Parliament: Questions and Answers - March 12
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Finance
1. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Assistant Whip—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I've seen a number of recent reports that highlight the solid fundamentals of the New Zealand economy as we transition to a more modern and resilient economy. Statistics New Zealand reported on Friday that the volume of building activity rose 2.7 percent in the final quarter of 2018, driven by strength in building work on non-residential buildings. The nationwide 5 percent increase in non-residential construction was the strongest quarterly figure in nearly three years, while residential construction growth of 1.2 percent in the quarter was similar to September. On an annual basis, total building work in place was up 3 percent, with residential up 2.4 percent and non-residential up 3.9 percent. Meanwhile, Statistics New Zealand also reported on Friday a 4 percent rise in meat and dairy manufacturing, led by a 2 percent overall rise in the volume of New Zealand manufacturing activity in the December quarter. I am pleased to see yet more real data demonstrating the solid underlying fundamentals of the New Zealand economy.
Kiritapu Allan: What recent reports has he received from Treasury on the economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Treasury's latest weekly economic update report shows a concerning trend of slowing global economic growth. In Australia, GDP figures for the December 2018 quarter show growth was lower than expected at 0.2 percent in the December quarter and lower than the 0.3 percent growth recorded in the September quarter. Likewise, both Canada and India recorded slower growth in the December quarter. Meanwhile, other reports note that in the US, GDP growth slowed for the second straight quarter, and the economy added just 20,000 jobs in February, against expectations of 180,000 new jobs. Last week, the eurozone recorded 0.2 percent growth in the December quarter and the European Central Bank downgraded its forecast for 2019 GDP growth from 1.7 percent to 1.1 percent. Despite the more positive news out of New Zealand recently and forecasts of solid economic growth here, this data remains a risk to New Zealand's outlook.
Kiritapu Allan: How is the Government responding to the economic risks posed by international factors?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The risks posed by the international situation continue to demonstrate the importance of our commitment to responsible fiscal management. We are continuing to manage debt at responsible levels. We are running sustainable surpluses, managing expenses carefully, and making the important investments in New Zealand's future that will leave us in a position to respond to any potential global downturn.
• Question No. 2—Prime
2. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition—National) 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: In relation to her statement that the Tax Working Group recommendations are about making the tax system "fairer", is it fair that every small business, farm, bach, rental property, and lifestyle block will have to be revalued at the owner's expense if a capital gains tax is introduced?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is referring to the Tax Working Group report, which the Government has received; not Government policy. The Government is currently considering the recommendations and will refer back to the public any decisions we make in April.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she considered what it will cost a small-business owner to have their business professionally valued?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: We will consider the costs and impacts on those decisions that we formally make, and in consideration of any of the decisions that we formally make, we'll factor those things in, but, as I say, no decisions have been made.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she aware that if each of New Zealand's 500,000 small businesses had to have their business revalued at $10,000 each, it would cost the wider economy $5 billion, or about as much money as a capital gains tax would raise over the first four years? [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Just before the Prime Minister answers, there are at least three members not far away from the Prime Minister interjecting during that, and it will cease.
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member is using hypotheticals, albeit questionable ones. Again, as I've said, we are, as a Government, considering the Tax Working Group report, and we've made no decisions.
Hon Simon Bridges: When a top tax expert says $10,000 is very much "an entry point for pricing", what does she say the cost will be for businesses getting valuations under the proposed regime?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, we'll consider impacts on those areas in which we actually make a decision. The member is posing a hypothetical, and no decisions have been made.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she aware that if each of New Zealand's 50,000 farms had to have their land revalued at $10,000 a go, it would cost the economy half a billion dollars, effectively doubling the cost of a capital gains tax for farmers over the first four years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, a range of hypotheticals; again, I could delve into the sometimes questionable history the member has here with some of the scenarios he's presented, but, again, these are working group recommendations, none of which the Government has at this stage settled on.
Hon Simon Bridges: In regard to her statement this morning that a capital gains tax should not over-complicate the tax system, does she have a preference for the valuation methods on page 32, volume II of the Tax Working Group report: "Actual value", "Arm's-length valuation" "Comparison with similar properties", "Ratings valuations"—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Come to the question.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: —well, I am—"International Financial Reporting Standards … rules", a "volume weighted average price"—
SPEAKER: Order! The member didn't; he'll resume his seat. Further supplementary?
