Parliament: Questions and Answers - June 27
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Greater Christchurch Regeneration
1. Hon RUTH DYSON (Labour—Port Hills) to the Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration: What progress has been made on the Crown's Global Settlement with the Christchurch City Council for costs flowing from the Canterbury earthquake sequence?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister for Greater Christchurch Regeneration): I can confirm that Crown and council have reached an agreement in principle and are negotiating the details of a final agreement, with the intention of this to go to council in August. Any final agreement will provide a full and final settlement to the shared costs faced in the Canterbury rebuild and provide clarity on future regeneration. Settling these costs is a key part of returning Christchurch to local leadership as the city moves into the future.
Hon Ruth Dyson: What are the next steps in the settlement process?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The council has said that details of a proposed final agreement will be released to the public on 29 July, giving the public the opportunity to comment. The proposed final agreement will be considered at a special council meeting on 6 August for a vote on 8 August. Cabinet will also consider the agreement shortly thereafter.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How will a global settlement contribute to Canterbury's regeneration?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: The global settlement is a key part of the transition to local leadership. This will settle questions of ownership of the major anchor projects, the funding for the remaining projects, and the institutional arrangements for the future. It's about the long-term settings that will enable Canterbury to complete its regeneration and look to the future with confidence.
Hon Ruth Dyson: How does this global settlement differ from the draft cost-sharing agreement of 2017?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: That cost-share agreement in 2017 focused only on relatively easy things and left many unanswered questions. This global settlement will cover all outstanding issues in one package. By covering major anchor projects as well as institutional arrangements, it will provide a clear path for the future. This will provide the certainty Canterbury needs to complete its transition to local leadership.
• Question No. 2—Finance
2. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all of his policies, statements, and actions?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Yes, in the context in which they were made, given, and undertaken.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What involvement, if any, did his office have in the timing of the release of the State Services Commissioner's report into the actions and statements of Mr Makhlouf?
Hon DAVID PARKER: So far as I'm aware, the release of that report was a matter for the State Services Commission.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What responsibility, if any, has he taken for the breach of security around Budget documents?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The Minister has previously gone on the record that he was disappointed that the Treasury website could be accessed in the way it was, and he looks forward to the Jack inquiry into that very issue.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Why has he taken no responsibility for the breach of security around the Budget 2019 documents?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It's not correct that he hasn't.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, does he take responsibility for the leak of the documents?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Why haven't you?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The operational responsibility for the computer system is, of course, a matter for the officials at the department of the Treasury.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree with the State Services Commissioner, Peter Hughes, that "The breach of security around the Budget documents should never have happened, under any circumstances," and in relation to the Secretary to the Treasury, "The right thing to do here was to take personal responsibility for the failure irrespective of the actions of others and to do so publicly.", and that he failed to do that?
Hon DAVID PARKER: In respect of the first part of the question, yes, I'm sure the Minister of Finance agrees that the computer systems at Treasury should've been better. In respect of the second question, I would note that the report, contrary to the accusations that have been made by the National Party, concludes that the use of the word "hack" was reasonable, but that the phrase "deliberately and systematically" used on the Wednesday was too strong given what the Secretary to the Treasury by then knew.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he seen the report's conclusions, which had the following effect: that Mr Makhlouf acted in good faith, had views sincerely held and was honest, acted in a politically neutral manner, and his statements were reasonable in all respects? Has he seen that part of the report?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, and I think that is a fair summary of the report.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is it not the case that the State Services Commissioner's criticisms of the Secretary to the Treasury apply equally to him, that he ultimately is responsible for the breach of security, and rather—
SPEAKER: Order! That's two questions.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I think the report doesn't opine as to what the responsibility of the Minister of Finance was. It's an inquiry into the conduct of the Secretary to the Treasury.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: And does he not accept that those criticisms apply equally to him as the Minister responsible for Treasury and responsible for the security of Budget documents?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Not in the sense that the member suggests. I would also note that in terms of responsibility for what the report says was reasonably described as a hack, that responsibility rests with the National Party, because they did it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Who was it that accessed the Treasury website over 2,000 times?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The report concludes that that was the National Party.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: So is he still blaming the National Party for the fact that there was a breach of Budget documents—he didn't take the responsibility that he was responsible for for those Budget documents—and is he going to continue to blame everybody else for that breach?
