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Question and Answers - 31 March 2009


Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.


1. Ministers—Declaration of Pecuniary Interests

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What assurances, if any, has he received from all his Ministers that they have declared all of their pecuniary interests on becoming Ministers; if so, when?

Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : As members of Parliament, Ministers are required by Standing Orders to disclose certain assets and interests in the Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament. Ministers who were members of Parliament before their appointment have therefore publicly declared their pecuniary interests. The declarations for the year to January 2009 were to be lodged by 2 March, and will be published by the registrar in due course.

Hon Phil Goff: Did Dr Worth, while speaking in India as a Minister and promoting aviation training in New Zealand, in which he had personal commercial interests, meet all of the conflict of interest requirements set out in the Cabinet Manual; if not, in which respect did he fall short of the required standards?

Hon JOHN KEY: As I said yesterday, I think it was unwise for Dr Worth not to have resigned from the New Zealand Aviation company when he embarked on that trip to India. That left him open to a perception of conflict of interest. I do not believe that there was a real conflict of interest for Dr Worth, or that he set out to make pecuniary gain; nevertheless, he opened himself up to the perception of one.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Prime Minister in the Dominion Post in the morning say that he had absolutely no problem with Dr Worth’s trip, yet in the afternoon say that he had given Dr Worth “a bollocking” for his behaviour?

Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the Dominion Post is not published in the morning and in the afternoon; those articles were published on different days. I was simply asked a different question on Friday from the one I was asked on Monday.

Hon Phil Goff: Did the New Zealand taxpayer in any way subsidise this private business junket run by a member of the Prime Minister’s Executive Council?

Hon JOHN KEY: Not to the best of my knowledge. I have a copy with me of the letter sent to me by Dr Worth, which I released yesterday, and in it he made it clear that the expenses for his trip would be met by him personally.

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Prime Minister then confirm the accuracy of Dr Worth’s statement that he paid for his own flight to India and costs, and does he therefore accept that no other body or interests contributed in any way towards the cost of that trip?

Hon JOHN KEY: To the best of my knowledge, I understand that Dr Worth was facilitated when he left, through Visits and Ceremonial Office, but I do not think that that would create cost.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did Dr Worth and Mr Groser continue to hold directorships within New Zealand Aviation and the India Trade Group several months into their ministerial appointments, and for how long was the Prime Minister aware of that?

Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, in relation to both Ministers, they rightfully sought Cabinet advice on whether there was a conflict of interest. In the case of Mr Groser, after he raised the issue with the Cabinet Office it was indicated that it probably would be best if he resigned, and he took the opportunity to do so. I am advised that he informally resigned from New Zealand Aviation in late December or in January; he formally resigned on 23 January 2009. In the case of Dr Worth, there was not perceived to be a conflict of interest, because there was no conflict with the ministerial warrants that he held. Of course, once he went on a trip to India, that, in my view, created a perception of a conflict of interest. I will say that the India Trade Group, for all of that, is a worthy organisation and one that seeks to build links between New Zealand and India. It is so worthy, in fact, that when I looked at the honorary advisers, I saw that one of them, lo and behold, is the Hon Phil Goff, Leader of the Opposition.

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the various people who are honorary advisers to the organisation have, in fact, absolutely no pecuniary interest in it, and that therefore his throwaway line at the end was just a pathetic attempt to take the focus away from the major conflicts of interest suffered by his Ministers?

Hon JOHN KEY: No. I think the Leader of the Opposition should stop acting so defensively.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did it take Mr Groser several months to resign from directorships that were an apparent conflict of interest, when it took Richard Worth only 2 hours yesterday morning to do that?

Hon JOHN KEY: In the case of Mr Groser, as I said, he verbally indicated that he would be resigning, soon after he had raised the matter with the Cabinet Office. He was, and is, a very busy Minister of Trade. Amongst other things, since becoming Minister he has been to Peru for days, he has been to Poland, he has been to Davos, in Switzerland, and he has been to India. In fact, he has hardly ever been in New Zealand, but in amongst all of that he did spend 2 weeks on the conservation estate. The feedback we have had internationally is that Mr Groser is a very hard-working Minister of Trade, unlike the previous Minister of Trade.

Hon Phil Goff: Have, therefore, both Dr Worth and Mr Groser met the high standards that the Prime Minister says he expects from his Ministers; if not, was he just talking tough when he said “One strike and you’re out.”?

Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, they have both met the standards—

Hon Members: The high standards?

Hon JOHN KEY: Well, yes, they have both met the standards. I just point out to the Leader of the Opposition that he might like to talk tough down here in Parliament this afternoon, but when he was asked on Morning Report this morning: “Have you any proof that within the 3 months Mr Groser did anything that was a conflict of interest, or compromise that in any way?”, he said “No, no. I’m not alleging that against Tim Groser. I cannot argue that. That was not the case.” By the way, on the same Morning Report item this morning Mr Goff said that for any breach of the Cabinet Manual someone should be gone. You see, Phil Goff wants to sack people for a perception of conflict of interest, but when there was one with Taito Phillip Field, and when there was one with Winston Peters, as a senior member of Cabinet he sat back and did nothing.

