Parliament: Questions and Answers - Nov 7
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: It's terribly nice to see Mr Bridges here on a Thursday. On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Was her statement yesterday that "we have employed an extra 263 front-line staff to ensure that we are case-managing and working alongside those on benefits." correct?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes.
Hon Simon Bridges: Why has Carmel Sepuloni confirmed that only 170 of the 263 might be introduced this year and there's no guarantee they'll make it to 170 at all?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Because the Government is an aspirational one, and we are working our way through the process, which takes some time. We're only two years into this process, not nine years, though we expect, in the fullness of time, for those commitments to be fulfilled.
Hon Simon Bridges: Given she was emphatic that an extra 263 front-line case managers had been hired yesterday, can she give us the actual figure?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, if he sets that down in writing, we'll make sure he gets the actual figure.
Hon Grant Robertson: Why was it necessary for there to be an additional 263 front-line case workers employed by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD), and could it have anything to do at all with the fact that there was a gross under-investment in that part of work in the last nine years?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am terribly grateful to the Minister of Finance for putting his finger on the problem that we've had to deal with, and this is, again, another example of the desert of neglect that we inherited.
Hon Simon Bridges: Doesn't, in fact, the last MSD annual report make clear that the staff are going much more on hardship grants, emergency electricity grants, and the like than getting New Zealanders into work?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, obviously, as anyone with a financial grasp of this country's economics would know, people, by their own declaration, say they're better off now, after two years of this Government, than they were under the last nine years of the previous Government, and that would go for all beneficiaries as well.
Hon Simon Bridges: When will there be an extra 263 front-line case managers in place, as she claimed yesterday?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, just as soon as we can get the process completed—
Hon Simon Bridges: Ha, ha!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, actually, if it was a matter of humour and jeering, that would probably describe the last nine years of that administration, which he—
Hon Simon Bridges: He made a joke before about it.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: But the Prime Minister—
Hon Simon Bridges: Oh, it's only funny if he does it!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, no, look, this will not help. I suppose we've got Mr Luxon to thank for you being here on a Thursday, but the shouting and jeering at me won't help. In fact, it's quite the contrary—I mean, this is like having a duel of wits with an unarmed opponent. But my point is the process will take time, and obviously it's aspirational, but we will get there.
Hon Grant Robertson: In light of the questioning from the Leader of the Opposition about the 263 front-line case officers for MSD, can the Prime Minister confirm that the Opposition voted against the employment of those people?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, alas, sadly, that's what happened.
Hon Simon Bridges: When will she be correcting her parliamentary answer from yesterday?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: It's a matter of ensuring the process for the full graduation of those new employed people, in the interests of social welfare, and when that process is completed, the Prime Minister will tell you how she's done it.
Hon Maggie Barry: All fired up for the court appearance.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Is that it?
SPEAKER: Order! That is not a matter to be referred to in here, and the member should know that.
Hon Simon Bridges: Are these 263 MSD staff, just like the 1,800 net new police, instances where she got the detail badly wrong?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, starting with the second example, there was never, anywhere, a statement of being net new. Words matter. What the coalition agreement says is "strive to ensure that there are 1,800 new front-line police", and can I just say, on that score, right now, here we are, on 7 November 2019, and we've already got 1,765 graduates. We're way ahead of the programme. But here's the great news, confirmed by the Minister of Finance: eventually there will be 1,800 net new, but that wasn't the commitment or promise that the Prime Minister or anybody over here made, and for a trained lawyer it's a disgrace to try and use evidence that is not a fact.
Hon Simon Bridges: Are there two different 1,800 police targets, as her police Minister has said, or not?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I'll take the Leader of the Opposition through this very, very slowly. The coalition agreement said "new front-line police". That means people who will be taken and trained and who will graduate, and right now, we've got to 1,765 graduates, and it's not even the third year. So we are doing marvellously well, and I would have thought anybody interested in law and order would be cheering this Government every day. I would have thought Mr Hudson would be writing to Mr Nash every day and saying, "Mr Nash, thanks for doing what my party could never do."
Hon Simon Bridges: Why has her police commissioner said there's only one target of 1,800 net new police which takes into account attrition?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, as much as I admire Police Commissioner Bush, by adding the word "net", he got it wrong.
• Question No. 2—Research, Science
2. Dr DEBORAH RUSSELL (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Research, Science and Innovation: What recent announcements has she made regarding Government support for research into climate change?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS (Minister of Research, Science and Innovation): This week, I made two announcements that will have a significant impact on the global fight against climate change. On Tuesday, I released the results of the latest Marsden funding round. The successful projects include a number that will help understand and respond to climate change. As well as these projects, yesterday I had the pleasure of announcing the New Zealand Government's first space mission. This mission involves the launch of a satellite that will locate and measure methane and will be pivotal in helping to reduce those emissions across the globe. I'm extremely proud that New Zealand will be playing a significant role in this important research. The Marsden projects I've announced and the methane satellite mission demonstrate our Government's continued commitment to making sure New Zealand is not just doing what is required to fight against climate change but is being a world leader.
