Questions and Answers - 24 Nov 2009
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) TUESDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2009
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Emissions Trading Scheme—Costs to Taxpayers
1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his comment that Treasury estimates that the Government’s emissions trading scheme could cost taxpayers $110 billion are “nonsense”; if so, what is a more accurate estimate?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes; a more accurate estimate is that the Government’s emissions trading scheme will be broadly fiscally neutral.
Hon Phil Goff: Why was Treasury’s advice not “nonsense” when Cabinet relied on its figures in a Cabinet paper to approve the legislation before this House, but wrong when exactly the same people revised those figures, acknowledged that they had got it wrong, and told him that the scheme would actually impose a debt on New Zealand of $110 billion and on each and every New Zealand family of $92,000?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Although I will not take the House’s time to dispute what are arguable points raised as facts in the question from the Leader of the Opposition, the fact is that whatever figure one might like to strike is entirely dependent on the price of carbon. In the case of the $110 billion, it was because Treasury chose at that time to raise the price from NZ$25 per tonne of carbon to NZ$50 per tonne; that is a very imprecise economics. We can tell members that the Government’s emissions trading scheme will be, broadly speaking, fiscally neutral.
Hon Phil Goff: What is the Prime Minister’s response to his former chief of staff Richard Long’s comments this morning that the legislation was a “dog of a bill” and that he should “pull the plug” on it; and when his friends are saying that as well as his opponents, is it not time that he started to listen to them?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The response to Mr Long’s comments and to the question of the Leader of the Opposition is to ask him to come in and we will talk about it.
Hon Phil Goff: Why does he disagree with respected economics commentators like Brian Fallow when they state strongly that the message of this legislation to polluters is “Go for your life … Don’t worry about the cost of those emissions. Someone else will pay for almost all of it.”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: All of the assumptions around the future cost of the emissions trading scheme depend on the price of carbon. It is very important that New Zealand has a system that puts a price on carbon in the first place. The Leader of the Opposition would, of course, react negatively to the suggestion that if we stuck with the Labour law that is there at the moment, jobs will be exported from exactly those people to other countries where there are less pernicious regimes. We do not think shutting the New Zealand economy down is the way to go. We think a fair balance, which this bill achieves, will be good for New Zealand, and will keep us on a growth agenda—something Labour agreed to.
Hon Phil Goff: In rejecting the advice of Helen Aikman QC, the foremost expert in this area to the Crown Law Office, that “there is no evidence of a breach of the Crown’s obligations under the deed of settlement”, what legal advice did he rely on when he decided to offer millions of dollars from the taxpayer to five iwi incorporations in order to obtain Māori Party votes to pass this legislation?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I ask the Leader of the Opposition what is wrong with an arrangement that recognises the good-faith aspect of Treaty settlements. No one could have known some years out exactly what an emissions trading scheme was going to do to the value of iwi assets.
I think we should be acknowledging the relative generosity of iwi in accepting that they will take over responsibility for planting indigenous forests on otherwise vacant conservation land.
Hon Phil Goff: Can the Prime Minister confirm that the figure on the cost of carbon emissions that was relied upon to reach the settlement with the iwi corporations was exactly the same figure given by Treasury that he rejected in a question a moment ago?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Hon Phil Goff: What are the cost estimates that he has received for the concessions made to the iwi corporations over the lifetime of those concessions in order to get Māori Party support for this legislation?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Let us be very, very clear about this. The life of this particular project is 70 years. Anyone who expects to make an accurate prediction over 70 years is seriously deluded. The experience of the previous Labour Government is that it could not predict the deficit from one year to the next, so I do not think that the call for accuracy is in any way reasonable. I tell the member that in today’s dollars, whatever those might end up becoming, it is $25 million.
Emissions Trading Scheme—Amendments
2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he agree with Dr Rhys Jones of Ngāti Kahungunu, a senior lecturer at Auckland University, who stated yesterday that the proposed emissions trading scheme will “do nothing to incentivise reductions in emissions, but will instead give powerful and vocal corporate emitters a licence to threaten the future for our tamariki and mokopuna.”; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): No, I do not. The scheme will incentivise emissions reductions with a price on carbon from 1 July next year across the industrial, transport, and energy sectors. I also think it is quite misleading to refer to the allocations under the scheme as “a licence for vocal corporate emitters to pollute” when, in fact, 80 percent of the allocations are for farmers. A disproportionate amount of our farm land is owned by Māori, and we should be concerned about the economic as well as the environmental future of our mokopuna.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it not the case that his changes to the emissions trading scheme will result in a lower price for greenhouse emissions, and is he of the view that a lower price for greenhouse emissions will result in more emissions or fewer?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This scheme is a balance between price and how much progress we want to make on climate change. We have made a decision that a 10 percent increase in power price next year is too much. We have made a decision that a $400 million extra cost on business next year would result in a loss of jobs. We are saying that we will halve the cost in the transition. The contradiction I find from members opposite is that only on the weekend a Labour MP was saying that he was concerned about power price increases. If so, he should vote for our bill.
Dr Russel Norman: The question was quite specific.
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order?
Dr Russel Norman: The point of order is that the Minister did not address the question, which was about whether it would result in more emissions or fewer. It is a simple question.
Mr SPEAKER: The thing is that with a question like that there might not be a simple yes or no answer. I think the Minister reasonably comprehensively attempted to answer the member’s
question. If that is the crucial matter, the member has a number of further supplementary questions with which to pursue it further.
