Parliament: Questions and Answers - March 6
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Forestry
MARK PATTERSON (NZ First): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Forestry. What reports has he seen regarding the one billion trees programme?
SPEAKER: Right, the member had a bit of emphasis, but he left a word out. Please read it as on the sheet.
1. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Minister of Forestry: What recent reports has he seen regarding the One Billion Trees programme?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry): One report which puts into both political, administrative, and fiscal action is the $1.8 million that underwrites the Ngā Mahuri o Ngāti Hine programme, where 20 young men from 15 to 22 "learn while you earn". This is a practical endeavour to ensure that we are swelling the ranks of the future workers for the one billion trees programme, and in addition to that, today I had the pleasure of hosting a delegation of a commercial character from Germany who had heard about the billion trees programme and have come to New Zealand to explore investment opportunities.
Mark Patterson: What feedback has he heard regarding this programme?
Hon SHANE JONES: In the interests of time, I shall be uncharacteristically modest and pithy. The feedback is a reminder that pastoral care is an important dimension when creating the new ranks of workers. It's a reminder to industry as they seek to rely also on migrant labour that in the absence of suitable pastoral care dimensions their entreaties will fall on barren ears.
Mark Patterson: What other training initiatives is the Government supporting in the forestry sector?
Hon SHANE JONES: This Government has rehabilitated an industrial sector neglected for the last nine years. The forestry sector are increasing their appetite for investment, increasing the number of people that they seek to hire, and increasing the number of trees they hope to plant. It's important that we bear in mind that there are not only opportunities for those youngsters in the four winds of Aotearoa to join this industry; we're also focusing on boosting the ranks of young women coming through the University of Canterbury, and as does befit my very sensitive nature, I hope to announce that shortly.
• Question No. 2—Prime
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with Grant Robertson, who is reported as saying "There was no recommendation in the Tax Working Group report excluding Māori from the capital gains tax"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member was willing to characterise the member's statements correctly, then I would agree with Minister Robertson.
Hon Simon Bridges: What does she say about volume 1 of the Tax Working Group report, page 15, headed "Summary of Recommendations", which makes quite clear there are recommendations around Māori being excluded from a capital gains tax—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The Hon Kelvin Davis will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Kelvin Davis: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: And if I'd been able to tell who the other member was who interjected in that impolite manner, that person would have been too. Please start the question again.
Hon Simon Bridges: What does she say about Tax Working Group volume 1, page 15, headed "Summary of Recommendations", which makes quite clear recommendations about exemption of Māori and report volume 2, which says Māori freehold land merits "specific treatment under an extension [of] the taxation of capital gains. This could take the form of an exclusion"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Firstly, may I commend the member for finally reading the report. Secondly—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I want to be able to hear the answer. If we have about 10 people yelling, there is no chance of that occurring. The Prime Minister will start again.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: What the group clearly recommended was that we engage "further with Māori to determine the most appropriate treatment of transactions relating to collectively owned Māori assets." They recommended that we think about it. I'd really like to question the member: where exactly is he trying to go with this issue—where exactly?
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept it's not where I'm going, it's where her Government's going on a capital gains tax; and will her Government exclude Māori from any capital gains tax it imposes?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I question the motivation behind this line of questioning. Secondly—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume her seat. It has been a long practice in this House not to question indirectly the motivations of members in that way, and I'm going to ask the Prime Minister not to do that again. If people have specific things to say, they should say it, but indirect, implicit criticism of that nature is not acceptable.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I refer them back to the report, which encouraged the Government to consider whether particular circumstances such as disposing of Māori freehold land or where assets are—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Are you going to exempt Māori?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —transferred within iwi, whether or not we should give specific consideration to an exemption—in the same way that, for instance, if you had land passed down after death—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Are you going to exempt them?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: —whether there should be a 12 months' exemption. These are exemptions they asked us to consider, and for very good reasons.
