Parliament: Questions and Answers - Dec 4
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements and actions?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it a new fashion for the Prime Minister to neither do morning media or come to Parliament?
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I can answer that question. I'm an expert on it.
SPEAKER: Well, the—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I am—I know.
SPEAKER: The Prime Minister might want to answer the question; I'm just trying to work through in my head whether there is ministerial responsibility to the House for it. I'm going to rule that there is, but I'm watching the tone very carefully.
Hon James Shaw: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understood that it is out of order to be questioning the presence of members in or out of the Chamber.
SPEAKER: There is a convention to that effect. The fact that it's been breached is something that I'm not going to haul the Leader of the Opposition up on at the moment.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the facts are that the Prime Minister was required to have a meeting in Auckland with the President of Korea. By the way, because of a lightning break there, she was delayed by 45 minutes and just made it, and of course the circumstances would have also had an effect at the end of the function, which, as the member should know—
Hon Simon Bridges: She didn't come last week, either.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —was followed by a lunch with respect to the Prime Minister.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why couldn't she be here?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Now, that said—
Hon Grant Robertson: No, he doesn't care about our relationship with Korea.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That said, the difference is—
Hon Simon Bridges: She didn't—she almost didn't go.
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —there are—
SPEAKER: No, no. The Deputy Prime Minister will sit down, and the Minister of Finance will just be quiet, as will the Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption] No, frankly it's very hard to take questions seriously when there's a barrage of interjection going back and forward.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The fact is that the Prime Minister has been so impressive in her first year in that role that all of the world leaders are calling her—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member's answering—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: And what went wrong with that?
SPEAKER: —for the Prime Minister. He will resume his seat. She would never say anything like that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her statement in relation to whether banning letting fees will see landlords increase rents to cover the costs, that she hopes that won't be the case?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the reality is, anyone who knows the commercial market knows that rents—their decline or rise—is dependent on a thing called supply. Supply-side economics is what the National Party used to know about, before this new breed turned up.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she still have hope her policy will not lead to higher rents when there are property companies emailing their clients, telling them to increase rents by $6 a week to cover the letting fee?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, having to answer this question weekly is getting tedious, but the reality of the market will not change. The reality is, this Government is delivering the supply side of economics where housing is concerned, and they're doing a thoroughly planned, smart job about it.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why does she think one property management company wrote to their clients in response to her saying she hoped rents wouldn't increase as a result of letting fee costs being passed on to landlords, saying, "Well, that may be the case on Mars, Prime Minister, but here in little old New Zealand, with all the additional costs that have been heaped on to landlords in the last year, you can't expect property management companies and landlords to just absorb the added costs and not pass them on to tenants by way of increased rents."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the day where this country becomes a property developer's and rack-renting landlord's paradise is over—is over—because we intend to supply tens and tens of thousands of houses both in the private and public sector, at the greatest speed possible, and we can't turn around three terms of Government neglect overnight, but turn it around we will.
Hon Simon Bridges: On the issue of housing supply why is the Government building KiwiBuild houses in the Marfell suburb of New Plymouth that have a price tag of $450,000 when CoreLogic figures show the median house price in the area is just $326,000 and homes.co.nz says it's just $271,000?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, because this Government does not intend to govern just for north of the Bombay Hills. All over this country there are regional cities definitely needing housing as well, and no one will go unattended.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she expect KiwiBuild houses in Marfell to fill a gap in the market for first-home buyers when they are more than $100,000 above the median price in that exact area?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Anyone who understands the provincial market place will know that New Plymouth and Taranaki is one of the highest growth areas and one of the highest income areas in the country. That will have some possibility of influencing house prices. Now, if you were from the provinces and understood that, you would then do something about it.
SPEAKER: Order! Well, I might have been but it was some time ago.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Phil Twyford, who acknowledged that a price tag of $450,000 for a KiwiBuild house in Marfell would be out of reach of many residents?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I've heard the words of Phil Twyford, who seems to have an enormous amount of presence of mind, experience, and vision when it comes to housing in this country, and if he made a comment like that, I'd pay serious attention to it.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why is the Government building $450,000 KiwiBuild houses in Marfell, New Plymouth, when a proposal had been received by Housing New Zealand to build 57 social houses on the same site for around $100,000 less per house and include a rent-to-buy scheme aimed at low-income earners, instead of a ballot process?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the reality here is that there is a huge difference between private house ownership and social housing. I know that social housing was dramatically run down under the previous administration, and we are making a sizeable investment in that as well, but they are two different propositions. That would be obvious to any lawyer that had anything to do with property in their past experience.
