Questions and Answers - Nov 16
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (National—Upper Harbour) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's policies?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why is the Government opposed to parents having flexibility in how they use their paid parental leave?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I thank the Opposition for bringing forward their suggestion. I personally see merit in the amendment they've suggested; that's why we've said we'll look into it next year.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why doesn't the Government then send the bill to select committee to consider the changes, given that they do not take effect until 1 July 2018?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The current legislation that's been considered under urgency has gone through a select committee process twice. That's why we've suggested—[Interruption] That's why we've suggested that—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Sorry for interrupting the Prime Minister. Who made that interjection suggesting that the Prime Minister might be misleading the House? Who said it?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, that was me.
Mr SPEAKER: You will withdraw and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The current bill before the House has not been—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member's tempting me to use my powers for the first time. The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise, and he will not dispute a ruling that I have made or add to his withdrawal.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Paula Bennett: I seek leave to move a motion to refer the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill back to the relevant select committee for further consideration.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that process? Yes, there is.
Hon Paula Bennett: So this bill is not exactly the same. There is an opportunity, because—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I don't like getting up and down, as we're trying to get things to flow, but the member—again, it's been a while, but members are not allowed to preface a question with a statement. "So x, y, and z" is a statement; it's not a question.
Hon Paula Bennett: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can the Prime Minister explain, then, why she would not allow this bill to go back to select committee, when there is plenty of time for that to be done? She's often stated about their preference to have Parliament actually exploring things well. There's plenty of time for it to go to select committee, and they could actually explore these changes there.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've actually said, I see merit in what the Opposition have put forward, which is why I've given an undertaking that we will look into this issue further and use further opportunities when we're looking at other employment legislation—if it proves to have merit.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think that her intentions to look at this at a later date are good enough for those families who will suffer financial hardship because they won't have the opportunity to simultaneously take paid parental leave when there may be causes where a woman is unwell or the baby is unwell and both parents need to be at home?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think parents will appreciate that unlike the last Government, we're extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks. I think it's disappointing, given the vehemence that the member's showing, that she didn't use the opportunity when in Government to pursue this issue.
Hon Paula Bennett: So does the Prime Minister think she knows what is best for individual families, with all their uniqueness; and if not, why not simply, instead of having good intentions, do what is best and allow flexibility?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For clarity, again, I have already said I see merit in the idea, which is why we are undertaking now that our first priority is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks. We will then look at the idea that's been brought forward by the previous Government. I have to again say that if this was an idea that they felt so passionately about, the last nine years would have been a good opportunity to do it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Would she and her Cabinet and the Government be so much more wise and informed on this matter had the Opposition put in place this policy in the last nine years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Deputy Prime Minister is absolutely right; this is an issue that could have been pursued in the last nine years. In fact, I do need to point out we reached out to the member who put up the Supplementary Order Paper and she's refused to collaborate with us on her very suggestion.
Hon Paula Bennett: Can I simply say, what does she suggest then to these dads and same-sex partners—what does she suggest that they do if they want to support these new mums and their babies but can't afford unpaid leave, and would benefit from paid parental leave with flexibility?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I will say again, we are going to look into this issue because, as I've already said, we see merit in it—we see merit in it. Our first step, however, is to extend paid parental leave to 26 weeks, which is a milestone we should all be proud of.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she accept that she's actually the Prime Minister that could take action and do something—instead of just talking about intentions and whether something has merit, she could actually do something about this?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the Prime Minister replies, I'm going to indicate that there will be an additional supplementary to the Opposition because of the noise made from the Government benches while that supplementary was being asked.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Taking action means, within our first 100 days, pursuing 26 weeks' paid parental leave, which was an issue the previous Government not only voted against; they vetoed.
2. JAMIE STRANGE (Labour) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Has he received any reports on the forecast rate of housebuilding with and without KiwiBuild?
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Hon Phil Twyford, I'll indicate—I mean, I'm getting a bit sick of it—that the Opposition have just lost the question they gained because of interjections during that question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes. Advice that I have received from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) shows that without KiwiBuild, the number of houses will peak in 2019 below what is needed and then rapidly fall away. But with KiwiBuild, the rate of housebuilding will continue to increase so that we can start to fix the shortfall of 71,000 houses we inherited from the past Government.
