Questions and Answers - May 29
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Budget 2012—Wider Economic Programme
1. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Finance: How did Budget 2002 contribute to the Government’s long-term programme to build a more competitive economy?
Mr SPEAKER: I think it is 2012.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yes, I think the question could be reread.
Mr SPEAKER: As long as the Minister of Finance understands that it is Budget 2012.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The 2012 Budget set out the next steps in the Government’s programme to build a long-term, sustainable, growing economy based on more exports, higher savings, and more effective investment. In particular, the Budget continues an extensive programme of investment in infrastructure; further development and refinement of, and accessibility to, our skills system; and significant investment in science and innovation, as well as significant progress in improving our public services.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why is it important for the Government to continue responsibly managing the Government’s finances?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Good financial management of the Government’s books is important because it helps the Government pursue its other economic priorities. For instance, if we stop running deficits, we can then stop New Zealand’s debt to overseas’ lenders from increasing. That can allow us to have lower interest rates for longer, which makes it easier for businesses then to build a productive and competitive economy, with more jobs and higher incomes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What are some of the measures in the Budget that will help achieve the Government’s priority of building a more productive and more competitive New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There are a number of particular measures that are focused on assisting businesses to make the decisions that grow the economy. and they are the decisions to invest more, to employ another person, and to pay a higher wage. That is why the Government continues to invest in infrastructure, but in particular in the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband, which will support businesses; extensive investment in further innovation and research focused on the manufacturing and high tech industries; and further refinement of our skills system so that it is providing younger people with the skills that will make them competent citizens, and enable them to take part in the kind of further training that enables them to get jobs in new industries.
Hon David Parker: Did he say in his Budget speech in 2011 that that Budget built “a platform for faster growth, more jobs and higher incomes”; and do his forecasts in Budget 2012 in fact show lower growth, fewer jobs, and lower incomes than he projected in 2011?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: In the first place, as I pointed out to the member, under New Zealand statute law Treasury makes the forecasts, and those forecasts represented its best professional
judgment at the time, when there was great uncertainty around the world. It is our contention that New Zealand is doing pretty well, actually, when we look at how difficult conditions are across the developed world. We will have more jobs, we will have higher growth, and we will have more investment, and in today’s developed world that is somewhat exceptional.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister is at liberty to go on to elucidate an answer when he does not like the primary answer that he has to give in response to a pretty direct question, but he did not actually address my question.
Mr SPEAKER: The member makes a reasonably valid point. One assumes the answer was yes. If the Minister was not saying yes to the question, he should correct me. The Minister appears not to be wishing to correct me.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How will the Budget help deliver on the Government’s other main priority of delivering better public services within tight financial constraints?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has focused on getting results, because if we can get better results with our public services, in the long run we will save more money. Two months ago the Prime Minister set out 10 challenging and specific results for the public services to achieve over the next 3-5 years, including reducing crime, reducing long-term welfare dependency, and reducing educational underachievement. In the Budget delivered last week, the Government has found a lot of money for new initiatives by moving cash from programmes and initiatives that do not work to programmes that will achieve results.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What reports has he seen in reaction to last week’s Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There has been a range of reports and opinion. Some of them, particularly from ratings agencies, are quite positive, but the verdict that I thought was appropriate was the so-called average family published in the Auckland media, who thought it was a sensible budget for difficult times.
Public Service Cap—Front-line Services
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on the public sector staffing cap “Our revised cap won’t include those at the frontline such as teachers, police, hospital staff, and prison officers”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): There is no public sector staffing cap. In fact, the number of teachers, doctors, nurses, and police has grown since we have been in Government. We have a cap on core Government administration, which does not include the groups the member mentioned.
David Shearer: Does he still believe that teaching is a front-line service; and if so, why did he support the Budget cuts to teacher numbers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, teaching is a front-line service, and that is why the Government invested $512 million extra in education. The important philosophical debate here is one to understand. The Labour Party thinks the only way to solve a problem is to throw more resources at it. The National Party believes—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a pretty direct question about staffing cuts.
