Questions and Answers - May 22
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2012
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in the Minister of Finance?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in the Minister of Finance, when despite warnings from Treasury he agreed to let South Canterbury Finance into the extended Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme, resulting in losses of hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to the taxpayers of New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is worth pointing out for a start off that South Canterbury Finance effectively fell over under the old scheme. That was a scheme put together by the Labour Party on the eve of its campaign launch, supported by Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I emphasised in my question the word “extended” Crown Retail Deposit Guarantee Scheme, which happened under his Government, not under Mr Cullen and Labour.
Mr SPEAKER: The member’s point is a fair one. His question did specifically ask about the extended scheme, and I would ask the right honourable Prime Minister to come to that in his answer, please.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It would not have made any difference. If there had not been an extension of the scheme, South Canterbury Finance would have gone and sold them immediately.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What did this Minister do when he was around for 3 years?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: A Government of you.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member please just ask his supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: We all know how, do we not. How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister of Finance, when, by his own projections, debt will continue to grow under his National Government for the next 5 years, to at least $75 billion.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What is true is that we inherited a recession from the Labour Government propped up by New Zealand First in 2008. What is true is that we inherited from a Labour Government propped up by New Zealand First a mess of an economy, with programmes that were unaffordable and unworkable. What is true is that we inherited a deposit guarantee scheme announced on the eve of the Labour Party conference, probably to try to deflect public comment away from the problems that the then foreign affairs Minister was having, before he stood down.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What a mess that was! How can he have confidence in the Minister of Finance, when GDP growth has averaged a pathetic 0.8 percent over the last 3 years, public debt has increased over 700 percent, and a thousand New Zealanders a week are leaving for Australia?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let us take up that point of Government debt. What is true is that this Government has run debt over the last 3 or 4 years, and will do so for the next couple of years, in order to take the rough edges off the recession. So if Winston Peters wants to tell New Zealanders to slash health care, slash superannuation, slash welfare and retirement—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question did actually ask how the Prime Minister can have confidence in his Minister of Finance. It did not actually require the Prime Minister to go into what Winston Peters may or may not want. The question was certainly seeking an opinion, and there is a lot of range in opinion when opinion is sought, but I do not think the answer needed to quite go down that track.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister of Finance when he is spending $120 million of taxpayers’ money to mount a public relations propaganda campaign to justify selling off assets that, when sold, will leave New Zealand permanently worse off?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For a start off, I utterly reject the latter point, and, on the first point, they are the fees required to release $7 billion worth of capital that would otherwise have to be borrowed from foreigners, and we would have to pay the bond fees relating to those.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it not a fact that this Government pre-borrowed and overborrowed— to use these words—“against rising interest rates”, an explanation that the Prime Minister gave to the public at the time, whereas interest rates have fallen, as has our currency now, which surely means a loss to the New Zealand taxpayer, not a gain; and who was the architect behind this bright speculative idea?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Debt Management Office is responsible for the bond programme that we run. But, if you want my view, going out there and ensuring that New Zealand had a source of liquidity at a time when we were suffering a global financial crisis and the markets were weak was a very sensible thing to do. If there is a problem in Europe in the next few months, New Zealand being fully funded will be something that is welcomed by New Zealanders—obviously, other than those who are supporters of New Zealand First.
Budget 2012—Economic Programme
2. PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: How will the Budget this week contribute to the Government’s long-term programme to build a more competitive economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Budget will be a continuation of the balanced and responsible approach that this Government has taken to deal with global economic pressures, as well as lift New Zealand’s growth prospects and confirm a track to surplus that will support the Government’s priorities of building a productive and competitive economy with more jobs and higher incomes, delivering better public services, and rebuilding Christchurch.
Paul Goldsmith: How will the Budget provide for new initiatives, given there will be little or no new money across most areas of Government spending?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has been focusing on getting results rather than getting new money. There are a significant number of new initiatives in the Budget, and they are funded by taking funds from those programmes and initiatives that do not get results.
Paul Goldsmith: How will the most recent economic developments in Europe impact on the Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the past few weeks we have seen increased uncertainty. We have been saying for some time that we would expect Europe would continue to have its ups and downs, and that is because the fundamental underlying problems in Europe continue to get worse rather
than better, and that is its problem of very much excessive debt. The forecasts used by Treasury already factor in a good deal of the kind of weakness that is being discussed in Europe now.
Hon David Parker: Is the Minister aware that in the past 11 quarters, to which he has often referred, New Zealand has had the worst average growth of any non-European OECD country?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I was not aware of that, given that European countries make up a significant proportion of the OECD. New Zealand’s growth performance has been moderate over the last 2 or 3 years. It has been much better than most, much better than many, and over 2 or 3 years it will be better than most developed countries.
Paul Goldsmith: How will the Budget help New Zealand through—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear.
Paul Goldsmith: —these uncertain times on global markets?
Mr SPEAKER: Did the Minister hear the question?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I did. Most New Zealanders actually have a pretty practical attitude about how to deal with these uncertain times. They are saving more, they are being careful about their spending, they are borrowing a good deal less in some cases than they were before, and, in fact, the Government is taking its lead from New Zealand households. It needs to do the same thing, which is to spend very carefully, borrow less, get our debt down, and be choosy about where we invest our capital.
Economic Growth—Forecast and Actual Figures Since Budget 2009
3. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: In light of his comment that “this Budget will start making the long-term changes that National promised to make and that are needed to lift New Zealand’s long-term economic performance”, what was the forecast growth in Budget 2009 for each out-year to date and what has been the actual growth in each of these out-years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): That was a statement I made 3 years ago, and, in fact, the actual growth in the years the member referred to was very close to the forecast in Budget 2009, in spite of the fact that in the intervening period we experienced the Canterbury earthquake and a prolonged European debt crisis, neither of which was forecast at the time. The average annual percentage growth for the year ended March 2009 was forecast in Budget 2009 to be minus 0.9 percent, and it turned out to be minus 1.2 percent. For March 2010, it was forecast to be minus 1.7 percent; it turned out to be minus 1.2 percent, an improvement. For March 2011, it was forecast to be 1.8 percent, and it turned out to be 1.6 percent.