Hon DAVID PARKER: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has he read section 249 of the Crimes Act, which says this: "Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 7 years who, directly or indirectly, accesses any computer system and thereby, dishonestly or by deception, and without claim of right"—has he read that section?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Not today, but I am sure it has been accurately represented by the Deputy Prime Minister.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand we just lost two questions.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Well, the Deputy Prime Minister interjected vigorously during one of my questions earlier in this—
SPEAKER: That's right. And the member gained some then. The member should stay alert.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that when significant mistakes and failings occur at Treasury, the buck stops with him; if so, why did he not offer his resignation to the Prime Minister?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Because that would have been a complete overreaction to the issues. I am confident in the way in which the Government has responded to this issue, and the way in which the Minister has been proper.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Minister seen section 252 of the Crimes Act, which says this: "Every one is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years who intentionally accesses, directly or indirectly, any computer system without authorisation, knowing that he or she is not authorised to access that computer system, or [be] reckless as to whether or not he or she is authorised to access that computer system."?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I am aware—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! Just before the member starts, I'm going to say I am going to ignore the interjections from Mr Woodhouse then, which were inappropriate.
Hon DAVID PARKER: I am aware of that section of the Act; I'm also aware that the report from the State Services Commission says that it was reasonable of the Secretary to the Treasury to refer the matter to the police.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: How long did the New Zealand Police take to determine that there had been no crime?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Their opinion that there was no crime was determined within a matter of days.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In contrast, how long did the police take to come to a decision in the "tea party" tapes?
SPEAKER: Order! No responsibility.
• Question No. 3—Housing and Urban Development
3. Hon JUDITH COLLINS (National—Papakura) to the Minister of Housing and Urban Development: Does he stand by his statement in response to a question on if he would meet his commitment to be a keynote speaker at the KiwiBuild summit on 24 June, "No, because I have two papers at Cabinet", and did he take two papers to Cabinet on 24 June?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Housing and Urban Development): Yes to both parts of the question
Hon Judith Collins: When the Prime Minister stated at her post-Cabinet press conference that the housing reset didn't go through Cabinet, was that because no housing paper was taken?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No.
Hon Judith Collins: So what happened to that paper?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: There were housing papers discussed at that Cabinet, but not the ones to do with the reset.
Hon Judith Collins: Can he tell New Zealanders when this Government's housing policy reset will be announced?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: In due course.
Hon Judith Collins: Is he anticipating being the Minister to announce it?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, just as was the case with the member's infrastructure portfolio, portfolio responsibilities are solely a matter for the leader.
Hon Judith Collins: Is it acceptable for the Minister to state that there is a housing crisis in this country and to then go six months with a housing policy under pending reset?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I would say to the member that the fact that we've been doing a policy review of the Government's build programme hasn't stopped this ambitious Government from continuing to review the rental laws, quadrupling the construction of State housing—the biggest investment ever in tackling homelessness—reform of the planning rules, and advancing the project of new ways of financing the infrastructure for urban growth. This is a very busy Government.
Hon Judith Collins: Is it correct that the number of KiwiBuild houses contracted and committed to be built has not changed since January this year, when the reset was announced?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, the issue of the number of contracted and committed KiwiBuild houses is improving all the time as work goes on to do new deals with developers and bring on new large-scale projects.
• Question No. 4—State Services
4. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of State Services: Does he support measuring and improving the energy efficiency of Government buildings, both leased and owned?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Minister of State Services: Yes.
Gareth Hughes: What proportion of all buildings leased or owned by a Government agency have been assessed under the NABERSNZ rating scheme, which is backed by the Electricity Efficiency Conservation Authority (EECA) as an effective tool to promote energy efficiency in commercial buildings?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Currently, any new building developed for Government office accommodation is required to be measured for a NABERSNZ rating, with a target rating of four stars. We do not have information on existing leased or owned buildings that have been assessed under the NABERSNZ rating scheme before this requirement for new lets came in. It's been up to the discretion of the landlord.
Gareth Hughes: Is the Minister aware that energy used in buildings makes up 20 percent of New Zealand's emissions, and does he agree that measuring energy efficiency could significantly improve standards to save taxpayers money and reduce pollution?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, I agree that energy efficiency schemes have a role to play in improving standards across the board. The Government has committed to reducing energy use across its property portfolio. We've created a new rule 20 in the Government procurement rules that directs Government agencies to support the Government's objective of low emissions and waste in Government contracts. This rule comes into effect on 1 October this year.
