Parliament: Questions and Answers - Oct 17
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 Government's policies and statements?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: How many jobs has the Provincial Growth Fund and other Government initiatives created?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer to that question is that the Provincial Growth Fund is very new in its implementation, and the numbers will be thousands before we are finished. But like all those people who understand business investment, you usually have to start the business before you get people coming along to want to work for it.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why are there over 22,000 more people on the unemployment benefit since she took office and almost 6,700 more people in just the last three months?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The answer to that is that the popular description of what their status is is now being applied by this Government, but at the same time—and here's the compelling evidence—we have reached the lowest level of unemployment in this country for a long, long time and are the envy of nearly every other Western country, including our near neighbour Australia.
Hon Paula Bennett: If unemployment is as low as he says and there are so many jobs out there, why are there more people on welfare instead of actually working?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: If one has any understanding of analytics, they will know that that's entirely possible, because, basically, in the community there's greater hope now, in terms of social welfare demand, of having their concerns addressed. That's what this Government is doing. At the same time, of course, and in the immediate , short , and the long term, our job is to provide far greater employment opportunity, and that we have done. [Interruption] Some people over there can laugh and jeer, but our record compared to their one is one of perfect economic and employment and social rectitude.
Hon Paula Bennett: Well, does she think it's fair that 2.6 million Kiwis work harder and pay more tax under her Government while she removes all expectations of people on benefit to actually find work?
SPEAKER: Order! The member will rephrase the question without assertions in it.
Hon Paula Bennett: Does she think it's fair that 2.6 million Kiwis work harder and pay more tax under her Government while some of the expectations of those people who are on benefit should be finding work?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: If that allegation by way of an imputation in the question was true, why are we facing bracket creep and having to address that as a Government? That's number one. The second thing is you've got to have the check of Ned Kelly to have decreased taxation for 1 percent of the population, like they did, then rammed up GST to 15 percent, and make the claim that she just made.
Hon Paula Bennett: Was Stuart Nash correct on Tuesday when he said, and I quote, "We promised you 1,800 new police. Now, that's 1,800 new police over and above the current rate, not 1,800 more graduates."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: To be honest, I heard Mr Nash. He didn't say that. What he did say was what was in the coalition agreement, which I recall very well, and the word "new police" is what we're talking about. But just to give greater assurances to all those people who for the first time in this Parliament are concerned about police numbers when they showed no concern in the nine years when they were there, we're going to make it a net number.
Hon Paula Bennett: Why did Stuart Nash, then, confirm in question time on 12 June 2018 that the Government agreed that they were taking into account attrition when calculating the extra 1,800 cops?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because Minister Nash is a visionary, and when he said the Government agreed, he said that the Government agreed that that was a problem, and that's why we went and set ourselves a higher target of 1,800 net. That, of course, will depend on the wisdom of the people of this country who want real law and order at the next election.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did Stuart Nash mislead the Police Association when he spoke to them on Tuesday, in light of the Police Association saying yesterday, "We were always very clear, it had to be on top … this is what police understood."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: For the third time, and I'm certain not for the Police Association's benefit now, but Mr Nash has made it very clear that any concerns they have that the attrition rate, which is very low but not in the Government's control, might have an effect—we have said not only are we going to get to the 1,800 in half the time the National Party was training, that is, we will do in two years what they didn't do in four years, but we're going to now make sure that it's 1,800 net.
Hon Stuart Nash: Has the Prime Minister seen a report that the previous Government wanted to deliver 880 police over and above in four years and we've delivered that in under two?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Modesty being our benchmark, I hate to say that that is a stunning achievement of that Minister in this Government, yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will the Prime Minister, then, be correcting her answer from earlier this week, when she categorically said that the 1,800 new police would be added, and, also, will she correct that answer?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I don't know quite where that question ended up. It was sort of like the old English saying, "I shot an arrow into the air; whither it landed I knew not where." But the fact of the matter is, if the Prime Minister has not been clear in imparting the vision she and her Cabinet have, I'm certain that she will correct it, yes.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Noting the Prime Minister's comments in answers today, I would seek leave for the Income Tax (Adjustment of Taxable Income Ranges) Amendment Bill in the name of the Hon Simon Bridges to be brought forward on the Order Paper immediately after the suffrage debate on the next sitting Tuesday.
SPEAKER: Sorry, your first words were something to do with the Prime Minister's answers. Do the Prime Minister's answers relate to that bill?
Hon Members: Yes.
