Parliament: Questions and Answers - Sept 12
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS (Minister for Māori Crown Relations: Te Arawhiti) on behalf of the Prime Minister: E kōrero ana ahau mō te Pirīmia. Āe, ka whakapūmau i tana whakaatutanga i te ata nei. Ā te tau 2022 ka whakaakongia te hītori o Aotearoa kei roto i ngā kura katoa. E pēnei ana tana korero: i whakarongo mātou ki ngā karanga o te motu; he mea tika kia whakamōhio ai tātou i tō tātou hītori me ō tātou tuakiri. Nō reira he mea tika kia mōhiotia whānuitia kei roto i Te Marautanga o Aotearoa me whakaakongia aua hītori hei wāhanga o te marau ā-rohe me te marau ā-kura kei roto i ia kura puta noa i te motu.
[I am speaking on behalf of the Prime Minister. Yes, she stands by her announcement this morning. By the year 2022, the history of New Zealand will be taught in all schools. Her statement is: we listened to the call of the country; it is appropriate that we are made aware of our history and our identity. So it is right that it should be widely known in the New Zealand Curriculum, those histories should be taught as a part of the local curriculum and school curriculum in every school all across the country.]
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still stand by her statement that the first she knew of the sexual assault allegations against her staff member was when The Spinoff ran an article on it on Monday, despite the fact that she was asked about those allegations by the media five weeks ago?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Ka tū pūmau te Pirīmia ki āna kōrero katoa.
[The Prime Minister stands by all her statements.]
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe in a victim-led response involving specialists in dealing with sexual abuse to help with the sorts of situations involving her staff member?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Āe.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will she be calling in specialist services to help with the process that's been handled so badly so far?
SPEAKER: Order! The member has just reflected on me. She will ask the question without the reflection.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will she be calling in specialist services to help with the situations that are currently happening and making sure that the process is better than it has been previously?
Hon Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister has no responsibility for the question that Paula Bennett has just asked.
SPEAKER: Well, there's no responsibility for the answer, I think the member means. Paula Bennett, further question.
Hon Paula Bennett: I'm not sure what that means. Can she state in the House today that she will ensure that a victim-led response will happen when there are incidences of sexual assault?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Ko te hiahia a te Pirīmia kia tautokongia rātou kua tūkino ai, kua whakapae kua tūkino, āe, i ngā wā katoa.
[The Prime Minister's desire is that all those who have been assaulted, or allege that they have been assaulted, be supported always.]
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I'm going to ask the Minister to start his answer again, for I don't think any of the members are, I think—I do want to make it clear to the House that, because of the late night and the fact that some of us didn't get home last night, there's one set of hearing aids that never got their charge. But I think all members are suffering from a hearing problem at the moment through the lack of interpretation, so I'm therefore going to ask the Hon Kelvin Davis to start the answer on behalf of the Prime Minister again.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Ko te hiahia a te Pirīmia kia tautokongia rātou e whakapae ana kua tūkinohia rātou.
[The Prime Minister's desire is that those who allege they have been assaulted be supported.]
Hon Paula Bennett: Has she asked senior staff in her office why they did not inform her of the various serious allegations around her staff member?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Ko tēnei kaupapa he kaupapa mō te pāti hei whakatikatikangia.
[This matter is for the party to address.]
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree with the statement of the deputy leader of the Labour Party, the Hon Kelvin Davis, who stated in the House yesterday that these allegations were all based on rumour.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Ko aua whakapākehātanga o aua kōrero e āhua rangirua ana, i te mea ngā kupu Māori horekau he tikanga kotahi mō wētahi o ngā kupu pērā i te kupu "whakapae", pērā i te kupu "kōhimuhimu".
[Those translations of those words are somewhat confused because Māori words don't have one single meaning for some of those words, for example, the word "whakapae" and the word "kōhimuhimu".]
Hon Paula Bennett: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I'm sorry, I think, maybe, the translation then, as well, was quite unclear, and I just ask if we could perhaps even have the translation again so that I just understand for a follow-up question.
Hon Shane Jones: Speaking to the point of order, so I can provide some direction, just because you hear rumours—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, that's not a point of order.
SPEAKER: Order! Who interjected then?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I did.
SPEAKER: Stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. Point of order.
SPEAKER: No. I'm hearing one.
Hon Shane Jones: Sir, this is the week of Te Reo Māori, and just because you hear the word "accusation" and "rumour" doesn't mean it's a fact.
SPEAKER: Well, that was, Mr Jones, most unhelpful, and, I think, almost certainly designed to cause disruption. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise. It was not a point of order, and the member has—I know he doesn't pay close attention to these things, but he's been here long enough to know that that was not a point of order. He will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Shane Jones: I withdraw and apologise.