David Shearer: What effect has the migration of 53,000 people to Australia—a record number for New Zealand—for jobs and better pay had on the economic growth of New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We have created 60,000 jobs in the last 2 years. What is true is that some New Zealanders have gone to Australia. I note that, actually, on the front page of the New Zealand Herald when it was discussing the job expo, there was a massive picture of a mine, and if the Labour Party wants to support the National Government in the extension of mining, or in the 1,000- odd jobs that will be in the Skycity convention centre, or the 3,000 jobs that were created in The Hobbit, or the jobs that were created by a more efficient Resource Management Act, I look forward to all of that support.
David Shearer: Given that over the last year we have seen an increase in unemployment, and growth that was $8.5 billion less than projected at the height of the economic crisis, does he stand by his statement prior to Budget 2011 that the Budget is likely to see “very strong job growth; and a much stronger economic outlook for New Zealand”?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the right honourable Prime Minister, I say that I need to be able to hear these supplementary questions, and I found it very hard to hear that one because of interjections.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: History has taught me to make sure that I clarify any statements that the member attributes to me, but what I will say—[Interruption] Well, you have got a lot to say, but not much outside the House, eh?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No, the House will come to order. We will not have any more of this nonsense. I just remind the right honourable Prime Minister that when he says “you” he is referring to the Speaker, and I am not sure that that was intended for the Speaker. But let us just come back to order. I think there were some problems with both the question and the answer, and I could not hear the question because of interjections. I ask the Leader of the Opposition, please, to repeat his question, because I do want to hear the question, and I want to hear the answer.
David Shearer: Given that over—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the question.
David Shearer: Given that over the last year we have seen an increase in unemployment, and growth that was $8.5 billion less than projected at the height of the economic crisis, does he stand by his statement prior to Budget 2011 that the Budget is likely to see “very strong job growth; and a much stronger economic outlook for New Zealand”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Over time, yes. I will make the point that the last quarter of negative growth we had was in 2009, before, actually, Bill English delivered his Budget. That was on the back of the recession we inherited from the Labour Government. We have had a global financial crisis, which the Labour Party has forgotten about. We have had the Canterbury earthquakes. Today we had the real ripper from David Parker, who said “I am tired of Greece and Europe being rolled out as an excuse by this government.” Well, tell that to Angela Merkel, Barack Obama, and David Cameron.
Mr SPEAKER: I call the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption] Order! I want to hear this question.
David Shearer: With over 50,000 more unemployed, over 50,000 a year leaving for Australia, nearly 50,000 more on benefits since this Government came to power, and the worst growth record of any Government in the past 50 years, when can New Zealand expect the brighter future he promised?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We can wish away all of those issues that have been there. They are a statement of fact. There has been a very significant earthquake in Christchurch—the fourth-largest earthquake insurance event in the world since 1973. We have had the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression. We inherited an absolute mess from the Labour Government. Does anyone remember what ACC was like when we came into office? Does anyone remember what the basket case of the tax system was? By the way, it was not that flash. In 2008 these were the numbers of growth: minus 0.2 for the first quarter, minus 0.9 for the second quarter, flat for the third quarter, minus 0.4 for the fourth quarter, and the quarter we inherited from Labour was minus 1.3. These people do not live in the real world, which is where New Zealanders are.
Mr SPEAKER: I call the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption] Order! I must be able to hear the question. Let me just make a point. Order! The more assertions members put into their questions—assertions of supposed fact—the more liberty the Minister then has in responding to them. I just remind members of that.
David Shearer: Is he aware that New Zealand has the worst growth of any OECD country outside of Europe, and if so, why does he keep on comparing New Zealand with failed economies such as Greece, or is this an indication of his aspiration for New Zealand?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If anyone is following policies that resemble Greece, it is the Labour Party. Interestingly enough, I think it was both David Parker and David Shearer who have now said they would be back in surplus by 2014-15. Do we know how that is going to happen? Oh, that is right: David Parker is now campaigning on the things that National took to the election, and won on—that is right—not paying into the superannuation fund, not having GST on fruit and vegetables, and he wants a brighter future! No wonder they got trounced last year!
Mr SPEAKER: I call Dr Russel Norman, supplementary question. [Interruption] Order! Look, I must be able to hear these questions. The level of noise is totally unreasonable. Dr Russel Norman.
Dr Russel Norman: In light of the Government’s aim of rebalancing the economy, does the Prime Minister consider Treasury’s projections of a deteriorating current account balance, a current account deficit that is increasing over time, to be an indication of an economy that is rebalancing, or that is becoming even more imbalanced?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, the member will realise and, I am sure, acknowledge that New Zealand has had a current account deficit for the better part of the last 30 years. The second thing I am sure he will recognise is, in fact, that that current account deficit is made up of two major structural points, which are the export balance—export and import balance, the trade balance—and also the capital imbalance. New Zealand has had significant amounts of borrowing from the private sector made up from foreigners, so on that basis it does knock our current account deficit around. But what I can say is that under a National Government, exports are rising. Therefore, the trade balance is back in surplus, which it was not under Labour. One of the fastest ways to grow that would be to grow our exports of agricultural products; grow our exports of minerals, oil, and gas; and grow our exports in other areas where the Green Party is totally opposed. Just like his summation of National’s tax plan, he plucks out a couple of things he wants and actually forgets the entire package.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called. Are members deaf today? Or is it just me? It could be just me.
Dr Russel Norman: My question was whether or not a deteriorating current account deficit indicates that the economy is rebalancing. The Prime Minister did not address that. He talked a lot about Green Party policy, which is fine—thank you very much; we have got a lot to offer—but I would like to hear about whether or not the current account deficit deteriorating indicates rebalancing. It is a simple question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! In fairness, what the Prime Minister pointed out was the characteristics of the current account deficit. For a start, he pointed out that we have had, if I remember correctly, a current account deficit for at least 30 years. I think that is what the Prime Minister said. He pointed out that, in fact, there are a couple of components to the current account—one being the trade in goods, and the other in invisibles. So he pointed out that, in fact, the balance was not deteriorating and that the trade in goods was actually improving, and he pointed out that on the capital side there were reasons why there was a decline in that in recent years. That was a reasonable answer to the member’s question, because he disputed the basis of the member’s question right at the outset—that he does not accept that the current account is deteriorating any worse than New Zealand’s historic position. I cannot say the Prime Minister is wrong to answer that way, and that is why I am in some difficulty. I think it was a reasonable answer. It is certainly not what the member wanted exactly, but I think it was a reasonable answer and that it gave a reasonably rational refuting of the basic point of the member’s question.
