Parliament: Oral Questions — Questions To Ministers
QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS
Question No. 1—Prime Minister
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The House comes to oral questions, and the first is in the name of the Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National): Thank you, Madam Speaker. Nice to see you in the Chair.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: It feels good!
1. Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her explanation in Parliament yesterday of the rationale for the Government's proposed regime for charging some people who return to New Zealand part of the cost of their managed isolation, and is the proposed regime an example of good public policy?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. This is a policy decision which has invited a mixed response across the political spectrum, and for only the second time in this Government, the "agree to disagree" provisions of the coalition agreement have been invoked, which reflects how important this policy is to the political parties and, dare I say it, the New Zealand people.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What is the public policy justification for managed isolation charges applying to people who visit New Zealand for only a short period but not charging people who decide to return home long term, having previously chosen to live in another country?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that is one of the matters which, despite the law being introduced, which is the base for it, has yet to be clearly articulated or enunciated. That's a work in progress, and it means that, just like the National Party, whose previous leader, and the third leader in the last four years, has said that he was utterly opposed and the National Party was opposed to any charging regime—just five weeks ago. That's what that means. It's still a work in progress, Mr Smith.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Does that mean that her Government will be passing legislation next week not knowing what it's going to do?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No. On behalf of the Prime Minister, the Government knows entirely what it needs to do in terms of establishing—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: He just said the opposite!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, I'll get a cartoon to go with it, Mr Smith, if you'll just be patient.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, Madam Speaker, you know he's been out there sitting on the front bench, out of his seat. That's against the Standing Orders, as you well know. He's moved from the back, where he belongs, to the front—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Just answer the question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —and he's misusing his position. Right?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Answer the question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, that's in the Standing Orders as well. But back to my point: the Government is establishing the legislative regime and then it becomes triggered by, of course, the regulations, which are yet to be written. That's what it means.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can she confirm that costs of managed isolation out to the 31 December this year are budgeted to be $479 million, taking the annualised costs close to $1 billion; and, if so, does she think that a 2 percent contribution from that fraction of returnees is fair to the New Zealand taxpayer?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that was the position that the Opposition took just five weeks ago. It is the case at the present time that there are governing parties that have differing views, and we're just being honest and direct with the population out there. The people who will prevail on this issue no doubt will be those who are here to write the law post - 19 September.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Madam Speaker—
Tim van de Molen: Won't be that member!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I'll be here long after you're gone, son.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: First of all, there was a question being asked. So interruptions are not to be made, and then that invokes a response, which doesn't help the order of the House.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If the Government's policy advice was that only $125 million of the $479 million could be collected in border charges, is it good public policy to reject $125 million in income for less than $10 million in income?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Look, on behalf of the Prime Minister, that is the issue which has had variance within the coalition Government and, dare I say it, the support party, the Greens. It happens to be the circumstance now that we find that the last leader and present leader of the National Party agree with a charging regime, and, as I say, long term I can see this issue will be decided post the 2020 election. But I want to say, with respect to the National Party's latest stance, where it fits with New Zealand First, that it puts me in mind of Winston Churchill's famous comment: "The trouble with being on the side of right is you keep so much dubious company."
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I just say to the member who's resuming his seat that that, actually, puts me in mind of Speaker's ruling 159/4 from Speaker Wilson that the Prime Minister is not responsible for the decisions of another party, and can address questions as long as she does not address the other parties' attitude on it.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Will the Government release today, or before the House debates the bill, all of the Crown Law advice and other legal advice that is alleged to warn against managed isolation charges?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I would like to answer that question, but I think that would be more rightly placed with the Minister handling this, namely my colleague the Hon Megan Woods. In the meantime, if the member had given me more notice, I would have come down with the answer.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: When the Prime Minister negotiated the managed isolation payment scheme with Winston Peters, did she find that he was—and I quote him—"a lamb in Parliament and a lion in the electorate", and is that why New Zealand First has now rolled over their boat for this?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, it's above my dignity to try and even answer that stupid question.
