Questions and Answers - Feb 18
Questions to Ministers
Prime Minister—Flag Referendums
1. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by all his statements on the flag referenda?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Acting Prime Minister): Yes.
Ron Mark: How does the Prime Minister reconcile his words “we will take a disciplined approach to Government spending. You work too hard for us to waste your money.” when two-thirds of UMR Research respondents agreed that the $26 million flag referendum has been a distraction and a waste of money?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: They have the opportunity to express that or any other view through the referendum itself, but I might point out to the member that the bulk of the spending is actually on postage. The postage system is run by New Zealand Post, which is owned by the Government, so a fair bit of the money comes back.
Ron Mark: Why do he and the committee putting out the propaganda on his black and blue logo call it a silver fern when even a colour-blind person can tell it is not a silver fern? In fact, it looks more like a feather—a white one.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Again, whatever the member’s opinion—or anyone’s opinion—about the fern, this is, despite New Zealand First’s opposition, a thoroughly democratic process. That is, every eligible New Zealander will have the chance to vote on the flag and, from what we can see, there is growing public interest in that vote. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Both sides need to settle, just a little.
Ron Mark: When he said “It’s no secret that I’m a supporter of changing the New Zealand flag.”, did he mean the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria option; the blue, red, and white option; the black and blue option; or the pale blue option, which flew unnoticed for 13 days on the Auckland harbour bridge? Which option, Prime Minister?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I certainly agree with the statement. It is no secret that he is proposing change and that he favours the flag that is on the ballot.
Ron Mark: What does he say to former National Party supporters who have come over to New Zealand First because—
Hon Members: Oh!
Ron Mark: We signed up some yesterday. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! My patience will run out relatively quickly when I stand to my feet and call for order and interjections continue. If that happens again, then the person who does interject will leave me no choice but to ask them to leave. The question now will be heard again, and in silence.
Ron Mark: What does he say to former National Party supporters who have come over to New Zealand First because we stand up for the values his party has abandoned, just like our flag?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would say to them that the Prime Minister will be at the front door to welcome both of them back.
Mental Health Services—Funding
2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: Will he make good on the promises he made on radio yesterday to the Canterbury District Health Board that “if they need more money for mental health this year, they need to just tell me exactly what they need, because the Government is listening”?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Associate Minister of Health): on behalf of the Minister of Health: Yes.
Hon Annette King: Who indicated to the Canterbury District Health Board that for the 2016/17 financial year it could expect to receive $10 less per head of population, as stated in the very document he quoted from in the House on Tuesday, to justify his view that it already had sufficient funding?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: I do not know who that person is, but what I can say is that the Canterbury District Health Board spends around $147 million on mental health services. That is an extra $23 million compared with 7 years ago.
Hon Annette King: Is he not aware that the Canterbury District Health Board was forced by demand for mental health services to spend $8 million more than the ring-fenced mental health funding provided, and that, perhaps, a lack of awareness may account for the plight Cantabrians now face because ignorance is not a defence?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: In this House that member has come up with some pretty dodgy figures in the past. What I will say—and I reiterate to that member—is that there has been a vast increase in the amount of mental health services funded. In December just of last year an extra $16 million was given to the board so that they could address some of the mental health services that have been requested.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the PricewaterhouseCoopers report commissioned by the Ministry of Health dated 2 December 2015, page 11, saying—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member now will resume her seat. I just want to check whether it is a report that is available publicly to all members.
Hon Annette King: Not readily, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Then I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Is there any objection? There is none; it can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Annette King: When will he make good on the promise to give the Canterbury District Health Board more money if they “need it”, in light of the fact that it has already asked and been refused, that he said on Tuesday in this House that it had ample to cover mental health demand, and that he is poorly informed about ring-fenced funding, deficit support—
Mr SPEAKER: Bring the question to a conclusion.
Hon Annette King: —and even the amount provided?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: It is rich coming from that member around deficit support, when $150 million in deficits were left by that former health Minister to this Government. But to answer the question—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have had three answers. The whole three have been abuse thrown at me, and not answering—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, I do not agree with the first part of that. The—[Interruption] Order! The difficulty I have is that if it is a nice simple question like “When will he make good on the promises?”, I can help. But when the question went on for considerably more than that, then it is very easy for the Minister just to address it in any way he likes. If I can get the member to sharpen up her supplementary questions, then I might be in a position to help her. [Interruption] Order! The member will rise and simply ask her supplementary question. I know she—
Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I responded to an interjection. Are you going to ask that member not to interject?
Mr SPEAKER: No, I am not, but before you responded to that interjection, you also interjected and criticised me as you rose to your feet. Simply rise and ask your supplementary question.