Gareth Hughes: If the Government doesn't know the energy efficiency of its buildings, has the Minister commissioned any research or received any advice on the cost savings of mandatory use of NABERS in New Zealand for existing Government buildings, given the cost savings in Australia have been $750 million since 2008?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Possible savings like that are, obviously, very attractive. It's one of the reasons why the Government has officials from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment together with the New Zealand Green Building Council working with EECA on a cost-benefit analysis for the implementation of NABERSNZ across the Government office portfolio, but that final advice has not yet been received.
Gareth Hughes: Would the Minister support making NABERSNZ mandatory for all Government buildings, given the Government currently funds the scheme but hardly uses it?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, that's a very fair question to ask. I would agree that Government should have a leadership role, that we must take steps to improve energy efficiency and to include that as a key outcome for Government office leases. All new buildings are required to be measured to that effect. The next step is to include leased buildings in that measurement technique.
SPEAKER: Before we go on to the next question, I just want to remind members that "givens" either before or after questions are almost, by definition, superfluous and should not be there. It's a particularly egregious offence when it appears to be a patsy.
Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take offence at the allegation that was a patsy question.
SPEAKER: I apologise to the member. Sometimes when I see Ministers reading responses, I think they might have been pre-warned as to the subject matter.
• Question No. 5—Health
5. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Health: Does he stand by his statement yesterday that "Yes, that will mean that we will have deficits that we wouldn't want to see. That member and his Government under-invested in health for nine long years, and we will be investing ourselves for quite a period to set that right"; if so, when will he "set that right"?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): Yes, and we are already setting things right. It will take years to modernise our hospital facilities, address the legacy of deferred maintenance, and add the new capacity we need. That's why we invested $1.7 billion in capital projects in health in the Wellbeing Budget. It will also take years to rebuild our health workforce. That's why we're investing in training and why we've already hired 1,300 more nurses, 440 more medical staff, and 300 more allied health workers since we took office. It will take years for district health boards (DHBs) to recover from the austerity of the previous Government. That's why we invested $2.8 billion into DHBs in Budget 2019.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he agree with Dunedin North MP, Dr David Clark, who said of Budget 2017, "District health boards this year needed at least $650 million to stand still, but they're over $200 million short of what they need."; and does he accept that if he had followed Dr Clark's advice over the past two Budgets, the DHBs' combined position would presently be close to break-even?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: Yes, to the first part of the member's question.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is he aware that average wage increases for health workers under the previous Government were 55 percent higher than the cost of living increases for that period?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: What I do know about the settlements done under the previous Government is that they compare particularly poorly to those done under the current Government. For example, the nurses' settlement is worth more than the three settlements combined done under the previous Government—
Hon Ruth Dyson: What?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: —more than the three settlements combined under the previous Government. This Government values the clinical staff, the nursing staff, the allied health workers, and all who contribute to our health system, and we want to make sure those services are sustainably funded into the future so we can continue to attract great people who serve our communities every day by providing the healthcare services that New Zealanders expect and deserve.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: In light of that, is he aware that days lost due to strikes in his first full year of office were 625 percent higher than the average for the previous nine years?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am aware, yes, that there has been huge frustration at the underfunding under the previous Government that's led to industrial action to ensure that there were sustainable increases in funding to make sure that we have the workforces we need.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Is he aware that the average annual number of DHBs in deficit under the previous Government was 10 and that in his first year he oversaw 16 DHBs in deficit and this year is likely—
SPEAKER: Order! The member had two questions quite a long time ago.
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I am aware of the first part of the member's question, yes.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, when will he accept responsibility for the growing problems in the health sector that are his and his Government's, and stop blaming the previous Government?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: I don't accept the premise in the first part of the member's question and, to the second part of the member's question, it will take us some time, more than one or two Budgets, to address the nine long years of neglect that that Government oversaw.
• Question No. 6—Justice
6. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister of Justice: What recent announcements has he made regarding community law centres?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Earlier this afternoon, along with the Prime Minister, Minister Faafoi, and New Zealand First's Darroch Ball, I announced that the coalition Government will fund community law centres a further $8.72 million over the next four years, bringing the total annual funding to community law centres to $13.26 million. The Labour - New Zealand First coalition agreement committed to increased funding for community law centres, and in this Budget we have made that permanent.
