Parliament: Questions and Answers - Dec 11
• ORAL QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Child Poverty Reduction
1. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction: What is her response to the finding in yesterday's Child Poverty Monitor report that around 100,000 New Zealand children are "doing it really tough"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Minister for Child Poverty Reduction): To be honest, I would say that probably more than that would be doing it really tough in New Zealand, but I do welcome the contribution that the Children's Commissioner continues to make, using the Child Poverty Monitor as a way of highlighting the ongoing situation of many children and their families. I am pleased that in the very near future we are looking, with the support of all bar one member of this House, to pass the Child Poverty Reduction Bill. It will lay the foundation for greater transparency, accountability, and action on child poverty.
MARAMA DAVIDSON: What will her Child Poverty Reduction Bill do to actually turn around the appalling outcomes for kids across education, food, housing, health, and incomes?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is right to point out that it's not just about income, although that is the basis and grounding of the legislation. It requires successive Governments to make sure that they gather the data on child poverty. There has been issue with the data available in the past couple of years, so it puts that requirement on Government that they are then recorded as part of the Public Finance Act alongside each Budget, and then that a strategy and action plan around reducing child poverty is set out in the public domain as well. Thanks to the contribution of the Opposition, we will be including additional indicators beyond income, so we will look at things like education, health, and housing as indicators of child well-being and areas of action that we need to lift the well-being of all kids.
Marama Davidson: Is she confident that the work of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group will lead to the transformational changes we need if we are serious about addressing child poverty?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I certainly think that there is a lot of expectation around that working group's eventual report. Of course, we want to ensure that we have a tool and an opportunity to deliver for children who are living in households where the main sources of incomes are benefits. We know that children in poverty are overrepresented amongst that cohort, so I have high expectations and hopes that they'll deliver some options and opportunities for us to really both improve the system but also improve the lot of children living in benefit-dependent households.
Marama Davidson: Does she then support the Children's Commissioner's recommendation of indexing child benefits to wage and price inflation like we do for superannuation?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It is certainly fair to say that this country hasn't experienced the same level of income poverty for our superannuitants and that many who are advocates for children put that down to that indexation. I don't want to pre-empt what the working group will do and the recommendations that they will make, but, as I've said, I do have some hope that they'll bring suggestions to us that will mean that we can improve the well-being of children.
Marama Davidson: Does she agree that the big increase in the number of food grants being given to families this year shows that incomes, from both benefits and low wages, aren't enough for families to get by on?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It's definitely an indication of need. What we of course will see over time, I'm sure, is that because of the Families Package, which came in on 1 July—it's the most significant change to the incomes of those low and middle income earners using Working for Families in over a decade: 380,000 families on average receiving $75 a week once it's fully rolled out. We've also increased the minimum wage. We've brought in the winter energy payment. We've brought in things like extensions to paid parental leave. There are a number of changes that, in our view, will start having an impact, but we have to be absolutely clear: there is still need out there and there is more work to do.
• Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. 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.
Hon Simon Bridges: When the Minister of Housing and Urban Development said earlier this year that no one should be sleeping in a car this winter, does she stand by her response, "Absolutely, no one."; if so, why has the Government not delivered on that?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, this Government absolutely stands by that statement. No one in New Zealand should be sleeping in a car, which is why we have come in with an ambitious plan around both addressing the issues of supply—making sure that there is emergency housing, increasing public housing supply by over 6,000 places. We have also told people "If you are in need, our door is open.", and we acknowledge that as soon as we said that we knew the numbers would go up. We said they would go up, and they have.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that in fact the cost of living is hurting New Zealand families when the median rents across New Zealand have increased $30 a week in the past year, petrol taxes are costing some New Zealand families an extra $15 a litre—
SPEAKER: That's two questions.
