Questions and Answers - August 16
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on progress in building a faster-growing economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Last week Treasury issued its monthly economic indicators for July, which showed the domestic economy remains in relatively good shape compared with most other developed countries. New Zealand posted a better than expected 1.1 percent GDP growth in the March quarter, taking annual growth to 2.4 percent compared with March 2011. This is better than most other developed countries, and compares well with Australia. Inflation is currently subdued. This should allow interest rates for households and businesses to remain lower for longer. Indicators suggest New Zealand will continue to achieve moderate economic growth in coming quarters, despite the further deterioration in international conditions we have seen recently.
Todd McClay: What recent assessments of New Zealand’s economic prospects has he received from offshore?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New York - based credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s this month affirmed New Zealand’s long-term foreign currency rating at AA with a stable outlook. We also remain one of only nine countries now with the highest-possible AAA rating and a stable outlook with Moody’s. Standard and Poor’s noted this country’s fiscal flexibility, resilient economy, and strong political and economic institutions. The ratings agency also noted that New Zealand has favourable prospects for sustained growth while there remains strong demand for our agricultural exports. As it pointed out, New Zealand’s high level of private sector external debt remains its largest vulnerability. It is therefore pleasing to see the projected household savings rate reaching 4 percent by 2016, and remaining positive for a significant period of time—in fact, the longest period of time for 20 years.
Todd McClay: What reports has he seen on reactions to the Government’s various initiatives to boost exports and economic growth?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen many, many reports that talk about economic growth but would do nothing to boost economic growth and increase jobs. I have seen reports of people talking about returning the Government’s finances to surplus, then opposing every measure to reduce spending so that we can start repaying debt. I have seen reports of people wanting to encourage business growth, apparently, but then wanting to tax successful businesses more. I have seen talk of people wanting more jobs, but then proposing to pull up the drawbridge behind them by banning foreign investment. I have seen reports of people being supportive of convention centres when they are in Government, but vehemently opposed, suddenly, to similar convention centres in Opposition. I have seen reports condemning resource extraction in New Zealand, but then bemoaning people
leaving for jobs in the Australian mining sector. It is fair to say that those people are playing politics rather than having the best interests of New Zealand at heart.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought answers to questions were meant to be terse and to the point, and in that case the 5-minute bell was just about ready to ring.
Mr SPEAKER: The member makes a reasonable point. [Interruption] Order! Answers should not be longer than necessary, and I fear that that one did go on longer than necessary, and I blame myself for allowing that to happen. I should be more vigilant.
Hon David Parker: Does the Minister think that the 50,000 New Zealanders a year who are leaving are going because they believe he is making progress in building a faster-growing economy, or perhaps are they going because they see jobs being displaced by people on work permits working for less than the minimum wage, or is it because they see jobs being lost in the manufacturing sector, which is contracting?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it is not the latter, because the jobs in the manufacturing sector have been growing over the last 2 years, so we can rule that out. I think that if you look at it, what we can reasonably assume is that those who are going to jobs in Western Australia are going there primarily to work either in the mining and resources sector or in sectors that service those sectors. The Government, after a long period of inaction by the previous Government, is working to get the settings right to encourage reasonable levels of development of New Zealand businesses, such as the resource sector, in this country. And we would welcome the support of the Opposition parties in doing that.
Hon David Cunliffe: Given that ratings agencies Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch Ratings have all criticised New Zealand’s lack of export diversification and high-value exports, why does the export public relations glossy that he issued yesterday contain no quantitative target for export growth until the year 2025?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member’s analysis is as deep as the normal puddle. The reality of the progress report—
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You will well remember yesterday drawing the Minister’s attention to similar intemperance in his answer to my question yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! And, indeed, I would have responded directly myself, had I not listened to the question carefully and heard derogatory comment in the question. So if members include— well, the member referred to a publication that the Government put out yesterday as some glossy.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That’s not derogatory.
Mr SPEAKER: It is not objective language. If members want Ministers to stick to objective language, questions should contain objective language.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Referring to a glossy publication as glossy is hardly subjective.