Question No. 2—Prime Minister
2. Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) to the Prime Minister: Does she stand by her reaction to job losses at The Warehouse, "I'm angry"; if so, is she also angry that more than 65,000 other New Zealanders have lost their jobs since March?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: In regards to the first part of the question, most definitely yes. We regard any loss of livelihood a personal tragedy for the individual involved and for their families and their loved ones. In regards to the second part of the question, the member is incorrect. According to the Stats New Zealand filled jobs measure, for which there are charts, total job numbers are up 38,000 on the same time last year. I have the data for 2019 and 2020 right here, and the member's welcome to see it. Budget 2020 forecasts our investments will save 140,000 jobs over the next two years and support the creation of 370,000 jobs over the next four years.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Can she name one policy that she has implemented, beyond anger, that's aimed at creating new jobs or new businesses for the 210,000 New Zealanders currently on jobseeker support or the many others who are on wage support or those who've lost income or those who've lost part-time work, so that they can get back into the workforce?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, the very suggestion that she can't name one when she can name countless numbers of projects all around this country, growing all over the place—
Chris Bishop: Away you go.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Well, 13,000 in the Provincial Growth Fund for a start—yes, that's the long-range forecast. When, for example, the biggest mussel farm in the world and the border get going and we put pharmaceuticals around that, I can see burgeoning industries all over this country, because this party and this Government has got commitment and a vision, a real vision, of where we're going into the future—not spend and hope.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Is the Prime Minister, then, aware that quite often pestilence and other atrocities for humans occur when there is too much emphasis placed on long-range forecasts?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, yes—I'm looking at one.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Does she think that her Government's policies, such as lifting the minimum wage during the middle of a lockdown, have contributed to the closure of more than 70 retail outlets this year and the associated job losses?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, that against the growth of great economies like the Nordic economies; like, for example, Singapore; and dare I say others—they were all predicated on the need for higher wages to drive productivity and changes. We understand that. We don't subscribe to the neoliberal philosophy that the few and very few should get the privilege of being in the economy and the rest pay the price for it.
Hon Grant Robertson: In light of that last supplementary question, does the Prime Minister believe that the presence of a virus and its resulting one-in-100-year economic shock may have a greater influence on job loss than any other factor the members opposite might raise?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, not according to him.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I don't think the question was asked of you.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I am a woman, not a "him". Answering for the Prime Minister, it is clear as daylight that this tragic visitation of a plague from offshore, which the rest of the world is wrestling with and which we've been privileged by careful management to be possibly the most successful country in the world at, or one of the most successful ones, is something that has rapidly beset wealth in business and, dare I say it, employment. We're very much focused on that, but had we failed, the circumstance would be so much worse and the prospect of recovery almost hopeless.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: What employment effect will there be from 32,000 returning New Zealand residents to date who have been through the managed isolation system, and how does that compare to the employment effect of 32,000 migrants coming here for the first time?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, I get the first part of that equation. The second part, seeing as the immigration figures are the lowest since 1959, seems to have been plucked out of mid-air with no factual base whatsoever.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. That wasn't the question that I asked. May I repeat it?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes. I'm not sure that it was answered, yep—that it was addressed; I beg your pardon.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Thank you. What employment effect will there be from the 32,000 returning New Zealand citizens and residents who have been through the managed isolation process so far, and how does that employment effect compare to that of 32,000 migrants coming here for the first time?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Again, on behalf of the Prime Minister, the first part of the equation is a fact. The second part by which we are meant to make the comparison does not, given that we are in the lowest immigration statistics since 1959, even resemble the facts. Where are these 32,000 migrants that you say are coming?
Hon Gerry Brownlee: No, it's what's the economic effect? That was the first part.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, come down with your mind organised to ask questions.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The question asks about the effect of the people coming in on employment.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes, I understand that, but—
Hon Gerry Brownlee: If it was the same number coming through immigration, would it be the same effect?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I understand that, but the—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, I don't need any help, because—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Yes, you do, Madam Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, I don't need any help. What I'm saying is I think that the question was addressed by the member actually disputing the figures that were used in the second part of the question.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Well, I'll perhaps ask it a different way: what is the employment effect that 32,000 returning New Zealanders or residents who've been through managed isolation up to this point will have, compared to a similar number, had they come in as immigrants?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, these are the actual employment figures: the 32,500 actuals who are also coming back are people who have been facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, who moved 80,000 people back to this country. The rest offshore number, in total movements, 150,000, without impairing our economy. But as for this abstract 32,500 replacing actual New Zealanders and being immigrants, we have no idea what the member's talking about, because it's not a fact.
Hon Gerry Brownlee: Does the Prime Minister think that perhaps because she doesn't know what ordinary New Zealanders are thinking about, it's time she did get in touch with the thousands who are out of work and losing jobs on a daily basis?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Prime Minister, these are the facts, not wanton misrepresentation cast in terms of parliamentary questions by somebody who should know a whole lot better.