Hon Simon Bridges: —every time they fill their car, and, to make things worse, electricity prices are starting to rise as well?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do want to bring a few numbers into this debate. Look, no one is denying that we have a supply issue with housing in New Zealand. That's why we've acknowledged there is a housing crisis and it's why we are building more houses. It is going to take us a bit of time to turn this ship around. Nine years is a long time for there to be both inaction and the sale of State houses, but we're getting on with the job. I do also want to point out, though, the latest figures from Statistics New Zealand show the average household income in the year to June 2018 was up 5 percent from the previous year, compared to an average rise under National of 3.3 percent.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she seen reports from Auckland City Mission of a 27 percent increase in demand for food parcels this Christmas; if so, what is her response to Chris Farrelly, the head of the city mission, who says that high rental costs were to blame for growing food insecurity?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'll be visiting Chris before Christmas. It's something I frequently try and continue—to make contact with the city mission. It's why this Government has contributed in the order of $16 million to try and support the building of a project which will help ease the strain on those in housing crisis. I would imagine, though, that those who work in the housing sector will agree that as a Government we have come in with an ambitious plan that includes building more houses. That is the only way we are going to deal with what ultimately is the lack of supply that we were left with by that last Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: What's her explanation to the Christchurch City Mission, who've experienced a 43 percent increase in demand for food parcels this Christmas compared to last Christmas?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I say, and as I acknowledged in the answer to the last member's question, since July, of course, we've put significant changes into our tax transfer system. I can only imagine how dire it would have been if we had National in office giving tax cuts and not putting $75 a week into the pockets of those who need it the most.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that increasing taxes on residential property investors is increasing rents for low-income households—
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Sorry, I apologise. There's some commotion happening at the back of the House, and it's to stop.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that increasing taxes on residential property investors is increasing rents for low-income households and making things worse in terms of rent costs all around New Zealand?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can she say, as she did earlier, that the Families Package will help when it has been in effect since July and yet, compared to last year, demand for food parcels has increased 27 percent in Auckland, 43 percent in Christchurch, and 54,000 more people are receiving hardship grants across New Zealand this year?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I'm saying it will make a difference because $75 a week on average, once it's fully rolled out, is a significant change—the biggest change in over a decade. Add to that the winter energy payment. These are huge changes that were made to our benefit system and far more than the last Government ever proposed or ever did.
• Question No. 3—Prime Minister
3. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all of her statements, answers, and actions in relation to Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her statement last week that there will be members of Parliament who would quite possibly have been associated with Karel Sroubek and those who made representations on his behalf?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. I believe that was an answer given on my behalf by the Deputy Prime Minister, and yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she checked any in her Government fit that description?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I mentioned last week when I was directly asked about my knowledge of those who made direct representations in this case, I do not know who made direct representations as part of this case, and so I simply could not answer that question then and cannot now.
Hon Simon Bridges: Given that I've now asked several times in this House, will she find out?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I believe the member has an Official Information Act (OIA) request around this question, but when it comes to the direct—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Prime Minister will resume her seat. Can I just ask that if members on my left actually want an answer, they listen. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Amy Adams. Did you interject after my comment then?
Hon Amy Adams: I did.
SPEAKER: Stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Amy Adams: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Just to complete: my understanding is the member has an Official Information Act request in around the representations that were made.
SPEAKER: No. I am going to ask the Prime Minister to—I think she was asked: "Will she find out?", and I think the fact that that member's going to find out, unless she reads them, doesn't mean that she's answered the question.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In answer to the question—the member has repeatedly asked me who made direct representations in the case—I assume he means to Immigration New Zealand as part of the investigation. I simply do not have responsibility—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will you find out?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —for the decision that was made. I have not been involved in the decision that was made, and nor would it be appropriate for the decision that was made. Hence the fact I do not know who made representations or was involved with Immigration New Zealand.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will you find out?
SPEAKER: No. Dr Smith will now stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: What for?
SPEAKER: For making four inappropriate interjections during that question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. What is inappropriate about an interjection that says, "Will she find out?"
SPEAKER: The member didn't say "she".
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: Can the Prime Minister confirm that she asked the Minister of Immigration if any member of Parliament made any representations to him prior to making—
Hon Simon Bridges: That's not what I asked.
Hon Iain Lees-Galloway: —either of these decisions, and that the answer to that question was no?
SPEAKER: Right. What I'm going to go is ask who made that interjection.
Hon Simon Bridges: I apologise. It was me, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Thank you.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it a case of see no evil, hear no evil, because, quite possibly—
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. He will start a question that is in order and does not contain any irony.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it the case that the Prime Minister doesn't want to know about the representations, because, quite possibly, there are associations in her Government with Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. And as I have pointed out in the public domain previously before, the first instance that I knew of this case was when it was in the media and once the decision had already been made. It is most appropriate that the Minister deals with these cases and as he himself has confirmed, no MP made any representations directly to him around this case.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that New Zealanders need to have confidence in the appearance of things here and decisions and processes regarding Karel Sroubek in her Government, and so she should find out?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I do accept that, which is why I asked the Minister the question. It is important to know whether or not any member of Parliament made any direct representation to him on this case. As he confirmed to me at the time and has done again in the House today, they did not. And, again, as I've said, the first I knew of this case was when it was in the public domain.
