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Questions And Answers - 28 July 2009

Questions for Oral Answer

28 July 2009

Questions to Ministers


1. Infrastructure Investment Programme—Jobs

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

1. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister for Infrastructure: How is the Government’s infrastructure investment programme supporting jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister for Infrastructure) : Very successfully. The Government’s multibillion-dollar investment is providing direct and indirect work for thousands of New Zealanders. Construction industry leaders told the Independent newspaper last week that the Government’s investment in building roads, hospitals, schools, and prisons has been a lifeline for the sector. The investment is sustaining the construction sector through the recession and helping to keep contractors’ books full.

Craig Foss: What projects have been recently announced as part of the Government’s infrastructure investment programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport earlier this month announced the successful tenderer for the Victoria Park tunnel project in Auckland. The 4-year project will cost $340 million, and it is being put in place at least 12 months earlier than originally scheduled. It is estimated that 120 people will be working on the project within 6 months, with that number rising to 340 workers by the middle of next year. I can also confirm that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Transport will tomorrow launch the $47 million Kōpū Bridge replacement near Thames, a project that will employ up to 50 people full-time.

Craig Foss: What other areas of infrastructure investment are supporting jobs as part of the Government’s economic plan?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The list is quite long, but I will give members a brief summary. The Government is looking at further investment in hospitals, schools, broadband, and housing. In housing, for instance, the Government has brought forward $125 million of investment in order to upgrade State houses and to build extra ones. By the end of May work was under way on upgrades of 1,227 houses, with $31 million of fast-tracked housing work under way, employing 1,341 people. The Government had to fill a gap there because the previous Government directed all the deprecation money to buying new houses and not upgrading the houses the Government already owns.

Hon Shane Jones: Ā, e Te Kaihautū, i te tuatahi me mihi ahau ki a koe mōui pai ai te whakahaerei ō kōreroi te tīmatangai roto i te reo Māori. Before I ask my question, I would like to acknowledge that Mr Speaker used our reo Māori as part of today’s proceedings. It is testimony to the power of evolution.

Is it not true that promised jobs have not materialised, and that National’s smoke and mirrors show in February has finally been revealed for its lack of substance in relation to infrastructure?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It may be the case that the Opposition regards the Victoria Park tunnel as insubstantial, that it regards the upgrade of thousands of State houses as insubstantial, and that it regards thousands of jobs paid for by the Government’s investment in infrastructure as insubstantial. We do not.


2. Job Summit—Unemployment Levels

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

2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What has been the impact of his Job Summit in addressing the increasing level of unemployment in New Zealand, and what effect, if any, has this had on Treasury forecasts of the likely unemployment levels by July 2010?

Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Mr Speaker, I seek your forbearance because the answer will be quite long. Quite a lot came out of the Job Summit, including, of course, the New Zealand cycleway, and I announced the first seven routes yesterday. I am advised that the Warm Up New Zealand home insulation programme will provide about 2,000 jobs over the next 4 years. The Job Support Scheme—which the unions identify as a priority—came out of the Job Summit, as did increased flexibility for industry training organisations to help trainees find jobs; the issuing of a longer-dated Government bond, and close examination of a bond bank to help reduce the cost of borrowing for local councils; an extension of the short-term trade credit insurance guarantee scheme for exporters; the 9-day working fortnight; the new business migration scheme, which was announced today; and various initiatives relating to the fundamentals of the economy, such as infrastructure spending, improving regulations, and the like.

Hon Phil Goff: How many actual jobs have been created by the so-called three big ideas that emerged from the Job Summit, and how does that number compare with the estimated 40,000 jobs lost since the Job Summit was held?

Hon JOHN KEY: There are a few things to point out. Firstly, I would not put at 40,000 the number of jobs that have been lost since the Job Summit. Secondly—

Hon Phil Goff: What is the number?

Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have the exact number, but I can say that out of the Job Summit came not only a whole range of initiatives, which I have just detailed, but also, as Helen Kelly, the head of the Council of Trade Unions, has mentioned on previous occasions, a format and a platform for unions, businesses, and the Government to try to work together to get us through this recession. The only people who are not on board are the miserable Opposition members.

Hon Phil Goff: How will his Job Summit or his cycleway proposal help the 190 workers who have lost their jobs at Winstone Pulp International Ltd and Cedenco Foods in Gisborne in the last 3 days alone?

Hon JOHN KEY: It is unlikely that the cycleway will help them. No one has ever argued that the cycleway is the panacea for a global recession. I can say that in the last 8 months this Government has been reducing regulation, making New Zealand a more productive country, and doing a variety of things to unwind the bureaucracy that 9 years of a Labour Government put on the business community of New Zealand.

Chester Borrows: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnātātou katoa. What report has the Prime Minister seen on reaction in the Wanganui-Ruapehu area to the cycleway project?

Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen a report from the Mayor of Wanganui that says that it is very exciting news for Wanganui and the surrounding district, and that it should contribute millions of dollars a year to our tourism economy. The Mayor of Ruapehu has also said that “It will be huge. It will definitely create the employment opportunities that we have been looking to have for some years.”

Hon Phil Goff: What does the Prime Minister say to the numerous businesses whose workers are currently working 4-day weeks, when the Government’s 9-day working fortnight proposal is so constrictive that it is irrelevant to those businesses in trying to help preserve the jobs of their workers?

Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I would not accept the argument that it is.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Does the Prime Minister accept that spending taxpayers’ dollars to create jobs just shifts people from profitable businesses to often unprofitable Government ones; and why will he not help all businesses by kick-starting the economy through tax reduction, the removal of Resource Management Act barriers to growth, and the removal of labour market barriers to job creation?

Hon JOHN KEY: I think the member has a point, and that is that there is a limit to what the Government can do in relation to make-work schemes. Some can be of benefit and can take the sharp edges off the recession, but, in the end, if New Zealand is to have an effective economy, we need to have high levels of productivity, and to do that, many of the reforms the member is talking about need to be addressed.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Prime Minister promote the cycleway as one of the three big ideas that emerged from the Job Summit, when by his own figures probably no jobs will be created this year, or very few, and when he estimates that 160 to 280 jobs will have been created 18 months out from the Job Summit, which is about the same number of jobs being lost each and every day in New Zealand?

Hon JOHN KEY: I will say three things. Firstly, I promoted the cycleway project because I think it is a good idea; it will be a tourist attraction, both internationally and domestically. Secondly, I promoted it because I think it will make a long-term difference to New Zealand. And, thirdly, I promoted it because I personally think a cycleway across New Zealand is a hell of a better idea than welfare for millionaires.

Eric Roy: What reports has the Prime Minister seen on the reaction in the Southland and Queenstown areas to the cycleway project?

Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen a report from the Destination Queenstown chief executive officer saying that the announcement of the Around the Mountain Rail Trail was “fantastic news for Queenstown”, and that “The benefits of a cycleway to this region will be significant ...”. The Southland District mayor said: “It’s a win-win situation for us all. The trail will be great for economic development throughout the region and will bring more tourists, who can visit the many attractions that Southland and Otago are well-known for.”

Hon Phil Goff: Did Bill English’s comments on Q+A about not funding the cycleway reflect a cost-benefit analysis by Treasury that showed that it was a very ineffective way of creating jobs; if not, is he prepared to release that advice to the public?

Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first question, no.

Dr Russel Norman: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Does the Prime Minister accept that the first part of the Green New Deal programme—that is, insulating houses—has been a successful job generation project, and will he now move to implement other parts of the Green New Deal programme, such as energy efficiency, forestry, riparian planting, and a greatly expanded State housing building programme?

Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the last part of the member’s question, no, I do not think there will be a greatly expanded State housing building programme. In relation to the first part of the question, which asked why I think the insulating houses part of the programme has been successful, I think it has been successful because we know that around about 800,000 homes in New Zealand are not properly insulated, and, 8 months into a National Government, with the strong help, support, and encouragement of the Green Party, progress is being made, after 9 years of a Labour Government when no progress was made.

Sandra Goudie: What reports has the Prime Minister seen on the reaction from local government to the cycleway project?

Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen a report from the Local Government New Zealand president stating that the project announced yesterday “will create local jobs and a platform for economic development.” The project has been an excellent example of local and central government working together to deliver benefits, and I would like to thank the councils for the support they have shown for the initiative. I will just make one final point: I am looking forward to election 2011, when National will be talking about extending the cycleway to even more parts of New Zealand, and Phil Goff will be campaigning on ripping up the cycleway around New Zealand. Way you go, tiger; give that one a whirl!

Hon Phil Goff: The Prime Minister was looking forward to the Mt Albert by-election! Why did the Prime Minister tell Local Government New Zealand at its conference yesterday that it should be spending more money on cycleways, when in April he approved a paper from his Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, that would have declared that a non-core activity that it could not be involved in?

Hon JOHN KEY: Because that paper is a review document, and that is exactly what we are going to do—review the core services.

Chris Tremain: Kia ora, Mr Speaker. Has the Prime Minister seen any reports of a Minister dealing with increasing levels of unemployment?

Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. I have seen a newspaper report about a former employment Minister, which stated: “There was a widespread expectation that Mr Goff could somehow bring his optimistic touch to the growing disaster of unemployment. The dream did not work. Unemployment has continued to climb to ruinous heights, from 54,000 people 2 years ago to registered unemployment last month of 101,770.” OK, fair enough, that report was from 1988, but it finished with this line: “Seldom now is he referred to as the bright, young hope of the Cabinet.”


3. Migration, Business—Announcements

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

3. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: What new announcements has the Government made regarding business migration?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Immigration) : Today the Government announced a new business migration package, which will help boost the New Zealand economy and support initiatives identified at the Job Summit. The new policy sets more realistic investment capital and English language requirements, which will make New Zealand a more attractive destination for business and entrepreneurial migrants.

Dr Jackie Blue: Why were these changes necessary?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The previous Government’s business migration policy settings were too tight, with unrealistic investment and English language requirements. Under the previous Government two of the three investor categories attracted a total of three migrants in 2 years. This has meant lost economic growth opportunities for New Zealand. It is a situation that has to be turned round.

Hon Pete Hodgson: How many new jobs will be created each year from this initiative?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, given that under that member’s Government two of those categories brought in three migrants in total, I think we can safely say that it can only be upside.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am submitting that that question was not addressed. It was a closed question, it was a straight question, and it was not addressed and no attempt was made to address it, which is outside the Standing Orders.

