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Questions and Answers - 16 Dec 2009

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Recession—Protection for Families

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his answers yesterday in the House about protecting families from the recession?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Phil Goff: When the Prime Minister said “we have lost 60,000” jobs over the last year and “that is a pretty good result”, what is so good about an additional 60,000 hard-working New Zealanders losing their livelihoods, and why has he not intervened as effectively as the Australian Government, which, for the first time in a decade, has reduced unemployment below the level that exists in New Zealand?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister said that because it was a good result. The forecasts that were based on Labour’s economic mismanagement and the global recession forecast 120,000 job losses. Because of this Government’s policy, only 60,000 jobs have been lost.

Hon Phil Goff: When he said yesterday that he was giving pay increases to low-paid workers, why is the Government continuing to demand a zero wage increase from the thousands of people who work in our hospitals as orderlies, kitchenhands, and cleaners; and why is he offering a zero wage increase to the thousands of New Zealanders who work as caregivers for the elderly and disabled?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is clear from that question that the member does not know what negotiations and processes are going on.

Catherine Delahunty: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koutou katoa. What does he say to the New Zealand family who have been refused a food grant, and the local food bank is empty; and what does he think the family should tell their kids they will be having for Christmas dinner?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the member is aware of a particular family in that situation, then I suggest they approach the Ministry of Social Development, because there is provision available to ensure that families have something to eat for Christmas dinner.

Hon Phil Goff: When the Prime Minister said yesterday that low-paid workers had been given a tax cut, what precisely was the tax cut given to those families, with dependent children, who earn under $40,000 a year, and how did that compare with his own tax cut?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the October tax cuts, which were set out by the previous Labour Government, those families all received tax reductions. When it came to the 1 April tax cuts, a large group of New Zealanders had not had tax reductions, and we made sure that they got the benefits of a growing economy, as well.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was relatively straightforward. As this Government claimed that it had given tax cuts to low-paid workers, I asked about the tax cut

given to the particular group, with dependent children, that earns under $40,000. I could not tell from the Minister’s comments whether he even addressed that question.

Mr SPEAKER: I must confess, as Speaker, I could pick up what he said. He said that in fact a group of people—probably that group of people—received tax cuts in October last year, and that a further group of people who did not receive tax cuts in October last year received them in April this year. Although it may not have been exactly the answer that the member wanted, it was an answer to the question.

Hon Phil Goff: What does the Prime Minister say to the family referred to yesterday by the Auckland City Missioner, where the income earner in the family has lost his job, the family have lost their home, and they “have nothing for Christmas, nothing for extras and are really struggling and yet a year ago they were OK”; and how has he protected that family from the sharpest edges of the recession, as he quaintly puts it?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As we pointed out, as a result of Government policy 60,000 families, who would have otherwise lost their jobs, have kept them. That member knows that in a recession—

Hon members: That’s just rubbish.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Unfortunately, that family probably relied on the reassurances from the Labour Government that it had fixed the economic cycle and had provided them with a permanent job. That is not how it turned out, and we are spending every waking hour cleaning up the mess left by him, which is hurting our families.

Hon Phil Goff: How many additional children have been forced below the poverty line over the last year as a result of the near-doubling of unemployment and as a result of most workers on low to middle incomes actually having a reduction in real income, or has he not bothered to ask about that?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, of course, the member is trying to copy political tactics from other countries, as if—

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I believe that you had a discussion about the Prime Minister’s repeatedly not answering the question but going off on a tangent, and the Acting Prime Minister is doing that on this occasion today. I ask you to bring him to order.

Mr SPEAKER: The slight dilemma I have is that if the honourable Leader of the Opposition reflects on his question, he will see that he basically accused the Government of not caring about people who may have lost their jobs. Under those circumstances it is difficult to expect the Acting Prime Minister to give a totally objective answer, when he has been accused of that sort of thing. If the Leader of the Opposition objects to the way it was answered, I invite him to repeat his question without making that kind of emotive allegation, and we will see if we can get a more objective approach from both sides.

