Questions And Answers Oct 28 2010
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
THURSDAY, 28 OCTOBER 2010
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Employment Legislation—Factors Influencing Changes
1. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Minister for Economic
Development: What factors did the Prime Minister take into account when he agreed with Warner Bros executives to change employment legislation in New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development): That is not the question, Mr Speaker. Point of order. My apologies, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the Minister OK, now?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes. The—
Hon Member: Cut!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, there is a huge amount of public sentiment out there in favour of the Warner Bros films being made in New Zealand—the two Hobbit films. I noticed that Labour has said that it will have a bloody battle in the House today to try to prevent the legislation going through that will facilitate the films. I am wearing my red tie so that no one will see that blood on my shirt. I noticed the member asking the question is wearing his brown corduroy trousers. I ask him what he is worried about.
Mr SPEAKER: There was a little humour at the start, but the question asked what factors the Prime Minister had taken into account when he agreed with Warner Bros executives to change employment legislation in New Zealand. There is nothing political about that question. OK, a member interjected; it was a reasonably humorous interjection and the member responded with some good humour, and then indicated one reason. If that was the only reason, that is fine but the question did not justify the rest of what the Minister was saying. But if the Minister feels that he has answered in terms of the factors, that is fine.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There were a number of factors, including the uncertainty of the legal status of independent contractors in the film industry. The legislation will clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees, as it relates to the film production industry. It was also evident that assurances from the Council of Trade Unions, although offered in a genuine way, were caveated by the call for a collective agreement on The Hobbit movies. That served only to exacerbate the confusion around the status of contractors, and that is what the Government intends to clear.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was a reduction in protection for film workers designed to encourage investment in The Hobbit?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I completely reject any suggestion that any change to clarify the employment status of people who are engaged to perform tasks in the film industry is a reduction of protection.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he characterise the removal of the right to collectively bargain, as an improvement or a reduction in the rights of the workers?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I will take my lead from the thousands of workers who turned out on Labour Day to protest against the position that The Hobbit movies should be subject to collective agreements. I therefore cannot agree that it is a reduction in their rights.
Keith Locke: Did Warner Bros require that changes to our industrial legislation be passed this week, therefore requiring urgency in Parliament today?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Warner Bros did not put any requirements on us to do anything. The New Zealand Government has recognised that there were employment issues that needed to be sorted out, and we are going to move to clarify those. We think that the last 7 weeks have been shameful as far as the support for the film industry is concerned, and we are going to urgently move to fix that situation.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Which agencies gave him advice on this issue?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: When it came to advice on whether there was an issue around employment relations, the Government sought opinion from Crown Law. It confirmed there were a number of anomalies that might need to be cleared up.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the Prime Minister cognisant of clause 4 of article 1 of the Chinese free-trade agreement, which states: “The parties recognise that it is inappropriate to encourage trade or investment by weakening or reducing the protections afforded in domestic labour laws, regulations, policies and practices.”, when this decision was made?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, and I believe that on each of the points the members likes to raise we have acted opposite to the way he is suggesting.
Keith Locke: Does the Prime Minister agree that in order to be sure about its consequences, changes in employment law should be informed by public submissions, particularly from employers, union representatives, and lawyers; if so, why is he rushing an employment law change under urgency today?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not speaking for the Prime Minister, but I can tell the member—
Hon Members: You are.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, I am not. The question is to the Minister for Economic Development.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was, and I am sure you are aware, addressed to the Prime Minister, and was transferred to the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not strictly a point of order at all. The Government is at liberty to transfer questions to appropriate Ministers, and the Minister on this occasion is answering as the Minister for Economic Development; he is not answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. The Minister was quite correct: he is not answering on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I can only point the member to a recent news poll that suggests that about 75 percent of respondents polled think that this was a good idea, and 25 percent think that it was not. That seems to me to be about right, according to the way we observe public opinion on this.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked about a public submission process, not about an opinion poll of what people might have thought. That is different from a parliamentary submission process. The Prime Minister did not really answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: Actually it is the Minister for Economic Development. Because of the time lapse from when the member asked his question—there was a point of order intervention—I will allow the member to repeat his question so that we all hear it accurately.
Keith Locke: Does the Minister agree that in order to be sure about the consequences, changes in employment law should be informed by public submissions, particularly from employers, union
representatives, and lawyers; if so, why is he rushing through an employment law change in urgency today?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: In most cases, but not in this case.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the Government aware through various news reports or directly from Warner Bros that Ireland was the main alternative to New Zealand for filming The Hobbit?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is not the information we understood.