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she have a preference as to the valuations in the Tax Working Group report out of actual value, arm's length valuation, comparison with similar properties, ratings valuations, international financial reporting standards, volume-weighted average price—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, you stopped the Leader of the Opposition because of the extended nature of his question. You gave him a serious lead as to what was wrong with it, and he's back repeating himself.
SPEAKER: Yes, I was just going to rule it out at the end.
Hon Simon Bridges: Has she given the valuation methods in the report any consideration at all?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As we've repeatedly said in this House, we're considering the report in its entirety, and no decisions have been made.
Hon Simon Bridges: What did the Tax Working Group recommend would happen if an asset was not valued within the five-year window, and is it possible that an asset could be registered in the system at zero dollars?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I don't have responsibility for the recommendations made by the Tax Working Group. Again, as we've said, we're considering the report in its entirety, and no decisions have been made. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I have a feeling that members want to stay here today for question time. There are two or three who are unlikely to if that sort of noise continues.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't the issue of valuations of the proposed capital gains tax at the very heart of this, the most significant tax reform in decades?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: All of the matters that the Tax Working Group have put forward will be part of our consideration, but, again, I simply make the point that no decisions have been made.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree that the recommended capital gains tax will hurt a wide range of New Zealanders and not just the wealthy, given Labour List MP Ginny Andersen yesterday said, in relation to the Government's proposed capital gains tax, "To be honest, it's probably not the 'rich pricks'; it's a whole bunch of people. It's across the board".?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the Tax Working Group recommended a broad-based capital gains tax for consideration by this Government. We have made no decision, and when we do, we will be informing the public and giving them ample opportunity to have their input as well.
Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't Ginny Andersen correct—won't getting valuations and paying capital gains tax affect a whole bunch of New Zealanders, right across the board?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, no final decisions have been made. I would simply make the point that, of course, a number of other countries which we compare ourselves to have successfully implemented such schemes, but, again, for us it's a matter of discussion, and when we've made our decisions, we will inform the Opposition at the same time as we will inform everyone else.
Hon Simon Bridges: If it's a matter of discussion, why won't she discuss it in the most important court of debate in the land—this Parliament?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For the same reason as when that Government introduced a capital gains tax, they didn't say anything for four months.
• Question No. 3—Prime
3. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in Hon Shane Jones, given that Stuff reported that he was "named as the proposed chairman of Manea Kupe Ltd" in documents provided to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and an email dated 16 February 2018 states Mr Jones attended a meeting at which the Manea Footsteps of Kupe project was discussed and in which his comments had reportedly made the Finance Minister comfortable after the finance Minister had raised his concern about the project?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, I have full confidence in Minister Jones' handling of the Kupe project. The Minister identified he had a conflict of interest and then managed it, based on the guidance he received. I also note the Radio New Zealand story yesterday where the trust confirmed Minister Jones was never part of the Manea project. I also understand that the comment around Minister Robertson's level of comfort is not an accurate reflection of what the Minister actually said. I understand that the Minister was referring not to the project itself but to ensuring that there were milestones accurately reflected in the roll-out, and a range of other contractual protections. So that would be a more accurate way to reflect his concerns.
David Seymour: Does she stand by his statement made yesterday in relation to Shane Jones that "He knew someone involved in the project … some years ago [and] he'd been told about it and [he] thought it was a good idea", when new documents released by Stuff today show that he was officially cited as their proposed chair and had helped them prepare their application for Government money under the previous Government?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Obviously, the member has noted that this has been a project around for some time and something that, obviously, members on the other side of the House will be familiar with as well. What I'm reflecting is that, yes, the Minister has acknowledged right from the outset that he knew about this project, that he'd advocated around this project. That was the very point of him declaring a conflict of interest. In fact, the member knows about the conflict of interest because the member himself wrote in written answers that it existed, and it was even included in the front page of a briefing document by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment that he had a conflict and should not receive papers on it.