Hon Simon Bridges: When will we see the representations made on behalf of Karel Sroubek?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I mentioned, my understanding is that there is an Official Information Act request in with the Minister. I understand that that might be available, I think, obviously, within the 21-day window. So in the coming weeks, I would imagine.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she know any people who made representations?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I don't want to be circular here. I don't know who made representations with Immigration New Zealand. Obviously, the member's put in an OIA, and that information will be provided to him. I simply do not know who had contact with Immigration New Zealand in this case, but I have asked whether or not any MPs did, and, as the Minister said, no one made representations to him themselves or on anyone else's behalf.
• Question No. 4—Finance
4. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: What progress, if any, has been made on implementing the Government's economic policies?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Excellent progress on a number of fronts, which see solid economic growth in the face of some international headwinds. Today I want to talk about our progress in laying the foundations for a transition to a more productive, sustainable, and inclusive economy and away from a dependence on housing speculation and a growing population to drive economic growth. This has included, for this Government, a range of regulatory and systemic changes, including new legislation and policies to help businesses grow and policies to lift wages so that all New Zealanders benefit from a strong economy.
Dr Deborah Russell: What regulatory changes is the Government making to help progress its economic policies?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: To make good progress on our economic policies, we did first have to make sure that the underlying regulatory settings would help deliver more productive, sustainable, and inclusive growth. For example, today in the House we are modernising the 30-year-old Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act to ensure that our monetary policy framework provides the most efficient and effective model for New Zealand and contributes to sustainable economic growth. We've also introduced changes to the Overseas Investment Act to support fairness in the housing market, and last week the Employment Relations Act changes were passed, which ensure a better balance in our workplace relations. These are important foundation actions to support productive, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth.
Dr Deborah Russell: What other work is ongoing to build the foundations for more productive, sustainable, and inclusive growth?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Tax Working Group's interim report was delivered earlier this year, outlining the work they're doing to make our tax system fairer and more balanced, and we will receive the final report early next year. We're progressing reform of the State sector and public finance Acts to ensure well-being is embedded and to make sure that Government is able to focus on the quality of our economic growth through a well-being approach, and legislation is before the House to close loopholes to even up the playing field for New Zealand retailers and promote productive investment. I look forward to updating the House over the next few days on other areas of economic policy that are contributing to the serious momentum in the New Zealand economy.
• Question No. 5—Housing and Urban Development
5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many ministerial meetings has he had with Stephen Barclay, head of KiwiBuild, and when was the last time he met with Mr Barclay?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I've had 20 meetings with officials of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development over the last six months, which often included Mr Barclay. There were other meetings outside of regular officials meetings which he may have attended too. My office estimates this could be as many as 20 additional meetings. However, my office does not track attendance of all individuals at those meetings. My last meeting with Mr Barclay was on 12 November 2018.
Hon Judith Collins: What information, if any, has he received as to the reason that Mr Barclay, head of KiwiBuild, is "away from the office", as stated by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Mr Speaker, given the public interest in this issue, with your permission, I would like to give a slightly longer than normal answer to this question. Stephen Barclay has not resigned as the head of KiwiBuild. There is an ongoing employment issue, which I cannot comment on. While he's out of the office, day-to-day support of the KiwiBuild programme is being managed by Brad Ward, a member of the senior leadership at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. However, I can confirm for the member that Mr Barclay's employment matter has nothing to do with his relationship with me or my office, it has nothing to do with the establishment of the new Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and it has nothing to do with the merits of the KiwiBuild policy. Other than what I have said, it is not in the individual's interest, nor the public interest, for me to comment further. Responsibility for staff at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development is a matter for the chief executive of that ministry, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment on employment matters. I can assure the House that the chief executive of the ministry is giving this matter priority attention and the KiwiBuild unit is working incredibly hard to build affordable homes for Kiwi families.
Hon Judith Collins: Well, if it's not a matter that the Minister has become involved in, then why did he comment on 9 May, "Great to have someone of Stephen's calibre leading the KiwiBuild team."?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I think that most people would recognise that publicly welcoming the appointment of a new chief executive is quite different from a Minister breaking the conventions in the Cabinet Manual and the provisions of the State Sector Act to wade into an employment dispute.
