Parliament: Questions and Answers - Sept 25
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Internal Affairs
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Does she have confidence in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care?
Darroch Ball: Same question as yesterday.
SPEAKER: The Hon Tracey Martin is answering the question, Mr Ball.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): I certainly don't want this answer to be taken as being flippant, but I think it is the best way to describe my level of confidence. If we were talking about a score between zero, which is "absolutely no confidence", and 10, which would be "absolute confidence", I would have to say that right now I am sitting at a five, and I'm hoping that the meeting at 3.30 today with the commissioner will lift that level of confidence.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think the royal commission has abided by its terms of reference, which say the royal commission should "do no harm"?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I think that's an exceptionally good question, and that is a question that I am going to have to put to the royal commission of inquiry at 3.30 today, because that is part of the responsibilities I do have. It's one of the areas where I believe I have a requirement to ensure that if I feel that they have not and I can produce evidence for Cabinet, and therefore for the Executive Council, I have a responsibility to do so.
Hon Simon Bridges: When she meets with Commissioner Paul Gibson this afternoon, will she seek explanations about why there was no vetting of the paedophile associated with the survivors' advocacy group and why Mr Gibson took no immediate actions when he knew the man had convictions?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Yes, that will be among the questions that I will be putting to the royal commission. I do not know if Mr Gibson himself will be there. The royal commission has asked to see me. I do not know how many members will come. I am definitely expecting the chair. But I do want to take on board that 14,000 survivors so far have actually signed up to give evidence. Each one of those survivors has the capacity to bring one or two support people with them. So I do take on board some of the comments in the media domain that there are some logistics to this, but it definitely is a question I will be asking.
Hon Simon Bridges: Doesn't Mr Gibson, as the critical commissioner in charge of the survivors' advocacy group, need to be there, and shouldn't she request that?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: As I mentioned yesterday, because it's an independent royal commission of inquiry, I cannot enforce or demand or require.
Chris Bishop: Of course you can.
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I cannot—I cannot. However, the royal commission of inquiry is very aware of the areas where I have concern. I have made it incredibly clear, in many media, where I am seeking answers. So the chair is responsible for the royal commission of inquiry and any reporting back to me. It is the chair that has asked to see me today. I hope that other commissioners will be with him, but it is the chair that I will be holding accountable for those answers.
Hon Simon Bridges: If the commission doesn't have adequate explanations about those matters I've just asked the Minister about—the vetting and the delay around the man's conviction—what will be the consequence, in her view, for Paul Gibson?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: First of all, I'm trying very hard to go into this meeting with the royal commission to listen without judgment, so that I hear very clearly without going in with a bias. The members may laugh, but this is an incredibly serious royal commission of inquiry that survivors asked for. They asked for it to be treated seriously and with independence from any political interference. I want to listen to the commissioners with an open mind, as opposed to deciding I know everything because the media has reported it. However, I will actually have to take further advice—possibly legal advice—after I have seen the commission at 3.30 today, because of the responsibilities I do hold.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that she has the authority to advise the Governor-General to remove members of the royal commission for neglecting their duties to keep survivors safe?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Again, that's a very good question, and one I've just asked for further advice on from the Department of Internal Affairs, and that is around whether neglect of duty—that interpretation around duty—covers duty of care. But I accept that I have that responsibility. If neglect of duty also includes minimising harm, or duty of care, which I would like some deep clarity on, remembering no commissioner has ever been removed in this country before; no—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: So what?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Thank you, Mr Brownlee. I see that you would do it at the drop of a hat. I tend to take this thing much more seriously. This took years and years and years to get survivors this far. So I don't intend to just, at the snap of a finger, go ahead—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume her seat. I don't want to enter into this debate, but the point that the Minister is making is a very important one, and that this is a serious matter. It doesn't help when her fellow Ministers react to inappropriate comments from the other side. The Minister is perfectly capable of responding herself. She should be left to do it, because, otherwise, it makes this Parliament seem like a rabble, and both sides are responsible for that, and I'm looking especially at the shadow Leader of the House and the Minister of Finance.
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: She shouldn't bring us into it.
SPEAKER: Order! The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. Point of order.
SPEAKER: No, I've got Grant Robertson first.
Hon Grant Robertson: I reluctantly joined in responding to the interjections, because, as you pointed out yourself in your ruling, they were inappropriate interjections, and on a matter of this seriousness, in the absence of those interjections being stopped, that was the course of action open to me.