David Seymour: How can she reconcile the standards she applied to Clare Curran, who covered up having a meeting and was eventually sacked from her portfolio, versus the treatment of Shane Jones, who also covered up attending a meeting—the only difference being that in the case of Shane Jones, $4.6 million of taxpayer money ended up being spent?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do want to acknowledge that actually Minister Curran resigned from Cabinet. When it comes to the issue that the member has raised, of course, as I've already pointed out, the Minister has documented this issue in his answers directly to yourself around the project. He's declared his conflict of interest. He's outlined the meetings that have been held. He even acknowledged the meeting where Minister Robertson raised issues. It's all in the answers to written questions.
• Question No.
4. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What steps are being taken to manage the measles outbreak in Canterbury?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Vaccination is the best protection against measles, which is highly infectious and a serious disease that spreads easily from person to person. So far, there have been 25 confirmed cases of measles in Canterbury in the current outbreak. To help contain its spread, the Canterbury District Health Board (DHB) has announced an urgent vaccination campaign. I'm advised that 18,000 doses of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine are on their way and due to arrive in Canterbury in order to be available for use from tomorrow.
Jo Luxton: Who will be at the front of queue to receive vaccinations?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Those decisions are being taken by clinicians at the Canterbury DHB in consultation with experts at the Ministry of Health and Pharmac. I'm advised that the priority groups are, firstly, children and young adults aged five to 28 years old who are not immunised, children 12 months to five years who have never received any doses of MMR, children and young adults aged five to 28 years old who have only received one MMR dose to date—the four-year-old MMR can be brought forward to no sooner than four weeks after the previous MMR—and, finally, adults aged 25 to 50 years; this group only received one dose of measles vaccine in our previous regime. Measles is highly contagious, and it is in everyone's best interest that people in these priority groups get vaccinated, both to protect themselves and the wider community.
Jo Luxton: Will this urgent vaccination campaign disrupt routine MMR vaccination around the rest of New Zealand?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: It's important that while we deal with the outbreak in Canterbury, we continue with the usual MMR vaccine elsewhere around the country. I'm advised that we have sufficient vaccine in the country, and scheduled to arrive in coming weeks, to contain the outbreak in Canterbury and to maintain the regular MMR vaccination programme.
• Question No.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I've read this question very carefully, particularly the words "Government support parties". Now, with respect, that is not grammatically, historically, constitutionally, or factually correct, and to allow that sort of question to be asked invites mis-description and misrepresentation, and that should be stopped and it should be ruled out for this purpose.
SPEAKER: Well, I think the member might be being just a little bit pedantic in this particular case. I think it is clear that there are three parties which support this Government on confidence and supply. They all have different positions, they've come to it from different positions, and the question as to whether the Minister has been consulting with any of them, I think, is a reasonable question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): I'd like to submit, having heard that: well, that's fine, excepting that we know what the constitutional arrangements are between the Labour Party and the Green Party. We know that this is a coalition of the Labour Party and New Zealand First. Any mis-description like this, 18 months after the fact of the formation of this Government, is just plain wrong, and we'll get nowhere unless the lexicon is corrected here and, dare I say it, up there in the press gallery.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (National—Ilam): Speaking to the point of order—
SPEAKER: If the member thinks he can add something, have a go.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, you never know!
SPEAKER: That's right!
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Well, I think, Mr Speaker, that the point you made was that the Government is an entity in itself—the Government of New Zealand. The parties that make up and form the Government are separate parties, and as you point out, there are three, despite whatever the internal arrangements might be. And I'd make the point, too, that we don't fully know what those arrangements are, because they've never been fully released. But your position is correct; Mr Peters is wrong. The only way to express the question was to talk about the parties that support the Government.
SPEAKER: And I will make it absolutely clear that there are people within this House—there are people within the New Zealand First Party, the Labour Party, and the Green Party—that are not part of the Government; they are backbenchers, and I think it is appropriate for consultation to occur with members supporting the Government from all parties, and therefore the question is proper.
5. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Has he had any discussions with Government support parties about including the family home in the scope of any future capital gains tax?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): No.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, has he discussed with Marama Davidson, leader of the Green Party, her reported interest in including the family home in a capital gains tax?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No.
