Parliament: Questions and Answers - Oct 23
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
1. Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by all her Government's policies and statements?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: When will the Government begin construction on light rail in Auckland?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Like every person that understands both transport and business, when we have the forward costings organised, all the engineering reports, and all the alternative views are put on the table, then we will make a commercial decision.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will there be spades in the ground on light rail during this term of Parliament?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, we don't build railways with spades on the ground any more.
Hon Simon Bridges: Will light rail be completed, as Jacinda Ardern previously promised, by 2021?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, who has conceded that possibly not by 2021—[Interruption] Well, I mean, if you're the inheritors of nine years of nothing, then sometimes it takes a bit of time to wind things up. It's not as quick as we hoped, but when we get all the reports in and they are either compelling in one way or the other, then we'll make the right decision.
Hon Simon Bridges: If the project is completed by then, will the right honourable member join me in a running race down Dominion Road, or am I fairly safe in that prediction?
SPEAKER: No, no—it's nothing but stupidity.
Hon Simon Bridges: What is the upper limit the Government is willing to pay to build the Government's light rail project in Auckland?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, we have to wait for the costings to come in. It would be premature to give an answer now, but I want to make this very clear to the whole country: this Government is going to do its utmost to avoid the obscenity of someone, namely the Leader of the Opposition, running down Dominion Road in his underpants. If there was a race between him and me, I'd give him a 30-metre start.
SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!
Hon Member: So that was OK?
SPEAKER: Well, I interrupted and stopped it, as I did the member. [Interruption] Well, frankly, the sight of either of the members doing that isn't that edifying.
Hon Simon Bridges: Does she have the full support of Cabinet to deliver light rail?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of Prime Minister, one of the blessed things about being the head of a coalition is that unity and full support is what she has had for the last two years and will have for the next year.
Hon Simon Bridges: Is she comfortable with a Canadian pension fund owning and operating the light rail project with rights over 99 years?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, there are a number of options that are on the table at this point in time; some of them are exploratory, and to come to a conclusion before you've had all the evidence is not what people with a sound business background do.
Hon Simon Bridges: Can she detail that sound business background?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, in the case of one of her colleagues, yes—as a lawyer, making more money in one month than the salary was for one year in Parliament, and that's not what he could do when he was a lawyer.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was that in the 18 months he spent at Russell McVeagh?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No; I did start at the best and biggest law firm in this country—that's true. No—when I was running my own law firm.
SPEAKER: Order! I should have stopped the member at least two questions back. I apologise for being too kind to him.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was the Deputy Prime Minister right this week when he said that "Obviously, the connection to the airport will be heavy rail."?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, all of the exploratory work is being done as we speak by railways and others—experts, so to speak—and when we have concluded that—
Hon Member: No idea.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I tell you what I do have an idea on: not running railways into the ground like that administration did—running them into oblivion; Dargaville, up north, and all around this country—quite the converse. So the urban picture is as important to us as the rural picture, in terms of these future developments.
SPEAKER: I say to members that I do work relatively hard to have the Minister acting for the Prime Minister in the House sort of speak in the voice of the Prime Minister, but interjections like that make it quite hard.
• Question No.
2. Hon PAULA BENNETT (Deputy Leader—National) to the Minister of Justice: Does he stand by all his policies and statements?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE (Minister of Justice): Yes.
Hon Paula Bennett: Has targeted stakeholder engagement been undertaken between August and September, as was outlined in his Cabinet paper on the cannabis referendum process?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: There's been a range of engagement between the Ministry of Justice and stakeholder groups, including my attendance at two symposiums involving a number of groups who have something to contribute on that issue.
SPEAKER: Well, maybe "symposia", but anyway.
Hon Paula Bennett: What is the status of the cross-party reference group on the cannabis referendum, given that I wrote to him on 28 August confirming support but he has not replied?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: That member wrote to me expressing her willingness to participate and saying that she looked forward to an agenda and materials at my earliest convenience. At that point she will be notified of the meeting and provided materials, including the draft legislation and a host of other things, and I look forward to her positive engagement.
