Questions and Answers - August 21
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all of his Ministers; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes; because they are hard-working Ministers focused on building a brighter future for New Zealanders.
David Shearer: Did the Minister for Social Development abuse her power when she released the personal private details of an individual?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. The matter has been looked at by the human rights director and the case has now been settled.
David Shearer: Is he still comfortable, as he said, with his Minister releasing personal private information, as he said he was at the time, or has he changed his view?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am comfortable with the actions of the Minister, and that is why there was an agreed position by all the parties involved in this case.
David Shearer: Is he confident that the Minister is unlikely, as he put it, to release private and personal information again, as he is reported as saying, given that she said she would do it again, depending on the circumstances?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Minister has indicated to me that she is unlikely to do it again.
David Shearer: Is a Minister releasing personal private information for political gain meet the standard to which he holds Ministers to account?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If one looks at the politically motivated campaign that was run around this issue, there is at least a bit of context there. But as we can see from the director of human rights, there was no case to answer.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister for Land Information when that Minister, with plenty of time to prepare, gave the House seriously erroneous information about a major court case?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I understand it, the Minister did make an error but he also came down to the House and corrected that error. That is the normal and standard procedure, and I remember other members of this House having to make similar corrections to their answers from time to time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in the Minister for Land Information when the Minister told the House last week that the Overseas Investment Office was powerless to act while a stay was placed on four farms owned by May Wang, yet later told the New Zealand Herald that his officials were working on getting the farms sold before the case against Mrs Wang is complete?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am not going to go into the individual details, but I am confident that the Minister has carried out his duties as required by the law and in a professional manner.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You recall the Prime Minister saying that the Minister for Land Information came down and gave this House an explanation. You recall very well because you were involved in the two points of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No. Order! I am on my feet.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How about hearing the point of order!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. Order! This is question time.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I know that.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet, and the member is trying to question the answer the Prime Minister gave. The member asked how the Prime Minister has confidence, given these factors. The Prime Minister explained in his answer why he has confidence. That is the end of the answer to that question. It is in the hands of members the precision of the questions they ask. When they ask how the Prime Minister can have confidence in some Minister, there may be a whole range of reasons why the Prime Minister has confidence in a Minister. On this occasion, I believe that the Prime Minister said he thought the Minister had complied with the requirements of the law, and that is why he had confidence in him. If the members want particular answers, they have got to be very particular about the wording in the questions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You would know full well that he came down and he gave an explanation, which, you recall, we allowed to happen—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! The member is litigating an answer by way of a point of order. That is totally outside the Standing Orders of this House. The member has been here just as long as I have. He knows that the Standing Orders do not provide for that. The Prime Minister answered the member’s question. The member asked how he can have confidence in the Minister, given certain circumstances, and the Prime Minister answered why he had confidence in the Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in the Minister for Land Information on the basis that he came down to the House and gave an explanation, when that explanation demonstrably and palpably was wrong and false in every respect as to the court case’s timing? How can he have confidence on that basis?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member would really need to direct that at the Minister involved, but my understanding is that the Minister—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the second week I have asked these same simple questions, and now we are being fobbed off on the basis that I should ask someone else.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] If the member does not resume his seat while I am on my feet, he will be leaving this Chamber. I am not going to tolerate it any further. [Interruption] Order! And the member will stop interjecting. Goodness! This is Parliament. We have just had a serious debate about New Zealanders losing their lives overseas, and we carry on like spoilt brats. [Interruption] Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will leave the Chamber. [Interruption] The member will leave the Chamber, and if he carries on like that, he will be named. Rt Hon Winston Peters withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I invite you to look carefully at what just happened. You invoked people fighting for freedom, and at the same time stopped a member asking a question, which was a real one.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Speaker did not stop the member asking the question at all. The member asked his question, and the Prime Minister started answering it. The member actually was concerned about the way the Prime Minister was answering, and had the legitimate right to raise a point of order, which he did, but then he sought to use the point of order the wrong way. What he could have done in his point of order was argue that the Prime Minister was not answering the question. I would have had some sympathy for that, because the question asked how the Prime
Minister could have confidence in a Minister, and that is something the Prime Minister is responsible for. But a member has to comply with the Standing Orders, and I will not tolerate in this House the point of order process being abused like that. And I will not tolerate members just answering back from their seats. The member has an absolute right to raise a point of order, but it must be focused on what he is doing. He could have, in my view, raised a legitimate point of order because the Prime Minister was starting to answer in a way that perhaps was not appropriate. The Prime Minister is responsible for his confidence in Ministers, and therefore to answer that the question was better directed at the Minister in question was perhaps not an appropriate answer to a question asking about the Prime Minister’s confidence. But the member asking the question did not pursue the point of order correctly. He tried to litigate information instead of questioning the Prime Minister’s answer, and then proceeded to argue with the Chair. I am simply not going to tolerate that. In the last few days I have continued to receive numerous communications from members of the public who are concerned about the behaviour in their House. We need to pick up our standards a little. I do not want to turn this place into some boring place, but we need to pick up our standards a little, and that is not the way to do it.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sure you will go in the fullness of time and reflect on what has taken place this afternoon, as you always do. In looking at that tape, I would urge you to look at my answer. The member was asking me a question that really spoke to the motivations of a Minister as he was answering a question in this House last week. The point I was making to him was that I was not the person to do that, but I was about to give him an explanation of why.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I must not allow any member to even litigate their own answers. The question—
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: He cut me off.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the Prime Minister must not do that either. The member’s question was absolutely in order, because he asked why the Prime Minister has confidence in his Minister, given certain circumstances. That was absolutely within order to ask the Prime Minister that question. And the Prime Minister perhaps got his answer round the wrong order; perhaps he should have answered why he has confidence, and then suggested for the detail or matter that questions be referred to the Minister. That is where I think there could have been a legitimate point of order raised. But the issue remains that he will not litigate answers in that manner, and we will not behave in that manner in the House.
2. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Finance: What progress has the Government made in ensuring the stability of New Zealand’s financial system?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): We have made good progress. Non-performing loans held by banks have fallen to less than 2 percent of total loans. Capital adequacy has improved as New Zealand households and businesses save more and borrow less. There is strong growth in retail deposits over the past 18 months, and this reduces banks’ reliance on funding their lending from overseas. The Government and the Reserve Bank have taken a number of steps to strengthen regulation of the financial sector, which puts us in a good position to weather another global banking crisis, should it eventuate.
David Bennett: What are some of the measures the Government has taken to strengthen regulations for New Zealand’s financial system?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government picked up the work begun by the previous Government to overhaul capital market regulations, established the Financial Markets Authority, and continued to work to bring the non-bank deposit takers—that is, finance companies—under the Reserve Bank’s supervision. The Reserve Bank has introduced new core funding ratios for banks, requiring them to have 70 percent of their funding from retail deposits in long-term wholesale funding. The
Basel III capital adequacy standards will apply from 1 January 2013, requiring banks to hold higher and better quality levels of capital, making them safer and more stable.
David Bennett: What further options is the Government considering to further improve the stability of New Zealand’s financial system and to moderate credit cycles?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is working with the Reserve Bank and Treasury to assess whether further so-called macro-prudential tools could help to moderate credit cycles and build additional resilience into the system. Internationally, these tools include increased capital buffers, adjustment to risk weights by sector, and restrictions on mortgage loan-to-value ratios. The Reserve Bank actively monitors macro-prudential indicators such as credit growth each quarter. If these indicators suggest that an unsustainable credit boom is likely, the bank would recommend action. At present, the bank considers that adjustments are not required, because credit growth remains subdued.
David Bennett: What benefits could the use of these extra macro-prudential tools deliver for the New Zealand economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is as yet reasonably unclear what benefits they could offer. Based on modelling work that has been done and international experience, there is some potential that these tools might moderate rapid increases in borrowing. However, there is no silver bullet. Other policy settings also have a role to ensure we have price stability. For instance, we need to ensure that the Government gets back to surplus, and that we have sound microeconomic settings that encourage business investment and growth.
Hon David Parker: If economic settings are important, how can the long-term financial stability of a financial system be ensured when 4,337 people a month are departing for Australia permanently?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The factors that I have outlined in answer to these questions are the factors that are generally considered, I think rightly so, as those that are important to financial stability, and financial stability is an important factor for growth. Those countries that have not had it—that have had unstable financial systems—have got themselves in a real mess.
Hon David Parker: How can the Minister be so sanguine about stability in the financial system when underlying economic growth is weak, jobs are not being created, the New Zealand economy is being hollowed out, and, as a result, record numbers of New Zealanders are leaving for Australia—now 162,000 people since he took office?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the member is mainly incorrect. In fact, by international standards we have one of the most stable financial systems. We have moderate growth and new jobs are being created, in contrast to most developed economies, which continue to shrink. That is why the Government is publishing its Business Growth Agenda in order to work with businesses to ensure we build confidence, build investment, create jobs, and earn higher incomes.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 3 cannot now be asked, because under Standing Order 86(1) no other member may ask a question of a member ordered from the House. So we move on to question No. 4. I call Dr Russel Norman.
ANDREW WILLIAMS (NZ First): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was advised that another member can, in fact, deliver a question on behalf of that member.
Mr SPEAKER: I simply draw the member’s attention to Standing Order 86(1), which says: “no other member may ask a question on that member’s behalf.” Question No. 4. I call Dr Russel Norman.
BARBARA STEWART (NZ First): I seek leave for Andrew Williams to ask the question, which originally was down to be asked by the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection. Question No. 4. I call Dr Russel Norman. [Interruption] Order! I will not tolerate that, either.