Question No. 3—Health
3. ANAHILA KANONGATA'A-SUISUIKI (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What recent announcements has he made about upgrading vital infrastructure at Auckland City Hospital?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Health): Yesterday, I visited Auckland City Hospital to view the infrastructure upgrade programme that they have been progressing using Budget 2018 funding of $275 million.
Chris Bishop: Budget 2018!
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: This includes upgrading and replacing key infrastructure—just hold on for a moment—including lifts, fire protection systems, boilers, electrical substations, and water systems. They have been making such good progress that the Government is now able to help fund the second phase of this very important work, so I was able to announce an additional $262 million for Auckland City Hospital that will help to fund new central plant and service tunnels, new tanks, pumps, and air handling systems.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: Why is this investment required?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Most of the infrastructure at Auckland City Hospital is almost 50 years old, and the majority of the site relies on services from a central plant building. Infrastructure failure could compromise the entire hospital system's network and its ability to provide care that New Zealanders need. Unfortunately, this is a risk for many of our hospitals up and down the country, and that's why we're improving hospital infrastructure in DHBs with a $3.5 billion allocation of funding for this purpose so far to date. The funding I confirmed yesterday brings this Government's investment in core Auckland DHB assets to more than half a billion dollars in just two years as we make up for a decade of neglect.
Anahila Kanongata'a-Suisuiki: When will the second phase of infrastructure upgrades at Auckland City Hospital get under way?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: More good news: the work is already under way. Initial work, like site investigation, surveys, and testing are progressing well, and the physical work is due to begin in October. This is a significant piece of work, and, at its peak, the project will require as many as 350 extra workers on site. Confirmation of this project sends a strong signal to the construction sector that the Government has a rolling maul of major construction work to provide confidence and support to the businesses and their workers.
Question No. 4—Finance
4. Hon PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said yesterday, "My advice would be, to anyone who finds themselves currently unemployed and wishes to start their own business, don't for a moment think that you need to gamble with your retirement savings"?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance): I agree with the Prime Minister's full statement that continues after the words in the question, "when instead, through the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) someone can access the flexi-wage subsidy to start their own business and to support themselves as a self-employed person. They can also access through MSD a business start-up fund that can give them up to $10,000 to start up their own business."
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think that starting a business in New Zealand under his Government's policy settings is the equivalent of rolling a dice down at SkyCity?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No, on this side of the House we understand that it's important that when you start a business you've got the full support of the community around you, of the Government. When it comes to SkyCity, the gambling approach is that of the Opposition, if I recall, last term.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think that starting a business under his Government policy settings is the equivalent of buying a Lotto ticket, and, if so, what's he doing to reduce the odds?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: No. What I think we're talking about here is a risky uncosted policy put forward by the Opposition that puts people's retirement savings at risk.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Could I ask the Minister of Finance as to whether the analogy of rolling the dice is one that comes to mind in a report to him where, at the end of the rolling of the dice, we end up with a smaller convention centre?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: That's right. All references to SkyCity should be directed to Steven Joyce.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he accept that everyone starting a business is taking a calculated risk—will he find customers or will she find customers, or not—but that we won't advance as a country unless more people are prepared to take that risk?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Every single person who decides to start a business is making a courageous decision and one that we should back. That's why we have facilities through MSD and elsewhere to support that. What should not be put at risk is their retirement security, which, unfortunately, the Opposition seems to want to do here, because they've decided they don't want to contribute to the super fund.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: What's wrong with allowing people who have lost their jobs during a one-in-100-year event, as he himself describes it, to draw on their KiwiSaver funds to start a business if they back themselves to have a go?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We will back them to have a go, but what we will not do is risk up to $60,000 worth of their future retirement income that they need.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Doesn't he agree that we'll get more jobs created if we focus on making it easier for businesses to succeed by keeping taxes low, by pushing back at regulation, and by allowing investment to flow, and when will he do that?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: We're very focused, on this side of the House, on helping businesses succeed, and I invite the member to take a look at the Xero Small Business Insights report that has been released, that shows that Kiwi small businesses are recovering better than those in the UK and Australia.
Hon Stuart Nash: Is the Minister aware of any initiatives this Government has put in place over the COVID period to help small businesses succeed through the COVID phase?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Madam Speaker, many, and I don't think you'll let me run through them all.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: No.