Hon Paula Bennett: When will the cross-party reference group on the cannabis referendum be meeting?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: As soon as possible.
Hon Paula Bennett: Did Cabinet consider the draft regulatory model for cannabis sale in July, as was outlined in his Cabinet paper on the referendum process?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: Cabinet has considered a number of principles that form the basis of the drafting of the regulatory model. That regulatory model, or at least the drafting of it, is continuing and will be available to that member just as soon as that is completed and we're in the process of calling together the cross-party group.
Hon Paula Bennett: Is he confident the rest of the time lines published in the Cabinet paper will be met, given the delays that we've seen so far?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: I don't accept there have been any delays, but, yes. The critical thing is to make sure that by early enough next year there is material for and available to the voting public. That includes the draft legislation, that includes any explanatory material, and that includes advice on the fact that there is a referendum on cannabis legalisation and where citizens can get information about it.
Hon Paula Bennett: Will he be waiting for the chief scientist and her panel to report back in March before he puts information out to the public?
Hon ANDREW LITTLE: What the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor does will be one piece of information that will be available to the public. I expect that at that, or close to, or slightly before that time, the draft bill will be available through public means along with other explanatory material. I expect that as material makes its way into the public arena and as the debate unfolds, more and more material will be available, and the challenge will be to make sure that there is good evidence-based authoritative material, because there is always a risk in debates of issues like this of fake news and inaccurate information seeping into the public debate.
• Question No.
3. KIRITAPU ALLAN (Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he seen on the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): Last week, SEEK released its quarterly employment report for the September quarter, showing New Zealand job ad listings have increased by 0.9 percent compared with the same quarter last year. Job ad growth was particularly strong in Marlborough, Tasman, Hawke's Bay, Southland, and the Bay of Plenty, which is great news for our regions. In addition, the nationwide average advertised salary was up by 3.3 percent compared to quarter three in 2018. It is good to see businesses paying higher wages and continuing to hire, demonstrating the solid underlying fundamentals of the New Zealand economy.
Kiritapu Allan: What reports has he seen on the global context for the New Zealand economy?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Last week, when I was in Chile for the APEC finance Ministers' meeting, I received a report from the OECD secretary-general. In it he said, "Clouds have been gathering over the global economy and the horizon is only getting darker." The secretary-general highlighted the OECD's lower forecast for global growth in 2019 and 2020 due to the high uncertainty created by escalating trade disputes, which, as he said, is having a corrosive effect on confidence and investment. As part of this, the OECD has forecast lower rates of growth in nearly every country. As I have previously highlighted, based on these forecasts New Zealand continues to outperform many of the countries that we compare ourselves to, but we are of course not immune to global headwinds.
Kiritapu Allan: How is the Government ensuring the New Zealand economy is resilient in the face of global headwinds?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We all know that as a small open economy we are not immune in this global context. We also equally have to be careful not to talk ourselves into a downturn. Our economy is in fact in good shape and there is a lot to be positive about. We cannot control what happens globally, but we can make our economy stronger and make sure we are ready to face the challenges that come our way, and that is what this Government is doing.
• Question No.
4. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: Is she satisfied with the high-level trends in benefit advances as published in the September 2019 Ministry of Social Development fact sheets?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Benefit advances are one type of assistance available to Ministry of Social Development (MSD) clients if people have an unexpected cost that they can't afford. The cost of housing, as a result of nine years of neglect under the previous Government, is continuing to impact people's household budgets, and, as a consequence, we have seen significant increases in hardship assistance. We don't want clients to go to loan sharks in these situations, and advances on their benefits help people avoid that. Qualification and criteria for benefit advances have not changed. People who are receiving this assistance are eligible for it.
Hon Louise Upston: Does she agree with the Child Poverty Action Group, that said, and I quote, "Huge costs of living and housing, low wages, and inadequate benefit levels mean meeting everyday costs are a … struggle for our worst-off families and whānau"?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I actually do agree with the fact that housing costs are having a huge impact on the household budgets of many New Zealanders who are experiencing hardship. This Government moved quickly when we got into Government to get through our $5.5 billion Families Package. That was targeted towards lower and middle income New Zealanders. At the most recent Budget we saw the indexation of benefits, we saw the moving away from the punitive section 192 of the Social Security Act, which punished women and their children, and we also saw the lifting of abatement thresholds. Do I accept that there's more to do? Absolutely, and this Government is on the right track.