Afghanistan, Bamian—Deployment of Provincial Reconstruction Team
4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Will he recommit the provincial reconstruction team to Bamian province in Afghanistan when the current deployment ends in October; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I have been clear that the withdrawal of the provincial reconstruction team from Bamian will take place in 2013. We are continuing to work on dates for that, although it is likely to be around April. If the member is asking whether the present rotation will be replaced with another when the rotation ends, then the answer is yes. However, I will not be commenting on or confirming the specific timing of the rotation changes, as is standard practice.
Dr Russel Norman: What work has the Government been doing to develop an exit strategy for the provincial reconstruction team, given that President Hamid Karzai in early 2011 called for the withdrawal of the provincial reconstruction teams throughout Afghanistan?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government has been working with the Chief of Defence Force and the military on the withdrawal programme. As you are aware, in terms of Bamian, we are one of the first provincial reconstruction teams to transition out. By transitioning out in around about April 2013, we will be in line with other, similar provincial reconstruction teams. We are now working on making sure that the exit of our 145-plus personnel in Bamian Province is done in the safest way possible for those particular men and women.
Dr Russel Norman: Has the number of troops stationed in Bamian increased or decreased since 2010, when the then defence Minister, Wayne Mapp, signalled that we would begin to draw down the provincial reconstruction team from September 2011?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I simply do not have those numbers to hand. I am happy to go and get those numbers. I can give them to the member.
Dr Russel Norman: Will the current provincial reconstruction team deployment all be withdrawn in the rotation in October, or whenever it happens?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I think the member needs to make sure he gets his terminology correct. The deployment is the commitment of our forces to Afghanistan. The rotation is the period of each of the groups that goes through. If the question is whether all of them will be replaced, that is an answer that only the Chief of Defence Force can give. That is a matter for him to decide—who comes out and who stays in.
Dr Russel Norman: So if we assume that the vast bulk of the current provincial reconstruction team can be withdrawn in October, or whatever the date is that the Government plans to do the rotation, is it necessary to send in another deployment to replace them?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The advice I have had from the Chief of Defence Force is yes.
Dr Russel Norman: What defence equipment in Afghanistan is so vital or difficult to remove that it will take until 2013 to pack it up?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, there are a number of issues there. I mean, firstly, we have three bases in operation in Afghanistan. We have significant bases that need to remove equipment that, for a variety of reasons, it is not possible or sensible for us to leave in Afghanistan. We also deal with issues around weather. The member will be aware that the weather closes in when the snows come in November, and that continues for a period of time. So, overall, on the best advice we have had, the most probable, and likely, and sensible date is April 2013.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister saying that we are staying in Afghanistan past the October, or thereabouts, rotation, because of the logistical reasons or because of the commitments we have made to the International Security Assistance Force?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is because of a number of reasons. Firstly, we have been on a transition path that is part of an overall commitment made by all International Security Assistance Force and NATO countries as they exit Afghanistan. So our commitments are partly for those reasons. Secondly, it is because of logistical reasons. Thirdly, it is allowing us to finish some of the humanitarian aid efforts that, as we have been pointing out today, have been hugely successful. So it is a combination of all these things. I think that if we take a step back, what we can say is that we have been there, as the provincial reconstruction team, since 2003. We all in this House and across New Zealand mourn the loss of those 10 soldiers and we pay tribute to their service, but I think we can also look with some great pride at the work that they have achieved in those last 8 years or 9 years, and I do not think we would either honour the loss of those individuals or mark properly the contribution that New Zealand has made by making a rushed exit for the door. I think we should do that in a sensible, orderly, and professional way, as has been the basis of all of our efforts in Afghanistan since Helen Clark sent the SAS there in 2001 and the provincial reconstruction team in 2003.
Dr Russel Norman: Without dishonouring those who have fallen in Afghanistan, does the Government understand that reducing the risk to the remaining New Zealand forces over there could help reduce the risk of any further loss of life, and, hence, will the Government be pulling out of the north-east part of the province, which seems to be the most dangerous part of the deployment?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: First, let me give the member an assurance that the Government works with the military to make sure that we provide the most safe and secure environment as we possibly can in Afghanistan, but put it in the context of the fact that this is a war zone. So the Government makes sure that the resources are there, that the support is there, we are constantly reviewing what takes place there, and we do everything we can to provide security and safety, but, unfortunately, we are dealing with a quite sophisticated insurgent group, which has been very active in recent times. So, in terms of that, the member can take some confidence that we are doing those things. In terms of the withdrawal of the provincial reconstruction team, that will be a staged process, for a variety of different reasons. But at this point I am not in a position to detail exactly the timing of the different stages as we pack up various different camps and bases that we have.
David Shearer: Will the Prime Minister accept the Labour Party’s support for an orderly transition of the forces out of Afghanistan as promptly as possible?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am more than happy to give the member a briefing on all the things that are taking place, the reasons for why we are going through this process, and why it is the belief of the Chief of Defence Force and the military that the programme that we are on to withdraw is the right one. I think, to be frank, we have worked in a spirit of cooperation for a very long period of time with the Labour Party on this issue, as I think National did in Opposition, and we are more than happy to inform the member of the rationale for what is happening and why we are doing what we are doing. Some of that information is confidential and we cannot put it in the public domain, but we respect the member’s word and he would, obviously, appreciate that information. If he and the Opposition defence spokesman want to have a briefing, then I am happy to have that arranged by the Chief of Defence Force.
