Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Questions and Answers - 24 August 2010

(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Savings—Options for Improvement

1. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking to consider options for improving New Zealand’s national savings?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. We are not going to start the week that way. The Minister had not even started his answer before there was a barrage of interjection from, on this occasion, the Labour front bench. That is not in order. Interjections should relate to what a person says, and should not be just a widespread volley like that.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot imagine what the point of order is.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The point of order goes to whether, in fact, this question should have been accepted, given that it contains irony.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the Hon Trevor Mallard has any questions on the Order Paper today, but even so that kind of abuse of the point of order process will not be tolerated. I guess it might have had an element of humour to it, which assisted on this occasion, but I do not accept that kind of point of order.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: A focus on national savings is the next step in the Government’s programme for rebalancing the economy towards savings, investments, jobs, and strong economic growth. Today the Government has announced the appointment of an independent Savings Working Group with wide terms of reference. This group will focus particularly on lifting the level of national savings, not just household savings.

Craig Foss: Why is it important that New Zealand increase its national savings?

Sandra Goudie: Listen up, Labour, you will learn something.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Improving national savings is so important because of the damage that the previous Government did to it—and it should listen. New Zealand has run current account deficits for a very long time and the difference between investment and our savings has been funded by offshore borrowing. That offshore borrowing was $100 billion in 2000, it reached $170 billion this year, and it is forecast to rise to almost $250 billion by 2014. If we can lift national savings we will not be as vulnerable to overseas lenders as we unfortunately are after 9 years of economic mismanagement.

Hon David Cunliffe: What did less damage to New Zealand’s saving rate: cutting contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, cutting KiwiSaver incentives, or borrowing more for tax cuts for wealthy New Zealanders like Ministers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: What did a lot of damage to our national savings and our external deficit was the previous Government. In the 4 years to 2008 New Zealand’s balance of payments deficit averaged—

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleague’s question is about 2010. It is about today and the future; it is not about the past. That answer was not about the Minister’s responsibility. The member put to the Minister three different policy options of the current Government and asked the Minister to give an answer based on the current Government’s policies. Instead we get speeches about what previous Governments have done.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: He’s embarrassed about the record.

Mr SPEAKER: Now it is the Hon Dr Nick Smith. It is fortunate that I am in good humour today, because a point of order is being heard and he should not be interjecting. I say to the Hon Darren Hughes that the question asked, from memory, what, out of a list of things, had caused the least damage. It was seeking the Minister’s opinion. It seems that the Minister did not agree with any of that list and added to the list himself as to what was causing damage. When questions seek opinions there is no precise answer. Members may not like the answers but the remedy is in members’ hands—they should ask tough questions and not just seek opinions.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: What damaged national savings were the policies of the previous Government. Those policies led to a blow-out in Government spending, a blow-out in consumer borrowing, and the worst record on balance of payments for decades. The balance of payments deficit averaged over 8 percent of GDP from 2004 to 2008.

Craig Foss: What particular issues will the Savings Working Group consider?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The working group will consider further the impact of the tax system on national savings, but it will not be considering capital gains tax or land tax, which the Government has ruled out. It will be considering the role of KiwiSaver in improving national savings, but also the role of Government, because there is not much point lifting KiwiSaver or household savings at the expense of putting the Government further into deficit.

Hon David Cunliffe: Given the Minister’s fondness for history, perhaps I could rephrase my question. What did the most damage to New Zealand savings stock: cutting KiwiSaver, cutting the New Zealand Superannuation Fund contributions, tax cuts for the wealthy, or Robert David Muldoon’s decision to scrap the New Zealand superannuation scheme in the 1970s?

Mr SPEAKER: Did the Minister hear the question? I say to his colleagues that the level of interjection was unreasonable.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: What damaged our national savings was economic policy that in the last 9 years delivered a 3 percent increase in after-tax wages. In 9 years under Labour, households had only a 3 percent increase in their after-tax wages, which meant they could not save.

Craig Foss: What policies have contributed to the poor performance of New Zealand’s national savings over the past decade?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The policies that would have contributed to higher national savings are economic growth and rising household incomes, which would have given New Zealanders the ability to save. Unfortunately, those policies did not happen. From 2000 to 2009 the average ordinary-time weekly wage after tax and inflation grew by only 3 percent in 9 years. How could people save with an increase in their wages of 3 percent in 9 years?

Prime Minister—Economic Policies

2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What new policies has he announced as Prime Minister over the last month to ensure that the cost of living does not rise faster than wages?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Over the last month I have restated many times the Government’s economic programme to get faster growth, higher wages, and more jobs. The programme is far too wide ranging to list in one go, but for a starter for ten here are a few: personal

income tax cuts, company income tax cuts, lower taxes on savings, finding billions of dollars of savings in the public sector, capping the bureaucracy, getting Government debt under control, reforming the welfare system, raising literacy and numeracy standards in schools, increased roading investment, upgrading the national electricity grid, streamlining and simplifying the Resource Management Act, employment law reforms, investing in—

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Apart from the answer being a very long answer, the Leader of the Opposition asked what new policies had been announced in the last month. Clearly, the policies mentioned by the Prime Minister in his answer were not new policies that had been announced in the previous month.

Mr SPEAKER: Well, one thing is for sure: we heard enough about them, anyhow. I invite the honourable Leader of the Opposition to ask a supplementary question.

Hon Phil Goff: Why has the Government continued to push up prices and the cost of living through, for example, increased GST, accident compensation increases, increases in taxation on rental property, and road-user charges, when the Department of Labour shows quite clearly that the majority of New Zealanders got no wage rise at all over the last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, there are a couple of things. Firstly, the CPI rate, the inflation rate, average increase under the 9 years of the previous Labour Government was 2.9 percent. Under—

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the light of the answer to the last question, which the Prime Minister did not answer, I ask you to bring him to the specific question I actually asked, which is, why has the Government continued to increase things like GST and roaduser charges, when nobody has had a wage rise?

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has a legitimate point of order. The answer should not start with what the previous Government had done, when the question asked what this Government is doing. I think it is fair enough that the answer should address that.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The reason I did not answer it directly was it was a stupid question. We—

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet. We will not have that. Question time is not a time to abuse other members. The question asked was a perfectly fair question. It does not deserve that kind of response to be made, at all.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The reason I answered the question like that is that it was an inaccurate question, because we have not raised GST yet.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How can that answer possibly be right, when we have legislated to raise GST?

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister answered the question. Exactly when the impact of legislation comes in is clearly a technical matter. I think the Prime Minister answered the question.

Hon Phil Goff: How can the Prime Minister’s answer possibly be right, when under his leadership the Government has legislated to raise GST, even though National promised before the election not to do so?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the salient point here is what the rate of inflation in the economy is at the moment. The answer is that under the National Government it has averaged 1.2 percent; under the previous Labour Government it averaged 2.9 percent.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific. It asked how the Prime Minister’s answer could possibly be right—that is, that the Government has not raised GST—when the Government has legislated to raise GST. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The House is being very noisy today, and we have to try to bring it under control. There is a dilemma when a member asks another member how an answer can be right. I invite members to think about that question. It invites a member to say a whole range of things when answering such a question, because there is no one answer as to how that answer can be right. The question almost expresses an opinion. If the questioner doubts whether the answer that was given is right, then, naturally, the Minister who is being asked to answer such a question will express a different opinion from the questioner’s. It is something that I alert members to think

about. When questions ask for opinions, there is no way that I can insist on the answer being given that the questioner might have wanted. Asking for opinions is not tough questioning. I do not believe I can insist on a more precise answer from the Prime Minister, but I am sure the honourable Leader of the Opposition has further supplementary questions.

