Parliament: Questions and Answers - April 3
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES
(Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime
Minister: Does she have confidence in all her
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has Ms Curran advised her—that is, the Prime Minister—whether Ms Curran and Carol Hirschfeld discussed Radio New Zealand's concern over the Government plan to establish an RNZ television channel?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have said in the House on several occasions, I've been advised by Minister Curran that it was a high-level meeting, discussing issues that are already in the public domain. For more detailed questions, I would advise asking the Minister directly.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is it a yes, they did discuss—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Does the member have a question?
Hon Simon Bridges: A question.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the member will start with a question word.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the answer that yes, Ms Curran and Carol Hirschfeld did discuss Radio New Zealand's concern over the Government plan to establish an RNZ television channel?
Mr SPEAKER: Before the Prime Minister answers, I'll indicate that the Opposition have a further three supplementaries as a result of an intervention from Mr Jones.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I said in my first answer, I've been advised the meeting was high level, discussing issues in the public domain. Anything more specific that the member would like detail on, I advise that he'd be best to ask Minister Curran.
Hon Simon Bridges: Weren't there multiple lengthy discussions between the Prime Minister and Clare Curran, and was all the time taken up discussing—what—the weather?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! No, the Prime Minister won't answer that; it contains irony.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has Ms Curran advised the Prime Minister of any steps taken to ensure that either she or Carol Hirschfeld advised Radio New Zealand's chief executive or chair of their meeting at Astoria?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course the responsibility for advising Carol Hirschfeld's employer lay with Carol Hirschfeld directly, and understanding the protocol of RNZ lay with Carol Hirschfeld directly. Minister Curran has advised that had she known the protocol Radio New Zealand had, she would not have had the meeting.
Hon Simon Bridges: Hasn't Clare Curran clearly breached the Cabinet Manual by not ensuring the Astoria meeting was raised with Radio New Zealand's chief executive or chair; and, if not, precisely why not?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I believe the member is referring to 3.8 or 3.84 of the Cabinet Manual. I've sought advice on that directly from the Cabinet Office. Their advice was that, no, she was not in breach of that element of the Cabinet Manual.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with respected senior commentator Fran O'Sullivan that the interpretation that she is not in breach is "splitting hairs", and that the overall spirit of Part 3 of the Cabinet Manual has clearly been breached, given the primacy it places several time on contacts between the chief executive and Minister, with the chief executive being informed where that isn't the case?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know who directed Richard Griffin, chair of Radio New Zealand, to stay away from the Economic Development, Science and Innovation Committee?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding is that when the Minister learnt that Radio New Zealand were unable to attend the original meeting they were scheduled to attend to correct the record around the breakfast meeting the Minister had, she sought to contact Radio New Zealand to find an alternative so that they could correct the record immediately.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is the Prime Minister's understanding that Clare Curran told the chair of Radio New Zealand that he shouldn't go to the select committee?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've just said, the Minister exchanged voice mails and text messages with the chair of Radio New Zealand, where I'm advised that she sought to have the record corrected immediately. Obviously, the fastest way to achieve that in lieu of attending that meeting would have been in writing.
Hon Simon Bridges: Noting the correction earlier in question time—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the member will sit down. Now, if the member is going to preface his questions with comments, he will end up losing. I have been tolerant with him so far.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has the Prime Minister had any conversations with Eugenie Sage about whether the Associate Minister had discussions with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) about the performance or tenure of the Chief Scientist, Jacqueline Rowarth?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Not directly, but as the House will know, the Minister corrected the record based on previous answers at the beginning of question time today.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is the Prime Minister now clear that the chief executive, Dr Freeth, is correct when he says that the Associate Minister is "mistakenly confused" about meeting with the EPA's chief executive about the Chief Scientist?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister herself corrected the record on that very matter today at the beginning of question time.