Dr Deborah Russell: What are the Marsden Fund projects that have been funded?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Some of the exciting projects that have been funded include investigating how carbon dioxide is released from the ocean floor, investigating how rainfall patterns changed in the Pacific during the glacial period, whether airborne micro-plastics play a role in climate change, and three programmes of work to increase solar panel technology. By backing our top researchers to find new and innovative solutions to tough problems, we are helping to create a strong future for New Zealand.
Dr Deborah Russell: Why has the Government decided to participate in this space mission to locate and measure methane?
Hon Dr MEGAN WOODS: Our investment in the mission provides three key benefits for New Zealand: demonstrating global leadership by investing in a science mission that will directly help to fight to climate change; it will give Kiwi researchers the opportunity to join a cutting-edge climate science mission alongside the world's best climate scientists and aerospace experts; and to build important capability in our rapidly growing space sector. This mission represents the first time the New Zealand Government has participated in an international space mission, and a key part of the announcement that I made yesterday is that New Zealand will host mission control.
• Question No. 3—Social
3. Hon LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Social Development: Does she stand by all her statements and actions?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Yes, in particular the statement that both the Prime Minister and I have made that, where people are able, we need to be supporting them to be learning, earning, caring, or volunteering. That's why, as a Government, we have taken action by boosting skills training, with the announcement of a new education to employment brokerage service; raising the minimum wage to $17.70; investing $26.3 million in improving employment and wider wellbeing outcomes for disabled people and people with health conditions; investing nearly $50 million into Mana in Mahi to support our young people into sustainable work; and investing over $76 million into front-line Ministry of Social Development (MSD) case management to deliver more effective employment services.
Hon Louise Upston: Why did she falsely claim in the House yesterday—
Hon Louise Upston: Why did she claim in the House yesterday that the appalling performance in relation to work outcomes was due to a two-year time lag in the data when in fact it is this year's data?
SPEAKER: No. Before the Minister answers, I'm going to give the member one more chance to ask that question correctly.
Hon Louise Upston: Why did the Minister say in the House yesterday that the performance in relation to work outcomes was due to a two-year time lag in the data when it was actually last year's data?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I was very clear that there is a footnote on the pages that discuss the impact indicators in the annual report that that member was referring to. That states that some of the indicators would be impacted by two years previously, and so I was not claiming falsely.
Hon Louise Upston: Would the Minister like me to read out the work outcomes performance on page 30 of the MSD annual report, which clearly states that data is for 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, and the data is getting worse?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The member can read out whatever she likes from the report, and if she likes, she can also refer to footnote 12 on the second page of the two pages that I referred to yesterday.
Hon Louise Upston: If so many jobs are being created by this Government, why is she failing to get people off benefit and into jobs?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: We've been very clear in the House this week that, actually, just this week we received the information on the most up-to-date employment figures. It is currently 4.2 percent. We have to say, in terms of unemployment in this country, that the three best results that we've received in over a decade have come under this Government. We've heard a lot in the House today about the investment that this Government has made into front-line, work-focused case management, and I do want to refer to a report that I saw, which shows there were 300 less budgeted full-time equivalent staff at MSD from 2015 to 2019. On top of that, I want to say that the previous Government denied there was a housing crisis, sold off State houses—
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: —which put—
SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: —more pressure on MSD front-line staff.
SPEAKER: Order! The member will now stand, withdraw, and apologise, and if she does not cease her answers when I call her to order and stand, she will leave the Chamber next time.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I withdraw and apologise, Mr Speaker.
Hon Louise Upston: What does she say to people stuck on the dole who see the Government talking about all these jobs and a low unemployment rate and who are still wondering why MSD can't help them get a job?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I think that the investment that this Government has put into upskilling and training people on benefit, the investment that this Government has put into front-line, work-focused case management, was long overdue. The fact that we are in the situation now where employers are crying out for skilled workers is actually a result of the neglect that we encountered because of the lack of action under the previous Government.
