Parliament: Questions and Answers - Nov 6
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government's statements and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, in particular the statements that were made on Sunday in support of rolling out across the country 600 learning support coordinators to ensure that those with special needs in our education system have their needs met, that teachers are freed up to teach, and that all children get the very best education possible.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why was residency granted to Karel Sroubek by her Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, I've already thrown out the clarification around him already having residency and it being a deportation order, but, as the Minister himself has said in this House, since the decision was made, there has been contradictory information in the public domain. It's only fitting that, therefore, we go back to Immigration New Zealand and seek further work to be done. Once that is complete, there will be more to say.
Hon Simon Bridges: Hasn't the only right answer in this case always been to deport?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've said, the Minister can only deal with the information put in front of him. There has now been brought to light potentially contradictory information in the public domain. We have gone back to Immigration and sought—as fast as possible—clarification, and then, when we're in a position to, we will give greater clarity around those points of contradiction.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she aware that one of the criminal charges Karel Sroubek has faced resulted in the police placing an entire family into New Zealand's witness protection programme?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've said many times, there's a range of reasons why we have gone back to Immigration New Zealand to seek further clarification and work to be done. I do want to ensure that we can do that properly. When we are in a position to share more information around the case, then we will do so.
Hon Simon Bridges: is this the sort of person her Minister should grant residency to for New Zealand?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have spoken before around the basis of the original decision—keeping in mind, of course, that residency already existed; the decision put before the Minister was around a deportation order. He made that decision based on information put in front of him. There has now been contradictory information that's been put into the public domain and we are now doing additional work.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is a criminal with charges so serious that an entire family went into a witness protection scheme someone who should have residency in New Zealand?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: While I won't get into the specifics of this case while we are going back on it, because I do want to preserve the ability of officials to deal with this appropriately, what I will say is that member well knows, having been in Government, that there are some cases which I'm sure they wouldn't want to go through and pick out information from selectively. Because there's been over a hundred of these cases while they were in Government too, and this just happens to be one of the roles that immigration Ministers hold, and it is a very difficult part of the job.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has anyone, prior to Iain Lees-Galloway's final decision on Karel Sroubek, ever discussed or made any representations in any form on the case to her?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, I've had discussions with the Minister over this case, but again, I do want to exercise some caution here, because, as I've said, we are going through this case presently. I want to preserve our ability to deal with this case appropriately. When we're in a position to share more information, we will.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has anyone other than the Minister ever discussed or made representations on the case to the Prime Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, obviously, I've had a range of discussions within my office about this case, but the most appropriate way for it to be dealt with is to go back to the source of the original information that went before the Minister, primarily that is held within Immigration New Zealand. That's what we've done. We've seen and responded to the information that's been raised in the public domain, and that's what we've taken back to the department, and that is what needs to occur in this case.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has anyone, prior to Iain Lees-Galloway's decision on Karel Sroubek, ever discussed or made representations in any form on the case with her?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know who has made representations to Iain Lees-Galloway on the case?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The Minister will have followed the same process that his Minister followed, and that is to deal with the facts of the case as it's put before him. That's exactly the process that his Ministers in the last Government would have done before they gave it back to officials.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Prime Minister: does she know who has made representations? She hasn't answered that.
SPEAKER: I think she answered that there were written papers or documents before the Minister, so it certainly has addressed the question.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know who has made representations to Iain Lees-Galloway on this case?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My understanding of the handling of this case was it was dealt with in the usual, appropriate way that Ministers exercise their discretion in these cases.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why on The Nation did she express confidence in Iain Lees-Galloway but she wouldn't in his officials?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Actually, I don't accept that characterisation. I have expressed confidence in the Minister. But what I have said is that the Minister can only make a decision based on the information provided to him. That does not naturally mean that I am therefore placing blame on anyone else. The available information that was put to the Minister, yes, came from Immigration. That does not mean I am placing fault there. It does mean there are unanswered questions. I'm reserving any position on this until we get to the bottom of this case, and I'm allowing the space and time for that to be done but as quickly as possible.
Hon Simon Bridges: How long will it be until we know the outcome of the investigation into this Karel Sroubek decision by the Minister?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The original timeline that was given to the Minister last week was three weeks. We both discussed that timeline and agreed it was too long. We've sought that it be completed earlier than that.
