Questions and Answers – 17 August 2010

by admin on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 — 5:21 AM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : Does he stand by his statement that by March 2010 New Zealand will be coming out of the recession “reasonably aggressively”?
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Recession—Prime Minister’s Statements

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that by March 2010 New Zealand will be coming out of the recession “reasonably aggressively”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, he stands by his full quote from March 2009. The statement made in March 2009 was borne out by the fact that in the latter half of 2009 and early 2010 the economy went from a 1.5 percent contraction to 1.5 percent growth, which is quite a considerable turn-round.

Hon Phil Goff: Is it reflective of his aggressive recovery that when the Mount Roskill New World supermarket, which opened today, advertised 150 low-paid jobs over the last couple of weeks, it got 2,700 applicants?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That number of applicants is reflective of the sharp recession that the New Zealand economy went through. The recession was caused by two things: the global financial crisis, and the mismanagement of the previous Government.

Hon Phil Goff: If the New Zealand economy was aggressively coming out of recession, why did nearly 20,000 additional New Zealanders join the dole queue over the last 3 months?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member might reflect on that himself, because here is a quote about strong economic growth: “The world economy will grow at around 3.9 percent this year. So New Zealand can also expect strong growth”. That statement came from Phil Goff, Labour leader, in January this year. He was predicting strong growth.

Hon Phil Goff: In order to help young New Zealanders to come aggressively out of the recession, how many additional training opportunities has his Government created to deal with the 65 percent increase in youth unemployment and the 68,000 young people who are currently not in work, education, or training?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government, as part of its overall economic policy, has created both the Community Max and the Job Ops schemes, which offer thousands of jobs to young people. It has an infrastructure investment programme that is supporting tens of thousands of people in jobs. The member can talk to the construction—

Mr SPEAKER: The House is very boisterous. I did not intervene when the Minister answered the previous question, but this question was pretty straightforward. If I recollect the question correctly, it asked how many training opportunities had been created following a certain time. The Minister may not have that information, given the primary question, but the answer should at least attempt to answer the question.

Hon Darren Hughes: Write faster, Steven; write faster.

Mr SPEAKER: I am trying to deal with a Minister who I believe has not adequately answered a question, and that is not assisted by interjections from the Opposition. If Opposition members want to hear an answer, they will show some respect. I expect to hear a better answer to that question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said in my earlier answer, the Government has created the Community Max scheme and the Job Ops scheme, which provide thousands of on-the-job training places. We have a multibillion-dollar infrastructure programme that is providing hundreds of onthe- job training opportunities. We have, with the existing money, expanded the number of tertiary education places. We are taking widespread action to help young New Zealanders to maintain their connection to the workforce. What we are not doing is cranking up Government spending and encouraging people to borrow—

Mr SPEAKER: When I get to my feet the Minister will resume his seat immediately. It seems that the Minister does not have that information.

Chris Tremain: What other excellent initiatives is the Government implementing to lift New Zealand’s economic growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Our most urgent task has been to undo the damage done by the previous Government, which blew out Government spending, collapsed the tradable sector, and left us with record external debt to foreigners. As part of our plan to fix that damage, we have reformed the taxation system, we have put Government debt under control, we have reprioritised $4 billion of low-quality public spending into front-line services, we have introduced national standards and the Youth Guarantee, we have cut red tape in a whole range of areas, we have injected hundreds of millions of dollars into innovation, research, and development, we are investing billions of dollars in infrastructure, such as roads, the electricity grid—

Mr SPEAKER: Answers are meant to be of a reasonable length. There was nothing wrong with the answer, but it just went on and on.

Hon Gerry Brownlee: Point of order—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Both members will resume their seat immediately—immediately; both members. The House will come to a little order. It is totally unacceptable, the discourtesy to this place that is being shown. This is question time, and previously when the Minister did not want to answer a question that he was asked about how many jobs, he may not have had that information. But the member who asked the question deserved a decent attempt to answer it. When the Minister was then asked a following question by his own member, to just go on and on is again not reasonable treatment of this House. The Minister made a number of points and did not need to carry on. If the members have a point of order they wish to raise with me, they are welcome to do so.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The continuous applause throughout that answer encouraged me to keep going. I think that if you are going to set a standard of reasonable treatment in the House, then I will continue to give as extensive an answer as I can while I am getting such encouragement from Opposition members through their continuous applause.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Mr Speaker—

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think there is really a matter of order that needs to be addressed. I will hear the honourable member, briefly.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I think I could get into trouble if I made the comment that if Government members want to clap in that way—

Mr SPEAKER: There is no need to take this matter any further. I accept the point that the Hon Bill English is making that where there is a lot of interjection, Ministers naturally will feel provoked to carry on. I accept that, so I am not blaming anyone in particular. I ask both sides of the House to just be a little more reasonable. I realise this is the first day back after an adjournment, but a little bit more reasonableness would be helpful to the House.

Hon Phil Goff: How does his broken promise not to increase GST help the economic recovery, when retailers across the country are saying this is the worst period for them in living memory,

because over half of workers have had no wage increases, whereas prices are due to go up, by his own reckoning, by 5.9 percent?

