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Questions And Answers August 17


(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

WEDNESDAY, 17 AUGUST 2011

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Youth Unemployment—Rates

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by the statement made on his behalf in answer to Oral Question No 4 yesterday that “there is room for celebration in some of this” regarding youth unemployment rates?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I stand by the full statement made on my behalf: “There is room for celebration in some of this. For example, Māori youth unemployment rates have gone from 30.3 percent in June 2010 to 24.8 percent now. That is still too high … but we are tracking down. There is a long way to go, but 43,000 new jobs last year—15,000 of them for young people—is a good start.”

Hon Phil Goff: What is there to celebrate in the June quarter household labour force survey, which shows that nearly 33 percent of teenage Māori are unemployed and that nearly 42 percent of 15 to 19-year-old Pasifika are unemployed? Are these figures not evidence of the total failure of his youth unemployment policies?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There were a number of things to celebrate in the household labour force survey that was just recently released. We had an unemployment rate that was steady, but we had been creating new jobs. There was also a considerable amount of cash put into Budget 2011 for the creation of jobs; around $55.2 million went into a number of programmes. As the Minister for Social Development and Employment noted yesterday, there actually has been a reduction in the Māori and Pacific youth unemployment rates.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will recall that my question specifically asked what there was to celebrate about 33 percent of Māori teenagers being unemployed and 42 percent of 15 to 19-year-old Pasifika being unemployed. The Prime Minister ignored commenting on either of those figures.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member had cut his question at that point, then he would be absolutely right, but he went on to talk about those things being indicative of a failed Government youth policy. The Prime Minister pointed out in his answer why he did not see Government youth policy as having failed. So the remedy is in the hands of the questioner.

Hon Phil Goff: Is he celebrating the fact that under his watch as Prime Minister the unemployment rate for 15 to 19-year-old people in New Zealand is at the highest proportion ever since the Great Depression?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is a very interesting statement by the Leader of the Opposition. Statistics New Zealand has actually been recording the data since 1986, so not quite back to the Great Depression, I say as a starting point.

Hon Ruth Dyson: That’s not true.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is true, actually. The member can go and check it out if she wants. The second thing is that yes, the household labour force survey shows that the proportion of people it considers in the 15 to 19-year-old age group to be unemployed is, from New Zealand’s perspective, high at 24.9 percent. But yesterday the Leader of the Opposition came to the House and told us that was the highest rate in the OECD. Let us just for the purposes of clarification run through a few countries that have a higher rate of unemployment than the household labour force survey for 15 to 19-year-olds: Belgium, 35 percent; the Czech Republic, 39 percent; Estonia, 59 percent; Finland, 28 percent; France, 29 percent; Greece, 39 percent; Hungary, 45 percent; Ireland, 46 percent; Italy, 45 percent; Poland, 30 percent; Portugal, 34 percent; the Slovak Republic, 61 percent—

Mr SPEAKER: I think the answer has been long enough.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek—

Hon Member: Apologise!

Hon Phil Goff: I certainly do not apologise for telling the truth.

Mr SPEAKER: Let me just refresh the memories of members. If I have to evict someone today, they will be out for the rest of this week, so we will have a little order. I do not blame the Leader of the Opposition totally then, although he should not have done that. There was obviously an interjection during a point of order, which caused that reaction. But we will not have interjections or any other comments.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek the leave of the House to table some statistics from the Parliamentary Library that go back to 1986 and show that the 27.6 percent unemployment rate for those 15 to 19- year-olds is by far the highest rate we have had since that date and is even much higher than in the dark days of the early 1990s.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister stand by his claim that 60 percent of the 58,000 New Zealand young people under 24 who are described as not in employment, education, or training are actually at school or at university?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table a document, which is an email from Andrew McLaren of the servicing and analysis team at Statistics New Zealand, saying explicitly that those people are not in employment, education, or training. They cannot be at school or university.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister still say that 60 percent of those classified by Statistics New Zealand as not being in employment, education, and training are at school or university?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. The reason for that is that the member will be wrong, like he was wrong yesterday when he came to the House and said the New Zealand teenage unemployment rate had trebled under National’s watch. Actually, it went from 18 percent to 28 percent, so not even by Phil Goff’s maths is that a trebling. It is like when he came to the House yesterday and said the unemployment rate for 15 to 19-year-olds had increased from less than 10 percent when National took office to 28 percent. In fact, it went from 18 percent to 28 percent. It is like he said—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, he—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon Phil Goff: When the Prime Minister just now denied that the number of people aged 18 to 24 on the unemployment benefit had trebled, was the Minister for Social Development and

Employment wrong in her answer to written question No. 6058, which shows a 733 percent increase in the number of 18 to 24-year-olds on the unemployment benefit?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that written question and answer, but I can tell the member that at December 2008 the unemployment rate for teenage people was recorded by the household labour force survey as 18 percent. In June 2011 it was 28 percent, and that is not a trebling.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table the written question—

Mr SPEAKER: We do not do that. Does the member want to ask a supplementary question?

Hon Phil Goff: When is the Prime Minister going to front up and admit that his unemployment figures are wrong, that he is conning the public, and that the situation has got worse than it has ever been regarding the proportion of young unemployed people?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I do not come to the House like Phil Goff did yesterday and make four or five different errors. I get my numbers right.

