Questions And Answers – May 10

by Desk Editor on Wednesday, May 11, 2011 — 11:44 AM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister : In light of his comment that “borrowing $300 million a week is unaffordable and is holding the economy back,” how much on average has his Government borrowed each week during …
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)

TUESDAY, 10 MAY 2011
Government Borrowing—Current Financial Year

1. Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: In light of his comment that “borrowing $300 million a week is unaffordable and is holding the economy back,” how much on average has his Government borrowed each week during the current financial year?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): The Government’s bond programme for this year was recently extended to $20 billion. That is more than is required for the year, but the Debt Management Office is front-loading some of the borrowing to take advantage of favourable market conditions. On a weekly basis, that averages out to new debt of $380 million a week. That sort of increase in debt is absolutely unaffordable, and I am glad the member now sees that.

Hon Phil Goff: If borrowing $380 million a week is, as he just said, absolutely unaffordable, how can he afford to spend $44 million a week—or $2.5 billion a year—on giving tax cuts to the wealthiest 10 percent of our country?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: If we were, that would be unaffordable, but we are not. The Government has made a number of tax changes since coming into Government, but, taken as a whole, National’s tax changes are in fact reducing the Government’s deficit compared with the situation we inherited in 2008. Without these changes the deficit next year would be almost $1 billion worse.

Hon Phil Goff: Will his cuts to home care, which hurt frail elderly people trying to live independently in their own homes, significantly reduce that $380 million of borrowing a week?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I can say that the Government has been working very hard to take the rough edges off the recession. It is one of the reasons why we had run such a large deficit. I also say that when members opposite see the Budget next week, they will realise what great progress the Government is making in getting the country back into surplus, so that we have to borrow less. I look forward to Labour producing its alternative budget, which will show us having a debt profile that is similar to Greece, I would have thought.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. It was a specific question. It was relatively short, it was to the point, and it had to do with home-care spending and the effect of that on the amount of borrowing. There was a lovely general statement about the Budget and about the Opposition, but certainly—

Mr SPEAKER: I accept the basic thrust of what the member is saying. The dilemma I have as Speaker is that when members incorporate into a question a supposed statement of fact instead of asking for the information, when members insert a statement into the question, as was inserted into that question about some alleged cuts to some programme or other, it gives the Minister answering a lot more leeway. If the question asks a straight question, then it gives a Minister less leeway. I can be of far more assistance to members if they do not insert statements into questions. If it is a primary question, then it has been validated. A supplementary question has not been validated, so a

Minister has a fair bit of licence in those circumstances. But I will be listening very carefully because the Prime Minister, I accept, was on the edges of that one. I do want to hear questions that ask questions rather than insert statements. The facts should be in the primary question and then the supplementary questions should respond to the answers given by the Ministers.

Hon Phil Goff: Have cuts of up to 80 percent to adult and community education and pushing up the fees on parents for early childhood education significantly reduced his $380 million borrowing each week?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All savings that the Government makes helps in the current financial position we are in.

Hon Phil Goff: If all savings help the Government’s position, has the Prime Minister considered not installing the $1,000 seat warmers in his BMWs, and has he considered requiring that his Minister of Foreign Affairs take a $4,000 commercial flight and not a $75,000 air force flight?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In terms of the use of the air force by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, from time to time that will make sense because of the diary that he runs. But I have said to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that when it comes to jumping out of planes, there will be none of that. We do not want that. Phil Goff tried that stunt and there was nothing in it for the taxpayer.

Hon Phil Goff: Mr Speaker—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable Leader of the Opposition. I say to colleagues that we must be able to hear what is going on. I accept there is a fair bit of passion in some of these questions and answers, but we want to be able to hear them.

Hon Phil Goff: Does the Prime Minister agree that the flight to Vanuatu cost the taxpayer $71,000 more than it needed to, but the flight to do the parachute jump cost nothing because it was on a routine Special Air Service parachute jump?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: That is a bit rich coming from Labour. That was a routine flight with Phil Goff as Minister of Defence. Well, all I can say to the member is that he should not do that sort of stunt now, because I tell you what: if the parachute was packed by the Labour Party caucus, it would be a very interesting jump.

Hon Phil Goff: It’s only jealousy, Mr Speaker. [Interruption] When the seals stop performing, I will ask my question.

Mr SPEAKER: I am on my feet, and the House will come to order. The House has had a bit of fun but it is time to settle down. When I am on my feet there will be silence, or members will be leaving. The honourable Leader of the Opposition knows that he should not make statements like that, but then I accept the provocation as well.

