Questions and Answers - August 8
strong>QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Household Labour Force Survey—Minister’s Statements
1. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Tertiary
Education, Skills and Employment: Does he stand by his statement that the Household Labour Force Survey is “the standard internationally recognised measure of employment and unemployment”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Yes, and I note that the household labour force survey was released yesterday and was headlined “Labour market continues to improve”. It is also worth noting that yesterday, for the first time, Statistics New Zealand released all three employment surveys in the same day, to provide a more comprehensive picture of the New Zealand labour market at one time.
Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, and that the household labour force survey shows that only 14,000 new jobs have been created since the 2011 election, is National still committed to its 2011 election promise that there will be 170,000 extra jobs by 2015?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Of course the Government is committed to working towards and achieving that goal, and I would point out for the member that actually 2012, as we know, was a challenging year for job growth, but in the first 6 months of this year the number of people employed has increased by 46,000 people, which means it would take about 21 months at that rate to achieve the outcome.
Grant Robertson: In light of the household labour force survey being “the standard internationally recognised measure of employment and unemployment”, can he confirm to the House that it now says that there are 153,000 New Zealanders unemployed, which is 48,000 more than when National took office?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not know the exact numbers that the member raises, but, yes, it is more, and that will be because of a thing that the member once again tries to ignore, which is the global financial crisis, and another thing that the member tries to ignore, which is the Christchurch earthquakes. This Government has done a very good job of navigating both.
Grant Robertson: In light of the fact that the Minister does not have the figures that were released yesterday, I seek leave to table the household labour force survey, June 2013 quarter—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That information is freely available to all members. [Interruption] Order! It is freely available to all members. Are there further supplementary questions?
Grant Robertson: Why should the more than 153,000 New Zealanders who are unemployed have any hope that they will get a job after nearly 5 years of this Government, which have seen unemployment over 6 percent, New Zealand slipping to being ranked 12th in the OECD, and, under his watch, 5,000 jobs going in just the last 3 months?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I completely reject the last of the member’s statements, and a fair few of the rest of his statements, but the key point, exactly, is 46,000 people more employed over the last two quarters in this country. The member can obfuscate all he likes, but that is the reality.
Su’a William Sio: Can he confirm that the household labour force survey also indicates that Pasifika unemployment is now 16.3 percent, nearly 10 percent higher than the national average, and what is he going to do to specifically address Pasifika unemployment? [Interruption]
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think what we are seeing is that the Opposition members do not want to ask questions; they just want to make statements, and maybe that is the way they want to do it. But I appreciate the member’s question, actually, because Pasifika unemployment has increased and it is higher than we would want, in any way, shape, or form. [Interruption] Well, as the member probably is not aware, because he does not do his homework, the reality is that the Government is investing very significantly in a key Pasifika trade training initiative. I am doing that with Minister Turia. We had 600 Māori and Pasifika trades training places in 2012-13. It has been successful, and in the Budget this year we have announced an increase in that from 600 to 3,000 places, and they are currently being put in place.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why does the Minister persist in using outdated criteria on the issue of unemployment when Roy Morgan Research just the other day put out a report saying that it was not 6.2 percent but, in fact, 8.8 percent, and that there was a second factor, which was people in seriously “under-work” situations—that is, not enough hours per week—and that figure was well over 9 percent; why does he not actually get a grip on reality and the true state of unemployment under his hopeless—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is becoming a very, very long question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, with the greatest respect to the member, the Government does not run on Roy Morgan Research polls. He may run on Roy Morgan Research polls, but the reality is that the household labour force survey, I think, from memory, is about 19 times the sample size of the Roy Morgan Research poll. The other important point for the member is this: New Zealand has one of the highest rates of participation in the labour market in the world. If he is suggesting it would be higher again, then, frankly, I think, with the greatest of respect, it is being made up.
2. PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yesterday Statistics New Zealand released for the first time a number of different indicators of employment and unemployment. Although the unemployment rate increased slightly to 6.4 percent, it was below the 6.8 percent of a year ago. Employment growth was up by 8,000 in the quarter following an increase of 38,000 in the previous quarter, indicating a reasonably solid improvement in the labour market. The results also show 6,000 more young people were studying in the June quarter, with the number of youth not in employment, education, or training falling to the lowest level since the beginning of 2008. The quarterly employment survey showed an extra 65,400 jobs in the economy over the past 2 years. This confirms a moderately improving labour market, although the data does move around from quarter to quarter.
Paul Goldsmith: What other reports has he received on the economy that support expectations of an improving overall trend in the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Treasury this week issued its monthly Economic Indicators report for July. It concludes that indicators are signalling moderate GDP growth, depending on the ongoing impact of the drought earlier this year. But, of course, the confidence surveys ask people in the economy what they think is happening, and those surveys show that confidence remains elevated and that companies intend to hire more people and invest more funds, which should provide a solid base for growth in the second half of 2013. Treasury notes there are signs that the recovery will
become more broad-based as growth in building activity benefits local manufacturers, and the agricultural sector bounces back from the drought.
