Parliament: Questions and Answers - June 12
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Māori Education
1. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education): What announcements has he made, as part of the Wellbeing Budget, that support kōhanga reo, their teachers, volunteers, tamariki, and whānau?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education)): Good news: last week, we announced that kōhanga reo will receive a $32 million funding boost to lift wages, pay volunteers, and improve and upgrade facilities. This announcement was about more than just funding; it was a long-overdue thankyou to the kaiako, the kaimahi, the nannies, the aunties, the mothers, the fathers, and the cousins whose commitment to kōhanga reo never faltered. This announcement shows our commitment to them and is just the start of the work we'll do together to achieve our shared aspirations.
Kiritapu Allan: How will the funding be distributed?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Through Budget 2019, we'll be looking after the well-being of our kōhanga reo by providing $11 million for improvements to ICT capacity and capability and building upgrades and over $21 million to increase existing pay rates for kaiako and kaimahi to the Government's stated 2021 minimum wage rate and to maintain a level of existing relative pay rates of kaiako and kaimahi. We'll pay kaiako and kaimahi currently working as volunteers in roles that would normally be remunerated. That is a total of just over $32 million for our kōhanga, our kaiako, our kaimahi, and, most importantly, our tamariki.
Kiritapu Allan: What has been the reaction to the Government's investment in kōhanga reo?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The response has been humbling, not just because of the recognition that this funding gives to kaimahi and kaiako but because this Government recognises kōhanga reo are not early childhood centres, nor are they kindergartens. They should not have to fit a mould designed for non-Māori organisations. They are kōhanga reo—unapologetically Māori. They do not need to be compared to something else to gain recognition, because there is nothing else that can compare. As Waihoroi Shortland said at the announcement, "Tears come easy when the kaupapa is treated so well,". He also said in Māori, "Kua rangatira tēnei rā i a koutou. Nō mātau te hōnore kia mau i ēnei kupu i tēnei ata. Ka taea e tātau ēnei momo kaupapa te tuitui i te motu, ki hea noa atu te hīkoi i Te Ao Māori."
["This day has been enhanced by you collectively. The honour is indeed ours to have secured these words this morning. It is possible for us to weave these kinds of initiatives into the country or wherever we may walk in Māoridom."]
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements and actions in relation to the alleged unauthorised access of Budget 2019 material?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, particularly the comments made by the Deputy Prime Minister in relation to the ethics and legality of the Opposition's unauthorised access of the Treasury site.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her Deputy Prime Minister's statement that every Budget figure released by National prior to the Budget was "Utterly fake, false, and will be proven so on Thursday"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister did not say that. What he did was produce a press statement two Tuesday's ago from that man's office on which there were eight calculations, seven of which were then, and now, demonstrably wrong.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her Deputy Prime Minister's statement in regard to the same accessing of Budget material that "The facts [are] very, very bad for the National Party"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I rush to stand by the Deputy Prime Minister's comments because he has now got the very document put out by Simon Bridges' office and of these eight calculations, seven are wrong.
Clayton Mitchell: What reported comments has she seen regarding the alleged unauthorised access of Budget 2019 material?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, a number of commentators have determined that what Mr Bridges did had these features. There are some pretty good arguments that one or more of the provisions of the Crimes Act were breached. The implication that were was—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The Prime Minister's saying this?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Forget about it, woodwork teacher; you wouldn't understand the law.
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption]
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, if you're going to keep on shouting—
SPEAKER: No, the member will sit down. Can I say to the Hon Gerry Brownlee that this is a serious matter. His leader thinks it's a serious matter. I've asked people in the House to try and treat it seriously and his interjections, I think, based on about as much legal training as I've had, are not helpful.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Recognising your chastisement, I withdraw and apologise for any offence I've caused the House. I just hope that the Prime Minister treats the question as seriously as the Leader of the Opposition.
SPEAKER: Well, I'm trying to get him to do that. The member's not helping.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, these comments are very apposite: "There are some pretty good arguments that one or more provisions of the Crimes Act were breached…the implication that there was clearly nothing criminal in the activity is difficult to square with the statutory language"—that from a leading law professor.
Hon Simon Bridges: Did member nations of Five Eyes contact the Government on Tuesday 28 May in relation to the Government's claim they had been systematically and deliberately hacked?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I personally can't answer that question, because I'm not aware of it.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is that because some members of her Government, quite possibly including the Deputy Prime Minister, were out of the loop?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no one in this Cabinet is out of the loop. Consultation is our middle name. But the reality is, in April 2017 a Cabinet Minister created the cyber security one-stop-shop otherwise known as CERT, the Computer Emergency Response Team, which cost $22 million to establish. Those protocols under CERT were designed for reporting the type of data breach that occurred and accompanied the unauthorised Budget information accessed by the National Party spokesman's staffer in this case.
Hon Simon Bridges: This is crazy town.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Bridges, you wrote the rules; abide by them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Did the GCSB raise with the Government that Five Eyes members had raised concerns regarding the systematic and deliberate hack?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that is not a question that we can answer, because there seems to be information that is coming into the Government, and maybe—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I thought you said you were in the loop.