Hon Louise Upston: Does the Minister think that the fact that MSD can't get Kiwis the jobs they want and need is the reason why clients trusted MSD more under National than they do under Labour?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I reject the premise of that question. As I've said on a number of occasions, this Government is taking a much more balanced approach to how we respond to the needs of New Zealanders who come through the welfare system and need support from the welfare system. It is about—as I've said so many times before—providing support for those that are in financial hardship as well as ensuring we're providing support for upskilling and training and getting into work. It was a very imbalanced focus by the previous Government, and, as we saw over consecutive years, the actual punitive approach that was taken didn't work. Did they receive zero percent unemployment during their time in Government? No—that wasn't the case. We're focused on New Zealanders reaching their potential, and we're going to keep doing the work that we're doing.
• Question No.
4. JENNY MARCROFT (NZ First) to the Minister of Forestry: What recent announcements has he made?
Hon SHANE JONES (Minister of Forestry): More good news. As a consequence of the coalition agreement, where progressively we were going to reallocate parts of Government out of Wellington to the provinces, I announced the construction, the beginning, of the new forestry hub in Rotorua. It will house at Scion's Rotorua hub 50 Ministry for Primary Industries people, with 25 coming from Te Uru Rākau, shared with the Department of Conservation—a highly desirable outcome, bringing those two entities closer together in an efficient use of resources, using New Zealand engineered timber, delivering social and environmental regional benefits, and actually putting political narrative into institutional fiscal reality.
Jenny Marcroft: What other announcements has he made?
Hon SHANE JONES: As a consequence of the highly successful billion trees strategy sadly attracting attention in consequence to the non-existent policy amongst other parties in the House, I announced the sum of $250,000 to $300,000 request for proposal into ways we can use wood fibre to assist with our transition to a low-emission economy. In this way, we are moving towards value added, we are assisting in the transition of our economy, and we are creating a new raft of jobs.
Jenny Marcroft: Why is it important for Te Uru Rākau to have a strong regional presence?
Hon SHANE JONES: That's because the regions love the billion trees policy. There has, unfortunately, been some mischief made as a consequence of poor information, distortion of data, but forestry for many decades has sustained parts of regional New Zealand. I do accept in the time of the National Party 100,000 hectares of farmland was put into forestry. I have not, as the Minister of Forestry, achieved quite that level of ignominy.
• Question No.
5. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Associate Minister of Transport: Does page 44 of the Government's discussion document titled "Moving the light vehicle fleet to low-emissions: discussion paper on a Clean Car Standard and Clean Car Discount" indicate that a 2013 Suzuki Swift would receive an $800 subsidy under the Clean Car Discount proposal, and what does the Rightcar website say is the driver-protection star rating for a 2013 Suzuki Swift?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Transport): The table on page 44 of the Government's discussion document lists a 2013 Suzuki Swift as having tailpipe emissions that could receive an $800 discount. But as I said yesterday, this is only an example of the cars that are already on the road in New Zealand, not the cars that will be imported post 2020. I'm advised that the Rightcar website identifies 37 model variants of the 2013 Suzuki Swift. Some of these model variants are not rated. Some of the cars have a one-star rating; some have a two-star rating. I note that other 2013 vehicle models identified in the discussion document as having low enough tailpipe emissions to receive a discount have a variety of star ratings. For example, safety star ratings for the 2013 Toyota Corolla range from one star to five stars. The same applies to the Nissan Tiida, while others are completely unrated.
Chris Bishop: Why did she say yesterday, "You cannot give a one-star rating." when the Rightcar website has a whole range of cars, as she's just said, listed by make, model, and year, with one star?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: As I just said, the same vehicle model and make from a particular year has a variety of star ratings and in some cases is not rated on that website.
Chris Bishop: So does she concede that it is possible under the Government's clean-car discount proposal for cars that receive a discount to be one- and two-star rated?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: No final decisions have been made on the Government's clean-car proposal.
Hon David Parker: It's for new cars, not old ones.
Chris Bishop: It's for used cars as well.
SPEAKER: All right, that's one supplementary gone from the member. [Interruption] Well, he hadn't started.
Hon Member: Behave. Behave.
SPEAKER: Right, well, that comment, which was directed at me, has resulted in that supplementary being scrubbed, and the members are allowed to ask it and an additional one for the National Party.
Chris Bishop: Has the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) raised with her the desire to not apply the "feebate" for electric cars to one- and two-star rated cars?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The New Zealand Transport Agency, as I said yesterday, did raise concerns about any conflicts between promoting safer cars and promoting low-emissions vehicles. I disagree with the characterisation that it was raised with me as a desire not to apply the discount to certain cars. The Ministry of Transport has advised me that they have a number of concerns about the NZTA's proposal to use star ratings as the basis for New Zealand's vehicle regulatory regime because the data used to inform star ratings, particularly for the used-car safety ratings, is not sufficiently comprehensive or robust enough to support regulation, especially any particular legal challenge. Not all cars are rated and therefore we are pursuing measures like electronic stability control, which will apply to all used cars imported from 2020. The Rightcar website notes that cars with electronic stability control, which will be mandatory for used cars from next year, are a "safer choice."