David Seymour: Is it not the case that KiwiBuild is such an illogical, confused, and contradictory dog's breakfast of a policy that the guy in charge has given up trying to work it out and gone into hiding?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.
Hon Judith Collins: Has he received any advice that Stephen Barclay is still being paid for his time away from the office, and, if so, what was that advice?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's an employment matter, and I have not received any advice of that nature.
Hon Judith Collins: Does he believe that New Zealanders deserve to know why Mr Barclay has been away from the office and whether or not Mr Barclay is being paid?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I think New Zealanders deserve a Minister that will follow the conventions of the Cabinet Manual and the provisions of the State Sector Act, not wade into an employment dispute. I would have thought that the member, who's a former lawyer and Minister, would understand that.
Hon Judith Collins: Why, then, has it taken six weeks for him to advise New Zealanders that his head of KiwiBuild is "away from the office"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because there's an employment dispute going on that's being dealt with by the chief executive of the ministry.
• Question No. 6—Transport
6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: Does he remain committed to light rail from Auckland's CBD to the airport; if so, how many people does the latest modelling available to him predict will use it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Yes. Light rail will be a game-changer for Auckland. The preferred route between the city centre and Māngere has been developed after comprehensive studies based on two central goals: providing better transport access and more capacity to support growth in the CBD and the wider urban areas—particularly the airport precinct, which is home to more than 30,000 jobs. The Transport Agency advises that the latest transport modelling indicates that in 2048, there will be 20 million passengers per year using the light rail line from the city to Māngere, including an estimated 70,000 people per working day.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he says the light rail is going to Māngere, does he mean the airport or the Māngere town centre?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The plan is for the light rail to go to the airport, but its primary function is to support the job-rich economic centre in the airport precinct. Its primary purpose is to help people get to and from work and education and all of the things that they need.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: If he remains committed to the project, why is everyone in Auckland saying that a link from Puhinui Station will be the primary public transport connection to the airport and that light rail is about urban regeneration in Mount Roskill?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because they're not.
David Seymour: How long does it take a vehicle travelling at 30 kilometres an hour to travel 20 kilometres from the Auckland CBD to the airport?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, that depends on how congested the roads at the time that the person is travelling. But I will say this: our Government's committed to building a modern rapid transit network across the city that will ease congestion for the next few generations and give people a genuine alternative to sitting in the chronic gridlock—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Now, I—[Interruption] No, I don't want a point of order, I want an answer to the question.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I can't answer that question. If the member wants to put it in writing, I'll happily get the modelling for him. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: No, both members will resume their seats. I will accept the answer, but I think I've said to a number of members that I take responsibility for their lack of numeracy as a former Minister of Education, and I would expect a Minister to be nimble enough to work out 20 kilometres at 30 kilometres an hour.
David Seymour: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave to table calculations showing the answer is 40 minutes.
SPEAKER: I'm not going to accept that, because I think the vast majority of people in the House could do it even if they had to use their fingers.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister: is there any part of Auckland in the area suggested by the primary question that is unimpeded for 20 kilometres, particularly at intersections?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There is not.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he regard a light rail tram going down Dominion Road as "rapid transit"; and, if so, how fast does he think the trams will be going?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The description of rapid transit is when through priority lanes or a separate route, whether it's a bus or light rail or heavy rail, doesn't have to compete with cars. That is the intention for the light rail from the city to Māngere. That's why it will deliver modern rapid transit from all of the people living on the isthmus and a huge swathe of South Auckland, and that's why the former Government, when Simon Bridges was the transport Minister, NZTA, and Auckland Transport all chose light rail as the preferred mode for the city centre to Māngere route. And I don't know why the current Government is now campaigning against it.
Hon Judith Collins: Current Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Opposition.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How would he define rapid?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I refer the member to my earlier answer.
• Question No. 7—Education
7. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister of Education: What announcements has he made about upgrading classrooms?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): More good news. Today, I announced that over $30 million will be spent upgrading three schools in the Tasman/Marlborough region: Collingwood Area School, Golden Bay High School, and Queen Charlotte College. The new funding will upgrade 37 classrooms and provide 10 replacement classrooms. This comes on top of yesterday's announcement that the Government is increasing the redevelopment budget for Mana College to over $15 million, to give them 17 new flexible learning spaces and a new library.
