Questions And Answers Feb 10

by Desk Editor on Friday, February 11, 2011 — 11:48 AM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

Enterprises : What tests would need to be met before the Government proceeded with extending the mixed-ownership model to four more State-owned enterprises?
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

THURSDAY, 10 FEBRUARY 2011

QUESTIONS FOR ORAL ANSWER

QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

State-owned Assets—Extension of Mixed-ownership Model

1. PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) to the Minister for State Owned

Enterprises: What tests would need to be met before the Government proceeded with extending the mixed-ownership model to four more State-owned enterprises?

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister for State Owned Enterprises): The Government has set out five tests that need to be met before we extend the mixed-ownership model. The first is that the Government would need to maintain a majority controlling stake by owning more than 50 percent of the company; second, New Zealand investors would have to be at the front of the queue for shareholdings, and we would have to be confident of widespread and substantial New Zealand share ownership; third, the companies would have to present good opportunities for investors; fourth, the capital freed up would have to be used on behalf of taxpayers to fund new public assets, thereby reducing the pressure on the Government to borrow; and, fifth, the Government would have to be satisfied that industry-specific regulations adequately protected New Zealand consumers. The Minister of Finance and I have asked Treasury to provide us with advice that addresses those issues.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Are there any examples where a mixed-ownership model has worked well?

Hon SIMON POWER: Yes, the advice I have is that after the fourth Labour Government sold Air New Zealand completely in 1989, the fifth Labour Government initially purchased an 82 percent share in 2001. It then diluted that to 74 percent, mainly by issuing convertible notes to a foreign investor, namely, Qantas. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: It is difficult for members at the back of the House to be heard when there is a barrage across the front of the House. I ask members to be more reasonable.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Has he seen any reports that show widespread support for creating opportunities for mum and dad shareholders to invest in mixed-ownership models?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise to the member for interrupting. Simon Power is generally regarded as honest—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, the member will resume his seat immediately. The member is a very experienced member of the House; he is the shadow Leader of the House. He knows that that attempt at a point of order was totally outside the Standing Orders. If the member is to be the shadow Leader of the House, he should treat the House with more respect than that.

Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga: Has he seen any reports that show widespread support for creating opportunities for mum and dad shareholders to invest in mixed-ownership models?

Hon SIMON POWER: Yes, I have seen a report proposing to sell State-owned enterprise subsidiaries to mums and dads on the stock exchange, stating: “I think it’s part of our job to give them some exciting examples and to work with the stock exchange and work with individual

companies to try and rebuild interest in capital markets in New Zealand. … I think there’s room for a lot of both breadth and depth in our capital markets.” I wish I could have said it as eloquently as that, but that was from Trevor Mallard in 2006. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I know these issues are contested issues, but I have called the Hon Clayton Cosgrove, and he deserves to have the chance to ask his supplementary question.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Is it not the case that large numbers of shares in energy State-owned enterprises would end up in the hands of foreign institutional investors because, as Guy Elliffe, the head of AMP Capital Investors, has pointed out, local investors do not have the capacity to “mop up” enough of the shares?

Hon SIMON POWER: Not necessarily. In fact, according to a report in the Waikato Times in 1999 after Contact Energy was floated, of the 225,000 small New Zealand investors who bought up to $2,500 worth of shares, 120,000 of them were new players in the sharemarket.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Was the comment in his primary response accurate when he said the Government issued convertible notes in Air New Zealand; was it 100 percent accurate?

Hon SIMON POWER: The advice I have is that the dilution occurred by the issuing of convertible notes to a foreign investor, namely, Qantas.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific: did the Government issue convertible notes?

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister answered that question. As I heard the Minister, he answered that question.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. He answered that convertible notes were issued, but he did not say the Government issued convertible notes. The Government cannot issue convertible notes.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is now disputing by way of a point of order an answer that was given. He cannot do that, and he knows it. The member should, if he is concerned about the answer the Minister gave, go back, look at the record, and see exactly what the Minister said. In terms of the question that was asked, the Minister answered it, and that is as far as I can take the matter in the House.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. With respect, I say the shadow Leader of the House was making the point that the Minister did not address the question, by pointing out that the question asked who issued the convertible notes.

Mr SPEAKER: With all due respect to the member, that was not the question asked. The question asked was not who issued convertible notes. If that had been the question, there might have been a different answer. As far as I am concerned, that matter is dealt with. If the member has a further supplementary question, that is in his hands.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Did the Government issue convertible notes in Air New Zealand?

Hon SIMON POWER: No, the company did. But Labour agreed to the structure, and it comes to this House—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order—

Hon Shane Jones: Go to Harvard and get the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Shane Jones may wish to think about why he should remain in the House. But it is early in the year, and I do not want to be hard on a newly promoted member. Now—[Interruption] Someone will be leaving the House very soon, if they are not careful. The member asked a question. The House deserved to hear the answer, but it could not hear the answer beyond the first few words. I invite the Hon Simon Power to repeat his answer, and the House will treat it with respect.

Hon SIMON POWER: Responding to the member’s question, the company issues the convertible notes, but the structure of the way this deal was set up did not prevent foreign investors from taking a share in the company.

Child Poverty—Government Action

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

Development and Employment: What steps, if any, has she taken in response to the 2010 New Zealand Children’s Social Health Monitor released in December last year, which prompted the Children’s Commissioner to call for urgent action from the Government?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The Children’s Commissioner and I agree that the global recession weighs heavily on the most vulnerable children in New Zealand. We also agree that the best way to improve outcomes for children and to strengthen families is to get parents out of that welfare trap and into work. Before the report was even released, we already had a number of initiatives under way, including a Future Focus package; the Welfare Working Group, which we set up for fresh thinking; we increased the abatement levels, which I am particularly proud of, at a cost of $53 million to help some 28,000 beneficiaries; we invested $6.2 million over 4 years to help vulnerable teen parents; we considerably increased the number of special-needs grants; we shortened the waiting times of beneficiaries; and the list goes on.

