Questions and Answers - October 23
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Economic Programme—Policies 1. JAMI-LEE ROSS (National—Botany) to the Minister of Finance: What measures is the Government taking to help the New Zealand economy become more productive and competitive?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance): on behalf of the Minister of Finance: The Government is taking a large number of measures to help the economy become more productive and competitive. It is, of course, only by having a strong economy that we can lift opportunities and incomes for Kiwi families and provide world-leading public services. This literally requires us to do hundreds of things well. Within the Government’s wider economic plan, the Business Growth Agenda sets out around 350 of these initiatives in the areas of growing exports, capital markets, innovation, skilled and safe workplaces, natural resources, and infrastructure.
Jami-Lee Ross: Within the Business Growth Agenda what are the Government’s main priorities for this term of Parliament?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We have laid out many priorities, but during the election campaign we highlighted 10 priorities, in particular for the Business Growth Agenda, on returning to Government. They are all aimed at increasing New Zealand’s long-term growth rate and to create more opportunities for New Zealanders and their families. These priorities include negotiating and signing free-trade agreements, including with Korea, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the World Trade Organization Government procurement agreement. They also include passing the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which is currently before the House, to ensure flexible labour markets that create more jobs for Kiwis. Another priority is introducing and passing a Resource Management Act reform package to provide more certainty, timeliness, and cost-effectiveness in resource allocation decisions.
Jami-Lee Ross: What priorities within the Business Growth Agenda will the Government pursue to improve skills and support more jobs within the economy?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In a growing economy—and, of course, that is what we do have—it is important that we quickly fill any emerging skill gaps to help encourage thriving Kiwi businesses to continue to grow. That is why two of the 10 Business Growth Agenda priorities I identified previously are aimed at training and attracting more young people to innovative and growing parts of the New Zealand economy, with initiatives like information and communications technology graduate schools, more places in engineering, and holding a series of job fairs in Australia. Yesterday my colleague the Minister for Economic Development announced that the Government would be holding these jobs fairs in capital cities across Australia to encourage more expat Kiwis and, indeed, skilled Australians to help contribute to the growth of New Zealand businesses. The (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) first two fairs will be held before the end of the year in Perth and in Sydney, in late November, with job fairs planned for Brisbane and Melbourne in the first quarter of next year.
Jami-Lee Ross: Why has the Government decided to hold job fairs in Australia?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, that is an excellent question. Between December 1999 and December 2008, well over a quarter of a million New Zealanders—277,000, in fact—moved to Australia, which, of course, provided a lot of skilled labour to help grow the Australian economy, but now it is time to get more of those people moving back the other way to do the same here. We are making progress on that. In the year to September there was a net outflow of only 6,000 people to Australia, which is the lowest net outflow since December 1994. In fact, it included a net loss of only 68 people in the month of September. One of the reasons that has changed is because of the Government’s unrelenting focus on growing the New Zealand economy. Our economy grew by 3.9 percent in the year to June, compared with 3.1 percent in Australia, and our unemployment rate at 5.6 percent is below Australia’s now, at 6.1 percent.
Dr David Clark: Does the Minister agree with the Hon Steven Joyce that a target of exports reaching 40 percent of GDP in 2025 is still achievable, given that the export to GDP ratio is forecast this year to plummet to its lowest level in a quarter of a century?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This appears to be the new manufacturing crisis.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Just answer the question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: OK, grumpy. Come on, grumpy. Come on, grumpy.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If I may also add, just answer the question.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member is wrong. Actually, in world dollar terms and in volume terms, New Zealand exports continue to grow. Yes, because of the high dollar in New Zealand dollar terms they look lower than they otherwise would do. But, actually, I bring good news to the member. I was at the TIN100 launch in Auckland last evening, and for the member, who professed his interest in the information and communications technology and high-tech sectors, there was, once again, a further growth in exports of that sector—the top 100 tech companies in New Zealand—of up to $5.6 billion in exports over the last year. That is growth of 2.3 percent in New Zealand dollar terms at the highest New Zealand dollar they have had to face possibly for 50 or 60 years.
Dr David Clark: I seek leave to table a document showing that Treasury expects exports to further drop as a percentage of GDP for the year to March 2015—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The document has been described. What is the source of the document?
Dr David Clark: The Parliamentary Library.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave; the House will decide. Leave is sought to table that particular document prepared by the library. Is there any objection? There is none. It will be tabled.
Dr David Clark: Given that exports relative to GDP in 2016 are forecast to reach their lowest level in 40 years, the worst since Robert Muldoon became Prime Minister, how much faster will exports have to grow, relative to GDP, to reach Steven Joyce’s 40 percent target in 2025?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: We tend to work in actual volumes, not necessarily Treasury predictions. I have been expecting a significantly higher inflation rate, for example, than what has turned out in this last quarter, where New Zealand’s inflation—
Hon Annette King: He’s pretty arrogant, isn’t he?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Well, actually, no, it is not arrogant at all.
Hon Annette King: He is pretty arrogant.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it is actually a 1 percent CPI rate, and Treasury only a few days ago was expecting a higher number.