Chris Bishop: Why did she say yesterday, when I asked her the exact same question—has the Transport Agency raised with her the desire to not apply the "feebate" for electric cars to one- and two-star - rated cars?—"No."?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I think if the member looks closely at the transcript yesterday, I did say that the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Ministry of Transport had raised concerns about conflicts between promoting safer vehicles and low-emissions vehicles but that they're actively working on solutions to that.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: The Minister misled us.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: And the Government has articulated an absolute commitment to a lower-emissions fleet and a safer fleet, as well as safer roads.
Hon Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I don't believe that the interjection by Dr Smith is within order in the House.
SPEAKER: Well, I, unfortunately, think it was. Carry on Julie Anne Genter—it didn't indicate that it was deliberate, which is the offence; misleading accidentally is not a breach of privilege, it just requires a correction.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I've finished my answer.
Chris Bishop: Does she recall yesterday, on at least two occasions, in response to my supplementary questions, saying words to the effect of "if I was briefed", thus giving the distinct impression she denied being briefed or having the issue of the "feebate" for electric cars to one- and two-star rated cars raised with her by the Transport Agency?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: If the member looks carefully at the transcript, from the beginning I said that I was aware of concerns raised by the NZTA. What was not made clear to me directly from NZTA was a recommendation or desire to exclude certain cars from the "feebate" scheme based on their star rating.
Chris Bishop: Will she correct her answers yesterday in light of the new information that she has just disclosed to the House, which is the acceptance that the Transport Agency raised with her the desire to not apply the "feebate" for electric cars to one- and two-star rated cars?
SPEAKER: No, sorry, I think if the member had listened to the previous answer, he wouldn't have asked that question. I will let the Minister answer, but the member should—one of the things about question time is that it is dynamic, and the member's question was answered in the previous supplementary.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: As I said earlier, I disagreed with the characterisation in the board minute, but I absolutely agreed yesterday, as I have today, that they raised concerns with the ministry and raised concerns that we do work to ensure that our promoting low-emissions vehicles would not result in a proliferation of unsafe vehicles on the road. And, in fact, we can have safe vehicles that are also low-emissions vehicles, happily.
Hon James Shaw: What other vehicle safety initiatives does the Government have to reduce the risk of unsafe cars being imported into New Zealand?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: There is a very wide-ranging work programme in the safety space that has to do with safer roads, safer drivers and safer vehicles. There will be new mandatory requirements for electronic stability control from March next year, and the Rightcar website characterises cars with electronic stability control as a "safer choice".
• Question No.
6. NICOLA WILLIS (National) to the Associate Minister of Transport: Does she stand by her statement that "My opinion is based on advice from officials"; if so, which of the briefings she received from her officials prior to 26 March 2019 on Let's Get Wellington Moving recommended prioritising rapid transit ahead of a second Mount Victoria tunnel?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Transport): In answer to the first part of the question, yes, I stand by my full statement yesterday that "My opinion is based on advice from officials, and the officials provided a range of assessments of benefits and costs of different sequencing and different projects." To the second part, I received a large amount of advice on Let's Get Wellington Moving prior to 26 March, including the advice I mentioned yesterday from 3 October 2018 from the New Zealand Transport Agency, which identified that the cycling, public transport, and rapid transit components of the package were expected to have higher benefit-cost ratios than the highway components, and that rapid transit will support a 10 percent increase in public transport use, improve travel times, support an additional 2,500 jobs, and contribute to a $600 million value uplift along the corridor, as well as moving eight times as many people as the second Mount Victoria tunnel. That's what informed our views about the privatisation of the programme.
Nicola Willis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was actually very specific. If you look at the wording of it, what I said was: which of the briefings she received recommended prioritising rapid—
SPEAKER: I hate doing this to two questioners in a row. There was actually a date given for the briefing that was being quoted from. It was a date and a quote from it—that must cover part two.
Nicola Willis: Well, Mr Speaker, supplementary question.
SPEAKER: Supplementary question, Nicola Willis, but can I just say that the member should know better.
Nicola Willis: I'll ask my question. On which page of which briefing can I find a specific recommendation from her officials that rapid transit should be prioritised ahead of a second Mount Victoria tunnel?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I think the difficulty that member is having is understanding that our views on prioritisation were informed by a range of assessments about costs and benefits and the ability of the projects to deliver more mobility for Wellingtonians, and that's what I've said.
