Questions and Answers - August 22
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Knowing how important confidence is to the member, yes.
Grant Robertson: Does he agree with the statement from Judith Collins regarding the Henry inquiry: “I felt it was a chilling experience to realise that ministers and staff emails and their right to privacy was treated with what I would say was, frankly, a contemptuous attitude,”; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The member should not get too carried away by the dramatics of a Privileges Committee hearing.
Grant Robertson: Would he like to expand on that answer and inform the House whose dramatics he was referring to?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I do not think this side of the House has anything to explain around dramatics, on a day like today.
Grant Robertson: Does the Prime Minister agree with his Minister Gerry Brownlee when talking about the Henry inquiry, who said: “It’s difficult on a number of fronts to see that natural justice was served here in any way.”; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It would be good if the member quoted Mr Brownlee’s entire statement, which was also in the nature—[Interruption] Oh, I see. So that is why David Shearer lost today—
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not address the question that I asked.
Mr SPEAKER: I think he certainly did address the question.
Grant Robertson: Does the Prime Minister agree with Gerry Brownlee’s comment, as printed on page 2 of the Dominion Post today, talking about the Henry inquiry: “It’s difficult on a number of fronts to see that natural justice was served here in any way.”?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The member should be aware that when at those Privileges Committee hearings members often taken a devil’s advocate position in order to try to get to the truth.
Grant Robertson: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in Ministers like Judith Collins and Gerry Brownlee, who are directly challenging his decision to release the metadata to the Henry inquiry?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Precisely because he has confidence in his Ministers and no confidence in the interpretation of the Labour leader aspirant Grant Robertson.
Grant Robertson: Does the Prime Minister have confidence in the Attorney-General, given his statements yesterday disparaging the New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Dr Rodney Harrison QC, and Sir Bruce Ferguson?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, because many New Zealanders find such warm remarks from the Attorney-General to be delivered in the most affectionate terms.
Grant Robertson: Supplementary question—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Is this a supplementary question?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, it was last time and it is now.
Mr SPEAKER: The member needs to stand and call supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did last time. You did not respond.
Mr SPEAKER: He needs to do it on every occasion.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I got to my feet after someone had already had four or five supplementary questions. Your duty then is to pass the supplementary question to me, not now make it look like—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member should read the Standing Orders. The taking of a supplementary question is entirely at the discretion of the Speaker. Whenever the member wants a supplementary question, he is required to get to his feet and call for a supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which I did.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member did not do it on the last occasion. If the member wants a supplementary question—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Of course I want a supplementary question. That’s why I’m standing on my feet.
Mr SPEAKER: Supplementary question, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Prime Minister have confidence in a Minister of Finance who offers a Meridian Energy float offering three guaranteed dividends before the share buyer has to pay up in full, when company law requires any dividend to be from profits, or has the Government guaranteed now the profits of Meridian Energy?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Because he is an excellent Minister of Finance.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can the Minister of Finance offer three dividends before the full pay up of the shares, when company law does not allow that unless there is a guaranteed profit? The Minister is being asked to answer that question.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is nothing being done in this float that is unusual.
Grant Robertson: Will the Prime Minister apologise to New Zealander of the Year Dame Anne Salmond, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Rodney Harrison QC, and Sir Bruce Ferguson after the disgraceful comments that the Attorney-General made last night?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It is a bit rich for that member to ask the Prime Minister to apologise to anyone, after standing up his former leader, who was holding two fish in this Chamber, a few days before he guts him.
Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Minister Brownlee did not address the question I asked of whether the Prime Minister would apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion I agree. The Minister on behalf of the Prime Minister did not answer the question. Would he please address the question.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister does not believe that is necessary.
2. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on employment prospects for New Zealanders in the year ahead?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Acting Minister of Finance): It is an interesting day for this question. There has been a number of recent reports indicating that businesses are becoming more confident and are looking to take on new staff. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment this
week issued its Jobs Online report for July. This measures online job vacancies for all workers and also for skilled workers, as advertised by businesses on the two main internet employment sites, SEEK and TradeMe. All job vacancies increased by 8.3 percent per month in the month of July, taking the annual increase to 13.2 percent. As the ministry noted, seasonally adjusted data has been somewhat volatile from month to month, but the overall trend shows a steady growth in advertised job vacancies. In fact, I hear that even in the last half-hour the numbers have gone up yet again, although they are not sure whether the particular vacancy is a skilled or an unskilled one.
Jami-Lee Ross: How does the latest Jobs Online measure of employment vacancies compare with the other indicators of trends in the employment market?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Jobs Online measure of employment vacancies is broadly in line with other indicators—for example, the household labour force survey shows that unemployment has fallen from 6.8 percent to 6.4 percent over the last year. It also shows that there have been 46,000 more people employed in the past 6 months. We are, of course, working to see the unemployment rate fall further, and the Government’s economic programme, including the Business Growth Agenda, is focused on encouraging businesses to invest, grow, and hire more staff.
