Questions and Answers - 19 October 2010
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
TUESDAY, 19 OCTOBER 2010
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Emissions Trading Scheme—Iwi Advice on Carbon Assessment of Post-1989 Forests
1. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Climate Change
Issues: What advice has he received from iwi over the Government’s proposed new approach for assessing carbon stored in registered post-1989 forests, and what is the Government doing to action that advice?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): A key concern for iwi and the Māori Party has been the inherent bias in the carbon storage recognition under the emissions trading scheme for exotic over indigenous species. This arose because of the very conservative approach taken to the lookup tables for carbon storage in indigenous forests, and deficiencies in the data. I am pleased to advise that Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Ministry for the Environment officials have made very good progress on addressing this concern, and that the new lookup tables for indigenous carbon sinks provide 2½ times the amount of carbon sequestration from that previously recognised. This addresses this concern, maintains the integrity of the scheme, and also provides the inherent biodiversity benefits of having additional areas of native forest.
Rahui Katene: Does he believe that the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group has been engaged with properly; if so, what will he do in response to claims from Willie Te Aho that the Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group has been reduced by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to just another stakeholder?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, the engagement has been very constructive, and progress is being made on what are quite complex issues. I remain in close contact with the chair of the Iwi Leadership Group, Api Māhuika. The latest issue we are consulting on is the field measurement approach, on which submissions are currently being reviewed.
Rahui Katene: What has been the practical impact of the Treaty clause in the Climate Change Response Act, which specifies how the Crown must act in order to recognise and respect the Crown’s responsibility to give effect to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The practical impact of that clause, which was advocated for very strongly by the Māori Party, has been that in any of the regulations we have developed for the emissions trading scheme we have had to make extra efforts to consult iwi and to ensure that their views are reflected in the decisions that the Government makes about making the scheme work as effectively as possible for New Zealand.
Nicky Wagner: Has the Minister received any reports on how the emissions trading scheme is impacting on confidence within the forestry sector?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The reports have been very positive. After a record period of deforestation between 2004 and 2008, New Zealand is now planting significantly more trees than we are harvesting. Following the deforestation of over 30,000 hectares up to 2008, we moved to the
point of having a small credit last year of 500 hectares. This year we are expecting net growth of 4,700 hectares, next year a net growth of over 5,700 hectares, and in the year following a net growth of 7,700 hectares. Those figures show that the Government’s modified emissions trading scheme is having the desired result of improving confidence in the important forestry sector.
2. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yesterday Statistics New Zealand issued the consumer price index for the year to September 2010. It showed that annual inflation was just 1.5 percent, which is the lowest annual figure since 1.5 percent inflation in the year to March 2004. The last time inflation was lower than 1.5 percent was in the year to December 1999. The consumer price index figures confirm that cost of living increases have generally been low, and we may put those low cost of living increases alongside relatively low wage increases. In fact, real wages have been gradually increasing, which is the opposite of what was happening under the previous Government.
Craig Foss: How does the latest inflation data compare with the situation 2 years ago?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the year to September 2008, when the economy was in deep recession, annual inflation was 5.1 percent. The Government of the day was not proposing any compensation for anybody, and, as a result of 5 percent inflation, real after-tax wages were falling. In the last 2 years the consumer price index inflation has totalled just 3 percent, which is less than half of the 7 percent inflation in the 2 years to September 2008.
Craig Foss: What are some examples of trends in consumer prices in the last 2 years, and how do they compare with price movements in the previous 2 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the 2 years to September 2008, overall food prices jumped 15 percent. In the 2 years since then, food prices have risen, but they have risen by only around 5 percent. In addition to changes in food prices, petrol prices jumped 22 percent in the 2 years to September 2008 and they have actually fallen by 14 percent since then. House rents have increased 6 percent in the 2 years to September 2008, and the increase in the past 2 years has been about 3 percent. The general pattern is that up to September 2008 real wages were falling, and since then real wages have been rising.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why is the Minister trumpeting his success in bringing down inflation, when it is a direct result of the worst recession in 70 years, and if he is picking a year to quote inflation, does this mean he will next be picking 1929?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, no. The issue has come up because the Labour Party has been claiming that the cost of living is out of control—
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you will agree with me that the supplementary question was quite direct and quite without political epithet. It simply asked about the relationship between his claims to have lowered inflation and the recessionary conditions. Instead of answering that with facts, he began a tirade about Labour Party policy, which he is clearly worried about.
Mr SPEAKER: If I recollect correctly, the member in asking his question asked why the Minister was using certain figures, and the Minister was explaining why. The Speaker cannot assist if the member does not like the Minister’s reasons but he is certainly at liberty to explain why.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, of course the recession has had some impact on inflation. But the member cannot have it both ways. He cannot claim it is out of control and then say that it is low because of the recession. But he himself might be able to explain how he managed under his Government in a deep recession to achieve 5 percent inflation—very high—in 2008.
Craig Foss: How have real and after-tax wage movements also left New Zealanders better off since September 2008, and how do these figures compare with those for the previous 2 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If one uses the series of numbers that are used to determine national superannuation, which both Governments have used for some time, one will see that real inflationadjusted gross wages have increased 5 percent in the last 2 years, after no movement at all in the 2 years to September 2008. If one looks at real after-tax wages, taking into account two rounds of tax cuts under the National Government, one will see that these have increased 9 percent in the last 2 years. This compares with the 1 percent fall in the 2 years to 2008 and a meagre 3 percent rise in real after-tax wages from 1999 to 2008.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why would Kiwi families care about the square root of his housing allowance or some other number concoction, when what they know is that every week they are finding it harder to make ends meet, when median wages dropped by 9 percent in the last year—$9 a week—and veggie prices, for example, have increased 20 percent?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the last few weeks the Government has implemented its change in tax policy, and many New Zealanders will be finding that the reduction in income tax is giving them higher wages each week. Those higher wages more than offset the extra GST, so they are better off. More important, the tax switch will help us build a strong economy with more investment and more jobs, and in the longer term even higher incomes.
