Questions and Answers - 22 June 2011
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
WEDNESDAY, 22 JUNE 2011
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Youth Suicide—Kawerau Core Clinical Committee
1. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Associate Minister of Health: When was the Core Clinical Committee established in Kawerau and how are iwi involved in the membership and functions of this joint taskforce to tackle youth suicide?
Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health): The Core Clinical Committee was established in the wake of a number of tragic suicides in Kawerau in 2010 and 2011. It includes a range of organisations designed to provide a cross-agency platform for response. The organisations involved include Kia Piki o te Ora, and iwi groups such as Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Tūwharetoa ki Kawarau Hauora Trust, and Tūhoe Hauora Trust, as well as the police, mental health services, Child, Youth and Family, the Ministry of Youth Development, local colleges, and Victim Support.
Rahui Katene: What resourcing is available to directly assist families in Kawerau who have suffered over 14 deaths of their young people over the last 18 months?
Hon PETER DUNNE: Clinical Advisory Services Aotearoa is contracted through the Ministry of Health to provide postvention services, and does this through its community postvention response service. The service is actively working in the area, along with the local Kia Piki provider, Toi te Ora, and I understand that the Ministry of Education has also put resources into local schools. In addition, a group of key agencies, including community agencies, meets regularly to screen those affected by the suicides and to provide support within the college to the young people who are living with the consequences. Mana Social Services Trust has seen a number of youths and whānau, following recent tragic events.
Rahui Katene: How many of the suicides identified in Kawerau are young Māori, and what approach has he made to ensure whānau have access to Te Whakauruora, which is a community action - focused resource to build capacity in Māori suicide prevention?
Hon PETER DUNNE: There are believed to have been between nine and 12 suspected suicides in Kawerau in 2010 and 2011, and a further four attempted suicides. Almost all of the suspected and attempted cases are of young people 14 to 18 years old, and they are predominantly Māori and male. In response to the second part of the member’s question, I am not aware of whether Te Whakauruora has been used in this specific situation, but I encourage its use, and I will certainly be following up with officials over its availability to the wider Kawerau community.
Infrastructure Investment Programme—Progress
2. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister for Infrastructure: What progress is the Government making on its infrastructure investment programme?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister for Infrastructure): It is making very good progress. The Government laid out a programme 2½ years ago, and despite the fact of the recession and
significant Government deficits, we have actually held our capital spending and increased investment in infrastructure, because we believe that in the long run, investment in productive infrastructure will help our export sector to be more competitive, and will therefore help to rebalance this economy. In addition to this spending, we have changed the rules on consenting for infrastructure projects so that they can occur much more quickly than in the past.
David Bennett: How has the Government’s infrastructure programme supported jobs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the benefits of this long-term investment in infrastructure happened to be that during the recession, when we were ramping up the programme, the Government’s infrastructure spend directly supported thousands of jobs across New Zealand in the construction sector, which, as we know, was hit very hard, both by the New Zealand recession and then by the effects of the global recession. A very significant proportion of all non-residential building in New Zealand has been funded over the last 2 or 3 years as part of the Government infrastructure investment programme.
David Bennett: What are the Government’s infrastructure spending plans for the next 5 years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is just more good news. We expect to invest heavily in what is now a clearly defined pipeline of work. Over the next 5 years we will invest $750 million in KiwiRail for new wagons, locomotives, and other projects to increase productivity, and $5.4 billion in new State highways, which will mean the start of construction of the Waterview Connection, four more sections of the Waikato Expressway, and the MacKays Crossing to Peka Peka Road part of State Highway 1. We will be spending $3.9 billion on upgrading the national electricity grid and spending $7 billion on State housing, schools, hospitals, and the prison system. Of course there is also the investment of at least $1.5 billion in the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband, for which the final commercial arrangements have been put in place in just the last few weeks. Parliament will pass that legislation hopefully in the next few weeks.
John Boscawen: How does the Government intend to attract private capital to boost New Zealand’s infrastructure base?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has taken a careful and considerate approach to introducing public-private partnerships, being one of the few developed countries in the world that has not had those in place in the last 10 years. We have learnt from others, and we are making cautious progress in that respect.
John Boscawen: Would he describe the comment made by the Hon Trevor Mallard regarding broadband infrastructure investment that “Anyone entering into an arrangement based on this legislation has got to know that it may not last,” as being wanton economic thuggery that would scare away private infrastructure investment and turn New Zealand into a banana republic; if not, how would he describe it?