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the honourable member’s point of order, but I think in fairness, given the Government’s announcement regarding business migration, to expect the Minister to have specific figures on the expected impact on unemployment is a pretty big ask. What the Minister said in his answer was that he saw upside in employment; I think that was the language he used. To expect a more precise answer to such a supplementary question is a bit difficult.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It may help your judgment if you were to reflect on the fact that this was a high priority issue coming from the Job Summit, and, secondly, one of the investor categories requires the creation of at least three jobs. So the question around jobs is directly relevant to the press statement that the Government has put out. The Minister did not address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, he did indicate in his answer that he expected there to be increased employment as a result. The member has a further supplementary question with which to pursue that, but I think it is a fairly tough one to expect the Minister to have a precise answer to that question.

Dr Jackie Blue: What changes does the new policy make?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: For investors there are now two categories. Investor-plus requires $10 million of investment over 3 years, and removes the English language requirements. The new general investor category requires $1.5 million over 4 years, and sets a realistic language requirement for these investors. The new entrepreneur-plus category fast tracks residence for migrants who invest half a million dollars in their businesses and create three jobs. These are positive Job Summit initiatives that will enhance New Zealand’s economic development.


4. Mothers, Solo—Paid Employment

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

4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Does she stand by her statement “I will back those women into work and meaningful employment every time”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) : Yes. This Government strongly believes that a focus on work, not welfare, is the way forward for sole parents to improve outcomes for themselves and their children.

Hon Annette King: Which of these statements is true: her comment in the New Zealand Herald today that these women are getting “a huge amount of support from the Government” and should “invest a bit of their own money” into training, or National’s welfare policy at the last election, which stated “National’s focus is on younger sole parents with dependent children because these are the families most likely to be in poverty.”; how can they be in poverty and have money to invest in training at the same time?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: I may have missed the start of the honourable member’s question, but I think she asked the Minister to compare two statements. The answer the Minister gave was “Yes.” I am not sure—I stress that I may have missed the start of the question—but I believe the honourable member did ask the Minister to explain two apparently, to the member, contrasting statements. The member and the House deserve a fuller answer than that.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Sorry, I thought the member asked whether I stood by those statements, and I said “Yes.” I think she asked which statement was true, and I would say both.

Katrina Shanks: What assistance is available to people on the domestic purposes benefit who are studying at tertiary level?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There is an accommodation supplement of up to $225 a week, there are childcare subsidies now of up to $181.50 per week for children under 5, and there are out-of-school care and recreation subsidies of up to $72.60 a week, rising to $181 per week in school holidays. There is a disability allowance for some of those beneficiaries. There are special-needs grants. There is a voluntary bonding scheme that was introduced by my colleague, and I think it will make a difference. There is the recoverable assistance grant and temporary additional support. There is a range of assistance available for those who are studying.

Sue Bradford: Does the Minister believe that she may have breached the Privacy Act in releasing confidential details about the income of the two women who went public, complaining about the loss of the training incentive allowance, and if she has breached the Privacy Act by either not telling them or not asking them whether she could make those statements, will she apologise to those women forthwith?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I refer the member to the guidelines for Ministers on the Privacy Commissioner’s own website, which show that people can give implied consent for Ministers to discuss their personal circumstances by going to the media.

Hon Annette King: Will the Minister now release her own details of what she was paid by taxpayers when she was on the domestic purposes benefit, having milked that fact on becoming Minister for Social Development and Employment, so the public can determine whether she asked for more than she needed, as she is implying some women are doing now, and in light of her decision to release information on sole parents because they dared to speak out?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There has been no such implication at all, and I make that point quite clear. I have never made a secret of the fact that I have been on and off a benefit and that I did receive the training incentive allowance. What I can tell those people who are looking at tertiary study is that it will not be easy, but if they back themselves—and this Government will be backing them as well—then they can get off a benefit and they may even end up as a Cabinet Minister.

Charles Chauvel: Was the Minister advised that the individuals concerned had given implied consent to the release of their personal information; if so, on the basis of what precedent; if not, why did the Minister not take advice on that point?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I looked at the guidelines that were on the Privacy Commissioner’s website. Let us be quite clear: there are no new standards, and this is not something we will be making a practice of. The standards that were set by the previous Government were underhand, at best. I seem to recall a “lie by unison” call from previous Labour Ministers.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My supplementary question was very specific. It asked whether the Minister had taken advice on whether or not she had reasonable grounds to consider that the individuals has waived their rights to privacy; if she had not, why she had not taken advice; and, if she had, what precedent she was relying on. None of that was addressed in the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Minister to answer the particular question that the member has asked with respect—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Notwithstanding your invitation, Mr Chauvel asked the Minister whether she took advice. The Minister then told him why she took the course of action she did. If that, presumably, was not some form of information offered by way of an answer, then I do not know what was. What needs to be clarified further is beyond me. It is unfortunate that Mr Chauvel is of a mindset that no one can do anything in this country—

Mr SPEAKER: We will not use points of order to criticise another member. I think the member has clarified why there is a bit of a problem with the answering of the question: it is because Ministers are not at liberty to answer a different question. If the question asked had been “What approach did the Minister take to going about this?”, then that would have been a perfectly acceptable answer. But there was a specific question about advice, and I think the House deserves to be given an answer on whether or not advice was received. Certainly, one part or the other of the question needs to be answered.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I stated in my answer, I certainly referred to the guidelines for Ministers that are on the Privacy Commissioner’s website. I felt that that was adequate.

