Parliament: Questions and Answers - June 13
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) 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 2,000 times repeated, unauthorised accessing of the Treasury site.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In that answer to that question, there was an allegation made by the acting Prime Minister that there were 2,000 hits on the website by the Opposition. It was a pre-Budget week where one could easily expect many people preparing comparisons to have looked at that site. I think such an exaggeration is unacceptable in an answer from a Minister.
SPEAKER: Well, so is the member debating the number, or is he—I can't quite see—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, no.
SPEAKER: OK, I understand the—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, the Standing Orders—
SPEAKER: I understand the—just wait a second. I understand that the member doesn't like the reply, but I'd like the member to address himself to a point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, that's right, which would be going to the Standing Orders, which require that Ministers give answers that are in the public interest. Inciting a position by saying something that is completely untrue does not do that.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: Speaking to the point of order, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —in my answer, I was quoting from information that was given to us and hitherto has not been contested.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: This is—
SPEAKER: Speaking further to the point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yes. This is the hitherto moment.
SPEAKER: Well, as the member is aware, it has on occasions happened in the past, and under both Governments, that Ministers have been incorrect in the answers that they have given, but I'm—and if it was absolutely incorrect or deliberately incorrect, then there might be an argument for asking for a correction, or if it was deliberate, it is a matter of privilege. But in this particular case, I thought—you know, I'd need to go back and look at TV programmes that I have seen, but I thought I saw the fact that there'd been 2,000 unauthorised accesses to information being a matter of pride for some members.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: A further point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, it would be very unfortunate if you, as the Speaker, have now compounded things by suggesting that any use of a search bar on a publicly available website was somehow unauthorised. The reason for having a search bar on the Treasury website, on TradeMe, or on any other website that you'd like to name is so that people can use it. It is, by virtue of its being there, an authorisation—a welcome in.
SPEAKER: OK. I'm certainly not going to get into that debate with the member, but I think the House has had it quoted often enough to it in the last week or so what should be done in those circumstances, and I'm not at the point where I am going to require the Prime Minister to correct that answer.
Hon Amy Adams: Does she stand by her response to oral questions yesterday that in relation to Five Eyes members raising concerns with the Government, "I find that very hard to believe"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, 100 percent.
Hon Amy Adams: Is she not aware, then, that Andrew Hampton, the Director of the GCSB, has confirmed that that is indeed exactly what happened?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no, he is not aware of any such confirmation from Mr Hampton. Quite—
Hon Amy Adams: Read your papers.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I'm going to read the papers now. Just give me a second here. This is what Mr Hampton said: "The GCSB has a longstanding practice of not commenting on its engagement with its intelligence partners for reasons of national security. However, due to the need for clarity regarding the Treasury incident, I can confirm that Five Eyes partners have not raised concerns with me directly or with my agency."
Hon Grant Robertson: So can the Prime Minister confirm that the assertion made in the member's previous question is actually completely incorrect?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, and with delight, yes—100 percent I can confirm that.
Hon Amy Adams: Is the Prime Minister deliberately ignoring the part of Mr Hampton's statement when he made it very clear that Five Eyes members had been in contact with the GCSB over the allegations of a systematic and deliberate hacking of the Treasury website?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, who seeks to support the integrity of Mr Hampton, I want to quote what Mr Hampton said again: "However, due to the need for clarity regarding the Treasury incident, I can confirm that Five Eyes partners have not raised concerns with me directly or with my agency."—end of quotes. That is the total answer to the question.
SPEAKER: No. I am going to ask Amy Adams to ask her question again, because I think the word "concerns" was not in her question.
Hon Amy Adams: I will try. Sorry, I don't have it written it in front of me, so I'll do my best to repeat it as I had it. Is the Prime Minister deliberately ignoring the part of Mr Hampton's statement when here made it very clear that Five Eyes partners had been in contact with the Government about the allegations of a systematic and deliberate hacking of the Treasury website?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, this was just a collegial contact that went something like this: "What's going on over there, and can we help?"
