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Parliament: Questions and Answers - May 29



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: Does she stand by the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister yesterday, in regard to Budget details released to the media, that every figure released by National was utterly fake?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: My recollection from the question yesterday was that the Deputy Prime Minister was referring to the statements made within the press statement from the National Party—and he, in fact, had it as a prop, as I recall—and that indeed some of the assumptions that were made by the Leader of the Opposition were indeed inaccurate.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by the statement of the Deputy Prime Minister that every figure released by National was utterly fake?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, what I'm conveying here is that in my recollection, the Deputy Prime Minister was referring to the totality of the press statement. Actually, this doesn't need to be a matter of dispute. Yesterday in the House, we acknowledged some of what was released by the National Party—some of the numbers were correct; some of them were incorrect. Ultimately, the real Budget comes out tomorrow; so, there's just one more day to wait.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she stand by her statement that some of the figures are right?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I do, and I just said it about 10 seconds ago.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does the Prime Minister stand by her statement that some of the figures were right, but not the ones that were on Simon Bridges' press release yesterday—which was pointed out to him?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: There were, as I've said, statements made in that press statement that were inaccurate.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she have confidence in her Treasury?


Hon Simon Bridges: Has she or her office met with Gabriel Makhlouf or the senior leadership team of Treasury in the last 24 hours?


Hon Simon Bridges: When was she told that—oh, does she need to correct that? Does she need to correct it?

SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat. He will ask a supplementary question and he will ask it through me, and he will refer to the Prime Minister in the proper way, not the way he did—which my mother always told me was very rude.

Hon Simon Bridges: When was she told that Treasury and her Minister of Finance would be reporting alleged hacking to the police?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is an inaccurate statement. I'm happy to give a time line of events. My understanding is that roughly at about 6 p.m. last night the Secretary to the Treasury received information that led him to refer the matter to the police, that roughly an hour later, after that decision was taken and that action was taken, he then briefed the Minister of Finance. Just to add further clarity to the member's last question and my answer: when the Minister of Finance was briefed, I understand that some members of my office were present in that briefing. Again, though, to correct the statement made by the member, we had no involvement in the decision and were only informed after the fact. I was then contacted after that discussion, roughly at about 7.20 p.m.

Hon Simon Bridges: Which members of her office were in the briefing?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I believe that may have been my deputy chief of staff and my chief press secretary.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she have confidence in her Minister of Finance, who has made false accusations?

SPEAKER: Order! No, the member's going to rephrase the question.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Grant Robertson said last night that the material the National Party had obtained "is a result of a systematic hack"?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I've seen the statement made by the Secretary to the Treasury, which was then reiterated in the statement made by the Minister of Finance.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept Grant Robertson said last night that the material the National Party had obtained "is a result of a systematic hack"?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: That is not the whole statement that was made. What I think we need to make sure is absolutely clear here is that no one has made a direct accusation to the National Party. It is now the subject of a police investigation and it is not for us, therefore—it would be inappropriate—to make an accusation against the National Party.

Hon Simon Bridges: Does she accept that Grant Robertson said last night that the material the National Party had obtained "is a result of a systematic hack"?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, the Minister of Finance reiterated the information that was put out last night by the Secretary to the Treasury.

Hon Grant Robertson: Can the Prime Minister confirm that last night the Minister of Finance said the following:"We have contacted the National Party tonight to request that they do not release any further material, given that the Treasury said they have sufficient evidence that indicates the material is a result of a systematic hack and is now subject to a police investigation."?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Yes, I can. That is the full statement that was made. Again, I do want to highlight that, ultimately, though, it is a judgment call for the National Party and their leader as to what they do with the information that they hold.

Hon Simon Bridges: If those accusations are proven to be false—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Can the two members down the end of the House, in the opposite corners, just keep their mouths shut.

Hon Simon Bridges: If the accusation that the information obtained by the National Party was as a result of a hack proves to be false, will she stand her Minister of Finance down?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: Again, I actually refer the member to the statements that were made by the Secretary to the Treasury; again where he stated it clearly this morning—no accusation against the National Party has been made. The statement that was made, for instance, by the Secretary to the Treasury this morning was: "The material that was released yesterday came from the same area that was attacked in our systems". It's a statement of fact. It is not an accusation against the National Party. Now we need to let the police investigation run its course.