Jamie Strange: Does the MBIE modelling show that KiwiBuild houses will be additional to homes that would otherwise be built?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, it does. The modelling shows that we can build more homes, not displace work that would be done anyway. Indeed, without KiwiBuild the number of homes built would fall, according to MBIE modelling.
Jamie Strange: How do the projections for home construction compare with previous homebuilding levels?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the official modelling, which was available to the past Government, shows that under the policies of that Government homebuilding would have peaked at 34,500 a year in 2019—far below the record of 39,734 set in 1974 by the Kirk Labour Government. Now, with KiwiBuild, the number of houses built will ramp up to exceed 40,000—the largest number ever—and on to set new records. To help achieve this, the Government will invest in more training, bringing in skilled workers from overseas, and backing factory building to boost productivity.
Marama Davidson: What plans does the Government have to ensure the additional houses built under the KiwiBuild programme are affordable for people on lower incomes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I thank the member for that question. The houses themselves will be affordable. We will build with density, at scale, and using off-site manufacturing to reduce costs. To further improve affordability, under the Labour-Greens confidence and supply agreement we will be developing a rent-to-own scheme or similar progressive homeownership model as part of our KiwiBuild programme.
Marama Davidson: What is the problem our new rent-to-own scheme, or progressive homeownership scheme, is seeking to address?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, homeownership is one of the best paths out of poverty, providing stability of tenure and an incentive to save, and under the past Government, the dream of homeownership has been slipping further and further out of reach. We're going to change that with KiwiBuild, building affordable homes and providing a rent-to-buy option that will make it even easier for families to own a home of their own. We are going to restore the opportunities for a greater number of New Zealanders to own their own home.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Will he commit to matching or improving on the record of the previous Minister and Government of a 15 percent compounded increase in building supply year on year?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We're going to build 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers and restore the dream of affordable homeownership.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand I can't expect a yes or no answer, but the question was about the rate of growth, not about the number of KiwiBuild houses.
Mr SPEAKER: I'm going to ask the member to repeat his question and for the Minister to have another go. He did introduce the rate of growth very clearly into his primary question.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Will he commit to matching the record of the previous Minister and Government of a 15 percent compound increase in the rate of houses being built under the previous Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I will commit to a rate of growth that is needed to achieve our target of delivering 100,000 affordable homes for first-home buyers.
• Health, Education—Spending
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I'd just like to raise an issue in relation to question No. 3, if I could, and how it has been edited by the Clerk's office—
Mr SPEAKER: I don't think the member needs to; I'm well briefed on it. If he doesn't like what has happened, he can come and have a talk privately, and it would've been best to do that before midday, because his office was informed at 11 a.m.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National): Yes, actually, the office did go back and talk further with the Clerk's office, but there was no change to the situation—
Mr SPEAKER: That's right. I'll just make it very clear to members: there was an additional clause on this question, similar to one that was allowed yesterday, or the day before. I indicated that I thought that clause was unnecessary to the sense of the question, and the question, therefore, has been truncated to where the question makes sense without additional information. I think the member knows that's absolutely consistent with Speaker's rulings—some very good ones.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National): Mr Speaker, if I could speak to the point of order a little further. I'm just concerned—and I don't want to prolong this unnecessarily—that the public at home understand the context, and I understand that, certainly, if they'd been watching question time, as I'm sure most people do religiously every day, then they would, of course, be aware of the context from prior days, but if they've just tuned in for the first time today, perhaps in this new Parliament, they wouldn't be aware of the context. We should be, potentially, thinking of them so that they are fully informed as to the—
Mr SPEAKER: And if the member wants to introduce material that is not necessary for his primary question as part of his supplementaries, as long as he can get it within order, he will be allowed to do so.
3. Hon STEVEN JOYCE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Is he committed to $7.92 billion of additional operating spending on health and $6.214 billion of additional operating spending on education between now and 2022 over and above that contained in the pre-election economic and fiscal update?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The Government is committed to properly fund health and education, and we will also start to restore the billions of dollars of underfunding in health that has built up over the last nine years. As the member knows, the specific dollar allocations to achieve this will be set out in the Budget documents, but the expenditure levels in his question are our starting point.