Hon Amy Adams: What specific assurances did the Government provide Five Eyes members in relation to the reports of systematic and deliberate hacking of the Treasury website?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no assurances at all. None were sought. That was, of course, the kind of loaded inference and innuendo in yesterday's questions from the Leader of the Opposition, but it won't work. It didn't work yesterday, and it won't work today.
Hon Grant Robertson: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the Director-General of the GCSB said, "Five Eyes partners have not raised concerns with me directly or with my agency.", that there were three routine information requests and/or offers for assistance, and that Ministers were not briefed on these routine information requests?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister—and she wants me to apologise for being repetitive—yes I can.
Hon Amy Adams: Isn't it correct that the GCSB in fact assured Five Eyes members that they believe that what had occurred was only an "information management issue"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, no, and this House should stop having people barking up the wrong tree day after day. If the Budget is of relevance, please debate that.
Hon Amy Adams: Is this going to be like the Five Eyes contact point, where the Prime Minister one day says she finds it very hard to believe it happened and then is very quickly proven to be wrong?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, who wants to be helpful, she's got no idea what you're talking about.
Hon Amy Adams: Why did the Government leave the public of New Zealand labouring under the view that there'd been a serious hack of Treasury systems for more than 30 hours, when Five Eyes partners had it corrected almost immediately?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that questioner is better able to answer that than anyone else in this Parliament, because that was the beginning of the controversy. It was the failure to follow the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), which, I might add, was launched by Mr Bridges, which asked, and it said this—can I just quote what was said back in April 2017: "From yesterday, New Zealand officially has its own Computer Emergency Response Team or CERT, just like the big countries do, to keep a watchful eye on bad things in cyberspace." That's what happened, and that member wants to find who's responsible. Go and look at a big mirror.
Hon Grant Robertson: In light of the previous question about the word "hack", is the Prime Minister aware of a situation where the Ministry of Justice's search platform was used to get into the administration panel of the Ministry of Justice, and it was described at the time as a "deliberate and malicious attempt to hack into the Ministry of Justice's IT systems" by the then Minister Judith Collins?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Now we're going to show this guy knows nothing about how computers work.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister—and ignoring the number one ignoramus in this House—can I say—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, answer his question. Don't call him that.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no—look. If the glove fits, wear it.
SPEAKER: I think the Prime Minister had better sit down.
• Question No.
2. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: Does Budget 2019 support New Zealand businesses; if so, how?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The Wellbeing Budget supports New Zealand businesses through a number of targeted investments to help them become more productive and make the most of the opportunities created by the future of work and our move to a low-emissions future. These investments are led by the Government's $300 million fund to bridge the venture capital gap, something that entrepreneurs have been calling for the Government to support. The Wellbeing Budget also makes investments to support the commercialisation of research and science, boost skills and training, and increase international opportunities, alongside the significant infrastructure investment that the coalition Government is making.
Dr Duncan Webb: How does Budget 2019 support businesses to access the skilled workers they need?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The main issue highlighted by businesses to me is access to skilled labour. This is particularly significant at the moment with unemployment near record lows. The Wellbeing Budget boosts the Mana in Mahi apprenticeship programme to nearly 2,000 places, on our way to 4,000. There is increased funding for He Poutama Rangatahi, and we're putting aside nearly $200 million to reform vocational education so that we have more people in apprenticeships and trade training, and there is more investment in innovative industries and the future of work. These investments will see the Government take a more active role in supporting businesses to get the skilled workers that they need.
Dr Duncan Webb: How does the Budget help New Zealand's rural businesses and farmers?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Wellbeing Budget's $229 million sustainable land-use package includes a number of investments to provide farmers with the on-the-ground support they need to lift their environmental sustainability and unlock more value from their hard work. We've allocated about $43 million to support farmers to upgrade important tools like OVERSEER, which help them make decisions for their businesses, and $35 million to support practical advice, information, and tools for farmers and growers to improve their operations on the ground. I'm particularly pleased to see Federated Farmers "especially welcoming" these investments as we work together to create an economy that is both environmentally sustainable and generates high value for its people.
