Questions And Answers March 22

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, March 22, 2011 — 8:44 PM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Education : Does she agree with the Children’s Commissioner, who has stated that “providing culturally affirming education and care was considered important for supporting parents from …
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Children’s Commissioner—Statements

1. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Education: Does she agree with the Children’s Commissioner, who has stated that “providing culturally affirming education and care was considered important for supporting parents from minority cultures”; if so, what will she do to demonstrate she is listening to the views of parents?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes. The Government is always listening to the views of parents and we recognise the value of culturally appropriate early childhood services. That is why we have invested $91.8 million in community-driven initiatives based on community needs to ensure that any local barriers to participation in early childhood education can be addressed.

Te Ururoa Flavell: How will she respond to the call from the report for “more community services to be available in te reo Māori.”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We recognise that it is important to ensure that early childhood education is responsive to the different communities in New Zealand. This year early childhood education TeachNZ scholarships have been targeted at people who have experience working with Māori or Pasifika communities who want to teach in the early childhood sector. The Government also introduced the 20 hours’ free attendance at kōhanga reo.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does she agree with the Children’s Commissioner that parents need more choice in childcare, including greater flexibility in the hours they pay to put their babies into childcare; if so, what response will she make to the recommendation that there should be better funding support for parents who choose to stay at home to look after their infants?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The Government is still considering its response to this report in conjunction with the findings of the independent task force on early childhood education, which is due to report back in the next few weeks.

Prime Minister—Statements

2. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Why did he say on breakfast television on Monday, 21 March that people earning between $40,000 and $70,000 a year were “really struggling”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Because some of them are, and, actually, some of them probably have been for a very long time, notwithstanding that in the 2 years National has been in office someone earning $48,000 a year has received a tax cut of $64 per week. That is because people in that category often have children, they face a significant number of costs, and some of those costs are unexpected, like higher petrol prices.

Hon Phil Goff: Are they really struggling because his Government, contrary to its promise, put up GST on almost everything those families had to buy, including high-priced goods like milk and petrol?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Quite the contrary, actually—they received a reasonable tax cut. As I said, someone earning $48,000 a year has received a tax cut of $64 a week while this Government has been in office. As I have said so often, if the Leader of the Opposition does not agree with the policy he should just go and reverse it.

Hon Phil Goff: Are middle-income people really struggling because the tax cut that he gave to somebody on $40,000 a year is about $22 a week while he gave himself and his mates on the same income a thousand dollars a week?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not get a thousand dollars a week as a tax cut. The point I make is that the Leader of the Opposition has just answered his earlier question—they are getting $22 a week more.

Hon Phil Goff: Is the couple with two children in early childhood education, who are now paying $50 a week more because of the cuts his Government imposed, really struggling because that $50 a week more for that one thing alone is more than they got for their entire tax cuts?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot say that there is not a New Zealander who is paying $50 a week more, but I will say this: I will be surprised if there are too many, because I fondly remember a question in the House about a month ago where the Labour member went through all of the increases and listed people paying $14 to $18. He could not come up with one solid name at 50 bucks.

Hon Phil Goff: Are there a whole lot of families who are, to use his term, “really struggling” because with the number of unemployed going up by an extra 700 Kiwis a week, many families that used to be able to meet their rent or their mortgage with two incomes are now forced to do it on just one?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: It is always possible that if somebody loses their job, their family might have to survive on one income and not two. I would point out, if we are talking about mortgages, that the average floating rate at the moment is 5.7 percent in New Zealand; it was 10.9 percent the year Labour left office. A family with an average mortgage of $200,000 would be paying $200 a week less under National than Labour.

Hon Phil Goff: Are those families really struggling because their incomes have not gone up, because under his Government in the last 6 months of 2010, New Zealand had one of the worst rates of growth of any developed country in the world?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, that is not the case. If one looks at real after-tax wages, one can see they have grown by about 9 percent under this Government in 2 years in office. They grew 3 percent in the entire 9 years under Labour. If the member is interested, I am happy to point out to him exactly what the increase has been. Someone on the average wage in after-tax terms in the time the Government has been in office has seen their income rise from $39,518 to $42,214—last year alone. That was a rise of 6.8 percent.