SPEAKER: I'm going to ask Paula Bennett to ask her question again.
Hon Paula Bennett: My question was: does she agree with the statement of the deputy leader of the Labour Party, the Hon Kelvin Davis, who stated in the House yesterday that these allegations were all based on rumour.
SPEAKER: No. Before the member answers that question, the problem that I have is that I have the translation of what Mr Davis said, and—well, I have a translation of what Mr Davis said, and he did use what has been translated for me as the word "rumour", but it did not—it applied to the member's party, and not to the comments that the member made about the issue which this member is now asking about.
Hon Paula Bennett: Sorry, sir, but—point of order—I too have looked very carefully at the transcript, or else wouldn't be making this statement, and, I'm sorry, I interpret it quite differently: that it is quite clear that he was stating that I was making allegations, in the speech previous to him, that were based on rumour.
SPEAKER: Well, it's clear that we have a translation issue, and I am going to let the Prime Minister answer, but with the advantage of, probably, some extra ability to translate. But I do want to make it clear to the Hon Paula Bennett that in the translation that I have, the only time the word "rumour" occurs in it, it does not relate to—it relates to matters of last year.
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: E te Māngai, koia te raruraru o te rerekētanga i waenganui i te "translation" me te "interpretation" o te kaiwhakapākehātia.
[Mr Speaker, that is the problem of the disparity between the "translation" and the "interpretation" of the translator.]
Hon Paula Bennett: Can the Prime Minister ask Kelvin Davis, then, what he meant when he made statements in this House in Māori yesterday that quite clearly were objectifying and saying that it was allegations of rumour?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Ka kite ana ahau i a Kelvin Davis, māku e pātai atu ki a ia.
[When I see Kelvin Davis, I'll ask him.]
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think that it's appropriate to make fun of the fact that there are such serious allegations going on at the moment and such chaos and disarray by senior members of this House?
SPEAKER: No. No, the member will ask a question that's within—if she wants to—the Standing Orders.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still stand by her statement that victims should go to one of their line managers and that no senior people in her office had received a complaint?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Āe.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is she stating, then, that the victims are not telling the truth?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Kāo.
Hon Paula Bennett: Then, how does the answer to both those questions add up, when the victims have absolutely stated that they made a complaint to one of her senior managers?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: I te mea e tika ana aku whakautu.
[Because my answers are true.]
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she still stand by her statement that no victims have gone to any senior staff within the Prime Minister's office or the leader's office to make complaints around an alleged offender?
Hon KELVIN DAVIS: Ka tū pūmau, ka tautokongia e te Pirīmia āna kōrero katoa.
[The Prime Minister stands by and supports all her statements.]
Hon Anne Tolley: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I'm sorry, I don't have hearing aids but I got no translation. Is that just me?
SPEAKER: I think it's just you, in this case. I did. Well, I'll tell you what the interpreter said: the Prime Minister will stand by all her words.
• Question No. 2—Regional Economic Development
2. CLAYTON MITCHELL (NZ First) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: What recent progress has been made on Provincial Growth Fund projects?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister for Regional Economic Development): Last week, I engaged in some fiscal DIY. On behalf of the Crown, I had the pleasure to go to one of the busiest wharves in Tai Tokerau in Aotearoa—Kororāreka, the Russell wharf—where, after I had applied a paintbrush, there was a positive fiscal glow to that part of New Zealand.
Clayton Mitchell: What other projects are nearing completion in the Bay of Islands?
Hon SHANE JONES: The economic heart of the Northland area is beating rapidly in anticipation of more good news both this year and next year, which will not come in the form of a white elephant. The Russell wharf funding announced, along with Ōpua and Paihia, shows that we believe in our communities who want to create new opportunities for economic growth and community participation, and ensure that the infrastructure is futureproofed via the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), not for the big end of town, but for the garden-variety Kiwis who, coincidentally and happily, live in the North.
Clayton Mitchell: What progress has been seen on PGF projects in Taranaki?
Hon SHANE JONES: To dispel rather cruel rumours that there is a very strong northern focus to the fiscal glow, recently I was in Taranaki upon the maunga—although in Taranaki it is called the mōunga; although that word in my tribe means a large piece of firewood—I am pleased to say that the feasibility study was very positive and a sum of $13.3 million has been allocated to upgrade the infrastructure, involve the local iwi, and ensure that Taranaki Mounga represents a new set of opportunities for jobs, for tourism growth, and for export earnings as foreigners come to New Zealand and spend money and enjoy an area that is feeling the positive attention of this Government—i.e. the Taranaki region.