Mr SPEAKER: The language was intentionally—[Interruption] Order! The Speaker might look stupid, but he is not that stupid. The language was intentionally derogatory about a publication. It is common language to refer to something as a glossy when it is considered not to have much content. The Minister therefore is at liberty to respond to that. And that is the end of the matter. I will not entertain any further points of order on that issue. Let me be very clear about that.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to re-ask the supplementary question, omitting the word.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the member asked his question. The Minister is answering it.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The point the member misses is that actually New Zealand’s exports have grown substantially in the last 4 years, and, in fact, have grown 5 percent in the goods exports per annum over 4 years and 4.2 percent per annum every year over 4 years, as well. So we are making very good progress in exports. I tell you what would upset the ratings agencies would be if we attempted to manage the exchange rate as proposed by the Labour Party, which is true voodoo economics—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is sufficient on that.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have no right of recourse against the little snipe about voodoo economics from the man who has his head in the sand—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat right now. He knows he has intentionally abused the point of order process. I will not tolerate that. Members know that if they ask straight questions, they will get straight answers, if they use objective language. If they try to be clever, do not expect the Speaker’s protection from more clever answers. Had the Minister gone down that track at the end there, in response to a very direct straight question with objective language, I would have reprimanded him severely, too. But I will not tolerate the point of order process being abused like that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to relook at the tapes for this week—every answer and every supplementary answer from that Minister, and find one answer that was straight.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We are not going to get into that kind of argument by way of point of order. If members ask straight questions, I will do my best to endeavour they get straight answers. But the discipline is on the questioner.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table an original version of the Government’s Building Export Markets paper, to demonstrate that the word “glossy” is, in fact—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members will very shortly be leaving this House if they carry on this way. I do not care whether members have questions on the Order Paper or not. I will not see the point of order process abused like this.
2. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in his Ministers; if so, why?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because they are hard-working and competent Ministers who are working hard for a better future for New Zealanders.
Grant Robertson: How can he have confidence in the Minister for Social Development, who, despite being told by the Director of Human Rights Proceedings that she was wrong to release the details of beneficiaries for political gain, has refused to apologise or even rule out doing it again?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I note that the director of proceedings for the Human Rights Commission has made the comment that this is a settled matter, and that is where it lies.
Grant Robertson: How is it credible for him to have Ministers such as Judith Collins say that she has zero tolerance for privacy breaches in ACC, or for Work and Income staff to be sacked for accessing personal information, when he is actively endorsing one of his Ministers—Paula Bennett—to do just that?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I can again only repeat to the member the words of the director of proceedings, who said: “On the basis of the Minister’s letter to me, I have agreed to close my file. The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties. The letter from the Minister [to the complainant is available in the public arena]. We have all agreed that the letter speaks for itself and we will make no further comment.”
Grant Robertson: Does he agree with Judith Collins that people should lose their jobs over privacy breaches; if so, why will he not dismiss Paula Bennett for doing just that?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There was no breach found by the director of proceedings for the Human Rights Commission—simple.
Grant Robertson: Would he have confidence in a Minister who released the details of tax paid by a business person who was campaigning for lower taxes; if not, what makes that different from doing it to someone like Natasha Fuller, who was asking for reinstatement of the training incentive allowance?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a hypothetical suggestion, and I am not going to answer a hypothetical question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister for Land Information when the Minister told the House yesterday that a pivotal court case involving May Wang—in which case he gave us the reason of the Overseas Investment Office and him being restrained—had concluded, when the truth is that that pivotal case is not finished but subject to adjournment until 14 September?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because the Minister has handled this totally appropriately. He did not give authority for May Wang—or permission or approval for May Wang—to buy those farms, and as soon as these legal matters are dealt with, his department will, in fact, require those farms to be disposed of.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in the Minister for Land Information, who got up in the House yesterday and gave erroneous information from his department, and asserted it in numerous points of order and explanations to the House allowed by the Speaker, when, in fact, the critical reason that he gave for delay is not the fact—the case is not over; it is adjourned in Hong Kong until 14 September? How can he have confidence in a Minister who gets it that wrong even on notice?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, the question was not on notice. Secondly, the salient point is that this is an illegal acquisition and it will be dealt with.
Chris Hipkins: In light of his earlier answers, can he give the New Zealand public an assurance that the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, did not access any Government records of personal information in order to identify which schools teachers writing to her to express concern about class sizes worked at, given that she sent her replies to those correspondents to their employers rather than to them; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I can only speculate that the information probably came to the Minister of Education with the teachers themselves identifying the schools that they were in. Therefore, it was referred to them.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister for Land Information when the Minister and his department chose, despite 27 months’ delay, not to use their powers under section 42 of the Overseas Investment Act, which includes fines of up to $300,000, to fine Ms Wang and her company for the illegal purchase of four farms?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: My information is that in this circumstance you cannot move until that court case is dealt with, but the intention is the same. Those properties will be disposed of.