Hon Phil Goff: Has he asked how many additional children over the last year have been forced below the poverty line as a result of the near-doubling of the unemployment rate and the fact that a great many workers have suffered a reduction in their real incomes, as the Minister of Finance pointed out in a statement yesterday?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The answer to that is yes. I have to say that this Government has found it hard work to deal with people who are hurting because the previous Government so badly mismanaged this economy. When the recession came along—

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The answer to my question could not possibly be “yes”. It asked how many additional children have been forced below the poverty line. “Yes” is not an answer to that question.

Mr SPEAKER: I believe that—and I stand to be corrected—the member, in his question, asked “Has he asked how many … children … have been forced …”, and the Hon Bill English replied “yes”, which meant yes, he had asked. My dilemma is that I think an answer to the question that was asked was given. Does the honourable member have a further supplementary question?

Hon Phil Goff: I am still waiting for the answer to the first one.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the question was answered.

Hon Phil Goff: Having asked that question, how many additional children are now living below the poverty line as a result of the doubling of the unemployment rate and the fact that a great many workers have suffered a cut in their real incomes this year?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot tell him the number off the top of the head, but I can tell him why they might be. First, workers lost their jobs because of the economic mismanagement of the previous Government. Secondly, if families have found themselves below the poverty line—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon BILL ENGLISH:—it is because they are on a benefit level set by the previous Government.

Mr SPEAKER: If it was not the last day of this sitting of the House, I would probably be asking the Hon Bill English to leave the Chamber, because I was on my feet. What he said was beyond what was necessary, given the question that was asked. He answered the question, and he went on to make far more comment than was necessary. It is the last day, and I will put up with it for today, but I will not do so in future.


2. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What steps has the Government taken to manage the economy in 2009?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government inherited an economy in bad shape because it had been so badly managed. The Government has had to deal with the fallout of many families losing their jobs and finding themselves on low incomes on benefits set by the previous Government. That is why the Government has invested in long-term infrastructure, tax assistance for small businesses, a large-scale home insulation programme, and cutting red tape so that businesses can make positive decisions to employ and invest.

Craig Foss: What has been the effect of the Government’s initiatives?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The effect of the Government’s initiatives has been to protect thousands of New Zealanders from the sharpest edges of the recession. We have at the same time laid down the platform for lifting our economic performance, because all those people who have lost their jobs because the New Zealand economy was mismanaged will not get them back until a business decides to employ them.

Craig Foss: What expressions of support has the Government received for its sensible economic management?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There have been many, but there is one that I would like to quote: “We must insist on value for money from the public sector. The state must play its part in stewarding limited budgets and targeting resources to those who need them most.” That was the one useful thing that the Opposition’s finance spokesman said all year.

Public Assets—Privatisation

3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Did he say at the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update lock-up yesterday that while the Government does not plan privatisation in this term of Parliament, it recognises various assets as not well-managed or struggling to keep up with the pace; and did he single out four entities in this context?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The answer to that is yes, and that is because that member’s Government left behind a swath of badly managed taxpayers’ assets, and we are trying to sort them out.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: When the Minister said that Television New Zealand was not wellmanaged and was struggling to keep up with the pace, was he sending the signal that the only conclusion a National Government review will arrive at is to sell it off?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. I was describing the state of an asset that that member’s Government left in appalling shape.

John Boscawen: Does he agree with the 2025 Taskforce that “It is difficult to conceive of a reason why the New Zealand government should own a large coal-mining company, three major electricity generating and retail companies, one of New Zealand’s largest exporting firms ...”; if not, what is the compelling reason?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with it.

Hon Darren Hughes: When the Minister of Finance said that Kordia and New Zealand Post were “not well-managed” and “struggling to keep up with the pace”, was he sending the signal that the only conclusion a National Government review can possibly arrive at is to sell them both off?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. I was describing the state of those assets. A large number of taxpayers’ assets have been left in an appalling state by that member’s Government. We are taking responsibility, kicking its cronies off the boards, and lifting the performance of those assets.