Craig Foss: What reports has he received on New Zealand’s tax changes this month, which have left the vast majority of New Zealanders better off?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I noted a report from KPMG—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry; I assumed you would interrupt that question. The degree of assertion in that question—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately—right now. If he had listened to his colleague’s question only a few moments ago, he would know that it contained more statements asserting facts than were in Craig Foss’ question. If the member wants me to clamp down on that kind of question, I am very happy to, but at least half of his colleagues’ questions would be ruled out.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I noted a report yesterday by KPMG that set out two things. The first is that New Zealand is unique in the world in matching higher indirect taxes with income tax cuts. Other countries have been lifting their indirect taxes, but New Zealand is the only country in the world that has matched it with reductions in personal income tax that will encourage savings, investment, and exports. I also note that the report stated that New Zealand has the fourth-lowest GST rate in the OECD. Only Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Australia, and Korea are behind New Zealand. So we have a comprehensive GST, which raises sufficient revenue to allow us to significantly cut income tax rates.
Overseas Investment Rules—Prime Minister’s Statements
3. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “I am concerned about the risk that New Zealanders become tenants in their own land”; if so, what specific actions will his Government be taking?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition used the same statement when he was getting monstered by Guyon Espiner on Q+A in the weekend, which, from what I could see, had a lot of “Qs” from Guyon Espiner and not many “As” from Phil Goff—
Mr SPEAKER: I say to Ministers I have just been clamping down on questioners who sought my assistance when some of their questions were perhaps not totally compliant with the Standing Orders, but this question was a pretty fair question. It asked whether the Prime Minister stands by his statement, and if so what specific actions the Government will be taking. I am sure that if the Prime Minister waits, the questioner will not be able to resist putting a political statement into a supplementary question, which maybe will give the Prime Minister some licence. But this primary question does not have the licence for him to dump on the questioner.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes; and as the Minister of Finance recently announced, we will be giving Ministers extra flexibility to consider a wide range of issues, including the large-scale ownership of farmland when assessing overseas investment applications for sensitive land. In particular, two new measures will be introduced in regulations. Firstly, a new economic interest test factor will allow Ministers to consider whether New Zealand’s economic interests are adequately safeguarded and promoted. This will improve ministerial flexibility to respond to both current and future economic concerns about foreign investment, such as the large-scale ownership of farmland. Secondly, a new mitigating factor will enable Ministers to consider whether an overseas investment provides opportunities for New Zealand oversight and involvement—for example, by appointing New Zealand directors, or by establishing a head office in this country.
Hon Phil Goff: Was the review that his Government instituted last year into foreign investment not, in fact, about making it easier for people from overseas to buy our farmland, not harder?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There were a range of objectives for the review, but what we have found is that the changes to regulations that I have just outlined are appropriate.
Hon Phil Goff: When the Minister for Land Information admitted to the House last week that not one single application from a foreigner to buy land under his Government had been declined, why does the Minister then go on to say he could not promise that the new rules that the Prime Minister outlined would result in any higher rate of decline?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I wonder whether the member could just repeat the question. I am sorry; I did not hear it.
Mr SPEAKER: I ask the honourable Leader of the Opposition to repeat the question, please.
Hon Phil Goff: When his Minister for Land Information admitted to the House last week that under the National Government, not one single application from foreigners to buy farmland had been declined, why did his Minister then go on to say he could not promise that the new rules would result in any higher rate of decline?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Minister advises me that he did not say the last bit, and I accept him at his word. But I do know that he is not a Minister who has signed off on 680,000 hectares of land being sold. He is not a Minister who has signed off on 380,000 hectares being sold in 1 year. We would rather look at a Government’s track record than at its fake promises.
Chris Tremain: What safeguards currently exist in legislation regarding the sale of New Zealand land to foreigners?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What an excellent question that is. The Overseas Investment Act lays out that foreign investment in land is acceptable only if it substantially benefits New Zealand, and this is measured in section 17 of the Act. For example, under this section Ministers have to consider whether the overseas investment will result in “the creation of new job opportunities in New Zealand … the introduction into New Zealand of new technology … increased export receipts for New Zealand exporters … the introduction into New Zealand of additional investment for development purposes”, and “increased processing in New Zealand of New Zealand’s primary products”. These are precisely the criteria that Mr Goff tried to announce in the weekend as a brand new policy. All that he did was to read out the Act that he passed in 2005.
Hon Phil Goff: When none of what the Prime Minister has just read out has actually stopped every application under his Government from foreigners to purchase foreign land being approved, what will he do to guarantee that young couples wanting to buy a farm of their own are not priced out of the market by wealthy overseas investors seeking to buy up land here?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Deliver to them a highly competitive economy, and tax cuts so they can afford to pay their mortgage.
Chris Tremain: When was the Overseas Investment Act—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the member. I want to be able to hear. The senior Government whip does have a big voice, but I do want to be able to hear his question. I ask for a little more reasonableness in the level of the interjections.
Chris Tremain: When was the Overseas Investment Act last reviewed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is another excellent question. The Overseas Investment Act lays out that foreign investment in land is acceptable only if it substantially benefits New Zealand, and this is measured in the Act. It was last reviewed in 2005, after a comprehensive review initiated by the Labour Government. A key purpose of the new Act was to ensure that foreign investment in land would be permitted only if it made a positive contribution to the economy and advanced New Zealand’s interests. Under those criteria, in the following year David Parker as the then Minister for Land Information approved the sale of 380,000 hectares of land.
