Questions and Answers – 12 October 2010

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 — 5:26 PM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Access Under Customary Title; Recession—Prime Minister’s Statements; Universities—Increase in Student Places; Transport Funding—Effect of Local Body Elections; Television New Zealand Presenter’s Comments—Apology …
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Access Under Customary Title

1. HILARY CALVERT (ACT) to the Attorney-General: Will he support my proposed amendment to the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill to include a specific prohibition on customary title holders charging for public access to New Zealand beaches such as is provided for in the Foreshore and Seabed Act 2004; if not, why not?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): The bill as drafted does not allow customary title holders to charge for access in the marine and coastal area; I refer the honourable member to clauses 27, 60, and 63. However, it has been suggested that the bill could be made more readily understandable by inserting a direct statement that charging for public access is not allowed. I am certainly willing to consider that, and I would welcome receiving the member’s proposed amendment.

Hilary Calvert: Does he consider a couple having their wedding photos taken on a beach to be a simple issue of access, for which customary title holders should be prohibited from charging; if not, why not?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Under the bill as drafted it is not possible to charge for public access. A customary title holder will have the right to permit or decline activities that require resource consent—that is, activities that have a significant environmental impact. I would not have thought that taking wedding photos was likely to require resource consent.

Hilary Calvert: What redress does he think there should be for wedding couples, should local iwi demand payment for photos on the beach?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I have said, there is no right to charge for public access. I think the example the honourable member has alluded to may have actually happened under the existing law, not under what is proposed in the bill. Of course, the bill has not been enacted. We currently have laws in place that prevent people from restricting New Zealanders’ lawful freedom of movement and freedom from intimidation, and this legislation will not change that position.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does he recall his statement in the House at the first reading of the bill on 15 September 2010 about the rights associated with customary marine title that those rights do not include charging for access, and what does he believe is the motivation for certain parties to continue to talk about charging for public access, when such a concept does not even exist in the bill?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Yes, I remember the statement, and I stand by it. The bill does not permit charging for public access. I can only assume that the motivation is the desire for absolute clarity, or because of some confusion. As I said, I am happy to consider any matter that satisfies the legitimate concerns of those parties.

Recession—Prime Minister’s Statements

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

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I stand by the full quote from March 2009, which, for the benefit of the member, is: “… I think by the end of 2009 early 2010 this time next year we’ll be starting to come out of that and I think actually starting to come out of it reasonably aggressively, I’m more optimistic about 2011 than 2010 but nevertheless I think 2010 will be positive.” Those statements have proved to be entirely correct. We were starting to come out of the recession by the end of 2009; 2010 will be positive; 2011 will see considerable improvement; and in terms of aggressive growth, the House should note that the New Zealand economy has grown more in the last 9 months than it did in the full 4-year period prior to that, from September 2005 to September 2009.

Hon Phil Goff: If the Prime Minister’s prediction and statement were, as he said, entirely correct, how does he explain Treasury’s comments last week that the recovery was not going according to plan, that there has been a slow-down in the economy, and, in fact, that economic growth is failing to keep up with population growth?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Notwithstanding that the quote was made 18 months ago and in the world economy things move around by the week, let alone 18 months, why do we not quote Alan Bollard, who just today said that the economic recovery is proving “brittle, uncertain, and full of surprises”, but that we have now emerged from a long recession and have experienced some quarters of “significant growth”.

Hon Phil Goff: If the Prime Minister claims that his statement was entirely correct, how does he explain the Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion that came out in September from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, which showed that business confidence fell from positive 26 to negative nine?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: There is quite a lot of volatility in the Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion, and that is for a variety of reasons; one has to accept that, globally, in May, August, and June we saw a number of different things occur internationally. But I would note in relation to the Quarterly Survey of Business Opinion that the BNZ’s commentary stated that it was disappointing but not deathly, and it is picking growth of 0.6 and 0.5 for the third quarter and fourth quarter respectively.

Chris Tremain: In what condition was the economy his Government inherited in late 2008?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I could sum that up in one word, but I will choose not to do that. Let us just cast our mind back to the economic conditions of the 2008 September quarter, just before the election. The economy was in its third consecutive quarter of recession, having shrunk 1.5 percent in 9 months; inflation was running at 5.1 percent; real after-tax wages had dropped by 0.8 percent over the preceding year; real exports had declined 2 percent over the preceding year; the tradable part of the economy had been in recession for 4 years; and the current account deficit had blown out to 8.6 percent. Labour’s farewell gift to the nation was an economy in a disastrous state.

