Questions and Answers - June 6
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Budget 2013—Housing Affordability
1. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: What measures did the Budget set out in order to address issues of housing affordability in New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government is concerned about housing affordability because of the potential impact of rising house prices on the broader economy and because of the inherent unfairness of planning law that locks low and middle income New Zealanders out of the housing market in our larger cities. The Government has worked with local councils to create accords aimed at giving councils the tool kit to improve housing affordability. The first accord is being negotiated with Auckland Council, and special housing areas are expected to be designated later this year. The accord targets 39,000 new homes in Auckland over the next 3 years. The legislation is before the House and being debated.
Todd McClay: What other measures did the Government take in the Budget to help improve the provision of affordable housing?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government introduced the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill. It also introduced the Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment) Bill. The Social Housing Reform (Housing Restructuring and Tenancy Matters Amendment) Bill will extend income-related rents to community housing providers, and transfer needs assessment to the Ministry of Social Development. We have some way to go to repair the damage done by Labour to State housing in New Zealand.
Hon David Parker: Is it correct that the Budget referred to in the primary question was passed with the support of Mr Banks, who is currently facing charges for electoral fraud in the courts, and by Mr Dunne, who is no longer the leader of a legal party, who is still receiving funding from the Budget that he passed as the leader of a party?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget actually has not passed yet. I expect it will—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member asked a question; he now deserves to have it answered.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I expect the Budget will enjoy a comfortable majority in this House, as it enjoys broad support from the public.
Todd McClay: What is the likely impact of the Government’s measures on house prices across New Zealand?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government’s measures are aimed at increasing the supply of housing to the market. We would like to see an effect on the market reasonably quickly. However, it will take some time to work through the processes with councils, and, of course, to ramp up construction from the currently very low levels in Auckland, at around some 5,000 houses a year, to achieve 39,000 houses over the next 3 years. We would imagine that over the next 2 years or 3 years it will have some positive impact on fast-rising house prices.
Hon David Parker: Given that the International Monetary Fund, the OECD, the Reserve Bank, and Treasury all support taxation of capital gains, why does he believe he is right and these organisations are wrong?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I pointed out to the member yesterday, those organisations advocate a comprehensive capital gains tax. The Opposition advocates a capital gains tax that exempts most housing. We have discussed in the past in this House the merits—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was not about Labour Party policy. My question was why it is that the Minister of Finance refuses to adopt a capital gains tax when it is recommended by those other bodies.
Mr SPEAKER: And I thought the Minister was halfway through an answer that was explaining that. Would the Minister please continue.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government supports the existing capital gains tax that applies to those who trade in property, and is enforcing that rigorously. It does not support a comprehensive capital gains tax that includes families paying tax on the gains in the value of their house every year. We do not support that, and nor does the Opposition.
Hon David Parker: Why does he think it is fair to tax income from wages but not tax income earned from capital gains?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: What happens in the New Zealand tax system is that capital gain from trading is taxed alongside wages. Of course, what the member forgets is that a lot of the people who earn wages see their wealth as being in their house. That is why he, like the Government, does not support a capital gains tax on the family home. What we do support is changing the planning laws to increase the supply of housing because one of the fundamental unfairnesses in New Zealand is that if you have a high-value house and you are already in the market, you enjoy the benefits of compact city planning, but if you are outside the housing market, you are cut out of housing altogether.
Todd McClay: What are some of the risks to the economy from unsustainable increases in house prices and excessive credit growth?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have only got to look at economies like Ireland, Spain, and the US to see what happens when property prices rise excessively and then the bubble bursts. It is important that we avoid these if we possibly can. On the way up, fast-rising house prices tend to push interest rates up higher than they otherwise would be and push the exchange rate up. When the bubble bursts, you get significant damage for those households that lose the value of their asset, and a banking system that could be put at risk.
Information Security—Government Agencies
2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of State Services: What responsibility does he or his Government take for 73 percent of public sector agencies not having formal security standards and procedures to protect private information about New Zealanders, as the report yesterday to the State Services Commissioner shows?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of State Services): We are taking responsibility. Successive Governments have not ensured that public sector agencies have focused on technology or privacy as a priority, and the figure the member quotes is a reflection of that. We are changing that. As laid out in the Cabinet papers and press conference yesterday, the Government has commissioned an extensive work programme to address this long-term problem. It is under this Government that we have increased the powers of the Government Chief Information Officer by giving him a leadership role across the State sector and significantly increasing the resourcing of the Government Chief Information Officer.