Dr David Clark: Does the Minister understand Steven Joyce’s numbers?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Does the member just want to take a break and listen? [Interruption] (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think it just goes to demonstrate that interjections as loud as that do lead to more disorder. It would be much appreciated if the Minister could simply answer the questions being asked.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: As I was going to say, the Government is working hard to reach that target by 2025. We are working hard, of course, to take New Zealanders with us, and the industries that I referred to in my answer to the previous supplementary question are achieving great progress as well. We are also working, of course, to try to be in Government in 2025 to see that target met.
Dr David Clark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am not sure how that addressed the question.
Mr SPEAKER: On this occasion, I think the question has been addressed. It may not have been satisfactorily addressed for the member and other members in the House, but it has been addressed.
Prime Minister—Statements 2. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he believe he is Prime Minister all of the time, or just some of the time?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Prime Minister: I am Prime Minister all of the time by virtue of my ministerial warrant. I am also a member of Parliament, a party leader, and a private individual all of the time. Like any Minister, I act in a different capacity at different times. I am responsible to this House for actions taken in my prime ministerial capacity, but not for actions taken as an MP, party leader, or private individual.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he be a private individual all of the time, and in what capacity does he speak to Cameron Slater: as “BFF” or best friend forever, lifestyle coach, speech therapist, counsellor, currency adviser, dietician, or puppet master?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: None of those.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: What makes it wrong for Judith Collins to be improperly associated with Cameron Slater and not for the Prime Minister?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The question is based on a series of suppositions that the member himself wishes to make and that bear no relevance to any ministerial responsibility or prime ministerial responsibility held by the Prime Minister.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which of these statements from the Prime Minister is correct: “I speak to him regularly.” or “Every so often.”? Which one of those two statements is true?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: If the member provided the dates on which those statements were made, he would be able to understand that in both circumstances they could be true.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I seek the House’s leave to table the two dates and the two statements to the media with respect to the comments that he has asked now for evidence of.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table those particular dates of those two comments. Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he believe it is dignified for someone who occupies the office of Prime Minister to regularly be in discussions with a scumbag focused on character assassination and deceit like Cameron Slater?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I have no intention of agreeing with the various personal assassination points raised by that member.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In Mr Brownlee’s answers replying to Mr Peters, he said that both of those statements can be true. The statements were about when the Prime Minister speaks with Mr Slater. The Prime Minister has previously said that he as Prime Minister—and Mr Brownlee is answering on behalf of the Prime Minister—does not speak to Mr Slater. How can those answers be consistent, because he has just said that he does speak to Mr Slater as Prime Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want to respond? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No.
Mr SPEAKER: If I can understand the point the member is raising, he is asking now whether the answers given were in order or out of order for the questions that were raised. I see no difficulty with those answers that were given by the Hon Gerry Brownlee to the questions that were raised. If the member has supplementary questions, he can ask them.
Chris Hipkins: Is it the Prime Minister’s expectation that when Ministers use information obtained in their ministerial capacity whilst in a private capacity, they will be accountable for those actions to Parliament; if not, why not?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It would depend entirely on what the circumstances were. If they were, for example, to pay a parking fine, which is information they would have, perhaps, as a Minister of Transport or something else, then you would expect them to pay that, but not to be accountable to Parliament for it.
State Housing—Housing Stock 3. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister responsible for HNZC: How many Housing New Zealand properties does he intend to sell during this term, and what is the projected number of houses Housing New Zealand will own in three years’ time as a result?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister responsible for HNZC: No target has been set for sales or for the size of the Housing New Zealand stock in 3 years. Instead, the Government is focused on what is actually the most important part, which is meeting the needs of the most vulnerable families. We are doing that by investing $718 million in the income-related rent subsidy this year. That is nearly $200 million more than 5 years ago, and is forecast to increase another $160 million in the next 3 years. We are committing to growing the social housing sector by opening up the income-related rent subsidy to community housing providers and by redeveloping Housing New Zealand properties to get more houses in the right place and of the right type, instead of what we currently have, where one-third of the Housing New Zealand stock is in the wrong place, is of the wrong type, or has mismatched tenancies.
Phil Twyford: Why did the Government not tell New Zealanders before the election that it intended to privatise a large part of the State housing stock, and how many of Housing New Zealand’s frail, elderly, vulnerable, and at-risk tenants will be displaced due to his asset sales cash grab?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I completely reject the characterisations—I think there were about three of them—in that member’s question. But I would draw his attention in terms of the question about pre-election announcements to this, a document from the National Party, actually. It is a social housing policy that I think was released at the time of the National Party’s campaign opening. It says: “Reform social housing sector”—this is right at the top, by the way—“to ensure it is fit for purpose, including passing legislation to facilitate a shift from State housing to a range of new social housing providers.”
Phil Twyford: How about “Flog off $5 billion worth of State houses.”?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Let me repeat that for the member: “to facilitate a shift from State housing to a range of new social housing providers.” If the member would like me to get a copy of it for him, I would be more than happy to pass it across.