Hon Phil Goff: Why does the Prime Minister pretend that things are getting better for the average New Zealand household, when his own Statistics New Zealand department last week pointed out that, for the first time in its record-taking, the median wage of New Zealanders had actually fallen by $9 a week?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One could quote all the things that Statistics New Zealand has said, and it has said that this is not statistically significant. I would also say that the New Zealand Income Survey is a compositional number that includes all income of people aged 15 and above, which includes investments. So, for a start, if interest rates are lower, income is less. But the best measure of changes in earnings from year to year is the quarterly employment survey, which is the same rate that is used to calculate the floor of New Zealand superannuation, and it shows that real after-tax

earnings have been growing under National after 5 years of no growth under the other lot, who were hopeless.

Hon Phil Goff: How does the growth in the number of unemployed people—up from 6.1 percent to 6.8 percent—respond to his comment last week that “My sense is they’ll be feeling a bit better now that summer has come.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, they will be feeling better, because one always feels better when the weather is a bit better, but also they will be feeling a lot better because the tax cuts are in their pockets. I shall quote Chris Carter; I remember his saying that Mr Goff had campaigned on getting rid of the increase in GST to 15 percent, and in the end he did nothing. That is why Chris Carter actually speaks for the Labour Party caucus.

Chris Tremain: How does inflation now compare with the inflation his Government inherited in late 2008?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is a lot lower, but let us choose just one area, to give a sense of what has been happening with price increases. Let us go back to September 2008, and let us pick, say, fresh fruit and vegetables, which under Labour went up 14 percent in a year. Under Labour bread went up 18 percent in a year, milk went up 12 percent, cheese went up a whopping 42 percent, eggs went up 13 percent, petrol went up 29 percent, electricity went up 7 percent, and gas went up 14 percent. No wonder Labour was booted out.

Hon Phil Goff: How many additional jobs have the Prime Minister’s job initiatives such as the Job Summit and the cycleway—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. With the level of interjection I am struggling to hear the question, and I am sure the Prime Minister will want to hear it.

Hon Phil Goff: He might not, Mr Speaker. I repeat the question: how many additional jobs have the Prime Minister’s job initiatives created in New Zealand over the last year, how does that figure compare with the quarter of a million additional jobs created by Australia this year, and has he narrowed the gap?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have to hand information on how many jobs have been created, but I can say that in my view the Job Summit did a good thing in getting employers, employees, the Government, and unions all on one page to deal with the worst financial crisis. And I can say this: there are 17 people who have got a new job; that is right, they are the people on Chris Carter’s list to get rid of Phil Goff.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. A very specific question was asked—how many additional jobs had been created, compared with the quarter of a million extra jobs in Australia, and whether the gap had been narrowed. There was no effort made to answer it.

Mr SPEAKER: If I heard correctly—and I stress that, with the level of noise in the House, I may not have heard correctly—the Prime Minister said he did not have that exact figure. Of course, when a primary question is so vague as to ask whether the Prime Minister, in this case, stands by a statement made quite some time ago, it is hard to expect him to have that detail of information. I think it would be a bit unreasonable for me to expect that.

Hon Phil Goff: Has the wage gap with Australia widened or narrowed this year; if so, by how much?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It narrowed on the data series we have always used to measure it.

Universities—Increase in Student Places

3. ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tāmaki) to the Minister for Tertiary Education: What actions has the Government taken to increase student places at universities?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Tertiary Education): I am pleased to report to the House that the Government will invest a further $55 million to fund almost 3,000 more university undergraduate places over the next 2 years, in response to higher demand for undergraduate places. That increase in places will help the wider economy as we ramp up the number of graduates, which

we are doing over time, and we are expecting at least 20 percent more graduates in 2013 than in recent times. The number of full-time places funded at universities next year will be the highest ever, at about 119,000. That is over 7,000 more than 3 years ago, and it has all been achieved within existing appropriations.

Allan Peachey: How does this increase fit into the wider value-for-money push in tertiary spending?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The extra funding comes from changes announced last week to lift the performance and accountability of the industry training sector, as well as to reprioritise underspending in that area. This shift in funding is part of the Government’s push to get higher productivity out of the $4 billion we spend annually on tertiary education. It also reflects the nature of the economic cycle as New Zealand recovers from recession. There remains strong demand for full-time training places, and currently there is less demand for industry-based training.

Grant Robertson: Can the Minister confirm that the funding cut from industry training would have supported 55,000 industry trainees, and is robbing Peter to pay Paul the best we will get from this National Government?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I can confirm a number of things about the industry training budget, including the fact that it has nearly trebled over the last 10 years. As a result, the Tertiary Education Commission has done exactly the right thing—it has looked for value for money in that appropriation, and it has made some changes to operational policies in order to maximise the number of credits achieved in industry training. I struggle with the member’s concept, because he seems to be saying we should never shift any appropriations from one thing to another and we should just blindly keep spending—which I struggle with hugely.