Paul Goldsmith: What did Treasury’s monthly Economic Indicators report say about the employment market, particularly the impact of increases in business confidence on new jobs?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We get new jobs only when businesses do make the decision to invest another dollar and employ another person. Treasury noted that healthy levels of business confidence are translating into stronger hiring intentions and into investment intentions. Quoting from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research quarterly survey, Treasury notes that the labour market appears to be recovering, even though that recovery is gradual. A net 9 percent of firms intend to employ more staff over the next quarter—for instance, firms continue to report that skilled labour is difficult to find, particularly in Canterbury.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What long-term certainty is there for the people of Southland, and what are the benefits for taxpayers and the economy as a whole in respect of the deal with Rio Tinto, which, one, reduces the notice period for closing the smelter; two, reduces the price the smelter pays for electricity; and, three, includes a one-off payment of $30 million of taxpayers’ money to Rio Tinto in order for the Government to hasten the sale of Meridian Energy, which does nothing to stop Rio Tinto from leveraging the taxpayer and the Government yet again on or before 1 January 2017?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It’s the new candidate for Invercargill!
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called the Minister.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because they will not have him in Christchurch East—best to go somewhere they do not know him.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the Minister address the question.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I disagree with the member. Rio Tinto has negotiated a commercial contract with Meridian Energy, where Meridian Energy has weighed up the benefits of retaining a major customer that uses 40 percent of its electricity against the opportunities to sell that electricity to other buyers. The Government’s contribution provides certainty for Invercargill for 800 workers and certainty for the electricity market, and it will provide some certainty for investors in the Meridian Energy float. I dare say that if the announcement today were no deal and the smelter was closing, then the Labour Party would say the Government should have intervened.
Question No. 3 to Minister
Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was originally addressed to the Minister of Finance, and was transferred to the Minister for Climate Change Issues. I seek leave to have it transferred back to the Minister of Finance.
Mr SPEAKER: There is no point in me putting that leave. The matter of a transfer—and this has been discussed on many occasions—is over to the Government. I have no intention of putting the leave on this occasion because the Government has already made its decision. If the member wants to continue to ask the question, he now has the opportunity to do so.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to my colleagues. The point that I am making is not with regard to the transfer of the question; it is with regard to the wording following the transfer. What has happened is that the wording now relates to the view of the Minister for Climate Change Issues when the original question, I understand, asked the opinion of the Minister of Finance. In order to be properly transferred and to retain the original intent of the question, there has been a formula developed. That formula indicates that the question should be “Has he been advised whether the Minister of Finance stands by the question?”. That way the Minister the Government wants answers the question, but the question stays substantially the same.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I thank the member for his point. On this occasion the Government elected to make the transfer. There is always then a matter of tidying up some of the grammar of a
question when that transfer occurs. I am advised by the Clerk that on this particular occasion the wording was discussed with the member’s staff and office and has been agreed to. On that basis, if the member wishes to proceed with the question, I suggest he do so.
Climate Change—Minister of Finance’s Statements
3. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Does he stand by the answer given by the Minister of Finance to the question “Does he accept that humaninduced climate change is real?” that “It may well be …”?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister for Climate Change Issues): Yes, and now that I have had time to check the context, I can inform the member and the House that the context of this reply was when he was asked by Russel Norman whether the drought was attributable to climate change. As anyone who knows anything about the science knows, it is absurd to say that a particular event is related to climate change; climate change is the frequency of extreme events. To either deny that it could be the consequence of climate change or say that it was would not be a scientifically plausible response, so the Deputy Prime Minister gave the only respectable scientific response: it may well be.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is he proud—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Dr Kennedy Graham can start the question again.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is he proud of his record as Minister for Climate Change Issues, especially the absurd increase of New Zealand’s net emissions under his watch, which have increased 20 percent since 2009 and have reached their highest levels ever?
Hon TIM GROSER: I am extremely proud of the position that we are taking in climate change across all the policy spectrum. The member, who is fixated on trying to prove that New Zealand is some type of international pariah, might just ask himself the following question: if New Zealand was really “an international pariah on climate change”, how come in the last 2 years New Zealand has been invited for the first time to the big boys’ club, the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate, because of the particular contribution that New Zealand makes?
Dr Kennedy Graham: When does he expect New Zealand’s emissions to peak, and when can we expect the emissions of this big boy to return to their 1990 levels?
Hon TIM GROSER: Only when the Prime Minister has granted me the magical powers that I have been seeking for some time.
Dr Kennedy Graham: If the Government is treating climate change as real, as he claimed yesterday, why is it spending $1 billion a year on new motorways that lock us into an emissionsintensive transport system, rather than investing that money in sustainable, low-carbon transport?
Hon TIM GROSER: Well, the Government is doing a variety of things to fix up the infrastructure of this country, including spending $1.7 billion on the railway network and purchasing new electric trains.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister agree that the international carbon price is directly related to the functioning of the emissions trading scheme because the Government allows unlimited amounts of cheap credits, such as emission reduction units, to be dumped into our market, and when will he move to stop this?
Hon TIM GROSER: I really think the member should study carefully Sir Peter Gluckman’s report, and, in particular, the statement on page 19 that reads as follows: “New Zealand’s … emissions represent but a minute fraction of global emissions (less than 0.2%). Any action from New Zealand to mitigate emissions would have negligible [effect] … in real terms. Therefore, New Zealand’s contribution to the global effort … [has] more of a geopolitical [nature] …” So the idea that somehow New Zealand’s emissions are influencing the global price I think should be recast in terms of the underlying scientific reality.
Dr Kennedy Graham: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, the answer to the question completely missed the point of the question. The question is not how big we are and
whether we can influence international prices; the question is how the international prices influence us. He did not address that.