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: But, for example, the Small Business Cashflow (Loan) Scheme and the wide variety of tax measures that have put money back in the pockets of New Zealanders—thanks in part to the Minister of Revenue.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Does he think that small-business owners around the country should be thanking their lucky stars that he is the Minister of Finance every day, and that all the progress that has been made is due to the hard work of his Government?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The progress that has been made is due to the hard work of the team of 5 million and, in the case of myself, the kūmara does not speak of how sweet it is.
Question No. 5—Social Development
5. WILLOW-JEAN PRIME (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development: What recent announcements has she made about putting children first as part of the Government's welfare overhaul?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI (Minister for Social Development): Yesterday, I announced that this Government is putting children first and making our welfare system fairer by removing the punitive subsequent child policy. The subsequent child policy was introduced in 2012. The policy has meant that parents who have a subsequent child whilst on a benefit have work obligations imposed on them earlier, from when their youngest child is just one year old, and, depending on the age of their next oldest child, this can also affect their eligibility for the sole parent support benefit. This is a policy that has furthered inequities in the welfare system for parents and their children, undermined the value of parenting, and exacerbated stigma and stress for many families.
Willow-Jean Prime: What difference will this make for parents and children?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: The subsequent child policy has a disproportionate effect on Māori women. By removing the policy, we can further our commitment to improving outcomes for Māori and valuing the role of carers, who are predominantly women. The first 1,000 days of a child's life are critical for their long-term development. It is not fair that these children might not be given the same time and support simply because they were born while their parents were on a benefit. Removing the subsequent child policy will give the estimated 9,000 parents affected the flexibility to be carers. However, the removal of this policy does not preclude parents who are able to work from getting access to the employment and upskilling support from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) that this Government has significantly bolstered investment in.
Willow-Jean Prime: Why is the subsequent child policy being removed?
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: MSD has found no evidence that the subsequent child policy has positively impacted financial or social outcomes for those affected. This highlights, for me, how punitive policies, underpinned by judgment of those in our welfare system, are ineffective and only serve to stigmatise people who, in this case, have been disproportionately Māori women. Under our confidence and supply agreement, this Government has committed to creating a fairer and better welfare system and removing excessive sanctions, and this—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the member has answered the question, thank you.
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I'd like to finish my answer—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm sorry, but I think the member has already answered the question—
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Point of order, Madam Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: No—
Hon CARMEL SEPULONI: Actually, my word count is—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I'm sorry, sit down. Sit down. It was a very long answer. It was a very simple question, much of which in the member's answer had already been stated. I think the answer has been completed.
Question No. 6—Environment
6. JAN LOGIE (Green) to the Associate Minister for the Environment: Is regulated product stewardship useful for reducing waste to landfill; if so, why?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE (Associate Minister for the Environment): Yes, regulated product stewardship helps put the responsibility for waste and what happens to products at the end of their useful life on manufacturers, brand owners, retailers, and users rather than on communities, councils, neighbourhoods, and nature. Regulated product stewardship schemes for challenging products such as agrichemicals and their containers; tyres; refrigerants; farm plastics; and computers, TVs, and other electronic goods will help ensure that these products currently lost to landfill or sometimes dumped irresponsibly are recovered and the materials in them reprocessed or reused. Regulated product stewardship asks businesses to be responsible producers so we can all be responsible consumers.
Jan Logie: Why were the priority products chosen?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: The Ministry for the Environment consulted with the public and stakeholders to identify products which harm the environment through poor disposal, products which would benefit from resource efficiency and from a regulated scheme. Industry readiness and active engagement of stakeholders to ensure a successful scheme was also considered. The six product types I announced yesterday—tyres, electrical and electronic products, agrichemicals and their containers, refrigerants, farm plastics, and plastic packaging—can all cause environmental harm and the relevant sectors are actively engaged in either planning or developing product stewardship schemes. That's what we want—to work in partnership with businesses and stakeholders for robust schemes which create jobs, make our economy more efficient, and reduce waste to landfill.
Jan Logie: How does mandatory product stewardship create jobs and innovation?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: Businesses like E-Waste Services in Porirua in the heart of the Mana electorate, which I visited yesterday, is just one example. What started as one person in a home-based business recovering computers has recently expanded to employ 12 people and they anticipate doubling their staff in 12 months. The business employs people like Wayne, who used to be a truck driver. He loves his job pulling apart TVs and computers, separating out screws and other metals and circuit boards to send away for reprocessing to recover precious metals such as gold and helping the planet.
Jan Logie: How does this help fulfil the confidence and supply and coalition agreements?
