Parliament: Questions and Answers - May 8
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: Is the Government still committed to building 100,000 KiwiBuild houses over 10 years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the member well knows, we're going through the process of a reset around the KiwiBuild programme [Interruption]. Are we committed to building affordable homes? Are we committed to trying to improve access for first-home buyers? Are we the Government that has built more houses than any other Government since the 1970s? The answer to that is yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is that a confirmation that the 100,000 houses in a decade commitment is now gone?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is it Phil Twyford who's been reset?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Then why did the housing Minister Phil Twyford say this morning, on that 100,000 commitment: "It's like American nuclear ships in the 1980s. It's a neither confirm nor deny situation."?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've just said, we are in the process of working through a KiwiBuild reset, but whilst we do so we are continuing to build houses. Again, as I've said many a time in this House, we are a Government building more houses than any other since the 1970s.
Hon Simon Bridges: When is the climb-down on her flagship policy of 100,000 houses in a decade going to be confirmed?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I will never resile from the fact that this is a Government that has committed to changing the face of housing in this country. In fact, just look at the Auckland housing market—a significant change has happened there. We know that there has been a softening. We know, even though prices are high, that more first-home buyers are getting into that market. We are creating more transitional housing places, we have built more State houses, we put a stop to State house sales, and we have increased Housing First placements. I am proud of what we've done on housing but, I have to say, the last Government set the bar pretty damn low.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have just given the Opposition 12 more questions today. But the reality is that the Prime Minister has got a right to be able to give an answer to the question that is being put by the Leader of the Opposition, excepting his colleagues are all screaming out and Gerry Brownlee is the worst of them. They should be told to desist or action will be taken by you, with respect.
SPEAKER: Well, I'm—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I never scream.
SPEAKER: I think most members are aware of the fact that the interjection during that question was excessive. I am generally reluctant to interrupt a Minister in full flight in those circumstances, unless it goes even further. I am watching it very carefully, I want to assure the Deputy Prime Minister, but I, on balance, decided it was better to let it run the way it was going.
Hon Simon Bridges: How can she have confidence in Phil Twyford, when he's seen only 80 KiwiBuild houses built so far and he won't confirm her flagship policy of 100,000 houses?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because we've built more State houses, more transitional houses, and housed more who have been homeless. We have also stopped the sale of residential housing to foreign buyers. We have also closed tax loopholes. We have made a difference to the housing market, and that is ultimately making a difference for families. We inherited a dire situation with our housing market, and we are turning it around.
Hon Simon Bridges: How about a straight answer to a straight question—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. Now, he'll stand up and he will ask a question properly.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is the 100,000 houses in a decade target gone?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As I've already said to the member's original question, we are working through our KiwiBuild reset. When we have completed that, we will be making announcements in due course.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will we learn about this on a Friday at 4 o'clock, say, in a week or two?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: In light of the failure of KiwiBuild, the decision not to introduce a capital gains tax, and to adopt only three of the 42 welfare report recommendations, does she accept she has built up expectations in her year of delivery without a plan to deliver?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: No.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why then did her Minister for Regional Economic Development Shane Jones say on television this morning that she had definitely "built up expectations without a plan of delivery"?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I never would follow that member's attempt to paraphrase Minister Jones. I don't actually accept even Minister Jones' attempts to paraphrase himself.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she agree with her senior ministerial colleague Shane Jones that she built up expectations without a plan of delivery?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I reject the premise of the question.
Hon Simon Bridges: To be clear, has she had any input into the issue of removing the 100,000 KiwiBuild commitment in recent times?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the member is asking whether or not I am concerned about the fact that we have inherited a housing crisis, absolutely—we, as a Government, have set a priority that all New Zealanders should be able to access a warm, dry home. That is why we put in the Healthy Homes guarantee. It's why we stopped the sale of State houses. It's why we've boosted Housing First placement for those who are homeless. It's why we've increased transitional housing. In every test, we have done more than that last Government, and we ventured into a space that no Government has gone before, and that was the affordable housing market. We don't resile away from our focus on housing, because it's the right thing to do.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the Prime Minister confirm that housing construction in New Zealand is at record levels over the last 44 years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I can. Including private developments, there were 34,516 homes for New Zealand in the March 2019 year, and consents are reaching levels now that we haven't seen since the mid-1970s—that's exactly what we need.
Hon Simon Bridges: Wouldn't it be more accurate to compare KiwiBuild to the Titanic than an American warship?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the National Party built the Titanic.
Hon Simon Bridges: With an official cash rate cut just confirmed, does she accept that the Reserve Bank is now doing her job, propping up an economy that's significantly weakening?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: If the suggestion is that, somehow, I run every single global economy or that I'm somehow responsible for the headwinds we are facing as a result of issues like trade tensions between China and the USA, I'm sure the member would not want to imply that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that her Treasury just last week revised GDP for the first half of this year down to just 2 percent on the back of continued weak domestic business confidence and deteriorating future intentions from firms here?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, as I have said many a time in this House, the member seems to think we operate in complete isolation. We do not. Of course, the average quarterly growth rate in GDP per hour worked under the coalition Government has been, if I were to pick a figure, 0.9 percent. In contrast, it has averaged 0.1 percent under the previous Government, and going forward we have to acknowledge that other developed OECD nations who we compare ourselves to are seeing downturns in their projected growth rates. Relative to them, we are in a strong position.