Hon Simon Bridges: What does it say about the KiwiBuild scheme that of the first 10 KiwiBuild houses in Wānaka, of which ballots opened almost two months ago, there has been only one unconditional sale so far, and of the first 10 KiwiBuild houses in Te Kauwhata, of which ballots opened in October, no houses have been sold so far?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Supplementary—sorry. On behalf of the Prime Minister—ha, ha! Well, it occurred to me I could do a far better job asking myself the question myself, right?
On behalf of the Prime Minister, the record laid out of purchases in both Wānaka and Te Kauwhata is not what the Leader of the Opposition said. That's precisely wrong.
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions relating to Karel Sroubek, including that information was "provided by his wife, for example, who I understand is the National Party's informant"?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Can I just say, on behalf of the Prime Minister, yes. And on the other matter, that question was put in this Parliament to the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues, and we're still waiting for an answer.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why did she assert last week that Mr Sroubek's estranged wife "changed her tune in that she is a National Party informant"?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He made it up.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that question was put to Parliament last week—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He made it up.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —and there was no answer from the National Party—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He made it up.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —then; not a mutter, not a murmur—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat, please. Stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: And I will remind members that that interjection about any member is unparliamentary; about me, it's even more so. Does the Prime Minister want to continue?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: And when that matter was put to the National Party president, one Peter Goodfellow, he refused to respond.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has said it was in the form of a question. Well, it clearly wasn't: "There was information that was provided by his wife, for example, who I understand is the National Party's informant on this matter." I mean, how am I meant to get straight answers when twice the Prime Minister said it was in the form of a question? It wasn't.
SPEAKER: And the member might be disputing an answer, and there are ways of doing that, but doing it by way of point of order is not one of them.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was she aware that the first person contacted by Mr Sroubek's estranged wife was a former Labour Party Cabinet Minister, and that the former Minister suggested contacting the Opposition spokesperson because her Government had already made it very clear it wasn't going to change its mind?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, so she is the informant then?
Hon Simon Bridges: What does she say to the claim made by Mr Sroubek's estranged wife and family that the Prime Minister's Government's statements have been "beyond appalling" and have caused immense stress for the estranged wife, and feelings of utter hopelessness?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister—who can say that personally she wasn't directly involved in those statements. On behalf of the Prime Minister, can I say when that matter was put to both the National Party associate, and I'm happy to give that person's name. The National Party's associate—
Hon Simon Bridges: Talk some sense. Talk sense.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, I'm getting to the sense of it all. It's all here. When that matter was put to Mark Davey, who has campaigned on a National Party - associated campaign, and put to the president, Peter Goodfellow, they wouldn't respond.
Hon Simon Bridges: What on earth is she talking about?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Prime Minister is talking about your leak.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think tarnishing a victim's reputation by inferring they are politically motivated and pushing her to feel utterly hopeless aligns with her kinder, more compassionate way of governing?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, can I say "compassionate" and "kindness" are her middle two names. And I just want to make this very, very clear: when a party has a penchant for leaks like their internal polls, like their PR to their caucus on how to handle questions from the media, and on this matter, they're not to be trusted.
Hon Simon Bridges: Who in Cabinet leaked the Meka Whaitiri report early?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, the member will resume his seat. [Interruption] No, I've just ruled the question out.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We've just had the Prime Minister go on a divergence in relation to leaks in the matter. That then, it seems to me, opened up my question, which I asked.
SPEAKER: The use of the word "leak" doesn't mean that a whole pile of areas can be opened up in a way which is—[Interruption] Right, which member was that who made the noise? [Members stand up] Thank you. You can resume your seats. Now one at a time withdraw and apologise—Louise Upston first.
Hon Louise Upston: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Melissa Lee.
Melissa Lee: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: The mere mention of the word "leaks" does not open up the possibility of any leak, especially in a question which denigrates a group of members of this House and was unauthenticated.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Given that the Standing Orders for the answering of questions mirrors the requirements for asking, why is it then acceptable for the Prime Minister to have a lash at members of the Opposition for what are alleged leaks. I'd further ask you to have a look at the transcript of the answers that have been given by the Prime Minister today. It would be hard to see how any of those answers even slightly link to, let alone address, the questions that were asked.