SPEAKER: All right, OK. Well, I missed it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Sorry, to make it clear, the Prime Minister indicated to the House today that the Government was about to move on bracket creep for New Zealanders' incomes. This bill would enable them to do that very quickly.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: You know, I don't normally miss two big things like that, but—
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, but what I've said by way of evidence to refute the message in the question was that this Government would not be contemplating issues like the effects of bracket creep if her allegation in the question was remotely true. To now construe that as a promise to do something on it, when we're still considering it, is—just like Mr Brownlee so often—wrong.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order.
SPEAKER: No, I think we can solve it. I go to the Governor-General and ask for a liberal interpretation of what's being said here when I go there after, as part of my appointment, and I work on the basis that Mr Brownlee was taking a liberal interpretation of what Mr Peters said. I will put the leave. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is.
• Question No.
2. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What action, if any, is the Government taking to ease pressure on early childhood education services that have been hit by qualified teacher shortages?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): Last month, I authorised funding for up to 300 overseas teachers to be brought into New Zealand for the early childhood education sector. These teachers will also be supported with relocation expenses. Early childhood education teaching has also been added to the skills shortage list. I've authorised funding to support a specific marketing campaign to attract more people to train to become early childhood teachers or to return to the profession, and I've authorised a temporary increase in the number of teaching hours where teacher-led centre-based services can have a non-certified reliever without their funding being cut. These are three of the changes that we're making, amongst many, to ensure that we deal with the issues that are affecting the early childhood sector as a result of teacher shortages.
Jan Tinetti: Is the Government considering other measures to ease teacher supply pressures in the short term; if so, what are they?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Yes. I've asked the Ministry of Education to consult on proposals aimed at easing pressure on teacher-led early childhood centres. Centres need to have at least one person responsible for every 50 children in attendance in early childhood education centres. That is the person primarily responsible for the day-to-day education and care of the children, and currently only teachers with a recognised early childhood education qualification can be a person responsible in early childhood education centres. I've asked the ministry to seek feedback on whether a primary-trained teacher should be allowed to be a person responsible for all or part of the time, and consultation is closing on that on Sunday, 20 October.
Jan Tinetti: Why are services currently facing teacher shortages?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: There are a range of factors, but perhaps the most important and underlying one is that between 2009 and 2017, the number of domestic students enrolling in initial teacher education for an early childhood education qualification fell by 59 percent. That is thousands and thousands of additional early childhood education teachers over that period of time that were not trained. This has had a significant impact on teacher supply in early childhood education, and it is going to take us some time to address that legacy.
• Question No.
3. Hon TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister of Finance: What economic policies, if any, are responsible for the increase in the number of New Zealanders leaving New Zealand?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: On behalf of the Minister, and apparently a number of his associates, these policies were—
SPEAKER: No—on behalf of the Minister, who is currently the associate.
Hon JAMES SHAW: On behalf of the Minister, these policies were many and varied, so I'll mention only three: the previous Government's policy to lift exports from 30 to 40 percent of GDP, which contributed to exports falling to 26 percent of GDP; the previous Government's policy to make the economy more productive, which meant that between 2013 and 2017, average annual productivity growth was negative in New Zealand; and the previous Government's housing policy, which made housing less affordable. The housing crisis, of course, will not be fixed overnight, but we are making good progress. These policies of the previous Government are still having a negative effect. We are making progress on the nine years of neglect that we inherited, but it will take more than two years to turn these around.
Hon Todd McClay: Well, does he think 22,000 more people on the unemployment benefit and a tripling of New Zealanders heading overseas since his Government came to office is a positive indication of his Government's economic performance?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, as it turns out, in reference to part of the question relating to New Zealanders leaving—and given that he spent so many years overseas himself, he should have some first-hand experience of this—net permanent and long-term migration of New Zealand citizens started rising again at the end of 2016, which was shortly after that member was appointed as Minister for trade, so he should be in a good position to tell this House why the exporting of New Zealanders started to lift again under his watch.
Hon Todd McClay: Does he think policies that have increased rents by $50 a week and the four new fuel taxes piled on by his Government have contributed to the 48,000 New Zealanders that left New Zealand for good this year?
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, as it happens, there's more good news in that department too, because Consumers Price Index inflation fell to 1.5 percent in the September quarter, down from 1.7 percent in the period to June. He's also referencing, I think, petrol prices, he mentioned, which are down 2.9 percent nationwide on the previous year. So prices are coming down under this Government.
Hon Todd McClay: Does he think policies that saw 12 significant road projects cancelled or postponed by his Government, leaving hard-working Kiwis stuck in traffic, have contributed to New Zealanders, including road construction workers, moving overseas?
Hon JAMES SHAW: The National Party never had a question for which roads were not the answer, and in this particular case they authorised a number of roads in their last few years in Government which were not funded, not resourced, not paid for—they were ghost roads. This Government is actually spending more on roads than that Government ever did, and on longer stretches of road—80,000 kilometres of road are being paid for in terms of their maintenance and safety under this Government. More good news from this Government.