Mr SPEAKER: The Prime Minister did answer it, and I accept that maybe he was going on to add more than was necessary. Does the member have a further supplementary question?
David Shearer: As part of the approval process for the changes, did his Minister of Education make him aware of the impact of scrapping the technology staffing component?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is not correct. The technology staffing component is not being scrapped. There is a change to the overall formula. As the Government has announced today, for 90 percent of New Zealand schools, they will either gain a full-time teacher equivalent or lose a fulltime-equivalent. For all other schools, it will be no greater than two fulltime-equivalents.
David Shearer: Given his statement that, as he said just now, across the country for 90 percent of New Zealand schools, the change will be either plus or minus one teacher, can he tell the House what proportion will be lost? How many schools will lose a teacher?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that to hand.
David Shearer: Is he aware that increasing ratios for years 2 to 3 means that some schools may have to cut Reading Recovery programmes for 6 and 7-year-olds?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not accept that proposition at all.
David Shearer: When he said this morning that he would prefer his child in a class of 16 with a quality teacher, rather than 15, was he aware that the median class size in State schools is in fact 28?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The important point here is that schools are funded off a ratio, and the funding ratio for a year 1 class is 15. The member actually makes a very good point. A parent I was talking to today has 22 in their year 1 class because that principal and board of trustees decided to do that. The facts of life are that the Government funds that school at 1:15.
3. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “building a more productive economy” is a priority for his Government, given that productivity has declined in 2 out of 3 years since he came to office and the Budget forecasts no improvement this year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. Building a more productive and competitive economy is one of the Government’s four priorities, and I would point out to the member that the Budget forecasts labour productivity growth of plus 0.6 percent in the year to June 2012, plus 2 percent in the year to 2013, plus 1.9 percent in the year to 2014, and plus 1.6 percent in the year to 2015. That represents a solid pick-up in productivity.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister agree that investment in education is crucial to building a more productive economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and that is why the Government is investing $512 million extra over the next 4 years. But what I also believe very strongly is that having had a country that has employed 12.5 percent more teachers over the last decade at a time when the roll growth has been only 2.5 percent, and when the education outcomes have plateaued, it is time for this country to start focusing on teacher quality and the quality of teaching, not just the sheer number of teachers.
Dr Russel Norman: How does his decision to eliminate dedicated funding for technology teachers at intermediate level help to build a more productive economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: We do not, and if the member wants to check his BlackBerry before he comes to the House, he will see press releases.
Dr Russel Norman: When he made the decision to change schools’ staffing ratios, as part of the Budget, was he aware at that point of the effect on technology teaching at intermediate level?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, and that is why the ministry took the liberty of writing to all schools in New Zealand. To the 90 percent that gained or lost one full-time teacher equivalent, that was pointed out to them. To the 10 percent that did not, the ministry not only wrote to them but made it clear to them we would be working on the transition plans. We are working on those transition plans with a working group, but to allay any fears that may be whipped up by those who simply want to use this for political reasons, we have indicated that the maximum reduction could be two full-time teacher equivalents over a 3-year period. It is also worth pointing out that there are significant changes in roll numbers in many New Zealand schools, and that in any one given year 5,000 teachers come or go from schools. There is a major change, so in that regard two full-time teacher equivalents over 3 years will not be a significant number.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with John Key, then Leader of the Opposition, who on 28 September 2008 said: “Let me make this absolutely clear. Under National the number of … teachers … will grow.”; if so, how does his Budget cap on the number of teachers fit with this commitment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It has grown in the 3½ years that I have been Prime Minister, and I am thrilled that the member reads everything that I say.
David Shearer: Having looked at my BlackBerry on the way to Parliament, will he now admit that the changes they announced in the Budget were wrong, and he now needs to claw back money in order to cover the technology teachers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, they are not wrong. [Interruption] It may not be convenient, but they are not wrong. The ministry has a contingency and will be making sure that the professional development that we want is funded, but there will be changes to the ratios, with limited impact on New Zealand schools.