Hon Annette King: Has the Ministry of Health told him that the Director of Mental Health, whom he said is going down to Christchurch on Friday to talk to the people on the ground, is the same director who said: “The Ministry of Health does not consider there is justification to provide additional funding to Canterbury DHB”?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Yes. The Director of Mental Health, Dr Crawshaw, is in discussions with the district health board, as well as other agencies, to identify whether any further assistance is required on the ground in Christchurch.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the aide-mémoire to the Minister, dated 17 March, from John Crawshaw, saying—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We do not need to know what is in it. I just need to now put the leave as to the aide-mémoire. Leave is sought to table that particular paper. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled.
Hon Annette King: Will he take up the challenge—[Interruption] Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: Is there—
Hon Annette King: Yes, there is. Are you allowing interjections—
Mr SPEAKER: I did not hear the interjection. If the member wants to ask her supplementary question, she can do so.
Hon Annette King: Will he take up the challenges put to him in the Press editorial yesterday, where it said the situation of mental health in Canterbury was disgraceful and distressing, and asked: “What does it take for the scale of mental health issues to be recognised in Wellington”?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: Sorry, can you repeat that question?
Mr SPEAKER: I can—[Interruption] Order! If the member would not mind repeating the question, the House would be grateful.
Hon Annette King: I do not mind at all, Mr Speaker. Will he take up the challenges put to him in the Press editorial yesterday, where it said the situation of mental health in Canterbury was disgraceful and distressing, and asked: “What does it take for the scale of mental health issues to be recognised in Wellington”?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I have already said to the member, the Director of Mental Health will be having negotiations and discussions with not just the district health board but other agencies, to get a sense of the scale of the need for Cantabrians to have extra resources. Until we hear about those discussions, we cannot make any further decisions.
3. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Finance: What recent announcements has the Government made around its programme of Social Investment?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Part of the Government’s approach to doing a better job and having better communities and less Government spending is social investment. It is about using data to better understand what makes a difference to people’s lives, and using the evidence to do more of what works and less of what does not work. Today we have released the third and final data set on the risk factors likely to cause children and young people to have poor outcomes—that is, all young New Zealanders from 0 to age 24. This data and the portal that enables access to it give Government agencies, NGOs, iwi, and the wider social sector the opportunity to understand better the needs of the most vulnerable New Zealanders, and the opportunity to assist the Government in finding better solutions to long-running problems.
Andrew Bayly: What does the information released today show?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It shows that there are four indicators that are reasonable predictors of future outcomes for our young people, and those are that they are in a household that has been on a benefit long term, a parent with a corrections sentence—17 percent of all New Zealand children have a parent with a corrections sentence—a mother with no formal education, and a Child, Youth and Family notification. For the very small number of New Zealand children, as in 1 percent, who have all four indicators, they are much more likely to leave school with no qualifications, and much more likely to find themselves in prison.
Andrew Bayly: What steps is the Government taking to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We now have 3 years of tracking the Better Public Services results, which focus on improving outcomes with effective Government intervention, such as improving the number of young New Zealanders who get National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2. But alongside those results, from 1 April benefit rates for families with children will rise by $25 a week—the first increase after inflation since 1972—and as we look ahead, the Government will be looking to provide more effective delivery of its very large amount of spending in areas like, for instance, family violence.
Jacinda Ardern: Will he agree to having the Auditor-General assess Government Better Public Services result number 4, to reduce cases of physical abuse of children, given that Child, Youth and Family has recorded for his target 3,235 cases, but the police have recorded 4,698 cases; if not; why not?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We would welcome the scrutiny of the Auditor-General, if the Auditor-General has not already scrutinised it. Those two numbers measured different things. The police are measuring one thing—
Jacinda Ardern: Physical abuse.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, substantiated abuse is different from offending and prosecution. They overlap to some extent, but not completely. But I am pleased to see the Labour Party, after 8 years, is finally—.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not think that particular part of the answer is going to help the order of the House.
Andrew Bayly: What results has the Government seen from the approach to improve outcomes for the most vulnerable?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The National Party, as a party, believes in a brighter future. So we always have hope that things can improve, and it turns out that when you focus on some of these things they can be improved. The proportion of immunised 8-month-olds has increased from 84 percent to 93 percent since 2012, the proportion of 18-year-olds who get NCEA level 2 has increased from 74 percent to 81 percent, and there have been particularly strong increases for Māori and Pasifika. Reoffending has dropped by almost 10 percent, and crime has dropped by almost 20 percent. We believe we can change some of New Zealand’s long-running social problems by seeking to reduce the misery, not just spending money to service it.
Housing, Auckland—Supply and Affordability
4. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te Atatū) to the Minister for Building and Housing: When the Prime Minister said first-home buyers in Auckland might have to consider an apartment in order to get on to the property ladder, did he mean that the Government supports the increased intensification now being considered by the Independent Hearings Panel?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Building and Housing): The Government’s view has always been that Auckland needs to grow both up and out. The core reason Auckland housing prices have increased so dramatically since 2000 is that there have been vocal opponents to both greenfield development as well as intensification who have been able to use the council planning and Resource Management Act legislation to stall both. Special housing areas are helping resolve this problem in the short term but long-term the answer is getting the unitary plan and the Resource Management Act reforms right. As the Prime Minister said on Monday, intensification makes sense broadly but the Auckland Council and independent hearings panel need to work through the detail on the extent and the areas where it is appropriate.