Dr Duncan Webb: Why is increasing funding for community law centres so important?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Community law centres play a vital role in ensuring access to justice for all New Zealanders, but especially for those on low incomes. The 24 centres across the country help New Zealanders with up to 50,000 cases each year and provide law-related education to around 25,000 people annually. These services play a crucial role in ensuring New Zealanders receive what they are legally entitled to and that their rights are upheld.
Dr Duncan Webb: How does this compare to previous Budgets?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Budget 2018 increased funding for community law centres by 20 percent. Budget 2019 has made this a permanent increase. The previous Government froze core funding for community law centres for six years. The staff and volunteers across all of New Zealand's community law centres do a crucial job ensuring New Zealanders' access to justice, and the coalition Government along with the Green Party as well, who have supported this initiative, are proud to support our community law centres.
• Question No. 7—Transport
7. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Transport: What will the percentage increase in the fuel excise duty and accompanying road-user charges be on Monday, 1 July, and what will be the total revenue raised from this increase?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): The increase in fuel excise and road-user charges is funding road safety improvements to save lives, and much-needed infrastructure to get our cities and regions moving. Both fuel excise duty and road-user charges will increase by 5.55 percent on 1 July 2019. I'm advised that the changes are estimated to raise over the 2019-20 financial year $106 million in petrol excise duty and $89 million in road-user charges.
Chris Bishop: Why, after legislating to collect $1.5 billion of extra revenue, are councils around the country being told that previously committed projects are in doubt and are making comments such as that of councillor Pauline Cotter, "We are all set to go, we're shovel-ready. They have gone out and made these promises and then pulled out the rug from under us … it's pretty gutting, really."?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I reject the premise of the member's question. There are no cases of councils being told that previously committed projects have been cut. What has happened is that the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) have updated councils on programming in the three-year National Land Transport Fund. They've given councils a very clear reading of which projects have already been approved, which are likely to be approved, and which projects are unlikely to be approved. The fact of the matter is that there is more money being spent on transport in this National Land Transport Programme than ever before—a very significant increase on the former National Government's spending on transport. And I'll say this: outside of the six major urban centres, in this three-year period we are spending more than $700 million more on roads in regional New Zealand.
Chris Bishop: Why does he say that councils are not being told that previously committed projects have been delayed or cancelled, when State Highway 58 safety improvements, which the Minister trumpeted in a press release only a year ago, have been delayed?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: As part of the NZTA's mid-term update to councils, they've gone round councils one by one and given them an accurate reading on what will be funded in this three-year term. There have been no projects that were previously approved that have been cut, and that is the fact.
Chris Bishop: Why can the New Zealand Transport Agency not tell Auckland Transport which projects in the Auckland Transport Alignment Project will be funded and which ones won't be?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because it's a 10-year, $28 billion programme—the Auckland Transport Alignment Project. We're only in the first year of it. The programme is evolving as we go—it's a constant work in progress—and I'll say this to the member: I will not do what the former transport Minister Simon Bridges did and leave a $5.9 billion hole in the Auckland Transport budget.
Angie Warren-Clark: What was the percentage increase in the fuel excise duty and accompanying road-user charges over the 2008 to 2017 period, and how much revenue was raised?
SPEAKER: Order! No responsibility.
Chris Bishop: Was Julie Anne Genter correct when she told the transport committee last week that the East-West Link in Auckland is not progressing?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The East-West Link project in east Auckland has been under review. The NZTA has produced an alternative package of investments intended to take advantage of the $800 million which is earmarked for that project in this National Land Transport Plan. The business case and the design work is under way and engagement with stakeholders is about to begin.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could it possibly be that some councils are confused because a certain party has a hoarding—namely, on State Highway 1 north of Wellsford—claiming that the Labour Party has stopped a four-lane highway development, when, in fact, not one cent had ever been set aside by the previous Government?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, I thank the member for that question. There's no doubt that community expectations have been confused by the fact that the former Government promised $10 billion worth of motorways without any ability to fund them, and, in fact, officials told them before the last election that those promises would have required an 8c per litre increase in the fuel excise duty.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I waited till the end of the exchange, but I can't see how on earth the Minister has any responsibility for the subject matter of that question.