Charles Chauvel: What steps did the Minister take to ensure that the information she released was accurate, complete, and not misleading to the public; for example, did she make any inquiries in relation to payments under the Child Support Act?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I took big steps to check that the information was correct.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I asked the Minister what steps she took to make sure that the information she released was accurate, complete, and not misleading, particularly with reference to one Act. The answer simply did not address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said, if I heard her correctly, that she took steps to ensure the information was correct, and—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that was the third time the Minister was asked about what steps she took, not whether she took steps. Members on this side of the House have been taking your advice to try to tighten questions up and make them very specific, but I think the quid pro quo from that is that the actual questions are answered.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the member is making, but members need to listen to the answers that are given. I believe the Minister has already told the House what steps she took to check out certain information. I think she has made that fairly clear to the House, and—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: —no, I am still ruling on the matter—the Speaker cannot judge the quality of the answer. I accept that the answer may not be exactly what members wanted, but they have further supplementary questions in which to chase that up if they are not happy with the quality of the answer.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is clear that members on this side of the House and you have heard different things. Can I ask that the Minister repeat her answer to that supplementary question?

Mr SPEAKER: I will accept that. Would the Minister remind repeating her answer, please, to that particular supplementary question?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Steps were taken to ensure the information that we held was put out there, and that is all the information I had available to me. That is the information we put out.

Charles Chauvel: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: The question was very specific, asking “What steps did the Minister take …”, and the Minister has said steps were taken to check the information. It should be possible to tell the House what those steps involved. That should not be difficult. That is what is being asked.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been raised, and it will be heard in silence.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: With all due respect, you have just extended the question that was asked. The Minister was asked what steps she took, and you have now asked that she chronicle those steps. Her answer was that she looked into it and found the information was accurate. Labour members believe it was not accurate; they should produce that information. That would be like Mr Goff last week—

Mr SPEAKER: That is not acceptable, Mr Brownlee. Look, I have not extended the question at all. I listened very carefully to the member’s question, because he was concerned about whether his previous question was answered. I think the member was very careful in the way he asked the question. He asked what steps were taken, etc., to check the information. I believe that to simply say steps were taken is not, in anyone’s language, an answer to that question. I think it is reasonable that the Minister should be able to tell the House what steps were taken. It is not difficult. The Minister may not have the information. I accept that absolutely, and if that is the case, I am sure the House would accept that. But if the Minister has the information about what steps were taken, it would be an answer to a reasonable question.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: At the end of the day, I presented the information that was available to me. I took steps to get the information that was available through my own ministry, and that is what I presented. I cannot present information that I do not have.

Charles Chauvel: Specifically, did the Minister make any inquiries of her officials or anyone else as to the existence of payments under the Child Support Act in this case?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: No.


5. Eating Disorders—Services in Northern Region

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

5. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Associate Minister of Health: What reports has he received regarding new services for eating disorders in the northern region?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Associate Minister of Health) : Earlier this year the Government announced the provision of an extra $26 million over 4 years to improve services for eating disorders. I am pleased to announce now that I have received a report laying out how most of this new money will be spent in order to get proper in-patient and residential eating disorder services up and running in the top half of the North Island. This Government is determined to turn round the woefully inadequate eating disorder services we inherited in this region, and we are doing it.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What are the details of the Government’s new plans to lift eating disorder services in the northern region?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The plan proposes that by the end of this year additional workforce will be employed by the Auckland District Health Board, enabling Starship Children’s Hospital to provide five dedicated beds for children under the age of 15 who need in-patient hospital care for their eating disorders. By the middle of next year, the plan provides for a new, Auckland-based, residential service with up to nine beds for adolescents and adults with eating disorders. The plan is a good example of district health boards working together, with services being available to patients in district health boards ranging from Northland to southern district health boards, including Lakes, Taranaki, and Tairāwhiti.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Why did the Minister do nothing to protect the health target of improving mental health services, a target that has now been scrapped; and why did he do nothing to stop the cut in this year’s Budget to the amount of money going into the roll-out of the mental health blueprint?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: With regard the first of those points on the issue of health targets, I say that when we talked to people in the area of mental health care, we found that that specific target was a bureaucratic target that did not improve patient care. So they were quite glad for it to go.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What further details, if any, can the Minister advise of with regard to this positive plan to assist people in the northern region with eating disorders?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: This plan outlines well-coordinated health services for people with eating disorders, regardless of the type of treatment they may need. The addition of a residential treatment facility will provide a homelike environment for patients where they can spend time with their families. I should caution here that until these new services are fully operational, patients will continue to be sent to Australia for treatment when it is appropriate and agreed with the patients.

Hon Ruth Dyson: How is the Associate Minister’s commitment to eating disorders backed up by his decision to have pies and candyfloss in, and apples out, of schools?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I am very surprised that the member wants to politicise this argument. The fact is that when it comes to eating disorders Labour had 9 years but it could not get its act together; we have had 9 months and we have done it.