Hon Steven Joyce: Is the finance Minister committed to the $850 million of additional spending over four years on R & D tax credits and the $240 million for his Government's Ready for Work policy, as also laid out in the Labour Party's pre-election fiscal plan?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes, we're committed to both of those policies. The exact amount of funding required for them will, of course, be in the Budget documents.
Hon Steven Joyce: Perhaps to short-circuit things, is he committed to all the spending commitments as laid out in Labour's pre-election fiscal plan?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member will be aware that since the fiscal plan was released by the Labour Party, a Government has been formed involving the Labour Party, New Zealand First, and the Greens. Perhaps his lack of understanding of MMP explains why he's sitting where he is.
Hon Steven Joyce: Appreciating the maturity of the Minister—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No commentary—just straight to a question.
Hon Steven Joyce: Will he meet, to his point, all the additional spending commitments that he's highlighted have been agreed between the governing parties—Labour, New Zealand First, and the Greens—from the residual operating allowance that he's set out in the Labour Party's pre-election fiscal plan?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the member well knows, the final operating allowances are subject to the full Budget process.
Hon Steven Joyce: What, then, is his reaction to ANZ Chief Economist Cameron Bagrie, who commented on Newstalk ZB this morning that, "We think they'll need another $6 billion or $7 billion on top of their debt to meet his spending commitments, which would take his net debt to around $74 billion in 2022, compared to just $56 billion as forecast in the pre-election fiscal update"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: On this occasion, I disagree with Mr Bagrie; on some occasions, I've agreed with him, just as the member has, where I suspect he disagreed with him when he was digging his $11 billion hole.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Respectfully, Mr Speaker, you had Mr Joyce on when he added commentary. We've had it now repeatedly from the Minister of Finance. It's not fair.
Mr SPEAKER: I can see where the member's coming from, and I will ask Mr Robertson just to be a little tighter in his answers, especially following reprimands, although I think it is fair to say that there were a couple of commentaries from Mr Joyce before I did pull him up.
Hon Steven Joyce: Does the member appreciate he's been the Minister of Finance for only three weeks and already commentators are saying we're looking at a net debt forecast around $18 billion or $19 billion higher than was forecast in the pre-election fiscal update?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I disagree with those forecasts.
Tamati Coffey: What are the recent historical trends for Government spending on education and health?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In 2009, Government spending on health and education was a combined 12.5 percent of GDP. By last year, this had fallen to 11.1 percent of GDP. In dollar terms, the health budget has been underfunded by more than $2 billion, which is why more and more New Zealanders have missed out on the healthcare they need. This Government will change that.
• Health Services—Outcomes
4. Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) to the Minister of Health: What measurable health outcomes, if any, will his policies deliver?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): This Government is committed to improving health outcomes for all New Zealanders. This will happen in many different areas. There are too many examples to list. However, to pick just one, more people will be able to access primary healthcare services.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: How is he expecting to deliver on his promised increase in elective surgeries, when he said at question time on Tuesday that he won't commit to a specific target?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We will not be including in our statistics things like Avastin injections and skin lesion removals, which the previous Government did. We will be building capacity over time, and we will of course be mindful of the backlog that has been generated by the previous Government.
Dr Shane Reti: When he said at question time on Tuesday that more people would be able to access affordable primary healthcare, what specific health outcomes will that access deliver?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We know that when people can access primary care we have more prevention in the system and that lowers their personal experience of sickness but also lowers cost in the health system.
Dr Shane Reti: What assurances can he give that by July 1 next year he will deliver GP visits that will cost the patient no more than $2 and $8 within the $250 million he promised in Labour's election policy?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: That member refers to specific aspects of our policy as announced, and we intend to deliver on it.
Louisa Wall: What recent advice has the Minister received about New Zealand adults' ability to access primary care?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I regret to advise the House that this is not good news. A report I've received today shows that there has been no improvement in the cost of accessing primary care. The New Zealand Health Survey has told us that over half a million Kiwis last year could not access primary healthcare for reasons of cost.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister was quoting from an official document, so I ask him to table it.
Mr SPEAKER: No, he did not indicate that he was quoting from an official document at all.