Keith Locke: Can the Minister confirm that later today New Zealand’s sovereign Parliament will be sitting under urgency to pass a new law at the request of a foreign multinational corporation?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I choose to answer the latter part of that question, and the answer is no.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did the Minister read the reports in US newspapers, which indicate— [Interruption] Mr Speaker, are you a loser?
Mr SPEAKER: The member will just ask his question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did the Minister read in the New York Times and other US newspapers that Ireland was the main alternative for Warner Bros for the filming of The Hobbit; if so, was he aware that the Irish Government agreed on 27 September this year to extend collective bargaining in Ireland to actors for the first time?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. I do not have as much time on my hands as the member to be able to read foreign newspapers. But I also say that the member’s supposition is simply incorrect.
Hon John Boscawen: What role did the various political parties in Parliament play in helping secure this deal?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Central to the success of keeping filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand was the need to clarify and create certainty in respect of some aspects of our industrial relations law. It became apparent that change to the law to clarify the status of employees versus contractors was necessary. I thank the ACT Party for the very prompt way and very helpful way in which it understood that problem and chose to support that course of action. In the same vein, I thank the Leader of United Future for his support, and today I am advised that the Māori Party will also support this legislation, and I want to thank it for that. All the Government parties support this legislation because they know the value of The Hobbit films being produced in New Zealand; they know that this is a good decision for workers in the film industry.
Film Industry—Minister for Economic Development’s Actions
2. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for Economic Development: What specific actions has he taken since becoming Minister for Economic Development to secure the New Zealand film industry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development): I have undertaken a number of activities to secure the film industry in New Zealand. I have been looking closely at the capacity constraints that will hold back the expansion of this industry in New Zealand. I have examined closely the commercial motivations of the major studios to bring productions to New Zealand. I have helped bring the parties together to update the guidelines for the Pink Book, something that had never happened since the Australian union showed up in 2005. I have had ongoing discussions with New Line Cinema and Warner Brothers, and over the past couple of days it has been my privilege to assist the Prime Minister to bring those talks to a successful conclusion, which will ensure that the two mega-budget Hobbit movies will be filmed in New Zealand. That will lead to further expansion of our already $2.8 billion screen production industry.
Katrina Shanks: What benefit will New Zealand gain from hosting the production of the two Hobbit movies?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Hobbit movies are some of the most expensive films ever produced anywhere in the world, and the majority of that expenditure will be in the New Zealand
economy. The promotional value of those movies is also obvious to any New Zealander. The Lord of the Rings has become part of our national identity. In addition, we have formed a long-term strategic partnership with Time Warner group. That will work for us in assisting to promote New Zealand’s trade, tourism, and creative industries.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is he rethinking his view that spending $140,000 a year on relationship building exercises around the Oscars is a waste of money, contrasting it with the $33 million extra and the loss of sovereignty that his neglect of the relationship has resulted in?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not think it would have mattered how many expensive Trevor Mallard - style cocktail parties we had held in Los Angeles. The fact is that the moment an Australian union decided it was going to engage in industrial actions in this country, this film was in trouble.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Has he seen the email from Stephen Carroll, the vice-president of Warner Brothers pictures, of 18 October, their time, referring to the solution that had been reached at a meeting that Mr Brownlee chaired on the 14th ?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not know what the gentleman was talking about. No solutions related to The Hobbit were reached on the date the member quotes.
Economic Recovery—JP Morgan Bank’s Statement
3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with JP Morgan investment bank that “the recovery in New Zealand effectively has stalled”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: No, the Minister does not agree with that assessment, because it is incorrect. Some people, of course, thrive on a negative headline—including, perhaps, some not too far from where I am standing—but the facts are that the economy has grown for five consecutive quarters—
Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure whom the Minister was referring to, but he was clearly trying to insult somebody in his answer to the primary question that my colleague had asked. I think the people of Rodney have had very dignified representation for many years, and if he is the alternative, I am quite worried.
Mr SPEAKER: The member went one step too far with that comment—[Interruption] A point of order is being considered and members on both sides will be silent while that is the case. In fairness to the Minister, I think he was away from the House when there was a ruling from the Speaker on Ministers not employing gratuitous comments when answering a straight question. This question was a straight question: does he agree with JP Morgan investment bank? The Minister answered that question; I think he said he did not. That is a sufficient answer to the question.