SPEAKER: Well, I do not appreciate the member reflecting on my ruling. I made the ruling; I've actually more or less agreed with what he just said, other than his reluctance, but he knows he's not allowed to comment on my rulings. He will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Grant Robertson: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee, do you want to go again? No. All right, the Hon Simon Bridges.
Hon Simon Bridges: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does she have confidence in Commissioner Paul Gibson?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I would have to say, right now, as I said in answer to the primary question, I'm very much on the fence about the level of confidence I have in the commission overall.
Hon Simon Bridges: How is it possible that, despite red flags being raised months ago, the paedophile was only questioned last month about his offending, and he said, "this is the first time anyone from the commission has asked about them."?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: No red flags were raised with me, and, again, the member is asking me to comment on the internal workings of an independent royal commission of inquiry that he should direct to the royal commission of inquiry.
Hon Simon Bridges: What does she say to survivor advocacy group member Kath Coster, who said, in respect of the royal commission, "I was subjected to paedophiles by being a ward of the state … To find out later on that I had put myself into a situation where there was a paedophile, it made me feel real sick."?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: As one human being to another human being, I can just say how terrible I feel for that lady, but I ask her to direct those concerns to the royal commission of inquiry and to hold them to account.
Hon Grant Robertson: What responses did the Minister get, when the royal commission was established, from survivors who had been calling for years for such a commission of inquiry and those calls had been ignored?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: If I recall correctly, it was with relief and some joy, but they also knew this was not going to be a pleasant process and it was going to be a complicated process. I have had emails in the last 24 hours from people begging me to make sure that the royal commission of inquiry continues, but they want confidence, like we all want confidence.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with the Prime Minister that the members of the royal commission have "the right mix of integrity, mana, and credibility to carry out the difficult job"?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: We wouldn't have appointed them in the first instance if we didn't believe that they had the right mix of integrity and mana and skills to do the job.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of her, I think, fair answer to my primary question, where she gave a number, how does she rate Paul Gibson's chances of remaining as a commissioner at this point in time?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: It would be inappropriate for me to comment on that matter.
• Question No. 2—Prime
2. KIERAN McANULTY (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his Government's policies and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Acting Prime Minister): Yes, I do.
Kieran McAnulty: How has this Government made efforts to improve relations with like-minded partners?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Thank you very much for that question. The fact is that the achievements of the Prime Minister—
Hon Simon Bridges: Does he write his own questions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Able to write my own questions and my speeches, unlike that turkey over there. In fact, why don't you ask me a question? Show some courage.
SPEAKER: Order! Does the member want to do it voluntarily, or do I have to require him?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise. Back to my answer: the achievement of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's trip to New York and Japan cannot be overstated. The Prime Minister met in the same room at the same time with President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security advisor Robert O'Brien, and anybody that thinks they can laugh and scoff at that knows nothing about international diplomacy. No other Prime Minister has had a more impactful trip to the United States than Jacinda Ardern.
Kieran McAnulty: What were some deliverable outcomes of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit to New York?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Excellent question, again. Just one example: whilst at the United Nations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met, as I said, with the President of the United States and his senior colleagues. In response to the Prime Minister's advocacy for a free-trade agreement, the President said this to his staff: "Why don't we get on with it?" Now, that's unparalleled in terms of a response from the United States, and we are all delighted that we've moved so far. Right at the same time, she mentioned the Christchurch Call and spoke about it, and she took it to a new level, with 47 countries signing up; three huge international organisations as well as eight social media giants, including Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Microsoft. Those are major achievements and give the lie to the fact that it's some sort of needless talkfest. We're talking about the proper response to 51 people losing their lives and scores of others being damaged for the rest of their lives. I hope we do not hear any more sycophantic, weak, inhumane comments from a certain sector of New Zealand's political dichotomy.
Kieran McAnulty: How did Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit build upon past diplomatic engagement with the United States?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It's a long time between trade deals, so to speak. The finance Minister, back in 1939, first raised the issue with the United States, and then, of course, we had a difficult period in the 1980s, all changed by a serious rapprochement effected by the former Government—not the last one; the one before that—with the Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.
SPEAKER: Order! Sorry, I'm going to ask the member to resume his seat just for a second. Can I just ask for the level of interjections to be turned down, and especially by the successor to Walter Nash.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I also say that these were major achievements, somewhat superior to going on The Letterman Show to read out the top 10 list, or being confused, on The Letterman Show, with the ambassador to Washington from New Zealand. One suspects that Mr Bridges would have had a similar reception.