Hon Phil Goff: If any of that were true, why is it that the number of New Zealanders emigrating to Australia last year was the second highest in 10 years?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, it is true, and if the member does not believe it is true, he is quite welcome to take a breach of privilege claim. I can assure members that he will not be doing that this afternoon. If the member wants to talk about people leaving for Australia, he should look at the figures for the entire time he was in Government.

Hon Phil Goff: If the Prime Minister thinks somebody on $40,000 a year is really struggling, how does he think that the person on the minimum wage, $27,000 a year, is getting on when his Government gave that person a miserable 25c an hour extra in face of the highest level of inflation in 20 years?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If the member thinks that 25c an hour is miserable, then why is he promising all New Zealanders a $10 tax cut, which equates to exactly the same number? [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: We will have some order. The member has been waiting for microphones to be open and has been interjecting quite extensively today. It is not good enough.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree with the Minister of Finance’s statement from 1 February that borrowing an additional $5 billion would almost certainly lead to a credit ratings downgrade for New Zealand, pushing up interest rates for Kiwi families and businesses and costing jobs; if so, why in his response to the Christchurch rebuild is he proposing to do exactly that: borrow an additional $5 billion rather than strike a temporary levy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, I agree with the Minister of Finance, and the reason is that the Government has decided that the most effective way of paying for that short-term build-up in debt is to try to trim its expenditure. That way we can cut out some expenditure we think is not as optimal today as it was back when it was first introduced, as opposed to sending New Zealanders a bill. Under the policy being promoted by the Green Party, he would be sending New Zealanders a bill for the earthquake.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree that if he proceeds to borrow $5 billion to pay for the rebuild, the bill for the New Zealand Government in interest alone will be around $250 million a year, not even paying off any of the capital, and that a much more fiscally responsible approach would be a small, temporary earthquake levy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and no, because the Government will be trimming its expenditure and therefore paying off its debt.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he believe that savage cuts in Government spending will have a negative impact on the New Zealand economy?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I would not describe the proposal the Government is reviewing at the moment as “savage cuts”. The Government will, in fact, spend more money next year. It may like to get to a point where it—

Hon David Cunliffe: That’s not what you said on Sunday.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am sorry the member does not understand the economics. I know Labour is struggling to come up with a finance spokesman. The reality is that one’s discretionary spend might be zero, but there will be more older people in New Zealand next year getting superannuation, and there will be more people taking other benefits from the Government. So no, I do not agree with that proposition.

Budget 2011—Spending Priorities

3. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What will be the Government’s spending priorities in Budget 2011?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Budget will press on with reducing New Zealand’s vulnerability to foreign lenders, getting the Government’s finances in order, and building faster growth around higher national savings and exports. Health and education are likely to receive the bulk of new operating spending, about $800 million per year, and in addition there will be considerable expenditure in rebuilding Christchurch, particularly its infrastructure. The operating deficit could be as high as 8 to 9 percent of GDP per year.

Craig Foss: Why is it important that the Government return to surplus and stop accumulating debt within a reasonable time frame?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: For a number of reasons. First, New Zealand as a whole has among the highest levels of debt, public and private, in the developed world, and the debt incurred with the earthquake would push us to the limits of our comfort. Also, if we can get hold of the deficit and debt, we will be able to help keep interest rates low, which will help with the creation of jobs and higher incomes.

Hon David Cunliffe: Why is he using the 22 February earthquake as an excuse for proposing cuts to Working for Families, when the Prime Minister said he was looking at cutting Working for Families less than a month before the earthquake?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is no doubt that the earthquake puts extra pressure on the need for Government to control its expenditure, but as we have done in the last couple of Budgets, we are taking a considered and consistent approach and we are taking measured decisions. The member will just have to wait, but there will not be anything too radical.

