Questions & Answers – May 25
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): This question is to the Prime Minister and asks: does he stand by all his statements—sorry: does he still stand by—[Interruption] Well, it is obvious—“still” being the operative word.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
1. Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he still stand by all his statements; if so, why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, because I find them more accurate and more coherent than the member’s questions. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! We will just have the supplementary question.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Which of the following statements does he stand by: “Slowly rising house prices in Auckland are not good.”, “The Auckland housing market has been rising a little faster than the Government would want.”, “We take responsibility. We need to do a better job of it.”, or my favourite “There is not a housing crisis.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All of them, in the context that they were made. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, we will have the supplementary question in line with the Standing Orders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister how he can say he has confidence in Nick Smith undertaking “a wide range of initiatives when it comes to housing” when there is now an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders who simply do not agree with him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because it is a statement of absolute fact that Minister Smith has done a great deal in the housing area, including seeing $34 million a week used to subsidise New Zealanders into housing, seeing 40 new houses a day built in Auckland, seeing 154 special housing areas created in Auckland, which will release up to 56,000 homes, seeing Crown land released, and seeing 12,000 families being able to access the KiwiSaver HomeStart, along with the tax changes that have been made. The changes have been very significant.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How can he have confidence in a Minister who makes Maurice Williamson look like Keith Hay Homes, or describe him as being “outstanding” and, further, “doing the best he can”—or is it a case of “Don’t blame John, Nick did it.”, “Don’t blame Nick, John told him to.”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is probably true that Maurice Williamson started his political career living in a Keith Hay home, but that member started living in a log cabin. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! There is just too much interjection. I invite the Rt Hon Winston Peters, if he has a further supplementary question, to ask it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does he agree with an infamous New Zealander who said: “We are facing a severe home affordability and ownership crisis. The crisis has reached dangerous levels in recent years and looks set to get worse.”; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister aware that he was the one who said that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Not when I was in Government, I did not.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Prime Minister able to remember any promise an hour after he has made it?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes; my memory is not going.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister remember saying that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement would bring $5 billion to this country by 2025, when there is not one other expert in the world who agrees with that, and which country was he talking about when he said that?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: New Zealand.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister remember warning New Zealanders that he did not want them to become tenants in their own country, and that being the case could he tell us what his discussions were with the leader of the Chinese communications arm of the Chinese communist Government yesterday? Did they concern, for example, the takeover of Silver Fern Farms, rising foreign ownership in this country, or being treated as though he were a head of State?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I did not raise those particular points, but nor was it some sort of secret meeting, given that I put a picture on my Facebook site of meeting the man.
Budget 2016—Better Public Services
JOANNE HAYES (National): My question is to the Minister of Finance—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
2. JOANNE HAYES (National) to the Minister of Finance: What steps is the Government taking in Budget 2016 to deliver better public services—particularly for the most vulnerable New Zealanders? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is simply too much interjection coming from one quarter to my left. I will deal with it if I have to.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The member will just have to wait till tomorrow for details, but the Government is in Budget 2016 investing in a growing economy that delivers more jobs and higher wages, and one that delivers sufficient revenue to give us choices. Where we do spend money, we will be focused on getting better value for money where we can make a real difference to the most vulnerable New Zealanders, rather than just increasing the amount of funding.
Joanne Hayes: How will Budget 2016 continue to build the Government’s investments in health, education, and other core public services?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It will build on a lot of good work in health, education, and other core public services by focusing on getting more outcomes, not just spending more money. As we saw a decade ago, it is possible to spend more in health and deliver fewer health services. It is possible to increase Government spending by 50 percent in 5 years only to see social statistics go backwards. We saw that happen under the previous Labour Government; it is not happening under this Government.