• Question No. 3—Women
3. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister for Women: Does she believe all women in New Zealand should feel safe from sexual and physical violence in the workplace?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Minister for Women): Yes, absolutely.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she agree that people in positions of power who encourage women in the workplace to stay silent and not go to the police when they allege they have been victims of sexual assault do more harm to the victims?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is it the responsibility of line managers and senior staff who get told of instances of sexual harassment to report that to her central registry that now collects data on sexual harassment in the workplace?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I do think that it is important that if it is the wishes of the complainants in the case, then that should be reported to the relevant manager, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she believe men in a position of power conducting a witch hunt to find out who it was that might, for instance, have spoken to the media make women feel safe from sexual and physical violence in the workplace?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: What I can is bullying, sexual harassment, and sexual assault are all very serious problems right across society. No institution is immune from them, the Francis review has shown that in Parliament, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that women are safe and that there are victim-centred inquiries into these matters.
Hon Paula Bennett: What does she consider a victim-centred response to be?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I think that there are best practice examples, but, ultimately, the wishes of the complainants must be taken into account in the way in which the process is undertaken.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has she had any concerns about sexual assault allegations by people employed in Parliament of late?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I always have concerns about any reported cases of sexual assault or sexual harassment in Parliament. I have had no specific knowledge or personal knowledge of any of those complaints.
• Question No. 4—Education
4. MARJA LUBECK (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What actions is the Government taking to reduce costs for families in the public education system?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): The Government is implementing a school donation scheme for deciles 1 to 7 schools. This means that, as of 1 January next year, up to 1,700 schools will receive funding of $150 per student so that they can stop directly asking parents for money or charge for anything associated with the delivery of the curriculum. We know how difficult it is for parents to afford the donations that schools request and the pressure that it places on parents who aren't able to afford them. The Government is taking the pressure off families and putting the "free" back into our public education system.
Marja Lubeck: What advice is available to parents so that they know what can and cannot be charged to them in public schooling?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Last week we released guidance for families on the Ministry of Education's website to help them understand what they can be asked to pay for in schools. An example of this would be an optional after-school swimming activity or school uniforms. Also, importantly, the guidance also provides clarity to families as to what is a voluntary donation and frequently used examples of these. We've also published requirements for boards of trustees of the deciles 1 to 7 schools who are eligible for the scheme, about what they can and cannot seek in the way of donations if they decide to opt into the scheme.
Marja Lubeck: What action is the Government taking to ensure that schools do not continue to ask parents for donations if they accept funding as part of the school donations scheme?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The legislation that's currently going through the House means that eligible schools that have accepted the funding from the Government but then continue to unlawfully seek voluntary donations from parents can have that money recovered from them. It's important that we protect the integrity of the scheme and make sure that the funding is doing exactly what it is meant to achieve.
Marja Lubeck: What other funding has the Government delivered to remove costs from public schooling?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: As part of this year's Budget, the Government scrapped fees for NCEA. More than 168,000 secondary school students will no longer have to pay fees in order to have their qualifications awarded. On top of this, 150,000 current and former students with unpaid NCEA fees will now be formally awarded their NCEA credits or qualifications. We're removing financial barriers to our public education system to make sure that all young people have the same chance to succeed.
• Question No. 5—Finance
5. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by all his statements, policies, and actions?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Te Mana Whakawā, āe, in the context in which they were given, made, and undertaken.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What changes is he proposing to bank regulations following the Reserve Bank and Financial Markets Authority's (FMA) conduct and culture review into that sector?
SPEAKER: I'm going to ask the member to ask the question again to relate it to the primary.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What policies has he changed in relation to bank regulations following the Reserve Bank and FMA's conduct and culture review into that sector?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Announcements about that are forthcoming.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he expect higher standards of conduct from bank executives and a better culture?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Indeed, I do believe that we are in an environment now where there's been a focus on the conduct of bank executives and, indeed, the governors of banks as well, and that the expectation of the public is that their conduct needs to be exemplary. As part of the review of phase two of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act, we are looking at the standards that are being brought in around executive accountability in Australia, as to whether they can be applied in New Zealand.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he agree with the Reserve Bank Governor's comments: "Culture comes from the top and boards and senior managers at our financial institutions need to be leading by example."?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I find myself agreeing with the Reserve Bank Governor on a number of occasions. I think that there are many banks in New Zealand that could look at the culture and the conduct at the top and make sure that they meet the standards New Zealanders would expect.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Is he happy with the standards of conduct demonstrated by his Government, and does he think his Government has a good culture?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As the Minister of Finance, I believe that this is a Government that is doing great things for New Zealand and for the New Zealand economy. I believe that it is a Government that listens to New Zealanders, and I note, today, that the Minister responsible for the Earthquake Commission went and visited some of the people who are struggling with decisions that have been made in the past by agencies like Southern Response—first time, I believe, a Minister has actually gone and done that kind of thing. That is the kind of culture and conduct that I think a Government should be proud of.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Would he expect senior figures in any industry to react promptly if they were aware of claims of serious misconduct?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Yes.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Then why did he say nothing when he knew about serious misconduct in his Government?