Nicola Willis: On which page of which briefing can I find a specific recommendation from her officials that rapid transit should be prioritised ahead of a second Mount Victoria tunnel?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: The decision to prioritise rapid transit over the Mount Victoria tunnel is based on evidence and advice from officials that rapid transit would have significantly more benefits, move more people, and I don't understand why members opposite find it so difficult to understand why one would make a decision on prioritisation based on something that will deliver real benefits to Wellingtonians.
Nicola Willis: Is it true that the actual recommendations from officials was that construction on a Mount Victoria tunnel should start by 2024, as indicated in this aide-mémoire of 26 March, and that she rejected that official advice?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: I disagree with the characterisation of that as the only advice that we received on 26 March. Perhaps she will remember my answer yesterday that that very same aide-mémoire did recommend that the building of rapid transit, public transport, and walking and cycling prior to new road capacity would achieve the outcomes and desires that were identified as the principles and outcomes—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! No, sorry. I took some advice after yesterday from the shadow Leader of the House and turned down my left-side hearing aid. Notwithstanding that, I'm having trouble hearing the Minister answering the question because she is being shouted down by members on my left. It's to stop. I think the member has probably said enough anyway.
Nicola Willis: Where in the aide-mémoire of 26 March 2019 does it recommend that rapid transit be prioritised ahead of a Mount Victoria tunnel, or is it actually the case that no such recommendation is made and that, in fact, it recommends—
SPEAKER: Order! Order! The member has finished.
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: There is a recommendation in the aide-mémoire from 26 March that suggests that if rapid transit is prioritised ahead of the Mount Vic tunnel, a second Mount Vic tunnel might not be needed. There is also an aide-mémoire from 5 April which states, "From a mode shift perspective it is important for the rapid transit, other public transport, walking and cycling investments to be built ahead of extra road capacity." This is to avoid additional congestion and additional cars coming into Wellington central city, which was an explicit—explicit—desire of the public of Wellington when they fed into the Let's Get Wellington Moving consultation.
• Question No.
7. JAN TINETTI (Labour) to the Minister of Education: What actions is the Government taking to improve energy efficiency in schools?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education): More good news. Yesterday the Government announced the accelerated roll-out of LED replacement lighting for about 550 schools around the country over the next three years. LED lights, to date, have been put into the majority of newly built schools and redevelopments, but now schools, particularly those in small and isolated areas, will have the ability to have LED lights installed so that they can have their older lighting technology replaced with a much more efficient system.
Gareth Hughes: Will the schools be able to keep the power bill savings to reinvest into teaching and learning?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: A very good question. Yes, they will. LED lights can cut schools' energy usage for lighting by over 50 percent, and those savings that those 550 schools get will make a significant difference. They'll be able to reinvest that in other resources that support their students and their staff.
Gareth Hughes: What else is the Government doing to promote sustainability in schools—for example, supporting the use of solar panels?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: That's a very good question. The Government has also announced a contestable fund to support sustainability initiatives in schools that reduce their environmental impact, including the use of solar panels. The funding can support innovative energy projects in schools like solar panels, replacing inefficient heating systems, and removing coal boilers to ensure that we help to speed up that change. On top of this, we're developing a nationwide environmental action plan to ensure that schools are energy-efficient in the future.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When did LED lighting arrive in this country and why did it take so long before a visionary education Minister understood the technology?
SPEAKER: Oh, I think that's a reflection on a former Minister.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: To be honest, I don't know the answer to the first part of the question, but it was some time ago, and it is an absolute tragedy.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do know the date and it does reflect on a previous education Minister who would be very well known to you; in fact, in a most reflective way. And I think that also it cannot possibly be within the realm of responsibility for Mr Hipkins. He's responsible for the education of the nation, not for the technology—
SPEAKER: No, no. The question was, why hadn't Ministers of Education, including himself and probably myself, got on to the job earlier, and that is a valid question.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: It is a terrible tragedy, in fact, that schools have had to wait this long for LED lighting. But now they have got a Government that's absolutely committed to energy efficiency in our schools, and we're going to deliver on that.
• Question No.
8. Dr SHANE RETI (National—Whangarei) to the Associate Minister of Health: Does she stand by her Government's management of the nine measles outbreaks this year?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER (Associate Minister of Health): Yes, and I want to take this opportunity to thank our dedicated doctors, nurses, and public health staff who have worked so hard to ensure New Zealanders' health is protected.
Dr Shane Reti: Does her Government's management of the nine measles outbreaks include a responsibility to the people of Samoa, where three deaths, including that of two babies, have aligned with measles in New Zealand?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Measles is highly infectious and spread between countries is not uncommon, including into New Zealand at the beginning of this year. I note that the World Health Organization specifically discussed how travel restrictions or border screening for measles is not recommended because international travel can be completed before a person becomes symptomatic. We are working closely with the Governments of Samoa and Tonga to support their response to the global measles outbreaks that are happening, including sending eight nurse vaccinators and medical supplies to Samoa.