Joanne Hayes: What initiatives has the Government announced, particularly relating to supporting more vulnerable families into accommodation?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is important to understand that any initiatives come on top of $2 billion that was spent this financial year—over $2 billion—to support 300,000 people on the accommodation supplement and 60,000 households on income-related rent. That is in addition to the Government’s $20 billion worth of houses. It owns one in every 16 houses in New Zealand. There have already been announcements of a $41 million commitment to support around 3,000 emergency housing places, and there is the Government’s HomeStart programme, which has supported 12,000 people into first homes.
Joanne Hayes: What other steps is the Government taking to get more houses where they are most needed?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is taking a number of steps, which I will outline, but no land becomes available, nor infrastructure relevant to that land, nor houses built, without the Auckland Council agreeing to every single step. There is something of a misunderstanding that the Government can somehow bypass the council and local communities; it cannot. It has to follow the process. The Government is in the process of building 7,500 houses in Tāmaki; 3,500 houses in Hobsonville; a thousand houses in other Auckland locations; and 300 houses in Weymouth, in addition to almost a thousand houses that will be delivered in Christchurch under the Christchurch Housing Accord.
3. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statements with regard to housing that “we take responsibility; we need to do a better job of it”, and “we need to do more”?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I stand by my full statement on housing, which went on to say “To say we’ve done nothing in the last few years is absolutely not true. Just think of the things we’ve done in the last 2 years alone.”, and then I listed them.
Andrew Little: Given he has stated that the public’s concerns about housing are due to his Government’s failure to explain its policies, how has his Government’s failure to explain its policies caused building materials to be more expensive, investors to buy 80 percent of houses in some places, and homeownership among under 40s to plummet to just 25 percent?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is making things up. But what he may like to know—
Phil Twyford: All facts.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: —because he would not want the facts to get in the way of a good story, from his point of view—is that we are building, on its own, 40 houses every working day in Auckland. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Andrew Little: How has his Government’s failure to explain its policies caused house prices to rise at over 20 percent a year in many places, deposit inflation to run at $500 a week, and homeownership to plummet to its worst level in 65 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Again, the member is making things up. It is quite true that from 1986 to 2014, the year of the last census, homeownership rates have declined, but that has been across successive Governments. If you look at the Government programme, which has been very extensive, of everything from releasing more land to having more people building houses, over time the supply side will actually fix the issues, just as it did in Christchurch. If the member does not believe that, why would the member now support the Government’s policy of releasing more land?
Andrew Little: How has his Government’s failure to explain its policies caused children to live in cars and motels because there are not enough State houses and for families in rental houses to too often find them cold, mouldy, and unhealthy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The Government has done a substantial amount to help the least well off, including, I might point out, replacing 134 tenants and their families into social housing every week. We are building 17 new social houses every week. We will be the first Government in history to give people money as they move into emergency accommodation. On top of that, the Government spends nearly $10 billion a year on supporting the least well off in New Zealand, including $4.4 billion on benefits, $2.4 billion on Working for Families, $1.2 billion on the accommodation supplement, $800 million on income-related rents, $277 million on hardship assistance, $143 million on recovery assistance, and $340 million on improving other conditions.
Andrew Little: If it is all just a failure to explain, which of his three housing Ministers has had the worst failure—Nick Smith, who says homelessness is a figment of our imagination; Paula Bennett, who announced $41 million for emergency housing, and then had to admit it did not buy a single new bed; or Bill English, who says “crisis” is overstating it, when homeownership is plummeting to its worst level in 65 years?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Again, the member is making them all up. But one thing we can be sure of—if any one of the three of them was the Leader of the Opposition they would be polling better than 8 percent.
Andrew Little: Does he really think that kids living in cars and a generation shut out of homeownership is just a political problem for him to spin his way out of?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There has been an international decline in homeownership rates, but, still, 65 percent of New Zealanders own a home. There are varying reasons why—because of societal changes, some of them are different, including people living in retirement homes. But if you look overall at the assistance that the Government gives to the least well off New Zealanders, this is the most assistance any Government has given.