Hon Rick Barker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member has been asked a question. He has to answer the question, and not just simply relitigate—

Mr SPEAKER: I do not believe I need any assistance on this. When a Minister is accused of conning the public in the question that is asked, the questioner can expect to get fair measure back.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said, the member came to the House yesterday and said the New Zealand Institute reports that the youth unemployment rates in New Zealand are the highest of any developed country. I did not even get through the list; actually, you cut me off, Mr Speaker, because of the amount of time I had spent.

Hon Phil Goff: You are just conning the public, John, and you know it.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, let us just, for the purpose of economics, run through a few options. There are three measures of looking at unemployment in New Zealand. The household labour force survey indicates whether a person is looking for 1 hour’s work, and 60 percent of the 15 to 19-yearolds they rang up in that survey were in training, work, school, or, basically, at university.

Hon Annette King: That’s not what stats said.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is absolutely correct.

Hon Ruth Dyson: That is not the figures—

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is a matter for clarification. The second way of looking at it, is, basically, to look at those who are on an unemployment benefit, and what we know is that in the last 18 months for young people aged 18 to 24 that number has fallen from 23,000 to 16,500. For the record, that was the way that the previous Government used to look at people who were unemployed in New Zealand.

Hon Members: Get your facts right.

Hon Phil Goff: That interjection was characteristic of the problem I am having as a member of this House. I am being told to get my facts right, but I have in my hand all of the documents from which my comments have been made. I seek leave of the House to table those documents now.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon PHIL GOFF: I will do them in order.

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, if that has escaped the attention of the member. The member chose to use certain language in his question, and the Prime Minister was somewhat measured in responding. He explained why in his view he was not conning the public: he went back to the basic statistics. I do not believe that the member has anything to complain about in that answer, given the question he asked. [Interruption] A point of order is called.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table a document, which is the New Zealand Institute discussion paper 2011/1, which says that, actually, we have the highest share of unemployment of any youth population in the OECD, which the Prime Minister denied.

Mr SPEAKER: Is this the New Zealand Institute of—

Hon Phil Goff: The New Zealand Institute.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave of the House to table this email from Andrew McLaren of the servicing and analysis team, Statistics New Zealand, which says the 58,000 people were not in employment, education, or training, and had no apparent home duties that required them to stay out of the labour force.

Mr SPEAKER: Can I just check that that is not the same document that the member sought to table a while ago?

Hon Phil Goff: No, I asked before, I think, to table a different document, which was the Parliamentary Library statistics.

Mr SPEAKER: No, there was an email—

Hon Phil Goff: Oh, did I? OK, that is the same document.

Mr SPEAKER: I understand that leave has already been granted for that document to be tabled.

Hon Phil Goff: How is the $20 million—

Hon Paula Bennett: Stop confusing your mates with the unemployment benefit.

Hon Phil Goff: Are you finished?

Mr SPEAKER: I want to hear the question from the Leader of the Opposition.

Hon Phil Goff: How will the $20 million estimated expenditure on youth unemployment that he announced on Sunday be adequate, when Budget 2011 shows that this Government has cut $145.8 million from industry skills training, and when the Minister for Social Development and Employment said most of that money will not go into skills training but go into early childhood services for teenage mums?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me take the first point, which is about the $145 million. That was over multiple years—

Hon Phil Goff: 5 years, actually.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is right; 5 years. Thank you for clarifying it, because yesterday the Leader of the Opposition came to the House and said that was an annual number—that is what he said yesterday; $145 million this year, he said yesterday. It all kind of changes depending on which day of the week it is, but that is OK—no big drama. Then No.2—

Hon Phil Goff: You can’t keep conning the whole of New Zealand. You’re wrong on everything you’ve said.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Actually, let us go through the conning bit. Let us understand why a National Government actually reduced that number by $145 million over those 5 years, and what actually happened to that money. That was a scheme run by Labour in 2008, whereby 96,831 people on it did not get one single credit. If they want on that side of the House to spend millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money— [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Prime Minister has made his point perfectly clearly.

Chris Tremain: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On that particular occasion the Prime Minister had been accused of conning the—

Mr SPEAKER: We are not going to go down that track. I assessed that the Prime Minister had made his point reasonably in response to the question, and that sufficient time had been taken on it. I accept the basis of the point the member was making.

Hon John Boscawen: I seek leave of the House to ask a question of the honourable Leader of the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER: I guess it is possible for members to ask questions of members. Leave of the House is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection?

Hon Member: No.

Mr SPEAKER: I trust it is in order, but let me just check with the Clerk to make sure there is no Standing Order against that. Normally a question to a member is to do with the member’s responsibilities, but leave has been granted to the member.

Hon John Boscawen: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Leader of the Opposition: given that he is so concerned about youth unemployment, what responsibility do he and his colleagues take for the dramatic rise in youth unemployment after youth rates were cancelled, making it illegal for a young person to take a job at less than $13 an hour?

Hon Phil Goff: It is just as well that the question was asked of the Leader of the Opposition, because the Prime Minister does not give answers. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now, I ask members why it was difficult to see me on my feet. There was absolutely no reason to give an answer like that at all, given the question was asked of the Leader of the Opposition. Actually, I should point out that things have changed a bit since the Leader of the Opposition was last a Minister.