Hon David Cunliffe: When he said that New Zealand Post was “not well-managed” and “struggling to keep up with the pace”, was he talking about Kiwibank’s performance, and what was it that disappointed him; why was he not more open about including Kiwibank in the State-owned enterprise sales list directly?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: When I made those comments I was commenting on the state of the assets. I know that Labour will not accept responsibility, but its members should apologise to New Zealanders for how much value their Government destroyed, and for how badly a lot of taxpayers’ assets were run on their watch.

John Boscawen: What is the compelling reason for the New Zealand Government to own a large coalmining company, three major electricity generating and retailing companies, and one of New Zealand’s largest exporters?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The compelling reason is that it does own them, and given that those assets were built up by taxpayers giving up their PAYE each week, this Government takes its role of protecting and growing the value of those assets very carefully. They have been built up by hard cash paid each week by people who could easily have used it for other purposes that might have suited them better. The previous Government did not understand that.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why did he single out Television New Zealand, Kordia, New Zealand Post, and KiwiRail, if he does not plan to open the door to sales; is it just coincidence that this comes a day before a report recommending partial privatisation, or is it cover for his brazen manipulation of history and his obvious lack of a real plan for growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I singled them out because, as I described them at the time, they are fading network businesses. It is very difficult for New Zealand Post, for Television New Zealand, or for Kordia actually to make money. If that member’s Government had paid more attention to what was going on with those businesses, taxpayers would not have lost so much money.

Schools, Primary—Teaching of Reading and Writing

4. JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata) to the Minister of Education: What reports has she received about the teaching of reading and writing in years 1 and 2 at primary school?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education): I have received a report from the Education Review Office that focused on how effectively reading and writing was taught in years 1 and 2. The report found that, although 70 percent of teachers are doing well, 30 percent are not teaching reading and writing effectively, and they set low expectations for students. It is extremely concerning that the report finds 67 percent of school leaders—that is, principals and senior managers—are not properly monitoring how well those young children are achieving or progressing, and that three-quarters of principals do not set high expectations of achievement levels.

Jo Goodhew: What is the Government doing to address those issues?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: National standards, which will be in schools next year, give schools a shared set of expectations about achievement in each year of school. Plain-language reporting to parents and communities will ensure that parents are well informed about their child’s progress right from when they start school. When a child is struggling, National standards will ensure that parents are aware at an early stage so that they can help. That is what parents want, and that is what this Government is making sure they get.

Kelvin Davis: Has she read page 5 of the report, which states: “Although high teacher expectations are important, they are not sufficient on their own to enable children to achieve. Expectations for high standards must be accompanied by good teaching …”, and what, specifically, in her national standards, will improve teaching?

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was listening quite closely to that question and I could not hear it for the barracking from the Government benches.

Mr SPEAKER: The backbenchers on the Government side were making an absolutely unacceptable level of noise. They should realise that sitting close to the wall means that noise just bounces into the centre of the Chamber and it is extraordinarily difficult to hear. I invite Kelvin Davis to repeat his question.

Kelvin Davis: Has she read page 5 of the report, which states: “Although high teacher expectations are important, they are not sufficient on their own to enable children to achieve. Expectations for high standards must be accompanied by good teaching …”, and what, specifically, in her national standards, will improve teaching?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, I totally agree, and effective teaching is at the core of national standards. Effective teaching is using forms of assessment that are constantly monitoring how effective the teaching is and making changes. It is about informing parents so that they can be involved in the process too. That is what this report says principals and senior leaders in threequarters of schools are not doing effectively for years 1 and 2.

Kelvin Davis: Can she understand the frustration of the 70 percent of teachers who are doing a great job, according to the report, but are resentful of national standards being imposed on them, threats being made to sack boards of trustees, their professional integrity being smeared, and moves to prevent criticism of the Minister?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No, but I certainly understand the frustration of parents around this country who are fed up with unions dictating to them how their children should be educated.

