: What other claims has he heard in regards to the number of teachers needed to meet demand?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It has been claimed that up to 8,000 additional teachers are needed by 2025 using that same forecast data. It appears that calculation has been done by adding together each year on top of the other, which is wrong. These annual figures are not compounding. If a single role is not filled for two years in a row, we don't need to recruit two additional teachers to fill the one role. As I've said, with the ministry forecast estimates of the number of teachers needed based on nothing being done to address supply for primary, that gap would be closed by 2023 in any event, and, for secondary, the gap is around 2,210.
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. 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: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes, in their context.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does the Government have a policy to build 100,000 affordable houses over 10 years?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes, on behalf of the Prime Minister, it most definitely does.
Hon Paula Bennett: Then why in recent days has the Prime Minister been reluctant to actually verify that it will be 100,000 houses over 10 years?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The reality is, in many businesses, getting the start-up is not so easy at the beginning, obviously. For example, in the Second World War, before the Battle of—[Interruption]
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Before the Battle of El Alamein we hadn't won one battle and thereafter we didn't lose one. And we will get going on this project. Of course, we are reconsidering it, and when we have made the decisions, we'll announce them. And the target of 100,000 over 10 years is easily achievable.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why, if she is confirming today that they are keeping the 100,000 target within 10 years, has her Minister been backing away from that target rapidly in the last few days and she herself in previous days has been reluctant to confirm it?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I think if you're looking at the housing situation in this country, you've got to look at the problem holistically. Whether it's tenements or housing, the greatest construction charge on right now is happening under this administration—the highest in a record 44-year performance. In that setting, KiwiBuild has got to be reconstructed as well.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is the Prime Minister aware that 1,000 State houses were completed in the 2017-18 financial year, practically double that of any previous year for which records are available, and that all of these houses were initiated under a previous National Government?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I most definitely can't confirm the premise behind that question, but I can say this: under that administration that she spoke for, 6,500 State houses were sold.
Hon Paula Bennett: What does she say in reply to the Deputy Prime Minister, who in January stated, "The reality is there are many in this Government who are seriously … committed to ensure we do meet our targets. I am going back to former Governments, where practical men who had never been to university, and women, decided they would get on with the job and get it done—and get it done we are."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, most definitely I agree with the Deputy Prime Minister's statement, which was not just aspirational but the intention is to make this country great again.
• Question No. 3—Housing and Urban Development
3. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does the Government continue to pledge to build 100,000 affordable homes over the next 10 years, through its KiwiBuild programme, as stated in the Speech from the Throne?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): There has been no change to the pledge since the Speech from the Throne. As I said yesterday, Cabinet will consider the KiwiBuild reset in June, and it's inappropriate for me to speculate on what Cabinet may or may not decide. What has changed is that the housing market and the programme need to respond. When we came to office, we stopped the sale of existing homes to foreign buyers and we closed tax loopholes, and we know that this has had an impact because first-home buyers now make up 24 percent of the market and wages are now growing faster than house prices.
Hon Judith Collins: Then why did he tell the media yesterday that the target was like American nuclear ships: it is a "neither confirm nor deny situation"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Simply because we said that we would review the KiwiBuild programme and, in fact, the entire housing programme. Cabinet has yet to make decisions, and it's inappropriate for me to speculate on what Cabinet may or may not decide, but, meanwhile, we are getting on with building affordable houses, State houses, and housing the homeless.
Hon Judith Collins: What responsibility does he take for the design of KiwiBuild that he took to Cabinet in December 2017, which he has now told us has to be reset?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Of course as the Minister I take responsibility, but this is not an easy thing to do. If it was easy, perhaps the former Government might've had a crack at it. It's a difficult thing. No Government in 40 years has tried to do what we are doing, and that is work with the private sector to build affordable houses.
Hon Judith Collins: Is it acceptable for him to sign contracts worth around $700 million for housing, and then when these contracts start falling over, to, essentially, explain that he's going to have to reset and is just learning on the job?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, first, I don't sign the contracts. Second, those contracts are not falling over; they are delivering affordable houses.