Hon PHIL GOFF: The answer is that at the time that Labour left office, youth unemployment was a third of the level that it is now. It was at that level because a Labour Government actually invested in skill training for people. A Labour Government created 350,000 new jobs, and a Labour Government reduced the number of people on unemployment benefits to 17,000, and that is a track record I am really proud of. The Prime Minister would do better to halve that.

Chris Tremain: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The House did not grant leave for supplementary questions.

Hon John Boscawen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the honourable Leader of the Opposition a specific question. He did not answer that question. [Interruption] He was—

Mr SPEAKER: Let me deal with this problem. I say to some members that I have warned them once already. If I evict someone today, they will be out for the rest of this week. Points of order will be heard in silence.

Hon John Boscawen: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I asked leave of the House to ask a question of the Leader of the Opposition. That leave was granted. I am entitled to have my question answered. The question specifically asked what responsibility the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues take for the dramatic rise in youth unemployment since the minimum wage for 16 and 17-year-olds was dropped. The Leader of the Opposition pointed to the dramatic rise in youth unemployment. We already know about that. What I am asking is what responsibility he and his colleagues are prepared to take for the dramatic situation that young New Zealanders find themselves in.

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard the member’s point, and in fairness to the Leader of the Opposition he cited figures for unemployed young people, if I recollect correctly, when his Government left office, and he made further comments about the changes in levels of unemployment. In other words, he was in many ways refuting the question of the member, which he is entitled to do in answering a question. I do not believe that I can pull him back any tighter to the question than that.

Chris Tremain: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: No, there are no supplementary questions. Is this a supplementary question to question No.1 to the Prime Minister? I thought we had moved beyond question No. 1, because the House gave leave for a question to a member. I suppose leave was sought, without my having moved to question No. 2, so I will accept a supplementary question on question No. 1.

Chris Tremain: How many 15 to 19-year-olds are unemployed now?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: This is a good question. If we look at the household labour force survey, we see that there are 26,700 people in the 15 to 19-year-old category. Of those, 60 percent are in school, university, training, or study of some sort, which leaves 15,000 in that category. It is worth making the point that that is 5 percent of the entire number of 15 to 19-year-olds in New Zealand. It is very easy to overstate a problem.

Economy, Stimulus—Government Policies

2. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Finance: What steps has the Government taken to increase incomes and to give businesses the confidence to invest and create new jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has taken many steps, including long-term investment in infrastructure, reforming the tax system to reward savings and productive investment, lifting education standards, cutting red tape, continued reform of the public sector, and investing heavily in science and innovation. All of this is helping to build business confidence, because, in the end, sustainable jobs come from confident businesses investing and feeding off the proceeds of New Zealand selling its goods to the world, not off unsustainable jobs from fastgrowing government, and debt-funded housing booms.

Tim Macindoe: What are some of the positive results from the Government’s economic programme?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: One positive result is that the New Zealand economy has grown in seven of the past eight quarters, and in this 12-month period is likely to grow faster than the Australian economy. But probably the most important thing is the fact that these policies have assisted with the creation of 43,000 new jobs in the past 12 months. Treasury predicts that if we can stay on track with sensible policies, about 170,000 new jobs will be created over the next 4 years.

Tim Macindoe: In terms of rising incomes, how has the increase in the after-tax average wage left more money in the pockets of hard-working New Zealanders?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Changes in the after-tax average wage are a combination of wage increases and tax reductions. We do not know the situation of every New Zealander, but the aftertax average wage is rising faster than inflation. In the year to March the after-tax average wage rose 7.4 percent, compared with inflation of 5.3 percent, which is a real increase of 2.1 percent, after all cost of living increases and the one-off rise in GST. Households on those wages are enjoying the benefits of the lowest interest rates in 45 years.

Tim Macindoe: What policy ideas would undermine economic confidence and put the good progress to date at risk?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Any policy ideas that undermine business confidence with unnecessary red tape, and any policy ideas that mean more spending and expansion of government, and particularly spending that is financed by higher taxes and more debt. These would be corrosive of growth in New Zealand and would make the New Zealand economy more vulnerable, when the world is so volatile and unpredictable.

Hon Trevor Mallard: When does Treasury project that his policy ideas will return unemployment back to 4.3 percent, which it was when he took office?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not think the forecasts show a return to that, but the member will not be taken seriously until he understands that that unemployment rate was based on unsustainable economic growth, fed by rapid Government spending—

Mr SPEAKER: It was a fairly straight question.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave of the House to table a document, prepared by the Parliamentary Library, showing that Treasury forecasts that by 2025 the 4.3 percent rate will not be attained.

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

Hon Trevor Mallard: How many jobs were created in the last quarter under his Government’s policies, and how does that number compare with the growth of the working-age population?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I cannot give the member those numbers, but in the last 12 months 43,000 jobs were created. That is a major achievement, given that it was done during the fallout from a global recession. What is more, they are real and sustainable jobs, not jobs based on

excessive borrowing for a housing boom and a rapid expansion of Government spending, which was unsustainable and unaffordable.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library that shows that the number of persons employed in the last reported quarter increased by 1,000, whereas the working-age population increased by 5,000.