Chris Hipkins: If it is revealed that the Minister of Education did, in fact, access personal records in order to identify which schools teachers corresponding with her about class sizes worked at, will he expect her to resign; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Another one of these speculative and hypothetical questions! My suggestion is that the member needs to set down a question to the Minister of Education to get better clarification of the situation.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a letter that was sent to the chairperson of a board of trustees—with the name of the board chair and the board removed, and the teacher’s name removed—from the Minister of Education, dated 1 June 2012, responding to a letter that was sent to the Minister of Education expressing concern about class sizes. It was sent to the board, not to the individual concerned. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Surgery, Elective—Number of Patients
3. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What progress can he report on the numbers of patients receiving elective surgery?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): The latest district health board data shows that an extra 7,500 patients got elective surgery in the last 12 months, meaning 153 people got the operations they needed in the last financial year. More patients are getting hip and knee replacements, cataract surgeries, and tonsillectomies sooner, and more prompt treatment improves recovery and gets patients back to normal life sooner. This means that under this Government the number of patients receiving elective surgery each year is now 35,000 more than in the last year of the previous Government. Under National there has been a 30 percent increase in elective surgery.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What progress has been made on reducing waiting times for elective surgery?
Hon TONY RYALL: Members will be aware that the Auditor-General expressed some concern that about 10 percent of patients treated in a certain period were waiting more than 6 months on a waiting list. As a result, the Government has worked with district health boards in order to reduce the number of patients waiting longer than 6 months to get their treatment or specialist appointment. We have in the last year reduced that number by 85 percent, from 5,700 to 840 patients. This includes 690 patients on Canterbury District Health Board’s list, and if they are excluded, only 152 patients who were booked to see a specialist or get surgery are waiting more than 6 months across the country. This is a great achievement by the doctors and nurses, and the New Zealand public health service.
Poverty Reduction—Minister’s Statements
4. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by her answer to oral questions on Tuesday that “There is in New Zealand no actual poverty line” and “I do not see the measurement as a priority”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, because it is correct. There is no official measure of poverty in New Zealand. The actual work to address poverty is perhaps what is most important—things like insulating homes, making sure that we legislate for CPI increases in benefits, getting people into work, and ensuring children have access to free health care. That is the priority for this Government.
Jacinda Ardern: When she said that the Ministerial Committee on Poverty was “getting things done” instead of “just worrying about measurements”, had she read the one Treasury paper provided to the committee, which stated that “getting a New Zealand-specific sense of the dynamic poverty data could be a useful place to start.”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I certainly stand by the work—the hard work—that is going on within that ministerial committee. What we are concentrating on is the things that matter to New Zealand, and particularly to those most vulnerable children. Quite frankly, the list of the work that is happening is so long that, Mr Speaker, you would not allow me the time to actually read it out at this time.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! What I would allow the Minister to do, though, is to answer whether or not she had seen the paper that was the subject of the question.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes.
Jacinda Ardern: What information was used to generate the figure in her own green paper that “Nearly 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty.”?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think that is exactly where we say that the measure can actually be controversial and at the same level speculative. What we have done, as you have seen—you would have seen the research behind that green paper—is that we have taken it from a variety of measures and come up with 20 percent. But I would say to you that it is relative and it could be changed.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree that 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think children move in and out of poverty pretty much on a daily basis. What I do not agree with—[Interruption] Well, they do. One week they can be in poverty, then their parent can get a job or increase their income, and they are no longer in poverty. Get in the
real world! This is not “Labour Land”. This is the real world, and actually children move in and out of poverty, at times on a weekly basis. It is a fact. Read the research. What I do not agree with is that poverty and measuring it are what is most important for New Zealand children today. There is plenty of evidence that says that many, many, many parents whose children—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Paula Bennett was asked whether she agreed that 20 percent of New Zealand children are living in poverty. We have heard a diatribe but no answer to the most basic question. Does she agree, yes or no?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Well, Ministers are never required to answer yes or no to that type of question. The Minister has stated how she sees that figure, and she has argued, to some interjection from the other side, that children move in and out of poverty. It is clearly an answer to the question. It may not be the one that member was—[Interruption] Order! I am on my feet.