2. Sheep—Live Export to Saudi Arabia

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

2. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: How does he expect New Zealand would benefit from any resumption of the trade in live sheep exports for slaughter in Saudi Arabia?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture) : New Zealand would benefit economically from the resumption of trade. I do not want to speculate on any specific figure, but I can tell the House that the live animal export trade last year was worth a billion dollars to the Australian economy. It is clear that in these challenging times this trade is a potential—potential—economic opportunity for our farmers.

Sue Kedgley: Is it not the case that at the moment just one Saudi exporter is seeking resumption of the trade; and why would the Government risk ruining New Zealand’s reputation as a responsible agricultural exporter so that a Saudi-owned company can send sheep on a traumatic, 3-week sea journey, only for them to be slaughtered at the end of their nightmare voyage?

Hon DAVID CARTER: The negotiations on continuing the trade with Saudi Arabia began approximately 4 years ago, under the previous Labour Government. No timetable is set for the completion of those negotiations. The fact is that the export of livestock for slaughter will not happen unless this Government is totally satisfied that the highest animal welfare and safety standards are met.

Colin King: What is the Government’s primary focus in relation to the issue of live animal exports?

Hon DAVID CARTER: Very simply, animal welfare. We inherited these negotiations from the previous Government, and I have made it clear to officials that my overriding concern in even considering this issue is ensuring that the most stringent standards of animal welfare and safety are met, both during transportation and upon arrival. Unless these standards can be absolutely guaranteed, I have no appetite whatsoever for resuming these exports.

Sue Kedgley: How can he possibly guarantee that stringent animal welfare standards will be maintained on a 3-week-long sea journey where up to 70,000 sheep are jammed into pens, and have to endure overcrowded conditions, heat stress, seasickness, exhaustion, and disease, with many dying en route to Saudi Arabia, or, for that matter, on arrival at Saudi Arabia, given that country’s lack of animal welfare laws?

Hon DAVID CARTER: That covers the very point I am making. The Government is demanding extraordinarily high standards of animal welfare and safety before we consider the resumption of live exports. I would be the first to acknowledge that it might be difficult for some countries to meet these conditions. But let me make it very clear: we are not prepared to compromise, and that may mean this trade never resumes.

Colin King: Has any timetable been set for the resumption of live sheep exports?

Hon DAVID CARTER: No. Despite the scaremongering and hysteria of the Greens, absolutely no timetable has been set. The Greens should be ashamed to suggest otherwise. These negotiations have been continuing for 4 years, and no timetable is set for their completion.

Sue Kedgley: Why, when we have longstanding certified halal slaughterhouses in New Zealand, would we even consider sending sheep to the other side of the world to be slaughtered, and would not resumption of the trade inevitably cost jobs and lead to abattoir closures, as has happened in Australia?

Hon DAVID CARTER: There clearly is potential for economic benefit to the New Zealand sheep farmer, if the conditions I have spoken about today can be satisfied.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table two documents. One is the company records of Awassi New Zealand Ltd, showing that it is a wholly owned Saudi company.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

* Document laid on the Table of the House.

Sue Kedgley: The second document is a cartoon in the WeekendPress, dated 28 March 2009, stating “We sacrifice these animals”—

Mr SPEAKER: Is this a cartoon from a newspaper?

Sue Kedgley: It is.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a cartoon from a newspaper. Is there any objection? There is objection.

3. Government Measures—Increases in Money for New Zealanders

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

3. AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What recent measures has the Government taken to put more money in New Zealanders’ pockets?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : Tomorrow about 1.5 million New Zealanders will benefit from tax cuts. These cuts will deliver around $18.50 a week to someone on the average wage, and will inject over a billion dollars into the economy over the next year. Tax cuts provide the right incentives to encourage people to get ahead and to boost growth as we come out of the recession.

Amy Adams: How will the 1 April tax cuts help lower-income earners?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: About 630,000 New Zealanders who earn between $24,000 and $48,000 a year will benefit from the new independent earner tax credit, which returns up to a $10 a week increase in their incomes. Low to middle income workers will also benefit from the lifting of the 33c tax threshold from $40,000 of annual income to $48,000.

Amy Adams: Has the Minister seen any reports of alternative approaches to tax cuts?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Under the policy of the previous Government there would have been no tax cuts for anyone this year. It is confusing trying to track Labour’s position on tax cuts. It has called for cancellation of the 1 April tax cuts—a move that would strip at least a billion dollars out of taxpayers’ pockets over the next few years. At the same time it has also called for much greater fiscal stimulus.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member is an experienced member, and he knows full well that he does not have responsibility for Labour policy.