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Although that is something that I might like to frame and send to my Labour electorate committee, I think asking the Minister of Finance to have responsibility for my comment is going a little bit far.
John Boscawen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need to hear further on the matter. The Minister certainly does not have responsibility for the honourable member’s comment, but Ministers can be asked their opinions on all sorts of things. As long as the Minister is somewhat careful in answering it, I am prepared to allow the question, but certainly the Minister has no responsibility for that comment.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not think the member had finished. It was such a good quote, I would like—
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member had finished.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it is more bark than bite, because, firstly, no New Zealand Government would act illegally and it would comply with the contract; secondly, that comment is reckless; and, thirdly, I will work very hard over the next few months to make sure that the election of 2011 makes that comment irrelevant.
Hon David Cunliffe: If his stated aim of infrastructure investment is to boost our economy through streamlining private sector exports, then why are poorly maintained rural roads being ripped up by milk tankers while his Associate Minister for Infrastructure, Steven Joyce, squanders $1.8 billion on the Holiday Highway, which has a benefit-cost ratio of just 80c in the dollar?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am most impressed with this newfound sympathy of the Labour Party for the farming community, but those members need to sort out their strategy, because last week they were kicking farmers in the slats and today they are trying to hug them. As someone who lives on one of those poorly maintained rural roads, I say that the Government has done a very good job of working with local government to make sure the rural infrastructure can support the very successful export efforts of our rural sector.
Hon David Cunliffe: Can he confirm that land transport funding will be reallocated later this year by the new Government policy statement, with more money being taken out of road safety, maintenance, and public transport and instead being funnelled into four new so-called roads of national significance, which will, presumably, have even worse benefit-cost ratios than the road from Pūhoi to Wellsford?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I cannot confirm that. I can confirm that the process of allocation is arm’s length and very focused on productivity, so much so that the most recent tar-sealing programme in Dipton actually stops at the end of English Road. We have the same gravel road that we have had for 100 years. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: The members’ colleague has called for a point of order.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just ask whether the Minister might repeat his answer. It was very difficult to hear, and I am an “English patient”.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think the member heard the answer perfectly well.
Pike River Mine, Safety—Prime Minister’s Statements
3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: What advice did he rely on when commenting in Australia on the safety of the Pike River coal mine?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I did not provide a view on the safety of the Pike River coal mine; I pointed out its design and the differences I understood there were with Australian mines. For the purposes of clarification, let me read out the actual transcript of what I said. The question asked by Dennis Shanahan from the Australian was the following: “The issue of mining safety in New Zealand seems to be behind Australia’s. Do you accept that?”. My answer was: “I don’t think I’m in a position to fully give you a view on that, but what I can say is that there’s a royal commission of inquiry into the Pike River mine disaster. On that commission is Stuart Bell from Australia, who’s one of the major mine experts here in Australia. I do think, rightfully so, we need to ask some questions whether mine safety standards are high enough. What is true is that the Pike River mine couldn’t have been constructed in that way in Australia. The single entry, 2.4km, upwards-sloping mine shaft, I don’t believe, is legal in Australia and so from New Zealand’s point of view we have to ensure we have the world’s best practice. I have no doubt that there will be changes actually recommended in New Zealand. We’ve taken an interim review of our mines to check the safety, but long term there’ll need to be other changes, I suspect.”
Hon Annette King: Why did he criticise a union delegate for talking about the safety of the Pike River mine before the royal commission of inquiry was completed, but he felt able to answer a question by an Australian media person about mines and mine safety in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because if I had done that and had talked about mine safety, I would have been hypocritical, but I did not; I talked about the construction of the mine and the differences between New Zealand and Australia. I would add that it was a mine that was consented under a Labour Government.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you need to tell that member that 1998 was a National—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat immediately. That is an outright abuse of the point of order process. The shadow Leader of the House should set a better example. He may not agree with the Prime Minister’s answer, but he should not use the point of order process to voice his disagreement. He should be careful of doing that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was that mine first consented in 1998?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not in a position to confirm that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I draw your attention—
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member cannot. The Prime Minister has answered two questions in the way he sees fit. As long as the question has been answered and nothing unparliamentary has been said, it is not up to the Speaker to adjudicate on the accuracy or otherwise of any answer. That is not the way question time is conducted.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Which answer was correct: his answer to Annette King’s supplementary question or his answer to mine?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Both.