Hon Phil Goff: How can New Zealand afford to borrow to pay for his $2.5 billion tax cuts for the wealthiest 10 percent each year but not afford to invest in the Cullen superannuation fund, which this year produced a rate of return of over 23 percent, on average over 8 percent, and has reduced his deficit by some billions of dollars?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: All I can say is thank goodness Phil Goff is not the Minister of Finance, because this table quite clearly shows—

Hon Phil Goff: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is clear to you that that did not even begin to address my question. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I meant what I said about the House coming to order. I realise there is a lot of disorder in the House, and if I happen to pick on the wrong person to leave, it will be a bit unfortunate. But I will not tolerate more of this. I think it would be more helpful for an answer not to start in the way it did, and I invite the right honourable Prime Minister to answer the question.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: When the Government introduced its tax cuts, which were across the board, it made a number of changes. It increased taxes in certain parts and reduced them in others. That showed that by 2014 the deficit will have reduced by over a billion dollars.

Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave for the Prime Minister to table the official document from which he was quoting in the previous supplementary answer.

Mr SPEAKER: Was the Prime Minister quoting from an official document or from material prepared for his answer?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I was. I am more than happy to table it but it has been tabled before.

Mr SPEAKER: Are members satisfied that it has already been tabled?

Hon Members: No.

Mr SPEAKER: The member should table the document. [Interruption] The Prime Minister indicated that the document had been tabled before, but a request has been made for the Prime Minister to table the document he was quoting from if it was an official document. I am asking that that be done. Document laid on the Table of the House.

Financial Position, Government—Reports

2. CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the Government’s financial position?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): This morning the Government’s financial statements for the 9 months to 31 March were issued. They show an operating deficit for the 9 months of the financial year of $10.2 billion compared with a forecast deficit of $8.9 billion. The Earthquake Commission’s $1.5 billion estimated share of the costs of the Christchurch earthquake account for most of this difference. However, the figures do not include any of the further costs of the Canterbury earthquake, including the Government’s support packages or the Government’s support package for AMI policy holders.

Craig Foss: By how much has the Government’s financial position deteriorated since late 2008?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Not by as much as it might have. But it has deteriorated significantly, requiring the Government to carefully review all its spending priorities; for instance, the preelection update in October 2008 forecast that the deficit for this year would be $2.4 billion. It is much more likely to be about $15 billion or $16 billion. This is all the more reason for New Zealanders to be very sceptical about political promises to spend more, borrow more, and run up even larger deficits.

Craig Foss: How will the Budget next week respond to, and improve, the Government’s financial position?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Budget is likely to confirm a very large deficit for the current financial year, including recognition of a fair chunk of the costs of rebuilding Christchurch. But it will also set out a balanced and considered review of the Government’s spending priorities across a range of programmes and lay out a credible track back to surplus.

Hon David Cunliffe: Can the Minister confirm that the New Zealand Superannuation Fund has made a return of 32 percent since he cancelled the Government’s contribution to it, and that if those contributions had continued, based on that rate of return, Crown debt would have been reduced by approximately $375 million compared with what it is today?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member needs to remember the context here. The New Zealand Superannuation Fund lost billions of dollars because of the change in global markets. It has clawed back a fair bit of that, and one would expect that a fund of this size would over time return to its normal return. In the end, the Government took the view that borrowing is not saving. Based on the member’s statement, I would expect that a Labour Government would go out, borrow $50 billion, buy the New Zealand Exchange, and call that investment.

Craig Foss: Why is it important for the Government to get its finances in order and return to budget surplus?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: What a good question. It was appropriate that the Government run deficits through the recession as we continued with our long-term investment in infrastructure, maintained public services, maintained cash support to New Zealand families, and protected New

Zealanders from the worst effects of the downturn. But now that the economy is showing further signs of growth it is time we restrict our borrowing, make more decisions about the priorities for our spending, and get our way back to surplus. That is how the Government can contribute to national savings, as households are already doing.

Vulnerable Citizens—Prime Minister’s Statements

3. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “low-income New Zealanders are being looked after by a National Government”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes.

Hon Annette King: In light of that answer, what does he say to Mrs Alexander, interviewed on Campbell Live last night, whose basic grocery items have increased in price by 20.4 percent—going from $123.30 per week to $148 per week in just 8 months?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: The first thing I would say is that I did not actually see the Campbell Live show—but then, mind you, I do not see Coronation Street either, unlike the Labour caucus. But—

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member. The member will resume his seat for the moment. Members are entitled to call a point of order, and when members make unhelpful comments in answering questions it will tend to lead to disorder. Members are entitled to call a point of order and for that to be heard in silence. My patience is wearing a bit thin with some Government members on these points of order. They might not like the point of order, but a member has a right to call one as long as it is a point of order. If it is not a point of order I will sit the member down very fast, but the member has a right.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I think it is fair to say that standing up and sitting down fast is not quite what I can do—

Mr SPEAKER: I apologise to the honourable member.