Hon Judith Collins: Can any policy that doesn't include a target to build 100,000 houses really be called KiwiBuild when the first words of his first press release that he put out on KiwiBuild were "The Government's KiwiBuild initiative will deliver 100,000 affordable houses over the next 10 years"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We are not deterred by the teething problems that KiwiBuild has faced. We are committed to building affordable houses. We will do everything in our power as a Government to turn the market around, to give young Kiwi families the opportunity they've been denied for the last decade, and we're not ashamed about working with private industry to deliver those outcomes.
Hon Chris Hipkins: What reports has he seen on recent positive changes in the housing market that affect potential first-home buyers?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: When we came to office, we stopped the sale of existing homes to foreign buyers and we closed the tax loopholes that turbocharged property speculation. We know this has had an impact because first-home buyers now make up 24 percent of the market, the highest share of the market since 2007, and overseas buyers have dropped by 81 percent. I've seen reports recently that wages are now growing faster than house prices. This compares to 2016, when house prices rose 16 percent and wages rose just 1.8 percent. This Government's sound economic management means that mortgage rates are as low as they've been in a very long time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How could the overseas buyership have dropped by 81 percent when the previous Government claimed their influence to be only 3 percent?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the previous Government denied that overseas buyers were having any kind of—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I've sort of worked out there's no responsibility for that, and the maths is a bit questionable too, frankly.
Hon Judith Collins: So how many of the first-home buyers over the last 18 months that he's referred to have accessed the HomeStart programme established by National rather than the KiwiBuild programme established by himself?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think it's pretty obvious to most people that the HomeStart programme has been going for a while, and we support it. The KiwiBuild programme is just getting off the ground, and believe me, KiwiBuild, HomeStart, and all the other things that this Government is committed to doing will make a massive difference, because we are standing up for young first-home buyers in a way that that Government never ever did for nine years.
Hon Judith Collins: Does the Minister stand by his statement to media last year when questioned on the design of the KiwiBuild programme that he offered to "stake his job" on its success, and if he does, then has he offered his resignation to the Prime Minister yet?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I have not, because I'm utterly focused on getting the reset of KiwiBuild right, and I take a lot of pride, as do all my colleagues in the Government, in what we are achieving across the whole housing programme. We've got more than 2,000 new public houses built since we've been in Government. That is a huge achievement. We have increased the amount of emergency and transitional housing. We stopped the sell-off of State housing that that Government was doing. That Government reduced the number of State houses by 6,500 in the middle of a housing crisis. We're committed to increasing the stock of State housing by 6,500 in our first four years.
• Question No. 4—Workplace Relations and Safety
4. KIERAN McANULTY (Labour) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: What changes to employment law came into effect this week?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): The most substantial parts of the Employment Relations Amendment Act came into force on Monday. These changes rebalance our employment relations system by reinstating workers' rights to tea breaks, restoring the balance in collective bargaining, restoring protection for vulnerable workers, and limiting 90-day trials to businesses with fewer than 20 employees. This Government is delivering for working people and putting a human face on capitalism.
Kieran McAnulty: Why make the changes?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: This is a Government that believes that everyone deserves a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, and these changes will help achieve that. They achieve the right balance: providing strong safeguards and rights to workers while maintaining certainty and flexibility for employers.
Kieran McAnulty: What further changes are planned?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Next week, the Education and Workforce Committee is due to report back the historic Equal Pay Amendment Bill. We are well under way on increasing the minimum wage to $20 per hour. Officials are doing excellent work to progress fair pay agreements and film industry changes. Alongside this, the Government is supporting businesses through R & D tax credits and the Provincial Growth Fund. This Government is building a productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy that delivers good jobs, decent work conditions, and fair wages.
