Questions and Answers - December 12
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: What progress has the Government made with its economic programme in 2012?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Government is making very good progress in the face of very significant ongoing global economic challenges. The Government was re-elected with a clear plan to build a faster-growing economy that can encourage businesses to invest and grow. We are focused on four main priorities: responsibly manage the Government’s finances so we can return to surplus and repay debt, push ahead with a wide-ranging programme of microeconomic reform to create a more productive and competitive economy, drive better results and better value from public services, and support the rebuild of our second-largest city after its earthquakes. New Zealanders can be reassured that this Government is absolutely focused on creating more opportunities to grow the economy, unlike the Greens-Labour Opposition, which is constantly—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Todd McClay: What progress is the Government making with responsibly managing its finances so it can return to surplus, start repaying debt, and build a buffer against future shocks?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Once again, the Government is making very good progress. On coming into office in late 2008 the Government was presented with forecasts showing permanent structural deficits and ever-increasing Government debt. This Government has worked hard to turn that situation round by reining in new spending and reprioritising existing spending to deliver better results, and that is all despite the extra costs that have come from the Canterbury earthquakes. The Crown’s operating deficit before gains and losses was $9.2 billion in the year ended June 2012— half of the $18.4 billion in the previous year—and the latest forecast will be included in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update next Tuesday. The Government has set a target of returning to surplus in 2014-15. That is very important so that we can reduce debt to more prudent levels and build resilience to future shocks.
Todd McClay: What approach is the Government taking in building a more productive and competitive economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is working aggressively to do everything to give businesses the confidence to invest, grow, and create jobs. The Government has taken a wide range of measures to ensure economic growth is built on a solid foundation of exports, savings, and productive investment. The programme that we are undertaking is set out in the Business Growth Agenda, which contains more than 250 initiatives for expanding our export markets, encouraging innovation, developing skills, building infrastructure, improving our natural resource use, and
growing capital markets. Together they are a comprehensive agenda of microeconomic reform, which will support jobs and assist businesses to become more internationally competitive.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the honourable member, the House is unacceptably noisy. But I remind Ministers that if they go on with very long answers—[Interruption] Order! If they go on with very long answers the House will tend to get restive.
Todd McClay: What reports has he received on proposals that would put the New Zealand economy at risk, cost thousands of jobs, and increase the country’s vulnerability to overseas lenders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have seen many such proposals this year. They include saying no to responsible mining, saying no to making movies in this country, saying no to seabed exploration for oil and gas, saying no to a convention centre in Auckland, saying no to speeding up the Resource Management Act, saying no to the Government’s multibillion-dollar investment in roads and other infrastructure, saying yes to a capital gains tax and more costs on business, saying yes to printing money, and saying yes to constantly talking down the New Zealand economy. That economic prescription would cost thousands of jobs. It is called voodoo economics, and it is what the Green- Labour Opposition wants for New Zealand.
Hon David Parker: After 4 years as Minister of Finance, what does the Minister of Finance regard as his greatest failure: unemployment at its highest in 13 years, income inequality at its highest recorded level, 54,000 people leaving for Australia in the past year, 270,000 children living in poverty, a current account deficit forecast by the IMF to be the worst in the developed world, a widening wage gap with Australia, negative household savings, or external non-Government debt at 100 percent of GDP? I will accept the answer: “All of the above.”
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member has inadvertently laid out exactly why the Labour Party is not trusted to be the Government of New Zealand. Most of the stuff he said was completely wrong and most of the stuff he said was actually worse under the Labour Government, including the balance of payments. And he has the cheek to sit there and pretend the global financial crisis did not happen and that the Government has not faced the Christchurch earthquakes. As long as he stays on “Planet Labour”, he will stay over there on “Planet Opposition Benches”.
Mr SPEAKER: I know it is the last day of class, but the House is just too noisy. It is no particular member’s fault. There is no way I could stop a lengthy question, because we have had a lot of lengthy answers. What I ask members to be mindful of is that we should not have too long questions and we should not have too long answers, and we just need to be a little more reasonable with interjections.
2. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his promise to New Zealanders that “I expect high standards from my Ministers … if they don’t meet the standards I set then obviously I will take action if necessary”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Has Bill English, the Minister of Finance, met the standards that he sets given that the number of unemployed New Zealanders has risen by 78,000 under his watch?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. As the Associate Minister of Finance has just pointed out, we are dealing with a global financial crisis, we have created 65,000 jobs over the last 3 years, and the New Zealand economy is more productive.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he consider it acceptable that unemployment is rising in New Zealand while it is falling in our major trading partners, and does that not point to a failed economic policy from him and his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the last part, no, and in relation to the first part, in many of those countries the unemployment rate started at a lot higher level. On that basis, if you go and have
a look at what happens in terms of the unemployment benefit, this is a Government that has got 49,000 people on an unemployment benefit—a lot lower. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I want to hear this question.
Dr Russel Norman: Does it not come down to this: Bill English has failed to create the conditions that lead to job growth, people are losing jobs here while the job market is improving in other countries, and it is only record immigration to Australia that is preventing unemployment reaching even higher levels?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Dr Russel Norman: How did his education Minister meet his high standards when she unlawfully decided to close Salisbury School for disabled girls?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What is true is that the courts have ruled that it is not appropriate to go forward on the basis of safety. It is also true that the Minister thoroughly considered that issue. The Minister never considered having a coeducational school. She considered having a school that was co-located, and it is yet to be seen whether that transpires.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the member, can I say to the Labour front-benchers that when another party is asking a question, it has a right to hear the answer. Some courtesy is reasonable.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked how the Minister met his high standards, and he gave us a recitation of the facts, which is fine, but what is of concern are the standards. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet, I say to the National back-benchers. The member will recollect that in his question he asked how the Minister met certain high standards, and then made an assertion of fact in his question, about a decision being unlawful. The Prime Minister dealt with that assertion of fact in answering, which he is perfectly entitled to do.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he think that it meets the standards of New Zealand parents, let alone the Prime Minister, that his education Minister decided to close Salisbury School and send girls with intellectual disabilities to a boys’ school where their risk of sexual abuse would be seven times higher, and did she not think that the danger she was putting those girls into was her responsibility?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: A number of the assumptions the member has made are factually incorrect. What was proposed was co-locating, effectively, single-sex schools on the same site. It is an idea that has a lot of merit.
Dr Russel Norman: Putting aside the unlawfulness of the Minister’s action, does a Minister who blatantly disregards evidence about the safety of the most vulnerable girls and who abrogated her responsibility to consider their safety, and who, according to the High Court, does not even think the safety of school kids is her business—does that Minister still meet high standards?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In relation to the last part, yes. In relation to the first part, the member is making all sorts of assumptions that are not correct. The Minister actually thoroughly considered the issue of safety, and that issue was thoroughly discussed.
Dr Russel Norman: How can New Zealand parents have confidence in the safety of their kids at school when his education Minister takes actions that she knows will expose children to increased risk of sexual and physical violence, according to the High Court judgment that found her actions illegal?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is just totally and utterly wrong, basically.
Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the High Court judgment that shows that his Minister is totally wrong.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document is a public document. Because of the controversy, though, I will seek the leave of the House. Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Dr Russel Norman: Does it not boil down to this: Hekia Parata is the person who is ultimately responsible for the safety of children at school and she has displayed a blatant disregard for the safety of her children, and does not that make her unfit to be a Minister of Education?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and no.
Dr Russel Norman: Will he be writing to the parents of Salisbury School to explain to them why he continues to have confidence in a Minister of Education who, according to the High Court, unlawfully acted to put their children at greater risk of sexual and physical abuse?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, it is not my intention to do so.
Prime Minister—Statements and Confidence in Ministers’ Statements
3. DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements and have confidence in the statements of all his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I will start by wishing the Leader of the Opposition a merry Christmas. Yes, I stand by all my statements. I have confidence in all my Ministers. Although it may have been the case that Ministers in a previous Government had to run their statements past their Prime Minister, I do not run such an autocratic Government. I can have confidence in only those statements I have specifically seen or heard.