Hon Phil Goff: Why does the Prime Minister continue to deny that there are systemic problems with regard to the protection of people’s privacy in public sector agencies when this KPMG report explicitly shows a lack of good security and privacy practice right across the State sector and when
the Privacy Commissioner, Marie Shroff, is adamant that privacy breaches absolutely reflect systemic problems?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I would refer the member to the Government Chief Information Officer’s interview on Radio New Zealand this morning, when he was saying that a systemic problem is when the system actually is not working. That is not the case we have now.
Hon Phil Goff: Was the Government employee the Government Chief Information Officer as accurate in that comment as he was about New Zealanders having trust and confidence in the Government’s ability to protect their personal details, when Colmar Brunton said 60 percent of New Zealanders have no trust in the Government to do that?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, I would point out that this is a member who constantly seeks to access Defence Force information—
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Your attention has been distracted. I asked a question of the Minister. He is not answering the question; he is attacking me.
Mr SPEAKER: Could the Minister just address the question.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member’s question was about confidence in the security of information, and I would point out that this is a member who constantly seeks—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can the Minister please just address the question that was asked.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I do not agree with his assertions.
Hon Phil Goff: How do privacy breaches affecting over 120,000 individual New Zealanders in the last 2 years alone not constitute a systemic problem?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Well, as I said, I do not agree with the assertions he is making around this. There is work to be done around privacy, and the Government has a very clear programme of work under way to address these issues. But I might note that nothing happened during the term of the last Labour Government in this regard.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question related to 120,000 personal breaches of information in the last 2 years. I did not ask him about 4 years ago, 6 years ago, or 10 years ago. Can I get him to focus on those breaches over the last 2 years.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member asked whether that then constitutes systemic failure, and the Minister said he does not agree with that.
Hon Phil Goff: Why should any New Zealander feel confident that Government agencies are able to protect private details about them when the Government Chief Information Officer has warned that the reason that only 12 agencies were identified as having serious security weaknesses was that the others did not even have the reporting processes that would enable them to know whether or not they had a problem?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The reason they should feel confident is that, as we described yesterday, we have laid out a very clear programme of work to address these issues. We are strengthening up the mandate of the Government Chief Information Officer and we are going to make sure that public sector chief executives are very focused on IT security and management.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the lack of comprehensive—[Interruption] If Mr Banks would stop interjecting—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Would the member please start his question again.
Hon Phil Goff: Is the lack of comprehensive security systems protecting privacy compounded by a lack of integrity at the top of the system, which led former National Party president Michelle Boag to state, in relation to Judith Collins: “When you can’t send a communication to a Government Minister without fearing that the privacy of that communication is going to be threatened, that’s very … dangerous.”?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: What I can say regarding privacy of communications is that that member was sent details of a dead soldier, which he then distributed—
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a helpful answer. It was a very political question, which I accept. I ask the Minister to make an attempt to address it.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order, and it will be heard in silence.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: There is a well-established precedent here that when you ask a political question, especially one attacking a political colleague, you will get back as good as you give. That is the firmly established practice. So if you want to change that, you should make a new ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: I am not proposing to change that. [Interruption] Order! I am not proposing to change that. I am asking the Minister to please address the question.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: This member talks about the leaking of communications—
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You do not answer a question by starting with an attack on the questioner.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member Mr Goff wants to hear an answer, then he will hear the answer. If he does not now want an answer, we will move on.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: This member raised points about the leaking of confidential information, and, indeed, that often is a problem across the public sector. I would point out that the member’s form with regard to using illegal channels to access defence force information, and furthermore, leaking the details of a deceased soldier—
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] I did call for a point of order, and Gerry Brownlee, who is Leader of the House, continues to interject during it.
Mr SPEAKER: We are still waiting to hear the point of order.
Hon Phil Goff: Well, I will give it when you bring the House to order, because that is what the Standing Orders require of you.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member wants to make his point of order he will make it immediately, otherwise I am moving to the next question.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is a Standing Order, which until now has been enforced, that points of order are meant to be heard in silence. That was the point that Mr Goff was making, and it was a fair point. I would ask that you respect his point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: I called the member to make his point of order, if he wanted to do so.
Hon Phil Goff: I take offence at the comment made by the Minister, which is quite untrue. I never leaked the details relating to the privacy of any dead soldier. I take offence at that, and I ask him to withdraw and apologise for making it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the member has taken offence, then would the Minister please stand, withdraw, and apologise because the member has taken offence.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member will please—
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, you invited Mr Goff to make his point of order, and throughout that point of order Mr Banks constantly interjected, and again you did nothing.