Hon Phil Goff: If the Prime Minister is saying that nothing that the Labour Party is proposing actually alters the existing rules, why did he then describe it as being Stalinist—or is it a bit like “communism by stealth”, which he described Working for Families as being like?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The reason that I described it in that way is that I noticed in the weekend that the Leader of the Opposition likes to get out there and—
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Leader of the Opposition has asked a question, and there was a great deal of clapping because finally the Labour members were excited. But then the problem was that no one could hear the answer, because of the barracking.
Mr SPEAKER: I am sure the Prime Minister is probably keen to repeat his answer, but—
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sorry; I haven’t finished my answer.
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister had not finished his answer. The question was a very provocative one, and there is nothing that the Speaker can do. It is a matter of basically letting the sides go when that happens. If the Prime Minister has not finished his answer I will invite him to finish it, and I ask that the level of interjection be no more than that which enables people at the back of the House to hear the answer.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is that the Prime Minister had sat down before Rodney Hide made his point of order. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order is being considered. I will hear Keith Locke.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your comment just before, you said that when a question is provocative you let both sides go. That is not very satisfactory to people back at this end of the House, who cannot hear what is going on because Labour and National may be barracking at each other. I think we deserve to be able to hear what is going on.
Mr SPEAKER: I certainly sympathise with the member. I accept the rebuke to me. I probably should not have allowed the question, because a question like that is strictly not in order. But the House has to have a bit of fun. The member wanted to ask the question, and I am sure the Prime Minister is perfectly capable of answering it. It was my impression that he sat down because the noise level was so high that he realised that no one was hearing anything, and he expected me to do something about it. I have invited the Prime Minister to finish his answer, perhaps without being any more provocative than he has to be.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Speaker can trust me; I will not be any more provocative than I need to be. I did not actually call the policy Stalinist, I simply said the Leader of the Opposition was having a “road to Stalin” experience. The reason why I said that was that when I looked at all the things that the Leader of the Opposition did in the weekend, I noted to myself that on foreign land, and on the cost of living, he simply cried Chicken Little.
Mr SPEAKER: Order.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is not Chicken Little he needs to worry about—
Mr SPEAKER: Order.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is Andrew Little; that is it. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: I say to all members, but mainly to those on the National backbenches, that if some of them do not want to be thrown out today, when I am on my feet they will stop clapping and they will stop behaving like buffoons. When I am on my feet even the Prime Minister will sit down. I believe I had allowed him the time to go on long enough about the question. When I am on my
feet that is the rule, or people will leave this Chamber. I will not tolerate that again today; let me make that very clear to both sides of the House.
Hon Phil Goff: Since none of the criteria that the Prime Minister read out from section 17 of the Act has stopped his Government declining even a single foreign application for land, does he support making changes to the overseas investment framework to ensure that sales of farmland will be declined unless the overseas purchaser also invests in significant further processing of the primary product, creating significant extra jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I though I made that quite clear in answering the primary question, when I said the National Government, after a review, has decided to make two changes to regulation in relation to economic interests and mitigating factors. They, by definition, are evidence that this Government—despite the fact that it has allowed only 30,000 hectares of land to be sold, as opposed to 680,000 hectares—still thought the law needed to be tightened up.
Hon Phil Goff: Because the existing framework is not stopping sales, does he support making changes to the overseas investment regime to remove the discretion of the Minister to consent to the sale overseas of any interest of 25 percent or more in monopoly infrastructure worth over $10 million; if not why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No; because that is a really dumb policy. The reason that it is a really dumb policy is that it would require Infratil to start selling its overseas shareholding, it would force a New Zealand company that had about 20 percent of its shareholding overseas, like Fletcher’s, to be unable to borrow overseas, and as Guyon Espiner proved in the weekend on Q+A, Phil Goff does not understand his own policies.
Hilary Calvert: Has the Attorney-General advised the Prime Minister, following his visit to Taipā Bay in Northland last Friday, that residents and visitors feel like tenants in their own land because a group purporting to represent Ngāti Kahu have occupied the beach, declared it to be Māori land, and are physically threatening locals; if so, what is the Government doing about it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The question is a little outside the scope of the primary question, but I am happy to help the member as far as I can. The Attorney-General has not raised the issue with me, but I have had some information from the local MP. He has told me that any coastal occupation that is taking place is happening under the current legislation. As the Prime Minister, I expect New Zealanders to abide by the law.
Hilary Calvert: Will the Prime Minister assure all New Zealanders that they are citizens and not tenants, by ensuring that the Taipā Sailing Club will have support, if necessary from the police, for its race day to take place this Saturday, given that last weekend’s race had to be cancelled because the community’s safety could not be guaranteed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is a long way outside the primary question. I do not have any information on that matter, except to say that of course I expect the law—
Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the mistake that we are making in the House is that if we go back to the primary question, we find it does not mention foreign ownership or the Overseas Investment Act. It specifically talks about people being tenants in their own land, and that is precisely the report that we are picking up on. The question is quite within the rules.
Mr SPEAKER: No one has ruled the question out. The Prime Minister is indicating that he had not anticipated that kind of supplementary question, based on this primary question, and that therefore he does not have the specific information. That is not an unreasonable position. I invite the Prime Minister to finish his answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I do not have a lot of information on that question, but I do always expect the law to be obeyed and the police to enforce the law where they practically can.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister agree that the kind of economic interest tests or benefit tests that have been applied to overseas ownership have not protected land from falling into
overseas ownership under the previous Government or the present Government, and hence will he adopt a brightline test that says any land over 5 hectares must stay in New Zealand’s ownership?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In terms of the first point, we have recognised that there was a need for change, and that is why, after the review, changes have been made. In relation to the second point, the answer is no.
4. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What progress is being made in providing faster cancer treatment to New Zealanders?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): As the House will be aware, reducing waiting times for cancer treatment is one of the Government’s top priorities. Next year that target wait-time will reduce from 6 weeks to a world-standard 4 weeks. The Government is today investing almost $4 million extra into the cancer centres to help provide faster treatment for patients. This extra investment will mean that, for example, patients at the MidCentral District Health Board’s cancer centre are expected to start their radiation treatment at least 5 days’ sooner, and those at the Waikato centre at least 2 days sooner; the Auckland centre will be able to see up to five extra patients a day; and the Southern District Health Board centre will see an extra 10 patients a day.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What other initiatives has the Government established that provide faster cancer treatment for New Zealanders?
Hon TONY RYALL: As part of last year’s election policy, the Government promised to fund 12 months of Herceptin treatment for women with HER2-positive breast cancer. I can advise the House that the monthly treatment volumes increased from 19 in December 2008 to 234 in June this year, meaning 400 women received publicly funded Herceptin. The shorter cancer waiting-times and the increased numbers of women benefiting from Herceptin treatment are further examples of improving front-line services under this Government.
Tax System Changes—Effect on New Zealanders
5. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “the vast majority” of people will be “better off” as a result of his tax switch on 1 October 2010?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. If the member disagrees and thinks people have been made worse off, he will campaign on reversing the tax switch. I notice he does not want to do that.
Hon Phil Goff: If the vast majority of people are better off, why are the Federation of Family Budgeting Services and every other social agency reporting that more and more people in debt are coming to see them, and why is the Baycorp Advantage debt company expecting a massive spike in debt increases by Kiwis by the end of the year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One reason is that they were allowed to run up a lot of debt because of the policies of the previous Labour Government—that is actually the reason. Secondly, one would have thought that that member would know after 30 years in politics that when there is a recession lowincome New Zealanders struggle. But the good news is that those low-income New Zealanders are being looked after by a National Government.
Jo Goodhew: How easy would it be to reverse the tax switch?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As Mr Carter pointed out on television the other day it would be extremely straightforward to reverse the tax switch.
Hon Member: Your new friend!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: He was the member’s friend once. But for the most part it would be simply a matter of crossing out the existing tax rates and putting in the tax rates that applied before 1 October. The reason that Mr Goff does not want to reverse the tax switch is that alongside
dropping GST he would have to do the following: firstly, he would have to raise income taxes across the board; secondly, he would immediately have to reduce benefits—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would have thought that after 2 years in Government the Prime Minister’s response would be about the policies of his Government, not speculation on the effects of the policies of another party, which is what he is doing now by going through the initiatives being put forward by the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Members of the House know the rule: points or order are heard in silence. There is just too much noise. I knew that there would be robust debate today, but members have to be reasonable. The Prime Minister was saying what, in his view, would have to be done were GST to be brought down, and he was saying what Mr Goff would have to do. That is not saying that that is Labour’s policy; that is saying what he believes. I do not think I should necessarily rule that out. He must not allege that a policy is Labour’s unless he is quoting from reports, but I do not think it is unreasonable to describe what might have to happen, in his view.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me make it quite clear that despite the mobile charade known as “Axe the Tax” going up and down the country, that is not what is happening—that is exactly the point. He would have to tell beneficiaries that he is reducing their income. He would have to tell superannuitants that their income was going down. He would have to reduce Working for Families payments. He would have to increase companies’ taxes—
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the Prime Minister that we have heard quite enough.
Hon Phil Goff: After 2 years in Government when will the Prime Minister accept responsibility for what his own Government has done, particularly when the recovery has stalled, prices are going up faster than wages, and he looks after his rich mates?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I accept responsibility every single day, and I speak for the Government. My president does not speak for the Government; I speak for the Government. Let us just go to this very helpful chart that was produced—
Hon Darren Hughes: Smile and wave.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —hello, how are you, “Dazza”—by the Minister of Finance yesterday. It shows that in the last 2 years of Labour—
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that you are familiar with the Standing Order about the conciseness of both questions and answers. We are getting the usual litany of rubbish from the Prime Minister. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] I am on my feet. The Leader of the Opposition may wish to leave the House, and if he is not careful, he will. His deputy may go with him if she is not careful. I invite the honourable Leader of the Opposition to reflect on the provocative question he asked. It was a very provocative question. He cannot expect me as Speaker to stop the Prime Minister from giving a pretty political answer. If members want me to clamp down on Ministers’ answers I am very happy to do that. Members will note that I stopped the Prime Minister earlier on today when he answered in response to the honourable Leader of the Opposition’s question. It was a perfectly fair primary question, and I did not allow the Prime Minister to dump on the questioner. But that question was highly provocative, and I cannot, as Speaker, stop a Minister from responding to a highly provocative question. When the honourable member stopped the Prime Minister he was not actually saying anything provocative; he was referring to some information in respect of taking responsibility for his own Government.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is not so much on the substantive point of order as on the comments you made to the two colleagues on my left while you were ruling. I just remind you, Mr Speaker, that earlier today you warned the Prime Minister twice about speaking while you were on your feet, without threatening to throw him out.
Mr SPEAKER: I take the honourable member’s reminder in the form in which it was offered. The right honourable Prime Minister was referring to some information in answer to the last question. I will allow him to continue that.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I was referring to this very useful, important document produced by the Minister of Finance. It simply shows that over the last 2 years the real increase in after-tax wages under a National Government has been 9 percent. I must say that I was shocked that over the last 2 years of the Labour Government it was minus 1 percent.
