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Parliament: Questions and Answers - March 13

ORAL QUESTIONS

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

Question No. 1—Prime Minister

1. 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: Why does the Tax Working Group report recommend no discount for capital gains and no adjustment for inflation?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It was the prerogative of the Tax Working Group to make the recommendations that they chose to the Government, and, as I've said repeatedly in the House, it's now for us to consider.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree that it is unfair to allow no adjustment for inflation, given it means people can go backwards when they work hard, save and invest, and make a gain?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, these are all issues under consideration actively by the Government.

Hon Simon Bridges: Isn't the reason the capital gains tax in Australia is around half New Zealand's proposed tax because Australia wanted to effectively allow for an inflation effect, and isn't that, does she agree, the right way to go?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I acknowledge that the member has now acknowledged that, of course, this is something that's in place in a range of other nations, including the majority of OECD nations, bar two. There are different rates in different countries. Those are, of course, all matters that the Government is now actively considering.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that this proposed capital gains tax would be one of the highest in the world—in fact, I think, third in the OECD—and will therefore send more Kiwis to Australia, where the economy's stronger and there would be a lower capital gains tax?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: For the purpose of context, I believe Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Denmark apply roughly the same rates or higher than what the Tax Working Group has recommended. But, regardless, again, these are the Tax Working Group's recommendations. They're now for the Government to consider. We have not endorsed any of the proposed recommendations. We are, instead, considering them and will, of course, let the public and the Opposition know when we've resolved our decision.

Hon Simon Bridges: Why did her Government do away with the statistics showing how many New Zealanders leave for Australia each year?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member is referring to the departure cards, that was an issue that was raised directly as part of the New Zealand - Australia business exchange which his Government, before us, directly engaged in. It's where the idea of e-invoicing came up; it was all about simplicity at the border and removing some of the friction that our businesses, in particular, experience. It's the exact reason why we're pursuing e-invoicing—to reduce the compliance burden on business—and it's been widely welcomed.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, is it actually because the Government doesn't want New Zealanders to know about the thousands that are leaving and the many more thousands that will leave under a strong capital gains tax that the Tax Working Group's put forward?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is it the Government's position that rather than mindless speculative questions in the House, we have a full discussion with the public up and down the country, the business end of town and the working end of town—

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! The member will resume his seat. I take the first part of that question as a reflection on me. I would not allow that sort of question.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that inflation is a very real issue for people's real after-tax finances, pushing people into higher tax brackets and making them worse off regarding their nest eggs, given the proposed capital gains tax on the table?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the question is, "Is this a Government mindful of the issues around the cost of living?", absolutely. One of the very first things we did as a Government was put a $5.5 billion package in place to increase the incomes of low and middle income New Zealanders.

Question No. 2—Housing and Urban Development

2. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What reports has he seen on the Housing First programme?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): We've seen a number of reports about the Housing First programme that show that it has achieved significant improvements and increases in the number of families who are helped. It's one of the most promising ways internationally in dealing with people who experience chronic homelessness.

Paul Eagle: How are we building on this success to house more homeless families?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We are scaling up Housing First, and the decisions that were made in Budget 2018 mean that we are able to substantially increase the number of people who can be helped through Housing First, and we've extended Housing First to Rotorua, Tauranga, and a number of other regional centres that have experienced acute levels of homelessness because of the housing crisis that we inherited.

Paul Eagle: What feedback has he received from Housing First clients?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's been touching, the feedback that has been achieved by people who, it's fair to say, are some of the most vulnerable people in our society, who have experienced extreme circumstances of often living on the street and sleeping in public places. Housing First has meant for many—in fact, several hundred of these people—that they are now living in warm, dry, safe, and secure housing.

Paul Eagle: What progress are Housing First providers reporting?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, Housing First providers are working together in a collective, and they're working directly with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development on the expansion of the Housing First scheme. Several hundred extra families have been assisted because of the decisions that were made in Budget '18 to increase the scale of the Housing First programme. The people that Housing First is helping are the people who are the collateral damage; they have experienced the sharp end of the national housing crisis. We're committed, as a Government, to working with them in the most practical and effective way.