• Question No.
3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe he has acted in an open and honest way in respect of the early release of Budget 2019 information and in all respects to the standard expected of a Minister?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, particularly in relation to the large number of very well-received early releases—or, as they are commonly known, "pre-Budget announcements"—including $320 million to break the cycle of family and sexual violence, $98 million for a new kaupapa Māori pathway to help stop reoffending and imprisonment, the removal of NCEA fees, a teacher supply package—
SPEAKER: Order! The member has answered the question.
Hon Amy Adams: Why, when he had issued a press statement with content that clearly linked the National Party to systemic and deliberate hacking, did he not immediately correct that statement later that same evening when he found out from the GCSB that there had been no hack?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject various premises in the member's question.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he think the decision not to correct his statement immediately he knew it to be misleading fits within section 2.56 of the Cabinet Manual, which says that Ministers are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I believe that I am, along with other Ministers in this Government, upholding the highest ethical standards. I also believe we are upholding the very thing that the people of New Zealand want from us, which is to focus on the Budget and the content of the Budget. I stand here on the Thursday, in the week that we've been in the House after the Budget, not having received a single question from the member opposite about the actual Budget, which might indicate just how good a Budget it was.
Hon Amy Adams: Why did he permit the Treasury secretary to do a full round of Wednesday morning media in his place, where the secretary continued to peddle claims of hacking, despite the Minister having been told the night before by the GCSB that there had been no hack?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject the premise of that question.
Hon Amy Adams: Why, when according to his own answers to written questions he found out late in the afternoon of Wednesday, 29 May that the police had found no evidence of illegal activity, did he sit on that information until 5 a.m. the next morning, and does he think that's upholding the highest ethical standards?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On the day in question—it was the day before the Budget, and my focus, as New Zealanders would expect it to be, was on the delivery of the Budget, not the petty political games of the National Party. I also note that, in the last week, the National Party was particularly upset because they thought I had intervened incorrectly in a Treasury statement; now they want me to intervene in a Treasury statement. You can't have it both ways, Ms Adams.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could the finance Minister advise the House of the comparison of communications he's had in respect to the Budget, as opposed to the alleged hacking?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: With pleasure. Last week, I had the honour of traveling around New Zealand, talking about the Budget with New Zealanders. I met with people from all walks of life. I was in Christchurch; I was in Auckland; I was in Tauranga—all of them had questions about the content of the Budget. Many of them, I modestly say, praised it; some asked questions about it; not a single one asked me about that—actually, that's not quite right. One of them said, "Why on earth is Simon Bridges focused on something so petty?"
Hon Amy Adams: How is it that when he was first advised of the police investigation, he managed to find the time to issue a press release within an hour; and yet, when he learned the police investigation had found nothing, he allowed 12 hours to pass before a press release was issued?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I said earlier, in answer to the member's question, before, they didn't want me to interfere in anything that the Treasury did; now they want me to interfere in exactly what the Treasury did. On the evening of Wednesday, 29 May, I practised my speech once, and then twice again. I went to bed that night believing that this Wellbeing Budget would be a good thing for New Zealand, and I go to bed tonight believing the same thing.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he still have confidence in the Treasury secretary?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I have said previously, I have significant confidence in the work that the Treasury and the Treasury secretary did to create the Wellbeing Budget. On the matters that are under investigation, I will wait for the outcome of the investigation.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It's going to be a great speech tonight.
Hon Grant Robertson: Are you coming?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No.
SPEAKER: Have we finished? Well, ask another supplementary then, but stand up before you do it.
• Question No. 4—Prime
4. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Why did the Prime Minister say in her answer to written question 19455 that GJ Thompson took a leave of absence from his roles as a director and shareholder of lobbying firm Thompson Lewis while he was employed as her acting chief of staff when the Companies Register shows he continued to be a director and shareholder during this period?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Because it was and is a fact.