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat.
Hon Members: Why?
SPEAKER: Well, the member knows that's out of order. He absolutely knows it's out of order.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I hesitate to do this, but you have been very strict on this side of the House when questions have been misused, in terms of your allocation process that you operate. I just wonder whether that's going to apply in this case?
SPEAKER: I'll say to the member what I've said to other members: I make those decisions. Giving me advice to do something tends to head me in the contrary direction. So the member might have just caused disadvantage to his own team.
• Question No. 6—Environment
6. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment: What actions is the Government taking to protect streams and wetlands?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Last week, the Government announced our action plan for healthy waterways. It focused on three things: firstly, stopping the degradation of our rivers; secondly, delivering a noticeable improvement in water quality in five years; and, thirdly, restoring our waterways to a healthy state within a generation. We're currently consulting with the public on our proposed changes. Meetings are well attended, partly because consultation on other national policy statements (NPS)—like the protection of elite soils and urban development and hazardous substances—is taking place at the same meetings, as was requested by the sectors.
Kiritapu Allan: He aha te whakahoki kōrero o te tono a te Karauna?
[What has been the early feedback on the Government's proposals?]
Hon DAVID PARKER: There have been considerably positive comments on the Government's plan to clean up our waterways. Across agriculture and environment sectors, there is a consensus that more needs to be done, and most New Zealanders are pleased this Government is doing it. After some of the incendiary comments, early after the release of the document, some attendees are concerned that the consultation—on, for example, nitrate limits—be open and genuine, and I can confirm that it is.
Kiritapu Allan: Ko ngā taumata whakaritea mō ngā pūkawa ota heke iho, kua kotahi nei mō te motu whenua nei?
[Are the proposed levels of nitrate reduction fixed and uniform across the country?]
Hon DAVID PARKER: No, not necessarily. As our discussion document clearly states, we're consulting on whether the nutrient table should vary by water body—for example, should there be a different nitrate level for lowland streams in Canterbury, compared with higher-country rivers and lakes?
Kiritapu Allan: Ka whakahokia ngā tono a te Karauna ki te whakatiaki ki te tikitū wai māori? [Do the essential freshwater proposals return New Zealand to pristine or pure waterways?] And what is the time frame to achieve nitrate pollution limits?
Hon DAVID PARKER: No, these standards don't mean waterways should be pristine in the way they were before we had cities and farms. We do, though, want rivers to be swimmable, and to sustain a healthy ecosystem. In terms of time frames, in contrast to the mistaken views of some, whatever the new nitrogen targets are in the NPS, they're not to be met by 2025; in fact, that is the date by which plans to start moving towards the target must be in place. It is up to regional councils to set the pace of change to achieve that over a generation—that is, over some decades after 2025.
• Question No. 7—Environment
7. Hon SCOTT SIMPSON (National—Coromandel) to the Minister for the Environment: What is his response to the Initial Economic Advisory Report on the Essential Freshwater Package, which says, "The cost-effectiveness of policies targeting nutrients is likely to be questionable" and that, under bottom lines for nutrients he has proposed, the area allocated to dry stock farming in the Waikato-Waipā catchment is likely to fall by 68 percent?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Firstly, the quote is taken out of context, because the statement that he refers to asserts that it's made only in respect of macroinvertebrate health, whereas the scientific advisory group recommended the nitrogen attribute because the current national policy statement (NPS) does not protect wider ecosystem health. However, I would respond, in respect of the question, that the initial report is interim, not final. It's from Local Government New Zealand, and the modelling includes costs that were required to be made under the previous Government policy, but have not been put in place. It also assumes that a single NPS nitrogen attribute applies across the whole of the country and does not vary by region. It also assumes that immediate change in land-use practices is required, whereas phasing in a policy, sometimes over decades, is an important part of the design of the freshwater package, because, of course, it spreads the cost of implementation over time. Finally, I would note that, in the past week, misinformation claiming that the proposed changes to farming practices and land use need to be in place by 2025 are incorrect, and this is perhaps why he has misunderstood the report.
Hon Scott Simpson: When will his Government's economic modelling be available so that the public can judge for themselves the robustness of Local Government New Zealand's findings?