Mr SPEAKER: That is a valid point of order.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Can the Minister please explain to the House and the people of New Zealand how borrowing $1 billion from some New Zealanders to finance tax cuts worth $1 billion to other New Zealanders will create a net gain for the average New Zealander?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: A feature of these tax cuts is that they are permanent. National is committed to lower taxes because we believe that the long-term effects of them are to increase the incentive for people to get ahead and to increase the rewards for hard work, investment, and risk taking. We do not believe that we should abandon those principles because we are currently in a recession.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister that these tax cuts are “fair for all New Zealanders” when 71 percent of New Zealand earners will receive nothing, and 30 percent of all of the tax benefit will go to only 3 percent of income earners?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I do agree with the Prime Minister. We believe that these tax cuts are fair and affordable. I do not agree with the member’s numbers.

Amy Adams: What is the Government doing to help small to medium sized businesses?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: On 1 April a number of measures will be introduced that will make it simpler and less expensive for small to medium sized enterprises to pay tax. These changes are worth around $480 million over 4 years. Among them are changes to the provisional tax system that will provide an immediate cash-flow boost to small to medium sized enterprises by leaving around quarter of a billion dollars in those businesses in May this year.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Can the Minister explain to the House how borrowing $1.4 billion—a figure that includes interest on previous borrowings to finance tax cuts in 5 years’ time—to finance tax cuts totalling $1 billion this year will create a net gain for the New Zealand economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I explained to the member, we believe that lower taxes are the right policy in the longer term, and I had formed the impression that that was his view, as well.

4. Speech Given by Minister—Aviation Training

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

4. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Can he confirm that he, as reported in the Dominion Post on 30 March 2009, spoke at a formal ceremony as Minister of Internal Affairs about the benefits of aviation training in New Zealand?

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH (Minister of Internal Affairs) : No, I cannot confirm that. I did not speak as a Minister of any portfolio at any event or ceremony during my visit to India. I spoke at the ceremony, for approximately 5 minutes, as the chairman of the India Trade Group on the benefits of strengthening trade links, including those in agribusiness, between India and New Zealand. I need to say, with reference to a comment made by the Hon Phil Goff, that the India Trade Group is an incorporated society. It is like a business council. It is a not-for-profit organisation.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Did the Minister meet all of his own costs for travel, accommodation, and other requirements on the trip to India, where he promoted New Zealand Aviation?

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH: The costs of the trip were borne by me. I did receive hospitality at a number of events. I can record what those events were: three social functions in Delhi, and, I think, two social functions in Chandigarh.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Did he receive airport facilitation from Ministerial Services, either when leaving New Zealand or on his return to Auckland; if he did, did his fellow shareholders in New Zealand Aviation at the time, as private individuals, also receive facilitation from Ministerial Services?

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH: Yes, I did receive facilitation at airports. I am not certain whether it was at every airport. Some members of the India Trade Group also received similar facilitation, as members of that travelling team that I was chairing.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Were his fellow shareholders in New Zealand Aviation—those who received, as private individuals, ministerial facilitation at Auckland Airport—amongst those who contributed $1,000 per person towards his personal expenses; if so, just how much did the trip to India cost him, or might he have run it at a small but tidy profit?

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH: I am completely unaware of what the member has just said in terms of support. It is right to say that the final costs of the trip have not been allocated. I am simply unaware of the truth of that statement. I do not believe it to be correct.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Does the Minister still receive any form of income from Simpson Grierson; if not, when did he last receive any income from Simpson Grierson?

Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure that that question relates to the primary question about a trip and speaking as Minister of Internal Affairs overseas, or at least a report on 30 March. I do not see how the issue of whether the Minister has any income from Simpson Grierson is within the Standing Orders. I will give the member the opportunity to reword a question that does fall within the Standing Orders.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Why did the Minister inform the Southern Institute of Technology’s chief executive, Penny Simmonds, of his intention to withdraw from his directorship of New Zealand Aviation last September but did not do so until yesterday, after the public heat had been turned up?

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH: I do not have a clear recollection of that issue, but for the benefit of the member I can explain the background to that issue. The brief background is that when those discussions took place with Penny Simmonds of the Southern Institute of Technology, there was a proposal that there would be a shareholding of the Southern Institute of Technology in New Zealand Aviation Ltd. That never came about, and the plan moved from there to a proposal that there would be a new joint-venture company set up of New Zealand Aviation Ltd and the Southern Institute of Technology. I understand that that joint-venture company has not been set up. It was never part of the plan that I would be a shareholder or director of that new company. I also need to say that New Zealand Aviation Ltd has never traded. It is a holding company, and its existence and my link with it were disclosed in the 2009 Register of Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Did the Minister meet with New Zealand immigration officials in Delhi whilst he was in India; if so, did he meet them as a Minister of the Crown or as not a Minister of the Crown, and what was the nature of any representations he made?