Hon Annette King: In light of the list that goes on, is she aware that the report points out that 2,000 more children have been admitted to hospital with poverty-related illnesses under her watch—illnesses with links to economic hardship—and is this awful statistic the reason she was unavailable for comment when the report was released, yet comment was able to be made on her Christmas decorations that day?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We have also seen this Government put a focus on homes and insulating homes. More than 60,000 have been done. Due to the outstanding work of my colleague the Minister of Health we now have more Māori kids being immunised—

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the honourable member to repeat her supplementary question, because it appeared to me that the Minister had some information she wished to impart to the House, but in fact she is meant to answer a question. The question may not have been the best question in the world, and that may give the Minister some licence, but she should not just make a speech to the House.

Hon Annette King: In light of her list of so-called achievements, is she aware that the report points out that 2,000 more children have been admitted to hospital with poverty-related illnesses under her watch—illnesses with links to economic hardship—and is this awful statistic the reason she was unavailable to comment when the report came out, yet comment was able to be made about her Christmas decorations that day?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The question is about 2,000 more children being in hospital and about health. Yes, I am aware of that. I am also aware that more Māori kids are being immunised at age 2 than ever before in our history and that 83 percent of young New Zealanders under 6 now have free access to a general practitioner, compared with 70 percent under the party opposite when in Government. Under the last Government 8 percent of kids were getting a before-school check. That figure is now up to 70 percent, so, yes, gains have been made, and I say thanks for the work of the Minister of Health.

Hon Annette King: If, as she has claimed on no fewer than 140 occasions, “Every day … I invest energy and passion into making a difference in the lives of children”, why does the 2010 report show that under her stewardship half of all children living in severe hardship do not have wet-weather gear or proper footwear, have had doctors’ visits postponed, and share a bed, and when will her so-called energy and passion start to work for those children?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Since we have been in Government we have had a number of initiatives to protect our children. I can talk about non-governmental organisation First Response that we have initiated. We have Child, Youth and Family social workers in hospitals for the first time, and multidisciplinary meetings before the discharge of a child who has been abused. Whānau Ora has been introduced, with $120 million before it, and we have funding for extra Child, Youth

and Family social workers. The list is incredibly long. It is more than a sentence in the paper, which is all we have heard as a policy from that member.

Hon Annette King: Can the Minister tell the House when this long list of initiatives will start to work?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It has been 2 years in the wilderness, and all of a sudden the missed opportunities are noticed.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was very specific. There was no need to go off and talk about the wilderness and other people. The Minister should just answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: Some of the questions have been very long, and many parts of them did give the Minister a lot of opportunity to say a range of things in response, but that particular question was pretty brief and asked just one thing: when the Minister expected certain things to take effect. There may be no particular answer to that, but some attempt to answer the question would be appreciated.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The point I make is that after 9 years a lot of money was thrown at the social services and at those children in particular. I think the questions that were not asked at that time were what was working and what was not working. This Government is prepared to look at that. The initiatives we put in place are already working. They are making a difference to the most vulnerable children. We will continue to put consideration into those efforts and make a considered effort.

Hon Annette King: We didn’t get any answers.

Mr SPEAKER: That particular question had no particular answer, but it was a brief question. When policies are planned, part of the planning ought to indicate the time frame for policies to take effect. It is not unreasonable to ask what the time frame for that might be. If the question had had some political content in it, then it is fair enough to attack the Opposition, but it did not. It referred to the list of policies the member had mentioned and asked when it was expected they might take effect. I will not ask the Minister to respond further, because we have taken up enough time, but I ask the Minister to think about that in answering questions. An earlier question was very convoluted and gave the Minister a lot of licence, but members should listen to the questions. That question was not convoluted and, in my view, deserved a better answer.

Katrina Shanks: Has the Minister received any reports about the attention this Government has paid to children?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, I received a copy of a letter from the Children’s Commissioner that praises the Prime Minister’s focus on children in his speech to this House on Tuesday, and I quote: “In the past I have been critical of the lack of weight given children’s interests in Government decision-making. It is therefore important I acknowledge the attention paid to children in your statement.”

Broadband, Rural Initiative—Improvements

3. JO GOODHEW (National—Rangitata) to the Minister for Communications and

Information Technology: What decisions has the Government made on improving broadband to rural areas?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): On Monday the Government commenced commercial negotiations with Telecom and Vodafone for the provision of vastly improved broadband services to rural New Zealand. The Government inherited a position where half of rural New Zealand was still using dial-up and only 20 percent of customers were accessing speeds of five megabits or more. Our policy and the resulting investment will see that proportion rise to 86 percent of rural households and businesses, with 95 percent of rural schools receiving a direct fibre connection, along with numerous marae and their adjacent communities.

Jo Goodhew: Why did the Government elect to negotiate with Vodafone and Telecom?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The joint Vodafone and Telecom proposal is based on proven existing technology and provides the Government with the confidence that it can be deployed. The joint proposal was the only one that increases mobile coverage and will ensure serious day one competition and choice in the last mile, with many rural customers being able to choose from fixed wireless, ADSL2, fibre to the premise for those directly passed, and mobile broadband. It has been designed on an open access basis to increase competition in rural areas, and other providers will be able to co-locate with the Government-funded infrastructure, encouraging competition and innovation for rural services.

