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Parliament: Questions and Answers - Dec 12


Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements and actions?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern's statement that there will be no nationwide strikes under her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That statement was given during a very fine election debate, as I recall, with the then National leader.

Hon Member: Which one?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That was Dr Bill English, and I have to say—

Hon Member: Promoted him.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Oh, I have promoted him—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I know it's the Christmas season, but I think if the question can be answered directly, that would be preferable.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Well, relatively speaking, he deserved that lift in status. I think, to answer the question, that was, of course, an answer to fair pay agreements. I gave the confirmation then and I give it again now: there will be no strike action around fair pay agreements.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't it the case that there have been more strikes under her Government than at any time since she was a child at primary school?

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Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member is referring to the fact that we are operating under the exact same law—

Hon Grant Robertson: That's right. No different! No different!

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —in terms of employment law that we did under that Government—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Now, Grant Robertson is mainly responsible for that and he is to be quiet.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Shall I complete it?

SPEAKER: Well, I could hardly hear a thing because of the exchange between Mr Bridges and Mr Robertson, so I'm going to ask the Prime Minister to repeat her answer.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I was saying, the exact same law, of course, has continued to be in force during the course of the strike action we have seen whilst being in Government. The only thing I will take responsibility for is coming into office at a time of dereliction and neglect under that last Government, where there has not been investment in our health services, our education services, and we are the ones fixing it.

Hon Simon Bridges: Given that, why does she believe Air New Zealand engineers and ground staff are striking for three days just before Christmas, affecting tens and tens of thousands of Kiwis at this special time of year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That kind of action usually occurs when there is a pay and conditions dispute between employers and employees. Obviously, we as the Government have no direct role in that dispute. However, I am concerned enough by the disruption that would likely be caused that I have contacted both parties directly and conveyed my very strong hope that we will see some resolution, and I understand that they are in mediation as we speak.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't the reason for the strike that her Government's pro-union stance and union laws have emboldened unions—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! I am going to ask the Leader of the Opposition to ask this question again, and there will be some extra questions as a result of the whingeing and moaning from my right.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't the reason for the strike that her Government's pro-union stance and union laws have emboldened unions in every single field in New Zealand, including aviation?


Hon Simon Bridges: Will the fair pay regime coming in help bring down the level of strikes?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There is no ability to strike under fair pay agreements.

Hon Simon Bridges: Are there too many strikes in New Zealand today?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I acknowledge that the strike action that we experienced with the nurses was a negotiation that that Government failed to resolve and this one did.

Hon Simon Bridges: Are there too many strikes in New Zealand today?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There has been too much neglect, and it is absolutely ludicrous to suggest that us coming into action midway through a failed negotiation with the nurses—with teachers, we have put on the table more in one offer than that last Government put in nine years in office. We are dealing with years of discontent because of that Opposition party's lack of investment in core services.

Hon Simon Bridges: Are there too many strikes in New Zealand today?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There has been too much lack of investment, and we are fixing it.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she concerned that the people who made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek may have associations with her Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. As I mentioned in the House yesterday and probably repeatedly last week, of course what will be in public interest is whether or not any representations were directly involving members of Parliament. As I conveyed to this House on many occasions, the Minister in charge has confirmed that no MP made any representations directly to him and I have also mentioned that I knew nothing of this case personally until it was in the paper.

Hon Simon Bridges: How will it look if members of her Government are close to those who made representations on behalf of Karel Sroubek?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, of course what's in the public interest here is if any members of Parliament made direct representations or had knowledge of those representations, and the Minister has ruled out any MP or Minister—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Listen to the question.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —conversing with him directly over this case. Of course, that's important, because he's the one who made this decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: When will the Opposition get the representations? Will it be in 10 days, under the Official Information Act, or more proactively?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, an Official Information Act request is in—that's the process that the Minister's currently dealing with—and I see that the member has questions on notice today, as well.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she going to move what appears to be a Government-wide Official Information Act dump day from 21 December to Christmas, given everyone may still be here next Friday due to the Air New Zealand strikes?

SPEAKER: Well—oh, I will allow it, but if the member follows the advice given to me from Mr Brownlee, I would have ruled it out.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I expect Ministers to uphold the requirements set upon them by the Official Information Act.

• Question No. 2—Finance

2. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) 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): Considerable progress. Yesterday, I talked about the changes we have made to the legislative framework that supports our economic policies and plan. Today, I want to focus on the work we have done to help businesses and workers prepare for the changing nature of work as we transition to a new economy that is more productive, sustainable, and inclusive. The transition to a new economy represents massive opportunities and challenges. The Government has set a clear goal of a net zero carbon economy by 2050 and, importantly, a just and deliberate transition to that goal that supports communities, industries, and workers through that transition.