Hon David Parker: Is the Prime Minister aware that growth forecasts for New Zealand are higher than Australia, Japan, the OECD average, most of Europe, Canada, and the United Kingdom?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, that is indeed correct. Canada, the UK, the euro, Japan—we are showing much stronger growth rates than all of those comparable nations.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is her $1.5 billion mental health Budget package over four years—that is, is it a $6 billion package overall?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I heard the member throw around numbers in this House. We, of course, have made no announcements on mental health and the Budget.
Hon Simon Bridges: Well, is it also true that there is a $500 million Pharmac boost in the Budget as well, and is that enough over four years?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: The member, I know, has a strategy here of just chucking out random numbers. We have not announced anything for the Budget in that regard.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Which policy has been more successful in helping New Zealanders get into homeownership: HomeStart, that has helped 60,000 New Zealanders—
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: —into homeownership, or KiwiBuild, that has helped 60 into homeownership?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I reject the premise of the question.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I seek leave to table the analysis from the Parliamentary Library showing that 60,000 New Zealanders have been helped into homeownership—
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! That's enough. An analysis on this matter from the Parliamentary Library—is there any objection to that? There is objection.
• Question No.
2. MARAMA DAVIDSON (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister for Climate Change: What recent announcements has he made regarding climate change?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change): This morning, the Prime Minister and I announced the introduction into Parliament of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, commonly known as the zero carbon bill. Now, in April of this year, tens of thousands of school students went on strike to protest the lack of decisive action on climate change. We are acting now. The zero carbon bill outlines our plan for the next 30 years to safeguard the future of those students and of their own children. This is not the end of the journey, but it is a good start.
Marama Davidson: How will the zero carbon bill contribute to the global effort to limit warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Reducing emissions of our long-lived gases, including carbon dioxide, to net zero means that those emissions will no longer contribute to further global warming. The target range for biogenic methane is consistent with the central range of scenarios presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its most recent report, which limit global warming to 1½ degrees with limited or no overshoot.
Marama Davidson: Why does the zero carbon bill propose a split-target approach, with biological methane separated from all other gases?
Hon JAMES SHAW: A split-gas approach enables a target with a definite temperature outcome, which lets us aim it at the goal of the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. Emissions of short-lived gases do not need to reduce to zero in order to limit their effect on global warming, whereas emissions of long-lived gases need to be reduced to net zero or below. The target in the bill is consistent with the latest science on what is required for the world to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Marama Davidson: What steps will be taken to ensure the transition to a climate-safe future prioritises the needs of our most vulnerable and exposed communities, and the interests of tangata whenua?
Hon JAMES SHAW: The bill sets the framework for our transition, but as we decide what policies are needed to support us in reaching the budgets and the target, we'll need to carefully consider their impact on communities and in the interests of tangata whenua. What the bill does do up front is require particular attention be given to seeking nominations from iwi and Māori representative organisations for the climate change commission. Under the bill, we must include an emissions reduction plan, a strategy to recognise and mitigate the impacts on iwi and Māori of reducing emissions, and we must ensure that iwi Māori have been adequately consulted on that plan. In preparing a plan, we have to take into account the economic, social, health, environmental, ecological, and cultural effects of climate change on iwi and Māori.
Marama Davidson: What impact will this bill have on New Zealand's ability to meet the social and economic needs of all citizens through to 2050?
Hon JAMES SHAW: The economic analysis that we did when we did the consultation on the zero carbon bill last year showed that the difference in terms of long-term economic impact between the existing 2050 target that was gazetted by the Rt Hon John Key of a 50 percent reduction below 1990 levels and the new target that we are proposing in this legislation is approximately 0.2 percent—in other words, it's marginal. Countries that have reduced their emissions over the course of the last 10 years have all seen their economies continue to grow and develop, and household incomes continue to grow also. For example, in the United Kingdom they've seen a 42 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and have had the fastest growing economy in the Europe Union over the same period of time. So the idea that this is a sunk cost to the economy is not borne out by what's actually happening on the ground around the world. The transition to a low-carbon economy is, as I've said, actually the single greatest economic opportunity in at least a generation.
Todd Muller: Will the Minister recommence good-faith negotiations with the National Party to find common ground on a methane target?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Obviously, the bill has now entered into the House, but I am always prepared, of course, to talk to my colleagues in the National Party about the shape of the bill, and I look forward to the select committee process and to seeing what that throws up.
Todd Muller: Does he classify good-faith negotiations as meeting in early March on targets, silence for eight weeks, and then being handed a bill on Monday afternoon?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I want to apologise to Mr Muller personally for some of the background process here, which has not gone as I would have liked—nor, in fact, was what I had intended. The bill is, obviously, very contentious, and you can see some of that in the reaction in the media today. So what we have done, I think, represents the best consensus that we can build at this point in time across New Zealand society. I think that the diversity of views that are represented here in this Parliament approximate that.