David Shearer: I return the compliments to the Prime Minister. Does he stand by his statement that “Yep, in the end, you know, we need to. We need to get that unemployment rate down, and that’s whatever we think of the merits or robustness of the number. We need to be printing a lower number.”, and when will he be printing a lower number?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am reasonably confident it will be before the next election.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement that this year has been much more business as usual, and is an additional 19,000 people unemployed over the last year business as usual?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To the first bit, yes.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his answer in response to Labour’s claims of increased migration to Australia that “Yep, they’ve got a point, but, I mean, it’s a fine kind of conundrum in a way because we started that argument, so I’m not arguing the merits.”, and how does he reconcile this answer with his statement that this year has been much more about business as usual?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am simply making the point that a strong Australia has some real merits for New Zealand. It is the largest source of tourists to New Zealand, the largest source of our exports, and the largest source of foreign investment, so a very weak Australia does not actually help New Zealand. But, yes, I stand by the view that we want New Zealanders to stay here if they can.
David Shearer: Does he agree with his finance Minister that “child poverty rates fell in working families from around 16 percent to 8 percent,” from 2004 to 2007, the period in which Working for Families was rolled out, and how many children have his tax cuts helped out of poverty, given that hardship rates for children have risen from 16 percent to 21 percent in the last 4 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I simply cannot verify the facts of the last bit, because we know that they are typically unreliable when they come from Labour. If we look at the first, yes, it is true that Working for Families had a benefit in assisting children in poverty. That is true. It is also true that when Labour had 3 years—20005, 2006, and 2007—where the combined surpluses were $20 billion, there were still 240,000 children in New Zealand in poverty. The simple bottom line was it did not care enough to do much about it.
David Shearer: Given that over the last year there has been an additional 19,000 unemployed, a record 54,000 people leaving for Australia, and inequality rising to the highest level ever, and that the rate of children living in hardship has risen by 40 percent since 2007, does he stand by his statement that the low point for him was his inability to sell New Zealand’s assets?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, that was one of the low points. There were a couple of others; that was one of them. The good news is we comprehensively won that court case yesterday.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 4, Nicky Wagner. [Interruption] Order! I want to be able to hear Nicky Wagner. Question No. 4.
Canterbury, Recovery—Government Initiatives
4. NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for Canterbury
Earthquake Recovery: How is the Government delivering a strong and effective recovery for greater Christchurch following the earthquakes?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery): The Government is doing its part to deliver a strong and effective recovery by working through the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, with the community at the heart of the vision, as expressed in the recovery strategy published in May of 2011. As the strategy states, community engagement is key to a successful recovery. We are working extensively with our communities to deliver best results, mindful that timely, clear, and decisive decision-making is essential to recovery. The Government has committed considerable resources to implementing a strong, effective recovery. Known costs to date total $13 billion, with more decisions to be made. The arms of Government at all levels have been involved, and are working tirelessly to deliver on this recovery for the people of Greater Christchurch, despite the best efforts of many Opposition politicians.
Nicky Wagner: What has been the fiscal cost of the Canterbury earthquakes?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The cost will consolidate across many categories, and some of the features of that cost will be $2.5 billion for the repair of the horizontal infrastructure, with $500 million spent by the end of this year. Widespread acceptance of the Crown offer by homeowners in the residential red zones has meant that over $1 billion has been spent in paying out 5,212 settlements so far. Land zoning decisions mean that red zone offers will have a gross cost to the Crown exceeding $1.9 billion. The Earthquake Commission has now paid out in excess of $4 billion; nearly $1 billion of that has been funded. Over 28,000 homes have been repaired by the Fletcher EQR project team. The total Earthquake Commission payout will be $12 billion, with over $7 billion coming from Crown funds. The final cost is not yet known. We know that it will cost the Government somewhere in excess of $13 billion, but the total economic cost is likely to be about $30 billion. I know that the people of Greater Christchurch are grateful for that and sick and tired of the negative rubbish they get—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the Minister was capable of answering that question properly, he would have taken far less time. He is just wasting the House’s time now. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The Leader of the House should know better than to interject on a point of order. Ministers are taking a long time to answer questions from their own colleagues. That will inevitably lead to more noise in the House, and it is not that helpful. Answers to questions should be reasonably brief. [Interruption] Order!