Clare Curran: What guarantee can he give rural New Zealanders that they will receive broadband of the same quality and at the same price as their urban counterparts?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The rural broadband programme is designed to do exactly that: to increase speeds to those that are currently already being enjoyed in urban areas and to do it on a competitive basis. Those negotiations on price are continuing, and I am confident that there will be competitive prices.

Jo Goodhew: What feedback has the Minister received to Monday’s announcement?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I have received positive feedback from a wide range of sources. Rural Women said it was “pretty damn good” and that the Government and telecommunications companies should just get on with it. Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand Chief Executive, Paul Brislen, said that the open access aspects of the policy would ensure that Telecom did not regain a monopoly position. Even the International Data Corporation, which is not a noted enthusiast for Government policy, believes that the Government has opted for a pragmatic outcome. I know that some of the interested parties who missed out are disappointed—and of course Labour members, who wishes they had thought of it—but we have made the best decision for our rural communities.

State-owned Assets—Sales of Shares to Foreign Investors

4. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that mums and dads will be free to on-sell shares in partially privatised SOEs to foreign investors?

Hon SIMON POWER (Minister of Justice) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, because we want New Zealanders to get a good return on their investments. When the Prime Minister set out the tests for a mixed-ownership model, he was clear we would proceed only if New Zealand investors were at the front of the queue for shareholdings, if we were confident of widespread and substantial New Zealand share ownership, and if the companies involved presented good opportunities for investors. The advice we have sought from Treasury takes into account those requirements.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Will those New Zealanders who are among the more than 1,000 people leaving permanently for overseas every week under this Government, according to the Statistics New Zealand figures, be able to buy shares in partially privatised State-owned enterprises because they are foreign residents?

Hon SIMON POWER: From the tests the Prime Minister has outlined, it should be clear that the main priority is for New Zealanders to ensure that they have an opportunity to hold those shares. That is why—

Hon Trevor Mallard: They’re residents.

Hon SIMON POWER: The member should let me finish. That is why we are asking for advice from Treasury about what is practical in this area.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Did the Government communicate with Contact Energy yesterday to, among other things, find out how many foreign investors it has?

Hon SIMON POWER: I am not in a position to answer that question; I do not have that information to hand.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Is it not the case that the Government has not properly researched its proposal to sell State-owned assets, given that one Simon King, who is Contact Energy’s Government Relations Manager, confirmed that a Government representative rang the company yesterday to find out, among a whole series of other inquiries, what proportion of the company is owned by foreign investors?

Hon SIMON POWER: The answer to the first part of that question is no.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Can he tell us whether someone whose net worth increased by $5 million last year is more or less likely than ordinary Kiwi families—who got a $15-a-week tax cut—to be able to afford these shares?

Hon SIMON POWER: I am sure that all New Zealanders, through various vehicles, will have an opportunity to purchase shares if the Government goes ahead, following the Treasury advice it expects to receive shortly.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I draw attention that the key part of the question was whether that was “more or less likely”.

Mr SPEAKER: The question was seeking an opinion, and there is no particular answer to a question that seeks an opinion.

Health Targets—Immunisation of 2-year-olds

5. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Health: What progress is the Government making in its preventative health target, to increase immunisation for 2-year-olds?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Next week I will be announcing the second quarter results for the Government’s six health targets, which will include a record level of immunisation for 2-year-olds being achieved. These results will confirm that immunisation coverage for children turning 2 has risen to over 88 percent. This is yet another new record in immunising our children against serious childhood diseases. The National Government has put over a billion dollars extra into health, and we are keeping the heat on the district health boards to give New Zealanders better health services for better value for money.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What progress has been made on immunising 2-year-olds from high-needs families?

Hon TONY RYALL: I can tell the member that in the last 2 years under a National-led Government great progress has been made in advancing children’s immunisation rates for all groups. The number of immunised Māori children has jumped nearly 14 percent, to 85 percent, which is the Government’s target over 2 years. The number of immunised Pacific children has also risen 14 percent, to 91 percent of 2-year-olds. The gap between Māori and other children is the lowest it has ever been for immunisation. This Government is serious about health promotion and disease prevention.

GRANT ROBERTSON: How does the Minister reconcile that last answer with the statement from the Auckland District Health Board that Māori intervention rates for immunisation had not improved at all?

Hon TONY RYALL: Because it is simply incorrect. We now have the lowest gap ever between Māori and non-Māori in immunisation rates. The party opposite promised to close the gaps, and just made it worse. We are using the money we are investing to deliver for all New Zealanders.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave to table the minutes of the Auckland District Health Board meeting held on Wednesday, 2 February 2011, which note that Māori intervention rates had not improved.

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.

Question No. 6 to Minister

Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn): I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. As this question follows on directly from the comment made by the Hon Bill English yesterday, and as he is obviously not here to answer it today, I seek leave to have this question held over to the next sitting day.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to have the question held over to the next sitting day. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Recession, Australia—Predictions

6. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Does he stand by his answer to question 7 yesterday, suggesting that Australia is headed for a double-dip recession?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Associate Minister of Finance) on behalf of the Minister of Finance: Despite relatively strong growth in the first part of last year, Australia’s growth slowed to just 0.2 percent in the September quarter. There are high levels of household debt and Australia’s consumer and housing markets are slowing down quite significantly. Of course, what the Minister omitted to say yesterday was that Australia never had an initial recession, unlike New Zealand, which, under the Labour Government, went into a recession almost a year before the global financial crisis even hit.