Hon Phil Goff: In respect of the responsibility that the Prime Minister said he would accept, is he taking responsibility for the fact that power companies have charged consumers 15 percent GST on electricity prices for the month of September, before the increase even came into effect; and who benefits from that: the power companies or his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I take responsibility for the administration of the law. As the member would know if he looked at the rules around the pricing of GST components, the power companies have probably acted within the law. But my point would be that I think all of us are a little bit disappointed that they have chosen to act that way. The Minister of Revenue has worked with a lot of businesses around New Zealand to accommodate them if there was an unusual situation. Had they approached the Government, I think we would have given them an exemption for that.
Hon Phil Goff: Why should families who in September faced a nearly 20 percent increase in vegetable prices; faced big increases and premature increases in their power prices; faced, if they live in the Auckland region, a rental bill $23 a week higher than this time last year; and faced, time and again, Government-imposed increase charges, such as accident compensation, feel better off?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One needs to look at a number component factors. Firstly, what is the overall inflation rate when taking into consideration a whole basket of goods across the economy? We know that under a National Government it has been running at 1.5 percent, and when Labour left office it was 5.1 percent. The second thing one needs to look at is the tax cuts that have been in place under the two Governments. The answer is that under a National Government they have been significant. The third thing one needs to look at is whether there have been wage increases. The answer is that under a National Government there have been but they reflect the cost of living. The reason that family should take some comfort is that, by and large, large, for the most part, their wages are rising faster than the rate of inflation.
Hon Phil Goff: Can he confirm that families are likely to face an inflation rate of over 4 percent by the end of this year, and of about 5 percent by mid next year; and why should those families feel better off when most have had little or no wage increases?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The answer to that question is that, yes, inflation will rise over the next 12 months, and the Reserve Bank will look through that rise because it is a one-off effect from GST. That same one-off effect took place when the member was in the Government that brought in GST and raised GST. The issue is not the underlying inflation rate per se; it is the impact on prices, and that impact is catered for by a tax cut.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the Prime Minister telling families who are saying that they are worse off because the price of everything is going up that they are wrong, and are they, rather than him, out of touch?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let us run through some facts, and then, in the end, I will allow those families to make that decision when they go to the ballot box next year. Let us run through some quick comparisons for the last 2 years of the Labour Government and the first 2 years of this National Government.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will recall the question; it was straightforward: “Is the Prime Minister telling those families that they are better off?”.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member actually asked: “Is he telling those families that they are out of touch, or is he out of touch?”. The Prime Minister could have given a highly political answer. Instead, he said he wanted to resort to the facts in answering the member’s question. That is not unreasonable. I do not I can stop the Prime Minister from answering that question that way. He wants to give some information that he believes shows that the people are—well, I will leave it up
to him to show what—but he was not being abusive and he was not criticising the Labour Party at all. He was just referring to some information.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Here are some facts. Let us take the price of bread and the price of cereals. They went up by 18 percent in 2 years under Labour; they are up 4 percent under National. Milk went up 23 percent under Labour; it is up 7 percent under National. Cheese prices increased 50 percent under Labour; there has been a 3 percent reduction under National. Let us take the price of petrol. It went up 22 percent under Labour; there has been a 14 percent reduction under National. Let us take the price of gas. It was up 22 percent under Labour; it is up 5 percent under National. Let us take housing rents. They went up 6 percent under Labour; they are up 3 percent under National. This is what mums and dads will look at, and I think I know the way they will vote.
Young Offenders—Boot Camps
6. HEKIA PARATA (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What is the Government doing for young offenders?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Acting Minister for Social Development and Employment): The Fresh Start legislation is now in place, with the first 10 youth offenders beginning military activity camp last week. This Government is serious about dealing with this country’s worst young offenders by giving judges access to tougher sentences and working intensively to address the causes of offending. This is their last chance to avoid a life behind bars. If we can save a few of these young offenders, it is better than saving none at all, because it means we are saving victims.
Hekia Parata: How is Child, Youth and Family working to improve data sharing with other Government agencies?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Child, Youth and Family, along with the New Zealand Police, have recently implemented the police Youth Offending Risk Screening Tool. This means that police information will be electronically attached to Child, Youth and Family records. It is great to see that after just 2 years in Government we are getting police and Child, Youth and Family to share more information.
Hekia Parata: What support is there for the community and grassroots providers?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Today I am announcing that this Government is funding 14 new community programmes to tackle youth offending through the $4.5 million Fresh Start Innovation Fund. We are backing communities to address youth justice issues locally by finding new, effective ways of dealing with their young offenders.
7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social
Development and Employment: Does she stand by her statement that the growth in benefit numbers is “slowing”?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Acting Minister for Social Development and Employment): I stand by my statement of 12 October that “The growth in the number of people on benefits slowed to 0.6 percent in September.” The member needs to read the whole press release, rather than relying on headlines.
Hon Annette King: Well, in fact, I did not.
Mr SPEAKER: Order.
Hon Annette King: She made an assertion in her answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Please just ask the supplementary question.
Hon Annette King: Can she confirm there has been no downward trend in total benefit numbers in the last 6 months according to her official figures and contrary to her claims, and, in fact, benefit numbers have gone up by over 13,000 in that period, every one of them a person?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I can confirm that every person who loses his or her job is a person. I can also confirm that it is the growth in the numbers that I have been talking about, rather than numbers themselves.
Hon Annette King: If unemployment is the No. 1 priority for this Government as claimed by the Minister in the House last week, why have unemployment benefit numbers continued to climb over the last 6 months, now reaching 65,281, which is an increase of 41,000 in total since National became the Government and an average of almost 2,000 people a month going on to the unemployment benefit since it became the Government?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think if that member listened to the Hon David Cunliffe today, she would have heard that he advised the House that we have been in the toughest recession since the Great Depression in 1929. Quite frankly, what I have been talking about is that the rate of unemployment benefit increase is slowing. It increased by 5.3 percent in September 2008 when the previous Government was in office, it increased by 2.6 percent in September 2009, and there was 2.1 percent growth in September 2010.
