Questions and Answers - June 13
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Growth and Job Creation—Progress
1. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy—particularly on progress in building growth and jobs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Reserve Bank this morning issued its Monetary Policy Statement for June. This confirmed the official cash rate has remained unchanged at 2.5 percent. It also confirmed that the Reserve Bank has slightly revised upwards its forecasts of economic activity over the near term with GDP growth expected to accelerate to about 3.5 percent by the second half of 2014. This will be supported by stronger private consumption than projected previously, along with increased business investment, and investment relating to the Canterbury rebuild. The forecast growth is expected to support more jobs and result in lower unemployment over the next 3 or 4 years.
John Hayes: What are some the factors behind the Reserve Bank’s latest forecast for growth in the economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are a number of factors. Private consumption expenditure is expected to grow moderately over the next 4 years, reflecting a pick-up in consumer confidence. Investment also remains a key driver of growth, particularly related to the Canterbury rebuild. There is also a stronger outlook for business investment, particularly gross capital formation following recent strength in business confidence surveys. The Reserve Bank’s view of trading partner growth is slightly more favourable than in its March forecast. All of these factors are expected to contribute to economic growth in New Zealand over the next 4 years.
John Hayes: In the light of its outlook for improving economic growth, what does the Reserve Bank say about the outlook for the labour market, and especially the rate of unemployment?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Reserve Bank says the expected increase in domestic production will continue to support a gradual recovery in the labour market. Employment is expected to grow modestly with relatively stronger growth expected in Canterbury, and, in fact, across the South Island. Overall seasonally adjusted annual employment growth is forecast to be between 0.4 percent and 2.2 percent over the years 2013-16. The Reserve Bank also forecasts the unemployment rate to fall from 6.2 percent currently to 4.8 percent by 2016. The Government is supporting these positive forecasts with a comprehensive economic programme aimed at encouraging businesses to invest, grow, and employ more people.
John Hayes: So how does the economic outlook compare with New Zealand’s position 5 years ago, and what are the benefits of the subsequent improvements for New Zealand families?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It is really quite a turn-round on 5 years ago. The outlook for both the economy and New Zealand families is considerably better. For a start, the economy is now growing faster than those of most other developed countries. In 2008 it was deep in a domestic recession that
started before the global financial crisis. The cost of living is low, increasing by about 1 percent annually. In 2008 inflation was more than 5 percent. Mortgage rates are at 50-year lows, around half of what they were in 2008. That saves a family with a $200,000 mortgage around $200 a week. The export sector and jobs in that sector are growing. Five years ago the tradable sector had been in recession since 2005. Households are now saving a bit more and paying down debt. Five years ago, encouraged by Government policies, they were borrowing and consuming beyond their means.
Grant Robertson: Further to that answer, can the Minister tell us whether New Zealand’s ranking in OECD unemployment statistics is better or worse than it was 5 years ago?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I cannot actually tell the member exactly what it was, but I can tell him, though, that it is one of the better performing in the OECD right now. And today we have more adult New Zealanders employed in jobs in this country than Australia has in Australia.
Grant Robertson: Can the Minister of Finance confirm that in his Budget recently presented to this House, Treasury projects that his Government will fall 61,000 jobs short—
Hon Member: How many?
Grant Robertson: —61,000—of their 2011 election promise to New Zealanders?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The good news for the member is that there is a projection along roughly every quarter, including from the Reserve Bank. What I can tell him is that there is one even in the last couple of days—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a very specific question about Budget 2013, the Minister of Finance’s Budget. I asked about that.
Mr SPEAKER: It was a question about whether the Minister could confirm some Treasury advice?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: He used the word “election.”
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am asking the Hon Steven Joyce to address the question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not have those numbers to hand. I would be deeply suspicious of the member in that regard. But the point I was making, which was related to that, is that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment short-term employment outlook just came out in the last couple of days—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He clearly does not know the answer, so I seek leave of the House to table the pages from 2013 Budget that indicate—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not prepared to put leave to table a document that is available to everybody.