Hon Simon Bridges: If the allegation that the National Party's material was the result of a "systematic hack" is false, will she stand her Minister of Finance down?

Rt Hon JACINDA ARDERN: I do not agree with the assertion that's being drawn by the member around that statement.

Question No. 2—Finance

2. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Finance: Will the Government meet its Budget Responsibility Rules in Budget 2019?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): The Government's responsible fiscal management is demonstrated through our commitment to the Budget Responsibility Rules. I am pleased to be able to say that Budget 2019 will show that we are meeting all of these challenging targets, as we did at Budget 2018. This means we will deliver sustainable operating surpluses across the forecast period, we will keep expenses under control, and we will reduce net core Crown debt to 20 percent of GDP within five years of taking office.

Dr Duncan Webb: How will this affect investments made in Budget 2019?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: A well-being approach is ultimately about taking an intergenerational view when making Budget decisions. It's about the balance between meeting the needs of the present and ensuring future generations can do so as well. We have made, and we will continue to make, significant investments in New Zealand's current well-being, but we also need to be mindful of and prepared for shocks, be they economic or natural disasters, biosecurity incursions, or unexpected events. I believe in this year's Budget we have the balance right.

Dr Duncan Webb: What does Budget 2019 say about long-term debt projections?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Beyond the expiry of the debt target within our Budget Responsibility Rules in 2022, the long-term fiscal intentions in this year's Budget will signal a shift to a net debt percentage range rather than a single figure. A debt range was the advice of Treasury. We are looking at shifting to a range of 15 to 25 percent of GDP. It is important to note that Treasury's projections in the Budget for net core Crown debt beyond the expiry of the Budget Responsibility Rules show that it remains below 20 percent out to 2032.

Question No. 3—Finance

3. Hon AMY ADAMS (National—Selwyn) to the Minister of Finance: What evidence, if any, did he see or receive that led him to make the statement last night, "the material is a result of a systematic hack"?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): My full statement last night was: "This is extremely serious and is now a matter for the police. We have contacted the National Party tonight to request that they do not release any further material, given that Treasury said they have sufficient evidence that indicates the material is a result of a systematic hack and is now subject to a police investigation. What New Zealanders care about are the issues that will be dealt with in the well-being Budget on Thursday, and that is what we continue to be focused on." I based this information on advice provided to me by Treasury.

Hon Amy Adams: Why did he not demand to see evidence that the information obtained by the National Party was a result of a systematic hack before making statements alleging that it was?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The statement that I made simply repeated the advice that Treasury was given.

Hon Amy Adams: On what possible basis does he think relying on the word of Treasury, whose own failures provide a far more likely explanation of events, was acceptable before publicly making statements alleging serious wrongdoing by the Opposition?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: All I did in the statement was repeat the words and the advice of Treasury about what they had done. Treasury made a decision to refer this matter to the police.

Hon Amy Adams: Did he or anyone else in his office talk with Treasury or Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf yesterday about referring the matter to the police before that occurred, and, if so, who initiated that conversation?


Hon Amy Adams: Whose version of events does he now accept: Winston Peters, who said yesterday that "every figure" released by the National Party was "categorically wrong", or the Secretary to the Treasury, who's confirmed that a lot of it was accurate"?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That matter was traversed in question No. 1. As was stated in this House yesterday, some information was right; some information wasn't. The real Budget will be delivered tomorrow, and New Zealanders will get, at that time, the opportunity to see a Government that finally takes mental health seriously, that addresses child well-being, and that's transforming the economy.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can the finance Minister advise as to whether or not he has been told by the National Party as to how they acquired this information?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. I haven't. And, clearly, that would resolve the matter once and for all, wouldn't it?

Hon Simon Bridges: No responsibility. He shouldn't have been able to ask that.

SPEAKER: Order! Does the Leader of the Opposition think it's appropriate to apologise for that reflection?

Hon Simon Bridges: No, no, I was just talking to my friend.

SPEAKER: The problem I have is that his voice is very loud and I can hear him reflecting on me. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Simon Bridges: I withdraw and apologise.

Hon Amy Adams: Does he agree with reporting on The Spinoff this morning that said, "If Makhlouf and/or Robertson have gone histrionic to cloak basic infosec sloppiness, one or both [of them] will be in the firing line."?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I reject multiple things within that statement. Treasury was the subject of thousands of attempts to get into their system. They referred that to the police. The police will now investigate that matter. My focus is on delivering a Budget tomorrow that will help once and for all make sure that we take mental health seriously, after a decade of neglect.