SPEAKER: Now before we have any more supplementaries, I'm going to warn the father of the House after—he's been here since, I think, 1990. I think he made five inappropriate interjections during that time bringing me—he made five inappropriate interjections bringing me into the debate. I think I've warned him about this about 10 times in the last year and I'd like him to learn.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If any owner, Māori or otherwise, was holding land in trusteeship for future generations, how could a capital gains tax possibly apply when they do not intend to benefit from any capital gains themselves?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, the member is making the point around intent of sale, and, again, I'd like to make the point that of course, as has been the case for a number of years and successive Governments, we have, for instance, a 17.5 percent tax rate that applies to Māori authorities. And now is the member stating that he disagrees with that provision as well?
Hon Simon Bridges: Will her Government exclude Māori from any capital gains tax it imposes?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I have reiterated, the Tax Working Group has as a group, including a range of representatives, acknowledged that it warrants consideration. We have made no decisions, but unlike the other side of the House we can see when there are circumstances that are particular that do warrant consideration. It seems to me the National Party now has a strategy where they don't support 17.5 percent tax rates for Māori authorities. We might be interested in sharing that with iwi leaders.
Hon Grant Robertson: What does the Prime Minister make of the fact that the questioning around this issues says "Will Māori be exempted?" rather than saying "Will Māori freehold land be exempted?"; why does she think someone might make that kind of statement?
SPEAKER: Order! I think asking the Prime Minister to read the minds of other members is inappropriate.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Will the potential tax considerations to be put before Inland Revenue have regard to how much a person feels like they are a Māori or whether they discovered that somewhat the same way as Columbus discovered America—purely by accident?
SPEAKER: I'm going to move on. I'm going to work, I think, for the last time today, on the basis that that was not deliberately disorderly. I think we've had a couple from Ministers that are heading in that direction, and from this side as well.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with Grant Robertson, who said yesterday the Tax Working Group report did not include recommendations of taxes like a "capital gains tax, a water tax, a fertiliser tax, a nitrate tax, and agricultural emissions tax."?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I sat in this House when member Nathan Guy rattled off a series of taxes where there was no commentary in the Tax Working Group on any of those issues. I am happy, as I said, to debate the facts of the report if there was accuracy around it.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it the Prime Minister, not me, who hasn't read Cullen's report?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, has she read pages 16 and 17 of volume one under the heading "Summary of recommendations of the report", which recommends not only all of those taxes I outlined before but also recommends here an environmental footprint tax and a natural capital enhancement tax; aren't all of those taxes recommended in this report?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It would be good to have a rational discussion about the Tax Working Group's recommendations—all of which, in the environmental section, ask us to consider the entirety of what's happening in the environmental space without the scaremongering that is coming from that side of the House, and the inaccuracy from that side of the House, and, I have to say, the environmental inaction that we are having to deal with on this side of the House because of nine years of an absolute failed Government.
Hon Simon Bridges: So is she so brave that she's going to give New Zealand—page 16: an agricultural emissions tax, a nitrate tax, a water tax, a fertiliser tax; page 17: an environmental footprint tax, and a natural capital enhancement tax, given this is, in her words, our "nuclear-free moment"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: At least I recognised we have a nuclear-free moment. On that side of the House, we had such inaction that the Tax Working Group felt the need to have to traverse an entire range of issues because we are dealing with environmental degradation that has built up over years—first point. Second point: we, of course, are still considering all elements of the Tax Working Group, and when we have a response, we will share it. But if the member wants to be a responsible politician, he might engage in a debate based on fact, not fiction.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can we just clear up, given that Grant Robertson doesn't accept that those taxes are in the report, that she does indeed accept factually there is a nitrate tax, a water tax, an agricultural emissions tax, and the various other taxes I've mentioned actually in this Cullen working group report?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: When that member releases his workings on KiwiSaver, then let's talk.
SPEAKER: No. [Interruption] Order! I think it wasn't an invitation to talk. It was a direct question, which will have an appropriate response.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I accept very few of that member's assertions based on his record.