Hon David Cunliffe: In light of the Minister’s answer, can he tell the House when did Australia first go into recession, following the onset of the global financial crisis?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I answered that in the previous answer to the question. I however point out that the reason that Australia did not have the first recession was that it did not have the Labour Government we had in New Zealand for 9 years, and I suggest there is a strong correlation between the two.

Hon David Cunliffe: l would normally do this at the end of the session, but as it relates directly to the point made by the Minister, I seek leave to table a statement on monetary policy by the Reserve Bank of Australia that was issued just days ago and shows forecasts of strong, positive economic growth for the next 5 years.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is objection.

Chris Tremain: What reports has the Minister seen on the reasons for New Zealand’s most recent recession in 2008?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealand went into a recession—

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This question set down by David Cunliffe is about an Australian double-dip recession, and the supplementary question is about a recession in New Zealand. I cannot see the connection between the two. This is a very specific primary question.

Mr SPEAKER: If the member had listened to the Minister’s answer, he would have noticed that the Minister referred to what had happened in New Zealand at the same time, which does open the question more widely, including opening it for Opposition members. So the question is in order.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: New Zealand went into recession months before most other developed countries, due to serious and damaging imbalances that built up in the economy under the previous Government. Among these were a massive blowout in Government spending, rampant inflation, which peaked at 5.1 percent at the end of 2008, a credit binge that will take years to unwind, and decade-high interest rates—all of which strangled our export sector, and all of which the Opposition does not want to know about. It appears Labour has learnt nothing from that recession, as it still seems prepared to pump up spending and pump up debt.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Not only is the question marginal but the Minister’s answer is turning into a speech.

Mr SPEAKER: It is up to the Speaker to determine whether the Minister is taking too long, and I say that the Minister had taken sufficient time, indeed, to answer the question.

Hon David Cunliffe: Which aspect of the Australian Government’s comprehensive and welltargeted stimulus package contributed most to Australia’s avoiding going into recession, unlike New Zealand under this National Government?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: A number of things prevented Australia from going into recession while New Zealand did. The first is that it did not have the massive blowout in public spending during the 2000s that we had in this country. Secondly, Australia did not have higher marginal tax rates at the lower rates that we had in this country. Thirdly, Australia ran an altogether much more business-friendly policy than was run over the period of the 2000s. Those are just three off the top of my head.

Hon David Cunliffe: If Australia is headed for a double-dip recession, can the Minister explain why 36,000 New Zealanders emigrated there in the past year, showing John Key’s promise to stop this brain drain to be yet another cruel hoax?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That is pretty rich, coming from somebody who wants to raise the top tax rates to over 50 percent. The reason people went to Australia in record numbers—

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There are so many things wrong with that answer that it will take a while—

Mr SPEAKER: If the member does not want that kind of answer, he should not include in his supplementary question language like “cruel hoax”. That just invites the Minister to have a fair bit of licence in how he answers it. I will allow the Minister to finish his answer.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The key point I was making was that that was pretty rich coming from a party that wants to increase top marginal tax rates to encourage the flight of skilled New Zealanders to Australia, just as it did through the 2000s, creating record emigration to Australia from this country.

Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table Immigration New Zealand statistics that show that emigration to Australia is now—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member will resume his seat. The member knows that statistical releases are available to all members, and we do not seek leave to table that sort of document.

Hon David Cunliffe: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I question your ruling, Mr Speaker, which of course you may be able to repeat. But this is a special document that has been compiled by our own research unit, pulling together a number of difference sources of information to undoubtedly prove the point—

Mr SPEAKER: I beg the honourable member’s pardon. Leave is sought to table a document prepared by the Labour Party research unit on immigration figures. Is there any objection to that? There is objection.

Treaty of Waitangi Settlements—Progress

7. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations: What progress has the Government made towards its aspirational goal of settling historical Treaty of Waitangi claims by 2014?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Minister for Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations): Very good progress. In December last year the Government signed deeds of settlement with Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Pāhauwera, and Rangitāne o Wairau. The Government also initialled deeds of settlement with Ngāi Tamanuhiri, Ngāti Mākino, and Ngāti Rereahu over the Maraeroa blocks claims. I just mention to Mr Horomia in passing that his associate Mr Jones said on Tuesday that these were small and insignificant iwi. Perhaps he should tell Mr Māhuika that.

Hon Tau Henare: Why is the Government committed to reaching durable settlements of historic grievances?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Among other things, Treaty settlements provide a regional economic stimulus that creates jobs, boosts investment, and lays the foundation for future economic prosperity for Māori and non-Māori. That is why this Government is committed to the expeditious completion of durable settlements, and has devoted fresh energy to this important area, and why in 2 years we have achieved as much as Labour did in 9 years.

Hon Parekura Horomia: Will the Minister give the House his assurance that he will discourage Government members from cutting short select committee processes on the settlement bills in the way he did on the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Members of the Māori Affairs Committee, of which this member is one, will always give very careful consideration to Treaty settlement bills.

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Passage

8. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Attorney-General: Does the Government intend that the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill be passed without amendment?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): Whether the bill is passed without amendment will be determined by the House, not the Minister, although I would be very interested to know whether Labour will move any amendments.

Hon David Parker: Why did the Government use its voting muscle to report the bill back early without any amendment, and without even a half-hearted attempt to consider the submissions of the more than 4,500 New Zealanders who went to the trouble of submitting—

Mr SPEAKER: Forgive my interrupting the honourable member, but he should give some thought to the fact that the Minister is not responsible for the actions of a select committee. The select committee makes its decisions, and the Minister cannot be questioned about the decisions of the select committee. I invite the member to reword his question.