Andrew Little: Does he not think it is just grotesque of him to talk about a $3 billion unfunded tax cut election bribe, when kids are living in cars and a generation is being shut out of homeownership?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said earlier, if you look at the amount that we are spending, which is more than any other Government in the history of New Zealand has spent, we are spending $10 billion a year on helping the least well off. I might point out that the issue of homelessness and people living in cars is not a new issue. In 2008, when Michael Cullen did cut taxes, the situation was the same.
Andrew Little: Will he promise that by the time of the election next year, the homeownership rate in New Zealand will be rising and every child will have a warm, dry, healthy home; if not, why is he so lacking in ambition for New Zealanders?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: What I will promise is that the Government will keep delivering for New Zealanders in the way that it has, including more assistance to low-income New Zealanders than ever before. That includes free GP visits for under-13s, $10 billion worth of assistance for the least well off, breakfast in all schools that want it, social workers in all low-decile schools, the youth service for young teen beneficiaries—I could go on. They are very comprehensive responses to New Zealanders’ needs.
Economic Programme—Fiscal Strategy
4. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with all of this Government’s spending choices?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, where the Government is making choices about new money, I do. But it is important to recognise that $77 billion of current Government spending represents the accumulation of decisions over many years. The Government is committed to high-quality decisions where it is allocating new spending, and also trawling through the baseline spending to improve the effectiveness of much of that spending that has been found to be less than effective.
David Seymour: Does he then agree with the recent decision to give $600,000 to Jane Kelsey so that she can study “transcending embedded neoliberalism in international economic regulation”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member may be relieved to know that Ms Kelsey’s academic peers made that decision, not the Government.
David Seymour: Which of the following does he believe was the best use of taxpayer money: Find Me A Māori Bride 2 at $590,000, X Factor 2 at $800,000, or Grand Designs 2 at $1.2 million?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I disagree with my colleagues, because The X Factor is a wonderful showcase of the talents of young New Zealanders. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The level of interjection is simply too high. If you want me to mention a couple of names I can, and they will then be on a final warning.
David Seymour: Does he believe it was a good use of $1.2 million of taxpayers’ money to fund The Ultimate Waterman stand-up paddleboarding event, and does he know whether Steven Joyce tried out this paddleboard; if not, can he speculate as to why?
Mr SPEAKER: Three supplementary questions, of which one can be addressed.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is nothing I have seen Minister Joyce have a go at where he does not prove himself to be a master of the required skills.
David Seymour: In light of these patchy answers to my previous supplementary questions, does the Minister truly believe that there is not a cent to afford tax cuts for hard-working Kiwi families this Budget?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I share with the member his respect and regard for the fact that the only reason that the Government has billions to spend is that people who got up early this morning, made the lunches for the kids, got them on the bus, and then went to work—probably their mother—pay their tax at the end of the fortnight. That is how we end up with billions. The difference between us and the other side of the House is that the other side of the House does not respect that whatsoever.
Health Care Research—Funding
5. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Science and Innovation: What new investment is the Government making in health research?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Science and Innovation): Last week health Minister Jonathan Coleman and I announced that, as part of Budget 2016, the Government will increase funding for health research by $97 million over the next 4 years. The annual amount available for health research through the Health Research Council (HRC) will increase by 56 percent, up from $77 million this year to $120 million in 2019-20, which will be the biggest increase. The HRC supports research that leads to improved health outcomes and more effective delivery of health care for New Zealanders. That research brings economic gains for New Zealand.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Why is the Government investing more in health research?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government is investing more in health research because it brings a range of benefits, firstly to our health system and to New Zealanders and their health, but also to our wider economy. Health research creates economic benefits by supporting the cost-effective delivery of services. It generates high-value, knowledge-intensive companies like Pacific Edge Biotechnology, which is now listed on the NZX and has had support for its research into genetics and epigenetics of cancer; Avalia Immunotherapies, which is a joint venture between the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research and Victoria University, which is commercialising groundbreaking vaccines for some cancers; and PREDICT software, which is an electronic tool for the prediction of cardiovascular risk.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: What sort of research will be supported by this increase in funding?