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. Nick Smith—this is a very serious matter. It goes to both security, and international relations, and the House wants to hear it without that sort of inane interjection.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there seems to be allegations coming from the Opposition which do not have any authorisation with respect to a possible leak, but that's immaterial. What the protocol that was established by Mr Bridges said was, and I quote, "When private, confidential information is released"—
SPEAKER: Order! I am going to interrupt the Minister acting for the Prime Minister now, because the question that has been asked has been answered, and this is extraneous material which is not related to the supplementary question.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't it the case that as soon as statements from Treasury and Grant Robertson went out on Tuesday night alleging systematic and deliberate hacks, Five Eyes members contacted the GCSB, who then immediately got in touch with Andrew Little and his office?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am not aware of that. But I do not think that Five Eyes were struggling over themselves on a matter to do with Treasury. With the greatest respect, it's not foreign policy, it's not police, it's not defence, it's not customs—it's Treasury, and I find it very hard to believe that. But what's important, of course, is the protocol established by Mr Bridges required him to do the following: advise the organisation—
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she aware that the Government, through GCSB, provided assurances to Five Eyes members that they had not been systematically and deliberately hacked?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the GCSB could not give such an assurance on behalf of the Government. It would be for the Prime Minister, or, in this case, Mr Little, the acting Minister for the GCSB, to give such an assurance. That's how responsibility works under this Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Prime Minister aware that language such as "systematic and deliberate hacking" is often reserved by Governments for hostile foreign attacks?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no, we are not aware of that. But the real issue is this: if the National Party hadn't done what it did, this would not be an event.
Hon Simon Bridges: In addition to GCSB, did the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade also become involved in providing assurances to Five Eyes members that the Government had not been systematically and deliberately hacked?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, this is getting more close to the area of responsibility of the person answering the question right now, and the answer is no. But the real issue will never be—
Hon Paula Bennett: Out of the loop—you're out of the loop.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The issue won't change. This so-called scandal would not exist if the National Party hadn't done what it did.
SPEAKER: Order! No, before the member gets up, the deputy leader of the National Party will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Paula Bennett: I stand and withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Well, actually, you'll just do what you're meant to do.
Hon Paula Bennett: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't it most certainly the case that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade did become involved in this, and is it also the case that their Minister didn't even know?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there is no way that such an involvement of foreign affairs would've happened without the Minister of Foreign Affairs knowing. Being asleep behind the wheel is not what the present Minister of Foreign Affairs does.
Hon Simon Bridges: When did, to the Prime Minister's knowledge, the Deputy Prime Minister get informed it wasn't a systematic and deliberate hack?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I didn't hear that question clearly.
SPEAKER: Ask it again.
Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you. To the Prime Minister's understanding, when did the Deputy Prime Minister get informed it wasn't a systematic and deliberate hack?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, when referring to the Deputy Prime Minister, that is a very moot point. There are two sections of the Crimes Act which are very, very concerning for that member over there.
Hon Tracey Martin: Does the Prime—
SPEAKER: No, no, sorry, I'm going to go back.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: I'm going to—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Are you going to rule on that?
SPEAKER: Yeah, I am going to rule on that. I won't rule on the extraneous material, but there was a specific question which I know that the Minister answering on behalf of the Prime Minister should be able to answer. Ask it again.
Hon Simon Bridges: When did the Deputy Prime Minister get informed that it wasn't a systematic and deliberate hack?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that remains a moot point, which is the reason why there's a State Services Commission inquiry.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon Tracey Martin: To the Prime Minister—
SPEAKER: Sorry, there's a point of order from the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If a Minister's going to give an answer in this House, particularly the Prime Minister giving an answer in this House, then the provision that it should be done so in the public interest, as set down in the Standing Orders, is going to be of most importance. Everyone knows that the question that the Deputy Prime Minister, acting for the Prime Minister, has just put to the House cannot ever be answered by the State Services Commission inquiry because of the very limited terms of reference that are well published. Now, if someone would like me to table those terms of reference—
SPEAKER: No, I think I can deal with that relatively easily. If it is a relevant matter to that inquiry, and it might well be, the timing of members' staff, timing of departments, including, in this case, foreign affairs, giving information to the Deputy Prime Minister is most—the giving and not the receipt is certainly covered by the inquiry.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: There is no question of there being any investigation into matters that might be considered under the Crimes Act, as the Prime Minister has just told the House. So either the Prime Minister doesn't know what the terms of reference are—and I'd be happy to table them for her—or the Deputy Prime Minister has not been told what the terms of reference are. Either way, this House should not be given a brush-off with what is a totally incorrect answer.
Hon Chris Hipkins: I think it's important that the House notes that there are two issues at stake here. One is the investigation about what Ministers were told and when. The second is the broader inquiry into how the information came to be released in the way that it was. Those are two separate investigations, and as for what's in the latter, it could well be in the latter.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The effective answer from the Prime Minister again opens the prospect that there has been some kind of crime committed that would be punishable under the Crimes Act. Neither of the investigations are looking into that matter, and there's no way that there can be any decision or conclusion around that given the now public agreement by the agencies about what happened and our own knowledge in the Opposition of how it occurred. If that suggestion were to stand from the Prime Minister, then the Prime Minister is condemning every New Zealander who goes on to Google and uses a search bar today to the potential allegation that they are behaving in a criminal manner.