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the interjection. [Interruption] Order!
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could I suggest maybe the technicians need to look at the sound system because, with respect, it appears quite genuinely that there is a sound problem. You appear to be able to hear everything on this side of the House, but nothing on that side.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member continues to make that sort of point of order, he will be leaving the Chamber.
Hon John Banks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During the narrative, the member over there the Very Reverend Dr Clark made a disgraceful across-the-House abuse at my bench mate, which was insulting and demeaning to the whole of Parliament. Could you drag him back in and get him to withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: I am looking for the member. He is not here so I cannot drag him back in.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is getting to the stage where we are having points of order that are now frivolous. If it is a serious point of order, I will hear it. But if I conclude it is a frivolous one, then I will be asking any member who raises a frivolous point of order to leave the Chamber. Does the member wish to continue?
Iain Lees-Galloway: The Minister Jonathan Coleman quite clearly called a member on this side of the House a coward. That is well outside of Standing Orders and I expect him to withdraw and apologise for that comment.
Mr SPEAKER: Again, I did not hear it, but if the Hon Jonathan Coleman did do that—
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If the Minister did yell across the House calling someone a coward, he will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I am not going to apologise if you are not going to give me the chance to explain what went on. I am sorry. I will leave the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber. Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman withdrew from the Chamber.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call question No. 3, I can advise that it will be asked on behalf of Barbara Stewart by the Labour Party.
Superannuation Rate—Effect of Overseas Pensions
CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka): On behalf of Barbara Stewart—[Interruption]
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We had earlier a series of points of order from the Rt Hon Winston Peters protesting the rights of registered parties to be in the House and pointing out that in his opinion some unregistered parties should not be here. Given that he is the leader of a registered party and he stood up in this House and said that because they were dissatisfied with some proceedings, New Zealand First was withdrawing from the House for an unspecified period of time, how can they be out of the House but actually then require people in another party to ask their questions? That is the height of absurdity.
Mr SPEAKER: I refer the member to Standing Order 381(2), which states that a member may ask a question on behalf of another if that member who is absent has given authority to the member to do so. I am advised that such authority has been given. [Interruption] Order! If we want to have a record number of expulsions today we are certainly heading the right way.
Brendan Horan: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: Is this a point of order from Brendan Horan?
Brendan Horan: Yes, it’s a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Again, it better—[Interruption] Order! I will hear the member, but, if it is a frivolous point of order, expect my threat to be fulfilled.
BRENDAN HORAN (Independent): Thank you, Mr Speaker. That is noted. This is a very serious point of order. I seek leave for members’ order of the day No. 10 to be discharged, as I think it would be helpful for those of us who wish to actively participate in the democratic process. I believe that there is a precedent for this in the 1996—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to discharge members’ notice No. 10. Is there any objection? There is.
3. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) on behalf of BARBARA STEWART (NZ First) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she consider that the direct deduction policy of overseas pensions from New Zealand Superannuation under Section 70 of the Social Security Act 1964 is consistent and fair?
Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister of Commerce) on behalf of the Minister for Social
Chris Hipkins: When an overseas pension is paid to a pensioner, what justification is there for applying section 70 to the spouse in respect of their own entitlement to New Zealand superannuation?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: This policy has been tested in courts of law over recent years and every single time the policy of deduction under section 70 has been found to be maintaining the status quo.
Chris Hipkins: Has she received advice on the human rights implications of applying section 70 to the spouse of a pensioner who receives an overseas pension; if so, does the advice raise the possibility of a claim under the Human Rights Act by the spouse?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I cannot confirm that advice, but quite possibly the 2007 Labour – New Zealand First review of this policy may well have considered such matters, which led to no substantive changes in this policy.
Chris Hipkins: Supplementary question on behalf of Barbara Stewart—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member cannot raise supplementary questions on behalf of a member. Supplementary questions are being raised by—
Chris Hipkins: OK, in that case, just to clarify, Mr Speaker, New Zealand First has transferred its supplementary question allocation to us.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept that.
Chris Hipkins: How would she respond to a possible human rights class action by the New Zealand superannuitants affected by the direct deduction of overseas pensions?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: We will just have to wait and see, if that was to come about.
Chris Hipkins: Does she review the use of her chief executive’s discretion under section 70 in so far as it affects overseas occupational pensions under the direct deduction policy; if so, when was the last such review?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Mr Speaker, can I ask what the very last part of that question was?