Mr SPEAKER: I have got to be honest, I found the question a little confusing. I thought the Minister attempted—[Interruption] Order! I thought the Minister gave a genuine attempt at answering the question. I will, on this occasion, if it assists the member, give the member an additional supplementary question. [Interruption] Order! Order! I am allowed to be generous.
Dr Kennedy Graham: How does his acceptance of the reality of climate change and the need for action fit with his Government’s endorsement of a new open-cast coalmine at Denniston on conservation land, and how will this help our clean, green image that is so badly shaken by recent events?
Hon TIM GROSER: This Government has got a variety of objectives, and one of them is to try to improve our economy and increase jobs, decrease imports, and generally improve the situation for all working families. We will do what we do in climate change through a balanced suite of climate change policies. We will not sacrifice everything to the altar of climate change.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does the Minister not realise that it is better to create new jobs through a quick economic transformation to a low-carbon economy and create green jobs than to rely on fading 1980s orthodoxy?
Hon TIM GROSER: There is absolutely a legitimate role for creating green jobs, and, for example, the work that we are doing to stimulate geothermal energy production is one of them. The work we are doing to try to sell geothermal services to countries moving into this space, like Indonesia, is another one. But the member should reflect on the abundant evidence that this idea that undifferentiated subsidies for green jobs, whether created directly by fiscal transfers or indirectly by regulatory frameworks, end up costing millions of dollars per job and are actually employment destroying.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is the international focus on the truth behind our clean, green image not a reminder that we have to match our actions to words, not just talk about future reductions, and begin to achieve them now by strengthening the emissions trading scheme and introducing a cap on emissions?
Hon TIM GROSER: I have to say I consider that question a spectacular piece of bad timing, so I will repeat my point. We have every reason to be concerned about New Zealand’s reputation, but our action on climate change right now is not amongst those reasons.
4. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Given that unemployment is rising, exports are down, and house price inflation in Auckland and Canterbury is in double-digits, does he agree that after 5 years as Finance Minister he has failed to rebalance and diversify the economy; if not, why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No. I think the Government has dealt reasonably effectively with two challenges. One was the severe imbalances in the economy, caused by the previous Labour Government, which focused on rapid increases in Government spending and depressing productivity in the rest of the economy. That was followed by a global financial crisis. Of course there are challenges about balance within the economy, and the Government is addressing those challenges directly. For instance, we hope that the Labour Party will support the Government’s measures to increase housing affordability and have a more reasonable housing market.
Hon David Parker: Does he agree with the article in the Washington Post on 7 August that the botulism issue highlights New Zealand’s reliance on dairy exports?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, you did not need the botulism issue to highlight the importance of the dairy industry to New Zealand. I must say that the dairy industry deserves some support, despite New Zealand talking for 20 or 30 years about being too reliant on commodities. The dairy industry
has performed better than the fashion industry, the IT industry, the wine industry, and the film industry, and it has injected billions of dollars of extra income into this economy in the last decade. We think that is not a bad performance.
Hon David Parker: Given that over the last 5 years under National, New Zealand’s reliance upon dairying has increased and the latest jobs statistics show a further decline in manufacturing employment, how can he deny that he has failed to rebalance and diversify the export sector despite his promise to do so?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the member may well know, it is not really a matter of whether Governments can just pick to have another industry. New Zealand has 30 years of experience of trying to do that, and how it has turned out is that we are very good at some things, such as the production of protein and high-value niche manufacturing, and those are the growing parts of the economy. Labour thinks it is good at government, and it decided to grow the Government part of the economy. Well, it turned out that that does not work very well.
Hon David Parker: Given his failure to diversify the economy or grow exports, why does he continue to deny the need to pull the levers recommended by the Reserve Bank, the OECD, the IMF, and the Labour Party, notably to get the capital into the right part of our economy instead of over-investment in Auckland’s house speculation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I certainly do not agree with the member’s characterisation of what is happening in the economy. In respect of capital getting to the right places, the Government’s tax reform has been very important to that. Our investment in infrastructure has been very important to that. Tidying up Labour’s mess in skills and education has been very important to that. We continue with a widespread programme of microeconomic reform, which is having the effect of shifting capital away from areas like the Government, which tends to not handle it very well, to productive growth. The member is wrong. Manufacturing and exports both have been growing, and those exporters deserve credit for their performance, not criticism.
Dairy Industry—Potential Contamination of Whey Protein
5. JOHN HAYES (National—Wairarapa) to the Minister of Trade: What efforts is the Government making to deal with the market effects of the possible contamination of some Fonterra dairy exports?
Hon TIM GROSER (Minister of Trade): Well, obviously the situation remains fluid, but I can assure members of the House and the public that we have made every possible effort to keep the regulatory authorities of the countries that may be affected—may be affected—informed, and to help them trace and locate the product and then recall it. But I can assure you, and I am certain that every member of the House has the same view, that the health of the children—both ours and theirs—is absolutely the only priority at this stage.
John Hayes: Does the Minister have any concerns about the longer-term consequences to New Zealand’s reputation from this problem?