Metiria Turei: Does the Minister share the concerns of Dr Jones that the impact of this deeply flawed legislation will be felt most sharply by Māori communities, and the concerns of OraTaiao: New Zealand Climate and Health that the proposed emissions trading scheme will threaten funding for critical health and social services that are relied on by Māori communities, which are the most vulnerable?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the amendments we are making and the sensible emissions trading scheme we are putting in place recognise that for Māori, as for other New Zealanders, we need to carefully balance our economic and environmental policies. That is what this scheme does. The great difficulty is that if we want to go ahead and impose higher costs on New Zealanders, we will add substantially to the incentive for industries to be exported, taking jobs with them, and doing absolutely nothing for the important challenge around climate change.
Aaron Gilmore: What advice has the Minister received on the claim by some that “this deal will cost Kiwi families $110 billion in payments to big corporate polluters”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That statement is a gross distortion of officials’ advice, in three respects. First, these numbers are based on the existing emissions trading scheme’s generating surplus profits of $50 billion between 2018 and 2050. We campaigned on amending the emissions trading scheme to make it fiscally neutral. These changes mean a loss of revenue to Government, rather than a cost to families. Second, $60 billion is added to this figure by assuming the superprofits of about $2 billion each year are invested and earn compound interest. This assumption contradicts the previous Government’s policy that the revenues would be spent on other climate change initiatives. We cannot both earn interest and spend the money at the same time. The last point I make is that, far from being big corporate polluters, 80 percent of this figure is with respect to farmers—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I cannot hear the Minister’s answer.
Members have asked a number of questions around this particular issue of the $110 billion figure.
The Minister is giving the House some information on it. I think the House might be interested. I want to hear the rest of the Minister’s answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The third distortion is claims of big corporate polluters in respect of the $50 billion. I say that 80 percent of this figure is derived from farmers. Members opposite are really saying that they would take $40 billion more from farmers—New Zealand’s most important export industry.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister share the concerns of respected economic commentator Brian Fallow that his proposed emissions trading scheme “pretty much guarantees that the peak in emissions will be higher and come later than would otherwise be the case.” under the existing legislation?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That question comes to the core issue of balance. It is this Government’s view that the existing emissions trading scheme bears too big a cost relative to New Zealand’s fair share. National campaigned on a policy not of New Zealand being a world leader—
Mr SPEAKER: I supported the Minister a moment ago when he was giving a clear answer to a question. The member just asked a very specific question about whether the Minister agreed with Mr Brian Fallow about when the peak in carbon emissions might arise, given the legislation that the Minister is promoting. The Minister is ignoring the question, and is explaining why he believes his legislation is good. I ask him to actually answer the question that he has been asked.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is true that there is a direct link between the costs that we impose and how much incentive there is to reduce emissions.
Dr Russel Norman: Still not giving a clear answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Let me finish.
Dr Russel Norman: How about “Yes.”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, because the answer is not yes. I do not agree, and I will tell members why. Over the first 10 years of the scheme, to 2018, the costs that are being imposed under this scheme are actually about the same as those of the existing scheme.
John Boscawen: Was the Minister of Māori Affairs correct when he told the Wellington chamber of commerce breakfast this morning that the Treaty clause was agreed on just 18 minutes before the deal was announced; if not, how many minutes was it?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have always made it quite clear that there are ongoing discussions with the Māori Party. We have been working on alternative Treaty clauses for several weeks, and I believe that the Treaty clause we have agreed on with the Māori Party provides an appropriate balance.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was sitting between the Minister and the member who asked the question. Because of the noise I could not hear the answer on whether 18 minutes was right. I ask your permission for the Minister to answer the question without the noise.
Mr SPEAKER: The member has made a perfectly fair point of order; I could not hear the Minister’s answer, either. I ask the Minister please to answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Māori Party put a proposition to us. We sought Crown Law advice.
We finally came back to the Māori Party after receiving Crown Law advice to agree on the Treaty clause that is included in the Māori Party’s Supplementary Order Paper.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have now heard the answer, and it is very clear that the Minister has not addressed the question. He said that there was a negotiation and they had an agreement, but the specific question asked whether the Minister of Māori Affairs was correct when he said that the Treaty clause was agreed on 18 minutes before it was made public.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Is the Minister speaking to the point of order?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am happy to clarify.
Mr SPEAKER: I think a fair question has been asked, and I accept that the Minister did not actually answer the question. It may be the Minister’s judgment that it is not in the public interest, but it is up to the Minister to answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I understand that the agreement was reached at about 1 o’clock. The Treaty clause was not released publicly until this morning.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: Why did he misinform New Zealanders on Checkpoint yesterday, claiming that the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart home insulation scheme is not reaching enough lowincome families, when the latest statistics released last week by Minister Brownlee indicate that some 75 percent of the money spent so far has gone to community services cardholders, which means that the extra $24 million in this package will make no difference, at all, to the rate at which low-income homes can be insulated? [Interruption] Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Minister, I say that I accept that all these questions are in the general area of the emissions trading scheme, but this question is an awfully long stretch from the primary question. However, in the interests of advancing question time, I am happy for the Minister to answer it.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This will be the very first time in the House that I have heard the Green Party argue that spending an extra $24 million—
Metiria Turei: It’s the same money!
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, it is not. I assure the Green Party that this is an additional appropriation over and above the $323 million, which will see an additional 8,000 low-income households insulated. I am surprised the Green Party would be against that.
