Questions and Answers - June 13
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
WEDNESDAY, 13 JUNE 2012
QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Is he concerned that Pub Charity Chief Executive Martin Cheer has publicly declared that Pub Charity was using gaming machine money to fight the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill, and what actions has the Department of Internal Affairs taken to enforce its direction that net proceeds were not to be used for lobbying?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): In answer to the member’s question, I have not heard those particular comments, but I am concerned about the misuse of gaming-machine money, and am aware that some gaming societies may have been using net proceeds to support lobbying activities. The actions taken by the department are operational matters for the chief executive, but I am advised that—[Interruption] Do you want to hear the answer to the question or not? But I am advised that the department has written to all gaming-machine societies to remind them that gaming proceeds cannot be used for lobbying. I am also aware that in the case of Pub Charity the department has been assured that all activities relating to the Gambling (Gambling Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill are being funded by other sources and not from gaming proceeds. I am confident that should any evidence emerge that this is not the case, the department would take the matter further.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister accept Mr Cheer’s view that the problem is “squarely at the feet of the DIA, which had been ineffective in enforcing some of the exposed rorts”; if not, what role does the Government play in alerting the Government to potential risks associated with deals such as that considered with Skycity in which additional pokie machines, gambling tables, and an extension of the gambling licence are up for discussion?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: I do not accept that the department is to blame for the problem. I believe that where non-compliance is a problem, the blame lies squarely at the feet of the societies concerned. However, I do believe that there are wider issues in the class 4 sector that need to be addressed to enhance the compliance regime. This is why the Government will be paying close attention to the gambling harm reduction bill and to the select committee process in order to inform our actions going forward.
David Shearer: Is he satisfied that New Zealand’s gaming laws are not for sale to lobbyists?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Yes.
David Shearer: Is it his intention to apply a similar standard—i.e., net proceeds are not to be used for lobbying purposes—to Skycity, which has successfully lobbied the Prime Minister for preferential gambling arrangements? [Interruption]
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Points of order will be heard in silence.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: The primary question to be answered here deals with class 4 gambling. The regime that is applied to casinos is a totally different regime and not applicable to the main question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I think there are two points that can be made that will mean that you will rule out the—I see the Minister is getting advice from the maestro at the moment. There are two points that should be made. One is that the answer that the Minister gave to the primary question was very wide and certainly allowed that supplementary question. The second one is that asking whether or not rules that apply to one class of gambling should be applied to another is also within order.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The primary question principally was to the Minister of Internal Affairs, and that is where his responsibility actually lies. His responsibility is managing and affirming the way in which the Department of Internal Affairs operates, and I regard this supplementary question by the Leader of the Opposition as having stepped wide of that.
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I spoke directly to that Minister and his responsibilities. I was simply giving the example of the way that Skycity has used its proceeds to lobby the Prime Minister.
Hon Trevor Mallard: This Minister is responsible for the gaming legislation, which applies both to pokie trusts and to Skycity. Asking him whether or not he is going to be consistent between those classes of gaming is certainly a matter absolutely for his responsibility.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr Deputy Speaker, I do think you need to—as you have already directed the House—go back to the primary question. It talked about the Pub Charity Chief Executive, Martin Cheer, and then asks for comment on his publicly declared statement, etc. That was a very, very specific primary question; it got very, very specific answers. To try to widen it through other supplementary questions I think is pushing too far.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Sorry, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I want to speak further to that—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will hear the member.
Hon Trevor Mallard: —because it is an important point that the Leader of the House makes. It has always been the tradition in this House that supplementary questions are based on questions, further supplementary questions, and all answers that Ministers give. If we cannot do a supplementary question based on an answer, if the Minister extends it wider, as he did—and there is no doubt that he did that; it was a very long answer—then the whole purpose of questions falls apart.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank members for their contribution. I am just a little concerned that if we do step wide of the mark, it does not continue to keep opening up the subject wider and wider. I am going to ask the Leader of the Opposition to restate his question.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With regard to the ruling you have just made, I just want to refer you to Speaker’s ruling 169/7, which says “If a Minister in an oral answer to a question adds something more than was sought, the additional material could be the basis for a supplementary question.” That seems to be directly contradictory to what you have just said.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, what I have just said is I want to hear the Leader of the Opposition restate the question.
David Shearer: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I appreciate that. Is it his intention to apply a similar standard—i.e., proceeds are not to be used for lobbying purposes—to Skycity, which has successfully lobbied the Prime Minister for preferential gambling arrangements?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The second part of the question is an opinion. The first part of the question is in order, and I will ask the Minister to respond to the first part of the question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There have been multiple press statements, and claims by the Prime Minister in the election campaign, of a change for Skycity. For you to say that that is an opinion and not a fact is just wrong.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Mr Deputy Speaker, I just want to contribute by saying that I think you are right to say that there were two parts to that question. The first part was a very straightforward question—I think relatively easily answered by the Minister—but the second part was a supposition that cannot be reached. We are talking about a public company. Public companies do all sorts of things, including inviting people to corporate boxes to watch rugby.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: I intend to apply the law consistently, and on the second part of the member’s question, I reject his assertion. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Te Ururoa Flavell. [Interruption] Order! Can the House please come to order. I am accepting a supplementary question from Te Ururoa Flavell.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Does he agree with the Lion Foundation that legislative reform is necessary to address some of the problems in the charitable gaming sector and increase the returns to the community; if so, what is his response to its recommendation that a minimum of 80 percent of the net proceeds raised in a territorial authority or council district must be granted to applicants in that same territorial authority or district?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Again, I have not heard those exact comments, but I agree that there are problems in the charitable sector, and action of some kind is necessary. The Government will be paying close attention to the submissions made to the Commerce Committee on this bill, to inform the actions we take in response to this issue. I am aware that the bill seeks to return proceeds to the communities from which they are raised, and I am sure the select committee will hear many interesting submissions in this regard.
2. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “superannuation is an issue, but one thing that is worth noting is that increasing the age of eligibility has much less of an impact than commentators might imagine”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and I note that lowering the age of eligibility to 60 for many workers, which the member has proposed, would reduce the impact even further.
David Shearer: Has the Prime Minister seen reports from Treasury, which says that keeping superannuation affordable will mean increasing GST to 19 percent or everyone paying $30 a week more tax; from Mercer, which notes that increasing the age of eligibility by just 2 years would save $100 billion over 30 years; from the IMF, which says that the pension spending in New Zealand will increase in net present terms by 66 percent of GDP; or from the OECD, which says that increases in the retirement age are under way or planned in 28 of the 34 OECD countries?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have seen a few of those, and I have also seen the following, which is a report from the OECD that looks at pension systems around the world. It asks the question of what the cost as a percentage of GDP would be if there are no changes made. Interestingly enough, New Zealand is the seventh lowest, in terms of cost, if we were to look at countries at about 8 percent of GDP. If we were to look at countries that would cost just a bit more, they are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Brazil, and I could go on. That is the first thing. The second thing I have seen is something that the member does not want to talk about, and that is that if you raise the age to 67, yes, it has a minor impact. That is because—
Hon Members: Oh!
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Actually, it is quite interesting. Let us have the debate. It has a minor impact. That is because what is actually driving the cost is not just that. It is actually the link to average wages, and what the member does not want to talk about is that Diana Crossan actually wants to decouple it from the average wage, and, by the way, people want a means test. Interestingly enough, I see Andrew Little nodding his head. Well, let me say these words: “The current … superannuation system reflects a balanced approach to ensuring New Zealanders’ dignity
in their retirement.” Raising the retirement age “won’t work”. That was by Andrew Little. Those are the words of Andrew Little.
Michael Woodhouse: What policies has he seen that have significantly reduced the Government’s fiscal costs in the future?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In late 2008 Treasury expected net debt to reach around 60 percent of GDP by 2026 under the fiscal settings we inherited from Labour. Net debt is now forecast to be almost zero—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you to go back to your ruling that questions should be related either to the question or to the reply.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member would need to be a bit more specific. I believe that the Prime Minister is in order.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am happy to be more specific. The primary question was about superannuation. The supplementary questions were about superannuation. The Prime Minister’s answers were about superannuation, and this question is not and neither is the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The entire question and debate is about the affordability of superannuation. This Government is making sure it is affordable in its current form. If the Opposition does not want to have that pointed out to it, it should not engage in debates it will not win.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are there further supplementary questions? Sorry, the Prime Minister will finish his reply.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the question—let me start again, because it was a bit interrupted—in late 2008 Treasury expected net debt to reach around 60 percent of GDP by 2026 under the fiscal settings we inherited from Labour. Net debt is now forecast to be almost zero in 2026, because of all the financial decisions we have taken: the tightening up of Government spending, running zero Budgets, and paying down debt. So that bill represents a huge saving in the Government’s interest bill of somewhere around 3 percent of GDP. That is far greater than increasing the superannuation age to 67, which would save only 0.7 percent—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I think the Prime Minister—
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —of GDP, and that is in 2033.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Supplementary question, the Leader of the Opposition.
David Shearer: Finally! Can he today identify any thinktanks, groups, or political parties that support his position on superannuation, other than his National Party caucus?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Let me quote from one: “In a low wage economy such as New Zealand shifting more of the burden of superannuation funding onto working people doesn’t make sense.”, says Andrew Little.
David Shearer: How much notice does he believe New Zealanders need of an intention to change the age of eligibility for superannuation?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If such a change was to occur, they need some time to adjust. I accept that. But let me go back to this fundamental point. This is a Government that went to the election in 2011 and said—
David Shearer: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a pretty straight question, and we are getting a speech about the election.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think we will move to the next supplementary question, if there is one.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not finished, Mr Speaker.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have determined that the Prime Minister did answer the question, and I have called for another supplementary question.
Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen an example of a policy to raise the superannuation age in New Zealand, and why was that proposed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have. At the last election I saw a policy to raise the superannuation age to 67. However, the policy was not introduced to reduce the Government’s fiscal pressures against an ageing population. Together with a capital gains tax, the purpose of the policy was to pay over a long period of time for a whole lot of expensive spending promises, like the $5,000 tax-free threshold. Let us distil this for New Zealanders: they want to spend truckloads of money—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has absolutely no responsibility for any of those matters. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leader of the Opposition, a further supplementary question.