Hon EUGENIE SAGE: When it comes to tyres, all parties of Government agree that product stewardship is an important part of reducing environmental harm. The Greens' confidence and supply agreement commits to minimising waste to landfill and New Zealand First's coalition agreement commits to tyre stewardship. Moving to mandatory product stewardship for these six product streams helps fulfil both these commitments.
Question No. 7—Infrastructure
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Question No. 7 is in the name of Chris Bishop.
CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South): Oh, I sort of wanted that one to keep going. OK, thank you, Madam Speaker.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: That was unnecessary.
CHRIS BISHOP: OK. It's the spirit of Thursday, Madam Speaker, but thank you.
7. CHRIS BISHOP (National—Hutt South) to the Minister for Infrastructure: Will the full list of the more than 150 shovel-ready projects be announced before Parliament dissolves, and how many of these projects are currently scheduled for announcement by Government Ministers or under-secretaries?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON (Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister for Infrastructure: On behalf of the Minister, yes. While there may be one or two exceptions, the vast majority will be announced before Parliament dissolves. In answer to the second part of the question—as the member would know from having worked in a ministerial office—announcements are scheduled once the subject of the announcement is finalised. As several Ministers have told the member, some of the projects agreed in principle are still being finalised and will be announced in due course. Yesterday, we had announced 79 projects. Today, that number is up to 84, and several more will come over the coming days.
Chris Bishop: How many of the 70 signed off but unannounced shovel-ready projects are currently scheduled for announcement, in light of three projects being announced by three different Ministers in three different locations since I asked this yesterday?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: Well, I think the member's answering his own question there. The announcements are being rolled out over the coming days, as I said. Almost all will be announced by the time Parliament dissolves, and they are being welcomed widely in the community, particularly today in Naenae.
Chris Bishop: When was due diligence completed on the Paihia waterfront project that he announced this morning?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: The member would accept, I think, with a fairly general question, that asking a very specific matter like that, I'll have to get back to him on it.
Chris Bishop: Why did it take nine days to announce the Paihia project this morning, when invitations to the launch event went out on 21 July?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: I think this is where the member is misunderstanding the whole fund here. Communities want announcements for these projects because they're a cause for celebration, and they want to make sure the whole community can be invited along to celebrate that there's a Government that backs them.
Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. Well, that was a very interesting answer, but the question was about the gap between 21 July, when the invitations were issued for the Paihia project, and today, which is 30 July, and why there was a nine-day gap.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Right, I think the Minister did address that, though, by referring to the fact that if you want a lot of people there, you need to give them a lot of notice.
Chris Bishop: How many further shovel-ready projects will be drip-fed to the public over the coming weeks, in the light of three Ministers making three announcements in three different locations this morning?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: As I answered in the previous several answers, all of the projects, perhaps bar one or two, will be announced before Parliament dissolves, and I thank the member on behalf of the Government for his efforts to publicise these excellent projects all around New Zealand.
Chris Bishop: Can he assure the House that the availability of Ministers and their diaries has in no way impeded or delayed any possible announcements, given the Prime Minister has said "we are moving as swiftly as we can."?
Hon GRANT ROBERTSON: There is no sense of this Government impeding infrastructure. We're the ones promoting it.
Question No. 8—Regional Economic Development
8. Hon MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister for Regional Economic Development: Does he stand by his statement about the number of jobs the Provincial Growth Fund will create, "10,000 as an estimate over the life of the fund"; if so, what is the source of the information that informed his answer?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Minister for Regional Economic Development: On behalf of the Minister, may I pass on my congratulations for his new-found spokesmanship. Over a year ago, we set the record straight after the National Party used numbers that were not correct with respect to the amount of jobs that would be generated by the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF). At that time, we estimated that 10,000 jobs would be created.