Hon Phil Goff: How will a majority of New Zealand wage and salary earners be better off when they got no wage rise last year, but the latest figures from Barfoot and Thompson show that in the last year average rents have gone up in Auckland by over $20 a week?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is very simply answered with this graph, which clearly indicates that in the 9 years that Labour was in office, real wage growth was 3 percent—

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You know well that question time is a time for accountability by the Government. Therefore, this House expects that Ministers will answer specific questions when they are asked. That question was very specific. He is now giving us a lesson in history. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion the Rt Hon Prime Minister knows that he should not interject while a point of order is being considered. I invite the honourable Leader of the Opposition to reflect on his question. If I recollect it correctly, it contained an assertion that wages had not increased in the last 12 months, and he asked how people could be better off. As I saw it, the Prime Minister was pointing out the pattern of real wage changes over recent years. If one looked at the graph he was holding up, one saw that it showed the pattern of real wage increases over recent years—at least that is what I could see from where I am sitting. I am a bit closer to him, so I accept that it is easier for me to see that. I think the Prime Minister was going to dispute the assertion in the honourable member’s question about wage increases. The Prime Minister is perfectly entitled to do that in answering the question, because he is entitled to challenge the assertion of fact in the question when answering it. Clearly, he does not agree with the statement contained in the question, and he is about to dispute it. When a question is structured like that, I simply come back to my fundamental point that some questions are very hard to answer, but, by and large, questions that seek opinions are not hard to answer.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let us go back to Economics 101. Here is the graph. After 21 months of this National Government we have real wage growth of 8.7 percent, which is three times what we had under the previous Labour Government after 9 years in office. But let us go into some of the individual things. The cost of fruit and vegetables, which is an interesting topic of debate at the moment, rose by 5 percent, on average, under that Labour Government; the figure was minus 6.5 percent under National.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a document showing that the majority of workers in the last year did not receive any wage increases. The document is an ANZ data review based on Department of Labour figures.

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 Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a document from Barfoot and Thompson, licensed real estate agents, which shows that in the year to June 2010, rents on average in Auckland have gone up by $20 a week.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document—

Hon Annette King: Telling the truth.

Mr SPEAKER: I say to the Hon Annette King on this occasion that she must not interject while a point of order is being heard. Is there any objection to leave being granted for that document to be tabled? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given some of the disputes we have had about various statistics, if the graph that the Prime Minister was holding up was an official document, we request that he table that official document, with the figures he was just outlining.

Mr SPEAKER: I will check with the Rt Hon Prime Minister. Was it an official document?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.

Hon Members: Ha, ha! Making it up.

Mr SPEAKER: Someone will be taking an early shower if a little more courtesy is not shown in the House. Let me alert members, though, that this will get serious, because the House may or may not go into urgency this week. If I put some members out of the House while the House is in urgency, they will be out for the entire period that the House is under urgency, and if those members want to speak in debates, they will not be able to. I just alert members to the fact that I am not happy with the way interjections are being made while points of order are being heard.

Hon Phil Goff: On that point, what was the answer?

Mr SPEAKER: It was not an official document.

Hon Phil Goff: Can the Prime Minister tell the House how the 93,000 families who have had the funding by the Government to early childhood education cut—and who will be paying $20 to $30 a week extra for their children—will be better off, when over half of them have not had a wage increase over the last year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, there are a couple of things. Fortunately, they have had tax cuts and will have further tax cuts on 1 October. Fortunately, they have enjoyed an average wage growth of 8.7 percent. If I could just give the House one reassurance, it is that if there does have to be an early shower this afternoon, it will be cheaper under National than Labour, because electricity prices have gone up by half.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table a document from the Living and Learning Foundation, whose early childhood centre in Māngere was opened by the Prime Minister last year, and which has said it will have to raise its fees to low-income families by a minimum of $20 to $25 per child per week.

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 Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister indicated, in the last part of his answer, that because power prices have gone up, showers are cheaper. My request is that he table his document that shows that—

Mr SPEAKER: The member is abusing the point of order process, and I will not tolerate that any further.

Hon Phil Goff: If the Prime Minister is intent—

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am more than happy to table this bit of my notes, which shows quite clearly that electricity prices have gone up by an average of 2.9 percent under National, and went up by 5.4 percent under Labour.

Hon Trevor Mallard: How can it be cheaper when it’s gone up? What a dipstick!

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the Hon Trevor Mallard to reflect on how that interjection could have been within the Standing Orders. A point of order had been called, and it was being considered. To interject loudly like that, he knows, is totally out of order. I will not actually evict him from the House, because I suspect that he probably wants to be relieved of his duties this afternoon. I will not do that. I will make the honourable member stay here and suffer, and I will be very hard on him. I warn the honourable member that I will be tough on him. I do not think that a member’s scrawled notes constitute an official document; we will not be tabling that sheet.

Hon Phil Goff: If the Prime Minister wants to close the wage gap and living standards gap with Australia, why has he made consumption taxes more than 50 percent higher in this country than Australians pay in theirs?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the Government is closing the wage gap with Australia. I am pleased to report that it has fallen from a peak of 38 percent under Labour to 29 percent under National. That is not bad, actually, given that we have had just 21 months in office. Secondly, we have a different series of taxes here. Australia has a capital gains tax; largely, New Zealand does not. New Zealand has much higher personal tax rates than Australia, which is why someone in New Zealand who used to earn under $229,000 in personal income used to pay more tax in New Zealand than in Australia. After 1 October, it will be $55,000.

Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Prime Minister tell the country that New Zealand had one of the lowest consumption taxes in the world, when on the basis of OED statistics—

Hon Members: OED?

Hon Phil Goff: —OECD statistics of consumption taxes as a percentage of GDP, his 15 percent GST rate will now be the fourth highest in the world, out of the 30 countries?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I would have to see the quote in totality, but what I can say is that the right mix of taxes has been implemented by the Government. We will have a very effective balance between personal taxes and GST. But, hey, if the member does not like the idea of it, then he can campaign on changing it—and I bet he will not.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Maybe you can help me by telling me how in any way that answer addressed the question that I asked. I asked why he told the country that we have one of the lowest rates of consumption taxes in the world, when patently that is untrue.

Mr SPEAKER: The Leader of the Opposition must reflect on the questions he is asking. He asked the Prime Minister why he told the country something. I know that the member probably had an answer that he expected when he asked the question, but there is any range of answers when a member asks a Minister why he or she told the country something. The Prime Minister, if I recollect his answer, said he would want to see the quote in totality before he could comment further on it, but then he explained why he had a certain view on GST, and I do not think that is an unreasonable answer. I keep stressing the point that it is perfectly within the Standing Orders to seek opinions, but as Speaker it is extraordinarily difficult for me to insist on any particular answer when an opinion is sought, because there is no right answer when an opinion is sought. That is the dilemma I face.

Hon Phil Goff: This House is entrusted with the task of holding Ministers accountable for what they say. If a Minister says we have one of the lowest consumption tax rates in the world yet evidence can be tabled to show that that is untrue, I ask why it is that a Minister will not be held accountable to answer that question

Hon Darren Hughes: That’s not an opinion.

Hon Phil Goff: It is not an opinion.

Mr SPEAKER: I can imagine all sorts of questions that could be asked from a range of questions to test the accuracy of the Prime Minister’s statement, asking him point-blank what certain GST rates are, and then comparing them. The whole idea of supplementary questions is not to make a range of political statements about an issue but to dig into an issue, to test a Minister’s answer. I could think of a whole range of questions that could be asked to test the Prime Minister on that issue, which were not seeking an opinion but actually challenging him on facts, not asking him why he was saying something. The dilemma is that as soon as one asks why or how, that is an opinion, and it is very difficult for me as Speaker to insist on any particular answer being given. I realise that members often want to make a political statement in asking a question, and that is perfectly legitimate, but it is very difficult then for me to insist on any particular answer being given. The political statement that the member was making with that—because I can see he is wondering why I am saying that—in a very subtle sort of way, was that the Prime Minister was not

basically telling the truth over something. That is not the way to test out some of the facts through supplementary questions.

Hon Phil Goff: Does New Zealand, at 15 percent, have one of the lowest rates, as he alleged, of consumption taxes in the world as a percentage of GDP; if so, where does it range in the list of 30 OECD countries?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would need to go and check that at 15 percent GST, because I simply do not have that information to hand. But in the bulk of Europe the rate is higher than 15 percent. What the Government does know is that we have the right mix of taxes.

Alcohol Reform—Balance of Reduction of Harm and Responsible Drinking

3. CHESTER BORROWS (National—Whanganui) to the Minister of Justice: How does the Government’s alcohol reform package, announced yesterday, balance the need to reduce alcoholrelated harm with the interests of responsible drinkers?