David Seymour: Does the Prime Minister stand by her answer to written question 19452, which states that Mr Thompson was provided with access to all Cabinet papers while he was her acting chief of staff?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes. To wit, the member had, by written question, asked if Mr Thompson had taken leave of absence from numerous roles. He actually referred to those roles because, on the company website, they were very clear. Mr Thompson did take a leave of absence from these roles, as set out in the member's question. This included Mr Thompson standing down from various roles as described on the Thompson Lewis website—the company, of course, that Wayne Eagleson, the former National Party chief of staff, is a member of.
David Seymour: Is the Prime Minister saying that GJ Thompson failed to properly update the Companies Office with his arrangements in that company?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! That's not something the Prime Minister has any responsibility for.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I can answer that one.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can, with the greatest amount of ease.
SPEAKER: I want to say to the Prime Minister to resume his seat, because I have ruled that that question is not the Prime Minister's responsibility.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not plan to ask that question, but it was a supplementary to a matter that the Prime Minister had raised in Parliament. The Prime Minister had specifically described the arrangements Mr Thompson had taken. Now, if I can't question him about statements he's made in Parliament, well, what is he responsible for?
SPEAKER: It's not that hard—as I've worked with another relatively senior member this week—to get a question that is in order. It shouldn't be beyond the member's wit. It's just, in this case, he didn't.
David Seymour: In that case, can I ask—
SPEAKER: No. The member's used up his questions.
David Seymour: Oh, Mr Speaker, are you sure you wouldn't like to give us another one?
SPEAKER: The mike's turned off, so you're not quite coming down yet, because the member hasn't got the floor.
David Seymour: Oh well, it appears to be working.
SPEAKER: If I need to stand up and ask the member to sit down, I'll do it.
• Question No. 5—Research, Science and
5. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: What announcements has she made about investment in innovation as a result of Budget 2019?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): Yesterday, I announced that the Government is investing $75 million into the redevelopment of the Gracefield Innovation Quarter through Budget 2019. This investment will mean that New Zealand's top scientists, engineers, and researchers will have the modern facilities needed to help transform our economy and grow research and development.
Tamati Coffey: What will this investment deliver?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The redevelopment will transform the site into a world-class modern research campus. It will allow for three new buildings, extensive refurbishments to four buildings, site-wide lab upgrades, and critical health and safety improvements such as asbestos removal, seismic strengthening, and dangerous goods storage.
Tamati Coffey: When will the redevelopment of the site be complete?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Work to redevelop the site has started with the new measurements standards laboratory building, and the rest of the programme is expected to be completed by 2023.
• Question No.
6—Housing and Urban Development
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Will he meet all of his commitments in relation to the KiwiBuild programme; if not, which commitments will not be met?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I've been clear that the Government will not meet its interim targets. That's why we're working on changes to the KiwiBuild programme as part of the reset.
Hon Judith Collins: Why has he withdrawn from his commitment to speak at the Property Institute of New Zealand conference on 20 June?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because I have two papers at Cabinet that day.
Hon Judith Collins: How can he have papers at Cabinet that day when he's also got Cabinet papers on 24 June?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I'm a busy Minister.
SPEAKER: Sorry, can I suggest it might be a good idea, unless Cabinet's changed its day of the week, that the member adds "committee" into his answer?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because I have two papers at Cabinet committee that day.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you think, given that—
SPEAKER: You can have another supplementary as a result of that.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you so much. Will he be meeting the commitment he previously made to be the keynote speaker at the KiwiBuild summit on 24 June?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, because I have two papers at Cabinet committee that day.
SPEAKER: No, it's the same answer the other way around. Scrub the word "committee", OK? Thank you.