Chlöe Swarbrick: What specific plans does he have to deliver better mental health services for New Zealanders?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Our immediate plan is to ensure that a ministerial inquiry into mental health is initiated in the first 100 days of this Government. This was an important area of engagement in the formation of this Government, and I thank her party and the New Zealand First Party for their support in this area.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Which district health boards will the bowel-screening programme be rolled out to in 2018, and what changes is he proposing to the roll-out, given Labour's previous criticisms?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am glad the member has raised that. I have been advised in recent days that the programme as laid out by the previous Government is unlikely to be able to be delivered. They were suggesting a programme of delivery for bowel screening that they were unable to deliver themselves. This is shocking news. I think New Zealanders will be disgusted to learn that they were promising something that looks very difficult to deliver on. I intend to review this matter very closely. I am surprised that that member is raising it here, because he is the one that introduced that programme and has been saying with great confidence in the past that it could be delivered without any problems whatsoever.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: Given the Minister's last answer, why is medicinal cannabis in the top two of his overall top health priorities as listed in Labour's 100-day plan, and what guarantee will he give that medicinal cannabis legislation will be introduced to the House before 3 February 2018?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: On the first point, I think the member will know very well that there are a number of nasty surprises in the health portfolio that have resulted from 9 years of neglect under the former Government's watch.
Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A very specific question—he made no attempt to answer it.
Mr SPEAKER: The member had made a mistake of putting a preface into it, and the preface was answered.
Chlöe Swarbrick: Will the mental health inquiry, previously mentioned, address young people's access to mental health services.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Yes, this inquiry will be wide ranging and will cover the areas the member has raised. I look forward to working with her and her party in this area.
• Minimum Wage—Rise
5. VIRGINIA ANDERSEN (Labour) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: Why is the Government planning to raise the minimum wage to $16.50 per hour on 1 April 2018?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): This Government is committed to ensuring that people get a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. For most Kiwis, their wages are their main source of income, and they need enough to provide a decent life for their families. New Zealanders have been working long hours for low wages for too long, and this coalition Government is committed to addressing this.
Virginia Andersen: Who will benefit from the minimum wage increase?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: An increase to $16.50 an hour will give 164,000 working Kiwis a pay rise. Women, Māori, and Pasifika work disproportionately in low paid industries and will benefit the most from an increase. Lifting the minimum wage reduces inequality, and less inequality benefits everyone.
Virginia Andersen: Does the Minister have a view on the relationship between the minimum wage and productivity?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes, I do. New Zealand has seen no growth in labour productivity in the last four years. In fact, right now we're going backwards, with Treasury seeing a 0.03 percent drop in productivity. This Government will work with New Zealand businesses and workers to lift productivity along with wages, including the minimum wage.
• GST—Off-shore Shopping
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura): To the Minister of Revenue—[Interruption].
Mr SPEAKER: And an extra supplementary question. Thank you, Mr Lees-Galloway.
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Revenue: Does he stand by all his reported statements about the collection of GST on low-value goods purchased from offshore?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Revenue: [Interruption] I know you're excited. I stand by my statement that the previous Government did not do enough about the unfair tax advantage given to overseas companies against New Zealand small businesses. I also stand by my statement in response to the question on whether I would "pick up and run" with the work that had been started that I "absolutely will do that." In my ambition to get on with this work, I may have got a little ahead of myself in response to further questions.
Hon Judith Collins: Did he consult with the Minister of Finance on the issue of GST on offshore low-value goods before announcing it so confidently yesterday morning; and if so, when?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I speak often with the Minister of Finance, and we often discuss how it is that we could make the tax system fairer after nine years of Government neglect.
Hon Members: He didn't answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, I'm—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He did not answer the question.
Mr SPEAKER: Dr Smith, you know if you'd let me make the rulings, it would make the place run a bit more smoothly. In this particular case Dr Smith is right. The question was not addressed to my satisfaction and the Minister of Revenue will have another go.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There have been discussions about the policy in question. [Interruption]—there have been discussions about the policy in question. I didn't speak to the Minister of Finance immediately before my interview.