Hon David Parker: In fact, I had not finished it. Why did the Government use its voting muscle to report the bill back early without any amendment, and without even a half-hearted attempt to properly consider either the submissions of more than 4,500 New Zealanders or a 500-page departmental report, which committee members had not even read, and was that because he had instructed them to do so?

Mr SPEAKER: Clearly the member did not listen to my caution. The member did not listen to what I said before. The Minister has no responsibility for the behaviour of the select committee. The member may want to ask the Minister whether he gave the select committee any instructions, but we did not need all the rest of that question. I invite the member again—but this will be the last occasion—to repeat his question, to get it in order.

Hon David Parker: Did the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister, or any other member of Cabinet tell the members of the select committee to report the bill back, pronto?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No one tells Mr Henare what to do. He is the chair of the select committee. The reality of the matter is this: the areas of dispute between the parties on this issue have been very clear from the time that Labour announced its fifth position on the bill. What is in the public interest now is that we debate those issues of principle.

Hon David Parker: Why did the Attorney-General refuse to release to the Māori Affairs Committee the legal advice that the Government had received about the effect of the new threshold test for the establishment of a customary marine title; was that because it would show he has been saying one thing to the Māori Party and other things to the rest of New Zealand?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, the position is—and the member knows this from his own time in Government—that issues of waiver of privilege are for the Attorney-General to determine. The committee had the opportunity to obtain legal advice, and I understand that Mr Parker declined—

Hon Trevor Mallard: No, they didn’t!

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I do not know how Mr Mallard would know; he was not a committee member. The committee had the opportunity and did not do so.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou. What is the significance of the burden of proof clause in the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill whereby the Crown is required to prove that extinguishment of customary title had not occurred, and what feedback has there been from iwi about this issue?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Clause 105 is a very important issue. It picks up what the Court of Appeal said in the Ngāti Apa case: that the burden of extinguishment lies on the personal body that seeks to have it extinguished—in this case, the Crown. So the Crown has the burden of extinguishment, and the advice that I have received from iwi is that it is a just and proper thing to do.

Hon David Parker: Did the Attorney-General, the Prime Minister, or any other Minister of the Government instruct Government members to block the select committee from obtaining its own legal advice as to the effect of the change to the threshold test for a customary marine title; and was it because the Māori Party is about to implode, or does National just want to whack this measure through so that people will forget about it before the election?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: The second part of the question is ridiculous. The Māori Party will not implode. Its members have been very staunch colleagues of this Government in dealing with Treaty settlements, which is why our record is so much better than the previous Labour Government’s was. We have been working very well together on these important issues—issues that need to be addressed. Every party in this Parliament acknowledges that the 2004 legislation is a flop and we need a better model.

Hon John Boscawen: What evidence has he been able to show the Prime Minister of widespread public support for the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, given that the Prime Minister said in March last year that if there was not widespread support for the proposed law, the current law would remain in place?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, every party in this Parliament recognises that the 2004 legislation has not worked and has to be repealed. The issues of principle are about how we go about constructing a replacement. Every party’s position in this Parliament is pretty clear on that issue, so let us have the debate.

Hon John Boscawen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was very specific. I asked the Attorney-General what evidence he had been able to show the Prime Minister of widespread public support. He mentioned nothing about the evidence that he has been able to show the Prime Minister of widespread public support for this bill. I ask the Attorney-General to answer the question.

Mr SPEAKER: I accept that the Minister did not answer exactly what the member was asking, but he did explain why the Government is proceeding with the bill, which appeared to be a little different from the previous information that was provided. But the member has a further supplementary question. If he was not particularly satisfied with that answer, he can delve further.

Hon John Boscawen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Yes, the party does have a further supplementary question, but we are still entitled to have our supplementary question answered. What you said in your response to me was that the Attorney-General did not answer the question exactly. With respect, I say he did not answer the question at all.

Mr SPEAKER: I will invite the member to repeat his question. If the member is contesting my ruling, which I accept, it had better be a very precise question.

Hon John Boscawen: What evidence has he been able to show the Prime Minister of widespread public support for the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, given that the Prime Minister said in March last year that if there was not widespread support for the proposed law, the current law would remain in place?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I said in the answer to the question the last time he asked it, I refer to the position of the political parties that are the representatives of the public in this place. I can also refer to the evidence that came from the very long conversation that we have had on this issue since November 2008 about the widespread dissatisfaction with the 2004 legislation and the desirability of having legislation that restores the right of access to justice to Māori.

Hon John Boscawen: Given that customary title-holders will have an absolute right of veto on any development proposed under the Resource Management Act, what confidence can the people of New Zealand have that they will not be held to ransom?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Iwi or any applicant group that obtains customary title will have certain rights in accordance with what one would expect of a property holder or someone who holds a title. That is a perfectly reasonable result when one bears in mind that we are dealing with respect for property rights. People will not be held to ransom. I have said on many occasions that there is a guarantee of public access to the foreshore and seabed. I think the member has to stop tilting at windmills and look at reality.

Mr SPEAKER: Because the Minister added that last bit, I invite him to answer the part of the question about the Resource Management Act.

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Well, I have said about the Resource Management Act that any development, for example, will have to be done in accordance with the provisions of that Act. Iwi will have to comply with it, and any would-be developer would have to comply with it. That hardly seems to be an unreasonable proposition.