Question No. 3—Prime Minister

3. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she have confidence in Shane Jones, who declared a conflict of interest regarding Manea Footprints of Kupe, then attended meetings regarding Manea and provided assurances for Manea so that Grant Robertson signed off on the funding in light of those very assurances?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes. As I said yesterday, Minister Jones himself identified, at the very beginning of the consideration of the application, that he had a conflict of interest. He contacted the Cabinet Office, they gave him advice, and he followed it.

Hon Simon Bridges: Well, how does she explain Shane Jones' ability to "provide assurances on this project", where his only connection to it—according to the Prime Minister on Newstalk ZB on Tuesday morning—was knowing one of the kaumātua quite loosely?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, he knew one of the kaumātua, and I also acknowledge that he had knowledge of the project. Minister Robertson asked a question around milestones, and Minister Jones answered one of those questions. Again, he himself has acknowledged that it would have been better for him to leave the room, but in terms of managing his conflict, he was not a decision-making Minister.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is what she really just said that he's rather more closely aligned to this project than she let on on Newstalk ZB on Tuesday morning?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think the Hon Jones "upholds and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards." when he referred to Hamish Rutherford as a "bunny boiler" and threatened to use parliamentary privilege to continue to criticise him?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I've already shared in public my view on those comments. I have said that I considered them ill-advised.

Hon Member: Say it again.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I just said it.

SPEAKER: Order! Can I just ask members on my left to actually listen to what's being said, because they wouldn't make the inane interjections that they did if they had.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she have confidence in her Minister of veterans, who told veterans support group No Duff that they only got their funding because of him, and that they recognised that fact, and that they recognised the responsibility that comes with the funding—that is, voting for New Zealand First?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not agree with the insinuation there that the member has the made; however, the Minister, obviously, was speaking in a ministerial capacity. Of course I have shared with him my view that, when speaking in a ministerial capacity, references of a party political nature should be left at the door. But I reject the association the member has made between funding and votes. I do not believe that is accurate or a fair reflection.

Hon Simon Bridges: So has she got confidence in him?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I do, and I do want to also acknowledge that the member himself was speaking at an event with a group who, in a very short space of time, did incredible work around PTSD with returned veterans, and the Minister himself recognised that, saw that funding go to them within a very short time of us being in office, and—can I add—put RSA funding on a secure footing for a period of four years rather than the uncertainty they had under that Government.

Hon Simon Bridges: Doesn't the amazing work they do make it all the worse to cheapen it with a shameless bid for votes like Ron Mark did?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I said in my last answer, he was speaking in a ministerial capacity, and in those cases I would expect that party political discussion to be left at the door; however, I do reject the idea that he has behaved in the way the member has relayed. In fact, No Duff Charitable Trust themselves said they hold "no view on the Minister's recent comments, but we appreciate his willingness to speak frankly and with candor. The Minister is an important member of the Veterans community. He is one of us."

Hon Simon Bridges: Did Cabinet specifically sign off on the funding at Ron Mark's suggestion to ensure veterans vote for New Zealand First?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No, and that funding, if I recall, was through a Budget process.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: What would the Prime Minister prefer: a Minister for Veterans—not "of" veterans but "for" veterans—who passionately does something rather than one that does nothing?

SPEAKER: I'd just like a day to go by without the member breaching.

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I appreciate the huge passion that the Minister brings to his portfolio, and I don't think anyone questions that.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she think Damien O'Connor should be telling Animal Evac New Zealand that "You can't go riding us and then come to us for funding.", and does she think that threatening to withhold funding from a voluntary animal evacuation organisation if it didn't stop its criticism is acceptable behaviour for a Cabinet Minister?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There have been several occasions in this House when I have seen claimed quotes attributed to the Minister that have not been correct, and I would prefer to speak with the Minister directly on statements that the member claims he's made.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she have any reason to believe why the person from Animal Evac New Zealand would make up such a thing in regard to the Hon Damien O'Connor?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It wasn't them, necessarily, that I was questioning.

Hon Simon Bridges: I seek leave to table a New Zealand Herald story from today that sets that quote out.