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. At the risk of interrupting, I think it is an unacceptable procedure to load a question in that way, by saying there was a “broken promise”. That is an accusation from across the House. One could argue that it is for the Minister to respond that there were no promises broken, but actually that would be the question then. I just ask you to rule on these sorts of epithets that get thrown around.

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Rodney Hide is absolutely correct that that kind of question is out of order. It is to me disappointing that my having supported the honourable Leader of the Opposition to try to obtain information from the Government, he then asked a question that, strictly, was out of order. I did not rule it out, because I thought there was licence now for the Minister to have a real flick back, and I do not like to stop Ministers. I would rather see Ministers use those opportunities to attack back where members are foolish enough to make that kind of accusation in a question, but then members should not seek my help if they do not like the answer that they get. I do not like inserting myself too much into question time. However, the member asked that question, and I will not give him the luxury of asking a further question. I invite the Hon Bill English to answer it.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: On 1 October this year GST will increase by 2.5 percent, not 15 percent as the Labour Party alleges, and New Zealanders will receive extensive tax cuts. So the average family, on 1 October, will be $25 per week better off after paying their increased GST. We are advising families not to be misled by Labour, which seems to be unable to calculate what 15 percent GST is in the pamphlets it has published.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just as the ACT leader was concerned about questions being loaded—having loaded a few bullets himself today—the answer talked about a party misleading—

Mr SPEAKER: I have heard sufficient. As I warned members, if they ask a question like that, which accuses a Government of breaking a promise, they should not seek my protection if the answer is not attractive to the side that asked the question. I ask members to be a bit more thoughtful when asking questions.

Hon Phil Goff: Did the Prime Minister ever forewarn New Zealanders that National would increase GST, or did he explicitly say “National will not be increasing GST.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: This Government ran the most open pre-Budget policy process that the country has ever seen, with a 15-month national discussion about the changes that were required in the taxation system in order to undo the damage done by the previous Government to our economy. Many New Zealanders have welcomed the Government’s changes to the taxation system, because they will help to undo the damage done by that previous Government and will lift our growth prospects for the future.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was quite explicit: did the Prime Minister ever forewarn, or did he explicitly say that National would not be increasing GST? I did not hear the answer to that question.

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Yes, you did.

Hon Phil Goff: No, I didn’t.

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order is being considered. I say to the House that it would be helpful if Ministers actually did listen to questions that are asked. On this occasion there was no insertion of an accusation into the question; it was a fair question. I think that the Leader of the Opposition has a legitimate gripe that not much of an attempt was made to answer that question. I accept that there is a dispute over what I believe took place. I invite the Hon Leader of the Opposition to repeat his question. We will all listen very carefully to the question and the answer.

Hon Phil Goff: Did the Prime Minister actually assure New Zealanders explicitly: “National will not be increasing GST.”?

Mr SPEAKER: That was not exactly the question that I heard.

Hon Phil Goff: Did the Prime Minister forewarn the country that National would be increasing GST, or did he say explicitly “National will not be increasing GST.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said in my earlier answer, the country was forewarned. This Government ran the most open pre-Budget policy process that the country has ever seen, running from about March 2009 right through to the 2010 Budget. At the time that the announcement was made, everyone knew that it would happen.

Chris Tremain: What reports has the Minister seen on real wage growth over the past decade?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen a report that was so incredible that it was hard to believe. It stated that in the 9 years that Labour was in power, real after-tax wages rose by 3 percent in 9 years. I found that number incredible, and we are going to check it. But the best advice I have is that in the 9 years that Labour was in power, real after-tax incomes grew by 3 percent. There were a couple of reasons for that: firstly, inflation was consistently high, and, secondly, the Government’s taxation system—

Mr SPEAKER: Order.

Hon Phil Goff: Has the Prime Minister—

Hon Paula Bennett: Three percent.

Hon Phil Goff: That is about what she is worth, yeah. That is about the—

Mr SPEAKER: I say again to both sides of the House that interjections like that will lead to disorder, especially today with the House being quite prickly. I ask members to be reasonable.

Hon Phil Goff: Has the Prime Minister ever assured the country that he was opposed to compulsory savings schemes, and is he now considering one?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister has made a number of statements on that matter over the last couple of days.

Chris Tremain: Does the Minister have any view on why real wage growth was only 3 percent over the past decade?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do have a view, and it is that the policies that meant that households had only 3 percent growth in their after-tax real incomes were the same polices that blew out Government spending. But, worst of all, they left New Zealand owing foreign lenders $170 billion, and we have a huge job to turn that round.

David Garrett: How does the Government’s management of the economy since November 2008 compare with New Zealand’s economic performance prior to November 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government has faced a very big challenge from 2008. To give Parliament some measure of it, I say that in the 4 years to March 2010 the Australian economy grew by 11.6 percent and the New Zealand economy grew by a total of 2 percent. Turning that round will be a massive, decade-long job. We are only now realising how much damage the previous Labour Government did to this economy.

Hon Phil Goff: What are the milestones that Gerry Brownlee said the National Government had to measure its progress in closing the wage gap with Australia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Our milestone is to close that gap by 2025, and there is any number of publicly available economic indicators for the public to assess our progress by.


2. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I am advised that the Government has made good progress since the election in 2008. We have seen off the worst of the recession at the same time as protecting New Zealanders from the sharpest edges of that recession. We have taken major steps towards making our tax system fairer and more supportive of savings, investment, and exports. However, our external liabilities still remain of significant concern. We owe foreign lenders around $170 billion and that is forecast to rise to $250 billion in the absence of policy to improve it.

Craig Foss: Why is it necessary to lift the level of national savings?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Put simply, New Zealand has a history of spending more than it earns, but that was exacerbated, particularly since 2005, under the management of the previous Government. Since 2000, external liabilities have almost doubled from just under $100 billion to almost $180 billion today, and they are projected to reach $250 billion within 5 years. No household, business, or Government can continue to increase its debt levels for ever. Servicing those liabilities already costs around $10 billion in a normal year. That is $200 million a week paid by the New Zealand Government, households, and businesses to foreigners, simply to pay the interest.

Craig Foss: What would be the consequences of allowing these current trends to continue?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We could let this trend continue at a more rapid speed, as it did after about 2004, but, of course, that would lead us into the same territory as countries such as Greece, Spain, and Ireland, where they have been forced to go through pretty dramatic restructurings. This Government has decided to pursue a course of considered and consistent change—that is, a gradual adjustment—while New Zealanders learn to spend a bit less, save a bit more, and invest in the trading part of our economy, which is exports and tourism. If we pursue that course over 4 or 5 years, we will have an orderly adjustment with the least possible pain to our community.

Hon David Parker: If the Minister has been so concerned about the level of external liabilities, why has it taken him 2 years in Government, and two Budgets, before even the appointment of a committee to resolve the problem?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Because in Budget 2010 we took a big and significant step to start resolving these issues with the changes in our tax system. We have also embarked on a programme of significant investment in infrastructure, cutting red tape, lifting the performance of the Public Service, supporting business innovation, and raising educational standards, all of which are necessary.

Craig Foss: Does he believe there is widespread support for a lift in national savings levels?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I think there is, just as New Zealanders are learning to contain—

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. A Government member asked the Minister a question and has a right to hear the answer. The level of interjection is unacceptable. Members know—I do not think I am wrong—who I am looking at in respect of the level of interjection. Please, a little more courtesy.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think there is widespread support for it. In fact, for the first time in a good decade we are seeing New Zealand households actually increase their savings. I hear that even the Opposition members grudgingly accept the need for less spending and more savings. We only wish they had seen that when they were in Government; when they were in Government, New Zealand’s external liabilities rose to $170 billion.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister really think that all New Zealanders came down in the last shower of rain and that this is somehow news to the Opposition, just as it seems to be news to the Government?

Mr SPEAKER: The question, I admit, allows—[Interruption] I have not called the Minister yet. The question, I must admit, is a broad primary question. I guess the Minister is happy to answer it if he feels he is responsible for showers of rain.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think New Zealanders have a good fundamental grasp of our economic outlook. That is why they voted out a Government that was damaging the economy, and voted in a Government that could fix it up. That is why they support the progress we are making.

Accident Compensation—Sensitive Claims and Sexual Abuse Victims

3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Does he stand by his statement on Radio New Zealand’s Checkpoint programme of 12 August 2010 “I’m not satisfied that ACC has handled the issue of counselling services for sensitive claims that well. I’m

going to await the final report from the independent clinical panel before drawing final conclusions.”; if so, why?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC): Yes, I do. I have been consistently cautious about interfering in the clinical decisions of the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) in this sensitive area. But given the level of concern from colleagues and the public I have established an independent clinical panel to review the corporation’s approach. That panel is doing a very professional and thorough job.

Hon Annette King: Does he now accept that he was warned by clinicians, by survivors, by he National Council of Women, and by 3,976 people who, last October, signed a petition that stated: “By doing nothing and allowing these changes to occur unhindered you are choosing to make recovery from horrific abuse harder for some of the most vulnerable members of this society.”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I draw the member’s attention to the advice from the Royal New Zealand Colleague of General Practitioners, and I quote what it said in November last year: “All the clinical evidence suggests that the new approach ACC is adopting will be in the best interests of the patient”. Given that sort of advice I have been cautious about getting involved in a clinical debate where I am not well qualified, but in response to the concerns of colleagues like Chester Borrows, Jackie Blue, and Nikki Kaye, I have set up an independent clinical panel and I will be ensuring that the advice of that panel is taken by the ACC to ensure that we are providing proper care for people who are sexually abused.

Hon Annette King: Did the ACC advise him that the process to change the clinical framework or clinical pathway was started under a Labour Government as he has claimed many times; if so, when?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Yes, that is the advice I have received. There was concern in the research that was commissioned in 2003, at Massey University, by the previous Government. The key element—and I am not an expert on the clinical issues—is that the clinical concern in that research was that unlimited counselling would do more harm than good for sensitive claimants. I am advised by the ACC that the changes in the pathway were begun in 2008.