Hon Simon Bridges: What does it say about the state of her Government that this week Radio New Zealand and the independent Environmental Protection Authority are having to reappear before select committees over Ministers interfering in independent agencies and covering thing up?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not accept the premise of that question. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Both sides, please.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Associate Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Minister of Finance's statement that he wants to see a "significant increase" in the supply of housing, and what role will non-New Zealand developers and capital play in meeting this goal?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance): Yes, I expect non - New Zealand developers and capital will assist the coalition Government in our goal of resolving the housing crisis left by the past Government, but non - New Zealand capital will no longer be allowed to speculate by buying existing New Zealand homes. We're backing Kiwis.
Hon Amy Adams: Does his failure to give a precise answer to a written question on notice about the role non - New Zealand capital will have mean that this Government has failed to assess or bother to ask how much foreign investment will be required to significantly increase the supply of housing in New Zealand?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Firstly, I reject the assertion in the question, but, secondly, the Opposition can't have it both ways. The past Government claimed foreign capital was negligible in the New Zealand housing market and that a ban on overseas buyers would make no difference; now, in Opposition, they say banning foreign speculators will crash the market. Which is it? The Opposition can't have it both ways.
Hon Amy Adams: How does he see the changes his Government announced to the Overseas Investment Act in December contributing to a significant increase in the supply of housing, given the low number of net foreign buyers of residential houses and the necessity for investment capital to build to increase the housing supply?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Cabinet's already made some recommendations for changes to the bill following submissions at select committee to make it clear that large developments that are for rental or shared equity can proceed. But we do not resile from the viewpoint that the New Zealand housing market should be a New Zealand - controlled market, not one that's controlled by foreign buyers.
Hon Amy Adams: Why, then, did the Government announce changes to the Overseas Investment Act last month regarding forestry rights to make it easier to gain approval for foreign forestry buyers because this was a sector where the Government wanted to encourage growth, at the same time as it's making it harder to invest in growing the housing supply?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The member's answered her own question, because the reason that we wanted to ease up on screening for forestry is that we are already reliant on foreign direct investment in the forest sector and we want more of it. That's why we're loosening the criteria in respect of forestry at the same time as we're trying to make it harder for foreigners to speculate in New Zealand homes—because we don't think that's a good idea.
Hon Amy Adams: Is the truth not that his Government is more interested in ideological opposition to foreigners owning houses than it is truly committed to growing the housing supply in New Zealand?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I don't call it ideological to back New Zealanders in respect of who owns New Zealand homes. I think that is a matter of common sense. New Zealanders want to live in a country where they're not tenants in their own country. We back Kiwi homeowners over overseas speculators.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, if that's correct, why then is commentary on his Overseas Investment Amendment Bill describing it as likely to "make the problem worse," and, in fact, "aggravate the shortage of affordable housing."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We're quite confident that that's not correct.
• Question No. 3—Finance
3. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Finance: What priorities does he have for Budget 2018?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): As outlined in the Budget Policy Statement, this Government has clear priorities for Budget 2018 to address immediate and long-term challenges to ensure the well-being of all New Zealanders. There will be a clear focus on sustainable economic development, supporting regional economies, increasing exports, lifting wages, and reducing inequality. Budget 2018 will also confirm our commitment to delivering strong public services across health, education, housing, and police.
Tamati Coffey: What priority will Vote Health have in Budget 2018?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the member understands, I cannot go into details until 17 May, but it will come as no surprise that Vote Health will be a major focus area. The operating and capital allowances outlined in the Budget Policy Statement are both significantly higher than the previous Government had budgeted for. A significant amount of this will go towards Vote Health to help bring services back up to a standard that New Zealanders expect and deserve in the context of what has independently been said to be a $2.4 billion underfunding of health in the last nine years.