SPEAKER: I think the member knows he's being disorderly.

Hon Simon Bridges: You disputed it.

SPEAKER: That's actually not true. I was listening.

Hon Simon Bridges: Has the behaviour of Ministers Jones, Mark, and O'Connor been consistent with the requirements of paragraph 2.56 of the Cabinet Manual, which expects Ministers to "act lawfully and to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards … exercising a professional approach and good judgement in their interactions with the public and officials, and in all their communications, personal and professional."?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Based on the advice I've received, yes. I also want to acknowledge, though, that we have in Minister O'Connor a member who is battling the eradication of Mycoplasma bovis, which has never been done before; in Minister Jones, a Minister who's rolling out, finally, investment in our regions, the likes of which we have never seen before; and in Minister Mark, investment in our veterans that is consistent and assured, which they have not had in the past decade.

Hon Simon Bridges: Is she making excuses for her Ministers' appalling behaviour because they're a little bit stressed with the rigours of Government?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No. I think you'll find that that was actually a list of achievements.

Question No. 4—Finance

4. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Prime Minister's comment in relation to any changes to tax legislation, "we want to make sure that there's simplicity in our system and, of course, we want to make sure that we don't see some of those perverse incentives that might lead to an accountants' boom"; and in his view, would a capital gains tax increase the compliance costs and complexity of our tax system?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: On behalf of the Minister of Finance, I agree with the Prime Minister's full quote. I also agree with the view of Australian tax expert Professor Chris Evans, who said the design features of any CGT "can either increase or decrease tax compliance costs", which, of course, will be taken into account in any decisions we make.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, if he agrees with the Prime Minister that he wants to ensure simplicity in the tax system, and he also agrees with Professor Chris Evans, whom he's just quoted, is he also aware that Chris Evans has gone on to say "it is almost universally accepted that [having a capital gains tax] is very hard to justify on the grounds of simplicity,"?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I have two other quotes that I would reply with from Professor Chris Evans, because I think the member gets them out of context. He says, of a CGT, "It affects very few people, relatively, in Australia—4 percent of personal taxpayers and just over 3 percent of companies have to deal with the CGT", and then he says, "Sensible design can mitigate most of these problems, and certainly any suggestions that the revenue will be outgunned by losses"—and efficiency losses in the economy, he means—"completely misses the point", as the member does.

Hon Amy Adams: Well, does he agree with the views of the dissenting members of the Tax Working Group, who have said, and I quote, "The main beneficiaries of a capital gains tax will be accountants, lawyers, and valuers. The losers will be businesses of all sizes, who will need to comply with very complex legislation, with small businesses bearing the highest compliance cost burden".

Hon DAVID PARKER: No, I don't, and I would give three reasons. First, contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday, one of the valuations methodologies is the Government valuation, which costs zip, zero, not $10,000. The second reason I would give is, in respect of accountants—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I am going to interrupt. The member for the West Coast and member for Ilam are yelling at each other like they've got the Alps between them. Can they please just settle down.

Hon DAVID PARKER: The second of the three reasons I would note is that if you're worried about accountant growth, the number of accountants in New Zealand—and I can say this, because I've got an accounting degree—they—[Interruption] It's not an insult to accountants; they're very worthy people. The number of accountants under the last Government grew 12 percent between 2000 and 2017 because of the enormous burden of compliance costs placed on them. Third point: administrative efficiency is important. The Labour Party and our coalition parties—we agree that administrative efficiency is important because compliance costs must be reasonable. But it's no justification for gross unfairnesses between taxpayers or income types.

SPEAKER: I am going to remind the member that he is answering on behalf of the Minister of Finance, and therefore he has to be careful about his phrasing before he attributes qualifications to the Minister of Finance that I'm pretty sure the Minister of Finance doesn't have.

Hon Simon Bridges: On the basis of that vast experience he has, who has more small business experience: him or the Prime Minister?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I effectively ruled out that part of the answer, and therefore, the question is out of order. If the member wants to rephrase it, he can, or we just won't count it.

