Questions and Answers - Sept 22
Questions to Ministers
1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. I particularly stand by the statement I made when that member became the leader of the Labour Party, when I said: “Gosh, if they keep changing Labour leaders at this rate—”
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I can sense by looking at the questions that this question time is going to be quite different to others. I will still do my best to maintain a level of decorum from all members, and if that requires me to ask members to leave the Chamber, I will not hesitate to do so.
Andrew Little : When he said we are on “the cusp of something special”, was that something special 50,000 more Kiwis unemployed today than when he came to office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The cusp of something special was, amongst other things, 199,000 jobs created since 2011, a lift in the average wage of more than $10,000 a year, a turning round of the Government’s books, the 11 straight quarters of growth, and the 18 quarters of economic growth. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! I just warn that there is quite a large barrage coming particularly from my left.
Hon Bill English : Can the Prime Minister confirm that in 7 years of being Prime Minister he has never really been asked a hard question and it is unlikely to start today?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, I cannot confirm that, but that is the best question I have had in the 7 years I have been Prime Minister.
Andrew Little : Why, after 7 years in power, does he keep promising lower unemployment is over the horizon but keep delivering increasing unemployment instead?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Because this is a Government that has seen 18 straight quarters of economic growth. It is a Government that has got a record number of people into apprenticeships. It is a Government that has seen the books put back in order. And, interestingly enough, this is now the fifth straight month in a row—
Andrew Little : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very well focused and totally straight on the question of unemployment. We have had a lot of other statistics and information given by the Prime Minister, but he has not addressed the question.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! No—[Interruption] Order! No, I am on my feet. The question was clearly around unemployment, and the Prime Minister started his answer by talking about 18 quarters of economic growth. That does, in effect, address an issue of unemployment—[Interruption] Order! But the answer was certainly going on longer than it needed to, and in future answers should be more concise and address the question. [Interruption] Order!
Andrew Little : Given that economic growth this year has been less than half of what was forecast in the Budget and that First NZ Capital has said that there is a 30 percent chance of a recession, what steps is he taking to prepare New Zealand for recession?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am glad the member asked that question, because, having inherited a mess of a set of accounts from Labour, over the last 7 years we have turned the books around, and I am pretty confident that we will be getting pretty close to surplus.
Hon Gerry Brownlee : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There was so much barracking coming from the other side of the House that despite sitting next to the Prime Minister, I was unable to hear his answer. I think that he should be able to give it again.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, no—there was a huge level of interjection, I accept that, but I managed to hear the answer. That is the important thing.
Andrew Little : After 7 years, why is he in denial of the obvious facts that unemployment is rising and the economy is stalling? Is it because he did not see it coming, or has he got nothing to do or say about it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The economy has grown for 18 quarters in a row. There are more people in employment in New Zealand than ever before. When it comes to not seeing things coming, I suggest that the member be careful, because Jacinda Ardern is coming for his job—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order!
Andrew Little : Why is he devoting so much effort and taxpayer money to failing flag referendums and to chasing fluffy pandas when he should be putting that effort into our stalling economy and creating more jobs?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : We have put more money into health and education than ever in the history of this country, and what a remarkable set of results we have achieved by doing that. Just to give you an example, in 2008, 68 percent of people got National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2; today, it is 81.2 percent. Māori achievement is up from 44.5 percent to nearly 68 percent—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The Prime Minister said that he would give one example; I accepted one example.
2. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement when I said I am amazed New Zealand First did not get the memo that Labour and the Greens got.
Ron Mark : Does he stand by his statement that his Government “is delivering on its commitment to help all New Zealanders get ahead”; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes.
Ron Mark : How is he helping New Zealanders get ahead when he is bringing in 60,000 new migrants a year, at a rate of 1,200 a week, half of whom will settle in Auckland and all of whom will need a place to live? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Order—just before the Prime Minister answers.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, firstly, there are a great many Kiwis returning home from overseas. But, interestingly enough, we have free migration between New Zealand and Australia. The difference is that under a previous Labour Government 35,000 people a year left for Australia; under a National Government in the last 5 months in a row more Australians have come to New Zealand. I count that as success.