Michael Woodhouse: What steps has the Minister taken to try to have the issues over sensitive claims addressed as quickly as possible?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The independent clinical panel wrote to me on 16 July seeking an extension of time until September to enable it to provide a comprehensive report. My concern was that this delay would put back the addressing of the problems in relation to providing for sensitive and vulnerable claimants. I agreed to the extension until mid-September subject to the panel providing interim recommendations. On receiving those recommendations I immediately wrote to the ACC board seeking their implementation as quickly as possible, which the board has done.

Hon Annette King: In light of the Minister’s answer to my previous question, is he saying that the ACC was not telling the truth when less than 1 month ago, in answer to an official information request, it said: “No work was undertaken on either the clinical framework or the clinical pathway prior to 2009”, and when it also said that the clinical framework was developed by the clinical services directorate in 2009, long after a Labour Government had left?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I stand—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. I believe that the member has asked a serious question, and the member’s colleagues should listen to the answer.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I stand by the advice I have been given by the ACC, which is that the work on the clinical pathways began in 2008, prior to the change of Government, as those documents make plain. Labour has tried to politicise this issue, but the changes in sensitive claims have been totally driven by the ACC’s clinicians, not by Ministers. They have not been driven by Cabinet but by clinicians trying to do their very best for sensitive claimants.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a document from the ACC, dated 30 July 2010, that points out that no work was done on the clinical framework or clinical pathway prior to 2009.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said that he had quoted from official documents from the ACC. I ask that he table them.

Mr SPEAKER: No, I do not believe that the Minister had an official document in his hand when he was answering that question.

Michael Woodhouse: What were underlying concerns that the ACC had that led to the changes, and has the Minister received any advice on whether those concerns were valid?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The concern that the corporation’s clinicians had, backed up by comprehensive research, was that ongoing unlimited counselling of victims of sexual abuse could lead to more harm than good. The clinical panel has confirmed the validity of this research and the need for professional oversight by psychiatrists and psychologists to ensure that long-term counselling is both beneficial and appropriate. I am advised by the clinical panel that where the corporation erred was in requiring such an assessment for all claimants when insufficient professional support was not available, resulting in unacceptable delays in providing care. I am confident that with the support and advice of the independent clinical panel we can improve the support provided for sensitive claimants.

Craig Foss: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. During that exchange, and prior to it, the member Darren Hughes questioned whether the Minister was telling the truth, quite a few times. Members cannot do that; all members are honourable. I ask that the member reflect on that and withdraw.

Mr SPEAKER: The member has taken offence, and, strictly, the member should not imply—

Hon Darren Hughes: I was very careful in what I said, Mr Speaker. I—

Mr SPEAKER: The member will not repeat what he said. I heard very clearly what the member said. Another member has taken offence. A member should not imply that another member is not telling the truth. I ask the Hon Darren Hughes to stand, withdraw, and apologise.

Hon Darren Hughes: I withdraw and apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: Lynne Pillay; a supplementary question. [Interruption] I say to the Labour front bench that I have called one of their colleagues. I expect them to show some courtesy to their own colleague.

Lynne Pillay: Will the Minister now require the ACC to identify the estimated 2,000 people who were unable to participate in his Government’s accident compensation process because it was too traumatic; and will he offer them counselling?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: As of Monday the corporation is offering 16 counselling sessions for those people who seek the services of counsellors. The corporation will work through a final solution when the full report is available from the independent clinical panel. I point out to the members opposite who are interjecting that way in excess of 2,000 accident compensation claimants were turned down for counselling during the time of the previous Government. In fact, when Labour was in Government, half of those who sought counselling were turned down.

Hon Annette King: When the Minister said in the Nelson Mail last week that “Some days I’m in politics and I think ‘What the hell am I doing?’.”, will he now accept that the victims of his bungled policy are asking the same question?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It is a pity that the member chooses to selectively quote. The overwhelming point I would make—[Interruption] Well, the comment was made in reference to visiting an oil rig in Tasman Bay, and I am not sure that that is particularly relevant to the issue of sensitive claims. Members opposite have attempted to play politics with this highly sensitive issue. [Interruption] They have—they have played it for all it is worth, when all the papers show that this

issue is, in essence, a clinical issue in which neither I as Minister nor the board, for that matter, has made substantive decisions.

Drug and Alcohol Abuse—Gaps in Treatment Services

4. RAHUI KATENE (Māori Party—Te Tai Tonga) to the Associate Minister of Health: Is he aware that a recent study of GP consultations in New Zealand revealed that opportunities for discussion about the misuse of alcohol and other drugs were not acted upon in one-quarter of the consultations, and what steps will the Government take to address the service gaps in treatment services identified by the Law Commission?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Associate Minister of Health): I am aware of the study the member refers to. It was a study of some 15 general practitioners, and it was published in July 2009. The issues that have been identified are under action by the Government, particularly in the area of addressing service delivery gaps. Let me give the member some examples. We are investing approximately $22 million in the action plan to tackle methamphetamine. We are providing more training to front-line staff in other Government agencies on alcohol and drug screening programmes and brief intervention, and more work is being done on that topic in the area of primary health care during the current year. Finally, the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) has been working particularly strongly in this area. I understand that it has been supporting some pretty good examples of work in this field by primary health organisations such as the Whanganui Regional Primary Health Organisation, which is working very effectively.