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Has he heard none of the concerns that have come from the people of Christchurch who have been affected by the Government’s top-down recovery process, many of these concerns having been summed up in this book, The Christchurch Fiasco; and will he describe its author, who lives in West Melton, as another enemy of the recovery, as he did the Press?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I listen to thousands of people in Canterbury who are very, very satisfied with the way things are going forward. If I had listened to some of the commentary coming to us—allegedly in the name of people who are upset—from Opposition politicians, we would be a long way further behind than we are at the present time. There will be people who will write books and have views, but, in the end, if we stop making decisions and stop doing things, we will stop things happening. That is what the Labour Opposition wants.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table The Christchurch Fiasco: The Insurance Aftershock and its Implications for New Zealand and Beyond, by first-time author Sarah Miles.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Sorry, I think the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No, order! What is the point of order about? Leave was sought and I heard a member clearly deny leave, and that is the end of that matter.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A comment was made about the author by one of the members, and I take exception—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That is irrelevant. Members are at liberty to comment on authors so long as its not—the member is absolutely at liberty to comment on authors.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Describing someone as a loopy nutter across the House is just—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Now, look—[Interruption] Order! Look, someone will—even if it is the last day, I will not hesitate if the House does not show a little more respect for this place. That point of order was totally unnecessary. Members have referred to people outside this House by worse terms than that, and—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No, it was a person outside—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That will be the end of this nonsense. On the last day, members can show a little better sense.
Bain, David—Binnie Report on Compensation Claim
5. CHARLES CHAUVEL (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What are the specific “assumptions” based on “incorrect facts” demonstrating some “misunderstanding of New Zealand law” that she alleges are contained in the report of Justice Binnie concerning the application by Mr Bain for compensation for wrongful conviction and imprisonment?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): I stated in my media release that “My concerns are broadly that the report appeared to contain assumptions based on incorrect facts, and showed a misunderstanding of New Zealand law.” Prior to giving examples, I need to give just a little bit of context to this. I can advise the House that an independent peer review of the first Binnie advice is being done by the Hon Robert Fisher QC, and I am considering the public request made by Mr Bain’s supporters to release both these reports—or advice to me—before Cabinet has made its decision. One of the things I am considering is whether or not it is going to be in Mr Bain’s interests or in the interests of justice to do so. But in relation to the examples sought, there are many. I will give the House two of those. The first is relying on incorrect understanding of what has been given in evidence. In this case, Justice Binnie asserts that a named scientist testified at the first trial that he had chemically enhanced the prints and later sought to resile from this. The reference to chemical enhancement was an error on a label attached to a fingerprint, and this was explained as such by the named scientist at the retrial. A second example is in relation to assumptions as to the correctness of submissions on the law. Justice Binnie appears to have assumed to be correct Mr Karam’s submission that the adverse inferences should be drawn against the Crown case on the basis of evidence that is no longer available. This is incompatible with the onus of proof being on Mr Bain in this particular case, because this is, in fact, a request for Cabinet to use its discretion, and that is very clearly wrong.
Charles Chauvel: Having summarised some of her criticisms of Justice Binnie’s report, why does she not simply release it in full so that the taxpayers, who have already paid over $400,000 for it, can assess for themselves whether those criticisms are fair; or is the prospect of dropping it in the press gallery just before Christmas in the hope of a dead news period just too tempting for her?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not going to rise to that particular bait and the barb, because, frankly, it does not actually do the member justice. In fact, I think it is important to consider the fact that I have already answered the question—that I am considering it. I am awaiting the advice to me from the Hon Rob Fisher QC, a former High Court judge of New Zealand, and I expect to have it either today or tomorrow. I expect that once I have it, I am going to consider whether or not to release both reports. Because of the concerns that are out in the public, and, clearly, Mr Bain is
concerned and his supporters are concerned, I want to make sure that we have information that can be relied on.
Charles Chauvel: Has Robert Fisher QC received the same level of disclosure of documents and other material afforded to Justice Binnie by her predecessor, and, in particular, will he be given access to any material produced by the Crown Law Office or other officials that contains analysis that is critical of Justice Binnie’s report?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I can advise the member that Mr Fisher, from memory, has not been provided with any Crown Law advice. It is a matter that the Attorney-General has not waived privilege on. I think it is important to note that Mr Fisher’s advice to me will be a peer review of Justice Binnie’s report. It is not, in fact, under the same terms of reference that Justice Binnie was provided with by my predecessor.
Charles Chauvel: In light of that answer, what were the terms of reference given to Mr Fisher QC, and how can the public have any confidence that the fruits of that exercise will bear out the criticisms that she has made of Justice Binnie’s report if he has not seen those criticisms, a summary of them, or the advice leading to them?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Mr Speaker, could you ask the member to repeat his question?
Mr SPEAKER: Certainly. Charles Chauvel, please.