Tax Revenue—Log Export Forecasts
2. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister of Revenue: How much tax revenue is forecast from the predicted increase in log export volumes over the next four years?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister of
Revenue: The Government’s tax revenue forecasts are calculated on a whole economy basis, and are not generally separated into industry sectors of the type that the member is seeking. Obviously, everything else being equal, an increase in export volumes should increase domestic profit and therefore tax revenue. But at the granular level the member is requesting, it is not possible to give him any sort of accurate estimate.
Richard Prosser: Does he concede the fact that greater volumes of timber being processed in mills such as Red Stag Timber, in his own electorate, would lead to greater revenue for the Government and reduced unemployment?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: It does not necessarily follow. It would depend very much, for example, on the profitability of the foresters versus, for example, the profitability of the processing company. If the processing company was not profitable, then obviously it would not be paying any tax. So I do not think that you can make any sort of assumption based on just a suggestion about one type of company versus another.
Richard Prosser: Is he aware of the significant financial benefits to the Government and to the regions of processing those logs for export here in New Zealand with Kiwi workers, rather than just exporting just large volumes of unprocessed logs offshore?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think we are getting away from the Minister’s portfolio a little bit, but in terms of the member’s specific question, I do not think you can necessarily make assumptions in regard to it. I am aware that there are a number of organisations looking at doing more processing in this country in a number of different markets, and, presumably, if that turns out to be economically viable, that will be done. But I think some of the advice that I have seen in this regard is that it is actually the control of the value chain right to the consumer that really creates the value. So it is not just enough to create a processing plant in a region, as against, for example, having control of the brand right across to wherever you are selling the product.
Richard Prosser: Would he, in light of the considerable benefits, consider adopting policies aimed at increasing the domestic processing of timber, such as New Zealand First’s lower domestic log price policy; if not, why not?
Mr SPEAKER: Hon Steven Joyce, in as far as the question is associated with the revenue portfolio.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I am not really sure how close this is to the revenue portfolio, but I think it would be difficult to suggest that the Government should necessarily just go out there and by fiat declare a price on logs—although it would fit with the Greens’ power policy, of course. I think probably the best approach is to let the competitive forces play. It is important to note, of course, that the forestry industry, including the logging industry, is making a very big contribution to New Zealand’s exports currently.
Government Communications Security Bureau—Investigation into Review of Compliance
3. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: On what date did his Chief of Staff inform him that “there were issues of Ministers having to comply” with regard to the Henry Report and did his Chief of Staff tell him that the Minister in question was Hon Peter Dunne?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: The Prime Minister’s chief of staff had a brief conversation with him on Wednesday, 29 May, in which he told the Prime Minister he planned to reiterate on the Prime Minister’s behalf an expectation that Ministers comply with Mr Henry’s inquiry. He also told the Prime Minister that there was an issue around Mr Dunne making some emails available to the inquiry.
Grant Robertson: Why, then, did he tell the House on 5 June that he had no details about the inquiry, when the chief of staff had been informing him about it a week earlier?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister had no details of the inquiry. He had a briefing from his chief of staff, who, of course, had also had discussions with Mr Dunne’s chief of staff and was therefore aware of the issue.
Grant Robertson: Why, at that point, having received that briefing on 29 May, did the Prime Minister not directly ask Mr Dunne to comply with the inquiry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister does not consider a conversation held briefly with his chief of staff to be a briefing. It was a notification. It was—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the Minister please finish his answer.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister’s chief of staff notified him of his intention to reiterate with all Ministers that there was an expectation they would comply with the requirements of the inquiry.