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.

Animal Welfare—Colony Cage Systems for Hens

3. SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture: Has he had the opportunity to view the new colony cage systems for hens which the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is proposing will replace battery hen cages; if so, does he believe they are acceptable from an animal welfare perspective?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): To the first part of the question, yes, I have; to the second part of the question, I do not believe that it is in the public interest to express a personal point of view at this stage, as I am awaiting the delivery of a code of welfare that is being prepared currently by NAWAC, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

Sue Kedgley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is the Minister responsible for animal welfare, as well as for MAF—the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. He has told us that he has been to see these new cage systems. I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask him for his opinion.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is perfectly at liberty, on the grounds given, not to express a personal opinion. We cannot force Ministers to give personal opinions. He advanced perfectly reasonable grounds for not expressing a personal view.

Sue Kedgley: Has the taxpayer contributed funding towards the trial of the new colony cage systems through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Sustainable Farming Fund; if so, how much?

Hon DAVID CARTER: I am not aware of any funding from the Sustainable Farming Fund going towards the testing of the new colony cage system. I am certainly aware that through Vote Agriculture we fund the work of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table details of a Sustainable Farming Fund project that show that $390,000 was contributed towards the colony cage system.

Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of the document?

Sue Kedgley: It is from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s website.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table this document from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s website. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Sue Kedgley: Does he agree that taxpayers and the media should be able to view the new colony cage systems so that they can see for themselves how the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s money has been spent and whether the new cages provide good welfare for the hens; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CARTER: It would be useful if the public was more aware of the benefits of such systems of farming. The difficulty in allowing some people to view the systems is that, from past experience, they have not respected the privilege of being allowed into these places. In many cases, there was also quite a considerable biosecurity risk in allowing members of the public into quite intensive farming systems.

Sue Kedgley: As the Egg Producers Federation is refusing to allow any members of the media in to see the new colony cage systems, would he be prepared to go on one tour of the colony cage project and take members of the media with him; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CARTER: As I said in an earlier answer to a question, I have already had the opportunity of having a very good look at these systems. I think they are a considerable improvement on the current system. We need to allow this work to be done by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in a non-emotional, scientific way so that we can deliver credible codes of welfare to this industry, as we do to other industries.

Sue Kedgley: Does he agree that the reason for the excessive secrecy surrounding the trial could be a fear that if people were able to see the cages for themselves, they would consider them to be unspeakably cruel; if not, why not?

Hon DAVID CARTER: No, I do not accept that for one minute.

Sue Kedgley: Why has the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry spent hundreds of thousands of dollars assisting the egg industry to move from one cruel cage system to another, instead of requiring the industry to shift to free-range or barn systems?

Hon DAVID CARTER: We need to wait for the finalisation of the code of welfare before we know which recommended system will be available to New Zealand egg producers. I am aware that if we were to shift to a completely free-range system, then the cost of egg production in this country would dramatically increase.

Welfare Reforms—Youth Initiatives

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

Development and Employment: Does she stand by all her answers to Oral Question No 7 yesterday?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes.

Hon Annette King: In light of her answer yesterday that the Government has announced radical changes for young people, and “We will be intervening.”, what led her to make that decision?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Concerns for 16 and 17-year-olds who are not in education, employment, or training, and also a real level of concern for teen mothers, some of whom get some great education through the teen parent units, but others do not, and it felt really unequal and uneven. We felt that we could put better support around them, as well.

Hon Annette King: Does she believe that the use of a special credit card for people on a benefit that prohibits the purchase of alcohol and tobacco would require the Crown to make moral judgments about individuals’ decisions; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I see the fact that they cannot buy cigarettes or alcohol, to be quite honest, as quite a side issue. It is more that we are paying their rent directly, so that they have a roof over their heads. I see their being able to have utilities, the use of a payment card, and an in-hand allowance on top of that as being quite a responsible thing to do for teenagers as young as 16 and 17 years old.

Hon Annette King: Does she believe that the sort of oversight proposed by the Prime Minister on Sunday would be highly intrusive and rob individuals of their freedom of choice; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Actually, in some respects, yes; I do think it is quite intrusive, and I do think it is quite hands-on. But we are talking about young teenagers, and we are talking about, in general, ones who have had pretty rough upbringings at times. Some really do not know what to do. If they were my kids, then I would actually be wanting to wrap more support around them and to put a few more controls in place, so that is what we are doing.

Hon Annette King: Does she believe that this kind of oversight spread across the benefit system would impose an enormous administrative burden and cost upon Work and Income?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The policy announced was for 16 and 17-year-olds, and some teen parent 18-year-olds, not across the whole benefit system.

Hon Annette King: Does she believe that because a small minority of income support recipients do not use their moneys prudently, this should lead to changes to the way in which welfare is paid or assessed; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is less about whether they are using their money prudently, and more about offering them the sort of support this package will offer. The other part of it is that they have to be attached to a non-governmental organisation that wraps support around them. That could be a Māori organisation that stays with that young teenager for some time as they go through a period of adjustment, or it could be not as hands-on as that, depending on where they are at.

