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Questions And Answers - 6 August 2009


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

THURSDAY, 6 AUGUST 2009

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Economy—Reports

1. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I have seen today’s household labour force survey, which puts our unemployment rate at 6 percent. This represents a 1 percent rise from 30 March and is the largest quarterly rise since 1988. It is slightly higher than predicted, but not a surprise, given that we are in the midst of the largest global recession since the 1930s. One of the reasons for the higher than expected figure is the larger than usual number of people who joined the workforce in the June quarter. These figures should make it clear there can be no complacency about what will be required to turn this economy round to provide new jobs for all those people who have lost jobs.

Aaron Gilmore: What reports has the Minister seen on business and consumer confidence?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The best thing for people who have lost a job is the hope they can get another one. As it happens, forward-looking indicators such as business and consumer confidence have improved over the last 6 months. The basic picture is that the economy shows signs of stabilising, and we are hoping that it will start to grow again towards the end of this year and into the beginning of next year, after a recession that has lasted about 18 months.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister tell the House which other countries have recently recorded the highest quarterly increase in unemployment in 21 years, and can he now confirm that New Zealand’s unemployment rate has skyrocketed to exceed that of Australia’s?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot actually tell the member which other countries. It is unlikely there will be many, because New Zealand is the only country that was already in a recession, caused by the economic mismanagement of his Government, followed by a global recession. That is why we are doing everything we can to turn the economy round, after a decade of mismanagement, so that people who lost their jobs can get another job.

Aaron Gilmore: What steps is the Government taking to support jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The most direct impact is that the Government is, over the next 4 years, borrowing $40 billion to pump into the economy in the form of investment in infrastructure, preserving existing entitlements, and maintaining public services through the bottom of a recession.

That $40 billion will also finance packages such as the $152 million youth unemployment package, which will provide 1,700 jobs and training opportunities for young people, over the next 18 months.

Hon David Cunliffe: Will the Minister now concede that his Government, to use his own words, “was too complacent;” “did not do enough, early enough”; and “did not take the real sharp edges off unemployment”; if not, when can New Zealanders expect to see this Government’s economic plan return New Zealand to growth?


Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not accept that. The 2009 Budget, as I have just said, laid out a track whereby the Government is borrowing $40 billion over the next few years to pump into the economy—

Hon David Cunliffe: It’s 3.5 percent stimulus, down from 5.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, it is one of the more significant stimulus packages in the developed world. Alongside that, the Government has initiated a rolling maul of programmes that are supporting people who were made redundant, and providing jobs for people through the insulation scheme and, more recently, the Job Ops scheme.

Aaron Gilmore: What reports has he seen on business’s approach to employment during the recession?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have been pleased to see that the quarterly employment survey released this week backs up the anecdotal evidence that many employers are working as hard as they can to keep people on. For instance, a survey released this week suggests that many employers are choosing to reduce employees’ work hours and keep wage rises static, rather than lay off staff, and the Government has supported this flexible approach through its innovative 9-day fortnight scheme. It is worth noting that even at the new level of unemployment announced today, unemployment in New Zealand is lower than in the US, Europe, and the UK.

Question No. 1 to Minister, 4 August

DAVID GARRETT (ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your assistance with regard to a supplementary question I asked on Tuesday of the Minister for Climate Change Issues.

His answer was that the figures I sought were to be found in the regulatory impact statement on the original emissions trading scheme legislation. I have looked carefully through that regulatory impact statement, and I am unable to find such figures. I respectfully draw your attention to Speaker’s ruling 167/7, which, as I read it, states that if a Minister is in error he or she should correct that error at the earliest opportunity, which should be at the beginning of question time. I wonder whether I have missed something or whether the Minister would like to comment.

Mr SPEAKER: I have made it very clear to members that they should not litigate Ministers’ answers by way of points of order. If the member believes that the Minister was in error in that answer, the member has the chance to ask further questions about it or to take it up directly with the Minister, but he should not do it by way of a point of order. If he believes that the matter is serious enough, if he believes that the Minister has misled the House, he can write to me about it. But he should not try to litigate it by way of a point of order.

Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept your point, but smaller parties like the Green Party, the ACT Party, and the Māori Party do not have the opportunity that other parties have to ask large numbers of questions. We have, for example, two questions today, and if an answer is wrong, we have only one or two opportunities to fix it. My understanding is that the Minister’s office accepts that the answer on Tuesday was not correct. We are asking for clear guidance so that we can ask a proper supplementary question today.

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): I am familiar with the documents to which the ACT member has referred. A reading of them makes it absolutely clear that the emissions trading scheme has significantly reduced deforestation already.

Mr SPEAKER: The member must resume his seat! What does one do about that! The member knows that that was not a point of order, and he is very lucky that I was preoccupied with thinking about the matter. Be that as it may, let me come back to the fundamental issue raised. I accept the point the Hon Rodney Hide makes. It is more difficult for smaller parties, because they have limited numbers of supplementary questions, but the answer is a matter for the member and the Minister. If the Minister is in error, then that is a matter for the Minister to rectify. The member can follow it up with the Minister, but he should not seek to litigate the answer by way of a point of order. If there is a problem with the answer, he can follow it up with the Minister. If in fact the Minister’s answer was in error, I am sure the Minister would seek to correct it.

Greenhouse Gas Reduction—2020 Target

2. JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Will New Zealand’s climate change target take into account the call from Pacific Island leaders for a 45 percent cut by 2020?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes. The Government recognises that climate change poses a particular threat to our Pacific Island neighbours. It is one of many factors that we will take into account in considering our 2020 commitment. I also note, though, that it is a lot easier for those countries to call for very large reductions when they are not proposing any binding commitments for reductions themselves.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How will the Minister explain to Pacific Island people that we cannot help them to avoid a climate change catastrophe, because we are not willing to save 4.25 million tonnes of emissions in 2020 by replacing two old coal and gas power plants with renewables that are costeffective, according to the Electricity Commission’s statement of opportunities?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am advised that for New Zealand to move to 100 percent renewables, those who are promoting minus 50 percent—

Dr Russel Norman: Ninety percent.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, the members interject, but if they read the pamphlet that has been put out by the Sign On campaign they will see that it very specifically states that it is about a move to 100 percent renewables. My advice is that that move would cost $17.5 billion. It would require the building of the equivalent of seven Clyde Dams in just 10 years. I do not think that is achievable.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was about two power stations. The Greens have no responsibility whatever for the Sign On campaign; we did not initiate it. I asked the Minister a question about two power stations for which substituting renewables is cost-effective, and he has chosen not to answer that question in any way at all but to talk about a mythical 100 percent target, which is nothing to do with us.

Mr SPEAKER: My dilemma is that the Minister clearly interpreted the member’s question to mean what he included in his answer. The member has several more supplementary questions with which to chase up that matter with the Minister. I will listen very carefully to his answers to them.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How will the Minister explain to Scotland, which has offered a target of a 42 percent reduction, that we cannot join it, because we are not willing to save 3 million tonnes of emissions a year in 2020 by improving the fuel economy of our vehicles to something a bit more like Scotland’s?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member needs to take care in mentioning countries like Scotland, because the significance is that the Scottish Parliament itself has responsibility for only 30 percent of Scotland’s emissions. The bulk of Scotland’s emissions are actually reported as part of the overall United Kingdom’s. So when the Scots talk about a 42 percent reduction in emissions from Scotland, that number is not for all of the emissions from Scotland but just a portion of them.

Nicky Wagner: Is the Minister aware of the 2020 target announced this week by South Korea, and what implications does it have for international negotiations?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is a positive development that South Korea has announced a 2020 emissions reduction target, ranging from minus 4 percent to plus 8 percent relative to 2005 levels.