• Question No.
2. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Justice: Is he considering making any changes to New Zealand's electoral law in the remainder of this parliamentary term?
Hon STUART NASH (Acting Minister of Justice): The Ministry of Justice is currently considering areas of electoral law reform and will be providing advice to me on this shortly.
Marama Davidson: Will he consider implementing the Electoral Commission's recommendations from—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Sorry. Before the member continues, can we just have it clarified whether the Minister is talking on behalf of Minister Little or on his own behalf?
Hon STUART NASH: I am the Minister.
SPEAKER: OK. So it's going to be provided to you, not to the Minister?
Hon STUART NASH: Yes.
SPEAKER: OK. All right. All clear.
Marama Davidson: Will he consider implementing the Electoral Commission's recommendations from their report into the 2017 general election, such as allowing voters of Māori descent to change role type at any time?
Hon STUART NASH: The Ministry of Justice and the Justice Committee are looking at a number of areas of electoral reform, which includes many of the areas identified in the Electoral Commission's report on the 2017 election. The Government will be considering these areas of electoral reform in due course.
Marama Davidson: Will he introduce a bill implementing the Electoral Commission's recommendations from the 2012 MMP review, particularly as the Deputy Prime Minister said recently that considering the review's recommendations was a "marvellous suggestion"?
Hon STUART NASH: The Ministry of Justice is currently considering areas of electoral reform identified in the Electoral Commission's report on the 2017 election. I will be receiving further advice on this in due course, but there is a robust process that all change must go through before we'll consider introducing any bill to the House.
SPEAKER: No, no. I'm going to ask the Minister to now answer the question that was asked. Does the Minister want it repeated?
Hon STUART NASH: No.
SPEAKER: All right.
Hon STUART NASH: There is a robust process that all change must go through before we would consider introducing any bill to the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can the Government assure the House that no electoral law changes will be finalised or introduced as a bill before this House until the Justice Committee has completed its inquiry into the 2017 election, as has been the convention in this House for a very long time?
Hon STUART NASH: We have a legislative programme that the member will learn of in due course.
Marama Davidson: Will he consider overturning the ban on prisoner voting brought in by the last Government, given that the High Court, Court of Appeal, and the previous Attorney-General all ruled that the ban breached the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act?
SPEAKER: Order! Now, the member might want to rephrase the question. It wasn't brought in by a Government—a Parliament.
Marama Davidson: Will he consider overturning the ban on prisoner voting brought in by the last Parliament, given that the High Court, Court of Appeal, and the previous Attorney-General all ruled that the ban breached the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It wasn't the last Parliament.
SPEAKER: Oh, let's—we'll be flexible and let the Minister answer.
Hon STUART NASH: This Government is considering a number of areas of electoral reform, but, like everything, as mentioned, there is a robust process that change must go through before it can be implemented.
Marama Davidson: Will he consider increasing the transparency requirements in New Zealand's donation disclosure rules, given the large amount of donations in New Zealand where the donor's identity is anonymous, including over $3.5 million in anonymous donations to the National Party?
SPEAKER: Without the last bit.
Hon STUART NASH: I have instructed officials to look at electoral laws, including the disclosure of donations, so we can start a public discussion and conversation. We need to ensure that our system is robust enough to avoid the kind of allegations that we have seen in the last few weeks from, for example, Jami-Lee Ross.
SPEAKER: All right, sit down. Thank you.
• Question No.
3. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Last week, the World Bank released its Doing Business 2019 report, ranking New Zealand at number one in the world for ease of doing business. The report specifically comments that the top three countries, led by New Zealand, exemplify a business-friendly environment. This is another real-life example of the strength of New Zealand's underlying economic and business fundamentals. These are supported by the coalition Government's business-friendly plan, which includes infrastructure investment, skills and training support for Kiwi businesses, and research and development support.
Tamati Coffey: What other reports has he seen on the Government's role in the strength of the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have seen analysis from a well-known commentator who said, quote, "For now the economy is holding up nicely, despite all the numbers around confidence, there is a $5.5 billion surplus, genuinely solid growth, there are … shortages in the workforce, interest rates are low, all the ingredients are there to argue economic credibility." I can confirm to Mike Hosking that the Government is working alongside businesses and training institutions to address the skills shortages he references.