Hon Judith Collins: Who is correct, the Minister of Revenue, who said yesterday that the Government was "absolutely" going to add GST on low-value imported goods, or the Minister of Finance, who said yesterday that the Government is only looking at the issue?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: What the Minister said was in a conversation on Newstalk ZB following on from the comments of the Hon Steven Joyce, who said "the good stuff is at least slightly trickier, but actually I think it is a viable solution." The Minister was then asked, "Presumably you'll pick up and run with this, Stuart", and he said, "As the revenue Minister, absolutely."
Hon Judith Collins: So if the public can't believe him when he says "absolutely", when can they?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The public can believe me when I say that I am absolutely committed to going ahead with this policy. Not unlike that member, I am ambitious.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he now realise that workable changes to the collection of GST on low-value imported goods are just a little bit more complicated than his once-over-lightly approach might suggest?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There is no once-over-lightly process at all. We are absolutely committed to getting on with the job of doing this work that the previous Government found so tricky.
Hon Judith Collins: Why did he decline all interviews yesterday and not turn up to his planned media briefing on this very issue, after he had so confidently stated that he would absolutely bring in GST on low-value goods purchased offshore?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The matter had been adequately dealt with by his earlier comments.
Mr SPEAKER: Before we go to question No. 7, I am going to indicate, because this matter has been the subject of a personal explanation today, that I will be a bit more flexible on the supplementaries than I might otherwise have been. Otherwise, it's a bit unfair on the member asking the question.
• Police Resourcing—Costs
7. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Does he agree with the acting Prime Minister's answer on Tuesday, when asked if the additional police will cost an extra $40 million, "yes, those costs have been finalised"; if so, what is the finalised cost per year of the additional 1,800 police promised over the next 3 years?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Minister of Police: I agree with the corrected statement as provided to the House earlier today, which was that the costs have yet to be finalised.
Chris Bishop: What advice, even if it is indicative advice, has he received from the police about the cost of the 1,800 additional police numbers that he has committed to?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: This Government is committed to striving to add 1,800 extra police to the current force, but the costs of that are yet to be worked through and will be the basis of a Budget bid and appropriation in next year's Budget.
Chris Bishop: Is he seriously expecting the House and the New Zealand public to believe that when the Acting Prime Minister says, "The costs have been finalised.", he hasn't received advice at all in the last three weeks he's been the Minister about what the costs of this flagship policy of the new Labour - New Zealand First coalition Government will be?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I will say again that the new Government, having committed to striving towards 1,800 extra police, is now in the process of working out the costs and preparing the Budget bid so that in next year's Budget, an allocation will be made to add to the New Zealand Police force.
Greg O'Connor: Why is the Government committed to 1,800 new police?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The police have been underfunded for the last nine years, and, in fact, in 2016, the previous Government signed off on a four-year freeze of police numbers, even though crime was rising. There has been, for example, an 8.3 percent increase in burglaries since last year. This Government is committed to investing in more police, so we can deliver safer communities.
Chris Bishop: How has he let his flagship policy get to the point where the Acting Prime Minister said on Tuesday that the cost of extra police is $40 million, the actual Prime Minister said on 24 October that the cost is $100 million, and the Prime Minister, six days later, said the cost is $80 million, and, finally, what is the actual cost of the extra police that he is committed to with New Zealand First?
Mr SPEAKER: And the Minister can answer any one of those four questions.
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I cannot speak on behalf of the variety of people that the member has just referred to, but what I can say on behalf of the Minister of Police is that we are committed to striving towards 1,800 extra police. The work is now being done on preparing the costings for that in the usual way that Budget bids are prepared, and, unlike my colleague the Minister of Finance, I am not prepared to create an Advent calendar for the member as he waits until next year's Budget for that.
Chris Bishop: A very simple question: why did the Prime Minister say the cost would be $40 million when he has turned up to the House today and said that the costings have yet to be worked through?
Mr SPEAKER: OK, I'm just going to rule that one straight out—no responsibility for the Prime Minister's statements.
Chris Bishop: How frustrated is he on a scale of one to 10, with one being not much and 10 being quite a lot, with his colleague Nanaia Mahuta, when she forced him to backtrack on his promise to recruit cops from overseas with a special visa in order to meet his promise of 1,800 extra police?
Mr SPEAKER: And that question doesn't fit within the original question or the answers.
Hon Members: What?
Mr SPEAKER: The question is absolutely about the costings, not about the recruitment from overseas.