Hon Louise Upston: Does she accept that her Government's policies, which have increased the costs of living, have resulted in over 200,000 beneficiaries having to ask MSD for an advance to meet everyday costs?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I reject the premise of the question. What I will say is that that member is absolutely aware of the fact that when her side was in Government, special needs grants, hardship grants, were all on an upward trajectory anyway. That side of the House did nothing to address the housing crisis, and that is why we are in the situation we are in now. What I do take great pride in is that we have a Government that is actually responding to the need that is out there. Actually, the Salvation Army, at a meeting I had in west Auckland a few months ago, said at least now they have the confidence that if they push someone towards MSD, they will not be turned away.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What is this Government doing to address debt for low-income families?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: This Government has already started to address concerns around debt. We're making changes to the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act to provide better protection for families from irresponsible lending and harmful mobile trading practices. The Safer Credit and Financial Inclusion Strategy is currently being developed by MSD, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and Te Puni Kōkiri. MSD is supporting the Good Shop, the Salvation Army's ethical shopping trucks, which provide communities with financial advice and quality goods with no interest. There's also been an increase in funding through no- and low-interest loans under the Community Finance Initiative between MSD, BNZ, and Good Shepherd. This Government is also putting more money into the pockets of our low-income families through our $5.5 billion Families Package and through the initiatives that we put through at the 2019 Budget.
Hon Louise Upston: Why is the Government pushing vulnerable New Zealanders into debt, with nearly twice the number of benefit advances than two years ago?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Again, I reject the premise of that member's question. What we have seen with the most recent statistics that have come out around debt is, actually, recoverable assistance under this side of the Government—which, for the member's sake, is the support that you can get through MSD that does have to be paid back—is down, as well as fraud debt. We're being much more proactive with clients, and we're not ashamed of the fact that when people present to MSD needing hardship support, we provide them with that support.
Hon Louise Upston: Does she believe that pushing vulnerable New Zealanders into debt with increased benefit advances is either kind or caring?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I believe that for a long time our welfare system has not been fair or accessible. On this side of the House we're working hard to ensure that it is. If New Zealanders are eligible for support through MSD, then we're not going to deny them of that support. But, as I said in the House before, we recognise that a big part of our job at MSD is actually providing financial support to stabilise people's financial situations, but alongside that we're also putting the additional investment in to support New Zealanders into upskilling, training, and employment—things that were overlooked and not done by the previous Government.
• Question No.
5. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister of Transport: Is it correct that the Government is assessing only two bids for the Auckland light rail project—one from the New Zealand Transport Agency, and one from NZ Infra—and, if so, is he confident that the Crown will receive value for money from this procurement process?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD (Minister of Transport): After years of under-investment in our largest city's transport system and the gridlock that that caused, our Government is determined to build the transport networks that a modern international city needs. It's not correct to characterise the process as containing only two bids. Cabinet has asked the Ministry of Transport (MOT) to run a competitive process between two approaches. One is the proposal from NZ Infra which would see it finance, build, own, and operate the light rail lines, and the other approach, being developed by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA)—[Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Some of us are interested in the answer, and yelling it down is not good enough.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: It's not correct to characterise the process as containing only two bids. Cabinet has asked MOT to run a competitive process between the two approaches. One is the proposal from NZ Infra, which would see it finance, build, own, and operate the light rail lines, and the other approach being developed by NZTA would include the more conventional public-private partnership (PPP), or design and build models. Early next year, Cabinet will decide which of these two approaches it prefers, and, of course, value for money will be central to that decision. In either case, there will be huge opportunities for the private sector in delivering this project.