SPEAKER: The Prime Minister mightn't have been in the House yesterday—I can't remember—at the stage when I did admonish Tracey Martin for, essentially, answering a question indicating that she didn't accept the word of the member. It was a factual question. It was properly prepared. If it was inaccurate, it's a matter of privilege, and the Prime Minister will answer it.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For clarity, I do not accept the member's characterisation of the Tax Working Group's report.
Hon Simon Bridges: It's pretty simple: are there the taxes I have mentioned listed as recommendations on pages 16 and 17 of volume one of Cullen's Tax Working Group report?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: In the interim?
Hon Simon Bridges: Yes or no?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Not with the specificity that the member has detailed.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she read this report?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course I have.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When the Prime Minister referred to the possible record of past statements of the primary questioner, did she have regard to the fact that they had their response to the Tax Working Group's 21 February report out within minutes of it being published? That means they couldn't have read it.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Certainly a level of detail—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Come on, one of you.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There's certainly a level of detail that could not have been traversed in that time.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that both Michael Cullen, in his public advocacy for the report, and Grant Robertson, her finance Minister, are clearly treating the report options as absolute recommendations, such as the KiwiSaver offsets and the recommendations such as the Māori exemption from a capital gains tax as merely options rather than recommendations? And aren't they being incredibly political in their handling of this report since its release?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Absolutely not. I think you'll find that Sir Michael Cullen has had to come out and defend the Tax Working Group because it has been mischaracterised so badly by the Opposition. Again, we on this side of the House, welcome a debate on this issue. All that we ask from the other side of the House is accuracy in the way it's portrayed, and that's all, I'm sure, the members of the Tax Working Group are asking for as well.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of the fact that she doesn't even know the taxes in the report, who's being accurate or inaccurate?
SPEAKER: Order! Rephrase the question. [Interruption] Well, you've used a question, OK?
• Question No.
3. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I have seen a number of reports that highlight the strong future for sustainable growth in the New Zealand economy. Last week, Statistics New Zealand released its building consents data for the year to January 2019. The data showed that the number of consents for new dwellings has hit a 44-year high, at 33,576. Auckland continued to show strong growth, with new dwellings consented rising by 20 percent, while Wellington was up 18 percent.
Kiritapu Allan: What reports has he seen on the international context for the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Overnight, the Chinese Government announced that economic growth is forecast to be slower in China in 2019 than in 2018, in part due to trade tensions. While growth there remains robust, the slowing trend is similar to what we are seeing in the forecasts of global economic growth from both the World Bank and the IMF. Our own economic fundamentals in New Zealand remain solid, but as a relatively small trading nation we must remain resilient to any factors that are beyond our control. This underlines the importance of our commitment to fiscal responsibility, which gives us options in the face of any future shocks.
Kiritapu Allan: How is the Government responding to international economic factors?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We have a plan for modernising and diversifying our economy to be more resilient in the face of this changing environment. Under our Trade for All agenda we are pursuing more trade opportunities for Kiwi firms, including an NZ-EU free-trade agreement so that we have a more diverse range of export markets. At home, we are making investments to transition from an economy based on housing speculation and population growth to one driven by more productive, sustainable, and inclusive growth. This includes through our just transitions programme, the Provincial Growth Fund, the Green Investment Fund, R & D tax credits, and record investment in skills and training, among others.
• Question No.
4. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he believe New Zealand's international competitiveness is an important consideration in setting tax policy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I believe there are many considerations to take into account when setting tax policy. These include fairness across the tax system, inequality, simplicity, and, indeed, competitiveness.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he think that the Tax Working Group's recommended capital gains tax on 100 percent of the net gain at full marginal rates would be internationally competitive, when that would give us the third-highest capital gains tax rate in the OECD and contrasts with Australia, who only tax half the gain made?