Grant Robertson: When his chief of staff told him that one of his Ministers—and named that Minister, Peter Dunne—was not complying with an inquiry into the leak of a highly sensitive document, why did he not directly ask Mr Dunne to comply with the inquiry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister was notified that there was an issue around some emails, and he agreed with the chief of staff that he should reiterate with all Ministers that they should comply with the inquiry.
Grant Robertson: Is it not the case that the reason he did not ask Mr Dunne to comply with the inquiry is that he did not want the inquiry to find that one of his Ministers directly leaked the report?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, because the inquiry was under way. There was no point in trying to pre-empt what a result of the inquiry should be. It was appropriate that all Ministers were re-informed that the expectation was they would comply. It was not until the report was made that it was evident that Mr Dunne had not complied.
Grant Robertson: Why, in numerous interviews and in questions in this House, did the Prime Minister not give MPs or members of the public the full story about what he knew about his Minister Peter Dunne not complying with the inquiry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because it was not evident until the inquiry document was released that there had been a lack of compliance. When the Prime Minister was told by his chief of staff he agreed with his chief of staff that he should reiterate the expectation that all Ministers should comply. But the non-compliance was not known until the report was released.
Grant Robertson: How can that answer be correct when his chief of staff told him on 29 May that Peter Dunne was not complying with the inquiry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is not reasonable for that member to take the words I used—in saying there was some issue around the release of emails with Mr Dunne—as meaning that the Prime Minister knew he was not releasing emails. It is quite untrue.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why is the Prime Minister prepared to put out a report that Sir Bruce Ferguson says was sanitised, did not contain all the information he saw, and, further, where the classified information that was highly sensitive was removed out the original report, then put into the appendices, and then never released? Why is the Prime Minister prepared to tolerate that if he is not engaged in a cover-up?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because the report in question was prepared for public release. It did not carry classified information, and neither should it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is very clear that my question refers to the original report that Sir Bruce Ferguson saw, he being the former head of the Government Communications Security Bureau, and a man of serious significance in this matter. It is that original report that I am talking about, and the Minister speaking for the Prime Minister is seeking to duck the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, on this occasion the Minster answering on behalf of the Prime Minister has addressed the question adequately, in my opinion.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, I raise with you this idea of a subjective judgment where you depart from the standard practice of saying that you believe the Minister has answered the question. That may be at variance with other people’s views but we have to accept that because you are the Speaker. But when you start putting a subjective judgment on it, like “very adequately” or “adequately”, when demonstrably it is not, then you are going to get disorder in this House, and rightly so.
Mr SPEAKER: No. The trouble with the potential for disorder in the House is the member’s persistence in raising points of order when he does not get an answer that satisfies the member. My job here is to determine whether the Minister—in this case, the Minister answering on behalf of the Prime Minister—has adequately addressed the question in my opinion. That is my job, and I have so ruled. If the member continues to raise points of order questioning a decision I have made, that in itself then leads to disorder in this House.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the Government be holding an investigation into, first, the Government Communications Security Bureau morale review leak; second, the Government
Communications Security Bureau personnel appointment leak; and, third, the Intelligence and Security Committee proceedings leak; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am not able to answer that question.
Grant Robertson: Did his chief of staff have any further conversations with him after 29 May and before 5 June about progress with the Henry report?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Depending on the day on which the report was received by the Prime Minister, which was 5 June, then the answer would be no.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Gambling-related Harm
4. DENISE ROCHE (Green) to the Minister for Economic Development: Will the Government release papers detailing the costs of gambling-related social harm at Skycity Auckland before the final sign off on the Skycity convention centre deal; if not, when will these papers be released?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): No. As I have said publicly a number of times, I would anticipate that if and when negotiations are complete and a final agreement is signed with Skycity, the Government will then proactively release a large number of documents previously withheld on the basis of commercial sensitivity and prejudicing the Crown’s position in commercial negotiations. As the member will appreciate, due to the ongoing nature of negotiations with Skycity it is not possible to provide her with a fixed date yet at this time.