Dr Russel Norman: How does his Government’s decision to discourage people from becoming teachers by requiring them to get postgraduate qualifications while simultaneously removing student allowances for postgraduate study help to build a more productive economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I reject the proposition from the member. We are not discouraging people from doing postgraduate studies. What we are saying is that we think the appropriate mechanism is a student loan at zero percent interest, not an allowance. Actually, the economic implication of somebody getting a postgraduate degree, either a master’s degree or a PhD, is heavily supported by the fact that they will get significantly higher levels of income than others and therefore funding that through a zero percent student loan, where the Government still writes off 40c in the dollar, in my book is still quite generous.
Grant Robertson: Given that last answer from the Prime Minister, can he tell the House what the difference is between the maximum amount that a student can borrow for living costs under the student loan each week, and the actual student allowance that people can get—what is the difference between those two amounts?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised that it is very similar.
Dr Russel Norman: Given that 2,700 teachers emigrated from New Zealand last year, how does driving away ambitious educators help build a more productive economy, or was the more productive economy he promised to build actually the Australian economy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot confirm that 2,700 teachers emigrated; they may or may not have. But the member will be absolutely thrilled and relieved to note that we welcome people from all parts of the world, including Australia.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called. [Interruption] Order! Order!
Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a document from StudyLink that outlines the various rates that can be obtained from a student loan weekly—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Where did it come from?
Grant Robertson: From StudyLink.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Where did it come from?
Grant Robertson: Is this a point of order or not?
Mr SPEAKER: It is a point of order, and there will not be interjection.
Grant Robertson: It says that the maximum amount of money that a student can borrow per week for living costs from the student loan scheme is $171.50, and that the maximum amount that they can get from student allowances is over $350 a week.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document—[Interruption] Order! We will not have that rush of blood to the head. [Interruption] Order! Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon David Parker: Why did he say 2 days before the Budget that “under a National Government, exports are rising.” and in his Budget speech last Thursday that “We have got the
export sector starting to grow.” when Statistics New Zealand earlier that day reported a 17 percent—$800 million—drop in goods exported from New Zealand in the year to April 2012?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because the member is quoting a 1-month number, and I am looking over a 3 or 4-year period.
Hon David Parker: How can he pretend our export story is a good one when imports are projected to increase at twice the rate of exports, and before he blames Christchurch, is he aware that of the 6.8 percent current account deficit projected for 2016, Treasury has advised that only 1 percent relates to Christchurch?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised that it is Christchurch that is a major part of it.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with commentator Fran O’Sullivan in the New Zealand Herald that the major problem is that there is no clear economic growth agenda?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
David Shearer: Can the Prime Minister reassure the intermediate schools Ferguson Intermediate School, Balmoral Intermediate School, Papatoetoe Intermediate School, and Manurewa Intermediate School that those schools will not be losing between 3.5 and seven teachers each as a result of the Budget announcement?
Mr SPEAKER: This is a very detailed question about teachers, which relates more to question No. 2 than question No. 3. I accept there has been some discussion. If the Rt Hon Prime Minister has the information, he is certainly welcome to answer the question, but I think the House should understand if he does not have that particular information.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was referring to what the Prime Minister said about reading our BlackBerry smartphones on the way to the Chamber today, which was that the ratios at intermediate schools had actually changed.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order is—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It’s not to do with this.
Mr SPEAKER: The Leader of the House, above all others, should know that a point of order should be heard in silence—silence. I believe that comment did relate to the previous primary question, question No. 2, and that is why I—
Hon Members: No.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I accept that and I will stand corrected if I am wrong there. I will invite the member, because so much time has gone by, to repeat his question, but I accept that the Prime Minister may not have information necessary to answer that question, because it is a long way from this primary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Prime Minister cannot answer the question or does not have the information, then it should be left to him to tell us that, not to run tackled defending him before he gets to his feet.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is very simple, then. If that is the way the House wants it, I will simply rule the question out. But I am going to give the member the chance to—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That’s not question time.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! It is my opinion as Speaker, and I am prepared to rule, that the question does not relate sufficiently to the primary question. I am not going to waste more time on it, but I am prepared to allow the member to repeat his question. But there does need to be some understanding that the Prime Minister may not have the necessary information to answer it.