Hon DAVID PARKER: There's already, as I think I said the other day in the House, some 20 pages of economic analysis in the report. There will be further economic analysis once final decisions are taken as to the nitrogen attribute. I would note that Pattrick Smellie, in a piece in today's New Zealand Herald, said that at $100 million a year, which is what he totes up the cost, these costs represent less than 1 percent of the roughly $12 billion of raw agricultural output that Statistics New Zealand measures annually.
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he agree with the authors that there is little evidence of a strong correlation between nitrogen and phosphorous and microinvertebrate levels?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I'm sorry, Mr Speaker. Could that question be re-asked? I didn't catch it?
Hon Scott Simpson: Does he agree with the authors that there is little evidence of a strong correlation between nitrogen and phosphorous and microinvertebrate levels?
Hon DAVID PARKER: That was the point that I made at the first point when I said that the quote had been taken out of context, because the scientific advisory group do not recommend a nitrate level on the basis of macroinvertebrates alone; they say it's necessary for ecosystem health more broadly.
Hon Scott Simpson: How is he going to respond to the author's strong recommendation that an evaluation be undertaken of the entire package of policies proposed at both an industry and a regional level?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, more economic analysis will be done, and, indeed, after I received that report—that initial report—some time ago, it's one of the reasons why we are explicit that we are consulting upon a variation of nitrogen attributes rather than automatically assuming that it's across the whole of the country, as the costing in that initial report does.
Todd Muller: Does he think good faith consultation on his freshwater plan is occurring today in Winton, when you have 150 people sitting outside, 396 farmers having to put their apologies in because they're lambing and calving—is this good faith negotiation and consultation?
Hon DAVID PARKER: After the strong interest that was shown at meetings yesterday where everyone was able to be accommodated, there was an awareness amongst officials that there may not be sufficient space in the hall to which the member refers. A Facebook message was put out to locals last night noting that, offering to hold two meetings, and suggesting that they spread across that other meeting date. Officials will go back to meet that need.
Todd Muller: Will he extend the consultation period beyond six weeks and provide an opportunity for rural New Zealand to engage on proposals that could fundamentally change New Zealand rural life?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The six-week consultation period is similar to the consultation period that we use for submissions to select committees, so we're not proposing to extend that date. However, we have said, as select committees normally do, that if people are a bit late with their submissions, we will still receive them.
Kieran McAnulty: What other areas of New Zealand primary production have to respond when environmental limits are breached?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It's interesting, isn't it, that in the fisheries area, where environmental sustainability limits are breached, systems have to change to bring the fishing industry within the ambit of what is sustainable. There is nothing different really being proposed in respect of this policy.
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Does the Minister believe that both urban communities and rural communities will need to contribute to make a difference to improve freshwater quality?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Yes, and this package is balanced, in that regard, and expects improvements from both city dwellers and rural areas. Indeed, it's sometimes quite hard for officials to get the balance right. Officials in earlier rounds of consultation were criticised by non-urban populations for not highlighting enough the challenges that are to be met in urban areas. This time, in order to meet that expressed desire of rural populations, they have explained well what has been required of urban populations, and then there has been some frustration expressed at some of those meetings that they're focusing too much on urban issues and not enough on the rural.
• Question No. 8—Health
8. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by all her statements, policies, and actions regarding vaccination and the measles outbreak?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes, in the context they were given.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm the report on the Northern Advocate front page this morning that "General medical practices in Northland have run out of measles vaccine, making tens of thousands of people vulnerable"?
SPEAKER: No. Ask a question that relates to the primary.
Dr Shane Reti: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The primary talks about the measles outbreak and vaccinations.
SPEAKER: Yes, yes, and just saying "measles"—the substance of the question is "Does she stand by all her statements, policies, and actions", so the member has to relate his supplementary to that. Just having the word "measles" in it isn't good enough.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm the report on the Northern Advocate front page this morning that "General medical practices in Northland have run out of measles vaccine, making tens of thousands of people vulnerable"?
SPEAKER: No. None of those relate to a statement or action of the Minister, or a policy of the Minister. It's not hard to get the question right. The member is intellectually capable of doing it; I just want him to have another crack.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If we are going to get into the semantics of it, the question asks, very clearly, "Does she stand by all her statements, policies, and actions regarding vaccination and the measles outbreak?" We've heard twice this week in the House from health Ministers that there's no problem with vaccinations, so when you have a headline in a local newspaper that completely disputes that, how can it be out of order, in line with this question, to ask if the statement is still being agreed with?
SPEAKER: I just want to say to the member: if Ministers had said that, which I don't accept, then I'm sure that Dr Reti would be capable of relating that statement in his question or a supplementary. He hasn't.