• Question No. 5—Finance
5. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with Baker Tilly Staples Rodway that Tax Freedom Day 2019 is five days later than when his Government took office because taxes have grown faster than the economy, and what plans, if any, does he have to reduce the tax burden faced by New Zealanders?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: No. The Government is acting already to reduce the pressure on New Zealand families and businesses through the $5.5 billion Families Package, through putting an end to unnecessary secondary tax, through the introduction of the R & D tax credit, through making the tax system fairer by targeting multinationals, and through cutting ACC levies to save businesses and their customers $100 million over the next two years; while, at the same time, increasing investment in our roads and rail, rebuilding our rundown hospitals and schools, investing in our regions, and investing in more police, more nurses, and more teachers to fix the deficits and the mess left after nine long years of neglect.
David Seymour: Is the Minister denying the most basic mathematical fact that the percentage of GDP taken by Government is now higher than it was two years ago?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: One reason the tax take is growing is because more people are employed under the coalition Government than under the previous Government. That has boosted PAYE returns. Another reason is that companies are generating higher profits under this Government. One reason for a rising nominal tax take is because of more economic activity.
David Seymour: Does the Minister believe that it helps New Zealand's competitiveness to have Government taking a larger share of the economy than key trading partners such as Australia and the United States?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: If the member is now advocating for a tax system like Australia's, that is indeed interesting to me. It means, obviously, that he's now in favour of a top personal tax rate of 47 percent, and he's probably also advocating for a capital gains tax.
• Question No. 6—Transport
6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: What major transport projects, if any, have been delayed, significantly modified, or cancelled since his Government took office?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): As the member knows, the prioritisation of projects is a matter for the New Zealand Transport Agency based on the priorities in the Government policy statement. However, I'm able to advise the member that no major transport projects that were under construction have been cancelled. The New Zealand Transport Agency re-evaluated 12 projects, including the East-West Link, which would have cost an eye-watering $327 million per kilometre. Instead, motorists will see upgrades like median barriers and intersection upgrades and shoulder widening being rolled out across 670 kilometres of our State Highway network to save lives.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Yes, I'm not surprised.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I asked, "What major projects". He told me there were 12, but that's not very helpful.
SPEAKER: Well, I think the Minister—I don't really want him to expand, because the answer was longer than necessary, but if he got directly to the answer for the areas for which he is responsible, he would be more helpful to the House.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The list of projects that have been re-evaluated include Whangarei to Te Hana, Cambridge to Piarere, Pokeno to Mangatarata, Piarere to Tauriko, Waihi to Omokoroa, Te Puna to Omokoroa, Katikati Urban, Tauriko West, Ōtaki to north of Levin, Pētone to Grenada, and the Melling Interchange.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So what new major transport projects that have been designed to reduce congestion on our roads have been started since his Government took office?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We have filled the $5.9 billion hole that the last Government left in Auckland's transport plan, which includes projects like Mill Road, rapid bus services from Pāuanui to the airport, and the Eastern Busway, and Penlink, which are all funded and due to go ahead. We funded and futureproofed the City Rail Link in Auckland, after the last Government didn't even adjust its costings for inflation or leave a contingency. The Transport Agency is now actually fulfilling its regulatory responsibilities to keep the public safe on the roads. Our Government is getting on with fixing the long-term issues in transport to save lives and get our cities moving again.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I asked a simple question—"What new major projects have been started?"—he didn't list any. He listed existing ones that hadn't been started.