Rino Tirikatene: How many new builds, expansions, and redevelopments has the Government announced this year?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: So far, the Government has announced 62 school property announcements this year. We are committed to investing in warm, dry, and modern classrooms. This consists of five major rebuilds, including Marlborough boys' and girls' colleges, Onepoto Primary School, and Paerata Primary School; 11 redevelopments, such as Onehunga High School and Otumoetai College; two expansions of Waterview School and Sommerville Special School; and 38 announcements around roll-growth classrooms.
• Question No. 8—Foreign Affairs
8. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Will the Government sign the United Nations global compact for migration?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Minister of Foreign Affairs): A final decision has not been made, as we are seeking the best legal advice from Crown Law so that we can make an informed decision on a matter which was started by the National Party on 19 September 2016, and there is the document.
Hon Todd McClay: Is the Minister aware that the United Nations migration compact was adopted in Morocco yesterday by countries who attended, including New Zealand; and, if so, has the Government received the additional advice the Prime Minister said she was seeking at post-Cabinet yesterday before a decision would be made?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I am not aware of that, because it did not happen the way that member said. In fact, it looks like now that this matter will be for decision at the United Nations on Wednesday the 19th in the US, or Thursday New Zealand time.
Hon Todd McClay: Why has the Government still not arrived at a position on this UN agreement when they've had the text of the agreement since July of this year and adopted it yesterday in Morocco?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, it was not adopted yesterday in Marrakesh, Morocco—for the umpteenth time; catch up. Here is the fact: the previous Government initiated the process that led to consideration of its adoption. This is the document. However, this Government is famous for getting its facts right and doing the research before making a judgment.
Hon Todd McClay: Why did he say last week that the Government had not received briefings on the negotiation when he himself received an update and was asked to sign off on final negotiating parameters for the agreement on 7 March of this year, and are these the actions of an open and transparent Government?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It would've been very difficult to sign off in March of this year when the final submission was made by the department in July of this year. You see, I mean, we have a certain predilection to be able to forecast, but we're not that good.
Hon Todd McClay: I agree with the last point, but does he still believe that the US, Australia, Switzerland, Chile, Italy, and others are wrong when they say that they are concerned with the impact this agreement will have on their ability to set migration policy, and, if so, will he be telling the US administration this next week when he goes to the US to personally sign this agreement?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, I am not going to the United States to personally sign this agreement. I can best answer by putting forward the Danish representation overnight at Marrakesh, where this representative said the following: "Migrants who have been invited must be treated fairly and well in all countries, while irregular migrants who have no legal right to stay must be effectively and safely readmitted to their home countries. Let there be no doubt: every human being has human rights, but migration is not a human right, and migration can never be unchecked or uncontrolled."
Hon Todd McClay: I seek leave to table a statement made yesterday in Morocco by the UN Secretary-General titled "Governments adopt a global migration compact to help 'prevent suffering and chaos' ".
SPEAKER: And I have an assurance that that has not come from a website?
Hon Todd McClay: No, but I'll send it across to the Minister.
SPEAKER: The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise for being disorderly.
Hon Todd McClay: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: I'll repeat to members that members who attempt to do that in the future will be in more serious trouble, and that includes members on this side.
• Question No. 9—Social Development
9. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all of her statements and actions?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Yes, in the context in which they were given or done.
Hon Louise Upston: Does she stand by her statement in relation to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) housing vulnerable families at motels used to accommodate child sex offenders that "Clearly, had the Ministry of Social Development been informed that this offender had moved into the same environment as the children, it would have intervened."?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I am going to interpret the member's question as referring to a case where a sex offender had been placed into a motel that was used for emergency accommodation on 30 April, something that I found out about on 30 July. That particular person did make contact with MSD on 3 May when he sought support for a housing assessment. The person undertaking the housing assessment was not the person who had placed that particular person into the motel and did not have access to emergency motel accommodation information, so did not make the connection that this person was staying in a motel where families could be placed through MSD.