Todd Muller: Could you please elucidate for the House what you mean when you say "background process"?
SPEAKER: Substitute "he" for a "you" and go for it.
Hon JAMES SHAW: Quite simply, that over the course of the last 18 months, there have been a series of rounds of consultation, not just with the National Party but with other political parties and also with other organisations outside this House, in particular agricultural sector organisations, iwi, environmental organisations, scientists, and others.
• Question No. 3—Prime
3. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—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 Paula Bennett: Does she agree that a binding referendum is set in law, as opposed to a political party making an election promise that they will enact legislation?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: As the member will no doubt agree, binding, of course, is an obligation that cannot be broken. Obviously, we in this House all know and accept that no Parliament is able, really, to bind any future Parliament. Parliament is always sovereign. So any bill that may have—even if we were to put a full bill through this House, it would still have the ability to be fully repealed by the next Parliament. The best way to be able to bind a future Parliament is for the parties that make up that Parliament to give a commitment to abide by its outcome, and that is what the three parties of Government have done.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she accept the Cabinet paper that the Cabinet saw that said, to give the greatest certainty, actually enacting legislation that the date would come in after a yes vote gives the most certainty and is the most like binding?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I would make the point that that is the difference between certainly whether or not you're talking about simply debating principles or a bill. We have, as a Government, settled on a bill to give that degree of certainty. We've also, however, acknowledged that the only way you can really assure anyone that a bill will come into effect is if political parties give that commitment to abide by the outcome—that is what we have done. We can continue to debate the process. Ultimately, the question here is whether or not we, as political parties, commit to follow through on a referendum outcome. So we have agreed to do that. The question is whether or not the National Party will.
Hon Paula Bennett: What would happen if another political party came in in the next election and, as such, hadn't been part of that legislative process?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Of course, the legislation is going to be public. How else can we expect people to vote on it? No doubt, I imagine the public would ask that political party for their position on it also. We couldn't guarantee that if a bill went all the way through a process that after an election this mythical new party would come into Parliament and repeal that bill too.
Hon Paula Bennett: So does she know the difference, then, between a binding referendum, an indicative referendum, and a legal or moral obligation and an election promise?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, but in every single case, Parliament is still sovereign.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: So can we take it that the Prime Minister's position and explanation is that when you give your word in a circumstance like this, you should keep it?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Like 100—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Which member was that?
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I started and I stopped before actually finishing. I didn't actually get a full word out before I stopped.
SPEAKER: The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: Right, now we'll start again. Start the supplementary again.
Hon Paula Bennett: Fantastic. So if the—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Just start the supplementary again.
Hon Paula Bennett: If the Prime Minister, then, is true to her word and she wants to guarantee the vote of the public will be listened to and acted on—given this is nothing more than an election promise—then how come so many other election promises have been broken; for example, the capital gains tax or a Chief Technology Officer role, which have not eventuated?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That question infringed rulings and Standing Orders in about five different ways. It wasn't a question; it was a speech.
SPEAKER: Yes, it did.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Just speaking to that point of order—
SPEAKER: No, no. I've ruled on it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, in that case, a new point of order.
SPEAKER: That's not going to attempt to relitigate the ruling I've just made?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, no, it doesn't relitigate your ruling; it supports it, and suggests that the same logic might be applied to the Prime Minister's answers.
SPEAKER: That's an interesting matter, which I'll contemplate later but, frankly, I can't connect it to the ruling that I've just made at the moment.
Hon Paula Bennett: How can she guarantee the vote of the public will be listened to and acted on, given this is nothing more than an election promise, and so many other election promises—for example, a capital gains tax, and Chief Technology Officer role—have not eventuated under her prime ministership?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I refute the premise of many elements of that question. However, again, what I would say is that we are acknowledging that we, as the three parties that make up this Government, will abide by the outcome. It is fair to say, though, that the public will be interested in the National Party's position because that will also be contingent on whether or not their view is listened to.
Hon Paula Bennett: Isn't this just similar to KiwiBuild, where you promised 100,000 houses that you won't deliver?
SPEAKER: Order! No, try again.
Hon Paula Bennett: Isn't this similar to KiwiBuild, where the Prime Minister has promised 100,000 houses that they are unable to deliver?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I have to say that I am somewhat baffled by this. This is an issue that the public want to have a say on, and we are committed to giving them that say. If that side of the House struggles so much with the idea of the public having an opinion and is so reluctant to commit to listening to them, that is their issue, not mine.
Hon Paula Bennett: So why didn't Cabinet agree to option four, given the Cabinet paper was weighted towards enacted legislation and this was the preferred option of their coalition partner, the Greens?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Because the outcome is the same.
Hon Paula Bennett: If the aim of legalising marijuana is to displace the black market, as we've constantly heard, has she seen a recent report from Canada that, despite legalisation, 38 percent of users reported getting cannabis from illegal or black market sources?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: It is not my role to defend what other jurisdictions have done or the make-up of their policy. We have, however—in constructing the principles of the legislation that will be drafted, the objectives include reducing the overall use of cannabis over time, harm reduction, disempowering the gangs and illegal trade, and ensuring product safety and control of THC levels. Again, the much better way for the member to engage, though, on issues that the party that she belongs to may have an interest in would be to engage in the drafting. It's an offer I will continue to make.