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Government’s National Statement of Science Investment identifies health research as a priority for investment, and that is why it has committed this very significant increase as part of Budget 2016—it is the largest ever funding increase for health research in this country’s history. It will fund more research like the famous Liggins-Howie discovery for preventing lung disease in newborns, which is estimated to have directly saved the lives of about 10,000 New Zealand infants, and the national New Zealand Cot Death Study, which identified changes that parents could make to reduce the risk to their baby and is credited with saving more than 3,000 New Zealand children’s lives over 20 years.
Health Services—Funding Levels
6. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Health: What dollar increase in core Crown health expenditure is required to meet all demographic and inflationary cost pressures in 2016/17?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): The technical costs of population ageing and inflation for any given year are never known until that year is completed. The member should know that core Crown expenditure is a different measure from Vote Health, which is the main measure that is used for health spending. Vote Health funding shows that health is up by $4 billion under this Government, which is above population growth and inflation. The member knows that there is not a single health service that has not improved over the last 8 years. I suggest that Labour focuses on services and outcomes rather than calling for more spending and higher taxes.
Hon Annette King: In light of his answer that we have to wait until the end of year, what percentage for demographic cost pressures did he use to give district health boards their funding indication for 2016-17?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: You are just going to have to wait until the Budget—one sleep to go. You know that.
Hon Annette King: In light of the public criticism last week by General Practice New Zealand at the chronic underfunding of practices, will he ensure that General Practice New Zealand receives the extra $20 million to $26 million it is seeking to meet all inflationary pressures, or is he happy for doctors’ fees to rise?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Unlike the member, I get around a lot of general practices, and I am getting very good feedback from doctors who are actually doing the work on the ground, as opposed to Labour Party members who might work in the health sector.
Hon Annette King: Will the Budget address the concerns of the Orthopaedic Association, which said recently that patients waiting for surgery were sicker than once was the case, and that they had two options: pay up, or wait until their hips and knees got worse?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The orthopaedic surgeons are actually very happy, because we are doing an extra 6,000 orthopaedic operations per year compared with when we came into Government—an extra 2,000 hips and knees. There are an extra 110,000 appointments right across the system and an extra 50,000 electives to go with the extra 6,000 doctors and nurses. So, actually, the feedback from the orthopaedic specialists has been very, very good.
Hon Annette King: When he said last week that people were getting access to the mental health and addiction services they need, was he aware that he was using misleading data, because 70 percent of 44,500 young people in 2015 did not receive help in 3 weeks, as he claimed, and it was 70 percent of 15,000?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The master of misleading data is Mrs King. The fact is that in 2015, 70 percent of young mental health patients were seen within 3 weeks and 91 percent were seen within 8 weeks. Four years ago only two-thirds were seen within 21 days. So, actually, we are seeing more people, we are seeing them quicker, and the service is a lot better than when Mrs King was running it.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a Ministry of Health document taken off its policy priority web page entitled PP8—very hard to get access to.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, if it is available on the website—
Hon Annette King: Well, the Minister did not see it.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! If it is available on the website the members can get it.
Hon Annette King: If he used the demographic cost pressure of 2.7 percent and inflation of 0.4 percent as of March, would the increase in core Crown health expenditure need to be at least $600 million in Budget 2016-17; if not, what should it be?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: The member is confusing core Crown health expenditure with Vote Health. Core Crown health expenditure includes various elements of ACC, part of the workplace and safety vote, bits of the health vote—actually, she fundamentally does not understand the structure of the vote. It is very surprising after 30 years in Parliament.
7. SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made towards achieving the Government’s national health targets?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Health): This week the Ministry of Health published the health targets results for quarter three, 2015-16. They showed good progress overall, with the elective surgery target again being achieved, with 146,000 elective surgical discharges provided for the year to date. That is nearly 8,000 more than were planned. We have delivered around 50,000 more surgeries over the last 7 years. The target for heart and diabetes checks was met for the third consecutive quarter. Around 1.2 million people have had their cardiovascular disease risk assessed in the past 5 years. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! To the Hon Annette King, you have interjected on every question. We are now on question No. 7. If you interject again I will deal with it severely.