John Boscawen: Can he confirm as correct the Minister of Māori Affairs’ statement to the Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce that the Treaty clause was important to the Māori
Party because most of the detail for the deal with Māori is to be implemented through regulation rather than the bill, and therefore is still up in the air and not subject to any parliamentary or public scrutiny?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The agreement—[Interruption] Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister, but I want to hear the answer. I ask for interjections to be reasonable.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: National agreed to a Treaty clause being included in the legislation at the time of the first reading of the Climate Change Response (Moderated Emissions Trading) Amendment Bill. The legislation has processes for regulations for all New Zealanders that require consultation. It is true that some of the most important decisions on the emissions trading scheme are in those regulations. This Government has committed to consulting Māori on those regulations; that is right and proper.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the proposed changes to the emissions trading scheme result in New Zealand’s greenhouse emissions increasing or decreasing between now and 2050?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This Government has a target of reducing our net emissions to 50 percent of our 1990 levels by 2050. This emissions trading scheme will contribute to that important objective. I note, though, that reducing emissions is incredibly challenging, given that in the 9 years of the previous Government, which was supported by the Green Party, emissions went up every single year.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You asked me to ask a very direct question. I asked as direct a question as one could possibly imagine, but the Minister has not answered it. He talked about the target, which is fine, but I asked whether the changes to the emissions trading scheme would increase or decrease emissions.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the honourable member. His question was, commendably, to the point.
He asked whether the changes to the emissions trading scheme would likely result in an increase or decrease of emissions to 2050. That was the question, and the Minister did not actually answer it.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The emissions trading scheme will see New Zealand’s emissions reduce over time. The advice that I have received applies only as far as 2020. My advice is that by 2020 the emissions trading scheme will result in New Zealand’s net emissions being 10 million tonne less than they would be without the emissions trading scheme.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific. It asked about the proposed changes to the emissions trading scheme. The Minister is trying to avoid the question by talking about just the emissions trading scheme. That was not the question.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the honourable member. He is absolutely correct. The question asked about whether the proposed changes to the emissions trading scheme that is currently in law will result in an increase or a decrease in estimated emissions through to 2050. That was the question asked, and I think the member asking the question has a reasonable right to have an answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: For the period that can reasonably be projected, the amended emissions trading scheme will make as much progress in reducing emissions as the existing scheme.
Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen the opinion piece in the Sunday Star-Times from Rod Oram entitled “A costly exercise in hypocrisy”; if so, is the endangered species referred to in the caption the panda or him?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I simply note that this Parliament has been arguing for 15 years trying to get a pricing tool to make New Zealand’s climate change policy credible. I have worked hard to introduce a carbon price next year. I will be the first climate change Minister to achieve that, and it will be a substantive step forward.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Speaker will have heard reference in question No. 2 to a Treaty clause in the emissions trading scheme legislation, which we will move on to immediately after question time. I have looked again at all of the Supplementary Order
Papers from both sides of the House, and I cannot see that amendment. I was wondering whether I could be informed as to whether one has been tabled.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a valid point of order for question time. I am sure the matter will be dealt with in due course.
Emissions Trading Scheme—Amendments
3. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What reports has he received in respect of the amended emissions trading scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): I have heard reports from the Greens that the amended scheme is insufficient to protect the environment, and reports from ACT that it would wreak the economy. The criticisms made by commentators are about equal in both directions, suggesting that we have got the balance about right. National campaigned on a balanced approach, and that is exactly what we are delivering.
Craig Foss: What was the provision in the contract with Ngāi Tahu and other iwi that has led the Government to reach an agreement on carbon farming on the conservation estate?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The contract provision in the Ngāi Tahu settlement specifically required the disclosure of any information that would have a material effect on the properties selected. I reject the Opposition parties’ claims that the amended scheme is showing preferential treatment for Māori parties. Let us say that any forest or any other Crown property had been sold to a corporate—nothing to do with the Treaty—with the same disclosure requirements and a subsequent loss of value of between $70 million and $120 million. I do not think a member of this House would be so naive as to not expect that corporate to take, or consider taking, legal action against the Crown.
Craig Foss: Is it correct that “Crown Law advice suggests ‘there is no evidence of a breach’ of the Crown’s obligations.’ ”, as claimed in Phil Goff’s press release yesterday?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, that is not correct. The official advice was, and let me read it out directly: “Crown Law has advised that it cannot rule out the risk that there may have been a failure by the Crown to disclose relevant information as part of the property selection process. The disclosure provisions in the deed of settlement could have been breached.” It is on this basis that the previous Government agreed to try to negotiate a resolution of this issue with Ngā Tahu, and it is a bit opportunistic for Labour to now criticise us for doing just that.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to clarify—were the last two sentences from Dr Smith a quote from Crown Law?
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately. The member will sit down immediately. I ask the member how he thinks it assists the order of the House for him to not resume his seat when I am on my feet calling for order. I invite the member to reflect, or he will be taking an early shower. I warn him that the abuse of the point of order system is something I will not tolerate.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am reluctant to intervene after you have ruled on my colleague, but I think there was accidental confusion from the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will now resume his seat. I realise he has been away from the House for a few days—[Interruption] Hon Trevor Mallard: That is out of order, too.
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet. The reason why I chose to do that is that I do not appreciate members, even the Hon Trevor Mallard, thinking he can get away with that when I have made it very clear that the point of order process cannot be used in that way. He will not get away with that.
That is the end of matter. I have ruled on it. I make it very clear, and if someone wants to leave the Chamber, it will be fine.
Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Minister just make the claim that he did in answer to last question, when it is very clear from the Crown Law opinion that “Firstly, there is, however, no evidence that
any material information on the emissions trading scheme was withheld from Ngāi Tahu.”, and when the concluding paragraph makes it absolutely clear: “conclude that there is no evidence of a breach of the Crown’s obligations under the deed of settlement.”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There are different views from the QC—not Crown Law; the QC who was commissioned by the previous Government. I say to the member opposite that the quote that I read—and I will read it again. This is the official advice to the Government, and I will read it for the House’s benefit: “Crown Law has advised that it cannot rule out a risk that there may have been a failure by the Crown to disclose relevant information as part of the property selection process. The disclosure provisions in the deed of settlement could have been breached.”
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister is quoting from the official document, might it be tabled please?