Hon Paula Bennett: If part of the purpose of legalising marijuana, as said in the Cabinet paper, is harm minimisation and reducing the number of users, has she seen the National Cannabis Survey of the first quarter in Canada, of 18 percent reported using cannabis, and it's 4 percent higher than the same period a year earlier, when cannabis was illegal?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I make the point that if the member chooses to advocate against the legalisation of cannabis, she is absolutely welcome to do that. That is what the referendum is about. If the member is interested in the drafting and the fulfilment of the objectives that will be put to the public of New Zealand, I welcome her engagement in the drafting of this bill. I am not going to debate the pros and cons of legislation; that will be decided by New Zealanders, not by this Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Prime Minister whether she's been advised by the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, that their legislation has been so recent that there is still not enough time to get any lessons from it?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There are, of course, a number of jurisdictions that we can learn from—the Netherlands, Colorado, a number of states within the United States. I am sure that members involved in the drafting of this legislation will look to international evidence and advice and experts in the drafting, but, ultimately, what we want to do is provide as much advice and as much debate and discussion as possible for the public, who will ultimately determine the outcome.
Hon Paula Bennett: On the back of the previous question, why doesn't the Government wait so that we can see the results from Canada, who only legalised in October and are probably the most similar jurisdiction to us, so that we can do something that truly is evidence based?
Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I think the point the Deputy Prime Minister was making was that that was what the member was referring to. There are a number of other States that we can draw evidence and advice from.
• Question No.
4. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement that "we are building an economy that is more productive"; if so, why is annual GDP per capita growth at its lowest level since 2011?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: I stand by my—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Part of the problem with the byplay is that it fools me as well. David Parker will behave himself. Start again, David Clark.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: On behalf of the Minister, I stand by my full statement last year that, "New Zealanders will see a difference with next year's Budget. It will show how we are building an economy that is more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive." I stand by that statement given that GDP per hour worked has increased, on average, by 0.9 percent per quarter under the coalition Government compared to just 0.1 percent under the previous Government. In terms of the second part of the member's question, that is correct on one definition and not on others.
Hon Amy Adams: Why does he continue to blame global headwinds for our economic performance when, according to Treasury, at the same time that our economy is weakening, US GDP growth has risen above 3 percent, growth in China has stabilised above 6 percent, and growth in Australia and the euro area has recently picked up?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There are global headwinds; there's no doubt about that. I would note that the IMF forecast advanced economies to grow by 1.8 percent in 2019 and 1.7 percent in 2020, but, within that, the IMF forecast New Zealand's economy to growth 2.5 percent in 2019 and 2.9 percent in 2020. So, compared to our peers, we are set to grow solidly.
Hon Amy Adams: Given he's so keen for global comparisons, is he aware that the average growth rate per person across the OECD is three times higher than it is in New Zealand?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I stand by the statement that was made earlier—that we're building an economy that's more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive, and I note that GDP per hour worked has increased by an average of 0.9 percent per quarter under the coalition Government compared to just 0.1 percent under the previous Government. GDP per hour worked is growing faster on a quarterly basis under this Government than under the previous Government, and that is a measure of labour productivity that looks at how much each labourer is producing in the economy.
Hon Amy Adams: What does it say about our economy that New Zealand is now one of the only countries in the developed world that is lowering interest rates because of its rapidly weakening domestic economy?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The Reserve Bank report came out at 2 o'clock and, on behalf of the Minister, of course I haven't had a chance to read the whole report yet, but it noted concerns around the global economic outlook. The underlying fundamentals of the New Zealand economy, it said, are strong. It noted that central banks around the world are easing monetary policy. I thought the member would welcome lower interest rates for homeowners and businesses. It means that housing is more affordable and businesses will have more incentives to invest.
Hon Amy Adams: Well, what does he think it says about his handling of the economy, when he inherited an economy growing at close to 4 percent a year but, 18 months in, the Reserve Bank has now had to be one of the first in the world to act to lower interest rates to stimulate the economy?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The fact remains that New Zealand is one of the best performing economies in the OECD. New Zealand GPD growth of 0.6 percent in the December 2018 quarter was higher than Australia, higher than Canada, higher than the euro area, higher than Japan, higher than the UK, and higher than the OECD average. The unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent in the March quarter—the second lowest since December 2008. Wages grew 3.4 percent over the year, and we have an economy that's in good shape. The member should celebrate that.
Hon Amy Adams: Is he worried about the role of monetary policy in the event of a future economic crisis, considering the official cash rate (OCR) is now at its lowest-ever rate and there is very little room left to stimulate the economy if something were to go seriously wrong offshore?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I reject that assertion, and I would also note that our economy is in good shape. The Reserve Bank acts independently, it makes independent decisions, it has independent forecasts, and it paints a picture of an economy in good shape in New Zealand.
Hon Amy Adams: Does he reject the fact that the OCR, as of today, is now at its lowest ever rate; is that what he was rejecting in the question?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No.
• Question No.
5. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What, if anything, is the Government doing to ensure that initial teacher education better prepares beginning teachers to meet the needs of students?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Last month the Teaching Council released new initial teacher education programme approval requirements to better prepare graduating teachers for the classroom, including a greater focus on practical experience in the classroom. In order to meet those new requirements, last week I announced that there'll be an increase to the funding rates that support initial teacher education. The degree-level funding rate will increase by over $600 per student and the taught postgraduate rate will increase by almost $750 per student from the beginning of next year, with further increases from 2020. This recognises that the increased requirements by the Teaching Council will increase the cost of initial teacher education, but it is an investment well made.
Jo Luxton: Will the changes to initial teacher education provide for more teacher training enrolments?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. The Tertiary Education Commission and the Ministry of Education will be working with planning directors from the institutions to ensure that from 2020 onwards there is an increase in initial teacher education places. To support this, the Tertiary Education Commission will be making funding available to support extra levels of growth in initial teacher education, and funding for initial teacher education will be ring-fenced, meaning that it cannot be used to support growth in other fields of study when we so desperately need more teachers.
Jo Luxton: What response has he seen to this announcement?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The announcement's been welcomed by Universities New Zealand and also by the Council of Deans of Education, who have said that it is a welcome acknowledgment of the complexity of both the teaching profession and the preparation of new teachers. Those teachers and principals who have figured out that addressing many of the concerns they're raising will require recruiting more teachers have also welcomed it.
• Question No. 6—Housing and Urban
6. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by his statement last Thursday in regard to an additionality test on KiwiBuild developments, "The assessment is embodied in a whole lot of other communications" and "they're going to get back to the National Party Research Unit this afternoon with that documentation"?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes, I said in this House that the ministry would clarify its response to the National Party research unit. I understand that officials sat down with the member yesterday to explain the assessment process to her and her advisers, and the types of documentation they have. When answering questions on the bridge, it was that process of clarifying I was referring to when I said the ministry would get back to the National Party research unit. The public release of departmental information is, of course, a matter for the chief executive under the Official Information Act.
Hon Judith Collins: When he told Radio New Zealand last week that "They're going to get back to the National Party research unit this afternoon with that documentation.", why is he now saying that he meant they were going to clarify something?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as I told the media at the time, I was aware that there were documents and that the ministry was going to clarify its response. I was not informed of the nature of the documents, and that is a matter for the chief executive to assess against the grounds in the Official Information Act.
Hon Judith Collins: Was he then simply not aware, having been in the role for 18 months, what the process is that his ministry has been working to around KiwiBuild?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the answer is yes, I am aware, and I'm a little surprised that the member is requesting the release of documents that are commercially sensitive. I'm sure she understands that if documents that are generated in the course of commercial negotiations are released to the National Party research unit, they are released publicly, so all of the developer's competitors would have access to those commercially sensitive documents. Surely, the member can see that's completely untenable.
Paul Eagle: What reports has he seen on additional house construction as a result of Government action, including KiwiBuild?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I've seen consent data that shows that Government agencies are now building more homes than at any time since the 1970s, and as well as the approximately 2,300 State houses currently under construction, we are working with the private sector to build more affordable homes. Now, working with developers on programmes like KiwiBuild is a small part of what we're doing, but we make no apology for working with the private sector to build the modest affordable homes that Kiwis desperately need and that that party made no effort to build through nine years in Government.
Hon Judith Collins: If that's so—what the Minister has said today to Parliament—then why did he say to Radio New Zealand last Thursday that "they're going to get back to the National Party Research Unit this afternoon with that documentation", rather than saying, now, that it's all commercially sensitive and couldn't be released? Why has he changed his mind?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I haven't changed my mind. I told Radio New Zealand and assembled media that there were other documents that were involved, that the matter that we were discussing of additionality was embodied in those documents, and that the ministry would get back to them and clarify the situation, and that's exactly what has happened. I ask the member to lift her horizons and consider the importance of building affordable houses that Kiwis desperately need, instead of endlessly nit-picking in the trivia and the minor operational details.
Hon Judith Collins: Will the recalibration of KiwBuild drop the additionality tests as well as the 100,000 houses target?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I expect that in June we'll be releasing the results of the reset of KiwiBuild, but I would say this to the member: this Government will not back away from building large numbers of affordable homes for Kiwis, building more State housing, reforming the rental market, housing homeless people, reforming the planning system and infrastructure financing—all of the things that are part of our housing programme that that party never did for nine years in office.
• Question No.
7. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: Is he confident that he can meet the expectations of the education sector and parents in Budget 2019 in light of his promises, and potential teacher strikes?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I'm very optimistic about the Budget, although indications around the overall level of education spending in this year's Budget will, of course, have to wait until Budget day. What I can say with regard to the announcements that have been made already about education spending in this year's Budget is that I am confident that the significant increase in funding for teacher training that we announced last week will address the teacher shortage that we inherited.