The significance is that South Korea is one of the first non - annex 1 countries to indicate a willingness to take on commitments, which is good news. I note, however, that the equivalent to those targets for New Zealand on a business-as-usual basis, the same reduction, would be plus 7 to plus 19 percent relative to 1990 levels for New Zealand. The New Zealand Government is not contemplating a target above the 1990 levels, despite our GDP per capita being comparable with that of South Korea.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How will the Minister explain to the UK, which incorporates Scotland and has set a target of 34 percent, that we cannot join it, because the Government has created a policy framework so uncertain for forestry that it has stopped foresters from planting trees?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: A significant difference between New Zealand and the United Kingdom is that it currently has emissions that are 12 percent below its 1990 levels; New Zealand is starting from 24 percent above its 1990 levels. The question I have for the member who asked the question, and who used to be the previous Government’s spokesperson on energy efficiency, is why emissions went up so much when she held that spokespersonship.

David Garrett: Does the Government have an estimate of by how much the emissions trading scheme as legislated will reduce emissions by 2020, or does the Minister not know that?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I do not have that information available to me in the House, because it was not part of the base question. But I would be happy to check whether it was in the regulatory impact statement and to provide the member with an accurate figure.

Charles Chauvel: Does the Minister think that a timid emissions target of between 5 to 15 percent would demonstrate to Pacific Islanders that New Zealand recognises the serious effects that climate change would have in the Pacific; and does he endorse John Key’s suggestion that if the worst comes to the worst, we will just offer to resettle Pacific peoples?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first thing we need to recognise is that with New Zealand’s emissions being just 0.2 percent of global emissions, in terms of the future of the Pacific what the globe does will be critical. There is already an amount of climate change in the world’s climate systems, so I think the Prime Minister is absolutely right in his remark. In respect of the size of New Zealand’s emissions target, I remind the member opposite that when people say a 10 percent reduction below 1990 levels is easy, we must remember that we are 24 percent behind to begin with, which means it is really a 34 percent reduction in emissions. Compared with the previous decade, in which emissions went up 14 percent, that is a very tough and ambitious target for New Zealand to achieve.

Charles Chauvel: To which parts of New Zealand does the Government plan to offer resettlement to Pacific peoples who are displaced by the adverse effects of climate change; if no thought has yet been given to this question, is it not high time that thought is given to it, since the present Government’s policies on climate change will not do anything else to help them to deal with those effects?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The current Government has given no more consideration to the issue of the resettlement of Pacific peoples in New Zealand and the long-term impacts of climate change than the previous Government did. In respect of sea-level rises, we are talking about rates of 3 or 4 mm per year.

Hon Annette King: It’s your policy to bring them to New Zealand.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The deputy leader of the Labour Party interjects. I remind her that during her period in Government, emissions in New Zealand grew faster than those of any other country. She is the last person from whom I will take advice in terms of sensible climate change policy.

Urgent Question to Minister

Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government): I seek leave of the House to answer an urgent question put down to me by Phil Twyford MP, because answering his questions is always so much fun.

Mr SPEAKER: The dilemma I have as Speaker is that a member cannot seek leave to answer a question. Only the member wishing to ask the question can seek leave to ask it.


PHIL TWYFORD (Labour): I seek leave to ask a question of the Minister of Local Government.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought by Phil Twyford to ask an urgent question of the Minister of Local Government

URGENT QUESTIONS

Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation)—Release of Information

1. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) to the Minister of Local Government: Has he received any reports of the release of sensitive personal information from Metro Water Ltd to Watercare Ltd as part of the transitional arrangements under the Local Government (Tamaki Makaurau Reorganisation) Act 2009?

Hon RODNEY HIDE (Minister of Local Government): No.

Phil Twyford: Has the Minister received advice on whether that is a breach of the Privacy Act; if so, is he concerned—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The House has indulged Mr Twyford by allowing him to ask an urgent question. He asked his question, and he got the answer “No.” Having got the answer “No.”, he now wants to know whether the matter that he was expecting a yes answer to is a breach of the Privacy Act. That is way outside the Standing Orders.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I think this goes to the order in which mail has been opened and read in the Minister of Local Government’s office. Mr Speaker, it is not for you to predetermine that the member cannot ask a question about whether the Minister has read a report, just because he has not read another one.

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the member’s contribution to the point of order, but I believe that it is not for me to rule out such a question, because then I would be getting involved in answers already given. I believe that the Minister of Local Government is perfectly capable of answering such a question, and I invite Phil Twyford to ask his supplementary question.

Phil Twyford: Let me rephrase the question. Is the Minister concerned that this action follows controversy over Watercare demanding that Auckland councils sign blanket confidentiality agreements in relation to the transition, and requesting dossiers of personal information on council water staff, including age, sex, length of service, and whether they are members of the union?

Hon RODNEY HIDE: Thank you, Mr Speaker, for that very urgent question from the “Minister for Auckland Issues”. I have to say that it would be helpful if Mr Phil Twyford listened to the—

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Twyford is not the Minister for Auckland issues.

Mr SPEAKER: I think it would be helpful if we heard the answer from the Minister.

Hon RODNEY HIDE: I said he was the spokesperson for Auckland issues from the Labour Party. It would be helpful if the “member for Auckland issues” actually listened to the answer I gave, which was that I have had no such reports, and I am afraid I have no idea what he is talking about—a bit like the rest of Auckland.

Phil Twyford: Supplementary question—

Mr SPEAKER: There are no further supplementary questions to an urgent question.

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Unemployment—Current Rate

3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: What reports, if any, has he received on New Zealand’s current unemployment rate?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): I have seen a number of reports. One of those states that unemployment rises during a recession. Another states that the rise in the last quarter was around 1 percent. The last time that it was 1 percent was in 1988, when Phil Goff and Annette King were the Ministers of Employment.

Hon Annette King: Does he stand by his statement that the Government’s policies are taking the sharp edges off the recession, when the figures released today from the household labour force survey show that unemployment is now 6 percent, which is higher than Australia’s unemployment rate; that it is the biggest quarterly jump in 21 years, up 20.6 percent; that it is the highest unemployment rate in 10 years; and that the number of long-term unemployed has more than doubled, and does that not show that rather than taking the sharp edge off the recession, this Government’s inaction is slicing through families through its lack of policies around unemployment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with any of that. I would point out to the questioner that the rate of unemployment now is the same as it was in 2005, when Labour said that the economy was booming.

Hon Annette King: Is his Government’s policy taking the sharp edges off the recession when the number of people accessing the much-trumpeted ReStart package has gone down each week this month at the same time as unemployment is rapidly rising, and does it not show that the Government’s policies are all about puffery and slogans rather than real solutions for real people?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is no puffery and slogans about a $10 billion infrastructure investment programme. There is no puffery about a $323 million insulation programme that is benefiting people all over the country. The member may think that it is puffery and sloganism for 17-year-olds to be able to get jobs under the new Job Ops programme, but we think it is important to them and important to the country.

Chris Tremain: How does unemployment in the current recession compare with unemployment in previous recessions?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are some remarkable similarities, and some differences. Every job lost in this recession is a concern to the Government, but it is not as bad as in previous downturns.

For example, the number of people currently receiving the unemployment benefit is under half the number who were on it when Labour left office in 1990. As I pointed out before, the registered unemployment level today is the same as it was in 2005, when that party claimed it had beaten the cycle of boom and bust and everything was going fantastic.

Hon Annette King: Is his Government’s policy taking the sharp edges off the recession when a mere 33 applications have been made by businesses to sign up to his 9-day fortnight, creating around 400 temporary jobs in 5 months, when at the same time 20,000 Kiwis are being thrown out of work each week?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has provided a range of employment programmes, ranging from ReStart to the 9-day fortnight and the youth unemployment package. Alongside that, the Government is out in the market borrowing billions of dollars to pump into the economy, and it is protecting many people from the sharp edges of recession.

Chris Tremain: Has the Prime Minister seen reports of alternative policies to deal with unemployment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports of politicians trying to trivialise the problem of unemployment, but, more important, I have seen reports that leading indicators of the economy are beginning to pick up. I have also seen a number of reports of people who are very pleased with the Government’s infrastructure investment because it is providing jobs.