Rahui Katene: What efforts have been made to consult Māori providers of substance misuse and addiction services, to ensure that issues are understood and care is delivered in a culturally appropriate manner by all health care professionals?

Hon PETER DUNNE: Both the ministry and I meet regularly with Māori alcohol and drug service providers to discuss that very point. It is also under action by a number of the district health boards in terms of the specific programmes that they advance. One of the pieces of good news that the member may be interested in is the recent public education campaign being mounted by ALAC where a number of advertisements identify particular drinking behaviours; it has resulted in a 40 percent increase in self-referrals to the Alcohol and Drug Helpline.

Rahui Katene: Is he aware that the prevalence of severe alcohol-related problems in Māori is more than twice that in non-Māori, and that Māori are four times more likely than non-Māori to die of an alcohol-related condition; and what specific initiatives will be introduced to ensure that Māori are a priority population for identifying and managing substance misuse?

Hon PETER DUNNE: There are a number of measures that I could refer to. There are kaupapa Māori alcohol and other drug addiction services, such as those provided by the Te Waireka programme in Hawke’s Bay, Rongo Ātea in Hamilton, and Te Utuhina Manaakitanga Trust in Rotorua. There is also a range of iwi-based non-governmental organisation services in the northland, midland, central, and southern district health board areas. The national Alcohol and Drug Helpline has dedicated Māori staff available to work for it.

Hon Jim Anderton: Does the Minister believe that by reducing the availability and promotion of alcohol, we would reduce the need for alcohol treatment services; if so, will he support significant steps to reduce the availability and promotion of alcohol?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The Government will be announcing shortly its response to the Law Commission’s report on the sale of liquor, and the member will have to wait until that happens. But on the linkage he purports between the availability of alcohol and the need for treatment services, I can say that that point has been argued for many years. What needs to be borne in mind is that adequate treatment services need to be put in place. This Government, through the programmes that I outlined in response to the primary question, is doing just that. We will continue to improve the range of services available.

Iain Lees-Galloway: How do cuts to the St Mark’s Adult Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centre in Blenheim, the Care NZ clinic in Ōtāhuhu, and the Ashburton Clinic in Dunedin, and the potential closure of the Hawke’s Bay addiction centre address the gaps in treatment services identified by the Law Commission?

Hon PETER DUNNE: We have to look at the range of services provided across the country. Services need to be in areas where there are needs that need to be fulfilled. This is an ongoing issue. I am confident that the programmes that we have in place and the work that is under way will ensure that the seven recommendations made by the Law Commission in its report are given effect once those final decisions are announced.

Hon Jim Anderton: What evidence does the Minister have that reducing the promotion and availability of, and accessibility to, alcohol would not reduce the medical services required to treat people affected by alcohol abuse?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I do not have the evidence immediately to hand in the House today, but the point is that even though the level of alcohol consumption in New Zealand has been declining on a per capita basis for some time, there still are people who have significant alcohol and drug related problems. We still have a responsibility to provide effective treatment services to deal with them, and we will do so.

Primary Growth Partnership—Funding of Projects

5. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Agriculture: What major developments in primary sector innovation has he recently announced?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): This morning I announced two further major successful bids under the Government’s Primary Growth Partnership, which will see $321 million invested in innovation projects in our dairy and red meat industries. These two projects, involving $144 million of Government money, are the biggest investment in primary sector innovation in decades, and they show how serious this Government is about boosting economic growth and turning round 9 long years of neglect for New Zealand agriculture.

Shane Ardern: What type of work will be funded under these projects?

Hon DAVID CARTER: The first project involves Fonterra and Dairy New Zealand, and will see $170 million invested in on-farm innovation and off-farm research. The second project is led by Silver Fern Farms, PGG Wrightson, and Landcorp and commits $151 million to reforming the red meat value chain to a market-led approach. Collectively, those two proposals stand to significantly change our primary sector and deliver huge economic spin-offs for New Zealand.

Shane Ardern: Why is the Government committing such major funding to primary sector innovation?

Hon DAVID CARTER: Innovation is one of the Government’s six drivers of economic growth. This investment, which is the biggest in primary sector innovation in decades, will directly boost economic growth, create jobs, and benefit all New Zealanders. It shows just how serious the Government is about getting our economy back on track, and about getting our vital tradable sector, including agriculture, firing on all cylinders after 9 years of neglect under the previous administration.

Hon Damien O’Connor: How can the Minister assure New Zealanders that the benefits of the taxpayer-subsidised innovation he has just announced will remain in New Zealand, given the National Government’s enthusiasm for increasing overseas ownership of our primary sector?

Hon DAVID CARTER: This is not about a subsidy; it is about working in partnership with the core industries that drive this economy. This is some of the best news that the primary sector has seen in decades, and only the Labour Party would dare to criticise it.

Income Gap—Parity with Australia by 2025

6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Minister for Economic Development: When he said: “The Government does have a milestone, and it is to achieve parity with Australia by 2025,” will he provide New Zealanders with measurable interim milestones; if not, why not?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister for Economic Development): To slightly correct the member, I can confirm that the Government has a milestone, and that is to catch Australian incomes by 2025. I have no ministerial responsibility for the establishment of milestones.