Hon David Cunliffe: What response does he have to the comments of TV3’s Duncan Garner that “National’s economic plan, if there is one, doesn’t appear to be working.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Although acknowledging, of course, Duncan’s role as a pre-eminent economist in New Zealand, I would have to respectfully disagree with “His Eminence”, because the Government has a very comprehensive plan, as the member is aware. The plan includes investment in infrastructure; the taxation package; investment in education and skills, business innovation, and trade; improving productivity in the public sector; and simplifying and improving regulations to ensure that businesses can succeed in this country. In fact, there is one example that the House will have an opportunity to consider this afternoon to ensure that filming of The Hobbit movies takes place in New Zealand.
Hon David Cunliffe: In light of that answer, which part of the following further summary from Duncan Garner does he disagree with, if any: “Alan Bollard says the economy is fragile. English can’t rule out the cash deficit blowing out even further. He says ‘recessionary factors’ are still at play. There are no signs of new jobs. … National’s economic plan seems to be to cross its collective fingers and dare I say it –‘borrow and hope.’ ”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I said before, I do of course respect the eminent “Professor” Garner’s economic assessments, but, of course, the world has just come through the global financial crisis. It is important to point out to the member opposite that the Government’s fiscal deficit this current year is something like $13.3 billion, so the Government is basically, on behalf of taxpayers, investing to keep the economy going to the degree that it is. But the reality is that if the member thinks we should do more, then he is actually talking about lifting the Government debt even further, and I think he should come out and say that.
John Hayes: What measures is the Government taking to ensure that the economic recovery is sustainable, and how will this differ from the period between 2005 and 2008?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is taking several steps with its six-point plan to achieve faster and more sustainable economic growth. One such measure was the very well received tax package on 1 October, which provided across-the-board income tax cuts, and left the vast majority of New Zealanders better off. The switch between income tax and consumption tax is the latest step in the Government’s programme to move the economy away from the borrowing, consumption, and housing speculation of the past decade. The Minister is pleased to see reports that show that households and businesses are moving away from that spending and borrowing, which became features of our lopsided economy from about 2005.
Hon David Cunliffe: How does he respond to the Reserve Bank’s comments that show that the only glimmer of any economic activity over the coming year is in the form of high export prices and repairs in Canterbury, neither of which the Government can claim credit for?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Selective quoting has its limitations. I would suggest a couple of other things that Dr Bollard says in the recent Reserve Bank annual report, when he points out that the global financial crisis “highlighted New Zealand’s external imbalances, demonstrated by our deficit in the balance of payments on goods and services, and our negative net investment income position. These deficits are now … improving.” For example, the current account deficit averaged about 8 percent of GDP over the last 4 years of the previous Government; the current account deficit is now just 3 percent, and is forecast to remain below 5 percent. Dr Bollard also noted that “Households have been reducing mortgage debt where possible, and have been … cautious about re-entering the housing market - attitudes that have been reinforced [positively] by recent tax changes.” All these things, and other things that the Reserve Bank governor has said, have pointed out that the rebalancing this economy needs so much is occuring.
John Hayes: What reports has he seen about business attitudes to the recovery?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Minister noted yesterday that the National Bank’s latest business outlook survey showed that business confidence has picked up in October. A net 24 percent of respondents expect general business conditions to improve in 12 months’ time, up 10 points on the previous month. These surveys, of course, continue to fluctuate, and, as I have said, the economic conditions remain challenging for many businesses as the economy makes the necessary adjustments away from debt, consumption, and housing speculation towards saving, investments, and exports.
Hon David Cunliffe: When he told the Finance and Expenditure Committee yesterday that “This is not the typical recession where we come out of it aggressively.”, did he deliberately choose his words to directly contradict and undermine his leader, who had predicted exactly the opposite?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Of course, I cannot verify the exact comments the Minister of Finance made at the select committee yesterday. I point out to the member that the Prime Minister’s full quote from March 2009 is that “by the end of 2009 early 2010 this time next year we’ll be starting to come out of that and I think actually starting to come out of it reasonably aggressively, I’m more optimistic about 2011 than 2010 but nevertheless I think 2010 will be positive.” The reality is that those statements were proven entirely correct. We started to come out of recession by the end of 2009, 2010 will be positive, and 2011 will see a considerable improvement. In terms of aggressive
growth, the House should note that the New Zealand economy has actually grown more in the last 9 months than it did in the whole 4-year period before that.