Hon Annette King: Is his Government being successful in taking the sharp edges off the recession when we now have 24,000 more people unemployed than in the last quarter, 40 new households a week seeking food parcels to feed their families, and 1,240 families reaching out to the Salvation Army for clothing, bedding, furniture, and other practical assistance?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: All of those figures are signs of an economy under stress, and I feel sorry for those people who relied on the economic management of the previous Labour Government because they have found out that their jobs were built on sand. Those people are paying the price for 10 years of mismanagement, too much borrowing, and reckless Government spending.

Chris Tremain: Has the Prime Minister seen reports of alternative policies to deal with unemployment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I keep hearing reports that there are alternative policies, but I have not seen policies that will roll back a global recession.

Carmel Sepuloni: What advice would the Prime Minister give to the 10,000 Pacific people who are now unemployed, and what is he doing to address Pacific job losses in New Zealand?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is setting about changing the economic direction so we can strengthen this economy to provide those people with new jobs. Unfortunately, they relied on the previous Labour Government, which told them they had secure jobs. It turns out that in the face of a recession they should not have trusted Labour the way they did.

Kelvin Davis: What new initiatives will the Government introduce to address the skyrocketing Māori unemployment rate, which has increased from 8.1 percent to 12.6 percent in the last year?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am pleased the member asked that question because the House was told earlier this week that Māori and iwi organisations will be supported by the Government to create opportunities under the Community Max scheme and the Job Ops scheme, which are focused particularly on young unemployed Māori, who are overrepresented among the unemployment statistics. I know that that member is a good local member, and I hope that he will help organisations to access that scheme, which he can do right now.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to release the weekly ReStart figures for July, which show that the numbers of people on ReStart have gone down each week for July.

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

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

Greenhouse Gas Reduction—2020 Target

4. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Climate Change

Issues: What advice has he received from the National Hui held by the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group and the Māori reference group executive, on the Government’s climate change emissions target for 2020?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): A hui was held on the 2020 target at Hopuhopu in July, at which I appreciated the Māori Party’s presence and support. A further hui was held this week in Wellington. The advice I have received from the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group and the Māori reference group executive has been very constructive. Whereas environmental groups have promoted very ambitious targets, and business groups very cautious ones, Māori have a strong environmental and economic interest, and, like the Government, are seeking a balanced outcome. I will be reporting their recommendations to Cabinet.

Rahui Katene: What has been the feedback from Māori about the recommendations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that to avoid dangerous climate change developed countries need to meet at least a 25 percent reduction by 2020, and how will he ensure there is continued consultation and representation with Māori on emissions reductions?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The feedback I have had from Māori has been very balanced. They recognise the seriousness of climate change, as well as the difficulty of reducing emissions when such a large proportion of New Zealand’s emissions come from agriculture. I think we also have to recognise that the Māori economy is very strongly focused around forestry, around fishing, and around agriculture, and that poses some quite unique challenges, not just for Māori but for New Zealand.


Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Can the Minister confirm that the Māori reference group has expressed concern at the Government’s economic modelling, and that it would be commissioning another more comprehensive report, for release before the end of the year; if so, what does this say about the level of confidence that Māori can have in the Government’s understanding of how climate change measures will affect them?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I met with the Māori iwi leaders’ reference group on climate change.

They expressed to me strong support for the Government’s approach around that difficult issue.

They expressed no concern to me about the quality of the economic analysis that they themselves commissioned from Infometrics and from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research. It might be helpful, too, for me to table for members that economic analysis of the effects of climate change on Māori, and I would be happy to do that.

Rahui Katene: Has the Minister seen any reports on the likely impacts of different 2020 emission reduction scenarios on the Māori economy; if so, what were the main findings?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I have seen the report that was jointly commissioned with the iwi leaders’ reference group and the Government. It does rightly identify in respect of the Māori economy and their large investment in agriculture, in forestry, and in fishing that the economic impacts for them are significant. I also note that the report’s overall conclusion is that the impacts of climate change policy and an emissions trading scheme are very similar for Māori and for other New Zealanders.

Hekia Parata: E te Mana Whakawā, tēnā tātou e te Whare. How significant to Māori are the international rules around carbon embedded in timber products and those in respect of flexible land use, and given their significance to Māori, is the Minister considering a senior Māori representative being part of the delegation to Copenhagen?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The rules around forestry are of huge significance to Māori, particularly since the Central North Island Iwi Collective settlement that involved the largest plantation forest in the southern hemisphere. The conversion of pre-1990 forestry under current rates, which are about 800 tons per hectare, would mean that across Maori’s 439,000 hectares of trees, this issue amounts to a question of over $9 billion. An agreement that allowed offset planting would hugely reduce that liability. The rules around embedded carbon in timber products are also very significant, in that it would recognise the 25 percent of wood that goes into stored products.

That further provides opportunities for Māori and substantial players in the forestry sector. I am favourably disposed to the request for Māori senior representation at the climate conference in Copenhagen, but the Cabinet has not decided the make-up of the New Zealand delegation.

Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am really just seeking your guidance.

The Minister offered to table the economic analysis, which certainly members on this side of the House would like to see. Is there a—

Mr SPEAKER: If he quoted from an official document, members can seek leave to have him table it, but I suspect that the Minister will seek leave.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: I formerly seek leave to table the report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and Infometrics on the effects of 2020 targets on the Māori economy.

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.

Phil Twyford: I seek leave to table a letter received today from Metro Water employees expressing concern about the release of their personal information to Watercare Services, as part of the transition to the new water monopoly in Auckland.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. [Interruption] I will put the question again. Leave is sought to table that document.

Please make your objection loudly. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

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


Recession—Minister’s Statement

5. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that “For most people, the measure of a recession is whether they have a job”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister consider that the 6 percent unemployment recorded in today’s household labour force survey is acceptable and, if so, why; if not, why does he not have a credible plan to manage the economy through the recession?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, it is not acceptable.

Hon David Cunliffe: If that is not acceptable, what does the Minister consider has caused New Zealand’s unemployment rate to leapfrog that of Australia’s, does he consider that Australia faces it as well, and does he consider it relevant that the Australian stimulus package exceeds 5 percent of GDP and that his Government’s package is only 3.5 percent, now less—

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise for interrupting the honourable member, but I say to both sides of the House that the level of interjection has become totally unacceptable. I could not hear. I invite the member to repeat his question—but please do not make it too long.

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I will repeat it without addition. What does the Minister consider has caused New Zealand’s unemployment rate to leapfrog that of Australia, and does he consider it relevant that the Australian stimulus package exceeds 5 percent of GDP and that his Government’s is now only 3.5 percent, less than the 4.5 percent put in place by the outgoing Labour Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The biggest difference is that the Australian economy has basically kept going while New Zealand has had 18 months of recession. It would be severely delusional on his part to believe that the previous Labour Government had put in place a stimulus package before it left. It left a whole lot of unfunded promises and a stack of press releases that it called an economic programme.

Amy Adams: What are the main causes of the current rise in unemployment?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the reasons New Zealand is in a different situation from Australia is that the New Zealand recession began in January 2008, as a result of 7 or 8 years of economic mismanagement by the previous Government. Then the global recession hit in October last year, and the combination of the two has unfortunately meant that people were relying on jobs that they thought were sustainable, but they have turned out not to be.

Jacinda Ardern: Will he guarantee that no young New Zealander will be denied access to the unemployment benefit until he or she is supported into full-time work or training, given that youth unemployment has not been as high as this since 1994 and his youth jobs package will help only 14 percent of unemployed young people?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The youth unemployment package is pretty extensive; it is going to help well over 10,000 young people to keep them in connection with the world of work and skills. We believe that it reflects the right balance of fiscal cost and short-term assistance for young people who need work.