Hon Louise Upston: Why did MSD not intervene and move vulnerable families from motels, despite being given a list from the Department of Corrections of motels where offenders were being housed; and why were there still vulnerable families housed with offenders in the same motels more than two weeks later, despite the Prime Minister saying this was a huge oversight and she expects better?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Just reflecting on this question, I need to point out that under the previous Government there was a serious offence that occurred by a sex offender and no follow-up was undertaken by the Department of Corrections or MSD with regards to a serious memorandum of understanding (MOU) to address it. The only time an MOU was introduced was in October this year under this Government when MSD and corrections got together to seriously address this. MSD does not have responsibility for placing serious sexual offenders. Corrections has the responsibility for that; MSD has responsibility for placing families. The good thing is that now, under us, there is an MOU, which means that on a daily basis MSD and corrections are sharing information so that this should not happen again, and, reflecting again, it continued to happen despite what happened under the previous Government.
Hon Louise Upston: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a long and interesting answer but didn't actually address the question that I asked.
SPEAKER: Yes, it did.
Hon Louise Upston: Why was the MOU signed by MSD and corrections in May 2017 not implemented until October 2018; and how many children were put at risk in the intervening 17 months?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: If I heard that member right, she referred to an MOU that was written in May 2017 and signed in 2017. They were in Government then; she needs to ask her colleagues why that was not implemented.
Hon Louise Upston: What has the Minister said to the woman and her children who were housed by MSD at the same motel as sex offenders not once but twice?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The assertion that there was a woman with children that was placed in a motel with sex offenders twice is information I did not know about. But I can say with the case that was brought to my attention, there was a thorough investigation. Fortunately, there was no harm caused to those children. The same cannot be said under the previous Government when they did nothing about this during their time.
• Question No. 10—ACC
10. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: What announcements has he made this week about ACC levies?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for ACC): Yesterday, the Prime Minister and I announced that the work account levy will be reduced and that the earners account and motor vehicle account levies will be held at their current levels. This will result in an overall reduction in the levies Kiwis pay to ACC of $100 million.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: Why did he recommend this decision to Cabinet?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, New Zealanders expect to get fair treatment and compensation from ACC in return for a fair levy. These levy rates ensure that ACC will always be there when people need it, while making sure that no one is overcharged for that service.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: Why has the Government decided to stop charging variable levies based on vehicle risk rating?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, three reasons: first, there is no evidence that variable registration fees are making the vehicle fleet any safer; second, the variable levy system has been difficult and expensive to administer with no demonstrable benefit; and, third, charging people who can't afford to buy a newer car a higher ACC levy amounts to a regressive tax on the poorest families, and that is something that this Government will not allow to continue.
• Question No. 11—Police
11. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Police: Can he confirm that Alexandra, Balclutha, Helensville, Southern rural, Tasman rural, Wanaka, Wellsford, Wairoa, Rolleston, Taumarunui, Te Kuiti, Thames, Dannevirke/Waipukurau, Dargaville, Kaikohe/Kerikeri, Stratford, Motueka, and Marton police bases will now no longer be upgraded to be 24/7 police bases?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Police provide a 24/7 service to the public in every single one of those towns with response times of between 7 and 12 minutes on average. Decisions on opening hours and staffing at these sites are made by district commanders, who are best placed to make those decisions rather than politicians who work in Wellington. I have absolute confidence in our police district commanders, who have, on average, 30 years of policing experience, to deliver in a way that keeps our communities safe. I wish that member would support our police more like we do on this side of the House.
Chris Bishop: Does he agree with the member of Parliament representing the town of Wairoa, who welcomed the 24/7 police announcement in 2017, and, if so, why has he committed to a policy that has resulted in the cancellation of the upgrade of 20 police bases, including in Wairoa?
Hon STUART NASH: The member who represents Wairoa absolutely commends this Government for delivering 1,800 more police over three years.
SPEAKER: Order! The member representing Wairoa is not answering the question; the Minister of Police is.
Hon STUART NASH: When I was last speaking to the "Minister of Wairoa", as the Minister of Police, he was absolutely rapt that, in fact, the Eastern District got the highest number of police in the 1,800 we're going to strive to deliver over three years.
Ginny Andersen: What is the Minister's response to those communities in the Southern District and Northland, who are concerned at the police's decision not to extend the operating hours of some bases?
Hon STUART NASH: This Government is striving for 1,800 extra police, and Budget 2018 was the biggest investment in New Zealand Police history. Northland is getting 87 extra police; Tasman is getting 55 extra police; Canterbury is getting 121 extra police; Southern, for example, is getting 88 extra police. There will be an additional 520 investigators and technical specialists to be located across the country to deal with serious and organised crime. This Government and the New Zealand Police are committed to keeping our communities safe and feeling safe.