Ron Mark : How committed is he when an extra 26,800 foreign students arrived in the past year, at a rate of 500 a week, many of whom move into work while over 27,000 young Māori do not have a job?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : A great many students do come from overseas to study in New Zealand. It is worth billions of dollars. Actually, if you go around the schools and universities and polytechs of New Zealand, they are actually very grateful to have the opportunity to earn what they do collectively: well over $2 billion from export education.
Ron Mark : Supplementary question—and ignoring the fact—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Just ask the supplementary question.
Ron Mark : How committed is he, when more and more jobseeker migrants arrive yet he has not created enough jobs in 7 years for New Zealanders; for example, Northland’s unemployment rate has doubled, to 8.6 percent, in that same time—how committed is he?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Well, for a start off, there are more New Zealanders in work than there ever have been before. There were 68,000 more jobs created in the last year alone. But one way to create more employment in Northland would be for the member for Northland to have an office up there so they can employ some people.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! That is unnecessary to the answer.
Ron Mark : For the Prime Minister’s benefit, could I table the address of our electorate office in Auckland for him so he can find it. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! The member needs to start using the points of order procedure properly.
Ron Mark : Given his statements on the flag referendum, is he aware of the concerns of many of his own party regarding the terrible poll numbers for changing the flag, and has Judith Collins thanked him personally for making her job of rolling him a lot easier?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : There is always a lot of interest in polls and there are always a lot of questions that get asked. But, given the National Party is polling a touch above 47 percent in every poll that is out there, when it comes to rolling the only thing that is happening on this side of the fence is rolling in the clover.
Ron Mark : Given his statements on the flag referendum, when will he accept that his vanity project is as dead as a dodo, that beggar-all Kiwis want any of his tea towel designs that his silly panel has come up with, and that he has essentially flushed $26 million down the dunny?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is fair to say I reject the proposition in the question.
Government Financial Position—Return to Surplus
3. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister of Finance : What progress is the Government making towards its target of returning to fiscal surplus this year and in achieving its other fiscal priorities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Making progress on our fiscal priorities is important because it underpins the security of income for around a million New Zealanders who are dependent on the Government for their income and also the continuity of the programmes that support so many social and environmental aspirations of New Zealanders. Four years ago the Government had an $18 billion deficit. It was halved in 2012, halved again to $4.4 billion in 2013, and reduced to around $3 billion in June 2014. Returning to surplus in 2014-15, and maintaining surpluses, remains one of the Government’s targets. We will know whether we have achieved that in a few weeks’ time when the Government’s final accounts for the 2014-15 year are published.
Joanne Hayes : What progress has the Government made on those fiscal priorities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH : We have outlined detailed fiscal priorities including, for instance, reductions in ACC levies, and in the last Budget we signalled a $500 million reduction in ACC levies. The latest Budget forecast shows that net debt will reach just under 20 percent by 2021, which is in line with the Government’s target of getting debt down. Any further fiscal headroom from positive revenue surprises will be used to get debt down sooner, but in a low inflation world it is unlikely that we will have positive revenue surprises. Over the next couple of years we have set aside extra money to allow for the possibility of modest tax cuts, should fiscal and economic conditions allow.
Joanne Hayes : Since the election a year ago, how has the Government’s management of its finances allowed it to help more New Zealanders get ahead?
Hon BILL ENGLISH : The Government has found that by managing Government expenditure carefully, certainly more carefully than the previous Government, we are able to support New Zealand families. For example, free doctors visits and prescriptions have been extended to children under the age of 13, paid parental leave is being extended, ACC levies—in particular, motor vehicle registration—are being reduced, and we have been able to increase benefit payments for the first time in 43 years. It shows that if we focus on value for money for the dollars that we have, we can share the benefits with the New Zealanders who most need support.