Tamati Coffey: What pressures in Vote Health is the Minister aware of in making decisions for Budget 2018?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In addition to the operating shortfall I just mentioned, I have been advised of significant capital spending pressures among district health boards (DHBs), which have signalled a required capital spend of $14 billion over the next 10 years, requiring about $10 billion of additional Crown funding. This signal investment requirement is higher than at any time since DHBs were established and is evident in recent media reports about the condition of Middlemore Hospital. This Government has different priorities from our predecessor. We're going to make sure that New Zealanders and the health professionals who work in the health system know that it will be the best it can be: safe, affordable, and secure.
• Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development
4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many houses is he planning to build on the Unitec site and how many of them will be KiwiBuild houses?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I'm advised that Unitec carried out its own master planning on the site that indicated a potential for around 2,675 residential units. With a moderate increase in density, working with development partners, and with better use of contemporary housing typologies, including low-rise apartments, we are confident that between 3,000 and 4,000 residential units can be comfortably built at Unitec while retaining the site's amenity value for residents. I anticipate that up to 40 percent of these dwellings will be KiwiBuild affordable homes.
Hon Judith Collins: What will be the average floor size of dwellings on the Unitec site, and will there be a difference in the average size between KiwiBuild, State houses, and private homes?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, it's far too early to say with precision, but there has been a lot of misinformation and scaremongering about the effects of increasing density in Auckland property developments. Hobsonville Point, developed under the past Government, will be the guide for the master planning of the Unitec—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He got asked a question about the floorplate for each of these, and now he's talking about the brilliant former housing initiative by the previous Government at Hobsonville. It's really quite a way off the point.
Mr SPEAKER: Yes, and that is a matter for me to judge. I was coming to the same conclusion as the member was, and I think we could move on to another supplementary.
Hon Judith Collins: What is his expectation of the minimum floor area per person that a KiwiBuild dwelling must have?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would note that the unitary plan, approved by Auckland Council in mid-2016, set minimum floor sizes of 30 square metres for studio dwellings and 45 square metres for one or more bedroom dwellings. I'm aware of suggestions that the minimum ceiling height, bedroom size, or even the width of the front door could be reduced in order to get more dwellings on to a building site on the basis that people have to live somewhere, and they can choose to live in something that's too small. Our Government will not be following that absurd suggestion by former finance Minister Bill English.
Michael Wood: Why has the Government embarked on the KiwiBuild programme?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: KiwiBuild—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hope I haven't anticipated your reaction one more time, but a question like this—this is about a specific building site—Unitec—and all the questions have related to the site and the intention to build on that site. To then go into a question that is of a philosophical nature—
Hon Phil Twyford: Philosophical!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Difficult to answer. Difficult to answer, I agree—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Gerry Brownlee: —but, none the less, it's quite wide of the original question.
Mr SPEAKER: It is not wide; it's actually included in the last line of the substantive question. If the member doesn't want his colleague to talk about KiwiBuild houses, it should be left out of the question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: KiwiBuild is a direct intervention in response to the failure of the market to provide enough affordable homes to meet demand. I'm advised that there is a shortfall of around 45,000 homes in Auckland that has built up over the last six years, and that this shortfall is growing by around 7,000 homes per year, meaning that the shortfall could double in the next six years, unless things change. The Government—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! That's enough. Thank you.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether or not any of these units will go for as low as $25,000, of which there is the news in the last 24 hours—news of units being sold in Auckland for as low as that because they are rotten, defective, and failed services as a result of having been built by the National Party?
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think, just like the Minister doesn't build houses, I don't think the National Party did either.
Hon Judith Collins: So who is going to build all of these extra houses that the Minister is promising at Unitec? Where are the carpenters, the plumbers, and the electricians coming from?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We have a strategy in place to train up the workforce and aggressively recruit skilled tradespeople to build these houses—something that the former Government should've been doing for the last nine years.
Hon Judith Collins: When the Minister has advised the media that he is planning to import people to assist with this process, where are they going to live?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: They're going to live in houses, and they're going to build a lot of houses—the houses that that Government failed to build over nine long years.
