Questions and Answers - November 14
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Better Public Services Targets—Effect on Economy
1. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government’s Better Public Services programme contributing to a stronger economy?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of
Finance: Delivering Better Public Services has been a focus of the Government for the past 5 years. With the Government representing around one-quarter of the real economy, it is important that Government agencies focus on achieving results for users of public services while at the same time delivering value for money for taxpayers. The Prime Minister last year identified 10 challenging Better Public Services results to address some of New Zealand’s most important issues over the next 4 to 5 years, such as reducing crime, reducing long-term welfare dependency, and reducing educational underachievement.
Simon O’Connor: Why has the Government made the Better Public Services programme one of its four priorities?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The Government takes the view that New Zealanders are entitled to the most effective and efficient public services that can be delivered. The result areas are focused on improving Kiwis’ quality of life and getting better results for taxpayers. We have seen, for example, that the number of people continuously receiving a working-age benefit for over 12 months has fallen by almost 3,500 since March last year to 74,600. The target is 55,000 by 2017.
Simon O’Connor: Has the Government’s focus on improving public services had any impact on public satisfaction and trust in those services?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Yes, indeed. The quarterly Kiwis Count survey into New Zealanders’ satisfaction with their public services has shown a significant increase from an overall score of 68 percent when National came to office to 73 percent now. At the same time, the survey shows a remarkable 10 percent increase in Kiwis’ trust in public servants, from an overall score of 67 percent when National took office to 77 percent today.
Air New Zealand—Potential Partial Sale
2. Hon DAVID PARKER (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: Can he rule out the partial sale of Air New Zealand proceeding prior to 30 November 2013?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of
Finance: No final decisions around the timing of the reduction in the Government’s 73 percent holding in Air New Zealand have been made.
Hon David Parker: Why is he so worried of the outcome of the referendum that he is sneakily selling off Air New Zealand as quickly as he can?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: We are not worried about the result of the referendum, although we do know that it is a waste of $9 million of public money, and, actually, we made our commitments in this whole area very public at the 2011 general election. As was said by Russel Norman, that election was a referendum on the whole mixed-ownership model, and National won the election.
Hon David Parker: Why, then, is the Government planning to sell off Air New Zealand in blocks to institutions and brokers rather than the so-called Kiwi mums and dads whom he promised at the election would be at the front of the queue?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The first thing is that no decision has been made. The second issue is that those shares are already trading on the market. It is fundamentally different from those two initial public offerings that have progressed so far, so the sale structure is going to be very different.
Tim Macindoe: What does Air New Zealand tell us about the benefits of the Government’s mixedownership programme?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Air New Zealand is listed on the New Zealand and Australian stock exchanges. For the last 12 years the Government has held a stake in Air New Zealand of around three-quarters of the company. That makes Air New Zealand a very good working example of a mixed-ownership company. It also demonstrates the benefits and disciplines of a sharemarket listing. I would like to thank the former Minister of Finance Michael Cullen for leading the way on the mixed-ownership model. It is one of the very few good decisions made by the last Labour Government.
Hon David Parker: Can the Minister assure the House that Air New Zealand will be at least 85 percent New Zealand - owned after the sell-down process is completed?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The first thing to say is that no final decisions about Air New Zealand have been made. The second thing is that we have always said that in the mixed-ownership model, in the float of these assets, in this case the sell down, we are going for 85 percent Kiwiowned.
Hon David Parker: Why did the National Government say when it made citizens initiated referenda the law in 1993 that this was “to give our people a greater voice …” and bring in “a more meaningful way to ascertain the views of [the] people.”, that the citizens initiated referenda law is “a sign of the vigour of our democracy.”, and that it does not want to “suppress that voice with subject-matter limitations,” and, further, why is it that those lofty ambitions were tossed out the window around the time of the asset sales programme?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The first thing is that I was not around in 1993. The second thing is that when that member said “ambitions were tossed out the window”, the person who tossed them out was Helen Clark. The trouble with those members opposite is that they pick and choose on binding referenda. So when the smacking referendum came back and said that 87 percent of New Zealanders wanted it reversed, those members ignored it. But now that they think they might get some sort of result on the next one, they are suddenly very keen on the idea of referenda. The other point that I would make is that the referendum has not yet been held, but it is a waste of $9 million worth of taxpayers’ money. You and they are both responsible for that gross waste of money, and it will not change a thing.
Dr Russel Norman: Can the Minister tell us who the Prime Minister was in 2009 when the socalled smacking referendum happened, and who was the Prime Minister, the leader of the Government, who made a decision to take no action as a result of that referendum?