Rt Hon John Key: Has the Minister of Finance seen comments made by the Hon Phil Goff at his press conference yesterday, when he was asked a question and said in reply that he was opposed to making changes to Working for Families? To the question whether he thinks someone earning $140,000 a year needs help from the Government, his answer was: “Well, the answer to that is probably no.”, and when he was asked what about a family with two parents earning $70,000 a year—whether their Working for Families payment should be changed—he said: “I’m not going to go through that, because I haven’t worked through the detail.”? Has he seen those questions?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I have seen those and I was embarrassed to read them.

Hon Phil Goff: If the Government breaks its word and cuts Working for Families, can he inform the House that the money he would save by cutting Working for Families for a couple with a joint income of more than $100,000 would be only about $27 million?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government, as I said, is working through a considered process of making decisions, and the member can expect that we will maintain our principle of protecting the vulnerable and supporting New Zealanders through tough economic times.

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Do you believe that the Minister even attempted to answer that question?

Mr SPEAKER: The member asked the Minister whether he could confirm that certain things would or would not happen. The Minister, in answering, said that a process was being followed. We cannot force the Minister to give a particular answer.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I was wondering whether we could ask the Prime Minister through you to table the transcript so the Minister of Finance’s embarrassment can be more widely shared.

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the House for being too slow to sit the member down. He knows that is not a point of order.

Craig Foss: What factors will drive total operating spending over the next few years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government will be slowing down the rate of growth of spending. Core Crown operating expenses will be around $72 billion in 2011-12, which is about $8 billion higher than 2 years earlier. That may be Labour’s definition of slashing expenditure; it is not ours.

Hon David Cunliffe: What does he consider measured and considered about the following process: that last Thursday he said that there will be no cuts to operating spending, and by Sunday the Prime Minister said that there will be no new operating spending?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is not correct. The Prime Minister signalled early in the year that the Government would be tightening up on spending. We have set about a considered and measured process for doing so. There is no doubt that the earthquake has put more pressure on the need to eliminate some of the wasteful programmes that Labour put in place, so we can use the money for better purposes.

Hon David Cunliffe: The Minister has contested the presumption of my previous question. Therefore, I seek leave—

Mr SPEAKER: The House will come to a little more order. The member knows that if he is going to seek leave to table a document, he should not preface it with that kind of language. I will give him one more chance to get it right.

Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a copy of the transcript of Q+A on Sunday, which confirms the Prime Minister’s statement—

Mr SPEAKER: We do not table transcripts of recent television programmes.

Craig Foss: How will the Government direct its capital spending in Budget 2011?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government remains committed to the programme of roads of national significance, as well as reinvesting in rail and upgrading the electricity grid and in rolling out ultra-fast broadband. That is because we are committed to the long-term investment required to lift productivity and economic performance, and, therefore, produce more jobs and higher incomes.

Family Violence Programmes—Funding

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

Development and Employment: Is she proposing to reduce funding to family violence programmes; if so, why?

Hon TARIANA TURIA (Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment): No.

Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, why have non-governmental organisations, providers of family violence services in Te Rito programmes, and child advocates from all around New Zealand heard that funding to their services is to be cut? What did she say to Māori Television last week for it to announce that there will be such funding cuts, with $50 million going to Whānau Ora initiatives?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: It would be wonderful if $50 million was going to Whānau Ora initiatives, but the information that that person has put in the House is quite inaccurate.

Hon Annette King: What did the assessment of the effectiveness of the Te Rito coordinator’s position show, following the Ministry of Social Development’s report of 2009?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: The decisions surrounding the programmes that the Hon Annette King is talking about will be made as part of Budget 2011.

Hon Annette King: Is she proposing cuts to the It’s Not OK campaign for action on family violence, which in June 2010 won the Prime Minister’s Supreme Award at the Institute of Public Administration New Zealand Public Sector Excellence Awards; if so, why?

Hon TARIANA TURIA: That decision will be made as part of the 2011 Budget decisions.

Earthquakes, Canterbury—Government Support for Businesses

5. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Acting Minister for Economic Development: What measures has the Government recently announced to help support the economic recovery of Canterbury businesses?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport) on behalf of the Acting Minister for

Economic Development: This morning the Hon Gerry Brownlee and the Hon David Carter announced that the Government is committing a further $6.85 million to a targeted economic recovery package aimed at assisting businesses affected by the two major earthquakes to get back on their feet. The package has been developed in conjunction with the Canterbury business community, and it is the next step in providing assistance to the business community and allowing a stronger Canterbury to emerge.