Hon David Parker: Will the Minister at least commit to the milestone that by the date of the next election the gap between incomes in Australia and New Zealand will at least have closed to what it was when he took office?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The voters of New Zealand will make their own assessment on how well the Government has done, and will measure that progress at the time of the next election. As I said, it is not for me to set milestones.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked whether he would commit to a milestone, and he said it was up to the electors. I asked him whether he would commit to a milestone.

Mr SPEAKER: No, if the member listened to the Minister’s answer, he would know that he said that he did not have responsibility as Minister for Economic Development for setting such milestones.

Hon David Parker: If the wage gap is not even heading in the right direction—that is, narrowing—but rather will be ever widening by June next year, will he at least admit that his Government has no credible plan, and its hollow promises without meaningful milestones are junk?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Although I have absolutely no responsibility for the future, I can tell the member that he is right to point out that we have a plan. The plan involves tax reform, investment in infrastructure such as broadband and ultra-fast broadband, research and development, reform of the labour market, electricity market reform, skills and education, cutting red tape and regulation, trade agreements, Warm Up New Zealand, reform of the Resource Management Act, the International Growth Fund, a focus on skills in the economy, focusing of resources on the front line, strengthening the science system, getting as much leverage as we can out of the Rugby World Cup, a smarter Government procurement programme, and many, many other things.

Hon David Parker: If the Minister is not responsible for setting milestones, who is?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: That is a whole-of-Government exercise and it is clearly set out in the Budget each year.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is very hard for members of the Opposition to ask questions of the whole of Government. We can ask questions only of Ministers. He said he has no responsibility for milestones—

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister made it very clear that it is not his ministerial responsibility. Matters to do with the whole of Government are normally matters for the Prime Minister.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My colleagues are happier with your ruling than I am. How can a Minister for Economic Development answer in this House that he does not have responsibility for economic development goals?

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows that is not a valid point of order. He should not have raised it in that manner. It is absolutely a Minister’s right to determine whose responsibility certain matters are. The Minister made it clear that setting any milestones is not the responsibility of the Minister for Economic Development. That is where the matter ends.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have heard some things on the radio about a change of ministerial warrants. I just want to make sure that it does not happen in this case.

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member will resume his seat. He is trifling with the House, and that will not be tolerated. I warn the honourable member.

David Garrett: Can he confirm that the 2025 Taskforce is to report each year on the progress in catching Australia—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise both to the member asking the question and to the Minister. I ask members to be more reasonable with interjections. I have to be able to hear the question.

David Garrett: Can he confirm that the 2025 Taskforce is to report each year on the progress in catching Australia by 2025, and is he looking forward to that report?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Yes and, broadly, yes.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister for Economic Development agree with the belated statements of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance that a substantial increase in savings by New Zealanders is needed to help achieve income parity with Australia, and that, accordingly, another committee needs to be appointed to give National the ideas that it obviously needs?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: I always agree with the Prime Minister and with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

Trades Academies—Number Opening in 2011

7. ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister of Education: How many trades academies will open in 2011?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education): National campaigned on increasing the availability of trades training, and we said we would establish at least five trades academies. I am delighted to tell the House that nine trades academies will open in this country in 2011, providing trades and technology programmes for over 800 secondary school students, and a further three will open in 2012. As well as providing more career choices for students, with no fees, the academies will contribute to growing our economy and productivity as young people with better skills enter the labour market.

Allan Peachey: How will the funding for trades academies work?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: Trades academies are a collaboration between schools, tertiary organisations, and industries funded from existing funding streams. Students will be funded for the time they attend the school and for the time they attend the tertiary organisation. This includes a tertiary top-up fee to reflect no fees for participating students. Funding will also be provided for the coordination and administration of the programme.

Paul Quinn: What reports has she seen about the establishment of the Wellington Trades Academy based at WelTec?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: I have seen a statement from the chief executive of WelTec, Dr Linda Sissons, who said: “The Trades Academy at WelTec will develop a strong trades and technology base for Wellington industry. … Often times there are amazing work opportunities for young people, and the Wellington Trades Academy will provide a great pathway for young people into industry.” I have also seen a report from a hotel manager here in Wellington who said that the Wellington Trades Academy based at WelTec is just what the region needs.

Hon Trevor Mallard: In light of her praise of the academies, will she now undertake to approve the 104 organisations she rejected as academies as an attempt to take steps towards matching the 24,000 places taken up as modern apprenticeships between 2003 and 2008?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: This Government was delighted to have received 117-odd expressions of interest in our trades academies. We have approved 12, and we have legislation before the House at the moment that will enable the rest of those 117 to be implemented, plus the many other schools and tertiary institutions around the country that are delighted that this Government has done something to address the issue of trades training for young people, rather than being like the previous Government that just wanted to keep them at school until they were 18.