Hon Trevor Mallard: —and there is no disrespect in my not sitting down quickly. My point of order is a simple one: that gratuitous comment about the television habits of Labour members, especially with regard to a foreign-made programme, was unnecessary.

Mr SPEAKER: I think that is a perfectly fair point. The question asked whether the Prime Minister had seen a certain programme and what he had to say about that. Admittedly there is some licence there, but a comment as gratuitous as that will always lead to disorder.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. From memory, Coronation Street has been on for 50 years. I am surprised that the Labour—

Mr SPEAKER: No, no. That was not a point of order. It would be a terrible thing for the Speaker to deprive the Opposition of the chance to question the Prime Minister—let me put it that way. I do not want to deprive the Opposition of that opportunity, but we will not have any more of that. The Prime Minister, though, should answer the question he was asked.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I did not see the Campbell Live show, but one thing I am advised is that the family was still eligible for Government programmes such as Working for Families and accommodation supplements, and, if they had a mortgage, their mortgage rates would have gone down. Apparently, as the show showed, there are fluctuations in grocery prices, and apparently this month the grocery prices would have been lower.

Hon Annette King: Does he stand by his statement, as reported on Campbell Live last night, that after the tax cuts “no one will be worse off”; if so, how does the Alexanders’ $11-a-week tax cut go anywhere near to compensating for the $25-a-week increase in their food costs alone?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Hon Annette King: How does the Alexanders’ $11-a-week tax cut go anywhere near to compensating for the $25-a-week increase that they have faced in their basic food costs?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not know the personal circumstances of the family, and I cannot confirm that it was an $11-a-week tax cut. I have learnt not to trust the member’s numbers.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I have been tough on Government members, and it applies to the Opposition too when a point of order is being heard.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Again, it is a question of whether the Prime Minister should make that gratuitous flick at the member, when I think that 80 percent of the members in the House know that the member is quoting direct figures, which would be easily authenticated if the Prime Minister wanted them to be.

Mr SPEAKER: Of course, the Prime Minister does not know that. When members ask this type of primary question, then quote details in respect of a particular person, they cannot expect any Minister to answer, unless we have that information. If I get too tough on Ministers when responding, this place would get boring. We do not want Parliament to become a totally boring place. I have pulled up the Prime Minister a couple of times on gratuitous comments, and I think we have to be a little bit reasonable. This is a place where there is a bit of give and take, and where a few comments that are perhaps barbed are hurled across the House. If I try to stop all of that, it will destroy the character of the place. I just ask members to be reasonable. I am not sure that that was totally unreasonable.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Maybe I did not express myself clearly enough in the original point of order. I think it is fine for people to dispute the figures or to say they have not seen them, but to say a member is not to be trusted is an implication that is likely to lead to disorder.

Mr SPEAKER: I hear the member on that. I ask Ministers not to do that. There is no problem with their disputing figures, but on the issue of saying a member cannot be trusted, I accept the point that the member makes.

Hon Annette King: What message is he giving New Zealanders when he refuses to visit a food bank and refuses to meet with Melissa Voice from Timaru, who asked him to walk a week in her shoes, then refuses to appear on Campbell Live to talk about the cost of living, after a very thorough investigation by TV3 on the real issues that New Zealanders are facing at the moment?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: One of the criticisms from the Opposition—and there are many—I have received in my time as Prime Minister is that I spend a lot of time around New Zealand. I spend a lot of time visiting New Zealanders in their places of work, their homes, and their places of enjoyment, and I think I have a good sense of what New Zealanders are going through.

Freshwater Management—Reform

4. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for the Environment: What steps has the Government taken to improve the management of fresh water, and how does this compare with actions taken historically?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment): Yesterday the Government announced a national policy statement on freshwater management that will require all councils to set limits on both water quality and minimum flows. This is the third national policy statement adopted by this Government, compared with just one in 9 years under each of the previous Governments since the Resource Management Act was enacted. We have also announced increases in freshwater clean-up funding, which will see this Government, in its first 5 years, spend five times as much as was spent in the preceding 5 years on clean-ups. We have doubled the fines for noncompliance. We have increased, by doubling it, the number of consent non-compliance prosecutions. A clear national policy, increased funding for clean-ups, and tougher enforcement combine the key ingredients to making sure we manage our rivers and lakes properly.

