Questions and Answers for Oral Answer – 5 May 2011

by Desk Editor on Friday, May 6, 2011 — 12:42 AM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Finance : Why is it important that the Government returns to Budget surplus? Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : Although it has been appropriate for the Government to borrow significantly through …



Budget 2011—Surplus

1. MICHAEL WOODHOUSE (National) to the Minister of Finance: Why is it important that the Government returns to Budget surplus?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): Although it has been appropriate for the Government to borrow significantly through a recession to protect New Zealanders from the sharp edges of that recession, we do not want to leave a large legacy of debt for future generations, so we need to constrain our deficits and return to surplus. Secondly, we do not have many choices about where to spend to increase the welfare of our community, until we have surpluses. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can choose more services, or lower taxes, or less debt.

Michael Woodhouse: How will the Budget on 19 May help the return to surplus?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget will continue the Government’s balanced and considered approach to managing the Government’s finances. It will further outline reprioritising—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought that the use of irony was not allowed in the House.

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget will show further reprioritisation of existing spending, from the kind of wasteful back-office spending the Labour Government specialised in, to high-priority public services.

Michael Woodhouse: How will the Budget help increase New Zealand’s level of national savings?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the Savings Working Group noted, one of the most important ways a Government can lift national savings is to get its own finances in order, because the Government represents around one-third of the economy. Therefore, the Budget will outline the next steps in the Government’s programme to reduce the need for extra borrowing, and, over time, repaying debt. That will help to keep interest rates lower than they otherwise would be, and with interest rates currently at a 45-year low, that is leaving hundreds of dollars a month in the pockets of households across New Zealand. We would like to continue that for as long as possible.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that under Labour the Crown’s 2008 net financial balance, including New Zealand Superannuation Fund assets, was in credit by 7.2 percent of GDP, but that today we are back in net debt by around 13 percent of GDP under his Government; if so, can he advise the House when he will stop making excuses and take responsibility for policy choices, including the $23 billion of unaffordable tax cuts that have driven this country to the brink?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I cannot confirm that. But if the member was concerned about this Government moving into deficit as it has done, I cannot understand why his party continues to promise to borrow very large amounts of extra debt, over and above what has been the bare necessity that this Government has followed.

Michael Woodhouse: What was the outlook for the Government’s finances when the Nationalled Government took office in November 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update in October 2008 forecast Budget deficits for 10 years—for 10 years. By the time of the December 2008 update, just a month or so after National was elected, the forecasts had deteriorated further, and on the basis of the policies of the previous Government we were looking at permanent Budget deficits pushing Crown net debt to 50 percent of GDP, and never falling. We have spent the last 2 years cleaning up this mess.

John Boscawen: How can New Zealand ever hope to catch Australia by 2025 when the Labor Government there has committed to a retirement age of 67, or does he consider Julia Gillard to be a right-wing extremist?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Hon Julia Gillard is admirably conservative in some respects. For instance, her education policy makes all of us here look fairly left wing. But in respect of catching up with Australia, the Government is pursuing a programme of infrastructure investment, lower taxes, better regulation, improving educational standards, and lifting the performance of the public sector, which we believe will, in time, help to close the gap with Australia.

Family Violence Prevention—Policy Formation

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

Development and Employment: Does she agree with the statement by Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Adviser to the Prime Minister, in relation to the formation of policy in her portfolio delegation for family violence that, “policy formed without consideration of the most relevant knowledge available is far less likely to serve the nation well”; if not, why not?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment) on behalf of the Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment: Yes.

Hon Annette King: Does she agree with Sir Peter’s statement that ongoing evaluation of policy decisions is needed, to gauge whether such policies and initiatives should be sustained or revised?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, in some respects; in some respects that is what this Government has been doing for the last 2½—nearly 3—years. We have been looking at the services that work and comparing that against them. I also agree with Sir Peter Gluckman where he states in the same document: “One suspects that there are many Government-funded programmes now in place that when properly assessed would not meet objective tests of effectiveness;”. Effectively, I am saying that change is also needed.

Hon Annette King: Did she know that the Te Rito family violence fund and programme, which she has just scrapped, had been evaluated and was found to be fully embedded at a community level, to be synonymous with family violence prevention, to be invested in families’ strengths and capabilities, to have identified and supported families with needs, and to have increased the wholeof- family/whānau focus; if she did know, why did she scrap it, considering that it met the so-called goals and had been evaluated as working?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes. The review of Te Rito phase two was actually done in 2005. When we looked at it in 2011 we felt that it needed to be reviewed and that we needed to look at where that funding was going, and whether it was going most effectively to the front line. Those Te Rito providers can and have applied for that extra funding. More funding is going into family violence initiatives from this Government, and that is indeed a positive thing.

Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table the review of the Te Rito phase two collaborative community family violence prevention fund 2009—not 2005—which is the most up-to-date one.

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

Hon Annette King: Is the Minister aware that the loss of Te Rito is more than the loss of funding; it is the loss of the networks, the name recognition, the investment in resources, and the community support that was built up? As one person put it: “The network could not get a lot done without Te Rito funding. We just didn’t have the time. The community networks’ buy-in now is huge.”

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Looking at the Te Rito funding, all of those applications have been accepted. They are going through a process. There is more money; in fact, the Minister for Social Development and Employment put an extra $2.8 million into these family violence initiatives that are coming out. So they may actually be enhanced and they may look better. I understand the scaremongering from the other side of the House, but that is all it is.

Hon Annette King: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take exception—

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the member. A point of order has been called and it will be heard in silence.

Hon Annette King: I take exception to the comment “scaremongering”. I have used documents provided to me—

Mr SPEAKER: It is OK for the member to object but I do not want her to carry on and debate the issue. I think the question asked was a reasonable question and did not deserve to have that kind of comment. I ask the Minister to refrain from that when the question is a reasonable question.

Hon Annette King: Why is Te Rito funding being transferred to the Family-centred Services Fund to foster family and whānau well-being, but many agencies that now provide family violence programmes under Te Rito have been told they do not fit the criteria to get the money? They will not be providing the services, so who will be, and when will these new services start?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because family violence does not happen in isolation; it happens within a family, it happens to more than one person, and the results need to come from within. Are we moving more funding to front-line services? Is this Government looking very carefully at what is and is not working, and moving funding in there? Yes, we are and I am extremely proud of it. More money is going into family violence services under this Government.

Hon Annette King: How does cutting over $300,000 from women’s refuges remove funding from the back line or the front line? What it does is just remove funding for a service to women and children in New Zealand.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Overall funding to refuges, both those part of, and those separate from, the collective, has increased by 43 percent over the last 4 years. In addition, refuges other than the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges have received more than $600,000 and more than $1 million from the Community Response Fund. On top of that, the collective has received more than $3 million from the fund

Budget 2011—Youth Employment Initiatives

3. Hon TAU HENARE (National) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: What announcements has she made on supporting young people into jobs?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Some very good ones. Yesterday the Prime Minister and I announced that $55.2 million will go into youth employment in this year’s Budget. Young New Zealanders had been hit hard; we have certainly seen those numbers today come out in the household labour force survey. We supported them initially with Job Ops and Community Max, which are keeping over 15,000 young people in the job market. This initiative is the next step and will provide a further 12,000 places for young people over the next few years.

Hon Tau Henare: What are the key components of the youth employment package?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: There are three key components to this package. One is Skills for Growth, which really relates jobs to training that is New Zealand Qualifications Authority accredited. It means that a young person is less likely to go back on a benefit, because he or she is gaining real skills and real jobs in industries of need over a long period of time, like aged care, agriculture, and horticulture. The second is Job Ops with Training. Job Ops has been successful; we are just taking it that extra step. Then, of course, there are the Limited Service Volunteers, where we see fantastic motivation and self-disciplined people eager to get ahead. We are keen to support them.

Hon Sir Roger Douglas: Could the Minister explain to the House what she considers extreme about wanting to allow a young Māori the right to work as an apprentice builder for $400 a week? Why does she think it is better that this person not be allowed to take up this job, preferring that he sit at home on the couch watching Desperate Housewives or playing Nintendo Wii?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I presume that the member is referring to the minimum wage, particularly for youth. I suppose we would say that we are subsidising a lot of wages for employers. That is what these initiatives are doing, and I really have no other answer to that question. Thank you.

Budget 2011—KiwiSaver

4. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Minister of Finance: Will he rule out cuts to KiwiSaver in the coming Budget, such as those outlined in today’s Dominion Post?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government remains committed to KiwiSaver. We have said many times that we are committed to lifting national savings. The member will have to wait for the Budget to find out what, if anything, happens.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Minister stand by the following quote made by him: “It is important the Government plays its part in improving New Zealand’s national savings”, given that he has reduced the default KiwiSaver contribution from 4 percent to 2 percent, has reduced the employer contribution from 4 percent to 2 percent, has deferred contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, and now appears, at least, to be planning further cuts to KiwiSaver?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I stand by the statements I made. I am a bit surprised to find today that the Labour Party no longer has a position on KiwiSaver. It will wait until we announce ours so that it can follow it.