Mr SPEAKER: Would the member please repeat the entire question. The reason it was not heard was because of the level of interjection that is coming from my right-hand side of the House.
Chris Hipkins: Does she review the use of her chief executive’s discretion under section 70 in so far as it affects overseas occupational pensions under the direct deduction policy; if so, when was the last such review?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: I understand that the last review of all the policies in and around section 70 and the deduction of overseas pensions was by the Labour – New Zealand First coalition Government in 2007, and no substantive changes to administration or policies were put in place subsequent to that review.
Chris Hipkins: Is she aware of the concerns expressed by the United States, Canada, and other Governments on the direct deduction policy, to the extent that these concerns will impede future social security agreements between New Zealand and these countries?
Hon CRAIG FOSS: Sorry, I cannot confirm whether the Minister is aware of that, but I do know that those particular issues have been raised for quite some time, and I think they were considered as part of the 2007 review by New Zealand First and Labour, where they did not come out with any findings—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is quite a sufficient answer.
Tourist Numbers and Tourism Promotion—Effect of Hobbit Campaign
4. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Tourism: What reports has he received on the effect of the Hobbit movies on tourism and visitor numbers?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Associate Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of
Tourism: The Minister has received reports from Tourism New Zealand that January to April holiday arrivals for 2013 were up 10 percent on last year’s arrivals, with visits from the US up 23 percent. It is no coincidence that this follows the release of the first Hobbit film and the launch of the “100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand” campaign, which has been particularly strong in America. In the first 3 months of the year, 8.5 percent of visitors to New Zealand said that The Hobbit was a factor in choosing to come here. Those 8.5 percent of visitors spent around $153 million, which can be partially attributed to the Hobbit movie. This means more money in the pockets of our local businesses, which is great news for the accommodation and hospitality sectors, tourism operators, and businesses such as Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours, Weta Workshop, and the Lord of the Rings tour companies.
Dr Jian Yang: Is he aware of any opposition to The Hobbit that could have undermined these tourism benefits?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Yes, I—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member Andrew Little please refrain from such loud interjections.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Yes, I am aware of some groups who would have preferred The Hobbit being filmed offshore as opposed to here in beautiful New Zealand. I am also aware of groups that claim that the economic benefits of The Hobbit were unsubstantiated. This was particularly confusing when some of the leaders of these groups took an unexpected journey of their own to the premiere of the Hobbit movie. There is no doubt that The Hobbit has helped to increase visitor numbers. New Zealand tourism is benefiting from the decisive action taken by the Government to ensure The Hobbit was filmed here.
Dr Jian Yang: What does the future hold for Hobbit-related promotion of New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: Next month Weta Workshop will be collaborating with Tourism New Zealand at San Diego’s comic conference to attract future Hobbit-inspired visitors. Weta is expecting an additional 40,000 tourists—that is actually a big deal—this year already, and other businesses are reporting increased numbers. Hobbiton Movie Set and Farm Tours manager, Russell Alexander, said that the film set was at the coalface of the tourist boom, with January to March visitor numbers almost double those of the previous year. “It’s been a fantastic summer.”, he said.
5. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): I particularly stand by my statement thanking the member for putting up hoardings of me all over Auckland. I am disappointed not to have had a response to my offer to recycle them for my next Nelson campaign. I also stand by my other statements.
Phil Twyford: Does he stand by his comment in the New Zealand Herald that Aucklanders need to “accept lower quality developments if they want affordable housing”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have the full statement here. I said this: “We need to have an upfront discussion about the balance between affordability and quality. Affordability has been given too little weight.” This statement is based on the authoritative analysis by the Productivity Commission, which pointed out that over the last decade we have been building houses in only the very top
quartile, over $700,000. If we are to deliver more affordable homes for New Zealanders, then we actually need to change that balance.
Phil Twyford: What does he say to Gary Taylor of the Environmental Defence Society who says that the bill “is a serious assault on our planning framework which can only lead to ... slums.”?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The greatest threat to Aucklanders on low incomes is having house prices continue to go up by 13 percent per year. That is why this Government is committed to a comprehensive programme to improve the affordability of housing for all Aucklanders.