Joanne Hayes : What steps has the Government taken to achieve an improvement in its operating balance?
Hon BILL ENGLISH : There are a number of steps that have been involved in improving the Government’s books. One has been a tax reform package back in 2010, which helped to increase labour market participation, supported higher household savings, and it has further broadened the base of our tax system so we collect more revenue at lower rates. Alongside that, we have also focused on understanding what drives Government spending, in particular those parts of our population for whom there is a lot of Government support not very well delivered.
4. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially that one when I said: “Man, he really does sound like a broken record.”
Andrew Little : After 7 years is he proud, as the Prime Minister who called himself the son of a State house family, that there are now nearly 2,500 fewer State houses for families who need them and that many of the ones that are left are mouldy, rotting, and cold?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I am very proud of the fact that we have been tidying up and fixing up the State housing mess that was left by Labour, and I am very proud of the fact we are the first Government in 43 years to have raised benefits.
Andrew Little : After 7 years in power is it acceptable that according to the warrant of fitness trial 6,600 State houses have severe mould, which means they cannot be fixed just by the tenant?
Hon Dr Nick Smith : We’ve insulated 35,000 of them.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : As the Minister for Building and Housing just pointed out, we have insulated 35,000 State houses, spending nearly $400 million a year tidying up the absolute mess we inherited from Labour. It was a disgrace, and that is why so many Housing New Zealand tenants are actually grateful for the actions the Government is taking.
Andrew Little : Is it acceptable that after 7 years in power he still has 3,000 State houses with leaking roofs, 7,300 State houses with dangerous electrical wiring, and 12,600 State houses with rotting or broken walls?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, I would be very suspect about the member’s numbers. But what I would say to the member is there were 9 long years of Labour and it let down those State housing tenants. It is a disgrace. Thank goodness we fixed up those State houses.
Andrew Little : After 7 years what sort of moral compass is he guided by when he can pull almost $1 billion out of Housing New Zealand and back into the Government’s coffers, when there are still mouldy, leaky, and cold State homes, and when will he take some responsibility?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, the member is wrong. Secondly, he does not understand the way that the payments actually worked. Thirdly, I understand my responsibilities. The member has just asked me four questions and only one of them has actually started with a question. Maybe he could start with a basic bit like that.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I will decide what questions are in order; not the Prime Minister.
Andrew Little : See if he can make a silk purse out of this sow’s ear. Does he realise—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! We will just have the supplementary question.
Andrew Little : Does he realise that the $26 million cost of the flag referendum is nearly enough to pay to fix all State houses to pass the warrant of fitness, and why is a failing flag project more important to him than healthy Kiwi kids?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Firstly, this is a Government that has raised benefits for the first time in 43 years. Secondly, this is a Government that is spending more money fixing up those State houses than Labour ever did. Thirdly, excuse me for actually carrying out what we campaigned on—clearly when the Labour Party has a policy it does not mean anything.
5. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost 7 years as Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement I made where I said that at least he read it out better than Andrew Little.
James Shaw : Does he still stand by his statement that “only the odd one or two kids turn up to school without lunch”, given that a Principals’ Federation survey found that 73 percent of low-decile schools use their core educational funding to feed their students every day?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I stand by the full quote that was made at the time, in the context it was given. But I would make the point that this is a Government that has delivered over 5 million breakfasts since it has been in office. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! [Interruption] Order! The level of interjection and noise is too high. [Interruption] Order!
James Shaw : Is he saying that breakfast is enough for kids, and that they do not need lunch also?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : For a start off, this is a Government that has worked hard to create more jobs and has more Kiwis in history in jobs than ever before. This is a Government that has actually raised benefits for the first time in 43 years. This is a Government that has ensured that now children under 13 can go to the doctor for free. This is a Government that has seen hundreds of thousands of State houses—
James Shaw : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was in relation to students eating breakfast and lunch, not in relation to unemployment benefits.