Sue Moroney: How will women measure the performance of his Government, given that 15,000 out of the 24,000 people thrown out of work in the June quarter were women—that is, 62.5 percent of those who have lost jobs are women—and his Government has no plans for job creation in the areas of the economy where women work?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: They will judge the Government by our efforts to rebuild our economic strength so that they can get their jobs back. That is how they will judge it and that is why we are pressing on with urgency to undo the damage done by the last Government to get this economy back on its feet.

Unemployment—Reports

6. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister for Social Development and

Employment: What reports has she received on unemployment?


Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Today’s latest figures are a concern but not a huge surprise. That is why we announced the Youth Opportunities package for 16,900 young people just this week.

Hon Member: 14 percent of them!

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have just heard “14 percent” from the other side, which is actually not the correct figure. Let us be clear that we have 17,000 young people on the unemployment benefit right now. We understand that it is our young people trying to enter the workforce who are finding it hard to get a foot in the door. That is why we are doing something about it. All Labour members can think about is welfare; we are working on jobs.

Todd McClay: What measures is the Government taking to help young people get connected to the workforce in these difficult economic times?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Young New Zealanders who cannot get started in employment face the prospect of becoming disassociated from the workforce long term. We have to act now to protect them during the global recession. That is why this Government is spending some $150 million on the Youth Opportunities package, which the Prime Minister announced just on Sunday, creating jobs and opportunities for 16,900 young people during this worst recession.

Hon Annette King: Are the people who have been made unemployed in the last quarter, as announced in the household labour force survey today, just “predictions” of unemployment as she claimed in the House on Tuesday, or are they real Kiwis without a job who are hurting desperately at this time—24,000 of them; about the size of the population of Taupō?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think we need to be careful when we talk about those 24,000 people who have been made unemployed, and about those 15,000 women whom I have just heard someone yell had been thrown out of their jobs. Actually of those 24,000 people, 10,000 were in employment and are now in unemployment, so, yes, they did lost their jobs;but 14,000 of them are new to the labour force so they are quite a different group of people who need our help. We recognise every single one of them as individuals; their households are being affected and they are affected individually, and that is why we are stepping up and doing what we can.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific. I asked it in response to an answer the Minister gave earlier in the week. I asked whether those who were made unemployed and named in the household labour force survey today were “predictions”, as she said in the House, or were they real people who were unemployed. She did not answer that.

Mr SPEAKER: My dilemma in trying to assist the member there is that the Minister gave some very good information on the information released today. I am not sure how the member is expecting her to answer that question because clearly the information released today is actual information.

Hon Annette King: The household labour force survey is not a prediction, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has made her point and we can move on to further supplementaries.

Todd McClay: Has the Minister seen any reports on the value of encouraging unemployed people to do voluntary work in communities?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes,I have seen a report that said “Communities should be able to create new real jobs by allowing the unemployment benefit to be a wage subsidy. Voluntary work is a worthwhile activity to be undertaken while people are looking for work. The Government could contribute to the expenses of voluntary agencies taking on unemployed people.” That was in 1997 and it was from the Hon Annette King.

Jacinda Ardern: What percentage of young unemployed people will benefit from the jobs element of the Government’s package, if it is not 14 percent as she has stated?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am pleased to have the opportunity to clear this up for the member, because she clearly does not understand what the household labour force survey is. We have seen that the number of 15 to 19-year-olds looking for work, under the household labour force survey, has gone up to 22.9 percent. That is a concern, but some of those 15-year-olds are looking for an hour’s work a week at the local supermarket. Some of them are just looking but they fit in with the household labour force survey, for which one must be looking at least for 1 hour’s work a week.

Those young people are very different from those who are going on to the unemployment benefit and are struggling, and it is those young people we are putting our attention to first and whom we are going to help. There are 17,000 young people on the unemployment benefit, but 16,900 jobs are being offered. I think that is pretty impressive.

Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I quite clearly asked the Minister simply for the percentage of young unemployed people who would benefit from the Government’s job creation package. Because she clearly believes that 14 percent is not the number, then I assume she has a percentage she does believe this package will help.

Mr SPEAKER: In fairness to Jacinda Ardern, I believe that the question she asked appeared to be a perfectly fair question. I must say that in responding to it, the Minister did not help the situation—and one saw the reaction to that. I would now ask the Minister, if she has the information, to actually answer the question asked by Jacinda Ardern.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I clearly said that 17,000 young people are on the unemployment benefit at the moment. In the last week we have said we are creating 16,900 opportunities for those young people—that is nearly 100 percent.

Health—Front-line Services

7. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his commitment to move health resources to the front line?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Yes, especially so when the outgoing Labour Government slashed $150 million out of health just before the election. It left district health boards on a track towards financial crisis, with around $160 million of deepening deficits. But the good news is that the new Government—

Mr SPEAKER: The question asked was actually a very simple question, Mr Ryall, and I think that you answered it fairly early on.

Su’a William Sio: Does the Minister agree with front-linestaff at the Counties Manukau District Health Board, who warn that health cuts will reduce participation in health programmes by most atrisk groups?

Hon TONY RYALL: The Counties Manukau District Health Board has carried out a major review of all its contracts, using a systematic approach that aims to put funds closest to the front line and reduce duplication. I am advised, for example, that in a number of Māori provision programmes the service contracts have increased an overall 42 percent this year, and one of the reasons that the board has been able to do that is a Government funding increase of $66 million, or 7 percent, despite the fact that the previous Government cut $113 million from programmes last year.

Su’a William Sio: Did the Minister sign his name to slashing $4.8 million for diabetes checks before or after he posed for photographs with front-line diabetes and renal staff at Counties Manukau District Health Board?

Hon TONY RYALL: That member might not realise this, but his party quietly, before the last election, cut over $3 million from diabetes programmes and $10 million from chronic care. I tell the member that the saving he refers to did not affect any front-line service, at all.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue is whether the supplementary question was addressed, and I give a little reminder that the question was phrased about timing: whether the Minister had cut funding before or after a certain event. The Minister has to address that issue of timing, or his alternative is to say that the question is wrong in its construction. He has done neither of those things, and I think he should be invited to do so.


Mr SPEAKER: The member will see that in two recent answers I have stopped the Minister because I believed he was going over the top, and I asked another Minister to answer a question. If the Minister believes that that part of that question was crucial in terms of the public interest, then forgive me; I must be in the wrong place. As far as I was concerned, the Minister answered the question in a reasonable manner.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Does the Minister understand that thousands of undiagnosed diabetics will stay unaware of their condition unless they are checked by front-line health workers, or will he rely on the emergency front-line health workers to treat them when their condition overtakes them?

Hon TONY RYALL: I think that is a very relevant question, and that condition is a matter that the Government is putting resources into. It is a shame that the member did not ask those questions when the colleague who is sitting to her cut $3.3 million from the “Get Checked” Diabetes Aotearoa programme; cut $17.5 million from primary health organisation performance programmes, which encouraged that diabetes work; and cut $10 million from a funding pool for people with disabling medical conditions. It is all very well for members opposite to take about what may, or may not, happen under National, but they do not want to talk about what the previous Government got up to.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Does the Minister share the concern of senior doctors that his insistence on moving some hospital services to primary care has serious risks of clinically inappropriate transfers being made?

Hon TONY RYALL: This Government is seeking to implement the Primary Health Care Strategy, which members opposite think is so fantastic. Fundamental to that strategy is that there should be more hospital-based services in the community. Of course, there are always issues of clinical sustainability, and those are what this Government is tackling. For example, we are tackling the problems we have inherited at the Whanganui District Health Board, where we have real problems with maintaining our workforce and maintaining services. But at least this Government is prepared to deal with them.

Jo Goodhew: What significant announcements is the Minister able to make that support frontline services in public hospitals?