Hon Annette King: Did she send a letter to a businessman on 14 March this year saying a payment card for people on a benefit that forbade alcohol and tobacco purchases would require moral judgments by the Crown, would be highly intrusive, would rob individuals of freedom of choice, and would impose an enormous administrative burden on Work and Income, and there was no need to change the way in which welfare is paid or assessed?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, possibly. What the member has not picked up is that, actually, the policy is for 16, 17, and some 18-year-olds. I have said that I do actually see it as intrusive. I do think the administration that comes with it is worth it, and I am backing these young people into a better life.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a letter addressed to a businessman, dated 14 March, from the Minister for Social Development and Employment, in which she rejects the idea of changing the way welfare is paid or assessed.

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.

Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 5, Louise Upston. [Interruption] We have dealt with that question and that issue. I ask for some courtesy from the Labour front bench.

District Health Boards, Targets—Better Help for Smokers to Quit

5. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister of Health: How have district health boards improved support for their communities through the preventative health target ‘Better Help for Smokers to Quit’?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): In less than 2 years we have gone from zero to 90 percent of hospital patients offered help to stop smoking in nine district health boards. Smoking kills an estimated 5,000 people in New Zealand every year and affects the quality of life of thousands more. The Lakes District Health Board is the first district health board in the country to achieve 100 percent for one of the Government’s three preventive health targets. In the last 3 months every smoker admitted to their hospitals in Rotorua and Taupō was offered advice to help quit, which adds an estimated 433 years of life to the district. They achieved this fantastic result by engaging with staff and creating competition between the wards each month. Red was bad. In this quarter, every ward turned the traffic lights green.

Louise Upston: What other progress has been made towards better health for smokers?

Hon TONY RYALL: Progress is being made across all the district health boards on the Better Help for Smokers to Quit national preventive health target. In Nelson, which I visited earlier today, they have reached the 90 percent target, which is an incredible increase from just 14 percent 2 years ago. The Government has also passed an unprecedented 30 percent increase in tobacco tax, and Quitline is reporting record numbers of calls and quit attempts—up 50 percent since the tobacco tax was introduced. We have backed up this effort with massively improved access to smoking cessation treatments—up 82 percent in 18 months. This Government is taking practical and effective steps to prevent and discourage smoking.

Rahui Katene: Does he agree with Patrick Basham, who during his visit sponsored by tobacco corporate Philip Morris criticised New Zealand’s support of plain packaging; if so, will the Government give in to the cancer conspirators, who seek to slow down the remarkable progress achieved in this term in making New Zealand smoke-free, particularly through the leadership of Māori Party Minister Tariana Turia?

Hon TONY RYALL: No, I do not agree with those comments from Mr Basham, but I do agree with the information outlined in a recent New Zealand Medical Journal article that demonstrates that plain packaging has two main benefits for public health: it removes or minimises brand elements that promote the product, and it facilitates more effective, dissuasive packaging.

Prime Minister—Meetings with Fonterra

6. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Prime Minister: Has he met with Fonterra in his capacity as Prime Minister in the last month; and if so, what undertakings, if any, did he give them?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, I met with Fonterra on 8 August. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Trading Among Farmers. Fonterra was advised that the Government remains committed to progressing legislation to allow Trading Among Farmers as long as various public policy concerns were addressed to the Government’s satisfaction. It was also made clear to Fonterra that this was unlikely to happen before the election.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: When the Prime Minister gave an undertaking to Fonterra that legislation to allow Trading Among Farmers was on schedule for early next year, did he say that that was subject to the completion of all of the inquiries; if so, why did he say “early next year”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot recall that particular part of it. In looking at the notes, I do know that the issue of inquiries was raised, because the Minister of Agriculture made it clear during the meeting with Fonterra that the Government would be supporting the Commerce Committee’s inquiry into milk pricing.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: Does he agree that the price of milk is central to changes to allow Trading Among Farmers; if so, why would he give an assurance to Fonterra that legislation would be scheduled for early next year, before current investigations into milk pricing are complete, or is the Government not serious about those inquiries?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, we are, but the issue, I think, is in relation to farm-gate pricing. The Ministers who were present at the meeting said to Fonterra that the Government wanted to ensure that there was a robust, dynamic, and enduring regime for the setting of Fonterra’s farm-gate milk price. That concern existed irrespective of Trading Among Farmers, and that was why the interdepartmental work was taking place.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: What did he say to convince Sir Henry van der Heyden that he had done the right thing not trying to push Trading Among Farmers in the lead-up to the election, and was it related to its decision to freeze the price of milk until after election or that the select committee inquiry would be stalled as long as possible?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, the issue is House time.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Has he discussed Trading Among Farmers with NZX Chief Executive Officer, Mark Weldon; if so, what undertaking has he given him?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not recall any discussions with Mark Weldon about that, certainly not in the last year or so. Certainly in previous times I have said to him that it would be great to have Fonterra as a listed company, but that is my own view in the sense that I think Fonterra needs to raise more capital if it wants to be a global player of significance and size.

Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table an email from Henry van der Heyden dated 12 August 2011 reporting on a good meeting with the Prime Minister, saying that it was on schedule for legislation for Trading Among Farmers early next year, and that he was convinced the right thing was done in not trying to push it through in the lead-up to the election.