Kiritapu Allan: What specific policies has the Government progressed to support this transition?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Just a few examples. The Future of Work tripartite forum, which brings businesses, workers, and Government together to advance polices in four key areas: just transitions, learning for life, technology, and workplace productivity. We have the Mana in Mahi programme, which is providing financial support to employers to fill the skill gaps by supporting the cost of apprenticeships for young New Zealanders who have been on the benefit for six months or more, and our Fees-free scheme, which provides opportunity for post - secondary school education and training, including two years' free for trade training and apprenticeship schemes.

Kiritapu Allan: What specific outcomes have come from the Future of Work tripartite forum?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The forum has developed a skills shift initiative in the manufacturing sector alongside ManufacturingNZ. This brings together employers, industry training organisations, unions, and training providers to plan the workforce training needs for this important sector for the next two decades. It's this kind of forward planning that is essential if New Zealanders are to have a fair and just transition to a world of work that is being rapidly changed by new technology.

• Question No. 3—Finance

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of his statements and actions?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Yes, in the context in which they were made and undertaken.

Hon Amy Adams: Does he stand by his statement last week that "The fees-free programme is an excellent investment … It is removing barriers, … where there are people who wouldn't have considered going on to tertiary education until they were able to access it in this way.", despite the Government having so far spent $236 million to deliver 2,400 fewer students in tertiary education?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: In answer to the first part of the question, yes.

Hon Amy Adams: How does he reconcile his statement that this is a good investment with the president of the Careers and Transition Education Association, Warwick Foy—who is the one meeting and talking with those most directly affected by the policy—who says it has little influence on the decision of school leavers and didn't seem to be convincing students from poorer backgrounds to enrol?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I've got great admiration for the work that Warwick Foy's done in getting alongside young people in the Taranaki area, in particular, on this particular matter. I believe that we've got to give this scheme its full time to run its course, and at the end of 2019 and 2020, we will have seen an impact that I believe is greater than the one that we saw in the first year.

Hon Amy Adams: How can he justify this $2.8 billion policy as good value for taxpayers when Otahuhu College principal Neil Watson has described the policy as being "a large amount of money spread over students who are probably going to go to university anyhow", and universities and polytechs are reporting that they're not seeing any change in enrolment patterns?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I believe that this policy is one that is dedicated to sending the message to New Zealanders that in the future of work everybody needs to keep training and retraining. We don't care what background someone's from; we want them all to achieve to their potential.

Hon Amy Adams: How does he reconcile his statement that "This Government's approach is to ensure that expenditure is undertaken wisely and for the benefit of taxpayers," with the decision to use taxpayers' money to make a $10 million loan to a private dairy company on terms that the company have admitted are more favourable than they could have gotten elsewhere?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) is about making sure that there are opportunities all over New Zealand for people to have good fulfilling jobs. Unlike the other side of the House, we believe that wherever you live in New Zealand, you deserve a decent shot at a decent life, and the PGF is a good part of helping that happen.

Hon Amy Adams: Is it also using expenditure wisely and for the benefit of New Zealand taxpayers to make another $10 million loan to a commercial garnet mining operation, which is 100 percent American-owned?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: It's quite clear that members on the other side of the House don't want the West Coast economy to thrive. Well, actually, on this side of the House, we think it's time that the Government got alongside that community and the communities of Gisborne, the Far North, Manawatū, and Wanganui. So by all means the National Party can trash the regions of New Zealand. Go ahead!

• Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development

4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many houses built, bought, or underwritten by the KiwiBuild programme are contracted and scheduled to be ready for owner occupation by 1 July 2019, and when will the first KiwiBuild houses in Te Kauwhata be completed?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): To date, over 4,000 KiwiBuild homes are contracted to be built, and nearly 10,000 KiwiBuild homes are planned to be built in our large-scale developments, including at Unitec, Māngere, Porirua, and Mount Roskill. In terms of the year one target, 278 homes are contracted at this point and scheduled for completion in the 2018-19 year, with many more under negotiation. KiwiBuild staff are working closely with developers to finalise contracts, like the one we announced last week, The Wellington Company's apartment developments in Mount Cook and Lower Hutt. We're working hard towards the targets we've set. We knew it would be hard, and we had to start from a standing start. The first KiwiBuild homes in Te Kauwhata are expected to be completed by Christmas 2019, and available for occupation in 2020.