Transport Funding—Effect of Local Body Elections

4. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Transport: What impact, if any, will the outcome of the local government elections have on his priorities for transport funding?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): I do not see any significant change being made, because the Government is already investing in all modes of transport so that people can get around our major cities more effectively. This includes spending on roading infrastructure and rail infrastructure, larger subsidies for buses, rail, and ferries, and so on. The Government will work in partnership with the new councils on what comes next, and will contribute its fair share to the continuing goal of improving commuter transport. Mayors and councillors will need to work out how much ratepayers are prepared to contribute towards accelerating new projects, and to consider not just the capital costs but, of course, the operating costs. I am very pleased to see that the newly elected councils share this Government’s vision for investing in improved road and rail services.

Dr Russel Norman: Now that Auckland has spoken very clearly with one voice about its preference for new rail projects over new motorways, will he respond positively to this one voice by shifting funding from motorways into rail?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not sure whether that is exactly what they said. Nevertheless, they are of course very keen to see transport be improved in Auckland. The Government is currently investing about $5 billion in transport in Auckland, with $3.4 billion on roading and about $1.6 billion on rail. Roughly about 32 percent of our investment is being made on rail, currently, and of course although rail is growing, it represents about 2 percent of passenger trips to and from work each day in Auckland currently, so there has to be some proportion in the amount given to it.

Dr Russel Norman: Will he consider reprioritising his transport funding by moving money from his “Holiday Highway” into a rail central business district loop, given that the costs are about the same, and given that a large majority of Aucklanders clearly want rail more than they want his new motorway?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are a couple of points there. Firstly, the Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway is, in fact, a multi-regional project between Northland and Auckland; it is not just an Auckland project. Secondly, I again point out to the member that we are spending big sums in the rail area, and I think that that is appropriate. But I should point out to him—as I have, I think, once in the past—just to keep a matter of proportion, that that particular road from Pūhoi to Warkworth currently carries more people per day than are carried on the whole of the Auckland commuter rail network. That just gives some form of proportion on that project. Of course, we also have very large amounts of freight carried on that highway, as well. So the issue is all about making investments right across the transport network, and each investment has to be considered on its merits.

Dr Russel Norman: Why is he pouring $1.7 billion into the Pūhoi to Wellsford “Holiday Highway”, when only 8.4 percent of Aucklanders picked it as being the most important transport priority in a recent Herald-DigiPoll, whereas about 50 percent of Aucklanders picked rail projects as being the most important transport priority in the same poll?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I point out that that project and other projects are funded from the National Land Transport Fund, not the “Central Auckland Land Transport Fund” or the “Auckland Land Transport Fund”. That is very important, because by the same argument one could ask why we spend money on, for example, roading projects in Christchurch or perhaps near Wellington or in other parts of the country, because Aucklanders want it all to be spent there. Again, the important thing is to invest right across our transport sector. The Government is investing huge sums of money in rail, not just in Auckland but also in Wellington and in the turn-round plan for KiwiRail. I think we have to work on developing all modes.

Dr Russel Norman: Why is he taking taxes from Aucklanders and spending them on motorway projects that Aucklanders do not prioritise, rather than spending those taxes on the transport projects, particularly rail, that Aucklanders have said over and over again that they see as the main priorities for their city in order to reduce congestion in Auckland?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The other thing I should point out is that the National Land Transport Fund, and the road taxes and road-user charges that are used to create that fund, are hypothecated for road users. That was set up by the previous Government, which that member was a part of. So that funding is for the benefit of road users—

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister said I was a part of the previous Government, but that is simply not true.

Mr SPEAKER: There are other ways of raising that. If the member wishes to make a personal explanation, he can do that, but he cannot question whether the Minister is right or wrong. He cannot question the Minister’s answer by way of a point of order.

Dr Russel Norman: Is he effectively telling Aucklanders, who voted in overwhelming numbers for the rapid expansion of rail throughout their region, that their votes are worth less than the large financial donations from the Road Transport Forum?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I completely reject the grubby assertion made by the member in relation to that matter. I say again that we are investing very, very strongly in both rail and roads: $3.4 billion in highways in Auckland, and $1.6 billion in rail transport. Of course, we are prepared to look at further projects over time, but it is important not just to ensure that the current projects are completed—and there is a considerable period of time before they are—but also to make sure the operating costs of those projects are met. Frankly, that has not been done yet, and we will need Auckland to work with the Government to ensure that we meet the operating costs of that investment, which is already in place.