Hon Annette King: Sorry, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you. It may not be the best of answers—that is not for the Speaker to judge—but the House was clearly indicating what it thought of the answer. But it was in order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Now that there has been that interruption—and I apologise to my colleague for cutting in front of him again—I think it would be appropriate if the Minister started the answer again, because I think we have lost some of the flow of it. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not think that—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Now look, this point of order process will not go on too much longer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Surely the rudimentary assumption from the question is that on any given day—that is, the 20 percent—on any given day, does she agree that 20 percent are in poverty? Do we have to have these tortious explanations—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot dispute answers by way of point of order. If the member does not like the answer, ask a supplementary question. That is what question time is about. It is not about raising points of order because the answer is not liked. I am certainly prepared to entertain points of order when questions are not answered at all, and I intervened with this— [Interruption] Order! I say to the Minister do not interject. I have had enough of this today and there will not—the Minister is showing no more discipline, or less discipline, than a 3-year-old child. It will cease. I am serious.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree that today 20 percent of New Zealand children live in poverty?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon—[Interruption] Order! I have not even called the Minister. Can I encourage the Minister to settle down.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have not measured them today.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 5, Dr Russel Norman. [Interruption] Now look! I apologise to Dr Russel Norman, but the noise will—[Interruption] Order! The House will settle down. This is absolutely disgraceful. Members of the public watching this will email me this afternoon about how disgusted they are by some of the behaviour. It has happened too often this week. I have had too many such communications this week and I do not like that kind of reaction from the public.
Beneficiaries, Release of Personal Information—Minister’s Statements
5. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with the statement made by the Hon Bill English, in relation to the release of Natasha Fuller’s private details by his Social Development Minister, that, “People who enter into public debate are welcome to do so … and should provide their full information to the public”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister agree with the director of the Office of Human Rights Proceedings that Paula Bennett breached the Privacy Act when she released Natasha Fuller’s private details without her permission?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: In fact, there has not been a finding that the Minister Paula Bennett breached the complainant’s privacy.
Dr Russel Norman: Does that mean that he supports Paula Bennett’s decision to reserve the right to release other people’s private details without their consent in the future “depending on the circumstances”, and is this now Government policy?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the Prime Minister direct other Ministers to follow the Privacy Act and not release private information without the consent of the people concerned?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Ministers do, every day, follow the provisions of the Privacy Act and many others as well.
Dr Russel Norman: When Taleni Lafo entered the public debate about the state of Housing New Zealand Corporation homes, claiming hers was making her children sick, under what circumstances would he consider it appropriate for Ministers responsible for the Inland Revenue Department, social development, or housing to access her personal details about herself and her family and make them public?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The first expectation would be that the Minister investigated the circumstances and remedied the problem.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked about the circumstances under which it would be appropriate to release the information. The Minister talked about what they should do in the first instance. He did not address the question at all.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member has got a reasonable point there. I invite him to repeat his question.
Dr Russel Norman: Thank you, Mr Speaker. When Taleni Lafo entered the public debate about the state of Housing New Zealand Corporation homes, under what circumstances would the Prime Minister consider it appropriate for Ministers to access her personal details and those of her family, and make these details public?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a hypothetical question, and I am not answering a hypothetical question.
Dr Russel Norman: When sexual abuse survivors criticise Government plans to cut back ACC for sensitive claims, under what circumstances would the Prime Minister support the Minister for ACC accessing the survivors’ personal files, and releasing their private, personal details to the media?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: This is once again a highly hypothetical question. The member can go on all afternoon trying to put forward these alarming situations in a hypothetical sense. They cannot and will not be answered.
Dr Russel Norman: Are there any circumstances in which it is acceptable for a Minister of the Crown to go to the Government files and access the personal, private details of a member of the public, and release those details without consent in order to make political gain?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have to say, once again, he is asking for the answer to a question that poses hypothetical situations. What I can say is that when it comes to people like Stewart Murray Wilson, the public expect those details to be in the domain. Therefore, it is a very difficult question to answer specifically.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked for, basically, a policy guideline. What is the Prime Minister’s policy for guiding Ministers on releasing this information?
Mr SPEAKER: The member actually asked, if I recollect correctly, whether there are any circumstances under which such information might be accessed and released. In answering it, it appeared the Minister indicated that perhaps there might be some, depending on the circumstances. That seemed to be the answer the Minister gave, because he seemed to cite a situation where that might be a desirable thing to do. It is totally the Minister’s right to answer how he sees fit, but it was certainly an answer. He indicated that there may be some circumstances.
Dr Russel Norman: Does the Prime Minister accept that having a Government that releases the private information of people who oppose Government policy—information that is available only to the State—is an approach that silences dissent, chills dissent in a democratic society, and is not acceptable in a democratic and free country?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, quite clearly by the long list of examples the member has given this afternoon, that is not the case.