Hon TONY RYALL: Junior doctors are important members of the team that delivers front-line services in our hospitals. This afternoon I will be releasing the report of the RMO (Resident Medical Officer) Commission, chaired by a former State Services Commissioner, Don Hunn. The commission’s report paints quite a grim picture of junior doctors’ experience in our public health system and calls for immediate change. Some research, for example, suggests that junior doctors spend 80 percent of their day doing work for which a medical degree is not necessary. The report calls for urgent improvements to the apprenticeship model and calls for a single, national training body to ensure the training and apprenticeship model drives junior doctor experience.

Hon Ruth Dyson: Does the Minister believe that patients of the MidCentral District Health Board, Whanganui District Health Board, Taranaki District Health Board, South Canterbury District Health Board, Tairāwhiti District Health Board, Counties Manukau District Health Board, Otago District Health Board, and Southland District Health Board, as well as those patients who are affected by the Minister’s cuts to mental health services, diabetes, and cardiovascular services, are receiving the “more convenient health service” he promised?

Hon TONY RYALL: This Government is tackling incredibly big problems that were inherited from the previous Government. That Government cut $150 million from the health budget, very quietly, before the last election. It cut over $110 million of programmes last year, and members opposite do not want New Zealanders to know that this Government has to deal with Labour’s legacy of mismanagement of the New Zealand public health service.

Jo Goodhew: What action is the Government taking to respond to concerns about the front-line health services that are detailed in the report of the RMO (Resident Medical Officer) Commission, given that endless reports have called for the rationalisation of funding and planning of health workforce training and for focusing resources on the front line?

Hon TONY RYALL: It is correct that we have inherited a disjointed and uncoordinated set of resources to deal with the serious and longstanding health workforce crisis. Over the years a raft of reports has been critical of this duplication. The Government is responding to these calls by establishing a Clinical Training Agency board to unify workforce planning in New Zealand. The purpose of the board is to work with the Government to rationalise the myriad of committees, structures, and work groups involved in the funding and planning of health workforce training, to improve front-line services. That training will ultimately be consolidated within the Clinical Training Agency. The Medical Training Board has been disestablished.

Jo Goodhew: What reports has the Minister seen about district health boards and their decisions about how they allocate their funds in relation to services?

Hon TONY RYALL: I have seen a range of reports about the need for district health boards to live within their means. Some of those reports are from Michael Cullen, the previous Minister of Finance, and some are from Annette King, the previous Minister of Health. But probably the most interesting report is one by an Associate Minister who, in July 2004, was defending claims of negligence by the Wellington City Mission relating to the funding for aged care. The then Associate Minister said the way that district health boards allocated funding was not her responsibility. That Associate Minister was Ruth Dyson, yet she stands up every day in this House to ask the Government to take responsibility, when she never would.

Police Staffing—Counties-Manukau

8. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Police: Has she received any progress reports on the Government’s promise to provide 300 extra police for Counties-Manukau?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Yes. I am pleased to advise that the number of front-line police in the Counties-Manukau Police District has increased by 66 since 30 November 2008. In addition, 41 of the 80 recruits due to graduate on 20 August will go to Counties-Manukau.

The Government provided $182.5 million in Budget 2009 for extra police, and I am pleased with the progress to date.

Jonathan Young: Has she received any reports regarding the recruitment of extra police for Counties-Manukau?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes. The New Zealand Police advise that recruitment marketing statistics indicate that the level of interest in policing in Counties-Manukau has never been higher.

During the latest Counties-Manukau recruitment campaign 1,940 people registered for recruitment seminars. This was 77 percent higher than the number of seminar registrations during the same period in 2008. That is a fantastic result.

Jonathan Young: Has she received any information about the people who are expressing an interest in a career with the New Zealand Police?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes. The New Zealand Police are receiving expressions of interest from a wide range of people. For example, the number of people aged 25 and under who have registered for recruitment seminars in Counties-Manukau in the last 2 months stands at 721, which is up from 426 for the same period last year. The number of Māori registrations is 179. That number is up from 73. Pasifika registrations are 387, up from 211. Asian registrations have increased from 103 to 162. Another very good result!

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Is she aware that other police districts around New Zealand are concerned about having to cope with increasing pressure on staff numbers, thanks to this Government’s directive to send most of the new police officers promised and funded by the Labour Government to Counties-Manukau, leaving only about 75 additional police per year to cover the rest of New Zealand?


Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is why this Government is delivering another 300 police for the rest of New Zealand as well. Well done!

Contaminated Sites—National Register

9. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Will he support a publicly accessible national register of contaminated sites; if not, why not?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): That question is identical to the one from the member on 18 June, and my answer is the same. The Resource Management Act makes plain that regional councils have responsibility for monitoring contaminated sites. I see no point in this being duplicated at a national level.

Catherine Delahunty: Does the Ministry for the Environment have a register of contaminated sites; if so, should this register not be made public?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The only records the Ministry for the Environment has on contaminated sites are those for which the ministry has provided funding. That is quite a small list and it is publicly available. It is not available as a published list, but I would be more than happy to provide the member with the names of the sites we are aware of. I would say to the member, in terms of some of the public discourse about this issue, that there is a huge difference between a contaminated site and a potentially contaminated site. Along with my assistance in the release of the information publicly, I urge her to be careful about that differentiation, because there is the potential to do considerable damage to people’s property values by confusing the two.

Chris Auchinvole: What lessons has the new Government taken from the ministry’s experience with the Māpua contaminated site?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I was pleased last week to attend with the member for West Coast - Tasman, a meeting, which he chaired, to release the site auditor’s report on Māpua, which was New Zealand’s worst-contaminated site. The report confirmed that the site is now fit for use and announced further funding of $455,000 for ongoing monitoring. But there are some stiff lessons from Māpua in the critical report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, released last year. Firstly, containment should be considered, because in some cases it is a better option than clean-up. Secondly, the Ministry for the Environment should not have got itself into an operational role with clean-ups as that is not its core area of expertise.

Catherine Delahunty: Does the Minister agree that having around 14 different regional registers around the country is confusing, and would it not be fairer on the public if there was one national register?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It depends what the interest of the public is. If the interest of the public—which I think is important—is for people in their lone area to know what sites are contaminated, I would put it to the member that it would be far more useful to have that information at a regional council level. The idea of a national register may help the Greens to create a massive scare story about contaminated sites, but I am not sure how that serves the public interest.

Prime Minister—Statement

10. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “We may not always agree with what you say, but we will always listen”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.

Charles Chauvel: Does the Prime Minister agree with Keisha Castle-Hughes that telling her to “stick to acting” is really odd, given that he had previously encouraged her to make a submission to the Minister for Climate Change Issues on New Zealand’s pollution reduction target?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister wholeheartedly supports Ms Castle-Hughes’ right to have a view about New Zealand’s climate change policy and her right to publicise that view.

Charles Chauvel: Does the Prime Minister think that actors Lucy Lawless, Robyn Malcolm, and Cliff Curtis, who are also participating in the Sign On campaign, should stick to acting, and has he advised Michael Jones to “stick to rugby and keep out of politics”, or do different rules apply to potential National Party recruits?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: They are all eminent New Zealand actors, and sticking to acting may well be a recipe for further success for them. However, an advertising campaign is not a replacement for serious analysis of the impact of a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. Any serious analysis would tell us that such a reduction would have a very negative impact on our economy and on people’s livelihoods.

Charles Chauvel: Should New Zealanders now assume from the Prime Minister’s put-down of Keisha Castle-Hughes, and from Paula Bennett’s release of private information about two sole parents, that it is OK for Ministers to attack people who disagree with them, and is that what he meant when he said he would set high standards for himself and his Ministers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would have thought that that member would know as much as anyone about the bullying, shutdown tactics of his colleagues, give that he announced his promotion to Parliamentary Under-Secretary, only to find it pulled back the next day.