Denise Roche: What is the estimated cost per annum of the social harm caused by the Skycity deal?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member is asking me to provide that information now, and I have just answered to the primary question why I am not prepared to provide that information at this point. But as I have said previously, once and if an agreement is completed, the intention would be to release that information.
Denise Roche: Has he received any advice regarding the social harm caused by the 12 extra gaming tables granted to Skycity under this deal, given these tables are the equivalent of an extra 240 poker machines, as they allow up to 20 people to play games from a central computer; if so, what was that advice?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not necessarily agree with the member’s characterisation of those machines, but, again, I would not want to give the advice at this time. I suppose I could just say, in more broad terms, that it is possible to have social harm from any nature of social activities—for example, having drinks at a corporate box at a rugby match with Skycity—
Denise Roche: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I have a point of order from Denise Roche.
Denise Roche: The question related to poker machines, not to Skycity corporate boxes.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the bigger—[Interruption]
Denise Roche: Supplementary question.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Denise Roche.
Denise Roche: What evidence, if any, does he have that the Host Responsibility measures proposed in the heads of agreement by Skycity will reduce problem gambling, and will those Host Responsibility measures be subject to review by independent experts; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, the member is asking me to particularly address the information that I have said that I will release in due course. But it is important—and I can point out again for her—that in relation to the requirement for Skycity to meet its Host Responsibility requirements, none of that is changed by any proposed agreement. It would be required to meet the requirements that are set up and overseen by the Gambling Commission, so none of that changes.
Denise Roche: Why did he not instruct financial consultant KordaMentha to count the costs of the social harm of this deal when it was contracted to analyse its costs and benefits?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The purpose of the KordaMentha report was to assess the economic value of the arrangements between the parties to ensure that they were fair on an economic basis. The social harm discussion is dealt with separately, with a separate stream of advice, and, as I say, that will be released in due course.
Denise Roche: Does he consider that any social harm caused by the deal is a cost to the Crown and the country, and why has he not let the public know about that before the contract is signed?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, as I said at the time, the Government has made its assessment. Cabinet has made its assessment of the merits of any arrangement and considered an arrangement, and has, on balance, decided to proceed on the basis that the benefits of it outweigh the costs. That is Cabinet’s view. As I said, there is a range of supporting information that will be released in due course.
Denise Roche: Why will he not release the papers detailing the financial and other costs of social harm before signing the deal? Is he concerned at the outcry from the Auckland public if they knew in advance how bad this deal will be for their communities?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, I am not concerned about that at all. It is just not appropriate when there is a whole range of information that is being considered as part of the negotiations of the final agreement. I noticed there are a number of people in public who are saying that they are very concerned. Some of them, of course, have close links to various political parties. Other members of the public probably have a more even view, which is around the balance of economic growth and jobs versus the potential for some social harm, and I am sure they will consider that when and if any deal is finalised and legislation is put before the House.
Children, State Care—Addressing Historic Abuse Claims
5. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What announcements has she made to support the ongoing resolution of historic abuse claims?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development): As part of Budget 2013 the Government has committed $16 million over the next 4 years to continue the Ministry of Social Development’s successful historical claims resolution process for those abused in care. To date more than 400 historical claims have been resolved. Only 55 were resolved prior to 2008, but we have done more than 350 since then.
Melissa Lee: What else is the Government doing to support people who were abused in care?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Government has committed a further $1.9 million over 2 years to continue the Confidential Listening and Assistance Service. The Confidential Listening and Assistance Service provides a forum for people who allege abuse or neglect, or have concerns about their time in State care in the health, child welfare, or special education sectors. The service has provided support to more than 700 people so far, and another 2 years is necessary.
Melissa Lee: What steps are being taken to fully resolve these historical claims?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: In addition to this further funding, I have asked the ministry to develop a comprehensive plan that will aim to resolve all historical claims by 2020. Further work will be completed over the coming months. The historical claims process established in 2006 includes those who first came into State care before 31 December 1992.