Mr SPEAKER: Indeed, if the Minister was quoting from an official document. It is requested that that document be tabled if it is an official document.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: To clarify whether it is official.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, just to clarify the situation. The quote I have came from a Cabinet paper. I do not have the Cabinet paper with me. I have the quote that was taken from the Cabinet paper. I am happy to table the piece of paper that I have in the House, if that is your wish.
Mr SPEAKER: An interesting issue has arisen. The Standing Orders, as I understand them—
and I stand to be corrected here—actually require a document that is being quoted to be tabled; not just a passage from the document. Unless I am challenged, I ask the Minister to table the paper from which the quote is taken, when it is available.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yes, it is available. There is a difficulty, and I want to be very upfront with the House. The normal convention in the release of such advice of Cabinet papers is that the Opposition first be consulted. I am assuming that members opposite are relaxed about the release of that Cabinet paper.
Hon David Parker: Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Since it is an interesting issue, I will hear from the Hon David Parker.
Hon David Parker: I was the relevant Minister at the time, and I would consent to that being released.
Mr SPEAKER: It appears, as I understand the Standing Orders, that the paper should be tabled when the Minister can get it.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just need to check this point, because it is important: the Crown has reached an agreement in principle with Ngāi Tahu—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: That’s a debating point.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, it is not; it is an important point. There is legal advice—not in that paragraph but in but other parts of that document; not in that quote, but other parts of that document—that might be prejudicial to the Crown’s interests. Mr Speaker, are you requiring that even those passages in that document, which may be prejudicial to the Crown’s interests, must be tabled in the House?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is highly desirable that this whole issue gets taken off-line and dealt with—[Interruption] Let us be clear. The convention is that one Government’s Cabinet papers [Interruption] That is quite right—the Standing Orders do make some provisions about documents that the Minister has in the House with him. The difficulty here is that the quote was from a document clearly from a previous Cabinet, and the member will know well the convention is that documents like that are released only with the permission of the previous Cabinet. The former Minister has said that he is comfortable with releasing that. I think it would be wise if all parties have a look at the entire document before we proceed down this particular track. I want to add further that I do not think the Standing Orders were ever put in place to defeat some of the principles that enable executive Government to operate in a country like this.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The points raised by the Leader of the House are actually red herrings. Standing Order 367 is very clear. It states: “Whenever a Minister quotes from a document relating to public affairs a member may, on a point of order, require the Minister to table the document. …” There is only one exception in the Standing Order and that is if the document is confidential. We have heard the genesis of the document. It is a Cabinet paper from the previous administration. The previous Minister consents to tabling it, so does the Opposition spokesperson. There is simply no objection or practical reason why the Minister’s offer to table the document should not be accepted.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Standing Order 367 also states—
and it is very important—that “unless it is of a confidential nature.”
Hon Member: We just heard that.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: That is right; let me finish the point. In respect of confidentiality, we would normally use the test of the Official Information Act. The Official Information Act makes it quite plain that those documents that would pose risk to the Crown by their release should not be released.
Hon Member: You were—
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No; let me make it plain. I commit to releasing the part of the Cabinet paper that I quoted. I will check with Crown Law as to whether there are any other parts of the document that would not be released normally under the Official Information Act as per the provision in Standing Order 367. [Interruption] Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any further assistance on this matter. I thank members, because it is an interesting issue that has arisen. I kick myself for not having been quite as familiar with some Speaker’s rulings as perhaps I should have been. Three Speakers have addressed this issue previously: Speaker Harrison in 1979, Speaker Kidd in 1998, and Speaker Hunt in 2000. Speaker’s ruling 138/1 argues that in fact if the Minister has the entire document and quotes from it the Minister can be required to table the entire document. However, the Speaker’s ruling states: “If an extract or portion of an official document is quoted, the Minister can be required to table that extract or portion only and does not have to go away and procure the whole document for tabling in the House.” I blame myself for not having picked up on that earlier, and that would seem, I must say, to show my earlier ruling was not valid; it was incorrect. What the Minister should be required to table is the document from which he quoted today. I ask the Minister to do that. I think the discussion has been an interesting one, and I thank members who have contributed to that worthwhile point of order.
Craig Foss: What advice has the Minister received on the valuation of the agreement with some iwi, and how do that compare with statements made by Charles Chauvel on Sunday that it will cost taxpayers $50 million per year, that that is a very conservative estimate, and that it adds another $2 billion to the cost of National’s emissions trading scheme amendments?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Officials advise a total value of $25 million, compared to the valuation of Ngāi Tahu’s loss and claim, undertaken by the previous Government, of between $70 million and $130 million. This $25 million value is sensitive to the price of carbon and is based on $25 per tonne until 2013, and $50 per tonne thereafter. The $2 billion claim by Mr Chauvel is almost 100 times the official advice, and for him to describe the claim as very conservative makes Labour look hysterical and financially illiterate.
Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen Brian Fallow’s conclusion that his changes to the emissions trading scheme tell polluters not worry about the cost of emissions because someone else will pay for almost all of it; and how is it fair to make taxpayers carry 84 percent of the cost of his emissions trading scheme, as the Sustainability Council calculates?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, I do no agree with that analysis. I point out to the House that the scheme we are implementing in New Zealand is very close to that of Australia. I say to commentators like Mr Fallow and the members opposite that if they want to make those criticisms
of this Government’s scheme, they must make all the same criticisms of the scheme that is being put in place in Australia.
Youth Unemployment—Minister’s Statements
4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social
Development and Employment: Does she stand by all her statements on youth unemployment?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes.
Hon Annette King: Last week she claimed that more than 4,000 places had been created under Job Ops and Community Max; how many of the places created have actually been filled by young unemployed people?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I did talk about over 4,000 places having been created. It is quite simple to understand, really. I am talking about Jobs Ops; I am talking about real opportunities for young people from real employers and real jobs.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How many?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have created over 2,048 Job Ops places; of those, 1,847 have been filled. There are 1,743 places on Community Max, of which 981 have already been filled. In fact, it takes an average of 6 days to fill a Job Ops place, and I for one think that is pretty impressive.