SPEAKER: OK. I just want to work through this one relatively carefully, because I think we have a matter of facts and law here. I think there's a degree of acceptance around the facts of what occurred, and I have certainly read a variety of opinions as to what the law is that fits those facts, and therefore I think it is not out of order for the Prime Minister to say it is debatable whether or not a criminal act has taken place. That is—[Interruption] Order! If the Prime Minister is of the view that it is debatable whether or not a criminal act took place, then it is not out of order for the Prime Minister to say that she thinks it is debatable that a criminal act took place.
Hon Tracey Martin: To the Prime Minister. Is she aware of any protocols or outlines about what should take place in circumstances similar to those that took place in this case?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes. In an April 2017 protocol assembled by the Leader of the Opposition, then the Minister for Communications, this is what was written: "when private and confidential information is released into an unsecured environment"—which is what happened with this data breach. The protocols advise that in the event of a data breach, an individual should contact the "relevant business or organisation", namely, Treasury—and they didn't, and that's why they're caught by 252 and 249 of the Crimes Act.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does the Prime Minister think it's arguable that a crime was committed, and if so, what is she going to do about it?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that's a marvellous question, because a law professor in a recent opinion here suggests that there are two breaches, 252 and 249 of the Crimes Act, and one is a seven-year sentence.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is using Google search a crime now, Prime Minister?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That's not a crime, but what is a crime is to 2,000 times try to gain unauthorised access, which was, in a $22 million documentary preparation in April 2017 prepared by that Leader of the Opposition, meant to be outlawed, but now he's trying to seek refuge in some other scandal.
Hon Tracey Martin: To the Prime Minister. Can she confirm that historically, Budget documents have always been confidential until released by the Minister of Finance, and is she able to report any incidents in the past where similar information has been highlighted by a member of the Opposition to a Minister particularly in charge?
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has no responsibility for what happened historically.
SPEAKER: I think if the Prime Minister has been briefed on a similar case and is comparing this to and that, then that is—I'm going to ask the member to—I'm going to listen really carefully as the question's asked, but it can be brought into order.
Hon Tracey Martin: To the Prime Minister. Can she confirm that historically it has been recognised that all Budget documents are confidential until they are released by the Minister of Finance, and is she aware of any circumstance where, previously, members of this Parliament had been made aware of confidential information and they then took it directly to the Minister responsible?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I can answer the first part of that question by saying that there have been leaks in the past by accident, apparently, in 1985 under Roger Douglas. There was also a Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK walking into Parliament, and 15 minutes before he gave his Budget speech, he was asked, "Any tax on cigarettes?" and he said, "No." and he got fired for that. So it's a very serious issue, but of the type that that member asks right now, there has, to the best of our knowledge, never been such an appalling breach.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Who leaked it? Treasury did. Like a newspaper.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, you did, sunshine.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Which one?
SPEAKER: No, that one.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I apologise.
SPEAKER: And withdraw.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: And withdraw.
• Question No. 3—Housing and Urban Development
3. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is he confident current State housing targets are sufficient, given the wait-list for State housing?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Thank you, Mr Speaker. In 2013, Otago University estimated there were 41,000 New Zealanders homeless and living in severe housing stress. We're dealing with the effects of a housing crisis and massive unmet need. Budget 2018 funded 6,400 additional public homes over the next four years—an average of 1,600 a year—and we're well on track to exceed this target in the first year. Since 1 November 2017, over 2,000 more families are in public housing, bringing us to the highest number of public housing tenancies since June 2009. I'm confident that our entire housing programme—including our public housing build—is ambitious, that we're making progress, and that it will continue to put more families off the State house waiting list into public housing. It will take time to fully ramp up, but we are making very good progress.
Marama Davidson: Does he agree that the proposed urban development and housing agency, Kāinga Ora—Homes and Communities, should have a mandate to rebuild our public housing stock to meet projected future demand?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, Kāinga Ora—Homes and Communities—the new urban development authority—will be the home of State housing. It will manage the State house tenancies, of which there are currently about 68,000, and Housing New Zealand's development group will merge with HLC—the people who did Hobsonville Point—and KiwiBuild's procurement operation to manage the entire Government build programme, including new State houses. As the member knows, this Government is ambitious about building as many public homes as we can in the context of a broader housing programme focused on increasing affordability and improving the quality of homes.
Marama Davidson: What work is under way to ensure new State houses are accessible to people with disabilities?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I've asked Housing New Zealand's board to review their whole approach to how well they serve their tenants who have disabilities. I think they're making great progress. The work is likely to include a commitment to a share of new State homes with universal design standards. Similarly, with the massive retrofit programme that Housing New Zealand has under way, there is an opportunity to make modifications for disability access at the same time as improving insulation, putting in modern kitchens, and heating.