Hon Amy Adams: If he agrees with the Prime Minister, who said that a capital gains tax needn't be overly complicated, what does he say to Paul Glass of Devon Funds Management, who says that a capital gains tax would "add huge complexity to one of the world's simplest tax systems"?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I would say (1) no decision has been taken and (2) any decision that is taken will be done in a way that would have appropriate minimisation of compliance costs, which have been terribly misrepresented by the Opposition this week, including the suggestion that you'd have to spend $10,000 to get a valuation of land, when you can use the Government valuation, which is available for nothing.

Hon Amy Adams: How can he deny that a capital gains tax would create a field day for accountants, when the user guide alone for a similar regime in South Africa is this mighty tome, which comes in at over 900 pages of complexity?

Hon DAVID PARKER: I can be confident in that regard because, actually, New Zealand would have last-mover advantage because just about every other OECD country has already got one and we could learn from their experience if we were to take that decision on which no decision has been taken.

Question No. 5—Pike River Re-entry

5. RINO TIRIKATENE (Labour—Te Tai Tonga) to the Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry: What recent announcements has he made regarding Pike River re-entry?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister responsible for Pike River Re-entry): Yesterday, I announced the date to commence re-entering and recovering the Pike River drift will be Friday 3 May. Work in the drift will enable the Pike River Recovery Agency and police to thoroughly investigate the drift and find evidence that may help us to better understand what caused this dreadful tragedy. The recovery of the drift is an act of justice. By ascertaining the causes of the explosion, we can ensure that a disaster like this doesn't happen again.

Rino Tirikatene: What work has been done in preparation for re-entry?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: There's been an incredible amount of preparation to get ready for re-entry. This has included preparing bridges for heavy loads, installing a nitrogen plant, upgrading the power supply, laying many kilometres of piping for nitrogen, drilling more bore holes, installing monitoring equipment, and purging and ventilating the drift. There is still some more preparatory work to do, including installing compressed air lines, awaiting the arrival of underground equipment from Australia, and breaching the concrete seal at 30 metres. Once the 30 metre seal is breached, then the re-entry and recovery operation can begin in earnest.

Rino Tirikatene: Will safety be a focus of Pike River re-entry?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I'm happy to say that safety has been a non-negotiable bottom-line for the whole project, and everyone has agreed to that, including the families. The agency's dedication to a safety-first culture has enabled good work and preparation over the last 14 months. There has been international expert consultation and the purchasing of specialised equipment to do the job. That dedication to safety will continue throughout the re-entry project.

Question No. 6—Housing and Urban Development

6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: On what basis have KiwiBuild homes underwritten in Marshland in Christchurch met one of the four additionality thresholds applied to determine if a KiwiBuild underwrite should proceed?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): I'm advised the deal with KiwiBuild enabled Mike Greer to speed up the overall Marshland development and lower the proposed price for each of the homes.

Hon Judith Collins: How does the KiwiBuild house at 5 Te Rito Street meet the test for getting a development under way, as the house had construction under way seven months before the underwrite agreement was signed?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The thing that the member needs to understand in this case is that it's not about whether an individual property in that development had begun construction before the deal was announced. The point of this arrangement with Mike Greer residential is that eight homes were included in the development. One of them had been under way before the contract was signed, but the point is that this is a collective deal, across eight different locations around New Zealand, and 104 affordable homes for first-home buyers is the result of this deal.

Hon Judith Collins: How does the KiwiBuild house at 5 Te Rito Street meet the additionality test for bringing forward a development, since the house had a code of compliance completeness check before the Minister even signed its agreement to underwrite?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: As I explained to the member in my previous answer, it's not about whether that particular criteria for additionality is met in the case of one house. The fact is that eight houses at Marshland and 104 affordable homes around New Zealand are being delivered by Mike Greer as a result of this deal—104 affordable homes that wouldn't have happened under the previous Government.

Hon Judith Collins: How does the house at 5 Te Rito Street meet the test for redesign and affordability, as the house had previously been marketed for four months with the same design, and the non-KiwiBuild house next door at 7 Te Rito Street is currently being marketed for a cheaper price without a KiwiBuild underwrite?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I think it's really important for the House to know that the house next door at 7 Te Rito Street is not being sold by the developer in this case. I note from the marketing material that number 7 is being marketed "priced to sell"—and I quote the advertisement—and I'm advised that the owner's circumstances mean that they need to sell that house urgently. That's presumably why it's on sale for $10,000 less than the house next door.