• Erosion Control—Announcements
8. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What announcements has he made relating to erosion control?
Mr SPEAKER: I'm just waiting for Paula Bennett to be quiet.
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): On the question of erosion control—in particular, in the Tai Rāwhiti district—I will be making numerous announcements. One that the Minister of Forestry has made is to facilitate tree planting to stop the erosion of land. That's enough, Paula. I'll accelerate erosion where you're concerned. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: And pretty unnecessary.
Paul Eagle: What is the current susceptibility to severe erosion in Gisborne and how does this Government hope to improve this?
Hon SHANE JONES: Erosion in the Gisborne district, long since overlooked in terms of the last nine years, is 42,000 hectares—42,000 hectares, etc. And there is another 4,900 that will be remediated under the hard-working Minister for Regional Economic Development and Minister of Forestry.
Paul Eagle: What will be the other benefits of this Government's forestation targets?
Hon SHANE JONES: By being imaginative and robust with the soil erosion work. In real terms, it will mean the doubling of trees planted every year from 50 million, 100 million—well on our way to 1 billion trees.
• Corrections, Department—Statements
9. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by all his Government's statements in relation to corrections?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Corrections): Yes, in the context they were given.
Simon O'Connor: How does he stand by his statement that he is seeking a 30 percent reduction in the prison population given that only 25 percent of the prison population has a non-violent background?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: One of the problems about crime is that we need to address the drivers of crime, such as child poverty, such as the housing crisis left behind, such as unemployment, such as the housing crisis, and the crisis in mental health.
Simon O'Connor: Will he inform the public in advance which violent offenders he will be releasing to meet his target or will he come up with a new target instead?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: No. Look, we're looking at all the options for reducing crime in the first place. That's really where we need to look instead of looking at letting people out of prison. That's just absolutely ridiculous, again.
Simon O'Connor: We're back to ridiculous again. Is it a contradiction—
Mr SPEAKER: Because the Prime Minister wasn't here when I made my rulings, I will make an exception for her, as I made an exception for Paula Bennett a couple of questions ago. We now let people ask questions without interjecting.
Simon O'Connor: Is it a contradiction that the Minister of Justice is promising to be tough on crime while the Minister of Corrections is promising to reduce the number of people being punished for committing crimes?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: The two ideas aren't mutually exclusive.
Simon O'Connor: Philosopher in the House! Can he tell the House who will ultimately win: the Minister of Justice, who promises to be tough on crime, or the Minister of Corrections, who promises to reduce the number of people being punished for those crimes?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: If we reduce the prison population, all of New Zealand will win.
• Tourism, Minister—Statements
10. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Tourism: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Tourism): Yes, in the context they were given.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does he stand by his opening statement to the Tourism Industry Association conference, where he said that his Government's programme, outlined in the Speech from the Throne, is ambitious?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Yes.
Hon Jacqui Dean: How can, then, the Minister have confidence in his Government, when there were no references at all to tourism in the Speech from the Throne?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: You can be very confident, and it's still early days. I'm keen to hear the views of the tourism sector on the key challenges and opportunities for the tourism sector so that we can work together to address them.
Hon Jacqui Dean: How does he expect tourism to maintain the highest standard of service to our guests, if his Government's stated policy is going to reduce the number of overseas workers available to work in tourism?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Skilled labour is a key challenge for the tourism sector. I'm keen to hear the views of the people in the sector so we can work together to address that challenge.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You've been policing the issue of interjections very fiercely, in respect of Government interjections during Opposition members asking questions. Sir, it's very tempting to make interjections when the people asking the questions put little irrelevant, snide remarks and insults at the start of their questions and, sir, order will not be maintained in this House if that is not similarly policed.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, I'm not that happy with the approach and the tone of that point of order. If the member wants to reflect on my chairmanship of the House, I suggest that at least in the first instance he come and do it directly with me. I am trying to be even-handed, but I think it's fair to say that not all of the answers that have been received have also been within Standing Orders. If I interfered on every occasion a question or an answer was out of order, we'd be here until about 5 o'clock on questions.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wasn't meaning to imply that, sir. I apologise if that was implicit in my tone. But I do, sir, make the point that was made.