Hon Judith Collins: If he's pulled out of the conferences because he is preparing papers on the KiwiBuild reset, why can't he ask a colleague to present them to Cabinet, allowing him to front to the building and construction industry leaders and stakeholders?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as the member probably knows from the diary that's been released, I front constantly, publicly, on KiwiBuild and all of the other matters I'm responsible for.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you think the Minister could actually answer the question—address the question?
Hon Grant Robertson: Speaking to the point of order, the question went to whether or not the Minister fronts to the building and construction industry and he addressed that question.
SPEAKER: He did address part of the question, if not the first part, and that's all you have to do with those two-legged supplementaries.
Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. So is he at all worried that he won't be the Minister of Housing and Urban Development at the time of these conferences?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Not at all.
Hon Judith Collins: Sorry?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Not at all.
Hon Judith Collins: Ha, ha! Is he perhaps hopeful he won't be the Minister of Housing and Urban Development at the time of these conferences?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Not at all.
• Question No.
7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statements regarding learning support coordinators, and is she confident that she understands the value of supporting teachers?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Associate Minister of Education (Māori Education)) on behalf of the Associate Minister of Education: Yes.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Isn't it correct that zero new learning support coordinators have been recruited under this policy, eight months after the Prime Minister's promise and announcement?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: On behalf of the Associate Minister of Education, decisions around the recruitment of learning support coordinators will be made in due course.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Why did she say in November of last year that it's too important to wait, regarding learning support coordinators, given eight months on, schools are telling me they don't have clarity on the policy, they don't know which schools will—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! That's—
Hon Nikki Kaye: —get one, and they have no confidence that 600 will be recruited by term 1 of next year?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: There will be, and we're committed to this kicking off in 2020.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How can she say she values support for teachers when she got into a Facebook fight with a principal where she said teachers are, effectively, being greedy and are only interested in their pay packets?
SPEAKER: Order! That does not relate at all to the primary question.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I worded that question very specifically. The primary question says, in the second part, "is she confident that she understands the value of supporting teachers?" Again, if you'd like me to repeat the supplementary question—
SPEAKER: No, I listened to it very carefully.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I said, "How can she say she values support for teachers?" It is absolutely within order. I have—
SPEAKER: The second part of the member's primary question is read in the context of that question, and it was about learning support and supporting teachers in a learning support context.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the time the Prime Minister and the Associate Minister made the announcement, they made it very clear that these roles would be teachers. That is why I worded the question very specifically to link both the fact that these learning support coordinators are teachers and the issue of value of teachers. This question, in my view, is in order. The Government has promised that they'll be teachers.
SPEAKER: That would've been two distinct and separate questions and not two parts of one question. The member has been here for quite a while. She knows that even where a question has two legs, there has to be a relationship between them, and that has not been established. I'll give the member one more crack at asking a supplementary.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How can she say that she values learning support coordinators when principals are concerned about her comments that she's made about teachers only being interested in their pay packets?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: On behalf of the Associate Minister of Education, she can say that because of her fine record in advocating for education as an Associate Minister of Education, as a chairperson of a board of trustees, and just the general hard work that she does.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With respect to the primary question on the issue of the value of supporting teachers, does the Government tend to rectify the grievous wrong done by the previous Government and restore pay parity for teachers?
SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Prime Minister has just heard me rule out an area of questioning down exactly that line, and I think he would have seen my lack of tolerance with Nikki Kaye during that time, in her argument with me. For him to continue it is just not showing the sort of leadership that one expects from the most experienced member of the House. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I stand, withdraw, and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To quote Tana Umaga, we're not playing tiddlywinks here. Pay parity was destroyed by the previous administration, it having been put in there by a former Government of which I was a member, and now I'm hearing that it's of no matter in terms of the value of supporting teachers. This is politics, and people need to hear it.
SPEAKER: I made it very clear, I think on Tuesday, to that member that he was on his last warning. He clearly didn't listen to my discussion before. He repeated something, he withdrew and apologised, and then he continued to argue afterwards. He will leave the House.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise a related but separate matter with regard to patsy questions asked by members on the Government side of the House with the intention of inviting a Minister to attack the Opposition. Now, that last question was arguably an example of that, but there have been several more egregious examples this week, and I just want to ask you: is it still the case that such questions cannot be asked and should be ruled out of order?