Simon O’Connor: What changes will be made to the national health targets?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: From 1 July a new childhood obesity health target will replace the heart and diabetes checks target. By December 2017 we want to see 95 percent of children who are identified as obese in the before-school check referred to an appropriate health professional for clinical assessment and intervention. Heart and diabetes checks will still remain an accountability measure for district health boards to ensure that the gains made are not lost.
Simon O’Connor: What reports has he seen on the numbers of doctors and nurses in our hospitals who are helping meet these targets?
Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: Our dedicated health workforce has been crucial in meeting these health targets, and we now have a record number of doctors and nurses working in district health boards across New Zealand. At the end of March this year there were over 7,880 doctors and 22,500 nurses employed by district health boards. That is almost 2,000 more doctors and nearly 4,200 more nurses compared with 2008.
8. METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Tū ai a ia i runga i te mana o āna korero katoa?
[Does he stand by all his statements?]
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.
Metiria Turei: Is it possible that, contrary to what the Prime Minister said on The Paul Henry Show this morning, New Zealanders have registered all of National’s failed housing policies, because they are the ones being outbid at auctions by speculators, living in cars and garages, and waiting desperately for a State house?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I think what is true is that the Government has had a very extensive response to housing issues in Auckland. There will be more coming in that area, but that is a lot for anyone to comprehend at one time. People in this Parliament might hear those things, but I doubt that the average New Zealander would know the full list of all the things we have done. The Government’s job is to continue to communicate that.
Metiria Turei: Well, is it not true that, despite this full list of his, not one single measure of his has reduced house prices for families or housed the more than 30,000 New Zealanders who are living today in severe housing deprivation; every one of his half measures has failed?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The member is quite incorrect. If one looks at a whole bunch of things—for instance, over 600 people have left a Housing New Zealand home because of renewable tenancies, and that has allowed other New Zealanders to go into those homes. There are 134 tenants and their families moving into social housing every single week, and 17 new social houses a week are being built. The Government has announced that $41 million will be available for emergency support and, starting initially from 1 September but on a manual basis, it will be brought forward on 1 July. It is simply not true that the Government is not addressing those issues for New Zealanders. Along with the $10 billion of support it provides for low-income New Zealanders every year.
Metiria Turei: What is the point of kicking out a family from a Housing New Zealand house and then making them rack up $100,000 of debt to Work and Income for a motel?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: People who leave under renewable tenancies do so because they are in a position to pay market rent, and, actually, I think that makes—
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was not the issue raised in my question.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The—
Metiria Turei: Kicking a family out of a Housing New Zealand house is not dealing—
Mr SPEAKER: The question was heard. I heard it, and now we will allow the Prime Minister a chance to answer it.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: So the reason that people leave a Housing New Zealand home on a renewable tenancy is that they are able to pay market-related rents, and that is a very sensible policy because (a) they are in a better financial position to be able to pay their private rent and allow a more needy family to move in. There is also the reason that people leave because they do not need the size of house, but I might add that this Government has done what no other Government has done, and that is to extend income-related rents to social housing providers to allow even more New Zealanders to access a cheaper home.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister still did not answer—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No. I think on this—[Interruption] Order! The Prime Minister certainly addressed the question, though clearly not to the member’s satisfaction. The way to progress the matter is to ask further supplementary questions.
Metiria Turei: What is the point of having beneficiaries racking up huge debts to Work and Income for motels, when they could be being housed in proper State homes and paying rent, and is that not yet another obvious failure of his housing policy?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No. It is one of the reasons why the Government has allocated $41 million that people can access for emergency support. It is, in fact, now a grant, not a loan.