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH: My recollection of that is that when the India Trade Group delegation arrived in Delhi there was a briefing at the Indian High Commission—

Hon Trevor Mallard: The New Zealand High Commission.

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH: —the New Zealand High Commission in Delhi. My recollection is that there was an immigration official there. I have no recollection of exactly what was said, but I believe there was a briefing by her on immigration issues.

Hon Member: To a private citizen?

Hon Dr RICHARD WORTH: To the India Trade Group delegation. I believe I made no representations at all.

Mr SPEAKER: Questions should not be submitted by interjection.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I seek leave to table a number of newspaper clippings, all of which are from India. The first is from TheTribune, which is the largest-selling daily paper in north India. The article quotes “New Zealand’s senior minister for internal affairs Richard Worth”.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none.

* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I seek leave to table an article from the Indian Express, which quotes Mr Worth as saying that the cost of getting an airline pilot’s licence in New Zealand is around $70,000 and that that is a good deal.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none.

* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I seek leave to table an article from an Indian newspaper known as UNP, which describes the New Zealand delegation as being “led by their Internal Affairs Minister Dr. Richard Worth OBE.”

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is none.

* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I seek leave to table an article from The Times of India, which describes New Zealand internal affairs Minister, Richard Worth, as leading the delegation, and quotes Mr Worth as saying that “New Zealand is an ideal place for aviation training as it trains pilot to tackle the sudden change of weather.”

Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is none.

* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

5. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—Government Position

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

5. HONE HARAWIRA (Māori Party—Te Tai Tokerau) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will New Zealand be following Australia’s lead in reconsidering its position, and giving New Zealand’s unqualified support for the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, thereby reversing the New Zealand Labour Government’s vote against it in 2007; if not, why not?

Hon JOHN KEY (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs): Australia has recently reviewed its stance on the declaration. An announcement on its new approach is expected on Friday. We will look at the way the Australian Government interprets the declaration and will see whether its interpretation is applicable in New Zealand. However, I cannot comment until we have seen what the Australians are saying about their support.

Hone Harawira: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. What recent advice has the Minister received from officials regarding New Zealand’s position on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Hon JOHN KEY: In November 2008 the Ministry’s briefing to the incoming Minister outlined New Zealand’s position on the declaration. Since then, the Minister has received several pieces of advice giving him background on the declaration and the position taken by New Zealand.

Hone Harawira: Has the Minister been involved in any discussions with his Australian counterparts regarding the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples; if so, what has been the nature of those discussions?

Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs had an informal conversation with his Australian counterpart on Sunday, 29 March, in which the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was covered.

Catherine Delahunty: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Why is Aotearoa New Zealand one of only three countries that oppose recognising indigenous rights under this UN declaration?

Hon JOHN KEY: It is important to understand, with regard to the declaration, firstly, that it is aspirational and is not legally binding. New Zealand takes its international obligations seriously and does not support texts unless we are able to implement them. So the issue is whether it is possible to do that.

6. Police Staff—Drink-driving

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

6. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Police: How many instances, if any, of police staff being caught drink-driving, on or off duty, has she been briefed on and on what dates were those briefings?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police) : I have received briefings in relation to two instances where off-duty police staff were stopped for drink-driving. Those briefings were received on 12 January and 30 March this year.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does she agree that those cases, together with the other three cases of staff being charged—two sworn staff and one non-sworn staff—that she mentioned in answers to written questions from me, tarnish the professional image of the police, who, on the whole, carry out their duties honourably and professionally; and does she believe that she has a responsibility to show any leadership and to take appropriate action, so that the public can have confidence that such behaviour is not condoned?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I agree with the member that it does not help the image of the police to have these instances happen. I recall that there are over 11,000 police staff, both sworn and non-sworn. Two instances is a pretty good record when one considers the record of the previous Labour Government.

Sandra Goudie: Has she seen any other reports relating to police and drink-driving?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I have seen a report in the Herald on Sunday in which Clayton Cosgrove said he was “shocked” that two police officers were facing drink-driving charges. I do not recall his being shocked last year, when the police advised in June that four officers were facing charges of excess breath-alcohol levels.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What specific action has she taken in her role as Minister, in order to earn her pay, in regard to each of those cases, to ensure that the public maintain confidence in the police?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have asked the Commissioner of Police if he felt there was any need to amend the police code of conduct, but he agreed with me, and with Annette King, who advised this House in 2007 that the code of conduct had been approved by Cabinet. I recall that that member was a member of the Labour Cabinet that approved it.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: How does she reconcile that answer with her answers to written questions Nos 1423 and 1434, which indicate that she has not even bothered to ask the Commissioner of Police to review the code of conduct in the light of those cases, and, even more bizarrely, with her not having prepared any Cabinet papers or Cabinet committee papers since she became Minister; and does she intend to do anything—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: That’s not true.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: —it is true, because she answered the question—practical as Minister of Police to earn her pay, instead of swaggering around the country talking tough?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Clearly, the answer is easily. I suggest that the member recall that it was his Cabinet, of which he was a member, that chose to agree to the police code of conduct—and that was just over 1 year ago. For goodness’ sake, he should do his homework before he comes down to the House.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I know that this is slightly unusual, but I seek leave to table the answers to the two parliamentary written questions that I read out—