Mr SPEAKER: I am struggling to see how that has much ministerial responsibility connected to the question, but I will allow—[Interruption] Order! I will allow the—
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue of relevance is that the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not—
Dr Russel Norman: —raised it in his answer to the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need—well, I appreciate the attempt of assistance from the member, but I do not need it. On this occasion I have said that the question is in order, and I will leave it to the Minister to respond.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: We all know the answer to that question. But the other thing we do know is that the economic suicide bombers of the Green Party would, if they got the chance, be bursting into the Cabinet room—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Would the Minister please resume his seat? I have another point of order from Dr Russel Norman.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not attempt to answer the question. Then, he started a diatribe about the Green Party. It has nothing to do with the Green Party.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The difficulty I have with this point of order is that the Minister was attempting to answer the question when the member Dr Russel Norman rose to his feet and interrupted the answer. Until the answer is completed, I cannot rule on whether the question has been adequately addressed or not.
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: We all know the answer to that question, but we also know that if the Green Party got hold of the Treasury benches, the Green Party members would be going out and printing billions of dollars to try to buy these assets back. I challenge them to deny it.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you please explain to me how this has anything to do with the question I asked?
Mr SPEAKER: With some difficulty, but I actually have difficulty understanding the exact question the member asked anyway. If the member—[Interruption] Order! The member asked what was, without doubt, a political question. He is unhappy with the answer. That is not my business. If the member wants to tease it out further, then the opportunity exists for the member to use further supplementaries.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was completely in order. It was allowed by you, it referenced the comment that the Minister made as to who ignored an earlier citizens initiated referendum, and it asked him to confirm which Prime Minister it was. It was a very simple question. It was in order and it has not been addressed.
Mr SPEAKER: I have already ruled that the question has been addressed, maybe not to the satisfaction of the member, but the question—[Interruption] Order! If the member wants to stay for the balance of question time, I would be grateful if he would not interject while I am on my feet. The question has been addressed. I accept that it may not be to the satisfaction of either the member who asked the question or the Hon David Parker. That is then a matter for teasing out with further supplementary questions.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Can I just clarify, before I accept this point of order, that it is an absolutely fresh point of order?
Hon David Parker: No, you cannot clarify that.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, then, the member would—[Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. If the member is going to continue to question decisions I make, he leaves me no option but to ask the member to leave the Chamber. If it is a fresh point—[Interruption] Order! If it is a fresh point of order, I am happy to accept it, but I have ruled on that particular matter and that is final.
Iain Lees-Galloway: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek a ruling from you in general terms that is related to this question. If a member asks a Minister a factual question that has an answer that is factual, and the Minister knows the answer to that question and can state it with a simple fact, is it a requirement that the Minister answer with that fact?
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, indeed it is. If a question is asked that is absolutely fair, concise, and simple, and it is one that I would expect the Minister to be able to answer, I would then expect the Minister to answer it.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just an additional clarification on the ruling—is it acceptable for a Minister to give the answer “We all know the answer …” in response to a very specific factual question?
Mr SPEAKER: To a very specific question, maybe not, but to the question that was asked, yes, I have ruled that that is the case.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I want to raise with you a slightly different issue, but it is related to the answer that the Minister gave, and it extends to the issue of ministerial responsibility. It is well established in the Standing Orders and in the Speakers’ rulings that Ministers do not have responsibility for the policies of other parties or for what other parties might do if they became Government. What is increasingly becoming a practice at the moment is that Ministers are standing up and giving a very brief answer to a question and then saying “But if that party was in Government,” and then saying a whole lot of other things. Previously, Speakers have sat Ministers down when they got to that point, without letting them go on, because they do not have any responsibility for that.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that point is a reasonable one. There are occasions when I do sit Ministers down when they attempt to attack another party. But, at the end of the day, this is a political debating chamber, and there will be times when political barbs are traded from one side to the other.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Does your ruling mean that if the way to get a question answered is to ask a further supplementary question, questioners on this side of the House will get an extra supplementary question, or does it just use up their time?
Mr SPEAKER: On occasions—as the member will have observed, on many occasions—I may well give an extra supplementary question. But the point that I am making to the member and to all members of the House is that if a supplementary question is asked, on many, many occasions the member who asked that question may not be happy with the answer. That has been happening since I arrived in this House. The way to then make progress is not to stand to one’s feet and expect the Speaker to rule on the adequacy of the answer, provided the question has been addressed. The way to do it is to ask searching, perceptive supplementary questions and to attempt to get the correct answer.
Hon David Parker: Who was the Prime Minister when the citizens initiated referendum was held in respect of the anti-smacking issue, and who was the Government that ignored the majority recommendation of that referendum, all of which were referred to by the Minister in his answer to an earlier supplementary question?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The initial question is about the partial sale of Air New Zealand proceeding prior to 30 November 2013. Although the Minister might have commented on a coming referendum, to now be allowing a question to the Minister about what is simply historical fact seems to me quite unreasonable and a waste of members’ time.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not need any assistance on this particular point. The Hon Gerry Brownlee is right. It does not bear a lot of resemblance to the initial question, but the members in their further supplementary questions, and in the answers given by the Minister, have talked about other citizens initiated referenda. On this occasion I invite the Hon David Parker to re-ask his question, and it will be answered.