Hon Annette King: If he is now saying that mine safety standards need to be changed, why wait until after the royal commission has reported to make the changes, or is he prepared to guarantee that no further mining accidents will happen in the next 2 years under the current mining regulations?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not saying that they need to change; I have said exactly that the royal commission of inquiry needs to look at that matter. I have simply made the point that a mine that was constructed in New Zealand would not be legal to be constructed in Australia.
Hon Annette King: As an interim measure until the royal commission reports, will he implement the Queensland regulatory standards for mine safety, which are considered world best practice, and will he contract experts from Queensland to come to New Zealand to oversee their implementation; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, because an audit was taken of the safety of mines. We are now working our way through the royal commission of inquiry, and we will see what recommendations it makes.
Hon Annette King: Is he aware that family members of Pike River miners are now calling for increased mine inspection to occur now; if not, why not listen to what they have to say, rather than wait?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because we have undertaken a safety audit of New Zealand mines and we are now waiting for the royal commission to make recommendations.
Hon Annette King: Why did his Government halt the review of mine safety in 2009?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member would have to direct that question to the appropriate Minister, who is the best person to answer that question. I can say, from the top of my head, that there were a number of factors in relation to smaller mines.
Hon Annette King: Can he confirm that generic occupational safety and health regulations leave the ultimate responsibility for mine plans to the mine manager?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. That question would have to be directed to the Minister.
Hon Trevor Mallard: When was the Pike River mine first consented?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know the answer to that question.
Earthquakes, Canterbury—Support Provided by Department of Corrections
4. NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister of Corrections: What support has the Corrections Department provided in Canterbury since the first earthquake struck in September last year?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Corrections): I am very pleased to advise that since the first earthquake in September last year, offenders on community work have provided over 170,000 hours of free labour to help to clean up Christchurch. Offenders on community work have been
used to clear streets; assist in getting schools and early childhood centres back up and running; and tidy up parks, reserves, and marae. Following last week’s aftershocks, offenders on community work were quickly sent out to the eastern suburbs, where they have helped non-profit organisations, community groups, and others to clear the silt and liquefaction from their properties. The department will continue to ensure that offenders on community work are available to help out in the months ahead.
Nicky Wagner: What actions have the department and staff taken to support their colleagues in Christchurch?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: From today, Christchurch-based corrections staff will be receiving the benefit of the department’s Give your Mates a Day Trust. The trust was set up after February’s earthquake, and nearly 1,000 staff from around the country have kindly donated a day of their leave. The department put the net dollar value of that leave in a trust. Due to the generosity and goodwill of staff, a total of $166,430 has been raised. This money is now being distributed to Christchurch corrections staff, and payments will be completed by this Friday.
Government Contracts—Use of Kiwi Companies
5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe that in the current economic environment kiwi companies should be considered favourably with regards to big government contracts?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I believe the current economic environment makes it even more important that Government spending achieves the best value for money possible on behalf of taxpayers. In that respect we are simply following the guidelines that the previous Labour Government laid down in 2007. I quote: “New Zealand’s own government procurement market is open and competitive, and the policy does not call for discrimination against foreign suppliers.”
Hon David Parker: Have members of his Government vowed that the multimillion-dollar contracts to build thousands of temporary houses and utility blocks in Christchurch will go to Kiwi companies, and does he agree?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I have not heard such vows being made. The Government has been exploring the market for temporary housing, and some results of that will be coming back in pretty soon, I think.
Hon David Parker: Does he believe that preference should be given to New Zealand companies in the building of thousands of temporary homes in Christchurch?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I believe preference should be given to the people of Christchurch being able to get access as quickly as is necessary to a reasonable quality of temporary housing, and that is what the Government processes aim to do.
Hon David Parker: Will the Government release a cost-benefit analysis as to the benefits of those houses being built by New Zealand companies rather than overseas contractors?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That might be an interesting idea; I am not sure what it would show. We have been focusing more on the needs of the people of Christchurch, some of whom need temporary accommodation, and we will continue to do so.
Clare Curran: Given the significant size of the flat-deck wagon contract with KiwiRail and the implications for New Zealand’s rail engineering workforce, will he commission a report into the real cost difference, if any, between imported flat-deck wagons and New Zealand - built ones?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As has been discussed in the House, decisions about that issue were made on a commercial basis by the KiwiRail board. The Government needs to give KiwiRail the best possible opportunity to be a successful and viable organisation. As I think everyone knows, that is quite a challenge. It needs every advantage we can give it.