Television, Switch-over to Digital—Numbers in Hawke’s Bay and West Coast
6. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting: What percentage of households in Hawke’s Bay and on the West Coast of the South Island have gone digital ahead of the digital switchover in these regions on 30 September?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Broadcasting): Ninety percent of households in Hawke’s Bay and 92 percent of households on the West Coast of the South Island have already gone digital, ahead of the switch-over on 30 September. There is a high level of awareness in these regions—at least 96 percent—of the need to go digital. Although some households may choose not to go digital, I fully encourage others to make the switch well before 30 September. Nationwide, 86 percent of households have already gone digital and are enjoying more channels, better pictures, and new services.
Chris Auchinvole: What action needs to be taken by those households that want to watch TV after the digital switch-over?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: To keep watching TV, households need to go digital either by having FreeView, Sky, or TelstraClear, or by acquiring a set top box. People wanting to find out what they need to go digital should visit www.goingdigital.co.nz or call 0800 838 800. The rest of the South Island will have its digital switch-over at the end of April 2013. The digital switch-over awareness campaign will be rolled out across the rest of the South Island in the coming months.
Family Court—Family Disputes Resolution Service and Fees
7. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What assistance will be available to families unable to afford the fee of over $900 she proposes to introduce in order to access the new Family Dispute Resolution Service?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): The premise of the member’s question is incorrect. The fee for the new Family Disputes Resolution service is not over $900.
Charles Chauvel: I seek to table a document from the Minister’s office, released 2 weeks ago, indicating that the fee to access—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a press release, though?
Charles Chauvel: No, it is a Q and A issued by the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document from the Minister’s office. Is there any objection?
Charles Chauvel: To be clear—
Mr SPEAKER: I have put it to the House. I have put the leave. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask that you review the systems within your office that allowed this question to be accepted if, in fact, it was not properly authenticated.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The issue is an interesting one. Indeed, information for authenticating a question is often accepted as information in a press release, and that is often what is supplied. Just because a question is authenticated to be within the Standing Orders for it to be asked does not automatically mean that information contained in it is correct. I draw that distinction to the attention of members of the House: authentication does not of itself imply that the information contained in a question is correct. There is no way that my office can identify whether or not—it is beyond our
means to be able to ascertain whether or not information is correct. We can only authenticate it in terms of the information provided, and that is what was done here. The Minister, it appears, is refuting the accuracy of the information provided, and the Minister is at liberty to do that.
Charles Chauvel: Now that the Family Court review has been completed, will she reconsider the proposed restrictions in the Legal Assistance (Sustainability) Amendment Bill on entitlements to civil legal aid, including its requirement that the parties should meet the costs of counsel for the child?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That bill is currently being considered, and, of course, with the Family Court review and, hopefully, the shifting of many applications into Family Disputes Resolution, so that they do not need to go court, there are expected to be some more changes coming to the Legal Assistance (Sustainability) Amendment Bill.
Charles Chauvel: In addition to the 1,200 New Zealand families every year that her officials say will be deterred by the new $900 fee from using the Family Court, what modelling has been done on the deterrent effect of requiring families to pay for the cost of counsel for the child and the new legal aid entitlement threshold of an income of only $22,000 per annum?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: In fact, the advice from the officials was that about 1,200 families would be able to have their matters dealt with in the Family Disputes Resolution service—in other words, preventing them from having to go to the Family Court to get their matters resolved. I would have thought that most people would think that when we had 26,000 applications to the Family Court in the 2010-11 year and they involved only 8,000 families, that tells us that there are an awful lot of applications and repeat applications from the same families, whose matters have simply not been resolved to their satisfaction. Family Disputes Resolution will be about helping them to come to the right conclusions.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister addressed the premise of my question but not the substance of it. The substance asked her about the modelling that has been done, if any, on the deterrent effect of requiring families to pay for the cost of counsel for the child, and also being met by a new entitlement to civil—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! To save time, I will allow the member to repeat his question, because I sense that there is some validity to his point.
Charles Chauvel: Thank you. The question is: in addition to the 1,200 New Zealand families every year that her officials say will be deterred by the new access fee from using the Family Court, what modelling has been done on the deterrent effect of requiring families to pay for the costs of counsel for the child, and the new legal aid entitlement threshold of an income of only $22,000 per annum?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The member has again put statements in his question that I do not believe give the full and right context. The officials have indicated that around 1,200 families will not need to go to the Family Court, because they will be able to have their matters resolved by the Family Disputes Resolution service. I would have thought that every responsible member of Parliament would think that was a good thing.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sorry, but I am renewing my objection—
Mr SPEAKER: No. Order! On this occasion, having listened very carefully this time to both the question—the member will resume his seat—and the answer, the Minister’s answer was a perfectly valid answer. The member made a statement at the start of the question. He did not ask what modelling had been done; he made a statement about advice around deterrents to use, if I remember correctly. The Minister in her answer argued that that statement was incorrect, and she is at liberty to do that.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a further point of order?