Hon Ruth Dyson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not even attempt to address the question. He made an interesting political point, but he is required to address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot support the member on this occasion, because I think her own colleagues showed the political nature of the question by immediately barracking at the—

Hon Annette King: At the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: No—the member had barely finished asking her question when there was a barrage of noise from her own colleagues. I am afraid that if the question was meant to be serious, then her colleagues should not have interjected en masse in the way they did.

Hon Ruth Dyson: So if there’s barracking they don’t have to address the question?

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need assistance on this. To me it was very plain that the member’s own colleagues did not take the question seriously, because there was a barrage of noise. I nearly intervened at that time to make the point that if members wanted to hear the answer, they should not carry on like that. The Minister answered the question in the way that he saw appropriate and, under the circumstances, I felt it was appropriate.


6. Overseas Investment Act Review—Reports from Te PuniKōkiri

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

6. Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: He aha ngāripota, tētahirānei, kuawhiwhii a ia mai iānakatipāi Te PuniKōkirimōngāwhakahounga kei te whakaarohia e pāana ki te Ture HaumiiTāwāhi?

[What reports, if any, has he received from his officials at Te PuniKōkiri on the proposed changes to the Overseas Investment Act?]

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs) :Ā, tēnā koe e Te Kaiwhakawā, tēnā tātau te Whare. Kai te whai whakaaro te Kāwanatanga ki ētahi whakarerekētanga ki te ture. Kāore anō kia tae mai ētahi pūrongo i a Te Puni kōkiri engari, kai te wānanga tonu rātau.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Greetings to you, Mr Speaker, and to us the House. The Government is currently considering changes to the Act. I have yet to receive a report from the Ministry of Māori Development; it is still consulting.]

Hon Shane Jones: Ā, ki te Minita, mehemeakuaputangāwhakatau o te Kāwanatanga, he aha te wāriu o ngāripoata e wānangatonutiaanai roto itānatāri?

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[To the Minister, if the Government has published its findings, what value is there in these reports still being consulted over in his office?]

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Ki Te Kaiwhakamāori/Whakapākehā o te Whare, mehemeakuaputa he ripoatai te Kāwanatanga, he aha te painga o ngāwānanga ka waiho ki murirawa?

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[To the interpreter of the House, if a report has been published by the Government, what good will come out of consultations that are left for afterwards?]

Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koe. Takumōhio ko tērāpātaikuaotikē e te Minita te whakautu. I kōrero a ia, anā, kei roto ingāringaringa o te Kāwanatanga, ko tā te Minita me te āhuatanga o tēneipātai me tanaTari, kāti, kai roto i Te PuniKōkiri, kāoreanō a ia kia kite.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Thank you. To my knowledge that question has already been responded to by the Minister when he stated that the report is in the hands of the Government and Te PuniKōkiri. In terms of this question and his office, he has not sighted it yet.]

Mr SPEAKER: Obviously, members are perfectly entitled to repeat their questions with slight changes in emphasis in them, and I believe that is what the Hon Shane Jones has done.

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Ki takumōhio, kei te haere tonu te arotakenga o te ture nei. Kāreanō kia puta te pūrongo ki a mātau. Kei te noho tonu te komitiitēnei kaupapa. Kāreanō kia puta mai te pūrongo ki te Kāwanatanga, otirā, ki te iwi whānui.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[To my knowledge, this Act is still under review. As yet, we have not received the report. The committee is still considering this matter. The report is unavailable yet to Government and to the general public.]

Hon Shane Jones: Tēnā koe. Ki te Minitamōngā Take Māori, me pēhearānei e whakapūmautiaaingāpānga o te iwi Māori ki ō rātouwāhi tapu. E pai anarānei ia te whakamārama mai ai me pēhearānei te ngaronga o te whenua Māori e whakakatiaaiai?

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Thank you. To the Minister of Māori Affairs, how will Māori interests in their sacred places be sustained? Is he able to explain as well how the loss of Māori land can be rectified?]

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Ā, waihomā te komiti me te pūrongo e whakamārama mai tēnāāhuatanga o te kaupapa engari, ko tōku tino kaupapa ko te tiakitanga o ngā whenua katoa, ngārawaMāori me ngāwāhitāpu o te iwi whānui.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[That aspect of the matter should be left for the committee and the report to explain. My real thrust is really to protect all Māori land and resources as well as places sacred to the public at large.]

Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a letter dated 7 April 2009 from the Office of Minister Sharples saying that neither he nor his office had had any correspondence with the Prime Minister, the Minister for Regulatory Reform, or the Minister of Finance about the proposed review of the overseas investment rules particularly as they relate to the foreshore and seabed.

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.

Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table a second letter from the honourable Minister Sharples’ office dated 12 May 2009, again stating that no reports or correspondence had been received by his office from the Prime Minister, the Minister of Regulatory Reform, or the Minister of Finance over any proposed review of the Overseas Investment Act and those provisions relating to the foreshore and seabed.

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

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


7. Roading—Whangarei Projects

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

7. Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Fisheries) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has been made on advancing roading projects in Whangarei?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport) : I am pleased to report progress on Whangarei’s Kamo bypass, one of six upcoming roading projects designed to enhance safety and support economic growth in and around Whangarei. The New Zealand Transport Agency announced last week that construction on the bypass will begin at the end of this year or early next year. The $23 million bypass will run from Kamo Road roundabout to connect with the existing State Highway 1 at Western Hills Drive. This will come as a huge relief to businesses, and those in the residential streets that have been congested until now.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe e Te Kaihautū o te Whare. Ko koe tēnā e whakairii te tāhuhukōreromō Te Reo Māorii te tīmatanga o tōtātaurā. Ko tākuitēneiwā, koinei te kaikōrerotuatahi me whakatikai te kupu Kāmō. Kāmō, koinā te whakahuatika, nē?