Louise Upston: How does the Government’s reform package fit with the Bluegreens objective of balancing economic growth with environmental protection?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: This Government sees New Zealand’s abundant freshwater resources as an important competitive advantage for New Zealand. It looks to schemes like the Ōpua, built in the 1990s, as a good example of the way in which well-designed and balanced schemes can provide both economic and environmental benefits. That is why the Government yesterday announced funding of $35 million for ensuring that schemes are well designed and for getting them to an investment-ready stage, and announced the proposal of $400 million of equity investment to support water storage. New Zealand uses only 2 percent of its total water resource, and the challenge is to store water when plentiful in order to use it in times and areas of drought.

Brendon Burns: Given that his Cabinet paper on the national policy statement on freshwater says that though councils are to implement it by December 2014, “if it is impracticable to meet this deadline,” councils will have until December 2030, does that not mean it will be 16 long years before our birthright of safe, clean water has any real chance of being restored?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: No, that is incorrect. In fact, those parts of the national policy statement are exactly those that were recommended by the board of inquiry about the practical time frame. I simply ask members opposite to reflect on the progress we have made in 3 years. Not one single step was taken by the previous Government in respect of a national policy statement on fresh water, which I think most people, including a broad group of 48 groups, say is overdue.

Brendon Burns: Will the Minister confirm that whereas the draft national policy statement required conditions be imposed on all discharge permits affecting fresh water to protect the environment, his version simply requires councils to have regard to any adverse effect; and did he have to be waterboarded by the pro-growth cabal in Cabinet before he agreed to this weakening of environmental protection?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I will share with the House the specific advice that I received from the Ministry for the Environment. It said that these provisions are ultra vires because a national policy statement can contain only objectives and policies. They would also be unenforceable because only a rule in a plan, or a provision in the Resource Management Act, can require any person to get a consent for a specific activity. They would also create an internal conflict between the approach that is taken in plans and the national policy statement. Those are the reasons that the Government changed those portions of the board of inquiry report.

Brendon Burns: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can I ask that the Minister table that advice, please?

Mr SPEAKER: Sorry, was that a point of order?

Brendon Burns: Yes, Mr Speaker. I have asked whether the Minister will table that advice from the Ministry for the Environment.

Mr SPEAKER: No, the member can make that request only if the Minister is quoting from an official document. I will check with the Minister. The Minister was not quoting from an official document.

Dr Russel Norman: Will the Minister release the legal opinion on which the Ministry for the Environment’s advice that the provisions are ultra vires is based?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: As is the longstanding convention of Cabinet, I would be happy to consult the Attorney-General and see whether there are any legal risks. Subject to the advice of the Attorney-General that it does not pose any legal risks for the Crown, I would be more than happy to release that advice.

Government Spending—Line-by-line Expenditure Reviews

5. CHRIS HIPKINS (Labour—Rimutaka) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his reported statement from February 2009 that Ministers had been “aggressively” working on line-byline expenditure reviews?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, and they continue to do so. They have had to look carefully at Government spending, because between 2003-04 and 2008-09 Government spending

increased by 50 percent in just 5 years. That was under a Labour Government, and we have had to reign in those things.

Chris Hipkins: Has he ensured that the departments and agencies for which he is responsible have been subjected to the same line-by-line scrutiny; if so, is he confident that all of the potential savings have been identified?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes.

Chris Hipkins: Does he believe that Ministers should lead by example when it comes to living without “nice-to-haves”; if not, why not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes, but it is always open to interpretation what a “nice-to-have” is. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I say to the Labour front bench on this occasion that I have called their own backbench colleague Chris Hipkins. I want to hear his supplementary question.

Chris Hipkins: How does he justify approving expenditure of more than $275,000 on redecorating his prime ministerial residence at a time when the elderly are finding that their home help is being cut, parents are paying more for their children’s early childhood education, police cars are being taken off the street, and night classes are being cancelled throughout the country?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because it is a $14 million property. It is having maintenance work as it has not been painted for 11 years. The advice was that if we did not paint the property, because it is weatherboard in Wellington it would deteriorate more. If he wants to ask me about “nice-to-haves”, a “nice-to-have” is Phil Goff as Leader of the Opposition. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Both sides of the House, I think, are being equally difficult today.