Dr Russel Norman: Has his Government changed the mandate of the provincial reconstruction team, given that when they were first deployed under the Helen Clark Government in 2003, the then defence Minister, Mark Burton, stated very clearly that they were not a “combat unit”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have the original mandate that the member speaks of to hand, so I cannot comment about whether there are differences from those ones or the ones that my Government has rolled over as each rotation has gone through. But what I can say is that the provincial reconstruction team does a variety of different tasks in Bamian, and for the most part those have been either engagement with and working with the local community, working on areas of development, but there has always been an element of providing security for our humanitarian
aid efforts, so that those workers can carry on the great works that we have seen. As I noted today, I think we can be very proud of some of those efforts. We now have a situation where half of all primary school children who go to school in Bamian are girls; there is a multi-faculty institution, Bamian University, with 2,700 people there, in operation; and the mortality rate for children under 5 has almost halved. So I think the men and women of whom there are a very large number that have now served in that provincial reconstruction team since 2003 deserve the congratulations of this country for the efforts and the work that they have done, and I hope that in the years to come it will bear fruit for the people of Bamian.
Social Development, Minister—Statements
5. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all of her statements?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): Yes, although I do have a tendency to get a little over-exuberant at times, as, Mr Speaker, you witnessed last week.
Jacinda Ardern: Has she shared with the Prime Minister her statement, as quoted in the media, that she could in future release the personal details of those who receive Government support “depending on the circumstances”; if so, what was his response?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I spoke to the Prime Minister on Sunday on a range of issues to do with my portfolio, and it came up in that conversation. He sort of asked me to catch him up on what had been happening last week, and I said to him that I have not disclosed any further information in the last 3 years, I do not intend on doing it next week, and I do not intend on doing it next month, but I cannot give a guarantee around every circumstance. It is what I said last week, it is what I said on Sunday to him, and it is what I still say today.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she agree with the Prime Minister’s position, as outlined to the media, that her release of the private information of two individuals on Government support was wrong?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have actually read the Prime Minister’s transcript from yesterday and that is not what he said.
Jacinda Ardern: Did the Prime Minister ask her not to share the private information of people on Government support in the future?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Absolutely not.
Mr SPEAKER: I call Jacinda Ardern—[Interruption] Order! I want to hear Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern: Did the Prime Minister express to her in their discussion that he agreed with her actions in releasing the information of two individuals on Government support?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think I have reiterated to the best of my ability the conversation I had with the Prime Minister on Sunday. I understand that those members are trying to get some great conspiracy theory, but it was quite straightforward. We were merely having quite a catch-up. He asked me to tell him about—
Hon David Cunliffe: He just ticked you off.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, I never got a telling off. I know what a telling off looks like after last week, and it certainly was nothing like that. It was actually quite clear that we were having a conversation about what was going on. I said to him, as I am happy to reiterate to you, that I have not disclosed information in the last 3 years since then. I do not intend on doing it next week. I do not intend on doing it next month. I just cannot give every permutation of circumstances that might come up and give an absolute guarantee that nothing might happen. He simply accepted that and, I think, reiterated that yesterday at his press conference.
Jacinda Ardern: During her catch-up with the Prime Minister did he agree with her that children move in and out of poverty on a daily basis?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Like me, the Prime Minister would have seen the Treasury report that does a descriptive analysis of income and deprivation. He would have seen that from 2002 to 2009 only 24 percent of people stayed in the lowest income deprivation—that 76 percent actually moved.
I can quote from it if it would help the member: “The mobility is both up and down, though there is more for the bottom deciles than the top deciles—only 24% of those in the bottom decile in 2002 were also there in 2009,” showing that more than 75 percent actually move around.
Dr Russel Norman: Does she accept that her statement that she reserves the right to go to the files and release the private information of people who disagree with her can have a chilling effect on free speech in a democratic society?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: See, I do not think that information was disclosed simply because someone disagreed with me. I am not going to reiterate yet again what happened at that point, but by no means is that my interpretation. In my letter I made the point that people should be free to speak in this country and that I support democracy. I stand by that with every inch of what I have got.
Jacinda Ardern: Can she confirm that the Treasury report she has quoted indicated movement between low income and poverty on a daily or a yearly basis?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I think it is quite clear that people move, whether it be on a particular day or on an annual basis. What you have is mobility of income. I think what the member does not get is that we on this side are not deciding whether we dream up another measure of poverty, whether it is 10 percent or 20 percent—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very direct question about the specific Treasury report from which the Minister was quoting. We have not had even an attempt to respond to that yet.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, with respect, I believe the Minister did answer it. She argued that the Treasury report indicates that children can move on a given day, over a year, or whatever. That is how the Minister answered the question. The question asked whether the report showed children could move on a daily basis, and it seems to be the Minister’s interpretation from her answer that she believes it does.