Hon Annette King: Why does she continue to say that since Job Ops and Community Max were launched in August, those programmes alone have created more than 4,000 employment opportunities, when barely half of that number of positions have been filled; and does not this sort of disingenuous representation of statistics belittle the real impact that unemployment is having on our young people?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would not agree with “barely half”. We are talking about 1,847 positions already filled under Job Ops, and 981 places already filled under the other scheme. As I said, it takes 6 days on average to fill a Jobs Op place, which I think is pretty impressive. The Opposition might not like to hear it, but for 8 weeks we have had the number of young people on the unemployment benefit going down; there are more coming off than going on, and that is a goodnews story.
Tim Macindoe: What is the Government doing to help students find work over the summer?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The other announcement I made today is that there will be up to $1 million worth of funding for Student Job Search. Over 160,000 students are already registered with Student Job Search. We believe that investing in this campaign will increase opportunities for those students. We want to get every single job we can for our students, who are competing for jobs in a very tight market at the moment.
Hon Annette King: Why is she claiming that Job Ops has been successful in stabilising youth unemployment, when only around 1,600 young people have actually filled such positions, and the number of youth on the unemployment benefit has gone up by over 8,000 in 7 months?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I know that the Opposition obviously has pre-done its questions, but let me give the House that number again: 1,847 places have been filled, not 1,600 like the member mentioned. To be clear, for 8 weeks in a row we have seen the number of those aged under 24 on the unemployment benefit going down. That tells us that what we are doing is working.
Hon Annette King: Did she advise the Prime Minister before he flew into Katikati on a New Zealand Air Force helicopter that the business he was using for a publicity shot had laid off 5 young people aged between 17 and 19 just weeks before, and had paid them each $500 in what has been described as hush money; and has she been assured by the Ministry of Social Development that it will ensure that no young person is re-employed by that company using Job Ops?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What I did hear about the Prime Minister’s visit to Katikati is that it helped promote job opportunities in that area. Employers stepped up and were very pleased to hear
him tell them how the economy is going, and to hear more about this Government’s initiatives, which are incredibly positive and going down very well.
Youth Unemployment—Job Ops Scheme
5. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for Social Development and
Employment: What is the Government doing to help young people into work?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Today we announced 2,000 new places on our highly successful Job Ops scheme. This is on top of the 4,000 places that we announced in August. With Community Max this Government has created 9,000 opportunities for our young people since August. We are proud that businesses all over the country are stepping up to take advantage of the scheme.
Katrina Shanks: Why is the Minister extending the Job Ops scheme for young unemployed people?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: It has been so successful that we expect all the places will have been filled by early next year. Employers are stepping up and giving thousands of young people an opportunity to get work experience and skills that would not otherwise have been available in the recession. This Government is putting more money into a scheme to make an extra 2,000 places available for young New Zealanders.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she acknowledge that it is misleading to measure unemployment rates by benefit numbers alone, as she continues to do, when tens of thousands of young people are not eligible but, according to letters and comments that we have received, they are struggling to find work to fund further training or education; or will she continue to write them off as just people “at school who would like to have a paper run”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think what the member does not understand is that this is a complex bunch of young people who are doing a lot of different things, so we do have some who are looking for only an hour’s worth of work a week. They are counted in the household labour force survey. I am happy to send some information over to the member if it will help her to get a better picture of what those young people are like and what they are looking for.
6. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement: “Advice we disagree with is bad advice; advice we agree with is good advice.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes. By way of illustration, if I may, there is one organisation from which we have received consistently bad advice for the last 12 months, and that organisation, of course, is the Labour Opposition.
Hon David Cunliffe: How can he consider the Treasury’s emissions trading scheme cost estimate of $110 billion to be bad advice, when the Prime Minister agrees with it enough to use the same advice to justify including farmers in the scheme?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The extra debt by 2050 suggested by Treasury only applies when compared against Labour’s heavy-handed scheme—a scheme that would drive New Zealand businesses and jobs overseas. As the Prime Minister has said, the figure is essentially nonsense, as it is impossible to accurately measure the effects of the emissions trading scheme 40 years into the future when so many variables are involved.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can he explain why he is willing to accept advice from Treasury on the costs of securing Māori Party support for the emissions trading scheme, but will not accept Treasury’s advice on the cost of a scheme to the taxpayer, when both assessments are based on exactly the same assumption of a carbon price of $25 a tonne to 2013 and of $50 a tonne thereafter?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I point out that the longer-term things are harder to measure. For example, the previous Government spent most of its time congratulating itself on being an excellent
economic manager, but when it left office it left us with a decade of deficits, which just goes to show that sometimes when we look into the future we see different things.
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Opposition argues that the Minister’s answer was fairly gratuitous in its nature. The Opposition spokesman on finance put to him a very simple proposition using figures, using specific year periods, and asking how the Government could use one set of figures in one category and then ignore exactly the same set of figures in another. All we had was a very political response from the Minister.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The member got a perfectly reasonable answer. It set out to illustrate that although people may want to ask a question based on assumptions, it is reasonable for an answer to say that assumptions do not always give one the answer one wants to hear.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to hear further; I do not want to be litigating the question by way of point of order. I think that the point raised by the Hon Darren Hughes is a fair enough point: the answers to questions that did not contain political statements have been overly gratuitous. I invite the Hon David Cunliffe to repeat his last question, and I am sure that the House will be interested in hearing the Minister’s answer.
Hon David Cunliffe: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will read it slowly and carefully. Can the Minister explain why he is willing to accept advice from Treasury on the costs of securing Māori Party support for the emissions trading scheme, but will not accept Treasury’s advice on the cost of the scheme to taxpayers, when the carbon price in both assessments is identical, at $25 a tonne until 2013 and $50 a tonne thereafter?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Because other variables involved in both assessments are different.