Phil Twyford: How does he reconcile his statement about the proceeds of State house sales that “if we want less stock, there’s not much point in rebuilding stock with it” with statements by the other two housing Ministers, who say that they want to increase social housing stock?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: This is, I think, the nub of the question. The member does not seem to recognise that social housing can actually be provided by entities other than Housing New Zealand. For some Ministers to say “We want to increase the amount of social housing stock.” is entirely consistent with discussing a change in how much social housing stock Housing New Zealand has, provided you do not expect that Housing New Zealand has to be the monopoly provider of all the (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) social housing stock in New Zealand. It has been historically, and I think if the member looks back he will find that it has not been a complete solution and that most other countries do it differently. In New Zealand, this Government is open to different ways of providing more social housing for more New Zealanders.
Phil Twyford: How many of the over 5,500 people in desperate need of a home and currently on the Housing New Zealand waiting list—many of whom are living in cars or campgrounds—will be housed as a result of his State house sell-off?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think, again, the problem with the member’s question is the pejorative way he talks about what the social housing mix should be in this country. Actually, we are very keen to ensure that there are more opportunities for more people to access social housing, which is exactly why we are making the changes that we are making. If the member looks back in the history of New Zealand, he will find that a monopoly Housing New Zealand provider has never solved the problem of the availability of social housing.
Phil Twyford: Will he guarantee that no money raised from Housing New Zealand sales will go into the consolidated account; if not, will any of the funds raised by evicting tenants and selling off State houses end up in the so-called Future Investment Fund to help subsidise irrigation schemes for hard-up farmers?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member shows—I do not know—a level of imagination that is just a bit frightening, really. The reality is simply this: the Government is actually focused on lifting the amount of social housing. How much we put into the capital of social housing and how much we put into the income-related rents will be entirely driven by our determination to see more access to social housing for New Zealanders. Exactly how that is to be done will unfold quite visibly in the next 3 years.
Health Targets—Cancer Treatment 4. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Health: What is the Government doing to provide faster cancer services for New Zealanders?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The House will be aware that 6 years ago the National Government inherited cancer services that were failing New Zealanders. This Government has invested more than $100 million extra to support people with cancer and get cancer services back on track. The 100 percent achievement of the international gold standard 4-week waiting time target for patients to receive their radiation or chemotherapy treatment has seen patients receiving faster treatment, and, unlike under Labour, no patients have had to go overseas for treatment.
Jacqui Dean: What recent announcements has the Government made to further speed up cancer treatment?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: From 1 October, the Government introduced a new faster cancer treatment target that will ensure patients see a cancer specialist and receive treatment faster than ever before. The new target will see people with suspected cancer receive faster access to all services, from diagnostic tests to surgery or other treatment. Our goal is that 90 percent of patients will receive their first treatment within a maximum of 62 days of seeing their GP, by June 2017. The maximum 62-day wait is an international gold standard for cancer treatment. It builds on the gains that we have made over the past 6 years, and provides New Zealanders with even faster cancer services.
Jacqui Dean: What role is new technology playing in delivering faster, better care for cancer patients?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Recently, I visited the radiotherapy treatment unit at Auckland City Hospital and saw first-hand the impact that additional investment in new technology is having on providing patients with an overall better experience during their hospital stay. Following a successful pilot earlier this year, the Auckland District Health Board has invested $1.5 (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) million in new cancer equipment. The use of a new RayStation computer program enables the enhanced use of the linear accelerator for radiation treatment. This new system means that pinpoint accuracy in targeting the cancer is achieved, that shorter treatment times are occurring, and that more New Zealanders are receiving their treatment more quickly.
Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not wish to interrupt the member’s line of questioning, but the primary question was from the Government side, and the Minister, in his first answer to the primary question, attacked the Labour Party. The question, Mr Speaker, is whether your view is that that is an acceptable way for us to start the 51st Parliament, with the Minister using a question from—
Mr SPEAKER: I have heard enough. It is not helpful for any Minister to start a question with an attack on another political party or an Opposition member. In that case, I thought it was a relatively mild comment on his interpretation of a former Government’s action. I did not personally perceive it to be an attack.
Iraq—Deployment of New Zealand Special Forces 5. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that the risks to New Zealand from any commitment of military assistance to counter Islamic State militants in Iraq would be “no greater than I think the risks are currently here today”; if so, why?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, this is an evolving issue. No commitment of military assistance has been made. Officials are preparing advice for Ministers and Cabinet to consider a range of options, including humanitarian, diplomatic, and military contributions. This will include advice around risks to New Zealand and New Zealanders from any contribution.
Dr Kennedy Graham: What evidence did the Prime Minister originally have to base his original statement on, and any further evidence to reflect that evolving situation, and will he share it, consistent with genuine national security interests so that both the Parliament and people of this country can be properly informed on this important matter?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Prime Minister has made it clear in the past that there are New Zealanders who want to go and fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) forces, and there are people who want to come into this country after perhaps having fought with them. Those are concerns that the Government has, and beyond those statements I am not offering anything more at this point.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is the Prime Minister aware that countries facing security risks to their citizens are those engaged in the military campaigns against Islamic extremists—primarily, the US, the UK, and Australia, and now, of course, Canada?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: It could appear that way. We do not quite know what the situation is in Canada. But let us be clear: if we were to do nothing and simply live with the threat that New Zealand clearly is now part of, then in fact we would be allowing terrorists to dictate our current foreign policy arrangements, and therefore significantly impede the rights and freedoms of New Zealanders to make their own choices.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Is he not concerned that any involvement in the military action against ISIL may be actually doing more harm than good for global peace and security; and does he think that we have an independent foreign policy when the Prime Minister has already stated that New Zealand should join the United States and “other like-minded countries” in fighting the Islamic State?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No decision has been made about what we might do if we do join such an action. Yes, of course there are worries about the threats that could occur here in New Zealand. In case the member has not noticed, there are considerable worries even across the organisation of this Parliament, with some of the restrictions that have been put in place today. These are not occasions when you can simply ignore what is going on around you and hope that (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) being somehow passive about the way in which these organisations operate will make them go away.