Phil Twyford: Is it not true that National Party members in the leafy eastern suburbs are in open revolt against the intensification plans being advocated by the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, and the housing Minister?
Mr SPEAKER: It is doubtful whether there is much responsibility for National Party voters, but on that basis I will allow the Minister to still address the question.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Indeed, Mr Speaker. Look, there is a range of views across Auckland. The views I find most contradictory are those of members opposite who have demanded that there be increased housing and every time there is a new greenfield subdivision or there is a project like Three Kings, Labour members are out there opposing it as hard as they can. I simply say to members opposite: “Stop the moaning and the whingeing. Get on board with the Government’s programme, because we are solving the problems.”
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What progress has the Government achieved to date on increasing housing supply, intensification, and affordability in Auckland? [Interruption]
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Mr Speaker, firstly—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I have not called the Minister yet.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Firstly, the pace of new home construction has increased fourfold from 200 per month to now consistently over 800 per month. Secondly, the pace of new apartment and townhouse construction in Auckland has increased sevenfold from 60 a month to 420 a month. In recent months close to half the new dwellings being consented in Auckland are for apartments and townhouses. I am also encouraged that housing affordability in Auckland over the past 6 months has improved as house prices have cooled and interest rates have fallen to 15-year lows. The House should welcome that a bank in New Zealand is now offering, for the first time in 50 years, interest rates of less than 4 percent.
Phil Twyford: If the Government is in favour of intensification, why then are senior National Party figures like Ōrākei Local Board chair, Desley Simpson, Helensville aspirant Councillor Cameron Brewer, and MP Simon O’Connor openly campaigning against intensification in the eastern suburbs?
Mr SPEAKER: In so far as there is ministerial responsibility, the Hon Dr Nick Smith.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Firstly, the member misrepresents the position that I have heard from Simon O’Connor, which is actually very fair and representative of his constituents. What I would like that member to explain is why the Labour chair of the board opposes the Three Kings development when for years I have had lectures from members of the Labour Party that support intensification and new apartments and townhouses in Auckland.
David Seymour: Can the Minister name a city worldwide that has significantly improved housing affordability through a policy of intensification?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government’s view, and my view, is that if you look internationally, if you want to have greater housing affordability you need to do both. You need to allow cities to grow and that involves new greenfield development. But whether you look at the New Yorks, the Londons, whether it be the Sydneys or the like, actually, you also need to provide for intensification and that is why the Government’s view is that a balanced growth path of both is required.
Phil Twyford: Does he support increased intensification in Auckland’s eastern suburbs and the North Shore?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, and if the member reads the Government’s submission to the independent hearings panel, we have made plain that we broadly support intensification. The discussion is to be had around where there is a pretty good consensus that it needs to occur around town centres and around transport hubs and, where there is a detailed debate as to how far it goes beyond that, our Government has provided for an independent hearings panel. It will listen to submissions and decide on the balance of where that needs to occur.
Phil Twyford: If the Auckland Unitary Plan is delayed, will he follow through on his earlier threats to overrule Aucklanders, or does he only do that to ordinary New Zealanders and not to potential campaign donors?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at the member’s last remark in that question; that was unnecessary.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! This is actually quite a serious allegation that has been made. I—[Interruption]—Order! I am going to invite the member to re-ask the question, but there can be no suggestion that a decision being made by any Minister is because of potential funding. Ask the question again.
Phil Twyford: If the unitary plan is delayed, will he follow through on his earlier threats to overrule Aucklanders, or does he only do that to ordinary New Zealanders and not the ruling elite?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The current planning rules for Auckland date back to 1993 in each of the previous councils. It is hugely important for Auckland that we get a unitary plan in place. We have the special housing areas legislation that we have been using for the last 4 years to override those old plans and get that fourfold increase in the rate of house build going on in that city. The Government’s preference is to get a smooth transition from those special housing areas to the new Auckland Unitary Plan, and we will continue to work with the Auckland Council to achieve that because it actually matters to the very real issue of housing affordability, which I thought this House would collectively want us to address.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Point of order, Jono Naylor. Oh, sorry—[Interruption]. I apologise immediately to Jono Naylor. Point of order, the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Thank you, Mr Speaker. If you had not corrected yourself there I might have started singing the Hallelujah Chorus. The final comment in that question from Mr Twyford more or less implied that there was influence being exerted on a member from outside the House, and for as long as this House has existed, that has been an inappropriate way of expressing anything, or an inappropriate accusation. You let him off with a previous worse offence, but I do think we need to watch it so that those sorts of things are not added into questions and, effectively, bring the whole House into disrepute by virtue of those occasions.
Mr SPEAKER: I thank the Minister. The first question I did, certainly, find objectionable, and I gave the member a chance to rephrase it. He then used words comparing ordinary New Zealanders with the ruling elite. I do not think that added to the quality of the question, but I do not think in any way I could have ruled it out as being unparliamentary or against the rules of Parliament.