Hon David Parker: How can the Attorney-General deny that his Government’s abysmal practice has prevented this Parliament from having any meaningful advice about the effect of the change to the crucial threshold test for the establishment of a customary marine title; and why should Parliament, and the 4,500 insulted submitters, not be critical of this?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As I understand it, Mr Parker declined extensive detail briefings on the law. The committee decided, albeit by a majority, not to have an independent legal assessment, and now he is unhappy that Crown Law advice was not provided to him because I declined to waive privilege. He is seeking advice that simply does not exist.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Has he heard the comments from historian Professor Paul Moon that “the latest stoush around the bill is nothing more than politicking”, and suggesting that “All the parties are now … trying to do whatever they can, look for any excuse … to gain some traction.”, and what weight has he placed on Professor Moon’s conclusion that “what is more important is how the bill will actually operate once it’s passed into law.”?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Ultimately, questions of who is entitled to customary title will be determined by applications to the court, but I agree with Professor Moon that now is the time to have a principled debate on, for example, the Labour Party’s position versus the Government’s position. The Labour Party says there should be no test and the matter should simply be sent back to the court; the National Party and Dr Cullen say statutory codification is necessary. Dr Cullen said that when that was Labour’s first position on reform, of course; it has had five positions since then.

Parents, Teenage—Government Support

9. TODD McCLAY (National—Rotorua) to the Minister for Social Development and

Employment: What is the Government doing to support teen parents?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): An excellent question. Amongst a number of initiatives, on Monday I opened the first of seven supported homes for teen parents, Te Whare Kaupapa Āwhina in Rotorua. We are spending $14.9 million of Budget 2010 on this area, which is the biggest ever social development investment in teen parents.

Todd McClay: What other work is under way to tackle better outcomes for young parents and their children?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: As part of Drivers of Crime, Work and Income is undertaking a project to improve engagement with young parents. We are focusing on maternity and early parenting services. There is strong evidence that effective support reduces offending and improves health, education, and social outcomes for those people. We expect these results to strengthen the referral process and coordination between the Ministry of Health and Work and Income.

Schools, Attendance Costs—Reports

10. Hon DARREN HUGHES (Labour) to the Minister of Education: As at 8 February 2011, how many reports had she requested regarding the cost of sending children to school, and what did these reports tell her?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Minister of Education: The Minister has requested numerous reports in her time as Minister of Education regarding the cost of sending children to school in the State sector. These have included reports around the costs of school transport, children with special needs, and also reports regarding integrated schools, private schools, and early childhood education. These reports show that there are numerous cost pressures in the public education system.

Hon Darren Hughes: What action will she take in response to a report from Mangere Budgeting and Family Support Services, which has seen a stream of families needing help with the costs of sending their children to school this year, particularly as the service saw many people who traditionally have been able to cope with school costs and are now struggling?

Hon TONY RYALL: Most schools really do make an effort to try to keep these costs reasonable for parents. If parents are struggling, as some will be, I suggest that they talk to the school directly. The Ministry of Social Development may also be able to help.

Hon Darren Hughes: Has she sought any advice about what is causing the number of struggling families who are applying for the Work and Income school uniform grants, which the Minister has referred to, to have jumped by 70 percent since John Key’s Government came to power?

Hon TONY RYALL: There is no doubt that the global financial crisis has put huge pressure on New Zealand families, and the start of the school year is always an expensive time for families. For those families who are having trouble, schools are able to assist when they have a number of other parents to support by making second-hand uniforms available. Similarly, the Ministry of Social Development is able to provide support.

Hon Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I understand it is a bit difficult when a Minister is answering on behalf of another Minister, but my question asked whether the Minister has sought any advice about what was causing a certain set of circumstances. The Minister was not able to tell us whether it was something the Minister of Education was concerned enough about to have sought advice on. If he does not have an answer—

Mr SPEAKER: When answering the question the Minister expressed the view of what was causing it, and I am sure his views are based on advice. Ministers receive a range of advice.

Hon Darren Hughes: Does she believe it is reasonable for an east Auckland family to have to spend more than $800 on the basics for their 5-year-old’s first year at a public school, contributing to their cost of living pressures, at a time when prices are rising faster than wages?

Hon TONY RYALL: It is not unusual for this to be an expensive time of the year, whatever the Government is. I must say it does sound very out of the ordinary that it should cost $800 for new expenses to get one’s kids equipped to go to a public school, but it is an expensive time of year. Schools do what they can to help. The Ministry of Social Development is able to help. It is the same sort of assistance that was able to be given when the previous Government was in office.

Transport Planning—Effectiveness of Investment in Public Transport

11. GARETH HUGHES (Green) to the Minister of Transport: Has he read the recent American report Transportation Funding and Job Creation, which shows that each stimulus dollar

spent on public transport yields 70 percent more job hours than motorway spending, and in light of this, will he review his Government policy statement, which spends the largest part of our transport money on new motorways?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): I have had a quick look through the document, which I have to say is a reasonably flimsy read. It is also written from a partisan approach that, it has to be said, is not a million miles from the philosophy of the member. It seems to suggest that spending on transport projects should be based solely on the number of people who work on the project. Not surprisingly, the Government takes the view that spending on transport projects has to be focused on the results each project achieves, particularly building stronger economic growth, which is a big focus of this Government.

Gareth Hughes: Can the Minister confirm that his Government policy statement cut funding for all transport classes except for new State highways?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, it actually grew for most of them, just not at the speed that the previous Government, which of course was highly influenced by the Green Party, was proposing. That would have led to dislocation in the wider transport sector.

Gareth Hughes: Can he confirm that his Government policy statement had average cuts of 26 percent for walking and cycling and 50 percent for public transport infrastructure over the next 10 years in order to fund new State highways?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: They were not cuts, as I said. I am quite proud of the fact that this Government has reoriented its investment in transport infrastructure to reflect the actual means by which New Zealanders move around and freight moves around. I do not think there would be much disagreement from the public for that.