Aaron Gilmore: What are some of the key details of the package announced today?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The package covers a range of services, including $1.7 million for 30 new business recovery coordinators, a one-off donation of $2.5 million for the Canterbury Business Recovery Trust Fund, and a $2 million fund to support visits to international markets by affected export businesses. Overall the package is aimed at rebuilding the confidence of businesses and assisting them to make well-informed decisions about their future.

Hon David Parker: Is the Minister aware that a month after the 22 February earthquake, most building owners and business tenants of buildings to which access is prevented have still not received communication advising whether, or when, they will be able to enter their business premises to obtain computers, business records, and the stock and trade that they need to restart their business, and that this is putting into jeopardy the jobs of many, many Christchurch people?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Minister appreciates the difficulty that the cordon is causing, and it is a problem for businesses. But the reality is that we are talking about a very significant safety issue. Civil defence is working hard on a plan to increase controlled access for business owners, and it hopes to have that in place very shortly. Until then we need to exercise patience, and not lose sight of the facts that safety has to remain paramount and that the red zone remains an unsafe area.

Aaron Gilmore: Is this the limit of the Government’s support for earthquake-affected businesses?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, absolutely not. Today’s announcement is just one further element of the ongoing support that the Government is providing to Canterbury businesses. We are working with Canterbury business associations to constantly review and reassess the needs of affected businesses, and we expect to take further steps to aid economic recovery in the near future.

Economic Growth—Forecasts

6. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Are the downward revisions in growth forecasts a sign that the Government’s economic plan is not working?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): No.

Hon David Cunliffe: So nice of him to wake up! Does he stand by his statement: “I want to stress that New Zealand starts from a reasonable position in dealing with the uncertainty of our economic outlook.”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: In that statement I would have been referring to the level of Government debt at that time, which is now 2 years ago. Since then there has been a series of unexpected shocks, ranging from finance company collapses through to and including a couple of earthquakes. The fact is that, as the IMF said this morning, when we put it alongside the level of private debt held in New Zealand we have every reason to worry about the growth in Government debt.

Hon David Cunliffe: Given his admission that the Government started from a reasonable position, how did his tax package contribute to the decline in the economy over the past 2 years, which had him admitting the earthquake was a contributor to National’s double-dip recession?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The tax packages the Government has announced have been selffunding— that is, reductions in income tax have been offset by increases in other taxes. In our view, like our investment in infrastructure, our focus on a better performing public sector and our support for better educational standards are all investments in the long-term improvement of New Zealand’s economic performance.

Hon David Cunliffe: How can the Minister say that the tax package was self-funding when Treasury says that it was $1 billion short over 4 years, and when two-thirds of the money went to the top one-third of income earners?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is not correct in those particular facts. The fact is that this economy, under the stewardship of Labour, became severely unbalanced. We set about reducing consumption and excessive housing speculation by increasing taxation on those activities, and encouraging investment, savings, and exports by decreasing tax on those activities. We believe that is in the best interests of the economy in the long run.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister stand by his statement in this House last Thursday that “The cost of the earthquake will essentially be borne by the Government’s balance sheet, rather than by cutting operational spending …”, or has that changed since the Prime Minister went on television on Sunday?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I have pointed out a number of times, the significant costs of the earthquake are being incurred as we speak—for instance, the Government is spending probably up to $150 million in the current month on just welfare support. There is no way we can make significant operational savings in the very short term to offset those costs. So we will be borrowing

the upfront costs of the earthquake, and, of course, we need to get back to surplus quickly so that we can get on top of that rising debt.

Hon John Boscawen: I seek leave to table a statement from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research on the effect of the earthquake on New Zealand’s growth—

Mr SPEAKER: Is this a statement it has released, or a statement from the media?

Hon John Boscawen: It is a statement from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, released at 12 noon on Monday this week, 21 March.