Marama Fox: Kia ora, Mr Speaker. What is the Minister doing to address the issues of the whānau from Ihumātao, whose area has been designated as a special housing zone?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The specific decisions on that site have been made by the Environment Court, and it would be inappropriate for me to overrule a decision that has been made by the court. The owner of that property is Fletcher Residential. They have indicated that they are happy to sit down and to talk with some of the Māori groups that are concerned. The member has made representations to me along those lines; I would be happy to facilitate that, because I think there is the capacity on that site to come to a common-sense solution.
5. JONO NAYLOR (National) to the Minister for Social Development: What reports has she received on the number of children living in benefit-dependent households?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister for Social Development): I recently received the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation Report, which states that the number of children living in benefit-dependent households is at its lowest since 1998. Our welfare reforms have contributed to this decline. According to the report, the number of children in benefit-dependent homes has fallen by 40,000 over the past 3 years. Getting parents off welfare and into work is the best way to get children out of poverty. This report indicates that our welfare reforms are doing just that.
Jono Naylor: Why is the Government focused on reducing the number of children in benefit-dependent households?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: As the Minister of Finance outlined in his speech to the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand today, children in benefit-dependent households are more likely to leave school without National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2, they are more likely to have contact with Child, Youth and Family and with the Department of Corrections before they are 18, and they are more likely to end up on the benefit themselves. But, as the Salvation Army report shows, more young people are achieving NCEA level 2, and benefit numbers and youth offending are both continuing to fall. We are also overhauling Child, Youth and Family to get better results for young people in care, and by focusing on reducing the number of children in benefit-dependent households, we are helping to break the cycle and improve the long-term outcomes for those children.
Carmel Sepuloni: Given the Salvation Army’s State of the Nation Report finding that “unemployment stays the same as benefit numbers fall” and “the number of children on benefits decline as child poverty rates remain the same”, will she commit to collating reliable data and reporting on the employment outcomes for people going off benefit to ensure that the missing thousands and their children are, in fact, better off?
Hon ANNE TOLLEY: To the first part of the question, the good news is that the household labour force survey showed that unemployment is dropping and that is a continual process. To the second part of the question, I have actually asked the social policy evaluation and research unit to do some research. Despite the fact that Work and Income does publish information on exits off benefits, I have asked for some research to be done on following people who do exit benefits to see exactly where they are and what their circumstances are.
6. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Minister of Health: What is the Government’s estimate of the likely extra cost faced by Pharmac for each of the TPP’s provisions relating to transparency processes, patent term extensions for pharmaceuticals, and data protection extension for biologics?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA (Associate Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Health: I am advised that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will not change the Pharmac model. The administrative changes are expected to involve up to $4.5 million in one-off establishment costs, and up to $2.2 million a year in operating costs. In respect of patent provisions, although the cost of any delays would depend on the case, the average cost is estimated at approximately $1 million a year.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a question on notice and I appreciate the Minister’s answers to the first two categories of increased cost, but he has not responded to the data protection extension for biologics issue.
Mr SPEAKER: Can the Minister please respond specifically to the issue about extra costs associated with data protection extension for biologics.
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: There is no associated cost with those provisions. The biologics outcome for the TPP can be met within New Zealand’s current policy settings and practice.
Kevin Hague: Can the Minister explain how it might be possible for data protection for biologics to be extended from 5 years to an 8 years’ equivalent without costing the New Zealand taxpayer substantially more?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: As I have said, under the current policy settings and practice I have been advised that there will be no costs associated with those provisions.
Kevin Hague: If the United States tries to further extend data protection for biologics, which has been signalled, will the Minister categorically rule out agreeing to that?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: That is a hypothetical question I cannot give an answer to.
Kevin Hague: Does the Minister accept that every dollar spent by the taxpayer of New Zealand on jumping through TPP agreement hoops is a dollar not spent on saving lives and on medicines for sick people?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: What I do accept and what the New Zealand public accepts is that there will be an estimated benefit of $2.7 billion to New Zealand’s GDP by 2030. That will save New Zealand businesses $274 million per year in tariffs. The benefits to jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders are going to be quite high.
Kevin Hague: Does the Minister accept that if Pharmac has a capped budget, and it does, and the TPP agreement will increase the costs of medicine, and it will, then an inevitable consequence is that it will be harder for Pharmac to fund new and innovative medicines, such as those for treating HIV?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: What I will say in response to that question is that Pharmac will continue to do what it does best. It prioritises spending in negotiation with suppliers for the best prices for medicines, and that benefits New Zealand consumers.
Kevin Hague: Will the Minister guarantee that the extra costs to Pharmac because of the TPP agreement will be met by increased Government funding and not taken from other health services or requiring Pharmac to find savings?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: What I will say is that, despite claims by that member and others out there, consumers will not pay more for subsidised medicines as a result of the TPP. The TPP will not change the Pharmac model.