Research and Development—Technology Transfer Voucher Scheme
4. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Research, Science and
Technology: What recent announcements has he made that help businesses to undertake research and development?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Research, Science and Technology): Last Wednesday I announced further steps in the Government’s innovation strategy. This is one of the six elements of the Government’s economic growth strategy. Six research institutions have been approved to undertake research and development for the voucher scheme. This is a scheme for small to medium enterprises, where they can essentially get a voucher worth around $100,000 and perhaps up to $1,000,000, matched one-for-one by the businesses, and they get their research done by these institutions. The initial six institutions are the University of Auckland, Otago University, the University of Canterbury, Auckland University of Technology, WelTec, and Industrial Research Ltd, covering, of course, polytechnics, universities, and Crown research institutes to cover the full range of participating research institutions. There will be more announcements down the track.
Colin King: What other announcements has he made?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: On 6 October I also announced a TechNZ grant of $3.7 million to Compac Sorting Equipment, an excellent company in Auckland—in Maungakiekie, in fact. It is a niche producer that has 40 percent of the global market in its sector and exports to 30 countries. It increased its revenue by 20 percent. It is that kind of commitment that really drives growth. I should also mention the grant of $5.8 million to Weta Digital, which was announced in July 2009. That was to be matched 2:1 by Weta Digital. Of course, that kind of grant only matters if films can actually be made in New Zealand.
David Shearer: How has the Minister explained to businesses that the amount of money for research and development under his grants scheme is less than half of what they would have received under the 15 percent tax credit, and that they now need to apply to a Government bureaucracy that will decide whether their research and development is worthy of funding?
Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: This very first thing that businesses say to me is how pleased they are to have a National Government in office because of the responsible fiscal management that we undertake, rather than the wasteful expenditure of the previous Government. They are very pleased to have the more targeted approach that the Government has announced, rather than the discredited tax credit scheme of the previous Government. The system is seen as effective, focused, and driving innovation.
Drink-driving, Blood-alcohol Limit—Public Support for Reduction
5. Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: Have the views of 76 percent of the respondents in a scientific poll by the Herald on Sunday, who say they would not drive after drinking beyond an effective blood-alcohol limit of 50 mg, caused him to reconsider his decision not to lower the adult blood-alcohol limit for driving; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): Firstly, I must point out to the member that the survey he referred to did not refer to a blood-alcohol limit as his question suggests, but to the number of alcohol drinks people can drink before driving. The distinction is important because public opinion surveys over the years have shown a disconnect between those surveys that discuss the number of drinks someone drinks, versus what they think the adult blood-alcohol limit should be lowered to. In fact, the Minister of Transport survey published in the Safer Journeys: discussion document in August 2009 showed a similar result to this one. I have consistently stated that we need an enduring consensus for road law changes, and we need to know the actual level of harm caused by drivers with a blood-alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08. The reality is that we do not have that
information currently, but with the law change that is currently in front of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee as part of the amendment bill for land transport safety, we will.
Hon Darren Hughes: Can he not see that he has misjudged this issue, when not a single submitter at the select committee he has referred to has appeared to speak in favour of the current 0.08 limit, that over 30,000 people have signed up to the Two Drinks Max campaign since Sunday, and that a majority of MPs in this House would vote to lower the limit if there were a free vote; and given how many good decisions this Minister has made on road safety, why is he being so stubborn on this one?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am reasonably new to this place but I have to say the select committee process often brings out people who are most interested in some form of change, and obviously that is the situation that has occurred in this place. The reality is that this has been an emotional issue in this country for many, many years. The previous Government knows that, because it made no attempt to change the law during its 9 years in Government and suddenly it is a very urgent matter for it to address today! I think in order to form an enduring consensus on what would be a significant change in traffic law we should be prepared to change the law so we can collect the actual data before proceeding with such a change.
Hon Darren Hughes: Why will he not take advantage of the political consensus that he has been offered and the overwhelming public support that is now absolutely clearly there, so that he can tell the submitters who come to the select committee and who have sadly lost family members and friends that he is doing everything with the full support of Parliament that is in his power to make our roads comprehensively safer?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think there a couple of things there. Firstly, I think most of the member’s question was answered by my previous answer, but I point out to members that this change being proposed would sadly not solve a lot of the issues that we see in terms of drinkdriving on our roads. Unfortunately, very many of the issues that we see on our roads are from repeat drink-drivers who are already over the existing legal limit. That is why the Government has made the changes it put in front of the select committee in terms of a nil limit for repeat drinkdrivers, in terms of doubling the penalties in prison for those subject to the worst offences that cause death, in terms of the nil limit for young drivers, and in terms of the alcohol interlocks. All those measures will also help—in fact, I suspect, more aggressively—in reducing the carnage from alcohol on our roads.