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice): It does so because reducing the harm caused by alcohol is a significant part of the Government’s policy to reduce the drivers of crime. That is why we have adopted in full or in part 126 of the 153 recommendations of the Law Commission’s report. Proposals to restrict opening hours, the number of licences, and irresponsible advertising will not affect the majority of responsible drinkers. This Government is not in the business of interfering in the lives of those who simply enjoy a drink now and then.

Chester Borrows: Why does the Government’s package have a particular focus on youth drinking?

Hon SIMON POWER: The Government is targeting young people because, as the Law Commission reported, young people suffer a high and disproportionate level of alcohol-related harm. For example, the highest proportion of alleged offenders who are affected by alcohol are aged between 17 and 20. If a new law is to have any impact on the drinking culture, we need to start with our young people by putting measures in place to control both the supply of alcohol to youth and the environment in which they are drinking. We have done that by proposing an increase in the age for off-licence purchase, limiting the alcoholic content and volume of ready-to-drinks, restricting drinking in spaces such as car parks and school grounds, and backing the rights of parents to decide who should give their children alcohol.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Why has he failed to address the problem of retailers selling dirt-cheap liquor—alcopops at $1.50 a bottle and wine priced as low as $5 to $6 a bottle—which is depicted in the cartoon I am holding as the dead elephant in the room, alongside these changes, which are depicted as air freshener to cover the smell?

Hon SIMON POWER: We have not ignored those recommendations around minimum pricing, at all. In fact, we have made substantial inroads into discussing the arrangements that need to be made for the collection of pricing, sales figures, and data around retailers’ sales of alcoholic products. Those matters will be considered by the select committee as part of an ongoing discussion about alcohol reform, and I am pleased to see that the Leader of the Opposition has indicated he will support the bill’s first reading.

Rahui Katene: Does the Minister agree that tamariki do what adults do; if so, how will his reforms change the behaviour of heavy drinkers, 92 percent of whom are adults aged 20 and over?

Hon SIMON POWER: Yes, but there are a couple of issues with the statistic that was quoted by the member. The first is that 96 percent of the population who are legally able to drink are over the age of 20. Secondly, setting a culture for young people who will eventually be over 20 is an important part of this package.

Sue Kedgley: What is the Government’s logic for excluding casinos from the restrictions it is proposing to place on selling liquor after 5 a.m. in bars and clubs, and will not this exemption simply encourage people in Auckland and Christchurch to head off down to a casino when the local bar has shut and gamble as well as drink?

Hon SIMON POWER: The reason is that Cabinet agreed with the Law Commission’s recommendation that the status quo should remain—that is: “The Gambling Act 2003 allows casinos to sell alcohol for consumption in a casino during the hours the casino is open, regardless of the Sale of Liquor Act.” But I can assure the member that the Government will listen to public submissions on this and other matters during the select committee process.

Rahui Katene: Will the Minister’s reforms reduce alcohol consumption by Māori and alcoholrelated criminal offences committed by Māori; if so, what evidence or advice has he received about the degree of such reductions?

Hon SIMON POWER: Yes, that is certainly the intention. The Government’s proposals are intended to reduce excessive consumption across the population, including amongst Māori, and subsequent alcohol-related harm, such as criminal offending. As I have said in this House and in other fora, alcohol law reform is a key component of the Drivers of Crime programme to reduce alcohol-related offending across the population.

Chester Borrows: When will he introduce to the House legislation to give effect to the Government’s policy announcement?

Hon SIMON POWER: It is my intention to introduce legislation to the House in the middle of October. If the Hon Gerry Brownlee is in agreement, it is my intention for that bill to be read a first time before Christmas. The bill will be sent to a select committee for a full 6 months, and it is my intention to pass the legislation prior to the end of next year.

Hon Jim Anderton: Did the Minister agree with the co-leader of the Māori Party Tariana Turia when she said: “We know that putting up the price is a powerful tool to reduce smoking”; if so, why does he not think the same argument applies to New Zealand’s culture of heavy drinking?

Hon SIMON POWER: Yes, because putting up the price of a product that always harms is an effective measure; alcohol does not always harm.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Why does he not refer a Supplementary Order Paper to the select committee considering the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill, or would that just remind the public that they have already submitted on local alcohol plans, parental consent for under-age drinking, alcohol advertising measures, and under-20-year-olds having a zero drinkdriving limit?

Hon SIMON POWER: I will not be referring a Supplementary Order Paper to the select committee on that bill—which was introduced by the previous Government on 6 August 2008 but was not given a first reading in 12 sitting days, including two periods of urgency, before the House rose for the election. This Government gave that bill its first reading and sent it to a select committee. Unfortunately, it needs to be rewritten.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave for the Liquor Advertising (Television and Radio) Bill, which regulates alcohol advertising, to be set down as a members’ order of the day.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action to be followed. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Job Creation—Legislation

4. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social

Development and Employment: When she said last week that “this is a great week for New Zealand, with two pieces of legislation encouraging job opportunities and removing the barriers to work,” how many jobs does she expect to be created from these changes?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Social

Development and Employment: The Minister was referring to the Future Focus legislation and the 90-day legislation, both of which create more opportunities for jobs. In respect of how many jobs are to be created, the member will know that legislation does not create jobs; what creates jobs is businesses making investments and making decisions to hire people. The Government is relentlessly focused on encouraging them to make those positive decisions.

Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, if she has no idea how many jobs will be created from her “great week”, why should New Zealanders have any confidence in a Government that has no plan for jobs, is poll-driven, and uses gimmicks, rather than substance, as an excuse for policy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: They should have confidence because the Government is executing a wide-ranging plan to manage the economy to achieve two objectives: one objective is to undo the damage done by the previous Government, and the second is to get the economy on a path to recovery, and the early signs of that are promising.

Hon Annette King: Did her “great week” include help for nearly 40,000 people who have had to apply to the Government for assistance to pay for their children’s school uniforms, stationery, and fees; if so, has she factored in the GST increase in 37 days’ time, which will further put up the costs faced by those struggling families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Minister is doing a much better job than that member’s Government did.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not about the previous Government. It was a clear question about 40,000 people who have had to go to the Government for help.

Mr SPEAKER: I cannot help but come back to my fundamental point. If the honourable member really wanted to ask a question, rather than make a political statement, she would ask a simple, straightforward question. The idea of that question was, very clearly, to make a political statement. The member should not then appeal to me as Speaker if she does not like the political statement made in return. Question time is meant to be a time to ask tough questions, and I am very supportive of that. Members have seen me be very hard on Ministers who dodge straight, tough questions. But as for political statements, do not appeal to me when the Minister does not answer in the way the member would like.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a press report from the New Zealand Herald showing that 40,000 people had to apply to the Government for help with the cost of school uniforms, fees, and stationery.

Mr SPEAKER: Members are not going to seek leave to table press reports.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: When GST goes up on 1 October, beneficiaries will be compensated immediately. Under that member’s Government, in 2008, inflation was 5 percent and beneficiaries went for a whole year before they received an adjustment. We are giving them one straight away, on a 2.5 percent increase in GST.

Hon Annette King: Did her “great week” extend to places like Wanganui, which has seen a number of businesses close recently, and what is in the Government’s plans that will see those businesses reopen, new ones started, and the almost 500 people in that town who went on the unemployment benefit back in jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Opposition should get behind the Government’s programme, because it is aimed at rebalancing this economy to increase exports, savings, after-tax incomes, and investment. What the Government’s programme will not do is fool people into thinking that jobs based on massive borrowing and Government spending blowouts are real jobs. That is what Labour tried to tell the people of Wanganui. It has turned out they were misled.

Hon Annette King: Did budget advice services tell her that they agree that recent Government policies gave New Zealanders a “great week”, or have the services told her what we have heard— that thousands of families are facing severe hardship, struggling to pay their mortgage, rent, and phone and power bills—and how will driving down wages, increasing GST, and policy gimmicks help them?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: First of all, the Minister regularly communicates with all of the services that support New Zealanders in the community, and does so very effectively. Secondly, the Labour Party might want to ignore one fact, but it will undermine its credibility if it does so: all of those families will get a tax cut on 1 October, and the average household will be—

Hon Annette King: No, they don’t.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: So members of the Opposition say that there is no tax cut on 1 October? Well, they are wrong. The average household will be $25 a week better off, after paying the extra GST.