Dr Kennedy Graham: Does he agree with the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006 that rather than doing nothing or ignoring what is going on around us, we need to recognise that the real triumph over terrorism requires the elimination of its causes; if so, how does he foresee New Zealand contributing through the United Nations Security Council in that respect?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I would note that that statement from the United Nations is now 8 years old and that the world has changed a lot in that time. What we have said is that our consideration will be across a range of possibilities—humanitarian contributions, Government contributions, all sorts of things. Nothing is ruled out. As the Prime Minister has repeatedly said, they are all under consideration.
Dr Kennedy Graham: In light of the fact that the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy of 2006 was reaffirmed in its entirety 2 months ago by the Security Council, having regard to the time elapsed since then, what plan does New Zealand have as a member-elect to the Security Council to develop its conflict prevention role in Syria and Iraq as called for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 2171 of 21 August?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: All matters relating to whatever we might do in response to the ISIL threat to countries like ours are currently under consideration. Once Ministers in Cabinet have completed that consideration, then clearly this House will be notified of that deliberation.
Schools, Partnership—Impact on Student Achievement 6. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Minister of Education: Is she satisfied that the introduction of partnership schools is resulting in better educational outcomes for all of the students who are attending them; if so, why?
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. At the stage they are at and in all the circumstances, yes. The schools have, however, completed just over 8 months of a first-year start-up. Nevertheless, the flexibility that the model provides is already showing some early positive results. For example, the latest reports from the Education Review Office on two of the five schools show signs of success, and we look forward to further reviews. I am satisfied that the partnership schools are meeting their contractual requirements and are working to do the best for all their students, but of course there will continue to be challenges, as there are in schools across our system.
Chris Hipkins: If charter schools are supposed to be about increased flexibility, which of the following innovations does she believe will do the most to raise student achievement: students making a bong to smoke marijuana out of apples supplied by the school, the incorporation of daily surfing into the curriculum, high staff turnover and lack of qualified teaching staff, or reports of bullying, racism, and vandalism?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Regrettably, every one of those examples given we have seen across our system of over 2,500 schools.
Hon Ruth Dyson: So it’s all right then?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: It is not all right, and that is why we have levers in place to deal with them, and so we are dealing with them. The flexibilities that we are talking about are the hours of operation, the curriculum, the ability to have cashed-up funding instead of it being already paid on behalf of other schools, the range of subjects taught, the way in which they are taught, and the engagement of parents, whānau, aiga, and communities. There is a whole range of flexibilities that these schools offer that we think will bring success for students who have not been successful for many years in other alternatives.
Chris Hipkins: Why does she believe that these students are better served in an experimental charter school that is funded at considerably higher levels than State schools, resulting in a teacher- (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) student ratio of 1:8 at that particular school, when existing schools could arguably do a much better job if provided with the same level of resourcing?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: The member is quite wrong in his assertion. In fact, these schools are funded comparative to decile 3 schools. The difference is that whereas in a mainstream State school the ministry pays directly to provide, for instance, for property, for insurance premiums, and for the provision of professional learning and development, those elements for partnership schools are cashed up. But the comparisons are almost exactly the same. To the first part of the member’s question, none of the students are compelled to attend these schools; their parents freely choose for them to do so.
Chris Hipkins: How is it fair and equitable for a charter school to be funded with guaranteed funding every year for 71 students when, in fact, it enrolled only 61 students at the beginning of the year, and that number has already dropped to below 50, and the Ministry of Education figures show that it is lucky to get 30 kids regularly showing up? That is half the number that it is funded for.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: Perhaps if the member was more familiar with the way our entire education system runs, he would know that in start-up years for every school there is a projection of what that roll might be, but it will fluctuate before it settles down. That is equally true for very long-established schools.
Chris Hipkins: Does she believe that charter schools conducting random searches of students to detect drugs or other prohibited items is consistent with the Education Act 1989 and the changes that this Government made last year that prevents State schools from doing the same thing?
Hon HEKIA PARATA: If the member has specific incidents that he would like brought to my attention, I am very happy to—
Chris Hipkins: It says so on their websites and in the documents with the ministry.
Hon HEKIA PARATA: And perhaps if the member would like to wait for my answer to his question, then I would be very happy to answer it. What I can tell the member is that these schools are subject to review by the Education Review Office, two of which have returned very positive reviews—and thank you to the member for celebrating that—and three are still to come. In terms of their further monitoring, the authorisation board also does that, and the Ministry of Education reviews and works with each and every one of these schools.