• Question No. 5—Regional Economic Development
5. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What exactly is the Government purchasing with the Provincial Growth Fund's $5.8 million payment to the Minginui Nursery, and what will the Government purchase with the $6 million payment to the Ngati Hine Forestry Trust, the announcement of which he said last week "is imminent"?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): The funding for the Minginui Nursery—and for the learning of the member, Minginui is a neglected, forsaken place in the Bay of Plenty, a long way from metropolitan New Zealand. It is our intention that, over the next three years, a scale-up enterprise will take place where native seedlings of up to one million a year will be made available for the billion-tree strategy, and that investment will be alongside the scientific and technological expertise of Scion. It will generate jobs and it will expand the opportunities in an area that was described by the former Treaty Minister as "atrocious".
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Who will own the seedlings grown in the nursery and the trees grown on Ngāti Hine land?
Hon SHANE JONES: Starting with the latter part of the question, Ngāti Hine, a hapū of the Ngāpuhi tribe, are in the midst of commercial negotiations and it would be unwise of me, prior to their fulfilment, to talk any further about it. On the question of the seedlings that will flow from the Minginui Nursery—and the growth in employment of up to 90 people—when they are planted they will be based both on the Department of Conservation estate and on Māori land and general land, but they will be native seedlings, not pine trees.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the question: who will own the seedlings? He said where they will be planted, but that's not the question I was asking.
Mr SPEAKER: That's probably a fair comment.
Hon SHANE JONES: The seedlings are not designed to stay in pots; they're designed to be planted.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Point of order—
Mr SPEAKER: No; I am going to ask the Minister to have another go. Who will own the seedlings?
Hon SHANE JONES: The seedlings are being developed by the Minginui Ngāti Whare Trust. For as long as they remain in seedling pots, they will remain the property on the enclosure owned by the Minginui Nursery.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Will they sell the seedlings commercially, in competition with other producers?
Hon SHANE JONES: As I said, this project ticks a whole host of the criteria of the Provincial Growth Fund. The thought that the level of employees will grow from nine to 90 is, I know, hard on the other side of the House to believe. Once those seedlings are up to the million-tree mark, they will not displace any private sector investment, because we have a gross shortage of native seedlings.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Again, he did not answer—
Mr SPEAKER: No, I think on that occasion the question was certainly addressed.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he told the House last week that he had been "scrupulously faithful" to the Cabinet policy process, how did he square Cabinet's stipulation that investments under the fund "should neither socialise losses nor privatise gains" with what appears to be a clear private gain for the owners in this case?
Hon SHANE JONES: That question, in terms of the hapū Ngāti Hine's forestry initiative, will be answered once we have made full announcements about that particular set of commercial negotiations. On the question of faithfulness, my life is a work in progress in that regard.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In the interest of knowing precisely the ownership, when the seedlings have left Minginui and are being transported by truck, and before they are placed in the ground, who will own them?
Hon SHANE JONES: I'm confident they'll be conveyed by KiwiRail.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He didn't answer that question.
Mr SPEAKER: That's true, but I'm going to let it run.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why did he choose these two entities, out of the countless others who grow seedlings for trees commercially, for funding by the Provincial Growth Fund?
Hon SHANE JONES: As you would know, the choices don't just lie with the Minister for Regional Development; these choices are made by the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Transport, and Mr David Parker. They go through a process where applications are received by the bureaucracy, advice is tendered to the Ministers, and we make very judicious—and we observed a great deal of diligence, and Minginui came out on top; something that they never enjoyed under the last regime.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Has the Minister been scrupulously faithful to the Cabinet Manual in identifying all actual and perceived conflicts of interest in projects funded by the Provincial Growth Fund?
Hon SHANE JONES: In so far as Minginui and Ngāti Hine, obviously. In so far as all other announcements that have been made, rest assured I have no personal stake. Despite rumours to the contrary, I live too close to an intersection. Thanks.