Phil Twyford: Can he point to the provision in the bill that will prevent special housing areas with lower quality standards being imposed on residents of established suburbs in Auckland, who are already fearful of more relaxed development rules?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Let me make it quite plain that the Government’s objective is both affordable and quality homes. But it is not possible to have a situation where, for instance, on the rural fringes of towns, including my own, in Nelson, local neighbourhoods are insisting on very large sections, very minimum sizes, wanting to exclude, for instance, social housing, and to somehow pretend that this Parliament is going to get a solution to the challenges that we have around affordable housing.
Phil Twyford: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked the Minister to point to the provision in the bill that would prevent the situation of slums occurring. He did not address the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Could the Minister please address that part of the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The special housing bill—the member is happy to read it; it is before a select committee—allows areas to go ahead only where there is the agreement of both the council and the Government. I reassure the member—
Phil Twyford: You can just override the council.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Well, indeed. This Government is committed to providing additional housing, and I assure the member that we are focused on both quality and affordability.
Phil Twyford: If a leading commentator says that his bill will cause slums, if the Auckland Council says it will not sign his housing accord, and if two-thirds of New Zealanders say the Government is not doing enough to promote affordable housing, is it not time to rethink his policy?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Not at all. If I look at the 9-year record of the previous Government, 90 percent of the houses that were built under the previous Labour Government were over $650,000.
Hon Tony Ryall: What? Ninety percent?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Ninety percent of the new houses built during Labour’s period were for only the very top income group. This is a Government that is committed to building affordable homes for all New Zealanders—thus, the reforms and the programme that we have before the House.
Question No. 6 to Minister
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question was originally set down for the Minister of Finance. I seek leave for it to be put back to the Minister of Finance.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is so sought. Is there any objection? There is.
Climate Change Policy—Minister’s Statements
6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he stand by the Minister of Finance’s statement: “Well, we’ve got climate change policy built around the emissions trading system, which has bipartisan support”?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he accept the scientific consensus that human-induced climate change is real, or does he share the view of the finance Minister that, well, “It [only] may well be”?
Hon TIM GROSER: We accept that the science points to risks, but we also understand that there are major questions around the numerics, around the extent of climate change, and around a number of other factors that feed into this equation.
Dr Russel Norman: Do those uncertainties around the numerics justify the Government weakening the emissions trading scheme so that it no longer has any effect?
Hon TIM GROSER: No, we are not weakening the emissions trading scheme; we are maintaining the emissions trading scheme on its current settings.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the latest OECD economic survey of New Zealand, which came out a couple of days ago—you might remember it—which recommends strengthening price signals in the emissions trading system, or does he think, as John Key seems to think, that the emissions trading scheme is a far-left idea?
Hon TIM GROSER: Once again the member is partially quoting from the OECD survey. What I recall quite clearly, although I do not have it in front of me, was a very clear statement that said the New Zealand emissions trading scheme is the most advanced scheme of its type in the world.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the OECD in its recent country report about New Zealand that “encouraging investment in greenhouse gas mitigation technologies and transport infrastructure will require stronger price signals from the emissions trading scheme”, or does he think that a stronger emissions trading scheme is some kind of far-left idea, as John Key seems to think?
Hon TIM GROSER: Quite clearly, a stronger international price would drive an adjustment in a faster direction, but the underlying policy is that we are aligning ourselves with world prices. At the same time, our proportion of renewable energy is going rapidly towards the 90 percent target.
Dr Russel Norman: Does not this OECD report demonstrate once again that the international economic mainstream is actually much closer to the Green Party policy of a stronger carbon price, rather than the National policy of completely gutting the emissions trading scheme, which is an extremist policy by international standards?
Hon TIM GROSER: No, I do not accept that at all. It is a selective reading, once again, of the assessment.
Dr Russel Norman: How can the Minister continue to argue that New Zealand is being responsible and mainstream on climate change policy, when New Zealand is the fifth-worst country in the OECD for total greenhouse gas emissions on a per capita basis; are not we at the extremes of the OECD on climate change policy?
Hon TIM GROSER: The member knows perfectly well why New Zealand is in that position on a per capita basis, but the reality is that, since 48 percent of the emissions come from agriculture, we are the most carbon-efficient major agricultural country in the world. If we were to reduce our emissions by killing agriculture, as the member consistently advocates, we would actually worsen climate change internationally.
Land Transport—Legislative Changes
7. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Transport: What are some of the benefits of the Land Transport Management Amendment Bill passed by the House on Tuesday?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Now the Land Transport Management Amendment Act, it puts in place the Public Transport Operating Model, which is an ongoing partnership between regional councils and public transport operators for the planning and contracting of public transport. The Public Transport Operating Model was developed through a collaborative process involving the public transport sector. It has a high level of support from operators and regional councils. The Act also simplifies the process for putting in place publicprivate partnership arrangements, and removes the provision to implement a regional fuel tax. Opposition to this Act is opposition to public transport.