Dr Shane Reti: How do her policies align with the report on the Northern Advocate front page this morning that "General medical practices in Northland have run out of measles vaccine, making tens of thousands of people vulnerable"?
SPEAKER: That's not quite there, but close enough.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I've been advised today that the regional store was able to fill all measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine (MMR) orders that had been placed by GPs in Northland, and that stock of MMR is still available in the regional store. I have been assured by the Director-General of Health that there's no supply issue when it comes to vaccines for managing the outbreak in Auckland as well as ensuring that we can maintain the childhood immunisation schedule across the country. What happened on Monday was that there was a stocktake undertaken because there's been unprecedented demand for, and administration of, vaccines in the past two weeks, and what that revealed is that while there's no supply issue, there was a distribution issue, and so the Ministry of Health, alongside local medical officers of health, local primary health organisations, and the DHB, are actively ensuring that there is sufficient vaccine everywhere where there needs to be in Northland.
Dr Shane Reti: What advice has she received on the dire measles vaccine supply expressed in communications from Waikato DHB to health professionals yesterday?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Exactly as I just said, the Director-General of Health has assured me there's no issue with supply, but the stocktake revealed that it was not evenly distributed, and so there is active work going on right now to ensure that all of the vaccines are available where they need to be administered, and in particular that we're ensuring that all children, who are the most vulnerable to measles, are able to receive all of their vaccines. In the last two weeks, thousands of vaccines have been administered each day, which is significantly more than average, and so that would probably explain why some GPs were low on stock. But all of the orders have been filled in Northland, and I don't have the specifics on Waikato, but I can get them for him.
Dr Shane Reti: What does she say to 1.3 million New Zealanders aged between 30 and 50 who are no longer being targeted to receive the measles vaccine, and when did this recommendation change?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Yesterday, the Director-General of Health announced, to give clarity to primary health organisations, that it was very important that we ensure that we maintain the childhood immunisation schedule, and that the most at-risk people are children; they are the most vulnerable to the disease, the most likely to be hospitalised. Although there's no shortage of vaccines, it does require staff and others, and so, necessarily, because we can't administer vaccines to everyone in the country within a period of just a few short weeks, we are ensuring that no child is missing their vaccine and that all those who are most vulnerable are going to get their vaccine. But I assure the member there is no shortage of vaccines. We simply want to make sure that the most vulnerable people are not missing out, given that there has been unprecedented demand for vaccines in the past two weeks.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm the Government will announce that pharmacists will be able to vaccinate for measles, as we called on the Government to urgently do back on 2 September?
Hon Julie Anne Genter: Sorry, Mr Speaker, could I ask that the member repeat the beginning of the question. I just missed the beginning.
SPEAKER: Yes, and the member only needs to do the first part of it, because the other part was superfluous.
Dr Shane Reti: Can she confirm that the Government will announce that pharmacists will be able to vaccinate for measles?
SPEAKER: "Can the Minister", in this case.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I can confirm that the Government is actively and urgently exploring the opportunity for pharmacists to provide the MMR vaccine, but, unfortunately, contrary to the member's assertion, allowing pharmacists to vaccinate for MMR is not a 30-second policy. Funding, reimbursement, classification, and record-keeping all need to be considered, and we want this policy to be implemented safely.
• Question No. 9—Mori Development
9. TAMATI COFFEY (Labour—Waiariki) to the Minister for Māori Development: He pēhea te tautoko a te kāwangatanga i te whakarauoratanga o te reo Māori?
[How is the Government supporting the revitalisation of te reo Māori?]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister for Māori Development): E tautoko ana te Kāwanatanga me te rāngai tūmatanui i ngā rautaki reo Māori ki te whakakaha i ngā pūkenga i te reo kia waia anō Te Reo Māori. E mōhio ana e haere ngātahi ana Te Reo me ngā hītori hei hanga tūāpapa o te tuakiri ki tō mātou ahurea me ngā taonga tuku iho.
[The Government and public sector are supporting Māori language strategies by improving language skills so that the Māori language is again familiar. We know that the language and history go together in the creation of the foundation of identity in our culture and heritage.]
Tamati Coffey: He aha ngā pānui inaia tata ake nei hei tautoko i ngā whakarauoratanga o Te Reo?