Hon Todd McClay: Does he think New Zealand households having paid $3,400 more in tax this year, at a time when Australia gave a $1,000 tax cut to its workers, has contributed to this large increase in the number of Kiwi families leaving New Zealand this year?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I hope I get more questions from this member in the future. As it happens, in relation to tax, for an average single worker with no children, New Zealand has the second-lowest tax on labour income in the OECD, and for a one-earner married couple with two children, New Zealand has the lowest tax on labour income in the OECD.
Hon Todd McClay: Mr Speaker—
Hon Members: Oh!
SPEAKER: Order! Order! A member has a right to ask a question.
Hon Todd McClay: Does he believe New Zealanders are paying too much tax under his Government?
Hon JAMES SHAW: As I just pointed out, New Zealanders actually pay less tax than virtually any other country in the OECD, and, actually, we are at the moment needing to pay for nine years of neglect under the previous Government, a massive infrastructure shortfall, and a huge housing deficit. Actually, Government revenue is important because all of those things and the public services that we deserve and expect need to get paid for somehow, and that is what is happening under this Government.
• Question No.
4. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister of Defence: What actions, if any, has he taken to ensure the continued operation of Defence Force aircraft at Whenuapai Airbase?
Hon RON MARK (Minister of Defence): On Monday, I signed a certificate exempting activity of engine testing at Whenuapai Air Base from the Resource Management Act 1991 for the purposes of national security. This will mean the recent Environment Court ruling on noise restrictions in favour of an Auckland property developer, Neil Construction, will not affect engine testing at Whenuapai, and this will ensure all aircraft operations can continue to be conducted safely. I make no apology for this decision, and I advise anyone who is thinking of purchasing land or a home near Whenuapai that you are moving into an area where a military base was established prior to World War II. If you do not like that, don't buy there.
Jenny Marcroft: What reactions has he seen from the public to this decision?
Hon RON MARK: From feedback I've seen over the preceding weeks, including a strongly supported petition of over 17,000 signatures, most residents and the wider public do not support restrictions being placed on the defence force operations. On the decision itself, comments I have seen from the public have been overwhelmingly positive, and have repeatedly included the words "common sense". As an example, one member of the public—Mr Mike Hosking—had this to say on Newstalk ZB yesterday: "I mean, Ron Mark, yesterday, on Whenuapai I thought made a good, common-sense decision, and, yes, you want to build houses, but, you know, when you've got an air force base, you've got an air force base, for God's sakes."
Jenny Marcroft: When has this power under the Resource Management Act been used previously?
Hon RON MARK: The advice I have received says the only other times a Minister of Defence has issued a national security certificate specifically under the Resource Management Act was in 1994, for the Devonport naval base, and in 1997, for the Kauri Point armament depot. Interestingly, on Newstalk ZB yesterday, I heard a person say "I absolutely would have done the same thing, and when I was defence Minister, I had exactly the same issue with protecting the flight path and I did exactly the same thing as Ron."—a statement which is completely at odds with the facts, Mr Mark Mitchell.
• Question No. 5—Justice
5. Hon MARK MITCHELL (National—Rodney) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by all his policies and actions?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Is he aware of the law change in Australia in 2015 where the age for control orders was lowered from 16 to 14, after a 15-year-old was radicalised and carried out a terror attack?
SPEAKER: No, no. The member's had one go at a supplementary. He'll have one now that relates to the question. Asking about Australian policies is not within that question.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does the Minister consider that lowering the age for a control order from 16 to 14 years is silly, or is in line with international best practice to ensure public safety?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: We don't have control orders in place dealing with those engaged in terrorist acts overseas. We have a bill that is proposing an age at which those control orders will apply of 18. If I compare that to the Australian situation, where they have literally hundreds of their citizens or passport holders in conflict regions engaging in or supporting terrorist action compared to New Zealand's, roughly, four, the circumstances do not compare.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Is the Minister saying that we do not need to have the same protections in place to prevent the same issues that Australia faces in relation to persons returning overseas who have been engaged in acts of terrorism?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: We need to have in place the measures to deal with the real threats and risks, both imminent and long-term, facing New Zealand, and legislation should reflect that.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Does he agree with his officials who said that there is a risk that when the control order has expired the person's mind-set and violent extremist views have remained unchanged and they continue to pose a risk to the public?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I think it highly unlikely that somebody who has been under a control order and a de-radicalisation programme for a period of six years, who continues to hold extremist, violent views, will not have committed a crime or a breach of their control order, and will be subject to a completely different regime that will protect the community.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Is the Minister standing in this House and trying to tell this House that someone that holds extremist, terrorist views is likely to give them up after six years, or is it possible that actually those views may remain in place for decades?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: We can spend all afternoon talking about hypotheticals, but the reality is in Government that when it comes to national security issues, we deal with the real, assessed risks and threats facing the country, and the tradition that has been observed—at least in this House, for most MPs—is that on issues of national security we act responsibly, maturely, proportionately, and properly, and we engage in mature debate to achieve the best possible legislation.