Vulnerable Citizens—Prime Minister’s Statement

5. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his comment: “This Government is not prepared to turn its back on our most vulnerable citizens”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes, and we have made sure this year that we do not.

Hon Annette King: Does the Government still consider the National Council of Women to be an organisation that represents the views of a large cross-section of women in New Zealand, including vulnerable women?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The National Council of Women is a longstanding and respected organisation.

Hon Annette King: What was his response to a recent letter to him from the National Council of Women, which stated that the new accident compensation sexual abuse guidelines are discriminatory under the UN conventions, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and has he given any commitment to investigate the council’s claims?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am simply not familiar with the letter or any reply that the Prime Minister may have given.

Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, will he respond to the National Council of Women’s request that he implement temporary special measures, as provided for under the UN conventions, before 10 January 2010, when all the existing accident compensation claimants will be transferred to the new guidelines, which have been condemned by clinicians throughout New Zealand; if not, will he now endorse those guidelines so the public and the National Council of Women know where the Prime Minister of New Zealand stands on this issue?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am sure the Prime Minister would be happy to discuss that issue, along with any other issues, with the National Council of Women. As I understand it, the guidelines that have been prepared by the Accident Compensation Corporation are consistent with the legislation passed by this House and were prepared by clinicians.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the letter from the National Council of Women to the Prime Minister, dated 14 December.

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.

Te Ururoa Flavell: What is he doing to address the findings of the recent OECD report, which showed that nearly one-third of New Zealanders on below-average incomes had missed out on health care because they could not afford it?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would be interested in looking at that report, but I would be surprised if it was not contradicted by evidence from New Zealand, which I understand generally shows people are getting access to health care.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Is he aware that the third Vulnerability Report showed that there is a hugely disproportionate impact for some sectors of our communities, and in particular the 14 percent unemployment rate for Māori is over three times higher than the 4.5 percent rate for Pākehā? What specific strategies are being devised to address the long-term inequities that have contributed to poverty and social injustice within our society?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, the Government is fully aware that the impact of the recession is disproportionate on some groups of people. That is why it is absolutely vital that we get on and create an economy where those people get the opportunities they need to overcome their disadvantage and to get out of the low-income trap. I am pleased to say that we have been able to work with the member’s party to back measures that will achieve that.

Climate Change, Copenhagen Conference—Legally Binding Agreement

6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with his Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues that it is “extremist” for small developing countries like Tuvalu to push for a legally binding agreement from the Copenhagen climate conference?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): I would disagree with the Associate Minister, if that was actually what he said, but it was not. He said that Tuvalu walking out of the negotiations in order to make that point was extremist.

Dr Russel Norman: How can his Government criticise Tuvalu’s negotiating position and tactics, when the Climate Action Tracker report that he trumpeted in this House just yesterday has just downgraded its ranking of New Zealand’s negotiating position from medium to inadequate, where inadequate is the lowest ranking possible?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am quite satisfied—and the Prime Minister is probably in Copenhagen by now—that those who are representing New Zealand will represent New Zealand’s interests well. The only real question mark over New Zealand’s credibility in these negotiations is the performance of the previous Government, of which that member was part, which oversaw record increases in carbon emissions.

Hon David Parker: Is he aware that small island nations like Tuvalu have been brave in stepping outside the traditional mantra of the Group of 77 by calling for controls on emissions growth in major developing countries within the Group of 77; if so, how, then, does he justify his Minister criticising Tuvalu rather than congratulating it?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Copenhagen discussions are meant to be a negotiation. New Zealand will take part in that negotiation. We are fully aware of the concerns of the small islands. It is a bit hard to negotiate if people leave the room when it gets to the hard bit.