Mr SPEAKER : The question may have been in relation to that, but it was not. It asked whether the Prime Minister is, effectively, saying that breakfast is enough and they do not need lunch and dinner. That is the sort of question that gives a fairly wide ambit for the answer.
James Shaw : What advice has he received from his education Minister in response to the Principals’ Federation survey, which shows that several schools are spending $2,000 a term of their own funds to feed hungry children?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : What I can say is that, firstly, this is a Government that is spending around about $10.8 billion in education in total. That is the first point. Secondly, this is a Government that has worked with Fonterra and Sanitarium and KidsCan to ensure that every decile 1, 2, and 3 school—or, in fact, any school—that wants a breakfast in school will be provided with that.
Hon Paula Bennett : Fruit in Schools.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : This is a Government that has also continued and expanded Fruit in Schools, and, you know, we are working very hard with those schools to ensure they can provide the support for youngsters, who deserve it.
James Shaw : I seek leave to table an Official Information Act request from the education Minister dated 11 August showing that she has not sought or received any advice from officials in the wake of the principals—
Mr SPEAKER : Leave is sought to table that particular Official Information Act request. Is there any objection? [Interruption] Order! No, I need to put the leave. Any member can either agree to it or decline. So leave is sought to table it. Is there any objection? There is objection.
James Shaw : Should schools use their core education funding for food rather than books or computers; if not, what funds should they use, or should they let those children go hungry?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I have outlined the extensive programmes that the Government has partnered up with others on. Over 5 million breakfasts have been provided under this Government—the record speaks for itself.
James Shaw : So given that 75 percent of schools are saying that they have to use their core operational funding to feed their own students, would he say that all of the initiatives that he has just outlined are failing to actually solve the problem?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : It is a straight outright inaccurate statement to say that 75 percent of schools are using their funding to feed children.
Rules Reduction Taskforce—Progress
6. JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Local Government : What progress has been made by the Government’s Rules Reduction Taskforce to get rid of “loopy” rules?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister of Local Government): Today I released findings of the Government’s Rules Reduction Taskforce, The loopy rules report: New Zealanders tell their stories. First of all, I want to thank the member Jacqui Dean for the excellent job that she did in both chairing this and pulling the report together. This is New Zealanders’ views on what central and local government are doing to serve their needs and what is holding them back. I think their voices are heard quite powerfully from this, and we are looking at making changes both within central and within local government.
Jacqui Dean : What kind of loopy rules did the report identify?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : Across a number of Acts and, in fact, with 11 Ministers and ministries involved, many of them within building and the Resource Management Act—and the Hon Nick Smith has certainly taken up that mantle to make changes. I hope the House listens to the voices of New Zealanders when they say that they need changes within the Resource Management Act and see that as seriously as it needs to be taken. What was also really important with this was identifying those myths that are out there that actually hold people back from doing good things and that cost them a lot of money. One may be, for example, a three-rung ladder that people think they cannot stand on without a harness, which is simply not true.
Jacqui Dean : What steps will the Government take to get rid of some of the loopy rules?
Hon PAULA BENNETT : I think, first of all, that New Zealanders have stepped up in this, so we want to show them transparency. So there is a website where we will be regularly posting some of those facts that are simply not facts and are not true, so that we can cut our way through it. Equally, as I have said, we have got 11 different portfolios that are involved. I am going to pool Ministers together to be going up against that. They will then be putting it through the Business Growth Agenda to ensure that we are making progress to cut some of those loopy rules out.
7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement I made that if I were Annette King, I would be ashamed of the fact that I did not fund Herceptin when I was Minister of Health. [Interruption] I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER : I hope it is a point of order.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I seek leave to table when Annette King was Minister of Health, from 2000 to 2005.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I do not think that information—[Interruption] Order! That information is available to members if they so want it. Supplementary question—the Hon Annette King.
Hon Paula Bennett : Seven more years of John Key—that’s what we need.