Beneficiaries—Statistics 7. ALFRED NGARO (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received regarding the number of New Zealanders who are benefit-dependent, in particular those relating to sole parents?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): Under this Government, the number of people on welfare for this quarter is the lowest it has been since 2008. The latest benefit figures released last week show that there are now over 10,000 fewer people on welfare compared with September last year, and more than 70 percent of them are sole parents. We know that sole parents who go on benefit, particularly in their teens, do have the highest lifetime cost of any group on welfare and are more likely to stay on welfare. The reduction in the number of sole parents on benefit extends across all ages, and this is indeed a positive trend.
Alfred Ngaro: What are the Government’s priorities for ensuring we move New Zealanders who are on benefits into work over the next 3 years?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: We believe that the best way out of poverty is through work, and that is why we have set ambitious targets to reduce long-term welfare dependency. As part of this programme we will progress legislation extending the Youth Service approach to under-20s. This will see these young people working with a dedicated provider to deliver intensive support and guidance as well as budgeting support and help paying their bills. This Government believes that the welfare system should provide a safety net for those in genuine need and that people are better (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) off in work. This is particularly the case for our youngest New Zealanders, who deserve to be backed rather than left to sit on welfare.
Sue Moroney: How many sole parents have simply been transferred from sole parent support on to a different category of benefit over the same period?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I do not have any figures on that, but I do not believe that this Government is in the habit of the previous Labour Government of merely shifting people around when it comes to benefit numbers. We are working to make sure that people get off benefit and into work, and, what is more, we are succeeding.
Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table a document showing that the number of sole parents who have been transferred on to job seeker support was about 20,000 over that period.
Mr SPEAKER: I need the source of the document.
Sue Moroney: The source of the document is theNew Zealand Herald.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I will not be putting the leave.
Pest Control—1080 Poison
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The breakdown’s occurred already.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Question No. 8. 8. RON MARK (NZ FIRST) on behalf of RICHARD PROSSER (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation: Does she stand by all her statements regarding 1080 poison?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY (Minister of Conservation): Indeed, I do. The Department of Conservation is halfway through dropping 1080 in an aerial spray over 700,000 hectares. Early monitoring has shown that the numbers of rats, which had been up to 25 million, have now been knocked down to zero in places where 1080 has been used, so the birds will be able to breed this season in their absence. I and many others believe that in order to save our birds from extinction, doing nothing is not an option, and well-managed, biodegradable 1080 is the very best tool for the job.
Ron Mark: Why is the Department of Conservation advising anglers—
Hon Todd McClay: You didn’t come back to ask about rats, Ron.
Ron Mark: I am enjoying this, Mr Speaker—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will now start again and ask his question.
Ron Mark: Why is the Department of Conservation advising anglers not to eat their catch if, as the department itself is saying, trout caught from 1080-dropped areas “do not pose a food safety risk to humans”?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The member is entirely mistaken. The department has never given that advice. In fact, we sought independent advice from a Ministry for Primary Industries toxicologist, who assessed the risk as negligible from ingesting trout that had eaten mice that might have eaten 1080 pellets. The science shows—and we stick to the science, on this side of the House—that the health of the trout themselves is not affected by 1080. An average adult would have to eat many times their body weight in one sitting—in trout, that is; not their body weight and other things, but in trout that had ingested mice that had eaten 1080—to experience any health ill-effects whatsoever.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It has been a while since I have been in the House and it is wonderful to be so welcomed back, but—
Mr SPEAKER: What is the point of order?
Ron Mark: The point of order is that I just want advice from you. When I was last here, points of order had to be heard in silence—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, points of order will be—[Interruption] Order! I am the Speaker, not Mr Mark. Points of order will be heard in silence. Now would Mr Mark quickly raise his point of order.
Ron Mark: That was it. When I was here last, points of order were heard in silence—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I will give the member one more chance to raise his point of order, otherwise I will not hesitate to ask the member to leave the Chamber. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Ron Mark: My point of order and question to you was this: is it still the rule that questions might be asked in silence?
Mr SPEAKER: I do not recall that ever being the case when the member was previously here. It is helpful if there are not a lot of interjections, but frequently during questions being asked and answers being given there is a level of interjection across the House. If it gets to a stage where it is difficult to hear I will call order, but inevitably there will be interjections and chips from both sides of the House, and for the 20 years that I have been here, Mr Mark, that has always been the case.
Ron Mark: Is the Minister aware that it was indeed not Cawthron Institute researchers who provided that scientific advice, that instead it was Department of Conservation officials who calculated the amount of trout needed to be consumed to receive a lethal dose of 1080, that this determination amounted to nothing more than a flippant back-of-an-envelope calculation done for spin purposes; and will she order that that work be redone this time by Cawthron Institute researchers in order that we may all be satisfied that there is no risk to the consuming public?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I ask the Minister to respond, supplementary questions should be short, they should contain one supplementary question, and they are certainly not an opportunity to give a very lengthy question as that one was. I will allow the Minister to answer.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: The member is incorrect yet again. The Cawthron Institute researchers did assess the risk. They did it in a controlled scientific laboratory, not on some back-of-an-envelope assessment as you attest. The trout in laboratory tanks were orally dosed with a high level of 1080 to assess the uptake and the breakdown of 1080 in their flesh. The trout remained in good health and showed no ill effects. Preliminary results indicated that the force-fed laboratory trout took up low levels of 1080, which break down over a period of days. The member is mistaken. When it comes to residual amounts of 1080 in water, which is also something that we have done some science around, no trace of 1080 has ever been found in any of the samples taken from drinking water catchments. Only 2 percent—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: It was a long question so I gave a long answer.