Hon Darren Hughes: Does the fact that 12 members of the new 20-member Auckland Council yesterday pledged support for the central business district tunnel loop mean he is now prepared to get beyond his dismissive comments of the past when he was supporting John Banks for the mayoralty, and agree that Aucklanders want to have improved public transport, such as the loop and the line to the airport in Albany?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I struggle with that member’s comments, as they come from the party that was going sock Auckland with a large regional fuel tax to pay for those projects, whereas this Government has invested very large amounts in the electrification of rail and the electric trains in Auckland. The electrification of rail and the electric trains were appropriated for by this Government last year. The important thing is that yes, there will be further projects over time. The main thing is that we understand the cost of those projects and make the decisions in an appropriate time frame. I am looking forward to having those discussions with the new mayor and the Auckland Council.

Television New Zealand Presenter’s Comments—Apology to Indian Government

5. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the New Zealand High Commissioner’s apology to the Indian Government for Paul Henry’s on-air comments: “It doesn’t matter that the words don’t come out of my mouth. They’ve come out of the mouth of the High Commissioner, but they have been the instructions of the New Zealand Government.”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, because at the time I made that statement last Friday, I assumed that that had been the case for both the apology to the Government of India and an apology directly to the Chief Minister of Delhi. Subsequently, I have been advised that although my foreign policy adviser had spoken to the high commissioner and directed that an apology be delivered to the Chief Minister, this occurred after the separate apology to the Government of India had already been delivered.

Hon Maryan Street: Why was he all but silent on this issue until after the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had issued a media statement and delivered a strongly worded démarche to the high commissioner on 7 October?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Firstly, I would not say that I was silent on the issue. I was questioned extensively on Monday at my press conference. At the time, I did not refer to Phil Goff’s comments, which were that it was Paul Henry being Paul Henry. But had I known that Mr Goff had said that 5 hours after he had a chance to consider it, I probably would have repeated those comments as well.

Hon Maryan Street: What advice did he receive from the Minister of Foreign Affairs about how his Government should respond to this rapidly escalating diplomatic incident?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I did not receive any, but my office and my foreign policy advisor would have been closely working with their counterparts in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Hon Maryan Street: How has he enhanced our relationship with India and the progress of the complex free-trade agreement with India through his appalling lack of judgment and leadership over Paul Henry’s repeated slights?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I know this will come as a tremendous surprise to the member, but I am not responsible for what comes out of Paul Henry’s mouth, or Michael Laws or any of the other shock jocks who work in the broadcasting world.

Hon Maryan Street: Does the Prime Minister accept that in hindsight he might have defended the Governor-General during his interview on Television One last week?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said yesterday, one can always reflect on these things in hindsight. The comments I made about 8 hours after the incident at my post-cabinet press conference were that the comments were plain wrong and that the Governor-General was doing a tremendous job. I did not choose to quote Phil Goff when he said that Paul Henry was just being Paul Henry, because I assumed Mr Goff would have thought about his own comments a little more.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That was a commendably direct question about the Prime Minister’s action at the time of the interview. The Prime Minister gave a long diatribe about what he did afterwards, but he did not refer to the fact that he did not pull Paul Henry up to defend the Governor-General during the interview.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is now getting into the substance of an issue. I listened to the question very carefully. Although it was a brief question, it really asked the Prime Minister on reflection how he felt about the way he handled the issue. The Prime Minister gave his view of the way he handled the issue. The type of question that seeks an opinion will never get an exact answer.

Hon Maryan Street: I seek leave of the House to table the statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs released on 7 October 2010 entitled “India denounces racist remarks against Delhi Chief Minister”.

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.

Housing, Affordable—Gateway Housing Assistance

6. HEKIA PARATA (National) to the Minister of Housing: What announcement has he recently made that supports the Government’s aim of improving the provision of affordable housing in New Zealand?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): Yesterday I announced the launch of the Gateway Housing Assistance initiative. This programme will make it easier for first-home buyers and those on lower incomes to build or purchase their own homes, by allowing purchasers to defer payment on the land for up to 10 years. So this allows people on lower incomes to concentrate on building their homes before they assume the additional burden of paying for the land. It is a neat two-step process: pay for the building, then pay for the land 10 years later. It is just another addition to the tool kit for first-home buyers. But the most important thing the Government can do for firsthome buyers is to manage the economy well, keeping down interest rates well below what they were at the time of Labour’s tenure when they were 10 and 11 percent, so that people can afford to pay their mortgages.

Hekia Parata: What other programmes support the provision of affordable housing?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: We have also raised the cap on Welcome Home Loans, from $280,000 to $350,000. We have seen 3,000 New Zealanders become homeowners under that fund since we became the Government. Last year the Housing Innovation Fund saw 169 new houses built—many of them for first-home buyers—with $20 million of the taxpayers’ money met by $40 million of the community’s money, which is great: we are seeing $2 for every $1 we put up. But I have to say that managing the economy well and keeping interest rates down below the 10 and 11 percent, which they were under Labour, means that people can afford to pay their fortnightly mortgage. That is the most important thing we can do: manage the economy well, and cut red tape for building and resource consenting.