Chris Bishop: Why did the Government not publish the requirements document, which set out the objectives it required from the Auckland light rail projects, and then solicit bids from the market?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: As I said, it's a competitive, commercially sensitive process. The requirement documents are commercially sensitive, but the member can see, if he goes to the Ministry of Transport website, that the following objectives have been set out for the project: improved access to employment, education, and other opportunities. This is fundamentally a transport project. It's about providing high-capacity, efficient, and high-speed rapid transit across the city, but there are other objectives: an enhanced urban environment, enabling of quality urban development in places like Māngere, Onehunga, and Mount Roskill, and a high-quality service that's attractive to users. This Government is the first Government to invest in the vision that Mayor Robbie had 40 years ago. We're not delaying and prevaricating and constantly putting off, as that Government did when they were in office.
Chris Bishop: How does he know that the New Zealand Transport Agency and NZ Infra approaches represent the best value for money for the light rail project when he has never gone to the market and solicited bids from other possible infrastructure providers?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: The decision that Cabinet made to institute this two-track process was informed by a market-sounding exercise by NZTA that engaged extensively with the private sector infrastructure construction and finance community. But all of these decisions, including the design and the configuration of the networks—the work is under way now, including value for money in the cost of those projects. That information will inform the Cabinet decision early in 2020.
Chris Bishop: Why, once the Government had received the unsolicited bid for light rail from NZ Infra, did he not open up the bidding to the whole market to ensure value for money for taxpayers?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Because, based on due diligence by the Ministry of Transport, a competitive process has been set up which allows the private sector—
Chris Bishop: Between two bidders.
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: No, it allows the private sector to bid into a process. The NZ Infra proposal is a unique and compelling opportunity to invest the New Zealand Superannuation Fund funds and their Canadian partners in a public-public model that hasn't been seen in this country. Given how keen that side of the House is on PPPs, I'm surprised that they don't want us to investigate this option.
Michael Wood: Why is light rail needed for Auckland?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: That's a very good question. Congestion in Auckland costs hundreds of millions of dollars every year in lost productivity. The city's growing by 40,000 people per year—[Interruption].
SPEAKER: Settle—both sides!
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Every year, there are between 10,000 and 12,000 extra cars on the road in Auckland. We cannot go on allowing our country's biggest city to grind to a halt. We have to invest in modern rapid transit systems, and that's what this Government is determined to do.
Chris Bishop: Why did the Government ask the New Zealand Transport Agency to assess the NZ Infra unsolicited bid for Auckland light rail, when the transport agency was developing its own proposal for light rail at the same time?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: In 2018, Cabinet asked NZTA to put aside the preliminary work it had been doing on the light rail project and do an assessment on both the NZ Infra unsolicited proposal and other more conventional PPP and design and build approaches. The NZTA—as Sir Brian Roche said, a couple of days ago—failed to do that job properly, and that's why Cabinet gave the job to the MOT.
Michael Wood: What role did the earlier decision to commence work on route protection between the city and airport—including Auckland light rail—play in allowing the procurement process to proceed?
Hon PHIL TWYFORD: Well, significant preparatory work had been done by all of the transport agencies, and, in March 2017, Simon Bridges stated that route protection for light rail was a significant step for Auckland and would secure better transport options for both Aucklanders and visitors to the city. The then transport Minister also advocated a staged integrated transition to light rail along the preferred airport-to-city route. For once, I agree with Simon Bridges.
• Question No.
6. JO LUXTON (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What are the next steps in the Government's plan to fix the trades skills gap?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): This morning, I announced our next set of actions to increase the number of young people going into trades training and to tackle the long-term challenge of skills shortages, particularly in areas like construction and agriculture. These include a new education-to-employment brokerage service, events to support the trades, and a promotional campaign. This is another part of the Government's comprehensive plan to boost trades training and to tackle skill shortages, and it sits alongside the Prime Minister's Vocational Excellence Awards, the introduction of micro-credentials, the expansion of Gateway and trades academies, and the Government's wider work to reform vocational education and training.