SPEAKER: There were three legs but the—
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I think it's important not to isolate out any one part of the tax system. As the member will be well aware, the top tax rate in Australia is significantly higher than it is in New Zealand. They also have other taxes both at a state and federal level and stamp duty. So I think it's unwise to pick out one part of the tax system when making those kinds of comparisons.
Hon Amy Adams: How many of the OECD countries the Prime Minister referred to in question time yesterday tax inflationary gains or include no discount as part of their capital taxation regimes?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I don't have all of that information there, but I know that there is a range of regimes, some of which include discounts and some which don't.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, has he read appendix A of the Tax Working Group report, which says that for the purposes of its recommendations, assets are assumed to grow at a 3 percent nominal annual rate which is made up of 2 percent inflation and just 1 percent real growth?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have indeed read that.
Hon Amy Adams: Well then, can he confirm that those recommendations mean taking one third of the capital gain in tax when the other two thirds is just made up of inflation and mean that the Government would be taking every single dollar of real gain made in tax?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, I wouldn't accept that. I'd want to go and test that more thoroughly. What I would be able to say to the member is that very few schemes around the world can find a way, if they're going to be simple, of accounting for inflation in the way that she wants. These are the recommendations of the working group that we'll work through. There are many other countries in the world—in fact, in the OECD all bar us and Belgium—who have some form of scheme like this who make it work. We will look at the international examples as we consider the proposals of the working group.
Hon Amy Adams: How can the Minister, who has acknowledged that the Tax Working Group recommended 100 percent of the gain at full marginal rates be taxed and said that the capital gain is made up of two-thirds inflation one-third gain, dispute that that means therefore that the 33 percent of the tax on 100 percent of the gain is the equivalent of every single dollar of real gain made?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I said that I wanted to go back and check the member's characterisation of the report. That's what I will do. But, again, I say to the member, looking at that in isolation from the rest of the company tax regime that the owners of those companies will pay does not give a fair reflection of what the tax impact would be on any company or on any individual person who owns a company.
Hon Amy Adams: How can he claim that he does concern himself with international competitiveness when considering tax, when he is now actively considering a capital gains tax with the third-highest marginal rate in the OECD—twice the scope of Australia's—and one that the Tax Working Group's own modelling shows would take every single dollar of real gain made?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I said, we're considering international competitiveness alongside other issues—like fairness, for example; like simplicity. I would note that we're not the first Government to have undertaken a tax working group. The 2010 Tax Working Group on which the previous Government based their decisions around, for instance, making changes to building depreciation meant that New Zealand had, after that, the highest effective tax rate for foreign investment into manufacturing plants in New Zealand, as a result of a decision that the previous Government made. So international competitiveness hasn't always been at the top of the mind for previous Governments.
• Question No. 5—Housing
and Urban Development
5. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What is the total estimated market value of the 10,355 houses the Government has contracted and committed to build under the KiwiBuild programme, and how many parliamentary terms do these contracts fall due over?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Five and a half billion dollars of new affordable homes are contracted and committed through KiwiBuild until 2028. Depending on when elections are called, this could be four terms.
Hon Judith Collins: Why is the Minister confident that he can sell $5.5 billion worth of houses when he only has 313 pre-qualified KiwiBuild buyers?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because the demand modelling shows that across the country there are large numbers of first-home buyers, and those 10,355 that we've contracted and committed will be built, and they will be sold over the 10-year period.
Hon Judith Collins: How many of the contracts that the Government has signed to supply future KiwiBuild houses have a provision to allow the Government to withdraw from the contract if it transpires that there is little buyer demand for what has been contracted?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There are no provisions to withdraw from the contract, because this Government, unlike the party on the other side of this House, is committed to building affordable homes and fixing the housing crisis. That's what we're doing.
Hon Judith Collins: How many completed KiwiBuild houses sit empty in Wānaka, not sold?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There are currently five homes in the Wānaka development that are unsold. They've been completed only in the last month or so and they are on the market and available for KiwiBuild purchasers.