SPEAKER: I will look at the answers. I mean, it is clear to me that the Prime Minister is not speaking with her normal voice today—[Interruption] Order! That has caused some problems in the House, but I'll also indicate to the member that the rules for questions and answers are quite different; there is no mirror involved.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she aware that in order to elicit changed statements from the estranged wife of Mr Sroubek to bolster the Minister's decision, police and immigration officials turned up unannounced at her home leaving her feeling extremely vulnerable, exposed, and under threat?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the reality is that the Prime Minister was not aware of that. The second thing is that these are circumstances where the chronology of the events is critically important. For example, Mr Sroubek was travelling in 2009, when the Prime Minister was an Opposition member, not the Prime Minister. All manner of cases were being heard in the following years: 2013, 2014, 2015, when the Prime Minister was an Opposition member, not the Prime Minister. In fact, the reality is hundreds of people knew Mr Sroubek. Many of them were lawyers; they would have been from the mixed martial arts society; they'd have been people, for example, who were customs officers, police, and hundreds of others. To impute all of them as somehow guilty of his offence of lying to the system is simply wrong.
Hon Simon Bridges: When will the Opposition get the representations made to the Government on Mr Sroubek's behalf?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The critical question is not when they will get then but when they should have had them, and my colleague the Minister of Immigration didn't have the critical piece of information that he had travelled abroad not once but twice—
Hon Member: When are we going to get them?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, this question is before the House, on behalf of the Prime Minister, because the Minister's decision has been called into question. When he made his decision he put a number of codicils and caveats on his decision, which included the honesty of the applicant in the first place, and then he later discovered that a critical part of the information, which should have been known a long, long time ago, and which was known to the previous Government—because it was the subject of a court case—had not been passed on to him.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does the Prime Minister know personally any of the people who made representations on Mr Sroubek's behalf?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there's no way that I can answer that question.
Hon Members: Oh! Oh!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, how would I know, you nitwit?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Jeez.
SPEAKER: No, no.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have, I understand, taken four supplementaries off the National side of the House for two members verbally expressing some exasperation at the somewhat unintelligible answers being given on behalf of the Prime Minister. If it was something else, then it would useful, I think—
SPEAKER: No, no.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I have another point of order as well.
SPEAKER: Well, you can have that one. I'll just deal with this one first. So I have taken questions off for two members who interjected when I was speaking.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: And my other point of order is to ask for some clarification of the difference between Standing Order 380(1)(a), (b), and (c) and 386(2)(a), (b), and (c).
Hon Gerry Brownlee: 380.
SPEAKER: And the other one?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: 386(2)(a), (b), and (c). They are identical.
SPEAKER: No; there's no difference in those at all, as the member well knows, and I think he's coming very close to trifling with the Chair, because he does know that rules around authentication apply to questions; they do not apply to answers. Rules of privilege apply to answers.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order further—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, you said, sir, that there was no mirror involved in the reply to a question—in other words, the answer—but it is abundantly clear that it says, "arguments, inferences, imputations, epithets, or ironical expressions," are forbidden. The answer given by the Prime Minister was full of those, and that is what led, momentarily, to there being some disorder in the House. And I think for us to be punished for someone else's breach of the Standing Orders is unacceptable.
SPEAKER: Well, the member, as I indicated before—and if he'd listened, he would have heard that the Opposition was not punished for that; they were punished for interjecting while I was speaking. It is different.
• Question No. 3—Finance
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): Over the past few days, a number of reports have highlighted the solid fundamentals of the New Zealand economy. On Friday, the ANZ Roy Morgan consumer confidence index lifted 4 points, to sit around its historically normal levels. ANZ said the index shows consumers were feeling "pretty resilient" and that "a resilient consumer is, of course, good for near-term economic growth." ANZ economists said that their confidence composite gauge, which combines consumer and business confidence, points to GDP growth between 2.5 percent and 3 percent over the next year.
Tamati Coffey: How does this forecast GDP growth rate fit with other recent reports that he's seen?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Last week, the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research said that they expect growth of about 3 percent a year over the next three years due to favourable conditions supporting growth. This follows publication of the latest GDP figures showing quarterly growth of 1 percent and annual growth of 2.7 percent—
Hon Dr David Clark: Serious momentum.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: —in the year to June 2018, about which I saw a report that represented this as serious momentum.