Jo Luxton: What is the education-to-employment brokerage service, and how will it attract young people into the trades?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The new education-to-employment brokerage service will be led by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD). It involves brokers who will build strong relationships with local businesses and schools and act as a liaison between the schools and the employers in their region to highlight local trades and vocational opportunities for students. This is something that employers have been asking for for some time. In developing the new service, MSD will be able to draw on the learnings of a very successful brokerage service that's being run by Aoraki Development, the economic development agency for South Canterbury. Their programme helps to connect young people with relevant opportunities in the local primary sector, food manufacturing, transport and logistics, and the construction sector. We know there's a model that works, and we want to have more schools and communities having access to it.
Jo Luxton: What sort of trades-related events will the Government be investing in, and why?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: We'll be supporting up to a further 140 events over the next couple of years along the lines of the Got a Trade? Got it Made! speed meets initiative, otherwise referred to as speed dating for prospective apprentices and employers. This approach has proven very popular, giving students an opportunity to meet directly with employers who have got current job vacancies and apprenticeships. We're also going to be supporting secondary schools to run their own trades-related events, including things like careers expos. That's part of the plan to shift the perception of vocational education and training as a positive and attractive career path, looking at a range of options other than just university.
Jo Luxton: What does the Government hope to achieve through the promotional campaign he has mentioned?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Research has indicated that parents often have a more negative view of vocational education and training and the trades than their kids do, and yet parents have a significant influence on the types of careers their kids choose to progress. There have been some successful campaigns already, including the BCITO campaign, for example, that was focused around shifting parents' perceptions that often discourage young people from going into careers in the trades. We're aiming to build on successful campaigns like that to continue to shift public attitudes so that people accept that trades is a very, very valuable career option and we need more young people to be taking it up.
• Question No.
7. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Police: Was the Prime Minister correct when she said last week that there were 9,723 sworn police officers in New Zealand and, if so, by what number has this increased since the Government took office?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): To the first part of the question, yes. To the second part of the question, if it may assist the House, I will actually be at a police graduation tomorrow, so I won't be here to answer the same question. However, 59 new officers will graduate tomorrow, so there'll be 9,779 fulltime-equivalents. That's a growth of 940 new officers from the start of the 2017-18 financial year—quite a few more in two years than that previous Government promised to deliver in four years.
Brett Hudson: Does he agree with the comments of Winston Peters, who said, "We'll get 1,800 more front-line police quickly, as we have promised. So we keep our promises on law and order."
Hon STUART NASH: I absolutely do agree with the Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters. We are delivering 1,800 new police quickly, and what I would say is that under the last term of the previous Government, police numbers fell by about 100.
Brett Hudson: Is it still the Government's goal to add 1,800 net new sworn police officers over three years?
Hon STUART NASH: I don't know how many times I have to do this. There are two figures—I have always reported on two figures. I have been very transparent. Under the coalition agreement, it says "1,800 new Police [in] three years". We'll deliver that in just over two years. However, we have funded 1,800 more police. That is nearly 1,000 more police than the previous Government promised to deliver, thank you very much to New Zealand First and Labour.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Can I ask the Minister, in response to these questions on that issue, what's complicated about the expression "1,800 new Police"?
SPEAKER: Order! Order! I can understand that, but there are some matters for which Mr Nash has responsibility and there are some matters for which he doesn't.
Brett Hudson: Will he commit to adding 1,800 net new sworn police by the end of this parliamentary term?
Hon STUART NASH: I will commit to meeting the coalition promise in just over two years. I will also commit to adding 1,800 new police, because this is funded. The other thing I'd say is I do believe that that member's policing district will get around about 100 new police under our proposal, which is about 50 more than he would have got under the previous National Government's funding.
Brett Hudson: When was the most previous time before last week when the Minister categorically stated publicly that there were two different targets with respect to 1,800 more cops?
Hon STUART NASH: Mr Speaker, if you—
SPEAKER: Well—[Interruption] Yeah.
Hon STUART NASH: Mr Speaker—
SPEAKER: Well, I'm assuming we don't need to do a translation, although it was certainly quite a long way from the grammar that I was taught at school.