David Shearer: Given all the advice on superannuation and the position he has taken, even with his own coalition partners, who have a completely different perspective on superannuation, what does he say to John Armstrong, who writes that he “is now almost a man alone in insisting there is no need to raise the age of eligibility ...”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear the answer.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I say to John what I always say: he is a wonderfully gifted columnist, and I love reading his columns. But I am not a man alone; I am a man with over a million people who voted for our policy in 2011.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can we take it from the Prime Minister, then, that the increase of the surtax, which National brought in in a former time, and which was repealed by New Zealand First, and the reduction of superannuation down to 60 percent of the net average weekly wage, which was revised upwards to 66 percent by New Zealand First, are not going to change in the future?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have made our policies in terms of superannuation very clear. We are maintaining the age and we are maintaining the floor at 66 percent, linked to average wages. What I can say to the honourable member is that if one day he forms a Government with Labour and the Greens, it is going to be really interesting, because he hates their policy and he hates that party.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am rather concerned that you did not bother to do anything about that last answer. The Prime Minister is not free to get up and let his lips blow around in the wind when he feels like it. He is required to answer the question directly and leave it at that. If he wants to behave like that, then I am very happy to entertain him, because in fact the only reason—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I haven’t finished yet—I haven’t finished yet.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do not care. The member will resume his seat—the member will resume his seat. The Prime Minister has answered the question. Yes, he made some comments that probably went beyond what was required, but he has now ceased answering the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are not in the business of running tackle for a Government here in your important position. The fact of the matter is that nothing in that question asked his opinion as to my view of, for example, the Green Party. That is not part of his ministerial portfolio. It has no part in his job whatsoever, and you cannot let him get away with it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Do your job properly.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Look, I did not hear—there is so much noise that I am having difficulty hearing the member, which may be just as well. It may be just as well—I am not sure. But the Prime Minister has now desisted. He answered comprehensively the member’s question, but he did add some that was superfluous, and I will accept that, but we are now moving on.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I refer you to Standing Order 383, which is about the content of replies. The Standing Order is pretty black and white. It says that replies “must be concise and confined to the subject-matter of the question asked,”. They must not contain “arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets or ironical expressions,” etc. I appreciate that
you have some latitude, and so you should. But consistently in question time today the Prime Minister has abused Standing Order 383, and I would ask you to call him up on it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: There is no doubt that Dr Norman’s recitation of the Standing Order is correct, but it is simply a mirror of what must be in questions as well. The question asked by the Rt Hon Winston Peters would have been completely out of order had you been forced to enforce these Standing Orders. So I think your call that we should move on is a good one.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: We will be moving on, but I would just say to the member who raised the point of order that I did stop the Prime Minister in the previous supplementary answer, so he cannot say that I have not moved to try to curtail answers in a way that is appropriate to the House. I am trying to apply the rule evenly. We will move on.
3. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the stability of New Zealand’s financial system?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Last week the IMF noted that New Zealand has a sound banking sector. Non-performing loans have fallen to less than 2 percent of the total loans, and capital adequacy has improved since 2007 as New Zealand households and businesses save more and borrow less. There has been strong growth in retail deposits over the last 18 months—that is, deposits by New Zealanders—and that has reduced banks’ reliance on wholesale funding from overseas lenders. These factors put New Zealand in a comparatively good position to weather any further banking problems.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What steps has the Government taken since late 2008 to strengthen New Zealand’s financial system?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The New Zealand financial system suffered some damage from both the collapse of the finance companies and then the impact of the global financial crisis. Since then, capital market regulations have been overhauled and the Financial Markets Authority has been established. We have brought non-bank deposit takers under Reserve Bank supervision and applied minimum capital adequacy and credit rating requirements to them. The Reserve Bank has introduced new core funding ratios for the banks that require them to have 70 percent of their funding from stable sources, and we are progressing a new legislative framework for covered bonds. The Reserve Bank has also ensured that in another financial crisis it can supply temporary liquidity to sound institutions as it did in 2008.
Hon David Parker: Given that the Secretary to the Treasury at the select committee this morning said that the Minister has not requested any report from Treasury quantifying the additional losses to taxpayers caused by the mismanagement of the Crown guarantee of finance companies, will he direct Treasury to cooperate with an independent assessment of those additional losses, to clarify whether they total $100 million, or more, or less?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, and I do not agree with the assertions by other political parties of those numbers.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: How does the current state of New Zealand’s financial systems compare with what he inherited in 2008?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think there have been a number of lessons learnt from both the collapse of the finance companies and the impact of the global financial crisis. We have made sure, along with the Reserve Bank and Treasury, that our banks and what is left of the finance companies have been stress tested, and that a number of measures have been taken that improve the resilience of the financial system. In fact, the banks have almost halved their reliance on short-term funding, and are reducing their reliance on overseas debt markets, which are prone to disruption.
Hon David Parker: Given that the Minister does not accept my assertion that the losses are more or less than $100 million, what report has he received as to what is the additional loss that has
been caused to taxpayers by the mismanagement of the Crown guarantee; if he has not received any report, how can he deny the need for there to be an assessment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member misunderstands the point of the guarantee. The guarantee was given by his Government, I might say—at your campaign launch—to enable people to keep depositing in those institutions so that they would not crash, and now he is complaining that people were allowed to keep depositing in them.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was that given that he denied my assessment of the loss, what reports had he received quantifying the loss. He has not even addressed that question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: As I recall, the member actually asked two or three questions, incorrectly. He has further supplementary questions if he wishes to pursue that one specifically, but there was more than one question.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could the Speaker please advise which of the many parts you assert I asked the Minister answered?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No. I have made a ruling. If the member wishes to pursue the question about reports, he may ask another supplementary question.