Hon Annette King : Yes, a supplementary question, Paula. Why does he stand by all his statements on health when Ian Sutherland, a heart patient with chest pains, was discharged from hospital in his pyjamas, told to catch a bus to Palmerston North, and told that if he wanted to replace his pyjamas, he should go to the op shop?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Because under a National-led Government we are now doing 50,000 more elective operations than in 2008. Under a National-led Government we have increased the number of first specialist appointments from 430,000 to 542,000. Under a National-led Government there are 5,500 more doctors and nurses in our district health boards. Under a National-led Government children under 13 can go to the doctor for free. That is why I stand behind Jonathan Coleman and National in terms of health.
Hon Annette King : In light of that answer, why should he stand by all his statements on health, including the one he has just given us, when Ken Smith, like thousands of others cannot get surgery for his bone-on-bone knee condition but his surgeon said: “If I could do your knee tomorrow, I would, but there’s just no money.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I think it is a bit rich coming from Annette King because when she was the Minister of Health the number of first specialist assessments went down. When Annette King was the Minister of Health people used to go to Australia to get treatment. I remember when people used to be held out in bays outside of hospitals. The reason she was no longer the Minister of Health was that Helen Clark dumped her—that is why. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I require less interjection from both sides, particularly the front bench.
Hon Annette King : Did he know that Bill English has said that health needs $600 million to $700 million a year to meet demand; if so, why did the health budget receive half that amount in an increase this year, resulting in children waiting for months on end with rotten and abscessed teeth because there is not enough funding?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : For a start, just to get the facts on the table around health spending, it was $11.8 billion in 2008-09 under a Labour Government and it is $15.9 billion today, up 33 percent. But just to prove that spending money does not necessarily fix your problems, between 2000 and 2008, 761 cancer patients were flown to Australia. I quote the Dominion Post, which said about the Labour Government then: “It is inconceivable that the Government could spend so much money but make the system worse.” Those are the words of the Dominion Post.
Hon Annette King : Is he aware that the Ministry of Health warned the Minister that after $1.7 billion of spending cuts in 2010 that “Easy wins are exhausted and major cuts are needed.”, which has led to thousands of New Zealanders being turned away from even seeing a specialist?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Let us go through a simple maths examination: $11.8 billion was the starting point of health spending. If we take off the $1.7 billion of cuts that Annette King has told the country about, we would be at $10.1 billion, but the answer is that we are actually spending $15.9 billion. I rest my case.
Hon Annette King : You can’t even do your maths.
Mr SPEAKER : It was actually quite a strong a subject of mine, but be that as it may.
Hon Annette King : Is Grey Power out of touch —or as he likes to say, just rent a crowd— when it protests at the current state of health care of older New Zealanders, which sees frail, old New Zealanders dumped off surgery lists and their home care cut by half?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : I accept that I have not seen the president of Grey Power for a wee while, because he has not made an appointment to come and see me. But the last time he came to see me, he came to my office and said: “Let’s have a cup of tea. Things are going so well I’ve got nothing to talk about.” That is exactly what he said.
Child Health Services—Free GP Visits and Prescriptions
8. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister of Health : Can he confirm this Government has expanded the number of children who are benefiting from free GP visits and prescriptions from 400,000 children to over 750,000?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): Yes, I can. In the 12 months since National’s re-election, this Government has worked hard to expand free GP coverage and prescriptions for all under-13s. We are spending $90 million to ensure that parents can take their young children to see their GP and have access to the prescription medicines they need. This policy means that over 750,000 children are now getting the health care they need before their condition deteriorates, and it helps to keep them out of our busy emergency departments.
Scott Simpson : How is National’s careful economic management contributing to improved health services for children?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN : The National-led Government’s ability to successfully manage the economy provides us with opportunities to invest in improving health services where they are needed most. Providing free under-13 GP visits and prescription medicines gives families a helping hand to manage their household finances, as well as improving health outcomes for New Zealand children. Free GP visits come on top of the other child health work that we are doing to increase immunisation rates, decrease rheumatic fever rates, and increase before-school checks.
9. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost 7 years as Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the one I just made, which was that it is nice to hear the question read out in a baritone.
Dr Kennedy Graham : Does the Prime Minister stand by his statement that “We’re seen as a country that is doing its fair share” on climate change, when our net emissions have risen by 13 percent since he took office?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, and we disagree with the fact that the member tried to present this to the House, as it is incorrect.
Hon Tim Groser : Can the Prime Minister confirm that New Zealand has met all of its international obligations, is on track to continue this until the end of the second commitment period, and is the only Government in the world to have established an entire new science organisation devoted to the study of climate change and—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Supplementary questions, particularly, are meant to be concise.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, and I thank the Minister for pointing that out.
Dr Kennedy Graham : I seek leave of the House to table the latest United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change document, which demonstrates the accuracy of the figure of 13 percent.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! I presume that is freely available on the internet?
Dr Kennedy Graham : I think it is beyond the—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, I did not ask that. I am not putting the leave.
Dr Kennedy Graham : Are we doing our fair share when the 11 percent target we are taking to Paris, if emulated by all nations, will leave homeless some 179,000 people in Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Tuvalu?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : The target we are taking to Paris is 30 percent below our 2005 level by 2030.
Dr Kennedy Graham : Are we doing our fair share when Climate Action Tracker describes New Zealand’s commitment as “not in line with any interpretations of a ‘fair’ approach to reach a 2°C pathway: if most other countries were to follow New Zealand’s approach, global warming would exceed 3-4°C”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : If one looks at the target that New Zealand is taking to Paris, it is a more aggressive target than that being presented, for instance, by Australia, by Canada, and by the United States, and, I would strongly suggest, by some of the very, very large emitters in the world, like India.
Dr Kennedy Graham : After 7 years in office, does the Prime Minister agree with climate scientist Professor Kornelis Blok, who says that New Zealand has “taken little or no action on climate change since 2008—except for watering down its ETS, and we can find no evidence of any policies that would change this.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, for a start off, this is a Government that actually brought this emissions trading scheme in. Emissions are lower now than they were in 2007 under Labour.
Andrew Little : In light of his statements that he intends to have certain conversations with people in New York when he is there as part of the United Nations 70th celebrations, what conversations will he have with United Nations personnel or during an awaited pull-aside with President Barack Obama on New Zealand’s contributions to the sustainable development goals to assist in climate change?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Many and varied.
Children’s Action Plan—Progress
10. JONO NAYLOR (National) to the Minister for Social Development : What progress has the Government made on implementing the Children’s Action Plan?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): This Government has made significant progress on implementing the Children’s Action Plan a year into its third term. Recently, I launched the Hamilton children’s team, which is expected to work with approximately 650 vulnerable children and their families at any one time, once it achieves full scale. Four children’s teams are already established in Rotorua, Whangarei, Horowhenua, Ōtaki, and Blenheim, and they are already making a difference in the lives of 450 children and their families. A further five teams are being rolled out in the coming months. This is in addition to other work that we have been doing such as introducing child protection guidelines and new screening and vetting regulations for the children’s workforce.
Jono Naylor : What other initiatives have been announced to support vulnerable children?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : In Budget 2015 we announced a $790 million child hardship package, which will mean, firstly, more childcare support for low-income families; secondly, a $25 a week increase in benefit rates for families with children—the first increase above inflation in 43 years—and, thirdly, an increase in Working for Families payments to low-income families not on a benefit. This is balanced with new obligations to support and encourage people into work. We are ensuring that there are more resources for children in hardship and families who are struggling, while continuing the Government’s emphasis on paid work as the best route out of poverty.
Darroch Ball : With the child sex offender register being part of the programme led by the Vulnerable Children’s Board set up by the Children’s Action Plan, how much of the $150 million is her Government providing in new funding to make it work effectively?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : The member has asked several written questions of me around that budget and will be aware that the budgets are done for 4 years, so there is sufficient funding out for the next 4 years, and subsequent funding will be negotiated in the following budgets.