Hon Judith Collins: Is the Minister aware that the KiwiBuild contract signed in this term will bind future Governments to underwrite property developers for KiwiBuild houses even if the KiwiBuild programme is cancelled by an incoming Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, we intend to be around for a very long time and we're going to be building affordable homes throughout that period. So I don't expect that's going to be a problem for this side of the House or that side.
Hon Chris Hipkins: Is the Minister aware that the housing policy and the contracts entered into as part of the housing policy are consistent with contracts entered into by successive Governments around privatising prisons, using public-private partnerships, or any other range of contracts that Governments enter into that extend beyond the term of a single Parliament?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Yes, I am aware; it's the kind of contract that we've entered into to build KiwiBuild homes. In fact, the arrangements that we're entering into with some of the country's largest residential builders are multi-year contracts to build hundreds and hundreds of new affordable homes. That's about investing in the future of the next generation.
• Question No.
6. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What recent announcements has he made to create space and improve classrooms in secondary schools?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Last Thursday, I announced $25 million for a major redevelopment of Wellington Girls' College. This school has a growing roll and it's been relying on ageing, relocatable classrooms to manage their space. This multimillion-dollar investment by the Government will provide Wellington Girls' College with 16 new classrooms, relieving the pressure that they have on their school, providing them with extra teaching space, extending their hall, and increasing the provision for learning support and student counselling.
Jan Tinetti: What other recent investments has the Government made to improve the quality of classrooms and school buildings for students?
Hon Grant Robertson: There's more?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There's more. A few days before that, I announced $20 million to fix Botany Downs Secondary College. This money will pay to fix their leaky roofs and cladding on the nine buildings that contain 70 of their 84 classrooms. It will also cover the cost of temporary teaching spaces so that there is minimum disruption to student learning while the work is being done. These announcements are part of the hundreds of millions of dollars in announcements the Government has made since our first Budget last year.
• Question No.
7. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Is he satisfied the extra costs incurred by DHBs are having a positive effect on the volume of health services provided; if so, what measures is he using to gauge the effect?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): I'm satisfied that this Government's record investment in health—
SPEAKER: I'm going to get the member to speak up; I think we're having a bit of a volume problem with our system.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: OK. I am satisfied that this Government's record investment in health is making a real difference to our public health service, including to both patients and the staff that deliver their care. As health Minister, I'm more concerned with outcomes rather than simply the volume of services. That's why we've reduced the cost of going to the doctor for around 600,000 New Zealanders so that they can get treatment early and prevent small problems becoming more serious. However, as the member asks about the volume of services, we are seeing increases, indeed. For example, so far this financial year district health boards (DHBs) have completed 45,456 MRI scans, which is 5,124 more than the same period last year. Over the same period, we've also delivered 8,000 more first specialist assessments, and the number of people waiting for ophthalmology services has reduced from 10,200 people in May 2017 to just over 4,000 in December. Of course, there is more to be done, but progress is being made. Lastly, in terms of measures, the member knows full well there are dozens of performance measures built into our health system that record the delivery of services, and the Ministry of Health uses the data to assist DHBs to improve their services. More health services are being delivered to more New Zealanders.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well is he aware that the Ministry of Health's own statistics page has not been updated with that data since August 2016?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I'm not sure exactly which page that member's referring to, but he may need to refresh his web browser. Certainly, the previous National Government's health targets are being regularly updated, and we're not printing them in the major newspapers and spending tens of thousands of dollars to promote a narrow range of political targets, but you can see on there the targets being followed through. Of course, there are a wide range measures. Indeed, in my letter to DHBs in December, I highlighted some of the ones I was concerned about.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is he aware that the now defunct health target data indicates reductions in volume and timeliness in four of the five targets since he removed them, and the data on the sixth target, which is elective surgery, has not even been released?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The electives target was retired previously. The member knows that. As to the others, certainly, in the first quarter of the 2017-18 year—since then, in the comparative quarter, the most recent quarter, we're actually delivering on one more of the targets, even though they're not ours, than the previous Government was.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is the failure to release the elective surgery throughput data due to significant reductions in throughput as a consequence of industrial action?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Of course, I don't have those numbers right in front of me, but what I can say is that we're seeing more services delivered to more New Zealanders, and that is what we want to see. I've related to the member a large list of examples of more services being delivered, and that member knows it.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, isn't it true that that list is simply what the Minister chooses to share and he has not yet told the New Zealand public what's important to him in terms of health targets—when will he do that?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I've said, we are focused on delivering outcomes for patients. That is my concern as health Minister. The previous Government's narrow targets are not something that I am going to commit us to, because I actually believe it's more important to have better health outcomes for New Zealanders than to have Avastin injections and skin lesion removals done in more expensive settings just because it pumps up the statistics. That's what the previous Government did.