Dr Russel Norman: How can his Government possibly justify calling Tuvalu’s position “extremist”, when, in fact, New Zealand now occupies the extremist position as bringing one of the worst pledges to the table at the climate conference, according to the very report from the Climate Action Tracker that he was trumpeting yesterday?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said before, the main question mark over New Zealand’s credibility is that over the last decade we had among the fastest growth in carbon emissions of many developed countries. That was under a Government of which that member was part. New Zealand has a very credible position. We have a sensible and wide-ranging emissions trading system, and a sensible target.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister believe that Mr Groser’s personal attack on Tuvalu’s chief negotiator will help build New Zealand’s relationship with our Pacific neighbours and foster a successful agreement at the conference?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member will know, New Zealand has strong relationships with our Pacific neighbours. As the member will also know, Mr Groser is one of the more experienced international negotiators around, and I am sure he will contribute to whatever result we can get out of Copenhagen.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister understand that Tuvalu is currently being submerged under water and could be wiped off the map by sea-level rises resulting from climate change; if so, can he understand why the delegates from Tuvalu may have strong feelings about the lack of action at the climate conference?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes. We would also argue that New Zealand is one of the few countries that are doing their bit, because we now have an emissions trading system in place after much discussion within our Parliament, which is more than almost any other country can say.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister agree with Mr Groser’s comment last week that New Zealand’s ranking as medium by the Climate Action Tracker put New Zealand in respectable territory at the Copenhagen talks; if so, will the Government now revise New Zealand’s negotiating position, given that New Zealand has just in the last few hours been downgraded by the same report—the report that the Prime Minister gives so much weight to—from medium to inadequate?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have a credible and respectable position. Those who are representing New Zealand there will negotiate fundamentally in our interests to get some kind of outcome from Copenhagen that is of benefit to the whole planet. New Zealand has a credible and respectable position, and we will be sticking to it.

Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the Climate Action Tracker report dated 16 December, which rates New Zealand’s climate conference offer as inadequate.

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.

Housing Affordability—Initiatives

7. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Housing: What new affordable housing initiatives has he implemented since becoming Minister?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): We now underwrite loans for building on Māori land, which banks and the previous Labour Government refused to do. The Housing Innovation Fund has been boosted to $20 million. Well, what is new there? We now build houses, not simply fund administration systems, capacity building, and reports. Tenants can now buy their State houses if they choose to. Community housing groups have been fed back into the Gateway Housing scheme, which can best provide for them. I thank colleagues for making it cheaper for builders to build, with the changes to the Resource Management Act and the Building Act. I thank the Minister of Finance for better managing the economy during a difficult time for those with mortgages and rents. I have more but—

Mr SPEAKER: The House has heard quite sufficient.

Moana Mackey: We love the court jester routine; it is fine.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you know what it is, too. The member was called to ask a supplementary question, not to take an attempted cheap shot at a Minister answering questions.

Mr SPEAKER: We do not need to waste any further time on this. The point the member makes is a perfectly valid point of order, and that should not have happened. However, when Ministers go on for a little too long like that, they do invite comment, and it would be helpful if they did not do that. At the same time, the member should not have done that.

Moana Mackey: How does he reconcile his claim in the House today and back in August that by extending Labour’s Welcome Home Loan scheme to Māori multiple-owned land he had fixed the problem and “solved it in 9 months”, with the statement of the Housing New Zealand Corporation chief executive, Lesley McTurk, to the Social Services Committee last week that “We haven’t worked through the detail of the policy work.”, and with the fact that she was not able to provide any details or even a timeframe for completion?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: We currently offer a product for Māori wanting to build on multipleowned land. They cannot borrow at the moment; the banks will not loan to them because they have no security. Labour ignored this problem. The Māori Party got talking to me, it asked us to do that, and now we do. It is a great result.

Moana Mackey: If this policy is currently in place, as he claims, and is not still being worked on as the Social Services Committee was told last week by the chief executive of the Housing New Zealand Corporation, how many houses have been built on Māori multiple-owned land under the extension of the Welcome Home Loan scheme?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: At the moment Māori are engaging with the Housing New Zealand Corporation on their ability. Obviously, as the policy was only just announced, they are not building houses at the moment.