Kevin Hague: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that the Associate Minister of Health is answering on behalf of the Minister of Health, and so may not be as well informed as the Minister. However, for the last three supplementary questions his answers have been largely unresponsive, and on this particular question he has responded with an answer about dispensing fees, rather than actually addressing the fundamental issue, which is the fact that New Zealand taxpayers will be paying more for medicines.
Mr SPEAKER: I think on this occasion I can accept the member’s frustration with some of the earlier answers, but the point of order was not raised then. On this particular question I think the Minister has addressed it. The member asked for an absolute guarantee. I think that is a tall order for any Minister to give a guarantee of that type. I think he has addressed it by saying he does not expect patients to pay more.
Kevin Hague: Will the Minister now guarantee then that if the TPP agreement is ratified, future Pharmac funding recommendations will be funded at the level that guarantees New Zealanders optimal access to medicines and not cut back, as has been his Government’s typical practice?
Hon Peseta SAM LOTU-IIGA: No, I am not going to make that guarantee.
7. RON MARK (Deputy Leader—NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration: Has he had cause for concern about the effects of the current Government’s immigration policy; if so, what are the concerns?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (Minister of Immigration): I am constantly concerned to ensure that the very positive effects of the Government’s immigration policies are achieved, whether they are economic, social, or humanitarian. I am very satisfied that they are.
Ron Mark: Does he agree with the director of the Serious Fraud Office, who told Parliament’s Law and Order Committee that “Immigration to New Zealand has brought other cultures which take a completely different view in relation to conduct we consider to be corrupt.”; if not, why not?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I respectfully disagree with most of what the Serious Fraud Office director has said, but to the degree that there is an issue around that, the biggest factor that I see as Minister of Immigration is that many people who are recent arrivals into New Zealand need to be encouraged to understand that in this country the rule of law can be trusted, that authorities can be relied upon. Indeed, to the extent that there may well be problems with migrant exploitation, this Government passed the Immigration Amendment Act last year to significantly increase the penalties, including for those who themselves are recent migrants and could be liable for deportation.
Ron Mark: Why will he not accept what the Serious Fraud Officer director is saying, and move to stem the tide of immigration and advise his department to educate new arrivals in New Zealand that corrupt practices are not acceptable?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: Because, to the extent that the Serious Fraud Office director was referring to the Transparency International New Zealand report, which was recently released and which she quoted, the changes in New Zealand’s ranking were very, very much at the margins, and we can remain confident that there are very low or no levels of corruption in this country. To the second question, no, because this Government believes that sensible migration and immigration policy is very, very positive.
Ron Mark: So, is he happy that unfortunate numbers of immigrants are bringing corrupt practices such as backhanders to Government officials, and other nefarious activity to New Zealand such as the way they are treating employees of their own ethnicity? Is he happy with that?
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I am never happy, as any Government official would be, when people break the law. But, just as when I was Minister of Police I would not have been happy when New Zealanders broke the law or sped on the roads. There needs to be consequences; there are. We have very, very sound immigration policies, and the things that the member describes are very much at the margins. He should not be using them to peddle his party’s redneck policies of anti-immigration. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The last part of that answer was—
Ron Mark: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a rather offensive statement to accuse a party of being redneck. I ask for your protection from the House. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the Minister just to stand and withdraw the last three or four words of that answer.
Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE: I withdraw those last words.
Tourism Sector—Visitor Numbers
8. PAUL FOSTER-BELL (National) to the Minister of Tourism: What reports has he received about the growth in number of tourist guest nights?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Acting Minister of Tourism) on behalf of the Minister of Tourism: There is more good news in the tourism sector, with a recent report showing a significant growth in the number of guest nights. The December 2015 accommodation survey shows national guest nights were up 6.2 percent last year, and December was the 21st consecutive month of growth. This means more people coming to New Zealand, staying longer, and spending more. The increase has been in both international guest nights as well as domestic ones.
Paul Foster-Bell: What evidence is there that regions are experiencing the benefit of rising tourist numbers?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Eleven out of our 12 regions have experienced a growth in the number of guest nights. Tourism is a big contributor to our regional economies, with over half of our international tourism expenditure being spent outside the three major cities. Many regions are attracting investment in new accommodation as a result. In December I opened a new Novotel hotel in New Plymouth, which will create at least 70 new jobs, 85 beds, and support the growth of Taranaki’s tourism industry, which is already worth $233 million a year.
Paul Foster-Bell: What is the Government doing to help ensure tourism continues its impressive growth?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: On top of the very impressive and unprecedented $700 million in tourism and tourism promotion since 2008, today we have the Prime Minister and the Minister for Economic Development turning the first sod on the construction of the New Zealand International Convention Centre, which will bring an extra $90 million in tourism spending every year. This world-class facility will host conferences of up to 3,150 people and will be able to host up to 33,000 additional conference delegates a year, who will spend their money at the hotels, at the shops, and at those tourism ventures in Auckland. A thousand jobs will be created in the construction phase, and more than 1,140 people employed.