Christchurch City Council—Processing of Building Consents
6. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister for Building and Construction: When did he or anyone in MoBIE first become aware that the Christchurch City Council was placed on notice by the International Accreditation New Zealand (IANZ) of its intention to revoke the Council’s Building Consent Authority Accreditation?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction): The independent accrediting agency International Accreditation New Zealand wrote to Christchurch City Council on 30 May and copied that letter to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and
Employment. The letter gives the council notice of the intention to revoke its accreditation if substandard performance and poor systems are not corrected by 28 May. The ministry briefed me on 4 June about that, and on 6 June my officials met with the council. I seek leave to table the report of International Accreditation New Zealand.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that report. Is there any objection to that? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Mr Speaker, just as a—
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I had better correct that, I am sorry. It is “by 28 June”.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Thank you for that correction. For how long has the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment been involved with this issue, what problems have been identified, and what solutions have been found?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Accreditation for the Christchurch City Council under the International Accreditation New Zealand regime dates right back to 2007, when the council failed on a number of occasions to actually get accreditation and when a number of people worked with it—this was under the previous Labour Government. I can give the member the dates when the council failed to get accreditation—let me give them—starting back in November 2007, then in April 2008, and it finally got across the line in October 2008. Of recent times ministry officials have worked extensively with the council, trying to assist it in meeting its requirements to maintain its accreditation. Sadly, they have been unable to convince the council of things that needed to be done.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Given that amount of work, was he surprised this notice was given to the council by International Accreditation New Zealand; if so, why?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: No, I am not surprised. International Accreditation New Zealand is an independent accreditation authority. It works completely independently of Ministers. Its role, as set up by the previous Government, is to check on every certifying authority and make sure it meets the requirements laid down in the Act. In fact, what it found with Christchurch City Council was that a number of issues have failed to be met on a number of occasions, and that when remedial action was put in place, it still did not do it.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Has the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment been providing regular updates on this issue to him; if so, how was that information communicated to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: The ministry cannot provide detailed updates on this on an ongoing basis, given that International Accreditation New Zealand went in and did its evaluation in May, and it was at the end of that evaluation that they both wrote to the ministry and to the council on that same day—30 May, I think; I have got the letter here—and it was only at that point we were aware that International Accreditation had come to the conclusion that it was not meeting the criteria. So I repeat again, the whole aim of the Government is to make sure that consents are done properly and they are done without devaluing quality, but that they are done in a timely manner. I heard on Morning Report this morning that a particular Mark McGuinness from the Belgian Beer Cafe Torenhof took 89 days to get a consent through the council, and it was costing him $70,000 a week for that delay.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Does he share the view of the Mayor of Christchurch when the Mayor said: “I am confident that we will be able to clear the backlog and process all consents within the statutory timeframe. We are confident we can retain our accreditation as a building consent authority.”; if he does not share that view, what are the consequences of his view for the people of Canterbury?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: It is not relevant what my view on this is; it is an independent agency that determines whether the accreditation is kept or not. I will not intervene in that process. But we are looking at what options the Government might invoke if, in fact, that
accreditation is withdrawn. And I say to the House that if it is withdrawn, it will be the first time since the whole consenting regime was ever put in place. We have had a couple of councils get into a bit of trouble, but with work and time they have always maintained their accreditation. So if 28 June comes and the Christchurch City Council loses it, Ministers are now looking at what various options—
Hon Ruth Dyson: What?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Well, the Building Act is not clear. The member says: “What?”. Actually, it is the Building Act passed by her Government that does not say what options are available. It never canvassed the option of a certifying authority losing its accreditation.
Hon Ruth Dyson: Point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a point of order or a—
Hon Ruth Dyson: It is a point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: A point of order, and it will be heard in silence.