Jami-Lee Ross: What measures has the Government taken to help support businesses to invest, grow their operations, and hire more staff?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This Government has taken a large number of steps to achieve those things over the past 4½ years. In Budget 2013 alone, we provided $400 million over 4 years for the internationally focused growth package, and investing in research and development, the tourism industry, and international education. We have proposed changes to tax rules to allow start-up businesses to claim tax losses on research and development. We have remained firmly on track to surplus, which helps keep interest rates lower, and we have embarked on substantial measures in affordable housing, including the Auckland Housing Accord and legislation to speed up consents and developments.
Immigration, Skilled Migrants—Categories
3. DENIS O’ROURKE (NZ First) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and
Employment: Has PricewaterhouseCooper applied to the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment to have “Aeroplane Pilot” added to the list of Essential Skills in Demand?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment): Yes, PricewaterhouseCoopers, acting on behalf of Air New Zealand, has nominated “aeroplane pilot” for addition to the immediate skill shortage list, which is part of the essential skills in demand list.
Denis O’Rourke: Does he accept the claim that there is a shortage of airline pilots in New Zealand; if so, what is the evidence to support that claim?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That would not be my interpretation based on the information we have collated in relation to pilots as a result of the changes to tertiary education recently. My understanding, though, is that the ministry is currently considering the situation, as it is required to do, and it will make a decision in due course.
Denis O’Rourke: If the application were to be granted, would it damage employment prospects for New Zealanders who train as airline pilots, and is that a determining factor in whether the application will be granted?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I do not think that is necessarily the case. You have to look at all factors, but I would note that we have had in recent times a surplus of pilots in New Zealand looking for the sorts of jobs that are described in the application. So those are the sorts of things that the ministry will have to consider. It is a very fluid situation, of course, at the moment, with the skills demand list. For example, the immediate skill shortage list may even change as recently as today, because I understand that there is now a shortage of Opposition leaders, and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Denis O’Rourke: If the application were to be granted, would it damage the future business sustainability of New Zealand’s world-ranking pilot training organisations, and is that a determining factor in whether the application will be granted?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Actually, there are a number of factors that would be considered. I certainly appreciate the member’s concerns about the issues he has raised. Obviously, the ministry goes and seeks advice from other ministries and organisations such as the Tertiary Education Commission to get an understanding of what the flow-through of pilots is and the availability of training and so on. So all of that takes place, but, as I said, it varies very much from profession to profession. In the example I mentioned before, there may, of course, be a skill shortage, but I understand that there may also be any number of people lining up to be an Opposition leader, for example, and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I call question No. 4. [Interruption] Order! If the Minister wants to stay for his question, he had better be quiet.
Skycity, Convention Centre—Regulatory Impact Statement on Legislation
4. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Economic Development: Did the Regulatory Impact Analysis team raise concerns over the Regulatory Impact Statement, prepared by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, for the New Zealand International Convention Centre; if so, what were these concerns?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development): Treasury’s regulatory impact analysis team noted that although the benefits and potential social costs are discussed in the regulatory impact statement qualitatively, it was not clear that the regulatory impact statement quantitatively estimated benefits to the economy that outweighed the potential social impacts. However, these issues were thoroughly canvassed prior to finalising the agreement. The regulatory impact analysis team also noted that the regulatory impact statement contained little analysis on alternative proposals to construct and operate the convention centre. However, I would point out to the member that that was thoroughly canvassed by the Government before the decision was taken to negotiate with the organisation.
Metiria Turei: How does he justify recommending the convention centre deal when in his own Cabinet paper of 26 June that team did, as he says, raise the concern that there is no certainty that the economic benefits will outweigh the fiscal and social impact of the regulatory concessions in the deal? How does he justify it?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am thrilled that the member is so thrilled with Treasury advice suddenly, because there is a lot of Treasury advice I would like her to take on, including putting the interest back on student loans. Perhaps the Green Party might like to embrace that as a policy. But in terms of the particular example, it is difficult to quantify exactly. The officials did their best in terms of the information they could gain, and Cabinet made a judgment. Cabinet is happy with the judgment it made.
Metiria Turei: How does the Minister reconcile his answer in the House to questions from the Green Party on 13 June—that Cabinet decided to proceed with the deal on the basis that the benefits of the deal outweighed the cost—with his advice to Cabinet 2 weeks later that showed that there was no evidence to show that the economic benefits would outweigh the social and fiscal costs?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, the advice was in relation to the regulatory impact assessment team of Treasury. My advice to Cabinet was very definitely that the benefits would exceed the cost, and if the member would like me to take her through all the details, I am more than happy to. That was the decision Cabinet took based on the advice from the Minister, from the Cabinet paper, and so on.
Metiria Turei: Can the Minister confirm that he also advised Cabinet on 26 June that a court would not enforce contractual provisions where they appeared to impose a penalty rather than be a genuine pre-estimate of a party’s loss, and that legislation was therefore necessary to enforce the compensation provisions of the agreement because contract law would not?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, the matter the member raises is actually the subject of quite a lot of discussion around contract law. My understanding is that there are some initiatives coming to deal with exactly that issue, which is seen as a gap in New Zealand’s legislation in regard to this. So, in effect, we have taken a step to allow for the contractual remedies to be taken—in other words, compensation to both parties in this agreement—but the broader law will definitely catch up with us in due course.