Dr Russel Norman: Thank you for that elucidation. In light of Treasury’s projections that New Zealand’s net international investment position will continue to deteriorate, does he consider that to be an indication of economic rebalancing or not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would point out that it has improved in the time that the Government has been in office. But, secondly, what is true is that if we want to have a stronger economy and therefore more jobs for New Zealanders, the way to do that is to make sure we have good economic policies like the ones the National Government is advancing—that is, reform of local government, that is reform of the Resource Management Act, that is expansion of our mining exploration centre, that is the national convention centre, and that is international companies making movies in New Zealand. They are all things—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry, but I have been pretty tolerant. The Minister has once again—[Interruption] I have been pretty tolerant—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will come—[Interruption] I say to members that someone is going to leave the Chamber very, very shortly, and I include all Ministers in that, if they are not careful. When I get to my feet there will be silence. If members have forgotten that rule, members will be leaving the House until they remember it, because we will not have that any more. I accept that the way the point of order was raised was a little unusual and perhaps not the preferred way to raise a point of order. Obviously the member was concerned about the way his question was being answered. Maybe I did let the Prime Minister go on too long, although he was not attacking any other party, but the Prime Minister again refuted the assertion in the member’s question. The member, if I remember correctly, asked whether the net financial position—
Dr Russel Norman: The international investment position.
Mr SPEAKER: —the international investment position—deteriorating was a sign that the economy was not rebalancing. The Prime Minister refuted that assertion as the basis to the question. Under those circumstances the appropriate way for a member to handle that is to come back to the Minister, in this case the Prime Minister, if he believes that the Prime Minister has been wrong in that first answer, to pin him down absolutely, to force him, to answer specifically on that issue and not include other material that allows the Prime Minister room to avoid that fundamental issue. That is what supplementary questions are all about, not raising points of order because members do not like the answer. Make the question tight, pin the Minister down, then I can back the member. But I cannot if there are all sorts of other material in the question that seeks opinions that allow Ministers to then express opinions that the members do not particularly like.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The problem with that is, in the primary question Mr Norman was seeking an explanation for why it is blowing out to $17 billion. He got the trade figures, that is, the imports over exports—or exports over imports, according to the Prime Minister—and no answer to the real question. So Mr Norman is now on his third question, trying to get an answer, and the Prime Minister is evading it.
Mr SPEAKER: I will hear the right honourable Prime Minister.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is quite incorrect. The member asked about the current account deficit, and I correctly pointed out there are two major component parts of that, the trade balance and the capital balance. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will not interject on other members. We have had enough points of order. In fact, the member’s point of order is not correct. The member did not ask the primary question. The member came in with a supplementary question to David Shearer’s primary question. His supplementary questions left the Prime Minister with a lot of leeway in answering. I simply say to members that the more information alleged in a question, the more scope members give a Minister then to refute that information and not to answer the particular part of the question the member wants answered. Keep the questions tight if you want to pin a Minister down, then I can help members. I cannot if there are all sorts of assertions made in the question that give the Minister the chance to disagree with them.
Dr Russel Norman: So is the Prime Minister disputing Treasury projections, which show that the current account deficit will continue to deteriorate over the next few years, and the Treasury projections that show that the net international investment position will continue to deteriorate over the next few years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and the latter point is a sign of the confidence that international investors have in a National-led Government.
Budget 2012—Initiatives to Reduce Reoffending
4. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Corrections: What recent announcements has she made about reducing reoffending?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): Yesterday the Associate Minister of Corrections and I announced that Budget 2012 will contribute to a 25 percent reduction in reoffending by 2017, and 18,500 fewer victims of crime every year from 2017. The moves are part of the Prime Minister’s expectations for a more efficient and results-driven Public Service. This new focus on reducing reoffending will result in 33,000 additional offenders receiving new and expanded drug and alcohol treatment in prisons and in the community—an increase of almost 500 percent. Alongside increased education, skills training, and employment programmes for prisoners, including remand prisoners, it will lead to safer communities.
Jacqui Dean: What specific investments is the Government making in Budget 2012 to reduce reoffending?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Reprioritised funding of $65 million in operating expenditure over the next 4 years will contribute to 7,855 additional prisoners and community offenders receiving new and expanded rehabilitation services, 2,950 additional prisoners in education and employment training, 41,000 community offenders receiving new rehabilitation support provided directly by probation officers, and 6,000 prisoners and community-based offenders accessing new reintegration support programmes from iwi and community groups.
Jacqui Dean: How is the Government planning on increasing employment opportunities for prisoners upon release?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As part of our increased focus on reducing reoffending, we will be increasing the support provided to prisoners on release and working with employers, industry groups, and Work and Income to highlight and promote prison training. Some of this work is already under way, and a recent open day at Spring Hill Corrections Facility attracted huge interest, including a number of large employers like Fletcher Construction, Spotless, and Turners and Growers. Another key focus will be targeting training in areas where there are likely to be skills gaps. In fact, we have started this in Christchurch already, with extra trades training so that prisoners can help fill the demand for labour as we rebuild Christchurch. And the 90-day trial for workers is also important in helping prisoners find work, so that industry can take a chance on a released prisoner.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. Does the Minister agree with Kim Workman of Rethinking Crime and Punishment that the recent Budget 2012 changes announced by the Minister and the Associate Minister of Corrections, the Hon Dr Pita Sharples, are “highly ambitious, and represents a major shift in the way Corrections has conducted its business over the last two decades.”, and how will the changes help cut the reoffending rate of Māori?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Yes, I am. And I am confident that with the support of our coalition partners and the Associate Minister with the Māori Party, these new initiatives will make a significant difference for Māori. In fact, the drug treatment programme that is currently offered, which we are looking to expand, has been most effective with our Māori offenders. So I thank the Associate Minister for his support.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know it is a breach of the Standing Orders to draw the attention of the House to the fact that Ministers are reading speeches—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot do that. No, no. The member should not do that, and he knows he should not do that.