Mr SPEAKER: I guess I am obliged to put that leave, since it has been sought, but to table the answers to parliamentary questions that are on the public record is not consistent with the advice of the Standing Orders Committee. I am—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I have not dealt with the leave.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: If I can just speak to the point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: The member may speak to the point of order.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Mr Speaker, I agree with you absolutely, but the Minister said, in contradiction to the answers to the written questions, that she had asked the Commissioner of Police.

Mr SPEAKER: I will seek leave to table the answers to those parliamentary questions. Is there any objection? There is.

7. Broadband—Initiatives

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

7. ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology: What steps has the Government taken today to advance ultra-fast broadband in New Zealand?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology) : This morning I announced the Government’s proposed investment model that will help deliver ultra-fast broadband around New Zealand. This roll-out will enable schools, health services, businesses, and households to take advantage of new and quickly developing technologies that will improve productivity and help grow our economy. Under our proposal, the Crown will invest up to $1.5 billion alongside private sector co-investors and regional fibre companies that will deploy and provide access to fibre-optic network infrastructure in towns and cities throughout New Zealand.

Allan Peachey: Why is this particular model of co-investment preferred over other models that the Government considered?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government considered a range of models but selected this one because it allows flexibility to provide regional solutions whilst meeting the Government’s clearly laid out principles regarding economic growth, not substituting private investment, not lining the pockets of existing providers, avoiding duplication, not preserving legacy assets, and assuring affordable broadband services. An investment model allows both the Government and taxpayers to maintain an ongoing interest and obtain a return over time, as opposed to the Government simply providing grants with no ongoing relationship.

Clare Curran: Can the Minister confirm that by shifting from its pre-election policy of a single, regulated, utility model for delivering broadband to one that is regional, open, contestable, and technology-neutral, National has adopted Labour’s broadband investment policy framework; if this is true, why did National not campaign for that rather than the opposite?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are a number of differences between the model we have adopted and the previous Government’s Broadband Investment Fund. The first one is that this model is an investment, unlike the so-called Broadband Investment Fund, which was a grant; this model is directed at fibre technology, whereas the previous Government’s model was a range of technologies; and this model is quite significantly larger than the one the previous Government planned.

Allan Peachey: How will the Government choose who to partner with in each town and city?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is proposing to establish a Crown-owned investment company to drive the Government’s investment. It will be up to this company to decide who to invest alongside in each town and city, bearing in mind the Government’s objectives and principles.

Clare Curran: Why is the Government setting its sights so low for private sector investment by requiring only $1 from the private sector for every dollar from its $1.5 billion investment, when Labour would have required up to double that? Is that not selling the project short, and should New Zealanders not be wondering whether they are getting the best bang for their buck?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There is a difference between an investment and a grant. Grants do not require a return to the Crown, whereas investment does.

8. Energy Efficiency—Promotion

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

8. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does the Minister still agree with the recently reported joint statements with the Minister responsible for Climate Change Issues that “We take energy efficiency very, very seriously” and “I am very keen that more New Zealanders become aware of how they can save energy,”; if so, what policies is he promoting to support New Zealanders to do just that?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources) :Yes, my opinion has not changed from a day ago, when those comments were reported in the Christchurch Press. The Government has supported, and continues to support, a large number of projects designed to encourage energy efficiency.

Charles Chauvel: When will the Minister’s new-found enthusiasm for energy efficiency translate into support for Labour’s proposal to better insulate homes across New Zealand, a measure that will not only increase energy efficiency but also improve New Zealanders’ health and create much-needed jobs for this country?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This is one of those programmes that never existed. The Labour Government hoodwinked the nation, hoodwinked the Green Party, put together some sort of murky idea, and went out to the voters, and, do members know what? Anybody who wanted to insulate his or her home would have been just like Mother Hubbard and would have got there to find that the cupboard was bare. Those members never funded it.