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.

Prisons—Smoking Ban

7. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister of Corrections: What reports has she received on the implementation of the smoking ban in New Zealand prisons?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Corrections): I am very pleased to advise that all New Zealand prisons have successfully been smoke-free for 6 weeks. This is the result of careful planning and 12 months’ hard work by corrections staff, supported by the Ministry of Health and Quitline. There has been a noticeable improvement in air quality within prison units. There has also been a 77 percent reduction in the number of fires and arson-related incidents. There were only four such incidents in July, compared with 18 in the month prior to the ban. I would like to congratulate the Department of Corrections on the successful implementation of the new policy, which is making our prisons a much safer and healthier place in which to work.

Hon Tau Henare: What other results has her department seen from the introduction of smokefree prisons?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: In working closely with prisoners to prepare them for the change, staff have noticed an overall improvement in prisoner attitude and conduct. There have also been reports of prisoners actively encouraging their family and friends in the community to quit smoking. The successful implementation of the ban has attracted significant interest from overseas jurisdictions, particularly from Australian states that are keen to learn from our experience.

Benefits—Prime Minister’s Statements

8. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his reported statement that it could be fraudulent to apply for a benefit if you were not eligible?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I think the member misquotes what was said. I said that it could be a fraud to lie about a benefit qualification, but people wanting information about the matter should take that up with the Minister’s office—and I invite the member to do so.

Catherine Delahunty: What steps does he consider a person uncertain of their eligibility for a benefit should take before making an application, to ensure they do not risk being charged with fraud?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: They should contact a Work and Income office.

Catherine Delahunty: Does he accept that any citizen has the right to apply for a benefit, and that his comments on potential fraud will intimidate vulnerable people who need support?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and no.

Catherine Delahunty: What survival advice can he offer people with literacy issues and mental health conditions that cause them to struggle to prove eligibility for the unemployment benefit, which beneficiary advocates advise me is leading to homelessness and hunger?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The country has Work and Income offices scattered right throughout it. They are filled with people who work very hard to make sure that people get the benefits that they are entitled to. Any New Zealander who thinks they are entitled to a benefit and who needs help should contact a Work and Income office.

Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to table the High Court judgment Stemson v Police, dated 19 December 2001, which affirms the right of any person to make an application for a benefit and the duty of Work and Income to facilitate rather than impede that process.

Mr SPEAKER: Clarification is being sought. The document is?

Catherine Delahunty: A High Court decision.

Mr SPEAKER: But where is the document from?

Catherine Delahunty: It is from the website—from the High Court.

Mr SPEAKER: It is on a website from the High Court. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Adult and Community Education—Funding

9. DAVID SHEARER (Labour—Mt Albert) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: How many schools received government funding for Adult and Community Education classes in 2009, and how many schools are receiving government funding for Adult and Community Education programmes in 2011?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education): Forty-nine schools currently receive taxpayer-funded ACE—adult and community education. They are made up of 23 schools funded directly, and a further 26 that partner with those directly funded schools. Of course, many other schools continue to offer hobby courses on a user-pays basis. Before the Government’s reprioritising of taxpayer-funded adult and community education to target foundation schools including literacy, numeracy, English language, te reo Māori, and sign language, there were 212 funded schools.

David Shearer: Does he think people in Northland, with some of the country’s highest unemployment, are being afforded an adequate opportunity to upskill, given that there is now just one school providing adult and community education where there used to be 12?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I should point out to the member that there is a range of ways in which people can access foundation education in New Zealand, and, yes, schools’ adult and community education is one. We also have adult and community education in 27 tertiary education institutions, 24 community groups, seven OTEPS—other tertiary education providers— and two REAPs, or Rural Education Activities Programmes. We also have foundation education, where we have increased embedded literacy and numeracy from 15,000 places to 70,000 places; we have Youth Guarantee, where there are 2,500 places, which will go to 7,500 next year; and we also have trades academies and service academies—to name just a few opportunities.

David Shearer: Will he consider restoring the $13 million pulled out of adult and community education funding, to enable the 165,000 New Zealanders who, according to Adult and Community Education Aotearoa, were forced to leave school and community classes to return to classes?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, the Government does not have plans to restore that funding, because, as we know, there are many challenges for Government finances at this time. Of course, the Labour Opposition can add it to their long list of things they are going to restart funding by borrowing more money. But I point out that a number of schools are offering adult and community education without any funding whatsoever. For example, Western Springs College is offering, amongst other things, the fabled Moroccan cooking class and Spanish tapas; Rangiora High School is teaching patchwork and botanical drawing, and all these—

Mr SPEAKER: I think we have heard sufficient of that answer.

David Shearer: Does the Minister think that Mandarin courses provided by Mana College or sign language courses provided by Tikipunga High School, Rutherford College, Kelston Boys High School, Tauranga Boys College, and Tauranga Girls College before funding cuts were introduced are hobby classes and poor value for money?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government has prioritised its funding, as the member knows, to languages, literacy, numeracy, and ESOL—English for speakers of other languages—and then those funds are allocated by the Tertiary Education Commission based on funding applications. I do not believe taxpayers should be funding woodwork courses and beginners’ guitar courses, and that is what we have stopped funding.