Hon David Parker: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Who was the Prime Minister at the time of the citizens initiated referendum in respect of the smacking issue, and who was the Prime Minister and who was in Government when that referendum was ignored?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I do not have that information with me, but if you would like to submit the question in writing, the Minister will get back to you.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order is being raised, and it will be heard in silence.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can a Minister who previously said that everybody knows the answer but who apparently does not know it himself not be treating this House with anything other than contempt? This is an awful waste of Parliament’s time, and it makes us look foolish in front of the public, which comes naturally to some members, but some of us do not like it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I am sure that you will find that the Minister has moved from that clear statement initially that everyone knows the answer to that. After such a long period of time with the House being so interested in this matter, he has begun to doubt himself.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Again, for the benefit of the Rt Hon Winston Peters, it is not for me to judge the adequacy of the answer. It is for the members of this House and the public to judge the adequacy of the answer that was given. But the answer given was satisfactory.
Schools, Canterbury—Recent Announcements
3. NICKY WAGNER (National—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has she made on repairing, rebuilding and renewing schools in Christchurch?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the
Minister of Education: Today, with the support of the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, the Minister of Education announced that 80 percent of classrooms across greater Christchurch will be modernised within 10 years, changing the way children and young people learn. The final business case, which was released today, outlines the schedule for the rebuilding, repairing, and renewing of 115 State schools across greater Christchurch. The Government is investing over $1 billion in a 10-year programme of restoring and renewing schools in the greater Christchurch area.
Nicky Wagner: What impact will this have on schools in Christchurch?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Schools in Christchurch have already been severely impacted by the earthquakes. This business case today, though, indicates that 13 schools will be built on new sites, 10 schools will be rebuilt on existing sites, 34 schools will be fully redeveloped, and 58 schools will have modernising redevelopments. In other words, it means the construction of over 1,200 new classrooms and the repair of more than 1,200 others, creating improved learning spaces that are fit for modern teaching practices.
Chris Hipkins: How much of the $1 billion announced today will come from money the schools were already due to receive in the form of regular property funding, leaky buildings remediation, and insurance payouts?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There will be various amounts in the $1.1 billion that have those component issues attached to them. I am not in a position today to give him those exact figures, but, certainly, if he wishes to put a question down in writing, then those breakdowns could be provided.
Chris Hipkins: Will schools being built or rebuilt in Christchurch be built using public-private partnerships; if so, why?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: There is certainly a desire to have some of those schools built using that model. That would, of course, free up principals from having to be property managers to being the educators that they are so well trained to be.
4. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Yes, as long as they are properly reported and in the right context.
Moana Mackey: Does he stand by his statement that “I think climate change is something that has happened always, so to simply come up and say it is man-made is an interesting prospect.”; if so, is
he saying that the nearly 50 percent increase in global greenhouse gas emissions from transport in the last 25 years has played no role in causing our planet to heat up at an unprecedented rate?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, no, and I am unsure.
Moana Mackey: When he described man-made climate change as being “an interesting prospect” was he aware that anthropogenic climate change, to which emissions from transport are a major contributor, is actually not a new concept, and that thousands of scientists worldwide have been working on this small issue for decades; if not, does that his allay his concerns that someone simply came up with the idea?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, and no.
Moana Mackey: Does he agree with his colleague the Hon Tim Groser that to deny man-made climate change you would “have to be denying reality”, and if he does not agree, then how can the public have any confidence that his Government is taking seriously the need to reduce our emissions from transport?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes, and if they look at our record in transport, in regulation, and in the construction of roads that reduce emissions, then of course they will agree with our position.
Moana Mackey: Does he appreciate how embarrassing it is in 2013 to have a New Zealand Minister of Transport publicly questioning the science of climate change—a Minister a Minister who is responsible for policy settings in the sector with the fastest-growing level of emissions—and will he promise not to do it again?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, there we have it. I said yes, and I stand by my statements when they are reported in the proper context. What we had yesterday was a bit of a cook-up between TV3 and the Greens, attempting to get a result that would favour the Green Party. Everyone knows that. It was pretty clear. I tell you what—when you see a reporter bounding towards you and asking a question like that, you always give an answer that is going to be a little tempered in terms of the madness that comes from the Greens.
Housing, Affordable—Government Initiatives
5. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Housing: What initiatives has the Government recently taken to assist first home buyers and ensure more lower-cost homes are being built?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): This morning we turned the first sod on the $30 million - plus 150-home redevelopment at Pōmare. This community, which has had more than its fair share of gang and crime problems, is a good illustration of why we need to reform our historic approach to State housing. The new development will provide good-quality low-cost homes for sale, which will open the door to homeownership for 110 families. The remaining 40 homes will be split between the community housing providers, like Accessible Properties, the Wellington Housing Trust, and Housing New Zealand. I am confident that this remodelled community will deliver far better social outcomes for the future.