Chris Auchinvole: What other energy efficiency programmes does the Government support?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority has a large number of worthwhile programmes. To name just a few, there is the energy intensive - business project, which offers cash grants to help businesses to adopt energy-saving technologies; energy-efficiency star ratings are available for consumers to make choices about good appliance purchases; and there is the $1,000 grant for solar hot-water installation, as well. I have directed officials from the authority and the Ministry of Economic Development to identify further opportunities to make energy efficiency gains across all sectors of our economy. Unlike our opponents opposite, we will make sure that those programmes, when announced, are funded.

Charles Chauvel: Which of the following two people is right about energy efficiency: the Minister’s colleague Nick Smith, who said the Government is supportive of Earth Hour, or the Minister’s own political adviser, who announced via a social networking site last week that he would be turning his lights on during Earth Hour and who publicly encouraged everyone else to do the same as him?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Fortunately, I can report that cyberspace is a place of great mystery to me, and I have no idea what young people get up to when they are digging around in an area. What I can tell the member is that in my case, every light was shut off in my home. All the switches were off, and I was at AMI Stadium enjoying the rugby, along with many others. It was a great night for the Crusaders, and while we are on that topic—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Oh, fair enough; I accept that.

Charles Chauvel: Does not the Minister’s continued opposition to the energy efficiency measures proposed by Labour, coupled with the publicly stated attitude of his own staff—hand-picked—help to demonstrate that the Government’s claim to support energy efficiency is just a public relations exercise?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The member asked me at the start of this question, in the primary question, to confirm my statements supporting energy efficiency. I have done that, and I do support it. What is more, far from just going out there with some sort of a pipedream, like Labour did before the last election, National will soon be announcing a range of energy-efficiency measures for the economy, and they will be funded. We do not think that slogans are enough; we think that action is very, very important.

Charles Chauvel: I seek leave—so that the Minister can see what goes on in cyberspace—to table the relevant statements from Facebook for him.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table a document with statements from Facebook. Is there any objection? There is objection.

9. Accident Compensation Scheme—Government Actions

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

9. MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What action is he taking to fix ACC’s financial problems?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC) : This afternoon I announced the reconfigured Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) board. I have put strong emphasis on actuarial, investment, and financial governance skills to better equip the corporation with the skills to address the scheme’s financial problems in these challenging economic times.

Michael Woodhouse: Why has the Minister determined that change in the ACC board was necessary?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: First, the Government’s new direction for the accident compensation scheme requires a focus on cost control in order to avoid unaffordable levy increases. Second, the changed economic environment requires top-flight investment and actuarial skills to oversee the scheme’s very large liability and investment portfolio.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister agree that replacing more than half of the ACC board, including Ross Wilson and Wayne Butson, will make it easier for the Government to reduce the scope of accident compensation cover and to privatise the earners account, which currently covers all workplace accidents?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, it will enable us to ensure that the board members will have the top-flight governance skills that are needed to run a very large organisation and to provide New Zealanders with 24/7 care but, at the same time, ensure that the levies are affordable for ordinary New Zealanders.

Michael Woodhouse: What reports has the Minister received on briefings and timeliness of responses?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I was amused to note that the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party said there were some 600 briefings. In fact, there was one. I note that an important briefing was provided on 14 August last year, noting a requirement for $1.56 billion. The matter was not included in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update because Treasury officials said it was not being considered by Ministers. The billion-dollar question is why a problem of that size was not being considered by Ministers.

10. Government Advertising—Compliance with Cabinet Manual Guidelines

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

10. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by the Cabinet Manual guidelines on advertising; if so, is he satisfied that all Government advertising since the change of Government complies with those guidelines?

Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Yes, I do stand by the Cabinet Manual guidelines. I am not aware that any Ministers or departments have breached those guidelines since the change of Government. I would be disappointed if they had breached them.

Hon Annette King: Does the Prime Minister stand by his own statements that Governments should not be using taxpayer funds to push political messages and instead should be concentrating on helping families through the recession; if so, why did his Government spend taxpayers’ money on this highly political advertisement I am holding up?

Hon JOHN KEY: Yes; but I cannot read the advertisement and I have not seen it, so, I am sorry, I cannot comment on it.

Hon Annette King: Does the Prime Minister think it is a good use of taxpayers’ money to run an advertisement that gives the impression that all New Zealanders will get the $10 independent earner tax credit when the truth is that nearly 80 percent of New Zealanders will miss out?

Hon JOHN KEY: OK, so that is what we are talking about. I am surprised that the member has bothered to raise this question in Parliament, because it will be very embarrassing for the Opposition. The programme she refers to affects 630,000 New Zealanders. From tomorrow they will get $10 each per week. The Minister of Finance took a moment out of his busy schedule to come to ask me personally about the advertising campaign. He went with Treasury’s least expensive option, which was a 4-week programme of advertisements in print, in the press, and online. Its total cost was $600,000, and the Minister of Finance said to me as he wandered out of my office “Gosh! We are a low-cost Government compared with the previous Labour Government. It spent $21.5 million on advertising Working for Families.”