Hon Mark Mitchell: After the Minister making those comments, why did he make public comments to say that amendments that the National Party put forward to strengthen this bill, that we feel is not strong enough, are silly?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: The House might be interested to know that I first briefed that member on that forthcoming legislation roughly 12 weeks ago. I described to him what the work programme is that we were doing in terms of dealing with the Terrorism Suppression Act, which in 2008 was found to be so deficient—so woefully deficient—and needed work, but nothing had happened for nine years. He received—or at least, the National Party received—a copy of the bill last week, and I was told that it would go to their caucus meeting this week. The feedback received at the time that the National Party told me they would support the bill made no claim or indications about changes sought. None was made last week when the bill was first exchanged. None was made when notification came through that the National Party would support it. The first I knew of claims and changes that the National Party wanted was in a media release issued yesterday. I compare that to the conduct of the Labour Party in Opposition, which, when it was dealing with the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Bill and the Intelligence and Security Bill, shepherded through by Chris Finlayson, who approached the Opposition, engaged maturely and properly, not in megaphone diplomacy like members opposite.
Hon Mark Mitchell: Can the Minister confirm that in that meeting, I stated very clearly that should the Minister and the Government not receive support from their coalition partner the Green Party, the National Party would support them, but not the bill in its current form, because we felt that it was too weak and we wanted to make it strengthened, and that I asked the Minister to go to Cabinet and indicate clearly that if the bill was strengthened, we would support it?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Well, we did not have a draft bill in that conversation 12 weeks ago. We had the policy put together, and that member was told what the bill would be about, that it was narrowly focused to deal with the most immediate threat and risk that we have. He indicated that as a matter of principle, they would support it but subject to the detail. He got the detail last week. The first I heard that the National Party wanted to change anything was in a media release yesterday. That compares to the different approach that parties on this side of the House take on national security issues when that party is in Government.
SPEAKER: I'm slightly concerned about where that leaves us, and members might want to reflect a little bit on the final question and answer, because there could well be an issue in that. Question No. 6, the Hon Louise Upston.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you just elucidate slightly on what—
SPEAKER: Well, it appears to me that the assertion made in the question and the answer are not consistent, and that is a problem for the House. It's not my responsibility for picking it up. It's not my responsibility to deal with it now, but I invited both members to consider carefully what they had said, because, frankly, they can't both be right. I did listen to both of them very carefully.
• Question No. 6—Social
6. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her policies and actions?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Yes. In particular I stand by our investment into 263 extra employment-focused case managers, $26 million to support people with disabilities or health conditions to find and stay in employment, nearly $50 million into Mana in Mahi to support our young people into sustainable work, encouraging women in trades through the Kiwi Can Do programme, up to $3 million to help people get their drivers licences, and the 92,000 New Zealanders who have found work under this Government.
Hon Louise Upston: Why are there 22,205 more people on the jobseeker support benefit than there were in September 2017?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: It's so important to keep these figures in context. Currently, we have the lowest unemployment rate that we have had for over a decade, at 3.9 percent. The proportion of the working age population is 10 percent; five years ago it was 10.7 percent. The raw figures are up, and I have been advised that there are a number of issues with regards to how that has occurred—population increase is one. Also, there has been a softening in certain sectors, including manufacturing, an area where many clients that come to the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) for support would potentially go into. Also, because of the low unemployment rate that we're experiencing at the moment, employers are actually looking for skilled workers, which is why we as a Government are focused on upskilling and training.