Hon David Cunliffe: Further to the previous supplementary question, what advice, if any, has he received that refutes the fundamental problem with the emissions trading scheme legislation that the deal with the Māori Party is just one concession in a bill that contains billions of dollars of concessions for polluters and passes the mounting cost on to our children?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member does not seem to understand that any emissions trading scheme has to balance economic opportunities and environmental responsibilities. We have taken a deliberate decision to moderate the emissions trading scheme to keep jobs in New Zealand. When will the Labour Opposition work out that without businesses, we do not have jobs and we do not have taxpayers?
Emissions Trading Scheme—Effect of Environment
7. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Climate Change
Issues: Does he agree with the Māori Party that the revised ETS has a focus on whenua and increasing environmental sustainability; and how will the intention to provide better protection for the environment be realised?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes. The revised scheme and changes negotiated by the Māori Party address both the issue of costs to low-income families and the importance of Papatūānuku, or the natural environment. It also makes significant new commitments around the protection of the environment, on which I am looking forward to working with the Māori Party.
Rahui Katene: How will Enviroschools, or Kura Taiao, contribute to the goal of enhancing environmental outcomes consistent with the kaitiakitanga our people are responsible for discharging over their whenua?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is true that the Māori Party has brought to the negotiations the issue of Enviroschools. The Government has had concerns about the effectiveness of that programme, so we have agreed to extend funding for 6 months, and then to work on refocusing Enviroschools to make sure it is practically effective. I am looking forward to working with the Māori Party on doing just that.
Rahui Katene: What commitment is there to support further environmental restoration initiatives, in partnership with iwi?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There are a number of measures across the 12 specific agreements with the Māori Party. They include a very important national policy statement on biodiversity. They also involve work on afforestation. I think the Māori Party made the very good point that the planting of indigenous trees in many areas of New Zealand is one of the lowest-cost ways that New Zealand can both improve the environment and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Charles Chauvel: Has the Minister seen Brian Fallow’s conclusion that his Government’s changes to the emissions trading scheme weaken the incentive to reduce emissions in those sectors responsible for the lion’s share of them, and pretty much guarantee that the peak in emissions will be higher; if he has, how does enabling increased emissions provide for increased environmental sustainability or provide better environmental protection?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I agree with Brian Fallow on this point: the greater the cost of carbon and the more broadly that it is based over the economy, the more there will be a reduction in emissions. I note that over the first 10 years of the scheme, the costs are the same as under the Labour scheme—actually slightly more under the National scheme. That is why I draw the conclusion that the emissions reductions that we can achieve under this scheme over the first 10 years are very similar to those under Labour’s scheme. Beyond the 10 years, the key issue is the phase-out rate. That is regularly reviewed. We have chosen a 1.3 percent rate, which is the same as Australia’s. Members opposite want to argue for 8 percent. That would be a very big cost for industry and would risk simply exporting our industries offshore.
Climate Change Issues, Minister—Statements
8. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he stand by his statement that “I have always said that figures out beyond a decade are very uncertain”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes, I do. There is uncertainty about the international rules, about the price of carbon, and, in the long term, about what technologies and growth rates there will be. I recall a previous Government promising a $1 billion surplus from Kyoto, and only 2 years later having to accept that it was a $1 billion debt.
Charles Chauvel: If figures beyond a decade are “very uncertain”, is he confident that the Government will be able to meet its “50 percent by 2050” emissions reduction target 40 years into the future; if so, how can he be confident in a target for emissions reductions in 2050 but dismiss Treasury predictions for the same year as “nonsense”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am a lot more confident that this Government will meet its “50 by 2050” target than I am in believing the claims of carbon neutrality from the previous Government, when in every single year it was in Government, emissions went up, and went up faster than emissions in any other developed country. How the Opposition does not like the truth about its record!
David Bennett: What is the Government’s long-term policy on the 1.3 percent per year phaseout rate, noting that the Act provides for it to be reviewed every 5 years?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: These allocations are being provided because sectors are emissions intensive and they are trade exposed. The 1.3 percent phase-out rate is similar to schemes in both the European Union and Australia. We are not rigidly fixed to the 1.3 percent rate in the long term, but we want to keep it roughly in line with our trade competitors, so as not to disadvantage industries that may simply move offshore and cost Kiwis jobs.
Charles Chauvel: Why did the Minister tell the House, and the Prime Minister tell Federated Farmers, that Treasury estimates the cost of the emissions trading scheme by 2030 to each farmer at $3,000 per year, if they both believe Treasury to be so unreliable, and figures beyond a decade to be “so uncertain”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Because it is certainly true that for the farming sector the 8 percent phase-out rate in the current law would put very large costs on to the farming industry. If members opposite want to talk about large losses of revenue to the Crown from our changes, they should also be honest with farmers and say that they will impose very large costs on them.
David Bennett: Has the Minister read any commentary from Charles Chauvel that says it is foolish to align the New Zealand scheme—
Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure how the Minister can possibly be responsible for any comment by Charles Chauvel. The member might like to reword his question, but I do not see how the Minister is responsible for that.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understood that the member asked the Minister whether he had read the comments. That is a reasonable question.
Mr SPEAKER: What troubles me about the question is where it is clearly leading. I would find it totally unacceptable if the Minister were to launch into a criticism of an Opposition spokesperson, because that is not his responsibility, unless the Opposition spokesperson asked a question that provokes such an answer. I think it is stretching the Standing Orders a fair distance to ask the Minister about comments that another member of the House has made. I am sure the member can reword his question and make it more reasonable.