Kieran McAnulty: Could the unparalleled response he gave in the answer to supplementary question number 2 and the major achievements he gave in the answer to supplementary question number 3 be part of the reason why he as Acting Prime Minister still has not received a question from the Opposition?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That's an excellent question.
SPEAKER: Order! He might be responsible for the first part, but he's certainly not responsible for the substance of the question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: There was no first part of the question.
SPEAKER: No, well, I think if you try and answer the first part of the question, it's basically: how great are you? If members can very quickly think of another supplementary, they can have it.
Hon Grant Robertson: In reference to my supplementary question of yesterday, and, indeed, my supplementary question of last week, has the Acting Prime Minister had to answer any questions from the Opposition in his term as Acting Prime Minister?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Alas, no. And I put that down to, by way of analogy, the All Blacks at the World Cup against provincial club rugby.
Kieran McAnulty: Taking the Speaker's advice: why is he so good?
SPEAKER: Knowing the rest of the family, it's parents and environment. But we don't get to say it here.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In relation to the last answer, actually, the Opposition did ask a question yesterday, but the Acting Prime Minister's correct—he didn't answer it.
SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a point of order; he will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
David Seymour: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: He is on a warning that will last some time.
• Question No.
3. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What did he discuss during his meeting with representatives from Fletcher Building last Friday regarding their land at Ihumātao?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The meeting was held at the request of Fletcher's, and was part of the Government playing a constructive role to help support a resolution. We discussed a broad range of options for the site, but I'm not prepared to go into the details of those options at this time, as it is not in the interests of any of the parties involved.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why is it not in the interests of the parties involved to discuss the details?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Because I respect Fletcher's role and their commercial interests.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is it not in the public interest to at least understand whether the Crown is involved in commercial negotiations with Fletcher Building over this land?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I played a part in trying to find a constructive solution here. I believe that's what the public would expect of a Government.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Can he rule out using taxpayer money in any way—either through direct purchase or, for example, a loan—to help another party buy the land off Fletcher Building at Ihumātao?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member is getting well ahead of himself here. We are supporting Fletcher's, the mana whenua—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will you rule it out?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —and all those who have interests in the site in—
Hon Shane Jones: Making it up.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —finding a constructive solution.
SPEAKER: Order! The Hon Shane Jones will withdraw and apologise. That is an out-of-order interjection, and has been ruled that way many times.
Hon Shane Jones: Which interjection, sir?
SPEAKER: The one that the member made twice right now.
Hon Shane Jones: It's in response to Nick Smith. I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Now, the member will just stand, withdraw, and apologise if he wants to stay in the House.
Hon Shane Jones: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Before attending the meeting, did he receive any advice from Treasury on the precedent risks to the Crown and the economy if the land occupation is successful?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, the meeting was held at Fletcher's request. I spoke with them, as I said in my primary answer, about potential options for the site and remain committed to finding a constructive solution.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why wouldn't he expect to be holding similar meetings with landowners all around the country if the land occupation is successful?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This was a meeting at Fletcher's request. I was happy to meet with them and support them and other interested parties in finding a resolution to this matter. I do understand why the member opposite really struggles to recognise a Government acting constructively in bringing people together, given that he was part of one that sought to divide people.
• Question No.
4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing: Why do 11 of the high-risk rating categories on the KiwiBuild strategic risk register released in September not show an improving trend?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Housing): Thank you, Mr Speaker. As I explained to the member yesterday, a risk register is a list of potential strategic risks and measures taken to avoid or mitigate them. A lack of change in status just indicates that the potential risk has not changed. The risk register that was released to the member last Friday was reviewed in February, and other than minor corrections to job titles and an incorrect arrow being changed prior to being released to that member under the Official Information Act (OIA), it has not been reviewed since then. As noted in the letter to the member's office that accompanied the OIA request, these are potential risks and a plan to mitigate them should they occur, not risks that are being actively managed and worked through.
Hon Judith Collins: Why has the reset of KiwiBuild announced a few weeks ago not resulted in the risk register being reviewed?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: As I answered in the primary answer that I gave the member, other than a couple of tweaks around job titles, there has not been a review of the risk register since February. As the member well knows, the reset of KiwiBuild was not carried out then.
Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked why—
SPEAKER: No, I don't think I need a point of order. The Minister should answer the question. The question was "Why?"
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Because the risk register has not been reviewed. It is an annual document that is due to be reviewed again by February 2020.