Moana Mackey: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked how many houses, and the Minister did not answer that very simple question.

Mr SPEAKER: The House is very noisy and it is very hard for me to hear. However, I did hear the member’s supplementary question, and it asked how many houses have been built under this policy. In trying to hear the Minister’s answer under a lot of noise I did not hear the substance of the question answered. I invite the Minister to indicate to the House how many houses have been built under the policy.

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I do not have on hand how many houses are being built at the moment.

Moana Mackey: Can he confirm that of the 40,000 State houses available to be sold to tenants, one is being prepared for sale, as reported by Television New Zealand, and does he stand by his statement that this is “meeting our expectations”, meaning that, at his expected rate of uptake, less than 10 homes would be sold to tenants under his Government; and how much taxpayer money has been spent on this aspirational policy?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: It is true that we are offering State house tenants the opportunity to buy their own homes, and 1,300 have shown an interest. At the moment none has bought a State house,

but the National Government is offering State house tenants an opportunity. We are not so condescending that we would say to State house tenants that they could never own their own home. This is not a condescending Government.

Question Time

PAUL QUINN (National): Mr Speaker―[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I accept that this is the last sitting day and there is a bit of noise, but I ask members to be reasonable. Members complained when―[Interruption] I am on my feet and I expect some silence. Front-bench members complained when there was noise from the back of the House; now they are making an awful lot of noise across the House. I ask them to now show some respect to the back of the House.

Roading—Wellington-Levin Road

8. PAUL QUINN (National) to the Minister of Transport: What reports has he received on yesterday’s announcement of a strategic plan for the State Highway 1 Wellington to Levin corridor?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): I have seen many reports in the last 24 hours, mostly welcoming yesterday’s announcement. The Mayor of Porirua, Jenny Brash, said Transmission Gully provides better community and environmental outcomes. The Greater Wellington chair, Fran Wilde, said it is a great Christmas present for the whole region. Even the member opposite, the Hon Darren Hughes, said that the decision the give the go-ahead to the Transmission Gully project is welcome news for motorists in the Wellington region. Of course, not everybody is happy, and I recognise different opinions. But after decades and decades of debate, we finally have a strategic plan from Wellington all the way to Levin that makes sense and has a funding track to enable it to be built.

Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, the Hon Darren Hughes.

Hon Darren Hughes: Did the member want to ask a supplementary question to his primary question?

Mr SPEAKER: The member has called for a supplementary question.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table a Ministry of Transport document dated 10 December 2008, which shows that Transmission Gully will increase congestion, will reduce rail patronage by 13 percent, and could take substantially longer to open than the coastal route.

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 Darren Hughes: Does his confirmation that if there is to be a toll for Transmission Gully it will be around $3 mean that the Government will look at a public-private partnership for the construction of that road?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have not confirmed that there will be a toll. I have said that there quite probably will be a toll, and I have indicated it would be in the order of $2 to $3 in today’s money. I do not necessarily expect that it will be a public-private partnership, because the funding is mostly in place for the project and tolling would pay only a small proportion of the cost, although every bit helps when we are talking about $1 billion. But we will see how that all develops and which construction contract arrangements proceed as the agency goes through its work.

Hon Peter Dunne: What cognisance did the Minister take of the provisions of the United Future - National confidence and supply agreement, which strongly supported the construction of Transmission Gully?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am very pleased that the National Party, along with United Future and other support parties, has secured the funding necessary to build the largest piece of the Wellington to Levin corridor. The member for Ōhariu has been an outspoken supporter of Transmission Gully,

and I thank him for his tireless advocacy. As the member will know better than me, over the last 9 years there has been plan after plan for this project, and only this Government has stepped up to put a funding track in place that can allow it to be built.