Hon Louise Upston: Does the Minister believe that people are better off in work than on the dole?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: This side of the House is absolutely focused on supporting New Zealanders who are able to take up employment. The many initiatives that I rattled off at the beginning really demonstrate that clearly. When we came into office we realised that there had been a decline in support that was work-focused at MSD offices, and we moved quickly to make sure that we injected that front-line resource, so that when clients go into MSD offices, not only do they get the hardship support or the financial support that they need to stabilise their financial situation but they also get the proactive employment support that they need as well.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What is the Government doing to support disabled people and people with health conditions into employment and training?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: We know that over half of the people on main benefits have a disability or health condition or are caring for someone who has a disability or health condition. That's why it's so important that we invest in breaking down barriers to employment for those who are able to work. We invested more into the Oranga Mahi programme, which is a partnership with several primary health organisations and district health boards, to support disabled people and people with health conditions to find and stay in employment and to support them with their wider wellbeing needs. We're also in the process of consulting on our first ever disability employment action plan. I think that's a very positive step. This Government is delivering changes to ensure all New Zealanders can achieve their potential.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What is the Government doing to support young people into employment and training?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Under this Government, the number of youth not in employment, education, or training has fallen to 69,000—down 19,000. We have seen a continuing decrease in the number of young people accessing youth payment and young parent payment; that's because we are investing in our young people. Through Mana in Mahi, we are providing apprenticeships and an industry training pathway that can lead to sustainable employment for young people. Our Accelerator programme has been jointly developed by The Warehouse, the Ministry of Social Development, and Youth Hub as a digital environment for young people to access on-the-job workplace training programmes and connect with potential employers. MSD's He Poutama Taitamariki project in Northland supports young people into sustainable employment, underpinned by intensive pastoral care. Unlike the previous Government, we don't give up on our young people.
Hon Louise Upston: Given her answer that the employers are seeking highly skilled people to fill their vacancies, why has the Government increased the number of Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) workers by more than 3,000 when the number on the dole has increased by close to 7,000 in the last three months?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: There is no such thing as the dole in this country; I think she's referring to the jobseekers benefit. Where people are able, we support people to take up the jobs that are in the horticulture industry. Not everyone is able to pick fruit, unlike what that side of the House infers. The employers in the horticulture industry want people who are fit, want people that are able to get to those jobs—transport is often an issue—and, actually, employees have told us that not only is transport an issue with regards to getting to those jobs sometimes but accommodation in those places is often an issue as well. So despite the fact that there may have been an increase in the number of RSE workers that will be allowed in to work in that sector, we still have a very strong domestic employment focus in making sure that both are able to help those employers get the fruit off the trees and add to our economy. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Before I ask the member to go on, there are a couple of members that I'd just like to turn the volume down a little bit. Marja Lubeck, you are coming through the Minister's mic, even from way back there. And can I say to the Hon Shane Jones, who I've previously described as a parrot repeating words, the fact that he translates words as he repeats them doesn't help at all. There is a translation for those people who want to have a translation; they just use a different channel.
Hon Louise Upston: Does she believe her $50 million youth employment initiative, like Mana in Mahi, is working?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Yes. I've had very positive feedback. One example was that I was in Christchurch at a barbershop, a week and a half ago, where an employer has taken on a young man who's 18 years old, who personally felt he was heading down the wrong track. Within a few weeks of starting that role, his boss encouraged him to enter a national barbershop—barbering, haircutting—competition, and he took out best fade in the country. That guy says to me that that work is not only a job; to him it's a hobby. This is about meaningful and sustainable employment—a great example of Mana in Mahi working.
Hon Louise Upston: Why, then, is there a record number—over 28,000—of people under the age of 25 on jobseeker support?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: When we see the raw figures go up for any group, then we also see it lift for young people. I'm heartened by the fact, though, that we have seen a reduction in the youth parent payment and the youth payment, and that we did see, when the last results came out, that the number of young people that are not in education, employment, or training has dropped significantly.
• Question No.
7. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister of Customs: What work is the New Zealand Customs Service doing to keep our borders safe?
Hon JENNY SALESA (Minister of Customs): This year, the New Zealand Customs Service has seized a record amount of drugs at our border. In the year to 31 August, Customs has busted nearly a tonne and a half of methamphetamine at our border, as well as working offshore with our international partners. This includes the largest ever single meth bust for Customs of 469 kilograms found hidden inside a shipment of electric motors from Thailand in August. National waste-water testing results suggest that that drug bust equates to around six months' worth of meth consumption by New Zealand users. I'm proud of Customs having stopped that much from getting to our streets.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: How much social harm has been prevented?
Hon JENNY SALESA: This Government is committed to breaking the cycle of addiction through healthcare as well as coming down hard on the suppliers of these illegal drugs. Customs has an important role to play in stopping this supply. These meth busts mean that in the first eight months of this year, $1.85 billion worth of damaging social harm has been prevented to our communities. This means significantly less harm to those addicted and significantly less harm to our families, our whānau, and our communities.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: Is keeping the border safe slowing down legitimate travel and trade?
Hon JENNY SALESA: Absolutely not. In 2018-19, Customs handled a record of 16.7 million trade transactions, and in June signed an agreement with the country of Canada as well as Singapore to secure more exports. They've also opened up the use of e-gates with passengers from Japan and processed a record of 7 million arriving in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our New Zealand Customs Service should be commended for the tireless work at our border to keep drugs out and to let legitimate trade and travellers in.