Hon Judith Collins: What are the implications for the Minister if he has underwritten houses with the Crown guarantee that do not meet any of the additionality tests?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, that would be a breach of our additionality test, but I don't expect that we're going to fail the additionality test.

Hon Judith Collins: I seek leave of the House to table the concrete pour inspection document provided by the Christchurch City Council.

SPEAKER: Is that a publicly available document?

Hon Judith Collins: I think—yes, if you organise it. You've got to apply and then all that sort of thing. So I could; not easily available.

SPEAKER: OK, we'll try that one—yes.

Hon Judith Collins: Thank you. Also, a code compliance summary from the Christchurch City Council showing the date of the vetting officer's pre-selection.

SPEAKER: And is that available online?

Hon Judith Collins: Oh, not easily—not easily.

Hon Member: Not for you!

SPEAKER: Not much easier!

Hon Judith Collins: Then, Mr Speaker, another document, which is definitely not easily obtainable and that is the advertisement in Chinese for the particular house at 5 Te Rito Street, which seems to be dated back in about July, which is definitely not easily available.

SPEAKER: I'm going to put the first two documents. Is there any objection to those being tabled? There is none. I'm not putting the third.

Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Too embarrassed.

SPEAKER: Mr Brownlee will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise.

Question No. 7—Local Government

7. JAMI-LEE ROSS (MP—Botany) to the Minister of Local Government: Is she satisfied that an overseas person that is not a New Zealand citizen or resident cannot lawfully make a donation of an unlimited amount to a candidate standing for local government election, and is she satisfied that the Local Electoral Act 2001 provides sufficient safeguards to ensure local government election candidates and local authorities are free from foreign influence by way of electoral donations?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media) on behalf of the Minister of Local Government: There is no statutory limit on who can make a donation or the amount of the donation. The Act does have requirements regarding the disclosure of donations that reach certain monetary thresholds. Things can always be improved, though, with respect to local election oversight. To the second part of the member's question, I'm advised that the Justice Committee is conducting an inquiry into the 2017 general election and the 2016 local elections.

Hon Simon Bridges: Brian Henry will want to submit on that.

Hon KRIS FAAFOI: I would have thought that member would want to stay quiet during this question. The committee is able to consider the issue of donations to political parties as part of that inquiry. Further, I understand that the justice Minister has asked the committee to expand its consideration to include the issue of foreign interference. If the member has any direct concerns in terms of local body elections, the member might wish to raise these matters with that committee.

Jami-Lee Ross: Will she put forward or support amendments to the Local Electoral Act prior to the 2019 elections to restrict overseas donations and, at the very least, bring the Local Electoral Act donation provisions in line with the Electoral Act 1993?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI: With any changes to electoral laws, the Government believes that it has to go through the correct amount of scrutiny given the enormity of them. The member does raise important questions around scrutiny of overseas elections to candidates, both local and central government. I would suggest that the best way to raise these issues is through the Justice Committee. I also understand that the member intends to put forward some Supplementary Order Papers to a bill that is going through the House at the moment. We don't believe that tacking on those amendments to that current process is the best way to give oversight to ensure that there is the amount of scrutiny that those changes might need.

Jami-Lee Ross: Why is it acceptable that in elections in this country no restrictions exist in local government, where candidates can accept any sum of money from any person from any part of the world?

Hon KRIS FAAFOI: The member does raise another important question. There is a difference between the regimes for local government and central government elections in respect to overseas donations that can be made, and that's why we think it is most appropriate that if the member has concerns, they can be raised through the Justice Committee process, which has now been opened up to the remit of overseas interference.

Question No. 8—Defence

8. DARROCH BALL (NZ First) to the Minister of Defence: What announcements has he made regarding Defence deployments to the South Pacific?

Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): On Monday, the Deputy Prime Minister and I announced that the New Zealand Defence Force is deploying two NH90 helicopters and associated personnel to the Solomon Islands to support their general election to be held on 3 April—the first since the departure of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands in 2017. The helicopters, working alongside the Australian Defence Force personnel and assets, will provide a vital transport link to the approximately 1,200 polling stations that are expected to be established across many hundreds of islands. The tasks being performed by the New Zealand Defence Force will include transporting election officials and materials to polling booths as well as logistics support and command and control roles under the joint task force headquarters in Honiara.

Darroch Ball: How does this deployment support the Pacific reset?

Hon RON MARK: The deployment strongly aligns with the Government's objectives under the Pacific reset as a tangible demonstration of New Zealand's Pacific-wide support for good governance and resilient democratic institutions in close partnership with Australia. The deployment also underscores the commitment of the New Zealand Defence Force in the Pacific, as highlighted in the Strategic Defence Policy Statement 2018, which raised the priority placed on the Defence Force's ability to operate in the South Pacific to the same level as New Zealand's own territory.

Darroch Ball: What does this deployment mean for No. 3 Squadron RNZAF?

Hon RON MARK: Oh, they're chomping at the bit. For many members of No. 3 Squadron, this will be their first operational deployment. It is sure to be personally and professionally very rewarding for them, and is an excellent opportunity to test the abilities of the NH90 helicopter on a sustained deployment. Overseas exercises have prepared No. 3 Squadron and the air force for this task, and I am certain—well, I know—that they are looking forward to doing what they joined the Defence Force to do. While deployed to the Solomon Islands, No. 3 Squadron remains ready to respond to a wide range of tasks back here at home—

Hon Gerry Brownlee: How's the Minister going to get home while they're out of town?

Hon RON MARK: —in support of the communities and the Government's agencies, Mr Brownlee.

Question No. 9—Veterans

Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney): Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Veterans. Does he stand by all his statements—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Can the member ask the question as it's put.

Hon MARK MITCHELL: Oh, sorry. My question is to the Minister for Veterans.

SPEAKER: Thank you.

9. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister for Veterans: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?

Hon RON MARK (Minister for Veterans): In the main, yes. In regards to my remarks to the No Duff summit held on 1 December 2018, whilst the assertions that I was campaigning for New Zealand First lack context, given the way they have been misconstrued, I acknowledge that my comments could have been tighter, and I'll be careful in future.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he stand by his statement to No Duff Charitable Trust that "when I look at the polling results of my political party New Zealand First, then the veterans, the Defence base, you guys haven't supported us. At all."?

Hon RON MARK: Oh, that snapshot, out of a wider comment, made in context was something that I would probably—I'd say it characterises my approach to the job of being realistic. I have always said, Mr Mitchell, to all of them—and I think I've said it in that same 25-minute speech—that I take this job as a privilege. It's an honour. I see it as a three-year posting. The chances of being re-elected can never be guaranteed, and I mean to get as much done for the veterans for the time that I am privileged to be in this position as I possibly can. And, yes, I—

SPEAKER: Order! Order!

Hon RON MARK: —stand by that.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I thought the member was threatening to give us the full 25 minutes.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he agree with No Duff's founder, Aaron Wood, when he says it's not the kind of thing you'd expect to get from a Minister of the Crown?

Hon RON MARK: Interesting comment. Look, Aaron is one of those people who set up and founded No Duff, and hats off to Aaron. I would refer the member to the statement just released by No Duff and posted on their Facebook page, and I am very grateful for their comments.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister for Veterans as to whether his policy is to regard actions as being far, far more important than words?

Hon RON MARK: Look, a very good question. I guess that is the difference, that is the hallmark, that I would hope to leave on this portfolio should I not be here. The fact is in that speech we talked about delivery as opposed to non-delivery. The fact is that in 2008, a Labour – New Zealand First Government appropriated money to the RSA on a four-year tranche. The fact is that the National Government removed that. The fact is that this Government reinstated it. The fact is that we actually went out and gave funding to No Duff in recognition of the wonderful work they do. [Interruption] That's performance, that's delivery, as opposed to what that member's Government did.