Paul Foster-Bell: What reports has the Minister had on the Government’s initiatives that took effect on 1 October in expanding the Welcome Home Loan and the KiwiSaver first-home deposit subsidy?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There has been a big increase in the number of first-home buyers accessing Welcome Home Loan loans, particularly in Auckland and Christchurch, where we increased eligibility by $85,000 and $100,000, respectively. The numbers have doubled to 47 per week and are at an all-time high since the scheme was established more than a decade ago. I am also encouraged that three further major banks that were previously outside the scheme have now applied to join and this will, in time, expand the number of first-home buyers accessing the Welcome Home Loan scheme. Also, the growth in the uptake of the KiwiSaver first-home deposit subsidy arises because we have lifted both the income and house price caps. This initiative is
helping first-home buyers and is complementing the Reserve Bank concerns about low-deposit lending.
Phil Twyford: Why, if his Government is so concerned about the housing crisis, has it, as the Salvation Army has reported today, cut the annual capital contribution to Housing New Zealand in half and pulled nearly half a billion dollars in dividends out of Housing New Zealand, resulting in a net $142 million withdrawal of funds in the middle of a housing crisis, when there are 4,000 families on waiting lists and Government agencies are referring people to live in camping grounds, and will he confirm that the Government has been squeezing the lifeblood out of Housing New Zealand to pay for National’s tax cuts?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member’s numbers are all wrong. The Government is investing a record $2.9 billion in Housing New Zealand over the next 3 years, and I challenge the member opposite to find any period of Labour Government when that sort of investment took place in Housing New Zealand. The development that we launched this morning in Pōmare is just a classic example of the major investment that we are making in improving the quality of our social housing.
Phil Twyford: I seek leave of the House to table the report by the Salvation Army, which details a $142 million—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Seeking leave to table a document is a matter of briefly describing the document; it is not about making a political point. What I just need to check before I put the leave is whether it is a document that has been circulated and is freely available to members of Parliament.
Phil Twyford: The report has been released only in the last hour. It is not publicly available to everybody yet, and it directly pertains to the information that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The easiest way to move this forward is to accept what the member has said. I will put the leave. It is over to the House. Leave is sought to table that particular report. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Paul Foster-Bell: What interest has there been in the Government’s FirstHome initiative?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: There have been 14,000 viewings on the website and over 1,000 phone and email inquiries for the scheme, which is designed to give preference to first-home buyers of surplus properties in provincial New Zealand. Sales have been completed in Ōtorohanga, Napier, Marton, Foxton, Levin, Picton, Blenheim, Timaru, Cromwell, Dunedin, and Invercargill. I have been heartened by letters from first-home purchasers, like the one I received from a family in Invercargill, which said: “It’s a dream I never expected to attain, and I will never forget that I’ve been given this opportunity to own my own home for myself and my son.”
6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the
Prime Minister: Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the views and have confidence in the accuracy of the views of his climate change Minister, Tim Groser, who said yesterday that the evidence of humaninduced climate change is overwhelming and that you would have to be denying reality if you did not accept that?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes.
Dr Russel Norman: Then does he agree with the views of his Minister of Finance, who yesterday refused to accept the scientific consensus that human-induced climate change is happening?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: What the Deputy Prime Minister was not prepared to accept were the mad excesses often quoted by the Green Party.
Dr Russel Norman: If the finance Minister refuses to accept the science around climate change, has the Prime Minister asked the finance Minister what he thinks the explanation for climate change is, and does he believe that it could be the circulation of the planets that is causing climate change, as Colin Craig seems to think?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As far as I know, he does not.
Dr Russel Norman: Has he asked his finance Minister whether he thinks the science around climate is like whether you believe in the tooth fairy or not—whether it is something you believe in—or does he think that his Minister of Finance should base his views on the science around climate change?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. We talk about substantial things, not fairy tales.
Dr Russel Norman: Is the reason his Ministers and his Government are promoting fossil fuel extraction and mining that they do not accept the science of climate change and hence do not realise that we cannot continue to increase the burning of fossil fuels?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No. A well-known, noted professor made the point back in the 1970s that if the world today was to replace with horses all the horsepower that internal combustion provides, a city like London would be 30 metres deep in manure.
Dr Russel Norman: Aside from stories about London and manure, has he discussed with all his Ministers whether they accept the science of climate change, and can he tell the House whether, apart from Tim Groser, there is any other Minister in his Cabinet who does accept the science of climate change?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It may be difficult for the member to recognise this, but it was this group of Ministers and this Government that brought in the emissions trading scheme, which is currently operative in New Zealand. Further, it was this Government that started the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, this Government that started the Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, this Government that brought in the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action, and this Government that brought in the Primary Growth Partnership. It is this Government that has the forestry projects on the East Coast, the Afforestation Grants Scheme, and, of course, the Permanent Forest Sink Initiative. That tells me that the Ministers in the Government are very much on board with doing what New Zealand should do around climate change.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I took your advice and waited until the end of the question. My question was very simply whether there was anyone else other than Tim Groser who accepts the science of climate change. I am none the wiser.