David Bennett: Why is the Government amending the public-private partnership arrangements in the original Land Transport Management Act?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The bill simplifies the process for approving public-private partnerships. The Government wants to ensure that there is a more straightforward process, which will reduce the barriers or potential barriers to the use of these partnerships. We believe that using public-private partnerships is a legitimate way to address some of the longstanding transport infrastructure needs of the country.
Iain Lees-Galloway: Can the Minister confirm that this law strips Auckland councillors of their democratic right to decide how to spend their own transport budget of $459.5 million—or one-third of Auckland ratepayers’ money—and that it makes this task the responsibility of the unelected board of Auckland Transport, which is now bound to follow his Government policy statement? Why does he hate democracy?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. That is, to say the least, a very jaundiced view of the collaborative arrangements we have as a Government with Auckland Council.
Earthquake Commission—Official Information Act and Privacy Act Requests
8. Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East) to the Minister responsible for
the Earthquake Commission: Is he satisfied with the time the Earthquake Commission takes to respond to Official Information Act and Privacy Act requests; if so, why?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission): I am satisfied with the Earthquake Commission’s response to these requests inside the statutory time frames. Since 4 September 2010 the Earthquake Commission has received over 5,000 Official Information Act requests. There are 17 full-time staff doing nothing but processing those requests, and we have a recruitment programme to have another three staff put into permanent roles. In a word, the agency is overwhelmed. I would note that the Ombudsman’s advice and comment have been acted upon by the Earthquake Commission in trying to deal with this particular volume of work.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Is he aware that over 2,000 people have signed an online petition calling on him to urgently amend the Earthquake Commission’s claims management system, in light of the months people have to wait for an Official Information Act request to get the information they need to make an informed decision on the future of their homes; if so, what is his response?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not aware of that.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Does the Earthquake Commission’s decision to extend the time for processing Official Information Act requests to 6 to 7 months meet its statutory obligations to comply with the Official Information Act; if not, what steps has he taken to require the Earthquake Commission to comply with the law?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, quite evidently, it does not. But, as I said, there has been a huge inundation of Official Information Act requests since 4 September. That has heightened in recent months. What I have done is require the Earthquake Commission to work with the Office of the Ombudsmen to get good processes in place. The State Services Commission has been asked to see whether there is capacity in other State agencies to assist with the process. I would note that there has been a 40 percent staffing turnover in this particular unit of the Earthquake Commission, and that makes things very, very difficult, but we are prepared to take more staff on. We are doing our very best to speed up that process, but the volume is so big that it is overwhelming.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: When was he first advised that, due to the Earthquake Commission’s continued inability to comply with its obligations under the Official Information Act and the Privacy Act, the Chief Ombudsman, in conjunction with the Privacy Commissioner, will be undertaking an investigation under the Ombudsmen Act into the Earthquake Commission’s management of its requests for official information, as stated in her letter to Brent Hamlin after he was stonewalled by the Earthquake Commission for 6 months?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have been aware of the difficulties that the Earthquake Commission is having in dealing with not only 726,000 individual insurance claims but also over 5,000 Official Information Act requests since 4 September 2010. We have had engagement with the Office of the Ombudsmen, and we would welcome any suggestion the Ombudsman has for how this process might be sped up.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific: when was he first advised that the Chief Ombudsman, in conjunction with—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Could the Minister please address that part of the question.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, I thought I had. I was saying that this is something that I have been watching for quite a time, and that, as far as I can recollect, it would have been in one of the weekly meetings that I had with the Earthquake Commission in recent weeks. I cannot pinpoint that week just here.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I seek leave to table the letter from the Chief Ombudsman to Mr Brent Hamlin, concerning the Earthquake Commission’s continued inability to comply with its obligations, and notifying that she will be undertaking an investigation with the—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Where is the privacy waiver?
Mr SPEAKER: No, the letter is from the Ombudsman to the—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is someone else’s letter.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister is raising whether there is any issue of—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: I understand. I have permission from Mr Brent Hamlin to table the letter in Parliament.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Is that being tabled?