Metiria Turei: Can the Minister therefore confirm that his advice to Cabinet was that if at any time in the next 35 years gambling regulations reduce the value of the concessions in the agreement, it would not just compensate Skycity for their losses but also penalise the Crown for acting to reduce gambling harm?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, the member is incorrect in that assertion. It is very clear that in terms of the provision of the actual concessions, they must be provided under the agreement or else compensation would apply. But in terms of the ability to regulate gambling under the gambling laws and regulations attached to those laws, there is no fettering that ability and Skycity would be required to meet all regulations in that regard.
Metiria Turei: Can he confirm then that the compensation provisions would be triggered if Skycity was required to use player-tracking technology in a way that reduced its pokie machine revenue by up to 40 percent—would the compensation provisions apply?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it is very clear in the agreement where compensation applies and that is not one of them.
Police—Teina Pora Case
ANDREW LITTLE (Labour): My question is to—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I have called Andrew Little.
5. ANDREW LITTLE (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What action will she take in light of the revelations on a television programme last night that Malcolm Rewa was identified to police as a suspect in a rape in 1988 which turned out to be the first of 25 rapes committed by him over seven years, including the 1992 rape of Susan Burdett who Teina Pora was convicted of murdering?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): I have been advised this morning by the Independent Police Conduct Authority that an online form was submitted to the authority on 6 August 2013, 2 weeks ago, lodging a complaint about the failure of police to find a serial rapist operating in Auckland in 1992. I was advised that the Independent Police Conduct Authority declined to investigate the matter. I have this morning written to the authority asking for its urgent advice as to the reasons for its declining to investigate.
Andrew Little: What does the Minister make of section 4AB of the Independent Police Conduct Authority Act, which requires the authority to act independently, including of Ministers, and what real action will she take to ensure that the truth is found out, for the benefit of the victims of this rapist?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I make a lot of the independence of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, actually, which is why I have taken the very unusual step of asking whether it could provide me, as the Minister responsible for it, the reasons. This is a matter that one would normally expect would be passed to the Independent Police Conduct Authority since it was set up in 2007 from the remnants of the Police Complaints Authority and following the inquiry that Dame Margaret Bazley led into police conduct. So one would expect that it is the right authority; if not, I would like to know that from the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and, if not, then I will look at other action.
Andrew Little: Does the Minister seriously believe that writing to the Independent Police Conduct Authority to ask why it has declined to investigate a complaint is the appropriate action, given that a gross injustice may have occurred to Teina Pora and to 25 women who have been
raped, one of whom has been murdered? How on earth can she possibly see that that is a serious response to this very serious situation?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Because, as that member has already pointed out, the Independent Police Conduct Authority has statutory independence from Ministers as well as from the police. I would also advise that member that I understand that the authority will be putting out a press release, if it has not already done so, where it is stated that the authority is currently reflecting on all the issues that have now been raised relating to this matter.
Andrew Little: Does the Minister now accept that an appeal by Teina Pora to the Privy Council is no barrier to an inquiry, given that an inquiry into the Pike River Coal tragedy took place while a police investigation into the same issue was under way and while prosecutions were being pursued under the relevant health and safety legislation in that particular case?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I do not agree with the member in all of his assertions. It is quite clear that Mr Pora has now lodged an application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council. As such, it would be most incorrect for there to be an inquiry into matters pertaining to him. However, from the other matters that have been raised about the rapist Rewa, it does not seem to me that they are all necessarily matters that relate to Mr Pora. That seemed to me to be something that we should be concerned about.
Andrew Little: Why will the Minister not accept that this is a very grave situation and that an appeal by Pora to the Privy Council does not cover the issues that a proper inquiry into the whole situation of the police investigation of how a rapist was able to continue his foul and evil acts for 7 years would? Why will she not simply give confidence to the victims of this chap and set up an inquiry?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Well, the member is getting way ahead of himself. If he would just listen to what I have said to him, it is quite clear. I will not—
Andrew Little: Stop making excuses.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: He either wants to listen or he does not. What is really important is that the constitutional conventions are actually adhered to. What we have here is a situation where Mr Pora has lodged an application to the Privy Council, and I will not go into that matter of Mr Pora while it is still a live application. However, in relation to the rapist Rewa, there are 25 women who have claimed that they have been raped by Rewa. That is another matter, and that is why I have asked the Independent Police Conduct Authority to advise me why it has so far refused to investigate this matter.
Andrew Little: That’ll be that independent body.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: And because it is, in fact, an independent body.
Surgery, Elective—First Specialist Assessments
6. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on patients receiving better access to health specialists?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Two days ago I told the House the positive news that a record 294,000 patients had received surgical first specialist assessments in the last year. Today I am pleased to report to the member some more positive news. The total number of medical first specialist assessments in the 2012-13 year was a record 194,000 extra patients, 22,000 up under this Government. This means that in the last year a record 487,000 medical and surgical first specialist assessments were completed, which is really equivalent to around one in every nine New Zealanders.
Paul Foster-Bell: What does recent data tell us about access to first specialist assessments?
Hon TONY RYALL: There have always been people who do not meet the threshold for access to first specialist assessment. However, all patients referred to a specialist by a general practitioner are assessed by hospital-based clinical staff, and those with the lowest clinical need are referred back to general practitioner care. Often the patient has not met the threshold for a full assessment.