Charles Chauvel: Yes. I am just trying to understand your ruling. I did—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The ruling is very simple to understand. If the member goes back and looks at the question asked, he made a statement before asking about modelling. He said “given”. When members do that, they run a risk. There have been some Speakers who have not allowed that. I allow that because I think it is quite important, because sometimes that “given” might be “given the Minister’s previous answer”, and I think it is good that members have listened to answers. The risk is that if a member makes a statement like that prior to asking the substance of the question, the Minister is at liberty to dispute that statement. That is what the Minister has done, and that is a perfectly fair answer.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to be very clear. I did not begin my question with “given that”. I did make a statement: I said “in addition to”. But, surely, if the Minister disputes the statement, she is entitled to do that, but she is still required to answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Not at all. Not at all. If members include statements in their questions, Ministers are perfectly at liberty to dispute the statement made, and that is the end of the answer.
Charles Chauvel: Thank you. What advice has she received about how the closure of the Manukau Counties Community Law Centre next week and the threatened closure of other community and specialist law centres around New Zealand will affect the ability of family members to get access to the advice and representation they need to resolve domestic disputes involving vulnerable children?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am fully aware that there are, in effect, better services being put in place to deal with the situation in Manukau. If the member would like, I am very happy to provide him with a briefing. It is quite a sensitive matter, but, actually, better steps are being put in place.
Charles Chauvel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked what advice the Minister had received about the effect of these closures on family law services. I do not think that was addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister said that better services will be provided. She did not clarify whether that was the advice she had received. I will give the Minister the opportunity to clarify that. The question did indeed ask what advice she had received, and I think that should be answered.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The supplementary question is a very long way from the primary, and if the member wanted to have very detailed information, he could have put it down as a primary question. But I have already offered the member a briefing that is quite sensitive, given the fact that there are some—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is going on beyond what is necessary for a point of order right now. I accept the point the Minister is making, that we have gone from Family Disputes Resolution services to the Family Court, but it is not unrelated. That is why I do not think it would be fair to rule out the member’s supplementary question. I believe that would be unfair. But the question asked what advice the Minister had received on that matter. Maybe the Minister does not have that information with her today, and that would be a perfectly fair answer, given the distance from the question asked. But I think it is unreasonable to ignore the question, and because of the time that has passed I invite Charles Chauvel to repeat his question.
Charles Chauvel: What advice has she received about how the closure of the Manukau Counties Community Law Centre next week and the potential closure of other community and specialist law centres around New Zealand will affect the ability of family members to get access to the advice and representation they need to resolve domestic disputes involving vulnerable children?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I do not have that information with me, and I invite that member to write to me about it, because, so far, I do not believe I have received any communication from him.
Charles Chauvel: In respect of civil legal aid and the Family Court, as well as access to justice in that court, what has changed since the President of the New Zealand Law Society, Jonathan Temm, said that the Legal Assistance (Sustainability) Amendment Bill and related measures were misleading about the savings they would deliver, would have an impact on child poverty, would
make savings in one place but result in cost blowouts in others, and would fail to serve New Zealand’s most vulnerable people well?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I suggest, for a start, the period of time, because there has been a lot of water gone under the bridge since Mr Temm made those comments, and he is certainly very pleased with some of the work that we have been doing on this.
Te Ururoa Flavell: If whānau do not have access to the new Family Disputes Resolution service, or any form of dispute resolution, in the event that they cannot afford the fee, what proposals will she be putting forward to ensure that whānau are able to access these services, without income limitations preventing them from being able to do so?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: That is a really good question, and the answer, in fact, is that families that cannot afford the fee, or their share of the fee, will be able to be subsidised so that they can access the service. We are very keen to get more people out of court and get these matters sorted out in a family situation.
Court Facilities, Masterton—Range of Services
8. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister for Courts: In light of the opening of the temporary courthouse in Masterton last week, what is the range of services that courts can now offer in Masterton?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts): Firstly, I would like to thank the member for his assistance in the process of identifying and securing a temporary court facility for Masterton, and also the community in the Wairarapa for the patience it has shown during the period that the courts have been operating out of the Frank Cody Lounge. I am very pleased to say that with the new, temporary courthouse operational, a full range of court services—criminal, family, civil, and tribunal—is once again being delivered in Masterton.