Budget 2012, Projections—Comparison of Superannuation and Education Spending
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Will total superannuation spending be higher than total education spending in the month of June 2016 using the same assumptions as in his latest Budget projections?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I presume the member means some kind of monthly comparison, but the Government does not have monthly forecasts for superannuation and education spending. For the year to June 2016 total core Crown expenses for education are at $12.42 billion and are forecast to be slightly higher than total superannuation spending at $12.37 billion. Superannuation costs are rising by about $700 million a year. Half of the increase has come from the increase in the payment rate, and the other half comes from increases in the ageing population.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This was a question that was down on notice, which asked for a specific understanding using the projections. It did not ask what was held in the Minister’s office. It was asking him to give a reply to a very specific question. I would like you to rule that the Minister should have got the advice that would have led him to be able to answer the question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: With regard to the member’s point of order, Speakers’ rulings are quite specific, and I refer the member to Speaker’s ruling 167/5, which says that “A member cannot demand a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer”. It is not specifically the same, but it does require a very specific answer. The Minister, who did respond on this occasion, gave some reasoning around why he was not able to provide that answer. The member has more supplementary questions with which he can pursue that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like also to refer you to the recent rulings of Mr Speaker Smith where he has said that where there is a primary question, there is an expectation that Ministers get the material required in order to answer that question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member may recall that I answered the question by saying that the Government does not have monthly forecasts. So if we do not have the forecasts, then it does not matter how much notice is given; it is not possible to go and get them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question was specific, but it asked for something 48 months out from here. The Minister has answered that he does not have monthly reports. I think we will accept that that is a response to the question.
Hon David Parker: Why did the Minister say at the Finance and Expenditure Committee this morning that to change the age of eligibility from 2020 onwards would not make any difference,
when it would make superannuation more sustainable, would improve the Government’s fiscal track, and would give New Zealanders proper notice of a change that Treasury, the IMF, the OECD, and the Labour Party all say is necessary?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is not what I said at the select committee. I did say that it will not make any difference between now and then. The member seems to advance his idea of increasing the age of eligibility as a way of paying for extravagant promises over the next few years, and that simply cannot be true. Or is he suggesting that he is going to cut national superannuation before 2020?
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the Retirement Commission’s 2010 review that says that “decisions will need to be announced and legislated well in advance.” and that, without this, “more severe changes might need to be taken later, putting the long-term future of NZS itself at risk.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with everything the Retirement Commissioner says. In this case, the Government has made its position quite clear.
Hon David Parker: If the Government is not looking at increasing the age of eligibility for superannuation, what does he prefer to do instead: increase future taxes, increase future borrowing, cut the level of superannuation and tax people more if they have saved more, or, perhaps, all of the above?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, we are going to do a couple of things that that member’s party refuses to do. One is deal with the large costs of long-term welfare dependency, and they are enormous costs. The second thing we are going to do is grow the economy, because unless the cake is bigger, it will not matter how you slice it; people in retirement will get less than they should.
Hon David Parker: Given that within 4 years the cost of superannuation is getting close to 20 times the cost of the unemployment benefit, can he not see that this is yet another important issue on which his Government is out of touch, with no plan to remedy it?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with that, but I am intrigued by the member’s continued references to changes in national superannuation in the near-term, before the age of eligibility change he is recommending for 2023. If the member is worried about the rise in costs in the next 4 years, what action is he proposing to take about that? Let us know.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Could I ask the Minister as to whether or not it is a fact that the National Government is only grudgingly holding on to its present position in respect of superannuation, given its past record on this matter, because otherwise it knows it will be toast at the next election?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Reaching for the Standing Orders, that question is completely out of order—for both the answer and the question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I do not see the ministerial responsibility for what the member asked. Are there any other supplementary questions?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What was the problem with that question?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I have ruled that I could not—[Interruption] I am now responding. The member should sit down. The member has asked me to respond. I am happy to respond. The member should sit down. I did not see the ministerial responsibility, and therefore it is out of order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He was answering questions on superannuation. I asked him a question on superannuation. How did you make that distinction?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Whether or not any political party ends up as toast, surely is not a matter of ministerial responsibility.
5. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received that show the Government’s work-focused approach to the benefit system is working?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): I have received the latest benefit report, which shows that benefit figures have continued to fall. In May there were 49,219 people on an unemployment benefit. This is the first time unemployment benefit numbers have dropped below 50,000 since May 2009. This compares with the peak in January 2010, when 68,000 were on this benefit due to the economic downturn.
Alfred Ngaro: How many young people are currently receiving the unemployment benefit?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The number of young people on the unemployment benefit is now just over 13,000. This is a drop of around 44 percent since January 2010, when the peak was well over 23,500 young people on a benefit. Of those young people on the unemployment benefit, there are just 881 young people who have been on it for 12 months or longer. This compares with 938 last month and 2,030 in May last year. I am pleased with the results to date, but we still have work to do.