Marama Davidson: Does he intend to promote high standards of energy efficiency in the design and build of new public houses?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, Housing New Zealand are making great strides in improving the energy efficiency of their homes. They're currently spending $258 million bringing their homes up to the healthy homes standards. Housing New Zealand is also working towards Homestar 6 certification for its new builds. This would put it significantly ahead of much of the private residential construction market.
• Question No. 4—Finance
4. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he accept that clause 3.27 of the Cabinet Manual states he is individually accountable for Treasury's actions in relation to the early release of Budget 2019 information, and at what specific time did Treasury first receive advice from the GCSB relating to the use of the term "hack"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I disagree with the member's characterisation of clause 3.27 of the Cabinet Manual. In answer to the second part of the question, that is a matter that is part of the State Services Commissioner's investigation that is currently under way, and I do not believe that it is in the public interest to comment further on those matters.
Hon Amy Adams: Why did Treasury allege its website was systematically and deliberately hacked in an 8 p.m. press statement on Tuesday, when there is already information in the public domain that Treasury had been advised by the GCSB approximately two hours before that, at 6 p.m., that the website had not been compromised and there was no hack?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I am not aware of the facts the member states there, but, regardless, they are the subject of the State Services Commission (SSC) inquiry.
Hon Amy Adams: What exactly did the Secretary to the Treasury tell the Minister the GCSB advice had been on this matter when the Minister met with the secretary prior to releasing his 8.18 p.m. statement?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Again, I'm not going to go into the detail of those matters today, because they are the subject of the inquiry. What I can do is quote from Treasury's media statement on Tuesday night, where they said, "The Treasury has referred the matter to the police on the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre".
Hon Amy Adams: Why does he think it is good enough to refuse to answer questions in this House as to the advice Treasury gave him, when he has told the public and this House repeatedly that he relied entirely on that advice before making his statement and now he won't tell us what it was?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Because the State Services Commission is undertaking an investigation, which the Opposition called for. Now that that investigation is under way, it is not appropriate for me, as a Minister, to speculate further on those matters. I am sure that, once the investigation is over, I'll have the opportunity to say a lot more.
Hon Amy Adams: What steps did he or his office take to ensure the Treasury secretary was aware of the GCSB advice that there had been no hacking before the secretary's Wednesday morning television appearances?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Again, we are in the middle of matters that are part of the investigation. It is not in the public interest for me to comment on those—an investigation that the Opposition asked to be undertaken, and I would hope that they would respect an investigation like that. A faint hope, it appears.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that we traversed these matters in some detail yesterday, around the extent of the State Services Commission investigation—that it is explicitly not looking into the actions of Ministers. This question was very specifically about what the Minister or his office had done, not what the officials had done. It is that same area we traversed yesterday, and I would ask the Minister to answer the question, because it explicitly is not part of the SSC investigation.
SPEAKER: Well, I disagree because my view is that the breadth of the inquiry that is ongoing does, in fact, cover the Minister's office.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could the Minister, then, not be directed to address the question in respect of his actions if that is your ruling in respect of staff?
SPEAKER: The short answer is no, because what we'd get to is what I indicated before. What the Minister did mightn't be covered, but the receiver of the information, if it's anyone other than a Minister, and the giver of the information to the Minister are both covered if they're not Ministers.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether it's possible that his department's mistake was not to look for the obvious culprit in the first place.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Again, I'll leave those matters to other people to investigate, but the one thing I can say with absolute certainty is that for the period of time which seems to be concerning the Opposition so much—Wednesday last week—there was a person who could have cleared the whole thing up, and that person was Simon Bridges, and he didn't do it.
Hon Amy Adams: Why did he permit the chief executive of the agency that he is responsible for to state publicly on Wednesday morning that the Treasury system had been hacked, that it had been attacked, and further, that the material accessed was never on the Treasury website, when all of those statements are now known to be patently incorrect?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise of that member's question.
Hon Amy Adams: Of course you do! How convenient! Dodged!
Hon Simon Bridges: That's right.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Both of you.
Hon Amy Adams: It's a joke.
SPEAKER: Order! Amy Adams will stand up, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Amy Adams: I withdraw and apologise.
• Question No. 5—Health
5. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions around Vote Health in Budget 2019?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and in particular I stand by my statement that, with the well-being Budget, this Government is taking mental health seriously and, at the same time, investing $1.7 billion in hospitals and other health facilities.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he stand by his assertion to the Health Committee this morning that a 1.1 percent increase in Pharmac funding is enough to deliver appropriate access to medicines for New Zealanders?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The member uses his own words rather than mine, but I do stand by the statement that last year over 100,000 New Zealanders gained further access to medicines through the broadening of availability and so on. So that is a lot of people helped by the Pharmac model last year. On top of that, of course, we've invested $40 million extra in the current Budget to further increase access to medicines for New Zealanders.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Would he agree that an increase in Pharmac funding above the just 1.1 percent appropriated would mean considerably more New Zealanders would be able to access lifesaving drugs; and, if so, why was there an increase of just 1.1 percent in this year's well-being Budget?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Of course, everybody in this House will acknowledge that health got a considerable chunk of the well-being Budget, because mental health in particular was prioritised and also the longstanding underfunding of district health boards (DHBs) was prioritised so that people can access services in our DHBs—$2.8 billion over four years. These are the trade-offs that we make when we put a Budget together, as any Government does, and in this Budget we decided to invest further in Pharmac, and we did invest $40 million further over four years, meaning more access to more medicines. Of course, it is logical that the more money you put in, the more benefit that can be derived, but I would say that Pharmac is very clear that for the list of medicines it has it is prioritising those top medicines which will bring the most value to New Zealanders.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Which one of his statements to the committee this morning is correct: that elective surgery numbers as at the end of March is not a good proxy of full-year throughput, because of a rush of sorts that occurs in the last quarter; or the DHBs won't achieve their budgeted elective surgery figures due to industrial action?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the member's characterisation of my comments, again, in select committee this morning.