Question No. 5 to Minister
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a point of order about a transfer of a question, and I know that this is a difficult issue, but I would ask you just to indulge me. This is about Speaker’s Ruling 151/6, by Hunt, where the Speaker made a ruling that you should not be transferring a question where only one Minister could be expected to have personal knowledge of the subject. Your own ruling at 152/1 is of a similar kind of nature.
And this question was specifically, when it was lodged, about whether the Prime Minister stands by his statement that he is “much more of a mind”—blah-blah-blah. So the issue—
Hon Members: Oh!
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN: Well, that is right. The subject matter is the mind of the Prime Minister. The subject matter in this instance is what is in the mind of the Prime Minister. That is specifically what the question is about. There is no other Minister who could be expected to have personal knowledge of the Prime Minister’s mind. Only the Prime Minister can be expected to have personal knowledge of his own mind and that is exactly what is in the nature of the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I remind members, please, that points of order are meant to be heard in silence. The member at least referred to some relevant Speakers’ rulings in making his point of order. In the case of the question to the Prime Minister, had the member simply asked whether the Prime Minister stands by his statement with regard to asset sales, etc., and stopped the question, there might have been some merit in the member’s point. But then he went on to ask another question: “if so, has he seen Treasury’s advice that asset sales …”, and then he is getting into the responsibility of the Minister of Finance. The Government is perfectly at liberty where there are split responsibilities for a question being asked to transfer a question. There is no way one can argue that this question could solely be answered by the Prime Minister. The Minister of Finance would have more information in respect of Treasury’s advice. Had the member wanted to pin it on the Prime Minister, you have to be careful how one constructs the question. We are seeing too much at the moment too much being put into one question, which allows a question to be transferred. It gives Ministers scope in answering in a way members do not particularly want to hear, and I think this is a classic example. If the member wants the Prime Minister to answer a question, you have got to be very careful how that question is constructed.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just cannot see how the Minister of Finance, as well briefed as I am sure he is, can tell me what is in the mind of the Prime Minister when that is specifically what the question is about. Nobody else has personal knowledge in the way that the Prime Minister does of the Prime Minister’s mind.
Mr SPEAKER: And that is—[Interruption] Order! That is why I say if the member had stopped his question at that point I think he would have had a greater case, but he did not. He went on to ask about Treasury advice. That is the responsibility of the Minister of Finance.
KEVIN HAGUE (Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question does go on to a second leg, but the second leg is whether he has seen the advice, and if the Prime Minister has not seen the advice, he can simply say no to that part. It does not require the specialist knowledge of the Minister of Finance to be able to respond to that second part of the question, whereas it does require the specialist knowledge of the Prime Minister to be able to respond to the first part.
Mr SPEAKER: I simply repeat what I have said. The remedy is in members’ hands: do not put too much into questions. This question did not need that second part, because the problem with the second part, if that stayed with the Prime Minister, is that he could simply say: “Treasury advice is not my responsibility.” And one presumes the focus of the question is actually on the second part. One presumes that is the more important part of the question, because whether or not one stands by a previous statement is hardly a hugely difficult question. It is probably one of the weakest questions a person could be asked, because it is just asking an opinion, whereas the substance of the question is about Treasury advice. So the remedy is in members’ hands: construct questions carefully if they do not want them transferred, but do not go into another Minister’s patch— [Interruption] Order! Thank you.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The real question for perhaps your office, and even yourself, in respect of how advanced it is, is why would the Prime Minister transfer that question? It asks him—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order, at all. [Interruption] Order! No, listen. This has gone on—[Interruption] Order! That is not a point of order, at all. As the member knows, because he has been a member of several Governments, he knows that—[Interruption] Order! He knows that Governments transfer questions and he is well aware of that. There is nothing unusual about that, and members know how to construct questions to make sure they are not transferred.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This raises a matter that I have discussed on a number of occasions with the Clerk’s Office, and that is the changing of the sense of the question in the transfer. If when it is transferred—and I accept that it is the right of the Prime Minister to transfer it—it should have actually in the end said: “if so, has the Prime Minister seen the Treasury advice …”, because that was the essence of the question. It is reflected in the first part, but it is not reflected in the second part and it should have been.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member’s point, and it is an interesting point that the member raises—that in the transferral of a question, to maintain the sense is an important issue. I note the point he makes.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): I seek leave to transfer the question back to the Prime Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for the question to be transferred back to the Prime Minister. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is objection.
Dr Russel Norman: Chicken! Chicken!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The House will come to order immediately. The member has just lost question No. 5. Question No. 6, the Hon David Parker.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): I seek leave from the House to ask question No. 5.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to have question No. 5 reinstated to the member. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is objection.
Government Financial Position—Budget 2011 Forecasts
6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his Budget 2011 statement that the amount of new debt raised by the Government on a weekly basis in 2012 “will fall by more than two-thirds to around $100 million”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, on a net basis. That was the estimate of required net borrowing for the 2011-2012 financial year.
Hon David Parker: Would the amount borrowed have been less if the economy had grown faster?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, that is possible, but then you never know, because even if the economy was growing a bit faster and there had not been an earthquake, we might have borrowed less.
Hon David Parker: If the economy had grown by as much as he projected in his 2009 Budget, as much as he projected in his 2010 Budget, and as much as he projected in his 2011 Budget, how much less would the Government’s borrowing be this year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The economic growth was not a long way from the projections in those years, but I would have to go to check up the detail about all that. I think the point, though, in answer to the member’s question is that there were events going on then that certainly made it hard to do forecasting accurately: a thing called the global financial crisis, which on “Planet Labour” never happened, and a thing called the Christchurch earthquake, which on “Planet Labour” never happened.
Hon David Parker: Would the amount borrowed be lower if total wages had grown as his previous Budgets projected and fewer New Zealanders had fled to Australia?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, again, it is a fairly hypothetical question. What I can tell you is that if we had continued with any of the policies of the previous Labour Government, the borrowing would have been massive.