Mr SPEAKER: It was a long question and I took issue with that. I now cannot allow an extremely long answer, either.
Ron Mark: Can the Minister then enlighten the House as to how she, as the Minister of Conservation, would have directly intervened to force a 1080 drop on a territorial authority in the event that that authority on behalf of its community decided against such a drop—such as she stated on Television New Zealand’sQ+A?
Hon MAGGIE BARRY: I am happy to answer that question. As the Minister of Conservation, it is my responsibility, and that of my department, to ensure that education, information, and science-based evidence are widely disseminated and understood to clarify the science, because there are a lot of mistaken people—as evidenced by the questions that you have asked; you are in that camp—who need to have this information clarified. So there have been, particularly when it comes to the Hunua example, which is one that you are talking about, no traces of 1080 found. In fact, there is more 1080—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Point of order.
Hon MAGGIE BARRY:—in a cup of tea—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] The Minister will resume her seat.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a point of order based on the issue of relevance. My colleague is asking about the Minister forcing her will upon a local authority and she is talking about some education programme. She is not answering the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I invite the member to go back and look at the question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I did.
Mr SPEAKER: No, the member has not had a chance to go back and look at it because it has not been printed yet. But when he does the— (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Rt Hon Winston Peters: No, I got it the first time.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The question, when it was first asked, was “Can the Minister enlighten the House…”. The Minister took the opportunity to enlighten the House, but in a very lengthy fashion.
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You are absolutely correct. But my question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. If the member wants to raise a point of order, he stands to his feet and does it. I will give him another chance.
Ron Mark: I asked that the Minister describe how she would directly intervene to force a drop.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I heard the question; that is not the question that was asked. It was included in the question; I certainly accept that, but it was not the question that was asked. I invite the member to go back and look afterwards. He started the question with: “Can the Minister enlighten the House … ”, and the Minister took that opportunity. If the member wants a specific question answered, then ask a specific question.
Pike River Mine Disaster—Government Response 9. Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour—West Coast - Tasman) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his commitments to the Pike River families?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Damien O'Connor: Does the Prime Minister still believe recovery of the bodies of the 29 miners to be “an absolute priority”, and will he accept the advice of the two mining experts, Bob Stevenson, a former UK chief mines inspector, and Dave Creedy, that recovery of the drift can be done safely?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Government made available funding to Solid Energy, which has primary responsibility in this matter, for that very purpose. As to the opinion that the Prime Minister might have about the expertise offered by the two gentlemen mentioned, there is no basis for him to make any comment on that.
Hon Damien O'Connor: Will the Prime Minister and the Minister for State Owned Enterprises ensure that Solid Energy makes the decision on whether to re-enter Pike River based on all the available evidence and information, and will he show the families dignity and provide them with the opportunity to seek clarity on any issues raised in that evidence?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The question really asks the Prime Minister to get in the road of a decision that needs to be made by the Solid Energy board. It would be inappropriate to do that.
Hon Damien O'Connor: During the more than 12 months of reporting on progress to re-enter the Pike River mine, was the Prime Minister briefed at any stage that any re-entry into the Pike River mine would be illegal because there was no second egress?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Those reports would have gone to Solid Energy.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the question: “Was the Prime Minister”—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I did not exactly catch the question. I am going to invite the member to ask the question once more.
Hon Damien O'Connor: Thank you, Mr Speaker. During the more than 12 months of reporting on progress to re-enter the Pike River mine, was the Prime Minister briefed at any stage that any re-entry into the Pike River mine would be illegal because there is no second egress?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I am unable to answer that question because I do not have that information available, given that I am answering on the Prime Minister’s behalf. But in any event, it would be my understanding that matters that related to re-entry to the mine would have been conveyed to Solid Energy for Solid Energy to make a decision about a go or no-go. So matters about egress, or second egress, etc., are not matters that I am able to comment on. What I would say, though, is that at the time of the original explosion, and then particularly after the second and (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing) third explosions in that mine, there were a lot of suggestions that a second egress would be a good idea.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate the difficulty that the Minister has in answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, but I am seeking from him a commitment to provide the information as to whether the Prime Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. You asked the question and the Minister, answering on behalf of the Prime Minister, said that he just cannot give you that information. So it is not a point of order, then, to raise and seek a commitment. If you have another supplementary and want to try to do it that way, it might be possible. But you cannot use a point of order for that.
Hon Damien O'Connor: Does the withholding of information from the Pike River families show the same arrogant disrespect as the Prime Minister’s comments about the mother of the young West Coaster killed in a motor accident and other parents of the Pike River miners, which he wrongly dodged responsibility for answering questions about yesterday?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have ruled earlier today in a very interesting way, because you sort of hinted that something might change, but then said it is very difficult and that you would have to make decisions as you go along. But I do not think that you can actually go past, in that consideration, the requirements of Standing Order 378(a), which relates to a Minister, and therefore clearly to the Prime Minister, and which states that a Minister can have questions put to them relating to: “(a) public affairs with which the Minister is officially connected, or (b) proceedings in the House or any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible.” The question just alleged a whole lot of statements that came from various sources, and the requirement to comment on those does not fit any of the requirements that are here in the Standing Order. So what I think we are getting to is that we are very quickly going to get to a position where Opposition members can ask as many catch-22 questions on made-up stuff as they like, and Ministers would be expected to respond.