Rahui Katene: What priority is he according the issue of affordable housing in rural communities, and how can iwi Māori be involved in this issue?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: We were very conscious when we raised the amount of money in the Housing Innovation Fund to $20 million—it was $12 million under the previous Government—that we would set aside $4 million, $5 million, or $6 million each year for Māori housing, particularly in rural areas. Mangatawa Papamoa Blocks Inc., Te Rarawa, Ngāti Awa, and Ngāti Hine Health Trust last year received $5.5 million. They built with that money 44 kaumātua and affordable houses across the regions, which is wonderful. Māori iwi groups are applying again this year. We hope to see another 40 or 50 houses being built, particularly on Māori rural land. My message for iwi leaders is to work in partnership with Housing New Zealand Corporation and the Department of Building and Housing. We want to engage with them.

Moana Mackey: Why, when back in 2008 the previous Labour Government had already identified 1,500 sites on Crown land for affordable homes in Auckland alone, has it taken him 2 years to come up with 30 sites across the whole country?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: Well, members who have been here longer than 3 years will recall that Labour identified a fair bit of land. It included the Auckland Zoo and many, many public parks across Auckland. We decided this. We consulted, we went out there and discussed it amongst ourselves, and we decided that we would not close down the Auckland Zoo, so those bits of land were set aside. Rather than identifying land, we are just delighted to hand over the keys to some property.

Moana Mackey: Does he appreciate that his Government’s decision to raise GST has already increased the cost of building a new home; that his decision to charge interest on the Crown land will add, by his own calculations, at least $36,000 to the cost of a new home; and that cost of living increases across the board have already made it harder for families to get into and to sustain housing, and does he realise that housing affordability will never be addressed as long as his Government continues to give with one hand and take with the other?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I do not consider many of those statements made by the Opposition member to be factual. What everyone in this House knows is factual is that when the previous Government was managing the economy, interest rates for mortgage payers were up at around 10 and 11 percent, whereas this Government is looking to manage the economy to keep interest rates down at a decent level. The most important thing we can do for first-home buyers is to manage the economy so that interest rates for mortgage payers are kept at a reasonable level, not at 10 or 11 percent as they were under the previous Government.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I would like you reflect—not necessarily directly now, but as you review questions today—that answer, and review the beginning, which attacked the credibility of a member for the use of some facts that I am informed came from that Minister’s website. The point is that if someone is doubting a member’s word on a matter of fact, then it is quite a serious matter, and it used not to be allowed in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: I appreciate the member’s point of order. I invite him to also check the Hansard of his colleague’s question. I think he will find that the question was actually of the kind that lends itself to a very wide range of answers. It was a total opinion question. It asked the Minister’s opinion about something and contained some facts. With supplementary questions, I think Ministers are entitled to question the validity of facts and assertions inserted into supplementary questions. After all, they are not meant to contain assertions beyond what is absolutely minimal to state the question. I listened very carefully to that question. I thought to myself as I heard it: “Here is a go.”—the Minister really has licence to go anywhere with that kind of question. I invite both members to look at the question asked and see why the Minister was given such licence with that kind of question to give the kind of answer that he did.


7. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Social

Development and Employment: What recent reports, if any, has she received on unemployment in New Zealand?

Hon TONY RYALL (Acting Minister for Social Development and Employment): This Government has made unemployment its No. 1 priority during the course of the recession, so the Minister receives a large number of reports on the issue. Just this morning I received the monthly benefit figures for September, which show that 5,890 people had cancelled benefits because they had found work.

Hon Annette King: When the Minister’s colleague the Minister of Finance said at the end of September that “There’s no doubt that unemployment has peaked”, had the Minister informed him that the number of people on the unemployment benefit had just gone up by 2 percent that month, from the very figures that the Acting Minister has just tried to use, to a total of 65,281; if not, why not?

Hon TONY RYALL: I am not in a position to advise exactly what the Minister told the Minister of Finance, but I am sure that in their conversations they reflected upon the point that when that member was the Minister of Employment there were 165,000 registered unemployed in this country.

Hon Annette King: Does the Minister agree with KPMG’s Mood of the Market report, which said almost one in five Auckland firms expected to lay off staff over this year; if so, how does the Minister reconcile that with the comments of the Minister of Finance when he said “There’s no doubt that unemployment has peaked”?