Hon TIM GROSER: Yes, indeed. I have said on a couple of occasions, I suppose, that it would be naive to think that New Zealand will get out of this unscathed. The Government is extremely aware of that, and that is why we are putting such an effort into trying to deal with the immediate issue at hand. I would also like to add that we have sectors that have nothing to do with agribusiness that are concerned about this. I had one very sophisticated services exporter in my office today on this exact point. So this is why we are treating it with all the urgency that we have. We have a problem and we will seek to deal with it.
Regional Economies—Employment and Development
6. Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister for Economic Development: What action has he taken to ensure high value jobs are retained in Otago, Waikato, Northland, East Coast and Manawatū?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): The Government has taken a very large range of actions—in fact, around 360—in its Business Growth Agenda, which goes across different regions. Actually, there is a very good summary that the member might be interested in reading in this report that breaks it down region by region for him, but there is, as I say, a large number. One example is the Waikato region, which is one example that the member raises. For example, we are investing around $41 million over the last 3 years in research and development grants in the Waikato for companies to grow there—investing in a number of start-up, fast-growth companies through the Venture Investment Fund. It is just under 70 Waikato companies that are involved with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. We fund and support the SODA incubator in Hamilton. We provide a large number of capability development vouchers for Waikato businesses through Opportunity Hamilton. We are, of course, building—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It will have occurred to you, and it occurs to a few of my colleagues, that this is a Minister who simply cannot answer the question with any brevity whatsoever. It is a long tirade he always involves himself in, and surely after all this time he should have learnt to get his thoughts right.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. The Minister was giving a very adequate answer. There are too many occasions when the member himself jumps to his feet and says that the answer is not satisfactory. On this occasion the Minister can continue from where he was—certainly, do not start the answer again.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I was saying, and I will continue on, there is, of course, the ultrafast broadband initiative in the Waikato, and the rural broadband initiative. We are, of course, building the Waikato Expressway, a road of national significance that is crucial for the region’s development, and the Waikato projects on the New Zealand Cycle Trail, investing in the Food Innovation Network facilities at the Waikato Innovation Park—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am now starting to agree with the right honourable gentleman. That is quite long enough.
Sue Moroney: Well, what new economic development plan does he have for the Waikato region now that our region’s leadership role in agricultural research and development has been gutted— gutted with the announcement of 180 jobs going from the AgResearch—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! On this occasion I am going to ask Sue Moroney to start her question again, but—[Interruption] Order! I want it to be a question that is in line with the Standing Orders: short, sharp, and concise, without the addition. [Interruption] Order! Does the Hon David Parker wish to stay for question time? I was on my feet.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There were a number of interjections that were out of order during your response to the point of order, and I accept your admonition in respect of that. But the problem that the Opposition has with that ruling is that a similar standard should be applied to answers as is applied to questions. The last answer that we had from the very Minister showed that there is some inconsistency in that regard.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! When you look at the question it was a very broad question involving many significant parts of New Zealand. The Minister gave a substantial answer. It was interrupted—[Interruption] Sorry? I am on my feet, I say to the Hon Shane Jones. The right honourable member interrupted at one stage, and I thought that on that occasion I would give the Minister time to complete his answer. I then was in agreement with the Rt Hon Winston Peters. The answer was too long and I asked the Minister to cease that answer. I am now giving a supplementary question to Sue Moroney, but it will not be a long-winded supplementary question. It will be a supplementary question in line with the Standing Orders.
Sue Moroney: Thank you, Mr Speaker—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Sue Moroney; I never called the Hon Annette King.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Actually, the first person to speak after you called me was actually David Bennett, and I suggest—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! My patience is running out with the whole of the House. The reason I picked Annette King is that I was looking at Sue Moroney and calling her. I have not got the ability to look at the whole House at one time, and I would like members to appreciate that.
Sue Moroney: What new economic development plan does he have for the Waikato region now that our region’s leadership role in agricultural research and development has been gutted with the announcement of 180 jobs going from AgResearch’s Ruakura campus, and given that 130 New Zealand Post jobs will also be lost from Hamilton?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member highlights the importance of attracting new investment, because, of course, the post office changes have occurred because people simply do not send mail any more. I have a total of 16 separate initiatives for Waikato, some of which I have already listed for the member. I presume you do not want me to go through all the 16?
Mr SPEAKER: I certainly do not want the Minister to repeat those.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: If I could just give you a few examples. As I said to the member before, there is $41 million in research and development grants to help the development of new innovation with businesses in the Waikato. We are investing in fast-growth companies through the Venture Investment Fund and Seed Co-investment Fund. There is a very big investment that the country is making in the Waikato Expressway road of national significance, which is a couple of billion dollars, and to be completed by 2019. There is the very significant—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! That is a long enough answer.
Sue Moroney: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked about new economic development plans from that Minister and he has yet to actually answer that.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: It is very difficult for the Minister to answer when the person asking the question, supported by her party, starts moaning about getting an answer.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question was asked, and the question was very adequately addressed on this occasion.
Hon Shane Jones: Given that the East Coast and Hawke’s Bay has again experienced unemployment increases, and the Minister’s silver bullet for that region, of oil and gas, hangs on a very big “could”, what does the Minister suggest the 8,300 unemployed in the region do while they wait?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, we are focusing on a large number of initiatives. I thank the member for bringing up the positive efforts we are making in East Coast oil and gas exploration. I appreciate that he does not have the support of his own energy and resources spokesperson in that regard. We are also making very big investments—for example, in ultra-fast broadband in Napier, Hastings, and Gisborne, where people are involved in building that, and they have jobs doing so. We are also developing, as we know, the New Zealand Cycle Trail, which has got investment in that area. We have increased the number of Youth Guarantee places in that area to around 600. We are developing an irrigation scheme that we are looking to see developed in the Ruataniwha area, which the Government is very positive about, and that will bring lots of jobs for that region. We are also investing in the Primary Growth Partnership to lift private sector investment in innovation. We are spending a lot of money developing new work with the polytechnic and Eastern Institute of Technology in—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I appreciate the answer from the Minister.