SPEAKER: I can deal with it fairly easily: I was relatively flexible with Chris Bishop when he talked about confusion on the part of councils around funding for projects. That was exactly the same type of question. I agree with the member that there's marginal responsibility for it—but about the same amount.
• Question No. 8—ACC
8. Hon TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for ACC: Does he stand by all of his answers during the Vote Labour Market Estimates hearing at the Education and Workforce Committee meeting on 12 June?
Hon PEENI HENARE (Associate Minister for ACC) on behalf of the Minister for ACC: Yes.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Why, in those answers, did he support ACC's intention to centralise staff in New Zealand's main centres, which will result in 20 redundancies in Palmerston North, a halving of staff numbers in Timaru, and further job losses in Whanganui?
Hon PEENI HENARE: On behalf of the Minister, the programme for the new case-management model at ACC is supported by this Government. ACC have realigned their services to meet the demands of the clients, and the assertion that the regions are being ignored is completely untrue. There will be no closures of ACC offices, staff numbers will remain the same, and if we want to look at the investment in the regions, I need look no further than at the lion of the provinces—the Hon Shane Jones.
Hon Tim Macindoe: How is ACC's relocation of staff from regional offices to New Zealand's main centres consistent with his Government's commitment to relocate Government functions into the regions, which was an agreed priority in the Labour and New Zealand First coalition agreement?
Hon PEENI HENARE: On behalf of the Minister, can I make it clear once again: there are no ACC offices closing in the regions. I also want to make it clear that ACC management are working closely with those staff members to make sure a smooth transition is had.
Hon Tim Macindoe: Has the Minister received any representations from the Hon Shane Jones about the transfer of a large number of ACC jobs from the regions to main cities; and, if so, what notice did he take of the advice from the self-styled "champion of the regions"?
Hon PEENI HENARE: On behalf of the Minister, I'm not aware of any correspondence between the Hon Shane Jones and the Minister for ACC. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Does the member want another question?
Hon Tim Macindoe: Yes, please, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Well, he'd better go for it.
Hon Tim Macindoe: What does the Minister say to ACC staff who face redundancy unless they are willing to move their families from towns such as Palmerston North, Whanganui, and Timaru to larger cities, in order to keep their jobs?
Hon PEENI HENARE: On behalf of the Minister, I've had a good chance to get around to many of the centres to speak with staff directly about these matters, and have the assurance from management that the process will be managed with them thoroughly.
Hon Shane Jones: Would it not be inappropriate for the provincial champion to comment or interfere on staffing decisions in an independent body?
Hon PEENI HENARE: On behalf of the Minister, yes.
SPEAKER: I'm flabbergasted.
• Question No. 9—Health
9. Dr LIZ CRAIG (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What, if anything, is the Government doing to better support the wellbeing of parents with mental health and addiction needs?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): We know that parental mental health and addiction issues can have a significant lifelong negative impact, not just on them but also on their children. To better support parents living with these challenges and their families, the Wellbeing Budget includes $10 million of funding to pilot early interventions such as intensive home visits and nurse-family partnerships during pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life. Of course, parents will also benefit from the roll-out of the new front-line service for people with mild to moderate mental health and addiction needs.
Dr Liz Craig: So what sorts of supports will be offered to parents as part of the pilot?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: There'll be a range of supports offered to parents both in and outside the home. Services respond to individual needs but may include home visits, peer-based support, and talking therapies. At the heart of it all will be the ongoing relationship between the parents and health professionals such as nurses. By better supporting parents with mental health and addiction needs, I am confident we will see better long-term outcomes for families. The pilot will be rolled out to three sites around New Zealand.
Dr Liz Craig: What else is the Government doing to support pregnant women and parents experiencing problems with alcohol and other drugs?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: More good news. Budget 2019 also includes new funding to extend the existing harm reduction programme for pregnant women and parents who are caught in the web of addiction. This intensive outreach service provides both clinical and peer support to parents to help them tackle alcohol and drug issues. It's currently available in Waitematā, Northland, Tai Rāwhiti, and Hawke's Bay and will be extended to a further two areas, as a result of a $7 million investment over four years.