Hon Judith Collins: What aspects of the KiwiBuild procurement policies have caused her ministry to evaluate the programme as being at high risk of judicial review?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I go back to the answers that were given in the primary question—that these are lists of potential risks that exist. These are standard management tools that exist across many Government departments and certainly, on the advice of the State Services Commissioner, something that is good practice for any Government department to have. In terms of the risk mitigations that are in place within the KiwiBuild unit to make sure that they are managed, they are all there. All procurement and contracting is done to the highest public sector standards, all procurement is doing through the Government Electronic Tenders Service (GETS) and the Government standard procedures—all pretty standard stuff.
Hon Judith Collins: Why, then, is the risk of judicial review considered by her ministry to be high rather than, say, medium?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Again, I go back to what I answered the member in the answer to the primary question. These are risks that exist for any Government department, that there are processes that need to be followed, and what the document lays out is what needs to be done to mitigate those risks and lays them out. This is good public sector practice.
Hon Judith Collins: Why is the risk of judicial review over procurement policies considered by her ministry to be a high risk rather than a medium risk or a low risk; what is the difference, or is it just a risk?
SPEAKER: There were, I think, three there. The member will answer at least one of them.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: When public money is being spent, a good Government department needs to consider how it needs to mitigate against any potential risks. Now, this is exactly what this register does. In order to do that, the department has very clear policies and processes in place, as I said in answer to a previous question—procurement and contracting done to the highest public sector standards; all procurement is done through GETS, the Government's standard procurement process; all internal contracting or procurement is done in accordance with hard guidelines based on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment contracting guidelines used under the previous Government; and any contracts entered into are subject to independent legal advice. These are put in place to mitigate against any potential risk of judicial review.
Hon Judith Collins: If it is simply any potential risk of judicial review, then why is it listed as high risk? Does the Minister know that answer?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I would've thought the answer was quite obvious, that a judicial review—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear it, please.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: —of decision making by the unit is something that is high risk for the department and, as such, that the mitigations need to be put in place to ensure that we are adhering to the proper processes, and that is exactly what is being done. Look, I get it is the member's job to be political, but this is a standard departmental risk mitigation management tool.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is one of the most obvious answers to that question—and every lawyer should know it—that seeking judicial review is a very low-cost option for an objector?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: You've got to have grounds.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: We know you don't, son.
SPEAKER: Order! Both of you, please.
Hon Judith Collins: If it's an issue of risk, then why is it that some of the risks shown on the risk register are shown as low risk but the risk of judicial review around procurement practices is still considered a high risk?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Because there is a very complicated procurement process, and that means that there has to be diligent processes put in place to mitigate against any potential risk, and that is exactly what has been done.
• Question No.
5. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): More good news. Yesterday, Moody's released its latest credit opinion for New Zealand, reaffirming our Aaa stable rating. Moody's said its rating reflects New Zealand's very strong institutions and policy effectiveness, and a strong fiscal position compared to international peers.
Hon Simon Bridges: They clearly didn't visit; they clearly did that from New York.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This stable outlook is anchored by Moody's expectation that even in the face of shocks, New Zealand will maintain economic and financial stability and credit metrics consistent with a Aaa rating. And, yes, Mr Bridges, they did meet with the Government, and despite also meeting with Mr Paul Goldsmith, or his predecessor, they still managed to come up with that.
Dr Duncan Webb: What did Moody's say about New Zealand's fiscal strength?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Moody's assessed New Zealand's fiscal strength as "very high", and that our fiscal position remains stronger than many Aaa-rated sovereigns. Moody's said that Budget 2019 shows high fiscal flexibility as demonstrated by forecasts for continued budget surpluses and debt reduction.
Hon Simon Bridges: This is explaining as losing if ever I've seen it.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: They don't like it, do they? They don't like good news about the New Zealand economy, because Moody's went on to say that the focus on budget surpluses and debt reduction at the same time is increasing investment in our priorities, such as mental health and child poverty reduction, demonstrating just how strong that Budget was.
Dr Duncan Webb: What did the Moody's report say about New Zealand's economic outlook compared to other countries?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Moody's assessed New Zealand's economic strength as very high, with expectations of economic growth of around 2.5 to 3 percent in the next few years. It also said that over the longer term, our potential GDP growth is higher than many of the other Aaa-rated countries, highlighting our rank as number one in the world for ease of doing business. It is refreshing to see international reports like this that cut through the political noise and actually recognise the strong underlying economic fundamentals that New Zealand has.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister of Finance whether he intends to send that report and last week's very positive IMF report down to the boardroom?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I would very much like to do that. I also might send a copy of it over to the Opposition, but with pictures to help them.