[What recent announcements have there been to support the revitalisation of the language?]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: He āhua roa tēnei whakautu. Heoi hei tāpiri atu i ngā kaupapa kōrero i whakatakotoria i te Whare nei i te Rātū, e whakapakari ana mātou i te tautoko mō ngā kaiako mā ēnei kaupapa e whai ake. E 700 ngā kaiako kei ngā rohe e whā e ako ana me pēwhea te whakauru i Te Reo Māori ki roto i ngā karaehe. He kete rauemi mā ngā kaiako me ngā whānau hei āwhina i a rātou ki te whakamahi i Te Reo Māori ki ngā kura, ki te kāinga hoki. He whakakore i te kaikiritanga i ngā kura. Ka whakarewaina te hōtaka tuatahi ki Te Tai Tokerau hei te tau 2020. Ka waihangatia e te Māori, he hōtaka tēnei mō te whakatō me te whakaako i te mātauranga Māori. He paetukutuku hou kei reira katoa ngā rauemi reo Māori mō ngā kaiako—
[This is a long answer. Anyway, to add to the topics of discussion that were laid before this House on Tuesday, we are improving the support for teachers via the following initiatives: 700 teachers in four regions are learning how to introduce the Māori language to the classroom; a set of resources for teachers and families to help them use the Māori language in schools and in the home; getting rid of bullying in schools. The first programme will be launched in Northland in 2020. Created by Māori, this is a programme for the introduction and teaching of Māori knowledge. A new website where Māori language resources for teachers can be found—]
SPEAKER: Kāti, kāti, kāti!
[Stop it, stop it, cut it out!]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: He maha, he maha ngā kaupapa e kawea nei e mātou, te Kāwanatanga.
[There are many, many initiatives that we, the Government, are carrying out.]
Ginny Andersen: Mō ngā Māori anake tēnei rautaki?
[Is this strategy for Māori only?]
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: E kao. He rautaki tēnei mō ngā iwi katoa. Ko te whāinga matua o Te Maihi Karauna, kia māhorahora Te Reo ki ngā wāhi katoa, i ngā mahi katoa, mō ngā iwi katoa o ia rā.
[No. This is a strategy for all peoples. The main goal of Te Maihi Karauna is for the language to be ubiquitous everywhere, in all endeavours, and for all people, daily.]
• Question No. 10—Energy and Resources
10. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she stand by all of her statements, policies, and actions?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Minister of Energy and Resources: On behalf of the Minister, yes, in the context they were made and undertaken.
Jonathan Young: Does she accept the findings of the interim Climate Change Commission that her Government's policy of forcing the market into producing 100 percent renewable electricity will push up power prices for New Zealand families by an average of $300 a year?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I'm confident that the transition that New Zealand is on to decarbonising electricity and other parts of our fossil fuel system will result in lower energy costs to New Zealanders than would otherwise be the case.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I just asked whether she would accept the findings of the interim Climate Change Commission.
SPEAKER: Well, I think if the member listened really carefully to the end of the answer, he got a very direct answer.
Jonathan Young: When the Minister said yesterday she does not think elevated wholesale power prices will flow through to higher household prices, however with wholesale prices 60 percent higher through all of this year compared to the same period of last year, are we seeing a structural change in the market that could build in these higher prices?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We did see a spike in wholesale gas and electricity prices over the last year, caused by problems in gas infrastructure—pity we didn't have a few more renewables at the time. I would note that the latest data shows that electricity prices at retail are now 1.6 percent higher than they were last year, which is lower than the rate of inflation, and that as a consequence, the Electricity Retailers' Association have put out a release today—I suspect after the member submitted his question—saying household power bills have hit a 10-year low.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member referred to a spike, whereas the question alluded to a 60 percent increase average over the country for the last eight and a half months, which is not a spike.
SPEAKER: Well, it depends on one's definition of spike. It's one hell of a spike, but it could be described as a peak.
Jonathan Young: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was, in that context, whether we are seeing a structural change, and I don't think he addressed the question.
SPEAKER: If the member listened to the end of the reply—unless he's suggesting that the lowest prices for 10 years is a structural change, which I'm not sure that he was, I think the question was certainly not only addressed but answered.
Jonathan Young: So when she said yesterday that renewable electricity is the cheapest form of generation that will bring down electricity prices, when does she expect the price per unit to fall, knowing that today's announcement was not about the price per unit but New Zealanders using less electricity?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, the cheapest-cost new increments to supply in New Zealand are wind power and geothermal power. Wind power in particular has decreased in cost over recent years and continues to go down. Gas prices go up.
Jonathan Young: Is the Minister aware of news reports that have come out from Georgetown, which moved to 100 percent renewable electricity in 2012 which increased the cost of electricity by a thousand dollars per household, and what will she do to ensure that doesn't occur here?
Hon DAVID PARKER: On behalf of the Minister, I'm aware from talking to the former Minister of Energy in the last Labour Government, David Parker, that at the time when the changes were made towards renewable electricity, there was a prediction made by the then Opposition that this would increase electricity prices. We have seen since that that has not been the case, and, as I said, despite the increasing proportion of New Zealand's electricity that comes from—electricity prices in the last period are the lowest that they've been for a long time.