Metiria Turei: Is it not true that that grant is for only 7 days in a motel and that families are having to spend months and months racking up huge debts to Work and Income because his Government is failing to provide them with a decent house?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the last part of the question, no, that is not correct.
9. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Finance: Why has he brought forward spending previously earmarked for Budget 2017 into Budget 2016?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Partly because of increase in population and partly because the Government has a range of positive opportunities to invest in strengthening the economy and in delivering better services.
Grant Robertson: After 8 years, will he now accept that his positive opportunities are, in fact, a social deficit that has led to a housing crisis, a huge shortfall in health funding, and parents bearing a greater cost of their children’s education?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Absolutely not, and I would refer the member to the regular reporting of the Government’s Better Public Services results, which show reducing welfare dependency and significantly higher pass rates in our schools, particularly for Māori and Pacific students. I refer him to the results that show increasing skill levels among our young people, reductions in rheumatic fever, and higher immunisation rates. I might say, it is a much better record than the previous Labour Government, which increased spending by 50 percent and left almost all social statistics in a worse state.
Grant Robertson: Does he believe that 1 year of focus on spending in health, housing, and education will deal with the problems built up over the last 8 years; if not, will he rule out offering tax cuts in 2017?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is simply wrong. This Government has focused on doing the Government’s job better since the day it was elected. The Labour Party might wish that there was some kind of widespread breakdown in public services, but it is absolutely not the case, which is why around the country we are finding enthusiastic NGO and Public Service staff working very hard to do a better job for New Zealanders.
Grant Robertson: Will part of the spending brought forward from 2017 fund an extension to paid parental leave to 26 weeks, as the Labour bill being debated before Parliament tonight proposes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member will just have to wait and see. The Government’s stance on Labour’s bill has not altered. The Government extended paid parental leave, I think in the last Budget, in two tranches of 2 weeks in successive years. We believe that given the range of demands on the Government purse, that is a fair and balanced outcome.
Grant Robertson: Does he believe that 18 weeks’ paid parental leave is sufficient?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is what the Government is funding, and relative to all the other needs, of which the member is regularly reminding us, whether it is housing or health or education or anything he can think of, we think that is pretty balanced.
Grant Robertson: Can he confirm that for his future tax cut promises, he will be relying on Treasury forecasts that economists regard as overly optimistic, and which he has previously dismissed, saying that “Treasury can barely tell what is going to happen before Christmas, let alone forecast years ahead.”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The economists have not seen the forecasts. I am sure that some of them will disagree with them—that is the nature of economists and the nature of forecasts. What we do know is that, within reasonable variation around those forecasts, the economy is growing, we know that—2 to 3 percent per year—and the Government books are in surplus, and those surpluses are likely to rise.
Health and Safety—Reforms
10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister for ACC: What initiatives are being delivered to reduce the number of people injured in New Zealand?
Hon NIKKI KAYE (Minister for ACC): ACC has improved its commitment to injury prevention by increasing its budget from $30 million to $50 million per year. In the last 12 months alone, we have announced new partnerships and investments across priority injury areas, including reducing falls, sporting injuries, and treatment injuries. Initiatives include a $15 million to $20 million partnership with the health sector to reduce medical injuries, including a world leading surgical training programme, a $1.1 million partnership with St John Ambulance to prevent injuries to children, and a $2.3 million investment in Plunket.
Melissa Lee: What work is under way to specifically reduce injuries to children?
Hon NIKKI KAYE: Last week I was pleased to announce a new partnership between ACC and Plunket to reduce the number of injuries to children under 5 years old. ACC is investing $2.3 million to support Plunket to further develop its injury prevention capability and better deliver educational initiatives to support parents. Each year more than 110,000 children aged under 5 are injured at home and in the wider community. This includes 60,000 children injured due to falls, and 4,000 injured as a result of burns. This funding is all about ensuring fewer Kiwi children are injured, and supporting more parents to keep their children safe at home and in the community.