Hon David Cunliffe: Will the Minister, in trying to lift national savings, acknowledge that 90 percent of New Zealand’s total international debt is private debt and only 10 percent is public debt, and will he therefore accept that even the most savage cuts to public expenditure could not possibly save the private savings problem?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We take a national view—after all, we are a National-led Government. We believe that households and Governments should do what they can to increase national savings. I know the member agrees that the country needs more of that.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does he agree that the 271,400 jobless New Zealanders—according to Statistics New Zealand today—will struggle to save at all, and does he think they might be tired of waiting for the brighter future his party keeps promising is just around the next Budget?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We agree that the number of people without jobs is too high. The good news today was that, as a small step in the right direction, there are 30,000 new jobs in the economy in the last quarter. That is a start. Clearly, there is a long way to go.

Budget 2011—Maternity Services and Services Targeting New Parents

5. Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Health: What reports, if any, has he received in relation to maternity services, and services for mothers with new babies?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I have received a report that in Budget 2011 the Government is investing an extra $54.5 million in new initiatives for maternity services to help new mothers and their babies. This includes an extra $33 million to improve teamwork in maternity services, including $18.4 million to improve safety and quality by bringing together all local maternity professionals for clinical reviews of all births. This funding will also increase the number of midwives in some hospitals, together with medical specialists on site and on call. Additionally, there will be an extra $6.8 million to help vulnerable mothers access a fuller range of social and health services in a whānau ora approach, and to assist midwives to make timely referrals to other practitioners.

Dr Jackie Blue: What other service improvements for new mothers have been announced?

Hon TONY RYALL: In addition to the money announced for maternity services, the Government is announcing an additional $21 million over 4 years for additional well child visits. These visits have a focus on supporting vulnerable mothers to care for their babies, and currently two visits are provided during the first 2 months of life. This new funding is expected to deliver three additional well child visits to 18,000 mothers around New Zealand who need this additional support. This is yet another example of this Government’s determination to protect and grow the New Zealand public health service.


6. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources: Is she satisfied that prices charged to New Zealand consumers for electricity are fair and properly constrained by adequate competition?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Acting Minister of Energy and Resources): Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Yes.

Hon David Parker: Has the Minister been advised, either formally or informally, whether the Electricity Authority will overturn the extra $57 million charged by Genesis Energy for electricity over a mere 7-hour period on 25 and 26 March; if so, what is that decision?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The establishment of the Electricity Authority, an excellent part of the electricity review that this Government undertook, established it as independent, so I am awaiting its report.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question asked whether she had been advised, formally or informally, whether the Electricity Authority will overturn that decision, and she has not addressed that question.

Mr SPEAKER: I presume she did, because she said she is waiting for its report. The impression she has given the House is that she has not been advised. Does the Hon Trevor Mallard have a point of order?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is the same point of order. I think we listened and we heard different things. What I heard was that the Minister was not going to release it publicly, which she has the right to say—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no, I do not think we need to take this further. The Minister said she was waiting for the authority’s report—its advice, in other words. The member has further supplementary questions. If the member wants to pursue the issue about informal advice, he has further supplementary questions in which to pursue that.

Hon David Parker: Has the Minister been advised whether the Electricity Authority will overturn the extra charging by Genesis Energy?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I have been advised by the Electricity Authority that it is imminently to deliver its independent report on this matter.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Minister did not answer the question. It was a very straight question, which asked whether she has been advised. She can say: “Yes, I was advised, but I am not going to release it.”, but she has not told us whether she has been advised.

Mr SPEAKER: She said she has been advised the report is about to come out. The member can pursue that still further, though. It is not hard to think of a question to test that further.

Hon David Parker: Did the Minister meet with the head of the Electricity Authority, Brent Layton, at Parliament yesterday?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Yes, in my normal monthly meeting.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister expect Parliament to believe that she did not learn from Mr Layton yesterday whether Genesis Energy will be forced not to charge that additional $57 million?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Could I hear that question again, please.