Charles Chauvel: How can the public be confident, in light of her question, that the result of Robert Fisher QC’s review of the report by Justice Binnie can be comprehensive or satisfying, in light of the fact that he appears not to have any access to the analysis that she clearly has had of criticism of the report?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the Hon Justice Fisher’s advice to me will be comprehensive, and I expect that the terms of reference that Justice Binnie was provided with by my predecessor either will be contained in that report or I will be happy to provide them.
6. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What progress has the Government made on its national preventive health targets this year?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Very good progress. Clinicians in the district health boards and general practice continue to provide more and more patients with advice and support to quit smoking. Engaging with a clinician is internationally proven to be one of the most effective ways to quit smoking. Latest reports say there are 70,000 fewer New Zealanders smoking today than there were 3 years ago, and the rate of daily smoking for youth has fallen dramatically from 14 percent in 2006-07 to 6 percent in 2011-12. This year’s child immunisation results show that there is virtually no difference in the rates between ethnicities or family income. Immunisation rates for the richest families are the same as for the poorest families. As you know, immunisation is one of the most effective interventions to prevent against infectious diseases in children.
Dr Paul Hutchison: What further work is planned for preventative health in the new year?
Hon TONY RYALL: There were over 4,000 notified cases of whooping cough this year, of which 120 babies were hospitalised. This severe cough can cause babies to stop breathing and can lead to blindness, brain damage, and, in severe cases, death. I am pleased to announce to the House today that the Government will announce this afternoon that a free whooping cough vaccine Boostrix will be made available to all pregnant women in New Zealand from 1 January next year until the current outbreak finishes, to help protect their babies from this potentially fatal disease. We are advised that vaccinating mothers is the best way to provide ongoing protection for babies. On top of this, the Government also encourages parents to have their babies vaccinated again at 6 weeks.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is part of this dynamic progress being made under his administration the circumstance where pharmacies are being told that the Ministry of Health will not be financing
any signs alerting people in New Zealand to the rise in pharmaceutical costs on 1 January next year?
Hon TONY RYALL: That is not correct. There is going to be a flyer that will be available in all pharmacies.
Whānau Ora, Minister—Confidence
7. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Why does he have confidence in the Minister for Whānau Ora?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Because she is a hard-working Minister who is committed to improving outcomes for vulnerable families in New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in a Minister who allowed the Mongrel Mob to receive $20,000 of taxpayers’ money?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: My understanding is that, in terms of that, the funding largely came from another area, and on that basis the belief was that it would do good improvement.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he share the Minister’s view with respect to the Mongrel Mob receiving $20,000 from the taxpayers that “Had they utilised the funding to pay wages to themselves, then there would have been no issue in terms of the use of the money.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It would depend on how the money is applied and what that is for. I mean, it is technically possible for people in that situation to be applying it to a programme, but it would depend on how it works.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is he aware that on numerous occasions this year—at least 18 occasions, in fact—Mrs Turia, in her ministerial capacity, chose not to turn up to meetings at which the media were present to deliver speeches and instead relied upon others to read out her speeches for her, and does he believe this to be an appropriate sort of behaviour for a Minister of the Crown?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I am not aware what meetings the Ministers actually attend or not. If you want to have detailed questions about that, you are better to put the question down to the Minister herself.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I am asking you. Does it concern him that 25 percent of all Whānau Ora applicants who have received funding in the past year have been from the Minister’s own electorate, despite that electorate being only 8 percent of the Māori population; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Oh, I do not have those details in front of me. If you want to get detailed answers, put the question down to the Minister.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No.—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I believe—[Interruption] Order! I am just checking on—[Interruption] Order! I apologise to the right honourable gentleman, but the member has already had five supplementary questions. He may recollect that he used one on question No. 6 and has had four on question No. 7, and I believe that does add up to five. Question No. 8, Kris Faafoi—
Te Ururoa Flavell: Supplementary.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I cannot hear members call if there is too much noise.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Does the Prime Minister agree with the comments in the report Solutions to Child Poverty in New Zealand: Evidence for Action that “There was support for the continuation and expansion of the Whānau Ora approach to empower families and children to identify goals and progress towards them.” and, secondly, that “The analysis indicated that the learning from this way of working could be applied across government and community to reduce child poverty and mitigate its effects.”, and what confidence do such comments give him in his support for this flagship policy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. Families from across the country had previously been receiving help from Government agencies for a range of issues, but too often that help simply has not been getting
good results. Whānau Ora forms a key part of the Government’s efforts to break the cycle of dependency and dysfunction that blights too many of our families.
8. KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana) to the Minister of Police: Is she committed to all of her promises in regards to the New Zealand Police?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Police): Yes.
Kris Faafoi: For which areas of New Zealand has she delivered on the Government’s 2008 election promise of ensuring a ratio of one police officer to every 500 people?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Under this Government we have delivered an extra 600 police officers, who have been trained and are out working around New Zealand doing a fantastic job.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Let me just check. Is the honourable member quite finished? [Interruption] Order! I can understand the point of order being raised because the question actually asked in which regions has the undertaking of one police officer for every 500 people—or something along those lines—been achieved. The Minister gave information, but she did not actually answer that question. She may not have that detailed information, which is not her fault.
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That was no promise of this Government. We promised, and delivered, an extra 600 police across New Zealand.
Kris Faafoi: I seek leave to table a document from the Parliamentary Library showing that the ratio of sworn police to people for the South Island in 2012 was 1:573.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Kris Faafoi: Is she or the police considering the shifting of 200 to 300 constabulary or nonconstabulary positions from the South Island to the North Island in the next few years; if so, what is being considered?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That member well knows that the disposition of staff is an operational issue. The Policing Act that was passed by the Labour Government made that very clear. But what I can guarantee and have promised as Minister of Police is that there will be more front-line policing hours under this Government continually, year on year, than there ever were under Labour.
Kris Faafoi: Can she assure South Islanders that between 200 and 300 constabulary or nonconstabulary positions will not be shifted from the South Island to the North Island in coming years?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: That is not my undertaking to make. That is a decision made by the commissioner on where those police would be best used in order to create safe communities. Under this Government we ask for more front-line hours, that they stick to their budget, and for a safe community.
Kris Faafoi: Has she been briefed by the Commissioner of Police or police officials about the shifting of 200 to 300 constabulary or non-constabulary positions from the South Island to the North Island in coming years?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: No, and I would not expect to.
Mr SPEAKER: Question No. 9, Tim Macindoe—[Interruption] Order! I want to hear this question.
Better Public Services Targets—Justice Sector
9. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister of Justice: What progress has been made towards achieving Better Public Services across the justice sector?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): Excellent progress has been made. The crime rate is at the lowest level in 30 years, the justice sector has developed a range of projects to further reduce crime and reoffending, major steps have been taken to improve support for victims of crime, and for the first time in two decades, Government has legislated to reduce the availability of alcohol by restricting rather than relaxing the laws on the sale and supply of alcohol. I would like to thank those members who voted for the Alcohol Reform Bill last night. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Tim Macindoe: What further results are expected?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: In the past year alone there have been more than 21,000 fewer crimes reported, with 3,000 fewer violent offences. That is thousands fewer victims. For the first time in decades, the justice sector has an opportunity to focus on improving and streamlining its service delivery. Our accessible justice programme will modernise our courts with the greater use of technology and better customer service.
10. HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Minister of Education: Does she accept the finding of the Children’s Commissioner’s Expert Advisory Group on Solutions to Child Poverty that a government funded food programme in low-decile schools is a simple, do-able, and low-cost solution to help children in poverty learn and achieve at school, and the recommendation that Government design and implement such a programme; if not, why not?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): No, because it is neither simple nor low cost. The National Government is already doing a lot in this area. We have increased the amount spent on hardship by almost 50 percent from 2008 to 2011. In 2011 we spent $46 million on grants for food parcels. KidsCan has received funding from the Government. That has resulted in 4,500 children a day in 223 schools receiving food. We provide a Fruit in Schools scheme, which is available to all decile 1 and 2 primary and intermediate schools, which results in about 97,000 students receiving a piece of fruit each day, and we fund $174 million per annum through decile-based resourcing policies.
Hone Harawira: How does the Minister respond to the comments in the latest report of the Children’s Social Health Monitor highlighting the fact that tens of thousands of children are being hospitalised for poverty-related illnesses, and does she agree that addressing the root causes of poverty will help address the problem she has identified as the one in five children not achieving their full potential at school?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: We know that the two best investments that can be made within schools to raise achievement for five out of five children are the quality of teaching and the quality of leading, and, of course, other causes outside of school must also be addressed, and that is why our Government is working on both.