Hon Amy Adams: Will he resign if information in question is shown not to have come from a systematic hacking of the Treasury website, given Newsroom has today said, "Making a false allegation of criminal activity against the opposition would indeed be a resignation offence—"?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I have done no such thing.

Hon James Shaw: How many tanks are appropriated in this year's Budget?

Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I can assure the member there are no tanks appropriated in the Budget. There are however four P-8A Poseidon planes, which once upon a time the National Party supported, but for political reasons appear to have abandoned.

Question No. 4—Housing and Urban Development

4. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: What is the total value of all KiwiBuild houses contracted under the Buying off the Plans scheme, and does the Minister stand by his statement that the net cost of this scheme is zero?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): KiwiBuild has enabled more than $600 million worth of homes for first-home buyers, and, over the life of the programme, yes.

Hon Judith Collins: Is he confident buyers can be found for all 65 houses underwritten in Canterbury without the Government having to discount houses and suffer a loss on the underwrite?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The answer is yes, and part of the arrangement for the underwrite is that if the Government buys those houses back under the underwrite, they do so at a discount, which is there so that the Government can pick up any associated costs.

Hon Judith Collins: Does he stand by his statement in the KiwiBuild Buying off the Plans Cabinet paper "Nationally, just five per cent of new housing supply is delivered at, or below, the lower quartile price." and then "my aim is to deliver housing at price points below the lower quartile … for [a] region."?


Hon Judith Collins: Is he aware that over 80 percent of the Canterbury KiwiBuild houses offered for sale are above the lower quartile price for Canterbury, with 30 percent of them even being above the median?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would have to go and check the numbers on that, but I'll come—[Interruption]

Paul Eagle: What is the total value of all KiwiBuild houses contracted and committed?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: I'm advised that there are 10,356 homes that are contracted and committed across the entire programme, and this represents more than $5 billion worth of new homes committed and contracted for first-home buyers.

Hon Judith Collins: Why did he include 65 houses in Canterbury in the first year of the programme, after telling Cabinet in the KiwiBuild Buying off the Plans Cabinet paper that just 1 percent of all KiwiBuild houses would be in Canterbury over the entire lifetime of the programme due to Canterbury having no housing shortfall?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, as I've explained to the member a few times before, while Canterbury doesn't have the most unaffordable housing in the country right now, it has the second-fastest growth rates in the country. The market is becoming steadily more overheated, and our Government doesn't want to see Canterbury descend into the same kind of affordability crisis that we've seen under that former Government's term in so many other parts of the country.

Hon Judith Collins: Then what was the purpose of allocating $134 million of operating expenditure in Budget 2018 as a result of the Buying off the Plans initiative?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Can the member be more specific about that particular appropriation?

Hon Judith Collins: Yes.

SPEAKER: This is the same supplementary.

Hon Judith Collins: Same supplementary—thank you, Mr Speaker. Yes, that would be the same $134 million net of capital expenditure being shifted in the aide-mémoire to the Minister on 14 May 2018 from Treasury—that one.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: My best recollection is that that was simply a book entry, a transfer of funds to enable the KiwiBuild programme to go ahead and for those funds to be used for an appropriate purpose.

Question No. 5—Education

5. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What steps has the Government taken to address the concerns being raised by primary and secondary school teachers?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The teachers have raised a number of very legitimate and important issues during the last 18 months. In response to those requests and other work that we've been doing, the Government has committed, in the last 18 months, over half a billion dollars—the biggest increase in learning support funding for a decade—which includes funding for 600 learning support coordinators. We've reduced teacher workload by abolishing national standards, and the NCEA review will also address teacher workload concerns, and we're spending $135 million to address teacher shortages. We have a lot to do, and we are making progress.

Jan Tinetti: What action is being taken to address teachers' pay requests?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government has offered primary and secondary school teachers $1.2 billion worth of pay rises and other improvements to their terms and conditions. This is by far the biggest offer that teachers have had in a decade, and for the majority of teachers, it will result in an average $10,000 pay increase over two years. Salary caps for those with the lowest qualification levels are being raised so that some of our most experienced teachers can get even bigger pay rises, and the bottom steps on the salary scale are being merged to remove some of the lowest rates of pay altogether.