Gareth Hughes: Based on those old trends, for example the Pūhoi to Wellsford motorway is based on 2006 commuter data and out-of-date oil projections, is this not just like investing in a CD store just before the iPod comes out?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, and I should point out—seeing as the member has raised his favourite roading project—that that project between Pūhoi and Warkworth carries more people per day than the entire Auckland commuter rail network. The difference between projects that carry traffic already and projects that might carry traffic one day is that we have to look very carefully at the assumptions of those that might, whereas the reality of those already carrying that sort of load is in front of us today.

Gareth Hughes: Given the Government’s focus on jobs, why did his Government policy statement cut funding for road maintenance when expert analysis shows this creates more jobs than new motorways?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The difficulty I have with the member’s analysis is that if we take it to its logical conclusion we should basically just hire a whole bunch of people with scissors to cut the grass beside roads and railway tracks. It is not about how many people we can get to work; it has to be about the outcomes we can achieve. I invite him to consider that.

Gareth Hughes: What is the Minister’s response to Northland Regional Councillor Joe Carr, who said this week: “I think we need to say to the government that they’ve shafted rural communities,” regarding cuts to road maintenance and sealing?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: That is not correct. I point out to the member that at lunchtime today I coincidentally met with a number of members of the Northland transport community, including members of the Northland Regional Council, the Kaipara District Council, also the Whangarei District Council. They were all united in their approval for the Government’s project for Pūhoi to Wellsford and asked us to complete it as soon as possible.

Gareth Hughes: Will he, as the new Auckland super-city council has called for, review the cost effectiveness of the new motorway north of Auckland?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member seems to be of the view that it is a fantastic idea, as the previous Government did, to bring three lanes of traffic north of Auckland to a halt in a paddock

outside Pūhoi with one lane after that. I do not think that it is. I think that with the established demand created it is necessary to provide an alternative route. On that basis, we will be proceeding with the project, provided it stacks up on the standard business case analysis.

Gareth Hughes: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a clear question: will he review the cost effectiveness, which the Auckland Council has asked for? It is a simple question.

Dr Russel Norman: Take that to Jurassic Park. Let the dinosaur speak.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The only dinosaurs around here are the Green Party members, who seem to think that the answer is that if we all worked with spades we would all be a heck of a lot more productive. No, we will not be seeking to do that. The project will be going through the normal process. We will seek a review of the business case for the central business district rail tunnel, because it is crucially important when one is talking about notional future demand to make sure that one has it based in fact.

Gareth Hughes: I seek leave to table this graph produced by the Green Party advisory unit, which tracks the transport activity classes and the previous Government policy statement versus his Government policy statement, which shows big cuts for sectors except State highways.

Mr SPEAKER: I am becoming a little concerned about this trend to seek to table documents prepared by political parties themselves. That is not the purpose of the Standing Order regarding seeking leave to table documents. The next step would be to seek leave to table the member’s own notes on something, which is totally outside the purpose of the Standing Order. So I will not be putting leave for that purpose.

Gareth Hughes: Leave has been sought already for that purpose today, and I think in the interests of fairness I should be given that opportunity as well.

Mr SPEAKER: I am going to give a clear ruling to the House on this matter. The purpose of tabling a document is to inform the House. It is not an opportunity to make a point. Debate is the time for members to express their opinions and make political points. When seeking leave to table a document a member should give the source of the document and the information it contains. The document tabled must be an authentic source. It is not acceptable in this House to seek to table members’ own views of the facts, or documents annotated to substantiate those views. I make it clear to the House that documents prepared in parties’ own research units or documents prepared by members are not the material envisaged by Standing Order 368.

Household Labour Force Survey—Job Seekers in December 2010 Compared with December

2008

12. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Minister for Social Development and

Employment: How many people were recorded as looking for work in the latest household labour force survey and what was the figure in December 2008?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): According to the household labour force survey, the number of people unemployed in the December quarter of 2008 was 106,000; in December 2010 that number was 158,000.

Jacinda Ardern: Does she stand by her comment that “Slow recovery fits Government focus on economy”, which she made in her statement announcing the latest increase in benefit numbers?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member has taken a selected part of a comment that was made. I am saying that it has been—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the Minister. The Minister was asked a question, and the Minister is answering that question. I want to hear the answer, and there is an unreasonable level of interjection from the Opposition.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We are saying that it is a bumpy road out. Actually, the unemployment rate had started to climb a year before this Government took the Treasury benches. In December 2007 it was at 3.4 percent, but in December 2008 it was at 4.6 percent, and that had not been recognised in initiatives either.

Jacinda Ardern: Does she also stand by her statement that “there’s just not as many jobs out there for the people that want them”; if so, can she advise the House how many jobs her Government has actively created?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I can say that obviously more people are looking for work than there are jobs available for them, otherwise we would not see the unemployment rate as it is. But we have also seen a number of new vacancies coming into Work and Income, and more than ever have been coming in because of the work it is doing. The labour market is still moving. When it comes to job creation, it is actually businesses that do that creation, not Governments, and it is businesses that we are supporting.

Tim Macindoe: How many New Zealanders have found jobs, despite these harsh economic conditions?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Thanks to the awesome efforts of Work and Income, I can report that in the past 2 years more than 136,000 people cancelled their benefits because they had found work, and 113,000 new vacancies had come into Work and Income. It also has increased the triage rate so people are not going on to benefits. Waiting times have been reduced. Its work has been pretty awesome.