Tamati Coffey: What reports has he seen from Treasury on the future strength of the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Treasury's latest set of forecasts, released at Budget 2018, showed forecast growth of about 3 percent on average—
Hon Member: They're very unreliable.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —actually, they're very reliable—over the next few years. Since these forecasts, we've continued solid underlying growth in the New Zealand economy, although there are increasing risks around the international situation which we need to keep an eye on. I can inform the House today that Treasury's next set of forecasts will be released in the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, alongside the Budget Policy Statement 2019, on Thursday, 13 December.
• Question No. 4—Prime
4. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her Government's statements and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, as I did in question No. 1.
Hon Simon Bridges: Did the Government seek any advice on whether there would be demand in Wānaka for two- or three-bedroom homes in the KiwiBuild price caps; if so, what did the advice say?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member is familiar with the demand in that region and the house prices in that region, he'll understand that yes, there is demand there, and that work was done.
Hon Simon Bridges: If that is so, why did a KiwiBuild spokesperson say that "Some houses have received no entries and the developer has asked us to extend the ballot"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member will be familiar that with the ballot in Auckland there was significant demand. We found—from my memory—that some of that demand came in quite late in the ballot process. What we've seen in the South, as I understand, is that applicants have started the application process, but haven't always completed it. The decision was made to give that additional time.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she confident the Government will be able to fill the 211 KiwiBuild houses in Wānaka, in the South Island, over the next two years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'm very clear on where in the country there's exceptional demand and exceptional house prices. The reason that we as a Government decided to step into the market—because it had failed—was because we had areas where business was saying they couldn't get people because housing was unaffordable. We decided to step into those areas and fill that gap. That is what we're doing. We're proud of our agenda, and I'm confident as we roll out this programme that people will continue to take up those offers.
Hon Simon Bridges: If there's such exceptional demand, as she says, why have only 20 people entered the ballot so far?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I already set out some of the reasoning for that. If the member is suggesting for a moment that there is no problem with our housing market, that there are available to first-home buyers homes at a price point that is realistic, then that is his prerogative, but on this side, we do not accept that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the Government subsidising KiwiBuild houses?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we have constantly pointed out, KiwiBuild is not a subsidy programme; it is a programme using the Government's scale and buying power to deliver what the market has failed to deliver.
Hon Simon Bridges: What will happen with KiwiBuild houses that do not sell through the ballot system?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is a hypothetical.
Hon Simon Bridges: How is a scheme where the Government is guaranteeing to buy houses that do not sell to the market at a price that is, by definition, above market price not subsidising those houses?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we have set out many times before, what we have done is accepted that 5 percent—5 percent—is the number of houses in the market currently that are at the first-home buyer level. That is not acceptable, given the demand that is out there. We needed someone to enter the market and build first homes for first-home buyers. That is what we have agreed to do.
• Question No.
5. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education: What work has she done to deliver on the recommendations of the Education and Science Committee in relation to dyslexia, dyspraxia, and children on the autism spectrum?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Associate Minister of Education): Recommendation 33 from the Education and Science Committee report into dyslexia, dyspraxia, and children on the autism spectrum in 2016 recommended that the Government task the Ministry of Education with assessing the feasibility of funding full-time trained Special Education Needs Coordinators for schools with more than 200 students. The previous Government did not accept this recommendation. This Government has gone further and is committed to providing $217 million for a first tranche of 600 learning support coordinators based in schools in 2020. This new fully funded, stand-alone role will address a number of the other recommendations from the inquiry around strengthening professional development and support for schools to identify and respond to young people with dyslexia, dyspraxia, children on the autism spectrum, and other neurodiverse conditions, including giftedness.
Jo Luxton: When will the first 600 learning support coordinators be in place in our schools?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: The first tranche will provide 600 learning support coordinators in 2020. We are changing the way learning support is delivered in this country, and there are a number of steps to do this. Step one is the roll-out of the new learning support delivery model, which has been piloted in a number of regions over the last year. We intend to have the new delivery model in place across the country by the end of 2019. Step two of this change is getting learning support coordinators in place. They are critical as a part of the new support delivery model. Consultation on the learning support coordinator role closed this week. We are now analysing feedback, which will determine the final shape of the role, the ratios, and how it will be implemented in both urban and rural settings. I will also continue to move on the other complementary steps, such as screening tools for learning challenges and the development of tool kits to support students once those challenges have been acknowledged.