Hon TONY RYALL: I am uncertain whether the Minister has been briefed on that report, but I do know it is correct that the trend is certainly supportive of the comments that the finance Minister has made, when we consider that this Government inherited an economy that was in free fall, in the midst of the worst economic recession for several generations.

Hekia Parata: Can the Minister explain the situation with regard to youth unemployment?

Hon TONY RYALL: I am pleased to be able to report that the September figures show a positive sign for young people who are looking for work. The number of young people, as a proportion of total unemployment benefit recipients, decreased from 32.7 percent a year ago to 30.4 percent last month. However, we anticipate the usual seasonal increases will occur as students finish their exams.

Hon Annette King: Can the Minister confirm that the National Government inherited 22,000 people on the unemployment benefit, and that now 65,000 people are on the unemployment benefit; and how many of the 170,000 jobs that are to be created over the next 4 years, as promised by Gerry Brownlee, have been created so far?

Hon TONY RYALL: I can certainly confirm the current number of unemployed people. As that member will realise, this Government inherited an economy that was in free fall, in the midst of the worst economic recession for quite some years. That recession will only get worse, given that Labour promised $500 million in back-pay to disability workers and promised another $230 million of payment in other parts of the health service, but does not appreciate the fact that eventually all that money needs to be paid back.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a graph, from the Parliamentary Library, that shows that at the change of Government the number of people on the unemployment benefit was 22,000, and that as of September the number is now 65,281.

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.

Jacinda Ardern: Does the Minister stand by her statement that the National Government has helped many, many, many unemployed young people; if so, how does she reconcile that statement with the findings of the New Zealand Institute’s NZahead project that show that “the impact of the Youth Opportunities package would affect at most 12 percent” and that “these figures do not go far towards addressing the more than 68,200” unemployed youth?

Hon TONY RYALL: I think it is very easy to stand behind the comments that the Minister has made, because the facts of the answer to the supplementary question from Mrs Parata demonstrate what the Government’s policies are achieving. We have put a lot of emphasis into this area, and the Minister is doing a very good job of dealing with the No. 1 priority during these tough economic times.

Fonterra—Capital Restructuring Plan

8. SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki – King Country) to the Minister of Agriculture: How is the Government working with Fonterra to progress its capital restructuring plans?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister of Agriculture): Fonterra’s achieving a successful capital restructuring is vital to the New Zealand economy. That is why officials, led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, are working closely and cooperatively with Fonterra as it develops its capital restructuring plan in detail. This is to ensure that the Government’s public policy requirements are addressed and that officials are in a position to design and implement an appropriate regulatory regime.

Shane Ardern: When does the Government expect to be in a position to implement a new regulatory regime?

Hon DAVID CARTER: Fonterra aims to launch its new capital structure by November 2011. The Government is working hard to ensure that a new regulatory regime can be developed and implemented in time for this. However, it is important to note that a November 2011 time frame is very ambitious. Any slippage in the joint process will mean that that timetable will be hard to meet.

Hon Damien O’Connor: Will the capital restructuring allow foreign investment in Fonterra, and will the National-ACT Government intervene to stop the sale of the dairy industry to foreign buyers?

Hon DAVID CARTER: Although trading amongst farmers is finally being developed by Fonterra, it is difficult to answer that question in detail, but I do not expect it to allow foreign investment in Fonterra in any way, at all.

Recession—Minister’s Statement

9. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his statement in January this year that “as New Zealand emerges from recession, the Government’s focus has firmly shifted towards significantly lifting our economic performance”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, that is certainly the case. The accumulating evidence is that this economy needs significant structural renovation, and that is what this Government is setting out to achieve.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister accept Statistics New Zealand data that shows that New Zealanders on the median wage are worse off by at least $9 a week while, at the same time, prices have increased by almost 2 percent?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, that is not what those numbers tell him, and, in any case—and this has been discussed in the House for quite some time recently—real wages are rising. If the Labour Party believes that the increase in GST is the wrong policy, then it should campaign to axe the tax, as Mr Goff promised some time ago, and to take back the income tax cuts that New Zealanders are now enjoying.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why did he claim to the House on 19 August that incomes had increased by 8.7 percent when Statistics New Zealand data clearly shows that median incomes are going backwards for the first time since 1998?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is trying to be tricky with different statistical series. The fact is that the debate in the House has used the underlying wage numbers, which all Governments have employed for calculating national superannuation—that is, the average after-tax, ordinary time, weekly wage. But if the member does not like the policy of having the increase in GST and the cut in income tax he can campaign to roll back both the GST increase and the income tax cuts, and so far he has not done that.