Hon David Parker: In light of his answers that he has been borrowing more than he projected in his Budgets and the economy has grown less than he projected, is that what he meant when he and the Prime Minister say that they are sticking with a plan that is working?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is actually wrong. We have been borrowing about the amounts that have been projected in the various Budgets, and, actually, growth rates have not been significantly different from what was projected in the various Budgets. What is more important is the long-term plan to lift New Zealand’s growth prospects, and that is not about forecasting; it is about substantive changes like tax reforms, like changing our regulatory environment, like better public services, and like long-term investment in infrastructure and higher skills levels—all of which the Government has invested in over the last few years.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he stand by his earlier comments that the net international investment position is one of the major problems facing the New Zealand economy; if so, is he concerned that Treasury is projecting that the net international investment position is going to get much worse?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are concerned about that measure and any other if they indicate an increase in New Zealand’s vulnerability. The net international investment position can deteriorate for a number of reasons. In the last decade it deteriorated because of excessive consumption and household debt. It is likely to deteriorate over the next few years driven primarily by a lift in business and residential investment. New Zealanders do not save quite enough to finance all that investment, so it has to be financed from offshore. That is a positive reason for the international investment position to deteriorate, because once that investment is locked in place and delivering economic growth, the position should improve.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he accept that if some of the shares from the asset sales programme were to go to overseas owners, the flow of dividends to those owners would increase our current account deficit, and that that is a significant problem for the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the member is referring to the Business and Economic Research Ltd analysis of the asset sales, I might need to point out to him that the analysis depends, among other erroneous assumptions, on the assumption that the buyer of the assets would pay nothing for them. The Greens are working on economic credibility, so I am a bit surprised that they let that one slip past. It is the sort of nonsense I would expect from the Labour Party.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very straight question. The Minister made no attempt to answer any of it. He talked about the Business and Economic Research Ltd report—that is fine, but I did not ask about that report. It was a very straight question about the current account deficit and asset sales. He did not address any of it.
Mr SPEAKER: If I remember correctly, the member’s question asked whether part of the asset sales ending up in the hands of foreign owners would lead to a worsening of the current account position. I acknowledge the Minister of Finance did refer to the Business and Economic Research Ltd report, but he pointed out that, were that to be the event, that report had priced the assets on sale to those foreign owners at zero, and therefore the analysis of the impact on the current account was impossible from that position. That is basically what I understood him to be saying. I accept it is not exactly the question the member asked, but the member, because of previous events, does have a lot of supplementary questions available to him, and I think he could probe that one a bit more deeply.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In your own ruling, you just said that was not the answer to the question that I asked, and that therefore I should ask further supplementary questions. Surely, he should answer the question I did ask, which was a very simple question. It was not about the Business and Economic Research Ltd report.
Mr SPEAKER: Where I have some sympathy with Dr Norman’s position is that the Minister, in responding, referred immediately to the Business and Economic Research Ltd report, which is a
report prepared for the Green Party. I think he should in fact, in answering, have provided some answer before making any reference to that report, because the question did not require that. What I will do is invite Dr Norman to repeat his question.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister accept that if some of the shares from the asset sale programme end up in overseas ownership, the dividends paid to those owners will add to New Zealand’s current account deficit?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, because anyone offshore who bought the asset would, of course, be paying for it, and that would be an inflow much bigger than any subsequent outflow of dividends. The Government has pointed out that we would be ensuring that by far the majority of these shares are sold to Kiwis, so the issue does not arise. In fact, it would allow us to pay dividends to New Zealand shareholders rather than interest—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is only one answer to that question if he wants to be honest—sorry.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I finish?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, he is not answering the question.
Mr SPEAKER: But it is not a point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I want to explain why.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, it is not a point of order. The member is disagreeing with the Minister’s answer. I must say I am a little surprised by the Minister’s answer, but it is his answer. Whether it is right or wrong is another matter—but that was not a point of order. The questioner may have expected the Minister to say “Yes, if that were to happen—if dividends went out to overseas owners—that would on balance probably increase the current account deficit.”, but there may be some reasons that the Minister knows better than us why that may not happen. And from the Minister’s answer it would appear that that is the case, because he said no at the start of his answer. xxxfo I hope the Minister has thought a bit carefully about that, because there must be other matters involved in this that are not so immediately apparent to mere mortals like the Speaker. But that was his answer, and it is not a matter of order whether it is right or wrong. That was his answer. He said no, and there is no point of order about whether or not that is a right or wrong answer. The Minister stands on his answer, and it is not a matter of order whether or not it is right or wrong. That matter can be pursued through further questions. If the Minister was asked that in a primary question and gave incorrect information in answering a primary question, it would be a matter of some seriousness.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Let me rephrase my point of order. It is not that I am disputing that he gave some sort of answer, but he did not answer the question. He explained it twice. First of all he said that the capital payment on the buying of the asset would affect the figure that Mr Norman is seeking—namely, the current account deficit. It is not part of it; that is the point. He is a longstanding Minister of Finance—twice now.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is disputing the answer given. The question was asked and the answer was no: that it would not increase the current account deficit. That is the Minister’s answer. Whether members like that answer or not is totally irrelevant to the matter of order at the moment. The Minister gave an answer to that question, and he must—I can see the member is surprised by the answer. But the Minister obviously had his reasons for giving that answer. Further supplementary questions can elucidate more of those reasons—why the Minister answered no—in certain circumstances, to find out more. That is what supplementary questions are all about.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is the reason why the current account deficit is not affected by the dividend payment the fact that, in fact, it counts against the current account deficit when the profit is made, not the dividend paid?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We could get into a lot of details about the different flows around the current account. The fact is the Government has stated that it is going to sell the majority of the shares to New Zealanders. As I have pointed out, that will enable the Government to pay dividends to—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question asked on this occasion was an absolutely straightforward question—one that a Minister of Finance should be capable of answering. The question asked whether the data entering into the current account entered at the point the profit was made or at the point the dividends went offshore. That is capable of a perfectly clear answer. There is nothing complicated about it at all. I think the House deserves to have the Minister of Finance answer that question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member can check with the department of statistics about exactly where it recognises the cash flows, if he wants to. It looks—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It’s not a cash flow; it’s the current account deficit.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member can check with the department of statistics if he wants to check exactly where those flows are recognised. One would assume that it is to do with profits rather than actual cash dividends. But he can talk to the department of statistics about it.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is the Minister telling the House that he does not know when something counts against the current account deficit in these circumstances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am quite happy to acknowledge to the House that I do not know how the statisticians exactly count the flows from foreign investments in New Zealand. I suspect the member does, because he is well known for spending all his time studying—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not fair—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. There will not be further comment. We do not need to go down that track.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister of Finance aware that the payments for the shares are not part of the capital account, and if the Minister of Finance is not aware of the components of the current account deficit, then are we to be worried about his management of the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No.