Hon Simon Bridges: You're in Government now, son; suck it up.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Bridges, you should not address me in that way. I'm certainly far too old to be your son.
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.
Hamish Walker: How many tourism operators has he spoken to in Queenstown about how hard it is to find New Zealanders to fill tourism roles?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: In the three weeks that we've been in Government, I haven't been down to Queenstown yet.
• Research and Development, Business Investment—Benefits
11. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: How does the Government intend to support businesses to invest more in research and development, and what are the benefits of this to New Zealand?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): The Government intends to support businesses by introducing a tax credit that rewards spending on R & D. We have a goal to raise New Zealand's expenditure on R & D to two percent of GDP in 10 years, and the tax credit will be critical to reaching that goal. Investing in R & D supports economic diversification, raises productivity, creates high-value jobs, and improves social and environmental well-being. I thank that member's party for their commitment to research, science, and innovation.
Mark Patterson: What is the current state of R & D in New Zealand, and how does this compare to other countries?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Business expenditure on R & D was $1.6 billion in 2016, or 0.64 percent of GDP. This compares poorly to other OECD countries, where the average is 1.65 percent. The member, along with many other New Zealanders, may be surprised to learn that 45 percent of all business R & D expenditure was carried out by just 30 firms that spent $10 million or more on R & D, and 26 percent by just six firms that spent $25 million or more. That's not the sign of an innovative economy. We can, and must, do better.
Mark Patterson: What reports has she seen showing support for the Government's R & D policies?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I was pleased to see a report from the business and farming communities welcoming our proposals. I note ManufacturingNZ's comment that businesses would happily welcome back tax credits, and take on board their comment about the need to minimise associated compliance costs. I also note reports that Federated Farmers is fully behind our goal of boosting R & D to 2 percent of GDP. We look forward to engaging with them and others in the near future.
• Foreign Affairs—Policies
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): To the Minister of Foreign Affairs, can he confirm—sorry, does he agree with all Government policy in relation to foreign affairs?
Mr SPEAKER: Does the member want to have one more go.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: OK. To the Rt Hon Winston Peters, does he—
Mr SPEAKER: No, no—it's to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Right, I'll just read it exactly off here. We are in a pedantic time.
12. Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Does he agree with all his Government's policies in relation to foreign affairs?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): As much as it can be determined in the highly fluid, ever-changing international climate of dangerous and often extreme risks, yes.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can he confirm that of the 400 protesting detainees on Manus Island, few are approved as refugees and most have failed to gain asylum seeker status?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can confirm that the present Government inherited a circumstance of the past Government where, in 2013, an offer was made and we are waiting around to see whether or not—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: And he criticised it.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We're waiting around to see whether or not someone'll put a saddle on that gift horse or go on looking it in the mouth.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can he confirm that of the 400 protesting detainees on Manus Island, few are approved as refugees and most have failed to gain asylum seeker status?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can confirm with exactitude precisely the same information that was given to the Hon Gerry Brownlee when he was in Australia.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The situation that has developed on Manus Island is somewhat more recent than the time that Mr Peters might have been referring to. The issue is that we've had a Prime Minister overseas cajoling the Australians—
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, OK. I did listen—no, the member can resume his seat. The question that he was asking was pretty specific around whether people were approved refugees or asylum seekers, and unless the Minister of Foreign Affairs tells us there've been changes in that in the last three weeks, then I think he's adequately answered the question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Has he been advised by his ministry about the known background of the leaders of the 400 protesting detainees?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: What I can tell this House is that there will be no one coming to New Zealand from Manus Island or, for that matter, from Nauru Island without them being properly, thoroughly, comprehensively screened and vetted.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If they are going to be properly screened and vetted, wouldn't it be a good idea for the Minister to be able to tell the House that he knows the status of the 400 protesting detainees and that they are, in fact, not able to get refugee status and not able to claim asylum seeker status either, and then tell us why he would want them in New Zealand?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: If that is the case, why on earth did the previous Government make an offer in 2013 to do just that? The difference is the information on which Mr Brownlee seeks clarity today is with exclusively the Australian and other people, and not New Zealand authorities. I want to confirm again, no one will come here who has not been properly vetted and screened by the authorities in the first place, as he was advised just three weeks before he left the job—unceremoniously.