Question No. 5 to Minister

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): I seek leave to have my question held over until the Minister for Social Development and Employment, Paula Bennett, is in the House to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Child Abuse—Funding for Programmes

5. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Social Development and

Employment: Does she stand by her statement to the iwi leaders meeting last week that “nothing can be more important than dealing with child abuse”; if so, why did she also tell the meeting that “the Government doesn’t have all the money for it right now.”?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police) on behalf of the Minister for Social

Development and Employment: Yes, and that is why recently the Minister and her colleague the Minister of Police witnessed the signing of a child protection memorandum of understanding between Child, Youth and Family Services and the police, which will see them working more closely to assist the victims of child abuse.

Metiria Turei: How much will it cost to implement a whānau finder and family group conferences for young children—the two proposals the Minister asked iwi leaders to help fund?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: A clear and rational review of the Minister’s speech will show that she has said that those are ideas that she has had and she would like to get some feedback from the iwi leaders group. I am sure she would be very interested in hearing from that member.

Metiria Turei: Did the Minister not bother to lobby her Cabinet colleagues for the funding for these services when Cabinet was approving, for example, the $2 billion for the “Holiday Highway” from Pūhoi to Wellsford?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I have made it perfectly clear that the ideas that the Minister has shared with the iwi leaders group are in their formative stages.

Metiria Turei: Did the Minister bother to argue, when Cabinet was approving a $4 billion tax cut for the wealthier families in Aotearoa, that perhaps that money might be better spent on child abuse prevention, which apparently nothing can be more important than?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: As that member should know, all discussions in Cabinet are confidential. I also say to that member that the State does not have—[Interruption] The Opposition might find this funny but I do not. The State does not have a monopoly on caring nor on taking action. The Minister has, quite wisely, asked the iwi leaders group whether they would like to give her feedback on her ideas, which they have.

Metiria Turei: When the Minister developed her policy to work test sole parents did she take into account the fact that just in recent years there have been four reported cases of serious child abuse—two of which resulted in the death of the child—because the child had been left with unsafe adults while the mother was working?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Fifty percent of sole parents and 68 percent of partnered women with children are in paid work. Being in paid work does not make a mother an irresponsible parent.

Metiria Turei: How can the public have any confidence in a Minister who goes cap in hand to iwi leaders with no costed proposals—but she still wants iwi to fund them—claiming that nothing is more important than dealing with child abuse, when clearly her Government will prioritise many

more things that it considers more important than protecting New Zealand children from violence, abuse, and death?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Quite clearly that member was not present at the iwi leaders group when the Minister spoke. Any sensible and reasoned review of the Minister’s speech would show that the allegations made by that member are quite wrong.

Katrina Shanks: What is the Government doing to tackle child abuse?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: In addition to the memorandum that I referred to earlier, last year we announced the first wave—the Never, Ever Shake a Baby campaign, which supports the Auckland District Health Board’s shaken baby prevention pilot and the non-governmental organisation First Response—placed Child, Youth and Family social workers in hospitals, and introduced multidisciplinary meetings before discharge, better data and monitoring systems, and an independent experts forum. As part of Budget 2010 we announced funding for extra Child, Youth and Family social workers in hospitals, teen parent intensive case managers, seven supported houses for teen parents, and development of parenting support for teen fathers. Last week we launched Home for Life.

Finance, Minister—Statement

6. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement: “we’re getting the right kind of recovery if you take a longer-term point of view”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes. Although the recovery has been patchy, there are early signs that the imbalances that have handicapped this economy through the last 5 or 6 years are unwinding. Those imbalances are pretty straightforward: too much of our resource and borrowing has financed an increase in non-tradables—that is, domestically focused activity—and not enough of it has gone on growing our export capacity. When one is a trading nation, export capacity is pretty important.

Hon David Cunliffe: How was the longer-term point of view improved by cutting KiwiSaver incentives and deferring for a decade contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because we did not have any cash to put into the New Zealand Superannuation Fund—in fact, this financial year the New Zealand Government is running a $13 billion cash deficit. If the member is worried about the state of the economy and what has caused it, normally I would tell him to look in the mirror, but he does not need much encouragement.

Hon David Cunliffe: If there was insufficient cash to pre-fund the retirement plan for New Zealanders, why was there enough cash to give tax cuts to his wealthy mates?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member has clearly arrived from some other planet—

Mr SPEAKER: The House will display some courtesy. I am extremely disappointed with the quality of questions being asked today and some of the answers being given. The Minister made a very unhelpful comment at the end of his last answer, which I ignored; maybe I should not have ignored it. To start the answer to a question with an attack on the questioner is simply not acceptable. It does not show a Minister on top of his or her game, at all; it shows a Minister stooping to attack another member of this House instead of demonstrating his or her skill at being on top of the game and answering even a poor question—and I am not saying that that was a poor question—as well as he or she can. I must say that today I think the quality of questions has been very poor. They have been more political statements than questions. I could apply the Standing Orders and rule a lot of them out of order, and the House would possibly be a lot better for it. I do not want to do that, but if members are going to continue to just make political statements instead of asking questions, I may have to do it. The quality of question time has to improve. Today has not been a high-quality question time. It is not helped when a Minister simply attacks a questioner like that. It is unacceptable. The Hon Bill English will come to the question asked.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That question is rather unusual, given that this House has spent 3 or 4 months debating a Budget where about half of the funding for the income tax cuts comes from GST increases. I thought that the member knew about the GST increase, because his party is campaigning on it. There was also revenue from other sources, which made the package broadly fiscally neutral. The result of that package is that 75 percent of earners in New Zealand now have a top statutory tax rate of 17.5c in the dollar.

Hon David Cunliffe: How can he expect to reduce overseas debt through savings when he is planning to further liberalise the overseas investment regime, making it easier for foreigners to buy New Zealand land and assets?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has actually signalled its understanding of the concern about overseas investment and assets. But we need to bear in mind that because we do not save enough, in order to have jobs in New Zealand we need overseas investment or we simply will not have the capital coming in to create jobs. We have to strike a balance between our need for overseas capital, because we do not provide it ourselves, and protecting those things that are very important to New Zealanders.

Resource Management Act Reforms—Consents for Major Infrastructure

7. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast - Tasman) to the Minister for the

Environment: How will changes made last year to the Resource Management Act 1991 help the efficient processing of consents for major transport and electricity infrastructure?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): The national consenting option provided in the first phase of the Government’s resource management reforms is attracting high levels of interest. The process has the advantage of being a single robust process overseen by the new Environmental Protection Authority. It has a board chaired by an Environment Court judge and up to four specialist members with skills relevant to the application. The one-step process requires a decision within 9 months with limited appeal rights.

Chris Auchinvole: What significant applications have been lodged with the new Environment Protection Authority; and is the Minister aware of other projects being considered for the streamlined process?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Environment Protection Authority has received two major applications: Contact Energy’s $1 billion Tauhara 2 geothermal station near Taupō, in February; and Auckland’s $2 billion Waterview Connection on State Highway 20, last Friday. The Environment Protection Authority has also been in dialogue on six other major infrastructure projects that are likely to be lodged over the next year, including Transmission Gully in Wellington, and the Christchurch Southern Motorway. The expected total investment being considered under the streamlined process during this term of Parliament will involve infrastructure worth over $6 billion. It is an important part of the Government’s economic and job strategy that these are processed efficiently.

Chris Auchinvole: Has the Minister seen reports of the drawn-out resource consent processing that took 15 years in the case of the Wellington Inner City Bypass, 12 years in the case of the Whangamata marina, 10 years in the case of the Northern Gateway motorway, and 6 years in the case of the Wairākei geothermal expansion; and what reports has he seen on actions taken during the last decade to address these obvious problems?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, I have, and both the environment and the economy were the losers from those delays. For instance, the 6-year delay, from 2001 to 2007, in consenting the Wairākei Power Station contributed to the record high burning of coal at Huntly to generate the necessary electricity. Equally so, the delays with the Wellington Inner City Bypass and the Northern Gateway project resulted in years of additional congestion with extra unnecessary emissions and the loss of economic efficiency. No attempt was made to fix these delays during the previous 9 years.