Chris Hipkins: Why was it appropriate for him to cancel the upgrade of Premier House back in February 2009, when his Government was dishing out large-scale tax cuts, but appropriate to go ahead in early 2011, when his Government is promising a Budget that will severely cut into many of the public services New Zealanders rely on?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because my understanding was that in 2009 the money would be spent on things such as couches, which, frankly, do need changing, but they are a “nice-to-have”, whereas painting a Historic Places Trust category I building will actually save the taxpayer money. If the member is saying we should not maintain New Zealand’s historic buildings, that is fine by me; that can be the new policy of the Labour Party. Goodness knows Labour needs to save money somewhere in its policies, with the way it is spending it everywhere else.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why was the 2009 decision his to make, but the decision this year not?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For the same reasons. The decision is made by the department, but its advice is to me. I was aware the building would be painted in 2011. My view was, on the advice we had, that it would maintain the property.

Dairying—Effect of Intensification on Water Quality

Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green): My question is to the Prime Minister— [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I ask both sides of the House again to extend some courtesy to Dr Russel Norman.

6. Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his comments on BBC HARDtalk yesterday that “intensifying our dairy operations … had some impact on our river quality”; if so, what is that impact?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes. In some areas of New Zealand, the historical intensification of dairy operations will have had some impact on our river quality. That is why we announced yesterday an increase in funding for the clean-up of our rivers, lakes, and aquifers. But in reality, the impact is not great and needs to be kept in context. We have a 2010 ranking second only to Iceland in the water quality index of Columbia University and Yale University, with a score of 99.2, which is significantly ahead of other developed countries.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister aware of statistics provided by the Ministry for the Environment that show that 43 percent of our monitored rivers are not safe for swimming most of the time?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not recently seen those figures. I have no doubt they are there, but I have not recently seen them. But that would explain why a National-led Government is spending more money—in fact, five times as much—on the freshwater clean-up between 2009 and 2014 than the previous Labour Government did, which that member supported.

Dr Russel Norman: If, as he said on the BBC, the intensification of dairying causes water pollution, then why is he promoting hundreds of thousands more hectares of dairy intensification?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I honestly cannot remember what I said on BBC HARDtalk, because I have not seen the show, but I have also said on numerous occasions that one needs to balance the environment with the economy. Looking, for instance, at dairy intensification that may come from water irrigation schemes, I refer the member to the Ōpuha dam water management project in South Canterbury. It won the 2008 Canterbury Resource Management Award. It is a sustainable project that is supported by Fish and Game New Zealand, local iwi, and the community. It demonstrates that we can actually have both economic and environmental benefits.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister aware of the statement by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research: “There is no doubt that our declining … water quality over the last 20 years is associated with intensification of pastoral farming and the conversion … to dairy farming,” and how can he possibly support massive conversion to dairying while avoiding those environmental effects?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have not seen that particular comment but, again, we are aware that there are always environmental risks when one increases intensification of dairying. I am also aware of all the steps the industry is now taking to make sure it is a good custodian of environmental responsibility. In my view, the industry is meeting those challenges.

Dr Russel Norman: If the industry is to be a good custodian of the land, does the Prime Minister believe that we need regulation in order to ensure that the industry actually does look after the land?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Inevitably, some legislation is always required in that area; when there are controls they are covered by things like the Resource Management Act. The legislation will also be assisted by the national policy statement that the Minister for the Environment put out yesterday.

Dr Russel Norman: Is the Prime Minister aware that the national policy statement that was put out yesterday removed the requirement that dairy intensification requires a resource consent? The draft national policy statement on freshwater management stated that a resource consent was needed for dairy intensification, which the national policy statement has taken away, so there is no ability to regulate.

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am advised that the Government had legal advice that the proposed national policy statement was ultra vires, and that it can set policy but not rules. That is why Cabinet did not proceed with those provisions.

Dr Russel Norman: Was the Prime Minister taking a bit of a gamble in inviting BBC HARDtalk interviewer Stephen Sackur to swim in our rivers when, according to Ministry for the Environment statistics, 43 percent of our monitored rivers are not safe for swimming most of the time, so Mr Sackur would have stood a one-in-two chance of getting the runs?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, I do not think I was taking a big risk asking him to come for a swim. I think the member is taking a much bigger risk if he continues to support Labour.

Dr Russel Norman: I seek leave to table the document where the Ministry for the Environment says that 57 percent of monitored swimming spots have water quality that meets the requirements almost all the time.

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 Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I thought Russel Norman was going to raise a point of order about gratuitous comments made by the Prime Minister—I think for the third time today—that were totally irrelevant in this case. At your advice, we on this side of the House have worked quite hard—not always successfully—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: I do not want to ask the member to resume his seat; that is unfair to the honourable member. I ask the House to please show some courtesy to a colleague.