Hon Ruth Dyson: In light of the media comments this morning from the chair of the planning and regulatory committee of the council, Sue Wells, and the Mayor, Bob Parker, that he had not heard from Maurice Williamson or Gerry Brownlee, I seek leave to table their email addresses and cellphone numbers to improve the communication in future.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not prepared to put that to members.
Mineral Resources, Northland—Exploration
7. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent announcements have been made about mineral exploration in Northland?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Energy and Resources): Today I announced the results of the Northland 2012 tender, which sought interest in exploring for metallic minerals in the region. This was the first major minerals tender and, as a result, five permits have been offered to three companies. This represents an exciting opportunity for Northland. Past studies have highlighted the potential for mineral resources in the region to create jobs and income. The Government is keen to see regions like Northland reap the benefits of such development.
Mike Sabin: What is the value of the minerals sector to the New Zealand economy?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: The minerals sector now contributes around $20 million each year in royalties and over $1.1 billion to GDP. The mining sector directly employs more than 7,000 people throughout the country. Total exploration expenditure in New Zealand last year was estimated at almost $50 million, which is a new record and points the way to continued growth in mineral exploration.
Employment Relations Legislation—Minister’s Statements
8. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: When he goes to the International Labour Organization Conference in Geneva, does he intend to repeat his comment that New Zealand’s employment law is “unworkable”, “sloppy” and “creating real problems”?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Labour): No. I think the member is being a little bit tricky in her quotation. What I actually said was that our employment law is fundamentally sound but certainly there are parts that should be changed to achieve a more flexible and fair labour market, and that is exactly what this Government is doing.
Darien Fenton: What exactly are the parts of New Zealand’s employment law that he thinks are unworkable, sloppy, and creating real problems?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: If the member had watched an excellent interview on Q+A she would have been given several examples of moderate, centre-right employment policy that this Government is promoting. One was in relation to Part 6A, where I made it clear that there are issues around holidays, pay, and transferring them over, which are very difficult to work.
Darien Fenton: Will he be asking the opinion of the ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder, whether he agrees with the Minister’s assessment that New Zealand’s employment law is unworkable, sloppy, and creating real problems; if so, will he share the director-general’s opinion with the rest of New Zealand when he gets back from his trip to Geneva?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: We will see how it goes.
Darien Fenton: Does he agree that one of the very sloppy and unworkable parts of New Zealand employment law currently is that there is a $6 an hour gap between the Australian and New Zealand minimum wages; if so, will he be following the example of Wellington and promoting a living wage?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: No. The fact of the matter is that our minimum wage, as a proportion of the average wage in New Zealand, is the highest minimum wage in the OECD.
Darien Fenton: Does he agree with the Prime Minister’s comments on 27 May that a law change to allow employers to take on temporary workers when permanent staff are on strike or are locked out was not on the Government’s agenda; if so, will he be voting for Jami-Lee Ross’ Employment Relations (Continuity of Labour) Amendment Bill?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: In the wider context of everything I am sure the Prime Minister said, I certainly do agree with the Prime Minister.
Korean War Armistice—60th Anniversary
9. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs: What plans does the Government have to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice in July and recognise the contribution of New Zealand soldiers in the conflict?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Veterans’ Affairs): I can announce that next month I will have the honour of leading a delegation, which includes 31 New Zealand veterans of that conflict, to attend commemorations in the Republic of Korea to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice. New Zealand played an important part in the Korean War, with nearly 5,000 Kiwis serving as part of K-force and another 1,300 on Royal New Zealand Navy vessels. It is pleasing that we are able to help bring these veterans back to Korea to reflect and to pay respects to comrades lost.
Dr Paul Hutchison: In what other ways are veterans of the Korean conflict being served by the Government?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: The Government pays a war disablement or surviving spouse pension to more than 770 veterans of that conflict and 300 surviving spouses. On 1 April this year those payments were boosted by an increase of 5 percent, on top of the annual CPI increase. The Government recognises the sacrifices our veterans and their families have made for our country, and we are committed to providing the support and care they deserve.