Hon Annette King: Is she aware that she has blamed the increase in the number of those receiving the unemployment benefit on seasonal factors for the last 6 months, and could she outline to the House which months do not have a seasonal factor?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I can advise that member that I have never once blamed sun, moons, or weather, like some people in the previous Labour Government. I can tell the member that she might want to talk about the weather and the seasons, but, frankly, I am not going to.
Hon Annette King: Can she confirm that when she told the House last week that 5,890 people had cancelled their benefits because they had found work, she failed to inform the House that 7,769 people went on to the benefit that month, and with that sort of manipulation of figures, why should New Zealanders have any confidence that the Government is serious about reducing unemployment or any benefit numbers?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think it is very important to remember that for people coming on to the benefit, it is very bad for them. However, the fact is jobs are being created and other people are moving off the benefit. I am sure that that member would actually appreciate the fact that it is good for people to be getting back into work.
Todd McClay: Can the Minister detail to the House an example where benefit numbers are slowing?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes. Auckland is a good example where we can be cautiously optimistic that we have turned a corner.
Carmel Sepuloni: Ha, ha!
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well that Labour member may laugh, but I do not think it is funny. So far this year the number of Aucklanders on the unemployment benefit has fallen from 26,375 in January to 22,636 in September. During the same period, the number of Aucklanders on all main benefits dropped from 110,227 to 108,370. It is cautiously optimistic news.
Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart—Number of Retrofitted Houses
8. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: How many houses have been retrofitted through the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart home insulation scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister of Energy
and Resources: The Warm Up—
Chris Hipkins: Desperate for patsies today!
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: They do not like it when we are doing good stuff.
Mr SPEAKER: I realise that when members interject, Ministers are at some liberty to respond, but today has got just unnecessarily disorderly, and I am not at all happy with the way questions are being answered. I must make that very clear. I ask the Minister, please, to answer the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Warm Up New Zealand scheme started only on 1 July 2009, but in 15 months over 76,000 houses have been made warmer, dryer, and healthier under the scheme. Fifty-five percent of those 76,000 houses are those of low-income families, and I think it shows that this practical Government is helping low-income families to reduce their power bills, make their homes safer, and reduce their emissions. It is making them healthier as well as reducing their power bills.
Nikki Kaye: How does the Warm Up New Zealand scheme compare with the previous Government’s home insulation scheme?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The rate at which houses are being insulated for families is five times the rate that was achieved under the previous Government—
Hon Tony Ryall: How much?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Five times. Rather than having 76,000 homes insulated, if we had continued at the very slow rate under the previous Government, we would have achieved only onefifth of that number. I think that just shows how committed this Government is to practical measures that will help low-income families and reduce emissions, and it also shows the very balanced approach of the Government to helping both the economy and the environment.
Economic Performance—Minister’s Statement
9. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement: “we came into office with a very sound plan to lift New Zealand’s economic performance”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, I certainly do. If there was anything we underestimated, it was the size of the mess left by the previous Government. We probably were not quite aware of just how much damage 9 years of economic mismanagement had done to the productive capacity of this economy.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does his “very sound plan” include putting 50,000 more people out of work, cutting real wages by $9 a week at the median, leaving most Kiwis worse off after the tax switch, and now trumpeting that he is “controlling inflation” because households have nothing left to spend?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The plan includes getting this economy restructured to fix the damage done by the previous Government, which was exacerbated by a worldwide recession, so that we can get through while protecting people from the sharp edges of the recession, and raising our long-term economic performance. I am pleased to say that the Government’s plan is on track, with extensive infrastructure investment, extensive review of the regulatory settings, lifting the productivity of the public sector, increasing support for business and innovation, and reforming the tax system.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does taking the sharp edges off recession include putting up power, rent, and food prices by 1.1 percent in a quarter, then introducing GST increases to push inflation up over 5 percent, and leaving working families worse off, with wages going down and prices going up?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I know it does not suit the member’s leadership campaign, but in fact real wages are rising. Wages are going up faster than prices.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Coming from someone who got 20 percent in the polls, that is a bit rough.
Mr SPEAKER: I say to both sides of the House that questions today have been mostly out of order, and maybe I should have ruled them all out. That would have saved an awful lot of timewasting. Answers have been absolutely unnecessarily gratuitous at times, especially the first answer to the primary question. I did not stop the Minister, but I was very close to stopping him. The primary question was dead-simple. It asked whether the Minister stood by a statement. We did not need all the gratuitous comments that came in the answer. How could I stop, then, the Hon David Cunliffe when he put a whole lot of unnecessary statements in his following question? We can see how question time just goes from bad to worse. Maybe I will have to start getting tougher, stopping
gratuitous answers when they are unnecessary, and ruling out questions that are totally out of order. I would rather not interfere like that, but today has been totally unsatisfactory. But then points of order should not be raised in that manner either, I say to the honourable member. I think we have heard enough of that.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Greens very much appreciate your attempts to keep order in the House. When you say “both sides of the House”, I just make the point that the ACT Party, the Māori Party, and the Greens have done our best to maintain order in the House, because we want to hear the questions and the answers.