Hon STUART NASH: If you consider a press release delivered to everyone in the press gallery—and that member is very welcome to read it—it was 26 September when I stated that there are 1,685 police, new police, that we've graduated, and I highlighted at that point there are 893 new police—so about three weeks ago.
• Question No.
8. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by all her statements around vaccine supply and the spread of measles?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, in the context they were given.
Dr Shane Reti: Does she stand behind her statements that there has been no shortage of measles vaccines?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Yes. Just to put it in context, in the first half of this year—from January to June 2019—over 156,000 measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines were administered. That's more than twice as many as the previous year and more than any single year in which the last National Government was in office. Since then, 160,000 more have been distributed, and 155,000 are expected in the next three months.
Dr Shane Reti: When she said on 30 August that people under 50 could be vaccinated but then deprioritised 30- to 50-year-olds on 11 September, was the deprioritisation due to a shortage of measles vaccine supply?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The Director-General of Health was acting on expert advisory group advice to prioritise children in the midst of a serious outbreak, and I'm sure that nobody in this House would expect that we wouldn't prioritise children.
SPEAKER: No—I am going to ask the member to answer the question.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I thought I had, Mr Speaker.
SPEAKER: Well, I'm going to invite the member to ask the question again and the member to answer it.
Dr Shane Reti: When she said on 30 August that people under 50 could be vaccinated but then deprioritised 30- to 50-year-olds on 11 September, was the deprioritisation due to a shortage of measles vaccine supply?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I take issue with the assertion in the question about me deprioritising. As I said, the Director-General of Health made decisions based on advice from the expert advisory group to prioritise children due to the fact that there was unprecedented demand in the first two weeks of September.
Dr Shane Reti: Given that answer, is the prioritisation of specific groups due to a shortage of measles vaccines?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: No. It's to make sure that we could vaccinate all of the children, who are the most severely affected in the outbreak.
Dr Shane Reti: In light of her recent announcement expanding the immunisation target group to under-15-year-olds, is there enough measles vaccine in New Zealand today to cover all of those children?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I've given the numbers on the amount of vaccine that we have, and I've been assured by the Director-General of Health and by Pharmac that we have sufficient vaccine to vaccinate all children.
• Question No. 9—Social
9. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What initiatives has she recently launched to support the Ministry of Social Development to work better with Pacific clients, families, and communities?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): On Thursday last week, I launched the Ministry of Social Development's (MSD's) first Pacific strategy, titled Pacific Prosperity - Our People, Our Solutions, Our Future. This comes following the establishment of MSD's Pacific steering and reference groups, which I announced in February this year. The strategy is aspirational, with the vision of Pacific peoples, families, and communities thriving and flourishing in Aotearoa. Pacific Prosperity acknowledges the unique way of engaging with Pacific people, families, and communities. This includes building relationships based on a journey and not just a transaction. The strategy will be used to guide and inform MSD's future policy agenda and will provide opportunities for MSD to work with and empower Pacific peoples across Aotearoa.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: How will the strategy support better responsiveness to Pacific peoples?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Pacific Prosperity supports MSD's key strategic shifts under Te Pae Tawhiti, which are: ensuring a positive experience every time, partnering for greater impact, and supporting long-term social and economic development—by putting these into a context that is responsive to the needs and interests of Pacific people, families, and communities. The strategy includes high-level actions—for example, ensuring Pacific people and families have access to suitable communication platforms, Pacific staff have equitable access to learning opportunities and advancement, and Pacific community capability is built and enhanced. A more detailed action plan is being worked up by MSD, who continue to work closely with other key Government departments and community stakeholders.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: Why is this important?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Pacific people are a growing and important part of New Zealand's social fabric. However, we also know that outcomes for Pacific people are in need of improvement. Although the numbers of Pacific people on benefit are fairly proportionate to the population, we know that Pacific people experience the lowest median income. They also do not experience the same level of sustainability from employment when exiting benefit compared to their non-Pacific counterparts. This strategy acknowledges that we need to work better with our Pacific people and that the way that we offer services has not always been fit for purpose to lift Pacific outcomes. The strategy also acknowledges the need to leverage better the skills and diversity of the 16.4 percent of Pacific staff that work for MSD. This diversity is a huge strength for MSD and the work they do. Pacific prosperity aligns with this Government's commitment to improve wellbeing for all New Zealanders, and, in particular, our focus on improving outcomes for Māori and Pacific.