Iain Lees-Galloway: When will he recognise the contribution of New Zealand soldiers in that conflict and others by finally introducing the legislation to implement the Law Commission’s recommendations from its review of the War Pensions Act, which his predecessor Nathan Guy promised would have been done long before now?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: As the member well knows, that is a very complex piece of legislation and it is 59 years old. The Government has made decisions about the replacement of that Act, and work is under way right now to introduce the bill. The Prime Minister has made a commitment, which we certainly support, that that bill will be implemented in this term of Parliament, and I stand by that commitment.
10. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Conservation: Has he implemented the recommendations of the 2012 meeting of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee to protect the estimated 55 adult Māui’s dolphins remaining; if not, why not?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): The recommendation of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee was to ban set nets and trawl fishing from Maunganui Bluff to Hāwera out to a depth of 100 metres. The Government has implemented a set net ban, but out to 2 nautical miles. My scientific advisers do not agree with the width of the ban area being determined by water depth rather than distance offshore, as the evidence shows a greater correlation between distance from shore than depth. The dolphin death last year was the first in a decade. It was inside the 2 nautical miles, caused by set netting, and we do not know whether it was a Hector’s dolphin or a Māui’s dolphin. I do appreciate that Māui’s dolphins are one of New Zealand’s special endemic species and that their numbers are worryingly low. The Government is currently reviewing the threat management plan and I can reassure the member that we will be taking all practical steps to ensure the survival of the Māui’s dolphin.
Gareth Hughes: Is it not the Minister of Conservation’s job to prevent the extinction of the last adult 55 Māui’s dolphins; if so, why is he still allowing lethal gill-net and trawl fishing in 81 percent of where scientists say Maui’s dolphins live?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I do not accept the member’s view on the figures. The difference between the approach determined by depth and that determined by distance out from shore means that in some areas the current protection goes further than what the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee recommends. In terms of the broader issue, since becoming Minister I have asked for a number of additional reports on options for measures that might enable us to better protect the Māui’s dolphin. It is my expectation that I and the Minister for Primary Industries will be in a position to announce any changes to the threat management strategy next month.
Gareth Hughes: Given that the Government’s own risk assessment attributes over 95 percent of human-caused Māui’s dolphin deaths are because of gill-nets and trawl nets, why will he not stop these fishing methods in the 100-metre contour, which is the recommendation of not only the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee and scientists, but also the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the Society for Marine Mammalogy—the list could go on—and why will you not take the steps that scientists and experts are calling for?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I assure the member I am taking the very best of scientific advice around ways in which to protect the Māui’s dolphin. The Government has sought additional options around steps. I do think it is a bit of an esoteric argument as to whether it is a distance, as in 2 nautical miles, or whether it is a depth, when, for instance, the area where the dolphin died last year—the first in 10 years—is actually an area where the approach of the International Whaling Commission would provide for a lesser level of protection than the 2 nautical mile approach.
Gareth Hughes: Given that there are only 55 left, it is not exactly esoteric for them, and is it not clear that we should listen to the international experts, the international bodies, and maybe the Minister should get better scientific advice—and my question is will the Minister consider it in the threat management plan?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I do find it a little rich getting a lecture from the Greens about following scientific advice. When it comes to genetic modification, they reject it. When it comes to issues of fracking, they reject it.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He did not even attempt to address the question. He just tried to attack the Greens.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I invite the member to carefully look at the Hansard around his question when he has the opportunity. He was asking why the Minister should not take into account the international evidence and the Minister responded by asking why the Greens could not also, in his opinion, take into account other international scientific evidence. I think it was adequately addressed.