Meka Whaitiri: Is an unemployment rate of 7.6 percent in Gisborne - Hawke’s Bay acceptable to his Government; if not, what action has he taken specific to this region to grow jobs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the member makes a very good point. Obviously we want that rate to come down. You do that by encouraging investment in productive jobs and growth in that region. To the new member, I noticed in the by-election recently that every candidate was against oil and gas on the East Coast, and in the same breath was asking for more jobs on the East Coast. I recommend she thinks about that approach. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Shane Jones.
Hon Shane Jones: How does he regard irrigation as a growth support mechanism given that no one from the farming community in Hawke’s Bay is actually signed up to purchase the irrigated water, and will he then give them a $30 million cheque as well?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it is good to see that Labour members took only three supplementary questions to line up against economic development in the Hawke’s Bay. I am assuming they have not signed up yet because they have not been offered an opportunity to sign up yet. But I can tell the member that it is these sorts of infrastructural investments that will make the long and medium term difference to employment in Hawke’s Bay and the East Coast.
Children, Health—The Best Start in Life Recommendations
7. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Health: Exactly how many of the 21 recommendations to the Minister in the 2010 Public Health Advisory Committee Report The Best Start in Life: Achieving effective action on child health and wellbeing has he implemented?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Nineteen.
Kevin Hague: Why over the last 2 years has the Minister actually chosen to ignore the vast bulk of the recommendations in the report including speeding up the implementation of the Child Health Information Strategy, requiring district health boards to develop child health implementation plans with measurable outcomes and accountabilities, developing a set of cross-agency policies that reflect cross-party agreement on child health and well-being, outlining the specific actions and accountabilities of each relevant Government agency, requiring all significant Government policies to be assessed for potential impact on children, assessing access and quality—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have got to ask the member to bring this question to a conclusion.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister in his response to the primary question indicated that, with no further detail, he had implemented 19 of the recommendations. I cannot properly challenge that without listing the very many recommendations where clearly there has been no action.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not accept that for a minute. The member disagrees with the answer that was given by the Minister, which is debatable, but he does not then need to breach the Standing Orders with the delivery of a supplementary question.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the last question being considered by this House, Minister Joyce on several occasions gave answers that lasted several minutes. This question is not taking anything like that amount.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need any assistance from the Leader of the House. There were some answers in the last question by the current Minister that were long, and I stood when I felt that they had gone on for too long, and told him that the answers were to cease. I can take a very similar approach to the member if he likes and conclude his question and let the Minister answer, or I will give him a very brief chance to bring that question to a conclusion.
Kevin Hague: Well, the very last point that I want to include in this one, then, relates to the recommendation to assess access and quality of health care and disability support services—why has he ignored all of those recommendations, which strongly emphasise a public health approach to child health?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government has seriously considered this report and we have effectively implemented 19 of the recommendations in our view. What the member listed were a number of the things that this Government has taken in a cross - Government agency collaborative way involving the Hon Paula Bennett, the Hon Judith Collins, the Hon Hekia Parata, the Hon Anne Tolley, and the Hon Jo Goodhew. A large number of Ministers have worked effectively together. In fact, our Government has made this such a priority that our record is actually unparalleled compared with many other parties in this Parliament.
Kevin Hague: For the last 2 years has the Minister ignored recommendations to develop, monitor, and report upon universally agreed high-level indicators for child health and well-being
because he knows indicators would actually show his Government is failing the children of New Zealand?
Hon TONY RYALL: No. I draw the member to a number of reports that the Government has, which have regular reporting, including the national health targets, the Prime Minister’s key result areas, the new quality improvement framework for the Well Child Framework, and I would also draw the member’s attention to the latest immunisation statistics, which show that for 2-year-olds in 12 of our nation’s 20 district health boards the Māori immunisation rate is either greater or equal to the Pākehā immunisation rate. That member and his colleagues spent 9 years trying to close the gaps, and we are doing it.
Kevin Hague: I don’t remember those 9 years, I must—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. Would the member please assist the order of the House by just asking his supplementary question.
Kevin Hague: Why is the Minister providing no leadership to develop the recommended crossparty agreement on child health and well-being policy, as recommended by the report, but instead pushing an increasingly political agenda of ill-conceived, narrow targets that ignore the public health approach?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government is pursuing a number of initiatives for children that enjoy the support of all parties in this House. I have not heard any parties criticise the work we are doing in immunisation; I have not heard any parties criticise the leading work we are doing in rheumatic fever, which was ignored by the previous Government; I have not heard any parties criticise the work we are doing with the Children’s Action Plan; I have not heard any party opposite criticise our extra investment in Plunket; and I have not heard any party opposite criticise the 24- hour PlunketLine—other than the Labour Party.