Question No. 2 to Prime Minister

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): My apologies for coming back to this issue so late, but it took a few moments to get the data. I seek leave to table the OECD chart listing where New Zealand now ranks in terms of GST. Of the 29 countries in the OECD that are reported on for GST, New Zealand is 21st—in other words, there are 28 countries above us.

Mr SPEAKER: The House has got enough information. I say to the right honourable Prime Minister that when seeking leave to table a document the entire document is not read out. Leave is being sought—

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek clarification as to the nature of the document. Does it show GST as a percentage of GDP?

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the right honourable Prime Minister to reply.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. It is the rate—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the right honourable Prime Minister. I extended to the Leader of the Opposition the courtesy of allowing him, under a point of order, to seek clarification as to the document. That outburst from the Labour front benches was unacceptable. The Speaker has measures available to sort this place out if he needs to, and I will not be backward in using them if I have to. The House has been unacceptably disorderly today. The Prime Minister has sought leave to table that document?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I seek leave for that to happen.

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.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier, in my replies to questions today, I raised an issue with the Leader of the Opposition, who has come into the House with unsubstantiated quotes. The quote that I gave, which I have now checked, is in—

Mr SPEAKER: Even the Prime Minister cannot litigate an issue by way of point of order. I sense that the right honourable Prime Minister is seeking by way of point of order to debate an issue with the Leader of the Opposition. He cannot do that. No one in this House can do that. That is not a matter of order; that is a matter of what took place during an exchange during question time, and a point of order is not the way to deal with it. The right honourable Prime Minister has two options: he can make a ministerial statement, which is debatable, or if the matter reflects on him personally, he can seek leave to make a personal explanation. But no member can litigate an issue by way of point of order.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not challenging your ruling, Mr Speaker. What I am saying—and I think it is a point you might reflect on—is that the Leader of the Opposition has got into the habit of coming to the House with theoretical quotes. He does not have them in writing and cannot produce them, and—

Mr SPEAKER: The right honourable Prime Minister must resume his seat. [Interruption] Was that a Ngāpuhi war cry? The right honourable Prime Minister must accept the Standing Orders of the House. Any quote contained in a question of a member has been validated by the Clerk’s Office. Although I accept that sometimes the quotes may be a short part of a longer passage, where the quote is contained in a question the Minister—as I have heard the right honourable Prime Minister do—in answering the question can point out the rest of the quote and where he or she disagrees with the way in which the quote has been interpreted. But we cannot litigate it in this House. What I would accept is that if the right honourable Prime Minister is saying that the Speaker—and the Speaker is ultimately responsible for this—has failed to properly validate a question, then I am prepared to look at the particular question, and I apologise in advance if I have failed to have a question properly validated. As for points of order beyond that, I am very happy to look at a question if the Prime Minister wishes me to look at a particular question, but members should not

be debating across the House whether a member has used a quote correctly. It is the responsibility of my office to make sure that any quote contained in a question is correct.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was not a primary question. If it had been a primary question, that would be absolutely fine. What the member is doing is in supplementary questions providing quotes that are inaccurate, and you, Mr Speaker, then make me answer those questions, and rightfully so. But if the member is not providing proper quotes, I cannot be expected to answer things that are actually inaccurate.

Hon Darren Hughes: Speaking to the point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Darren Hughes briefly, but I do not want to hear too much argument.

Hon DARREN HUGHES (Senior Whip—Labour): Sure. There are two points. Firstly, the Prime Minister makes a personal reflection on another member of the House—[Interruption]—by saying, as he has done by way point of order, that a member—

Mr SPEAKER: That is not going to help, and members will not interject. That is not going to help the order of the House. The Prime Minister has raised something that he feels quite concerned about. I do accept that it is an issue of order, because if quotes are used in supplementary questions, and Ministers feel they are being used improperly, that, I guess, can lead to disorder. But having said that, I must say that when a question contains a quote, the Minister gets the final word in answering the question, and has the chance to point out that the quote is inaccurate. That is a perfectly good answer to a question that contains a quote—to point out that the quote is selective or is not reflecting the point being made when the statement was made by the Minister. It is a perfectly fair answer to such a question. I do not think I have been unduly hard on Government Ministers answering questions today; if anything, I have been quite hard on Opposition members over the quality of questions asked, where they have sought my assistance and I have not insisted on any particular answers. I feel that today no one could argue that I have been unduly harsh on Ministers by expecting any particular answer; if anything, I have been the other way. If the Hon Darren Hughes has a further point I will hear it.

Hon DARREN HUGHES: The second point is on the point the Prime Minister raised about supplementary questions. As you know, the point the Prime Minister made is often a point the Opposition feels. We do not see information given by way of answer to a supplementary question as full, or consistent with previous answers, or accurate in respect of the primary question. We have written letters to you alleging a breach of privilege on those matters that have taken place in answers to supplementary questions. So it is completely open to the Prime Minister: if he believes that the words that have been quoted are not his, then he can write to you—go down the privilege line—that a member is alleging that he said words that he did not say. Then it will be up to the questioner to supply the actual quote that has John Key’s words in it, and it will be up to John Key as the person alleging a breach of privilege to show that he is not the person responsible for that quote. That seems to be quite a simple way forward.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Gerry Brownlee. I do not want to take too much time on this.

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I realise that, but it is relatively important. Would it be, then, an acceptable answer for a Minister to say “I cannot verify the quote.”? That is the situation that Ministers are left in. No Minister, let alone the Prime Minister, who is constantly making public statements about a range of things—as you would except the Prime Minister to do— knows at all times exactly what the context was of the quote that is being put to him. I think the proposal that the Hon Darren Hughes put forward gets to the level of being ridiculous—that we have to start dissecting this issue through letters to the Speaker, for goodness’ sake! I think the problem becomes that where Ministers have been confronted with quotes that are out of context, and perhaps even off the topic, there is still insistence from the Chair that the question be answered. That, I think, gets to the difficulty of it. If it is acceptable for Ministers to say that they cannot—

Mr SPEAKER: I think we have heard sufficient on this. I would be interested in checking the record today. I do not believe that I have insisted that any Minister answer a question today that contained a quote. I have made it very clear that I do not insist on any particular answer from Ministers where opinions are being sought. I accept that this is always going to be a slightly tricky issue, but it is not too difficult. Members are perfectly at liberty to include what they believe is a quote in a supplementary question, as long as it is crucial to the question being asked, not just an additional injection of a statement into the question. As long as it is fundamental to the question being asked, they are perfectly at liberty to do that, and the Minister being questioned is perfectly at liberty to dispute the quote. That is the risk that members take when they include a quote in a supplementary question that has not been validated; they risk a Minister in responding simply disputing the quote, which is a perfectly fair answer to the question. I do not see any great difficulty here. I do not think I have put Ministers under undue pressure at all to answer any questions today; if anything, I would not be surprised if the members of the Opposition feel that the Speaker was a bit hard on them today. But I do not resile from what I have said. I have heard too many questions today that were simply a quite convoluted political statement rather than a real question. Members need to reflect on that. If they want the Speaker’s assistance in getting answers to questions, I will help them when they ask a simple, clear, hard question, but I cannot assist when the questions contain quotes or are convoluted questions seeking opinions and making political statements. I think we are ready to move on.

Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition): I seek the leave of the House to table a document showing consumption taxes as a percentage of GDP in OECD nations 2007. It was compiled in my office from 2009 OECD revenue statistics.