Hon Darren Hughes: How on earth is it inappropriate for him as Minister of Transport to refuse to endorse the Two Drinks Max campaign as he claimed it would be on Tuesday?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I say that I am reasonably new in this place but I would have thought, as the Minister whose job is to make these sorts of decisions, signing up to public campaigns is probably not a way to show people that Ministers bring an open mind to these decisions when they make them.
Hon Darren Hughes: When he said the television poll that said that two-thirds of people were in support of lowering the alcohol limit was not enough and that he would need to see it at 75 percent, does that mean that he will now set a new, higher, target, seeing that his earlier one has now been met by scientific newspaper poll, and do we really need to get to North Korean levels of support before he will finally admit that he has this issue wrong?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I point out to the member that, as I said in answer to the first question, the Ministry of Transport survey published in the Safer Journeys: discussion document in August 2009 showed a similar result to this. But, again, it was about the amount of alcohol people felt they should drink before they drive, rather than whether the limit should be lowered. Right throughout recent years when those two questions have been asked in different ways, there have been different numbers of people who support a change. The reality is that this a contentious issue, and it has been a contentious issue for many, many years. It is important to collect the data. The previous
Government had an opportunity to do just that, way back, I think in 2001, and turned it down and refused to make any change since.
6. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Conservation: What steps is the Government taking to improve coastal management?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Conservation): I am pleased to announce that I will be recommending that the Governor-General approve the 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, which meets the Government’s promise to provide more national guidance for local authorities to meet their obligations under the Resource Management Act. The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement will provide stronger direction on natural character, outstanding landscapes, and biodiversity; provide updated policy on managing coastal hazards; and emphasise the priority the Government places on public access to the coast. I thank the board of inquiry for its contribution to this new policy statement.
Jacqui Dean: What new types of protection will be included in the 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I am very pleased to announce for a start that some of New Zealand’s finest surf breaks will receive additional protection and recognition as being nationally significant. Those surf breaks are in Northland, Raglan, Coromandel, Gisborne, Taranaki, Kaikōura, and Otago.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Kia ora tātou. What will be the practical impact of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, which allows iwi and hapū to take part in statutory conservation processes within their relevant common marine and coastal area?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: In noting that the bill is the responsibility of the Attorney-General, I point out that the practical impact of the universal award, which provides for iwi and hapū to take part in statutory conservation processes, is that it formalises many of the current practices of the department’s consultation with iwi and hapū. These include processes relating to marine reserve applications, marine mammal sanctuaries, permits for marine mammal watching, and proposals to extend conservation protected areas.
Te Ururoa Flavell: What is envisaged will be the effect of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, which allows iwi and hapū with recognised customary marine title the right to give or withhold permission for specified conservation activities, and the right to participate in certain conservation decisions?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: If iwi or hapū gain customary title they have a right of refusal over whether marine reserves or conservation protected areas are established or concessions granted in the customary title area. The right relating to marine reserves and conservation protected areas is subject to an essential protection purposes test, which the Minister of Conservation may use to override the customary titleholder’s view. In using the test the Minister must have regard to the views of the customary title holder and other criteria set out in the bill, including protection of rare or unique habitats.
Foreshore and Seabed—Taipā Point Land Occupation
7. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Attorney-General: Why has the Government not done more to deal with the occupation of the Taipā Point public reserve by foreshore and seabed protesters?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): The protest on Taipā Point public reserve is happening on the dry land reserve owned by the Far North District Council. It is for the council to serve a trespass notice on the occupiers. This could then be enforced by the police, or the council could apply to the court for an injunction, as happened recently in the Coromandel region. Ministers cannot direct the police on operational matters. I refer the member to section 16(2) of the
Policing Act 2008. It is also not for central government to interfere in the operational affairs of local government.
Hon David Parker: Given the assurance that the Attorney-General offered to a public meeting at Taipā recently, why has his Government not acted to help the council and the local community enforce the law at Taipā?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I gave a number of assurances at Taipā. They included my willingness to consult with the people up there, quite apart from the select committee process currently under way, and my assurance to ensure that any legalisation restored access to justice and respected property rights—two points that the audience certainly recognised.
Hon David Parker: Is it true that senior local government representatives have personally asked both him and the Prime Minister for help to enforce the rule of law at Taipā, and why have both of them left the local council to deal with the problem alone?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: A number of people have contacted me. I do not know that they are necessarily senior members of the local council, but certainly people who were in the audience at my public meeting at Taipā have expressed concerns. As to what the Government is doing, I have already said, in my answer to the primary question, exactly what the appropriate course of action is. I am sure the member does not want me to start issuing directions that would contravene the Policing Act or interfere in the affairs of local government.