Some decide not to take up the assessment, some move district, and some may no longer need the treatment. This data has never been centrally collected. However, copies of information received by my office indicate that around 45,000 people are triaged back to general practitioner care by clinicians. With around 490,000 assessments completed, this number sits at less than 10 percent of total people referred and has been reasonably static.
Kevin Hague: Why has the Minister taken no action to address the concerns of district health boards published in the Ministry of Health’s report into his elective surgery programme in June this year that the day-to-day pressure of pushing increasing numbers through waiting lists is “diverting resources from the robust consideration of the longer-term strategy and impact.”?
Hon TONY RYALL: The Government sees itself as the agent of patients, and patients tell us that they want improved access to the services that there are. This Government has put an average of $5 million extra into the health budget each year.
Kevin Hague: Will he now confirm to the House that more than half of the 1,000 new doctors he and the Prime Minister have been claiming to have recruited are, in fact, junior doctors, and not specialists at all?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think the Prime Minister and I have always been clear that the increased numbers refers to all doctors. In the term of our Government, as that member knows through the large amount of Official Information Act material we have given him, we currently think we are running at over 1,200 extra doctors in New Zealand public hospitals.
Kevin Hague: Given that all of the Government’s own district health boards and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists have agreed on the need for at least 209 additional senior doctors every year, how does he defend his underperformance in recruiting at less than three-quarters of that rate?
Hon TONY RYALL: As the member will know, we have over 1,200 extra doctors working in the New Zealand public system since 2008. There is also a lot of information that shows that the most stable workforce in the entire New Zealand Public Service is the senior medical officers. So our Government has been investing very strongly in health. Turnover in staff numbers is down and we have more front-line staff than ever before.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question related to the recruitment of senior medical officers. The Minister has not referred to that matter at all in his answer.
Mr SPEAKER: The member should relook at his question. The essence of his question is how the Minister defended his underperformance in relation to that. The Minister gave a very justified answer to that.
Kevin Hague: Well, can the Minister then confirm that New Zealand still has the worst ratio of senior doctors to population in the OECD, and explain why he has not taken steps to implement the plan agreed on by all district health boards and senior doctors?
Hon TONY RYALL: I think the member will find that New Zealand’s ratio of senior medical staff to general population is relatively consistent in terms of international comparison, which reflects the different models of care that we have in New Zealand. But, look, I have to say to the member that he can ask as many questions as he likes; it is not going to get away from the fact that we have got 1,200 extra doctors on the public payroll because of the strong investment our Government is making in improving services.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has indicated he is happy for me to ask further questions, and I would be—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order.
Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. How do these results that he quoted in the initial response correlate to the significant disparity in outcomes for Māori, especially hard to reach whānau—for example, the number missing out on B4 School Checks?
Hon TONY RYALL: I thank the member for the question. Yes, a lot of effort is going in from district health boards to make sure that those people who are offered first specialist assessments are
provided all opportunities to make sure that it is at a time that best suits them. In respect of the area of B4 School Checks, the Government is working very hard to expand the number of B4 School Checks, and particularly to improve performance on those most at-risk children in our community. I can report to the member that most district health boards around the country—the national averages—we have been improving that performance, particularly for our young people at risk.
Environmental Reporting—Reporting Regime and Legislative Change
7. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: How does the Minister intend to maintain independence of environmental reporting in her recently announced changes to that process?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): Firstly, to clear up misconceptions, there is no process to change, as there has never, to date, been any legislative requirement for state of the environment reporting. We are introducing, for the time, legislatively mandated environmental reporting to be produced with the Government Statistician, to provide assurance that it is independent. Its role is outlined in the Statistics Act, and it has the legal responsibility for oversight of the methods and timing of the publication of statistics. This process is used in other countries for their environmental reporting, and works very well here for the production and release of the economic development indicators. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment will also provide an important role in assuring the quality of the reporting by providing independent commentary on any aspect of the framework. She will have a legislative mandate to provide analysis of the environmental data and reports, identification of trends, and a discussion of implications and responses.
Hon Maryan Street: Who will decide what is to be measured for reporting purposes and how such things will be measured in this new reporting regime, and how will independence be maintained by those bodies notwithstanding the comments just made about the statistician, who will process information rather than gather it or measure things?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Let me assure the member that the intention is that the framework, what it will cover, the domains that must be reported, and the indicators that must be reported on will be set out either in the primary legislation or the regulations made under it. Other than that primary or tertiary legislation, there will be no ability for Ministers to intervene within it. The work of completing a framework beyond those legislative bases will be developed and controlled by a project board made up of a working party from the Secretary for the Environment and the Government Statistician. They will have joint responsibility for the design of the framework within the bounds of the legislative framework passed, the measurement and the collection of data, the compilation of the reports, and the final production and sign-off of them. There will be a clear delineation between the role of the executive and the roles of the Secretary for the Environment and the Government Statistician, ensuring the report’s independence for the first time.
Hon Maryan Street: When did National’s policy on independent environmental reporting change from Nick Smith’s cast-iron commitment to 5-yearly reporting in 2011 to the Minister’s recent statement?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I can certainly acknowledge the fact that I have taken a paper to Cabinet seeking to change from 5-yearly reporting to 3-yearly reporting. I would have thought that most members would welcome that change. It has always been our view that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has a role to play in environmental reporting, and we believe the framework that we have developed allows her the most scope to ensure that she can comment without restriction and without legislative fetter on any aspect that she considers necessary. In that respect, I certainly noticed the comment of one commentator who noted that having the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment compile the reports completely would be impractical and expensive, and it is one of the few times I find myself in agreement with the Hon Trevor Mallard.