Tamati Coffey: What other recent reports has he seen which indicate serious momentum in the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: This week, Statistics New Zealand released their latest terms of trade figures showing our terms of trade remain near historic highs despite the impacts of the higher international oil prices over the September quarter. In fact, the September quarter reading was the fourth-highest recorded in quarterly data since 1957. Building consent data was also strong for the year to October 2018, particular in Auckland. Statistics New Zealand said that more than 13,000 new homes were consented in Auckland in a year, for the first time since the 1970s. I think we can all agree with Simon Bridges about the serious momentum in the New Zealand economy.
• Question No. 4—Immigration
4. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Immigration: Does he stand by all his statements and actions in relation to Mr Karel Sroubek?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Yes, based on the information and advice available to me at the time.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he stand by the statement that Karel Sroubek's estranged wife has declined to participate in Immigration New Zealand's review of his decision to grant Sroubek residency?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Is the Minister aware that on 5 November, immigration officials arrived unannounced at a house that the estranged wife of Karel Sroubek was staying at, known only to police as part of a police safety plan?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I'm not aware of the details of how the investigation was carried out. That is a matter for Immigration New Zealand and the police force.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Did the Minister, prior to 5 November, have a discussion about the location of the estranged wife of Karel Sroubek with the Minister of Police or anyone from his office?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Is the Minister aware that the estranged wife of Mr Sroubek told immigration officials that she was happy to help but would like her lawyer and support person present and was frightened of the target on her back becoming bigger?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I was told that the person in question declined to participate in the investigation.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does the Minister believe the estranged wife of Karel Sroubek is a National Party informant, as stated by the Prime Minister, or a woman who is frightened of Mr Sroubek and sought help from the Opposition when it became obvious the Government was standing by its decision to grant Mr Sroubek residency?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I only know the matters that are relevant to the decision that I made. Those are that Mr Sroubek's estranged wife provided a letter of support for him, that media reporting then suggested that there was some question about that support, and that when asked to elaborate on that and participate in the investigation into those matters, she declined.
• Question No. 5—Immigration
5. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Under what section of the Immigration Act 2009 did he determine that a new liability for deportation existed in respect of Mr Karel Sroubek?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Section 155.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: As section 155 deals with deportation liability if a visa is granted in error, who made the error, and in relation to the granting of which visa was the error made?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: "Administrative error" is a technical term defined in section 155 of the Immigration Act. In this case, the administrative error was when Mr Sroubek was granted a residence permit on 6 June 2008. He had been convicted of a crime in the Czech Republic and sentenced to more than a year in prison. This meant that he was not eligible for the permit. However, this is not an error in the ordinary sense. Immigration New Zealand could not have been expected to know Mr Sroubek's criminal history because he was posing as Jan Antolik at the time.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is it not also true that the Minister made an error, as was confirmed by the Prime Minister in oral question No. 1 last Thursday?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I made a decision based on the information available to me at the time.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: If it's the case that Mr Sroubek's residence visa of 2008 was granted in error, why, then, did the Minister proceed to grant residency on 19 September 2018, knowing full well from the 12-page summary in front of him that Sroubek, by his criminal record in the Czech Republic, was an excluded person?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I considered the matters before me, which were a question of his liability under section 156 and 161. I weighed all the information available to me at the time and made a decision.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does the Minister consider it part of his job to know the Immigration Act, particularly the parts of the Act which require the application of Ministerial decision, and if so, why did he state, "I don't know every single detail of the Immigration Act. I didn't look at that and say 'Aha! He should be an excluded person.' "
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because, like any sensible Minister, I rely on the expert advice of my officials—people who have committed their lives to knowing the Act inside and out and being able to provide expert advice.
• Question No. 6—Regional Economic Development
6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes, other than when they're wilfully misconstrued.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What terms in the $9.9 million loan to Westland Milk Products from the Provincial Growth Fund are more favourable than could be expected from a commercial loan to a company in its financial situation?
Hon SHANE JONES: Yes, I am aware of that unwanted verbal emission from the West Coast. The loan that is yet to be fully settled, advanced as part of our economic development package in the West Coast area, will run for a longer period of time than they currently have access to in terms of their major bankers.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he said on the Q+A programme in relation to Westland Milk Products' loan "Now, if it's good enough … to have private-public arrangements in infrastructure—and the last Government had them as well—I've simply extended that thesis,", what did he mean?