Hon Judith Collins: If after being a Minister for over a year he has only been able to confirm 278 houses, can he confirm he cannot plausibly achieve his target of 1,000 houses by July next year?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I've confirmed that we've had 4,000 KiwiBuild homes under contract and another 10,000 that will be built in the large-scale projects. I'm really positive about the progress we've made. We're doing something that no Government has done in the last 40 years, working directly with builders and developers to build affordable homes for first-home buyers.

Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: Well, no, I don't think the member needs one. The Minister will now answer the question.

Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, the question was in two parts. The Minister clearly addressed the first part of the question, which was how many homes had been contracted. The second part of the question related specifically to the current year. The Minister is not obliged to answer two parts of the question. If the member wants to ask two questions at once, she could ask two questions rather than have to ask a two-part question.

SPEAKER: I may be wrong, but I think the Leader of the House has conflated the primary question and the supplementary that was asked. I will, just to make things absolutely clear, ask my learned colleague the Hon Judith Collins to re-ask her question.

Hon Judith Collins: Thank you, Mr Speaker. If after being a Minister for over a year he has only been able to confirm 278 houses, can he confirm he cannot plausibly achieve his target of 1,000 houses by July next year?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's never been the expectation that contracts for completion in the 2018-19 year would be signed evenly throughout the year. The construction of these homes will be more lumpy than I would have liked because, as the member knows, it takes a while to put these developments together. But we are doing everything we can to build affordable homes for first-home buyers, which is more than I can say for that party's Government over the last nine years.

Hon Judith Collins: How long must the Te Kauwhata developer keep the 10 houses already balloted on the market before they are able to offer them to buyers who are not first-home buyers?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I don't believe that amount of time has been set, but I would note that the homes at Te Kauwhata are not due to be completed for nearly a year and a half. There's plenty of time to sell those homes, and the developer is very comfortable with the time frames involved.

Hon Judith Collins: If houses are sold for a price lower than the agreed underwrite price, which Crown account will this cost come from?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The underwrite for those homes is at a lower level, a lower price, than the price that they have been marketed for.

Hon Judith Collins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was "If that happens, which Crown account will this cost come from?"

SPEAKER: And it is a hypothetical, and therefore the Minister has more flexibility in answering than he might have otherwise.

Hon Judith Collins: Is it acceptable that a Minister with access to a deep pool of official advice would contract to underwrite $2 billion worth of property off the plans and then explain that they are learning as they go?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We're not contracting $2 billion worth of property off the plans.

• Question No. 5—Conservation

5. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation: What alternatives to 1080, if any, is the Department of Conservation involved in using or researching for pest control?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Minister of Conservation): In 2017-18, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and the Department of Conservation provided approximately $4.8 million for research into alternatives to 1080, and I am advised that, across Government, this investment increased to over $7 million in 2018-19. The Government is supporting a range of research into different compounds, including things like PAPP, which is very effective for stoats; things like sodium nitrate; microencapsulated zinc phosphate paste; and also into traps like self-resetting traps. Four of the five projects which were announced this year by Predator Free 2050 Ltd involve large-scale predator control using traps.

Mark Patterson: What are the most promising of the alternatives to 1080, and where are they being used?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The best alternative at the moment is trapping, which is already used extensively across New Zealand. The Predator Free 2050 projects in areas like Taranaki, Hawke's Bay, and Wellington rely on traps. In Waiheke, there is work there that's not going to be using any toxins. But I think some of the most effective projects that are being researched at the moment are innovative research involving things like pheromones, scents to confuse predators; things like sodium nitrate; the PAPP, which is a more effective lure for species like stoats; and the work that Predator Free is doing at Lincoln to look at exclusion devices. So there is a whole range of tools which are alternatives to 1080.

Mark Patterson: Does the Minister support and see a future for 1080 alternatives?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Absolutely, but at this point in time 1080 remains a critical tool. Next year is expected to be a mast year, where forests produce a bumper crop of flowers and seeds. That will lead to a major increase in predators and a significant impact on our threatened birds. So aerial 1080 continues to be a critical tool if we are to prevent the regional extinction of kākā, kiwi, and species like that. But alternative research is well under way.

Sarah Dowie: Why did she instruct Predator Free New Zealand to stop looking at genetic engineering?

Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Because there is a lot of research under way into traditional tools like trapping, better use of 1080, and alternative vertebrate toxins and because we have not had the public consultation and the development of a public mandate for genetic engineering.