Hon David Parker: Does the Attorney-General accept that the false expectation his Government and the Māori Party have created around the foreshore and seabed has fed the aggressive behaviour of the protesters at Taipā?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, I think that is an absolutely ridiculous proposition. Both the Māori Party and National are concerned about two things—restoration of the right of access to justice, and property rights—and I would suggest that the actions of a few miscreants should not be allowed to get in the way of a principled debate on those two very important issues. The Foreshore and Seabed Act is disgraceful legislation and needs to be repealed.
Hilary Calvert: Why will the Government not refuse to proceed with Ngāti Kahu’s Treaty settlement until their representatives are prepared to obey the rule of law and cease their trespass and occupation?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Ngāti Kahu has a longstanding Treaty grievance, and it is my responsibility as Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations to negotiate a just and durable settlement. A very odd proposition, in my view, seems to be implicit in that question—that the actions of a few should condemn an entire iwi.
Hon David Parker: Has it not all gone too far when, just hours ago, the democratically elected far north mayor was thrown off the Taipā public reserve, and does this not show that the New Zealand Herald was right last year in its editorial dated 8 March, when it stated: “Review of foreshore law opens wound that had begun to heal”?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I disagree with that editorial—wounds had not begun to heal. The Foreshore and Seabed Act was a real problem. It continues to be a problem. Until fundamental principles of access to justice and respect for property rights are restored for a substantial section of the population, this issue will continue, and I would hope that the Labour Opposition would be prepared to deal with this matter on a principled basis.
Hon David Parker: I seek leave to table an article. It is a press article, but it is from the Northland Age, which is not in circulation. It is entitled—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. As a Northlander, I have to say that Northland is not so backward that we do not have access to those sorts of press articles.
8. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister for Economic Development: Why is his Government intending to change industrial relations law under urgency instead of through the normal parliamentary process?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development): Because it will ensure the incomes of many hundreds, if not thousands, of New Zealanders and will lead to a very large contribution to the overall economy.
Keith Locke: Why is the Minister, in legislation as he has presented it, overturning a decision of the Supreme Court from 2005 at the request of Warner Bros?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have not presented the legislation to the House, nor has Warner Bros made that request.
Keith Locke: Will the Government’s readiness to acquiesce to Warner Bros’ demands encourage other overseas film companies to push for more tax breaks and expect the Government to take their side in disputes with local workers; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is it the Government’s intention to bring legislation to the House to amend the Large Budget Screen Production Grant Scheme to incorporate the enhancements that the Prime Minister agreed to yesterday?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Work is being undertaken to determine whether it is a legislative change or a policy change.
Keith Locke: Would our pride in The Hobbit movie being produced in New Zealand not be enhanced if we knew that our actors were guaranteed the same right as their counterparts in other Western countries to collectively press their claims for decent pay and working conditions?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I think the questioner misunderstands how the industry works in New Zealand and assumes that people engaged on these productions are poorly treated. They are not.
Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not about whether actors were poorly treated by their employers. My question asked whether they had the right to collectively press their claims for decent pay and working conditions. The Minister did not answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think the Minister dodged the question. He answered the question in the way that he saw fit, and I cannot be too pedantic about exactly how the Minister should answer.
Drinking-water Standards—Unsafe or Untested Water
9. BRENDON BURNS (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Health: Is he concerned at the report in yesterday’s Press saying that one in five New Zealanders are drinking water that is unsafe or untested, and that five of 12 hospitals and health services with their own drinking-water supplies have failed to meet the minimum standards?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Yes, I am concerned about the report in the Press, as it misrepresents the Ministry of Health’s Annual Review of Drinking-water Quality in New Zealand 2008/9, which was released in June, 4 months ago. It is quite incorrect to say one in five New Zealanders is receiving unsafe or untested drinking-water. In fact, over half of those people are outside the regime, as they supply their own water—for example, through rainwater tanks. The key finding of the Ministry of Health’s report is that the number of people who had bacteria detected in their water fell from 3 percent to 2 percent, which some might describe as a reduction of 33 percent.
Brendon Burns: Is the Minister agreeing with his ministry’s report identifying that hospitals, 20 percent of schools, and many other suppliers are not delivering safe water to what it says are 137,000 more New Zealanders than in the previous year surveyed, or is he siding with his bench mate who last week told the House that the drinking-water standards are “Rolls-Royce” and unaffordable?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think it is very important to look behind what is being mentioned by the member opposite. If, for example, we look at his description of “five of 12 hospitals” not complying, I think we should be clear that three of those are small clinics the size of a house, on Great Barrier Island and Waiheke Island, that are supplying water equivalent to local home supplies. Another is a facility owned by a trust, with which the district health board is working to reduce the risks. The fifth is Princess Margaret Hospital in Christchurch, which remained in this status while that member’s Government was in office.