Hon Nikki Kaye: Hasn't he failed to meet expectations with the pre-Budget announcement, in that it doesn't even deliver half of the 8,000 additional secondary teachers needed over the coming years, and will he take responsibility for the increased class sizes and overcrowding that will occur?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The member's number of 8,000 is simply incorrect. The correct numbers, according to the ministry's teacher supply projections for primary schools, are that in 2019, we needed 650 more teachers. That actually starts to decrease to the point where in 2023, we're expecting a 90-teacher surplus. With regard to secondary school teachers, the extra number required this year was 170. That continues to increase, to the point where by 2025, that number gets up to an extra 2,210. The extra funding that I have announced this week delivers over 2,500 extra teacher trainees, in addition—in addition—to other teacher supply measures such as free refresher training for those who have already completed their training but who are not currently registered.
Hon Nikki Kaye: I seek leave to table those exact modelling documents, which demonstrate the cumulative impact is 8,000 additional teachers over the next five years.
SPEAKER: The source?
Hon Nikki Kaye: It's the Ministry of Education documents.
SPEAKER: From a website?
Hon Nikki Kaye: Well, again, I don't think it is. I've seen it via email, but I can check that post - question time.
SPEAKER: I'll put it anyway. Is there any objection? There appears to be none.
Documents, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How will he meet the expectations of parents who believe the Government promised to scrap school donations, when he is a year late on the $150 payment that was promised, and figures that I have seen project that at least half of schools would not scrap donations as a result?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: With regard to the school donations policy, we were always very clear that it was going to be a voluntary uptake amongst schools and that they would have the choice whether to take it up or not. The financial modelling that the Labour Party did prior to the election did not assume that every school would take up that policy. We recognise that, in fact, some schools, particularly, higher-decile schools, get significantly more than $150 per student and donations. With regard to the commitments around timing, the Government made a commitment to deliver that policy within the first term.
Hon Nikki Kaye: How will he deliver on his promise to modernise all of the more than 20,000 school buildings in New Zealand, given that the potential true cost of that is $10 billion?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The member will have to wait until the Budget.
Hon Nikki Kaye: When the Prime Minister said, in the Speech from the Throne, that the Government will spend one point—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Order! I don't think she did.
Hon Amy Adams: The Governor-General reads it out.
Hon Nikki Kaye: When the Governor-General read out, from the Speech from the Throne, the Prime Minister's commitment to spend $1.8 billion on teacher resources, was it just another case of the Government overpromising and under-delivering?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No. In fact, we've already delivered more than that. The teacher salaries, alone, amount to $1.2 billion in extra funding—and that's on top of the extra money that we've put into recruiting more teachers to meet population growth, which we funded in last year's Budget. The member will just have to wait and see what's in this year's Budget.
Jan Tinetti: What is the Government doing to address the expectations of the education sector?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I will highlight just three things very briefly. First of all, as I indicated, we've already committed $1.2 billion to pay rises for the teaching profession—the largest pay increases in a decade; we've committed half a billion dollars extra to support those children with additional learning needs, including by employing 600 more teachers as dedicated learning support coordinators; and we've spent $135 million to address short- and medium-term teacher supply challenges.
• Question No.
8. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Revenue: What reports, if any, has he seen about the implementation of the Business Transformation programme?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue): I'm happy to inform the House that one of the largest IT projects ever undertaken in the State sector, the IRD Business Transformation project, has successfully passed its largest and most difficult phase. Over the Easter and Anzac period, over 300 Inland Revenue staff successfully transitioned income tax and Working for Families into the new computer system—that's more than 19.7 million taxpayer accounts, 100 million records transactions, 8.3 million web account log-ins updated, over 92,000 tests, and 2 million customer contacts. I congratulate the Commissioner of Inland Revenue Department Naomi Ferguson and her team for their hard work on achieving this significant milestone.
Dr Deborah Russell: What do these reports say about the improvements to service that taxpayers will see as a result of the successful implementation of this phase of Business Transformation?
Hon STUART NASH: Good news: officials advise me that in 12 days' time—a mere three weeks since the system went online—the first tax refunds will start automatically flowing into the bank accounts of hard-working Kiwis. If this year is anything like 2018, an estimated $860 million will be refunded straight into people's bank accounts this year. I can also advise that up to 330,000 families that have almost 600,000 children will now receive more accurate Working for Families payments during the year, reducing the risk of finding themselves in debt at the end of the year. These refunds and more accurate payments are only possible because of Government legislation, so I would like to thank New Zealand First and the Greens for their support. I am disappointed that the National Party stood in the way and opposed this legislation.
Dr Deborah Russell: What assurances has the Minister received about the levels of customer service to taxpayers during this transition period?
Hon STUART NASH: March to July is peak season for Inland Revenue, so there is always a higher level of calls and interactions with the tax department. To deal with the anticipated 25 percent increase in calls, Inland Revenue has taken on an additional 325 staff to help and can deploy up to 900 existing staff as needed. I encourage taxpayers to go online and see what new services are available, such as filing for donations tax credits and setting up debt instalment arrangements. It's encouraging to see that many people are going online. For example, on Monday there were 324,000 logins to online services. It is still early days and there are likely to be bumps along the way. However, Inland Revenue assures me it has plans in place and will be ready to respond.
• Question No.