Hon Darren Hughes: Is he aware of the considerable local opposition in Kapiti to turning a local Western Link Road, the construction of which is just months away, into a four-lane 100- kilometre-an-hour Western Link expressway? I have received 1,000 responses to it in just the last 2 days, with 76 percent of people supporting my position, and just 24 percent of people supporting National’s position.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is not a popularity contest; it is building the best strategic plan for the highway through the region. It is very important that we do so. However, I have also received lots of correspondence in the last couple of days, including from various people who have offered their support and are encouraged that the Government has taken a decision. One person sent me his copy of Darren Hughes’ newsletter thing.

Hon Nathan Guy: What did it say?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It said that Labour had 9 years in Government and did nothing. There were reports after reports but nothing happened. That is what he wrote on Darren’s survey form.

Hon Nathan Guy: Does this progressive and visionary Government have the funding available to follow through on the commitment to build Transmission Gully and the other Wellington roads of national significance projects?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes. The previous Labour Government committed only $400 million to Transmission Gully and asked the region to somehow fund the rest. This Government has stepped up with $11 billion in new State highway infrastructure and is getting the job done.

Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill—Holiday Pay

9. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: What is the basis for the changes in the treatment of using holiday pay towards the costs of being injured at work in the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Amendment Bill?

Hon PANSY WONG (Acting Minister for ACC): This is a reinstatement of policy back to the pre-2008 position. It is consistent with the way other Government agencies, such as the Inland Revenue Department and Work and Income, treat annual leave as income for the purposes of income tax and a calculation of benefit entitlement.

Darien Fenton: Why did the Minister ignore the advice from Treasury, which opposed these changes on the basis that they would save just $1 million and that the savings were small compared to the fairness concerns?

Hon PANSY WONG: The member said that it was a saving of only $1 million. That is typical of Labour’s loose attitude towards spending taxpayers’ money. It explains why the net liabilities of the Accident Compensation Corporation have soared from $4 billion to $12.7 billion, and claim costs rose by 57 percent in 4 years under the previous Labour Government’s watch.

Darien Fenton: How will the Minister justify to injured workers and their families the plan to take their holiday pay, or is the Minister being a scrooge and are these changes to accident compensation just the beginning of the National Government’s plan to reduce holidays for everyone?

Hon PANSY WONG: There is no such plan. That member sits on the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, which is right now considering the bill. I think she has plenty of opportunity to debate the issue there.

Darien Fenton: If the Minister were injured during the summer recess, would he expect the accident compensation scheme to demand that he use his holiday pay to recover?

Hon PANSY WONG: I am pleased the Associate Minister has the delegated authority for injury prevention; she will try very hard for New Zealanders to have a safe summer holiday break.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry; I half expected one of my colleagues to take the point of order. There was a direct question about the use of holiday pay for accident compensation, and the response related to the delegated authority for injury prevention. There was no link between the question and the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: If the question had been an objective question that asked purely about the use of holiday pay in the event of injury, I would have been able to assist the member much more. But the question was a hypothetical question about the Minister for ACC getting injured. Under such circumstances, I do not think I can expect any particular answer of the Minister answering the question. We need more objective questions. [Interruption] I am on my feet.

Capital Market Development Taskforce—Recommendations

10. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Commerce: What priority will the Government give to responding to the recommendations of the Capital Market Development Taskforce?

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Commerce): It will give that a high priority. The Prime Minister will lead the Government’s response with an announcement early in 2010. I take this opportunity to thank the members of the task force for their service, and, in the spirit of Christmas to acknowledge the previous Minister of Commerce, Lianne Dalziel, for establishing the task force.

Jonathan Young: What priority has the Government given to earlier recommendations of the task force?

Hon SIMON POWER: In respond to the task force’s interim report, the Government worked quickly to implement a number of important measures, including passing legislation to enact new, simplified disclosure prospectuses, bringing in new securities regulations, and helping to facilitate changes to the NZX listing rules in order to make it easier for firms to access capital.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Will he rule out the task force’s recommendations for the partial listing of Government assets, in line with the pre-election promise from the Prime Minister that there would be no sale of State assets in this term; or did that promise not extend to partial privatisation?