Kevin Hague: Has the Minister not implemented the report’s recommendation to set measurable objectives to reduce the number of children living in serious hardship because he agrees with the Minister for Social Development who says that there is no official measure of child poverty?
Hon TONY RYALL: I draw that member’s attention to the Prime Minister’s key result areas, which are specifically targeted at making sure we help vulnerable children in New Zealand. You see, the difference between this party and that member’s party is that we are actually committed to action, instead of carping from the sidelines.
Kevin Hague: Is the Minister so opposed to the recommended public health approach to addressing our poor child-health status that he no longer sees the need of the Public Health Advisory Committee, which made these recommendations and which was established under statute, but whose last meeting under his watch was in 2011?
Hon TONY RYALL: Our Government is taking a very strong public health approach to improving the health and well-being of New Zealand children. In fact, I can recite the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent on the home insulation programme, where far more children are now in warmer homes subsidised by this Government than was ever achieved under the paltry little scheme of the paltry little Green Party. I would also look, for example, at immunisation, rheumatic fever, and the Prime Minister’s key result areas. We have achieved an awful lot.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This point of order is not about the gratuitous insult, but it is about the fact that my question was actually about the Public Health Advisory Committee established under statute, which has not met since 2011.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member goes back and examines his question, there were about three legs to that particular question. I disagree with the member.
Dairy Industry—Potential Contamination of Whey Protein
8. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Food Safety: What update can she provide the public on the safety of infant formula?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister for Food Safety): The response team has advised me that PlunketLine and Healthline staff have received approximately 11,200 calls since Saturday, 3 August. The public information campaign is focused on reaching mums and dads and caregivers who are responding to the information available. I am also advised that the Ministry for Primary Industries’ phone lines have handled approximately 400 calls in the last 2 days and the information page has received over 22,000 hits. The Government has committed funds towards online and print advertising, including in metropolitan daily newspapers, to assist with the public information campaign. This has been a whole-of-Government response. I want to acknowledge my colleagues: the Hon Nathan Guy, in particular, whom I have been working very closely with; and many of the other Ministers in the ministerial response team. This has been a challenging and evolving situation with changing information. The Government will continue to deal with this issue as a priority.
Jacqui Dean: How is the food and grocery sector supporting the Government’s response to the infant formula recall?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: Ministers Ryall, Goodhew, and I have had several discussions with members of the food and grocery sector. I am also aware that the sector is holding daily conference calls with the Ministry for Primary Industries. I am advised that there has been an orderly returned of recalled product across 400 retail outlets around the country, and that the food and grocery sector members are working to replenish their stocks of alternative product from domestic and overseas sources. I would like to reiterate to New Zealanders that they can return their recalled product to supermarkets for a refund.
Primary Industries, Minister—Statements
9. Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast - Tasman) to the Minister for
Primary Industries: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Yes, unlike the press statement issued by the member last week—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member has now answered the question.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does he stand by his statement: “New Zealand is a trading nation. We live off our exports …”; if so, given the recent dents to our export reputation, as seen with kiwifruit, melamine, dicyandiamide, meat exports, palm kernel, and now Fonterra whey contamination, why has he cut the Ministry for Primary Industries’ budget by $26 million?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Yes, I stand by those statements. Indeed, if the member actually takes some time to consider the benefits of the merger, he would realise that some of those cost changes are realised because there is only one chief executive now. There are not three IT systems, there are not three finance systems, and, by and large, the merger is going very well.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Given the recent biosecurity incursions of Psa and the giant white butterfly, failures in the meat and dairy industries, and the cost of those to horticulture and agriculture, does he consider the disestablishment of the independent agencies Biosecurity New Zealand and the Food Safety Authority to have been a major mistake, and the formation of one super-ministry to be a complete failure; if not, why not?
Hon NATHAN GUY: No, I do not agree with that member’s assertion, because the laws that actually control the standards are set, and the processes that they go through were not changed as a result of the merger. The other comment that I would make to the member is he should have a look across the Tasman, because the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry in Australia— DAFF—is structured the same as it is here.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Has he seen recent reports by the Ministry of Primary Industries on the Ministry of Primary Industries that state, firstly, that it needs to strengthen its documentation practices; secondly, its resourcing needs to keep pace with the requirements of China; thirdly, it needs to define its criteria for when risks are notified and escalated; and, fourthly, it is underprepared for potential incursions from high-risk organisms; and, if he has read them, does he
feel his oversight of the ministry to be a failure, and that he should take some action to justify his role as Minister for Primary Industries?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I disagree with a lot of the assertions by the member. In particular, if he took some time to read through the China meat review report, he would find that it was not a result of the lack of funding or the merger; it was because of a result of a certification issue involving a human error. As a result of that review, there are some changes now that are being worked through—a 25 point plan.
Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister stand by his statement of 15 June 2013 that the Snapper 1 fish stock is “rebuilding well” and is “growing and in good health”; if so, why is he consulting on slashing the recreational snapper bag limit from nine fish a day to just three?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As the member should know, if he read the information booklet, there are a variety of options that are being consulted on. There is no predetermination. We need to work through those results that are underpinned by science—because the Ministry for Primary Industries and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research do a lot of science—and I am looking forward to receiving those submissions and making a decision in due course.