Jan Tinetti: Are all of the concerns teachers are raising covered as part of the current collective agreement negotiations?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, and, in fact, many of the issues teachers raise fall outside of the collective agreement. For example, the primary school teachers asked for a learning support coordinator in every school. That has not been part of the collective agreement negotiations, but the Government has committed funding for 600 learning support coordinators—over $200 million to fund 600 learning support coordinators—and $135 million to retrain and recruit more teachers to address teacher shortages. These are just some of the issues that are being raised through the negotiations that are not covered by the collective agreement and fall outside, or in addition to, the $1.2 billion pay and conditions offer.

Jan Tinetti: What has he done to take a longer-term and strategic approach to the concerns teachers are raising?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It's important to note that many of the issues that teachers are raising will take some time to resolve. For example, some of the issues they're raising around workload cannot be adequately addressed until we recruit and train more teachers. We currently have a teacher shortage. It is important that we take a medium and longer-term view of some of these issues, which is why this Government is committed to developing, and is well down the path of developing, a comprehensive education workforce strategy; something that New Zealand has not had, and something that is long overdue.

Question No. 6—Transport

6. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport: What recent decisions, if any, have been made to start construction on the light rail project from the Auckland City Centre to Māngere?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): Talofa lava, Mr Speaker. The Government is currently considering advice coming out of the market soundings and business case developments that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has been doing, as well as ongoing discussions with NZ Infra: the joint venture between the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and the Canadian super fund CDPQ.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: What time frame can he give today on when a decision will be made on whether or not to proceed with the project?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: This is a major infrastructure project with a 50- to 100-year lifetime. It's a multibillion-dollar project, and we're taking the time to get it right for Aucklanders, both now, and into the future, and decisions will be made in due course.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: When he confirmed in a written question yesterday that NZTA has not yet consulted with utility companies, such as Watercare and Vector, on the costs accompanying a specific route for the project, was he, in effect, confirming that his agency is still a long way off from preparing a detailed business case?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Actually, no. The work on the business case for the NZTA option is at quite an advanced stage. There's a parallel process of work that has involved engaging with the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and the unsolicited bid that they made. The outputs of both of those streams of work are being considered by the Government.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, how can it be at an advanced stage when he hasn't even asked Watercare and Vector what the costs would be of shifting all their pipes in order to build it?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, this is a big and complex project. There are matters of design, of governance, of ownership and financing, and integration with the wider transport system. There are a great number of things that have to be considered and given the kind of weight and scrutiny that they deserve.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he expect that after three years as Minister, he will have stopped a dozen major projects, including the East-West Link, to fund light rail down Dominion Road, and yet still not have decided whether or not to do it?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, that's not my expectation at all. We will be making a decision quite soon about progressing the rapid transit line across the isthmus out to Māngere that Simon Bridges approved when he was the transport Minister. I know that the member is grieving for his roading project, the East-West Link, that, at $327 million per kilometre, would've been the most expensive project in the world.

Hon Paul Goldsmith: Are widespread reports that the light rail project has been put on hold correct?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, they're quite wrong.

Question No. 7—Health

7. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements, if any, has he made about mental health and addiction?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Earlier today, I joined the Prime Minister at the Newtown Union Health Service to announce the Government's response to the inquiry into mental health and addiction. The Government has accepted, accepted in principle, or agreed to further consideration of 38 out of 40 of the inquiry's recommendations. That includes all recommendations relating to expanding access and choice, particularly for people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs. Building a range of new front-line services to meet the needs of these people, who the inquiry called the "missing middle", will take time, but will transform our approach to mental health and addiction. I will have more good news on that front when the Budget is released tomorrow.

Angie Warren-Clark: How will the Government ensure there are a range of appropriate services to meet community needs?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We know that when it comes to mental health and addiction, we can't have a one-size-fits-all approach. Every life matters, and that means sometimes we need tailored approaches. We want services that work for Māori, Pacific peoples, rural, and rainbow communities, and we want people to be able to access them in a variety of ways, through their GP or iwi health provider, online via telehealth, or through any number of community organisations. More details—more good news—will be announced in the Budget tomorrow.

Angie Warren-Clark: Why did the Government not accept the recommendation to create a suicide reduction target?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: As acknowledged in the inquiry report, views are mixed about establishing a target. We're not prepared to sign up to a suicide target—

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Can I ask both the Christchurch members not to do those exchanges during this answer.