Mr SPEAKER: The member now needs to go back and read his original question. That was not his original question. His original question included the words “has he discussed with all his Ministers”.
Building and Construction Sector—Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand
7. Hon SHANE JONES (Labour) to the Minister for Building and Construction: Does he agree with IPENZ Chief Executive, Andrew Cleland, that the Government needs to give the Institute greater powers to hold their own to account?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction): What has become clear following the collapse of the CTV Building in 2011 is that the accountability regime for engineers is woefully inadequate. I find it abhorrent that an engineer found to have done poor work can still be practising, even after being stripped of their Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand registration. The Government is working to drastically improve the occupational regulations of engineers, and I expect to be able to announce some changes next year. That extensive work that is under way will determine what additional powers the Institution of Professional Engineers would receive. It might be that the current structure of the institution, playing all the roles it does, may change as well.
Hon Shane Jones: Why has it taken so long for the Institution of Professional Engineers to step up to the plate, show accountability, and bring this engineer into where he belongs—the dock, next to the former chief executive officer of Pike River Coal?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: First of all, I do not have responsibility directly for the Institution of Professional Engineers, but I can tell the member that the institution itself does not have very many tools in its tool box to do such. That is why the whole case of the engineers involved in the CTV Building has been put to the police and the police are still currently investigating as to whether they will take a prosecution. I actually do not find it an acceptable regime where 115 people died in a building that was illegally designed, built, and certified, and still no one held accountable. That is why I think that the regime must change.
Hon Shane Jones: How much worse does a building failure need to be than the CTV Building collapse, which killed 115 people, before he secures accountability from the engineering professionals, the Institution of Professional Engineers, or are they all like Alan Reay—motivated by personal profit and not professional responsibility?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Well, I repeat again that I do not find the current regime acceptable. I do not think that the current regime is acceptable. That is why we have been consulting with the engineering profession, bringing an issues paper to the market early in the new year. We would hope to have legislative changes during the course of next year and I look forward to the support of members from the other side. In the mean time I am advised by the Institution of Professional Engineers that the only action it can take is deregistration, and even that does not prevent an engineer under the current regime from still practising. I find that just woeful. [Interruption]
Raymond Huo: Supplementary question—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Raymond Huo: That is a very good start! In light of his earlier answers, given that 70 international students died in the collapsed CTV Building, designed by Institution of Professional Engineers - registered engineer Mr Alan Reay, how does his denial of liability and lack of accountability impact on the Government’s efforts to show we have learnt the lessons of the CTV Building collapse to other international partners?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Again, as a Minister I can work only within the bounds of the law. I do not have the ability to prosecute somebody. I do have the ability to put the material in the hands of the police so that they make that decision and that material is with the police right now. I have to say that I find it a bit galling that when I make even a modest statement about how I find the regime unacceptable I receive lawyers’ letters that day saying “Say anything more and we will be suing you.”
Hon Shane Jones: Does it strike the Minister as odd that the former chief executive officer of Pike River Coal, mining engineer Mr Peter Whittall, was in the dock for failures associated with Pike River Coal, yet Mr Reay, who was identified as the primary cause of the collapse of the CTV Building, which killed 115 people, is getting off scot-free, continuing to trade and profit in the Christchurch rebuild?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Yes, I do find that an unacceptable dilemma, and I am hopeful that the police will soon have a decision on the CTV Building.
Financial Reporting—Feedback on Minimum Reporting Requirements for Companies
8. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Revenue: Why is the Government seeking feedback on the financial reporting requirements that apply to most New Zealand companies?
Hon TODD McCLAY (Minister of Revenue): The Government is focused on reducing compliance costs for almost all small and medium sized companies that have no more than $30 million in turnover or $60 million in assets. These companies will no longer be required to prepare
general purpose financial statements. Instead, they will need to prepare only simplified statements to a minimum requirement determined by the Inland Revenue Department, based upon everyday accounting principles. This is a result of reforms in both the Financial Reporting Bill and the current tax bill before the Finance and Expenditure Committee.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: Would any changes to financial reporting following these consultations apply to all small and medium sized companies doing business in New Zealand?
Hon TODD McCLAY: No, they are focused on lessening compliance obligations on small to medium sized New Zealand - owned companies. Under the current settings, New Zealand subsidiaries of multinational companies will still be required to prepare general purpose financial statements, which will continue to be made public. As I have stated publicly, I am not of a mind to make it any easier for those companies that may or may not be meeting their obligations to the New Zealand taxpayer.