SPEAKER: I think he listed one road project, and I'm not going to get into trying to establish, from the Chair, whether a project is a new project or not. The Minister is responsible for his answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister: on becoming the Minister responsible, in his first month, with respect to the much-vaunted four-lane highway between Whangarei and Te Hana, how many dollars had been allocated to that plan?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, that's very interesting. The answer to that question is that the National Party had promised a four-lane expressway from Wellsford to Whangarei that would have cost $5 billion—more than the entire transport spend in one year—and not a single dollar was budgeted for.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he have any sympathy for Kiwis stuck in traffic, who have seen 12 major projects delayed or downgraded but not one new project actually started?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, here is the number of roads that are being built: the Manawatū Gorge replacement route, Mt Messenger Bypass, the State Highway 1 loop road in Northland, the Matakana link road, the Awakino tunnel bypass, the Gills Road upgrade, and the Horsham Downs link road. The difference between our two polices is that we're investing billions of dollars across the entire transport system instead of pumping 40 percent of the transport budget into five handpicked, gold-plated expressway projects, which is what that Government did when it was in office—highway projects that carried only 4 percent of vehicle journeys.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Speaking of gold-plated—
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Sorry, Mr Speaker. Have the light-rail projects from City to Māngere and City to North West, for which he announced $1.8 billion seed funding in May 2018, been delayed, reset, or recalibrated?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The light-rail projects in Auckland, which are part of our Government's commitment to building modern transport systems in our major cities, relieving congestion and giving people genuine choices to move around our urban areas—those projects in Auckland—are to be considered by Cabinet and they will be considered, but they are part of a commitment that we have to fix the urban transport systems and the deficit in infrastructure that we inherited from that party.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Could all of the roads promised by the previous Government have been funded within the context of the Land Transport Fund over the next three years or within the current term of Parliament without any increase in fuel tax, as has been claimed by some?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The promises of State highways that were made by that party in the lead-up to the last election—
SPEAKER: Order! Areas for which the Minister's responsible, please.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It would not have been possible to fund the projects that the member refers to without a very significant increase in fuel taxes and road-user charges. The Ministry of Transport advised the former Government that it would have taken a hefty increase in petrol taxes and road-user charges, and the former Minister Simon Bridges received that advice on the eve of the last election.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is the reason that the release of the business case for the light rail down Dominion Road has been delayed because they can't find anybody to come up with a strong business case that stacks up?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree with Auckland councillor Mike Lees' assessment "Mr Twyford's version of light rail is KiwiBuild on wobbly wheels."?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, it won't surprise the member to know that I don't agree with Mike Lee, but I'm sure that the member understands there are literally dozens of cities around the world right now who are building rapid transit systems, including light rail—six current light rail rapid transport systems are under way in Australia alone—because all of these cities are building modern transport systems that give their citizens genuine options, congestion-free options, and provide mobility and access to the things that they need, and these are issues that the Opposition doesn't even want to hear about.
Hon Julie Anne Genter: Can the Minister confirm that the most effective way to improve travel speeds on the road network is to improve the travel speeds of public transport, and that has been demonstrated in cities all around the world—the only way to help people get around on the roads is to improve rapid transit? [Interruption]
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I can.
SPEAKER: No, before that occurs I'd like the members who interjected during that question to stand up. [Several members stand] Right, OK.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I can assure the member that it is in fact an established principle of transport planning that the speed of public transport has a direct correlation to the speed of traffic, because the better public transport services are, and rapid transit, the more likely people are to leave their car at home, take the train or the bus, allowing the motorways and the roads to move more freely. That is a fundamental tenet of our transport policy, and it's why we're committed to building rapid transit infrastructure and modernising public transport in our cities.
• Question No. 7—Commerce and Consumer Affairs
7. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What recent measures has the Government announced to protect consumers?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): The Government has fast tracked measures to protect consumers in their dealings with both banks and insurers. We've released two options papers seeking feedback on proposed measures to address issues with conduct and culture of financial institutions and with insurance contract law. Proposed options include a ban on target-based remuneration and incentives, imposing new legal duties on financial institutions, and ensuring products sold to consumers are fit for purpose and sold to the right people. This will be supported by new and improved enforcement tools.
Willow-Jean Prime: What are these measures in response to?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: The measures come in response to the recent reports by the Financial Markets Authority and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand that showed there were major issues in the life insurance sector and poor conduct and culture in the banking sector that needed to be addressed. In addition, when we came into office we found our insurance contract law is outdated and reform is long overdue for both consumers and for the sector itself. The Government is committed to making sure that the financial services sector is delivering good outcomes for consumers.