• Question No. 6—Transport

6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: Does he think that the purpose of transport policy is to make it easier for New Zealanders to get around quickly, efficiently, and safely?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Under the Government policy statement released in June, the purpose of transport policy is to give New Zealanders access to the things they need, like work, education, and community, a safer transport system free of death and serious injury, reduced carbon emissions, and value for money, and I agree with that.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So if there is a range of purposes, where does making it easier for New Zealanders to get around quickly and efficiently rank in his list of priorities?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, if the member wants to think about it this way, it's really a subset of access. It's about giving New Zealanders access to the things that they need, and that often involves allowing people to move around quickly and efficiently.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he have a view on Auckland Transport's proposal to reduce speeds across the entire CBD area inside the motorway network to 30 kilometres an hour?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, it's not my role as Minister of Transport to comment on how local councils set local speed limits, but I can say that there are good reasons why one might want to set different speed limits in different places to save lives and support good urban design. While in the 1950s cities were built primarily for cars, the world has changed, and now pedestrianisation, shared spaces, and more walking and cycling are making our cities much more attractive and liveable places. Adjusting speed limits to make streets safer for pedestrians, cyclists, and scooter riders is an important part of this change.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: So is he in favour of a 30 kilometre an hour speed limit on Nelson Street and Hobson Street?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's not my place to take a position on that, but I want to quote Shane Ellison, the chief executive of Auckland Transport, who said very recently that "Setting safe speeds is one of the quickest and most effective tools we have in reducing road trauma. The public will now have their say on our safe speed proposals early next year, and for Auckland Transport to continue its work to make our streets safer for everyone." If the member is concerned about this issue, I urge him to make a submission to Auckland Council's process on this.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Has he had any discussions with any Ministers about the threatened strike action at Air New Zealand that will make it more difficult for New Zealanders to get around the country before Christmas?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Could the member repeat the question—any discussions with whom? With any—

Hon Paul Goldsmith: With any Ministers.


• Question No. 7—Workplace Relations and Safety

7. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety: How many workers have gone on strike so far in 2018, and does he believe it is reasonable for union workers at Air New Zealand to threaten strike action on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd of December?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety): The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) reports that so far in 2018 there have been 7,588 employees reported to have gone on strike. I have no ministerial responsibility for the second part of the question, and it is important that as Minister I don't interfere with ongoing negotiations. What I am responsible for is ensuring that the parties have every opportunity to reach a resolution, and I have made sure that that is the case. The only people who can actually resolve this are Air New Zealand and the staff they are negotiating with.

Hon Scott Simpson: Does he consider it reasonable for engineers at Air New Zealand, who have an average income of $115,000 and with some 170 of them having incomes in excess—

SPEAKER: Order! The member is going to ask the question without unnecessary additions. The member will start again.

Hon Scott Simpson: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does he consider it reasonable for engineers at Air New Zealand to use New Zealand families and their Christmas plans as bargaining chips for their higher pay demands?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Well, again, I have no real ministerial responsibility for that, but what I do say is that I have empathy for the families whose travel plans may be disrupted, and I encourage the parties to stay at the table and sort out this dispute.

Hon Scott Simpson: Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said earlier this year, in response to a question by the Hon Simon Bridges, "I would encourage the member to have a long conversation with the likes of Air New Zealand, where, through their framework of working collectively with their employees, they have improved productivity, … health and safety, and they have a high-performance workplace."?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Yes, absolutely, and I understand that high-performance engagement has not been used in this dispute—perhaps it should've been.

Hon Scott Simpson: What does he say in response to University of Otago Professor Alan Geare, who is quoted as saying, "the unions would have chosen to strike on these days to inflict maximum damage to the airline."?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I would say he's entitled to his opinion.

Hon Scott Simpson: Has he considered consulting the Rt Hon Jim Bolger for advice on inviting Air New Zealand and union representatives to his office in an attempt to resolve the stand-off?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No. We have excellent processes for dealing with these disputes. I have spoken with MBIE to make sure that they have made all of those processes available to the parties to this dispute, and I encourage them to stay at the table and sort it out.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why doesn't the Minister ask the former National Party leader, who they put on the Air New Zealand board, to go and sort this thing out?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I think the people who are at the table are best positioned to do that.

Kieran McAnulty: Does the Minister believe it reasonable for there to have been wildcat strike action on 5 December when members of the National Party caucus abandoned their post at no notice?

SPEAKER: The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise for a supplementary question he knew was out of order and disorderly.

Kieran McAnulty: I withdraw and apologise.