Jo Luxton: What other actions is the Minister considering as part of the draft disability and learning support action plan that reflect the recommendations from the select committee?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: This Government wants to ensure children and young people with neurodiverse learning support needs are identified so that they can receive the support they need as early as possible. I will be reporting back to Cabinet in December on how I intend to address this and other priorities and the draft disability learning support action plan.
Nicola Willis: Does she agree with the Prime Minister who, in a May announcement about children's early intervention services, stated that appointment waiting times of 74 days were too long, and, if so, does the Minister think it's acceptable that since then, waiting times for early intervention services have increased from 74 to 98 days?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: Yes, I do agree with the Prime Minister. I do not accept that that is an appropriate amount of time. That is why this Government has modelled and piloted a delivery support action plan across New Zealand—it's now being rolled out right now; why learning support coordinators, the first 600 will actually roll out into schools in 2020; and why, in the Taupō pilot of this model, we managed to cut down those waiting times. This Government's actually taking action after nine years of inaction.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Can the Minister confirm that the current funding for early intervention is the funding allocated in the 2017 Budget, and that the increase in funding that was allocated in the 2018 Budget starts at the beginning of next year in order to reduce the waiting times that are now being complained about?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I can confirm exactly that. This Government is on a roll, and we're going to keep it going.
• Question No.
6. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he consider consumer confidence to be an important measure of the strength of the New Zealand economy; if so, what does the trend in consumer confidence since the election say about it?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Consumer confidence is an important measure of how confident consumers feel. Sometimes consumer confidence surveys are interpreted as current indicators of the strength of the economy overall. For example, in the latest ANZ consumer confidence survey, the current conditions index is said to be very strong, with a trend showing a rise in the latest month and at a similar level to that after the change in Government.
Hon Amy Adams: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a primary question on notice, with two parts. He answered the first part, certainly; I don't think he addressed the second.
SPEAKER: I mean, I feel like—no, I will ask the Minister. It's sort of like a free hit really, but if the member wants it, then the Minister can have another go.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the question asks what the consumer confidence trend would say about the strength of the New Zealand economy, what I'd say to the member is that the New Zealand economy is extremely strong at the moment, and this Government's very, very proud of the strength of it.
Hon Amy Adams: So how does the Minister suggest that the trend of the consumer confidence surveys show strength of the economy when, in fact, since the election, the Westpac McDermott Miller index has dropped to a six-year low and the ANZ consumer confidence survey has dropped by 15 points?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I said, consumer confidence surveys survey aspects of how consumers are feeling. Within the current ANZ survey, we can see that people who are feeling better off has stayed pretty steady; those who think that bad times are ahead are at the lowest it's been this year. But if the member is trying to suggest that the Government is the ultimate controller of that, well the last time we saw the levels in the ANZ consumer survey was when that member was a Minister—so, presumably, she was responsible for that too.
Hon Amy Adams: So is his plan to simply dismiss consumer confidence views as politically biased in the same way he's dismissed business confidence?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, my plan is to make sure that we invest in infrastructure that was neglected for nine years, that we lift the skills and training rates of New Zealanders, that we get a billion dollars' worth of research and development funding out in the community, and start to create the mistakes of the last nine years.
Hon Amy Adams: So how much does he think consumer confidence is affected by the 30 percent of New Zealand households that are now reporting that even after the Government's Families Package, they now have less money to spend on meeting essentials, because of rising costs?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don't have the information the member's referring to in front of me. But if we do talk about the ANZ consumer confidence survey, it says that a net 33 percent of people say it's a good time to buy a major household item, which has bounced back from last month.
Hon Amy Adams: What has this Government done for those New Zealanders who don't rely on State support but are working hard every day and finding it tougher and tougher to deal with rising costs?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Among many things, we've increased Working for Families, which I don't think the member is rejecting, although it appears this is yet another interesting place in National's fiscal and policy stance—perhaps Working for Families is on the way out now as well. But we've supported Working for Families. But I just said to the member before: we're now investing in infrastructure in a way the previous Government completely neglected. We're making sure that there's more money available for research and development. We're making sure that there's more money available for education. On this side of the House, we're actually investing in how we grow the economy sustainably, not relying on population growth.