Hon Trevor Mallard: The point is that you have given the House advice, and members on this side of the House have been making a real attempt to follow it and to stay within the Standing Orders. I think it is generally accepted that there has been a lot of progress in that area over the last year or so. It is just a question of whether the same advice is going to the Prime Minister. If we made that sort of gratuitous comment three times or had interrupted you when you were on your feet in the way the Prime Minister did, we would have been asked to leave the Chamber.

Mr SPEAKER: The member was doing pretty well until that point. The member will have noted that today I was not very happy with the Prime Minister at one stage, but it was my assessment that it would have been unfair to the Opposition to ask the Prime Minister to leave the Chamber, because there are several questions to the Prime Minister that I am sure the Opposition wanted him—and not anyone else—to answer. The Speaker has to make all sorts of judgments at a time. I do not want to be too unreasonable. As long as there is a little bit of humour in the comments, I do not want to be too unreasonable. The member says the Labour Opposition has tried to get their questions much tighter. I think many members have tried, and I congratulate members on it. But I invite him to reflect on the fact that many questions still seek opinions. A particular question asked the Prime Minister about risks. The Prime Minister, in answering, shared a risk with the questioner that maybe was a bit flippant, but if I were to try to prevent that kind of comment, I think we would almost destroy question time. There is a risk when a questioner asks a Minister about risks that the answer may include risks that the questioner did not expect. That is my dilemma as Speaker. I do not want to be too unrealistic. Members will note that where a straight question is asked that seeks information, I am pretty tough on Ministers. Where questions seek opinions, it is much more difficult for me. Where supplementary questions contain statements—alleged statements of fact—it is much more difficult for me. I hear the member’s point, and I will do my best to achieve what he is seeking, but I do not want to destroy all humour. In that particular case the questioner asked about risks, and a risk was included in the answer that perhaps was not totally expected. I do not want to rule out that sort of thing completely.

Top Scholar Awards, 2010—Results

7. NICKY WAGNER (National) to the Minister of Education: What were the results of the 2010 Top Scholar Awards?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY (Minister of Education): I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister and I have just attended the awards ceremony at Government House, where 26 students were named as Top Subject Scholars. The Top Scholar Awards recognise the No. 1 student in an individual Scholarship subject. Nine students received Premier Awards, and these nine Premier Scholars gained at least four Scholarship subjects at “Outstanding” level. These students are Stewart Alexander of Christchurch Boys’ High School, David Bellamy of Christ’s College, Athene Laws of St Cuthbert’s College, Stephen Mackereth of King’s College, William Quach of Mount Roskill Grammar School, Michael Tzu Min Wang of Macleans College, Max Wilkinson of Papanui High School, Yuanye Xu of Westlake Boys High School, and Hao Jordan Zi of Mount Roskill Grammar School. These students are all performing at a world-class level, and are great role models for all New Zealand students.

Nicky Wagner: What was new about these awards?

Hon ANNE TOLLEY: 2010 was the inaugural year of the Prime Minister’s Award for Academic Excellence. This award is for the top achieving student in last year’s Scholarship awards. I am pleased to inform the House that the inaugural winner of this award is David Bellamy from Christchurch. David’s achievement is absolutely outstanding. He was just 16 when he sat the Scholarship exams and is a Premier Award winner and the Top Scholar in chemistry. In addition, David achieved six Outstanding Scholarships in English, biology, chemistry, mathematics with calculus, statistics and modelling, and physics.

Tourism—Role of Māori Culture

8. KELVIN DAVIS (Labour) to the Minister of Tourism: Does he stand by his statement that “New Zealand has some big competitive advantages” in tourism including “our unique Māori culture and its stories”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Minister of Tourism): Yes.

Kelvin Davis: How is the Minister demonstrating the competitive advantages of our unique Māori culture and its stories if Māori are barely represented in an event as significant as the REAL New Zealand Showcase?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because the Government is spending $4.5 million on the development of the Māori tourism action plan. The Government is spending $2 million on the pavilion, actually, which I know that members on the other side are deeply opposed to. But also occurring during the Rugby World Cup is a huge number of events around New Zealand where Māori are participating and, if the member wants me to, then I am more than happy to table that enormous list of events. Just to give him a flavour for some that are occurring, there is a Māori arts market in Porirua and a tribal rugby festival in Rotorua. There is just a whole bunch of them; I am more than happy to table that document.