Hamish Walker: Has he seen the comments of the Mayor of Clutha, who said, "Six thousand square kilometres, and for six hours a day, there's no policing. Guess when the tinny houses open?", and how can he justify to Balclutha the cancellation of their station upgrade to 24/7 coverage?
Hon STUART NASH: If that member believes he knows more about policing than the Southern District commander, who has 33 years of policing experience, then I suggest maybe he leaves Parliament and joins the police—we're after new recruits.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Minister confirm that in the drive to 1,800 new police men and women on the front line, that on Thursday the 1,000th one will be graduating in Wellington, at the attendance of which the Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be, as well?
Hon STUART NASH: I am very happy to confirm that. It is a wonderful day—over 1,000 new officers into our communities since we became the Government.
Matt King: Has he seen the comments of Federated Farmers' rural security spokesperson Miles Anderson, who said, "Out in the provinces, people are isolated and probably far more vulnerable than they are in urban settings.", and why doesn't he support the target of 95 percent of New Zealanders living within 25 kilometres of a 24/7 police station?
Hon STUART NASH: That member, as a former police officer himself, will know that what really makes a difference in our communities is more police out there, dealing proactively with our communities, and really making a difference. I would expect that member to back Tony Hill, the Northland District commander, who has 28 years of experience in deploying his resources in a way that he sees fit.
Chris Bishop: Why have 20 regional communities around New Zealand had their planned upgrades to 24/7 police coverage cancelled, despite $503 million over four years in Budget 2017 and an additional $298.9 million in Budget 2018, and the alleged, apparently, 1,800 police officers coming on the beat?
Hon STUART NASH: If that member really believes that the best use of police resources is a couple of men and women sitting in a station at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, then I suggest he needs to get out more. This Government is about putting police into our communities and backing our police commissioner and his team to deploy resources in a way that they see fit, to keep our communities safe and prevent crime.
• Question No. 12—Whnau Ora
12. JO HAYES (National) to the Minister for Whānau Ora: Has he asked Hon Willie Jackson if he was both a Government Minister and a trustee of the Manukau Urban Māori Authority when it received dividends from Te Pou Matakana; if so, what was his response?
Hon PEENI HENARE (Minister for Whānau Ora): No. This is outside of my responsibilities as the Minister for Whānau Ora.
Jo Hayes: Has he asked the Hon Willie Jackson if he was both a Government Minister and a trustee of the National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA) when it received dividends from Te Pou Matakana; if so, what was his response?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Normally that question would be allowed, but that question imputes an illegality on a conflict of interest with no evidence whatsoever, and this House should know that that's going to lead to disorder. If that member wishes to make those sorts of insinuations by way of a question, then we need the evidence, otherwise it's out of order, in my submission.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
SPEAKER: No, before I deal with that, the two members who interjected while Mr Peters was on his feet will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Todd McClay: I withdraw and apologise.
Andrew Bayly: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Well, there were three.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With regards to that: firstly, it was a question, and a question about a subject the Minister should know about, but it also came after a series of questions at a select committee, and the transcript, of course, would be available should the foreign Minister wish to read it.
SPEAKER: Yeah. I'm going to ask the member to read her question again. I think it went right up to the margin. It doesn't have authentication, but I want to listen to it carefully.
Jo Hayes: Has he asked the Hon Willie Jackson if he was both a Government Minister and a trustee of the National Urban Māori Authority when it received dividends from Te Pou Matakana; if so, what was his response?
SPEAKER: Yeah—no, that question's acceptable.
Hon PEENI HENARE: No, and I have full confidence in the management of conflicts of interest by this Government.
Jo Hayes: Why hasn't he asked the Hon Willie Jackson that question, considering their disagreements on information that came to light in a One News story last week?
Hon PEENI HENARE: The member shouldn't believe everything she sees on the news.
Jo Hayes: How can he be certain, then, that the $600,000 of dividends will be reinvested back into Whānau Ora, if his own CEO was concerned about the practice?
Hon PEENI HENARE: I'm confident because the recipients of such a fund are actually charitable entities, and—as Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector, with purview over charities—they are obliged to reinvest that money into their charitable purpose and into their services in the community.
Jo Hayes: Has he had a word with his colleague for further background on the administrative error which saw him remain as a trustee for NUMA up until February this year, and, if so, what was his answer?
Hon PEENI HENARE: My understanding is that administrative error has been corrected.