Hon Ruth Dyson: He just makes it up.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There is an upturn in elective surgery outputs typically in any given year, in the DHBs' performance, and they are working currently to deliver to the contracted volumes. Of course we acknowledge that interruptions with industrial action—because those staff working in hospitals have been underfunded for so long—did disrupt planned care during the course of the year. Fortunately, those things have been settled. We have a nurses' settlement, for example, that is worth more than the last three settlements combined that were done under the previous Government—more than the last three settlements combined. That historic underfunding is being addressed. Those health professions are now more attractive to join and be a part of. We are determined to invest to make sure that the systemic underfunding that happened for so long does not destroy our health system, because we believe in public health services available and accessible to more New Zealanders.
SPEAKER: Before the member has a supplementary, we're going way back to early in that supplementary answer. The Hon Ruth Dyson made an unparliamentary interjection; she will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Ruth Dyson: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given the Minister's reference to attractive professions, why, given the Ministry of Health had to apologise for their failure to prepare a 2018 budget bid for community midwives, given their obligation to do so, was a 2019 budget bid to reflect the co-design recommendations not made?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This Government has continued to lift the fees available to midwives, recognising that a long period of under-investment does put in jeopardy the sustainability of the midwifery workforce. In the last Budget there was a 8.9 percent uplift in fees for midwives; this Budget, an uplift of 4.93 percent, and that is without the additional wraparound material in the midwives package, because we recognise that we do need to fund this service sustainably to ensure the safety of mother and midwife and child. We are proud to be investing more in our midwives and we recognise that that has been a long time coming.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question which was not addressed was "a budget bid to reflect the agreed co-design process", and the Minister did not address that part of the question.
SPEAKER: That's a fair comment. He will address it.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There was a co-design process which happened under the previous Government. The Director-General of Health has written to the College of Midwives, apologising for the way in which that played out. My view: it was a very messy process because of how the last Government ran it. That is their failure. He's trying to weaponise the incompetence of his own caucus.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Isn't it true that he and his Labour colleagues in Government haven't delivered on their promises in Budget 2019, particularly in the area of medicines, cancer care, elective surgery, and community midwifery?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Absolutely not.
• Question No. 6—Finance
6. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What reactions has he seen to Budget 2019?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): More good news. One school principal wrote to me to say "As a citizen of Aotearoa, I want a Budget that is driven by values that result in a quality life for every person who lives here." She said that for her school, the most that the school has ever received in donations in a year had been $2,000, but with the policy change in this Budget, her school will now be better off by $40,000. She went on to say, "So much in the Budget will start to move us as a country to a more equitable, compassionate, respectful, tolerant, and rich—in the widest sense of the word—society."
Willow-Jean Prime: What responses to the Budget has he seen in international media?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: American author and Bloomberg columnist Cass Sunstein said that New Zealand's well-being Budget is worth copying. He noted, "New Zealand has taken an important step in the right direction. Other nations should follow its lead." I agree with Mr Sunstein. This is indeed an ambitious Budget. It represents a step towards the Budget representing a comprehensive assessment of New Zealand's overall well-being and our plans to improve that.
Willow-Jean Prime: What other responses has he seen to the well-being Budget?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope said that the Budget's focus on innovation, research, and skills would help more businesses develop at higher levels and grow the economy. He said that investment in equipping young people with civics knowledge, financial literacy, and key workplace competencies was also important for business. Likewise, Brett O'Riley, chief executive of the Manufacturers' Network, says the announcement of $6.8 million over four years to futureproof New Zealand's manufacturing industry will help members understand and utilise digital technologies in order to be more productive and develop new products and services. I've even seen feedback from one commentator who said, "Don't get me wrong. There are a few things in the Budget I can wholeheartedly support."—a rare sign of positivity from Simon Bridges!