SPEAKER: Well, I mean, I'm, frankly, getting slightly frustrated with having to give advice to the member, but he knows, me having dealt with this matter now, (1) he can't refer to that, and (2) he can't go backwards. If he thinks he has a point of order, he should take it at the appropriate time and not later.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Is she confident that she understands the value of supporting teachers and learning support coordinators when a principal—[Interruption]
Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: At least the Cabinet table of 1996 would be at that pace.
SPEAKER: That's three.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Yeah, it was worth it.
SPEAKER: The Hon Gerry Brownlee will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: The punishment is doubled.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Is she confident that she understands and values supporting teachers and learning support coordinators when a principal recently said, "As the Associate Minister of Education, I would've hoped you'd have more respect for teachers than to say they are only interested in their own pay packets. What I believe is it is possible to speak respectfully and professionally even through disagreements."?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: On behalf of the Associate Minister of Education, yes.
SPEAKER: Question No. 8? [Member not present to ask Question No. 8] Question No. 9, the Hon Michael Woodhouse.
• Question No.
9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement yesterday that it was "not realistic to expect all DHBs to break even in the coming year"?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: On behalf of the Minister, yes, because it will take more than one or two Budgets to make up for nearly a decade of under-funding in health.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he think the fact that the Minister has failed to approve the annual plans of the district health boards (DHBs) that make up 54 percent of the projected deficits for this year, even though this year has just two weeks to go, is emblematic of a sector that lacks direction from him and can't possibly be expected to break even?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: On behalf of the Minister, no.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he agree with his Director-General of Health, who described his own ministry's and Treasury's projected DHB deficits of $390 million in Budget 2019 as "speculation"?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: On behalf of the Minister, we must recognise that the issues with ongoing deficits of DHBs started in 2013. It's an ongoing problem. At the root of it is under-funding of health under that last Government, who didn't increase funding commensurate with population growth and a population that has increasing needs. We're working closely with DHBs to make sure that they can meet both the services that New Zealanders want and expect, and be on a pathway to financial sustainability. Some DHBs lack the resources to invest in new models of care. We're going to support them so that they can get on that long-term track to sustainability.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. An interesting answer, but it did not go anywhere near addressing the Director-General's comments.
SPEAKER: Have another go.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: All of this is forecasts, so it's entirely possible there'll be small surpluses, balanced budgets, or small deficits, all according to circumstances.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Which of the statements he made yesterday is correct: his comment in the morning that "last year, for example, an additional 331,000 patients benefited from increased access to medicines", or his statement in the afternoon that "I do stand by the statement that last year over 100,000 gained further access to medicines"; and if not, which figure is correct?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: On behalf of the Minister, I think you'll have to put that down in writing.
• Question No.
10. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Māori Development: What are the social and economic benefits she expects to result from the funding of whenua Māori in Budget 2019?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister for Māori Development): Thanks for the question. Thanks to the Wellbeing Budget, we've made an investment for whānau to become more involved in developing their whenua. The investment of approximately $56 million will go towards providing a package of whenua Māori reforms that will provide updated information and data, improved Māori Land Court processes, targeted amendments to Te Ture Whenua Māori Act, and a regional advisory service to help whānau succeed, connect, and utilise their whenua for their own future wellbeing. Now, a study showed that underutilised land had the potential to yield over a 40-year period around about $440 million if there was improved development. That is the benefit of a wellbeing Budget that focuses on whenua Māori as a targeted initiative.