SPEAKER: Order! Order! I'm not sure—was that Ms Barry who made that interjections or was it Ms Kaye? Someone made a most unparliamentary allegation. I think it was you, Ms Barry—a word beginning with B.

Hon Maggie Barry: Yes.

SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Maggie Barry: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Mark Mitchell: Given the Minister feels like he's only got three years in the job, is he going to, in his ministerial role, continue to speak about New Zealand First's party vote when he's addressing veterans and New Zealand defence personnel.

Hon RON MARK: I think hindsight's a wonderful thing. Given the concerns that are being raised and the way in which those two quite separate comments were spliced together and presented, I will be tighter in future, Mr Mitchell. But that will not stop me doing as much as I possibly can for veterans going forward, and that will not stop me advocating passionately for them. I just hope, at the end of the day, to be judged on what we deliver to veterans as opposed to what they used to get.

Darroch Ball: Of all the statements and policy statements and speeches the Minister has made since his being appointed, what is, in his view, the most significant issue facing veterans?

Hon RON MARK: It's a very good question. There are a number of issues that affect veterans right now. One that has to be at the top of the list is the review of the 2014 Act, which the previous Government passed and which has now been proven by Professor Ron Paterson's report to be thoroughly inadequate and in need of a complete rewrite. But the one that stands out, ironically, is the one around which this controversy is swirling: it is the work that people like No Duff do in addressing the issue of PTSD. It is the one that has been ignored for far too long of contemporary vets, of which, Mr Mitchell, there are 32,000 now who have completed operational service, and it's about delivering quality service and support at the front line to those affected with PTSD as opposed to making a trivial issue of it in point-scoring in the way in which that member chooses to do.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Is the Minister saying that the three-year time frame he gave represents the humility with which Ministers in this Government perform their job rather than the arrogant born-to-rule attitude of some?

SPEAKER: Order! The member may answer the first part of the question.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, what was the first part?

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, shut up and you'll find out.

Hon RON MARK: I'd like to think that I'm not one who feels he's born to rule or privileged. I do believe I'm very privileged for being appointed as the Minister for Veterans by the Prime Minister and my leader, the Rt Hon Winston Peters. I am realistic, and I know you cannot look at this job as anything more than a three-year posting, Mr Mitchell. So I am focused on that. I am focused on that and delivering the very best that I can do for the women and men who serve us faithfully in uniform, and that's all I hope to achieve.

SPEAKER: Before we move on, early in that answer the Deputy Prime Minister used an unparliamentary term, inviting members opposite to cease their interjections. Two points: one, it's my role; and, secondly, the phrase he used is certainly unparliamentary. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Member: With feeling.

SPEAKER: Yes, with about as much sincerity as I've seen on the other side recently.

Question No. 10—Corrections

10. LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Corrections: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister of Corrections): Yes, in the context they were made and taken.

Lawrence Yule: Why did he approve a $125 million extension to the rapid deployment prison cell contract without tendering the work?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: To be honest, I'm not sure what the member's talking about. All the work that we've done to increase prison capacity has been by the book.

Lawrence Yule: Did he also approve the $59.1 million contract for the original rapid deployment cells on 25 November 2017?

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: On the date he said, I was the Minister of Corrections, so the answer is yes. And the reason we had to increase the prison capacity was because, under that previous Government, the prison population was skyrocketing. If the prison population had have continued at the same trajectory it was, we'd be facing a prison population of around about 12,000 now. Instead, we're hovering around 10,000—2,000 less than what it would be under that previous Government.

Lawrence Yule: Does he stand by his answer to written question No. 23415 when he said "I am advised that no expression of interest was sought for the work to deliver 600 rapid … modular beds as corrections used a contract variation of an existing contract."; and, if so, why then did the Department of Corrections issue an expression of interest notice to respondents on 27 April 2018 and the CEO of corrections write to the New Zealand—

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member's asked two legs already.

Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Yes.

Question No. 11—Whānau Ora

11. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Whānau Ora: Is he doing anything to promote Whānau Ora and a whānau-centred approach across Government now that the Whānau Ora Review has been completed; if so, what?