Hon David Cunliffe: In regard to those options, does the Minister stand by his statement of 15 June 2013 when he said that he would consult on “decreases to both commercial and recreational limits.”, when, in fact, all of the options that he is now consulting on require major cuts to the public take and none whatsoever to any commercial take?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The member is getting ahead of himself. This is a consultation period. The member needs to encourage his constituents to put a submission in. Then, in a timely manner, there will be a decision. None of these options has been ruled in or ruled out. These options are going through a proper consultation process.
Hon David Cunliffe: Was the Minister getting ahead of himself when he changed his mind, or were the 350 angry New Zealanders who packed a school hall in Thames last night, absolutely furious at the proposed cuts, and was National MP Scott Simpson getting ahead of himself when he told the meeting that he disagreed with the Minister’s proposals and that he would be lobbying him to reverse them; if so, can he confirm whether Mr Simpson has yet actually lobbied him, whether he was successful, and whether it will be enough to allow the Minister to save his job?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I realise that this is an extremely important issue. I also realise that Snapper 1 is important to recreational fishers. It is important to commercial fishers, and it is also important to customary fishers and iwi. These proposals need to be worked through in a considered way. There is way too much rhetoric in this debate, and I encourage people to put a submission in by 23 August, so that all of their views can be considered.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Further to the Minister’s answer to the first supplementary question as to savings in the Ministry for Primary Industries being in part from having only one chief executive, when did the policy of the Government change to have the ministry pay for the chief executive and not the State Services Commission?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Oh, that is a bizarre question. What I was saying there, in answer to that question, was that as a result of bringing the three entities together, there has needed to be only one director-general, and as a result there have been savings, as a result of that merger.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it was a relatively simple question and that was: when did the policy change to have it come out of the ministry’s budget. That question was not addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: But there was more to the question. That is the difficulty. If the member had just asked that question—
Hon Trevor Mallard: All the question was, was: further to his answer, when did that occur? There was only one leg to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: To move the matter forward, I am going to invite the member to ask the question that he originally asked.
Hon Trevor Mallard: This is my best attempt because it is not written down. Further to his answer to the first supplementary question, with regard to the savings being from the salary of the chief executive, when did the policy of the Government change, in order to have the funds come from the Ministry for Primary Industries and not the State Services Commission?
Hon NATHAN GUY: In answer to the question, what I said to the member is that part of those savings are as a result of having only one director-general from the coming together of the three entities. There are also savings, which I explained, from requiring only one IT system, one financial management system, and the list goes on.
Buildings, Earthquake-prone—Policy Changes
10. NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for Building and
Construction: What reports has he received following the Government’s announcement of a new earthquake-prone building policy?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction): I have seen reports from interested parties at each end of the spectrum—from some who lost loved ones in the Christchurch earthquake, who want the time frame to be shorter; to building owners, who welcome the longer time frame; and just about everybody in between, including engineers and councils. I appreciate that everybody holds a different view based on their perspective, but what the policy announced yesterday is designed to do is balance public safety versus cost. It is important to point out that where the policy has landed is broadly in line with the royal commission. I believe we have got the balance just about right.
Nicky Wagner: Does it cost much to upgrade these buildings?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I have heard quite excessive numbers being bandied about. Sure, some buildings, like the Majestic Centre here in Wellington, have had millions spent on them, but the reality is that many buildings can be strengthened to 34 percent of the new building standard for relatively modest sums. I have actually seen firsthand what can be done for a few thousand dollars on smaller buildings. It is important to note that an earthquake - prone buildings policy was already in place in New Zealand, and building owners were required to strengthen buildings, so the costs were already involved. The new policy will introduce a nationally consistent time frame, and it will ensure that the country’s most vulnerable buildings are dealt with sooner than they otherwise would have been.
Snapper 1 Fishery—Regeneration of Stocks
11. RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What reports, if any, has he received regarding the regeneration of fish stocks in the Snapper 1 fishery?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): I have received a range of reports from the Ministry for Primary Industries. The science shows that the stock is rebuilding well, and anecdotal evidence suggests that it is in good health. Overall, snapper numbers are up by 70 percent over the last 15 to 25 years. If we can continue this rebuild, then there will be real benefits for everyone in the future. We need to ensure that the benefits are shared fairly and that it is sustainable for our children and our grandchildren.
Richard Prosser: What reports, if any, has he seen of the minimum 450 tonnes of snapper that is officially acknowledged as wastage and destroyed by commercial fishers each year, and, from those reports, can he tell the House what proportion of that 450 tonnes are juvenile fish that will never reach breeding age?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I have not got the details of that answer. What I can say is that anyone who sees any dumping of any fish anywhere in New Zealand should contact the Ministry for Primary Industries immediately. This is not tolerated, and huge fines will apply. I have instructed my officials to investigate new ways of boosting observation coverage in the commercial fleet.
Richard Prosser: Of the New Zealand commercial snapper catch that is exported overseas, what proportion are fish smaller than the legal minimum size that recreational fishers in New Zealand are permitted to catch?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I do not have those details with me. I am happy to supply the member with those details if he puts a question down on the sheet.
Richard Prosser: Would he support regulations requiring commercial trawl nets in New Zealand waters to be designed so that small fish are able to escape, as is legally required by the European Union?
Hon NATHAN GUY: New research, innovation, and technological advances are things that are considered by my officials all the time, and that is something that I am seeking further advice on.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen any reports from Australia, where they employ a 1-month ban on snapper fishing during the peak of the snapper spawning season, and does he agree that measures such as that are far more appropriate than drastic, unfair, rude, and crude reductions in recreational catch proposals masquerading as consultation and opposed by one Scott Simpson?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I am unaware of that, but I am sure that that will come through on some of the submissions.