Hon Trevor Mallard: The question was about the Treasury report and the response was either—I cannot remember her words—“I believe” or “we believe”. It had nothing to do with what was in the report.
Mr SPEAKER: Oh, no, no. The Minister, if I recollect correctly, did refer to the Treasury report in answering the question. It is a matter, it would seem, of interpretation of the Treasury report. I cannot judge that, but I have to take the Minister at her word. She said the Treasury report indicates children moving on different bases. It could be moving on any day or over the course of a year, and I cannot—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was quoting from a report. So that we can confirm it is the same report we have, I request that it be tabled.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would like to finish my answer.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think the Minister probably answered sufficiently, and I have got to ask her whether she was quoting from an official document.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am happy to—
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it is a matter of whether the Minister was quoting from an official document. It has been requested that it be tabled, and it has to be if it is an official document.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I can table it.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is confirming she will table it. I thank the Minister. Document laid on the Table of the House.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I seek leave to table not just that Treasury report, which I am happy to do, but also the Dynamics of Income and Deprivation in New Zealand, 2002-2009. This is a descriptive analysis. This is actually the information from Otago University that Treasury has got the information from.
Mr SPEAKER: For the second document—leave is required to table the second document.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A Minister can table a document at any time.
Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon. Order! I need to seek advice on this, because my understanding is not consistent with that. I apologise to the member, but, in fact, Ministers cannot automatically table documents after 1 p.m. on any given sitting day. The Minister is required to table the first document, the Treasury document, because that was an official document, and another member of the House sought that that be tabled. So the Minister is required to table that one. With regard to the second document the Minister mentioned, the one from the university—research work—leave needs to be sought to table that one.
Hon Trevor Mallard: It’s on the internet.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I will put it to the House. Is there any objection? There is objection on the second document. There is objection.
Business Research and Development—Government Initiatives
6. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Science and Innovation: What announcements has he made regarding the Government’s work to boost innovation?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Science and Innovation): This morning, alongside the Prime Minister and the Minister for Communications and Information Technology, I released the Building Innovation progress report, which is the second of six reports being released by the Government detailing and updating our business growth agenda. The Building Innovation report outlines more than 50 current and new Government initiatives across the innovation space. Specific measures include further information on the Advanced Technology Institute, including that it will be named after the late Sir Paul Callaghan; the launching of National Science Challenges, asking the public to assist us to identify New Zealand’s greatest challenges, and working with researchers to achieve innovative solutions; encouraging the development of innovation parks, which involves clustering research providers with innovative private sector firms and start-ups to take advantage of having highly skilled scientists and innovators working in close proximity; and developing a small advanced economies initiative with similar sized and advanced nations to focus on how we can use science and innovation to position for economic growth.
Colin King: How will the Government assist business to boost research and development?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government has set an ambitious target to increase private sector research and development funding—double from 0.54 percent to more than 1 percent. To help business achieve these goals, we have greatly increased the TechNZ co-funding for businesses to $115 million per year in 2012-13. We have committed to the Primary Growth Partnership combining Government and industry investment worth $600 million, of which around half comes from the Government. We have committed $166 million over the next 4 years to develop the Advanced Technology Institute. We have a project working to ensure we obtain the maximum leverage from Government funding in terms of increased firm research and development. And we are also examining ways to improve the incubator model to ensure more start-ups have the opportunity to commercialise their ideas and launch products.
Economic Development, Minister—Statements
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): Does he stand by the export pamphlet released last, which mentioned competitive—
Mr SPEAKER: I beg your pardon. Is this a supplementary question to question No. 6 or is it the primary question No. 7?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I apologise to the House.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 7, the Hon David Cunliffe.
7. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Economic
Development: Does he stand by all his recent statements?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): First, can I say to the member, welcome back.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not acceptable. The Minister should not refer to the absence of any member from the House and under the particular circumstances it was doubly unacceptable.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, I do stand by all of my recent statements, particularly my statement in the House last week that we have always said that if he had a shave, that meant the challenge was on.
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Trevor Mallard. [Interruption] Order!
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have already tossed somebody out for repeat offences in the House today. That Minister was warned by you last week. He was warned part-way through that first response. I invite you to consider whether this Minister is upholding the standards that you require of others in the House. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The point of order is a totally reasonable point of order in that the primary question asked was simply: “Does the Minister for Economic Development stand by all his recent statements?”. There is no political provocation in that question whatsoever and therefore I ask the Minister to stand and withdraw his facetious comment at the end and apologise to the House for having made it. [Interruption] I have required the Minister to stand, withdraw, and apologise, and that will happen before I hear any other points of order. It is the last comment I want withdrawn and apologised for, because it was totally unnecessary and facetious.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I hear the member, I hope the Minister was actually genuine in withdrawing and apologising—[Interruption] Order! The alternative will be, if this carries on further, that the Minister will be leaving the House just as the other member did—
Hon Member: How is that possible?