Foreign Charter Fishing Vessels—Response to Ministerial Inquiry
7. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country) to the Minister for Primary
Industries: What further decisions has the Government made in response to the Ministerial Inquiry into Foreign Charter Fishing Vessels?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Primary Industries): Today the Minister of Labour and I have announced that the Government will require the reflagging of foreign-owned fishing vessels operating in New Zealand waters. The Government’s decision sends a very clear message that New Zealand is serious about the fair treatment of fishing crews, the safety of vessels, and New Zealand’s international reputation for ethical and sustainable fishing practices.
Shane Ardern: Why has the Government decided to require all foreign chartered fishing vessels to be reflagged?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The Government believes that reflagging best meets our objectives for foreign chartered vessels. Reflagging will place foreign chartered vessels under the responsibility and control of New Zealand. It will hold domestic operators accountable for the employment of crew, ensuring that New Zealand’s criminal law applies in full, and will resolve possible trade issues and reputational concerns.
Shane Ardern: What legislation changes will be required to reflag foreign chartered fishing vessels?
Hon DAVID CARTER: To reflag all vessels to New Zealand will require legislative changes to the Fisheries Act, and I plan to introduce those changes into the House before the end of the year. There will be a 4-year transition period from today. This will enable the fishing industry to have time to adjust to the new regime, and the Government will work closely with the industry to help
facilitate this. In particular, work will need to be done on recognising the foreign crews’ qualifications.
Schools, Class Sizes—Teacher to Pupil Ratio
8. Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) to the Minister of Education: How many new teachers are forecast to be employed in 2016 based on the current student to teacher ratios and roll growth and how does this compare to the number of teachers who will be employed in 2016 under the new ratios she announced last week?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Over the past 10 years we have seen a 12.7 percent increase in teacher numbers—around 6,000 more teachers—while student numbers have risen by only 2.5 percent. We have approximately 50,000 teachers now, and in 2016 we expect to have about the same. Under current settings, we could have expected 1,000 more teachers to be added by 2016. However, because we have not seen a matching increase in achievement, our focus in Budget 2012 is on investing in raising the quality of teaching, not continuing to grow the number of teachers.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we had a figure of 1,000 in answer to the first part of the question, and I know that you do not always insist on two legs of a question being answered, but I think this was a straight question asking for two bits of information, and could reasonably have been expected to be answered.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member makes a perfectly fair point. This was the primary question and asked for a comparison. The Minister indicated that 1,000 more teachers would have been expected had the previous arrangements continued in place—
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Mr Speaker, prior to my giving that figure, I actually said we have approximately 50,000 teachers now, and in 2016 we expect to have about the same. That is a comparison between this year and 2016.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the Minister’s clarification. I had missed that detail in her answer.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: To be clear, then, is it correct that 1,000 more teachers would need to be hired in the next 4 years to keep up with roll growth, under the current student-to-teacher ratios, and how big will the average class size be in 4 years, now that she has decided to freeze the number of teachers at current levels?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: “No” to the first part of the question. And to the second part of the question, the ratios that I announced last week are for the purposes of a funding formula. That funding formula is then used by schools to decide what classes they will actually have.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does she agree that larger class sizes mean that teachers have less time to spend one-on-one with students, and that students with behavioural issues will put pressure on teachers; and how will this improve student achievement so that no child misses out?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am sorry, Mr Speaker; because that question was so long, could I have the front part of it again, please?
Mr SPEAKER: If the member would not mind repeating the question, please.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does she agree that larger class sizes mean teachers have less time to spend one-on-one with students, and that students with behavioural issues will put pressure on teachers; and how will this improve student achievement so that no child misses out?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The point of investing in quality teaching is because the nature of teaching has now changed, and it will continue to do so. The way that teachers deliver a crosscurriculum, quality programme engages students in different ways, including the significant investment that this Government has made in ultra-fast broadband and the Network for Learning, which will be available to students.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have the advantage of having the supplementary question in front of me, and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order is being heard.
Hon Trevor Mallard: —it was long, but I do not think any part of it was addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I think, in fairness, on this occasion I will say that the question asked “does the Minister agree” with a whole string of things, and the Minister in her answer said what she did agree with, and made it clear what she did agree with. But what that means is it is quite clear that she did not agree with the points being raised in the question. I think where members ask whether Ministers agree with things, they cannot expect any particular answer.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I seek leave to table a decile 9 school newsletter highlighting concerns about new student-teacher ratios and the impact on early years learning and one-on-one learning, especially in the areas of reading, writing, and maths.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that school newsletter. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I seek leave to table a 2008 study from the University of London, which shows that smaller class sizes provide the greatest benefits for students with disadvantaged backgrounds.
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 Nanaia Mahuta: Is it correct that under the new student-teacher ratios she has announced, the biggest increases in class sizes will occur in low-decile secondary schools, small rural schools, and wharekura, as they have lower numbers of year 11 to year 13 students, who attract a higher funding rate?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Although it is not possible to give exact figures for each of the schools, what we have done is make consistent the middle years from 2 to 10, and that actually seeks to deal with the inequity that the member is speaking about.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Did she discuss her plan to increase class sizes with her colleague Bill English, who said in 2004 that class sizes should be smaller because they would lead to “better relationships between families, teachers, and students which research shows is really important for achievement, particularly disadvantaged kids”; if so, did he tell her it was a bad idea, or just to agree with the Treasury recommendation?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: All proposals for the Budget are discussed with the Minister of Finance.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: How does the Minister explain to parents that larger class sizes in public schools are acceptable while private schools like, for example, Scots College, Queen Margaret College, and Chilton Saint James School are marketing themselves on the benefits of smaller class sizes, or is this a case of “Do as we say, but not as I do.”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member as usual is taking a selective approach.
Hon Members: Oh!