Hon Paul Goldsmith: Complete mess!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: This was the information we had at the time from the applicants. I know you're a complete mess; you can look at that every time you look in the mirror. The kinds of rural businesses that the Opposition—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —claims to support just are not correct.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Well, which number is correct: the 10,000 mentioned yesterday, the 2,727 on the PGF website, or the 13,000 quoted by the Prime Minister in Question No. 2 today?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Prime Minister will just have to be more up to date than some Ministers. On behalf of the Minister, initial work done by applicants as part of their submission to the Provincial Development Unit (PDU) showed that over 10,000 jobs may be created as result of the PGF investment, and this includes jobs created in the construction and delivery of projects and across the wider economy. I can say that there is a stocktake being done right now so that the figures can be given out very, very soon, and what we are certain of—
Hon Simon Bridges: So you don't know.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, no—not knowing is the speciality of that member and has been the whole time since he arrived in Parliament—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: —and shouting out and making a fool of himself is his penchant every day he arrives at Parliament.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! Can I just interrupt the member. We will not have personal reflections, thank you. Just answer the question.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. We won't have interjections like that either, without you stopping them, Madam Speaker, with the greatest respect. That's what your role is. This is about information which is entitled to be heard by other members without five or six people shouting out constantly. Surely that's the way this Parliament should be run.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Standing Orders do allow interjections while the member is answering a question. I would ask the member to get on with answering the questions and stop personal reflections.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: The Standing Orders talk about being reasonable.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you arguing with me?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: No, I'm not arguing with you; I'm just telling you the facts. Ha, ha! Can I just say further we are doing a stocktake. It looks like the figures will be far greater than we ourselves imagined, and only the conservativism and modesty of getting it wrong in terms of understating the tremendous performance, inclines me not to answer the question now. But in a matter of days, as the Provincial Development Unit personality Robert Pigou said, these figures will be out, and they'll be a matter of enormous credit to the Government.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does he believe the PGF is good value for jobs created when the best estimate, depending on which number we use, is between $300,000 and $900,000 per job when the jobs in the broader economy come at about $116,000 per job?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, the fact is the member is now starting to quote figures from a former spokesmanship which were wrong as well. The truth is the Provincial Growth Fund and the PDU know with precision what the numbers are going to be, and they're looking to be far greater than we ever thought ourselves.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Three years and you don't know.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, Mr Smith—this is a member who got another member into trouble. He quoted 31,000 houses—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: That member—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I'm not going to remind the member again. Can he just focus on answering the question. I appreciate there was an interjection, but the member does not have to respond with personal abuse.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. For the second time, I point out to you the longstanding impropriety of a member moving their seat to get a better position to heckle. I've asked you once. I'm asking you again. Are you going to act on that or not?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, I'm not going to act on a member interjecting during the answer to a question. I'm asking the member not to get involved in personal reflections; just, simply, to answer the question and ignore any interjections.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I raise a point of order, Madam Chair.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Madam Speaker.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Madam Speaker—I'm not going to stand here and have a barrage of criticism and be told I can't do what every other parliamentarian has been allowed, down through, dare I say it, over a century in this country, which is the chance to respond to unreasonable behaviour.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Just because you've done something many times, it doesn't make it right. In this Parliament, we are not going to have personal reflections. Have you finished your answer?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Yes.
Hon Tracey Martin: Can the Minister confirm that when one is working out the amount per job that would be created by the Provincial Growth Fund, one must take into account the original investment of the Provincial Growth Fund, the lifetime of the project, and the number of people who would be employed over the lifetime not only of creating the project but then working, for example, in the largest aquaculture factory in Ōpōtiki, to be able to come up with a figure per job?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister—
Chris Bishop: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think there are about six legs to that question, and Mr Speaker has ruled that supplementary questions can have two legs to them—and there were about six in there.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is my responsibility to make that decision. He can answer.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, I want to thank that member for enunciating with precision and exactitude exactly how you calculate the workforce derived from such magnificent investment.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Does the PGF give priority to projects that will create more jobs; if not, why not?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, of course the PGF gives priority for jobs, because we don't have any projects without jobs.
Hon Michael Woodhouse: Given that answer, is the reason he isn't able to provide a better estimate of the number of jobs created by the PGF that the application form doesn't even require applicants to provide that information?
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: On behalf of the Minister, it is taken as read that anybody who has got any commercial understanding knows that every business has jobs. There is no business I know in the world with no work, no workforce, and no jobs. I mean, it's axiomatic, and why members over there are laughing is beyond me.
Question No. 9—Environment
9. Dr DUNCAN WEBB (Labour—Christchurch Central) to the Minister for the Environment: What announcements has the Government made regarding reform of the Resource Management Act 1991?
Hon DAVID PARKER (Minister for the Environment): Yesterday, the Government published the most comprehensive review of the resource management system since the Resource Management Act (RMA) was passed in 1991. The independent review was chaired by a former Court of Appeal judge, Tony Randerson QC, and it proposes that the RMA be repealed and replaced with two main Acts. We agree with the panel that this reform is needed. The RMA has doubled in size from its original length. It's become too costly, takes too long, and has not adequately protected the environment. If we're fortunate enough to be re-elected, we're committed to implementing many of the recommendations in the report.