• Question No. 6—Health
6. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What risks, if any, are there to staff and patients in light of recent reports about the condition of the facilities at Middlemore Hospital?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): When people turn up at our hospitals and health services, they have every right to expect that the buildings are well maintained and fit for purpose. Unfortunately, it's clear there is a large backlog of building problems at Counties Manukau District Health Board (DHB), including rot, mould, and sewerage issues. These issues did not develop overnight and will take some time to address. It's important to note, however, that the DHB has assured me there is no immediate risk to patient or staff safety.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What does he say to patients and staff at Middlemore that are concerned about the state of their facilities?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: When you are sick, you should not have to worry about the health of the buildings you are treated in. I can't put it better than Middlemore intensive care specialist Dr David Galler, who wrote that when he found out about the issues at Middlemore, "I was overcome with embarrassment and a sense of outrage for this systematic betrayal of the very people we are here to serve and of the staff that work so hard to help them to promote good health and keep people well." This Government will not sit by pretending everything is fine while we have hospitals literally rotting away, so I say to the patients and staff of Middlemore: you deserve better.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What priority will he place on resolving the issues at Middlemore Hospital?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Last week, I called the acting chair of the DHB to Wellington to discuss the DHB's plan to manage and resolve these issues. I made it clear that I expect the DHB to have a comprehensive plan that would identify and plan for these sorts of issues before they emerge. The Government is committed to a well-funded public health service, one where routine building maintenance is not deferred to make the books look better. We will prioritise our public health service over tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, unlike the previous Government.
• Question No. 7—Education
7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by his Government's policy and decisions made regarding partnership schools?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes, particularly given the circumstances we inherited.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Did he or anyone from his office have any conversations or communications with Willie Jackson or Te Whare Wānanga o MUMA trust prior to agreeing that their contract for Waatea High would go unconditional?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I certainly didn't. I can't be absolutely certain, but I'm pretty certain that no one from my office would have had such a conversation.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Can he confirm that he was satisfied that Te Whare Wānanga o MUMA had met the conditions for him to give final approval to this partnership school, and when did he give final approval for it?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. I gave the approval when they met the conditions, as I was required to do by the contract signed by that former Minister.
Hon Nikki Kaye: When he said, on 3 November, that he could say with confidence that the 2019 partnership schools would not go ahead, why did he not tell the public that the school his Cabinet colleague was involved in had been given final approval just days before?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Because it wasn't relevant. The issue is that the Government has made a decision not to continue with the charter schools policy.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Does he stand by his decision to approve the school that Willie Jackson is involved in, which enabled multiple conditions to be met and which also saw a $600,000 payment on the eve of Christmas, plus potential compensation, after he confirmed partnership schools would be scrapped?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I do stand by the decision that I made to honour the contract signed by the former Minister. The contract was due to be signed in October. For some reason, the former Minister decided to bring the signing of that contract forward and signed it just weeks before the general election.
Hon Nikki Kaye: That is not correct. You signed it off.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I assure Nikki Kaye that I didn't, and I think it would be a good idea if people didn't interject across the Chamber like that.
• Question No. 8—Fisheries
8. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Fisheries: What recent decisions has he made in relation to the CRA 2 fisheries management area?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Fisheries): The CRA 2 rock lobster fishery extends from Te Ārai point, north of Auckland, to East Cape Lighthouse. CRA 2 is currently experiencing very low levels of abundance—that's fishery speak for "there aren't many there"—and action is needed to rebuild it to sustainable levels. Given my obligations under the Fisheries Act, I have decided to reduce the total allowable commercial catch from 200 tonnes per year to 80 tonnes and the recreational allowance from 140 tonnes to 34 tonnes, and the total allowable catch is now reduced by almost 60 percent, from 416.5 tonnes to 173 tonnes.
Angie Warren-Clark: Was complete closure of CRA 2 one of the options he considered?