Rino Tirikatene: What is the biggest hurdle for Māori wanting to develop their whenua?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: A hurdle for many Māori landowners is succeeding to their land interests. We want to improve the legislative and court-related aspects to this. That's why in the package of reforms that we're introducing in line with the $56 million whenua Māori investment, a series of targeted amendments will help to improve the succession process and pack in better information and advisory services so whānau can make informed decisions about the best governance structure and the benefits of a collective approach to optimising their development aspirations. This approach will enable whānau to connect back to their whenua, build their shared aspiration for the future, and has the potential to create enterprise opportunities, employment, and training outcomes. It's a real positive step forward for whānau.
Rino Tirikatene: What type of improvements should owners see in the information that they will have access to, and why is this important?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: The investment we're making through Vote Justice to update Māori land online and in partnership with Te Puni Kōkiri, Te Tumu Paeroa, and Manaaki Whenua through WhenuaViz, whānau will have access to better landowner title information and their land capability profile to make some really good decisions about the suitability of their land for varying purposes. Improved access to better information is a positive gain for all Māori landowners, so that they can have an informed and strategic conversation about the future use of their whenua. There's also an ability to access finance capital through the $100 million whenua Māori land fund ring-fenced for the purpose of creating value uplift for Māori landowners already on their development path. But what I'm most pleased about also—I hear it anecdotally—is that there is a high conservation ethic amongst many Māori landowners, and their desire to keep whenua in its natural state has definite indigenous biodiversity advantages for them and many others.
• Question No.
11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Associate Minister of Transport: Has she seen the reports from Police in Northland that more than a third of those who have died on Northland roads this year tested positive for drugs, and that the numbers are double that for 2017 and 2018; if so, will she support the urgent introduction of random roadside oral fluid drug testing, as recommended by the Ministry of Transport?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Transport): I understand that police have recently reported that five of the 10 drivers killed in Northland this year who have been blood tested had drugs in their system. It's obviously too early in the year to draw firm conclusions about the trends in road deaths in Northland. The member will be aware that the number of deceased drivers with drugs or medication in their system decreased from 2017 to 2018 in Northland and across the country. Nevertheless, I acknowledge that drug-impaired driving is a significant road safety issue. That's why this Government is consulting on an enhanced drug-driving testing approach so that we can test and enforce appropriately. That consultation period will close on 28 June this year. The Government will look to confirm its options later this year.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does she stand by her interjection yesterday "We will save more lives"? If so, why has she for 20 months rejected the advice of transport and police officials to introduce random roadside drug-testing, during which time 100 New Zealanders have died as a consequence of drug-impaired drivers?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I stand by my interjection yesterday, and I reject the assertion from that member that I've rejected any advice from police or Ministry of Transport officials. The facts are that under nine years National did nothing on drug testing drivers. This Government is doing the consultation so that we can resolve the complex policy issues so that we can have an enhanced regime. More to the point, this Government has increased the number of road policing officers that are out there on the roads right now, which declined significantly under the last three years of National. There are 111 more police officers on the road thanks to this Government making road safety a priority, and putting our money behind that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What did she mean in February, 2018, when she stated that she was unimpressed by transport and police officials' advice to introduce random roadside drug-testing?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I have not changed my position. We all know that there are complexities with introducing roadside saliva-testing. They can be mitigated and that's why we're doing the consultation and the policy work. I suppose those complexities are the reason why three associate transport Ministers under National declined to take any action on drug testing drivers when National was in Government.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How many more tragic deaths do we need from drug-drivers for her to accept the advice of police and transport officials to urgently introduce roadside drug-testing?
SPEAKER: Just before we go there, I didn't hear an interjection from this side; was there one which led to Mr Goldsmith's?
Hon Grant Robertson: There was an exchange.