Hon Amy Adams: Does running a home-based business make someone part of the "wealthy elite" that Marama Davidson said capital gains tax was about?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I'm not responsible for the views of Marama Davidson.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, will he rule out imposing any capital gains tax on the family home just because a part of it has been used for a home office, or if the family just takes in boarders?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We were very clear in the terms of reference issued to the Tax Working Group that the family home was exempt. The Tax Working Group have returned to us with their definition of "family home". That is among the matters that the Government is now considering.
Hon Amy Adams: So if the Government has made up its mind enough to know it will exempt the family home, why is he hedging on whether that still applies if the family home happens to run a home-based business?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I said in my last answer that in the terms of reference that we set for the Tax Working Group, we exempted the family home. We're now considering all the matters within the report, including the definitions that the working group have put forward. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Well, does the member want to ask it, or can we just take it as read from the interjection?
Hon Amy Adams: Why is the Government unwilling or unable to answer basic questions about their own position, such as whether ruling the family home out of any capital gains tax includes family homes that might have a home office? It's a simple question.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We made our position clear when we set up the Tax Working Group—that we would exempt the family home. The Tax Working Group has now provided a report. We are working our way through that report, just as the previous Government did when it received its Tax Working Group report in January 2010 and didn't respond until May 2010.
No. 6—Housing and Urban
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many times, under the KiwiBuild programme, has he approved a Crown underwrite to build houses that were already being built, and what is the total price of these underwrites?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): The test applied to determine whether a KiwiBuild underwrite should proceed is additionality—does the proposal increase affordable supply for KiwiBuild buyers in the KiwiBuild price range? I'm advised that the threshold can be met in four key ways: by getting a development under way; by bringing forward a development, or the stage of a development that is scheduled for a later time period; or by redesigning part of a development to provide for additional, affordable homes, rather than a smaller number of more expensive homes. All underwrites approved by the Ministers meet this test. An underwrite has been approved while construction was under way four times. The expected net cost to the Crown of these underwrites is zero. The homes are valued at $26 million, or 4 percent of the total number of underwrites, and almost 0.5 percent of total KiwiBuild homes.
Hon Judith Collins: Why did he approve a Crown underwrite to build houses in Marshland, Christchurch, in November 2018 when council records show these houses were already under construction in April 2018, seven months before he signed the Crown underwrite?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I'd have to go back and look at the details of that particular case, but, as I've said, the test that's applied is that of additionality, and there are a number of ways that that can be provided—
Hon Simon Bridges: Spell it.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I'll give the member the case of Mike Greer, who's committed to 104 homes in both Canterbury and west Auckland, and, as he himself has said in the media, the KiwiBuild underwrite has allowed him to bring forward that development more quickly than it otherwise would've happened and include more affordable homes in the development.
Hon Judith Collins: Why did he approve a Crown underwrite last November to build houses in Somerfield, Christchurch, when council records show the houses were built and clad last September?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The answer to that question is exactly the same as the one I just gave. As Mike Greer has said, it has allowed that development to come to fruition more quickly than it otherwise would've and for more affordable homes to be included.
Hon Judith Collins: Why has he underwritten already-built three-bedroom, one-bathroom houses in Westpark Rangiora, selling for $480,000, while Mike Greer Homes are advertising neighbouring three-bedroom houses with an extra bathroom and a larger floorplate on their own website for $20,000 less?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That development is bringing into the market more affordable homes than it otherwise would've. This Government is in the business of building affordable homes, unlike what that Government did for nine years—didn't build a single affordable home and denied there was a housing crisis.
Hon Judith Collins: How many of the Mike Greer homes he has underwritten so far have monolithic cladding?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: If the member wants to put that question down in writing, I'd be happy to answer it.
Hon Judith Collins: I seek leave to table a council inspection report on failed monolithic cladding at 5 Te Rito Street, Christchurch.
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 Judith Collins: What is the purpose of him underwriting the price that a developer gets for a house when that house has already been built and, in some cases, marketed unsuccessfully to the public?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, if the member has got evidence that properties have been unsuccessfully marketed, I'd be happy to receive it. But we've made it very, very clear that in the case of the 104 homes that Mike Greer Homes is contributing, they were brought to market more quickly, he reduced his margins, and there are more affordable homes available through Mike Greer than there otherwise would've been because of the KiwiBuild underwrite.