Hone Harawira: How, then, does the Minister respond to the views of the 300 children consulted as part of the expert advisory group’s work who listed as their top priority the issue of hunger and the importance of food in schools to enabling kids to focus and achieve at school, and the very strong support from the 1,800-plus individuals and groups who gave feedback to the expert advisory group, also recommending Government-funded food in schools programmes?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I respond by saying that of course it is a concern to our Government, and that is why we are working hard in education to raise achievement. That is why my colleague is working really hard in social development to support those families that need support. That is why the rest of this Government is focused on how we build a strong and resilient economy so that we can have sustainable responses to these issues.
Jacinda Ardern: Does she stand by the reason she gave for not supporting food in schools, that “The Government is playing its part. In 2011 the Ministry of Social Development spent $62 million
on food parcels.”, and does not this just prove the point that many families do not have enough to get by, and are reliant on capped food parcels to survive?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I stand by my statement that in 2011 $46 million was spent in grants for food parcels, and in 2010, it was $60.2 million. I am advised that those are the figures. The point it proves is that our Government is prepared to make additional support available to those families that find it difficult to meet these needs. So, yes, I do stand by my comments.
Schools, Residential—Consultation on Proposed Closures
11. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Does she believe that her consultation process around the possible closure of residential special schools provided all those affected with an opportunity to have a meaningful say and have that say properly considered; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Yes, I do; because the opportunity was offered over several months. That response was given in the form of surveys, reports, forums, hui, and fono. I took the opportunity to read all of the submissions that were provided. It was the issues of the availability of coeducational provision at Halswell Residential College and of sufficiency of safety that have resulted in the High Court decision. I do not intend to appeal this decision. To provide certainty for the current pupils and their parents at Salisbury School I can confirm that Salisbury will remain open for 2013.
Chris Hipkins: Did she ask for or receive any advice to contradict the research put forward by the board of Salisbury School showing that girls with intellectual impairment are more vulnerable to sexual abuse in coeducational settings than they are in a single-sex school; if not, why did she not ask for that information?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did ask for advice from the Ministry of Education and received it. Moreover, the research that the member is referring to, which is a report by Professor Briggs, was not submitted in full to me, nor was it submitted as part of the consultation process. In fact, the High Court indicated that I could not have taken account of it, because it was not submitted.
Chris Hipkins: Why did the Ministry of Education not provide her with that research, which was available prior to her decision making, if she asked for all of the relevant research and information on this issue?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I did ask for that advice, and I get the advice that is given to me. Now I have asked for the ministry to provide further advice on this important issue, because, of course, safety is paramount in my considerations.
Chris Hipkins: Why should the public have confidence that she executed her decision-making responsibilities appropriately, given that Justice Dobson concluded that it was “common sense” that the risk of sexual abuse for girls with impaired intellect was likely to increase, that “No great leap in logic is required to recognise the validity of concerns …”, and that her arguments amounted to “an abrogation of the responsibilities involved in making a decision”?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: In the first instance it is an existing requirement that no residential home may take on placement in their residential home any child or young person who has a previous sexual history. Secondly, I was assured by Halswell that it was making professional and clinical provision. Indeed, I think that in an emotional issue as this is, it is very unfortunate that Halswell boys, their parents, and the professional staff there are being impugned because it suits the defence.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The rules about bringing High Court judges into disrepute, saying that they are impugning people, and criticising this court are quite strict. She is meant—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not interpret what the Minister said as doing that. She has not directly criticised a judge at all. The member is correct that she must not do that, but I have listened carefully and I do not believe that the Minister did that. A general reference to the approach being
taken here as impugning the reputation of people managing that institution I do not think can be interpreted as being a direct criticism of the judge.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister’s comments can be taken only as criticising the judge or as criticising me. If that reference was directed at me, I take offence at it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Implied in the member’s questioning has been quite severe criticism of the Minister, and for the Minister to—[Interruption] Order! For the Minister imply some criticism in her answer back I do not think is totally unreasonable. For the member to believe that that is offensive to him—at the end of the day, if the member has seriously taken offence, I obviously must ask the Minister to withdraw her comment. But we have got to be careful. I have sat here today listening to interjections where I have heard members of this House accused of being liars and it just troubles me that members think that they can abuse each other across the House and then get all worked up over something that is far more mild. I just think we have got to be more consistent and more reasonable in the way we respond to situations. If the member, having reflected on it, has taken serious offence to it, then I have got to respect his view, but I ask members just to be more reasonable. As I say, I have heard today members accused across the House of being liars. I have done nothing about it, because I do not want to draw attention to these kinds of things. I just wish that members would be a little more respectful. So I come back to the member. If he has taken serious offence, I will—supplementary question, Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins: Why did she ignore the advice of Peter Campbell, a trustee of Salisbury School and chief executive of a residential facility for young people and adults with intellectual disabilities, who advised her in a meeting on 16 October this year that when that facility operated as a mixedsex residential facility for a brief period the incidence of abuse increased markedly?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: In that very same meeting the Salisbury School board put forward a proposal for its own provision of coeducational schooling at Salisbury. Moreover, we have 29 day special schools in New Zealand. They are all coeducational. We have residential homes for those with disabilities that are run by a number of non-governmental organisations, and they are coeducational.