John Boscawen: Will the Prime Minister listen to the people of New Zealand and adopt my member’s bill, which introduces the Chester Borrows amendment, as a Government bill; if not, why not?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister is a very good listener to the New Zealand people.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Agricultural Sector Research

11. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister of Agriculture: What steps has the Government recently taken to boost research into agricultural emissions?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): This week the Government announced a $10 million 3-year partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the dairy and fertiliser industries in order to research the effectiveness of nitrification inhibitors in reducing agricultural emissions. This vital work, 50 percent of which is funded by the Government, is a significant step towards developing practical tools to aid farmers to reduce their emissions. I commend industry for coming on board and for providing its support for the research work.

Louise Upston: Why has the Government decided to support the partnership?

Hon DAVID CARTER: The Government is committed to finding ways to help farmers reduce their emissions without destocking, and destroying the economy. Nitrification inhibitors offer some potential in this regard, but more detailed work is needed to measure their effectiveness and to ensure farmer buy-in. The work will deliver that information and will help our farmers meet the challenges they face around climate change.

Charles Chauvel: Does the Minister stand by his comments that farmers are on board and are prepared to face the challenges presented by climate change; if so, how does he reconcile those comments with continued statements from farming lobby groups such as Federated Farmers that the emissions trading scheme should be scrapped, the agriculture sector should be exempt, and the Government should set no targets for 2020 carbon pollution reduction?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I stand by my comments. The majority of farmers I meet are well and truly on board and willing to face the challenges. We need assistance and to work with industry to find solutions for how to do it without adopting the Greens’ policy of simply destocking livestock from New Zealand.

Question No. 10. to Prime Minister

CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour): I seek leave to table a speech by Don Nicholson at the recent ACT Party conference, making the statements I referred to in my question.

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

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


Question No. 11 to Minister

Louise Upston: What other work does the Government have going on in this area?

Hon DAVID CARTER: A huge amount of work is going on, and it is an absolute priority of the National Government. We have recently announced the domestic Centre for Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research, and my colleague Tim Groser and I are now working very hard to build support for a global alliance on agricultural greenhouse gas research. On top of that the Primary Growth Partnership, Sustainable Farming Fund, Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, and Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action are all provided with funding for this vital research.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Does the Minister accept DairyNZ’s published conclusion from its research that at a milk payout less than $5.50 a kilo, “increasing the stocking rate and feed supply was no advantage for operating profit.”?

Hon DAVID CARTER: The basis on which farmers make a decision on increasing production is made individually. I cannot accept a generalised statement like the one the member gave.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: What implications does the Minister see for New Zealand’s greenhouse policy for the finding of AgResearch scientists that cows on low-intensity farms produce more milk per cow than those on high-intensity farms, at much lower cost to the farmer and much lower emissions for New Zealand?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I am not familiar with the research to which the member refers, but I have absolute confidence that New Zealanders will produce their product in a greenhouse-efficient manner, more than comparable with producers anywhere else in the world. That is the important factor we have to realise.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table three documents that include the reference for the points the Minister said he was not familiar with. The first is a paper by Dairy NZ, Milk Solids Production and Profit per Hectare.

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.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table a publication in Ecological Economics this year by scientists from AgResearch, which shows that milk production per cow is higher at lower stocking rates.

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.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: I seek leave to table a document called Getting There, which was published on Tuesday by the Green Party and which documents emissions reduction possibilities in a range of areas, including agriculture.

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.

Roading—Roads of National Significance

12. CARMEL SEPULONI (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: What factors were used to determine which highways would be fast tracked as the Government’s roads of national significance?

Hon NATHAN GUY (Associate Minister of Transport) on behalf of the Minister of

Transport: The initial list of roads of national significance identified seven of our most essential routes that have high traffic volumes, and that require work to reduce congestion, improve safety, and support economic growth. Those roads are very important in their respective regions; they rank close to the top of the regions’ priority lists, and are within or adjacent to our five largest centres in terms of population and growth.

Carmel Sepuloni: If the priority for roads of national significance is economic development, then why has Taranaki, with its substantial dairy industry, missed out on upgrades to State Highway 3 between Mōkau and Piopio?

Hon NATHAN GUY: That member will be pleased to know—showing a little bit of interest in the Taranaki region, because she will no doubt be heading there with the Labour caucus next week—that a working party was set up in 2003, led by the Taranaki Regional Council and the three Taranaki district councils. I am ashamed that each year since 2003 the previous Labour Government spent on average only $2 million to $4 million on State Highway 3.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was just going to ask a further supplementary, but I feel that the Minister could do a little better than that in answering that question. It was a reasonable question asking about why a certain State highway was not included and about what the Government plans to do about that highway. I think a little more than we received would be appropriate.

Hon NATHAN GUY: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I just asked the Associate Minister to answer the question. Had the Associate Minister not been critical of the Labour Party, I might have been more forgiving of the way he answered. But if he will not answer the question at all, I would advise him not to get stuck into another party.

Hon NATHAN GUY: In my primary answer, I alluded to the reasons the Government decided to use the particular decision-making process in respect of the roads of national significance. One particular parameter relates to high vehicle volumes, and about 3,000 vehicles travel on that particular route north of Waitara each day. There are also parameters relating to congestion and safety, and to supporting economic growth.

Carmel Sepuloni: Why did the Government decide to bring forward Labour’s Kōpū Bridge replacement project by 1 year, given that it is not a road of national significance, and the bridge’s carriage of primary products for export is insignificant compared to Taranaki’s State Highway 3?

Hon NATHAN GUY: It is a significant investment for the Coromandel region. There is huge economic development. Fifty jobs will be created to work on this bridge, with flow-on benefits of 100 jobs. This Government is getting on with infrastructure, and is improving the economic development of this country.

David Bennett: What progress can the Minister report on accelerating State highway projects?

Hon NATHAN GUY: In addition to the recent announcements about the Victoria Park tunnel and the exciting Kōpū Bridge replacement, the Minister of Transport is in Tauranga today to announce the start of consultation on tolling as a possible means of bringing forward the Tauranga eastern link road. This new road will boost productivity, improve access to the port of Tauranga, and greatly enhance safety. The important point is it will reduce travel time by 24 minutes on a return journey.

Tobacco Point-of-sale Advertising—Effect on Adolescents

13. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Associate Minister of

Health: Has she received any evidence that point-of-sale tobacco advertising increases the likelihood that adolescents will start smoking?

Hon TARIANA TURIA (Associate Minister of Health): Yes.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does she agree with the Minister of Health’s statement that there is no international evidence that shows a clear link between banning tobacco displays and reducing smoking rates?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I am not responsible for the answers that the Minister of Health gives in the House.


Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have been through this on a previous occasion, whereby the Associate Minister of Health has clear, delegated responsibility for tobacco policy. This question is about the views of somebody else on tobacco policy. It does not matter that it happens to be the Minister of Health. It could be any person commenting on tobacco policy. For some inexplicable reason, the Associate Minister will not answer these questions that are being put down to her about tobacco policy. There is no reason for her not to comment on this matter.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the member’s point of order, I think there is even more reason for her to comment on this, than if it was any other person, with due respect to my colleague. The Associate Minister is responsible for the collective views of the Government on this issue. If those views are not the same, if there is differentiation between the Minister of Health and the Associate Minister of Health, then it is the direct responsibility of the Associate Minister of Health in this particular area to get the person who must represent her views in Cabinet on side. I have had complicated relationships with associates myself in the past, and it is very important for the coherence of government for those things to be resolved. In the end the responsibility rests with the person to whom that delegation has been given.