Darroch Ball : Why is her Government prepared to let the register fail by funding less than half of the $150 million needed, and then expecting the New Zealand Police, the Department of Corrections, and the Ministry of Justice to try to make it work by making “efficiency gains … [by] more effective utilisation of existing staff”, also known as cutting other services?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY : There are several parts of that question that I absolutely refute. Making better use of resources is not about cutting. Secondly, I would say that it is a 10-year cost that has been identified as the policy was developed, and we have 4-year budgets. So I say to the member that our expenditure for the following 6 years will appear in the following 6 years’ budgets.
11. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by all his statements after almost seven years as Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, especially the statement I made that when Jacinda Ardern becomes the leader, the cool thing is that I will have faced more Labour leaders than Australian Prime Ministers.
Jacinda Ardern : Does he stand by his statement that “A small majority of New Zealanders will say that they will change the flag.”, when the latest poll shows that after seeing his options, almost 70 percent have rejected change?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Yes, and what is rapidly emerging after 7 years of being Prime Minister is not only do I have to run the policies that the Government has, I now have to try to implement the policies that the Opposition has as well.
Jacinda Ardern : Is his claim that the polls are not granular enough the reason he has started his own poll by asking every audience at every speech he gives whether they want the flag to change, including at a cancer fund-raiser; if so, is this granular, scientific, or—most important—is it appropriate?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : All of the above.
Mr SPEAKER : The answer was not heard. Could the Prime Minister—
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : All of the above.
Jacinda Ardern : Are the rumours true that his chief of staff is trying to get him to stop doing straw polls on the flag in every single speech, because his audiences are angry at having to waste their time on his pet project?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : Far from that being correct, I think record numbers of people are turning up.
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Both front benches, again, are interjecting and carrying on a conversation. If they wish to do so, I invite them to go out to the lobbies.
Jacinda Ardern : When he claimed on Radio New Zealand National that “I haven’t had an audience yet where more than 50 percent wanted to keep the flag.”, was that a reference to a straw poll of his National caucus?
Mr SPEAKER : The right honourable Prime Minister, in as far as there is ministerial responsibility.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY : No, but I will tell you what I have not done, and that is come to Parliament and claim I am opposed to changing the flag but go down on to the forecourt waving “Red Peak”. This is a Labour Opposition that has a policy that it wants to change the flag. Now, all of a sudden, those members do not want to do it. The only single question is, how long will it be before they change the leader?
Hon Gerry Brownlee : Has he made any statements about the helpfulness, or otherwise, of the coordinated approach to question time from the Labour Party and the Green Party today?
Mr SPEAKER : Order! No, there is no ministerial responsibility.
12. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister for Primary Industries : How is the Government supporting sustainability in aquaculture?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): Last week I attended Aquaculture New Zealand’s conference in Nelson, where it launched the A+ Environmental Sustainability Management Framework. This programme will deliver a set of strong, measurable, progressive standards, which will be independently audited, verified, and widely recognised. The Government has contributed $256,000 towards the A+ programme through the Sustainable Farming Fund—
Mr SPEAKER : Order! Sorry to interrupt the Minister, but the level of noise to my left now means that I cannot hear the answer.
Hon NATHAN GUY : —with co-funding and in kind contributions of $189,000 from Aquaculture New Zealand. This is a great example of industry and Government working in partnership to further enhance the value of already high-quality, premium New Zealand products.
Stuart Smith : How will this programme support the aquaculture industry’s aspiration of growing to more than a billion dollars by 2025?
Hon NATHAN GUY : As a nation, we are never going to be the biggest producer of seafood in the world, but we can, indeed, be the best. This new standard will help inform consumers, who are increasingly interested in the integrity and environmental footprint of premium products. Proving our high standards in overall environmental sustainability will help our products such as salmon, mussels, and oysters to stand out in the global market. The latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries shows that aquaculture export revenue is expected to grow by 19 percent by 2019, lifting its total share of seafood export earnings to 28 percent. This is fantastic.