David Shearer: Point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite David Shearer to repeat his question. I have been concerned about a couple of the answers. The Minister may not have the particular information that was being sought,

but the questions were pretty straight questions relating to some sign language programmes in certain schools, and nothing to do with woodwork.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Minister briefly.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The point I was trying to make was to outline for the member the Government’s funding approach, which is to fund certain types of courses—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient. That is all very well, but actually this is question time, where certain questions are asked and answers to them are expected. While there may be points the Minister wishes to make, if they do not relate to the question asked, then they are not relevant to that question. I would have no problem with the Minister going on to include more information if the question had been answered, but I am not sure the question was. I accept I could be wrong here, and to avoid any further problem from my being wrong, I will invite the member to repeat it. If this was an isolated matter I would not be doing this, but there was an earlier supplementary question about specific programmes at schools in Northland; it may well be that the Minister did not have information on them, but the answer did not relate a great deal to schools in Northland. That is why I am inviting the member to repeat his question at this stage.

David Shearer: Does the Minister think that Mandarin courses provided by Mana College or sign language courses provided by Tikipunga High School, Rutherford College, Kelston Boys High School, Tauranga Boys College, and Tauranga Girls College before funding cuts were introduced are hobby classes and poor value for money?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The point, as I was saying to the member before, is that I do not have an opinion, obviously, on those individual courses, because I am not privy to them in particular, but the Government’s role is to set policy in relation to what it is prepared to fund, and it is prepared to fund language courses, English for speakers of other languages courses, and also literacy and numeracy courses. It is then for the Tertiary Education Commission to take a decision as to which courses it funds, and those schools apply for them. I think that is an entirely correct approach. I went on to say that the Government does not believe that it should fund hobby courses, and I listed some examples of what it does not believe it should fund.

David Shearer: What does the Minister believe is better value for money: $116 to fund someone’s enrolment in an adult and community education course at a school or community organisation, or $116 to buy 3 millimetres of tarmac on his “Holiday Highway”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That is hardly worth a response to the member, except I would point out again the following: the Government spends massive amounts, as it should do, on improving literacy and numeracy in this country, including foundation courses, trade academies, service academies, Youth Guarantee, and 16,600 more core places in universities and polytechnics, and I back this Government’s record in improving adult literacy and numeracy well ahead of the previous Government’s.

Question No. 1. to Minister—Amended Answer

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I want to correct an answer I gave earlier, to clear up any potential misunderstanding. I seek leave to do that.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to correct an answer. Is there any objection? There is no objection.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In question No. 1, Phil Goff asked me whether I stood by my claim that 60 percent of young people not in education, employment, or training are actually in school or at university. I have never made that claim, and I did not make that claim yesterday. I interpreted his question as relating to the number I gave yesterday in respect of unemployed young people, whom we were talking about yesterday. So of course it is the case that young people not in education, employment, or training are not in education, by definition. I have never made that claim. What I

said, and what is correct and true, is that 60 percent of unemployed people in the household labour force survey aged 15 to 19 are at school or at university.

Youth Unemployment—Youth Opportunities Package

Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS (ACT): My question is to the Minister for Social Development and Employment—

Mr SPEAKER: I want to be able to hear the honourable member asking a question.

10. Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS (ACT) to the Minister for Social Development and

Employment: Why, despite spending $160 million on the Youth Opportunities package, has the unemployment rate for 15 to 19 year olds increased since she became Minister?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The $160 million for the Youth Opportunities package was aimed at 18 to 24-year-olds, in particular. Job placements through Job Ops, Community Max, industry partnerships, and Youth Guarantee were all particularly for those who were on the unemployment benefit, and that is more those aged 18 to 24. It is clear that that has worked. We have seen a decrease in the number of those 18 to 24-year-olds on the unemployment benefit, from a peak of 23,800 in January 2010 to about 16,500 now in June. We have seen the number of 18 to 24-year-olds come down in the last 18 months and that is due mainly to the sort of package that has gone in.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Given that youth unemployment has hit the roof since youth rates were abolished, as is obvious in this chart here, which demonstrates when youth rates were abolished and how the youth unemployment rate has gone up, when will she act—when it goes through the roof or when it hits the sky?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I said to the member, we have been concentrating on those who are 18 to 24. We would like to see 16 and 17-year-olds in education or training, hence the attention we have given them. What the member might like to look at, though—and this is quite interesting— is that the unemployment rate for 16 and 17-year-olds from June 2010 went from 28.5 percent to 33.6 percent, so we have seen a dramatic increase in the rate for 16 and 17-year-olds. However, the number of 18 to 19-year-olds has been static from June 2010 to June 2011, at 20.7 percent. So there is most definitely a difference between the 16 and 17-year-olds and the 18 and 19-year-olds.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Could the Minister confirm that the reason she has not acted is that last week’s National polling showed that it is more popular to keep sitting on her hands than actually doing what is right?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I shall not go to that member’s level of personal sort of attack, but I will say that there has been a real focus on unemployed people in New Zealand. We have seen that kind of work going on as far as those Youth Opportunities are concerned. You know, we are seeing that 90 percent of those who have done a Job Ops programme have not gone back on a benefit, and that is most certainly a step ahead.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Hon Sir Roger Douglas, I do not want to be unfair, but I say to the Labour front bench that I just wish you could see yourselves. That was so discourteous.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Given that the Minister appears unable to see the link between the abolition of youth rates, and youth unemployment, as shown on this graph, could she advise whether this is caused by the fact that she truly does not understand the link between the two or by deliberate blindness?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The answer—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Far be it for me to be the one who protects the Government, but I think you recently ruled out things as not being appropriate for supplementary questions that had far less assumption and a lot less irony in them than that did.