Mr SPEAKER: This document was compiled in the office of the honourable leader of the Leader of the Opposition, using OECD statistics. Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw your attention to Speaker’s ruling 156/3, which states: “When a question is based on a quotation or excerpt from a newspaper article, the excerpt must be correct, or if the report is paraphrased in the question, the paraphrase must be a fair one.” The statement that I made, which was paraphrased by the Leader of the Opposition—

Hon Trevor Mallard: What was the Standing Order?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Speaker’s ruling 156/3. The quotation that was paraphrased by the Leader of the Opposition I made in relation to GST at the time, and it was that we have one of the lowest GST rates. I have proven absolutely that that is correct. The member is now trying to change that, and—

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the right honourable Prime Minister to resume his seat, because what he is now doing is debating this issue. The Standing Orders cannot be used to debate the issue. I think the members have made their points perfectly clear through the documents that have been tabled. The right honourable Prime Minister sought leave to table a document that showed relative GST rates, approval was given, and I think the document confirms the point that he was making. The honourable Leader of the Opposition sought leave to table a document that compiled GST data in terms of percentage of GDP, and leave was granted for that document to be tabled. The public has heard the exchange, and I think they realise the difference in points between percentage of GDP and actual GST rates. I do not think there is any great difficulty here. All I would ask is that for question time to be most effective questions need to be more direct. Political statements are, strictly, out of order, but I do not intervene all the time, because I do not want to be disrupting question time in the way I have done today, which I regret very much. I do not want to be doing that. But it is in the hands of Ministers. Ministers can hear when a question is a political statement, and they know I am

not going to do much about the answer. But when a straight, clear question is asked, that is a different matter. I do not think we need to take the matter any further today.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would ask you to go away and, later on, reflect on Speaker’s ruling 156/3.

Mr SPEAKER: I have the Speaker’s ruling right in front of me.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I go back to the point I read out before: “if the report is paraphrased in the question, the paraphrase must be a fair one.” That is my point, Mr Speaker. The questions coming out of the mouth of the Leader of the Opposition are not fair, because they make an assertion that is different from the quote.

Mr SPEAKER: Members asking questions do need to be careful not to be making assertions in the question. A question is meant to be a question, not a statement. I accept that there is a point there. What worries me is that if I were to apply the particular Standing Order that covers that issue, I would be ruling out more than half the questions, and I do not want to be doing that—I do not want to be doing that. But, at the same time, Ministers need to remember that if they feel that a question made an incorrect allegation about something that they have said, they can simply say that in answering the question. They can clear up the matter and deal with it at that time by saying “That is not what I said.” That is a perfectly good answer to the question.

Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to take your ruling a step further and also reflect on the letters that you have received and replied to on the question of privilege by way of answer. If members on this side of the House are being required to be accurate in their questions, can I ask that the same standards be applied to answers, because you have repeatedly ruled that they do not.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that is very helpful in terms of where the House has got to now. If one looks at the way in which I am applying the Standing Orders in question time, one would have to accept that, on a strict interpretation of the Standing Orders, I am being somewhat harder on answers than I am on questions. My judgment was that it was preferable for me not to be ruling out questions that do not really comply with the Standing Orders; it was better to leave them in the hands of Ministers to deal with. Ministers are perfectly capable; when they hear a question that is outside the Standing Orders, they do not need my help to know how to answer, and it makes question time flow better. I do not want to come back to applying the Standing Orders strictly. However, if I feel that question times too often end up like question time today, I will do that. I have to say that it is my feeling that I have been harder on answers than I have been on questions, because from time to time I have insisted on Ministers answering questions. But if I am to apply the Standing Orders strictly, many questions will be ruled out, because many of them contain superfluous statements and are often just purely thinly disguised political statements and strictly do not meet the requirements of the Standing Orders at all. All that I ask members to think about, in response to the last point of order, is that being careful with what one says in this House is important. I have given the matter a lot of thought, actually, and I will have some discussions with the Standing Orders Committee about it, because I am concerned that at times not enough care is taken with what is said in this House. All I would ask is that both sides of the House be careful in what they say and what they allege, because this is Parliament, we are elected members of the House, and we should be careful with what we say in this place. That is just an appeal to members to be careful. I would like us now to move on, to try to get through question time.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you, after question time, to go away and reflect on this matter. The statement made by Mr Mallard before was in itself an admission that quotes are actually being paraphrased incorrectly, because members opposite are not happy with the answers they have been getting from you, Mr Speaker.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Speaking to the point of order—

Mr SPEAKER: We will not take that any further. I have to say to the right honourable Prime Minister that that was not helpful.

Rt Hon John Key: Well, it’s accurate.

Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will not argue with me in the House. Even the Prime Minister has been known to leave the House. Ministers need to be a little bit realistic about this. There are some components of a question that I cannot judge in the House as Speaker. Sure, I can rule out outlandish assertions, but if a question contains a quote, how is the Speaker to know that the quote may be out of context or may not be strictly accurate? The Speaker cannot judge that in the House, and that is why it would be wrong for the Speaker to try to rule in too hard a way on some questions. But Ministers do have the last say. xxxfo Ministers, when they hear a quote that is unreasonable or that has misrepresented their point of view, in answering the question can say that, and I will absolutely support Ministers in pointing that out; it is a fair answer to the question. I do now want to move on, because the House has taken a lot of time on this. I think the exchange has been worthwhile, because I have been very disappointed with today’s question time. I think the time taken to sort through this issue has been worthwhile, but I will look forward to an improvement in quality as we move forward.

Question No. 8 to Minister

Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is completely separate point of order. I put this question down to the Minister for Economic Development, but it was redirected by the Government to the Minister of Finance. I seek leave to put it to the Minister for Economic Development, who is in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection? There is objection. The—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not see what the further point of order is.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I think you will have to wait and hear it, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Trevor Mallard, but I am getting a little tired of the time being spent this way.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I would like to refer you to Speakers’ rulings 144/2-3 and 144/5, and ask you whether this is one of those questions where the power taken by previous Speakers to refuse to allow the transfer could be invoked, in light of the fact that this Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately. [Interruption] The member will resume his seat right now. It is absolutely the Government’s prerogative which Minister is to answer a question. This question, as I read it, contains issues to do with the Budget; Budget 2010 is specifically mentioned in the question. The fact that it has been transferred to the Minister of Finance to answer is nothing unusual whatsoever, and there will be no further points of order on the matter. The Hon David Parker will ask his question and we will move on. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Trevor Mallard will leave the House, and he will do so without any scene or I will name him. Hon Trevor Mallard withdrew from the Chamber.

Income Gap, Parity with Australia—Non-residential Business Investment

8. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Has he received any reports on his statement in Budget 2010 which forecast the growth in non-residential business investment to be 6.2 percent for 2011, increasing to 10.3 percent in 2012, and does he think these forecasts are important components of his Government’s plan to close the wage gap in Australia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No.

Hon David Parker: Is the forecast 6.2 percent increase in non-residential business investment by next year a milestone upon which his Government is willing to be held accountable in respect of its election promise to close the wage gap with Australia?


Hon David Parker: If by June next year his Government has not even restored the wage gap between New Zealand and Australia to what it was when National took office, will he accept that his Government has failed in its election promise to close the wage gap with Australia?

Rt Hon John Key: Done that already.

Hon David Parker: That is nonsense, Mr Prime Minister.


Hon David Parker: Why does the National Party economic policy document dated 1 August 2010 make no reference to closing the wage gap with Australia, and why has it dropped any reference to the promise of a step change in the New Zealand economy, which was was in the February 2010 version?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The document that the member is referring to sets out in detail the Government’s plan for lifting economic growth. We are proceeding with that plan, despite two major difficulties. The first is the damage done to this economy by the previous Government, and the second is the world economy, which is patchy in its recovery.

Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table a February document, entitled The Economy: Our 2010 Priorities; a National Government document that included a step change in the economy, more mining, and a financial services hub.

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 David Parker: I seek leave to table the 1 August 2010 equivalent, which has no reference to closing the wage gap, or a step change, or a financial services hub.

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

“Three Strikes” Legislation—“Strike” Offences

9. DAVID GARRETT (ACT) to the Minister of Police: How many people have been convicted of a “strike” offence since 1 June 2010, and how many offenders have been sentenced?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): The Ministry of Justice has advised me that as at 22 August, 45 offenders have been convicted of a first-strike offence. There have been no convictions of second-strike or third-strike offences. Five of those 45 offenders have now been sentenced.

David Garrett: What effect will the “three strikes” law have on recidivist offenders, who under Labour’s legislation could be released after serving just one-third of their sentence?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The new law means that the worst repeat violent offenders will not receive parole. Parole is a privilege that must be earned. It should not be granted to those who demonstrate total disregard for the law by continuing to commit serious violent offences despite warnings. Offenders who remain in prison to serve their full sentences will not have the opportunity to commit further crime. This means there will be fewer victims, and that is an excellent outcome.