Hon Amy Adams: Would he agree that, in fact, the best explanation for the large decline in consumer confidence over the last 12 months is that costs are going up faster than households have experienced for a long time, incomes are not keeping up, and 1.7 million households are worse off under this Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No; I reject the premise of that question, and the member should actually look at the real data in the economy, which shows that it's growing solidly. There's a lot of work to do to undo the last nine years, but we've made a great start.
• Question No.
7. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions in relation to Karel Sroubek, also known as Jan Antolik?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, in the context of the information that I had available to me at the time.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is he satisfied that at the time he made his decision to grant residency to Mr Sroubek he had a reasonable summary of the criminal charges laid against him in New Zealand between 2009 and 2016, and of the outcome of those charges?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As the member is aware, there is an investigation under way into this matter. It's important that I do not prejudice the investigation or possible further action as a result. Because of this ongoing work, it is not in the public interest for me to answer the question at this time. I will be able to provide more information at the appropriate time.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did any member of Parliament advocate on Mr Sroubek's behalf?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: If it is appropriate for the Minister to say what information he didn't have, why is it not appropriate now for him to say to the House what information he did have?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: For all the reasons that I've just explained.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: If it isn't in the public interest to answer certain questions prior to the conclusion of his investigation, will he commit to a full release of the investigation's findings once it is concluded?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I will commit to the release of the appropriate information at the appropriate time.
• Question No.
8. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What steps, if any, has the Government taken to support teachers in classrooms?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Government recognises the importance of the teaching profession, and we're committed to lifting the status of teaching and ensuring that our teachers are respected and valued. Sunday's announcement of 600 learning support coordinators in schools builds on the $40 million investment we've already been making in teacher supply and recruitment initiatives. We've abolished national standards, we've restored the right of teachers to elect their own members to their own regulatory council, we've got a task force working on reducing red tape and compliance workload, we've been listening to teachers, and we are taking action to address all of the concerns they have been raising.
Jan Tinetti: What else is the Government doing to support the teaching workforce?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It's now no secret whatsoever that we have a serious teacher shortage. We've already provided funding for over a thousand teachers to refresh their training so that they can return to the classroom. Our international recruitment campaign has so far identified over 500 appropriate candidates ready for appointment to vacancies, and we've launched a nationwide mentoring programme to support new teachers to get their careers off to a great start. We are pulling out all of the stops to clean up the mess that we inherited.
• Question No. 9—Housing
and Urban Development
9. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by his statement that if the KiwiBuild Buying off the Plans initiative targets are met, the total financial value may be between $3.7 billion and $4.7 billion over three years, and what KiwiBuild developments have been announced so far through the Buying off the Plans initiative?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes. The Government has announced 25 homes in Onehunga; 211 homes in Queenstown Lakes, with 10 KiwiBuild homes to be completed by Christmas 2019; 20 homes in Mount Albert; 175 homes in Te Kauwhata, with 10 KiwiBuild homes there to be completed by Christmas 2019; and 10 homes in Ōtāhuhu, with a further nine being built by June 2019.
Andrew Bayly: How many houses in the Buying off the Plans development in Wānaka did not receive any applications to purchase before the ballot close date was extended?
SPEAKER: Order! No, hang on. I'm just going to reflect on whether that question actually relates—oh, I'll be liberal and let it go, but, in future, can the member make sure that the supplementary question relates either to the primary question or to the answer. Just saying "KiwiBuild" doesn't get it there.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I don't have that number to hand, but I'm happy to get it if the member puts the question down in writing.
Andrew Bayly: What is he planning to do if houses KiwiBuild has underwritten in Wānaka and other such Buying off the Plans developments cannot be sold at the price agreed between KiwiBuild and the developer?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The nature of the Buying off the Plans scheme is that there's an underwrite by the Crown. So in the event of a KiwiBuild home being unsold at the end of the contracted period, the Crown then purchases it and can onsell it.
Andrew Bayly: Can he confirm that KiwiBuild will not be permitted to sell houses at a discount to the original price agreed with the developer?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.