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: —because, indeed, every life does matter, and one death by suicide is one death too many. This Government is committed to tackling our terrible record on suicide. The Ministry of Health is in the process of finalising a draft suicide prevention strategy and is working on the details of an office of suicide prevention.

Question No. 8—Education

8. Hon NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Education: How many schools have closed today due to the teacher strikes?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): I've been advised that as of 11.45 a.m. this morning, 1,479 schools, including intermediates and contributing schools, had notified the Ministry of Education that they'd be closed today. The ministry's continuing to monitor school closures and will have updated data by this evening, but the decision on whether or not to close rests with individual school boards of trustees, and they do not have to notify the ministry in advance of that decision.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Can he confirm that after more than 12 months of negotiation with primary teachers, eight months with secondary teachers—

SPEAKER: Order! A question, please.

Hon Nikki Kaye: —billions in surplus, the Government has been unable to reach agreement, and does he take any responsibility for the largest ever education industrial action in our nation's history?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I proudly take responsibility for the $1.2 billion pay offer that teachers have been given—the largest in a decade and one that's worth more than all of the settlements reached under the last Government put together.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Does he take any responsibility for the lost teaching and learning with the several days of strikes so far and the multiple days of strikes that are planned that will affect parents and students and teachers?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I am the Minister of Education—by definition, yes.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Why does he think he was booed by thousands of teachers on the forecourt of Parliament today?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think their chants of "not enough" made that quite clear.

Hon Nikki Kaye: Will he guarantee the Parliament that tomorrow, when the Budget is read, given that he has said there is no more money for teachers, they will not see that spending on planes, racehorses, and trees has been prioritised over keeping teachers in classrooms?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'd note, for the member's advantage, that actually, the largest protest—[Interruption] I'd note, for the member's advantage, that actually—

SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! Order! It's the Minister's team who are now shouting him down, and that's pretty rude.

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The largest protest that we've seen at Parliament in recent weeks was actually young people arguing that the Government should get serious about climate change. They want us to be planting more trees. In fact, there were a lot more of them than there were of teachers today. Once upon a time, the members opposite believed in adequately equipping our air force so that their planes don't suffer from metal fatigue, as their current Orions are, but they seem to have backed away from that position.

Hon Nikki Kaye: When he said "there were a lot more of them than … teachers", was he criticising the thousands of teachers that turned up to New Zealand Parliament today to criticise him?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No. [Interruption]

SPEAKER: I'm going to tell Miss Bennett, I have been dealing with it, and I will continue to deal with it, and I don't need her help. Now, what I would like is the question to be asked in a straight manner and the Government to keep their mouths shut.

Hon Nikki Kaye: When he said, in reference to the young people striking for climate change, "there were a lot more of them", was he criticising the thousands of people that turned up to Parliament today to send his Government a message that they aren't doing enough?


Hon Simon Bridges: Was he making the point that trees are indeed more of a priority than teachers' pay?

Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I'm not. The Government has put $1.2 billion into the largest pay offer that teachers have received in over a decade, but we're also committed to planting trees, to creating jobs, to tackling climate change, to dealing with the housing crisis, to reducing child poverty, to fixing mental health, and to a whole host of other priorities that New Zealanders share.

Question No. 9—Health

9. CHLÖE SWARBRICK (Green) to the Minister of Health: Will the Government's response to the Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction contribute to better mental health care and outcomes for rangatahi; if so, how?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): As I said a little earlier, the Government has accepted, or accepted in principle, all recommendations relating to expanding access and choice, particularly for people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs. We know that three-quarters of all lifetime cases of mental illness develop by 24 years of age and that too many of our young people are struggling with alcohol and drugs. Today, we've clearly signalled our intention to provide more support earlier to New Zealanders who need it, and that necessarily means better services for young people experiencing mental distress or drug issues. There will be more good news on that front in the Budget tomorrow.

Chlöe Swarbrick: What additional and improved support for young people will the Government be providing?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: In tomorrow's well-being Budget, New Zealanders will see that we are serious about tackling our longstanding mental health and addiction issues and that we recognise the importance of doing this early. Without revealing Budget details now, I can say the response will reflect both the people-centred approach recommended by the mental health and addiction inquiry and the confidence and supply agreement between Labour and the Green Party. We can already see that approach in our work with the Green Party to launch the Piki mental health pilot. Piki is all about early intervention and preventing small problems becoming big issues. That is also the approach that underpins the Mana Ake programme for supporting school students in Canterbury and Kaikōura.