Hon SHANE JONES: I had in mind the Waimea Community Dam and irrigation—a $7 million grant, if I recall, from the Minister for the Environment, and then the allocation of some capital on commercial terms. The thread that I referred to is traceable back to a seed on the other side of the House.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Has he consulted with the Minister of Finance over his new economic plan and, in particular, over the financial risks to Kiwi taxpayers?
Hon SHANE JONES: I have been known from time to time to seek the views of said finance Minister. I would point out to the House, however, that the manner within which the regional development strategy is being advanced has both links to the work on the other side of the House but a higher level of aspiration and willingness to do robust things on this side of the House.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: As he continues to extend his thesis about public-private arrangements, can we see an announcement that the Government will be co-investing with private enterprise in general manufacturing, supermarkets, petrol stations, and other businesses around the regions?
Hon SHANE JONES: The options that come from the various regions come as a consequence of stakeholders recognising, at long last, that there is a Government that is willing to invert the tired model where lots of promises are made but no capital is available. He of all people should know my stance about Australian-owned supermarkets.
• Question No. 7—Regional Economic Development
7. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he agree with Westland Milk Products chief financial officer Dorian Devers, who said of the Government's $9.9 million loan to the company, "the terms are attractive to us. We could have financed this in other ways but the terms we have been given from the PGF are more favourable. It's a longer-term loan than we can get from a bank which is nice"?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): It did come as something of a surprise to me that the chief financial officer was breaking wind, but I agree with him.
David Seymour: When will the Government reveal the precise terms on which taxpayer money is being loaned to a private business?
Hon SHANE JONES: In relation to the full details of said loan, I have no doubt in my mind that the recipient company will make a declaration as a part of its financial statements. I am loath, however—not unlike how the irrigation entity worked under the last regime—to give too much away, in an indiscriminate fashion.
David Seymour: Let me get this right. Is the Minister saying that he cannot tell the House the terms on which he is loaning $9.9 million of taxpayer money and, instead, we have to rely on a declaration from a chief financial officer which he has just described in this House as, shall we say, "flatulent"?
Hon SHANE JONES: The fact that that member's using that term is totally appropriate.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to what his reaction is to substantial new investment in the regions around this country being the subject of constant attack by two members of Parliament from Epsom?
Hon SHANE JONES: The reality is that we have a robust process for both receiving and approving proposals. Yes, it is different in terms of the last 30 years. Yes, it will challenge some of the purists. Yes, we will continue to do it and look forward to campaigning on it in good time.
Hon Damien O'Connor: Has he seen reports, or does he have opinions, on the $700 million, $350 million of which was taxpayer funding, for the Primary Growth Partnership fund allocated by the National-ACT Government?
SPEAKER: No, no—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: There's a precedent.
Hon Damien O'Connor: Come on—it was a report.
SPEAKER: Well, the member mentions why—I could probably give him a list. First of all, it's a question designed to attack the other side, and those have been regularly ruled out. There's a question of whether this member has any responsibility for that. We could get quite a long list of reasons why the member's question was out of order.
Hon Damien O'Connor: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that. I was asking if he'd seen a report or had an opinion, and I did extrapolate out because I wanted to be clear what reports the Minister might have seen, and I know it—
SPEAKER: You can ask him a whole pile of questions about what reports he's seen outside the House, but, inside the House, you actually have to ask some questions about things he has responsibility for, and that's not one of them.
David Seymour: Another reason: there was no National-ACT Government; it was a confidence and supply agreement. I thought—
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That member has been warned previously about making disorderly points of order. He had no point of order. He knew he had no point of order. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise and is on a final warning for that.
David Seymour: I withdraw and apologise.