Mr SPEAKER: It does not need to be. She has assured the House that she has got permission to table it. She is seeking leave to table it. I put the leave. Is there any objection to that letter being tabled? There is not. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Environmental Work—2013 Green Ribbon Awards
9. NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for the
Environment: What recent announcement has the Government made to recognise outstanding environmental achievement?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): Yesterday at Parliament I hosted the Green Ribbon Awards, which recognise the outstanding contributions made by individuals, organisations, businesses, and communities to protecting and enhancing New Zealand’s environment. This year’s awards had more than 200 entries from 46 towns and cities across the country, and the finalists covered initiatives in a wide range of areas. Eleven category winners from around the country were announced, with the Sustainable Coastlines Charitable Trust awarded the supreme winner for its work to protect and sustain our coastlines. Can I congratulate all of last night’s finalists and winners.
Family/Whānau Support—Minister’s Statements
10. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Māori Affairs: Does he stand by his statement with respect to Māori whanau “our priority is the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of society, and we will do everything we can to fight for that”; if so, how has he improved the wellbeing of the most vulnerable members of society?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Minister of Māori Affairs): I thank the member for that question. As Minister I have improved the well-being of our vulnerable Māori whānau by establishing the Kaitoko Whānau programme, which has 51 community workers working among the vulnerable
families, and the Ōranga Whānau programme, which has 21 community workers looking after new young mothers of vulnerable whānau. I have established community gardens—1,124 of them— through Māra Kai for people who have no food. I have established cadetship programmes for Māori unemployed, with a 98 percent success rate and retention rate. I have established a professional group, trade training, and various kinds of them. I have established a literacy programme for decile 1, 2, and 3 schools throughout the whole country, recognising that education is a vital part of vulnerability. Also we have led the Government to establish a Ministerial Committee on Poverty, and, through our working with that committee, $100 million has gone towards insulating lowincome households, and this is on top of the 8,000 Māori whānau who have already had their homes insulated. Through this committee we had breakfasts in schools for decile 1, 2, 3, and 4, and more to come in other schools—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I have not finished.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate that the Minister has got a lot of programmes under way, but that is a sufficiently long answer. [Interruption] But there will be an opportunity, I am sure, in the supplementary questions.
Rino Tirikatene: Does he agree that he has failed to improve the well-being of Māori in the Te Tai Rāwhiti - Tūranga region—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the member please start his question again.
Rino Tirikatene: Does he agree that he has failed to improve the well-being of Māori in the Te Tai Rāwhiti - Tūranga region and across Ngāti Kahungunu, given that since 2008 housing costs for Māori have increased by 5 percent while incomes have fallen by 14 percent; if not, why not?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I have most certainly worked in the Tai Rāwhiti area, with the programmes that you have just heard, giving some credibility, food on the table, and programmes that lead towards employment.
Grant Robertson: Not affordable housing, though.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I do not build houses; I insulate them.
Rino Tirikatene: Does he agree that he has failed to improve the well-being of Māori in the Te Tai Rāwhiti - Tūranga region and across Ngāti Kahungunu, given that Māori unemployment in the region has averaged around 15 percent over the past 3 years?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: During the years leading up to the recession, you had 9 years to do something to prepare Māori for this recession.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I have not finished.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have a point of order.
Chris Hipkins: It is a very brief point of order. It is in two parts, the first of which is that I do not think that you had 9 years to do very much when you were in Opposition. The second is that it is generally accepted that Ministers should not begin their answers to questions with an attack on the questioner.
Mr SPEAKER: The first point is absolutely relevant. The Minister should refrain from bringing the Speaker into the debate. But I would ask members to have a look at the review of the Standing Orders of 2011, when it was noted that it occasionally happens. It is unhelpful for any member to raise the point of order. It is a matter for the Speaker’s discretion. Would the Minister please continue with his answer.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Thank you. I have worked tirelessly in the Tai Rāwhiti district in trade training and establishing schemes—[Interruption] For example, getting people without—he talked about jobs. Why do you not listen to your own question? I am creating opportunities for people without skills to do trade training and get a job.
Rino Tirikatene: Does he agree that his initiatives to reduce smoking among Māori have failed, given that smoking rates for non-Māori have decreased from 2007 to 2012, yet smoking rates for Māori remain unchanged; if not, why not?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Do you give up things when they are—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Do not—
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: Sorry.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not give up.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: The cessation of smoking programme is a long-term thing, and it is going to take ages to get people to actually give up smoking completely. In 3 years’ time a packet of 20 smokes will cost $20, and already people are saying it is too dear and they are dropping off. So we have just got to persevere with this if we want a healthy New Zealand.