Craig Foss: What steps has the Government taken to lift New Zealand’s economic growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have had to take a large number of steps because the previous Government did so much damage to the basic settings of this economy. We have reformed the tax system, and across-the-board income tax cuts were put in place just a couple of weeks ago. We have helped to reduce inflation and keep interest rates low. We have increased real take-home pay, and we have taken steps to get Government debt under control. We have reprioritised $4 billion of lowquality, back-office Government spending and put it into the front-line areas of education, health,

and law and order. We have introduced national standards in schools, and we have cut red tape in a whole range of areas, including making it easier for businesses to hire new workers. We have invested billions in infrastructure, such as broadband, the electricity grid, roads, and schools. This has helped to support thousands of jobs during the recession.

Hon David Cunliffe: Given that he has said that the Government inherited an economy that was “in good shape” and that he has taken all those steps, why does the latest New Zealand Institute of Economic Research quarterly business activity data show that manufacturing is crashing and that the GDP statistics are extremely weak, and why has Fitch Ratings noted that household savings are falling further; and if all this is true, exactly what part of his rebalanced recovery is still on track?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: All of it is. If there is any reason why the recovery is slowing it is that households are adjusting more quickly than we expected—that is, they are being more careful with their spending, they are increasing their savings, and they are paying off their debts. That is an adjustment that needs to occur in New Zealand, and, if it means, in the shorter term, lower business confidence, it will mean, in the longer term, a better balanced economy.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree with Statistics New Zealand that the 1.7 percent decline in the median wage “continues a decline in annual wage growth over the past 15 months”; if so, how can his Government claim to be catching up with Australia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Everyone knows that there has been a decline in wage growth. Wage increases have been relatively small whether they are in the private sector or in the public sector, and that reflects the community’s broad understanding of the recession we are in. Of course it will require significant growth to close the gap with Australia, and the Government is taking a 3-5 year view about the structural changes that are required to undo the damage his Government did and to lift our growth rates. We intend to persist with that programme regardless of how the economy performs quarter to quarter.

Energy Efficiency—AA EnergyWise Rally

10. MELISSA LEE (National) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: What is the purpose of the AA EnergyWise Rally, organised by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Minister of Energy and Resources): The AA EnergyWise Rally is a biennial event designed to raise consumer awareness of fuel-efficient vehicles and fuel-saving driving techniques. Choosing a fuel-efficient vehicle and driving smoothly reduces fuel bills, saves money, and is environmentally friendly. The rally started in Auckland yesterday and those taking part will travel 1,780 kilometres around the North Island. Forty-nine cars from 10 manufacturers have entered this rally.

Melissa Lee: What awards are available to be won as part of the rally?

Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: Certainly not one for speed, I can assure members. The supreme award in the rally is for the vehicle that costs the least to complete the 1,780 kilometre route, including fuel and road-user charges. There are also awards for the most efficient hybrid, diesel, and petrol vehicles, along with the most efficient driver and the most environmentally friendly car. This is just another part of the Government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions in New Zealand.

Television New Zealand Presenter’s Comments—Resignation Agreement

11. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Minister of

Broadcasting: Has TVNZ made any agreement to make a payment to Paul Henry on his resignation?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (Minister of Broadcasting): I am not aware of any of the terms under which Mr Henry was employed. Furthermore, it would be inappropriate for me to seek that information from Television New Zealand (TVNZ), as I would be contravening the Television New Zealand Act and the Crown Entities Act. If TVNZ were to reveal this information to me, it might be in danger of contravening the Privacy Act and the Employment Relations Act.

Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the member, I say that I struggled to hear the last part of that answer. I believe it was a serious question, and the level of interjection was just too high.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Is he saying he does not know, or is he saying he will not tell the House?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I think I was pretty clear: I do not know.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Does the Minister accept that TVNZ’s dividend to the Government and its value are his responsibility, and can he guarantee that these have not been reduced in any way by any payment to Mr Henry over and above the statutory minimum requirements?


Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Has he told TVNZ not to make a payment over and above the statutory minimum requirements; if not, why not?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: No, I have not. I refer that member to the precedent set by his colleague Trevor Mallard in 2008, when Ralph Craven departed as Transpower boss. Trevor Mallard said at that stage that Ministers were not responsible for the work of chief executives and staff, or employment matters, and that they were operational and a matter for the chairman. So I tell the member to go and talk to Trevor Mallard; he knows the rules on this. We are following the same form.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is a big difference between being responsible and knowing.

Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. The member knows he cannot litigate an answer that is available—

Hon Trevor Mallard: Well, he cannot—

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet. It is up to the person questioning the Minister. If he does not like the answer, he has further supplementary questions to dig in to that answer. It is not up to another member to by way of point of order interfere with it. The questioner has the opportunity, if the answer does not seem appropriate or of the quality the questioner expects, to dig into it with the next supplementary question.