Chlöe Swarbrick: What is the Government doing to provide better support for those with addiction and substance dependence issues?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Just like with depression or anxiety and other mental health conditions, we're committed to destigmatising addiction and substance abuse. The Government is committed to taking a health approach to drug use, and we've taken steps to strengthen the capability and capacity of alcohol and other drug services to respond to increasing need. We're showing this by the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, which is providing for a health-based approach to people with substance abuse issues.

Matt Doocey: Did the Minister think, at the start of the term, that he would be further down the track in addressing the mental health need than just accepting recommendations?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I expected that in this Budget we would be announcing some transformative change. This is a Government that, in its first 100 days, launched the inquiry into mental health and addiction, and timed the report back of that inquiry to feed into Budget processes. We believe in making positive change in this area, unlike the previous Government, which wouldn't even accept that it needed to be looked at.

Matt Doocey: What does the Minister say to Shaun Robinson from the Mental Health Foundation when he said today, "The foundation is concerned that, while the Government has agreed in principle to address these things, they have delayed making any definitive announcement or commitments."?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I would hope Mr Robinson will see the package in the Budget tomorrow and be willing to offer some positive comments, because he will see many of the things that he has championed being agreed to by this Government. This is a Government that wants to work with those who are suffering from mental health issues and wrestling with addiction issues. It's a Government that is concerned to get alongside people and make sure that we actually have the resources to deal with the challenges we face as a society.

Matt Doocey: Does the vocalisation of the delay in mental health amongst the mental health sector concern the Minister?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: They, like us, are impatient to see progress. For too long, people have not been able to access the services they need, particularly those with mild to moderate mental health issues. We know that, over the last decade, the number of people accessing or wanting to access mental health services has gone up by 60 percent. Funding over the last decade went up by around half of that. It simply has not kept pace with the increasing need in society. When people are in distress, they need to be able to access mental health and addiction services. This is a Government that is committed to change.

Matt Doocey: Taking that answer into account, then, why did the Minister wait six months from the report back of the inquiry to accept the recommendations?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The inquiry was a serious inquiry. They heard 5,200 submissions. They met across the country, in 26 locations, and heard from 2,000 people at those meetings directly, who turned up to present their views. They heard from those crowds, and then they presented a serious report. We were determined to make sure that we had steps in place to deliver on the recommendations, because we didn't want a pat response immediately. This is actually a Government that takes these issues seriously—not just mouthing off but takes them seriously—because we want to see serious change. We accept that we inherited a situation that was underfunded, under-resourced, where people couldn't get the help they needed, and we're determined to put the solutions in place to deal with the situation we've inherited.

Matt Doocey: In that response, when the Minister said he had delivered recommendations, which recommendations has he delivered?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: We have already, for example, progressed work on the synthetic drugs response, which sees drug issues treated as a health issue, and that member knows it. We're progressing work on a mental health and well-being commission. There is work ongoing on a suicide prevention office. Of course, there's a whole lot of work that can progress anyway. In our previous Budget, we got on and put $200 million extra into the mental health ring fence. We launched the Mana Ake programme for people in primary and intermediate schools across Canterbury and Kaikōura. We also launched the Piki pilot—with support from the Green Party—that provides mental health counselling and support to young people aged 18 to 24. We've got on with the roll-out of nurses in schools, because we know that that has a track record of proven success, and we want to invest further. We've also reduced the cost of visiting a GP by $20 to $30 for people with a community services card, because we know they weren't able to access for reasons of cost, and that inhibited—

SPEAKER: OK. I think that's enough, thank you.

Matt Doocey: In light of that answer, is the Minister now saying that progressing work is the same as delivering recommendations?


Question No. 10—Health

10. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Did he direct the Ministry of Health to prepare a 2018 Budget bid that reflected the findings of the co-design process as agreed to in the May 2017 settlement agreement between the ministry and the New Zealand College of Midwives; if not, why not?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): When I came into office as the Minister of Health, the issue with the College of Midwives had been left unresolved for several years. The ministry had entered a messy co-design process with the College of Midwives, which resulted in the ministry not accepting the outcome of the process in its entirety. Since becoming the Minister, I have met with midwifery organisations formally on at least four occasions and have had countless conversations with midwives working at the coalface. We have settled pay negotiations, and Budget 2018 featured a $103.6 million package to better support community midwives, including an 8.9 percent increase in their fees. The member will have to wait until tomorrow to hear more good news.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: When the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, advised lawyers acting for the College of Midwives, "Ultimately, it was determined that a Budget bid closely reflecting the co-design report had no prospects of success", was he communicating a determination that the Minister had made?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Could the member please repeat the question?