• Question No. 10—Energy and
10. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What recent reports, if any, has she seen on the state of the electricity market, and does she believe Government policy has the ability to impact the market positively or negatively?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): I've seen the report of the Electricity Price Review established as part of the coalition agreement that found that, under the structures of the previous Government, the market is not working for everyone, and that a two-tier retail market is developing, leaving vulnerable people behind. In answer to the second part of the member's question, this Government's policies are already having a positive impact. We have introduced a winter energy payment, helping over a million Kiwis heat their homes over winter and we're insulating thousands of homes under our Warmer Kiwi Homes initiative. We've begun the electricity pricing review to ensure prices are affordable for families, and we are leading a transition towards affordable, renewable energy like hydrogen and away from expensive and vulnerable fossil fuels.
Jonathan Young: So what is the average price for electricity futures per megawatt hour for December 2018, and how does that compare to the average of about $90 per megawatt hour for the last 12 months?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: What I can tell that member is that the short-term issues that we are seeing around our electricity network at the moment, which are due to vulnerabilities in the gas supply issue—
Jonathan Young: Point of order.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I'll just finish the answer, Mr Speaker—in the gas supply issue should see—
SPEAKER: Hang on, hang on. If someone wants a point of order, they stand and they stay standing up. They don't sit down.
Jonathan Young: Thank you sir. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked a very specific question about what the average—
SPEAKER: Yes, yes, and the member hasn't finished her answer yet. The member might want to take a point of order at the end of it.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The short-term vulnerabilities that we are seeing at the moment in our electricity system due to problems in the gas infrastructure that is seeing around the $600 figure should return to the normal figure by December. The frequent reports that I am getting from officials are that these issues should be repealed. What I will also tell the member is that a new wind farm has a levelised cost of electricity around $60-70 per megawatt hour—
SPEAKER: OK, that's enough, thank you.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We are often chastened by not getting to the point, and the answer never came, but we had a complete monologue of recent events. I asked a very specific question that the Minister should be able to answer within one sentence.
SPEAKER: And she did. It might have been buried in the middle.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order. There is not any chance, Mr Speaker, that—
SPEAKER: A point of order, Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Oh thank you for the recognition. There is not any chance that any analysis you might do of that answer would come anywhere near being an answer to the very specific question that was put in front of the Minister, and I think it's unreasonable to dismiss the efforts that have been to—
SPEAKER: No—sit down. Sit down.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, you—
SPEAKER: I'm requiring the member to sit down. He's made his point of order, and if the member had—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, I haven't. I haven't finished.
SPEAKER: Well, you've made all the point of order you're going to make at the moment. The Minister quite specifically said that she has been advised that electricity prices in December will return to their normal levels. If that's not an answer—it's not only addressing it; it answered it.
Jonathan Young: What is the average price for electricity futures per megawatt hour for December 2018, as can be found on the ASX, and how does that compare to the average of about $90 per megawatt hour for the last 12 months?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Given the complexities of what we're seeing in the electricity generation system, I am not prepared to answer that question in this House at the moment, but if the member wants to put it in writing, I will provide him with a full answer.
Jonathan Young: Shouldn't the Minister be paying close attention to the price of electricity futures given the signal they send about future retail prices?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I can assure that member that what I am doing is paying very close attention to all the conditions around the security of supply in our electricity system. What I can tell the member is that one of the most important things to be monitoring at the moment is progress on repairs to the gas infrastructure problems that we are seeing at the moment, that I receive frequent updates on. I can also advise that member that I am receiving frequent updates on the levels of the hydro lakes, and I'll tell that member that hydro storage, as at 2 November, was at 62 percent of the historical average for this time of the year. The NZX energy data, however, that gives a daily update, indicates that over the past four weeks, up to 2 November, hydro storage was at 71 percent, and that is what a responsible Minister of energy should be monitoring.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a most fascinating answer from the Minister. Perhaps you'd like to tell the House what question she was answering.
SPEAKER: Well, I think we'll go 1-all there. I won't punish the Minister for her interjection during that, and I won't punish the member for his disorderly point of order.
David Seymour: If the electricity market will be back to normal by December, why has Genesis Energy ordered four shipments totalling 120,000 tonnes of Indonesian coal to be delivered between December and February?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Sorry, the member knows that that's not this Minister's responsibility.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister has made a claim that the current problems are due to a gas shortage which will be alleviated by December. I'm asking how she can reconcile that with other facts that she should be across.