• Question No,
8. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Police: How does he reconcile his answer to written question No. 14509 (2018) with his answer to oral question No. 10 yesterday that "we are going to meet the 1,800 new police target next month", and what is the number of net new police that have been recruited since his Government took office?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Easily, and with integrity and transparency.
Brett Hudson: Supplementary.
SPEAKER: No, no—not enough yet. Answer the second part of the question.
Hon STUART NASH: And 1,720 recruits have started since we have been in Government.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This member has phrased it as "net new police". That is impossible; they're either new or they're not new, but they're not net new. And he should be asked to try and explain what he's asking for.
SPEAKER: Well, I think—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Speaking to the point of order.
SPEAKER: No, I don't need anyone speaking to the point of order. The phrase "net new" is one which has been canvassed widely in the last few days. And if the Minister of Police doesn't understand it, it's for him to say that he doesn't understand it rather than for the Deputy Prime Minister. But I am going to require the Minister to answer the question.
Hon STUART NASH: To the first part of the question, easily, with integrity and transparency; to the second part of the question, 720 recruits have started at the Royal New Zealand Police College since we have been in Government and 1,685 recruits have graduated from the Royal New Zealand Police College since we have been in Government.
Brett Hudson: When has he previously made public comment about there being two different commitments to recruit 1,800 police officers prior to yesterday?
Hon STUART NASH: In my press release on 26 September 2019, and I quote from that: "Today's graduation means 1685 new Police constables have been deployed". And I also quote, "the number of fulltime constabulary staff is 9,732 … It is an increase of 893 officers,". So I don't know—what's that?—three weeks ago.
Brett Hudson: Can he confirm that the promise in the Speech from the Throne, "This Government intends to add another 1,800 new police officers.", means that the Government will add 1,800 officers over and above the number of sworn officers at the time they took office?
Hon STUART NASH: I can't help it if that member isn't over his portfolio. And I've always been very transparent about this. So let me help him out a little bit. Let me let me quote from the coalition agreement—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon STUART NASH: Let me quote from the coalition agreement, which the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister negotiated: "strive towards adding 1,800 new police officers over three years." Let me also quote from our press release of 26 September 2019, and I quote, "Today's graduation means 1685 new Police constables have been deployed".
Brett Hudson: Does he stand by his statement at the 2018 Estimates hearing, "I've always been very clear about this. This isn't 1,800 hundred police minus attrition; this is 1,800 as well as attrition. So we've got to train around about a thousand police a year."
Hon STUART NASH: I've always been very clear about the fact that we have actually been funded for attrition.
Brett Hudson: Does he agree with Police Commissioner Mike Bush, who told Parliament at the annual review hearings last November: "That's over and above what we had before. So that includes the people that have left. So we have an attrition of about 5.5 percent, so to bring in the 1,800 we are aiming to recruit about a thousand people a year to maintain our previous level, but also to meet the commitment of 1,800."
Hon STUART NASH: We are training about a thousand people a year, and what I will say is in the last three years of the National Government, numbers fell by 100; in the first two years of this Government, numbers have increased by nearly 900. I think we should absolutely celebrate that fact—900 more police into our communities; it's fantastic.
Brett Hudson: Was he wrong to say this to the Police Association conference last Tuesday: "…we promised you 1,800 new police. Now, that's 1,800 new police over and above the current rate, not 1,800 more graduates"?
Hon STUART NASH: Let me make it clear once again—the coalition agreement says 1,800 new police. We have delivered that—we're about to deliver that in just over two years. We have also been funded for attrition, and I can't help how many police officers retire.
• Question No. 9—Pacific
9. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Pacific Peoples: Fakalofa lahi atu, e te Mana Whakawā. What initiative is taking place this week to support Pacific languages in New Zealand?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO (Minister for Pacific Peoples): Fakalofa lahi atu, Mr Speaker. On Saturday, I launched Niue Language Week, and I want to thank all MPs today for acknowledging the Niue language in the House this week. The theme for this year's language week is Tokiofa, ofania, mokoina e vagahau Niue, or in English, treasure, love, and cherish the Niue language. Niue is a Realm island nation of New Zealand and are New Zealand citizens. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is recognised affectionately by Niueans as a daughter of Niue. The Niuean language is currently classified by UNESCO as an endangered language, and that's why, as part of our Government's Wellbeing Budget, a dedicated and historic Pacific Languages Unit will be established to ensure the Niue language survives and thrives. Young Pacific peoples of Aotearoa, in particular, identified thriving Pacific languages as integral to their sense of wellbeing, and is a key goal for achieving their vision of Pacific peoples who are confident, thriving, resilient, and prosperous peoples of Aotearoa.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: Why is it important to celebrate Pacific languages weeks?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: The Government recognises the importance of heritage languages in the wellbeing of Pacific peoples of Aotearoa. They are assets to be protected and passed on to future generations. Pacific languages are powerful. They connect Pacific peoples with their history, describe issues with great accuracy, and allow us to attach metaphorical meaning to these issues, and they hold valuable indigenous knowledge that can support modern science in finding lasting solutions to modern day challenges like climate change. Pacific Language Week is about broadening the audience so that all New Zealanders get to hear the wonderful Pacific languages, learn of Pacific cultures, and see the important contribution that Pacific peoples make to Aotearoa New Zealand. Later this month, I will celebrate—
SPEAKER: Order! The member's answers have been very, very long.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: How can people get involved in supporting Niue, or any other Pacific language week?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: I would encourage all people to visit the Ministry for Pacific Peoples' website, which has a wealth of information such as events calendars for events taking place across the country, and education resources—
Chris Bishop: She asked you a patsy and you've told her to go to a website.