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think your ruling is not consistent, because we have had questions such as whether the Minister has seen the comments by well-noted, marvellous reporter Brian Fallow, or the glorious Rod Oram, etc., all afternoon. If we can ask questions about the comments of these highly intelligent and insightful commentators, surely we can ask whether they have seen the comments of Charles Chauvel.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the point the member is making. I will reverse my objection to the question. But I want to be clear that I do not want it to be used as an excuse to abuse another member of this House. I accept the point the Hon Rodney Hide has made, but if I allow this question I do not want to regret in a few minutes’ time.
David Bennett: Has the Minister read any commentary from Charles Chauvel that it is foolish to align the New Zealand scheme with Australia as it will never get through its Senate; if so has he received any updated reports on progress across the Tasman?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Mr Chauvel, again, is wrong. An announcement has been made today that an agreement has been reached to enable the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation to be passed through the Senate this week. I note that the amendments have only just been tabled today by the Australian Labor Government. Its intention is to pass it through the Senate this week.
Charles Chauvel: Does the Minister understand the difference between the shadow Cabinet of the Liberal Party of Australia agreeing in principle to some amendments proposed by the Australian Labor Party, and the difficulty that the Liberal Party will still face in getting those amendments through the party room and through the Senate?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, there are some differences of view within the Liberal Party of Australia, in the same way that I have noted here. I have heard one member from Labour saying that the agreement with the Māori Party is a sell-out by Māori, and another spokesperson from the Labour Party said exactly the opposite—
Hon Darren Hughes: Who was that?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Would the member like me to table the statements from the various members?
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that the question was a relatively confined one relating to the Minister’s understanding of the Australian political environment. The answer seems to have strayed very wide of the mark.
Mr SPEAKER: That was a point of order, and one would never know that from the noise in the House. But I think that is a reflection of the fact that the House is not too impressed by the
member’s point of order. The question was an awful long way from the primary question, so I do not think that too precise an answer can be expected.
Charles Chauvel: If Treasury’s projections should be disregarded, in part because allocation decisions are to be reviewed every 5 years, why should New Zealanders have any confidence that any review of allocations done under this Minister will not simply do what his amendment does, which is to heavily favour polluters and circumvent public opinion?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I do not think it does. If I look at my emails, there are some people who are emailing me very heavily saying that this scheme does not go far enough to protect the environment. I receive a large number of other emails and commentary saying that it is too hard on the economy. I think this Government has the balance right. [Interruption] I say to the members opposite that for 9 years they made no progress on climate change. This Government will.
I seek leave of the House to table the papers released in Australia this afternoon outlining the agreement and the changes to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme on that side of the Tasman.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Charles Chauvel: I seek leave to table a document that you may feel comes close to a ruling that you made earlier. But I think it is in the public interest to seek leave to table a report from the Sydney Morning Herald online from about an hour and a half ago indicating that the changes to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in Australia are by no means a done deal as far as the Liberal Party of Australia is concerned.
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.
Auckland—Progress on Public Transport Projects
9. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has been made on improving public transport infrastructure in Auckland?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): I am pleased to report to the House that Cabinet has approved $500 million for the purchase of new electric trains for Auckland. This is a very significant milestone on the way to delivering Auckland a modern and more reliable rail network. The upgrade and electrification of the Auckland rail network will provide for more frequent, smart, and modern trains at peak times and will help to meet future passenger demands.
Dr Jackie Blue: What is the next step in securing this improvement in rail services for Aucklanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The confirmation of this funding—without a regional fuel tax for Auckland—will see KiwiRail and its client the Auckland Regional Transport Authority re-engage with the market very early next year for the supply of new trains. I expect the first electric trains to be on the ground and operational from 2013. Work with the Auckland Regional Transport Authority and the New Zealand Transport Agency will continue to ensure that these new and increased levels of services can operate sustainably and with reasonable levels of passenger transport subsidy. I expect that work to be completed within the next 6 months, and I can report that the trains are currently running to time.
Hon Darren Hughes: How can 2009 be seen as anything other than a waste for Auckland rail when the Government is today re-announcing the same amounts of money that Labour had set aside for this project—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Where was the money?
Hon Darren Hughes: —from the regional fuel tax, and when the months and months of dithering by him as Minister has interfered with the tendering process, meaning that Auckland now stands to be able to buy fewer trains with exactly the same amount of money?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I point out to the member opposite that the Government is achieving, by good fiscal management, the full roll-out of the Auckland trains without the 9.5c extra regional fuel tax that the previous Government was going to place on Auckland motorists.
Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill—Hearing Loss
10. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Do any of his Cabinet papers relating to the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill expressly advise Cabinet that the effect of the bill is to restore the right of employees to sue their employer for hearing loss of up to 6 percent; if so, what is the date and title of the Cabinet paper and the paragraph number where that warning is to be found?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC): No.
Hon David Parker: Does he think public confidence and, indeed, Cabinet confidence in his competence will be undermined or enhanced by his failure to advise Cabinet that the bill reverses the compensation for injury principle of accident compensation, and, in doing so, restores the right to sue for some workplace hearing loss?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Thresholds exist in terms of hearing in the United States, the UK, and Australia. Also, there already are thresholds for entitlements in the existing accident compensation scheme. But let me make plain to the member that it is not the intention of this Government to restore the right to sue. It is our policy to have a 24/7, no-fault scheme. The advice that I have received to date—
Hon Maryan Street: You’ve broken the social contract.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, Maryan Street broke the bank. Maryan Street broke the bank!
Hon Maryan Street: What about the advice?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: If Maryan Street had not left $2.4 billion of losses in accident compensation, of course this Government would not require a bill to reform the scheme.
Hon Maryan Street: Bring it on, Nick! Let’s have a public debate about it, Nick.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Explain your losses; you left it in a mess.