• Question No. 10—Women
10. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Women: How can she be responsible for eliminating the gender pay gap when the Ministry for Women's gender pay gap has gone from 5.6 percent in favour of women to 6 percent in favour of men?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Minister for Women): Firstly, I'd just like to say the Government is absolutely committed to progress for the 30,000 women who work in the public sector, with the most recent figures across the public sector showing a drop in the overall gender pay gap to 12.2 percent, the smallest gap ever. Of course, the Ministry for Women is well aware of gender equality, and my expectation is they are ensuring gender equality in their own organisation and across the public sector. I wouldn't get too fixated on the gender pay gap at the ministry.
Alastair Scott: Don't get fixated—don't worry about it. Just ignore it—forget about it.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'm sure the Opposition will be interested to know that for very small organisations, it jumps around a lot.
SPEAKER: Mr Scott, please settle down.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I support the ministry's diversity strategy, which includes hiring more men. In fact, the ministry now has six men employed, which is more than it's ever had. Due to its size, the ministry's gender pay gap does not meet the threshold required to produce meaningful high-level gender pay gap statistics, but we do still release it, and I note the figure has previously jumped around from 10 percent in favour of men to 48 percent in favour of women. So it does move a lot from year to year. While the number was 5.6 for 2018, it was in favour of women by 6 percent the year before. If you look at the average over the past two years, it's close to zero, which is about as good as you're ever going to get for an organisation with only 33 full-time people.
Hon Louise Upston: Why is the Minister minimising a 12 percent gender pay gap movement in the wrong direction?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'm not sure if the member listened to my answer, but I'll give it to her again if she's interested.
SPEAKER: No, no—order! Just short—not the whole thing again.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: OK. Due to its small size, the pay gap for a small ministry like that jumps around a lot. What this Government is interested in is the overall gender pay gap across the core Public Service, and I note that when that member was Minister for Women in the National Party, across the Public Service the gender pay gap was 14 percent. It's now down to 12.2. We want to close it, and we will.
Hon Louise Upston: Why does the Minister think that going out and hiring more blokes in the Ministry for Women and paying them more than the existing staff is a good idea?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I can understand the member's getting very excited—she thinks she's got a real smoking gun here—but what's really important is closing the pay gap for the 30,000 women who work in the Public Service. You can take any small number of employees and there will be a little bit of movement, maybe up to 10 percent, on either side, but what's really important is that we have men working to support closing the pay gap across the Public Service. [Interruption] It's amazing. I know—
SPEAKER: Ignore it—ignore it.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I know the Opposition struggles with maths, but let me explain: 30 people is a very small percentage of 30,000 people, and what matters to women is that they are not facing unconscious bias. This Government has a gender pay action plan at every organisation in the Public Service, something that did not exist under the previous Government. So we are making real progress towards equality for women, and men are going to be part of that journey, and I'm happy to say that. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Before the member asks, I will remind people that, generally, I would cut back a question that's going on at that length, but when members on my left are continually inviting, by way of interjection, further comment, I'm not going to do that.
Hon Louise Upston: Why won't the Minister just accept responsibility for a 12 percent movement in the wrong direction in her own ministry when the gender pay gap has clearly gone backwards?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I absolutely take responsibility for leading the work across this Government that has seen the gender pay gap across the Public Service drop to its lowest level ever, 12.2 percent. But I'll also say that while that member was Minister for Women, the overall national pay gap went from 9.9 percent to 12 percent, and that would have affected many, many more women.
Hon Tracey Martin: Can the Minister confirm that there has been previously between a 10 percent to a 48 percent movement, and what period of time around about was that in?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: In 2010 the pay gap was 10 percent in favour of men. It moved to 48 percent in favour of women in 2011, then it moved back to 8 percent in favour of women, 51 percent in favour of women, 56 percent in favour of women—it's a very small organisation. But, obviously, the Ministry for Women understands better than any other organisation in Government the importance of gender equality, and that's why they're leading the work and why we now have a task force across the Government to close the gender pay gap and why we are going to see real progress for the 30,000 women who work in the Public Service.
Hon Louise Upston: What steps will the Minister take immediately to walk the walk and eliminate the gender pay gap in the Ministry for Women?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I'll let the Minister answer, but I do want to warn members that that was inviting a Minister to breach State Sector Act.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I'm happy to let the member know that the Ministry for Women has a gender pay action plan, as does every other Government ministry—something that the previous Government never bothered with. But this is how we're going to make progress at closing the gender pay gap and ensuring that there's no unconscious bias or discrimination against women across the Public Service, where there are 30,000 female employees who deserve to be paid fairly for their work. We take that seriously. That's why we're doing the mahi.