Alfred Ngaro: Why is the Government making changes to reform the current system, if the number of those on benefits is falling?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We are seeing a difference in benefit numbers, and we could leave the system as it is. We know that unemployment benefits will continue to drop as the economy bounces back and with the current policy settings. But that is not going to help the other 270,000 people on other benefits, nor those who are relying on welfare in the long term. We are interested in what they can do, not what they cannot. That is why we are continuing to work. We started with the Future Focus programme. We are now continuing with our major reforms that are currently before the House.
Economy, Sustainable—Pure Advantage Report
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): My question is to the Minister for Economic Development—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Dr Russel Norman.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister for Economic Development: does he agree—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I would ask the House to come to order. I have been having some difficulty hearing some of the members’ contributions, and I ask Dr Russel Norman to start again.
6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Economic Development: Does he agree with the business group Pure Advantage that “countries that reduce the carbon dependency of their economies most quickly and develop carbon friendly technologies will be the most prosperous in the 21st century”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): No, I do not agree that those things will necessarily follow. Although environmental issues are very important, the countries that will be the most prosperous during the 21st century will be those that use their competitive advantages the most successfully. The proposition that New Zealand should throw away its own competitive advantages and focus solely on a small section of our opportunities such as those in the cleantech area, as promoted by Pure Advantage, is, with respect, quite unrealistic. We need to pursue all of our opportunities in a way that actually balances our economic and environmental objectives to provide jobs and sustain growth to the benefit of all New Zealanders.
Dr Russel Norman: Given the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s projections that under current policies net greenhouse gas emissions will be 30 percent above 1990 levels in 2020, does the Government have a plan to actually reduce greenhouse emissions?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, we do. The member may be aware that, for example, we have an emissions trading scheme, which is active right now. We also have a range of initiatives including the discounts for electric vehicles, and a number of other initiatives such as the insulation system for housing—a whole range of things. But I think in the wider sense of economic growth it is
important to look at all of our opportunities. Yes, I think we need all our businesses to act responsibly in an environmental sense, including in terms of their carbon intensity, but not in the way that the Pure Advantage group suggests, which basically says to not advance industries that they describe as dirty. I think we have got past that point, and actually the debate is maturing a bit, where we actually talk about making sure that all of our industries are acting responsibly while they develop their competitive advantages.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the Minister aware that in 2007 Spain adopted just the sort of policy adopted by the Greens, in that Spain’s Government guaranteed feed-in tariffs on investments in solar photovoltaic technologies—a scheme that has now collapsed, leaving that Government with over €24 billion in debt—and is that the sort of model for prosperity that this Government is adopting?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member makes a very fair point that those sorts of policies, which attempt to subsidise to the extent that the Spaniards did, actually can create some very real risks, which were realised in the case of Spain, as reported in the media in recent weeks. Spain, of course, is facing unemployment over 20 percent and a debt crisis of some margins, as a result of factors including some of these policies, and actually it is not a model for prosperity. There are a number of countries that are proposing big subsidies that are supported by Pure Advantage, and, frankly, we do not support that approach.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister agree with the London Guardian’s “Greenwash” column, quoted in the Pure Advantage report, which says that “New Zealand was a friend to Middle Earth, but it’s no friend of the earth.”
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We often do not necessarily side with the Guardian newspaper in this country, but the reality of it is this: New Zealand actually has to balance all of our opportunities. Unfortunately for the member, and also for his colleagues in the Greens, around 80 percent of our exports come from areas such as food, food processing, minerals, and a whole range of things that are actually what are described by some environmentalists as dirty. They need not be, but they are described by some of them as so. In fact, this Government is focused on growing the economy, doing it in a balanced way, and encouraging jobs and growth. That includes areas like oil and gas exploration; that includes areas like intensification of agriculture. These are very important things that we need to see.
Dr Russel Norman: How do the following policies of the Government help to reduce our carbon dependence: spending $1.5 billion on the emissions trading scheme to subsidise polluters, delaying the introduction of a price on carbon to the industry that produces half of our greenhouse gas emissions, removing the emissions cap from the cap-and-trade system, and spending $12 billion locking us into a car-dependent future with the roads of national significance?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member again demonstrates, unfortunately, a lack of economic reality. He is basically arguing to make New Zealand businesses uncompetitive in the wider world. Unfortunately, the same member will then go on about how we need more jobs and more growth, but he does everything he possibly can to restrict New Zealand businesses from encouraging jobs and growing. It is a completely contradictory position.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the Government listen to business leaders Rob Fyfe, Sir George Fistonich, Jeremy Moon, Chris Liddell, Geoff Ross, Sir Stephen Tindall, Rob Morrison, Joan Withers, and Mark Solomon, who comprise Pure Advantage—who are the members of Pure Advantage—when these business leaders urge the Government to change direction and embrace the green economic opportunities facing New Zealand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government welcomes all voices in the debate. It is important that we actually have this debate. But I would respond by saying that one of the founders of Pure Advantage, the late and much missed Sir Paul Callaghan, made, I think, exactly the point that I am seeking to make: you cannot focus on just a small subsection of what is possible in the world and try to make your success of that. In fact, I quote from him: “This is exactly the mistake of the past
10 years, prioritising according to some perceived international trend—then Biotechnology, now Clean Tech. And the Green’s idea of a Clean Tech line-up is remarkable. … It is absurd, in particular, because we have proven particularly dreadful at developing [those sorts of industries]”. Look, I am sorry, but, yes, it is important that we have those sorts of debates, but it is actually a negative thing for New Zealand to be saying this industry will save us, that industry will save us, or your industry should go and this one shall save us. It is a ridiculous debate. We need to encourage competitive businesses across all our industries to succeed in the world.