• Question No. 7—Transport
7. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: How much more money is expected to be raised over the three financial years 2018/19 to 2020/21, as a result of increases in fuel excise duty and accompanying increases in road-user charges, and how much money is the Auckland regional fuel tax expected to raise over the three financial years 2018/19 to 2020/21?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): The increase in fuel excise and road-user charges is funding road safety improvements to save lives and much needed infrastructure to get our cities and regions moving. Auckland Council's regional fuel tax is funding roads that are vital to support urban growth and public transport that is giving people real choice and helping to unlock Auckland's potential. Over the three-year period, I'm advised, the increase in fuel excise and road-user charges is expected to raise $1.056 billion and the regional fuel tax will raise $450 million.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he realise that in Auckland the fuel tax rises amount to nearly $2,000 per household?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the best advice that I have from the Ministry of Transport is that all three rises in Auckland together will cost families $2.50 a week all up, and the lowest-income families only $1.24 a week, and we are, of course, as a Government always looking to ease the cost of living. That's why our Government is making over 384,000 lower- and middle-income New Zealand households an average of $75 a week better off because of the Families Package. We've increased the minimum wage to $17.70 an hour, giving 209,000 people a much-needed pay rise. We've passed legislation to enable the Commerce Commission to investigate anti-competitive conduct in the retail fuel market.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he understand the frustration of motorists who are being told they should pay more than $1.5 billion more in fuel taxes and the only thing they can look forward to is lower speed limits?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, the message that I get back from Auckland motorists is that they at last have a Government that's willing to do something about fixing the chronic congestion that, over nine years, brought the country's biggest city to a halt and that was causing the city to lose $1.3 billion a year in lost productivity. Aucklanders just want us to get on with fixing the problem, and that's what we're doing.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he agreed with the Hon Julie Anne Genter's question yesterday, "Can he confirm that the best way to invest in capacity for our motorway networks is to invest in the complementary alternatives", did he understand that he was, in effect, agreeing that the best way to invest in the capacity for our motorway networks is not to invest in our motorway networks?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I invite the member to consider the case of the Northern Busway, which currently now brings as many people in to the central city every morning on the bus as travel by car. A relatively cheap bit of transport infrastructure put in place under the Clark Labour Government has meant that the Auckland Harbour Bridge moves relatively freely every morning, and the country has been spared the expense of multiple billions of dollars for an additional harbour crossing—that would have had to have happened several years ago now—without State Highway 1 jamming up completely. The best way to get better productivity out of the existing motorway network is to have rapid transit and public transport running alongside it.
Kieran McAnulty: What reports has he seen on claims of how much revenue these increases will raise?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I note that the number Mr Paul Goldsmith used yesterday in the House on this issue and the number that the Leader of the Opposition has been using this morning—$1.5 billion, not including the regional fuel tax—is off by $450 million, and I think it's disappointing that—
SPEAKER: I'm also disappointed at the approach taken by the supplementary question. In fact, members know that it is out of order to do a supplementary question of that type for the sole purpose of bringing up something that the Minister is not responsible for—there's a warning.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How can he say, as he did yesterday, that his Government brings a balanced approach to transport when it is refusing to build any—any—major new roads in the next three years?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, if we take the Auckland example, we are currently completing the improvements in the southern corridor to State Highway 1, the upgraded Takanini Interchange, and the Lincoln to Westgate project on State Highway 16. There's a long list of roading projects that we're building; it's just that we're not a Government that believes that only roads and motorways are worth investing in. We believe in a truly multimodal transport system, and that is the definition of a balanced transport policy.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So, 20 months into Government, does he have any timetable about when work would start on light rail down Dominion Road?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as the member knows, it's a multibillion-dollar rapid transit project. We're determined to take the time to get it right, but what distinguishes this Government from that Government is that we are actually investing in rapid transit to get our cities moving.
• Question No. 4 to Minister
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National): I'm going to seek leave to table a letter. First of all, I just wanted to apologise for doing it now and not at the end of question No. 4, but I had to get the letter to check the wording of it. I seek leave to table a letter from the State Services Commission dated 10 June, from Mr Hughes, about the investigation. It relates specifically to Mr Makhlouf and his actions and statements, and I think it might help the House tomorrow if we're still going down the line of questioning that we have been today.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that letter being tabled? There appears to be none. That will be tabled, and I'll look at it very soon, I think.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 8—Housing and Urban Development
8. DENISE LEE (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Is he confident he is meeting the Prime Minister's expectations around openness and transparency?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes.
Denise Lee: Did he meet with the Mayor of Auckland Phil Goff, and the Minister for the Environment David Parker on 2 March 2019 to discuss the Auckland Rural Urban Boundary?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes.
Denise Lee: Why, when his and Minister Parker's diaries were released, did Minister Parker reveal the meeting, but he did not?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The meeting was in my diary, but there was an error in the published diary—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! Listen.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It was an oversight that has since been corrected.
Denise Lee: Is it correct—as was asserted in emails released to me from Minister Parker's office—that he requested "a political meeting with no officials" with Mayor Goff and Minister Parker to discuss the Auckland Rural Urban Boundary?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: If I could just seek clarification from the member: is the member asking me whether it's correct that Minister Parker requested a political meeting with no officials? Is that the question?
SPEAKER: That's exactly what the question was—with a little bit extra.
Denise Lee: No, may I clarify, Mr Speaker? I am asking for his confirmation that emails released to me from Minister Parker's diary show that he—Minister Twyford—requested a meeting with no political—
SPEAKER: Oh, Minister Twyford. I apologise, I got it wrong. Is that accurate?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I had requested a meeting with no officials present.