• Question No. 8—Education

8. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What proposals has he seen on the future of schooling in New Zealand?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Last week, I welcomed a report from the Tomorrow's Schools independent task force, that contains bold proposals on changes to our schooling system. We set up the task force to get an independent view of the state of compulsory education in New Zealand. We asked them to look at ways that they could free up principals to lead, free up teachers to teach, and give parents the time to focus on their children's well-being and learning—most importantly, putting children at the centre of everything we do. I hope that the recommendations of the task force will provoke robust and wide-ranging discussion about our schooling system—what it should look like in the next 30 years. New Zealanders have until April next year to have their say on the recommendations.

Jan Tinetti: Why did the Government establish an independent task force to take a look at the Tomorrow's Schools model?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It's been nearly 30 years since the Tomorrow's Schools reform. During that time, inequality in our education system has grown significantly, and we've had an opportunity to work out its strengths and weaknesses. It was time to take a look at how we support equity and inclusion for all children throughout their schooling, their educational success, and how we equip all of our students in the modern world. The independent task force has provided some bold recommendations as to how we could do this, and I look forward to the discussion ahead.

• Question No. 9—Immigration

9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Immigration: Other than Karel Sroubek's lawyer and family members, who made representations on his behalf in respect of the deportation liability that was the subject of the Minister's decision on 19 September 2018?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): I can confirm that amongst the information I considered on 19 September were letters of support from family, friends, business associates, and fellow sportspeople. Alongside the letters of support were sworn statements by a private investigator and a lawyer in the Czech Republic regarding the Czech justice system in Mr Sroubek's circumstance. I do not consider it in the public interest to release the names of those who provided support or information regarding Mr Sroubek. Some have requested anonymity, and I consider it likely that naming people would expose them to unwarranted attention. None of those who made representations were known to me; none were MPs or former MPs, or MPs' partners. I am unaware if any of the people had or have links to any political party.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: If it's his intention to never publicly release the supporting documentations and representation letters regarding his decision, why did he indicate in answers to oral questions on 6 November that he would commit to a release "at the appropriate time"?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I will release the appropriate information at the appropriate time as required by the Official Information Act.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen comments by Judge Venning regarding applications for court documents concerning Karel Sroubek that said, "I am satisfied that the public interest in the review of Mr Antolik's deportation status being fully informed outweighs any issues of privacy particularly given the publicity concerning this matter."; and why does he think it's OK for the courts to see this public interest but not him?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I will meet my obligations under the Official Information Act. [Interruption]


Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen any—

SPEAKER: No, no, the member's going to stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Brett Hudson: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: I withdraw and apologise.

SPEAKER: Thank you—especially the extra one.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Has he seen any reports of the Prime Minister confirming that there were no "direct" representations to him; and, if so, what indirect or informal representations were made, including from MPs' staff or supporters?


Hon Michael Woodhouse: Did Richie Hardcore, a former martial arts champion, make representations in support of his application not to be deported?

Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: As I said, I do not consider it in the public interest to name specific individuals, and I'm not going to do it by a process of elimination either.

• Question No. 10—Education

10. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: What advice, if any, has he received on the potential estimated cost of implementing recommendations in the report by the Tomorrow's Schools Independent Taskforce?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Government only received the final task force report in the last few weeks. We asked the task force to release it and seek public submissions. Once that process is complete, detailed costings will be prepared to inform the decision-making process.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Is he really confirming that the task force did no work on costings and that no Government agencies have given any formal view on what the proposals will cost?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: That wasn't what the question asked. The question what advice I had received rather than what officials had done working with the task force. I'm not sure what costing information the officials provided to the task force. That's a matter of conversation between them.

Hon Nikki Kaye: What is the legal status of the 2,400 boards of trustees representing around 19,000 parents under the task force proposals?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Well, under the task force proposals they'd continue to be Crown entities, but that's a matter for discussion. The proposals the task force have put forward are bold and I certainly look forward to the conversation about whether or not there is acceptance that that's the right way to go.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Does he agree with Avondale College principal, Brent Lewis, who referred to the proposals as real Stalinist stuff?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I don't agree with that. I do agree with Lorraine Kerr from the School Trustees Association, however, who said that an ideal outcome will be enough change to enable school boards of trustees to perform their strategic governance roles on behalf of the local community without constantly getting tied up in the compliance aspects of running the business activities of the school.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Is he concerned that under the proposals the power of parents will be significantly reduced and they will be disempowered under this model?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm looking forward to hearing what parents have to say about that. One of the things that the task force found was that parents who serve on boards of trustees have often found that the job is much bigger than they thought they were taking on when they do it. They put their hands up to be involved in school governance thinking that they are there to improve the quality of the education their kids get, and then they find themselves tied up in complex legal discussions about the leaky buildings that they might have inherited from a previous administration, or a whole host of other administrative issues that they're not actually that keen to be involved with and they would much prefer someone else to be involved with so that they can focus on the job that they actually thought they were putting their hands up for.