Willow-Jean Prime: How soon will these changes be made?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: The Government wants to provide adequate time for consultation and analysis with stakeholders while, at the same time, moving the reviews quickly so we can reduce harm to consumers. If changes are warranted, the aim is for legislation on financial conduct to be introduced by the end of the year and separate legislation on insurance contract law is to be introduced—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Best Minister in the Government.
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: —next year. You might need some insurance for your income soon, Gerry, so you might want to listen. This work sits alongside our other legislative changes to the financial services sector, such as the Financial Services Legislation Amendment Bill, and it reforms the consumer credit contract laws. The Government is committed to putting consumers at the heart of decision making so that they can get the best financial outcomes—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Outstanding—top Minister.
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: —including those who might need some income insurance very soon.
• Question No. 8—Police
8. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Did he make the statement to TVNZ in December in regard to the Matthew Dow petition seeking the urgent introduction of random roadside drug testing "there's a discussion document that's been approved by Cabinet that's going out to the public early next year", and if so, on what date did Cabinet approve the discussion document?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister of Police: In response to media questions on the road toll and drug-driving, including the one with TVNZ on New Year's Eve, I confirm that Cabinet decided to undertake public consultation. This Cabinet decision was made in September. Cabinet has approved the consultation document, and its release is due shortly.
Chris Bishop: Is it correct to say that a consultation document like the Minister has just said is the same as the discussion document he mentioned on New Year's Eve?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, words do matter, but sometimes you can be too picky with words.
Chris Bishop: Why has the discussion document—or consultation document, to use the Minister's words—not been released yet, when he said it would be released early next year?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, did he mean early this year or early next year, because next year hasn't arrived yet. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Both sides.
Chris Bishop: Why has the discussion document on roadside drug-testing that he told TVNZ on New Year's Eve 2018 would be released early next year—i.e., this year—not been released yet?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, what happened was that getting ready for the release, a tragic terrorist event happened on 15 March in Christchurch, and it so happens that the head of road safety for police, Mike Clement, is also the head of police operations in Christchurch with respect to that terrorist event. That's why it was delayed, for a very obvious and understandable reason. It will be released shortly.
Chris Bishop: How on earth can the events of Christchurch involving a deputy commissioner that have nothing to do with roadside drug-testing have delayed the release of a document that he just told the House was prepared and confirmed in September 2018?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, for the most obvious reasons. While a document might be prepared, its continued refinement may still be central to the Government's thinking. Can I say that why Mr Mike Clement is important is because he heads the police road safety campaign, and, having said that, can I say the previous Government, since 2009, had done nothing—including two Cabinet papers that the Hon David Bennett took on drug-driving—and they deferred and made no decisions at all.
Chris Bishop: Does he think it is acceptable that when Cabinet approves a discussion document on the very important issue of roadside drug-testing, the Government, nine months later, has not released it to the public, despite telling the family of a particular individual killed last year on New Year's Eve that it would be released early next year?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, the statement made to the family was always intended to be performed on. It will be performed on. It will happen, but the fact is we had a tragedy: the terrorist act on 15 March this year. That is understandable, but what is not understandable is the appalling misuse of someone's misery for narrow, venal political points.
Alastair Scott: I seek leave of the House for the Land Transport (Random Oral Fluid Testing) Amendment Bill in my name to be set down as the first members' order of the day on the next members' day.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that? Yes, there is. It will not be set down.