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Well, the logic of that question is that having had five times the number of teachers over the number of students, we should have seen a correlative lift in achievement. We have not seen that. So it is a mix of quality teaching and professional leadership, which, despite the Opposition’s opposition, actually all of the evidence says is needed.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I seek leave to table a statement from the Scots College website, which says “Class sizes are small which allows for plenty of interaction”—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! 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 Nanaia Mahuta: I seek leave to table another statement, from Queen Margaret College, which says—
Mr SPEAKER: This statement is from a newsletter or website?
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: It is from a website.
Mr SPEAKER: The Queen Margaret College website.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: It says “Class sizes never exceed 26 students and most classes are much smaller.”
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There will be silence.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I seek leave to table a statement from the Chilton Saint James School website, which says “we maintain small class sizes. This ensures the teachers have time to focus on the learning of every student in the class.” [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Budget 2012—Student Achievement and Teacher Competence
9. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Education: What initiatives has she announced in Budget 2012 to raise student achievement?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): I am extremely pleased that this Government will be investing an extra $511.9 million—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister. Every member has a right to ask a question and to hear the answer. It is unfair for the Labour members to make it impossible to hear the answer when it was another member who asked the question. I do want to hear. The interjections must be more reasonable.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I am extremely pleased that this Government will be investing an extra $511.9 million of new money into quality front-line education services giving the profession the support it deserves. This increase takes the Government’s total investment in early childhood education and schooling to $9.6 billion for 2012-13. This is the fourth Budget in a row that invests in our education plan and in our education profession. I also announced that we will be having a strong focus on quality teaching and quality professional leadership. This will include a number of initiatives, including better career progression pathways, introducing a new pre-principalship qualification, and a shift to a postgraduate qualification for new teachers.
Scott Simpson: What specific initiatives will she have to raise the quality of teaching?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We are embarking on a 2-year work programme to retain and grow, as well as attract, the best talent into the profession. To do that we will invest an additional $60 million over 4 years to boost new teacher recruitment and training, ensure that student teachers are equipped with the best teaching practices for 21st century learning, and give stronger mentoring and coaching for those teachers working towards full registration. We will be reviewing the Teachers Council to secure a stronger professional body, and we will continue to invest heavily in professional learning and development for teachers, with funding of $304 million over 4 years.
Scott Simpson: How will she recognise better teaching?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before the Minister answers, can I just ask the Minister, please, supplementary questions are not invitations to make speeches.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We need to find ways to recognise and reward outstanding teachers, as well as work with those who have potential. We also need to identify those who are not keeping up, or who are just going through the motions. To raise teaching quality we have to identify who is delivering successful practice, and make that common practice. We will collaborate with the sector to develop a robust appraisal system.
Job Creation—Prime Minister’s Statements
10. Su’a WILLIAM SIO (Labour—Māngere) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on job creation “We can effect things like labour laws and if you look at the jobs creation that we have been promoting; the SkyCity convention centre, more mining and exploration, Australian companies coming back … they will create jobs.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): No, I do not stand by that statement, because that was not my statement. But I do stand by my full quote, which was: “We can effect things like labour laws, whatever it might be, and if you look at the job creation things that we’ve been promoting— Skycity has a convention centre, more mining and exploration, irrigation, Australian companies coming back—Labour have rejected every one of those, and so have plenty of other people been opposed, but they will create jobs.” I stand by answer, because that is what Labour is opposed to: all of these things, which create jobs for New Zealanders.
Su’a William Sio: Is his Government incapable of coming up with a plan to create jobs that does not come at the cost of eliminating the rights of employees, increased social cost of gambling, and further environmental degradation and low wages?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Su’a William Sio: By how much has unemployment decreased since he promised to do something about it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have been promising for a long time to make sure that New Zealand grows jobs, and we created—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Prime Minister. I guess the members want to hear the answer to the question their colleague asked. The noise today has been unacceptable. I do not blame any group of members in the House, just across the House, except maybe the members at the back, who do not normally make too much noise. So I ask members to please be reasonable. I call the Rt Hon Prime Minister; I did not hear the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have been saying for quite a long time that the country needs to create jobs. We created 60,000 in the last 2 years. We have had quite a significant drop in those on the unemployment benefit from the last few years, and I remember quite clearly when there were a number of commentators saying that unemployment in this country would rise to 10 or 11 percent. I think Phil Goff was cheering them on at the time, and that never proved to be right.
Su’a William Sio: If the 18,000 new people in the labour force are looking for jobs because, as he said, the economy is coming right, then why is it that half of them could not find a job in this quarter?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What is true is that New Zealand has one of the higher labour participation rates in the world—much higher than Australia’s. Our participation rate is 68.2 percent, and Australia’s is 65 percent. Or, to put it another way, the employment rate in New Zealand as a proportion of the population is greater in New Zealand than in Australia.
Su’a William Sio: What initiative has his Government taken to ensure that jobs currently advertised that require particular skills have been translated to investment in training for those looking for jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The best person, probably, to answer that would be the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, but I can tell you on his behalf that enormous amounts of money are being poured into a variety of different training schemes, and actually upgrading the quality of those training schemes over recent years. The Government has had a number of other programmes running, from Limited Service Volunteers right through to Community Max and Job Ops. The Government has made significant increases in training for Christchurch, including $42 million we announced last year to go into upgrading the skills sector. The truth is that if we want to get more people into skills and into training, then we have to do a better job of making sure those one in five young New Zealanders who leave school unable to read and write properly do get the
proper literacy and numeracy skills they require. That was something on which the Labour Government failed those people, and particularly that member’s community, and he knows it.