Mr SPEAKER: I thank honourable members. [Interruption] I am still dealing with this point of order. I accept that the honourable member is responding to an interjection from the Hon Gerry Brownlee while I am dealing with this point of order. It is an interesting point of order. The dilemma I have slightly is that an opinion was sought and, therefore, the nature of the answer cannot be that precise. But I think the Minister should have endeavoured to give a reply to the question, even though an opinion was being sought. It is valid to seek an opinion, but as to whether the Minister does not have any responsibility, I think there is some merit in the points that have been made that the Associate Minister has delegations in this area and, therefore, does have responsibility in this area. I invite the member to repeat his question and we will listen to the Minister’s answer.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Associate Minister agree with the Minister of Health’s statement that there is no international evidence that shows a clear link between banning tobacco displays and reducing smoking rates?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I repeat my answer from before, because I do not take responsibility for others who make comments in this portfolio. I am very clear that, yes, I agree with the previous question, and that is what I am responsible for; not for anybody else.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You asked the Minister to address the question. In her answer, she got up and said that she is not planning on doing that because she has no responsibility for it, and she sat down again. We are no clearer about what the Associate Minister with delegated responsibility for tobacco policy thinks about this comment.

Hon TARIANA TURIA: I am very happy to take responsibility for the portfolio that I have and to answer on behalf of that responsibility. I am not prepared to be responsible for the answers that others give.

Mr SPEAKER: If members had listened to the answer that the Associate Minister gave, I think it was pretty clear as to what she was telling the questioner in her answer. It may not have been quite as precise as the member might have wished, but it was very clear to me what the Minister was saying.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was also listening to it very carefully. The Associate Minister actually said that she agreed with the question. That is capable of a lot of interpretation—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient on this matter. I do not know what trouble members are having, but it was very clear to me what the Minister was saying and what view she was expressing.

Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I find myself in a very difficult situation now and I seek your guidance. I attempted to submit a written question to the Minister of Health on this matter and on statements that he has made. The Clerk’s Office responded to me to say that I was not able to do that, and, in fact, the wording I used in this question is precisely the wording that it recommended I use to the Associate Minister.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: A simple way of dealing with this would be for the member to ask a question to the Minister of Health, rather than doing this—[Interruption] They know—

Mr SPEAKER: There is no excuse, just because those members have breached the Standing Orders, for the Minister to do so. I am listening.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I am making the point that the member should simply set down a question asking the Minister of Health what he thinks about it, if it is of such great concern to him. I think that the Associate Minister of Health has made her position abundantly clear.

Hon Darren Hughes: The Leader of the House has been helpful, because it goes to the exact problem we have. The member concerned put down an oral question to the Associate Minister of Health asking about whether she agreed with the view of another Government Minister. The Minister refused to answer the question, using the same excuse that she has used today. My colleague put down a written question to the Minister of Health, who refused to answer the question and sent it back because he does not have delegated responsibility for tobacco policy. So today we put the question to the Associate Minister again, and we are in the same dilemma. The tobacco question, of course, is important, but the secondary issue here for you is how the Opposition can question the Government when different positions are expressed and Ministers say that they simply refuse to comment on what their ministerial colleagues are saying. We have this specific problem, plus I think there is a wider issue here as well for you.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I would simply refer the shadow Leader of the House to many Speakers’ rulings that were made during the period of 2002-05 that dealt with the extraordinary situation we had then when we had members of the Alliance parading in the House as being part of some other party but holding ministerial warrants, with not one Minister wanting to answer any question that might offend the other. In this case, it is quite simple: the Associate Minister of Health has responsibility in this area and has made her views very, very clear to the House today. I ask how any further questions on what Government policy might be can be solicited from any other member, given that other members do not have the responsibility that she has.

Hon Darren Hughes: Speaking further to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Darren Hughes only a little bit further, then I will rule on the matter.

Hon Darren Hughes: First of all, the Alliance party left Parliament in 2002, so I am not quite sure why checking the Hansard from 2002-05 would help in the way that the Leader of the House says it will. Secondly, those were questions about the administration of political parties and they are not allowed, regardless of whether or not a Government is cohesive. But this matter is about Government policy. Further, it is about an area where there is delegated responsibility from one Minister to another. The point we are making is that both Ministers are refusing to answer questions or are creating difficulty for answering questions in this particular respect, and that is where we need your assistance.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any further assistance on this matter. The primary question asked whether the Associate Minister had received any evidence that point-of-sale tobacco advertising increases the likelihood that adolescents will start smoking. If I recollect correctly, I think that the Minister replied “Yes.” to that.

Hon Darren Hughes: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister replied “Yes.” OK, that clears that up. Then the member asking the primary question, by way of a supplementary question, sought an opinion. We know that members cannot expect a yes or no answer on an opinion, but the Minister made it abundantly clear, I thought, to the House what her view was. Members cannot expect a yes or no answer, but in terms of the substantive issue that was laid down as a primary question, the House knows the answer to it.

The Minister has been commendably clear and could not have been more clear. If all questions were as simple, and answers were as clear, then it would be very helpful. The Minister was commendably clear on her answer. One could argue, therefore, that there is not even any need for further supplementary questions, because supplementary questions are meant to elucidate primary questions. The member asking the question then went on to seek an opinion. The Minister was not quite so clear in answering on that opinion, although I think it was very clear what the Minister was actually saying. The member has a further supplementary and I will not hear further points of order on the matter.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I respect what you just said about not hearing further points of order on the matter, but you have explained, and we have been consulting here, as to the exact meaning of “I agree with the question”. You said that that is absolutely clear, but we do not understand what that means.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member does not understand what the Minister is saying then I cannot help him. It was abundantly clear to me and I do not intend to litigate the matter further. The Minister was obviously confirming what she said before that in respect of the substantive question, she had evidence of that, and that is what she confirmed. Does the member wish to ask a further supplementary question?

Iain Lees-Galloway: Has the Minister of Health changed his position on tobacco displays since stating in the House on 4 March that “there is no international evidence that shows a clear link between banning tobacco displays and reducing smoking rates.”; if so, what is his current stance?

Mr SPEAKER: I do not know how the Minister can be expected to answer that because the supplementary question was directed to the Minister of Health when the substantive question was directed to the Associate Minister of Health. The member asked whether the Minister of Health has changed his opinion. I do not believe the member can ask the Associate Minister that. Rather than penalise the member a supplementary question, I am very happy for him to rephrase it.

[Interruption] I am trying to deal with a difficult issue. Because this matter is not an easy one to deal with, I do not want to penalise the member a supplementary question and I am very happy for him to rephrase his supplementary question.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry to relitigate matters. It is my submission to you that the Associate Minister responsible for this area, in the delegated responsibilities, could answer that supplementary question. If the Minister has changed his view and she is aware of that, she can say yes, or she can say no—

Mr SPEAKER: I do not want to take more of the House’s time. If the member had asked “Has the Associate Minister been advised ... ” then that would be fine because it would then be a matter of whether she received such advice. But to ask her point blank about a matter relating specifically to the Minister of Health is clearly not something she can answer. The member can rephrase his supplementary question.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Minister currently support a ban on point-of-sale of tobacco advertising; if so, has she prepared any Cabinet papers or draft legislation to advance her policy position?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Yes, I agree with the question. I have been opposed to tobacco sales in the shops and I have been discussing this matter with the Minister and also with the Prime Minister.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How are the supplementary questions for this being allocated? Can you assure us that they were held back from the quota that Labour used yesterday?

Mr SPEAKER: I can assure the honourable Minister that I am following the numbers of supplementary questions very carefully. At this point I believe that the Labour Party has used 31 out of a possible 33 supplementary questions.


Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Associate Minister expect a Government bill to be introduced that would bring about the ban on tobacco displays?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: Certainly, that is an option.

Question No. 3 to Minister

Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills): In answer to a supplementary question during question No. 3, the Acting Prime Minister advised the House that New Zealand’s unemployment rate in 2005 was as it is today—6 percent. I seek leave to table the household labour force survey for 2005. The survey shows that in the first quarter the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent, in the second quarter it was 3.7 percent, in the third quarter it was 3.7 percent, and in the fourth quarter it was 3.6 percent.

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

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

Hon RUTH DYSON: I seek leave to table the household labour force survey from June 2000, which is the last time—

Mr SPEAKER: The member should not go on for too long on these matters. She has sought leave to table the household labour force survey from June 2000. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is no objection.