Hon David Parker: Does the Minister expect Parliament to believe that during her discussions with Mr Layton yesterday, she did not learn whether the authority will overturn the payment of the charges by Genesis Energy?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: I was advised by the chair of the independent Electricity Authority that it was imminently about to release its independent report on its investigation into this matter.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think that for the third time now, we have had answers about process, and not substance. You will note that my colleague has not asked the Minister to reveal the decision, but just whether she knows what the decision is. He has now asked that question three times, and on every occasion she has answered by saying what the process is, and not whether she knows what the result of the process is.

Mr SPEAKER: I have some sympathy for the member’s point of order. The only problem I have is with the wording of that last question, which was whether she expected Parliament to believe something. That is very much about an opinion, and had that question been worded differently I might have responded differently. But that wording, to my mind, gives the Minister some wriggle room, because whether or not the Minister expects Parliament to believe something is simply an opinion. The facts of the matter could still be pursued further, because there are still further supplementary questions available.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I take on board your ruling, but I recall the member’s first, or possibly second, supplementary question, where twice—it was a very straight question—he asked whether she had been advised, which was the question you said the member should have asked. He asked her that two questions ago, and you allowed the Minister to dodge it. I think there is an issue of consistency; you cannot have it both ways.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister answered the question about the advice she had received. She told the House that she was told the report is to be released, obviously very shortly. The member could have pursued that by asking specific questions about what she was actually told. Instead of that, the member went on to ask questions about what she expected Parliament to believe. I cannot help members to get answers they might wish to get; I have to deal with the questions that are actually asked. The first answer, I believe, was a legitimate answer, and there was an opportunity to pursue it with absolute precision. It is exactly the kind of situation that question time lends itself to—to ask really incisive questions—and it was thrown away with the question about whether the Minister expected Parliament to believe something. That was not an incisive question.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My request to you on this occasion will be to review the tape on this, as I know that you always do, and to look carefully at it, because I think we have different memories. My memory is that in between those two questions the member did exactly as you suggested he should, and when that was taken up by way of a point of order, you suggested that he ask yet another supplementary question.

Mr SPEAKER: I will certainly look at it, because it is a very fair point. I do encourage the tight questioning of Ministers, and I want to try to ensure that members are rewarded for asking tight questions. But I seem to recollect that the question in between related to whether the Minister met with the chairman of the authority, and the Minister answered and confirmed she had. I will review the tapes, but I listened very carefully, and to me the disappointing question was the final one. Asking Ministers whether they expect Parliament to believe something to me is not incisive questioning.

Hon David Parker: I will reread my first supplementary question. Has the Minister been advised, either formally or informally, whether the Electricity Authority will overturn the extra $57 million charged by Genesis Energy for electricity over a mere 7-hour period on 25 and 26 March this year?


Hon David Parker: Why is the Minister putting political objectives to limit the fall-out from uncompetitive, excessive prices totalling a massive $57 million on just 1 day ahead of the interest of New Zealanders who are paying excessive prices for their electricity?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The report is yet to be released by the independent authority.

Hon David Parker: You know what’s in it, though. You know what’s in it.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: Oh! The report is yet to be released into the public domain, so as to what is or is not in it—

Hon David Parker: You met with Mr Layton yesterday.

Hon HEKIA PARATA: No, that is not what I answered to your question.

Family Violence Prevention Programmes—Funding

7. CATHERINE DELAHUNTY (Green) to the Minister for Social Development and

Employment: Does she stand by her statement regarding family violence services that “funding is being moved to the frontline not away from it”?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes. I make no apologies for this Government’s focus on moving funding to the front line, where it is most certainly needed.

Catherine Delahunty: Does she agree that services for women in crisis, like Women’s Refuge safe homes, are front-line family violence services, and are particularly important when the number of domestic assaults is on the rise?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes. I think the refuges in New Zealand do a fantastic job and are incredibly necessary. Their bed nights are vitally important, and the services they provide should be kept separate from the Government, and continue.

Catherine Delahunty: Why, then, did Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive Richard Wood indicate to Women’s Refuge on 20 April 2011 that $382,000 would be cut from its contract, and would come from short-term residential services to women in crisis?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I would need to check what the deputy chief executive said on that day. But from my understanding, Women’s Refuge had money that was going from an education fund, and it was actually using some of that for front-line services. Because that education fund is being changed into the family funding services that Minister Turia is doing, the refuges can apply for funding via that. In fact, it would sound as though they have a good chance of getting it, because it is actually for front-line services and they are already doing that.