Clare Curran: Does he deny that a senior KiwiRail representative said at a meeting of KiwiRail’s mechanical council committee on 23 March that a political decision had been made to
buy the 3,700 flat-deck wagons from outside New Zealand, rather than have them built in New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have no idea what transpired at that meeting, but if anyone said that, they would certainly have been wrong.
6. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Social Development
and Employment: What parenting support is being made available for first-time parents?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Last year 63,000 babies were born in New Zealand. Raising Children in New Zealand is a new parenting DVD, which will be launched at Parliament this evening. In partnership with the Lion Foundation, Barnardos, Plunket, and Television New Zealand, we are helping first-time mums and dads get quality advice on raising their newborn babies.
Tim Macindoe: What other initiatives for parents is the Government supporting?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: This DVD is just one of a range of initiatives that this Government is putting investment in for new parents and families. Many of the initiatives have come from the Minister of Health and have been very well received out there. In my own area, every year we spend around $50 million on parenting support. Under this Budget we saw an expansion of the HIPPY (Home Interaction Programme for Parents and Youngsters) under the Minister of Education, $2.4 million for parenting support for foster carers and grandparents raising grandchildren, $21.3 million for Well Child services, and more than $550 million for early childhood education. This Government, in a small way, is providing that sort of support for parents.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): I seek leave of the House to table the consents for the Pike River mine that were issued on 23 May 2003, and the consents that were granted by the Department of Conservation and the Minister in 2004.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table those documents. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I seek leave to table the record of the issuing of the first consent for the Pike River mine in 1998.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Tax System Changes—Effect on New Zealanders
7. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Prime Minister: In light of the answer given on his behalf to Oral Question No 2 on 15 June, is it his opinion that real average after-tax wages do not go up when high-income earners get tax cuts and low-income workers lose their jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): It is my opinion that real after-tax wages go up when the economy becomes more productive and people get to keep more of the money that they earn. That is why the real after-tax wage has gone up by 10 percent since 2008, but went up by only 4 percent over the 9 years before that under a Labour Government.
Hon Trevor Mallard: What does happen to average net after-tax wages when high-income earners get tax cuts?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That would be subject to, and depend on, a number of factors. It is not possible to say immediately, because it would depend on, amongst other things, the inflation rate, the number of people who are working, and various other component parts.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table a document that was prepared by the Parliamentary Library, which shows the increase in average wages as a result of the National Government’s tax cuts for the rich.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection?
Hon Annette King: Oh, they don’t like the truth.
Mr SPEAKER: There is objection, because of the way the document was described. [Interruption] The reason why there was objection, I suspect, relates to the last words used in the seeking of leave.
Border Control—Joint Border Management System
PAUL QUINN (National): My question is to the Minister of Customs: what recent reports has he received—
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to Paul Quinn, whose voice is not lacking in volume at all. But with the interjections that were going across the front of the House I was struggling to hear even Mr Quinn, which is quite extraordinary. With those interjections now ceased, please, Paul Quinn on question No. 8.
8. PAUL QUINN (National) to the Minister of Customs: What recent reports has he received on developments to technology at the border?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister of Customs): I bring more great tidings of joy to this House. The New Zealand Customs Service last week signed an agreement with IBM that will start the development of a Joint Border Management System, or JBMS. It will bring together the two border processing systems that were previously run independently by the New Zealand Customs Service and by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. A $75 million appropriation will cover the first stage of the Joint Border Management System development. Stage one will include what is called the trade single window, which will enable exporters, importers and others involved in trade to complete all their border compliance requirements online through a single point of electronic contact.
Paul Quinn: What benefits will the Joint Border Management System bring to the border?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Bringing these two previously independent systems together will give us more efficiency, allowing for more effective trade, and will improve biosecurity. The Joint Border Management System is designed to significantly improve border processing for New Zealand importers and exporters, and to make the border agencies more effective. The Joint Border Management System will move the agencies away from fragmented, separate processes that result in a duplication of efforts to a far more cohesive system that shares processes, data, and technology between border agencies and between industries.
Budget 2011—Vote Health Allocation
9. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Health: Has sufficient funding been allocated in Vote Health to meet the increasing costs facing organisations working in the health sector?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): There are 40,000-plus contracts funded by the Ministry of Health and the district health boards. These include telecommunications, building, medical supplies, and health services. Each faces different cost pressures. However, I do know that Vote Health has once again been the recipient of the biggest amount of new money from the Budget. That money is flowing through the Ministry of Health and the district health boards to other providers that they contract with.
Grant Robertson: Given previous answers by the Minister last week, can he confirm that the funding allocated in Budget 2011 to the district health boards does not meet inflation costs in the health sector?