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Happy to. When the Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, advised lawyers acting for the College of Midwives that "Ultimately, it was determined that a Budget bid closely reflecting the co-design report had no prospects of success.", was he communicating a determination that the Minister had made?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: No. This dispute has resulted from the ministry's actions, which is why the ministry itself has publicly apologised. I am not going to apologise myself for the previous Government's mistakes, but I do accept that I've inherited their mess, and we have found a way forward.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: If the co-design project was, in his words, "messy" and he believes Budget 2018 did reflect support based on the co-design project, why did the ministry have to apologise?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The ministry apologised for its actions. The midwives received an uplift, which amounted to an 8.9 percent increase in their fees, and the member will have to wait till tomorrow to hear more.


Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

SPEAKER: No, I don't need the point of order. I think the Minister has to address the question that was asked. Repeat the question, please.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: If the co-design process was, as the Minister described, "messy" and Budget 2018 did increase funds, reflective of the co-design project, why did the ministry need to apologise for its failure to prepare a Budget bid?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The ministry apologised, as I understand it, because they didn't feel that what they had done reflected the co-design process.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does the Minister agree with the base remuneration of an independent midwife, a full-time independent midwife, of $171,000, as recommended in the co-design report?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This Government wants to see midwives remunerated better. That's why we put together the $103 million package for the last Budget, including an 8.9 percent increase in their fees. There is no doubt that midwives were undervalued under the previous Government, quite significantly and over a long period of time. That workforce has told me directly that they have felt stressed and strained. It has put further stress on their workforce because it's made it more challenging to recruit. We want to remunerate midwives better over time. We want a sustainable solution. We also want to see that the model better supports midwives. This is a Government committed to addressing the challenges, the mess that we've inherited.

Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific: did he agree with the recommendation of a base remuneration of $171,000? That was not addressed.

SPEAKER: Yes; I'll refer the member to Speakers' ruling 171/4. Does he have a further supplementary?

Hon Michael Woodhouse: If there isn't money to reflect the co-design work in tomorrow's Budget, will he be the one to apologise to independent midwives and will they have to return to court to obtain redress?

Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I won't be releasing the details of tomorrow's Budget now. I do acknowledge that the previous Government made mistakes. I'm not about to apologise for those, but it is my job to find a way forward, and we've done that.

Question No. 11—Housing and Urban Development

11. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: How many people on the Housing New Zealand wait-list are currently being housed in motels, and how many were at the time he became Minister?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Our preference is that we do not have people who are homeless staying in motels. However, we have inherited a crisis and it takes time to rebuild public housing. We will continue to use motels temporarily, as the alternative is that people are in their cars or sleeping rough. In spite of 9,590 families being housed off the public housing register since we took office—9,590 households—we continue to see housing need rise as the hidden homeless come forward. I'm advised that 977 households on the register were in a motel in April, compared to 350 in October 2017.

Simon O'Connor: What responsibility does he take for the increase in the Housing New Zealand waiting list, which has almost doubled in the last 12 months and now, under his watch, is sitting at over 11,000 Kiwis?

SPEAKER: I think it would have been out of order other than for the reference that the member made during his overlong primary answer.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: This Government encourages people to come forward when they need help when they can't find proper shelter. We take responsibility for building more public housing, and so there are 1,900 extra families in public housing since we came into office. That party, when it was in Government, reduced the number of State houses by more than 6,000 over nine years. That's the mess that we are cleaning up.

Simon O'Connor: Does the Minister, therefore, disagree with his own officials at Housing New Zealand who said that most of the State houses built under this Government so far were started by the National Government?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, no matter which way the member wants to slice it or dice it, they reduced State housing by 6,000 houses. We have already increased the number of people in public housing by 1,900 households since we took office. We stopped the sell-off of State housing. We're building more. We've built a thousand extra transitional housing places.