SPEAKER: I think that was not helpful, and I will warn the Minister of Finance to stop using donkey drops for that purpose.
• Question No.
6. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Associate Minister of Education: Does she stand by her statement, "This Government is strongly committed to improving learning support for New Zealand children and young people, and their parents and whānau"?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): In the context of the additional $619.7 million investment and the system improvements that this Government has enabled, yes.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does she consider our learning support system has improved when early intervention, behaviour service, and communication service wait-lists have increased in half of the regions in New Zealand to the year 30 June?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Since 2013, we've seen a 19 percent increase in demand in core learning support specialist services, including a 24 percent increase in demand for behavioural services, 21 percent increase in demand for communication services, and a 20 percent increase in demand for early intervention services. More children are being seen by learning support specialists here in New Zealand, but we do still have a waiting list, which is why, I believe, the previous Minister of Education, the member herself, recognised that and recognised we had to provide learning support in a different way, and that is why she launched the learning support delivery model.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does she consider that it's an improvement to our learning support system when the national early intervention wait-list increased by 162 students in the year to 30 June?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Could I get the member to repeat the question, because I think she's asking me about the number of children that the wait-list increased by.
SPEAKER: Ask again.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does she consider that it is an improvement to our learning support system when the national early intervention wait-list increased by 162 students in the year to 30 June?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Thank you for repeating the question. I think what it means is that we're identifying students that need support and that we are putting them on wait-lists so that we're not just saying "Please don't put a child on a wait-list." or "Please don't identify a child." We recognise that they're there. We're working, through the learning support delivery model that the member herself launched in 2016, through other supports, and through early intervention that we have invested in, to try and cut those wait-lists. In some areas, wait times have dropped from 73 days to 20 days. I'm not saying it's perfect, to the member. I certainly don't say that we're there yet, but we're certainly investing more than there's ever been invested before.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Can she confirm that one of the things that's delaying dealing with wait-lists for learning support is the lack of specialist staff to do that work because insufficient numbers of specialist staff have been trained over the last decade?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I can. There are workforce issues, and we do know that it takes a reasonable amount of time to train those specialists, which is why—and, again, I want to compliment the member on the learning support delivery model that was put into pilots. As soon as we can roll out the first tranche of learning support coordinators—we have seen, in Taupō for example, that by using those two things combined, we have been able to spread professional development, we've been able to utilise the specialists in a much better way, and therefore those children with the highest need are being able to be seen sooner.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Can she confirm the education sector and the Government are in a potential dispute regarding the Government's flagship learning support coordinator role given NZEI have sought major changes to remuneration and the roll-out of this role?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: No, I can't confirm that there's any way, shape, or form that the Government is entering into a major dispute. The Post Primary Teachers Association has recently contacted me and offered their support to help us make sure that the learning support coordinators first tranche rolls out and is effective. I have had members of the education sector contact my offices with support. Certainly, there was disappointment by those who did not receive learning support coordinators, but I certainly couldn't characterise the relationship at the moment as heading towards an industrial issue.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Just to be absolutely clear, can she confirm, or is she denying, that NZEI have sought a formal variation to collective agreements to change the learning support coordinator role?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: That's not what the member asked me to start with; she asked if we were heading towards a dispute. The NZEI has actually put forward a variation—I don't think it's the first time in the history of this Parliament that they've put forward one—but I certainly wouldn't characterise it as moving forward into industrial dispute area.
• Question No.
7. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by all her statements, policies, and actions regarding vaccination and the measles outbreak?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes, in the context they were given.
Dr Shane Reti: If, as she has stated in answers to written questions, an epidemic concerns quarantinable diseases, will she move to declare the multiple measles outbreaks an epidemic, given people are now being quarantined for the disease?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'm informed by the Director of Public Health that measles is not a quarantinable disease, according to the Health Act 1956.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm there are now at least three high school outbreaks of measles, including Rangitoto College, Wellington High School, and Huanui College in Whangarei?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I can't confirm exactly those details, but I'm sure if the member puts that in writing I can answer that question.
SPEAKER: And I apologise for allowing the question, which didn't flow from the substantive question.
Dr Shane Reti: What quarantine period are officials recommending for unimmunised students in schools with an outbreak?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'm sure that information is publicly available from the local medical officer of health, who is responsible for giving those indications.