David Shearer: Referring to the comment that the Prime Minister made about reading our BlackBerry smartphones on the way to the House, can he reassure the intermediate schools across New Zealand that they will not be losing up to seven teachers in the technology area?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I can assure them that over a 3-year period they will not lose more than a maximum of two fulltime-equivalents.
Budget 2012—Funding for Science, Innovation, and Research
4. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Science and Innovation: What actions has the Government taken to boost funding for science and innovation research?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Science and Innovation): Last Thursday’s Budget delivered further on this party’s 2000 election commitment to help build a more competitive and productive economy, including $250 million of new operating funding and over $75 million in capital funding over 4 years for science, innovation, and research. We have continued to increase funding despite tight fiscal constraints, because science and technological innovation are important drivers of New Zealand’s growth and international competitiveness. In fact, total direct crossportfolio science, innovation, and research funding has risen by 17 percent over the past 4 years to $1.24 billion in 2012-13.
Nikki Kaye: What initiatives is the Government progressing as a result of these funding increases?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We have allocated $90 million over 4 years in operating funding and $76 million in capital funding for the establishment of an Advanced Technology Institute, to better link businesses with research and help create new high tech products and services. We have funded a further $60 million over 4 years for National Science Challenges, to find innovative solutions to some of the most fundamental issues New Zealand faces. And in the tertiary education area we are increasing the size of the Performance-based Research Fund to $300 million by 2016. All this adds up to a very substantial commitment by the Government to the research and science sector in this country—far above anything a research and development tax credit would deliver.
Superannuation—Increases in Budgets and Compared with Increase to Vote Education
5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What is the increase in government spending on New Zealand Superannuation from Budget 2011 to Budget 2012 and is this greater than the increase to Vote Education?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Spending on New Zealand superannuation will increase from $8.83 billion in 2011 to $9.59 billion in 2012, an increase of $757 million. Government spending on Vote Education will increase from $9.02 billion in 2011 to a forecast $9.28 billion in 2012, an increase of $256 million. So the increase in national superannuation is larger. About half of the increase in national superannuation over the next 5 years is due to increases in the rate of national superannuation, and the other half is due to the increase in the number of superannuitants.
Hon David Parker: Does the projected monthly cost of superannuation increase to more than the total monthly cost of education, including preschool, primary, secondary, and tertiary education, by the end of the 2016 financial year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I simply do not have the information to confirm that.
Hon David Parker: Is the Minister telling the House that he does not know whether by the end of the 2016-17 year—within the projection period of his Budget he delivered last week— superannuation costs will exceed education costs every month?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am telling the member I simply do not have the information to give an accurate answer to that question.
Whānau Ora, Minister—Confidence
6. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he retain confidence in the Minister responsible for Whānau Ora; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; she is a hard-working, competent Minister, who is working for a brighter future for all New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly retain confidence in the Minister for Whānau Ora when, during these economic times, she gave $60,000 to a rugby and sports club to “undertake
whānau development research to develop a range of outcomes, which include resilience, whānau connectedness, and community role models and leadership”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot comment on an individual case, but what I can say is the last time the member made accusations about Whānau Ora, he was wrong.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, that is a lie for a start.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I tabled the evidence—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now if I heard the member correctly, he will get to his feet, withdraw, and apologise for that statement.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister made a statement that was not part of his answer, surely—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot refute an answer by way of point of order. The member has further supplementary questions and he can pursue the matter through further supplementary questions, but not by way of point of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think you might want to add on to your ruling that there has been a change in the Standing Orders for this Parliament, which means that there is a route that the member can take to have that matter referred.