Simon O'Connor: Will the Minister admit that the increase of private rental prices of over $70 a week, as reported by TradeMe, are linked to his ever-growing list of compliance costs and are a major driver for the increased demand for social housing?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, I don't think any sensible commentator would agree with that member's assertion. The fact that rents have stabilised in Auckland and Wellington—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! That is well beyond enough.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: What world is that Minister living in?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The fact that rents have stabilised—

SPEAKER: Oh, Mr Brownlee, just—

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: —in about half the country gives the lie to the Opposition's assertion that there are policy changes rolled out nationwide or being implemented that have had any effect. The reason that rents are going up in so many parts of the country is because of the shortage of housing supply left by that Government.

Hon Judith Collins: Rubbish. Why is it only going up under you?

SPEAKER: Order! Order! Ms Collins, the Hon Judith Collins—can she just let her junior member ask the question? Thank you.

Simon O'Connor: I'd always defer to Ms Collins.

SPEAKER: Well—[Interruption] Order! Both sides, please.

Simon O'Connor: Thank you. Can the Minister confirm that alongside motels, the Government is also housing people in caravan parks, and if so, what are the minimum standards for both motels and caravans?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the last Government made an art form, actually, out of housing people in caravan parks. We don't like it. We don't approve of it, but if it's the only alternative to people sleeping in their cars—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat, but I'm going to ask this side to be absolutely quiet while the Minister answers the question.

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: So there are some people who are living in caravan parks, but that's because the only alternative to them either sleeping rough and out in the weather or in cars is staying in a motel or a caravan park. Now, this Government doesn't like that. We don't approve of it—[Interruption]

SPEAKER: OK, the member will resume his seat. The question will be asked again, and we'll have quiet during both the asking and the answering.

Simon O'Connor: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Can the Minister confirm that alongside motels, the Government is also housing people in caravan parks, and if so, what are the minimum standards for both motels and caravans?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: We are currently implementing a programme of supervision of wraparound services and quality standards for people who are staying in contracted motels, and our goal is to shift as many people as possible into contracted motels, where, for the first time ever, there will be quality standards.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister, did his Government start housing households in motels and paying people to leave Auckland?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, our Government did not start the practice of putting people in motels.

SPEAKER: Well answered—thank you.

Simon O'Connor: Can the Minister please confirm that there are standards for those living in caravans—I respect he's acknowledged motels; can he indicate to the House the standards required of caravans?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, there are currently no quality standards for people who are using the emergency housing special needs grant either for motels or for people staying in campgrounds. There have never, in the last decade, been any quality standards for people in campgrounds. That's why we are shifting people out of temporary special needs grant motels into contracted motels where there will be quality standards and wraparound services.

Simon O'Connor: Will all motel owners providing transitional housing need to measure every window, the area of each room, and the type of insulation, alongside 34 other variables to work out if a heater is needed to comply with his latest heating regulations?

Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Motels are not covered by the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act.

Question No. 12—Justice

12. RAYMOND HUO (Labour) to the Minister of Justice: What recent announcements has the Government made about reducing the backlog of coronial cases?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Talofa, Mr Speaker. Last week, the Government announced funding for eight relief coroners to reduce the backlog of coronial cases as a result of historic underfunding of this work. Relief coroners are appointed for a fixed term of up to five years, and will be used to run the duty coroner process. More relief coroners will free up permanent coroners to complete their inquests. The resourcing of the coronial system needs to be improved, and these relief coroners will go a long way towards reducing how long it takes for a case to be completed.

Raymond Huo: How will the relief coroners improve our coronial system?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The relief coroners' main focus will be on clearing the current backlog of cases by providing support to the National Initial Investigation Office, which is notified of all sudden, unexplained, or violent deaths in New Zealand and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The eight relief coroners will manage cases from the time police report the death until the body is released from the mortuary, making directions on how a case will proceed—such as if a post-mortem is required—and liaising with families about cultural considerations. Families have recently expressed frustration over the delays in coronial decisions. The extra support that this announcement creates is aimed at reducing waiting times for grieving families.

Raymond Huo: What feedback has the Minister received on the announcement?

Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I was pleased to see that the Chief Coroner, Judge Deborah Marshall, has welcomed the announcement and has stated that reducing the workload for existing coroners will give them a chance to focus on what's before them and close cases that have been open for a long time, and that grieving families will get a quicker outcome as a result. I've also seen family representatives express their support for the new funding provided by the coalition Government.

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