9. MATT DOOCEY (National—Waimakariri) to the Minister of Health: What is his best estimate of the cost of increasing access to mental health and addiction services from the current target of 3 percent to 20 percent of the population, which was identified as an indicative target in the executive summary on page 12 of the Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): As I said in answer to question No. 7 last Thursday, none of the recommendations of the inquiry referred to a 20 percent access target. The report does refer to a possible indicative target that "may be 20% within the next 5 years.", but it then goes on to say, on page 12, "An explicit new access target must be set, supported by funding for a wider range of therapies, especially talk therapies, alcohol and other drug services, and culturally aligned services." The Government has worked on costings for specific proposals related to Budget 2019, not costings for possible indicative targets that require further work and were not recommendations of the inquiry.
Matt Doocey: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With your permission, in my next supplementary I'd like to use a quote that might make my supplementary just a small bit longer.
SPEAKER: Well, have a go.
Matt Doocey: Thank you. Why is the Minister refuting the access target when under "Main points" of chapter 4—"Access and choice"—of the mental health inquiry recommendations, it clearly states "Access to (and funding for) mental health and addiction services needs to be significantly increased, from the 3.7% of the population who currently access specialist services to the 20% who experience mental health and addiction issues each year. An explicit decision must be made to do this,"?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As I said previously, none of the recommendations of the inquiry referred to a 20 percent access target. It does refer to possible indicative targets, that the member quotes, but it says "An explicit new access target must be set, supported by funding for a wider range of therapies,". It also talks about who might give advice on setting that target. By no means does it suggest that that should be the target, per se. It is an indicative target that's discussed in the report. It's not one of the recommendations of the report. That is left open.
Matt Doocey: So why is the Minister, after launching an inquiry in April last year, reported back in December—
SPEAKER: Order! Ask the question.
Matt Doocey: —twice delayed, quietly backing away from increasing access to mental health and addiction services, as identified—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. That's one supplementary gone. The member can try again if he wants. If the member has a question, he should ask it.
Matt Doocey: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that question was very detailed and it needed to be—
SPEAKER: It included a whole pile of unnecessary words. Does the member have a further supplementary?
Matt Doocey: Does he agree the estimated cost to increase access to mental health and addiction services to 20 percent of the population would be approximately an additional $1.5 billion a year; if not, why not?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I'm not about to make Budget commitments today. I do think, with that figure, the member is being a bit cute because, by implication, he is suggesting that the current mix of forensic, out-patient, and intensive services might be extended to all of those experiencing mental distress, when those services are targeted, traditionally, towards those with the highest mental health needs. What we're talking about is building new services for those with mild to moderate needs. That is something that comes through very clearly in the mental health and addiction inquiry. The cost of those services will be very different, and the member knows that.
• Question No. 10—Social
10. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: What are the 15 recommendations from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group's report that the Government are progressing, and the five recommendations she has commissioned extra advice on as stated in her answers to oral questions Nos. 6 and 10 yesterday?
Hon PEENI HENARE (Associate Minister for Social Development): on behalf of the Minister for Social Development: She stated yesterday that work was already under way to address around 15 of the report's recommendations. Based on our initial analysis these are numbers three, five, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 20, 27, 32, 35, 39, and 42. Examples of this include expanded reporting on outcomes, establishing a Pacific steering group and a Pacific reference group, developing a kaupapa Māori strategy at the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), rolling out Mana in Mahi, and the three pre-Budget announcements we made on Friday. The additional five areas where further work is under way are recommendations number 15, 16, 23, 36, and 38. I encourage the member to look at the Cabinet paper titled Welfare Overhaul – Advice from the Welfare Expert Advisory Group and Next Steps, which is available online, for more information. However, work hasn't stopped there—this is an ongoing and active work programme. We are continuing to commission work and consider all of the other recommendations, as we develop our three to five year plan that will sensibly address recommendations in the report through a systematic overhaul of the welfare system that is effective and enduring, and ensures those who need to access MSD support are actually better off.
Hon Louise Upston: Of the $5 to $6 billion cost stated in the Welfare Expert Advisory Group report, which of the recommendations she is progressing carries the greatest cost?
Hon PEENI HENARE: The work is currently being done on those recommendations. That level of detail—can I ask the member to put that down in writing and we'll get her the answer.
Hon Louise Upston: What is the time frame for implementing recommendation number 14, on sustainable repayments?
Hon PEENI HENARE: Work as recommended in recommendation number 14 is already under way at MSD, and we will continue this. MSD is focused on using the approach to prevent clients incurring debt in the first place, and supporting clients to make sustainable payments when a debt has occurred.
Hon Louise Upston: What does the Minister say to the Welfare Expert Advisory Group member Ganesh Nana, who said this morning, "My response back to the Minister is we've done a fair amount of the work … we've done the business plan. We've got to tackle this. The quicker we tackle this the quicker it will be."?
Hon PEENI HENARE: We have a significant challenge in front of us—we make no apologies about that. We have a work plan to address the many issues that were raised by the Welfare Expert Advisory Group and many others who have presented themselves to this Parliament. I encourage that member, and that side of the House, to support the great work we're doing in the space to make sure that those who do access support through MSD get full and correct entitlement.
Marama Davidson: Does the Minister agree that successive Governments have focused too much on reducing the costs of our welfare system, rather than increasing the value provided by our welfare system, and that this approach has failed?