Dr Shane Reti: How will the measles quarantine policy apply for unimmunised students in schools with an outbreak who cannot get vaccines but need to sit NCEA exams in the coming weeks?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: We've been very clear that no child who has not had their immunisations should be turned away. Fifty thousand vaccines arrived in the country in the last week, another 100,000 are going to be arriving presently, and it's my expectation that every child that needs a vaccination will receive one.
• Question No.
8. GINNY ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What action is the Government taking to plan for enough classrooms to meet growth in the Wellington region?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Good news: last week, I announced the final part of the National Education Growth Plan—the bit that covers the Wellington region. The Wellington growth plan forecasts that there will be around 2,500 additional student spaces that may be needed in this region by 2030. The Government is planning for this growth by mapping the areas where we're under pressure and where we may need to deliver more classrooms. We've now released the entire nationwide growth plan, which is the first of its kind, which shows how we're going to deal with areas of high student population growth.
Ginny Andersen: What investment has the Government announced to start delivering on its property growth plan for the Wellington region?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has already announced $27 million to build up to 40 new classrooms, at 11 schools across the Wellington region. The roll growth funding is part of the $1.2 billion funding allocated in this year's Budget to expand schools in areas of high growth across the country over the next 10 years. This is the largest investment in school property by a New Zealand Government and gives us a great head start to meeting the growth required by 2030.
Paul Eagle: How many additional students does the $27 million investment in the Wellington region provide for?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The $27 million provides funding for an additional 700 student spaces, across 11 schools in the Wellington region. As well as this, $14 million for two kura will be used to replace four classrooms at Whakatupuranga and to completely rebuild Ngā Mokopuna in Seatoun. At Paraparaumu College, where the announcement was made, they alone will receive an additional 10 classrooms, for 220 students. This Government is serious about responsibly planning for growth in our classrooms, and we're putting the money behind that commitment.
Greg O'Connor: How many classrooms has the Government announced this year alone to meet growth across the country as part of the National Education Growth Plan?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Very good news: the Government has announced 492 new classrooms, for around 12,500 additional students, as part of the National Education Growth Plan. That's a total investment of nearly $400 million out of the $1.2 billion that the Government has set aside to fund the plan. We're giving certainty to the communities, to the construction sector, and to schools so that they can plan for the future.
• Question No. 9—Climate
9. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Climate Change: Does he agree with the Prime Minister's statements in New York that, in regard to climate change, "No one has the luxury of copping out" and "But it's very hard for any of us to convince our domestic industries to submit to emissions pricing on their industry when their competitors in other countries don't also face a similar price"?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Conservation) on behalf of the Minister for Climate Change: Yes, and I also agree with the next line of the Prime Minister's statement, and I quote, "Now is the time for optimism and for hope and crucially a plan." Optimism, hope, and a plan are absolutely what our Government has when it comes to climate change.
Hon Scott Simpson: What, then, is his response to the report in The Guardian today stating, "The leader who said the climate crisis was her generation's 'nuclear-free moment' did not raise the issue with the US president."?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: On behalf of the Minister, the Prime Minister's meeting with the President of the United States was a very successful meeting and, as that member well knows, trade was top of the agenda.
Hon Scott Simpson: What then does the Minister make of The Guardian comments that say, "More than anything Ardern might have been expected to use the opportunity to push Trump hard on the issue of climate change."?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: This Government is grappling with the difficult issues around climate change that the previous Government failed to deal with. That pull aside happened at the United Nations meeting where climate was on the agenda. The Prime Minister was calling for multilateralism—connection between countries to deal with the biggest challenge of our time—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! That sort of idiotic behaviour is not parliamentary. Further supplementary?
Kieran McAnulty: Dancing like a fool.
Hon Scott Simpson: In light of the—
SPEAKER: Order! Who said that?
Kieran McAnulty: I did.
SPEAKER: Leave the Chamber.
Kieran McAnulty withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does the Minister concede that the Prime Minister's inability to raise the question of climate change with the US President amounted to "the luxury of copping out."?
SPEAKER: Order! That question's not properly authenticated.
Hon Scott Simpson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How was it—
SPEAKER: No, I've ruled on the matter. A further supplementary?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: As long as it's not relating to the ruling that I've just made.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it's not. But—
SPEAKER: Very good.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: —it is a question that we need to know about: the need now, it would seem, to authenticate the supplementaries.