Denise Lee: What does the non-disclosure by a Minister of a meeting with another Minister and the mayor of New Zealand's largest city about, arguably, the most important factor impacting on the supply and cost of housing say about this Government's commitment to openness and transparency?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as I said: as soon as the error was pointed out to me that the matter hadn't been transferred over to the published diary, it was corrected.
Denise Lee: I seek leave to table an email from Minister Twyford's office requesting a meeting with the Mayor of Auckland to discuss the Rural Urban Boundary that states it is to be a political meeting with no officials in attendance.
SPEAKER: Can you tell me the source of that email? Where did the member get it?
Denise Lee: An Official Information Act request. It is not publicly available.
SPEAKER: I mean, it clearly is publicly available if it's been released under the Official Information Act.
Hon Member: No, only to the member.
SPEAKER: Only to the member?
Denise Lee: Yes.
SPEAKER: Only to the member and not as part of the rest of the process?
Denise Lee: Yes.
SPEAKER: OK. Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 9—Housing and Urban Development
9. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many State houses are under construction in June 2019, and how does this compare to June 2016?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I'm advised that Housing New Zealand, at the moment, has 2,700 homes contracted and under construction, with a further 5,236 State homes in the planning and procurement process to be delivered between now and 2021-22. This is a ninefold increase on the 222 homes under construction in June 2016.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Where are these homes being built?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The changes that were made in Budget 2018 meant that Housing New Zealand could start building on the considerable reserves of vacant land in regional New Zealand that we saw build up over the last nine years; 900 homes are currently being built in regional centres, predominantly on this vacant land. Significant numbers of new State housing is being built in regional New Zealand for the first time in decades.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: How will Housing New Zealand continue to increase the scale of its build programme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Housing New Zealand is moving to multi-year capacity contracts with builders and away from project-by-project contracts. This is where Housing New Zealand guarantees a minimum amount of building every year. This contracting arrangement gives builders the certainty to invest in their business. It lays the platform to use more off-site manufacturing to take on more apprentices and reduce the cost of construction.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. So does he stand by the statements of Housing New Zealand Chief Executive, Andrew Mackenzie, who told the Social Services and Community Committee on 20 February this year that most of the State house new builds in 2017-18 were consented or started under the previous National-led Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I think in the months following a general election, you would assume, logically, that most of the houses that had been built at that stage had been consented a few months prior to the election, but I repeat: the number of homes that Housing New Zealand has under construction right now represents a ninefold increase on what was being done in 2016—a ninefold increase.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What benefits has the increased scale of the build programme already had?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The form of contracting with doing multi-year deals with large builders and developers has enabled Housing New Zealand to reduce the labour costs of new builds by 15 percent. Off-site manufacturing has already reduced the build time of Housing New Zealand's developments—from 14 to 18 months, down to 4½ months.
Hon Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a document compiled by the Parliamentary Library from a number of different sources, including written parliamentary questions, oral ones, Official Information Act responses from Housing New Zealand, and other documents showing the number of State houses built for Housing New Zealand from 1999 through to 2018, year by year.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 10—Climate Change
10. TODD MULLER (National—Bay of Plenty) to the Minister for Climate Change: Does he stand by his statement in relation to New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, "We're estimating that they will peak some time in the mid 2020s and decline from that point on", and by what year does he expect greenhouse gas emissions will peak under this Government's policies?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change): In response to the first part of the question, yes. That statement was based on greenhouse gas emissions projections in New Zealand's third biennial report, reflecting the policies that were in place in July of 2017. In answer to the second part of the question, New Zealand's fourth biennial report will be published in December of this year and will include revised projections reflecting the policies that are in place under this Government.
Todd Muller: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have a question on notice where I specifically asked the year in which greenhouse gases will peak. The Minister made a reference—
SPEAKER: Sorry, I was temporarily diverted. I will ask the Minister to give the second part of his question again, and if he didn't address the second part of the member's question, he will.
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, in response to the second part of the question, New Zealand's fourth biennial report will be published in December of this year, and will include revised projections reflecting the policies that are in place under this Government. I cannot give him a year in which we're projecting the policies of this Government to manage peaking; I can only give him the year that we have the most recent data for, which is the third biennial report, which is the answer to the first part of the question.
Todd Muller: Taking the Minister's Radio New Zealand comments, then, around the mid-2020s, why can he not commit to reducing emissions until 2025—mid-2020s—given the Government's promise, and I quote, "to urgently reduce New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions."?
Hon JAMES SHAW: My comments on Radio New Zealand reflected the most recent biennial report that we had, which was the third biennial report, which reflects policies that were in place in July of 2017. The entire work programme of this Government in relation to climate change is intended to accelerate the peaking and decline of emissions in this country. It includes, for example, things like setting up an independent climate change institution, reforming the emissions trading scheme, planting a billion trees, developing a renewable energy strategy, heat and industrial processes work under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority fund, transport emissions—putting $14.5 billion into heavy rail, light rail, walking, and cycling over the course of the next 10 years, dramatically unlocking the transport in Auckland and Wellington, and so on. So if you add up all of those policies, we'll be able to give him a year in which we can actually project the decline in the fourth biennial report, in December of this year.