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

Hon John Boscawen: I seek leave to table a statement from Westpac, also dated Monday 21 March, outlining the impact of the earthquake on the Government’s accounts and GDP growth.

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

Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table a transcript of Radio New Zealand Nine to Noon on 28 January 2011—

Mr SPEAKER: We do not table transcripts. I could see that the House had some unease about the media release of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, but it was my judgment that the House should have the benefit of deciding whether it wanted those releases tabled. But we do not table transcripts of recent television or radio programmes, or recent press statements.

Earthquakes, Canterbury—Government Support for People Affected

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

Employment: What is the Government doing to support Cantabrians through the earthquake recovery?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): We are focused on getting Cantabrians through the recovery and back on their feet. For my department alone this cost has totalled over $160 million, or $5.7 million a day since the February quake.

Katrina Shanks: How is Work and Income supporting those who have been left without jobs as a result of the earthquake?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Work and Income staff are doing a remarkable job, but we have also started up an employment hub. It has been set up and will be fully operational from this week to support businesses and employment needs. The hub will be staffed by the Ministry of Social Development, the Inland Revenue Department, the Department of Labour, Te Puni Kōkiri, and the Canterbury Development Corporation.

Hon Annette King: How many workers from national and multinational companies have been eligible for, and received, individual assistance from Work and Income, and what guarantee can she give that any error in processing of claims by Work and Income will not disadvantage already stressed and struggling workers?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not have the number of individuals to hand, but I can assure the member that we found, particularly in the early days, that we had individuals applying for job loss cover as well as their employers. Obviously, communication was hard between them in the early days, so we had double-ups. We have been looking at what we need to do in relation to that. But to date it seems to be working out, and the policy in relation to that is to always err on the side of helping the individual.

Early Childhood Education—Findings of Children’s Commissioner

8. SUE MORONEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education: Does she support the findings of the Children’s Commissioner that small group sizes improve the quality of care and education for infants and toddlers?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Minister of Education: Yes, that is why we have minimum requirements for adult to child ratios and a minimum requirement for the number of children to space.

Sue Moroney: Is the Minister concerned, then, that the Children’s Commissioner found that group sizes need to be reduced for under-2-year-olds, just days after the Minister changed the regulations to allow group sizes for under-twos to increase—in fact, to treble—allowing up to 75 babies in one area when the maximum was 25?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not think that the member understands the policy change made in that respect. What was changed was not the centre size but that a centre would not need more than one licence to have more than 50 children. So, as a consequence, we still have the actual rules and regulations around the ratio of space per child. That has not changed.

Sue Moroney: Did she read this section of the report of the Children’s Commissioner: “Some centres can have up to 25 under-2s in one space. With high numbers and little open space, the … teachers reported that babies lacked the spacial freedom to move and toddlers were sometimes jostled and unable to experience enriched learning.”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member does not discuss how big that space is. The minimum requirements under National are the same as those under Labour. I have read a quote, in a newspaper, made by the City Heights early childhood centre in Dunedin stating that Minister Tolley was to be applauded for removing an irritating, extravagant and time-wasting piece of bureaucratic red tape.

Sue Moroney: Why did she decide to change the regulations regarding group size on 28 February, just 6 days after the Christchurch earthquake?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I do not think the member quite understands the issue. We have changed the requirement in respect of more than one licence. We have not changed the group size. We have not changed how many children can be in a centre. What we had was a requirement for three licences if a centre had over 100 children. There was a doubling up of administration, paperwork, and Education Review Office reports. It was completely ridiculous. As members can see, the change was commended by the sector.

Sue Moroney: I seek leave to table two documents. The first document is a letter from the office of the Hon Anne Tolley, dated 28 February; just 6 days after the earthquake, notifying an early childhood centre of the change to the regulations.

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.

Sue Moroney: The second document I seek leave to table is a copy of the report of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner entitled Through their Lens. An inquiry into non-parental education and care of infants and toddlers.