SPEAKER: Well, I happen to look at the authentication where necessary for primary questions. I listened very carefully to the first set of supplementary questions, which may or may not have referenced an inaccurate media report or an accurate media report. But there was no such reference in that supplementary. It made an assertion that was not authenticated at all. Further supplementary—Scott Simpson.
Hon Shane Jones: Fiction—fiction.
SPEAKER: Order! Now Shane Jones will go.
Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. For how long?
SPEAKER: Until I decide the member can return.
Hon Shane Jones withdrew from the Chamber.
SPEAKER: Can I just make the obvious comment to members who are, sort of, showing some lack of understanding of what's going on. When I make a ruling, it is not to be the subject of commentary from either side. Scott Simpson? No further supplementaries.
10. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Transport: What has caused the New Zealand Transport Agency to reallocate $313 million from the rapid transit activity class in the 2018-21 National Land Transport Programme, and did the NZTA look at reallocating a larger amount of money, given progress to date on light rail?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): To the first part of the question, what the super fund is proposing for Auckland light rail has never been considered before in New Zealand. It's based on a public-public investment model and it should be analysed carefully. A final decision on who will build this transformational infrastructure will be made early next year. While options are being developed and examined, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has the opportunity to reallocate funding and crack on with other projects, like the Manawatū Gorge, while we take the time to get a multibillion-dollar game-changing infrastructure for Auckland right. To the second part, no.
Chris Bishop: Why did the New Zealand Transport Agency not reallocate all of the $313 million straight back into the State highway improvements activity class, when that activity class has been cut by $5 billion over the next decade, meaning that critical projects like the Tauranga Northern Link, Melling interchange, and Ōtaki to Levin have been cancelled or delayed?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: What the NZTA has done is allocate the remaining funding for Auckland light rail plus rapid transit investments in a number of other urban areas. But the member's broader point is that there is a list of projects that are ready to fund, including safety upgrades and including State highway projects, but this Government is not going to give a blank cheque to a dozen motorway projects that were promised by the last Government, and all but two of them were not funded or designated. They are ghost roads.
Chris Bishop: Does he stand by his comment that the 12 re-evaluated projects he's just mentioned have very low economic value; if so, why?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's my view that very few, if any, of those—the second generation so-called roads of national significance that National promised—would exceed a benefit-cost ratio of one. They weren't funded. They weren't designated, with a couple of exceptions. They were campaign promises—the worst of pork-barrel politics. Meanwhile, this Government is getting on with investing, for example, $1.4 billion in safety upgrades across 3,500 kilometres of roading network that will save 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.
Chris Bishop: What response has he seen to NZTA's decision to reallocate money from the rapid transit activity class?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I've seen several reports of people welcoming the Government's decision to use part of that reallocation for the initial funding of the Manawatū Gorge replacement highway. Ashurst resident Grant Marshall said that the new road would make a big difference to the community now that there's certainty that it's happening. Wairarapa-based Labour list MP Kieran McAnulty said, "It's vitally important to so many aspects of this community." I've also seen reports of someone calling the decision a no-brainer, and I want to thank National's transport spokesperson, Chris Bishop, for his support as well.
Chris Bishop: Is he seriously saying to the House that projects like the Tauranga Northern Link, which was funded, consented, and out for procurement, and projects like the Melling interchange and the Ōtaki to Levin project—
SPEAKER: Order! The member's got two questions already.
Chris Bishop: Is he seriously saying that those important projects are of low economic value?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: What I'm saying—and the member's quite wrong in his question—is the Tauranga Northern Link was designated but not a single cent was allocated to it in National's last plan—not a single cent.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I carefully listened to that question, where he presaged that the northern link north of Tauranga had been funded. We all know categorically that that is demonstrably—
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, he had it in his question.
SPEAKER: Order! If the member thinks that the member misled the House as part of the question, he knows the remedy for it, and it's not to debate it by way of point of order.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Can the Minister confirm that the Melling Link project has neither been cancelled nor delayed—in fact, it's been accelerated—because it was never funded in the first place?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I'm very happy to confirm that that is exactly the case. It hasn't been cancelled, it's never been delayed, it's actually been brought forward, and we've announced the designation of it—that that party never did while they were in Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can the Minister confirm that the Tauranga Northern Link was approved for funding by the then NZTA board, and can he also confirm that nothing else needs to happen, short of signing the cheque?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The Tauranga Northern Link was—the route was designated, but it was not funded under the last Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was it halfway through commercial tender when he literally contacted the NZTA and pulled the pin?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The premise of the member's question is absolutely false.