Mr SPEAKER: The member is quite correct.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he possibly, as Prime Minister, retain confidence in the Minister for Whānau Ora when she is granting sums like $60,000 to an established sports club when there are poor Māori children in the far north scrounging for food in pig scrap heaps and buckets as reported in the New Zealand Herald on 12 May this year?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have individual information on the particular programme the member is talking about. He will have to take that up with the Minister directly. In terms of the claims in the New Zealand Herald, I have no reasonable way of ensuring that that is accurate or not. In terms of the wider overall issues about Whānau Ora, that is aimed very much at families who need significant support and who are using a multitude of different agencies, and the Government is looking at ways to improve the outcomes. Given the successful track record we have had in the past of being totally unsuccessful with those families, I would have thought that trying new ways was not a bad idea.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he think it fair that his Government is taxing paper boys and leaving rest home workers to battle and scrimp on the minimum wage while he and she dish out $60,000 in sums like that, and millions of dollars at that, for a rugby club to research “whānau connectedness” whatever that is?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think the Budget is fair, if that is the question that the member is asking. At the end of the day, yes, there have been some minor changes to the tax code. There have also been provisions for people who earn income at a younger age not to pay tax up to $2,340 for what would otherwise be, technically, a taxable event. Overall, the Government in difficult times is trying to make sure it is fair to all taxpayers.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that the Prime Minister and Minister concerned are giving out $60,000 for example to a sports club, a rugby club, can he explain to Parliament and the country as to what he thinks “whānau” is or are?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think it is te reo word for “family”.
Conviction and Sentencing Statistics—2011 Figures
7. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: What reports has she received on 2011 conviction and sentencing rates?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Conviction and sentencing statistics published today by the Ministry of Justice confirm that this Government’s approach to reducing crime is working. The conviction and sentencing statistics show fewer criminal charges being laid in court,
fewer people appearing in court, more charges resulting in convictions, and a decrease overall in serious and violent offences in the last 5 years. Since 2009 the total number of charges laid in court has dropped by 18 percent. That is over 60,000 charges.
Tim Macindoe: How does the reduction in the total number of charges being laid in courts deliver better public services in the justice sector?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Fewer people facing criminal charges means fewer cases clogging up our courts, fewer people unnecessarily going to prison, and fewer families disrupted. The new justice sector leadership enables the police, corrections, and justice departments to work together for the first time. Better public service targets are reducing total crime. Reducing youth crime and reducing reoffending are clearly in our sights. With less crime and fewer people entering the justice system, agencies can focus on crime prevention, modernising our court system, and rehabilitating prisoners in order to reduce reoffending.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. How will the Minister respond to the issue of huge sentencing inconsistencies as demonstrated by the excessive sentence handed down last week to Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kēmara, while 3 years ago a man found guilty of seven of eight charges of being in unlawful possession of two military-style semi-automatic rifles, thunderflash explosives, power gel explosives, two military flares, a smoke grenade, a grenade launcher, and an anti-personnel mine ended up being askedto pay $5,000 to the St John Ambulance?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It would be quite inappropriate for me to comment on the sentencing in a particular matter. That is a matter for the courts.
Schools, Class Sizes—Teacher to Pupil Ratios
8. Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) to the Minister of Education: What is the estimated reduction in teaching positions at intermediate and middle schools in each of the next 4 years as a result of the new teacher to student funding ratios in Budget 2012?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. The Government funds full-time teacher equivalents, not positions—that is a matter for each board. What we have always said is that about 90 percent of schools will have a net loss or gain of up to one full-time teacher equivalent. We have examined the effect on the other 10 percent of schools, and some would be affected more than we are prepared to accept. Schools will therefore be given a guarantee that their staffing entitlement will not be reduced by more than two full-time teacher equivalents over the next 3 years as a result of the policy changes.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Given her recent announcement at 1.41 p.m. today that “no school will lose more than two full-time teachers … as a result of the policy changes in Budget 2012.”, the Minister must know the budgetary impact of this about-face, so what is it?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As the Prime Minister has already indicated, the Secretary for Education wrote on Budget day to every school to advise it whether it was in the 90 percent or the 10 percent. In that letter the schools were advised that the transition—
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific. I asked what the budgetary impact of the recent announcement this afternoon was, and she has not answered that question.