SPEAKER: Well, we'll scrub what I've just said then.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Again, I reject the assertion the member is making that I'm rejecting advice. We're taking action on enhanced drug testing of drivers. We want an effective regime that is going to reduce harm on our roads. What that last Government did—not taking action on drug testing drivers, reducing the number of road police on the roads, reducing the amount of money available for road safety improvements right across the country—has all led to this situation that we are now facing. It will take a few years for this Government to make the progress that we are absolutely committed to, in terms of reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What representations has she made as road safety Minister opposing the legalisation of cannabis, given her goal of a zero road toll and the scientific evidence from overseas jurisdictions that legalising cannabis results in more road accidents and more road fatalities?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The evidence from overseas jurisdictions is mixed. What we're doing is improving the safety of our roads. We've increased the number of road police on the roads, and we're looking at an enhanced drug-testing regime so that we can improve enforcement of impaired driving; that is vitally important. I think a harm-minimisation approach to drugs and an evidence-based approach to road safety is going to lead to the best outcome, because under nine years of that Government drug use was going up, harm from it was going up, and road deaths were going up.
Chlöe Swarbrick: Does the Minister think that gangs or the Government is better placed to regulate and minimise the harm of drugs on our roads?
SPEAKER: Order! That's just getting too far away from the substantive question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the advice provided to the Minister on 7 November 2017 from the Ministry of Transport recommending the introduction of roadside drug-testing that she rejected 20 months ago.
SPEAKER: The source—the source?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: There's an Official Information Act request received by National on the advice from the Minister of Transport to the Minister.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Stuart Nash: Is she aware that under the last Government, road policing numbers were cut—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, you've just made reference, in response to my colleague David Seymour, that questions deliberately set up to criticise the previous Government or the National Party are inappropriate, and that's exactly where the Minister is going.
SPEAKER: Well, maybe if we have a question I can make a judgment on it, rather than have it rudely interrupted the way the member just did.
Hon Stuart Nash: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Is the Minister aware that under the last Government, road policing numbers were cut by 111, and it wasn't until July 2018 that road policing numbers were once again up to full muster?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Yes, that's exactly correct.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How's that within the grounds of the question?
SPEAKER: Sorry? Because—just to make it absolutely clear—the member got it in order at the end. It took him a while, but he got it into order.
• Question No. 12—Housing and Urban
12. DENISE LEE (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by all his statements and actions in relation to the meeting he had with Hon David Parker and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff on 2 March 2019?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, I do, particularly my statement that my office made a mistake in leaving out a meeting with the mayor and Minister Parker when my more than 1,700 meetings were published on the Beehive website.
Denise Lee: When he requested the meeting with David Parker and Mayor Goff to discuss Auckland's rural-urban boundary, why did he specifically state it was to be a political meeting with no officials?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would say to the member that it is common for politicians to meet without officials present, just as it was under the previous Government. The main purpose of the meeting was to gauge what the likely concerns of Aucklanders may be and what the political response would be.
Denise Lee: How can he stand by his statement to Newshub yesterday, "I'm not aware that my office did refuse to release information.", given he personally signed the Official Information Act response saying no information about the meeting existed?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because at the time that release was responded to, my office had overlooked emails that had been generated setting up the venue and the time of the meeting. In retrospect, I acknowledge that those emails should've been included in the response. When I was asked a question by Newshub yesterday, I didn't have the documents in front of me and I wasn't able to answer the question.
Denise Lee: If the failure to disclose the meeting was simply an administrative oversight, as he claimed yesterday, why did he refuse to release the official information that Minister Parker released, which proved not only was the meeting held but further information about it did exist?
SPEAKER: I'm going to ask the member to consider carefully the question and whether the word "refuse" is there as opposed to "fail", because otherwise she's got to show some evidence that he did refuse. He "failed to release", I think you mean.
Denise Lee: Would you like me to—
SPEAKER: No, I'll substitute it and then the Minister can answer, if you like.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: First, I'm not responsible for Minister Parker's release of the documents, and in my earlier answer I explained why that information wasn't released at the time.
Denise Lee: What is his definition of a political meeting, and how [Interruption] is it different to meetings he organises in relation to his ministerial responsibilities?
SPEAKER: OK, and because there were two interjections from this side and only one from that side, I'm going to let the Minister answer, but I want to warn people that they are not to interject while questions are being asked.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: In this instance, I would define a political meeting as one where politicians are present, discussing politics.