Grant Robertson: I thought ACT was an independent party. Are all the supplementary answers written down?

David Garrett: Does the Minister agree with the ACT Party—and Grant Robertson MP—which recently expressed the view that we should be focusing on zero-tolerance policing, which, as Mr Robertson noted, has been hugely successful in slashing crime rates in New York; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am always happy to hear suggestions, even when they are from the Opposition. However, I would like to say that the police are now implementing a policing excellence programme, which has a number of work streams that will change the face of policing in New Zealand. Several aspects of the programme have already been trialled, particularly in

Counties-Manakau, and the programme is already having a marked impact on community safety. The police will be rolling out these programmes nationwide, and I expect that they will make a very positive impact.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: How many cases have there been where a strike should have been recorded against a sentenced offender but has not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I do not have those figures for the member, but I am happy to provide them to him should he put down a written question.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on that answer. The Minister obviously prepared a set of statistics very germane to the primary question. Is it the case that this Minister will prepare in a very narrow way, and then on a number of occasions simply say—

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister gave a commendably honest answer to the question asked. She told the House that she did not have that particular information. She did not put a lot of political padding round it, and I think it was a perfectly fair answer to the question. She would not have known that exactly that question would come up, and I think she is to be commended for giving an honest, straight answer to the House.

Pacific Economic Development Agency—Call for Bids for Budget Funding

10. SU’A WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs: Why did the chief executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs announce last week that a range of organisations will now be asked to bid for the $4.8 million that was specifically earmarked in this year’s Budget for the Pacific Economic Development Agency Ltd?

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (Minister of Pacific Island Affairs): It is my understanding that the chief executive of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs thought that the public may be interested to know that he is inviting tender applications from a number of Pacific agencies and organisations, including the Pacific Education Centre, the Pacific Business Trust, the Village Trust, C-Me Mentoring Foundation, and the Pacific Economic Development Agency, with the intention of negotiating a package to build skills, qualifications, and entrepreneurship among young Pacific people. Clearly, this is a chief executive with a keen appreciation of the Government’s wish and desire to invest in Pacific people and communities, to ensure their future success and prosperity.

Su’a William Sio: Does she now accept that this was a shonky deal from the start, which her ministry confirmed by not endorsing the Pacific Economic Development Agency proposal, and will she now accept that this was an attempt to use public money for political advantage?

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: No, I do not accept any of those assertions. This was a Budget appropriation made on the basis of the economic development needs of Pacific people in the Auckland region. Certainly, the proposals put forward by the Pacific Economic Development Agency coincided with the Government’s appreciation that there needed to be a real focus on young Pacific adults who were without skills and training. From the Government’s perspective, what is important is that we have appropriated new money—in fact, the largest single injection of funding into the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs in 10 years—to help some of the most underprivileged and vulnerable members in the community. I would have thought that that member would have applauded the Government’s initiative.

Su’a William Sio: Why is she so willing to risk $4.8 million of taxpayer funds by still including the Pacific Economic Development Agency in the tender process announced, when her own ministry has warned that this private company has not delivered on any projects of note and is untested and unproven in the ability to deliver on projects of this scale?

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: As the member knows, the appropriation was always subject to the successful completion of a purchase agreement with the Pacific Economic Development Agency. In the meantime, the chief executive has now decided to tender out the funding, and, as we have previously said, decisions on purchase agreements are a matter for officials.

Su’a William Sio: Will she tell Parliament who should be held accountable for the shambolic Pacific Economic Development Agency affair: herself, as the responsible Minister; Mr English, who named the Pacific Economic Development Agency as his preferred provider; Mr Key, who stated in the answer to written question No. 12758 that he met with Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, Michael Jones, and Va’aiga Tuigamala at the Columbus Cafe in June 2009, but could not recollect whether J R Pereira was there or whether they discussed funding at all; or all of the above?

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] I am on my feet, and there will be silence. I just ask members to please think a little about the questions they are asking. I listened to a question a moment ago that contained a derogatory statement in it, and now this question did not need to contain the assertion that this was a shambolic affair. Those sorts of questions are totally outside the Standing Orders and should not be allowed. I ask what I am to do as Speaker. The question went on and on and asserted all sorts of stuff into the question, and that is simply not good enough. I have insisted on Ministers answering straight questions. I have given the Opposition huge power through that, and to throw it away with meaningless political statements is a tragedy for this House. I invite Su’a William Sio to re-ask his question in an intelligible way in order to cut out the assertions about what he might think of a programme, because that is irrelevant to a question and it is outside the Standing Orders. I invite him to ask a question that the Minister can answer. I call Su’a William Sio. [Interruption] I say to the Government benches that they should show some courtesy.

Su’a William Sio: Will she tell Parliament who should be held accountable for the U-turn of this Government on the Pacific Economic Development Agency affair?

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU: I do not accept the premise that there is a U-turn. There is an appropriation of taxpayers’ money here, which this Government appropriated to improve the wellbeing of young Pacific people. That is something that Labour did not do in its 10 years in Government, and that member should be ashamed of that.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There has been a lot of sermonising today about the language used by Opposition members in their questions. That Minister just screamed across the House at my colleague that he should be ashamed of himself. He put down a question on an issue that he has taken up in this Parliament over several days. This issue is very close to the heart of my colleague and his constituents. His commitment to the issue is clear. He has been asking questions of this Minister, and instead he gets personal abuse. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: There will not be interjections.

Hon Darren Hughes: Well, if Tau Henare would not mind not interjecting—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard the member. Members should know that if a question alleges that the Government has done a U-turn, they are likely to get a fairly strong response from the Government, because Governments do not like to be accused of having done U-turns. Like it or not, that is the reality. I think that members should think about the questions that they are asking, if they do not want fairly robust responses to be made. To accuse a Minister of having done a U-turn will invariably elicit a response from him or her. I accept that Ministers should not in any way make a personal attack on the questioner. Members will note that today I have pulled up several Ministers who I feel have made personal attacks on questioners.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just seek clarification. We have heard your messages about asking straight questions. The implication of your latest ruling is that we are required to ask the questions that the Government would like to hear in order to avoid personal abuse. I am sure that that cannot be—

Mr SPEAKER: If members would like me to do this, I would be very happy to run “Questions 101” for them on how to ask tough questions. As a former Minister, I have probably answered as many questions in this House as any other member, and as a member I have probably asked more questions than any other member of this House. I am very happy to assist members if they want to have a little assistance on how to ask a tough question, but it is not very difficult. We will not waste more time on that right now.

Question No. 2 to Minister

Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was challenged before as to whether my quote was correct, in that the Prime Minister said tax on consumption was at a relatively low rate. I seek leave to table the document where he said that. By the way, this is his statement to Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER: If Parliament already has the statement, there is absolutely no need to table it, whatsoever. It just wastes the time of the House. [Interruption] Another point of order is being called, but I warn members that my patience is wearing thin.

Question Time

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to simply reflect on a matter that I raised with you a couple of weeks ago, which has been illustrated today. Without wishing to take the time of the House, these matters could be well resolved if you were to revisit your ruling in respect of tabling public documents. The simple dilemma that has been placed before the House today is one of whom we believe, without getting into the detail. The member rose to table, yes, a document—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient from the member. I am not about to revisit that decision. The Standing Orders around tabling documents are very simple. Where leave is sought to table documents, it is to provide information for the House. Trying to score points—“I’m right; you’re wrong”—is not the purpose of tabling documents. If members do not have the intellect to ask hard questions and to show through their questioning that they are putting Ministers on the spot, and to embarrass Ministers, they should not be members of this House. They should not waste time— [Interruption] The Hon Tau Henare will be silent while I am on my feet. Simply making a political statement by way of a supplementary question, then seeking leave to table a document is not what question time is about. If the member does not want to join his colleague, this had better be a very good point of order.

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order pertained to the long-standing ruling and Standing Order whereby a member’s word, if questioned, should be honoured. I am not seeking to make a political point; I am asking for your assistance and simply for some consideration of this matter. There have been a number of occasions over the course of weeks where it is not a matter of “he said, she said”. We members have contested, as the Prime Minister did, the accuracy of a statement—or whatever. If I could finish—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient. The member is questioning my ruling, and he will resume his seat. The easiest thing in the world is to ask some questions that put a Minister under such pressure over the facts that if the Minister has been wrong in his or her answer, he or she is forced to correct it. That is the toughest way to deal with these things. It is not to make a political statement, then seek leave to table a document. I tell members to ask the tough questions.