Mr SPEAKER: I rebuke myself, because the honourable member is quite right. I have not had problems at all with the Green Party, the Māori Party, or the ACT Party today. I must say it is National and Labour that have been very noisy today. What troubles me is the quality of the questions and the answers. I do not mind the House being, at times, robust, but to me the quality of questions and answers has deteriorated significantly, and I am contemplating doing something about that, because I cannot stop Ministers giving highly political answers when questions are highly political, and when they contain mostly political statement. But where there are straight questions, as there were today, I regret that I should have stopped some Ministers in their tracks before I did, because some of the answers were unnecessarily gratuitous.
Hon David Cunliffe: How can he maintain that his tax switch leaves the vast bulk of New Zealanders better off, when those figures show that they have already faced a 2.4 percent increase in the price of food, a 4.4 percent increase in local rates, and a 2.8 percent increase in power prices, with the prospect of further Government-imposed price increases yet to come?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because it is correct. On 1 October people on national superannuation, on benefits, and on Working for Families all had their rates adjusted to compensate for the increase in GST. Those in the workforce have had tax reductions, income tax cuts that are larger than the increase in GST, and those are matters of fact, not speculation.
Simon Bridges: What steps has the Government taken to pull the economy out of the recession that started in early 2008, and put it on the road to recovery?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, this National Government has supported the economy through recession by running fiscal deficits, and this year the cash deficit will be $13 billion. That is money we are borrowing overseas to pump into infrastructure projects that support jobs, and to maintain and improve public services that were run down under the previous Labour Government. We have also reformed the tax system with across-the-board personal tax cuts, we have taken steps to lower the future debt track, we have reprioritised $4 billion of low-quality spending from back office and bureaucracy into front-line services such as education, health, and law and order, plus a whole range of other initiatives, which would take me too long to outline.
Simon Bridges: What alternative approaches has he seen that would threaten the economic recovery and leave New Zealanders worse off?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have heard of one approach that was out of step with economic policy right across the developed world, and that is the New Zealand Opposition promising borrow and spend. Everywhere else in the world they are doing the opposite.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister might tell me why I should not ask him to leave the Chamber right now. I was on my feet and the Minister made no attempt to resume his seat. [Interruption] The Minister has indicated that he did not see me. Ministers answering questions should actually address the Speaker, and then they would see the Speaker when the Speaker gets to his feet. It would be unfair today, because of the shambles that question time has been, to pick on one Minister, but I warn Ministers that I will not tolerate this further. I will not tolerate patsy questions being used to attack the Opposition. [Interruption] If the member in the backbenches there does not want to leave the chamber, then they had better be very careful. Today has just been a total waste of time in terms of question time. In my view it has been very unsatisfactory. I want members to reflect on it, because I am certainly not going to tolerate it as Speaker. I intend to make sure that this does not
happen again. I make it very clear to Ministers that I will sit a Minister down immediately if they attack the questioner or the questioner’s party on a straight primary question. Where supplementary questions contain political comment, there is obviously licence to inject political comment in the answer. I will not stop Ministers doing that, because I want the discipline then to be on the questioner to ask decent questions in order to hold Ministers to account, instead of making stupid political statements. But I mean what I say, and I do not want to see today repeated.
Aged Residential Care—Use of Taxpayer Funding
10. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health: How does the Government ensure that all taxpayer funding for aged care is spent on the provision of care for subsidised aged-care residents, and not for other purposes?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): In the last 2 years the Government has put an extra $88 million into improving the quality of nursing supervision in rest homes and increasing agedcare subsidies. Government funding for aged care is delivered by contracting rest homes and others to provide this care, the details of which are specified in their contracts. The district health boards audit the rest homes and others to ensure that they are providing appropriate care.
Sue Kedgley: In the absence of any financial monitoring of how the $800 million - odd of taxpayer funding for aged care is spent, how can the Government be sure that funding that is intended to be spent on the provision of care for residents is not siphoned off by some providers into profits for shareholders?
Hon TONY RYALL: The district health boards and the Ministry of Health audit rest homes and others to ensure that they are providing appropriate care as per their contracts.
Sue Kedgley: Is he concerned that according to the Nurses Organisation many aged-care providers do not pass on funding they receive for wage increases to staff working in the sector, but instead use that funding to fund capital development projects, such as building new facilities, and to increase shareholder payouts and bottom-line profits; if not, why not?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am not concerned if aged residential care providers are also investing in providing more aged residential care beds. A major review released by the Government has indicated there will be a significant need for investment in this sector over the next few years, if we are to keep up with our aging population.
Sue Kedgley: Will he agree to initiate an inquiry into how taxpayer funding of aged care is spent, just as he initiated an inquiry into the primary health organisations to ensure that taxpayer dollars got to patients and front-line staff, as he said at the time; if not, why not?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Ministry of Health and the district health boards are regularly auditing rest homes and others to ensure that they are providing appropriate care against their contracts. I agree with the Auditor-General, who released a report last year that said that the monitoring of rest homes under the previous Labour-Green Government was appalling.
Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We would have wished that there was a Labour-Green Government, but there was not a Labour-Green Government, and I would appreciate accuracy—
Mr SPEAKER: The member has supplementary questions with which to challenge a Minister’s answer, but she cannot by way of point of order challenge the accuracy of a Minister’s answer.
Sue Kedgley: Can he confirm that there is no financial monitoring of how taxpayer funding of aged care is spent, and why, when the aged-care sector receives about $820 million of taxpayer money, is the Government—a Government that campaigned on being accountable to the taxpayer— not willing to investigate and track where money for the aged-care sector goes?
Hon TONY RYALL: The district health boards and the Ministry of Health contract rest homes to provide a certain standard of service for our older New Zealanders—it is a priority for taxpayers. They audit the performance of the providers against their contracts, and it is our expectation that those service specifications should be met.
Sue Kedgley: Does it concern him that some of the biggest providers of aged care are earning handsome returns of 14 to 16 percent every year, with one reporting a profit of $61 million last year, yet wages for caregivers are amongst the lowest in New Zealand; if this does concern him, will he begin an investigation into how aged-care funding is spent?