Brendon Burns: Why did the Minister blame the 4 September Christchurch earthquake for delays in the review of drinking-water funding introduced by the previous Labour Government, when he said in announcing the review 14 months ago that he expected it to be completed “early next year.”?
Hon TONY RYALL: The report has taken longer to prepare than had been expected, but announcements will be made in due course.
Brendon Burns: Will the Minister give all New Zealanders on a reticulated supply an assurance that their water is, or soon will be, safe to drink, or will he continue to wring his hands and wash his hands of the issue, saying it is local government’s responsibility, despite the Government’s having frozen the funding and having put a 3-year moratorium on meeting the minimum World Health Organization guidelines for safe drinking-water?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is the responsibility of water suppliers. We know that to be the case, because that member’s Government passed the legislation to that effect while in office.
Tourism—Value to Economy
10. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Tourism: What recent reports has he received on the value of tourism to the New Zealand economy?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Acting Minister of Tourism): I have seen some great reports, most notably the Tourism Satellite Account prepared by Statistics New Zealand for the year ended March 2010. It shows that a record $22.4 billion was spent by international and domestic tourists, up from $21.9 billion in the previous year. Spending by international tourists increased by $150 million during this period, making tourism New Zealand’s largest export earner, worth $9.5 billion to the New Zealand economy. That demonstrates the value of tourism to the New Zealand economy and shows that the Government’s decision to put an extra $50 million into tourism over the past 2 years was an excellent one.
Todd McClay: What reports has the Minister seen on growth in tourism numbers from Australia, and how has the Government encouraged tourist visitations from Australia?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: We always knew that Australian visitors would be vital to keeping the sector going through the recession. In 2009-10 Tourism New Zealand worked with regional tourism organisations and commercial airlines to promote New Zealand to Australians, and $10 million was spent on joint ventures. So it is good to announce that Statistics New Zealand figures show that in the year ended September 2010 visitor numbers from Australia were up by 7 percent to 1.122 million. It is clear that this Government initiative has paid off.
Todd McClay: What recent initiatives has the Government taken to increase awareness of the New Zealand tourism brand overseas?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Last night the Government announced that it has agreed to work together in a long-term strategic partnership with Warner Bros to promote New Zealand as both a film production and tourism destination. New Zealand will also host one of the premieres of the Hobbit movies. These arrangements are likely to be worth tens of millions of dollars to the New Zealand economy and the New Zealand tourism sector. It is a further example that this Government is looking to increase the value of tourism to New Zealand and to grow the economy.
State Housing Acquisitions—Budget 2010 Allocation Compared with Budget 2007
11. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Housing: How much is in Budget 2010 for the acquisition of new State-owned houses and how does that compare to the $48 million in Budget 2007 for State house acquisitions?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): The Housing New Zealand Corporation has budgeted $74 million of its own income to build 241 new properties and purchase a further 96 properties. It has also budgeted an additional $40 million to lease 455 new properties. The National Government has not got a particular appropriation for community group housing, but it is also investing in $5.8 million worth of community group houses. That will help community groups to house people who have particular, complex needs.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear an answer to the second part of the question about the comparison with Budget 2007.
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: The question gave the figure for 2007, and I gave figures of the current Government.
Mr SPEAKER: I will let the member asking the question follow that up.
Moana Mackey: Can he confirm that of the $18 million in Budget 2010 for acquisition and improvement of State houses, $6.5 million is for the Housing New Zealand Corporation’s energy efficiency programme, $5.7 million is for Healthy Housing—a reduction of more than $9 million— and $5.8 million is for community group housing, leaving precisely zero dollars for new houses?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I think I made it crystal clear that in the final year she is talking about the Housing New Zealand Corporation will build 241 new properties, purchase a further 96 properties, and lease 405 properties. That the funding does not come from the Government but comes from the Housing New Zealand Corporation’s annual billion-dollar rental income makes no difference to all those hundreds of families that will be housed.
Moana Mackey: Does he remember criticising Labour for funding a net increase of “only” 475 State houses in 2008, and will he retract that criticism, given that he has announced that he will “slow down and probably stop” building up the Government’s housing stock?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I remember rightly criticising Labour for a lot of things.