Catherine Delahunty: How does she explain the discrepancy between what her officials have told Women’s Refuge about short-term residential services being affected, and her own statement on 28 April that there should be no effect on residential services?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I suppose I would say that all the applications are in now, although I believe that the collective had until 4 May to get its application in. The decisions will be made—

Hon Members: That was yesterday.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Well, actually, that was yesterday, because we are already on the 5th. As a consequence, those applications are being analysed now; the decisions will be made as soon as possible. I acknowledge that it has been quite a short application process, but we want to get back to those services as quickly as possible so that they know what is going on.

Catherine Delahunty: Does she support Women’s Refuge advocating on behalf of at-risk women and children—for example, by drawing up safety plans for them and their families?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We certainly do, but I suppose that at the moment we are saying the focus really needs to go on front-line services as well. Certainly those are the bed nights that we were talking about. We believe that both can be done, so that is a key focus for it. More than $62.4 million is actually going into funding for family violence services, and we want to continue that. In fact, we want to grow that spend. But right now we want to take that forward and make sure we are doing those front-line services.

Catherine Delahunty: Given the Minister’s previous answer—that she does support safety plans—why, then, did she indicate on 28 April that funding for Women’s Refuge to provide advocacy services and to lobby the Government would not continue?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Because the Minister has decided that we are moving the money into front-line services. We are not saying it is not important, but we are saying what we need is evidence. We have spend a lot of time on the It’s Not OK campaign, and others, in raising awareness and making sure that people are getting that kind of service. Now, as a consequence of that, we have far more incidences of family violence being reported and people needing help. We want to make sure they are getting the actual help, and the bed nights and assistance that they need.

Catherine Delahunty: If domestic violence is really not OK, why is it OK to cut from these front-line refuge residential and advocacy services?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I suppose I will just repeat what I said in reply to a previous question, which is that the overall funding to refuges, both those that are part of, and separate from, the collective, has increased by 43 percent over the last 4 years. We are actually putting more money into those refuges than has ever been put in before. I am proud of that. We will continue to do that. We know that fundamentally they make a difference, and so will the funding that is going into those services.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know this is slightly unusual, and I myself am not asking for leave, but there is clearly a discrepancy here. I understood the member to indicate that she had a copy of a letter from Mr Wood. If she has not—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. That is not a valid use of the points of order process.

Prime Minister—Statements

8. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Prime Minister: At what precise time and date were the “security related” meetings of 11 December 2009, that he referred to yesterday, diaried?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: To the best of the Prime Minister’s recollection, the meeting was arranged during the afternoon of 11 December 2009.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Can he confirm that when he referred to “security-related meetings” he was referring to issues of national security or international security; and if he was not referring to matters of national or international security, what was he referring to?


Hon Pete Hodgson: If he had travelled by car from Hamilton to Auckland, as previously arranged, would he have arrived on time for his security-related meetings?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It has never been the Prime Minister’s practice to talk publicly about security matters, and he does not believe that it is in the public interest to do so now.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Straightforwardly, the question was not about the meeting or the content of the meeting. The question has not been addressed. It was specifically about whether the Prime Minister would have arrived in time for the first of the security-related meetings, not what the security-related meeting was about.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the member makes a fair point. The question was whether, if a car had been used, the Prime Minister would have arrived on time. The question was not about what the security issues were. That deserves to be answered.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is not the custom of this Prime Minister, or any other, to give any indication of the time or whereabouts of meetings he has that are related to matters of national security, and he is not going to start doing so now.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I ask you to reflect on that answer, given the widespread publicity yesterday of the Prime Minister indicating he had a security meeting in Auckland on the day in question. That answer just cannot be true.

Mr SPEAKER: That last point is not the issue. The issue is simply that the question was asked not about the nature of the security meeting but simply whether the Prime Minister would have arrived in time for the meeting, whatever the meeting was, if a motor vehicle had been used. We still have not heard that answer. It may not be in the public interest to answer that; I am not sure. But we certainly have not heard an answer to that question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I simply repeat the answer to the question: It is not the custom of this Prime Minister, or previous Prime Ministers, to provide information that could compromise the security of that kind of meeting. It is not in the public interest to provide that information now.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Without discussing the tail on the end of my previous point of order, yesterday on TV3 the Prime Minister indicated he had—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. The member is now debating the issue. I have done what I can to get the question answered. The Minister has indicated on behalf of the Prime Minister that he believes that it is not in the public interest to answer the question asked. I have to accept that. Members can make their judgment about that, and there are further supplementary questions available to dig into that. The Hon Pete Hodgson has that right.