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

Earthquake, Christchurch—Consequences of Borrowing for Rebuilding

9. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Minister of Finance: Is it fiscally responsible to increase borrowing to pay for the rebuilding of Christchurch?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Yes, if two important conditions are met. Firstly, the money borrowed would need to be invested in assets that increase productivity and benefit the

economy. There is no doubt that investment in rebuilding Christchurch would meet that test. Secondly, there needs to be a credible plan to pay the money back, and get debt back to preearthquake projections, in a reasonable time. The Government will lay out its plans for achieving that in Budget 2011.

Dr Russel Norman: Does the Minister agree that it would be more fiscally responsible to raise a temporary levy of a couple of cents in the dollar on income to pay for the rebuild of Christchurch, rather than add more debt to the Government books, given the Minister’s statements that the Government already has a lot of debt?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member is right, in that we have to weigh up the costs and benefits of the different options. In respect of raising a levy, there are really two reasons why we prefer not to do that. The first is that as the member and others have stressed, people are already dealing with the pressures of an increased cost of living. An extra tax, which would have to be fairly significant, would simply add to those pressures on households. Secondly, given that households are being very careful with their spending, the economic growth has been flatter than expected and an additional tax is unlikely to help the economy pick up.

Dr Russel Norman: Dealing with the Minister’s second argument, has he seen the most recent report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, which stated: “Recent personal income tax cuts did not have much impact on overall spending.”, and is this not strong evidence that a temporary earthquake levy on higher incomes would have very little detrimental impact on spending in the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: At the time that we announced tax cuts, particularly in last year’s Budget, we made it clear that we did not expect that the tax package would have a significant impact on spending. That was because it was largely self-funding, so that money that stayed in peoples’ pockets because of income tax cuts was offset by money coming out of their pockets through increases in GST, and increases in taxes on housing.

Dr Russel Norman: Does he agree that his response to the cost of the Christchurch rebuild, which is on the one hand to increase borrowing and on the other hand to make some pretty savage cuts to Government spending in the upcoming Budget, is in direct contrast with the idea of sharing the burden that is embodied in the idea of a small, temporary earthquake levy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not agree with all of those propositions. The fact is that any changes the Government makes in spending will be considered and reasonably moderate, and certainly not radical. In our view, financing the earthquake recovery by incurring debt is something we do not have a lot of choice about. As I explained earlier to the House, a lot of the costs are being incurred as we speak or will be recognised in this financial year, so we do not have much choice but to go ahead and borrow the money. What is important is to have a plan to pay it back. The member is right, in that in fairness to all New Zealanders, particularly to future generations, we should take responsibility for paying back our own debts.

Science and Innovation—Business Support Package Progress

10. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Minister of Science and Innovation: What progress has been made in implementing the science and innovation business support package?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Science and Innovation): Last week the 2011 round of technology development grants was announced. This was one of the major initiatives from Budget 2010. This year’s grants will total $48.3 million to support innovation-intensive businesses. It follows the first-year round of grants last year, which saw 26 businesses receive grants totalling $92.6 million over a 4-year period.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What reports has he seen of the impact of this package?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Good news here: a report released today by Statistics New Zealand noted that spending on research and development had gone up by 13 percent since 2008. The total is

now $2.5 billion, or 1.3 percent of GDP. Business is the largest single contributor to research and development investment, boosted by Government support, of course, and businesses are collectively spending $1 billion. Clearly, the policies introduced since 2008 have had a tangible and beneficial impact.

David Shearer: What has his response been to the more than 60 percent of businesses that have been turned down by his bureaucracy when seeking to obtain a technology development grant, given that they would have been eligible for assistance under the 15 percent tax credit?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: That just shows us how popular the grant is. It is true that demand is exceeding supply. We have taken a responsible approach through our technology development grant, unlike Labour’s fiscally irresponsible approach during previous years. Apparently Labour is still promising to take that fiscally irresponsible approach even now.

Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill—Public Access

11. Hon JOHN BOSCAWEN (Deputy Leader—ACT) to the Attorney-General: Is it Government policy that the right of the public to access beaches conferred under clause 27(1) of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill is subject to prohibitions imposed by wāhi tapu under clauses 27(2) and 78 of the bill?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General): I refer the member to the definition of “marine and coastal area” in clause 7 of the bill, and to clauses 27 and 78. Those clauses do not mention beaches.