Hon STUART NASH: The possibility of complete closure was a measure suggested by some submitters. Closure of the fisheries would have been a very significant step, and there is no doubt that crayfish stock are well below the desired level in the CRA 2 area. However, after careful thought and consideration of the best available scientific information, I did not see grounds for closing the CRA 2 fishery to all sectors at this time. I will, however, continue to monitor this fishery closely, and if the number of crayfish does not improve significantly, I may have to consider further measures at the next review.
Angie Warren-Clark: What responses has the Minister seen in relation to his decision?
Hon STUART NASH: The responses have generally been supportive of the reduction. Groups such as the Environmental Defence Society and Legacy, as well as recreational divers such as those belonging to the Mount Maunganui Underwater Club, have all welcomed the move. I was also pleased that the Rock Lobster Industry Council is committed to helping the Ministry for Primary Industries and the fisheries compliance officers stamp out the illegal and black market trade in crayfish.
Ian McKelvie: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does the Minister believe the measures introduced in CRA 2 will be necessary in other regional areas of the fishery?
Hon STUART NASH: Thank you very much for that question. We reviewed three other fisheries, and we increased the total allowable catch in two of them and reduced it in one of them.
• Question No. 9—Health
9. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: What steps is he taking to ensure that the $90 million National Oracle Solution (NOS) IT programme is on track?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): As I advised the member in answer to written question No. 1836(2018): "Responsibility for delivering the National Oracle Solution rests with New Zealand Health Partnerships Ltd. New Zealand Health Partnerships is a crown entity, owned and led by DHBs with its own Board of Directors. Due to challenges faced by the programme, I have sought assurance from the Ministry of Health who have commissioned an independent review of the programme, which is underway."
Dr Shane Reti: Can the Minister confirm that Deloitte is the company commissioned to review the Oracle programme that he says, in written question No. 1836, requires "independent review"?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Yes, and I'm sure the member is going to then want to speak about the conflicts that he identified in his breathless—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I think the member could probably start off by at least addressing the question.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Mr Speaker, could the member please repeat the question, then?
Mr SPEAKER: Sure.
Dr Shane Reti: Can the Minister confirm that Deloitte is the company commissioned to review the Oracle programme that he says, in written question No. 1836, requires "independent review"?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I think I said, yes; and then I'm sure the member will want to go on to discuss conflicts, as he did in his breathless press release this morning. I want to point out to the House, before he does, that the conflicts identified in his breathless press release this morning were explicitly recorded in the consulting services order signed before the review was even commenced.
Dr Shane Reti: Have Deloitte or Deloitte-related entities directly or indirectly received any funding for the Oracle programme across the life of the programme?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I have been assured that no individual who had anything to do with Asparona's involvement in the National Oracle Solution project has any involvement in the Deloitte review. The member needs to take a deep breath.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] No. It's a lot easier if I get to make my own rulings rather than being assisted. I don't know if—[Interruption] It was Mr Goldsmith, was it? [Interruption] Well, I think Mr Goldsmith will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I withdraw and apologise.
Mr SPEAKER: Dr Clark, as with the earlier supplementary, I would prefer it if, at the beginning, you addressed the question. Have another crack.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I refer the member to my previous answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I'm going to ask Dr Reti to ask the question again, because I'm pretty sure that that didn't address it.
Dr Shane Reti: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Have Deloitte or Deloitte-related entities directly or indirectly received any funding for the Oracle programme across the life of the programme?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Yes, as is obvious from the previous answer, because the conflicts were declared before the review was commenced.
Dr Shane Reti: When the Minister replied to written question No. 14666 that he will "update the Prime Minister of issues within my portfolio", did he update the Prime Minister, and did she know, that he was appointing Deloitte as the independent reviewer?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the premise in that member's question.
Mr SPEAKER: No, no—[Interruption] Order! There is no premise in the question. Ask the question again.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, it was a very straight question, Dr Clark: did the Minister update the Prime Minister about that?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: About something that I did that I didn't do, Mr Speaker?