Dr Shane Reti: How does she explain that under her Government's management of measles outbreaks, it took four months from the first measles case in Auckland to public notification of the outbreak?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Public notification of the outbreak, as I understand it, occurs as soon as there is one measles case. I can't comment on the specifics of the Auckland public notification he's referring to, but if he puts the question down in writing, as he has done with many hundreds of others, I'm sure we will answer him.
Dr Shane Reti: Did she reply that the first time the word "outbreak" was used in the measles outbreak in Auckland was on 12 June by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: Unfortunately, I cannot recall the answer to all 400-plus written questions that I've given him answers to, but I will take him at his word.
Dr Shane Reti: Has her Government's management of the nine measles outbreaks actually resulted in nearly 8,000 cases of measles this year, on the basis that the Institute of Environmental Science and Research had previously modelled that only one in four patients with measles see a doctor?
Hon JULIE ANNE GENTER: That's a hypothetical question. I wouldn't speculate on that.
• Question No. 9—Climate
9. CHLÖE SWARBRICK (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change: What is the history of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill in New Zealand?
Hon JAMES SHAW (Minister for Climate Change): The bill was the idea of Generation Zero in 2016, a movement of young people committed to safeguarding the climate that they will grow up in. It's informed by the work of Dr Jan Wright, the former Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, whose March 2018 report called for a UK-style bipartisan climate change legislation. It bears the imprints of the cross-party group of MPs, GLOBE-NZ, convened by Dr Kennedy Graham and co-chaired by the Hon Scott Simpson, and the visit to Aotearoa of John Gummer, Lord Deben, chair of the UK climate commission, arranged by the National Party's Bluegreens group in 2017. Two months ago, 170,000 New Zealanders took to the streets to ask this Parliament to pass the bill. It was a centrepiece of the Green Party's 2017 election campaign, and all three parties of Government committed to delivering it. Today, we will.
Chlöe Swarbrick: How will the Government now take more action to reduce Aotearoa New Zealand's impact on the climate?
Hon JAMES SHAW: With the zero carbon bill framework in place, I'm looking forward to getting on with the job of actually reducing—
SPEAKER: Order! I've now reflected on the question. It, unfortunately, does not relate to the primary question.
Chlöe Swarbrick: Reflecting on the history of the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, where does this fit in the chronology of plans that this Government has to tackle climate change?
SPEAKER: Just about got there.
Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, now that the zero carbon bill framework is in place, or nearly in place, I'm looking forward to getting on with the job of actually reducing our country's emissions to help the world avoid the climate crisis. This will include drawing up five-year emissions budgets and plans that reach across the economy to reduce emissions to meet those budgets. These plans will cover transport, energy, waste, and agriculture. Through the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading Reform) Amendment Bill introduced this week, we will finally have a proper emissions trading scheme. Climate change is already happening. It is caused by human activity, it is bad, and we have a plan to fix it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: With but a few minutes to go, could I ask the Minister: in his consultation with other parties, has the National Party given an undertaking to support this far-seeing, visionary legislation?
Hon JAMES SHAW: I understand that the National Party caucus had a meeting last night, and they've kept me sweating about where they stand on the bill.
• Question No.
10. SIMON O'CONNOR (National—Tāmaki) to the Associate Minister of Housing: Does he agree with the Prime Minister's statement yesterday in the House that "we are a Government who pledged to get people out of cars, to stop children having to read by torchlight because they didn't have housing"?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI (Associate Minister of Housing): I always agree with the Prime Minister, particularly because this Government has implemented the biggest house-building programme since the 1970s. Since coming to office, we have housed 12,370 people from the housing register. We have committed in Budget 2018 to $234 million to an additional 6,400 public housing spaces; working with community housing providers, housed 798,000 people via the Housing First programme; and increased support by $54 million to sustaining tenancies.
Simon O'Connor: Why, then, has the number of emergency housing grants more than doubled under this Government?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: It's no surprise that we inherited a housing crisis from the previous Government. In 2013, the previous Government was warned that homelessness stood at 41,000. Their response to that was to reduce the number of public housing places by 1,400.
Simon O'Connor: When he and his colleagues suggested that they would fix the housing crisis back in 2017, was spending 362 percent more on emergency grants to put people into the likes of motels part of that solution?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: Well, the first part of that was to acknowledge there was a housing crisis, and then we committed to make sure that people who needed housing got support. We didn't sit on our hands when we were warned that there were 41,000 people homeless and reduce the number of public housing spaces by 1,400. The solution to a homelessness problem is increasing supply, not cutting it.