Hon Damien O'Connor: Appreciating your ruling that clearly apportioned to the Prime Minister some responsibility, I am aware, and the Pike River families are aware, of a person appointed by the Prime Minister, which they were grateful for, at least 2 years ago who was to report and liaise directly between the Prime Minister’s office and the families. Those are the questions that I am asking about in terms of briefings and responsibility. The Prime Minister has responsibility in this area.
Mr SPEAKER: I certainly accept the point that the Hon Damien O’Connor has just raised. He raised a question where in my mind there is no doubt there is ministerial and prime ministerial responsibility. The way in which the question was raised was certainly not helpful. I have not got a good record of some of the language used, but it was relatively emotive. The easiest way forward, I would have thought, is for Mr Brownlee—but it is for Mr Brownlee to decide—is to simply answer the question and dispute the facts as they have been laid out. Mr Brownlee has now raised a point of order, which, if I understand it, is trying to suggest there was no ministerial responsibility—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: No, no.
Mr SPEAKER: Well then, maybe I will ask—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I will explain.
Mr SPEAKER: I will ask the Hon Gerry Brownlee to explain his point succinctly, because it was difficult for me to comprehend.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Thank you for that opportunity. If the Hon Damien O’Connor had asked the question that he managed to get out in his point of order, it would have been a simple thing. But it was everything else that went with it.
Mr SPEAKER: Then I have got a very instant solution to this. I am going to ask the Hon Damien O’Conner—this is a very sensitive matter, and I appreciate that—to ask the question as factually and without emotion as he can, and let us see whether I can assist the honourable member to get an answer from the Minister answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Hon Damien O'Connor: Does the withholding of information from the Pike River families, including the legal advice provided to Solid Energy that it claims prevents it from re-entering the mine, display a level of arrogance by the Prime Minister, or reports about the Prime Minister, towards members of the Pike River families?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, firstly, I reject any suggestion that there has been disrespect shown for the families of the Pike River victims—far from it. The Prime Minister has never failed to turn up to speak directly to them on occasions when that is what they wanted to do. As for the suggestion that information is being withheld by the Prime Minister’s office from the families, that is not something that I can make a comment on, other than to say that for the last 12 months or more this is a matter that has been in the hands of Solid Energy and the board of Solid Energy. If there is any information that they are withholding from the public, then we would expect that it is made available at the time that they make decisions.
Health Promotion Agency Board—Potential Conflict of Interest 10. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied that there is no conflict of interest in the head of the Food and Grocery Council, Katherine Rich, being a board member of the Health Promotion Agency; if so, why?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): I am satisfied that there are procedures in place to manage any situations where a conflict of interest may arise. All board members of Crown agents are required to declare and manage conflicts of interest in accordance with the provisions of the Crown Entities Act 2004.
Kevin Hague: Is he concerned about allegations that Katherine Rich hired public relations man Carrick Graham to write attacks on health researchers that were later published word for word on the Whale Oil website?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have seen no credible evidence to back up those allegations, but what I do know is that Katherine Rich is a person of the very highest integrity and that her conduct as a member of the Health Promotion Agency has been excellent.
Kevin Hague: What specific actions has he, or his predecessor, taken to ensure that Katherine Rich is not compromising the goals of the Health Promotion Agency by paying for attacks on researchers and others who highlight the damaging effects of the products promoted and produced by some of her Food and Grocery Council members?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I have had direct communication from the chair of the Health Promotion Agency, which states: “She has always been an ethical member of the board. As chair I have always had confidence in her contribution.” That satisfies me.
Kevin Hague: As the incoming Minister, will he take that further and, in fact, initiate an investigation into whether Mrs Rich’s conflict as both a member of the Health Promotion Agency and a lobbyist for the alcohol, tobacco, and junk food industries was appropriately managed, and will he hold an inquiry into the allegations that Mrs Rich hired a public relations man to attack health researchers while being a member of the Health Promotion Agency board?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I see no reason to take any further action, and I am going to spend my efforts on improving access to quality health care for all New Zealanders. That is what I think should be the focus of the portfolio.
Kevin Hague: How can Katherine Rich possibly fulfil the goals of the Health Promotion Agency when, with her other hat on, she is promoting unhealthy food, tobacco, and alcohol and paying for public attacks on health promotion researchers?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Dealing with public health issues, including obesity, involves a range of responses, including good diet, nutrition, and physical activity. I believe that the food industry actually has a very important contribution to make, and it is helpful to have them represented around that table. (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Road Safety—Progress 11. DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Transport: What progress is being made in improving road safety?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Transport): The Safer Journeys road strategy is nearly 5 years old. This Government has introduced many road safety measures during that time, including increasing the driving age, lowering the blood-alcohol levels to zero for drivers under 20, fixing the give-way rule, introducing alcohol interlocks, and continuing to support high-profile and successful campaigns. From 1 December the blood-alcohol limit for all drivers will also be lowered. Since the introduction of Safer Journeys the number of road deaths has reduced by almost one third. In 2010 we saw 375 people lose their lives on our roads. Last year that total fell to 254 deaths. We are not, however, complacent, and that is why this Government invests millions each year in continuing to improve road safety.