The public submissions process is an opportunity to have all of those conversations. I do acknowledge the concerns the member has raised about the importance of ensuring that parents don't feel disempowered through this process. I agree with that. I think it's incredibly important that we continue to empower parents and their involvement in their kids' education. That's one of the things that this Government will be looking at very closely as we consider the public submissions process.

• Question No. 11—Commerce and Consumer Affairs

11. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs: What recent announcements has he made to protect consumers and businesses from unfair commercial practices?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs): On Monday, the Minister for Small Business, Stuart Nash, and I were pleased to release a discussion paper outlining options to protect consumers and businesses from unfair commercial practices and contract terms. The existing provisions of the Fair Trading Act and the Commerce Act protect consumers and businesses against a range of unfair commercial practices, but the Government wants to plug gaps in the current protections because small and medium sized business, and consumers, have highlighted issues.

Tamati Coffey: What types of unfair commercial practices are of most concern?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI: For consumers, examples of unfair practices include traders using aggressive sales tactics to sell products to vulnerable consumers, or selling products to consumers without clearly specifying the total price. For businesses, examples of unfair practices include contract terms that unreasonably shift risk on to one party of a contract, the use of extended payment terms, and businesses not complying with contract terms. I'd like to thank some of the entities who have given us feedback. For example, the Food and Grocery Council have said that this is a pro-business move and that there is a need to strengthen New Zealand's business law dealing with unfair practices, and these proposals would go a long way towards achieving that.

Tamati Coffey: What else is the Government doing to address poor commercial conduct and support honest business in New Zealand?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI: The Government has a broad programme of work in this space. For instance, we're strengthening the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act to protect against high-cost loans and irresponsible lending, and the Government is also assessing changes made to the Fair Trading Act in 2013 to make sure they're working effectively as well. We've also given the Commerce Commission recently the power to undertake competition studies.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Best Minister in the Government.

Hon Phil Twyford: He is pretty good.

Hon Member: High praise, Gerry.

SPEAKER: Now, shall we go to Jo Hayes?

• Question No. 12—Whnau Ora

12. JO HAYES (National) to the Minister for Whānau Ora: Does he agree with the Prime Minister's statement on Whānau Ora incentive payments that "the Minister has said he is looking at the way that some of those arrangements work with Whānau Ora"?

Hon PEENI HENARE (Minister for Whānau Ora): Yes, I agree with the statement by our Prime Minister, including this statement in the same interview: "It was an incentive payment that the last Government set up with Whānau Ora."

Jo Hayes: Why, then, did RNZ report that he wasn't looking to make any changes to the contracts—

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume her seat. It's really important that questions start off with an area that a Minister is responsible for, and no Minister is responsible for why Radio New Zealand does anything.

Jo Hayes: OK. Why was he not aware of the incentive payments in Whānau Ora contracts when first asked about it last week?

Hon PEENI HENARE: I was aware of the incentive mechanism in the contracts that are entered into with the commissioning agencies, as the member will be, seeing as they were released to her in the Official Information Act request I gave.

Jo Hayes: Has he made further inquiries with his colleague the Hon Willie Jackson about his involvement with the National Urban Māori Authority and the Manukau Urban Māori Authority, and any dividends he may or may not have received from incentive payments following yesterday's question in the House?


Jo Hayes: When was he first made aware of his colleague's administrative error as it relates to his Whānau Ora portfolio?

Hon PEENI HENARE: I can't give the exact date of when I was made aware, however I do understand that the resignation was received before my colleague the Hon Willie Jackson became a Minister, and that it took some time for the administration to catch up online.

Jo Hayes: Has he now received all of those facts in regards to incentive payments after his colleague Mr Jackson had said the Minister hadn't received any facts?

SPEAKER: Sorry, can the member repeat the question.

Jo Hayes: Has he now received all of those facts in regards to incentive payments after his colleague Mr Jackson said on One News that the Minister hadn't received all the facts?

Hon PEENI HENARE: I have always known about the incentive mechanisms in the contract.

© Scoop Media

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