• Question No. 9—Regional Economic Development
9. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he stand by his statement in the December 2017 Cabinet paper outlining the objectives of the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) that the first objective is "Increased jobs (with a focus on high quality jobs) and sustainable economic development over the long term"?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, and I'm pleased to, again, advise the member that the Provincial Development Unit officials who contacted PGF funding recipients in February to gather data about job creation tallied 560 new jobs as the most accurate and up-to-date figure as at that date.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he satisfied that the only answer his officials have provided so far to me and the public showing the number of sustained new jobs created by the fund relates to a third of the projects and lists only six jobs?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I am aware of the member's press release to that effect yesterday, which said "The one straight answer we've had from the Provincial Development Unit shows that with a third of the projects counted just six permanent, sustained jobs have been created"—it is such an absurd accusation I'm surprised that the member was willing to put that out under his name. To give but one example, the Ruapehu Alpine Lifts have 37 jobs during construction, and the wider economic effects of that one project alone will be far more than the miserable six jobs that he thinks the New Zealand public is stupid enough to believe is the total.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I seek to table an email from Jarred Griffiths to Ash Battell with a table which shows exactly that—six sustained new jobs.
SPEAKER: It's not publicly available?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: No. It's dated 11 February 2019.
SPEAKER: Right. Is there any objection to that email being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why are his officials refusing to release the latest figures on the number of sustained new jobs created so far?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The member tries to suggest that jobs that are contractors who are building new infrastructure or new buildings are not jobs. They are sustainable jobs in that industry. Those contractors employ people who are working on these projects that would not have occurred but for the PGF involvement.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So he thinks, halfway through a term relating to a $3 billion fund, that even if we went with his upper estimate of 500 jobs, including contractors, part-timers, and people who have done—
SPEAKER: Order! Question.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: —perhaps, one hour, it is a good return on that investment?
Hon DAVID PARKER: No, that's not what I think; what I think is that the member favours tax cuts for the rich and hard right austerity for the regions. That's why the provinces withered and social problems grew under his watch. We've got a lot of work to do to fix that laissez-faire neglect, but we've started and it's going well.
• Question No. 10—Infrastructure
10. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister for Infrastructure: What recent announcements has he made regarding the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, Te Waihanga?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Minister for Infrastructure: The interim infrastructure commission within Treasury has published a pipeline of major infrastructure projects that are coming to market in the next three years. The information on those first 174 projects included in that pipeline are worth over $6 billion, and this will provide confidence to the private sector to invest and gear up for the efficient delivery of these projects. The coalition Government has listened to what the infrastructure sector has been advocating for for many years, and the new commission will be fully operational by the end of the year.
Clayton Mitchell: Wow. That's fantastic. What information is included on the infrastructure pipeline?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Initially, the pipeline includes 174 projects from five capital intensive agencies: education, health, the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Defence Force, and corrections. These include replacement of the Dunedin Hospital for over $1 billion, the Manawatū Gorge replacement route project, and a $275 million replacement of critical infrastructure at Auckland City Hospital, Starship, and Greenlane Clinical Centre. It contains information as to the cost range of the project as well as estimated time frames for procurement and construction.
Over time, the pipeline will be expanded to include projects from all central government agencies as well as local government and large private sector projects. The commission will be providing long-term visibility of our county's infrastructure needs.
Clayton Mitchell: Fabulous news. How will this help deliver better infrastructure and improve the well-being of New Zealanders?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The pipeline information will give the infrastructure market greater confidence about the timing, sequencing, and scale of infrastructure projects so it can gear up capacity and capability to deliver. We inherited a serious infrastructure deficit, and we're focusing on ensuring that our investments are in the right projects at the right time. New Zealanders rely upon this high-quality infrastructure to ensure they can run their businesses efficiently and to underpin their quality of life, so the establishment of the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission and the publication of this prototype pipeline will help infrastructure be delivered in a timely and cost-effective manner.
• Question No. 11—Land Information
11. Hon DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister for Land Information: Why did she decline the application for OceanaGold in cases 20171062 and 201810122 to purchase 178 hectares at Waihi when the Associate Minister of Finance concluded the project would "create substantial and identifiable benefit"?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister for Land Information): Thank you, Mr Speaker. I declined because it was my judgment that using productive rural farmland to establish a long-term tailings reservoir containing hazardous mining waste did not create a substantial and identifiable benefit for New Zealand.