Dr Duncan Webb: What does the review panel propose should replace the RMA?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The main recommendation is the replacement of the existing RMA with two pieces of legislation—a natural and built environments Act (NBEA) and a strategic planning Act. The proposed natural and built environments Act would address urban issues like housing and enhancing the quality of natural environments to achieve better outcomes for present and future generations. The proposed strategic planning Act would set long-term strategic goals and help integrate legislative functions across the resource management system, including the proposed NBEA, the Local Government Act, the Land Transport Management Act, and the Climate Change Response Act. This will ensure better planning, including for infrastructure and housing investment. The panel also recommends greater use of natural direction by the environment Minister, a more streamlined process for council plan making, and more efficient resource consent processes.
Dr Duncan Webb: What changes are proposed around district plans?
Hon DAVID PARKER: The panel proposes that there be a single plan for each region, encompassing rules for each district in that region. This would reduce the number of RMA plans from over 100 to 14. The report recommends alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to resolve boundary disputes, such as the heightened proximity of adjacent buildings.
Dr Duncan Webb: What is recommended to improve environmental outcomes?
Hon DAVID PARKER: A common criticism of the existing RMA is that it has not dealt well with cumulative effects, which have worsened since the RMA was enacted, especially in water and climate change. To remedy this, the report recommends a change in focus from effects to outcomes, and those outcomes will be underpinned by environmental bottom lines set out in national direction.
Dr Duncan Webb: How does this plan compare with other plans to reform the RMA?
Hon DAVID PARKER: This Government is comprehensively redesigning the resource management system to deliver better outcomes for the environment and housing, to help people and the economy as well as protect the environment. The review and recommendations are wide-ranging, and I would like to thank the panel members for their constructive and dedicated work in providing solutions for the next Government to implement. I understand the other side of the House also wishes to repeal the RMA and put out a press release mistakenly claiming this proposed reform—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I just bring to the attention of the member the Speaker's ruling that I referred to before, and there is another Speaker's ruling that says it's unreasonable to use questions from the governing party to attack the Opposition.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Whoever is the next Government, they will have the opportunity to implement this review inside three years, compared with nothing done over the last nine by the prior Government.
Question No. 10—Health
10. BRETT HUDSON (National) to the Minister of Health: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Wonderful to see you in the Chair. Does he have confidence that enough New Zealanders are downloading and using the official NZ COVID Tracer app for it to be effective in the event of an outbreak of community transmission?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Health): No. But it is important to remember that the COVID Tracer app is just one of the tools that are available to us. The work of the public health units and the National Close Contact Service remain the mainstays of our contact tracing, and I have confidence in the effectiveness of their work. The more people that are using the app, the more useful it will be. I do encourage people to download it, install it, and use it every day, and I note that the latest update, which allows people to add in manual contacts where there is no QR code, is now live.
Brett Hudson: Has he sought confirmation that all Ministers are using the COVID Tracer app and that they scan QR codes they come into contact with; and, if so, are they doing so?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I can speak for myself and say that I have downloaded it, I've registered it, and I use it regularly, and I expect all other members of the House to do the same.
Brett Hudson: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. He didn't address the part that said "Has he sought confirmation from his ministerial colleagues?"
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Do you want to just repeat your question? I'm sorry.
Brett Hudson: Has he sought confirmation that all Ministers are using the COVID Tracer app to scan each QR code they come into contact with; and, if so, are they doing so?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think the Minister does need to address that.
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No, I haven't. I don't have ministerial responsibility for whether or not Ministers use the app, although I have been told by many of them sitting around me that they are using it, and I can in fact attest to the fact that the Prime Minister reminded everybody in her party, including the media, to use it this morning when we visited the wonderful Trade Kitchen in Naenae.
Brett Hudson: How can New Zealanders have confidence in the app when he can't even confirm whether members of the Government are using it?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I can't confirm that members of the Opposition are using it, either. I'm not the police in this regard. I do encourage all members to use it.
Brett Hudson: How many of the 621,400 registered users who have downloaded the app are using it to scan QR codes on a regular basis?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I did go through this with the member's colleague Dr Reti when he asked this question. We don't actually collect that data. That data is held by the individuals on their phones.
Brett Hudson: How can the public have confidence in the app if he doesn't even know if people are using it?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: Mr Speaker—Madam Speaker, sorry; force of habit. A bit of muscle memory there! I think I answered that question earlier. One of the things about the app which is important is that people record their own data and they have control over their own data.
Question No. 11—Police
11. GREG O'CONNOR (Labour—Ōhāriu) to the Minister of Police: What reports has he seen about police efforts to prevent and respond to methamphetamine harm in the community?