Regional Economies—Employment and Development
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Oh, a red-letter day—the new leader.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have called Dr Clark.
Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North): Better than being the past—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
12. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister for Economic
Development: Does he agree with Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull that “Central government needs to understand we can’t have a … two-speed economy where Christchurch and Auckland are ripping ahead and the rest of the regions are withering”; if not, why not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): No, because the facts do not support His Worship’s hypothesis. If you look at the most recent economic data that we have for GDP in New Zealand’s regions over the last few years, the fastest-growing regions are, in fact—
Hon Bill English: Taranaki.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —Taranaki, for example, the West Coast, Otago, and Southland. Another key indicator of the economic health of regional New Zealand is that a number of regions have lower unemployment than Auckland, including Waikato, Taranaki, the Bay of Plenty, the West Coast, and Southland.
Dr David Clark: Given his view that regions should make the most of their local resources, why is closing the Invermay Agricultural Centre, which the Dunedin mayor calls a “foolish, shortsighted, destructive” decision, a good idea when the research centre is essential to growing Otago’s knowledge economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: AgResearch is considering its view at the moment, but, of course, I would probably defer more to the AgResearch directors than, perhaps, to Mr Cull in this instance. It is important that the Government does invest hugely in high-level science and education in the Otago region. For example, Otago University, which is an excellent university, attracts the secondlargest level of funding of any university in the country—$277 million of taxpayer funding every year. It is very important to invest strongly in the Otago region, but I would point out that that is exactly what the Government is doing.
Dr David Clark: How does this week’s announcement that the number of unemployed in Otago is at the highest level in more than 20 years square with his statement that regions “need public institutions that make sound infrastructure investment decisions, administer fit-for-purpose regulation and provide services that improve local circumstances.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, it is very important that we work with the regions to get the absolute fastest economic development possible, and that is why the Government is involved in a large number of regional economic development initiatives in Otago. I will not read the full list again for the member, but I will give him a couple of examples, because I think that it is very important. The Government is investing $9 million directly into fast-growing Dunedin companies and in research and development grants to help them develop their businesses, and they are growing businesses that are continuing. We have 200Dunedin and Otago companies—200—with New Zealand Trade and Enterprise services, we fund and support the start-up Incubator in Dunedin, and we provide capability development vouchers for a range of Dunedin businesses through the Otago Chamber of Commerce and Industry. These are very significant investments that are being made in that region.
Dr David Clark: What does the Minister say to the 112 former Hillside employees, the 73 employees of New Zealand Post, the 85 employees at the Invermay Agricultural Centre, the 460 employees at Presbyterian Support Otago, the 10 employees at PGG Wrightson, the 30 employees at Delta Utility Services, the 25 employees at O’Brien Group, and the 192 employees at Summit Wool Spinners, who have all lost their jobs, alongside countless Government officials, and to the 64 employees at Bradken, who have had their hours reduced to 4 days a week; and how is this indicative of public institutions that support strong regional development?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, I think the member has made a list, definitely, of some of the people who have either lost their jobs or are in difficult situations in Dunedin, but I am just not sure why he is talking down his own economy. Actually, there is any number of companies that are growing in Dunedin city. I have visited a number of them. ADInstruments, for example, which was on the TV last night, is growing dramatically. Fisher and Paykel Appliances is investing more in research and development. The member can focus on the negatives if he likes, but the challenge is to encourage investment and growth in new companies in Dunedin, and that is what we are doing.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given the highest number of Otago unemployed in 20 years, I seek leave to table a picture—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not see that that in any way helps inform members of the House.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a picture expressing frustration. There is a huge amount—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member—[Interruption] Order! The member is now challenging my ruling.
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I apologise, Mr Speaker, owing to the need to clarify one matter this was not done when I asked my supplementary questions earlier. I seek leave to table volume 3 of the Ministry for Primary Industries’ snapper plenary report. This was not publicly available, although it is eventually able to found on their website. It has been—
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I seek leave, notwithstanding the fact that this is a press statement, for special reasons to table Nathan Guy’s statement—
Mr SPEAKER: No. Order! That is available to any member who wants—[Interruption] Order! That will be available to any member who wants to look it up.
Hon David Cunliffe: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: A further document?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): Yes. I seek leave to table the review of sustainability and other management options for snapper 1—
Mr SPEAKER: Is it a document that is freely available to members?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Well, the underlying evidence is not freely available. It is a rather turgid 82-page document that shows—
Mr SPEAKER: The fact that it is turgid does not necessarily make it unavailable. Is it freely available to members?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Well, it is available to those who can understand it.
Mr SPEAKER: If it is available to members who want to look it up, they can do it themselves.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I seek leave to table a—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order to seek leave.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I seek leave to table a submission from kaitiaki of Katikati to the Hon Nathan Guy, expressing strong concerns—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I seek leave to table a submission from Danielle Goodwin to the Hon Nathan Guy—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! How many more does the member wish to seek leave to table?
Hon David Cunliffe: Approximately 15,432.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. He wants to table approximately 15,000 submissions. Is there any objection to that being done? There is.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Those 15,000 submissions have just—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. The member sought leave. The House declined.