Mr SPEAKER: I'm going to ask Dr Reti to ask the question again.
Dr Shane Reti: Thank you, Mr Speaker. When the Minister replied to written question No. 14666 that he will "update the Prime Minister of issues within my portfolio", did he update the Prime Minister, and did she know, that he was appointing Deloitte as the independent reviewer?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I did not appoint Deloitte as the independent reviewer.
Dr Shane Reti: If it turns out that Deloitte does have a conflict of interest reviewing the Oracle programme, will the Minister submit all independent reviews he has initiated to the Office of the Auditor-General for conflict of interest scrutiny?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The conflicts of interest, perceived or actual, were declared before the review was commenced.
• Question No. 11—Regional Economic Development
11. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What reports has he seen about regional connectivity?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): I've sighted and received a report from the New Zealand Airports Association. It details the importance of air links for healthcare, education, and commercial purposes. They have signalled an expression of interest towards the provincial growth fund. They have noted that connectivity and connections as a consequence of changes in regularity via Air New Zealand are actually diminishing not strengthening.
Mark Patterson: Why is ensuring regional air connectivity important for New Zealand's provinces?
Hon SHANE JONES: Today—just to demonstrate how important it might be to certain politicians—Kāpiti loses its connectivity. Unlike other occasions, I have to acknowledge a fulsome press statement put out by Nathan Guy, but 12 months too late—12 months too late. It is very interesting that Air New Zealand in its annual review is trumpeting new direct routes to Houston, Latin America, Beijing—
Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Mark Patterson: What feedback has he received on the need to maintain regional air links?
Hon SHANE JONES: Tremendous feedback from certain National Party backbenchers—threats to nominate me for the honours list. The momentum and traction built up throughout provincial New Zealand—at long last they've found a man and a party to champion them—is overwhelming.
• Question No. 12—State Services (Open Government)
12. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Associate Minister of State Services: Does she stand by all of her answers to oral and written questions?
Hon CLARE CURRAN (Associate Minister of State Services): Yes, except where they have been corrected, in which case I stand by the corrected answer.
Brett Hudson: When she said in answer to oral question No. 12 on 29 November 2017 that this will "be the most open, most transparent Government [that] New Zealand has ever had", does she consider her communications relating to the meeting between her and Carol Hirschfeld support that priority?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: Yes. As soon as I became aware that I had incorrectly answered a written question, I corrected the record at the first available opportunity, as I am required to do and as a responsible member of Parliament.
Brett Hudson: When she said in answer to oral question No. 12 on 29 November 2017 that this will be "the most open, most transparent Government [that] New Zealand has ever had", how does her not advising Miss Hirschfeld to notify the Radio New Zealand chief executive ahead of their scheduled meeting support her priority?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: As is well known out in the public arena, when I arranged a meeting with Carol Hirschfeld, I believed it was an informal meeting, but it was an appropriate meeting. I stand by that.
Melissa Lee: When she said in answer to oral question No. 12 on 29 November 2017 that this will "be the most open, most transparent Government [that] New Zealand has ever had", is it open and transparent for the Minister if, as reported today, she or her office asked the chair of Radio New Zealand, Richard Griffin, not to attend the call-back select committee meeting scheduled for this Thursday to correct the records?
Hon CLARE CURRAN: I reject the premise of that question. On learning that RNZ would not be appearing before the select committee last Thursday to correct the record at the earliest opportunity, and on advice from the office of the Leader of the House, I rang Mr Griffin last Thursday morning around 8.30 a.m. to advise him that it would be preferable to send a letter of correction that day before 1 p.m. rather than waiting until the following Thursday to appear in person. This was a voicemail message. I received a voicemail message from Mr Griffin at 3 p.m. that day to say that he had a prior agreement with the chair of the select committee to appear at the committee this Thursday and to call him back if I had a problem. I didn't call him back.
Brett Hudson: Supplementary?
Mr SPEAKER: No, that concludes oral questions.