SPEAKER: No, that's not what the member asked. He said, "why". He didn't ask how it could be reconciled.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The "why" question goes directly to the prime purpose of having a Minister of Energy and Resources—it is to make sure that there is security of supply in the market. Now, the question is—and I think Mr Seymour's hit it on the head—if there's no problem, as the Minister said—
SPEAKER: I accept that—that point of order is a much better one than the one we had previously. The Minister will address the question.
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Well, quite clearly, Genesis Energy does not have the kind of confidence in the infrastructure around the gas supply system that the Opposition and the fossil fuel industry seem to have. What recent events are showing us is what a precarious security of supply situation we're in when we need to rely on gas for peaking. That's why this Government is intent on building a resilient energy system with more resilient forms of renewable energy.
David Seymour: Will the Minister be taking any action to guide Genesis to make better investment decisions, given they're clearly out of step with the rest of the market?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: There have been decisions made already around the phasing out of using the coal Rankine units at Huntly. This Government is giving many signals and guidance to companies such as Genesis, such as carbon-neutrality by 2050. I think that provides more than enough system, and what this Government is doing in putting in place the long-term transition planning that is required.
• Question No. 11—Commerce and Consumer
11. MICHAEL WOOD (Labour—Mt Roskill) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What reports has he seen on banking culture and conduct?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): A review of bank conduct released yesterday by the Financial Markets Authority and Reserve Bank of New Zealand has identified instances of poor conduct by staff and weaknesses in bank processes to manage them. The findings of the report are a concern to the Government, as we want a fair banking system that is in the interests of all New Zealanders. Although the conduct and culture issues do not appear to be widespread, there are weaknesses within bank systems and controls that have resulted in poor conduct and instances of consumer harm. This is not good enough, and banks have their work cut out for them to address the problems of conduct and culture in the report and ensure New Zealanders have confidence in their banking system.
Michael Wood: What work is under way to provide reassurance to bank customers?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: We have had work under way since we came into Government in terms of changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act to target irresponsible lending, the Financial Services Legislation Amendment Bill, and also the insurance contract law review. We've asked officials to begin work on where we should go post the report being delivered today if we need to take further regulatory action. The Government does have a role to play in strengthening the way the banks conduct, given their conduct within their own businesses. At the same time, the sector also needs to take a greater responsibility for ensuring that misconduct does not occur and needs to focus on long-term customer outcomes.
Michael Wood: What are the next steps for banks, regulators, and Government in response to the report's findings?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: The Government expects to see banks proactively address their conduct and culture issues. They will be receiving an individualised work programme from regulators and will report back in March, where they must provide their plan for addressing their shortfalls. I want to see better checks and balances in place to ensure poor conduct does not continue in New Zealand banks. The bottom line is that a New Zealand customer should get fair and appropriate treatment and consumers' needs should be put first.
• Question No.
12. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Internal Affairs: Which Ministers, if any, have been provided with a copy or executive summary of the final report of the Government Inquiry into the Appointment Process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police, and when were those Ministers provided with those copies or summaries?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN (Minister of Internal Affairs): My office delivered a copy to the office of the Prime Minister yesterday.
Chris Bishop: Does the report of the inquiry into the appointment process for a Deputy Commissioner of Police recommend that the appointment process be reopened?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I will not discuss any recommendations—for or otherwise—inside the inquiry until the full process of the inquiry, around its release, has been clarified.
Chris Bishop: Is she comfortable with the fact that the confidential versions of all information and correspondence provided by police, the State Services Commissioner, the Department of Corrections, the Ministry of Justice, the Minister of Police, and Deputy Commissioner Haumaha will be suppressed until 2 November in the year 2068?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: I think the member has misunderstood, as the members of the press have misunderstood, the chair's posting up on the Internal Affairs website. That is around transcripts and information that was provided for her to actually write the report. That is what the suppression is: transcripts and so on. That is what was put inside the Inquiries Act by the previous Government to ensure that people who we need to come forward have confidence to give testimony in an inquiry and can be confident around their privacy.
Chris Bishop: Will she be discussing the report and the next steps the Government will be taking with the State Services Commissioner and/or the Solicitor-General?
Hon TRACEY MARTIN: My office is currently taking legal advice around the process to hand over to the Minister of State Services and the process with which to do pre-releases to those who need to see the report—e.g., those who participated in it—and then when that report will be released. We are trying to release the report as quickly as possible