Todd Muller: Why has he, on the one hand, actively encouraged school children to strike for urgent action on climate change but, on the other hand, giving himself six, seven years from the time he became Minister until New Zealand's emissions start declining?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I have not. As I've said, my comments on Radio New Zealand reflected the policies of the previous Government, which is the year that we had the third biennial report for. The reason why I support people who are taking to the streets to protest the lack of action over the course of the past 30 years in relation to their future is because it is the single most important thing that they are facing. I think that that is up to them.
Todd Muller: Why is he video-conferencing into council boardrooms around the country urging them to declare climate emergencies while at the same time overseeing emissions that he has just said intend to peak into "the mid 2020's"?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Because video-conferencing has lower emissions than flying there in person.
Todd Muller: Isn't this yet another example of the Government failing to deliver on its promise and, on all issues, the nuclear-free generation moment?
Hon JAMES SHAW: No, as I said in answer to the primary question and the supplementary, the data that we have is the third biennial report that reflects the policies that were in place under the previous Government. We will have new projections which I am hoping will show that we will peak our emissions sooner as a result of the increased—those will come through in December, in response to your question. You'll be happy to see that when that gets published. I think that the policies of this Government will show that we will peak emissions earlier than the policies of the previous Government.
• Question No. 11—Transport
11. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Associate Minister of Transport: Does she stand by all of her statements, policies, and actions on road safety?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Transport): Yes. In particular, I stand by this Government's balanced approach to road safety that includes the largest ever investment programme in road safety upgrades, including $1.4 billion over three years to upgrade thousands of kilometres of roads, increased funding for road police, and targeted speed reductions.
Chris Bishop: Does she stand by her comment yesterday, in relation to the $331 million Vote Police road safety programme appropriation,"The figure used by the police is simply a placeholder figure only", and how many other place holder figures are there in Vote Transport or Vote Police in Budget 2019.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Yes, I stand by that statement. I'll explain to the member again that the 2018-2021 road safety partnership programme includes $1.045 billion in funding for road policing with $352.7 million in funding already approved for 2018-2019. This three-year funding represents an increase of $85 million above the investment level in the previous National Government's road policing programme. The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and police are finalising the details of the road safety policing programme because we've had this increased focus on road safety. We are looking to ensure that we have the right level of investment and that we have the most effective approach to reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads.
Chris Bishop: Given that, why is the Vote Police road safety programme not listed as a fiscal risk in the Budget?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I think that if the member puts that down in writing we might be able to address that. It really is a question for the Minister of Finance, but I can say that it's not a fiscal risk because we've already approved the funding from the National Land Transport Fund in Vote Transport.
Chris Bishop: Why have safety upgrades for State Highway 58—described by NZTA as Wellington's most dangerous road—been delayed?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: What the NZTA is currently in the process of doing is identifying the road safety upgrades and improvements that will have the greatest effect in terms of reducing deaths and serious injuries across the entire country. Therefore, the prioritisation of projects is aimed at reducing deaths and serious injuries right across the country.
Chris Bishop: Supplementary—
Hon Julie Anne Genter: We will save more lives than you.
SPEAKER: Order! The member is going to have another chance to finish or to give another answer. She should wait until it's her turn.
Chris Bishop: Is it correct she threatened to resign if the Let's Get Wellington Moving project included a commitment to a second Mt Victoria tunnel ahead of mass-rapid transit?
Hon Julie Anne Genter: No.
• Question No. 12—Education
12. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made about support for Pacific learners and their whānau?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Ethnic Communities): This year's Wellbeing Budget makes lifting Pacific incomes, skills, and opportunities one of our top priorities. That's why I was proud to announce $27.4 million in Budget 2019 to support a package of initiatives focused on achieving Pacific outcomes, growing cultural competency of the workforce, and providing opportunities for our students to learn in Pacific languages. This funding for Pacific education is just part of the $113 million specifically targeted to lift the skills and outcomes of Pacific people in New Zealand. It is a clear demonstration of our Government's commitment to lifting the well-being of New Zealanders.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: How will this engage young Pacific learners?
Hon JENNY SALESA: What we know from talking to Pacific students is that a great teacher is someone who understands just how important their identity, culture, and language is and shows respect in ways as simple as pronouncing their names correctly. To support the thousands of Pacific New Zealand students who make up 13 percent of all school-age children aged between five to 18 we will expand funding for Tapasā, which is a cultural competency framework for teachers of Pacific students. There is currently a huge demand for Tapasā from teachers of our Pacific learners because, like us, they understand that Pacific learners who feel respected and are encouraged to have high aspirations achieve better educational outcomes.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What other initiatives will this fund?
Hon JENNY SALESA: This historical increase in funding for Pacific education will allow the continuation and expansion of successful initiatives with proven track records. Tapasā is just one of those initiatives. We're also supporting extending the Pasifika Early Literacy Project; implementing DMIC, which is Developing Mathematical Inquiry Communities, in many more schools; enhancing and implementing initiatives to support Pacific families, Pacific parents, communities, and Pacific learners; and support for Pacific bilingual education. This Government knows that it's important to have community-driven initiatives and we know that we actually need to expand and fund these initiatives, unlike the last Government.