Chris Hipkins: Why should the public have any confidence in her ability to reconsider the matter, given that she was presented with clear evidence that the risk of abuse, including sexual abuse, was likely to increase if she went ahead with the plan to merge single-sex residential schools into a coeducational facility, received no evidence to contradict that claim despite asking for it, and yet went ahead with the decision anyway?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Because I hold the providers of residential schools in very high regard. Halswell is staffed by professionals and clinicals and had made it clear what the provision would be: separate accommodation, secure systems of security, student advocates, full awareness of parents and their involvement and influence, the availability of individual education plans—all of these were traversed and taken into consideration. So I think that I do show a commitment not only to excellent provision but to how we might expand it to include even more young people into the system.
Chris Hipkins: How does she reconcile that statement that she has just made with the statement of Justice Dobson that it was exactly that line of argument from the Minister that he described as “an abrogation of the responsibilities involved in making a decision”, and that she should not place all of the responsibility for those matters on to the school board of trustees?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: My regard for residential schools was supplemented by the advice I received from the Ministry of Education, which is responsible for the delivery of special needs to children all around the country. This includes taking into account all of the submissions made by the parents, students, whānau, aiga, teachers, principals, and clinicians.
Chris Hipkins: Does she stand by the statement in her affidavit to the High Court that “If for whatever reason it is no longer possible to close the school, effective from 27 January 2013, I am
open to considering a different effective date of closure.”; if so, what confidence can that community have that she will reconsider her decision with an open mind?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: I do stand by that statement. In fact, as I answered in my primary response, the board has already been advised that the school will remain open for 2013, that I will meet with the board at the earliest possible opportunity in the new year, and that we will together work through what the best outcome would be.
12. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What progress has the Government made in 2012 to shift the focus of our welfare system to one that is active, work focused and delivers better outcomes for New Zealanders?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): There has been a substantial year for those who are on welfare, and we have been making a fundamental difference for them. We are backing people into work and we are seeing evidence of that happening. Let me give you an example. In the 4 years from November 2008 to now, 305,000 people have left the benefit to start work. This compares, of course, with 280,000 in the previous 4 years, under Labour. People are getting into work under this Government.
Melissa Lee: How are the Government’s changes making a difference to those receiving welfare? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister. She has not even opened her mouth yet and the level of interjections makes it impossible to hear. This is the last question for the year and I just ask that we can hear the answer.
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I understand their jealousy of me, and that they just cannot quite pull off animal prints, as I can. I have been getting a sense of that from them today, but that is OK. I think what we need to be proud of is actually the difference that we have made for young people. That, in fact, is a fact. What we have seen is that youth on the unemployment benefit is 12 percent lower than this time last year and 33 percent lower than 2 years ago. Youth are getting the best go under this Government. Happy 2012 and merry Christmas to the Opposition.
Question No. 8 to Minister
KRIS FAAFOI (Labour—Mana): I seek leave to table a statement from the Prime Minister from 2008 that says: “We will boost overall New Zealand police numbers so there is one officer for every 500 people,”.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a speech or a press statement or a—
KRIS FAAFOI: I believe the original source document is a press statement.
Mr SPEAKER: But it is from 2008?
KRIS FAAFOI: Yes it is.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.