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: —which explain how to pronounce Niuean and other Pacific language phrases and greetings. I would also say to that member: listen; listen to those who speak the language, ask questions about the way—the meaning of those words, and also speak some simple words like "Ki a monuina,"or, in English, "May you be blessed."
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister as to whether or not these sorts of initiatives, like those of the Pacific Reset, have rejuvenated an enormous sense of confidence and belief in New Zealand that didn't exist before that?
Hon AUPITO WILLIAM SIO: Absolutely, I would say yes. Never before, ever, in the history of this Pacific region have the Pacific not felt a sense of confidence, because of the Pacific Reset led by the honourable Deputy Prime Minister, and because of the ongoing engagement that this Government—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! This—it might be an application for something else, but I think it shouldn't take place in the House.
• Question No.
10. ANDREW BAYLY (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Revenue: What steps, if any, has he taken to ensure New Zealanders receive refunds on tax they have overpaid on their KiwiSaver incomes for the 2018/19 financial year?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Revenue): This is not a new problem. It has been the law since 2007 and reflects the way the old system worked. There is a bill before the select committee that is looking at this issue. In the meantime, Inland Revenue has already sent out about 1.4 million letters to people letting them know that they are on the wrong tax rate and they should update it. National actually had nine years to address it, and I'm doing something about it.
Andrew Bayly: Can he confirm that close to a million New Zealanders overpaid approximately $42 million on their KiwiSaver accounts for the 2018-19 financial year and a similar amount is expected to accrue for the 2019-20 year?
Hon STUART NASH: I can confirm about 950,000 New Zealanders did overpay an average of about $40 a year on their KiwiSaver accounts.
Andrew Bayly: Why does he think it's fair not to refund $42 million of overpaid tax to those New Zealanders who are all on low incomes, earning less than $48,000, or, effectively, $23 an hour?
Hon STUART NASH: As mentioned, there's a bill before the select committee looking at this issue, and I'll take direction from there.
Andrew Bayly: How is it fair for the couple quoted by TV ONE last Sunday, where the wife has overpaid tax on her KiwiSaver income and is not entitled to a refund, but her husband has now received a demand from the IRD to pay more tax on his KiwiSaver as a result of receiving a salary increase following a promotion?
Hon STUART NASH: I reiterate: there's a bill before the select committee. That member is on the Finance and Expenditure Committee, and I'll take direction from them.
Andrew Bayly: Does he agree with well-known tax specialist Terry Baucher, who supports my proposed legislative—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will resume his seat. If the member has a question, he should ask it, not make unnecessary assertions as part of it. If there's a particular quote the member wants to quote from a person, do it, but don't add unnecessary material.
Andrew Bayly: Well, sorry, Mr Speaker, but what I'm about to say does have an element of—
SPEAKER: Any tax expert's view on a bill is not relevant to this Minister answering a question.
Andrew Bayly: Well, you did say if it's got a relevant quote to him, and that's what the question has. So you didn't hear the rest of the question.
SPEAKER: Well, the member can have another go, but he risks losing the question if he doesn't get it right.
Andrew Bayly: Does he agree with a well-known tax specialist who believes that it is central that this issue is addressed now for the current 2018-19 and 2019-20 year because it's both not fair to low-income New Zealanders who are affected by the current arrangement and it is necessary to protect the integrity of the tax system in New Zealand?
Hon STUART NASH: At the risk of being compared to Mr Jones and a parrot, I will repeat what I've said in the last two answers. There is a bill before the select committee, that member is a member of that select committee, and I'll take my direction from what they decide.
• Question No.
11. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by all his statements and actions?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Was it appropriate conduct of the Minister of Justice to personally denigrate Gerry Morris and ridicule his family in Parliament the day after the journalist wrote an article critical of Government policy?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That did not happen.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did he, during a phone call—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! There's one point I want to ask. Is this in relation to the Minister's responsibility as Minister of Justice?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Speaking to the point of order, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Just a yes or a no. That's all I need.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yes, it is—absolutely.
SPEAKER: Right. OK. Carry on then.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did he, during a phone call to Mark Mitchell on 23 August disclose personal justice information about journalist Gerry Morris, as stated in a witness statement by Mr Mitchell released yesterday?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Where did he get the personal and private justice information about Gerry Morris that he disclosed in a phone call that he initiated to Mark Mitchell on 23 August?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Information was passed to my office, including from my colleague Greg O'Connor, and I passed that information on to Mr Mitchell.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Did Greg O'Connor provide him with personal and private information about journalist Gerry Morris after that journalist wrote an article critical of Government policy?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he agree with the decision of the Advertising Standards Authority on his complaint that concluded my statements on the evidence were—and I quote—a "truthful presentation" of the facts?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: No. What the Advertising Standards Authority concluded was that somebody who writes a statement that is untrue and that is not factual has a defence of claiming that it is true if they believe it to be so. I think Lewis Carroll would be very impressed with the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Why did he yesterday attack the Advertising Standards Authority, saying its decision was undemocratic, rather than appealing the decision?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Because their decision was incompetent, was ridiculous, and was undemocratic.
SPEAKER: Question No. 12—[Interruption] No—Raymond Huo.
Raymond Huo: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the Minister of Civil Defence and asks: what actions has he recently taken to help educate Kiwis on preparing—
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order! What I have indicated is that if we have that sort of incident after the final National Party question, it will be taken forward—the negative questions will be taken forward. That will be the case. Start again, please.
Raymond Huo: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Apologies, Mr Speaker. I have a point of order relevant to the previous question—if I could put the point of order?
SPEAKER: Right, well, now that I have interrupted, you can interrupt—yes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: My apologies. I seek leave of the House to table the decision of the Advertising Standards Authority and the witness statements that were released yesterday.
SPEAKER: Where were they released?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, the importance of the—
SPEAKER: No, were they released on a website?
Hon Andrew Little: On the website.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, the information—
SPEAKER: I've had an assurance from the Minister of Justice that they're on the Advertising Standards Authority's website.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: No, there is important jurisdiction here, Mr Speaker; I just ask you to hear me out. The full witness statements are not. It is the witness statements that are critical to the question, and that's why I seek the leave of the House. I can assure you, the documents I'm seeking leave for are not publicly available.
SPEAKER: OK, I accept the member knows full the consequences of that assurance. I'm not going to put the decision, because the decisions are made public by way of the website. I accept the member's assurance that the witness statement is not available on the website, and on that basis, I seek the leave of the House for it to be tabled. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That member sought leave of the House for the judgment, which is already on the website, and then imputed that in the judgment was the witness statement, which it's not. He misled the House, and that's why I said no.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Well, let me be very clear—
SPEAKER: No, no, no—I put something clearly to the House which did not involve this statement. I rephrased the member's leave, and the member still objected, so it's been put and it can't be put twice.
• Question No. 12—Civil
12. RAYMOND HUO (Labour) to the Minister of Civil Defence: What actions has he recently taken to help educate Kiwis on preparing for a natural disaster?
Hon PEENI HENARE (Minister of Civil Defence): Yesterday, I announced the annual ShakeOut drill to remind our people of the right action to take during an earthquake and to practise their tsunami evacuation plan if they are living in a coastal area. I have just returned from Evans Bay Intermediate, where I practised the "Drop, cover, hold" drill and tsunami hīkoi with about 400 eager students. I'm delighted to say that we were joined by over 790,000 participants from across New Zealand, and my trouser did not split.
Raymond Huo: Why is it so important that we practise these actions?
Hon PEENI HENARE: All of New Zealand is at risk of earthquake and all of our coastline is at risk of tsunami. We can't predict when one will happen or where we will be, but what we can do is protect ourselves and our whānau by practising these simple drills. Since 2016 we have had a number of events, namely the Kaikōura earthquake and the tsunami that ensued and also the East Cape tsunami two months prior in September 2016. We've also learnt even more about seismic risks, such as the Alpine Fault, the Hikurangi Fault and the Kermadec Trench.
Raymond Huo: What else can Kiwis do to be prepared for an emergency such as an earthquake?
RAYMOND HUO: Aside from knowing the potentially lifesaving actions of "Drop, cover, hold" and "Long or strong, get gone", the most important thing to do is to have a chat with your whānau and make a plan. Think about what you'll do if you're separated, if you have no power or water, and if you're stuck at home or have to evacuate, who might need your help, and who can help you.