Mr SPEAKER: —because questions that are straight questions must be dealt with, with integrity. If there is a political loading in a question or statements that have political connotations, then Ministers are perfectly at liberty to focus in on those and respond to them. But this primary question had none of that and that is why I am taking the matter seriously.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that you have made strong rulings this afternoon and are wanting to take a firm line on a certain type of response and, indeed, as we have seen, with a certain type of question. However, I would point out that the question does ask: “Does he stand by all his recent statements?”. I do not think it is unreasonable then for him to refer to one of his more controversial recent statements, which he could reasonably expect the Opposition to be upset about.
Mr SPEAKER: I hear what the member has said and we will not take this any further right now. There is some merit in the point of order the Leader of the House has raised. It is one of the risks around asking such a question: “Does the Minister stand by all their recent statements?”. But today I do not resile from the action I have taken, because in recent times there has been too much needling going on when the question does not provoke it. But I do accept the point that the Leader of the House has made—that where such a question is asked, there are risks, but I want to leave it at that today.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand you want to leave it at that, but I think it would be unfortunate if it was left that way. The Minister is responsible for ministerial statements. He has no responsibility for whether my colleague shaves or not.
Mr SPEAKER: We are going to leave it here, and we are not going to take it any further. But of course the question did not actually ask about his ministerial statements, although I do accept the point that the member is making—that the Minister should be responsible only for statements he makes as a Minister. But I think the exchange has been an interesting one, because loose questions are always a little more dangerous. It is very difficult for the Speaker where questions ask: “Does a
Minister stand by all their statements?”. It is always a difficult question to deal with, but I want to avoid this. Where there is no political provocation in a question, I want Ministers to resist the temptation to make political comments in their answers, because I am confident they will get the opportunity if they hold their breath and wait for the appropriate supplementary question.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister stand by the export document that he released last week, which mentioned “competitive advantage” and “science” only once each, yet cited “brand” 21 times and “story” 25 times?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, of course I do. If the member would like to take the two documents together—the one released today and the one released last week—and perhaps add up all the words and divide them by the number of times they say “science”, I think he will come to a different answer.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does he stand by his use of the phrase “voodoo economics”, when it was originally used by George Bush Snr to describe exchange rate policies that the Minister himself now describes as orthodox?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure the member is correct, but I would describe the term “voodoo economics” as something that cannot possibly occur or perhaps selling something that other people might describe as, for example, a snake oil solution. I do stand by my comment in that regard.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister stand by the innovation document issued this morning, which does not even aspire to lift Government research and development investment to one-third of the level of that of Finland; and can he assure the House that if the Government joins its proposed small countries group with Finland, he will not send Mr Brownlee as a goodwill ambassador?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This must be the time that you were referring to. Can I say to the member that I am confident that the target in the paper this morning is a correct target. Can I also say that I note that the two co-leaders of the Labour Party, Mr Shearer and Mr Cunliffe, have released a document today saying that they would ask us to support Finland more. Can I say that we will be working with all small countries—
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Generous as it may be of the Minister to advertise the Opposition’s—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet. It is lucky that I cannot see the Minister in the back row there. I said Ministers only need hold their breath and a question will come where they can have a lot of licence, and that question gave the Minister a lot of licence. Clearly, I could have ruled it out, but I did not because it gives the Minister the chance to respond.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why, if the Minister stands by his innovation pamphlet, did he simply reannounce initiatives already under way or, in the case of seven of the 49 initiatives, matters already completed; why did he rely on Business New Zealand to post a draft on its website before the document was actually launched; and why did he rush out invitations to its launch as late as Friday in a desperate attempt to cover up for the failure of last week’s export brochure?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I appreciate the member has obviously got not much to do since he has come back from holiday, but the point I would make is that—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Oh, that’s unnecessary.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —well, actually, the comments made by the member were reasonably unnecessary. But the point I would make is that this is a progress report, so it outlines a number of initiatives that are new, a number of initiatives that are ongoing, and, yes, a few initiatives that have finished, to lay out for the business sector, which I must say was very supportive of the report this morning of what is actually more than a dozen new items. Some that have recently started include the investment in science and engineering, the investment in increasing the Performance-based Research Fund, and some from as recently as November of last year. I think the member is pointing out that the Government has a very busy and very full science and innovation agenda.
Health Targets—Cancer Treatment
8. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Health: What progress can he report on improvements to cancer services?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I can report that the Government will invest $16 million over the next 4 years to ensure that every district health board can provide its patients with the care of dedicated cancer coordination nurses. All up, 40 dedicated cancer coordination nurses will be working in health boards throughout the country by the end of the year. These specialist nurses will act as a single point of contact so that patients and their families no longer have to deal with navigating through multiple people from different parts of the health service throughout their treatment. It is expected that the district health boards will begin advertising vacancies for these roles in the next couple of months.