Hon Dr Megan Woods: Is the Minister aware that if the previous Government had built State houses at the rate that this Government is, there would be 14,000 more State houses, and, indeed, we would not even have a public housing wait-list?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: The Minister's question is well-informed.
Simon O'Connor: So why are almost 14,000 families waiting for a State house? [Interruption]
SPEAKER: Order! Right, well, the National Party just got an extra five supplementaries there, because there were at least five members who interjected.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could we also go back a bit and ask some of those supplementary questions on previous questions where we were somewhat constrained?
SPEAKER: The answer to that question is no. But there is a carry-over arrangement, so if the member thinks that there are not enough supplementary questions left or they couldn't be usefully used today, they can be used next week.
Simon O'Connor: The question remains: why are almost 14,000 families waiting for a State house—more than twice as many as under National?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: It is because—as I've said to nearly every answer to every supplementary question—five years ago, the previous Government was warned that there were 41,000 people homeless. They were living in crowded conditions, sleeping in cars, and we inherited that situation. They are now coming forward for help because we have sent a clear message to those people that if they need help, they will get it—and we are giving it to them. We are increasing supply, not getting rid of supply; whereas, the previous Government, in its nine years in Government, reduced the number of public housing by 1,400. I welcome the Opposition's new found interest in the housing register.
Simon O'Connor: Would he say, given the stark contrast between the PM's ambition and what is actually happening, that the Prime Minister has overpromised or that he has under-delivered?
Hon KRIS FAAFOI: No. I would say that the previous Government didn't acknowledge the problem, and we are dealing with it.
No. 11—Trade and Export Growth
11. PRIYANCA RADHAKRISHNAN (Labour) to the Minister for Trade and Export Growth: What progress has the Government made on improving trade access for exporters?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for Trade and Export Growth): I'm pleased to advise the House that very, very substantial progress has been made on improving trade access in the last two years. The latest example, of many, is the conclusion of the upgrade to the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement, modernising one of our most important and successful trade agreements, which was, of course, landed in 2008 by the Hon Phil Goff. This ensures that New Zealand will once again have the best trade access of any developed country with China. This and many other economic changes, like the R & D tax credits, are why exports have boomed under this Government; notwithstanding international headwinds, which are in part caused by rising protectionism in some quarters.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What are the major benefits of the upgrade, to exporters?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The upgrade further secures our trading relationship with our largest trade partner, China. And, of course, it updates it to reflect changes in patterns of trade since 2008. With two-way trade at a record $32 billion under this Government, the upgrade will reduce compliance costs, saving exporters millions of dollars a year. It also introduces strong commitments on both sides to promote environmental protections. It improves access for wood and paper lines that currently still have tariffs. We recognise the importance of open and inclusive trade in the current global climate. And, of course, we're continuing to work hard in Europe, elsewhere in Asia, and the US to open up more opportunities to increase exports, jobs, and New Zealanders' incomes.
Priyanca Radhakrishnan: What reports has the Minister received regarding the China free-trade agreement (FTA) upgrade?
Hon DAVID PARKER: There's been praise left, right, and centre for the Government's trade success. The wood and paper sector and the dairy and seafood sectors are all pleased with what we've achieved. The Employers and Manufacturers Association said the China upgrade and progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership were—and I quote—"an historical 24 hours for New Zealand trade". The International Business Forum said the deal was ideal in the current trade environment. Several independent commentators have called the upgrade a big win for the Prime Minister. I also noted with interest a comment from the New Zealand Herald's political editor that a simple congratulation from National to the Government would be justified—it's never too late.
Hon Todd McClay: Can the Minister confirm that discussions with the European Union over post-Brexit arrangements for the longstanding tariff rate quotas (TRQs) for New Zealand butter and lamb exports have stalled; and, given our exporters are now facing trade access uncertainty over those TRQs, will he commit to taking the EU to the World Trade Organization (WTO) disputes panel should they not meet their longstanding obligation to New Zealand exporters?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I can't confirm that. What I can confirm is that in the China FTA we didn't seek a tariff reduction for sour grapes. There's not much international demand for sour grapes, and that member's party's already got that market covered?
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Does that mean that he thinks threatening to go to the WTO is not a brilliant negotiating strategy for New Zealand?
Hon DAVID PARKER: It does, and it's an unnecessary one at this stage because, of course, the tariff rate quota consequences are a consequence of Brexit, which remains uncertain.
Hon Todd McClay: Does the Minister therefore think holding a protest sign whilst in Opposition helps New Zealanders—
Hon Simon Bridges: Oh, but that stuff's OK?