Mr SPEAKER: That is correct. That is what the member asked. I ask the Minister to come to the question.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, Mr Speaker. We have a contingency for transition, and it will support the provision of two full-time equivalents.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific, it was asking for a specific value, and the Minister has failed yet again to answer that question. What is the budget?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Before I call the Minister, I want to ensure the terminology is understood. The member has asked what the budgetary effect is. That may or may not elicit exactly the answer the member wants, but it is up to the Minister to answer as she sees fit.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do not have the exact figure to hand.
Scott Simpson: What support has she offered the most affected schools?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Schools have been given a guarantee that their staffing entitlements will not be reduced by more than two full-time teacher equivalents over the next 3 years as a result of the policy changes.
Dr Megan Woods: Given that schools could still lose up to two full-time positions, can she give an assurance to Branston Intermediate School and Christchurch South Intermediate School that they will not lose their dedicated science and technology teachers as a result of her new ad hoc plan; and if not, is she concerned that this breaks John Key’s promise that National is committed to working with industry to make it easier for schools to find, pay, and employ people to take their trade and technology classes?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We will continue to work with the Christchurch schools, as we have done on a case by case basis every since the impact of the earthquakes.
Dr Megan Woods: I seek leave to table three documents. The first is a letter from Christchurch South Intermediate School to parents, saying that the staffing cuts are a big mistake and setting out what the impact of these cuts on that school will be. The second document is an email from Branston Intermediate School to me, setting out the effect on its ability to deliver quality technology and specialist programmes within the school. The third is a transcript of a speech from John Key to the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the House is to make sensible decisions, let us deal first with the letter from the school. Is there any objection to that letter being tabled? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: The second is the email from a school to the member. Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: And the third?
Dr Megan Woods: The third document is a transcript of a speech from John Key in 2007 to the Employers and Manufacturers Association (Northern).
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! I say to the Labour front bench that it appears they have a backbench colleague seeking the call.
Louisa Wall: Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Tēnā tātou. Can she explain to the parents of years 7 and 8 students from Greenmeadows Intermediate School, Manurewa Intermediate School, and Weymouth Intermediate School why she is making it harder for their deciles 1 and 3 schools to support their learning and achievement, as her policy means those students will lose, on average, two teachers per school—and I note that before 1.41 p.m. it was, on average, six teachers per school—plus some targeted programmes that Iain Taylor, the Principal of Manurewa Intermediate School, says motivate and keep particularly Māori and Pacific students engaged in education?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is exactly because we are interested in raising the quality of teaching practice in order to raise student achievement that we are making a trade-off of having one or two extra students in a classroom in order that we can have raised achievement.
Iain Lees-Galloway: How is it fair for small intermediate schools to lose the same number of teachers as large intermediate schools, which is what her new, ad hoc plan that she made up on the way to the House will implement?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We wrote on Budget day to all schools, telling them that a transition plan would be put into place and that we would work with each of them. In the interests of providing certainty now, we have provided the guarantee that no school will lose more than two full-time teacher equivalents, and 90 percent will not lose any more than one full-time teacher equivalent. This is good news. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Forgive me, I did not hear that, but I need to be able to hear this next supplementary question.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Given that response, how will schools be given a guarantee that their individual staffing entitlements will not be reduced by more than two full-time teacher equivalents over 3 years—which may equate to six people—and that no further cap on roll growth will occur?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We have announced to schools that they have a protection guarantee that they will not lose more than two full-time teacher equivalents. The way that it is done every year, I say to that member, is that in September provisional rolls are set with schools, and their fulltime teacher equivalents are allocated on that basis.