• Question No. 8—Education
8. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: How many secondary school teaching positions does he estimate will need to be filled by the start of the 2019 year?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Ministry of Education's analysis estimates that up to 200 secondary teaching positions will need to be filled by the start of the 2019 year. There have been 116 vacancies for secondary school teachers lodged with the Ministry of Education's recruitment agencies. The ministry to date has recruited around 360 secondary teachers ready to be interviewed by schools, and 38 positions have been filled.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How does he reconcile that figure with the figures released by the New Zealand Secondary Principals Council and the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand (SPANZ) that indicate there could be more than 1,400 secondary school teachers required by the start of next year?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Quite easily: the figures that I quoted are based on payroll data and a fairly rigorous analysis by the Ministry of Education. The figures that are quoted by the Post Primary Teachers Association and SPANZ are based on a survey of schools with only around a third of schools actually responding to the survey. They then used that data to extrapolate out a projection for every school in the country, and that's based on the number of vacancies a school have. Now, there will always be regular turnover within the teaching profession, as teachers move schools, for example. The estimate of around just under 200 is the number of extra teachers we will require in addition to those already in the workforce.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Can he guarantee that the 565 overseas teachers that the ministry says are ready for schools will resolve teacher shortages given that principals think he's dreaming if he thinks there's only 200 vacancies short?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm confident that we're doing everything we can. I'm not confident that it's going to resolve all of the issues that have accumulated under nine years of neglect. Had the member been so concerned about teacher shortages, perhaps she could have done something about that in the nine years the previous Government allowed that to happen. There was a 40 percent reduction in the number of teacher trainees during her Government's tenure, and we are now feeling the effects of that.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Can he confirm that he cut voluntary bonding payments in Auckland for teachers, and will he take responsibility for the fact that 50 percent of secondary principals surveyed say that it's harder to fill vacancies than in 2017?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In regard to the last part of the question, the responsibility for that rests squarely with the previous Minister of Education, because the number of teachers in the workforce today are a direct representation of the failure of the previous Government's approach when it comes to initial teacher education and recruiting additional teachers. With regard to the voluntary bonding scheme, this Government has increased the number of teachers eligible for the voluntary bonding scheme.
• Question No. 9—Health
9. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received on mental health and addiction?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Last Wednesday I received the report of the inquiry into mental health and addiction, and this morning I released it publicly. The report urges the Government to put people at the centre of its approach to mental health and addiction issues. While I'm not here to announce the Government's response to the inquiry today, I believe this is an approach that would find favour on both sides of this House.
Dr Liz Craig: Why has the Government moved so quickly to release the report?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There is a huge public interest in these issues. Tens of thousands of people signed petitions calling for an inquiry, and the panel received more than 5,200 submissions. It's important that we keep faith with those people and, by releasing the report within a week of receiving it, we're doing just that. The release of the report will no doubt spark a fresh public conversation about mental health and addictions. I welcome that and in particular look forward to hearing the response to the report's findings from those with lived experience.
Dr Liz Craig: When will the Government formally respond to the inquiry?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: It will take time for us to work through the report and to do justice to its recommendations and to do justice to the voices contained in the report. We've already identified mental health and well-being as a priority for the next Budget. We'll be working through the detail on that, informed by the report. We're working through the report's 40 recommendations already, and the Government will respond formally in March next year. I want to be upfront with the public, though, that while some things can be addressed in relatively short order, many of the issues we are facing, such as workforce shortages—while we're moving on them now—will take many years to fully address.
• Question No. 10—Health
10. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his actions and policies around the meningococcal outbreak in Northland and the meningococcal vaccination?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and in particular the swift response to declaration on 8 November of a community outbreak of meningococcal W in Northland.
Matt King: Why did the ministry not act on the serious concerns raised by the Northland District Health Board as far back as May this year when they requested a meningitis vaccination campaign?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Government has acted swiftly on expert advice. The technical advisory group concluded that there was a community outbreak of meningococcal W in Northland on 8 November and recommended a targeted vaccination campaign. The Ministry of Health and Pharmac quickly secured 20,000 doses of vaccine in the face of strong international demand. Vaccinations will start next week. That's a swift response in anyone's book.
SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to ask Matt King to ask that question again.
Matt King: Why did the ministry not act on the serious concerns raised by the Northland District Health Board as far back as May this year when they requested a meningitis vaccination campaign?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject the premise of the member's question.
Dr Shane Reti: How does he respond to serious concerns expressed at the northern region GP conference on 19 May this year where the specialist presenting said "The thing that irks me is a very successful vaccine already exists out there. Our Ministry of Health has been very quick to sit on their thumbs. I honestly fear for this winter."
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The conversations that took place throughout this year when concerns were raised were appropriate. The ministry and representatives from Pharmac and district health boards have looked to ensure that they were prepared, should an outbreak be declared, and, indeed, they have moved swiftly once an outbreak was declared.