SPEAKER: The fact that I learnt from social media that the Leader of the Opposition wants to speak this afternoon is what's keeping him in the House at the moment. That question was out of order at the start. I think the member's team has plenty of spares. If he wants to have another go, it will be another supplementary.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You gave us quite a firm indication yesterday that where there was a question asked that had a particular political aspect to it, we could expect that there would be some flick back. Now, there was no political aspect to the question asked to Mr Parker when he came up with his sour grapes comment, but, apparently, when we now ask a question we are still subject to a higher test. Why is that?
SPEAKER: Well, I'm going to ask the member to rephrase his question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Or perhaps, put simply, was it reasonable for the Minister to answer a question in the House by accusing the questioner of having sour grapes?
SPEAKER: It probably didn't help the tone, but my view is that the initial question itself made some assumptions about the position which—I think there were two parts to the question that, if I'd acted strictly, would have been ruled out. But, as the member knows, I'm trying to let things flow slightly better. Further supplementary from—
Hon Todd McClay: No. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I wonder if you could help me exactly as to why that was out of order, because I didn't actually infer that any member of this House had, and I brought it back to the original question that was asked of the Minister about access. So I asked if it was his view—
SPEAKER: Yes. And the member can resume his seat. If he just reflects a little bit about the areas that this Minister has responsibility for, he, in the first part of his question—in so far as he'd got—had identified very clearly something for which this Minister does not have ministerial responsibility.
Hon Todd McClay: Can he confirm that the Government has made no progress in removing punitive additional tariffs placed on New Zealand steel and aluminium exports by the United States Government; and will he consider joining other countries in considering taking the US to the WTO disputes panel if they don't meet their fair obligation to New Zealand exporters whose trade access has been restricted?
Hon DAVID PARKER: I can confirm that the tariffs that were imposed by the United States on New Zealand steel and aluminium remain in place. It is fair to say that, despite our best efforts, we have not been able to remove them. Whilst it has little economic effect on the New Zealand economy, it is, of course, very important to the steel and aluminium industries and we haven't given up on those efforts.
Hon Todd McClay: Will the Government halt its plans for taxes on digital services if it is to progress a free-trade agreement with the United States, given the US has said to France and other countries that they will not negotiate FTAs or honour them should these taxes on digital services be put in place?
SPEAKER: Order! I'm going to allow the question, but I'm going to repeat my request from, I think, earlier this week or last week that members have a seminar to work out what is in order in a supplementary question.
Hon DAVID PARKER: That's not a matter of my responsibility.
• Question No.
12. STUART SMITH (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Immigration: Prior to 1 October 2019, did Cabinet discuss changes to Immigration New Zealand's management of temporary visa applications for applicants in a relationship; if so, on what date?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Minister of Immigration): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Cabinet discussed policy changes to improve temporary work visas on 10 December 2018 and 2 September 2019. We discussed and agreed that a worker's partner and children will be able to apply to come to New Zealand on a visitor visa for the length of the worker's temporary work visa. Cabinet has not discussed Immigration New Zealand's operational management of temporary visa applications.
Stuart Smith: When he said he was "not aware that there was any specific [Government] directive" to change the way Immigration New Zealand interprets partnership visas, is it possible that directive came from the Rt Hon Winston Peters without his knowledge, given his answer to the primary question?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No.
Stuart Smith: Has he seen reports of statements made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters when he was asked about the partnership visa policy, in which he said, "Has New Zealand First had an influence on trying to tidy up the quality of information on which the immigration department relies? The answer is profoundly yes."?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: I do read the newspaper, yes.
Stuart Smith: If he stands by his statement that Cabinet didn't discuss the application of the living in a relationship / partnership visa—
Hon Shane Jones: Hurry up.
Stuart Smith: If he stands by his statement that Cabinet didn't discuss that, and that "Immigration New Zealand made its own decision.", then why is New Zealand First claiming they influenced the policy?
SPEAKER: I'm sorry—because it was interrupted and I lost focus on it, I am going to ask the member to ask it again.
Stuart Smith: If he stands by his statement that Cabinet didn't make those changes recommended to Immigration New Zealand and that Immigration New Zealand "has made its own decision.", then why is New Zealand First claiming they influenced the policy change?
SPEAKER: Oh, that's an area that he doesn't have responsibility for.
Stuart Smith: Do the comments from the Rt Hon Winston Peters show that Mr Peters has more influence over immigration policy than the Minister?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No.
Jamie Strange: Did the Cabinet discussions that the Minister referred to in his primary answer relate to culturally arranged marriages?
Hon IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: No.