Budget 2012—Canterbury Social Services
9. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: How does Budget 2012 assist Canterbury social services to support the rebuild of the city?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Recognising the ongoing impact of the Canterbury earthquakes, in Budget 2012 the Government is investing an additional $13 million over the next 2 years in social services for the Canterbury region. This is in addition to the $20 million already provided to non-Government social service organisations since the first earthquake. The funding will continue to provide psychosocial support to those affected by the earthquakes and assist non-Government social service organisations to coordinate these services and meet increased quake-related demand.
Melissa Lee: How has the Government’s social investment supported Cantabrians to date?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Since the earthquakes, Canterbury social service providers have done an outstanding job in very difficult circumstances meeting the needs of the community. In the last 6 months this support has enabled over 6,800 counselling sessions, and the 0800 support and counselling line has received more than 14,000 calls. The Government has helped with funding, but these remarkable organisations on the ground are fundamentally making the difference.
Budget 2012—Asset Threshold for Aged Residential Care
10. KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by her statement that the measures in the Budget to change the asset threshold for aged residential care were “a reasonable approach to the way forward”?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Associate Minister of Health): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. Yes, I do within this context. The Government has slowed the rate of increase of the rest home asset threshold in recognition of tight financial times and an aging population. On 1 July the threshold will increase from $210,000 to $213,300.
Kris Faafoi: Which non-government individuals or groups—if any—were consulted as part of the process leading to the asset threshold change?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The decision was announced in the Minister of Health’s main press release prior to the Budget being read in the House. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to be able to hear.
Hon JO GOODHEW: Prior to the Budget being read in the House I phoned and spoke to both Grey Power and Age Concern to talk with them about this change, and to also talk with them about the investments that we are making in this sector, which are $40 million for residential care, $40 million more for dementia care, $40 million more for home support, and $1.5 billion total more for health over 4 years.
Kris Faafoi: Does she concede that the change made last week does not address serious issues raised by the Human Rights Commission report, such as pay parity, staff training, and quality of care standards?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The Human Rights Commission report last week contained 10 recommendations. The Government will carefully consider those recommendations. Amongst those recommendations are a number of issues that the Government is currently working on, and I talk, in this case, about quality of care, about rural funding for care, and about training for caregivers. Therefore I would say to the member that in fact we are addressing many of the issues raised in that report.
Kris Faafoi: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s plan to address pay parity in workforce supply, given that he said to media yesterday: “You know, New Zealand might take a different view on migration, and, you know, there might be a converge of, you know, Filipino nurses that want to come and live in New Zealand, or whatever it might be.”?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The best thing that this Government can do, and has decided to do, to actually address any need for further funding into aged care, is to get our books back into surplus by 2014-15. That is the main focus for this Government, in order to then look at the priorities, which will include looking at the possibility of more funding into aged care.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the right honourable member, but I do want to be able to hear this supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Given that New Zealand First secured an additional $580 million in aged care support to address the PricewaterhouseCoopers report of 3 years before that, why is it a reasonable approach to the way forward, as she says, on the threshold for aged residential care, to inflation-index that, yet provide from her Government no inflation-indexing whatsoever of residential care allowances since it came to power?
Hon JO GOODHEW: In fact the member is incorrect, because cost-price increases are passed on from the district health board. But I want to also add that in fact the PricewaterhouseCoopers report has been superseded by the Grant Thornton report in 2010. That report identified that the most need in the aged residential care sector for additional funding was dementia care. In Budget 2011 we put an extra $40 million towards aged residential dementia care. There is a further $30 million in this Budget to aged residential dementia care, and $10 million towards dementia care pathways in the community.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 11, Eugenie Sage. [Interruption] Order! I ask members, please, on both sides of the House, to show some courtesy to a member at the back. I want to hear her question.