Hon TONY RYALL: I am unable to confirm the figures that the member has given. It is important to realise that a number of these providers are also retirement village providers, and often it is the significant profits that come from the provision of retirement village services that produce the figures she is seeing. It is quite clear from the aged residential care review that significant investment is still required in this area, and that matter certainly has the Government’s attention.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Why did he agree to the plan of the Capital and Coast District Health Board to cut home help for a further 500 older New Zealanders from 1 December this year?
Hon TONY RYALL: I suspect the member is referring to an announcement made by the Capital and Coast District Health Board that it would start means testing the provision of some services. That is the policy of every other district health board, including when she was an Associate Minister of Health.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Given his recent call for better support for people with Alzheimer’s, why did he agree to the closure of the psychogeriatric hospital in Richmond, which caters for the highestneed elderly people, who have serious dementia and mental illness?
Hon TONY RYALL: The district health board is considering doing that because it has clinical advice that says care could be provided in much better settings than it currently is at that service. The Government is more interested in providing quality services than that member is.
Housing New Zealand Corporation—Tenants’ Behaviour
11. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Housing: What is Housing New Zealand Corporation doing to identify and address fraudulent behaviour by some tenants?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): The overwhelming majority of Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants appreciate their home and abide by the rules. However, there is a small minority who access homes and subsidies under false pretences. Over the last 2 years, the Housing New Zealand Corporation has built a highly effective team of expert investigators. The team has identified $6.3 million worth of subsidised rent that tenants were not entitled to. In fact, 166 Housing New Zealand Corporation tenancies were ended following investigations of more than 130 cases of tenant-related fraud that have been before the courts. That is a tenfold increase in investigations and cases before the courts compared with 2 years ago.
Tim Macindoe: What kinds of activities have some Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants been undertaking that have led to action being taken against them?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: There are two examples that the previous Government would have allowed. One example is that an Auckland man failed to declare that he was running a large motor vehicle repair business. He also owned three rental properties and was living with a partner. He has been sentenced to 5 months’ home detention and 100 hours of community work, and a debt of $68,000 is now against his name. Here is something else that the previous Government would have tolerated: an Auckland woman, who had lived in her State house for 6 years, deliberately disguised her employment by using numerous false identities. During her tenancy she also purchased six taxis and two investment properties, and got married, none of which was declared. She has been prosecuted for fraud and she paid $50,000 at the time of sentencing to avoid prison.
Tim Macindoe: Why has the Housing New Zealand Corporation increased its investigation resources and activities over the last 2 years?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: There is no secret that the demand for Housing New Zealand Corporation property outstrips supply. Currently, we have over 4,000 people on the waiting list who have been classified as high priority to be housed. In our view, we would rather provide State
houses to people who have genuine need than turn a blind eye to it, as happened under the previous Government.
Overseas Investment Act—Changes to Act
12. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for Land Information: When Rt Hon John Key said on Breakfast TV yesterday “we’ve changed the Overseas Investment Act to include 19 different criteria”, had he advised the Prime Minister that 17 of those criteria were inherited from the last Government and two new criteria have not yet taken effect?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Land Information): When the National Government made the decision to review the overseas ownership rules under the Overseas Investment Act, it was decided that the criteria in place under the Labour Government and set in the 2005 Act were not satisfactory. The Government made a decision to add two new criteria—the economic interest and the mitigating factor—and not only did the Prime Minister not need to be briefed on that but he played an active part in the decision to introduce the two.
Hon David Parker: Given that following the review the Government left the 17 criteria and added two, does the Minister think his Government was coherent or incoherent when, having embarked upon a review of the overseas investment rules with the stated ambition of simplifying and liberalising the rules, after 18 months of polling-induced indecision it announced neither?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I think it is fair to say that when we did the review we found that it would be impossible to liberalise the rules any more than they already had been under Labour. So we went about the changes, and added two new criteria, which we think will have an impact.
Hon David Parker: Was the Government coherent or incoherent when at the start of that review the Deputy Prime Minister said he wanted to get rid of the strategic asset test because “I do not understand it.”; if so, was that same person being incoherent in keeping that same test at the end of the 18-month review?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I think everything the Government has done in this field has been very coherent.
Hon David Parker: Was the Minister for Land Information being coherent or incoherent last week when, in answer to a question on notice that asked: “Will the changes to overseas investment rules mean he will decline more overseas purchases of New Zealand farm land?”, he replied that he could not say, given that he later admitted he had not declined even one farm sale under existing rules?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: In answering that question last week I made it clear to the member that it was not possible to answer a hypothetical question. He had asked how many applications would be declined in the future, and until we know how many we get, and then until we know how many do not meet the new criteria that we have put in place, it would be absolutely misleading the House for me to make out I knew the answer.
Hon David Parker: Did the Minister advise the Prime Minister to put out the media release yesterday afternoon accusing others of an incoherent overseas investment policy; if so, was that to highlight the incoherent nature of the Government’s own statements and policy, or was that poor release hastily made on the advice of the Prime Minister’s own head spin doctor, whom Gerry Brownlee and others in the Beehive describe as “Captain Panic Pants”?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I think we need to get the coherent position strapped down. Labour put the rules in place in 2005, and since those rules have been put in place huge tracts of farmland have been sold to foreigners. So the National Government decided to add extra criteria to the Overseas Investment Act to give Ministers a better chance to make that determination.
Mr SPEAKER: That brings to a close questions for oral answer. I must say that the very last question of the day hardly helped in terms of good order. But today is today; tomorrow will be another day. Beware, the Speaker will be keen to see a rather different question time.