Hon Louise Upston: Why has the number of Pacific people on the dole increased by 30 percent since Labour took office, the highest of any ethnic group and almost three times the rate of New Zealand European?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: As previously said in the House, there is no such thing as the dole in our welfare system. Also, as I said previously in the House, there was a lack of investment under the previous Government in housing but also a lack of investment into upskilling and training for New Zealanders in general but particularly Māori and Pacific. Perhaps the stats that that member cited is a direct consequence of their Government's lack of investment.
• Question No. 10—Local
10. Hon JACQUI DEAN (National—Waitaki) to the Minister of Local Government: Does she stand by all her policies and statements?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Minister of Local Government): Yes.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Why is the Government adding more cost to councils with the wellbeing framework when she stated in the House last week that she is "planning to respond to cost pressures on councils"?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: I reject the premise and know that councils have been working very hard to ensure that they are balancing the needs of their community with the income that they're receiving with some severe cost pressures that have been built up over a long period of time.
Hon Jacqui Dean: If a council's priority is to incur no extra cost—her words—will it still be required to participate in the wellbeing framework, which will incur extra cost?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: Firstly, I'm not going to be accepting words that have been taken out of context and without the full interpretation, but what I can say is that there are many councils who are actually implementing the wellbeing approach in a way that balances the needs of the community as expressed by the community with what the revenue is that they're getting in, with some other challenges, and that's led to some really exciting outcomes.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does she consider that ratepayers would rather have their councils undertake a considerable amount of wellbeing planning or that they invest that money in new roads to ease traffic congestion?
SPEAKER: I'm, going to ask the member to rephrase it so it does come within the Minister's responsibility.
Hon Jacqui Dean: Does she consider that ratepayers within local councils would rather have their councils undertake a considerable amount of wellbeing planning according to her wellbeing framework or invest that money in new roads to ease traffic congestion?
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA: That's a pretty broad statement, but what I can say is that community members in Taupō who participated in, for example, the Otumuheke stream enhancement project alongside the Taupō district community stakeholders, mana whenua, to enhance the stream for tourism value, delivered a project that had community priorities whereby the council did actually work for an outcome that the community wanted. But there is more. There is Kia Puāwai in Auckland, where the Manukau community worked alongside training providers to train into jobs young people that had been previously been sitting on the benefit for a very long period of time. Work and Income worked alongside them as well to get community outcomes. Those are outcomes defined by those communities where those councils worked very hard to ensure that better wellbeing outcomes could be achieved for the environment but also for people.
Hon Jacqui Dean: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Thank you. I did ask a very specific question of the Minister relating to expenditure on wellbeings or expenditure on roading, and the Minister didn't address that.
SPEAKER: Yes, and the first time the member had a crack at it, I got her to rephrase it. Even the second time, it ended up with "What does the Minister consider", and she certainly got quite a lot of what the Minister considered, some of which is outside her responsibility—so it was answered.
• Question No.
11. ANGIE WARREN-CLARK (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has he made about facilities at Taranaki Base Hospital?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK (Minister of Health): More good news. Last week, I visited Taranaki Base Hospital to announce the Government has approved funding for the next stage of its redevelopment. This $300 million project will see a new east wing built to house a range of critical and acute services that are used each year by tens of thousands of people. This Government is serious about the long-term challenge of rebuilding our hospitals, which have suffered from years of under-investment. Funding for this important project will come from the $1.7 billion set aside in Budget 2019 for upgrading our long-neglected hospital and health facilities.
Angie Warren-Clark: What services will be housed in the new east wing building?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: The new building will feature a new emergency department (ED), which will be twice the size of the current ED, and a new intensive care unit. It will include purpose-built maternity services with a new delivery suite as well as a new post-natal ward and neonatal unit. There'll be upgraded laboratory and radiology services and a rooftop helipad, which will mean faster, safer patient transfers. These modern facilities will make it easier for staff to deliver the high-quality services that the people of Taranaki expect and deserve. [Interruption] Fantastic—as the member says.