• Question No.
8. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by all his statements?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Minister of Agriculture): Yes.
Hon Nathan Guy: Does he stand by his statements in the House yesterday that were a capital gains to be brought in, it may mean that farms are more affordable for young New Zealanders; if so, what makes him think that a young farmer wants to purchase land with significant environmental taxes and a potential capital gains tax down the track?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I guess the member's referring to the independent report on taxation that has been put out by Michael Cullen and a group of people. The issue of affordability is something that has been referred to. There have been many, many comments out around the country on that report, and we welcome them. Most of them are sensible, are considered—except those from the National Party. Can I say that I don't only rely on my own wisdom; I can refer to, perhaps, independent commentators who have referred to this particular issue. Dominick Stephens from Westpac, in fact, said, "the current 'uneven' tax system encourages investment heavily focused on capital gain rather than income generation, such as residential property and farms, and in effect turns people away from investing in more income-focused investments." That's just one of many, many comments referring to the issue of affordability of farms.
Hon Nathan Guy: Does he stand by his statement in relation to proposed taxes on farmers on RNZ this morning—and I'm going to quote—"We haven't been through the figures."; if so, why hasn't he worked out the cost of these proposed figures on farmers and rural communities?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Because no decisions have been made on them.
Hon Nathan Guy: What does the Minister say to reassure farmers like Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies, who says after he's worked hard—
Hon Shane Jones: Scaremongering. Making it up—making it up.
Hon Nathan Guy: —and made short-term sacrifices—and I'll quote—"it would be very disappointing to find … the government then takes a third … when I sell it."?
SPEAKER: Before the member answers, I'm just going to indicate the National Party has an additional five supplementary questions as a result of the interjection from Mr Jones.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: If that person was one of the 10 people that turned up to that member's meeting down in Otago, all I'd suggest to him is that he does not listen to the figures put to him by Nathan Guy. I could refer to Stephen Bell, who wrote in the Farmers Weekly: "Young farmers still say finding affordable land, particularly for dairy, is the biggest obstacle to farm ownership. They attribute that to previous generations paying too much for land and banking on capital gains … farming needs to put its focus … on operating profit rather than long-term land value gains."
Hon Nathan Guy: Why is he refuting our figures on this side of the House when he hasn't even done the figures himself or asked his officials to do any work on these proposals; and what does he say to Federated Farmers today, who are out there saying that the National Party figures indeed may be a bit light?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: Because I'm not prepared to stand up and lie to farmers, like that member is.
Hon Nathan Guy: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I've taken offence to that comment, and I wish that that Minister should withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Yeah. I do want to think about it. I want to think about it. It's certainly an offence to indicate that a member has lied in the House. I'm going to get a little bit of advice. Traditionally, it's not been an offence to—I muted my own mic. Traditionally, it's not been an offence to indicate that people have told untruths deliberately outside the House, but that was a pretty aggressive reflection on a member. I think I've worked myself to the point now where it was such a—yeah, no, I've had some advice, which I don't like very much. I have worked myself to the point where I think it is a comment which could be characterised as being offensive, and for that reason I will require the member to withdraw it and to apologise.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Now, I want to warn the member that he's not to reflect on the ruling and the apology he's just had. We've had a member very nearly get into big trouble.