Hon PEENI HENARE (Minister for Whānau Ora): My vision is for whānau to be supported to build on their strengths and achieve their aspirations. A whānau development summit will be held on 25 March 2019 here in Wellington with myself and my colleague Minister Mahuta. The objectives of the summit will be to highlight examples of successful whānau development—led or invested in by Te Puni Kōkiri—provide insights and tools that Government agencies and the philanthropic organisations can adopt to engage more effectively with whānau to improve well-being outcomes; and, finally, to promote the scholarship and methodology of whānau-centred policy and whānau development approaches that have been developed within Te Puni Kōkiri.

Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What will the participants get out of the summit?

Hon PEENI HENARE: Amongst many things, the summit will consist of four workshops and presentations from keynote speakers showcasing whānau-led initiatives, sharing what we are learning about collaboration and service design, exploring ways of measuring success, and testing whānau-centred policy.

Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What are you hoping to achieve from the summit?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Nothing.

Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What is he hoping to achieve from the summit?

Hon PEENI HENARE: I believe that participants will walk away with an understanding of how they can apply a whānau-centred approach into their work and how they can contribute to whānau development. The excuse of simple ignorance should no longer be tolerated.

Questions for Oral AnswerQuestion No.10 to Minister

LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise. I rise to speak to a point of order.

SPEAKER: Sorry?

LAWRENCE YULE: I wish to raise a point of order. I wish to table documents that I should have done at the end of my question.

SPEAKER: Can I ask the member—the normal practice is either to do it with the question or at the end of question time. So we will wait until Dr Reti's had his question, then we'll come back to it.

Question No. 12—Health

12. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by all his statements and actions around vaccination?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes.

Dr Shane Reti: How does he explain to parents of 5-to-12-year-old Northland children who the ministry have decided are ineligible for the meningitis vaccine that last year, funding was announced for a $10 million vaccination programme in New Guinea?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The expert advice was clear in respect of the Northland outbreak: teenagers and young adults are known to be the main carriers of meningococcal disease—they are the ones most likely to spread it through the community—and children under 5 are considered most at risk of the disease. So our expert advice is that vaccinating these two age groups is the best way to reduce the spread of meningococcal disease across the entire Northland community. It is heartening that since the vaccination campaign began in December, there has not been a single case of meningococcal W in Northland.

Dr Shane Reti: How does he explain to parents of 5-to-12-year-old Northland children who the ministry have decided are ineligible for the meningitis vaccine that last year, funding was given for a $1 million meningitis vaccination programme in the Pacific?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Again, we take clinical advice on these matters, and I completely understand why parents of children that age might want to get their children vaccinated. But I would point out respectfully that since the targeted vaccination campaign started, there have not been any further cases of meningococcal W in Northland. It's not a guarantee there won't ever be, but I think parents can take some heart from that.

Dr Shane Reti: Should we be vaccinating ineligible 5-to-12-year-old Northland children for meningitis before we vaccinate for meningitis in other countries?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I'm not responsible for vaccinations in other countries.

Dr Shane Reti: What does he say to parents of Kaihu and Hikurangi school communities who are fund-raising to buy meningitis vaccines for their ineligible children?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I completely understand why parents of those children might want to get them vaccinated, but I would point out that since the targeted vaccination campaign started, there have not been any further cases of meningococcal W in Northland. It's not a guarantee that there won't ever be, but I think parents can take some heart from that, and well done.

Question No. 10 to Minister

LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki): I seek leave to table two documents. One is the expression of interest notice to respondents on 27 April 2018—

SPEAKER: Can I ask: was that published on any ministry website?

LAWRENCE YULE: No, this is a letter I received from the respondent, so I've received it. Both letters are from a private source.

SPEAKER: And they don't include—the basis of them is not material that's on a website?

LAWRENCE YULE: No, that's correct.

SPEAKER: Right. The first document, the expression of interest—any objection to that being tabled. There appears to be none. It may be tabled.

document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

SPEAKER: The second document.

LAWRENCE YULE (National—Tukituki): The second document is a letter from the CEO of Corrections thanking a company for his expression of interest and advising that he's been unsuccessful.

SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that document being tabled? There appears to be none. It may be tabled.

document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

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