Dr Jackie Blue: What evidence is there that this money will make a difference?
Hon TONY RYALL: The concept is modelled on the successful work of a number of nurses around New Zealand, particularly the cancer clinical specialists at the Canterbury District Health Board, and in the New South Wales health service, which is found to have a high impact on the services for cancer patients. Incredibly, during a cancer patient’s treatment they can deal with up to 28 different doctors and many more different nurses. These dedicated cancer coordination nurses will coordinate and improve the quality of care for patients and provide them with a personal point of contact for information and support. This was part of the $33 million Budget announcement in respect of cancer made a few months ago by the Prime Minister.
Water Rights—Meetings with Iwi
9. HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi
Negotiations: Is the Government holding meetings with iwi over water rights issues before the Waitangi Tribunal reports back on the Māori Council’s water claim on Friday; if so, with which iwi?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Yes. The Government has held and is holding meetings with iwi over water rights issues. These meetings have occurred throughout our time in Government. I would be happy to name the iwi for the benefit of the member, but the extent of the Government’s engagement is such that I would have to read out a list of virtually all iwi with whom I have been meeting since November 2008.
Hone Harawira: Does the Government accept the proposition that the Māori interest in water as presented by a majority of the iwi and hapū claimants to the tribunal is not simply a commercial interest that can be settled with a shareholding or a purchase order, but is a deeper interest that includes customary title and guardianship of the special resource; and how would that understanding underpin the Government’s discussions with iwi?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, as I said, I have been meeting with many iwi over the years since I have been the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations. Of course this Government has said, and continues to say, that it recognises that iwi have rights and interests in water. Take, for example, the recent joint planning committee that has been established in the Hawke’s Bay and will be rolled out as there are settlements with other iwi in the Hawke’s Bay, which recognises, for example, Ngāti Pāhauwera’s rights and interests in the Mōhaka River.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Can he confirm that the Māori Party Ministers have arranged meetings with senior Government Ministers for representatives of the claimant iwi, representatives of the New Zealand Māori Council, and iwi leaders; and what have been the responses to the hui?
Hon Trevor Mallard: Where’s the responsibility for that?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I have no responsibility for that, is the answer to Mr Mallard, but I am happy to answer it. I have been present at meetings for which I have had responsibility, and I can confirm that Māori Party Ministers have indeed in recent times organised those meetings. My impression has been that the response has been very positive. They have
welcomed the opportunity to engage with Government Ministers on these issues, but, as I have said, they are not the only meetings that have been held on these issues, and I confirm that since November 2008 I have been holding meetings along those lines.
Hone Harawira: Does the Government accept that after opposing the Māori Council’s water rights claim being heard under urgency by the tribunal, then discounting the authority of the tribunal, then downplaying the importance of the claim, and then calling for the tribunal to report earlier than it would have done if the Government had not opposed the application for urgency in the first place, any secret meetings held in the week before the tribunal releases its interim report are likely to be viewed as desperate attempts by the Government to sidestep a likely ruling by the tribunal to halt the asset sales programme until the Māori interest in water has been settled; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I take issue with what the member said about there being secret meetings. These are not secret meetings; they are very open meetings. They have been held, and continue to be held, as I have said now for the third time, since November 2008, because this Government is interested and anxious to recognise legitimate rights and interests in water. It wants to treat iwi as Treaty partners who are deserving of respect—
Hone Harawira: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was not a historical one. It was specifically about meetings being held this week—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hone Harawira: —not since 2008.
Mr SPEAKER: That is correct, and the member referred to secret meetings being held this week—
Hone Harawira: This week.
Mr SPEAKER: —this week—and the Minister in answering argued that he is not holding any secret meetings this week at all and that the meetings are all open. So he answered the member’s question by pointing out that he is wrong and that no secret meetings are being held. They are all open meetings.
Hone Harawira: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If they are open, does that mean I can attend, too?
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order, and that will be sufficient of that.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Mr Speaker, I have not finished.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the question has been answered and that is the end.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have not finished.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the Minister has given sufficient answer to the question.
Andrew Williams: What reports has the Minister received on lake levels of Lake Taupō, consent issues for water use from Lake Taupō, or any other water rights information for Lake Taupō that may have implications for the Government’s sale of Mighty River Power, and, if he has not received any such reports, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as the issue over the water rights in Lake Taupō relate to iwi, the Minister is certainly entitled to answer it, but the question did not relate that well to the primary question. But it presumably relates to iwi submissions, so the Hon Chris Finlayson may answer.
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I assume it relates to the interests that Ngāti Tūwharetoa claim in Lake Taupō. They have maintained those particular interests for a number of years, and those discussions with that particular iwi continue.