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I appreciate that, Mr Speaker. It's a clarity of whether I have the opportunity to answer the question. That's all I'm asking.
SPEAKER: Well, I think if the member had more that he wanted to say, he should've said it before he was offensive. Right, further supplementary?
Hon Nathan Guy: Too right. When he said the biggest challenge in agriculture yesterday was succession, does he not realise the biggest challenge facing agriculture right now is more taxes imposed by this Government, and potentially a capital gains tax?
Hon DAMIEN O'CONNOR: I absolutely reject that assertion. If he sat down and listened to farmers across this country, he wouldn't talk such rubbish.
• Question No. 9—Social
9. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What evidence, if any, has she received that demonstrates a positive impact of the service delivery changes in Work and Income offices?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Recently, I received an update on the work that the Ministry of Social Development is undertaking to strengthen service culture, including an update on the pilot of a client experience survey called Heartbeat. So far, the pilot survey has had nearly 1,200 responses, which rate the client experience at Work and Income as 8.2 out of 10. It's also great to see the high engagement of Māori clients, who make up 35 percent of survey respondents and who are a key group we want to work better with.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What other evidence has the Minister received?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Between April 2018 to January 2019 and the equivalent period the year before, there has been a 3 percent decrease in the average number of trespass orders issued each month. Over the same period, the number of reviews of decisions being sought by clients on average each month decreased by 11 percent, meaning that less people are needing to dispute their entitlements and more people are—
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: —receiving accurate assessments of entitlement. Also, the number of complaints for the December 2018 quarter has decreased by 11.1 percent when compared to the December 2017 quarter.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Why is this important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Good question. Most New Zealanders will need the support of the Ministry of Social Development or Work and Income at some stage during their life, for a range of reasons: support while unemployed, while studying, due to disability or illness, or when accessing superannuation. All of these people deserve to be treated with respect, have their dignity upheld, and be provided with effective support. These survey results and other feedback are valuable for informing continual improvement to the welfare system. Sixteen months in, this is a good start, but there is much more to do, and I am confident that under this new Government, things will only get better for both clients and staff at Work and Income.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is it because of the service delivery changes, where sanctions and expectations on beneficiaries, that the jobseeker benefit has gone up by over 11,000 people in the last 12 months?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: That member knows that the proportion of New Zealanders on benefit is currently 9.9 percent. This time last year it was 9.8 percent. The increase in numbers is due to population growth. I think that member needs to reflect on her time as the Minister for Social Development, when, following the reforms, nearly 50 percent of those who left benefit were back on it within 18 months.
• Question No.
10. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Education: Does he stand by all his policies and actions around the review of vocational education and his work in the portfolio?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Yes.
Dr Shane Reti: When asked in Invercargill on Friday "If you make a mistake here, will you resign?", did he reply "Yes"?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes.
Dr Shane Reti: How is it fair to have six weeks consultation on a proposal, which could rip the heart out of communities—
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm happy to respond to that, Mr Speaker. I absolutely reject the assertion in the member's question. With regard to the time frame for consultation, there's actually a drive from people within the sector to have the consultation period in a very intense and truncated period, because of the uncertainty that the sector currently faces, even without this consultation, and the potential damage that prolonged uncertainty could do to their ability to recruit students, particularly international students.
Dr Shane Reti: When he said in the House yesterday that the Government has not predetermined an outcome on the reforms, why then has the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) issued a hui invitation in Whangarei on Friday to hunt out people for the proposed regional leadership groups?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm not familiar with the TEC proposing to do that. I'll certainly take the member at his word that they might have done that. I have given the TEC an instruction that they need to be working up the proposals. They need to be continuing to work on the proposals, but we haven't made decisions on them.