Adventure Tourism Sector—Findings of Safety Review

11. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Labour: What were the findings of the adventure tourism review?

Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour): Adventure tourism is a $3 billion industry; 850,000 tourists partake in some form of adventure activity each year. For the most part, safety practices are first rate, and operators take their responsibilities very seriously. They know that getting people home safely is a priority. Although the majority of operators are managing risks effectively, for some activities there are gaps in the safety management framework that could allow businesses to operate at a lower standard than industry experts consider acceptable. The review made a number of recommendations to provide assurance that the entire sector is operating as safely as possible.

David Bennett: What decisions has the Government made to improve safety in the adventure tourism sector?

Hon KATE WILKINSON: The Government has accepted the review’s primary recommendation and has agreed in principle to look at creating a registration scheme, with upfront safety audits based on the risks of a particular sector. By introducing a registration scheme, we will know exactly what commercial adventure activities are on offer, and all users, whether they are tourists or New Zealanders, can be assured that any associated risks are being managed. I have also asked the department to complete further work on other initiatives discussed in the report. The Tourism Industry Association has offered to work with us to progress these recommendations. Everyone in this industry wants to protect New Zealand’s reputation from any perceptions that safety here is not up to scratch. Some adventure activities like mountaineering come with high risks. No law can prevent every accident from occurring, but we can offer assurance that every practical step is being taken to manage the risks.

Environment Canterbury, Abolition of Councillors—Views of Christchurch Householders

12. BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Prime Minister: Why is he seeking the views of Christchurch households on the abolition of Environment Canterbury’s elected councillors when this was done 5 months ago?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Because I am interested in their views on what they see as the most topical issues from Environment Canterbury’s directors.

Brendon Burns: What is the cost of the pamphlet, and, given that taxpayers are funding it, are they better to return their answers to MPs who have always opposed the Environment Canterbury legislation?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Seeing it is paid out of the leader’s budget, I have no ministerial responsibility for that.

Brendon Burns: When the Prime Minister tells Cantabrians in the pamphlet that they should be able to drink from their aquifers and swim and fish in their rivers, lakes, and streams, is that before or after the new irrigation schemes he wants in place in Canterbury next year—before any new environmental controls can be put in place?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We would like to see that as soon as possible. That is why we are doing something about the failure over the 19 years that Environment Canterbury had to get an operative water plan.

Hon Jim Anderton: Does the Prime Minister believe that the people of Canterbury would have felt more consulted if he had asked them how they felt about it before he fired the elected counsellors of Environment Canterbury under parliamentary urgency, rather than asking them 5 months later?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think that Cantabrians support the moves by the Government, and that is why over 55 percent of people in a recent poll gave that view.

Brendon Burns: I seek leave to table the pamphlet from the Prime Minister sent to more than 100,000 Christchurch homes, which includes a question on new elections for Environment Canterbury.

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

Brendon Burns: I seek leave for the Environment Canterbury (Democracy Restoration) Amendment Bill in my name to be introduced and set down as a members’ order of the day.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.


Sale of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill—Report-back Date

1. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Chairperson of the Justice

and Electoral Committee: When will the Sale of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill be reported back to the House?

CHESTER BORROWS (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): The report back was postponed to allow for the publication of the Law Commission’s paper Alcohol in our Lives: Curbing the Harm, which was available a year earlier than it would have been on the previous Government’s time line. The committee is due to report to the House by 1 October 2010. The extension was supported by all parties.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Did the committee resolve to make available the submissions on that bill in order to inform the development of the alcohol law reform package announced by the Government yesterday; if so, why?

Mr SPEAKER: This seems to be a matter for the committee, and is therefore not a matter for the chairperson. The bill has not been reported back, as we have heard, and therefore I do not believe the matter is within the Standing Orders for questioning in the House.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The regulatory impact statement on the alcohol law reform Cabinet paper, which has already been publicly released, states that the submissions on the bill were considered as part of the package, and I would like to know why.

Mr SPEAKER: The chair is not responsible for that matter; it is a matter for the committee. In the House during oral questions to members, we can ask the chair only about matters that the chair is responsible for. The chair is not responsible for the decisions of the committee.

Sale of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill—Submissions

2. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Chairperson of the Justice

and Electoral Committee: How many submissions did the committee both receive and hear on the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill that related to the provisions for local alcohol plans and parental consent being required for supplying alcohol to under-18-year-olds?

CHESTER BORROWS (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): Of the submissions received and heard by the committee, approximately 59 related to local alcohol plans, and approximately 35 related to parental consent for supplying alcohol to under-18-year-olds.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Have the submitters been informed of the Government’s intention to replace the bill altogether with its own bill; if not, why not?

Mr SPEAKER: That would be a matter for the committee; it is not a matter for the chair. The Standing Orders on questions to members who are chairs of committees are very narrow. Questions can relate to matters such as when the bill will be reported back, but decisions of the committee are not matters for the chair.

Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill—Submissions

3. Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral

Committee: How many submissions did the committee both receive and hear on the Sale and Supply of Liquor and Liquor Enforcement Bill that related to the provisions to reduce the bloodalcohol content for young drivers?

CHESTER BORROWS (Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee): Of the submissions received by the committee, 31 related to blood-alcohol content for young drivers.

Hon Darren Hughes: Has the committee requested any reports from the Ministry of Transport on clause 56, introduced during the previous Labour Government’s term, which prohibits drivers who are under the age of 20 and without a full licence from having any alcohol in their blood when driving?

Mr SPEAKER: That is a matter for the committee; it is not a matter on which the chair can be questioned in the House. Members know that the Standing Orders on questions to members are very tight.


© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

PM's Speech: NZ Moves To Red

Nine COVID-19 cases reported yesterday in the Nelson/Marlborough region have now been confirmed as the Omicron variant, and a further case from the same household was confirmed late yesterday....


Gordon Campbell: On Responding To The Need In Tonga

The power of the Tonga eruption (and the size of the aid response being mounted) have been sobering indications of the scale of this disaster. The financial impact is certain to exceed the damage done by Cyclone Harold two years ago, which was estimated at the time to cost $US111 million via its effects on crops, housing and tourism facilities. This time, the tsunami damage, volcanic ash, sulphur dioxide contamination and villager relocation expenses are likely to cost considerably more to meet...


Science Media Centre: Omicron Outbreak Would Move The Country To Red - Expert Reaction

The Prime Minister has announced if Omicron cases spread into the community, the country will move to the traffic light system's Red setting within 48 hours. Jacinda Ardern also mentioned there will be changes to the country's testing regime, with more use of Rapid Antigen Tests... More>>

Government: New Zealand Prepared To Send Support To Tonga

New Zealand is ready to assist Tonga in its recovery from Saturday night’s undersea eruption and tsunami, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Defence Minister Peeni Henare said today... More>>

Ministry of Health: COVID-19 Immunisation Starts For 5 To 11-year-old Tāmariki

More than 120,000 doses of the child (paediatric) Pfizer vaccine have been delivered to over 500 vaccination sites around New Zealand as health providers prepare to start immunising 5 to 11-year-olds tamariki from today, 17 January... More>>

Statistics: Departures Lift Border Crossing Numbers

The number of people crossing New Zealand’s border went up in November 2021, mostly due to an increase in departures, Stats NZ said today. There were 28,700 border crossings in November 2021, made up of 12,300 arrivals and 16,400 departures... More>>

Financial Services Federation: Open Letter To Government From Non-bank Lenders: The Path Forward On CCCFA Changes
Responsible lenders are not interested in telling the Government “I told you so” when it comes to unintended consequences of changes to lending laws that are now causing grief for everyday Kiwis seeking finance... More>>

CTU: Too Many Kiwi Workers Financially Vulnerable As Omicron Looms
With New Zealand on the precipice of an Omicron outbreak and the economic upheaval that comes with it, the CTU’s annual Mood of the Workforce Survey shows the vast majority of kiwi workers do not have the financial resources to survive a period of unemployment... More>>




InfoPages News Channels