Hon TONY RYALL: It is too early to give a definitive answer to that question, because the district health boards will receive additional funding through the year related to various projects and contracts.
Grant Robertson: Has he read the article in the Bay of Plenty Times under the headline “Health services on the brink”, which shows that agencies such as Arthritis New Zealand are unable to provide services in his own community?
Hon TONY RYALL: Yes, I did read those articles in the Bay of Plenty Times. If the member really wanted to give the full story, he would draw attention to the fact that the Bay of Plenty District Health Board does not support the service he was quoting from.
Grant Robertson: Is he aware that the cost pressure funding provided in the Budget is insufficient such that mental health and addiction providers in the Northland, Auckland, and Waitematā district health boards have been told that they will get no funding at all to meet greatly increased service costs?
Hon TONY RYALL: Cost pressures vary across providers. The district health boards and the ministry are doing their level best in order to support services in these very difficult economic times. What we do know is that $585 million was made available in this year’s Budget.
Grant Robertson: What is his response to the Access Homehealth chief executive, Graham Titcombe, who said that its funding is not enough to meet inflation, and that carers were leaving their jobs because they could not afford petrol costs?
Hon TONY RYALL: My response is that many providers in the health sector, under both Governments, have said they never get enough money.
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a letter signed by the chief executives of the Northland, Waitematā, Auckland, and Counties-Manukau district health boards, dated 10 June, which says that cost pressure funding is insufficient to be able to provide any increase in funding for the mental health and addiction non-governmental organisations.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
10. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Labour: Was she satisfied before the first explosion in the Pike River coal mine, that her Government had done all it could to ensure the workplace safety of people working in underground coal mines; if so, why?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour): According to advice received, I had no reason to believe that the hazards in underground coal mines were not being managed. Immediately after the tragedy at Pike River the Government commissioned an independent safety audit of all other underground mines, which recommended a number of safety improvements in those mines but reported that there was no evidence that a dangerous situation was imminent. We have also established a royal commission of inquiry with very wide terms of reference to inquire into all aspects of the explosion and mine safety.
Kevin Hague: What steps has she taken to implement the call for the reinstatement of check inspectors in the 2008 Department of Labour discussion paper aimed at improving the health and safety in the underground mining industry?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The advice I received at the time was that check inspectors would not necessarily improve mine safety, as the legal responsibility in our legislation needs to be squarely on employers.
Kevin Hague: Why has the Minister ruled out the reinstitution of worker-appointed mine check inspectors, abolished by the National Government in 1992?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I have not ruled that out; in fact, it will be one of the issues that the royal commission of inquiry will look at, and we will be taking those recommendations very seriously and acting accordingly.
Kevin Hague: Is she aware that Australia still uses check inspectors, and what has she instructed her department to do to learn from health and safety standards in Australian underground mining?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I understand that in some states in Australia they use check inspectors; in other states they do not use check inspectors.
Kevin Hague: Why will the Minister not now reinstate the mines inspectorate, dismantled by the National Government in 1998, in light of her department’s May 2011 report slamming the current system of mines inspection?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: Because we are waiting for the recommendations of the royal commission of inquiry, which will be giving a comprehensive review of the mines and the legislation relating thereto.
Kevin Hague: In light of the Pike River mine disaster, does she agree with the reassurance of the Hon Max Bradford in 1998 that changes to the mines inspectorate would not downgrade mine safety, or with Mr Peter Ewen, the author of the book Strongman: Three Score and More, who says: “The wisdom of the inspectorate changes in 1998 has been questioned by numerous parties, and unfortunately it will only be a matter of when, not if, several pay with their lives, given the illconsidered changes to the inspector’s role. Ministerial condolences that will follow will be of small comfort to the bereaved.”?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I think we can all agree that a very real and serious tragedy happened on Pike River. That is why we have taken the matter seriously. We have an internal investigation, we have a health and safety in employment investigation, and we have a royal commission of inquiry because, like everybody else in New Zealand, we want to know exactly what happened and why it happened, and we want to prevent it happening again.
Kevin Hague: Why did the Government halt the review of mine safety in 2009?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: We did not halt it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Was she aware that her department halted the review of mine safety in 2009, and why did she not reopen that review when Damien O’Connor in May 2010 raised mine safety issues with her in writing?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: The review was not halted by me. In fact, some of the recommendations made in that review were actually adopted.