Michael Wood: What other projects have been funded from the reallocation?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, from the reallocation, we're building five bridges: State Highway 26 to Kirikiri Stream in the Waikato, the Onetai Stream in the Waikato, the Kōpaki Bridge in the Waikato, the Beaumont Bridge in Otago, and the Stoney Creek Bridge on the West Coast. Rather than just talking about bridges—
Hon Simon Bridges: He was proud of them last week.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: —we're actually building them, Mr Bridges.
• Question No.
11. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister for Veterans: What recent events have been held to commemorate New Zealand's veterans?
Hon RON MARK (Minister for Veterans): Last week, I travelled to Timor-Leste to attend the 20th anniversary of the international force for East Timor. As everyone in the House will know, Timor-Leste fought hard for independence, and following a referendum in 1999, the militia forces began to terrorise and attack the population. The Timor-Leste Government expressed to me how thankful they are for New Zealand's contribution to their independence. Seven New Zealanders lost their lives during Timor-Leste's struggle for independence and the ensuing stabilisation operation, which New Zealand participated in, so it was an honour to unveil a memorial plaque commemorating them in Dili. I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge those who died: journalist Gary Cunningham, killed in Balibo in 1975, Kamal Bamadhaj, who was killed in the Santa Cruz massacre in 1991, and soldiers Warrant Officer Class 2 Tony Walser, Staff Sergeant Billy White, Private Leonard Manning, Private Boyd Atkins, and Private Dean Johnston. All of these soldiers lost their lives so that Timor-Leste could be free. Lest we forget.
Mark Patterson: What recent commemorations have there been for World War II veterans?
Hon RON MARK: Today, in Christchurch, I attended the birthday celebration for New Zealand's oldest veteran, Mr Ron Hermans. Mr Hermans turned 108 today. In 1937, Ron joined the Wellington Territorial Squadron as an aircraft rigger and worked on the squadron's Blackburn Baffins. In 1939, he was made liable for continuous service and joined the RNZAF. Ron deployed overseas in 1943 to No. 4 Repair Depot in Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides, which is known as Vanuatu these days, where he spent 12 months working with the Americans in servicing the Royal New Zealand Air Force Kittyhawks. He also served in Guadalcanal, the Solomons, Jacquinot Bay in Papua New Guinea, and in Hobsonville after the war, servicing the Royal New Zealand Air Force's Lockheed Venturas, the Corsairs, and the Sunderlands. I wished, on behalf of the Government and Parliament as a whole, to Ron a very happy birthday and thanked him for his service this morning.
Mark Patterson: What recent commemorations have taken place at Pukeahu National War Memorial Park?
Hon RON MARK: This month, the Government has also held commemorations for our Malayan veterans and veterans of the merchant navy. I think it's not that widely known that in the Malayan confrontation and the Malayan Emergency—conflicts which lasted over 12 years—New Zealand deployed 4,000 servicemen and women. Fifteen died in Malaysia, with three killed in action. In the case of the merchant navy, over 140 New Zealand sailors died falling victim to enemy attacks from the air, from the navies of our enemies, and from Hitler's most feared U-boats.
Ka maumahara tonu tātou ki a rātou.
[We will remember them.]
• Question No.
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Justice: What specific parts, if any, of the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee's submission on the Referendums Framework Bill are "absurd"?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): I'm thankful for the second draft of the member's question, and I invite him to recall my answer to his first supplementary question yesterday, in which I said that the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee's perceived differences between referendums held at a general election and held through a postal vote was an absurd point to make in the context.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he concur with the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee view that New Zealand needs to learn from the Brexit referendum and, with the UK Supreme Court decision yesterday reinforcing the sovereignty of Parliament, respect their advice that Parliament should retain the right of setting referenda at general elections?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The general purport of the Legislation Design and Advisory Committee's advice in their submission was that they thought that the Referendums Framework Bill, in relation to clause 8, could do with some better safeguards. That is a matter for the select committee. That member is on that select committee, and he might want to play a constructive role in ensuring the legislation is the best that it possibly could be—although I acknowledge that would be a novel departure from his conduct of the last two years.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary.
SPEAKER: No, no, that concludes oral questions.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: So the final comment was all right—a personal reflection? Unbelievable.
SPEAKER: I mean, the idea that a member can't say that another member should behave better—that would be a novel ruling.