Hon Maryan Street: Given the repeated references to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in her preceding answers, is she concerned by the statement of that independent Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment that the Government’s change of policy on environmental reporting was “a bit of a surprise” because she had been preparing for the job for years, and “It’s been in party policy in two elections and I had always been expecting it ...”?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I am also very mindful of the comments that the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has made on a number of occasions around whether her office would be the appropriate place to carry out the work—both in 2010 and as recently as in her recent speech to the Environmental Defence Society conference, where she talked about the fact that even with extra resources, preparing such a report could incur an opportunity cost. There could potentially be less ability to undertake the investigations and provide the advice that is the fundamental work of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. So I do believe that we have reached the right balance between the appropriate roles, and I find it somewhat sanctimonious of the Labour Party to be criticising the independence of this reporting, given that it was the only Government to have ever interfered with the production of an environment report.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Pursuant to the answer to the second supplementary question, did she inform her Cabinet colleagues of David Salisbury’s intention to provide consulting services to the oil and gas sector before her colleagues approved her offer of his appointment to the Environmental Protection Authority?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, all conflicts of interest are very carefully discussed and disclosed. That would have been the process in that instance.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table a 29 May email from the Ministry for the Environment to the Hon Amy Adams’ office, indicating that Salisbury intended consulting for the oil and gas sector and that this is a conflict.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular email. Is there any objection? There is none. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did she not note in her 10 June Cabinet paper that David Salisbury intended to provide consulting services to the oil and gas sector while serving—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are dealing with supplementary questions to question No. 7. It is about environmental reporting and the independence thereof. Both the previous supplementary question and the question the member is starting—because I have got something on a completely different topic about the Environmental Protection Authority.
Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the point the member is making, but in a subsequent supplementary question, which was quite in order, the Hon Maryan Street asked when the change of policy occurred. The answer was that it was when it went through a Cabinet process. So I think there was a clear connection then, and the question remains.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Shall I start that one again? Why did she not know—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will cease yelling out at the Speaker that that ruling was ridiculous. The Hon Trevor Mallard can now start his supplementary question for the third time.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Why did she not note in her 10 June Cabinet paper that David Salisbury intended to provide consulting services to the oil and gas sector while serving on the Environmental Protection Authority; and does she believe her paper enabled her Cabinet colleagues to “… make collective decisions based on sound information.” as required by paragraph 5.36 of the Cabinet Manual?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I am afraid I would have to check the veracity of those quotes that the member is referring to. Given the scope of the primary question, I did not come to the House prepared to answer detailed questions about a Cabinet paper relating to appointments to the
Environmental Protection Authority, in responding to a question on environmental reporting, which is quite a different matter.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table an extract from the Minister’s 10 June 2013 Cabinet paper, where, in the possible conflicts of interest section, for David Salisbury, she states: “None identified.”
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table the letter from the Minister to David Salisbury, released to me by her and described by the Minister in a 17 June 2013 email as Environmental Protection Authority appointments, draft appointment letters, and Gazette notice, where she appoints Salisbury to the Environmental Protection Authority, effective immediately.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table a fourth document. It is an extract from the Hon Amy Adams’ 10 June Cabinet paper, where she advises her Cabinet colleagues that “I can confirm that appropriate inquiries concerning—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is enough information there for the House to decide. Leave is sought to table a further extract from that Cabinet paper. Is there any objection? There appears to be none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did she write to David Salisbury on or shortly after 17 June 2013 appointing him to the Environmental Protection Authority “effective immediately” and asking him to complete a disclosure of interest form saying that this should “be completed before you attend the EPA and any conflicts … discussed at the meeting”; if so, why did she state in the 10 June Cabinet paper regarding that appointment: “I can confirm appropriate inquiries concerning conflicts of interest—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How can that possibly be a valid supplementary question to question No. 7? I note your comment that my colleague the Minister for the Environment did make reference to Cabinet, but to take it from the point that somehow in reference to Cabinet you can then ask any supplementary question on any element of a Minister’s role is, I think, not reasonable. If the member wants to pursue this line of very specific questioning, he should set down a formal oral question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Speaking to the point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need any assistance. Although I appreciate the point the honourable Minister is making, the question is in order. I have already ruled that, so for the Minister to question that, he is questioning the ruling I have given. It is now quite within the rights of the Minister, when she answers the question, to simply say: “I do not have that detailed information.” That is quite a satisfactory answer. I agree that the detail now being required would be difficult for a Minister to have in light of the original primary question, but I do not rule the question out of order.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I had not quite finished. Shall I start again?