Dr Russel Norman: Why does the Government continue to attack anyone who suggests a green growth opportunity and to suggest, as the Minister just did earlier, that somehow the Greens are against business, when it is business leaders themselves—some of our most prominent business leaders—who are the authors of this report and who are sending a message to this Government to embrace the green growth opportunities instead of picking winners in the extractive industries, which is this Government’s actual economic policy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I am sorry, but the member, if he reads the report, will realise that what these excellent business leaders are doing is arguing for subsidies for the industries that they like. That is what they are arguing for, which is an entirely legitimate thing for them to do. But the member needs to open his eyes and see what they are requesting. All the countries in the world that he talks about and that are quoted in this report are making big subsidies to otherwise uneconomic industries, and that is not a path to prosperity for New Zealand, as Spain has shown.
Dr Russel Norman: Is it not the case that what his Government is doing is picking winners and subsidising the industries that he likes? In particular, he is giving subsidies to the primary sector and the agricultural sector, because they are not paying for the greenhouse gas emissions, and he has given subsidies to the road transport sector by subsidising motorways. He is picking the industries he likes, like the mining industry, which he is subsiding through subsidising the seismic survey, so he is picking the winners that he likes.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think I have won the sweepstake that said the Greens’ policy of being pro-mining would not last a couple of weeks. I think that is what actually has happened. But again, I am sorry, the member is incorrect. What we are saying is that New Zealand’s businesses that export should not have to face costs that other countries’ businesses do not have to face. So when we are applying the emissions trading scheme we are being very careful to ensure that New Zealand’s export industries—
Dr Russel Norman: It’s a subsidy.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it is not a subsidy—
Dr Russel Norman: It is a subsidy.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Stop whining, Mr Norman. It is not a subsidy; it is literally making sure that we are not putting burdens on our companies that other countries are not putting on theirs. In the case of the road transport industry—for the member’s benefit—it pays all its costs by actually paying the road-user charges and the levies into a fund that pays for the roading, which frankly is a lot more than we can say for any of the schemes he promotes in public transport, which are all subsidised by other road users.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with Pure Advantage’s statement—from New Zealand’s leading business people—that “Despite our steadfast promotion of New Zealand’s clean, green image, … we continue to look for economic solutions from extractive industries such as coal and oil.”, and why cannot we set our sights higher as a country than just more extraction, and invest in the 21st century economy instead of the 19th century economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I presume that the member is not planning on flying anywhere soon, because that is a very dirty industry by his standards. The reality is this, again: we are encouraging competitive industries across a range of sectors. We are spending a lot of money investing in cleantech. In fact, some of New Zealand’s leading businesses are being subsidised by taxpayers as we speak for encouragement of the cleantech industry. We are also investing in and encouraging the
agricultural industry. We are also encouraging the food processing industry. We are also encouraging the extractives industry. This Government is focused on creating jobs and growth across the economy, and, frankly, that is the reason the Greens will never be in Government, because they do not promote that—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —they promote only their very small sector of the economy that suits them.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a copy of the Pure Advantage report New Zealand’s Position in the Green Race.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There is.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table the report of the Government’s Advisory Group on Green Growth, which is panned in the—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is a public document. I do not think we will be seeking leave to table a public document.
7. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent announcement has he made about mineral prospectivity in Northland?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Energy and Resources): I recently had the opportunity to release the 2011 Northland aeromagnetic survey data. This comprehensive data package provides a rich database, which is invaluable for a number of applications. Additionally, today I welcome the opening of the Northland 2012 minerals tender by the Ministry of Economic Development. I am confident that new investment in minerals exploration and development will stimulate the Northland economy and bring some real jobs and growth benefits that other regions have enjoyed over the last few decades.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What are the potential benefits of the mineral exploration to Northland?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: A recent report has highlighted that increased minerals development in Northland is expected to provide many, many more jobs than are there currently. It can contribute to more infrastructure. Development will inject income directly into the local economy and see flowon effects to supporting industries, retail, and hospitality. New Zealanders also stand to benefit from increased minerals development through taxes and royalties. This is another pro-jobs and progrowth initiative promoted by this New Zealand National Government. We are very, very proud of it and we are delighted that the Green Party in the last 2 weeks has come around and now supports mineral development.
Teachers—Funding for Professional Development
8. Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) to the Minister of Education: Does her plan to improve teacher quality include reinstating the $45 million cut from teacher professional development in Budget 2009; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): In Budget 2009 the total investment in professional development was $99.08 million, a difference of $5.5 million from Budget 2008. From 2009 to 2016 we will have invested an average of nearly $90 million each year in professional development to raise quality teaching.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Is she aware that the Government is spending $19 million less on professional development for teachers in the next year than it did in 2008; if so, what impact will this have on her aspiration to lift student achievement?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: That is not true. We are spending, as I said in my primary answer, an average of $90 million in each year between 2009 and 2016. We remain committed to raising quality teaching.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I seek leave to table a document showing the decline of approximately $19 million in—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The source of the document?