Jonathan Young: So, if the Minister—who has said in the past that she won't die in the ditch over that 100 per cent renewable electricity target; would she rather we use gas, which has decreased in its use this last year, or use coal, which has increased by 134 per cent, to back up and support a largely renewable electricity system?
Hon DAVID PARKER: Neither. I'd rather see renewables used. I would also note that the problems that the member is referring to were actually problems in gas distribution; they weren't a shortage of gas. I'm advised that we have more than a decade of forward gas available to the New Zealand electricity market, and that's what the average has been for quite a long time.
• Question No. 11—Research, Science and Innovation
11. Dr PARMJEET PARMAR (National) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: Does she stand by all of her statements, policies, and actions?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: On behalf of the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation, yes. I particularly stand by our decision to make the largest ever investment in research and development through the $1 billion R & D tax incentive in Budget 2018 and the additional $132 million investment in science in Budget 2019. I'm also happy to remind the member that we've recently seen R & D spend increase from 1.23 percent to 1.37 percent of GDP.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Is she aware that her own officials advised her that the Government's policies in Budget 2019 do not reflect the funding needed to increase R & D expenditure to 2 percent of GDP?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: On behalf of the Minister, I've received a range of advice on what it's going to take to reach the target of 2 percent of GDP in the 10-year period that the Government has set. We, of course, do expect that the private sector is going to play a very large role in getting us to that point, and we are going to partner with them to achieve that. On this side of the House, we believe in an active role for the private sector around R & D. Although, of course, I know that with the new-found enthusiasm for communism on the other side of the House they might be rethinking that.
SPEAKER: No, no, no. That line has been consistently ruled out by Speakers, and even in a humorous way. I'm going to be consistent with Speakers from the past and say that that is not an approach that is going to be taken by either side of the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Should he withdraw?
SPEAKER: Yes, he should.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I withdraw.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does she think it's realistic to meet the Government's own target, when, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, to reach the target, business expenditure on R & D needs to increase by 10 percent per annum and Government expenditure on R & D needs to increase by at least $150 million per annum, which she has failed to deliver?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: In answer to the first part of the question, yes. In answer to the second part of the question, I do refer the member to my earlier answer where I said that the private sector is going to have to play a significant role here. I'm pleased to tell the member that we need a private sector increase of at least 10 percent—as the member has pointed out—and that, in fact, between 2016 and 2018 it was 34 percent. So we're seeing larger increases than we need to in order to meet the target.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: Does she really think it's realistic to expect business expenditure on R & D to increase by 10 percent per annum when business confidence is at its lowest level since the global financial crisis?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I think, as the Minister of Finance has explained on many occasions before, we're more interested in what business are doing than what they're saying about how they feel, because those two things don't always correlate.
Dr Parmjeet Parmar: If, as her own officials advise, her Government appears unable to meet its own R & D target, will she do what she did with KiwiBuild and just get rid of the target?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I'm confident that the Government is going to meet the target.
• Question No. 12—Building and Construction
12. PAUL EAGLE (Labour—Rongotai) to the Minister for Building and Construction: What recent reports has the Minister seen on forecast construction activity?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister for Building and Construction): May I first of all, as a Tongan, express my sincerest condolences in the passing of the Rt Hon 'Akilisi Pohiva—to his family and to all Tongans worldwide. Last week, I released the National Construction Pipeline Report 2019 that forecasts strong and sustainable construction activity for at least the next five years. The report shows the value that construction activity is expected to hit: $43.5 billion at its peak. This represents significant activity across residential, non-residential, and infrastructure construction sectors. Given the construction sector represents our fourth-largest employer and our fifth-largest industry by GDP, this is further proof that our Government policies and work in the construction sector are indeed hitting the nail on the head.
Paul Eagle: How does forecasting construction activity help the construction industry?
Hon JENNY SALESA: One of the key concerns I hear frequently from industry through the Construction Sector Accord is about managing the boom-bust cycles that negatively impact productivity, innovation, and employment in the construction sector. The positive forecast highlighted in the National Construction Pipeline Report 2019 provides certainty to the construction industry and means that Government and industry can work together to support better planning, better scheduling of investment, and better coordination of construction procurement.
Paul Eagle: How does this forecast construction activity align with other measures?
Hon JENNY SALESA: This report is just one indication that the construction sector is performing to support jobs and deliver houses, schools, and hospitals that are essential to all of our wellbeing. Last month, Statistics New Zealand reported that there were almost 36,000 houses consented for the year to the end of July, including 14,000 in Auckland and 4,000 in the Waikato. This rate has not been seen since February of 1974 and further demonstrates the strength of the construction sector.