Hon Rodney Hide: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question asked about the Government policy. It is very hard to see how the Attorney-General’s answer addressed that question in any way, shape, or form. It was, after all, on notice.

Mr SPEAKER: It seemed to me that the Minister addressed the question in some detail. He referred specifically to clause 27—that was one of the clauses I remember him referring to—and pointed out that it did not refer to beaches, if I heard him correctly. It seems to me that the answer was not faulty. Maybe the question needs to be fine-tuned somewhat. I feel that I cannot ask the Minister to answer further if he has disputed the basis of the question in his answer.

Hon John Boscawen: Is it Government policy that the right of the public to access the common marine and coastal area, which is conferred under clause 27(1) of the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Bill, is subject to the prohibitions imposed by wāhi tapu under clauses 27(2) and 78 of the bill?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Much better! Yes. I also refer the member to clause 77(2), which states that any conditions on wāhi tapu must be those necessary for the protection of the wahī tapu area. It does not hold that this necessarily means public access will be restricted. I also refer the member to clause 27(2), which sets out the way in which restrictions may operate. They may be temporal; they may relate to the particular area or parts of the particular area.

Hon John Boscawen: Why did he tell members of the Rotary Club of Remuera last night in relation to wāhi tapu areas that in terms of people walking over it, he did not think access could be denied?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: Having referred to Mr Jones’ question about having a picnic in a wāhi tapu area and people being out to lunch, I then went on to discuss the possibility of a person wanting to walk over a wāhi tapu area. I used the example of an urupā. It does not necessarily follow, as I told the meeting, that access would be denied or restricted. If, however, someone wanted to excavate an urupā or a wāhi tapu area, that may be a different question.

Hon John Boscawen: I seek leave to table a transcript of part of the debate between me and Mr Finlayson at the Rotary Club of Remuera last night, in which Mr Finlayson is asked a very specific question about wāhi tapu.

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.

Unemployment—Minister’s Statement

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

Employment: Does she stand by her statement that “this is about working together to maintain the highest possible levels of employment while we weather the downturn. We need to have a combined approach that is pragmatic, respectful and effective”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes. I recently met with the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs. We hotly debated how best to join forces in order to tackle youth unemployment. We are constantly challenging each other to find better ways that policy can enable local solutions.

Jacinda Ardern: How would she describe her current relationship with the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, which represents all but three of the country’s 67 mayors?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It is very good, to the point where just a few days after the meeting Mayor Frana Cardno of Southland was quoted in Southland Times as saying: “We congratulate central government for recognising the importance of our youth programmes …”.

Jacinda Ardern: Can she explain why the minutes of the last meeting of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs note that the mayors were “extremely disappointed in the response from the Minister and the disrespect with which they had been treated.”?

Mr SPEAKER: I am not sure the Minister has responsibility for the minutes of another organisation. I invite the member to maybe reword her question, because I think we have to be a little careful not to allow questions to expand too widely. I am sure she could bring it within the Standing Orders.

Jacinda Ardern: I will rephrase the question. Is she aware of the minutes of the last Mayors Taskforce for Jobs meeting, which note that the mayors were “extremely disappointed in the response from the Minister and the disrespect with which they had been treated.”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes. As I say, I cannot take responsibility for a minute-taker, but I can take responsibility for the mayors I have spoken to—[Interruption] I can quote back to the member about the mayors I have spoken to since the meeting who did not feel that way.

Jacinda Ardern: Does she believe that her dismissal of 12 months’ worth of work by the mayors on a youth transition policy, questioning what they “bought” to the table, and accusing them of being a lobby group with pet projects has damaged her ability to work with local government on youth unemployment?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: As previously said, I do not think those minutes are a true and accurate record of what happened at the meeting. In fact, we have been working very closely with mayors. I can bring an example of the Auckland social policy. I can also bring an example of the work we have recently been doing in Christchurch with councils. Certainly I value the work of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, which has been mentioned many times.

Jacinda Ardern: I seek leave to table the core group minutes of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, dated 10 March 2011.

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


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