Kelvin Davis: Why, aside from a few brown-faced waiters and a bit of music, did Māori and Māori tourism have no significant presence at the launch of the REAL New Zealand Showcase?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I noticed that you were straining to hear. I think we were straining to hear, as well, and we are not very far away from the member.

Mr SPEAKER: I will invite the member to repeat his question and, although members may not have liked it, the question must be heard as long as it is in order.

Kelvin Davis: Why, aside from a few brown-faced waiters and a bit of music, did Māori and Māori tourism have no significant presence at the launch of the REAL New Zealand Showcase?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I will repeat what I said earlier, that during the Rugby World Cup 2011 festival there will be many events. The REAL New Zealand Showcase is by sector, and Māori are an important part of each of those sectors and play a part in them. If the member wants to have a chance on what is obviously his attempt to get his profile up before the by-election, he should ask better questions.

Kelvin Davis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did not receive an answer to the question.

Mr SPEAKER: There will be no comment. The member should reflect on the question he asked. I invite him to do that, and to think about the question he asked. I could have, perhaps, even ruled it out, but I allowed the Minister to answer it, and perhaps the answer the member received was reasonably mild, considering the question.

Kelvin Davis: What percentage of Government funding does Māori tourism receive in comparison with mainstream tourism?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I do not have that exact number to hand.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: You’re the Minister!

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I do not have every number to hand. What I do know is I would know when a boat would leave if I was going out on one, on a reality TV show—I would know that—but I do not know every single one of those numbers. I do know that we are spending $4.5 million on Māori development in the tourism action plan, I do know that a lot of work is done with

the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign to use the imagery of Māori, and I know that they are deeply involved in many of the sectors of the REAL New Zealand Showcase Rugby World Cup programme.

Kelvin Davis: Why should Māori believe this Government values our contribution to New Zealand when financial support for Māori ventures such as Māori tourism, in comparison with mainstream tourism, is almost non-existent?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: First, because that statement is not true and, secondly, because when this Government stood up and said we would have a pavilion to promote Māori, in a prime position at the Viaduct Basin during the Rugby World Cup, all Labour members could do was make some cheap shots—so Māori know who supports them when it comes to tourism, and it sure as hang is not Labour.

Youth Rates—Support for Reintroduction

9. Hon HEATHER ROY (ACT) to the Minister for Social Development and Employment: Why did she oppose a bill which sought to reintroduce youth rates, and will she support a bill to introduce youth rates now that youth unemployment has hit an all-time high of 27.5 percent and 36.6 percent for Māori?

Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Social Development and Employment): The National caucus opposed the bill at the time as we were not persuaded that it alone would reduce youth unemployment. In relation to the second part of the question, like any other member’s bill, caucus will consider it if it comes out of the ballot box.

Hon Heather Roy: Does she accept any responsibility for the 12,000 young people who cannot get work because of the removal of youth rates, and how does she justify spending $55 million of taxpayers’ money to employ less than half that number, as announced in her youth employment package last week?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: I contest the fact that 12,000 young people are not getting jobs because of the youth rates. The rates that she is talking about are for 15 to 19-year-olds, and they are a tough group to find jobs for. The number is taken from the household labour force survey. Often those people are looking for only an hour’s work a week while they are studying. We actually recommend that young people stay in education and training for as long as they can; our focus is on schooling. We want to see them in schools, we want to see them in work, and we want to see them in training as much as we can. That is this Government’s focus.

Hon Heather Roy: Does she agree that youth rates give “employers a reason to hire younger people and give them a chance to get experience.”, as stated by John Key in December 2007; if not, what has changed?

Hon PAULA BENNETT: Yes. That is why we also supported the training rates, and why we support those other rates for young people—so yes.

Prime Minister, Security-related Meetings—Travel

10. Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) to the Prime Minister: Why is it not in the public interest to tell New Zealanders whether, if he had travelled by car from Hamilton to Auckland as previously arranged, he would have arrived in time for his “security related meetings” on 11 December 2009?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): It is my judgment that it is not in the public interest for me as Prime Minister to talk publicly about any of the details related to security-related meetings held on that date, and, from the best of my knowledge, that was the custom of the previous Prime Minister, as well.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Does the Prime Minister acknowledge that I am not seeking the subject of the meetings, the number of meetings, the venues of the meetings, the attendees at the meetings, or

the duration of the meetings, but, rather, I am seeking to know only whether, if the kind helicopter pilot had not offered a lift direct to Auckland, the Prime Minister would have got there on time?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: As I said earlier, it is my judgment that it is not in the public interest for me as Prime Minister to talk about security-related matters.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Does he stand by his statement that when the helicopter pilot asked him whether he wanted to go from Mount Pirongia to Hamilton, or Mount Pirongia to Auckland, that “the pilot said to me it was about equal distance either way”?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I cannot remember whether the pilot said that, but I can certainly assure him that the pilot offered to take me to Auckland.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Why was the Vela brothers’ invoice that was generated on New Year’s Eve 2009 not approved by his office until 1 March 2010, but was never date-stamped as having been ever received by his office on any date?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because it takes a while to go through the system.