Jacinda Ardern: What percentage of 15 to 19-year-olds was recorded as looking for work in the latest household labour force survey?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I am sorry; I cannot remember that number completely off the top of my head. Youth unemployment fell, though, from 18.4 percent to 16.8 percent for the year 2010.

Jacinda Ardern: Does she believe that youth unemployment in New Zealand is unacceptably high, at 25 percent for 15 to 19-year-olds; if so, can she share with the House any new initiatives she is developing to address youth unemployment, when in spite of Job Ops, one in four schoolleavers is leaving unemployed?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We also saw in the most recent household labour force survey that the number of youth not in employment, education, or training had fallen to 9.8 percent. Many young people are staying in school longer or are going into tertiary education—6,900 more people in tertiary, according to those figures. We saw unemployment fall from 18.4 percent to 16.8 percent. We also saw for the year of 2010 that youth employment rose by 5,400. So 5,400 more young people were in work over the year 2010.

Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I acknowledge that there were two parts to my question, and the Minister could have chosen to answer either: whether she believed youth unemployment was unacceptably high, or what new initiatives her Government was working on. She chose to address neither of those questions.

Hon Simon Power: Given your previous ruling earlier today, Mr Speaker, the problem is actually not in the answer; it is in the question. It asked the Minister what she believes.

Mr SPEAKER: Of course, when Ministers are asked for opinions it does not mean they can ignore the question totally; they are still expected to answer. But there is no precise answer to a question about an opinion. I did not pull the Minister up, because I believed that with respect to the second part of the question, the Minister was emphasising initiatives around tertiary education, which were in her view taking up some young unemployed people. Whether that is correct or not, the member way wish to question the Minister further on in the next sitting day. But to argue that the Minister did not answer the question at all is, I think, a bit of a long bow, right now.

Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Just to clarify, when asking about initiatives I asked about any new initiatives the Government was working on to address the new statistics around youth unemployment.

Mr SPEAKER: So that the House can make progress, I invite the Minister to identify any new initiatives that may be focused on reducing youth unemployment. The question, I accept, was whether the Minister considers the youth unemployment level unacceptably high, and what new initiatives there are. So I invite the Minister to comment on that, please.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There have been close initiatives going on between the tertiary education sector and the Ministry of Social Development. We have also seen Community Max, which has been increased into those areas that are most in need. In the Budget last year we also saw an extension of the Job Ops initiatives that were going on there as well. There has been a keen focus, and $1 million extra went into South Auckland, particularly looking at young Pacific Islanders. We are seeing results from that as well. But the results speak for themselves. As I said, youth employment rose by 5,400 people last year.

QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS

Social Assistance (Living Alone Payments) Amendment Bill—Submissions

1. Dr RAJEN PRASAD (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Social Services Committee: How many submissions were received on the Social Assistance (Living Alone Payments) Amendment Bill?

KATRINA SHANKS (Chairperson of the Social Services Committee): One.

Auditor Regulation and External Reporting Bill—Submissions

2. CLARE CURRAN (Labour—Dunedin South) to the Chairperson of the Commerce

Committee: How many submissions were received on the Auditor Regulation and External Reporting Bill?

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Chairperson of the Commerce Committee): Three submissions were received on the Auditor Regulation and External Reporting Bill.

Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill—Submissions

3. PHIL TWYFORD (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Local Government and

Environment Committee: How many submissions were received on the Manukau City Council (Regulation of Prostitution in Specified Places) Bill?

CHRIS AUCHINVOLE (Chairperson of the Local Government and Environment

Committee): Seventy-four.

Question No. 2 to Member—Amended Answer

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Chairperson of the Commerce Committee): I seek leave to make a correction to the answer I have just given.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there any objection to that course of action? There is none.

Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: I am sorry but I had circled the wrong number. In fact, 10 submissions were received; we heard three of them.

Dairy Industry Restructuring (New Sunset Provisions) Amendment Bill—Submissions

4. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Primary Production Committee: How many submissions were received on the Dairy Industry Restructuring (New Sunset Provisions) Amendment Bill?

SHANE ARDERN (Chairperson of the Primary Production Committee): Exactly the same number as when I answered the same question to the Hon Damien O’Connor before Christmas: 13.

Moana Mackey: How many submissions were received after the submission due date?

SHANE ARDERN: No submissions were heard after the submission due date.

Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill—Submissions

5. MOANA MACKEY (Labour) to the Chairperson of the Education and Science

Committee: How many submissions were received on the Royal Society of New Zealand Amendment Bill?

ALLAN PEACHEY (Chairperson of the Education and Science Committee): Thirteen.

Moana Mackey: When the bill be reported back to the House?

ALLAN PEACHEY: The committee is due to report back to the House on Tuesday, 22 March.

Identity Information Confirmation Bill—Submissions

6. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Chairperson of the Government

Administration Committee: How many submissions were received on the Identity Information Confirmation Bill?

Hon DAVID PARKER (Chairperson of the Government Administration Committee): Thirteen. Three submitters have requested to be heard, and they are expected to be heard at the next meeting.

Chris Hipkins: Has the committee considered reporting the bill back to the House without amendment and without considering the submissions—

Mr SPEAKER: That is not a matter for the chair to answer in the House.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I checked Speakers’ Rulings and I refer you to Speakers’ ruling 149/4, which says the chairperson can be questioned on matters that relate to the process or procedure to be followed by the committee, such as the reporting back time to the House for bills. That is what my question related to.

Mr SPEAKER: Indeed the member can ask a question about when the bill might be reported back to the House, but not about whether the committee may make decisions about that. That was the problem with the member’s supplementary question.

ENDS

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