Mr SPEAKER: Before we go on, I am not sure that was an answer to the question asked.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I did not ask whether she halted it, at all. That was Mr Hague’s question.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to repeat his question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: As much as I can remember it, because it was adjusted following the response. Why did the ministry halt its review of mine safety, and why did she not reopen that review in May 2010 when Damien O’Connor raised mine safety issues with her?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I do not believe that the department halted the review.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did she not open a review or take seriously the requests of the member of Parliament for West Coast - Tasman, Damien O’Connor, in May 2010 when he raised mine safety issues with her?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I think the member has a false premise to that question, because Damien O’Connor is not the member for West Coast - Tasman.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I accept that I slipped. I was premature possibly in that. But can I ask you to ask the Minister to address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: It is a very interesting point because I assisted the member a moment ago with a question that I did not believe was answered, but it is incumbent on members to get their questions
right. When a member as skilled as the honourable member makes that kind of error in a question it would be unfair of me to prevent a Minister from utilising that in an answer. I have to be balanced in how I handle these things.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did she not reopen the review in May 2010 when Damien O’Connor raised mine safety issues with her?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: We had a review of small mines, I took that review very seriously, and we accepted recommendations that were detailed in that review.
Kevin Hague: Does she agree that the Government has a share of the responsibility for workplace health and safety in underground mines and for retrieving the remains of those who died in the Pike River disaster; if so, does she understand New Zealanders’ abhorrence that the Government has made this the responsibility of the mine’s receiver?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: I point out to that member that a fundamental premise of heath and safety in employment legislation is that the primary responsibility for health and safety in the workplace lies with the employer.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether she agreed that the Government had a share and she has not responded to that, unless she is saying that the employer is entirely responsible.
Mr SPEAKER: Given the nature of the member’s question, I think the Minister’s answer was in order, because in response to the question she answered that under the current law it is the employer’s responsibility. That was a reasonable answer to that question.
Kevin Hague: I seek leave of the House to table a series of documents. The first is page 162 from the Peter Ewen book Strongman: Three Score and More, which contains the quote I referred to.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that page—
Hon Simon Power: What’s it from?
Mr SPEAKER: It is from a book by a person called—
Kevin Hague: Peter Ewen.
Mr SPEAKER: —Peter Ewen, and the book is called Strongman: Three Score and More. Leave is sought to table that page from that book. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Kevin Hague: The second document is—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order is being heard. Front bench members know better than that.
Kevin Hague: The second document I seek leave to table is the submission of Mr W P Brazil into the inquiry into the administration of occupational safety and health policy in 1995.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Kevin Hague: The third document I seek leave to table is a list of National Party MPs for the period 1996 to 1999.
Mr SPEAKER: We are not seeking leave to table that. It is a common record.
Western Hoki Fishery—Recovery of Stocks
11. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: What recent announcement has he made about the recovery of the western hoki stock?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture): Today I announced the recovery of the western hoki stock following a period of low recruitment, which saw stocks depleted between 2003 and 2006. The Ministry of Fisheries and the industry worked together to make large reductions in catch. It is a move that has now paid off, with the scientific evidence meaning that the ministry is able to declare the stock rebuilt. This may allow for the reconsideration
of total allowable catches later this year. This is exactly how the quota management system should work.
Colin King: How is the management of New Zealand’s fisheries stock regarded by scientists internationally?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: We manage our fisheries resources through an ongoing process of review and adjustment. New Zealand’s success in this area was recently documented in a report, “Rebuilding Global Fisheries”, which was co-authored by 20 international fisheries and marine scientists, and New Zealand came right at the top.
Minimum Wage—Minister’s Statements
12. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: Does she stand by all her answers to Oral Question No 10 yesterday?
Hon KATE WILKINSON (Minister of Labour): Yes.
Darien Fenton: Does she stand by her statement that “We are aware that for those people on the minimum wage, budgeting is tight.”; if so, does she support increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour to make it easier for minimum-wage workers who are facing tight budgets?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: Yes, to the first part of that question; to the second part of that question: whilst we would all like a high minimum wage—and even $15 an hour is a high minimum wage—if it results in the loss of 6,000 jobs, then we do not think that that is a very helpful, supportive, or practical solution for those young people who are trying to get employment.
Jacinda Ardern: Was her comment “If you’ve got somebody who is 16 who is wanting a job and someone who is 30 at the same price, then who is the employer going to employ?”; is that an admission that a youth minimum wage will shift the issue of unemployment from one group to another?
Hon KATE WILKINSON: In answer to the first part of the question, yes; to the second part, no.