David Bennett: What are the key messages for motorists over the long weekend to help keep them and their families safe?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: I would ask all motorists and their passengers enjoying the long Labour Weekend to keep road safety in mind. The messages are clear: stay focused, drive to the conditions, stay within the speed limit, and do not drive when affected by alcohol, drugs, or fatigue. Last Labour Weekend’s road toll was one of the lowest since 1956, but even one death, of course, is too many, and we need to work together to stay safe on our roads.
Crime, Economic—Cost 12. Dr MEGAN WOODS (Labour—Wigram) to the Minister of Police: What is the annual cost of economic crime in New Zealand?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Police): An annual cost of economic crime is difficult to accurately identify, but I have seen a draft report that indicates the cost of economic crime to be in the range of around $6 billion to $9 billion.
Dr Megan Woods: Why was theCost of Economic Crime Report of the Serious Fraud Office not completed?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Considerable work was done on that report to estimate the figure, including reviewing and adapting similar pieces of work from around the world. But it became clear that the proposed methodology, largely developed overseas, was not directly applicable to the New Zealand context. So, as a consequence, the Serious Fraud Office, in consultation with other Government agencies, ended that body of work.
Dr Megan Woods: Was the Ministry of Justice consulted regarding the decision not to proceed with the Serious Fraud Office’s report on the cost of economic crime in New Zealand?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: As far as I am aware, the answer to that question is yes.
Dr Megan Woods: Was the former Minister of Justice Judith Collins in any way involved in the decision not to proceed with the Serious Fraud Office’s report on the cost of economic crime in New Zealand?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am not in a position to be able to answer that question. I do not have any knowledge, but I would be very happy to consider it if the member puts it down in writing.
Dr Megan Woods: I seek leave to table a document that shows that the office of the former Minister of Justice Judith Collins provided a copy of the Serious Fraud Office’s scale of fraud report under the Official Information Act to a requester in January 2014.
Mr SPEAKER: What is the source of the document?
Dr Megan Woods: The document is a table of fulfilled Official Information Act requests compiled by the office of the current Minister of Justice, the Hon Amy Adams. [Interruption] (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am not exactly sure what the document is, to be honest, and I do not want to consider putting the leave just because a member—[Interruption] Order! I ask Dr Megan Woods, and without interjection, what the document is.
Dr Megan Woods: It is a list of Official Information Act requests that the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: But they have already been released.
Dr Megan Woods: It shows that the Minister of Justice—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I now understand that the documents were obtained by the Official Information Act, and they have been released, so they are available to everybody anyway. Is that right? [Interruption] Order! Could the member just try to explain the document to me simply?
Dr Megan Woods: Yes, it is a table of Official Information Act requests that the Minister of Justice fulfilled, showing that she had a copy of the report in January 2014.
Mr SPEAKER: The easiest way—[Interruption] Order! I am going to put the leave. [Interruption] Order! There are too many interjections on these points of order. I am going to put the leave, and the House can decide. Leave is sought to table that particular table listing Official Information Act documents. Is there any objection to that being tabled in this House? There is not. It can be tabled.
Dr Megan Woods: I seek leave to table a transcript of the then Minister of Police—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Where is the transcript from?
Dr Megan Woods: It is a draft transcript of the estimates hearing of the Law and Order Committee—
Mr SPEAKER: No. The member can resume her seat. That is available.
Dr Megan Woods: Did the former Minister of Justice Judith Collins support the decision to abandon any further investigation by the Serious Fraud Office on the cost of economic crime in New Zealand?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am not in a position to be able to answer that question, but if the member puts the question down in writing, I would be very happy to give her a response.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just want to raise an issue with you that relates to the previous ruling regarding that exchange around the tabling of the document by Megan Woods, in which you indicated that a document released under the Official Information Act was publicly available. Official Information Act documents are typically released to one person—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need any further assistance. The difficulty was the way the document was explained. It was very, very difficult for me to comprehend what it was that we were dealing with. When I finally realised that it was simply a table of documents that had been released—listen, the House has decided. It has been tabled. That is the end of the matter.
QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS
Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill—Purpose 1. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Member in charge of the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill: Why has the member adopted the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill?
METIRIA TUREI (Member in charge of the Education (Breakfast and Lunch Programmes in Schools) Amendment Bill): The Green Party believes that in this House we have a moral duty to make sure that children in need have the support that they need. It is estimated by KidsCanthat up to 20 percent of children in low-decile schools go to school without either breakfast or lunch. If the Government has the resources to feed these hungry kids, we have a moral duty to use those resources to feed those hungry kids.
Jan Logie: Is the plan outlined in the “Feed the Kids Bill” the ideal way to ensure that children are fed at school? (uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)
METIRIA TUREI: The bill sets out one means by which we can feed hungry kids at school. I hope that the bill is sent to a select committee so we can hear from parents, schools, and children’s health and welfare experts as to what is the best means to make sure hungry kids in schools are fed.