• Question No. 7—Trade and Export
7. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: What progress has been made, if any, on growing exports?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Trade and Export Growth): Notwithstanding volatility and rising protectionism in some offshore markets, 2018 saw strong gains for our exporters. New Zealand's goods and services exports increased 7 percent in dollar terms in the 2018 calendar year. A particular highlight was exports to China, with goods exports growing 15 percent and services exports increasing 12 percent for the first year. Two-way trade reached $30 billion for the first time. This Government is helping deliver sound economic growth, and we continue to support our exporters by broadening our trade agreements.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What has been the effect of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agreement coming into force for New Zealand exporters?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The agreement has been in effect for just over two months, but early signs are very, very promising. The quantity of beef exports to Japan, for instance, increased 300 percent in January 2019 from a year earlier, and New Zealand butter exports to Canada jumped by over 600 percent from January 2018 to January 2019. While both of these huge increases may be somewhat inflated by exporters waiting for CPTPP to come into effect, there's no doubt it has massively helped. I look forward to New Zealand exporters and the many people they employ benefiting from the continuing opportunities that the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement delivers.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What progress has been made on negotiating new free-trade agreements (FTAs)?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We're making good progress on negotiating an FTA with the European Union as we continue to push for significant improvement in market access to the world's largest trading bloc. Despite the uncertainty around Brexit, we're poised to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement with the UK if and when they're ready to do so. We're making good progress on the China FTA upgrade, and we hope to soon launch negotiations for an upgrade of the New Zealand - Australia ASEAN agreement. We're constructively and actively defending the system of the World Trade Organization trade rules by developing constructive proposals for reform with 12 other like-minded economies. This is a Government that continues to pursue new export opportunities, and, with the rising tide of protectionism, we need to ensure we continue to make progress for our exporters around the world.
Hon Todd McClay: Given the statistics the Minister has just informed us of on trade with Japan, can he confirm that he's pleased he put down his Trans-Pacific Partnership protest sign and has signed a deal that was always comprehensive and progressive?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The member is so "glass half empty".
• Question No. 8—Regional
8. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How does he stand by his statement in reply to my written question regarding Manea Footprints of Kupe project, "I raised my conflict of interest with the Cabinet Office in November  and indicated I would not be involved in any decision to grant funding to the project under the Provincial Growth Fund.", when it has now emerged that he provided reassurance to the Minister of Finance on the project?
Hon SHANE JONES: I stand by the remarks that the member has recited. My attendance at the meeting provided some factual reassurance to the other Ministers, and I think that the member is making a mountain out of a molehill.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is it right that he declared a conflict of interest but not only stayed in the room but also participated in the decision making by reassuring the Minister of Finance?
Hon SHANE JONES: The member is distorting the facts. The member has not stayed with the true line of what happened. I attended a meeting with other Ministers. I did not influence. I did not sign off the decision. I simply did what other members on the other side of the House have done from time to time: remained in a meeting but not signing or making the decision.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How is providing assurances on the quality of a project's governance not advocating for a project?
Hon SHANE JONES: Obviously, after having shown excessive prudence and identifying a historical connection with personalities with that project and informing the Cabinet Office, it does not mean that I am voiceless or tongueless. I did not make the decision, after having myself indicated to other Ministers my historic conflict of interest. The interest, of course, is promoting the region of the north.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept, given the wide connection he says he has throughout Northland, that he has to be very careful about perceived conflicts of interest while handing out $100 million to people and groups he knows in that region?
Hon SHANE JONES: Well, I can't unwind 59 years of a varied, wide, and rich life. And the reality is that there are a host of associations, as a senior Māori leader, that I've had. One of those associations was with the Hokianga rangatira Whetu Ngaira and a long-term connection with a host of other identities in Hokianga. Now, whether it was excessively circumspect on my part at the time—but it is what it is.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister, did he, as the Minister, ever have a formal role with a Manea/Kupe Ltd project?
Hon SHANE JONES: No.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Then what was the conflict?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: So what's the conflict? Go on, tell us!
SPEAKER: Order!—the pair of you.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why declare—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Go on, Billy!