Hon SIMON POWER: No. The promise relates to any dilution of equity in this term. The member is quite aware of that.

Minerals Stocktake in Conservation Areas—Invitation to Minister

11. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Has he received my invitation dated 14 December to accompany me, after Parliament rises, on the Gillespie Pass tramping circuit in the north-eastern parts of the Mount Aspiring National Park, so that he can inspect firsthand areas in the conservation estate included in his stocktake of mineral resources, and will he accept it?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources): I have received that invitation, and I say to the member that I think the itinerary that he has put together, for he and I to traipse through the backblocks of New Zealand, is truly splendid. So, on the one hand, I am deeply touched that the member wants to spend so much quality time in the high country alone with me, but on the other hand, I notice that all I am required to do is bring a pair of boots. I have seen that film Brokeback Mountain, so I am afraid that I will remain unavailable.

Hon David Parker: Will the Minister reconsider if I offer to carry his pack?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Given the circumstances, not even if hell freezes over.

Hon David Parker: Why will the Minister not accept my altruistic offer, made in the spirit of Christmas goodwill, and, once and for all, throw off that epithet of “Minister of Stationary Energy”?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Not even will the spirit of Christmas cause me to make such a fundamental life-change. I will assure the member that I appreciate the sentiment—well, actually I do not appreciate all of the sentiment behind the invitation, but I understand what he is trying to say,

and I will be spending time over the Christmas break enjoying some of New Zealand’s more pristine areas. Unfortunately, he will not be accompanying me.

Hon Christopher Finlayson: Does the Minister expect to receive any other invitations from members of the Opposition?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, I do. I live in great hope that I will receive an invitation from the Hon David Cunliffe, the man of the people, to enjoy champagne and oysters at his Herne Bay residence, where I understand the theme of the function will be “My Future; Your Best Interests.” Further, I expect to receive a tramping invitation from the Hon Shane Jones to tramp up and down Queen Street and drop into McDonald’s, where we will have lunch with Parekura Horomia. I also anticipate an invitation from the Hon Phil Goff, but I understand that it will be a “Bring Your Own Vote” party, and that not many will be going. Despite these exhortations, and despite the desire of Opposition members for me to join them in these ventures, I want to make it very clear that, regardless of their needs, I am not jumping the waka.

Hon Parekura Horomia: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would not like Mr Brownlee to go away ill-informed. It was Burger King, not McDonald’s.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I hope that my slip of the tongue has not destroyed Mr Horomia’s sponsorship deal.

Greenhouse Gas Emmissions—Agricultural Sector Research

12. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Agriculture: What steps has the Government recently made to progress agricultural greenhouse gas research?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): We have taken big steps. For several months I and Tim Groser have been working extremely hard to build international support for the New Zealand concept of a global alliance on agricultural greenhouse gases. This work will come to fruition overnight in Copenhagen, where a significant number of developing and developed nations will join New Zealand to formally establish the alliance. In addition, New Zealand will announce a major funding contribution equalling tens of millions of dollars to the alliance.

Colin King: Why is the Government contributing unprecedented funding and effort to the global alliance?

Hon DAVID CARTER: The global alliance stands to be the biggest single effort that the world has ever seen aimed at practically addressing the challenge of reducing farming emissions while ensuring that food production meets the demands of a growing world population. The Government proposed the alliance and is supporting it strongly because we are committed to ensuring that farmers have practical and realistic solutions to reduce their emissions.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Will this new agreement commit the dairy industry to a 25 percent cut in emissions by 2020, as the United States has just announced; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CARTER: It will not specifically do so; the alliance will allow scientists from all around the world to find solutions by which not only the dairy industry but all farmers can look to reduce emissions while not reducing production.


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