Dr Shane Reti: What is his response to Skills Active ITO chair, Mr Sam Napia, who says that the consultation process is a sham, the outcomes are predetermined, and a six-week consultation period and three-day hui invitation are completely inconsistent with Treaty of Waitangi and Māori consultation protocols?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I absolutely reject the notion that the consultation is a sham.
Dr Shane Reti: I seek leave to table an email from ITO chair, Mr Sam Napia, detailing those statements.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? It's only been sent to the member, has it?
Dr Shane Reti: Yes, it has.
SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that being tabled? There appears to be none.
Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Grant Robertson: What factors does the Minister believe led to the parlous financial state that the vocational education sector has found itself in?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There has been a significant underinvestment in vocational education and training, including a decision made in the early 2010s to cut significant amounts of funding from the polytech sector, which is one of the reasons we had to put $100 million into them this year alone in order to keep the lights on.
• Question No.
11. Dr JIAN YANG (National) to the Minister of Statistics: What recent reports has he seen on Census 2018?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Statistics: I receive regular updates from officials insofar as it is appropriate within the bounds of Statistics New Zealand's statutory independence.
Dr Jian Yang: What advice has he received in relation to reports that Māori risk losing an electorate seat if issues with Census 2018 cannot be resolved?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I believe that the Minister has not received any advice on that thus far.
Dr Jian Yang: What advice has he received in relation to reports that health boards and schools in regions such as Northland, East Coast, and Manukau risk underfunding if issues with Census 2018 cannot be resolved?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I repeat my answer to the previous question: I understand the Minister has not received advice on those things as yet.
Dr Jian Yang: Why did he, two months after the census, reject concerns from the Opposition and state that Census 2018 would be "more successful than previous censuses,"?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The census has clearly had some challenges, and there's no one on this side of the House who would doubt that. But I note that the business case under which the census was operated was approved by the previous Government.
Dr Jian Yang: Why is it that his department over the last year has had the time to create a bingo tool to determine one's level of privilege but it cannot, a year after the census, count the number of people living in New Zealand?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: That would be a question for the Chief Statistician.
Dr Jian Yang: Three-hundred and sixty-five days after the census, can he tell Parliament when the Census 2018 results will be available?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No. Again, that would be a question for the Chief Statistician.
• Question No.
12. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcement, if any, has he made about mental health facilities in Canterbury?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Last Thursday, I joined the Prime Minister at Canterbury District Health Board's Hillmorton campus. While there, we announced funding for the construction of new facilities to house a range of mental health services that are currently provided at the ageing Princess Margaret Hospital. These include services for mothers and babies, as well as child, adolescent, and family in-patient services, and adults with high and complex needs. Eating disorder services will also be shifted to Hillmorton. A total of $79 million has been approved for this much-needed project out of the $750 million set aside in Budget 2018 for capital investments in health, which was the largest capital injection in health in at least a decade.
Hon Ruth Dyson: What facilities will be built with this $79 million investment?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The new facilities at Hillmorton will contain an integrated family service centre, with a 16-bed in-patient and day-patient child, adolescent, and family service, and a 13-bed and five- to seven-cot space for mothers and babies. It will also include eating disorders in-patient and out-patient services. A separate high and complex needs unit will include in-patient adult beds. Work is due to begin next year, with relocated services expected to start operating from Hillmorton in 2022.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How will these new facilities benefit patients and the staff who care for them?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The current facilities at Princess Margaret Hospital are far from ideal. Both patients and staff deserve better. We need to ensure that we have physical environments that support people's treatment and recovery. This development will deliver purpose-built facilities that reflect modern methods of care. It will create a flexible environment for mothers and their families, children, and adolescents, and it will include access to the outdoors and green spaces. It means the incredibly hard-working and dedicated staff at Princess Margaret Hospital, who have maintained a high quality of health support for their patients despite their physical work environment, will also benefit.