Hon Pete Hodgson: Is it within the bounds of possibility that around February 2010 someone dropped to the fact that the gift from the Vela brothers would have to go on his pecuniary interests register, and that to avoid awkward gibes from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, someone got a backdated invoice from the Vela brothers?

Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, the decision to ask for an invoice was, to the best of my knowledge, made within 48 hours of me taking the trip.

Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—Government Support

11. TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs: In what ways has the Government demonstrated its support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON (Attorney-General) on behalf of the Minister of

Foreign Affairs: By doing what we have been doing since day one of this great Prime Minister’s administration. We have accelerated the settlement of Treaty grievances after 9 years of failure; we have reviewed and repealed the hated Foreshore and Seabed Act; we have restored the right of iwi to seek customary title in the courts; and we have supported the declaration through participation in international meetings. Indeed, the United States has changed its position on the declaration. An official from Te Puni Kōkiri is attending the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues this week and will also attend a meeting in Washington of United States, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand officials dealing with indigenous topics.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does the Minister agree with article 19 in the declaration, which affirms indigenous people’s rights to “free, prior, and informed consent”; if so, why have New Zealand officials currently attending the UN session on sustainable development asked for the text “free, prior, and informed consent” to be deleted?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As to the first part of the question, yes. I note that although the declaration certainly carries moral force, it is not legally binding; it is an aspirational document.

Hone Harawira: Can the Minister please tell the House how the Government calling out the New Zealand armed forces against Tūhoe and Te Whānau-a-Apanui for standing up for the rights guaranteed to them under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples demonstrates its support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: As to the issue of Tūhoe, that matter is before the court. It would be singularly inappropriate to comment on that.

Te Ururoa Flavell: Does he agree that in seeking to remove “free, prior, and informed consent” from the text on mining in the sustainable development session, his officials have breached Cabinet’s support for the declaration and have breached the Treaty clauses in a number of pieces of legislation, including the Crown Minerals Act; if so, what is he doing about it?

Hon CHRISTOPHER FINLAYSON: No, it is a work in progress and we will see what happens at the end of the day. To ask for a clause by clause, day-by-day analysis of the work our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials are doing at this most important conference would be inappropriate.

Interisland Ferry—Proposed Clifford Bay Terminal

12. COLIN KING (National—Kaikōura) to the Minister of Transport: Why is the Government considering the proposed ferry terminal at Clifford Bay?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): Preliminary advice shows that a new sea freight terminal at Clifford Bay could significantly reduce ferry crossing-times by half an hour, and would further reduce the travel time to Christchurch by 50 minutes for road and 80 minutes for rail. This would have the effect of bringing our three largest cities closer together, and therefore increasing productivity and helping economic growth, particularly in the South Island. In addition, the new terminal could provide a real long-term boost to Christchurch’s recovery and confidence. Ferry operators could also benefit by increasing their freight capacity over time and running an extra ferry crossing per day, thereby improving their productivity further.

Colin King: What are the next steps for progressing the project?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Firstly, the Ministry of Transport is commissioning a study to further examine the project, including national cost and benefit assumptions, which will take 2 to 3 months to complete. Secondly, using the results we will then be able to determine whether Clifford Bay could be successful and whether it would be a candidate for a public-private partnership, for example. It is not the sort of facility that KiwiRail would have the resources to build on its own, but it could provide a steady, long-term revenue stream to infrastructure investors. Designing and building the terminal would take an estimated 3 to 5 years.

Hon Shane Jones: How does the Government’s ferry terminal consideration take account of the future of Picton and Blenheim, likely to be gutted as a consequence of these changes?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The member may have been asleep at the time, but yesterday Mark Baxter of Sounds Connection, one of the tour operators in Picton, said that without the ferries Picton could come into its own as a tourist destination, and, in his words, “go from strength to strength”. He said: “The ferries going south could be, I think, in actual fact the making of the town.” Of course, the ferries moving to Clifford Bay, if it happened, would also reduce the amount of heavy freight travelling through the Blenheim township.


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