Hon Pete Hodgson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I apologise; I am not wishing to trifle in any way. I do not think I heard the Deputy Prime Minister say it was not in the national interest to answer the question. I do not think I heard him say that, at all.

Mr SPEAKER: He did at the end. The last past of his answer was that he considered it not to be in the public interest to answer that specific question.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order, the Hon Clayton Cosgrove. I am struggling to understand what it is, though.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I will enlighten you.

Mr SPEAKER: I will be enlightened.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: In making your judgment you have extensive powers and you can ask the Minister—as you have twice, I think—to adhere to the Standing Orders and answer a question. I simply pose the question of how it is not in the national interest to confirm the Prime Minister’s arrival time.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is trying to debate the issue. I can assist members in getting answers to questions, but the Speaker cannot judge the quality of answers, nor can the Speaker insist for a question to be answered when a Minister asserts that something is not in the public interest. I cannot—and must not—judge that as Speaker. It is not my role to judge that. People can judge that themselves. They have heard the assertion being made that it is not in the public interest. People heard the question that was asked. They have heard the Speaker seek an answer to the question that was asked. People can make their own judgment about the assessment that it is not in the public interest to answer the question.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why was it in the public interest yesterday for the Prime Minister to indicate the timing of the security meeting but it is not in the public interest for him to do the same today?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yesterday the Prime Minister gave a general indication of the type of meeting and no further details. It is not his plan—any more than it has been the custom of any other Prime Minister—to release details on those matters.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Would the Prime Minister have arrived on time to the security meeting he outlined yesterday if he had taken a car?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: have already answered that question three times.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have advised us to use tight and direct questions, and you have indicated previously that you thought the Minister had not answered the question.

Mr SPEAKER: What I think on the matter is not relevant. If the Minister is going to claim that it is not in the public interest to answer the question, which was a very tight question, then the Minister should not just say he has already answered the question but should tell the House that he believes that it is not in the public interest to answer the question.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I believe that it is not in the public interest to provide those details.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions—Kyoto Protocol Compliance

Dr CAM CALDER (National): My question is to the Minister for Climate Change Issues— [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I say to both front benches that I want to hear Dr Cam Calder’s question.

9. Dr CAM CALDER (National) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: What recent reports has he received confirming that New Zealand is on target to meet its Kyoto commitments as a result of its moderated emissions trading scheme?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for Climate Change Issues): New Zealand has just filed its latest emissions report to the United Nations Secretariat. It shows that emissions were down 3 percent from the previous year. The net position report indicates that we will comfortably meet our Kyoto commitment. These are the first 2 consecutive years of emissions reductions, and contrast with the year-on-year increase of 20 percent in net emissions during the 8 previous years. The report shows that the major gains were due to the reversal from deforestation pre – emissions trading scheme to afforestation, and a switch from thermal to renewable generation. About one-quarter of the reduction was due to lower economic activity from the recession.

Dr Cam Calder: What impact have these latest reports had on Budget 2011, and what would be the impact for taxpayers had the emissions trading scheme been scrapped?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The reduction in emissions is good news for Budget 2011 in that it reduces cost to the Government by $238 million. I have been advised that without the emissions trading scheme New Zealand would not meet our Kyoto target and would be facing a cost for buying emissions units internationally of about $210 million. These figures confirm that the Government’s moderated emissions trading scheme is working successfully. It has encouraged forest plantings and renewable energy investment, and it is minimising the cost to New Zealand of meeting our international climate change obligations.

Dr Cam Calder: What reports has he received on the investment in renewable energy since the emissions trading scheme legislation was settled in December 2009, and what other steps is the Government taking to support renewables?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: More renewable generation was consented in 2010 than in any year in New Zealand’s history, amounting to 830 megawatts—42 percent geothermal, 40 percent wind, and 18 percent hydro. That is five times the average annual renewable generation consented during the previous 9 years, during which the bulk of new generation was thermal. This investment in renewables has resulted from the Government’s successful package of reforms, including the emissions trading scheme, changes to the electricity market, and reforms of the Resource Management Act. Two further steps to support renewables taken this year are the introduction of a national policy statement on renewables under the Resource Management Act and, on 1 May, New Zealand’s joining of the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Rahui Katene: What benefits for Māori have arisen as a consequence of the National Government – Māori Party agreement on the emissions trading scheme?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I acknowledge that all New Zealanders have benefited from the very responsible approach that the Māori Party has brought to the issue of climate change, which is seeing—

Hon David Cunliffe: The Labour Party.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Labour Party? Emissions went up 20 percent during Labour’s period in office—20 percent. We had record thermal generation and the highest period of deforestation ever. I particularly acknowledge the Māori Party initiative that has seen a further $24 million invested in home insulation for low-income households, as well as the considerable investment by a number of Māori incorporations in forestry planting.