Earth Summit, Rio—New Zealand’s Commitments
11. EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for the Environment: Does she agree with the statement by Dr Morgan Williams in the WWF New Zealand report released yesterday that “successive governments have failed to put in place the policies and mechanisms required by our Earth Summit commitments”; if not, why not?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): No, because New Zealand has in fact taken significant steps to deliver on those commitments.
Eugenie Sage: Given that the World Wide Fund for Nature Beyond Rio report notes that almost all measured water-quality parameters have declined over the last 20 years, will the Minister give urgency to implementing the Land and Water Forum’s recommendation that the Government use a national instrument to set limits on how much pollution our waterways can cope with; if not, why not?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I would first of all note that most of the data in that report is significantly aged and does not relate to this term of Government. It has been taken selectively and out of
context. But, none the less, I will agree that our water quality is a significant issue, which this Government is prioritising and taking real action on, like instituting the Land and Water Forum. Actually, this Government is interested in making progress in water-quality issues, which is more than we can say for the Labour-Green Government of the 9 years that we had under them.
Eugenie Sage: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There will be silence for me to hear the point of order. The member wishes to raise a point of order.
Eugenie Sage: I believe that the Minister was incorrect in referring to a Labour-Green Government.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot use a point of order to disagree with an answer. That is not within our Standing Orders.
Eugenie Sage: Is the Minister aware of Dr Young, a freshwater ecologist with the Cawthron Institute, and his comment on the Beyond Rio report by the World Wide Fund for Nature that “The water quality chapter convincingly portrays a sad picture of the current state and trends in New Zealand’s freshwater ecosystem integrity.”; if she is, will she do as the former Minister for the Environment did with the Land and Water Forum’s recommendations on the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and dismiss them, or will she take real action—urgent action—on water quality so that we can enjoy our lakes and rivers and so that present and future generations can enjoy them?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I am aware of a number of comments in respect of the report that was released yesterday. I do wonder whether some of those commentators are aware of some of the glaring errors in the report, like attributing commitments to New Zealand that do not apply to us, but I can assure the member that the Land and Water Forum is a process that this Government instituted and that we take very seriously, and we will be giving its recommendations full process and consideration.
Eugenie Sage: Does she agree with the statement of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment yesterday that “We are dropping the ball on the environment, this is a failure of successive governments and bodes badly not just for the future of our environment but for the future of our economy.”?
Hon AMY ADAMS: In respect of the National-led Government, no.
Question No. 6 to Minister
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): I seek leave to table a document to rebut the Prime Minister’s statement on evidence here.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We need to know the source of the document.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This document is under the Official Information Act and has been received by my office—
Mr SPEAKER: From where though?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —on Whānau Ora funding, and one page alone says $694,000.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We need to know the source of the document.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The source is Te Puni Kōkiri, which I sought—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. [Interruption] Order! Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Health Targets—Shorter Stays in Emergency Departments
12. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Health: What progress was made in the latest quarter towards achieving the Government’s target for shorter stays in emergency departments?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Great progress. In fact, district health boards have achieved record success in the last quarter and are reporting that, on average, emergency
departments admitted, discharged, or transferred 93 percent of patients within 6 hours. In fact, 11 district health boards across the nation have now achieved or surpassed the Government’s 95 percent target. I would particularly like to congratulate the Wellington Regional Hospital, which was at 67 percent in 2009 and is now at 87 percent, a 5 percent improvement in the last quarter. This is a great result for a district health board that is buckling down and achieving better for patients.
Dr Jian Yang: How do faster emergency departments help support the entire hospital?
Hon TONY RYALL: An emergency department is a barometer for how well a whole hospital is working. When a patient is treated faster, it means there is better access to important X-rays, scans, and beds. That is why this Government is supporting it further in Budget 2012, where we are investing an extra $16 million into new systems to ensure faster access to magnetic resonance imaging scans and CT scans, and $4 million into a national register for patients treated for heart conditions, to improve the quality of their care. In Budget 2012 this National Government is spending a record level on health—$4.12 billion—to protect and grow our public health services.