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: It is a table compiled by the Parliamentary Library.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? It appears not. Leave is granted. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I seek leave to table the chart of consolidated appropriation data, which sets out the investment in professional development in total from 2003 to 2016. It reflects the fact that in the period 2009 to—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! We do not need the detail. The member has sought leave to table the document. Is there anyone opposed to that? [Interruption] Is it a public document, as well? It is a public document. The same rules apply.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is an official document. She is entitled to table it. She does not need leave. We are not objecting to it being tabled. We would like to see it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thought the origin of the document was different from what the Minister has. Leave is sought. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There appears not. Leave is granted. My apologies. I just thought the source was different from what it actually was. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Sue Moroney: If she believes that quality teaching is the most important factor in student achievement, will she then be reversing the Government’s 2010 decision to not have 100 percent qualified teachers in early childhood education?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is not a matter of my personal belief; it is what thousands of reports and reviews testify as the evidence.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite the Minister to table those documents that she just referred to—even one of them will do. I would like to see one of those documents she just referred to.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, you cannot require someone to table anything, and the Minister has not responded to that.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Given that the $60 million set aside to help with the cost of postgraduate qualifications for teachers has now been scrapped, will students studying teaching in coming years face higher costs, or will investment in mentoring of new teachers be cut?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: As I have said, we are now going to have to look for $114 million, which will come from a pre-commitment and savings in the education Budget. But we continue to be committed to our quality agenda, which includes investing in all the areas of raising teaching quality.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That answer was more confusing than the simple question that I had asked. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Points of order will be heard in silence.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: The question was quite simple. If I repeat it perhaps the Minister—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Actually, because there was so much noise I could not hear the completeness of the Minister’s answer. I will ask the member to restate the question.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Given that the $60 million set aside to help with the cost of postgraduate qualifications for teachers has now been scrapped, will students studying teaching in coming years face higher costs?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Although the $60 million was tagged for specific initial teacher education, we are not scrapping our work in pursuing a quality agenda, which includes investing in all parts of the teacher spectrum.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: What guarantee will the Minister give to the groups invited to participate in her newly established forum that their ideas to lift achievement and find savings will be adopted even if they contradict with Government policy?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Those are all matters for discussion when the forum is convened.
Vehicle Licensing Reform Project—Progress
9. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has the Government made on the Vehicle Licensing Reform project?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): I am pleased to advise the House that a second workshop with transport industry stakeholders was held earlier this week to discuss a range of possible options. This reform has the potential to save millions of dollars in unnecessary costs and time, and I have asked transport sector officials to include all ideas for consideration, as long as they result in reducing costs while maintaining safety.
Scott Simpson: What ideas are being considered?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Some of the current ideas are smarter ways to pay the annual licensing fee, known as registration; early payment incentives; and as modern cars are consistently improving in reliability and safety, changes to the frequency and enforcement of the current warrant of fitness system. This project is creating savings of money and time for householders and businesses, and the Government wants to get all the ideas on the table so that we can make good decisions.
Scott Simpson: How can the public get involved?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It will be some months before the public consultation gets under way, but in the meantime I have asked the Ministry of Transport to upload information about the project on to websites so that people are able to participate, think about their ideas, and get ready for that consultation process.
Accident Compensation Corporation—Performance
10. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: What responsibility does she take for failures at ACC since the 2011 Election?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister for ACC): I take ministerial responsibility for ACC from the date I received my ministerial warrant, which was on 14 December 2011. In accordance with the Cabinet Manual, I take ministerial responsibility for the direction and the priorities of the organisation.
Andrew Little: What discussions did she have with ACC Chairman John Judge, ACC Chief Executive Ralph Stewart, or her staff about referring allegations made about Bronwyn Pullar in their 16 March report to her to the police before that reference to the police occurred?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I received a briefing from the chairman and the chief executive, and I can recall that my comment to them was that any decision that they made must be theirs and that I would stand by whatever decision they made, as is something that a Minister should do.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did she say, when questioned about the leak: “The fact is, it also came from Ms Boag”; if so, was she indicating that Ms Boag was a possible source of the leak?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Without actually having the full context of that alleged statement, it would be difficult to answer, because I have learnt from experience not to take everything that is said at face value, from that member.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is she denying that she said, when asked about the fact that she had passed the email on to Mr Judge and Mr Stewart: “The fact is, it also came from Ms Boag, so there are possibilities.”; will she deny saying that?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Without actually receiving and having a look at any transcript, I cannot answer that question that way. The fact is that without it in writing, and without proof of it, I cannot take that member as having put that supposed comment in context.
Kevin Hague: Is the Minister giving the House a categorical assurance that she neither instructed nor approved nor suggested that ACC make a complaint to the police concerning Bronwyn Pullar?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: My comments to the chair and the chief executive were that they must make their own decision. It is not for me to be involved in those individual decisions.
Hon Members: You said you backed them.