Hon Annette King: Did The Prime Minister approve spending taxpayers’ money on this advertisement, and why was this advertisement acceptable to the Prime Minister when he said that advertisements about KiwiSaver last year were political propaganda? What is the difference between the adverts on KiwiSaver, which gave information to New Zealanders, and this advertisement—is that not a word that starts with “h”?

Hon JOHN KEY: There are a number of things. First, Government departments make decisions on spending. I am advised that Government departments made those decisions absolutely in line with the guidelines. The second thing is that if the member does not like the decision then she should take the matter to the Auditor-General to see what he thinks of it, because I think he will find the advert to be low cost. The third thing I can say is that the member should leave the asking of questions of the Prime Minister to her leader. He does not do much of a good job, but at least he does a better job than she has done.

11. Whenuapai Air Base—Status

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

11. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Defence: What updates, if any, can he give on the status of Whenuapai Air Base?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence) : Yesterday Cabinet agreed that Whenuapai would be retained as a permanent air base for the air force. This decision removes any uncertainty about the future of the Royal New Zealand Air Force at Whenuapai, and for the local community who have been very concerned about that facility. Cabinet also agreed to a programme of essential remedial work to reverse the previous Government’s last decade of neglect.

John Hayes: What work needs to be done to fix up the base?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: The most urgent need is to rebuild the infrastructure of the runway and the hard-standing areas. These have been neglected for a full decade and now have deteriorated. Other work will be required for fuel storage facilities, as well.

John Hayes: Why has the base been run down so badly?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: The previous Government had planned to vacate Whenuapai. However, it did nothing at all to vacate the base and kept extending the date from which it would vacate. That led to uncertainty and confusion about the future of the base. It also failed to undertake essential maintenance and has left a legacy, not just here but also elsewhere in the Defence Force, of run-down defence assets.

12. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—Government Position

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

12. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will he follow the example of Australia and change the Government’s position to support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Hon JOHN KEY (Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs) : Australia has recently reviewed its stance on the declaration, and an announcement on its new approach is expected on Friday. This Government will look at the way the Australian Government interprets the declaration and see whether its interpretation may be applicable to New Zealand, but I cannot comment until we have seen what the Australians are saying about their support.

Catherine Delahunty: How can the Government reconcile supporting the flying of a Māori flag on Waitangi Day while still prevaricating on recognising the collective human rights of Māori as affirmed in the UN declaration; or is the Government all symbolism and no action?

Hon JOHN KEY: I think that in general New Zealand has worked hard in the last 30 years to recognise the rights of indigenous people. This Government has been working very hard to recognise the rights of indigenous people. Flying the flag on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, working so collaboratively with the Māori Party, and ensuring that the Waitangi Tribunal and the whole Waitangi settlement process is properly funded are all good examples of us working for the rights of indigenous people.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Can the Minister confirm that the Government’s position to date has essentially been that if the declaration can be taken to have significant meaning then that meaning cannot actually be enforced by the New Zealand Government, and therefore it has determined not to sign it, but if the declaration can be interpreted to not have any great significant meaning then the Government might be prepared to sign it?

Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, the declaration is not legally binding; it is an aspirational goal. I think that New Zealand has done a lot for the rights indigenous of people, but let us see what the Australians do on Friday and what caveats they put around their support.

Catherine Delahunty: Is it right to prevaricate on the recognition of both an aspirational goal and the recognition of the collective human rights of Māori when this Government is dependent on the support of the Māori Party?

Hon JOHN KEY: We are not prevaricating. Firstly, it will be interesting to see, if the Australians make an announcement on Friday, what caveats they put around that support for the declaration. As I said earlier, it is an aspirational, non-binding declaration. From this Government’s point of view, we take the rights of indigenous people seriously and we are working hard to advance those rights.

Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Is there any objection to that public document being tabled?

* Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Questions To Members

1. Accident Compensation Corporation—2007/08 Financial Review

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

1. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee: Was John Judge invited by him or a staff member to attend the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee on the 2007/08 ACC financial review?

DAVID BENNETT (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): I did not invite Mr Judge to the meeting on 12 March.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether John Judge was invited by him or a staff member—

Mr SPEAKER: That is correct. That question has been on notice. The question was “Was John Judge invited by him or a staff member …?”. I presume that the member, as chair of the committee, would know that.

DAVID BENNETT: I did not invite him, and I have no knowledge of any staff member inviting him.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice on whether, given that Mr Bennett is a new chair of a select committee and, clearly, has not been briefed, it is appropriate to have this question set down for answer tomorrow.

Mr SPEAKER: No. The question is set down for answer today, and an answer has been given.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did he indicate to the committee that Dr Nick Smith was standing in for Mr Judge when he has indicated that he was not aware whether Mr Judge had been invited?