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Greetings to you, Mr Speaker. You demonstrated to us at the beginning of our day how the Māori language is to be used and spoken. My point of order at this point, Mr Speaker, is that this member is the first speaker to mispronounce a Māori word, and I respectfully draw your attention to it. Kāmō is the correct pronunciation, yes?]

Mr SPEAKER: I think all members are aware of the need to try to pronounce each other’s names correctly, and certainly in Māori Language Week to try to get Māori names as correct as we possibly can.

Hon Phil Heatley: What benefits will the Kamo bypass bring to Northland?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The bypass will ease congestion, decrease transportation times and costs, and support continued growth in Whangarei and Northland. During the 2-year construction period, it is estimated that the project will create up to 80 jobs directly and support even more in the wider community. The majority of suppliers and subcontractors working on the project will be locally based, and their communities will benefit from the increase in work.

Hon Phil Heatley: What feedback has he received from locals, on this progress?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have received many letters of support from locals, including one from the Mayor of Whangarei, Stan Semenoff. He stated: “We write to express the gratitude of Whangarei and Northland for the extremely rapid progress we are now making on the transportation issues, which had vexed us for so long under previous Governments.” And of the New Zealand Transport Agency, he stated: “The cooperation is the best it has ever been in my many years in politics.” The Government is pleased to be able to make a real difference to regional communities and economies like that, and we will continue our infrastructure and transportation development around the country.


8. Education, State System—Exclusion from Privatisation

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

8. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister of Education: Which parts, if any, of the State education system has she excluded from privatisation, following the Secretary to the Treasury’s speech, which was widely reported as a call for privatisation?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education) :Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I suggest that that member does not blithely believe everything that is reported and actually reads the secretary’s speech, which does not even mention privatisation.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Does the Minister regard the contracting out of core education services or other social services, as recommended by the secretary, as privatisation?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I point out to that member that there is currently significant private involvement in education. The Government does not own the buildings of about 2,500 early childhood centres. The Government does not own the buildings of about 300 State integrated schools. The Government does not own the buildings of about 100 independent schools. And guess what! The sky has not fallen.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the Minister rule out the transfer of any State school land and buildings to public-private partnerships?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No. As the member himself said in 2006, “this is a more important issue than whether new construction is privately or publicly funded. The Government is open-minded about use of public private partnerships (PPPs). We recognise that there can be advantages in bundling finance with construction and service provision of infrastructure into one package.”

Catherine Delahunty: Tenā koe, Mr Speaker. Ngā mihi nui ki te reo rangatira o Aotearoa me Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori. I acknowledge the first language of Aotearoa and Māori Language Week. Does the Minister support the views expressed by her colleague Heather Roy at Bunnythorpe on 18 July: “I see no impediment to the Government contracting private organisations to provide education”; if so, which educational services that are currently publicly provided does she think are suitable for privatisation?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I remind that member of my previous answer: 2,500 early childhood centres are not owned by the Government, yet we pay for the services they provide. The Government does not own about 300 State integrated schools, yet we pay for the services they provide. One hundred independent schools get some funding, as well.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice as to whether that question was answered by the Minister. The question directly asked what services that are currently publicly provided she believes could be privatised. She did not address that question.

Mr SPEAKER: It is a fairly big ask for me to ask the Minister to answer the question more precisely than she did. The question is obviously fairly controversial. It has already been ruled that the Secretary to the Treasury was part of the primary question and that that question did not actually talk about privatisation at all. There are a range of difficult issues around the question. I believe that the Minister has given a reasonable answer.

Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was the Minister who referred to privatisation in her answer to the primary question. She has happily referred to and responded to other questions on this issue. The question my colleague asked was very specific. Instead, the Minister refused to answer it and simply repeated an answer to a different question. I do not quite see how she can be excused now for not addressing this particular question when she herself raised the issue of privatisation.

Mr SPEAKER: Can the member repeat the question to me.

Metiria Turei: The question was about which services that are currently provided in the public sector could, in her view, be privatised.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That was not the question that was asked. Two questions were asked. The first part of the question related to a comment made by the Associate Minister of Education Heather Roy. That is the question I addressed.

Metiria Turei: Well, then, I seek your advice, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not address that question either. She could address either of the two questions that my colleague put to her, but she ought to address at least one of them.

Mr SPEAKER: When a member starts a question: “Does the Minister support the views” of another member, there is no way I as Speaker can force particular answers to that question. That was what was troubling me. I want to give members a fair chance to make their case to me, but when a member asks a question about whether a Minister agrees with another member, the member asking the question cannot expect a precise answer. I have made that very clear in the past. I do not think I am departing from previous practice.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Which services currently provided by the State does the Minister believe could be privatised?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I have your ruling on how that supplementary question relates to the primary question if, in fact, the mention of “privatisation” was not contained in the speech by the Secretary to the Treasury.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The word “privatisation” was allowed by you, Mr Speaker, in the substantive question when we asked the Minister what she could exclude from privatisation. It is her responsibility.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept that. The primary question asks which parts, if any, of the education system the Minister has excluded from privatisation, so I believe that follow-up supplementary question is in order. I am sure the Minister can answer it.