Darien Fenton: Does the Minister agree that employer costs for Australian worker compensation are already higher than New Zealand accident compensation levies for employers; if so, how does he justify his major cuts to compensation for New Zealand workers?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is easier to have—
Hon Darren Hughes: No wonder he’s going to get sacked.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Mr Speaker, every time I have got to my feet to answer a question, even before I have been able to answer it there has been a barrage of abuse from members opposite.
Hon Members: Oh!
Mr SPEAKER: There will be silence, because I am on my feet. I think the interjections have been a little unreasonable, but I have to say that the Minister would have noticed that I allowed him to respond fairly forcefully to an interjection. It is in the House’s hands. If members interject, Ministers are perfectly free to launch back into them—within reason. I do not think the Minister needs much protection. I think he is pretty capable.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There are two problems with the comparison with the Australian scheme. The first is that it is easier to have lower levies when a scheme is losing $2.4 billion last year and $4.8 billion this year—
Hon Annette King: Rubbish!
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Annette King says that is rubbish. If it is, why did Maryan Street sign the annual report for the 2007-08 year, which recorded a loss of $2.4 billion? The second point is that we need to be careful in the comparison of employer levies, because in Australia motor vehicle
accidents are incorporated in the employer levy, whereas in New Zealand they are allocated separately to motor vehicle levies.
Michael Woodhouse: What reports has the Minister received about the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill and whether it would affect the accident compensation entitlement of a person like Jan Molenaar, who, after going on a shooting rampage, killed himself? Why was the law changed to allow such entitlements in the first place?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I noted in the New Zealand Herald that Jan Molenaar’s partner got $10,000 for his—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. I say to the Labour front bench—on this occasion it was the Labour front bench—that I simply cannot hear the Minister’s answer. Those members may have their views about the question, but we must be able to hear the answer.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I noted in the New Zealand Herald that Jan Molenaar’s partner got $10,000 in compensation from the Accident Compensation Corporation. Although I have sympathy for any person who loses a loved one, the injustice is that every day many law-abiding New Zealanders die of cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses, but their families get nothing. This entitlement extension arose from changes made by the Labour Government in 2008, but that Government made no provision to budget for it; it made no provision to increase the levies to fund those extensions of entitlements.
Hon David Parker: Is it not time for the Minister to admit major mistakes in how he has dealt with both his accident compensation and emissions trading scheme responsibilities, or will he try to brush off New Zealanders’ being stopped from getting a hearing aid, and the money being given to lawyers instead, as inconsequential, as he has tried to do with his emissions trading scheme fiasco?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I note that in states of Australia—where I note there are Labor administrations—there is a threshold for entitlements to hearing aids. I note that is also the case in the UK, where there is a Labour Government. It is for the select committee to carefully consider submissions. Talking about mistakes, I am yet to hear an apology from Maryan Street or Labour for its leaving huge losses, and for breaching the Public Finance Act in not disclosing the extent to which accident compensation was in financial difficulty.
Pig Farming—Code of Welfare
11. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by his statement of 20 May 2009 “I would like to be able to issue a new code of welfare for pigs by the end of this year”; and is he confident this will be achieved?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): Yes, I am confident. The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is on course to release the code at some stage next month.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I very carefully worded my question to say “to issue a new code of welfare”. All that the Minister talked about was issuing a code for consultation. It will take another 6 months to get the new code. That was the question.
Mr SPEAKER: There is a limit to how much I can judge the quality of Ministers’ answers.
From my hearing of the Minister’s answer he said, in response to the member’s question, “yes.” If she is not convinced that his “yes” was exactly the “yes” she was after, my advice to her would be to drill further down into that with her supplementary question.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a lot of interest in whether the Minister’s promise to have the code completed this year will be met. This is a completely different issue.
Mr SPEAKER: I can easily think of a supplementary question, following the Minister’s answer, that would assist the member to get exactly the information she wants. I cannot, for the life of me, work out why she does not ask that question. The member has a supplementary question available.
Sue Kedgley: How can New Zealanders believe that this Government is serious about animal welfare, when the Minister cannot even keep his promise to have the pig code completely reviewed
and a new one issued by the end of this year, with the result that 20,000 sows will spend their Christmas locked up in cages where they cannot turn round?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I have, on many occasions, patiently tried to explain to the member that there is a process under the Act by which the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee develops the code and releases it for submission, and once the submissions have been heard the committee finalises the code and presents it to me. That is the law that must be adhered to. I am not about to ride roughshod over that law.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like to table a document, because I think it is in the public interest. It is a press release, and it is where—
Mr SPEAKER: From what publication?
Sue Kedgley: It is from the New Zealand Herald of 10 November 2009.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume her seat. That is totally contrary to the ruling I made just a few days ago. The document is from a mainstream newspaper of recent days, and therefore I will not be seeking leave. The member will not use the point of order process to try to make her political point.
Sue Kedgley: Mr Speaker, does your ruling apply even when one believes that the article contains very significant information that contradicts what the Minister has just said?
Mr SPEAKER: The reason why the ruling was made is that articles from the New Zealand Herald are readily available to members. If members are interested in this matter, I am sure they will have followed it through the New Zealand Herald.
Passports—Introduction of New E-passports
12. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Why is the Government introducing a new style of passport?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Internal Affairs): We need to regularly update our passport, to keep up with new technology and keep ahead of fraudsters. This new passport has more than 50 new security features, which makes it harder to forge. It also has a new design and artwork that tells the story of New Zealand’s history, through the themes of navigation and travel.
Jacqui Dean: What reaction has he had from the public to the new e-passport?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I am very pleased with the feedback we have had on this new passport.
People seem to like the new design, which now has a unique New Zealand flavour about it. Every page has different artwork on it, which makes it harder to forge. Indeed, I am very pleased that we have managed to keep the price of the new passport the same, at $150.