Dr Shane Reti: I seek to table the article in New Zealand Doctor that reported the conference 6 June 2018—it's behind a paywall, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
• Question No. 11—ACC
11. Hon TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for ACC: Is he satisfied that ACC has presented a compelling case for increasing by 12 percent the motor vehicle levy that New Zealand motorists must pay; if so, what is that justification?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for ACC): I am considering ACC's levy recommendations and will discuss these with my Cabinet colleagues in due course.
Hon Simon Bridges: Tax by stealth. He's vulnerable.
SPEAKER: Order! Order! If the Leader of the Opposition wants to ask the question, he has priority. Does he want to?
Hon Simon Bridges: I don't have any.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Why has the Minister repeatedly assured New Zealanders that ACC will have to make a very strong case when it proposed increasing the petrol levy by 2c a litre, when now he won't rule out increasing the motor vehicle levy by 12 percent, which will raise the same amount of tax from motorists?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Because ACC's processes are statutorily independent from me as Minister—that's appropriate. It would be entirely inappropriate for me to interfere with those processes, but, ultimately, this is a decision for the Cabinet to—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! No, sorry. Mr Robertson, you will stand, withdraw and apologise. I think we've had some very poor examples from the two most senior Government members in the House today.
Hon Grant Robertson: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Mr Lees-Galloway. No, start again please.
Hon Simon Bridges: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. When he says "two most senior", does he mean me and Grant Robertson. What about Winston Peters?
SPEAKER: Sorry? Would the member like to elaborate? What's his issue?
Hon Simon Bridges: That's all right.
SPEAKER: Well, there was an argument happening between Mr Robertson and himself. He was lucky not to be singled out in the way Mr Robertson was, and I used the time to indicate a general level of dissatisfaction with the senior members of the Government. Having, frankly, comments that are smart-arse from the Leader of the Opposition, by way of a disorderly point of order, in the way that I've just warned Mr Seymour of, is not at all helpful.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is surprising to hear you use language like that directed at the Leader of the Opposition, when you are at the same time calling for more order and decorum in the House, and I think, frankly, it's inappropriate.
SPEAKER: No, I withdraw and apologise for my comment to the Leader of the Opposition, but I do want to reinforce the fact that I have had more than enough of points of order that are nothing but disorderly, and the Leader of the Opposition and Mr Seymour are the two worst offenders.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What about Mr Peters?
SPEAKER: No. Mr Peters' ones are generally by way of supplementary question rather than point of order.
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: ACC's process for determining its recommendations on levy setting is a statutorily independent process. It would be entirely inappropriate for me as a Minister to intervene in that process. Ultimately, the decision about ACC levies is one for Cabinet. Cabinet gets to take into consideration matters such as cost of living and the broader economic situation, and I can assure the member—as I have every time I've answered this line of questioning—that that's exactly what Cabinet will do.
Hon Tim Macindoe: So in order to ensure that he can take the best information to Cabinet, has he sought assurances from ACC that they are doing everything they can to minimise their costs so that they don't have to take more money from New Zealanders?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes.
• Question No. 12—Commerce and Consumer Affairs
12. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What recent announcements has he made on market studies?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources) on behalf of the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: On behalf of the Minister, yesterday, the Prime Minister and I were pleased to announce that we'll be asking the Commerce Commission to under take an investigation into the retail fuel market. The Government is concerned about the high cost of fuel and the financial pressure it is putting on families and businesses. This is why we are taking action to understand the market conditions and to determine whether consumers' interests are being promoted at present and, if not, what actions need to be taken.
Jo Luxton: Why has fuel been chosen as the first market study?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: On behalf of the Minister, there are indications of competition problems in the retail fuel market, such as the more than doubling of petrol and diesel importer margins over the past decade. The previous Government attempted to look at the matter, but without the market studies power that this Government has given the Commerce Commission, they were unable to definitively conclude whether or not there is a competition problem in the market. This Government is committed to ensuring consumers are getting a fair deal at the pump.
Jo Luxton: What will the market study into fuel look like?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: On behalf of the Minister, the terms of reference for the market study specify the study will be focused on factors that may affect competition for the supply of retail petrol and diesel used for land transport throughout New Zealand. These include matters such as the structure of the industry; barriers to competition; the extent of competition at the refinery, wholesale, and retail levels, including the role of imports; and features of retail petrol and diesel markets that are no longer in the long-term interests of consumers. This is a Government that is committed to asking the hard questions about this.