Hon STUART NASH (Minister of Police): Before I answer this question, I just want to acknowledge the passing of an All Black great in Andy Haden, one of the game's true legends. I have seen numerous reports that affirm this Government's commitment to preventing and responding to the damage methamphetamine is causing to our communities. As referenced in the House yesterday by the Minister for Regional Economic Development, the Government has invested an additional $20 million in regional programmes to reduce the damage meth is causing.
This includes upgrades to residential facilities that support detoxification, rehabilitation, and re-engagement with the community for recovering meth users, as well as an extension to the collaboration between DHBs and police in Northland, with the Te Ara Oranga programme. Reports show that a staggering 1.8 tonnes of meth was seized by police and Customs during 2019—three times as much as the previous year—and in the first half of 2020, police busted 38 clandestine meth labs. To effectively deal with the scourge of meth, we need to attack the supply and reduce demand. This Government is committed to supporting enforcement agencies, iwi, non-governmental organisations, and the community to do just that.
Greg O'Connor: How has the increase in police numbers helped to prevent and respond to methamphetamine harm in the community?
Hon STUART NASH: Under this Government, there has been a 14 percent increase in police numbers nationwide. Seven hundred of these officers are being dedicated to organised crime. To put that increase in the context of reducing the harm from meth, this means that the National Organised Crime Group has now expanded into the districts to help disrupt meth supply. A new dedicated team has been set up in the South Island, and police are looking to set up a new team in the Waikato district. The Pacific Transnational Crime Network has been established, and is co-located with Customs in Auckland. Two United States Drug Enforcement Administration officers are also expected later this year, to further help disrupt the transnational supply of meth and other drugs. There is the establishment of a multi-agency working group that includes New Zealand Customs; Department of Corrections; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment; and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to deliver this Government's methamphetamine manufacture disruption action plan. This is what is possible when you fund an agency and rebuild their workforce after years of neglect.
Greg O'Connor: What recent initiatives has the Government announced to help protect and disrupt the supply of methamphetamine and other drugs in the community?
Hon STUART NASH: Today, police and ESR announced the development of a drug screening solution which allows front-line officers working in our communities to carry out real time testing of drugs. In a world-leading initiative for law enforcement, the New Zealand Police have collaborated with ESR in trialling the Lumi Drug Scan device, which has enabled officers to test for the most common drugs on the streets using a handheld device, and receive almost instant results through their work-issued mobile phones. Lumi can test for methamphetamine, MDMA, and cocaine—three of the most common and harmful drugs on the New Zealand market. I'm also pleased to have announced, with the Associate Minister of Transport, Hon Julie Anne Genter, the—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: These are very long answers—
Hon STUART NASH: Yes.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: —to all of these questions.
Hon STUART NASH: Introduction of the Land Transport (Drug Driving) Amendment Bill today. Last year—
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Quickly.
Hon STUART NASH: —103 people died in crashes where the driver was later found to have drugs in their system.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Ministers can actually use press releases to make an answer.
Question No. 12—Justice
12. Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National—Nelson) to the Minister of Justice: Would the repeal of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2018 improve New Zealand's democracy?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS (Minister of Education) on behalf of the Minister of Justice: On behalf of the Minister of Justice, no, and I think the rationale for that is summed up in the name of Mr Carter's bill.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Is the repeal of the electoral integrity law consistent with the Government's coalition agreement?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The Government's coalition agreement was to pass the law in the first place.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Does he accept a majority of this Parliament does not support the Government's Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2018?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: The voting record in the Parliament would suggest otherwise.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Can he name any other occasion in the 24-year history of MMP when the Government has lost a vote on a core supply and confidence commitment?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: We didn't and I'd point out that the bill hasn't passed.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: It's passed its first reading. Does he agree with the statement of the Green Party that the Government's electoral integrity law is fundamentally inconsistent with democracy and free speech?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: No.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: And I'm not sure that he has any responsibility for the Green Party.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I understand you could ask within a Minister's responsibility questions in response to the statement.
DEPUTY SPEAKER: Is this a point of order or a conversation?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Happy to have both. Does the Minister agree with the Inter-Parliamentary Union representing 167 parliaments and 16,000 parliamentarians, including every member of this House, that laws enabling parliamentarians to be dismissed by their party or leader undermine a basic principle of democracy?
Hon CHRIS HIPKINS: I reject the assertion that that's what the law change does.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Supplementary?
DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, you've used them all up.