Housing, Affordable—Measures to Reduce Demand
9. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister of Housing: What advice, if any, has he received on public support for measures designed to reduce demand in the housing market?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister of Housing): I have seen various public polls on the Reserve Bank’s loan-to-value ratio speed limits, and public commentary, with some showing support and some opposed. The job of the independent Reserve Bank is to maintain financial stability, not to win popularity contests. We need only look at the calamity resulting from out-of-control house price bubbles in Europe and in America to see the damage that they can do to economies. I have been confused by some reports. Earlier this year the Opposition was calling for the Reserve Bank to use loan-to-value ratios, but now it is strongly opposed to them. I guess that is what happens when you put “Dithering Davids” and twits in charge—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That part does not help the order of this House.
Phil Twyford: What does he say to the 56 percent of National Party voters who believe that loanto- value ratio lending restrictions are unfair to first-home buyers and the 44 percent of National Party voters who support a capital gains tax as a way of restraining house price increases, or are they just misinformed?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I do not give great veracity to those polls. For instance, if you took a poll on whether the Reserve Bank should have put up interest rates at any time in the last 20 years, I bet the majority of people would say that they do not want interest rates to go up. But how many people in this House—in fact, the vast majority—voted for an independent Reserve Bank, so that we would have financial stability? I note in the polls that 75 percent of Labour supporters give greater credibility to the economic policies of this Government than they do to his party’s economic policies, and he should have a look in the mirror.
Phil Twyford: To what extent has his chaotic and inept management of housing policy driven support for a capital gains tax from 37 percent to 52 percent since August, along with the fact that he has shut first-home buyers out of the market, house prices are still going up, and new builds are going down, all on his watch?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I would just like to challenge members opposite and say that if house prices go up by double or by 10 percent compound per year during their time in Government, how would you rate a Government where they have gone up by 3 percent per year? I would say a heck of a lot better. I would also note that building permit figures, the reliable measure of new builds, have gone up every single month this year—have gone up every single month. The final point I would say to members opposite is that all economists agree that Labour stuffed it up in the last decade by not taking any steps during that house price bubble. We are learning the lessons from Labour’s mistakes.
Phil Twyford: Is he surprised that more young people aged 30 to 44 than any other age group think that loan-to-value ratios are unfair to first-home buyers, that loan-to-value ratios will not restrain
house price inflation, and that a capital gains tax is fair and will restrain house price inflation, or does he believe that people in this age group are also wrong and misinformed and that, as usual, he is right?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first point is that that is interesting coming from a member who at the beginning of the year was asking for loan-to-value ratios. So my question is why it is that he is so disconnected from the young people he claims to represent. Secondly, I note that in Australia, where they have some form of capital gains tax—not very successful—and they have foreign buyer bans, the latest report this week shows that there is a lower portion of first-home buyers than ever, showing the nonsense of the policy of members opposite. The worst damage for young homebuyers is from the ongoing escalation of house prices. Enormous damage was done to young homebuyers when house prices doubled under the previous Government. That is why this Government has got so many policies under way to improve access for first-home buyers.
Trans-Pacific Partnership—Text of Agreement
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): My question is to the Prime Minister and asks—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! To the Minister of Trade.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): Sorry, yes. I forgot—I forgot he is never here on a Thursday.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Let us just have the question, please.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): He is never here on a Thursday, though, you see. OK then, this one is to the Minister of Trade—[Interruption] Look, take a Valium, honey.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
10. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Trade: Why is he not prepared to release the text of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Minister of Trade: Because at this present point there is no agreement.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Having regard to the fact that the question was in respect of the text, not the finished agreement, and New Zealand’s opposition to the intellectual property articles of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—that is, protecting New Zealanders’ access to cheap medicine, industrial innovation, and our native fauna—why does the public of this country have to rely upon WikiLeaks to provide them with the truth of what is going on with this secretive deal and not their elected Government?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I would not rely on WikiLeaks for any accuracy in the information. I would note that when that member was Minister of Trade, he did rely on confidentiality.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was never Minister of Trade. Why does Gerry not do a bit of homework?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is very much a debating point. Is the member raising a real point of order or a supplementary question? A supplementary question—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to the member. He was, of course, Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was also—
Mr SPEAKER: And that, equally, is not a point of order. Can we ask the Rt Hon Winston Peters for his supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: They still miss me.