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I agree with the member, who he said that we want to see more action and that there is “a more important issue than whether new construction is privately or publicly funded. The Government is open-minded about use of public private partnerships”. I agree exactly with the member.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to rule whether that answer, in your opinion, address the question I asked.

Mr SPEAKER: I believe that she answered it. It was my impression that the Minister made it clear that public-private partnerships might not be excluded from future provision possibilities. She referred to the honourable member’s own past reference to that being something he would support. I believe that that has answered the question.

John Boscawen: Does the Minister, in Māori Language Week, support the kōhanga reo movement, which is all about contracting out education services to the great benefit of Māori and the country? Is it not better to focus on results rather than on the ideological concerns about who provides the service?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This Government absolutely supports kōhanga reo. In fact, this Government is extending the 20 free hours’ early childhood education to all kōhanga reo.


9. Treaty of Waitangi Settlements—Economic Benefits

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

9. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What are the economic benefits of Treaty settlements?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations) : Treaty settlements can provide a regional economic stimulus that boosts investment, creates jobs, and lays the foundations for future economic success. NgāiTahu, for example, have built up their 1998 settlement of $170 million into an asset portfolio of tourism, property, fisheries, and investment that is today worth around $609 million, with equity of almost $500 million.

Hon Tau Henare: What recent milestones have been reached in Treaty settlements that will see significant economic benefit flowing into New Zealand’s regional economies?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: On Saturday, 4 July the Crown marked the transfer of title to 90 percent of the Kaingaroa Forest to eight iwi. This transfer included almost $450 million in land and Crown forest rentals, and that represents a significant boost to the regional economy. The settlement provides certainty for the future of forestry in the central North Island and will hopefully increase productivity as iwi progress and diversify into value-added manufacturing activities. Other economic opportunities could also open up as iwi develop other resources in the region such as sustainable geothermal energy.


10. Forests—New Plantings

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

10. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Forestry: How many hectares of new forestry have been planted since the election and how many hectares of new forestry does he expect will have been planted by November 2011?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Forestry) : For the benefit of the member, I tell him that new planting activity is a winter activity, and, therefore, official statistics for this winter’s planting will not be available until they are collated later in the year. As to the second part of the question, a number of variables such as ultimate climate change policy and log prices will determine planting rates between now and 2011. I am not prepared to speculate at this stage.

Charles Chauvel: Is the Minister concerned about reports from forest owners that say that delays to the emissions trading scheme are preventing them from selling credits domestically, further discouraging investment in new plantings; and how does he reconcile this with his comments that the emissions trading scheme “means foresters can invest with some certainty”?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I am concerned that the current situation creates a degree of uncertainty for foresters. I have made that comment to foresters. However, it is far more important that this time we get the emissions trading legislation right and bring back to the House something that will get widespread from the politicians in this Parliament.

Shane Ardern: What reports has the Minister seen on deforestation rates?

Hon DAVID CARTER: The most up-to-date complete figures I have seen are from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and are for 2007, the year that is now referred to as the year of the “chainsaw massacre”. In that particular year, New Zealand experienced the worst deforestation since records began in 1951.

Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen comments from Professor Euan Mason and David Evison of Canterbury University’s School of Forestry that “in order to avoid a serious problem in our future national greenhouse gas accounts we need to increase the rate of new planting right now”; and how does he expect this to happen given reports that the Government is incorrect in saying that its plans to water down the emissions trading scheme will somehow encourage new plantings?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I have not seen the comments to which the member refers. I do believe it is important that we get more plantings to help meet our commitments to Kyoto. But it is most important to get climate change legislation back into the House as quickly as possible, and it should be legislation that will be signed up to by a good proportion of this Parliament so that we finally get certainty, not only for the forestry sector but for every other sector in the economy.

Charles Chauvel: Instead of referring to the irrelevant record of previous Governments, does the Minister not think it is time, nearly 9 months into his term of office, that he takes responsibility for representing the forestry sector and fronts up about how he will ensure that the emissions trading scheme provides strong incentives for foresters to plant new forests?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I have difficulty understanding the logic of that member when in one question earlier he acknowledged the importance of tree planting to meet Kyoto obligations and then attempted to suggest that the record of the previous Government is irrelevant in that regard.


11. Clinical Leadership, Ministerial Task Group—In Good Hands

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

11. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his support for In Good Hands, the report which outlines the importance of clinical leadership in health decision-making?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) : Kia ora koutou. I commissioned the report In Good Hands as part of the new Government’s drive to engage doctors and nurses in the running of the New Zealand public health service.

Kevin Hague: Why, then, has the Minister removed the previously agreed requirement for district health boards to consult with health professionals before making decisions to contract out services to the private sector?

Hon TONY RYALL: Under the National Government, district health boards do not need a protocol to have to talk to their staff. We expect them to be working closely with their clinical teams to share problems and solutions, and that direction underpins all arrangements in the public health service.

Kevin Hague: Why did the Minister choose not to consult with the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists before making his changes to encourage more contracting of surgery to the private sector; is it because he knows that they would oppose his moves to undermine public health care?