Mr SPEAKER: The point I would make is that I have not actually ruled them out; I have normally let the Minister deal with them, but if the questioner appeals to me for assistance, I

normally point out that the question was actually not in order. But I would rather not deprive the Minister of the opportunity to utilise such a question.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: This Government has put a huge investment into working with those young people who are on the unemployment benefit and who really felt the effects of the global recession and a tight labour market. We are seeing positive results from that. We have fewer 18 to 24-year-olds on the unemployment benefit than we had 18 months ago. What we are doing is working. We now need to concentrate more on those 16 and 17-year-old “neets”—hence the weekend’s package—and, as I say, we are cautiously optimistic.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Far be it for me to relitigate in my current circumstances. Yesterday you ruled out a question when there was a suggestion that a Minister lacked confidence. You intervened on it yourself. On this occasion there was an intervention when a Minister was accused of being deliberately blind or something similar and you did not intervene.

Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the Hon Simon Power, the Acting Leader of the House.

Hon Simon Power: Just a point of clarification. If the member is referring to his own interjection yesterday—

Hon Trevor Mallard: No—Annette’s question.

Hon Simon Power: I am sorry; I misunderstood.

Mr SPEAKER: If I have done that, I apologise to the member—if I have been inconsistent. I will normally rule out only part of a question. If I recollect correctly, it may have been only part of a question. But I normally do that only if it is pretty highly offensive. I did not think that was too highly offensive. I allowed a question today—I did not rule out a question today—from the member’s own leader, when he suggested that a Minister was conning the public. I did not rule that out, yet it is out of order, obviously. But I do not want to be intervening all the time, so unless it is highly offensive, I tend not to rule them out.

Catherine Delahunty: I seek leave to ask a question of the Hon Sir Roger Douglas.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to ask a question of a member. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Questions for Written Answer—Replies

11. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister of Defence: Why has he not provided substantive answers to Questions for Written Answer 6098 to 6102 (2011)?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence): As the member knows, I have provided an interim answer. The questions asked for a range of information, particularly around the issues of investigating potential or historic environmental damage, which has taken a bit of time to get. The information has been provided and the substantive answers will be given this week.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does he accept that the theft of ammunition from a Defence Force depot poses a serious threat to public safety and that he, as Minister, should be prepared to answer questions on the security of ammunition storage within expected time frames; if not, why not?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I am prepared. In fact, I advise the member that I am meeting the Chief of the Defence Force this afternoon with the member of Parliament for Northcote, in whose electorate the Kauri Point facility is located, with the intention of looking at an improved plan relating to security and also to the environmental protection of the ammunition.

Iain Lees-Galloway: I seek leave to table a document titled the Mapp Report, which shows that Dr Wayne Mapp first became aware of security issues at Kauri Point before 16 May 2008.

Mr SPEAKER: This is a new one—a member’s newsletter being tabled—but I will seek leave of the House. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Why, when he has known for some time that there were security issues with the storage of ammunition, did he do nothing about it, and then refuse to answer questions when the safety of his own constituents was put at risk by a security breach?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I assure the member on the first point, that the safety of the ammunition per se is not actually at risk, but there is clearly a need to upgrade security. There is a new management plan in place, and I am meeting the Chief of Defence Force this afternoon to essentially take this whole issue forward to improve security.

Border Control—SmartGate System

NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central): Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: I have called Nikki Kaye, and I want to hear the member at the back of the House.

12. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Customs: What reports has he received into the integration of SmartGate between New Zealand and Australia?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister of Customs): Just another wonderful milestone in the ongoing saga of the roll-out of SmartGate.

Hon Simon Power: More good news.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: More good news indeed. Last month, in cooperation with the Australian Government, we began trialling the use of SmartGate between one city pair—that is, between Auckland and the Gold Coast airport at Coolangatta. For the first time, eligible passengers will be able to bypass SmartGate kiosks at the Gold Coast and go straight to the gate, if they use SmartGate in New Zealand, and vice versa. It will cut out one whole piece of the process. The trial will run for while, and then it is our intention to implement it right across all of the gates.

Nikki Kaye: What are the benefits of the SmartGate trial?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: They come under the better, cheaper, faster heading that Tony Ryall is always—[Interruption]—better, sooner, more convenient headings that Tony Ryall wants. So far 1.5 million people have used SmartGate. After Budget 2011 gave us six additional gates—and they are being rolled out over the Rugby World Cup period—we will have 22 gates operational in New Zealand, which is spectacular. The passenger response we are getting from emails is that it could not get any better. The processing time—

Hon Simon Power: What does the Mapp Report say?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The Mapp Report is very complimentary as well. It always is.

ENDS

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