Su’a William Sio: Two years ago he said that the unemployment rate was a lagging indicator, and 2 weeks ago he said: “In terms of the unemployment rate, it’s a very weird one at the moment.”; given that what it really is is a reflection of his Government’s failure to stimulate and grow the economy, when will he admit that this Government has failed to provide any kind of a future for New Zealanders, let alone a brighter one?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Su’a William Sio: Does he agree that his trail of broken promises merely highlights his lack of economic leadership, given that unemployment forecasts this year were wrong, the number of jobs expected to be created this quarter was wrong, and 55,000 more people are on the unemployment benefit in the last 3½ years—almost double the number of people—since National took office in 2008?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is worthy of just taking a moment to look at some of the points that Labour has been making today, in answer to the member’s specific question. When the Christchurch earthquake came, it cost this economy about $20 billion, and Labour argued that the Government should do a lot about it. Today, it wants to ignore that impact on the economy. When the global financial crisis came, Labour, at its campaign launch, signed up—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The questioner was very clear as to the questions he wanted answered—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Forgive me; the member will resume his seat. Order! The member will resume his seat.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, not unless you are clairvoyant. I haven’t even given my point of order yet.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need to hear any point of order. If the member had listened to the question asked, he would have heard a question that was barely in order. It talked about the trail of broken promises and all sorts of things. The Prime Minister is at liberty to answer it any way he chooses. A member who asks a question like that deserves to get any answer, almost, as long as it is within the bounds of acceptable language in the House—any answer they choose to give. That kind of question deserves nothing more than that, because it was just a litany of views of the questioner, so now we are hearing the Prime Minister’s views, and I invite him—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I am still on my feet. I will now hear the member’s point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I assumed you had finished your first ruling. My point of order is that if that is correct in respect of the question, then why did you not rule it out, instead of turning this place into a farce by allowing the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The reason why I do not is that I do not want to rule that member’s questions out all the time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, if you have got concerns about my questions, then please raise them at the time, rather than that sort of lesson, because we can soon pass a motion—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat immediately. He should just have listened to the question asked. I could have ruled it out, indeed, but I did not want to do that. Because members should learn that if they do not want to get the Minister’s view back, an equal political statement back, they should not ask that kind of question. I would rather let the House flow. I could rule, but today I probably would have had to rule out at least half the questions being asked, because most of them contained more statement than question, and the Standing Orders do not allow that. I would have had to be ruling out at least half of them, and I did not want to do that. I want—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: We don’t agree.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is skating on thin ice now, and I just remind him that the remedy is in the hands of questioners. Ask straight questions, and I will insist on straight answers. The Prime Minister is still answering that question, should he wish to continue.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me summarise these things very briefly. When all of these particular issues came along—the global financial crisis, the funding requirement for New Zealand deposit takers, the Christchurch earthquakes, for all of those issues, Labour argued that this Government should throw enormous resources and support at them. And today, on Planet Labour, none of those things existed. That is why they have no credibility at all with the New Zealand public. They are the Blues of political parties, and we over here are the Crusaders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the member, but I want to hear the member’s point of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If that is allowed as an answer, then, frankly, anything can be an answer now.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Not at all, and the member will cease arguing with me. I just invite the member to listen to questions. I listen very carefully to questions, and if members want to avoid that kind of answer, they should ask a question instead of making a political statement. That is what question time is about. If one side of the House is going to make political statements, I am not going to deprive the other side of the House from making political statements in return. But I would encourage members to ask straight questions, because I will do my best to get answers to those straight questions. Members will notice now that where there is a question on the Order Paper that seeks information, Ministers give it. Today when I had not heard clearly the information sought in relation to question No. 8, I asked the member to provide the information. The Minister pointed out that she had and that I had missed it, and I apologised for that. Where straight questions are asked, I will seek to make sure Ministers give answers to them. But today questions—I have got to say— have been pretty loose, and it has been extremely difficult, therefore, to pin Ministers down in their answers. But that is where the remedy lies—ask straight questions, rather than trying to make clever political statements.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Sio asked in an earlier question whether unemployment had risen. That was a very clear question—very direct. He got no answer at all.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I will not take any more on this. If that was what the member had asked, we would have got an answer, but it was not what the member had asked. The member should listen to all the elements, to the whole question, not to just one bit of it. I as Speaker have to listen to the entire question, and that is where so many members get into trouble. They cannot help adding a bit at the end of it, and that then gives the Minister an excuse to add political comment to their answer, and I cannot prevent them. But when a member is asking a straight question—the member will recollect the Hon Trevor Mallard questioning the Minister of Finance, and my insisting on the Minister of Finance answering the question, because it was perfectly—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Not that he did.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It was a perfectly straight question about the handling of current account data. It was a perfectly straight question. The remedy is in members’ hands. We are not going to waste more time on this question.
11. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for Social Development: How are youth services around New Zealand celebrating this year’s Youth Week?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): This week is Youth Week, a week of fun and informative community-based youth activities. There are 245 events planned,
thanks to the efforts of many youth organisations, non-governmental agencies, local councils, schools, and youth organisation Ara Taiohi.
Katrina Shanks: How does the week promote and encourage young New Zealanders?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Youth Week is an international event designed to celebrate our young people. “Love the skin you’re in” is the theme of this year’s Youth Week, which is a serious message about being true to yourself and being comfortable with who you are.
Prescription Subsidies, Change—Effect on New Zealanders with Disabilities
12. MOJO MATHERS (Green) to the Minister of Health: Did he seek any advice on the effect raising prescription charges would have on New Zealanders with disabilities; if not, why not?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): No specific advice was sought on the impact on people with disabilities, because in terms of prescriptions, people with disabilities will continue to have appropriate access to the pharmaceutical subsidy card and the disability allowance.
Mojo Mathers: How do you consider the financial effect of raising prescription charges for those people with disabilities who are exempted from the minimum wage, given that many of these people work for less than $3 an hour?
Hon TONY RYALL: Those people will be able to enjoy the support of the pharmaceutical subsidy card when they get to 20 items, and if they have pharmaceutical costs that are more significant than what would be expected, they are able to access the disability allowance.
Mojo Mathers: Have you sought any advice on whether this policy of raising prescription charges will put vulnerable people off from seeking medical assistance; if not, why not?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think vulnerable people such as those with disabilities should not be put off seeking to get medical assistance, and they should be aware that the moderate increase in prescription charges means that no one need pay more than $40 a year in additional charges. That money is being made available to support other services in the health sector, such as the $133 million extra for disability support services that I announced last Tuesday.
Mojo Mathers: Will he reconsider this policy if it is shown to be a barrier to vulnerable people, such as people with disabilities, gaining access to medical care?
Hon TONY RYALL: I do not believe that this policy will be a barrier to people seeking care. What we know is that if they need additional support, people can be in contact with Work and Income. This Government is making support for disabled people a priority. Even in the most difficult of times and a zero Budget, this Government has made $133 million of additional support services available to disabled New Zealanders, and that is a tremendous commitment.