Hon Members: Back them or sack them?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Do they want to hear or not? [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: My statement was very clear to them: they must make their own decisions, and that I would back those decisions, whatever they were. Those decisions were made after they received their own legal advice, and I have since seen a legal opinion, prepared by Mr Judge’s Queen’s Counsel, which is after the event but which obviously took into account all of the events, which backed the decision of the board to refer that matter to the police for advice. The police were the right and proper authority to look at this issue.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister, in terms of her ministerial responsibility, as to this, from a letter written by Michelle Boag, a former head of the National Party: “You will see in the correspondence attached to the email I am forwarding that while Mr Murch asked for the return of the data, he did not acknowledge that this would be contingent on reaching an agreement acceptable to both parties, which was our understanding.” That is from someone who was guilty, and convicted, of seeking to pervert the course of justice in a commission of inquiry. Is this not extortion—straight out?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I do not have ministerial responsibility for the actions of Ms Boag or of Ms Pullar.
Kevin Hague: Further to her answer to my earlier question, is she telling the House that Mr Judge had his own personal counsel working on the matter of the complaint to the police, as opposed to an ACC counsel?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure that that is in fact what I am telling the House. I am telling the House that there was legal advice. The board—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I can say that Mr Judge has advised me that he had legal advice not only from ACC and ACC’s lawyers but from his own Queen’s Counsel in this matter. I have seen the opinion and it backs up Mr Judge.
Andrew Little: What knowledge does the Minister have of ACC spending money, that ought to be spent on those who have suffered injuries, on public relations advice through Acumen Republic, including spending on polling to see how ACC’s current problems should be massaged?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is an operational matter but I would also say that—
Hon Members: Oh!
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It is an operational matter. It is hardly setting the policy or the direction of the board.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a very simple question: what knowledge does she have? That is her responsibility. It is not an operational matter. Matters that are the Minister’s knowledge are her responsibility—something she is trying to shift.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will ask the member to repeat the supplementary question.
Andrew Little: What knowledge does the Minister have of ACC spending money, that ought to be spent on those who have suffered injuries, on public relations advice through Acumen Republic, including spending on polling to see how ACC’s current problems should be massaged?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: It is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the board.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Ministers are regularly briefed by the board, orally and in writing, as to the activities of the board. Those matters then become their knowledge, for which they are answerable here.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The matter that was raised in the supplementary question is in fact an operational matter. It may not satisfy the member, but the member has an answer.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was asked about what her knowledge was. That is not a matter of departmental responsibility. She was asked what her knowledge as Minister was. The answer may well be that she had none, and that would be a proper answer. But it is fair to ask her what knowledge she had of that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I will seek some advice. Order! I have given a ruling, and I am going to stand by that. Members have further supplementary questions if they wish to pursue that. Members are seeking to actually litigate a ruling by further points of order.
Kevin Hague: If it is true that the Minister did not instruct, approve, or suggest the complaint to the police, and the matter was entirely an operational ACC matter, then why was the legal opinion sought by John Judge shown to the Minister?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is a very good question. Mr Judge sent it to me last week, because he was concerned about a story in the Dominion Post that made allegations against him. Rather than refer to the editorial policy of the Dominion Post, he felt it was right to send me the opinion that he had received.
Andrew Little: Is the Minister denying to this House that she knew that ACC has been spending money on public relations advice through Acumen Republic, including spending money on polling to see how ACC’s current problems should be massaged?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I have no knowledge of any polling being paid for, and I do not know why I would have.
Andrew Little: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether she is denying that she knows that the money is being spent. It is not about her knowledge of the polling; it is about money being spent by ACC on that activity.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, I think that the polling was related to the expenditure of money, and the member does have an answer.
Prisons, Private Management—Serco Performance Targets
11. Le’aufa’amulia ASENATI LOLE-TAYLOR (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections: Is she confident that Serco will meet the contracted performance requirements at the new prison in Wiri, despite the fact that Serco has been failing performance targets at Mount Eden Corrections Facility by 40 percent?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): Yes. However, I must note that Serco has not been failing its targets by 40 percent; rather, as at April 2012 it has failed 40 percent of its targets. But I am confident that the next set of results will show improvement.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Does it concern her that last week yet another prisoner escaped from the Mt Eden Corrections Facility on Serco’s watch; if not, why not?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Of course it is concerning when any prisoner escapes from any prison and public safety is compromised. But Serco is not the only one to have had a prison escape.
Le’aufa’amulia Asenati Lole-Taylor: Is she aware that Serco is being investigated for unsafe practices in the UK and Australia; if so, why has it been granted a $300 million prison contract for Wiri Prison?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I am aware that there is an inquiry in the UK into this company, but my understanding is that it is to do with health and not to do with the running of prisons.
Prisons, Staff Safety—Staff Access to Pepper Spray
12. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister of Corrections: What steps is the Government taking to improve the safety of staff in prisons?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Corrections): Following a successful 12-month trial, the Government will be changing the corrections regulations so pepper spray can be used throughout the New Zealand prison system to improve the safety of our front-line corrections officers. The trial conducted last year found that pepper spray is an effective option that reduces the risk of injury to both staff and prisoners in situations requiring planned use of force.
Dr Cam Calder: How will pepper spray improve staff safety?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Pepper spray will be one of a number of tools available to corrections officers to improve their safety. It will not be carried on an officer’s belt but will be available to staff as a tactical option for incidents requiring planned use of force, where the alternative would be for the officers to put themselves at risk of physically restraining a prisoner. Prisoners will be given the chance to comply before it is used. The strong deterrent effect of pepper spray is also likely to reduce the number of these types of incidents and improve the safety of our officers.