Mr SPEAKER: Please proceed with the supplementary question. Otherwise we will move to the next question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he still expect the Trans-Pacific Partnership to be completed by Christmas; if so, how can he reconcile that with an unprecedented letter—in US history, that is—to President Obama by congressmen of his own party and half of the US House pledging to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s fast track through Congress?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Every effort has been made by New Zealand to participate in the negotiations to this date. It is of great value to New Zealand. We anticipate a $5 billion year-on-year boost to our export economy, and we would, of course, like to see the negotiations favourably concluded as soon as possible, but there are many parties to this agreement.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can he confirm to the House that the chapter regarding State-owned enterprises is in even worse shape than the intellectual property chapter, which was leaked overnight?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We do not comment on leaked documents, have not commented on leaked documents, and will not comment on leaked documents.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he agree with Lori Wallach of Public Citizen that “All these other countries are like, ‘Wait, you have no trade authority and nothing you’ve promised us means anything? Why would we give you our best deal?’ Why would you be making concessions to the emperor who has no clothes?”
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unfamiliar with whom the member is quoting.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What faith can New Zealanders possibly have that he will not sell out in favour of foreign big businesses over the Trans-Pacific Partnership when that is all he and his Government have been doing for the last 5 years?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Firstly, I totally reject that last comment, and then I would ask him to reflect on the prospect of New Zealand export businesses gaining a $5 billion a year increase in export values as a result of being part of this agreement. If that is somehow selling out New Zealand business, then God help us should he ever get the chance to be trade Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek leave to table a very important document that was leaked overnight and is not generally available to the members on the other side.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the source of the document WikiLeaks?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, then, it is very freely available, I assure the member.
Hon Phil Goff: Why did the Minister of Trade leave it to WikiLeaks—[Interruption] Mr Speaker, is it permissible that somebody—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The Minister is indicating that he cannot hear because of the level of interjection. Would the member please start his supplementary question again.
Hon Phil Goff: Thank you. Why did the Minister leave it to WikiLeaks to inform New Zealanders of the critical issues around intellectual property that are being debated in the negotiations, rather than informing New Zealanders himself so that they could have a say on what the Government’s stance should be on those issues now, when it counts, not afterwards, when it is too late?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have to express some disappointment that a man of such experience as the Hon Phil Goff is prepared to swallow hook, line, and sinker everything he sees on WikiLeaks.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was straightforward. It was not excessively political, and there is nothing in the Minister’s answer—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to ask his question again.
Hon Phil Goff: Thank you very much. Why did the Minister leave it to WikiLeaks to inform New Zealanders of the critical issues relating to intellectual property that are being debated in the negotiations, rather than informing them himself so that they could have a say on what they believe the Government’s stance on this matter should be, at a time when that can make a difference, not afterwards, when it will not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As I said before, we do not comment on leaks, we have not commented on leaks, and we are not going to comment on leaks.
Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was about why he has not informed the public about the issues that are being debated. It is not—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. [Interruption] Order! The question started with: “Why did the Minister leave it to WikiLeaks to inform New Zealanders …”. The Minister has addressed that part of the question. Again, that may not be to the satisfaction of the member. The way forward, then, is to use further supplementary questions.
Hon Phil Goff: I seek leave to table the documents informing New Zealanders of what is being debated in the intellectual—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Can I just clarify that, because a member earlier sought to table a dossier from WikiLeaks. Is the member seeking to table that?
Hon Phil Goff: That is where it comes from, yes.
Mr SPEAKER: No. I ruled that that stuff is freely available if members want to go and get it.
11. MIKE SABIN (National—Northland) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What announcements has he made on boosting growth in the Northland region?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): I have recently launched a new programme to help unlock the potential for primary industry growth in Northland. This is the first step in a wider programme for the Government to work in partnership with the regions to help them further develop industries like agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and aquaculture. Unlocking the potential of New Zealand’s regions is an important part of building a more productive and competitive national economy. It will be very important to achieving our goal of doubling our primary sector exports by 2025.
Mike Sabin: What growth potential is there for the Northland primary sector?
Hon NATHAN GUY: There are three key opportunities to boost growth and create jobs in Northland. One is the development of a new finfish industry, which has the potential for a $300 million investment per annum, employing 700 people by 2030. Also, optimising the 116,000 hectares of Māori freehold land has the potential for a $331 million gross contribution to GDP and for creating well over 300 jobs. Also, moving the productivity of the bottom 50 percent of Northland farmers to the median is estimated to generate around $50 million per annum.
Mike Sabin: What is the Government doing to help Northland reach its potential?
Hon NATHAN GUY: The Ministry for Primary Industries is working closely with Northland iwi, education providers, council, industry organisations, and the Northland Economic Action Group, which was set up by the local member, Mike Sabin, to make sure that Northland reaches these growth targets. For example, the Northland Hub is a collaboration between education—
Mike Sabin: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that you have picked up on the point I want to raise here. The constant barrage of interjections denies the opportunity for members at this end of the House to hear the Minister’s response. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not an unreasonable point. The level of noise coming from a particular quarter is certainly very loud. All members have a right to hear the answer. I invite the Minister to start the answer again.