Hon Paul Goldsmith: —a conflict of interest if it's not going—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why does the Minister declare a conflict of interest if it's not going to make any difference to how he acts in terms of advocating for the project?
Hon SHANE JONES: I think the first part of the member's question is sensible: why declare a conflict of interest? And I am interested in what the Herald had to say where it doubts whether or not I should have ever declared a conflict of interest; however, that's now historical fact, and I did attend a meeting where other Ministers where aware of the historical association that I have adverted to.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister, did he ever sign off on funding for the project?
Hon SHANE JONES: Those decisions were taken by other Ministers.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How can Kiwis have confidence that the $100 million he spent in Northland, a region that he knows well, he knows a lot of people; where he declares a conflict of interest but he stays in the room and advocates for the project—that he has any concept of how to handle a conflict of interest?
Hon SHANE JONES: Well, obviously, the point at which one identifies a substantial conflict of interest largely lies in one's own ethics; and, secondly, people know that I as a member, hailing from the North, have wide and varied associations. Just because I am willing to advocate for the provinces, the other side of the House should try to stop this character assassination because of my good work.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister, with respect to the chronology of events, was it a fact that he was in a room after the project had been signed off, not before?
Hon SHANE JONES: As I said, I was in the room. I was with other Ministers. I did not sign the project off. I have acknowledged in my discussions with the Prime Minister as to the appropriateness of staying in the room, out of the room, and obviously the experience that I grew up with professionally was the Institute of Directors, and I' am reviewing my knowledge about the Cabinet Manual.
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought that the member asked a very good question. It'd be appreciated if the Minister actually answered whether he was in the room before or after the decision was made.
SPEAKER: Well, I think he said both, actually—if you translate it.
• Question No.
9. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: What steps has he taken to ensure sufficient doses of the measles vaccinations are available?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Measles is highly contagious, and the outbreak in Canterbury has developed swiftly in recent days. Over the weekend, I contacted the chair of the Canterbury District Health Board (DHB), seeking assurance that the DHB had a plan in place to deal with the outbreak. Following that call, I spoke again with the chair as well as the DHB chief executive. I then contacted the Director-General of Health and the chair of Pharmac to ensure a coordinated response to this outbreak. As I told the House in answer to question No. 4, I'm advised that 18,000 doses of vaccine are on their way to Canterbury and will be available for use from tomorrow.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: If 18,000 vaccinations are on their way, how long will the other 82,000 Cantabrians who need a vaccine or vaccine boost have to wait?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Vaccinations are dependent upon a cold chain process—which the member will, I'm sure, well understand—and the integrity of that process is critical. There are examples, of course, under previous Governments where that fell down. But I'm assured that the vaccinations will continue to arrive in sufficient numbers that there will be more vaccinations waiting than are able to be delivered through the emergency clinics.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: As at 31 December 2018, what percentage of 8-month-olds were fully immunised against measles, and is that a higher or lower percentage than when he became Minister?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Sorry, I think the member said 1 December 2018—I have the chart in front of me, conveniently. The broader immunisation target that the member has often referred to, and I'm not sure whether that's the one he wants to—
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I didn't in my question.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: He wants the specific answer on measles. I don't have that specific number in front of me. I'm sure that if the member puts it down, I'm happy to find an answer for him.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, can the Minister confirm that under the previous National Government, immunisation rates went from under 80 percent for measles to 94 percent and that the Ministry of Health announced in October 2017 that measles and rubella was "officially eliminated in New Zealand"?
SPEAKER: And the Minister has no responsibility for that.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Mr Speaker, I'd like to answer that. Mr Speaker?
SPEAKER: No. I've said the Minister has no responsibility.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he believe that this outbreak could have been prevented if 19 out of the 20 district health boards hadn't failed to meet their immunisation targets on his watch?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: What I would like to say about the immunisation targets, firstly, is that I'm a bit surprised the member is wanting to play politics at this time, when my chief concern is making sure that people get the vaccinations they need. But the second thing I would say is that since the current immunisation target was introduced in 2012 by the previous Government, it has never been met, at 95 percent; it has hovered stubbornly in the early 90s. It ticked up in the last quarter, but, as a country, we do need to do better in terms of immunisation. Those targets are available still on the ministry's website for anybody who cares to pick them up, but if the member is somehow trying to suggest that there is any link between the decision to stop publishing the previous Government's narrow health targets in the newspaper and the current measles outbreak in Canterbury, I reject that utterly.