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I object to that member saying that I am telling lies. I am quoting directly—

Mr SPEAKER: Admittedly, there was some interjection when there should not have been: when a point of order was being heard. I confess that I did not hear the member assert that the Minister was—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I make it very clear that I did and I apologise.

Mr SPEAKER: That was quite out of order, so I now ask the Hon Trevor Mallard to stand and withdraw and apologise. If he is admitting he said it, I ask him to withdraw and apologise.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I so do.

Hon Simon Power: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member is required to say: “I withdraw and apologise.”, not: “I so do.”, or whatever phrase the member used.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the member made. I took what the member said to be a genuine following of my instructions. What troubles me at times is when members get up and say: “I withdraw and apologise.” as if they do not mean it, at all. I thought the member indicated, in the way he said it, that he actually meant it. I let the issue pass; it was my judgment to let it pass. I apologise to the House if I erred there. I do not want to go back and take time to correct it now, because it was my judgment at that time that the member apologised. But I stress to the House that it should not be taken as a precedent.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What would be the circumstances under which a payment by TVNZ to a resigning presenter would not be acceptable, and is there conduct that would be serious enough to cause that Minister to intervene, offer an opinion, or even, pray tell, ask the chief executive officer for any information?

Hon Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: When we talk about what the circumstances would be, we are dealing in a hypothetical area, and I am not prepared to comment on that. But I note that when Steve Maharey was the Minister of Broadcasting and Ian Fraser left Television New Zealand, he was loathe to make any comment at all for exactly the same reasons that I have cited.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked the Minister under what circumstances he would, for instance, be prepared to intervene, in what circumstances he would be prepared to offer an opinion, or in what circumstances he might even ask a question of his chief executive officer to be informed of the information. None of that was addressed.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member listens to what the Minister said, he said that they are hypothetical questions that the member is asking. He is not prepared to answer—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Hear no evil, see no evil.

Mr SPEAKER: Order! He said that he is not prepared to answer such a question; he can look only at an individual circumstance on its own merits. He cited previous Ministers who have taken a similar approach. I believe that that is answering the member’s question. As he said, he is not prepared to answer such a hypothetical question.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner—Congratulations

12. KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Will he follow the example of world leaders Barack Obama and Angela Merkel and congratulate the latest Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, the Nobel Peace Prize is a prestigious award, and I congratulate those who are honoured with receiving this award.

Keith Locke: Will his Government be making any official representations to the Chinese Government in this particular case for the release of this brave human rights campaigner?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: New Zealand officials have previously raised the case with Chinese authorities. We have different views from those of China on some human rights issues. We have a good and robust relationship with China and we are able to raise those issues constructively. Those concerns are raised on a regular basis in China, including during the most recent high-level visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Dr Russel Norman: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was a forward-looking one. It was about whether the Prime Minister would be raising this particular case. The Prime Minister quite rightly gave an answer about what has happened in the past, which was useful, but we are interested in whether he will be raising the issue in the future.

Mr SPEAKER: I thought that the Prime Minister said that it is regularly raised.

Dr Russel Norman: No, he discussed what had happened in the past. He did not address the question as to whether he would raise it in the future—and that was the specific, very focused question.

Mr SPEAKER: Members have to be reasonable and not be too pedantic. I may not have picked up the gist of the Prime Minister’s answer accurately, and I apologise if that is the case, but I thought that the Prime Minister told the House that the matter was raised regularly. And if it is being raised regularly and nothing happens, then it is likely to be raised again—that seemed to be the purport of his answer. I may have got that wrong, but the Prime Minister does not appear to be indicating that I have.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it could be clarified quite easily if the Prime Minister would just say that the Government will be raising this issue in the future.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think we need to get as pedantic as that. As I indicated, my interpretation of the Prime Minister’s answer was that the matter had been raised on a regular basis and likely would be again, and the Prime Minister seemed to concur with my interpretation, which means that the member’s question has been answered—in that if nothing happens it probably will be raised in the future. It is not possible with hypothetical questions to get too specific. I think the

Prime Minister gave a reasonable answer. The member ought to be happy that it seems it has been raised and will be raised.

Keith Locke: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not want to get too picky but you referred to a hypothetical question. This was a very direct question, not a hypothetical one.

Mr SPEAKER: Members have to be reasonable. I have been pretty tough on Ministers answering questions when I believed that the question involved information about which there should be an answer. But on this occasion the Prime Minister indicated that the matter is being raised and has been raised regularly, and there was no indication that it would not be raised again if nothing happened. The Prime Minister nodded to the House as I indicated my interpretation of his answer. Therefore, I believe that the member has an answer to his question—if nothing changes it is likely that it will be raised in the future. To try to get too picky over answers makes it too difficult altogether.


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