Youth Unemployment—Minister’s Statement

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

Employment: Does she stand by her statement that “this Government is backing young people to gain skills and the confidence that gets them real jobs in go-ahead industries”; if so, does she believe youth unemployment rates reflect this?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): Yes. I stand by all my statements, especially this one: “this John Key – led Government is backing young people to gain skills and the confidence that gets them real jobs in go-ahead industries”. In response to the second part of the member’s question, I believe that the rates would be significantly worse if it were not for the initiatives of this Government.

Jacinda Ardern: Has unemployment for 15 to 24-year-olds increased by 53 percent since she became Minister; if not, what is the correct figure?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes, but we have also seen in the last 12 months an increase in employment for young people; 4,000 more young people are in employment in the last year. As we saw today in the announcement of the household labour force survey, more people are participating and want to be in there. We have a lot of work to do; there is no doubt about that. Young people are most affected by a recession. That is why we are making investments like $55.2 million in programmes that we think will substantially make a difference.

Jacinda Ardern: Has the Ministry of Social Development’s overall budget increased as a result of the youth unemployment package she announced yesterday?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes. We have taken money from other areas as well as from within the employment assistance package. Within the area of youth unemployment, we will see that $55.2 million making a difference.

Jacinda Ardern: What programmes were cut in order to fund the youth unemployment package?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: We reprioritised within the ministry in some respects, as well. Programmes like Cadet MAX do a really good job of working directly with employers, but we want to get that New Zealand Qualifications Authority accreditation right next to it and get that training with them as well, so that young people do not just get the jobs in industries where they are really needed, but also are able to stay in employment for a longer term. It has been a reprioritisation within—

Sue Moroney: Not answering the question.

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I have just talked about Cadet MAX; I have just talked about jobs for the future and said that we have changed how that dynamic works. We have taken those sorts of programmes and made sure that they have the skills and training component next to them.

Carmel Sepuloni: Which would provide better long-term employment prospects for the 40,000 15 to 24-year-old unemployed Māori and Pacific: industry training, which the Minister cut $55 million from last year, or Limited Service Volunteers 6-week military courses, which the Minister has just put $25 million into?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: It would help if the member got her facts right. I am the Minister for Social Development and Employment, and not the Minister responsible for the Tertiary Education Commission, which relates to the $55 million that she is talking about. That figure, of course, was not cut but reprioritised into areas of university training, which absolutely made a difference. Those places were not being taken up. They were not being used; we are now absolutely using them. We have more people in university now, which makes a difference. The member does not get many questions; one would think—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We deserve—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Hon David Parker: We deserve plenty of extra—

Mr SPEAKER: I ask the member to resume his seat.

Hon David Parker: —questions in order to attempt to get an answer from the Minister.

Mr SPEAKER: I was trying to quieten the House so the point of order could be heard in silence, but because he kept speaking when I was on my feet, I am afraid he has just lost that privilege.

Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Gratuitous insults from that Minister should not have to be put up with by the Opposition.

Mr SPEAKER: The point is reasonably made. The question was asked and the Minister disputed the facts contained in it. She is perfectly entitled to do that. But the question did not really deserve quite that kind of comment. At the same time, where questioners allege that a Government has cut money where a Government considers that it has not, they can expect fairly robust responses.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It is really just a question on the processes that you want when we are dealing with these matters. I think all of us agree that you have tended to let things flow and play advantage—that sort of approach. The question is whether, when there is that sort of comment—which, I think, none of us think is appropriate—we should take a point of order, or whether you might intervene yourself.

Hon Paula Bennett: Speaking to the point of order.

Mr SPEAKER: I do not think that is necessary, to be honest—[Interruption] The Minister should know that members do not interject on either side of the House. I reacted immediately to the comment but it was too late to stop it. I quickly assessed how bad it was, and decided, given the question asked, that I would let it go. But I respect the fact that objection was taken to it. That is why I have asked the Minister to refrain from making that kind of comment unless severely provoked; I do not think that question severely provoked the Minister.