Hon PEENI HENARE: There are significant challenges, and the overhaul of the system, once again, can't be considered in isolation through the work of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group. There is a host of work that's being done across Ministers and administrations to make sure that we do address the inequities and that we are able to provide the public with a system that is strong and gives them the full and correct entitlement that they're entitled to.
• Question No.
11. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration: What announcements has he made today about immigration settings for the regions?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Today I have announced updates to the Essential Skills in Demand Lists. This includes replacing the Immediate Skills Shortage List with 15 Regional Skills Shortage Lists. This will allow us to target the lists more precisely, make them more responsive to the needs of regional New Zealand, and show New Zealanders and migrants where the work opportunities exist throughout the country.
Dr Liz Craig: So why make these changes?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: This Government recognises that what is good for Auckland is not necessarily the same as what is good for Ashburton, and that a one-size-fits-all system is not delivering the more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive economy that we need. This Government has committed to working with the regions to build thriving regional economies.
Dr Liz Craig: So what are the next steps for regional immigration settings?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I'm currently considering the results of consultation on extensive changes to the temporary work settings and working with my colleagues the Minister for Social Development, the Minister of Education, the Minister for Regional Economic Development, and the Minister of Employment to create a much more robust system to meet regional labour needs and support the transformation of our economy to one that is more productive, more sustainable, and more inclusive.
• Question No.
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Police: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he stand by his statement to TVNZ on roadside drug-testing last December, in response to the Matthew Dow tragedy in Nelson, in which he said—and I quote—"There's a discussion document that has been approved by Cabinet that's going to go out to the public early next year".
Hon STUART NASH: First of all, let me say that if a person is impaired by drugs or alcohol they should not be driving. It is against the law. We are looking at a new strategy to improve road safety during 2019. An immediate $100 million increase of funding was made to improve road safety when we took office. However, more announcements will be made shortly.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was whether he stood by an important statement.
SPEAKER: The member very clearly got a "no" out of that. Carry on.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I certainly didn't hear a "no". I heard a comment on the issue. I heard nothing about—look, he said Cabinet had approved something.
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did Cabinet, last year, approve a discussion paper on enabling police to do roadside drug testing? If not, why did he tell TVNZ and the people of New Zealand that it had approved such a discussion paper?
Hon STUART NASH: That member's been around long enough to know that we don't discuss what goes on in Cabinet in the House.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: No, no. I don't need it. The member had a straight question, and it was a very clear question. It related to a direct quote from him. We had already commented that a paper had been approved by Cabinet. I'm sort of taking Dr Nick Smith's word that the quote is accurate, and it'd be pretty serious if it's not, but, taking that at face value, he cannot say on television that Cabinet approved something and then say that it's not his role to say so in this House.
Hon STUART NASH: What I can say is I do not recall saying that, but what I will say is work is undergoing in this area.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the mother of Matthew Dow, who would've turned 25 today if not killed by a reckless drug-driver, given that he misled her in saying that Cabinet had approved a discussion document and that it was to be released earlier this year?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With the greatest respect, this is certainly no way to treat human tragedy in the way it's being played out politically in this House, and we, on this side of this House, seriously object. We don't diminish, in any way—
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is the question out of order or not?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: —the harm or the hurt that the family might have felt, but this is not the way for this Parliament to behave, surely.
SPEAKER: First of all, I want to deal with the person who interjected during that point of order. Who was that?
Hon Michael Woodhouse: That would probably have been me, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: The member will leave the Chamber.
Hon Michael Woodhouse withdrew from the Chamber.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: No. I'm contemplating dealing with this point of order. This is a very serious matter. It involves the death of a loved one. I think many of us are concerned at the approach that is being taken in the House now, but in my opinion it is a matter of, at the moment, judgment of good taste and good taste rather than a matter, at the moment, of order. So if Dr Smith wants to restate his question with that proviso—the clear indication from me that there's a question of taste and appropriateness involved here—but he is a very senior member, and, obviously, the public will make their judgment on it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have rightly noted this is a serious matter. A key part of that is the accuracy of the quote, and I accept that—
SPEAKER: Order! The member has been invited to ask his supplementary question again, as he did previously before he was interrupted by the Deputy Prime Minister. No one has doubted his word as far as the accuracy of that quote is concerned. All we've had is the Minister saying that he can't recall saying it.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Will the Minister apologise to the Dow family and to the people of New Zealand for his false statement, and I quote, "There's a discussion document that's been approved by Cabinet that's going to go out to the public early next year" when that was untrue?
Hon STUART NASH: I have absolute sympathy for the Dow family, and your loss—I cannot imagine it. I will not apologise for something I have absolutely no responsibility for. For every family that has lost someone on our roads because there is a drink- or drug-driver, I have absolute sympathy. What I can say is work is going on in this area, though. Another thing I would say is Mr Scott brought a member's bill to the House last year. I sat down with him and I tried to work with him on this, because we felt that the scope of his bill was too narrow. We asked to work with him. He refused to do that, so this Government undertook to address this in a way that actually addressed the issue.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary.
SPEAKER: No. The member's run out of supplementaries.