Welfare Reforms—Initiatives Targeting At-risk Young People
10. Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister for Social
Development: How is the Government better supporting young people who are either on a benefit or not engaged in education, training or employment?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): This week marks the start of the Government’s comprehensive youth services for disengaged young people. More than $148 million in wraparound support services will help young people on benefit off benefit, and those at risk of going on benefit, as well. Each young person will be allocated a service provider, who will manage their benefit payments, provide mentoring support, have an unwavering emphasis on education and training, and, for those with children, also help them with parenting courses.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: How have these services been targeted to ensure they reach those young people who are most at risk of long-term welfare dependency?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The new youth services are for 16 and 17-year-olds and 16 to 18- year-old teen parents on benefit, and will also target up to 14,000 teenagers aged 16 and 17 who are not in education, employment, or training. We have targeted these young people as for the first time we actually know who is going on benefit and the kinds of services we need so that we can put them on a different path in life.
Tracey Martin: Does the Minister accept that the contract to address the numbers of young people not in education, employment, or training north of Auckland, all the way to Te Hana, going to an out-of-area provider has now significantly disadvantaged and competes with successful community providers previously working with these young people, such as the Springboard community trust of Snells Beach and the Men and Family Centre of Helensville; if so, what will she do to address this consequence?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: What I have asked the department to do is have conversations with these service providers, of which there are 42 throughout the country, to see where they can partner with other providers in other areas. So they are saying that they are talking to other providers to see that. There are also, as has been identified by the Opposition quite often, kids who are 18 years and older who are needing services, and, actually, Springboard and others like it are addressing the needs of those young people, as well. So I do think we can cover it, and I do not think it needs to be to the detriment of the services the member mentions.
Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: What role would the community youth service providers have?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have selected actually 43. I think I said 42 in answer to the member, so I just correct that to 43 community organisations. As I say, they are based throughout New Zealand. At full implementation they will be working with around 17,000 young people. Each provider has been assigned a geographical area to work within, and a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Social Development will allow that kind of information sharing, which is already under way and making a difference.
Schools, Class Sizes—Correspondence
11. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Did she send any of her responses to correspondence she received expressing concern about the Government’s plan to increase class sizes to the correspondents’ employers; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes. It is my practice when I receive a letter from a professional on behalf of a school that I reply to the leadership and governance of that school, as well as to the person who wrote the letter representing it. Boards and principals are responsible for their schools and for the representation of their schools’ views.
Chris Hipkins: Did she send any replies to a school board of trustees where the individual writing to her had identified themselves as a teacher but not identified the school they were employed by?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: No.
Chris Hipkins: I seek leave to table a letter from a teacher in Tauranga, dated 5 April 2012, headed up “Proposed teacher staffing cuts”. I have removed their home address and their name, but all other details remain there, and the school is not identified in the letter.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Leave is sought to table that document, and then I will hear the Minister’s point of order. Leave is sought to table the document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understood the question to be asking me whether I had written to their board. I clearly wrote to them at their home—he is tabling one that has a home address.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not strictly a point of order. I realise the Minister is trying to be helpful, though.
Chris Hipkins: Did the Minister write to this correspondent, whose letter I have just tabled, at their home address and not send a letter to that school’s board of trustees?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: In the absence of prescience as to whom that letter is from, I am unable to answer that.
Chris Hipkins: Did any of the people involved in preparing her replies to the letters she received from teachers expressing concern about her Government’s plan to increase class sizes access any Government database or records system to identify the school that the teacher worked at?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: No. I do not have access to private information about teachers and their schools; nor have I asked for such information from my office staff or from staff at the ministry. I have absolute confidence that none of my staff or staff from the ministry would have accessed such information of their own accord. It is distressing to them for the member to assert otherwise.
Chris Hipkins: If a parent sends her a letter about their child’s education using a work email account, does she send the response to that correspondent’s employer; if not, how does she make a distinction between them and a teacher?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I make it on the basis of representation. When a teacher writes to me above their position and their school address, I respond accordingly.
Chris Hipkins: Can the Minister confirm for the House that in no instance where a teacher wrote from a private email address or using their private home address did she send the response to that letter to the school board of trustees that employs that teacher?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I reiterate: I do not have access to private information about teachers and their schools. I have not sought that information. I have written back to the person, in their official capacity, to the address from which they have sent the letter. If they have written in a private capacity and written from a private address, they have been responded to accordingly.
12. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for the Community and
Voluntary Sector: What recent progress has been made on the community-led development scheme?
Hon JO GOODHEW (Minister for Senior Citizens): A significant milestone has been achieved. All five communities in the scheme recently signed funding agreements, for a combined total of nearly $1.7 million. They are now ready to start implementing their community plans. The five communities are Whirinaki, Mount Roskill, Mangakino, Cannons Creek, and North East Valley, in Dunedin. The community plans were developed and agreed by each community. They set out their vision and how they will carry out their community projects and activities.
Louise Upston: What are the benefits of the community-led approach?
Hon JO GOODHEW: The Government is supporting the five communities to identify their own priorities and develop their own solutions. The people in the communities are able to participate fully, so the scheme also helps build leadership skills and community independence.