John Hayes: What progress is being made in repairing the original Masterton courthouse?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: Good progress is being made, and may I announce plans to fix the Masterton courthouse to bring it up to appropriate building safety standards. This work is on track, with expressions of interest having been sought in tender documents released today. It is intended that this work, costing about $3.5 million, will be completed by April next year.
Denis O’Rourke: Can the Minister confirm that all collections officers employed in the Masterton courthouse have been made redundant, effectively leaving the entire Wairarapa region without any full-time collections officers?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: I am unable to answer that question, given its divergence from the primary question. I am happy to seek that advice and to get back to him, if he wishes to ask that question again.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 9, Denis O’Rourke.
Denis O’Rourke: Can the Minister confirm that all collections officers employed in the Masterton courthouse—
Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon?
Denis O’Rourke: I understood that you were asking for the question again.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no, not at all. I was calling for question No. 9.
Denis O’Rourke: I am sorry, Mr Speaker.
Christchurch, Recovery—Plans for Christchurch Cathedral
9. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery: Was restoration of the Christchurch Cathedral included in the Christchurch Central City Recovery Plan; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): No. Provision is made in the plan for a cathedral on the present site, but there is no indication of what form it will take. That is a matter for its owners, the Anglican Church.
Denis O’Rourke: Does the Minister consider that the restoration of a building having the cultural, heritage, and social importance of the cathedral merits public investment as part of the Christchurch earthquake recovery programme?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There are many buildings that would meet those criteria, and programmes need to be developed for all of them.
Denis O’Rourke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question did not relate to buildings in general in Christchurch. It related only to that particular building. That was what the question was about. It should be answered on that basis.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! But the member’s question, if I recollect correctly, asked whether the Minister considered something. The wording of the question in that way is never going to lead to a very precise answer. The Minister answered what he considered in respect of buildings of that nature.
Women—Quality of Life
10. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Women’s Affairs: Is she satisfied with the action this Government has taken to improve the lives of women in New Zealand?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister of Women’s Affairs): Yes, and I will give the House some examples to demonstrate this, but I acknowledge that there is still more work to be done. My priorities are to increase women’s safety from violence, their participation in leadership roles—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question did not ask about the Minister’s priorities at all. All the question asked was whether she was satisfied with the action this Government has taken to improve the lives of women in New Zealand. I think the Minister answered that.
Sue Moroney: What action has she taken to address reports from Wellington Rape Crisis that a funding crisis has forced it to close down 1 day a week, when demand for its services has nearly doubled in the last year, given that she has a goal of increasing the safety of New Zealand women?
Hon JO GOODHEW: Ministerial responsibility for funding and working with Rape Crisis does not rest with me as Minister of Women’s Affairs. However, reducing sexual violence, as the member has already alluded, does remain a priority for me. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs contributes to cross-Government work in this area, and has reviewed New Zealand and international literature on sexual revictimisation, compiling an evidence base that will be used to good effect across Government work.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question specifically asked what action she had taken to address reports from the Wellington Rape Crisis centre about its predicament. She did not address that question at all.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The House will come back to order, please. I thought I fairly clearly heard the Minister say that she did not have responsibility for the funding of the Rape Crisis centre. That is a perfectly fair answer to the question asked.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As I pointed out in my question, the Minister has a goal of increasing the safety of New Zealand women. That does mean that she has responsibility.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Speaker cannot argue with a Minister over who has responsibility for certain things. I heard the Minister very clearly say that she did not have responsibility. That is the end of the matter. Does the member wish to ask a further supplementary question?
Sue Moroney: Will she, then, reinstate the comprehensive Action Plan for New Zealand Women, which her Government discontinued in 2009, and which the United Nations has requested be reinstated to improve the lives of New Zealand women? Will she take any action?
Hon JO GOODHEW: I am very happy to answer this question, because this Government has not just an action plan for women but, in fact, action plans across the Government sector that women will definitely benefit from. Can I give one very good example of an action plan that will be
very beneficial for women. The Reducing Crime action plan will reduce violent crime by 20 percent over the next 5 years.
Sue Moroney: What about the rape crisis funding?
Hon JO GOODHEW: As that member knows, women are disproportionately the victims of crime, and therefore they will benefit more than men from this. Reducing reoffending by 25 percent over the next 5 years—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think that is a reasonable answer to the question. We do not need to go on indefinitely with answers.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked whether she would reinstate the Action Plan for New Zealand Women, and I am still no further ahead in my understanding.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just ask the member, though, if the member wants a very specific answer, to please make the question short and to the point so that I can discern as Speaker whether or not it is being answered. I believe the question went on somewhat longer than that, and that is why I let the answer go on a bit longer. But the member has a further supplementary question, if she wishes to be very precise about it.