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

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): I seek leave to table the household labour force survey for 2008, where for three consecutive quarters the unemployment rate rose under the previous Labour Government.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? I heard objection. There is objection to that document being tabled.

QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS

Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill—Report Back

1. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Chairperson of the Law

and Order Committee: When will the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill be reported back to the House?

SANDRA GOUDIE (Chairperson of the Law and Order Committee): The report-back date to the House is 26 September 2009.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Will the chairperson invite Ministry of Justice officials to appear before the Law and Order Committee before it reports back, to explain their input into the departmental report on the Corrections (Contract Management of Prisons) Amendment Bill; if not, why not?

SANDRA GOUDIE: That will be a matter for the committee to determine.

Carmel Sepuloni: I seek leave to table my letter to you, Mr Speaker, outlining my concerns at the behaviour of ACT MP David Garrett at the Law and Order Committee yesterday.

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

Hon Hon Member: Yes.

Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon? Point of order, the Hon Clayton Cosgrove—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: We’re in the middle of a point of order.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: OK.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I will hear the Hon Clayton Cosgrove. Does the Hon Clayton Cosgrove want to make a point of order?

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: No, I have said I will hear the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, you’re making up new rules.

Mr SPEAKER: The Leader of the House will resume his seat right now. Thank you. I have said I will hear the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Just to be helpful, you were very generous in asking whether there was objection to the leave, and you gave an extended period of time for that. There was no objection.

You were about to put that, and an objection allegedly came from somewhere. I put it to you that you had already embarked on that course. There was no objection. The letter should be tabled.

Mr SPEAKER: Members might note that in fact I had not ruled one way or the other on the matter. The reason why I was hesitating was that I was a little uncertain about the procedures around the tabling of members’ letters to the Speaker. It is not a common request, and the kinds of dangers that might be entered into were going through my mind, were members to seek leave to table letters to the Speaker. I guess if it is the member’s own letter, then that is a matter for the member to decide. Forgive me; I was not waiting for someone to object. I was pondering on the potential risks around putting such leave to the House. On reflection, given that it is the member’s own letter and therefore I cannot see any particular—

Dr Paul Hutchison: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was a lot of noise down this end of the Chamber, and in fact right throughout the Chamber, yet through it all came a very clear and loud negation from the chairman of the committee, indicating that she did not want the letter to be tabled.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was not going to comment, but the member’s recollection is clearly not the case for anyone sitting on this side of the Chamber. The House was absolutely silent. I was surprised at just how long you waited. You appeared to be looking around. You have explained what the reason was for that. But I think to try to argue that there was a lot of noise in the House and you could not hear Sandra Goudie interjecting is just not credible. You then started to say that the letter could be tabled. In fact, so much time had elapsed that my colleague was able to deliver the letter to the Chamber officers for it to be tabled. I do not think that is correct at all.

Mr SPEAKER: We are getting into some difficulty here. I will hear from the ACT Party, which we have not heard from yet.

John Boscawen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I heard Sandra Goudie say “yes” on at least two occasions, and possibly on three. Although Mr Hughes may not have heard her, I certainly did, and I can attest to that fact.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to hear any further on this. The issues that I need to consider are clear. Let me make it very clear to the House that I was not waiting for anyone. I was trying to reflect, because I think this is the first time that I have been asked to seek leave for a member’s letter to the Speaker to be tabled. That is something I was pondering on. I think the only way I can resolve this—and it is my fault we got into this, by my pondering on the issue—is to ask the member who objected whether she objected promptly on my putting the leave to the House. I have to rely on a member’s word. I obviously did not hear the member immediately, but members at the back of the House say that she did object. I believe that the only way I can handle the matter is to rely on the member’s goodwill.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have an alternative approach.

Members over there have made it very clear that the member did object. I think we have to take their word. I think that if we have the precedent of asking for the word of other members, then it will get pretty unhealthy.

Mr SPEAKER: On that basis, I invite the member to seek leave again. This time, I ask, if any member does object, that it be dealt with promptly. Letters to the Speaker relating to matters of privilege cannot be referred to in debate, but I do not see any procedural problem in this matter. I will hear from the Hon Gerry Brownlee, having been pretty blunt with him previously.


Hon Gerry Brownlee: I think the problem, Mr Speaker, is that you yourself have just said you hesitated because you were surprised that a member wanted to table a letter that had been sent to you. I presume that it is a matter of privilege that has been raised.

Mr SPEAKER: I have to be honest with the member. I do not know whether it is.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: There is a procedure around that, as you know. A member writes to the Speaker and provides a copy of the letter to the person who is the subject of the privileges complaint. If this is allowed to proceed, then we destroy that whole process, because people will simply come into the Chamber and table documents that outline an allegation against one member or another, and therefore as a document tabled in Parliament it becomes completely public before members on the other side have any opportunity whatsoever to respond. I think it would be an appalling situation if the House allows this to happen today.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to hear any further on this issue. I believe the point raised by the Hon Gerry Brownlee is a very fair one. If members start using letters to the Speaker to try to make political points, and if members publicise those letters prior to the ability of the Speaker to consider them, the whole system will start to break down. I make it very clear to the House that as Speaker I take a very dim view of that. Members seeking the Speaker to give favourable consideration to an issue around a breach of privilege damage their case very seriously when they make the matter public before the Speaker has had the chance to deal with it.

I think the point raised by the Hon Gerry Brownlee is a very valid one, and that is why I hesitated as I put the leave being sought. I think this is a serious issue, and I want the House to reflect on it. That is why I am prepared to have the member seek leave again.

We have had this consideration under points of order, which I think is a very fair consideration because it is a very important issue that we are dealing with. Matters of privilege are important matters. Communications with the Speaker are very important matters, and they are not matters that should be used to score political points in the media prior to the Speaker’s consideration of them.

Having had that consideration, I think all members now have the chance to reflect on the matter and to deliberate on the leave being sought. Members have a perfect right to seek leave to table whatever documents they believe they wish to seek leave to table. I think that is the best way to deal with the matter now.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With due respect, I think the matter about whether a document, a letter to you regarding privilege, is released is a matter for the person who wrote the letter or even for the person who received it. I agree with you that it is unlikely to get favourable consideration from you, or that it is likely to be a factor that you take into account when considering it. But there have been dozens of occasions over the years where the press statement has been around the gallery with a letter attached before the complaint has made it to the member who has been complained about. That tends to indicate that it is more political than something with a serious hope of succeeding at the Privileges Committee, or something that is unlikely to even reach the committee, but I submit to you that that is a matter for the member who wrote the letter and/or the member who was complained about. Either of them has the right to release it, and I am slightly anxious at your suggestion that it would be completely wrong for them to do so.

Mr SPEAKER: I hear what the member has said. I accept absolutely the point that the Hon Trevor Mallard makes, which is that it is perfectly within the existing Standing Orders for a member to do that. I have no argument with that. I believe it undermines the procedures of the House, though, and maybe it is something that the House should consider in future consideration of the Standing Orders. Anything that undermines the procedures of the House is not good. It is a practice that used not to happen years ago, but it has tended to happen more. I think on this occasion the best way, now that there has been a reflective period on the matter and the House is in a position to do so, is for the House to decide whether it will give leave for this letter to be tabled. The member should seek leave again, and I invite Carmel Sepuloni to do that.


Carmel Sepuloni: I seek leave to table my letter to you, Mr Speaker, outlining my concerns about the behaviour of ACT MP David Garrett at the select committee yesterday.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Question No. 3 to Minister

Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I have a clarification that under the Standing Orders, Ministers are still required to correct incorrect information given in an answer at the earliest possible opportunity after that information has been corrected? Is that still the Standing Order?

Mr SPEAKER: It is a matter for the Minister and it should be done at the earliest opportunity.

There are other remedies if the member believes that a Minister has deliberately misled the House, but once the Minister is aware that an answer that was given was incorrect, he or she should— although it is up to him or her—seek to correct the answer.


ENDS

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