Afghanistan—Transfer of Prisoners Taken by SAS

8. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: Can he guarantee that no prisoners taken in operations involving the New Zealand Special Air Service in Afghanistan were transferred to the National Directorate of Security in Kabul and tortured?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (Minister of Foreign Affairs): Following the decision to redeploy the Special Air Service to Kabul, the Government completed discussions with the Government of Afghanistan to establish an agreement regarding the treatment of detainees transferred by the New Zealand SAS forces to Afghan authorities. An agreement was signed between the two Governments requiring that such detainees should be handled in accordance with applicable international and domestic law, and that their treatment should be subject to the full scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross and other relevant organisations. To date, no detainees have been transferred by the SAS to Afghan authorities, which is a reflection of the mentoring and support role played by the SAS in relation to the Crisis Response Unit of the Afghan National Police. The welfare of detainees captured directly by Afghan authorities or transferred to them by other forces is a matter for which others might properly be held to account.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was specifically about joint operations—where the SAS was involved in joint operations with Afghan forces. I asked whether he could provide a guarantee that in that situation these people were not transferred to the directorate and then tortured. He talked about the agreement, which was fine, and he talked about where the SAS directly captured people, but he did not address the question of joint activities.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought the Minister gave a pretty comprehensive reply. The member has several more supplementary questions, and this is a classic example of how a supplementary question could be framed to ask specifically that question, rather than trying to do it by way of a point of order. I think the member is being a bit unreasonable.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Minister saying that he cannot rule out that prisoners taken in joint operations involving New Zealand forces went on to suffer torture including amputations, electric shocks, starvation, beatings, and burns, as outlined in London’s High Court?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I am saying to the House that the Government takes direct responsibility for the detainees who are transferred by New Zealand forces. The welfare of detainees captured directly by Afghan authorities or transferred to them by other forces is a matter for which others might properly be held to account.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he therefore agree with the Prime Minister’s comment that when the SAS is involved in joint operations with Afghan forces “it’s not our responsibility when it comes to those people that are detained.”?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I accept that New Zealand has responsibility to ensure appropriate treatment of detainees transferred to Afghan authorities by our forces. I even accept that we should make relevant inquiries about the position of detainees held after an operation in which we have played a part. That is what we are doing currently in relation to the matters raised by the member. But I suggest to the member that for New Zealand to be accountable for the welfare of every detainee held as a result of all of the operations undertaken by the many forces in Afghanistan is rather a greater responsibility than we should carry.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree that the Government’s attitude is effectively one of looking the other way while Afghan forces take prisoners off to be tortured—prisoners whom New Zealand forces helped to place into captivity?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I make it very clear that where New Zealand transfers detainees to Afghan authorities we take responsibility for ensuring that appropriate steps are taken in relation to the detainees’ welfare. I even accept that we should make relevant inquiries about detainees held after an operation in which we have been involved. The New Zealand Government is currently involved in making such relevant inquiries.

Dr Russel Norman: In the number of years that the New Zealand SAS has been involved in joint activities with Afghan forces, how many inquiries has the Government made as to the wellbeing of prisoners who were captured by Afghan forces in these joint operations and transferred to the National Directorate of Security?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: The member may well be aware that there were three deployments of the SAS under the time of the previous administration, and that the current Government deployed it again in October of last year. If the member wished me to give a comprehensive answer in relation to all of those deployments, he would need to give me notice of that question.

Dr Russel Norman: Will New Zealand follow the lead of British forces, whereby there is a ban on transferring prisoners to the National Directorate of Security in Kabul, due to the risk that they would be subjected to torture including amputation, electric shocks, starvation, sleep deprivation, beatings, and burns?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I am advised that the British authorities have suspended the transfer of detainees to the National Directorate of Security. The advice I have received is that this suspension occurred because of concerns regarding the access of officials to detainees who were held there. If the member feels that that advice invites further scrutiny, I agree with him; I am subjecting that response from officials to such further scrutiny.

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN: Does he think that it is acceptable for New Zealand soldiers to be risking their lives to prop up an Afghan Government that all the evidence from British courts, British Governments, and Amnesty International shows routinely tortures its citizens?

Hon MURRAY McCULLY: I think it is fair to say that the New Zealand Government understands that there are some shortcomings in relation to the operation of the Afghan Government. From time to time we are given the opportunity to express those views directly to President Karzai and his Ministers. I have done so personally on more than one occasion, and will continue to do so.


9. Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all his Ministers?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did that answer apply at the time that questions were lodged?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not know what the member is referring to.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did he have confidence in the Hon Heather Roy at the time that questions were lodged this morning?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister has confidence in any Minister. If he did not, the person would not have been a Minister.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the Prime Minister prepared to appoint to his ministry any person whom Rodney Hide nominated to him?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I remind the member that it is the Prime Minister’s prerogative as to who is in his executive.

Children, State Care—Home for Life

10. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister for Social Development and

Employment: What has the Government done to ensure children in State care can have a home for life?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): We have more than 5,000 children in Child, Youth and Family custody removed from their birth parents because it was not safe for them to be there. Every one of those children deserves a safe and secure home. Last week I announced a Home for Life package. This comprehensive package will support New Zealand families to provide a permanent home for life for a child in State care.

Katrina Shanks: How will the package support families to take on children in care?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There are over 2,000 foster carers currently, many of whom may be able to offer a child permanency. This package supports them to do just that. The Home for Life support package includes eight initiatives. A few of them are financial support of $2,500 up front, a baby care starter pack, legal costs, assistance with mediation with birth parents, parenting seminars, respite breaks for carers, and a dedicated phone line. These things will make a difference.