Mr SPEAKER: I think there is little choice but to do that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Did she write to David Salisbury on or shortly after 17 June 2013 appointing him to the Environmental Protection Authority “effective immediately” and asking him to complete a disclosure of interest form and that this should “be completed before you attend your next meeting of the EPA and any conflicts should be discussed at that meeting”; if so, why did she
state in the 10 June Cabinet paper regarding the Environmental Protection Authority appointments and reappointments: “I can confirm that appropriate inquiries concerning conflicts of interest have been carried out in accordance with the State Services Commission guidelines to identify any conflict of interest.”?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Well, I would have to check the specifics of what the member is quoting from, but what I can tell the member is that it is quite appropriate that there would be a multi-stage process to identification of conflicts of interest. They are certainly worked through, through the early stage of appointments and after people are appointed there is still an ongoing obligation on them, as there is on Ministers, to identify and continually update their conflict of interest status. So it is entirely appropriate that both situations would have occurred: an investigation during the appointment process and then an ongoing statement of continuing obligations of anyone appointed.
Inland Revenue Business Transformation Project—Benefits
8. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Revenue: What benefits will New Zealanders see from Inland Revenue’s Business Transformation programme he launched yesterday?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister of Revenue): The Inland Revenue Department’s business transformation programme will make interacting with the department easier and less onerous for New Zealanders, be they individual taxpayers, small businesses, or large commercial entities. Specifically, it will simplify for taxpayers the transactions that they have with the department and provide greater certainty around taxpayer requirements and obligations. Additionally, it will reduce compliance costs for New Zealanders in meeting their tax and social policy obligations, while improving the integrity of the revenue collection and administration system.
David Bennett: What opportunities will there be for New Zealand companies to get involved in the business transformation programme?
Hon TODD McCLAY: That is a very important question. The transformation programme will be staged over several years. It is expected that the capabilities required to develop and implement these new operational systems will be provided by companies from New Zealand and from overseas. In particular, there will be significant opportunity for the New Zealand market to participate in various aspects of the programme, specifically around the design and build of the new system. The department will begin the procurement process by holding a number of workshops around the country, and I, as Minister, will also be travelling to parts of provincial New Zealand, including the cities of Hamilton, Tauranga, Queenstown, Dunedin, and Whanganui—all of which will be held by National MPs at the next election—to start the important dialogue with New Zealanders.
GCSB—Legislative Reform and Oversight
9. HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Prime Minister: Will he, now that the bill has had its third reading, give us the names of the 88 New Zealanders that the GCSB reportedly spied on illegally; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Prime Minister: I need to begin by saying that among the misinformation surrounding the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) legislation was a claim that 88 people were found to have been illegally spied on. That is not the case. The Kitteridge review found difficulties of interpretation in the law, and the issue was forwarded to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. The inspector-general found that there were arguably no breaches, but said that the law should be clarified. That has now happened. That having been said, I can say to the honourable member that the names of the 88 people have not been released publicly and will not be released. To do so would not be in the national interest.
Hone Harawira: Given that the SIS has already admitted to spying on people like Annette Sykes, Moana Jackson, Jane Kelsey, John Minto, Sue Bradford, union members, Greenpeace members, Amnesty International members, New Zealand residents of German extraction, and myself, does the passing of the GCSB legislation mean that that spying will now be widened to include such subversives and terrorist sympathisers as New Zealand journalists, law lecturers, New Zealanders of the Year, and Queen’s Counsel; if not, why not?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I cannot really comment on the first part of the question that starts with the word “Given” and ends with “myself,” but I can say that the passage of the GCSB legislation is not going to result in an expansion of surveillance. The member can rest easy in his bed each night.
Hone Harawira: Can the Prime Minister confirm that under the proviso that the GCSB is to contribute to the economic well-being of New Zealand—
Hon Simon Bridges: What’s all this honky talk?
Hone Harawira: —those iwi who, along with the New Zealand Māori Council, oppose the sale—mēnā e hiahia ana koutou kia whakamāoritia ōku pātai, ka pai tērā. Mēnā e kore, me kōrero Pākehā ahau. Kei a koe te tikanga. He aha tō whakautu? Horekau? E kore koe e mōhio ki tō tātou reo rangatira? Ka pai. [If you collectively want my questions translated into Māori, that is fine. If not, then I will speak in English. It is your decision. What is your response? You do have not any? Do you not know our chiefly language? Good.]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I am going to invite the member to start his question again. Could he help the House by asking the question in either English or Te Reo.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was beginning to be a long question, but what Mr Harawira really said was: “Do you yourself speak Māori, or is that stupid look on your face the one you were born with?”.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If he said that to me, it is very uncomplimentary to the Speaker! But we are going to try to get the question asked and answered.
Hone Harawira: Can the Prime Minister confirm that under the proviso that the GCSB is to contribute to the economic well-being of New Zealand, those iwi who, along with the New Zealand Māori Council, oppose the sale of water-based electricity companies—because the Government has refused to properly recognise and provide for Māori proprietary interests in water—may become suspects worthy of the attention of the GCSB; and, given that the GCSB has acted in the past without the prior knowledge or consent of the Prime Minister, is it true that the GCSB may spy on those Māori organisations without telling them anyway?
Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: I have to say in relation to the first part of the question that begins with the word “Given” that it is not a proviso about the economic well-being that is contained in the functions section. That goes back to the Labour Government’s 2003 legislation. But I can assure the member that organisations like the Māori Council, which may take a principled stand in opposition to a particular Government policy, are hardly likely to be the subject of surveillance, and to suggest otherwise would be silly.
10. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Courts: What results did court collections achieve in the 2012/13 financial year?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS (Minister for Courts): The year 2012-13 was another strong year for collections. The total outstanding fines and reparation balance fell for a fourth straight year. It is now at $564 million, which is over $240 million, or 30 percent, below what it was when we came into Government. The amount overdue has also continued to fall. It is now down 43 percent from what this Government inherited. These are superb results, and they reinforce fines and reparation as a valued part and an effective part of our criminal justice system.
Scott Simpson: What does he believe was responsible for these outstandingly good results?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: There are three things. These results are a tribute to the hard work of the courts and collections department staff. They are a natural product of crime rates, which under this Government have reached lows not seen in 30 years, meaning fewer fines are being imposed. They are the result of the innovative thinking and new powers that this Government has introduced. Collections staff now have more options than ever before to track down fine dodgers and to make sure that they pay their debts.
Scott Simpson: Would the Minister care to identify any new programmes that have been especially successful as well?
Hon CHESTER BORROWS: Yes, there are two innovations that have produced particularly pleasing results in the last year. The Credit Check of Fines programme, which allows credit agencies to see if a potential debtor has overdue fines in return for updated contact information, has allowed the courts to recover almost $17 million in fines and reparation. This is double what was projected. Our enhanced data-matching with the Inland Revenue Department and the Ministry of Social Development is helping the collections department to track down fine dodgers. It was expected to return $20 million in its first year; instead, it has helped the department recover over $80 million in fines that would otherwise have gone unpaid.
11. Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Health: What recent reports, if any, has he received on an increase in pressure on DHBs and health professionals in providing health services in New Zealand?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I have received a wide range of recent reports, including a number of district health board annual plans, which for the most part reflected increased provision of publicly funded health services and increased funding. We want New Zealanders to receive the best possible health care, and we do put pressure on boards to deliver this. We have increased health operational funding by an average of around $500 million a year, but as the member knows and has said herself, it has always been, and will continue to be, an ongoing challenge for district health boards to live within their means.
Hon Annette King: Has he been informed of nurses working at Starship hospital for 15 hours a day because of nursing shortages at that hospital, being paid for only 12 hours, and being told not to record 15 hours on their time sheets, and if he has not been informed, will he investigate the nursing shortages and overwork at Starship before children are put at risk?
Hon TONY RYALL: If that member has that information, please make it available to me. I would have to check the information, in light of previous claims made by that member, but the latest information I have is that our nursing staff at the Counties Manukau District Health Board is up some 400 in the last 8 years.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think the Minister might have misheard. I said Starship, not Counties Manukau.
Mr SPEAKER: That is not a point of order.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Well, in light of his answer, then, he did not address the question. I mentioned Starship, not Counties Manukau.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There were two parts to the member’s question. The question was addressed. I invite the member to ask a further supplementary question.
Hon Annette King: Has he been informed of growing pressure faced by general practitioners, which has led one to write on Tuesday this week that general practitioners face a whole tsunami of issues with district health boards, including not having basic access to ear, nose, and throat, dermatology, neurology, renal services, ultrasound, orthotics, timely discharge summaries, etc., etc., and that the Minister’s targets are often set with minimal or no recompense; if so, why is this occurring in light of his claim that general practice is better off?
Hon TONY RYALL: Well, I would have to check the veracity of that member’s claim, because I am aware of some documents that have been doctored in order to justify some of the press releases of the member. But what I would say to that is that our Government has, in fact, put a lot of extra money into primary care. We have increased, for example, the ability of general practitioners to refer patients directly for diagnostic tests, without having to go through a specialist. We have also improved the access that general practitioners have to refer their patients to specialists. As I said in answer to a question earlier in the House today, we have had a really significant boost in the number of first specialist assessments, which are really the gateway to additional services that general practitioners often refer to.
Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, has he seen a copy of the letter that district health boards are now sending out to patients who have been referred to a specialist by their general practitioner, which reads: “Unfortunately, your clinical priority is such that we are unable to offer you a specialist appointment within the current resources and capability.”—even though the person’s condition could include osteoarthritis of a major joint, with significant pain and restriction or significant functional loss and pain—and patients being told that their conditions must be urgent before they can get an appointment?
Hon TONY RYALL: I would have to verify those claims. They could be like the claim the member put out recently that people were—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. On three occasions he has been doubting the word of me as a member of Parliament, and I thought you might have pulled him up— [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is a point of order. The member can start her point of order again.
Hon Annette King: My point of order is that on three occasions now, or perhaps it is four, he has doubted my word as a member, saying that he has to check my figures or the veracity of what I am providing. I am prepared to table the letters in a moment. I find that unacceptable. He should answer the question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not need the assistance of the Leader of the House. Can I ask the member, the Hon Annette King, to look at Speaker’s ruling 165/6: “The Minister being questioned is perfectly at liberty to dispute the quote. That is the risk that members take when they include a quote in a supplementary question that has not been validated.” That was a ruling recently given by the Hon Dr Lockwood Smith.
Hon Annette King: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
Hon TONY RYALL: You want an answer—
Hon Annette King: Supplementary question, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Did the member not—
Hon Annette King: No, he just said he doubted my word, so I got the answer.