• Question No. 10—Prime
10. GARETH HUGHES (Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's statements, policies, and actions?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes, in the context in which they were made.
Gareth Hughes: When the Prime Minister says she wants to bring kindness back to Government, does that extend to animals forced to perform in rodeos who are scared, hurt, and killed for entertainment?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I am concerned to have read and heard about the death of several animals that have occurred this season. I have, in fact, raised this issue directly with the responsible Minister. He's advised me that the Ministry for Primary Industries is looking into the deaths that have occurred, and I intend to continue to stay in contact with him on this issue.
Gareth Hughes: Thank you. Does the Prime Minister agree with the position to ban the use of animals under 12 months old and the use of flank straps, as called for by former Labour Party leader Andrew Little in 2017?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. Actually, the Labour Party's position was one of the reasons why the then Minister Meka Whaitiri fast tracked some of the work that went to the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC). I believe that happened in March of last year. They reported back in October. They've reported that some areas of concern are already covered by a range of protocols, but they also made some recommendations around industry-led non-regulatory improvements. To be honest with the member, I'd be really interested, in the aftermath of this season, in hearing the feedback from the advisory committee and their reflection on what has happened over the past season.
Gareth Hughes: So no more animals die, will the Prime Minister support my member's bill that outlaws the worst rodeo practices as identified by NAWAC and as was the very position of the Labour Party advocating before the last election?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, and as I've said, that was one of the reasons why the then Minister did ask the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee to look into those very specific issues. Again, they reported back, and they've sat down with the industry. I would actually like to hear from the committee again. They are our experts that provide that advice. They have been working alongside industry, and I do want to hear their reflections on the last season.
Gareth Hughes: Given that these animals can't consent, they can't complain, and they're actually being killed for entertainment, will the Prime Minister commit to re-establishing a specific Minister for animal welfare?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Look, that's obviously something that has existed within this term of Government, and I wouldn't rule that out. I do have to say that, actually, the ongoing role of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is one of the most, probably, important features that we have within our system. We have to make sure that we have great representation there, that they're feeding into the Government on a regular basis, and that they have that oversight of industry, and I just want to hear back from them after this season. But I wouldn't rule out bringing back that portfolio, no.
11. Hon NATHAN GUY (National—Ōtaki) to the Minister of Agriculture: Does he stand by all of his statements?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry) on behalf of the Minister of Agriculture: On behalf of the Hon Damien O'Connor, yes.
Hon Nathan Guy: Does he stand by his statement to the New Zealand Herald over the weekend in reference to the Tax Working Group, and I'll quote, "I've not had an opportunity to read the whole report"?
Hon SHANE JONES: On behalf of the Hon Damien O'Connor, he reflected that he is aware of the content of the report but has not gone bookend to bookend.
Hon Nathan Guy: What official advice has he received to back up the statement he made on Rural Exchange on Sunday in reference to the Tax Working Group report, and I'll quote, "It probably won't affect the vast majority of farmers."
Hon SHANE JONES: On behalf of the Minister, the Minister is incredibly accurate. At this stage, it remains a bunch of recommendations offered by Dr Cullen and his grandees, and until such time when Cabinet makes a decision, the Minister's statements are entirely accurate.
Hon Nathan Guy: Has he read recommendation 11, which "recommends introducing input-based tax instruments, including on fertiliser,"; if so, what position does he take?
Hon SHANE JONES: On behalf of the Minister, yes, the Minister and other Cabinet Ministers are aware of that recommendation, which is why it's out there in the ether. Until such time when Cabinet deliberates and forms a position, it remains a part of the broader atmosphere.
Hon Nathan Guy: What does he believe a natural capital enhancement tax to be?
Hon SHANE JONES: On behalf of the Minister, as I said, obviously the member is referring to either the recommendations or the content of Dr Cullen's report—something which is not the business, or the Cabinet-mandated business, of this Government.