Melissa Lee: How many families and children will be reached by this funding, and what other work is expected in this area? [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon NIKKI KAYE: This funding will help Plunket nurses reach more than 270,000 families with children under 5 years old. These Plunket nurses will be focused on ensuring new parents are better prepared and more aware, to prevent injuries. Who better to do this than Plunket nurses, who have supported New Zealand families for generations. This investment of tens of millions of dollars more in injury prevention, combined with billions of levy cuts, has seen an increase in public confidence for ACC. In the last fortnight I announced that ACC’s public confidence is the highest ever recorded in New Zealand’s history.
Budget 2016—Climate Change
11. JAMES SHAW (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Did she make a bid for Budget 2016 to cancel Government-held carbon credits to compensate for the past use of “dubious” credits, in order to meet New Zealand’s climate commitments?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): The member will just have to be patient and wait until the Budget tomorrow—one more sleep.
James Shaw: Why would anybody trust a country that, as New Zealand has done, covers up its rising emissions by using fake carbon credits and then refuses to do the right thing and pay them back when it has the chance?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Those units, as the member knows, were surrendered to meet our Kyoto obligations. Of the total that we submitted, they made up 26 percent, so the other 74 percent actually had environmental integrity. The units that we have left are all of high environmental integrity and so, as a consequence, we are drawing a line in the sand and moving on.
James Shaw: By what percentage did New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions—net greenhouse gas emissions—increase between 2008 and 2014?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am not sure about that particular time line. What I do know about is the report that came out just last week, which said that they had gone up by 1 percent, in that 2014 report that we have just put out.
James Shaw: I seek leave to table calculations by the Parliamentary Library, based on the report out last week, showing that emissions increased by 19 percent under National.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that particular information prepared by the Parliamentary Library. Is there any objection? There is objection. [Interruption] Order! Listen, we do not need to have the conversation from this side. Leave was put; leave was denied. That is the end of the matter.
James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Parliamentary Library’s analysis was not publicly available.
Mr SPEAKER: I need to determine whether the information would be useful. I determined that it could have been, I put the leave, and it is then the ability of any member to decline it. They do not have to give a reason. The leave was put, it has been declined, and that is the end of the matter.
James Shaw: Will she concede that her Government’s decision to flood New Zealand with cheap, dubious carbon credits contributed to the 19 percent increase in emissions under this Government?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: Certainly the advice that I have had is that it is not surprising that we have had an increase in most recent years as the population has gone up. We are looking at more cars that are on the road, which means that transport has gone up, but, actually, if you went on a percentage basis as to the level of population that has gone up and the actual emissions, they have actually decreased slightly, but not overall, because of our population increase.
James Shaw: Given that our emissions are the highest that they have been since 1990 and have risen 19 percent under this Government’s tenure in the time that we have had an emissions trading scheme, if she is not going to fix it in this Budget—when?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: As I have said, he can find out what is in the Budget tomorrow, but what I would also say is that we have the highest population in this country that we have ever had.
Fisheries—Illegal Dumping of Fish
12. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister for Primary Industries: Was he aware in 2013 of the pervasive illegal dumping of fish from inshore trawlers, as documented in the MPI reports on Operation Achilles and Operation Hippocamp?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister for Primary Industries): As I do not receive the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) criminal investigations, I was not made aware of those specific cases. However, it is well known that a small degree of illegal dumping in our fisheries has always occurred. The ministry was disappointed that it was not able to take a prosecution in these particular circumstances, and there is now a Queen’s Counsel (QC) reviewing this decision. However, MPI takes over 300 prosecutions per year and we have doubled the number of observers on vessels. Yesterday I also announced that we will accelerate the roll-out of cameras and electronic monitoring on all fishing vessels. This will provide greater transparency and improve public confidence that our fisheries are being well managed.
Rino Tirikatene: When did he first become aware that MPI investigators had uncovered fishing vessels openly discarding substantial quantities of prime inshore quota fish?
Hon NATHAN GUY: If the member had opened his taringa to the answer of the primary question—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That answer just will not help the order of the House. Can the question just be answered please?