Gareth Hughes: Given that we are talking about Hansard, my question to the Minister asks whether the public should read anything into a document prepared by the Parliamentary Library that
shows that in the Minister’s career, as reported in Hansard, he has talked about mining 95 times, but in this House he has talked about dolphins zero times?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Actions speak louder than words. I have been directly involved in approving 16 marine reserves, which is more than any other member in this House, and, actually, 16 more than that member or the Green Party. I could solve the member’s problem by saying “Māui, Māui, Māui, Māui” or “Hector’s, Hector’s, Hector’s, Hector’s”, but I actually think the Māui’s dolphin would do better by us actually putting in place the very best threat management plan.
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast - Tasman): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries. Does the Minister have confidence in his biosecurity system? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There was a bit of disruption upstairs there. Can I ask the member to please repeat that question.
11. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast - Tasman) to the Minister for
Primary Industries: Does he have confidence in the biosecurity system?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister for Primary
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Minister agree with the KPMG state of the nation report that assesses that many agribusiness leaders believe “we struggle to score more than a ‘could do better’ in respect of biosecurity”?
Hon AMY ADAMS: As I am speaking on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industries, I cannot give that answer, but what I can tell you is that biosecurity is the Minister’s highest priority.
Hon Damien O’Connor: How can the Minister claim that it is his highest priority and that we have a world-class biosecurity system when it took a report from two Kiwi farmers on a private trip to alert the ministry to the potential risk of foot-and-mouth disease from contaminated palm kernel expeller from Asia?
Hon AMY ADAMS: The Minister responded to the concerns that were raised, examined the system, and sent officials to investigate and view the facilities in the countries concerned. Those officials have returned, and have found that overall there are good systems in place. They have, however, identified some areas for improvement. Those are now being given immediate effect to.
Hon Damien O’Connor: What assurances can the Minister give the New Zealand brassica vegetable growers that their industry is safe from the great white butterfly when infestations around Nelson have soared, or does the Minister agree with the Department of Conservation Motueka Area Manager, Martin Rodd, who said: “It is something that has got away on us.”?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Given the width of the primary question, I simply do not have that information in front of me.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Why should New Zealand pig farmers have to spend a fortune and rely on the judgment of the Supreme Court that was just announced to protect their industry against this Government’s determination to lower the import health standards for pork and allow in high-risk contaminated pork from Canada?
Hon AMY ADAMS: On the information I have, that matter is still before the courts, so it would be inappropriate for me to comment.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I suggest the Minister go and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table a report, the KPMG Agribusiness Agenda 2013, which identifies biosecurity—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table the KPMG report from 2013. Is there any objection? Yes, there is objection.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table the report Malaysian Palm Kernel Industry Study Trip, dated September 2012, which was delivered to the Ministry for Primary Industries by two farmers—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular report. Is there any objection to that? [Interruption] There is not. It can be tabled. Question No. 12, Jacqui Dean. [Interruption]
Hon John Banks: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is objection.
Mr SPEAKER: I apologise. I did not hear the objection. It will now not be tabled.
Roading, Rural and Regional—Infrastructure
12. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Transport: What support is the Government giving to improve roading infrastructure in regional and rural New Zealand?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): There are numerous projects around the country that will lend support to regional roading infrastructure. I want to highlight one particularly for the member, though, and to state that work has begun on the first of two new Waitaki bridges at Kurow. The new two-lane bridges are being built across the river on State Highway 82 between Kurow and Hakataramea by the New Zealand Transport Agency to replace the two ageing 132- year-old single-lane wooden bridges, which have reached the end of their lives. I would like to thank the local member Jacqui Dean for her great work in advocating for her electorate, and helping progress the replacement of these bridges.
Jacqui Dean: What other projects that will improve roading infrastructure is the Government progressing?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As I said, there are a lot of these projects around the country, but I would like to talk about the 125-year-old Beaumont Bridge, which is being replaced at a cost of $15 million, and the single-lane Kawarau Falls bridge, being replaced at a cost of around $20 million. Both of these upgrades are modern and in a part of the country that the member will also be very familiar with.