Sue Moroney: Is she the first Minister of Women’s Affairs to vote against extending paid parental leave? A straight question, Minister.
Hon JO GOODHEW: In regard to paid parental leave, the Government voted against the member’s bill. However, we still spend $157 million a year on providing the current 14 weeks of paid leave. I believe that the member cannot require a yes or no answer, and therefore I will say that the dangers of running up huge deficits through extending paid parental leave is not something—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. She was asked directly whether she was the first Minister to vote in a certain way, and she is yet to give us the answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The member may wish to reflect on the ministerial responsibility—ministerial responsibility—a member has for a member’s vote. This is question time about Ministers’ ministerial responsibilities, not about how members vote in this House. I allowed the question, but strictly, I believe, the question was not in order, so I am not going to force a Minister to give a yes or no answer on something that there is no ministerial responsibility for. Votes in this House are the votes of members.
Rape Victims, Support—Funding Cuts to Wellington Rape Crisis
11. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Minister for Social Development: Is she concerned that Wellington Rape Crisis is shutting its doors one day a week because of funding shortfalls?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, although I have just been reading a press release that says Wellington Rape Crisis thinks it is going to get that $55,000 and may not have to shut on that 5th day. But, certainly, from my perspective it is a valued and respected service for Wellington.
Jan Logie: Then why is the Government not providing enough funding so that vital services can be assured for victims?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think it is really important to say that there has not been a reduction in Government funding for this organisation, and in fact—[Interruption] Well, there has not been. I have certainly gone back and looked very, very carefully at the figures in the last couple of hours, and the information I have in front of me is that it has not had a reduction from Child, Youth and Family. What it may have got was Community Response Fund funding, which was, as we all know, time limited and came up at the end of last year, like it did for everyone. But there is no way that there has been a cut in funding. In fact, there has been an increase in its services from Child, Youth and Family.
Jan Logie: Given the national increase in demand for sexual violence services, how does the Minister plan to protect organisations from the impact of effective funding cuts by ACC and the Ministry of Social Development for adult survivors?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think that is a really fair question. What we have been doing is working with Te Ohaaki a Hine—National Network for Ending Sexual Violence Together, which certainly has been making representations on behalf of that sector to the Government. The member I am sure is fully aware of the task force and some of the recommendations from it. What we did instigate last year, which I think is quite important, is for the sector to have, at least, more say over its funding and how it is divided, and we put more funding, certainly out of my own budget, into that pool, so that it can have more say on how it is distributed. I think that ongoing funding and increases are always a challenge, and particularly in these times, but we are certainly open to continued dialogue so that we can work our way through the issues.
Jan Logie: Does the Minister think it appropriate that Rape Crisis is reliant on one-off offers of money from organisations like Hell Pizza, which is trying to assuage its guilt for giving money away—giving a free pizza—for a confession of sexual assault?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not feel I have ministerial responsibility for what Hell Pizza may or may not have been doing. What I can say to the member is it is a shame that Wellington Rape Crisis had not asked to come and see me before I saw the press releases this week, because I would have willingly seen those people and perhaps have tried to work through a way to do this, without going through the media.
Mr SPEAKER: Jan Logie—[Interruption] Order! I want to be able to hear Jan Logie.
Jan Logie: Does she believe that the current funding crisis may be due to a lack of leadership, as evidenced by the media being bounced between Ministers denying responsibility, when they were trying to get comment on funding for Wellington Rape Crisis?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, and, as I say, I have carefully gone through both phone calls and correspondence in my office in the last few weeks, and have seen nothing from Wellington Rape Crisis.
Transport Funding—Commuter Rail Network
12. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister of Transport: Which commuter rail services, if any, do not receive funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): The only rail service that may meet the definition of “commuter service” not to receive funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency is the Capital Connection.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Minister believe that as well as congestion relief, factors such as safety, economic development, environmental sustainability, and value for money must also be taken into account when apportioning funding for public transport; if so, is he aware that fewer resources are consumed and far fewer injuries and deaths occur per passenger kilometre as a result of rail travel, when compared with roads?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: All those facts are important and will be considered as my officials look at the business case for the continuation of the Capital Connection rail service, which has been provided to my office this week.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Given that the Government is prepared to borrow $2.3 billion for the Wellington road of national significance, which has a negative benefit-cost ratio, will he ensure that the Capital Connection gets the $0.0003 billion a year it needs to provide the service, which has a benefit-cost ratio of between 1.6 and 3?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government is not borrowing for the roads, as was suggested by the member.