Trans-Pacific Partnership—Foreign Ownership of New Zealand Properties
9. Dr DAVID CLARK (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Minister of Trade: Did his predecessor Hon Tim Groser ask MFAT officials negotiating the TPP agreement to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to ban the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreign speculators?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs)on behalf of the Minister of Trade: No. He asked them to preserve the right for a future New Zealand Government to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners, which, I might add, was one of Labour’s bottom lines.
Dr David Clark: Why did Australia reserve the right to ban non-resident foreign speculators from its housing market, and why did he not do the same?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Other countries have negotiated based on their own domestic policy positions, which I have no responsibility for. The Government has no policy to outright ban foreigners investing in New Zealand, but the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) maintains our current approval requirements for foreign investments in sensitive land, and, as I said in my primary response, the Government has preserved the right for future Governments to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners.
Dr David Clark: Why did New Zealand agree to Singapore reserving the right to impose a ban on the purchase of housing by foreign speculators when Singapore did not already have a ban?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I do not have those details to hand, but what I can say is that this Government has, in the interests of all New Zealanders, preserved the right of the Government to restrict the purchase of residential land, and that is a good deal for all New Zealanders.
Dr David Clark: To assist the order of the House, I seek leave to table a document stating that Singapore reserves the—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I need the source of the—[Interruption] Order! I need the source of the document and the date.
Dr David Clark: It is the relevant annexe in the many thousands of pages of the agreement on the Table—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is now trifling with the Chair. If it has been tabled in the House it is available to all members. [Interruption] Order! It creates disorder when members then seek, for political purposes, to table something that is already freely available to all members of the House. That information was tabled at the beginning of last week. It is available, and to seek to table it again only creates disorder. I will not put up with it.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Dr—ah—Chris Hipkins.
Chris Hipkins: Not yet—maybe one day. The point of order that I want to raise with you is that I think the document in question is the document there on the Table, all of the many thousands of pages of it. I think that the question becomes: where such a large volume of information is available and where there is contested debate about a particular part of it, that is not necessarily going to be available—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need any assistance at all. I can see the document from here. To suggest that it is unavailable to members once it has been tabled in this House is not fact. It is available. The question the member might legitimately ask is whether members have an interest to go and look at it. That becomes the members’ business, but the information that is already tabled in the House is already available, and to seek to re-table it is simply using the point of tabling documents for a political purpose. That is not what they are designed for. Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Dr David Clark: Does he accept that Singapore could “adopt any measure affecting real estate”?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: Again, I do not have those details to hand, but I am focused on New Zealand’s focus, which is to make sure that we have the ability to restrict the purchase of residential land by non-resident foreigners. And I might add that that was one of the bottom lines of the Labour Party.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we have just had an illustration of the difficulty of having very large documents tabled in the House. If a Minister can say they do not have the information available and you have said that the information is available, how can it be an acceptable answer but not acceptable to table the material?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: The question was asking the Minister whether he could confirm something about the particular ability of Singapore to do something. That answer will not be contained in that document at all. The statement about what Singapore has reserved is in the document—quite a different matter.
Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that the point raised by Chris Hipkins adds to the discussion in any way whatsoever. The Minister was asked for some information about another country entirely. I would prefer him to stand and say he does not have that information rather than attempt to answer and end up giving an answer that he has to come back and correct. The fact is that the information has been available. The further tabling of it would not assist in that answer in any way whatsoever. Does the member have a further supplementary question?
Dr David Clark: Can I speak to the point of order?
Mr SPEAKER: No. I have dealt with it. I have ruled on it.
Dr David Clark: Does the Minister believe that a competent Minister of Trade would know whether the Singaporeans have reserved for themselves the right to ban New Zealanders from purchasing residential land?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: What I believe is that a competent spokesman on trade would believe in trade.
Dr David Clark: What does it say about his Government when it uses the opportunity for this Parliament to question it about a trade deal to demean opponents, refuse to answer straight questions with straight answers, and chuckle in glee at honest discussions about this serious issue?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: This Government welcomes wide-ranging discussion on the TPP, and that is what we will be doing over the rest of this year. We believe that this is a great deal for this country and that is why we are supporting it.
Joanne Hayes: Can the Minister confirm whether the Trans-Pacific Partnership meets essential bottom-line requirements to protect New Zealand’s interests?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I can confirm that the TPP meets all five bottom lines set out publicly by at least one organisation. They include that Pharmac must be protected, and we can tick that one; that corporations cannot successfully sue the Government for regulating in the public interest, tick; that New Zealand maintains the right to restrict sales of farmland and housing to non-resident buyers, tick; that the Treaty of Waitangi must be upheld, tick; and that meaningful gains are made for our farmers in tariff reductions and market access. We can tick that one too. So the TPP meets every one of the bottom lines set out by the Labour Party.