Rino Tirikatene: Does he agree with the assertion in the Regional Economic Activity Report issued by his colleague Steven Joyce that the reason unemployment is higher in these regions is that too many Māori live there?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: I have no responsibility for that report.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister of Māori Affairs does have ministerial responsibility for his own views on things, so he can say he has not seen the report, he could answer that question in a number of other ways, but simply saying that he does not have responsibility is not a correct answer.
Mr SPEAKER: And I accept the point the member has raised. The member is part of a Government, and, clearly, the Government has a responsibility. I will ask the member Rino Tirikatene to put the question again.
Rino Tirikatene: Does he agree with the assertion in the Regional Economic Activity Report issued by his colleague Steven Joyce that the reason unemployment is higher in these regions is that too many Māori live there?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: No. Unemployment is high where people are not trained and do not have the qualifications or the skills. Māori are represented in those underachieving areas, and so we are usually put off first when there is a recession that we have not prepared for, and we are the last back on when there is work.
Rino Tirikatene: How can he claim he is making gains for Māori by being at the table when in every major statistic that matters—income, jobs, housing, and well-being—Māori have gone backwards under his watch?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: The member is selectively picking out things to say that Māori are not improving. Māori are totally succeeding. I have here this document, which I am prepared to give you, Rino. It will cost you a donation to a family in need—would you do that? It shows that the Māori Party under my and Tariana’s leadership has got $1 billion—$1 billion—through the Budgets to Māori people, and that is a party of three. What have you done?
Climate Change—Greenhouse Gas Emissions
11. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Is he concerned by the continued increasing trend in atmospheric CO2 levels, that recently breached 400 parts per million at Mauna Loa?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes, and that is why I am concerned about the glacial pace of negotiations internationally towards a global solution to the problem.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Why is New Zealand—with what the OECD has described as its advanced emissions trading scheme whose price signals need strengthening—the only country that made a binding commitment in the first Kyoto Protocol period and has not made a second commitment?
Hon TIM GROSER: There are actually nearly 100 countries that have no unilateral target, no conditional target, and no statement about whether they will even put in place policies. They account for about 22 percent of emissions, which is 100 times the level of New Zealand emissions. I think that is where the problem lies.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister agree that the problem actually lies in his inability to recognise and acknowledge that the framework convention makes a distinction between the countries that he just identified as not having been required to have legal obligations and those that have, and that he is trying to get out of the group of those that have?
Hon TIM GROSER: That is precisely the crux of the problem. When Kyoto deals with only 14 percent of emissions, leaving 86 percent of emissions outside, we will never have progress. The entire focus internationally should be on a global agreement.
Dr Kennedy Graham: In determining New Zealand’s commitment—presumably sometime this year—will the Minister reconcile his supplementary answer in question No. 6 today that “we are aligning ourselves with world prices” with today’s indicative carbon spot price of 57c for certified emission reductions and 5c for emission reduction units?
Hon TIM GROSER: Absolutely. The world price is what it is. It reflects the fact that not sufficient countries are doing enough in this space, and that the eurozone is responsible for most of the carbon price, and is in the middle of a deep recession.
Budget 2013—Heart Disease and Diabetes Prevention and Care
12, LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister of Health: What initiatives are included in the Government’s 2013 Budget boost for heart disease and diabetes?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): New Zealanders with or at risk of developing diabetes and heart disease will benefit from a $35.5 million boost of new funding over 4 years, which includes around about $16 million to further increase the number of people getting heart and diabetes checks, in order to facilitate better diagnosis of those with diabetes and pre-diabetes.
Hon Annette King: Are the predictions for the number of people at risk of developing diabetes set to decrease over the next 4 years; if not, why, having stated that diabetes is one of our fastestgrowing long-term conditions, does the funding that he is crowing about today decrease every year from 2014-15 of his 4-year project?
Hon TONY RYALL: Because those numbers are consistent with what has been announced in the Budget.
Brendan Horan: Setting aside his answer yesterday about “a vast majority”, will the Minister acknowledge that there are numbers of diabetics who are finding—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the member to restate his question. He cannot ask any member of the House to set aside an answer that was given in the House yesterday.
Brendan Horan: Will the Minister acknowledge that there are numbers of diabetics who are finding that the CareSens meters are not a safe and reliable medical device, and because of this are putting their lives at risk daily?
Hon TONY RYALL: Patients who have concerns should talk to their pharmacist or general practitioner.