Hon NATHAN GUY: If the member had listened to the primary answer he would have known that, in fact, politicians do not get involved in criminal investigations. If there are any policy changes that need to be made as a result of criminal investigations then they are fed through to me, and, as the member should be aware, I have an operational review under way.
Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a relatively straight question from my colleague Rino Tirikatene about when he became aware. It was not about the particular criminal investigation; it was when he became aware of the practice.
Mr SPEAKER: The best way forward is to ask Rino Tirikatene to re-ask the question.
Rino Tirikatene: When did he first become aware that MPI investigators had uncovered fishing vessels openly discarding substantial quantities of prime inshore quota fish?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As I alluded to in the primary answer, MPI has ongoing investigations happening all the time. I also said in my primary answer that MPI has 300 investigations. I also said that discarding and dumping has been a concern for a long period of time. As a result, the member should be aware that we have rolled out 100 percent camera coverage in Snapper 1, and yesterday I announced that we are going to do more.
Rino Tirikatene: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked when the Minister was aware—
Mr SPEAKER: I know. I agree that the question has now been asked twice. It has been answered twice. I am none the wiser as to when the Minister was aware. The way forward is that I will allow the member an additional supplementary question.
Rino Tirikatene: When did he first become aware that MPI investigators had uncovered fishing vessels openly discarding substantial quantities of prime inshore quota fish?
Dr Megan Woods: When?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I do not need the assistance of Dr Megan Woods. The answer from Nathan Guy.
Hon NATHAN GUY: I became aware of the nature of these reports last week when they entered the public domain. Following on, as I have just answered in the last two questions, if there are any policy changes that need to be made as a result of this, then they can be fed into the operational review. Since these reports in 2012-13, we have made sure that the 100 percent roll-out of camera coverage in Snapper 1 means that we can use that footage in a compliance nature if we need to.
Rino Tirikatene: Has the Ministry for Primary Industries been undertaking a 5-year work programme since 2008 called Better Information Better Value to address fish dumping; if so, why did the Government only launch an investigation into fish dumping last Thursday, almost 3 years after the programme was ended?
Hon NATHAN GUY: I refute those allegations. That member has a cheek coming into the House because he is actually—[Interruption]. Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Does the member wish to hear the answer, because he needs some assistance from his colleagues—
Rino Tirikatene: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister is being very slippery.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no. And that is not a point of order. Now, does the Minster wish to complete his answer?
Hon NATHAN GUY: By the line of questioning from that—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! There is little point in going on. The left-hand side is to be quiet so that we can hear the answer; I am not getting any cooperation. Are there any further supplementary questions?
Rino Tirikatene: What happened between Wednesday last week when the Ministry for Primary Industries denied that there was fishing quota misreporting, and Thursday, when it launched an independent inquiry?
Hon NATHAN GUY: As a result of those two criminal investigation reports becoming publicly available, it was then an opportune time for MPI to get a QC involved—as a result of it not being able to get a prosecution because of the scientific nature in which these cameras were used—to see if indeed it could. I think it is very appropriate that a QC is now reviewing this. I also think that there is an opportunity, as a result of the operational review that I kicked off last year, to ensure that any policy changes that may come about from this can be fed into that, because ultimately this is about the public confidence in our fishing system, and I want to ensure that we are doing absolutely everything possible to ensure that that is happening.
Rino Tirikatene: Does he agree that just monitoring the problem will not make it go away; if so, what is he doing to address the underlying causes of fish dumping?
Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Nathan Guy—either of those two supplementary questions.
Hon NATHAN GUY: If the member had listened to the answers that I have given this afternoon, he would have realised the programme of work that we have got under way. I cannot believe that the member’s line of questioning this afternoon is implying that the hundreds of people who are out there collecting fish—mum and dad businesses—are all crooks. The member has not even acknowledged that we have made a law change with foreign charter vessels. This Government is doing a huge amount and will continue to do more.