Hon TONY RYALL: The public is very clear on what this new Government campaigned on: improving access to elective surgery, smarter use of the private sector, and giving doctors and nurses more say. What is very clear in the protocols that the new Government has approved is a commitment that public hospitals must ensure that when harnessing the resource of the private sector the long-term viability of their own resource is not to be undermined.

Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked about consultation with the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists. The Minister has not addressed that point at all.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Minister to actually answer that part of the question.

Hon TONY RYALL: I discussed this policy several times with members of the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists before the election. I think everyone was well aware of National’s policy; that is the reason why we got that endorsement during the election.

Michael Woodhouse: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. What feedback has the Minister received in relation to his promotion of the In Good Hands report, and why is it important?

Hon TONY RYALL: The feedback from the public health sector, including the representatives of the senior doctors, has been incredibly supportive. The reason the Government places such high importance on that report is that it promotes clinical leadership. The greatest challenge facing the public health service today is workforce, workforce, and workforce. Our drive to clinical leadership is about engaging and involving doctors and nurses in the public health service to give them greater job satisfaction and to improve retention.

Kevin Hague: Is it not true that the Minister is deliberately weakening public health care to force New Zealanders to take out private health insurance, so that he can cut the health budget in the face of expensive new technologies, an ageing population, and epidemics of chronic disease?

Hon TONY RYALL: No, that simply cannot be true. The new member has been writing newspaper articles saying that the Government’s plan to increase the number of publicly funded, publicly owned elective surgery theatres is madness. Yet, at the same time, he says that we are privatising them. It does not make sense.

Hon Ruth Dyson: If the Minister is so committed to clinical leadership in the health sector, what does he say to Professor Boyd Swinburn, former medical director of the National Heart Foundation, who described the National Government’s dismantling of anti-obesity policies as “descending into being a ‘ninny state’ ”, where the food industry controls politicians?

Hon TONY RYALL: I say to Professor Boyd Swinburn that what is needed is a more balanced approach. This Government reflects the views of New Zealanders. If that member and her colleagues did so well in their 9 years, why do we find the situation that we do with unhealthy weights in the community?


12. Adult and Community Education—Benefits for Maori

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

12. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education: Ka tū a ia irungaitanakauhau ki te Hui o ngāKāretiHaporii te Hōtērā o Grace i te rā o Wenerei rua tekau o te marama o Mei me tānaiwhakanuirāingāpainga o te MātaurangaHapori me te HungaPakekemōngātāngataMāori; mehemeakāore, he aha ai?

[Does he stand by his speech to the Community Colleges Conference on Wednesday, 20 May 2009, where he praises the benefits of adult and community education for Māori; if not, why not?]

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Associate Minister of Education) :Āe, ka tūpakariai.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Yes, it will endure.]

Kelvin Davis: Does the Minister see the irony in the fact that just a week after he had sung the praises and benefits of adult and community education for Māori to that group in Australia, he voted for a Budget that slashed those same programmes that benefit Māori?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Kāre au e tautoko anai te aukati ingāpūteamōngāakorangapakekeengari, kai roto itōmātou kawenata tētahi kaupapa e whakaaeana kia kore whakaae.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[I do not support cuts in funding for adult education, but there is scope in our party manifesto to agree to disagree.]

Kelvin Davis: Has the Minister checked with the Minister of Education which of the courses he praised for their benefits for Māori are hobby courses, and was he offended by that description, as most Māori would be?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Kei te kaha au ki te tautoko ingāakorangapakekemōngāMāori, ā, kei raroitaku mana ngāwānanga. Kei te pai rātaunā te mea, ko tāku he ārahii a rātau.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[I am a strong supporter of adult education for the Māori people, and universities come under my portfolio. They are well, because my role is to lead them.]

Te Ururoa Flavell: Kuangaro katoa ki a ngāiMāoringā huarahi e taeaai e ia te whai atu i roto i te wāhangamatauranga ā-pakeke, ā-haporirānei?

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[Have the Māori people lost all opportunities possible for them to pursue adult and community education?]

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Kāo, i te mea ara anōngā huarahi ki a Māorimā ki te tono kia noho haipunamātauranga, pēneiiētahi atu rōpū.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[No, because there are many opportunities for Māoridom to seek to become adult education providers, like any other group.]

Kelvin Davis: How can the Minister hand out praise about the benefits of adult learning with one hand, then cut funding to the Skill Enhancement fund, which funded RangitahiMāia, with the other hand?

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Kuaotikētakuwhakautu ki tēnāpātaiengari, ngāmeakuaaukatingiai te pūtea, tono mai ki a au, māku e tono atu ki te Minitamātua me te MinitaPutea ki te kimiāwhinamōrātau. Kāreanō kia mutu ki tēnei take.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[I have already answered that question, but those denied funding should send their request for assistance to me and I will send it on to the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance. This matter is not over yet.]

Te Ururoa Flavell: Ki te Minita, ka pāanōngāwhakahounganeimō te mātaurangamō te hapori me te pakeke ki te ki ngā whare wānanga?

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[To the Minister, do these changes in adult and community education apply to universities?]

Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Kāhore. Nākuitono ki te Minita matua kia waihongāwānanga ki waho o te kati.

* [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]

[No. I sought assurances from the Minister of Education that universities should be exempt.]


ENDS

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