Tax Credits—Income Sharing

STUART NASH (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue: Who will benefit most—

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the member. Members are entitled to sit anywhere in this House. We don’t need a barrage of interjections about it.

11. STUART NASH (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue: Who will benefit most from the tax credit described in the Taxation (Income-sharing Tax Credit) Bill as “intended to give couples greater freedom to work fewer hours or more flexible hours in order to care for children”?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue): The couples who will benefit most are precisely those—couples who want greater freedom to work fewer or more flexible hours in order to care for their children. This legislation, and income-sharing generally, are about giving people more choices about the way in which they live their lives and determine their family affairs. I cannot for the life of me understand why the member opposite is so opposed to that.

Stuart Nash: How is it fair that, under a bill that would cost all taxpayers almost $500 million per year, a family with a single earner on a medium wage gets $19 a week while a family with a single earner on $140,000 gets $175 a week?

Hon PETER DUNNE: What the member overlooks, conveniently I suspect, is that the family in the first of his examples will also be benefiting considerably from the Working for Families package, which costs considerably more than income sharing would.

Stuart Nash: Does he agree with Treasury, the Ministry of Social Development, the Department of Labour, Bill English, and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, all of which point out serious flaws in the policy, with Treasury advising against the introduction of the tax credit, because it costs too much and because most of the credits will go to those on the highest incomes?

Hon PETER DUNNE: No, I do not accept that advice. I am surprised the member does, given his party’s attitude to Treasury generally. As I said in my primary response, this is about giving parents some choices and some options. I would have thought that the party opposite would be all in favour of choice and option—or, in fact, has the nanny State become too strong for it?

Sue Moroney: Is he aware, then, that both of the couples he gives as examples in the commentary on the Taxation (Income-sharing Tax Credit) Bill would be better off if paid parental leave were to be extended to 6 months, at much less cost to the country; will he therefore support the introduction of the bill I have drafted to achieve 6 months’ paid parental leave?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I think I have already separately answered that question in correspondence with the member. I draw to the attention of the House some comments from members of the public in response to this legislation. Let me quote from a couple of messages—

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister was not asked what members of the public thought about the proposal. The Minister was asked specifically about the relationship between his legislation and extending paid parental leave. The Minister did say that he had discussed that in correspondence with the member, but the House is none the wiser.

Hon PETER DUNNE: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member approached me in my non-ministerial capacity about her member’s bill, which is yet to be drawn in the ballot as I understand it. I indicated that from a United Future point of view we do support the extension of paid parental leave, but that is not part of my ministerial responsibility in dealing with this question—hence my reference at the outset.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the Minister was asked for a comparison. He may not have the information, because the paid parental leave issue is not his responsibility. To clear confusion, I invite Sue Moroney to repeat her question.

Sue Moroney: Is he aware that both of the couples he gives as examples in the commentary on the Taxation (Income-sharing Tax Credit) Bill would be better off if paid parental leave were to be extended to 6 months, at much less cost to the country; will he therefore support the introduction of the bill I have drafted to achieve 6 months’ paid parental leave?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I repeat the answer that I gave beforehand: in respect of the member’s bill, which is yet to be drawn from the ballot, I have given a response, but that response was not given in my ministerial capacity. With regard to the first part of the question, I think it is worth drawing to the attention of the House the responses of some real people who have commented since my legislation was drafted, because they go to the heart of the point that the member was making. Let me quote from just one such correspondent, in the time I have available to me. He says as follows: “My wife is a respected and skilled professional in her own right and she also holds a master’s degree. We made a choice that she would stay at home and take care of our children while I continued to work. It was a large financial impact to us, but in researching the effects of her returning to work compared to the negative effects it was the right choice.” They are the sorts of families that will benefit from the income-sharing package.

Stuart Nash: Does the Minister expect this bill to have a third reading in this Parliament?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I expect all legislation, once it has been properly considered by a select committee, to come back to this House and go through the normal stages prior to being implemented into law.

Building Sector—Reduction of Bureaucracy

12. CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (National—West Coast – Tasman) to the Minister for Building

and Construction: What announcements has he made recently around cutting red tape and bureaucracy in the building sector?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Building and Construction): Last week I announced that the Government will introduce a range of amendments to the Building Act 2004 to help cut red tape and bureaucracy and make builders more accountable. Without compromising quality and safety, these amendments will provide more incentives for builders to “build it right first time” and will help drive a more efficient and productive sector. These proposed amendments are the result of year-long review of the Building Act, which included consultation with all interested parties. Mr Steve Brackenridge, a builder who has been in the industry for 35 years, said in an interview on One News that change was long overdue, and he congratulated the Government on actually tackling the problem.

Chris Auchinvole: How will builders be made more accountable for their work?

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Some of the incentives to “build it right first time” include introducing mandatory written contracts for any building work above $20,000 that set out expectations, warrantees, and remedies for how any disputes will be resolved. Those doing the work will be required to explain what, if any, financial back-up or insurance they have to remedy any faults in the future. These measures will make it easier for homeowners commissioning building work to hold contractors to account for fixing any defects if and when they arise.


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