Moana Mackey: Has he seen the report from First National Real Estate, released today, outlining a severe shortage of rental properties; the report from his own Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group pointing to a current housing shortage of 70,000 homes, which is set to get worse; and the report from Jennian Homes, released yesterday, saying that home builders are suffering because the building sector has never been this quiet? If so, why is he the only person who thinks that now is the right time for the Government to stop investing in housing?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I released a report saying we think there is a shortage in housing, so clearly I am well aware of that; it is just that I do not believe that the Government is the one that has to run out and build them all. We would like to work with community group organisations across the country and resource them to build, buy, and lease houses in order to house more people who are struggling, like the struggling families on the waiting list.
Chester Borrows: How does the $100 million provided by the Government in February 2009 for upgrades of State houses compare with the funding for upgrades in Budget 2007-08?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Oh, this is fascinating! The National Government invested $109 million on more than 13,000 upgrades of old, cold, and mouldy houses. That grand total of $109 million compared with the $7.5 million invested by the previous Labour Government. In other words, the Labour Government invested only 10 percent of what National did in 2009. Do members know why that is? It is because the National Government and John Key believe that the quality of housing for our tenants is just as important as the quantity of housing for our tenants; otherwise, we would house them in dog kennels, like the previous Government did.
Moana Mackey: How many people could have been housed with the $1.6 billion being spent on the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway”, now known as the “Steven Joyce Road of Personal Significance”?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: At this time, although it is way at the top of my list, I have not done that calculation.
Chester Borrows: What has been the result of the additional $109 million?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: In 2009-10 more than 25,000 upgrades of State houses were carried out. Housing New Zealand Corporation tenants across the country benefited from improved insulation and heating. Their homes were damp-proofed. New bathrooms and kitchens were fitted as well, and other vital improvements carried out. Those improvements enhanced tenants’ living conditions by making their homes warmer, healthier, and much safer. John Key, the Prime Minister, is not a slum landlord.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Annette King: No, but he gets a free house.
Mr SPEAKER: There will be no interjection while I am on my feet. The last part of the answer was in response to a question from one of the Minister’s own colleagues, and there is no need for gratuitous comments in response to questions from one’s own colleagues. I am perfectly happy for him to compare what this Government is doing with what the previous Government might have done, but I am not going to have patsy questions used to make gratuitous comments. The Minister has done that on a couple of successive days now, and that is why I am raising it, because it is not fair. If members opposite are foolish enough to ask political questions, the Minister can give political answers. I have no problem with that; we have heard a few of them today. But I am not going to have patsy questions used to make gratuitous comments. I have no problem with his comparing performance but I will not have gratuitous comments.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thank you for that ruling. You have made that ruling on a number of occasions over the last couple of weeks, and it has been repeatedly ignored by National Ministers—
Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, and I do not need any assistance. I have made clear what I intend, and there is no further issue. My insisting on Ministers not doing that will not be assisted if members of the Opposition try to take advantage of it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is quite a separate point of order but it might go to assist the House. I just want to make it clear that we do not associate ourselves with the comments of my colleague with regard to the highway—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: We know that it was you, Sir.
Mr SPEAKER: The Speaker must not be brought into the debate—although I sympathise with the member’s point of view!
Information and Communications Technology Delegation—Visit to China
12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Communications and Information
Technology: What results have been achieved to date by the recent ICT trade delegation he led to China?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): Many of the companies that participated in the delegation are following up very strong leads facilitated by their meetings last week with some of China’s largest information and communications technology firms. For example, Tomizone is looking to increase its roll-out of Wi-Fi hotspots in two Chinese cities, Datacom is looking to develop service centres for new Chinese customers, and Mobile Mentor is negotiating with China Unicom to provide training in the use of new smart phones. The delegation facilitated introductions between New Zealand firms and some of the largest information and communications technology providers in the world. Deals that could result would bring
millions of dollars of value into the New Zealand economy and would demonstrate our firms’ abilities to compete in the world’s fastest-growing information and communications technology market.
Melissa Lee: What feedback has he received from companies who participated in the recent information and communications technology trade delegation to China?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: All participants greatly valued participating in the delegation and the reception they were given by their Chinese counterparts. Thanks to the excellent work by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade they were given highlevel access to executives in large companies. Opening doors to some of China’s largest information and communications technology firms is not easy, but the New Zealand firms have demonstrated their preparedness and have impressed their Chinese colleagues. This was the sixth such delegation to China this year, which underlines the Government’s determination to continue to grow our trade and orient New Zealand to the export-led growth that we need to both grow the country faster and create more jobs.