• Question No. 12—Small
12. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister for Small Business: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Economic Development) on behalf of the Minister for Small Business: On behalf of the Minister for Small Business, yes.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Then is the Minister saying he didn't receive an email from a small-business owner on Thursday morning before question time on the capital gains tax, which said, "A capital gains tax on the sale of a small business could be particularly devastating to small-business owners, who remain the backbone of the New Zealand economy."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That was not the member's question last week. I, of course, receive correspondence as the revenue Minister. The member needs to better understand the Standing Orders.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, in that case you should have said you were speaking on behalf of the Minister, if you're such a clever fellow.
SPEAKER: Come on, come on—which of you?
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does he also recall hearing from a small-business owner who said, "Not only do you not listen to us; you and your party don't seem to value the contribution we make to New Zealand's economy."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, I haven't seen that particular statement but I do know that small-business owners are predominantly middle-income earners. I do know that they do better under Labour-led Governments because economic growth under Labour coalitions is, on average, since World War II, higher than growth under National-led Governments.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Is he, then, concerned about the impact of a capital gains tax on a small business?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It's settled economic theory that distortions in the tax system which encourage speculation instead of investment in productive businesses, including small businesses, hinder productive economic outcome. But any hypothetical changes to the tax system are subject to both coalition discussions and wider consultation, and no decisions have been made. It pains the member to know that economic growth for small businesses is higher under Labour coalitions than under National.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Has he been alerted to any negative impacts on small business in the many emails he has received?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, I'm advised that the emails that he has received as Minister of Revenue include a range of perspectives; many of them know that the Labour Party delivers higher growth rates for the economy than National coalitions have done, on average, since World War II. It is a long term record of failure.
Hon Jacqui Dean: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister didn't address my question. I asked: had he been alerted to any negative impacts on small business—
SPEAKER: I will ask the Minister to—
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I actually said I hadn't read that particular piece of correspondence on behalf of the Minister.
SPEAKER: Well, it was a question of "any", and the member better answer on behalf of the Minister again.
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, acting on his behalf, I have not read any correspondence that has been negative in the way the member suggests, and I am aware that since World War Two, economic growth rates under Labour have averaged higher than under National.
SPEAKER: OK, OK. That's getting to the point of tedious repetition.
Hon David Parker: Point of order, sir—so had the question.
SPEAKER: Mr Parker will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon David Parker: I withdraw and apologise.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Is the Minister confirming, then—does he stand by his statement just now that he has received no correspondence from small-business owners on any negative impacts of a capital gains tax?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This line of questioning goes something like this: about impacts being received—or notice of impacts being received by the Government. Now, the fact is we all know that on 21 February the report was put out to the public of this country for consultation. There cannot have been any impacts—
Hon Simon Bridges: He doesn't like it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —and won't be any until a decision is made on the tax, and that member should be stopped from just wasting this House's time.
SPEAKER: OK. I've got about four things to deal with now. The first is that the Hon Simon Bridges should know that when a point of order is being made—
Hon Simon Bridges: It was frivolous.
SPEAKER: I'm very, very tempted—when I'm reprimanding the member, he will be silent, he will not interject, and he will not reflect on the ruling that I'm making. I'm very tempted—other than the fact that there's a matter of some interest to him coming up—he's very lucky not to be tossed, and, given his recent record, not to be named. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise twice.
Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise. I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My submission: the point made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters was both frivolous and likely to bring the House into disrepute and disorder. He was using it as a thinly veiled attack on the Opposition. It was clearly a debating point. He's been here a very long time. He should know all that.
SPEAKER: And the member has been here now about a decade and should know that that was a very reasonable response to the point of order. If he'd made it standing up after the right honourable gentleman had finished, it would have had a lot more credibility rather than from his seat by way of interjection. I'm not going to deal with the matter that Winston Peters raised. I am going to ask Jacqui Dean to ask her question again to remind me of the reason why I was going to rule it out.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Is the Minister now confirming that, as he just told the House, he has received no negative feedback—
SPEAKER: I remember now. The member will resume her seat. That's not what the Minister told the House.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Did the informal briefing he received from the revenue Minister include any mention of receiving any negative impacts of the capital gains tax on small business?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister for Small Business, I don't know the answer to that question. If she wants to put down an answer in writing, I'm sure it can be answered.
SPEAKER: Even a question in writing.