Hon Shane Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You characteristically look in my direction. I definitely heard the Minister talk about a bull farm.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I was not referring to the member on this occasion. Most times I probably am.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Supplementary question—
Mr SPEAKER: No, there is an answer still to occur. The Hon Nathan Guy will start that answer again.
Hon NATHAN GUY: The Ministry for Primary Industries is working closely with Northland iwi, education providers, council, industry organisations, and the Northland Economic Action Group, which has been set up by the local hard-working member, Mike Sabin, to make sure that Northland reaches these growth targets. For example, the Northland Hub is a collaboration between
education institutions and local Māori, who are working together to train and attract school-leavers into primary industries. The Ministry for Primary Industries is also working closely with two Māori-owned farms—one in terms of developing potential in dairying, and one in terms of sheep and beef expansion—and it is doing that work in partnership with Landcorp, Dairy New Zealand, and Te Tumu Paeroa. The Government is committed to growing the primary sector, increasing exports, and creating more local jobs.
Hon Damien O’Connor: How many jobs will be lost in Northland as a result of the meat industry decision to export carcasses to China for processing, and is this a new policy developed from the $350 million he has given to the meat industry for wonderful initiatives?
Hon NATHAN GUY: That member always wants to criticise the Primary Growth Partnership. Some of the investment in the Primary Growth Partnership is being made in the red meat sector. The member should stand up here and salute and celebrate the investments that this Government is making to support industry, to grow jobs, and to grow our exports, because New Zealand relies on strong primary industries backed up with research and technology. It is an embarrassment that that member does not support the Primary Growth Partnership, irrigation, or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Hon Damien O’Connor: I seek leave to table a paper outlining the new policy of the meat industry to export carcasses to China for processing.
Mr SPEAKER: The source of the document, please.
Hon Damien O’Connor: It is out of a newspaper.
Mr SPEAKER: In that case, no.
Climate Change Policy—Transport Investment Decisions
12. JULIE ANNE GENTER (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Does he stand by his statement that “I think climate change is something that has happened always, so to simply come up and say it’s man-made is an interesting prospect”; and how does that view affect his decisions on transport investment?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Transport): Yes; it does not.
Julie Anne Genter: How will spending the lion’s share—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! Any member has a right to ask a supplementary question.
Julie Anne Genter: How will spending the lion’s share of the transport budget on motorways that do not give New Zealanders choices to get around without using their car help reduce carbon emissions and futureproof our transport system?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, it is an interesting question, which relies on, I think, a couple of policy positions taken by the Green Party. Firstly, it is actually drivers of cars who subsidise those who choose to use public transport. That is very clear. The second thing is that New Zealand’s transport emissions have been static for quite some time. The member will know that from her own investigations. Third, roads of national significance, for example, where journey times are significantly cut, do contribute to a reduced emissions profile.
Julie Anne Genter: Can he name one place in the world where carbon emissions have reduced or where peak congestion has reduced as a result of new motorway construction?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: As far as I know, I would be correct in saying—because there are no motorways there—the Antarctic.
Julie Anne Genter: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure that the Minister answered the question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We have a point of order, which I want to hear in silence. What is the point of order?
Julie Anne Genter: I am not sure that the Minister answered the question. Perhaps he did not hear it correctly.
Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to think about the question she asked. It was to name one place, and the Minister named one place.
Julie Anne Genter: Well, the question was—I think he misheard, with due respect.
Mr SPEAKER: The Minister responded to one part of the question. The question has been addressed. I accept it was not to your satisfaction. The way forward is further supplementary questions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The point of order is that there are roads in Antarctica, and anybody who has been around knows that. How come—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! That is not a point of order. That is a matter of debate. Members can judge the adequacy of the answer and so can members of the public. I invite the member to continue, if she has further supplementary questions.
Julie Anne Genter: I seek leave to table this paper, “The Fundamental Law of Road Congestion: A Comprehensive Review of US Cities”, which shows that new motorway lanes do not reduce congestion or reduce emissions; they increase traffic.
Mr SPEAKER: Is the document freely available already to members on the website?
Julie Anne Genter: It is from the American Economic Review published in 2011.
Mr SPEAKER: I want the member to answer my question. Is it freely available already to members—
Julie Anne Genter: It is behind a pay wall. It is a journal article—
Mr SPEAKER: I will accept the request. 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.
Julie Anne Genter: If this Government is serious about the economy, given the reality of climate change why will he not reprioritise investment to smart transport projects like the City Rail Link, like safe walking and cycling, and like other public transport projects that not only give New Zealanders more low-carbon choices and more affordable choices but also free up our existing roads?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: We have committed over $2 billion inside our current programme to public transport and on many of those things. It is beautiful—I congratulate the member on a fine morning’s work. Can I also say that where it is possible to put a cycleway alongside a road of national significance, that is happening. But in the end what the member has to accept is that New Zealanders buy cars, New Zealanders pay for the roads, and New Zealanders actually expect to be able to use them.