Angie Warren-Clark: When is the new building expected to be finished?
Hon Dr DAVID CLARK: This is a major project and will take several years to complete. For comparison, stage one of the redevelopment of Taranaki Base Hospital, the $80 million acute services building, was approved in 2007/2008 under the Helen Clark Government but wasn't opened until July 2014. The timetable for stage two is more ambitious. I'm advised that construction of the new east wing building is expected to begin by the end of next year or early 2021 and is expected to be complete in late 2023.
• Question No.
12. MARK PATTERSON (NZ First) to the Prime Minister: What recent reports has she seen on New Zealand's exports?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I've seen the 2019 ExportNZ DHL Export Barometer, which shows the serious strides made for New Zealand exporters in recent years—in fact, it's been spectacular. "Stellar nova" would be the right phrase for it. For example, here are the figures: 2017—it's $ 37 billion; two years after this Government came to office, it's $46 billion. That's a massive rise. Not only has the New Zealand dollar stayed at a level supportive of our wealth creators—despite all these adverse global conditions, they are performing better than ever before.
Mark Patterson: Have New Zealand's primary exporters benefited from this export environment?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That's an excellent question. I refer the member to a report released by Stats New Zealand today, which showed dairy products, for example, leading a rise in exports. And, more specifically, yesterday, Fonterra raised their payout by 30c. That's—[Interruption] I can see why they're embarrassed. That's $450 million more in the incomes of the dairy farmers of this country. I would have thought they'd have been celebrating from the rafters.
Chris Bishop: Did you do that?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I tell you what we did do. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We took the dollar from heading towards US88c and now it's US65c. Yes, sir, we most certainly did.
Mark Patterson: What impact is the performance of our primary exports having on our agricultural sector?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Another brilliant question. The 2019 ExportNZ DHL Export Barometer, released on Monday, showed that some 50 percent of Kiwi exporters experienced an increase in export orders over the year. It shows just what good shape they are in, despite the economy facing all these headwinds internationally. Those industries are doing better under this Government than ever they would have under an alternative. Can I say, despite global tensions and international political stability, our exporters are thriving and, again, yesterday, we're up $450 million because of the stable environment and currency that this Government is providing.
Hon Todd McClay: What reports has the Prime Minister received of her foreign Minister gallivanting around the world, solving almost as—
SPEAKER: Order! The member will resume his seat.
Hon Todd McClay: What reports has she received of her foreign Minister travelling the world, solving almost as many problems as are being created, and being personally responsible for all of these increases of every export from New Zealand?
Hon David Parker: That's Tim Groser.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I think she's got the wrong man. That is, as my colleague said, Tim Groser, and every other egotist they put on the road, like my predecessor.
Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: He was not foreign Minister.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Not him, but the one before that. But can I just say this: the Prime Minister's very grateful that she has got a foreign Minister who, when he gets there, is actually accepted with grace and happiness rather than wondering why that person is on the road on behalf of a First World country. [Interruption]
SPEAKER: The member knows he has no more supplementaries.
Hon Grant Robertson: In light of that last supplementary question, can the Prime Minister confirm that the problem with Tim Groser was that he didn't get enough credit for splitting the atom—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member will stand, withdraw, and apologise.
Hon Grant Robertson: I withdraw and apologise.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Can I answer the question?
SPEAKER: No. I mean it's hard to argue that anyone had responsibility for Tim Groser, but that member certainly doesn't.
Hon Todd McClay: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I'm just asking your indulgence of whether I might have that question back? As I look here, it was not the foreign Minister I was referring to that was gallivanting; it was the previous trade Minister: me.
SPEAKER: The member referred to the foreign Minister, and the fact that he made a mess of his question and was out of order—I'm not going to give him a bonus question for it. He has been around for some time now, and one day he might like to concentrate on the Standing Orders.