Rahui Katene: Does she agree with the view of Ngāi Tahu leader Mark Solomon that the reconstruction of Christchurch should be used as a gigantic trades training programme; if so, will she be prepared to provide assistance to Ngāi Tahu in their efforts to see a trades training initiative become a success?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: As indicated by the Prime Minister yesterday, there will be announcements on trades and skills in Christchurch in the very near future. But I know that this Government would certainly like to continue working in partnership with Ngāi Tahu in the work they are doing. So we will continue those conversations and hope that we see some outcomes from them.

Public Transport, Auckland—Trains for Electric Rail System

NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central): My question is to the Minister of Transport. What progress has been made on the procurement—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. I say to members on both sides at the front of the House that it is difficult to hear members at the back of the House. Nikki Kaye has every right to be heard as she asks question No. 11.

11. NIKKI KAYE (National—Auckland Central) to the Minister of Transport: What progress has been made on the procurement of new electric trains for Auckland’s commuter rail system?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): Good news. I am pleased to confirm to the House that new electric trains for Auckland rail commuters are one step closer, following KiwiRail’s announcement of a shortlist of two bidders. The selection process will be completed later this year, and I expect to see the first trains delivered in 2013. Rail’s popularity in Auckland is rising, and these new trains will build on previous work building new stations and upgrading the network. Getting all of Auckland’s transport corridors working effectively is crucial to getting the city to grow faster and provide more jobs.

Nikki Kaye: Has the Minister seen reports speculating on the likely successful tenderer, and how accurate are these reports?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, I have seen several reports calling for the procurement of new electric trains for Auckland to be delayed because they were to be built in China—a result of all sorts of wild conspiracies. As it turns out, the two shortlisted consortiums are from Korea and Japan, and Europe—I suppose at least Korea and Japan are in Asia. It is just as well KiwiRail continued on with the procurement job. It all goes to show that people should treat these types of reports—

Hon Trevor Mallard: As soon as Pansy was gone!

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: —and the relevant conspiracy theories, I say to Mr Mallard, which were from the Labour Party, with a very large grain of salt, especially in election year.

Phil Twyford: Does he agree that if he had not interfered in the process to buy the electric trains, Aucklanders would be riding them now instead of waiting through a 2-year process of missed deadlines and a shonky tendering process, which has seen four parties withdraw in protest?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I disagree with the member on two grounds. Firstly, the trains were always scheduled to arrive in 2013. Secondly, if I had not interfered, petrol prices in Auckland would be 10c a litre higher today than they are, because of Labour’s ridiculous regional fuel tax. If you want to campaign on bringing it back, then you should go right ahead—sorry, not you, Mr Speaker.

Mr SPEAKER: I just remind the Minister that the Speaker is not campaigning on any such thing.

Employment, 90-day Trial Period—Use in State Sector

12. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour: What reports, if any, has she seen on the use of the 90-day trial provisions in the State sector?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence) on behalf of the Minister of Labour: The Minister has received no formal reports specifically on the use of the 90-day trial period in the State sector. She is aware of the State Service Commission’s guidance to chief executives not to contract out of their ability to use trial periods in collective contracts. I might add that I have also seen a report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research that showed that 13,000 new jobs had been created due to the trial periods.

Darien Fenton: Is she confident that her assurance to the House last year that unless employees want a trial period, they do not have to have one is being applied in the State sector?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Yes. Just because there has been guidance from the State Services Commission, it does not mean to say that in particular cases of the individual contract between employer and employee, a trial period would be automatic. It relates to the collective contract as a whole.

Darien Fenton: Does she believe the 90-day trial period provisions are working as intended, given that the Parliamentary Service has issued guidelines requiring “no rights” trial periods for all

new parliamentary employees, when she told the House repeatedly that the fire-at-will provisions would be in employment agreements only by negotiation?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: The Minister stands by all her previous statements on this issue.

Darien Fenton: Does she stand by the assurances she gave the House last year that a 90-day trial period must be negotiated in good faith; if so, does the State Services Commission’s direction to State sector agencies not to contract out of, or restrict, any application of the 90-day law meet that test?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: Yes; and yes.

Darien Fenton: Very good—very good. Does she think that parliamentary and out-of- Parliament staff have the right to refuse a 90-day trial period, including those employed by National Party MPs?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: The use of the 90-day period is always an issue between the employer and employee—a matter of negotiation.

Question No. 2 to Minister

Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour): I seek leave to table a letter from the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges to Richard Wood of the Ministry of Social Development, dated 4 April, noting that their organisation is to lose $382,000 in funding from Te Rito, advocates for children, and the family violence education fund.

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.


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