Hon David Bennett: When she concluded that the acquisition of the land would enable more mining and therefore more emissions, which could encumber New Zealand's transition to a net zero emissions economy, will this new test be applied to other applications to the Overseas Investment Office (OIO)?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The test is one of substantial and identifiable benefit to New Zealand. I considered that in the context of what is a sustainable economic benefit. So, yes, potentially, whether it contributes to carbon emissions and our net zero target could be considered.
Hon David Bennett: When she said "It is difficult for an economic benefit to be truly substantial if it is not sustainable. The nature of the proposed investment in non-renewable resource extraction is inherently unsustainable.", then has this test been applied to the over $5.2 billion worth of applications to the OIO since she has been Minister?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: I've been the decision maker in 35 applications under the Overseas Investment Act. I've approved 31 of the applications and declined four. I have applied the criteria in the Overseas Investment Act to the best of my ability.
Hon David Bennett: How can the Minister determine that the application only had a moderate economic benefit when the Associate Minister of Finance found that the export value of the gold from the land would be 1,610 years' worth of the dairy export value from that farm?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The Overseas Investment Act provides for two Ministers to make separate decisions. What is a substantial and identifiable benefit to one person may not be to another. Where the two Ministers make different decisions, the Act requires that the application is declined.
Hon David Bennett: Is the fact that the company spent $373 million in New Zealand in 2016 a substantial and identifiable benefit to that Minister?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: It is certainly a benefit, but in the context of sustainable economic development, the risk of major tailings impoundments, which change productive, food-producing land into a permanent site for the storage of hazardous waste, is not a substantial and identifiable benefit. It creates significant risks, both economic and environmental.
Hon David Bennett: Why did she use the Hauraki district average wage of $23,000 as part of her justification for claiming that further mineral extraction would not generate a substantial and identifiable benefit when the Associate Minister of Finance said that the $120,000 average mining employee's wage was evidence it would?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The decision was about whether the purchase of the land would create a substantial and identifiable benefit. In this case, it's turning productive land into a site for the long-term storage of hazardous waste—that is not a benefit.
• Question No. 12—Health
12. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Health: [Uses New Zealand Sign Language] [Firstly, I'd like to acknowledge New Zealand Sign Language Week.] Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, in the context they were given.
Dr Shane Reti: What actions did she take in defence of proposals for disabled people having shower times reduced to 30 minutes to reduce costs?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I was very clear with the ministry that there were to be no cuts to services, and so the proposal they discussed with providers was not carried out.
Dr Shane Reti: What does medically fragile mean when one proposal to reduce costs was no referrals for under-fives unless medically fragile?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I can't speak to the detail; that would be a document that was written by the Ministry of Health. What I can say is that the plan that was discussed by the Ministry of Health with providers was not considered acceptable by myself or the Minister of Health, and we put an end to that plan.
Dr Shane Reti: How would disabled people eat when one proposal to reduce costs was removing meal preparation from all disabled packages?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: That's why the cuts are not going ahead, because we didn't think it was acceptable and I made it very clear to the ministry that my priority is to ensure disabled New Zealanders receive the best support possible, and that this support is allocated in a fair and consistent manner. Frankly, the difficulties that the health system is struggling with, in terms of not having enough funding to meet demand, are because of nine years of neglect under that last Government where there were not sufficient increases to the health budget. That's a matter of public record.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm, then, that the extra funding for disability support services in last year's Budget was largely swallowed up by regulatory and compliance costs, including pay settlements, as stated by the service's chief executive?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: What I can say about last year's increase is that it was the largest increase percentage-wise since 2007—a 31 percent increase on previous years' increases. There's more money going into the health system than there would have been under that National Government. The previous National Government's cuts to health funding—in real terms, compared to the growth in population and the growth in demand—are the reason why we are having this sort of conversation right now. [Interruption] You have to take some responsibility.