Hon Louise Upston: How can the Minister credibly "lead and catalyse" elimination of the gender pay gap in the public sector, let alone the whole economy, when her own house is a mess, or is this just another dead rat that she's prepared to swallow?
SPEAKER: Order! No, there's irony in that. The question's ruled out. Further supplementary?
• Question No. 11—Energy and Resources
11. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by all her statements, policies, and actions?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Energy and Resources): Yes, in their correct context.
Jonathan Young: Does she stand by her statement that the Government has an ambitious goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 in a normal hydrological year?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Yes.
Jonathan Young: Can she confirm that the Interim Climate Change Committee has advised her Government that the Government's renewable target will push up electricity prices by between 14 and 39 percent?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I am not going to comment in detail on a report that hasn't been released, but what I will do is answer more generally that we have a target that is 16 years in the future. We make no apologies for the fact we are ambitious. We make no apologies for the fact that we are aspirational. But we also make no apologies for the fact that we are setting policies within the framework of carbon budgets that will have five-yearly check-ins.
Jonathan Young: Can she confirm that a 14 percent rise in residential electricity prices equates to a $300 a year increase and will disproportionately impact on vulnerable families in poor-quality housing who can least afford it?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I'm not going to quibble with the member's mathematics there, but what I am going to quibble with is the fact that he is talking about a report on a report that is yet to be released. What we are talking about is a target that is 16 years in the future. If I looked back 16 years to where technology and the energy industry was, I would not have been able to predict where we are today. We are a Government that's putting in place the futureproofing and forward-planning to make sure we are planning for the kind of future that will deliver New Zealanders the most affordable forms of electricity, and that is renewable energy.
Jonathan Young: Why won't she release the report or her response to it, considering 13 papers across this nation yesterday had written commentary or editorials on it?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Because the editors of 13 papers don't dictate when Cabinet releases reports. We are currently considering the Government's response to that report. This is an important piece of work. We are a responsible Government that is giving due consideration to our response, and I can assure that member it is imminent.
Jonathan Young: Well, does the Minister think that retail prices will see an increase, considering wholesale prices for the 2020 year have climbed 40 percent over the last 12 months?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: I think that member is once again showing his lack of understanding of how it is that retail pricing works. That will not flow through to the retail pricing. What that member needs to understand is that this is a Government that is setting our country up—and the people in it—for the most affordable forms of energy. Let's have a look at those levelised costs of electricity again: in 2020, 8c a kilowatt hour for solar, 6c for wind, and 20c for gas. I'd like to fast forward to 2035: 6c a kilowatt hour for solar, 6c for wind, and 25c for gas.
Jonathan Young: Isn't it hypocritical of the Government to be conducting a review—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member can start again.
Jonathan Young: Isn't it incoherent of the Government to be conducting a review of electricity prices when her own policies are set to increase electricity prices by up to 39 percent?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: No. This is a Government that has a great deal of coherence, especially when it comes to its energy policy. We are a Government that are not content to let consumers face the kind of tangle that has led to the rise in retail electricity prices that that member's Government oversaw for nearly a decade.
• Question No. 12—Pacific Peoples
12. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Pacific Peoples: How does Budget 2019 support Pacific peoples in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO (Minister for Pacific Peoples): The Wellbeing Budget has delivered a significant Pacific package of $113 million over four years of targeted support for Pacific communities across Aotearoa New Zealand. This unprecedented allocation will help Pacific peoples lead the way in the pursuit of a new vision of Pacific Aotearoa, who are confident in their endeavours, thriving, resilient, and prosperous in the areas of education, health, languages and cultures, economic and community wellbeing.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: What funding in the Wellbeing Budget is allocated to support Pacific languages in New Zealand?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: Many of our Pacific leaders, past and present, have championed and advocated for Pacific languages in Aotearoa to be valued and celebrated as an asset. We know that when we have our language, we have our story, and when we have our story, we have a sense of place, and when we have a sense of place, we have the confidence we need to thrive and achieve wellbeing. The coalition Government recognises this, and allocated $20 million over four years to establish the Pacific Language Unit. This new initiative will enable Pacific people to self-determine, for Pacific languages to be passed on to future generations.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: Pātai tapiri.
SPEAKER: No, the Government has used its allocation of supplementary questions.