Mr SPEAKER: OK. Supplementary question—
Hon Annette King: Does he think that refusing 35 percent of orthopaedic patients referred by their general practitioner for a first specialist assessment at Waitematā District Health Board in this last year, because of the level of funding provided, gives them better, sooner, more convenient health care; if so, how?
Hon TONY RYALL: As the member knows, the Waitematā District Health Board has provided more orthopaedic service for patients in its area. The member knows that. Some patients have been referred and have been unable to be provided with an appointment, but that has always been the case. As I said earlier on in the piece, the activity and the ability of district health boards to provide more services for their patients have been increasing quite dramatically.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table information from the Waitematā District Health Board that shows that 35 percent of orthopaedic patients in this last year were refused a first specialist assessment—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be so tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: Has he seen a copy of the letter that district health boards are now sending out to patients after they receive their first specialist assessment—something that he was wanting to boast about today—a letter that reads: “You have been recommended by your surgeon for surgery. Although it is clear you would benefit from surgery, and your surgeon and your GP would prefer this happened now, it is not possible to provide it to you at this time, because of limitation of resources.” Could the Minister explain why it is good news to get a first specialist appointment to tell them that they need an operation, and then to receive a letter that tells them they are out of luck?
Hon TONY RYALL: Because—and I cannot believe this question was asked—40,000 more people are getting operations this year than in 2008.
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the Minister.
Hon Annette King: You heard the question. There was nothing about what happened in 2008. I asked him whether he had seen a copy of the letter.
Mr SPEAKER: And we do not need—
Hon Annette King: I read out what was in the letter.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need the question repeated. The question, in essence, was whether the Minister has seen a copy of the letter.
Hon TONY RYALL: I have not seen a copy of that letter, but I would have to check, because I have seen press statements and documents that that member has distributed, where the figures provided were doctored.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a copy of the letters that are being sent out from district health boards—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is all that is needed. We have had the letter quoted to us. Leave is sought to table that letter. Is there any objection to that course of action? There appears to be none. It can be so tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Television, Switch-over to Digital—TV TakeBack Programme
12. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for the Environment: What recent reports has she seen on the progress of the TV TakeBack programme?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment): Last week the programme received its 100,000th television for recycling. The programme, which sees the Government partnering with a range of councils, recyclers, and retailers to provide a nationwide network with subsidised options, has now diverted thousands of tonnes of harmful material from landfills. The programme has also focused on improving recycling infrastructure, raising public awareness, and helping build options for the long-term management of electronic waste.
Katrina Shanks: Where is the programme currently in operation?
Hon AMY ADAMS: Yesterday the programme was launched in the lower North Island and East Cape. Through Government subsidy, people in these areas can now recycle their unwanted televisions for no more than $5. Residents in these areas will be advised of the various recycling options, via local promotional campaigns. The initiative will get under way in the remaining parts of the North Island, including Auckland in October, and follows the successful completion of TV TakeBack initiatives in the South Island and Hawke’s Bay over the past year.
Point of Order—Acting Leader of the Opposition
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 35, I wonder whether it would be appropriate at this time for the Opposition to indicate, given the resignation of David Shearer, who is going to be the acting Leader of the Opposition, or the deputy.
Mr SPEAKER: I have seen earlier press releases, and that is a matter for the Labour Party, and it will make an announcement.
Question No. 9 to Minister
Hon TAU HENARE (National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Earlier in question time, in a question by Hone Harawira, he spoke in Māori and you said to him that he should pick which one—he should choose either Māori or English, and you did. Can I just remind you that we have the right to speak in either English or Māori—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need to listen to any more of this. I was saying to the member that it would be helpful to me, in placing that supplementary question, if he could relate it in one language or the other. The member has a perfect right to speak in Te Reo and in English, and I fully accept that. But in a lengthy supplementary question like the member was asking, it was becoming very confusing for me, and that was the point I was making.
Point of Order—Acting Leader of the Opposition
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Conservation): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My point of order is in respect of the references regularly in our Standing Orders about the Leader of the Opposition. It requires that this House give due reference to who that leader is. I—
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any more of this. As I understand media reports I saw just before I came into the House, the Leader of the Opposition, David Shearer, is still the Leader of the Opposition until the Labour Party elects another Leader of the Opposition. That is their business, and the member, in raising that point of order, is simply using it to make a political point, which is an unsatisfactory thing to be doing in the House.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Employment Relations Amendment Bill—Submissions Received
1. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial
Relations Committee: How many submissions have been received on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill?
DAVID BENNETT (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): Given the large numbers of submissions received, the final total is still to be confirmed. However, it appears at this stage that approximately 15,000 submissions have been received.
Darien Fenton: What parts of the country have submissions been received from?
DAVID BENNETT: Submissions have been received from around the country. Hearings have already commenced, and they will be continuing over the next few weeks in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch.
Employment Relations Amendment Bill—Submissions Received and Requests for Oral
2. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial
Relations Committee: How many submissions on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, if any, are unique submissions who have requested to be heard?
DAVID BENNETT (Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee): At this stage it appears that approximately 1,900 submissions include unique content, and around 730 of those wish to be heard.
Darien Fenton: Has he been advised as to whether the committee will hold meetings in other parts of the country other than Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, and—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a question for the chair; that is a decision that the committee will make.