Dr David Clark: Has the Minister seen reports from 2013 when Labour announced its policy on banning non-resident foreign buyers and subsequent reports when it introduced its bottom lines that clearly indicate that the intention was to ban non-resident foreign speculators with that policy?
Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH: I am not responsible for Labour policy, but what I can say is that Labour policy was to restrict, and that is what this Government has set out to do.
Fisheries—Growth in Exports
10. SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Primary Industries: What recent reports has he received on growth in seafood exports?
Hon NATHAN GUY: Recent reports show that seafood exports reached a record high of $1.63 billion last year, up over 6 percent on 2014. A significant part of this growth was from greenshell mussel exports. As new season supplies became available, 300 tonnes of mussels were shipped to Korea, and that compared with 97 tonnes over the same period of December 2014. Total seafood exports to Korea grew by nearly 12 percent last year—a very important new and emerging market.
Scott Simpson: How will the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) benefit our seafood exporters?
Hon NATHAN GUY: A very good question. The TPP will eliminate all tariffs on New Zealand’s fish and fish products once fully implemented. This will save the industry around $8 million a year. Consumers around the world are increasingly looking for high-quality, sustainably harvested seafood. The TPP will help place our products more competitively in these very important international markets.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I seek leave to have this question held over as an additional question so it can be answered by—
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is? There is objection.
Tertiary Education Commission—Confidence
11. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: Does he have full confidence in the Tertiary Education Commission’s oversight of tertiary education funding?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON (Associate Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment) on behalf of the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment: Overall, yes. I have confidence in the system’s ability to monitor over $2 billion of funding to over 730 tertiary education providers, who delivered 163,045 qualifications in 2014, up over 31,000 on 2008, including 29,390 Bachelor’s degrees, up from 4,460 in 2008. I am also confident that the Tertiary Education Commission will thoroughly investigate any funding concerns and, indeed, is doing so in a more robust manner than at any time in the Tertiary Education Commission’s history.
Hon David Cunliffe: How can the Minister have confidence in the Tertiary Education Commission and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority when a Deloitte review said that coordination between the two is inadequate, when there are now five Serious Fraud Office probes into the sector, and 35 providers have “widespread or serious” education delivery issues, 27 of which the names are still being kept secret?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON: The report that that member has referred to has found that the broad approach to monitoring tertiary education organisations has the principal elements expected of a comprehensive framework. It also went on to make some additional recommendations to improve monitoring, including the increased use of data analytics—more extensively used both in risk assessment and also in identifying specific issues for review and investigation—as well as improved reporting between both the Tertiary Education Commission and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a copy of the Deloitte report, which says that the system lacks—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I just want an assurance that the report is not freely available to members if they want to go back and search for it.
Hon David Cunliffe: It is not freely available. It is a public document, but it has not been tabled in this House.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave. Leave is sought to table that particular Deloitte report. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table, for the first time, an Official Information Act response from the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, which declares 35 cases of serious or widespread misappropriation, but redacts the names of 27 of them.
Mr SPEAKER: And the date?
Hon David Cunliffe: The date of that is 15 December 2015.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular response to an Official Information Act request. Any objection? There is none; it can be tabled. Report, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon David Cunliffe: Why did the Minister support the Tertiary Education Commission’s decision not to pursue targeted compliance reviews of six institutions now that at least one of those, Quantum Education Group, has since been referred to the Serious Fraud Office?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON: Of the six organisations reviewed in the first round, only five were found to have no issues at all. It was therefore decided that it would be more cost-effective to undertake the Deloitte review that the member mentioned in an earlier supplementary question. This review found that the monitoring practices are designed well and made a number of additional recommendations to improve and enhance monitoring further. The Tertiary Education Commission will continue to monitor organisations it funds. It is using a regular auditing programme as well as additional tools like pattern-recognition software to identify any concerns, and I add, as I said in my first answer, this is the most robust monitoring by the Tertiary Education Commission of the over 730 providers than ever before.
Hon David Cunliffe: I again seek leave to table the report that the Minister has just quoted from, given that it is not a freely distributed document, and a member of her own caucus—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the member sought leave before. It was denied by the House.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your advice. I sought leave to table a document. It is a document that the Minister’s answers themselves have relied upon. Leave was declined by a member of the House—in fact, the Leader—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! I do not need to hear any more than that. That is the issue. I decide whether it is suitable for the leave to be put. Leave is put to the House; any member has a right to object. If that is the end of the matter, the member cannot continue to then contest the decision of this House; it has been made.