DAVID BENNETT: The Labour members of that committee should be very thankful that Mr Smith did come and present to the committee. They would have got a lot of value out of his presentation at that meeting.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point is very clearly that that answer did not even address the question. The question started “Why did he indicate to the committee …?”—

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to repeat his question formally.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did he indicate to the committee that Dr Smith was standing in for Mr Judge when, to the best of his knowledge, Mr Judge had not even been invited?

DAVID BENNETT: To have the Minister there is something the members should be very thankful for. It was at a time when the ACC board was going through a reconfiguration of its membership, so to have the Minister there was very helpful.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did he indicate to the committee that Dr Smith was standing in for Mr Judge when, to the best of his knowledge, Mr Judge had not been invited?

DAVID BENNETT: The members of that committee will be very thankful they had the Minister there. The fact that the Minister was there is something the members of the Labour Party should be very appreciative of. There was a reconfiguration of the ACC board at that time, which meant there were changes.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did he indicate to the committee that Dr Smith was standing in for Mr Judge when, to the best of his knowledge, Mr Judge had not even been invited?

DAVID BENNETT: A reconfiguration of the board was going on at that time, and to have Mr Smith there as the Minister was very helpful for the committee.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. No one in this House other than those there on that day can know the nuances that might have been around any discussion that took place at the committee. We are getting into very odd territory if we are going to allow endless supplementaries on such a fine and imprecise point that has very little to do with the actual procedure of the committee. Mr Bennett answered his first question perfectly adequately. We are being asked to try to fill in a massive gap that enables the next question somehow to get some validity. I think that is most unreasonable.

Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I do not think the point made by the Minister is correct. The massive gap that Mr Mallard is attempting to fill in is what is known as a credibility gap.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank the honourable members for their contribution to this matter. I find the House in a difficult situation, because the question seems, on the face of it, to be a clear question. But I do not think we can go on pursuing this matter indefinitely, although the member can come back with further questions. The bit that cannot be substantiated to the House is what the chair might have told the committee. Maybe primary questions are a better way to pursue that issue.

2. Accident Compensation Corporation—2007/08 Financial Review

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

2. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee: Did he “agree” with the Minister in charge of ACC that he would attend the examination of the ACC financial review by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee as a witness?

DAVID BENNETT (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): I agreed with the Minister that he would attend the meeting on 12 March.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why was that agreement not shown in the witness list on the committee agenda that was issued the day before that meeting?

DAVID BENNETT: It was agreed that the Minister would attend, and possibly it may be the case that that should have been shown on there; my apologies if it was not.

3. Accident Compensation Corporation—2007-08 Financial Review

[Uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing.]

3. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee: When and how did he become aware that John Judge, chair of the ACC board, would not attend the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee’s examination of the 2007-08 ACC financial review?

DAVID BENNETT (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): I had not asked Mr Judge to attend the meeting on 12 March. The Labour members of that committee, I am sure, got great value out of the Minister’s attendance, though.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did Dr Nick Smith tell him that John Judge was not coming?

DAVID BENNETT: I did not ask Mr Judge to attend that meeting. Dr Nick Smith was in attendance at that meeting. As the Minister, it was very valuable to have his attendance at that meeting, and we agreed on his attendance.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did Dr Nick Smith tell him that John Judge would not be attending that meeting?

DAVID BENNETT: It was agreed that the Minister would attend the meeting, and I think that was very helpful for all the members at that meeting.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Supplementary question—

Mr SPEAKER: I think we have explored the matter. It is most unusual to allow two supplementary questions.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very simple question. It was one that goes right to a discussion that the chair had—and that the chair has been reported publicly as having had—with Dr Nick Smith. That is something that must be within his memory. He must be able to answer the question. He has not even addressed it.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the honourable member should reflect on the set of questions and answers. We should remember that the honourable member who is the chair of the committee has told us that he did not invite John Judge, and was unaware of Mr Judge being invited to attend the committee, so I do not see how he can then be aware that he was not coming. I think the member needs to reflect on the balance of questions and answers there. Maybe, if he wishes, he could put down a further primary question, but I think we have exhausted all the possibilities of this set of questions today.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That would be entirely accurate, other than for the fact that in the public part of the committee and in the media—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Trevor Mallard: I am sorry, but can I just finish. Both Dr Nick Smith and the chair of the committee have indicated that there was an agreement that because John Judge was not coming, Dr Nick Smith would.

Mr SPEAKER: We cannot allow that—

Hon Trevor Mallard: He has already said that in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot allow further supplementary questions on that basis, because I do not have that kind of authentication. Primary questions can have that kind of authentication. I do not believe we can pursue the matter further today. Do not forget that I have already allowed two supplementary questions on this question, and I think that is fair and reasonable.


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