Hon David Cunliffe: How can the Minister have confidence in the Tertiary Education Commission when Audit New Zealand has recently audited a heavily qualified audit opinion that says that its accounts are so imprecise it cannot properly or robustly account for $2.8 billion of public expenditure each year?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON: I think it is important to put on record the exact issue that that member is referring to, because it is very wide of the comments that he has just made. The qualified audit opinion is a result of the Tertiary Education Commission not applying the requirements of new, highly technical accounting standards in relation to grant expenditure and financial statements in its 2014-15 annual report. The new standard needs to be applied consistently by the Ministry of Education, the tertiary education institutions themselves, and the Tertiary Education Commission, as it relates to the time at which revenue and expenditure is recognised by the various organisations in the funding chain. From the Crown’s perspective, these transactions should eliminate on consolidation. So, with extensive consultation that has been under way, the Tertiary Education Commission decided it was better to partially implement the standards and get it right for the next time.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a copy of the opinion from Audit New Zealand, where it says the commission has not applied the requirements of the new public—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Was this information presented to the member at a select committee?
Hon David Cunliffe: The material was, indeed, presented—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, so then it is, again, available to all members if they want it.
Hon David Cunliffe: What action is the Minister taking to protect whistle-blowers to the Tertiary Education Commission, following allegations conveyed to him in a letter dated 14 February 2016 that the Western Institute of Technology is using taxpayers’ funds to pursue a legal vendetta against both former and current staff members who have properly raised substantiated probity issues to the Tertiary Education Commission?
Hon LOUISE UPSTON: I cannot comment on that specific example. But what I will say is that in the first step where there is a whistle-blower, they are responsible to the institution that they have declared an issue with. It is for that institution to respond to that complaint. Outside of that, the broader issue around whistle-blowers is a matter for the State Services Commission.
Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a letter to the Hon Steven Joyce, dated 14 February, which details a series of allegations against the Western Institute of Technology. It has been appropriately redacted so that it can be publicly released.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is none. It can be tabled. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: [Interruption] I put the leave; the member had an opportunity to object. We were not told where it was from, because it was redacted, but it was a letter to Mr Joyce. [Interruption] I will hear from the Hon David Cunliffe.
Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. All identifying particulars, names, and titles have been redacted from the letter on the advice of the Clerk of the House.
Mr SPEAKER: I will put the leave again. Leave is sought to table that particular letter. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think we are in a difficult position, where you had already indicated that the document could be tabled. You cannot go back to a decision that you have already made. The leave was put, the leave was accepted, and you made the ruling. We cannot then go back and relitigate that. You have indicated that members cannot relitigate when a document is not tabled. They cannot relitigate when one is.
Mr SPEAKER: I think on this occasion, finally, the member makes a very good point. I put the leave, I waited, there was no objection at the time. Subsequent to my saying that it can be tabled, there was a reasonable question asked about whether it had been signed. Mr Cunliffe took the opportunity to clarify that it had been redacted for what I think are fairly obvious reasons. If members want to object, they need to object at the time I seek leave of the House. It was not done at the time; it has been tabled. I thank Mr Hipkins for his assistance.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I have made a decision.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I accept your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: If the member accepts my ruling—a further point of order.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I think that sometimes the problem is—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Sometimes the problem is that members seek to make a political point and therefore say too much about the document, or use the document to make their point, and that can be difficult. In this case the member was pretty succinct, but I was sitting here thinking: “Hello—got a letter. Who’s it from, and what is the situation? Where may that lead the House in a legal sense if there were redactions?”. But I accept your ruling.
Mr SPEAKER: I think that in future, if the member is thinking “Well, hello.”, he needs to act a little more quickly to help the House.
Climate Change—Impact on Pacific Island Nations
12. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: When she said this week at the Pacific climate change conference that “Pacific voices are heard loud and clear at the negotiating table, and there are some things that we hold different views on”, what were the specific points of difference that she was referring to?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): There is a lot of common ground in the priorities that New Zealand and other Pacific countries have on climate change. I was not referring to anything specific when I made the comment. The sentiment I wanted to reflect was that climate change will obviously have a significant impact, and is having a significant impact, on Pacific nations and we recognise that. But we may, for example, currently hold a different view on climate-induced migration and the timing of when something like that might happen. The point I was endeavouring to make in the speech is that we may have a lot of things in common, but New Zealand at no time should presume to speak for our Pacific neighbours.
Marama Davidson: Does she agree with the Pacific’s united call for a moratorium on new coalmines?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No, not at this time.
Marama Davidson: Will she support new ways for Pacific people to migrate to New Zealand in response to the call of the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, for his people to be able to migrate with dignity?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have agreements with Pacific countries. I think that we will continue to see issues in that area—it is something that we are keen over time to progress. But at this stage we stick with our current policies.
Marama Davidson: Is not the major point of difference between this Government and Pacific leaders that the Pacific nations are struggling and fighting to stay above water, and our climate target does not do nearly enough to help them in that fight?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The reality is that New Zealand is doing a lot to help our Pacific countries. We recently just announced more money, like $635 million, that we want to put in, and I see a lot of that—$200 million, as well—being spent in those Pacific countries. There are things that we can do and are doing now, such as more renewable energy there that we are leading—a lot of that work that the Minister of Foreign Affairs is leading throughout the Pacific countries. I do not think our emissions target is actually what is causing the problems in the Pacific nations. But we will play more than our fair share in that area, and we will help our cousins, as we should do.