Questions And Answers June 14

by Desk Editor on Tuesday, June 14, 2011 — 7:55 PM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister : What recent reports has he received on the impact of rising prices on families in light of his statement that “no one is worse off”?
(uncorrected transcript—subject to correction and further editing)




Prices—Effect on Families

1. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Prime Minister: What recent reports has he received on the impact of rising prices on families in light of his statement that “no one is worse off”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: I have seen reports showing that the true test for the cost of living is the rate at which wages, benefits, and superannuation are rising compared with prices. We do not know the situation of every New Zealander, because their circumstances will be different. However, it is a fact that main benefits have to increase each year by the same rate as prices. New Zealand superannuation has to increase each year by at least the same rate as prices, and often increases by more. The after-tax average wage has increased by 7.1 percent over the previous year, which is considerably more than the increase in prices over that time. In fact, real increases in wages over the last year have been 2.5 percent.

Hon Annette King: Has he seen the report in the Dominion Post yesterday quoting the principal of Porirua East School, who said that she had taught for 30 years in Porirua and the situation was “probably at the worst it’s been.”; if so, does he still stand by his statement that no one is worse off under a National Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Yes, I did see those reports, and they concern me. We know that the parents of those children have received full compensation for inflation and GST, in their incomes.

Chris Tremain: By how much have after-tax wages grown since September 2008 and how does that compare historically?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Since September 2008 the after-tax average wage, which is the measure used to set the rates of New Zealand superannuation, has increased by 10 percent in real, inflationadjusted terms. That is very solid growth in historical terms; for example, over the entire 9-year period between September 1999 and September 2008 real growth in wages was only 4 percent. That was a 4 percent increase over 9 years, compared with a 10 percent increase over the last 2½ years.

Hon Annette King: Is he aware that half of the 200,000 children now living in poverty are from working families whose wages are so low they cannot adequately care for their kids, and why is increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour not as important to him as tax cuts for those earning $192.55 an hour?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I contest the member’s first statement, about children in poverty, because most of the measures I have seen show that by any measure of poverty most of the children affected by it are those whose parents used to be on benefits. As the member may be aware, the Government has increased the minimum wage each year. It has also implemented neutral tax cuts. We have reduced income taxes and increased GST, across the board.

Chris Tremain: How does the growth in real after-tax wages in New Zealand compare with Australia?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As I said before, the real after-tax average wage, which is a calculation based on how this Parliament has set New Zealand superannuation rates for the last 20 years, has grown by 2.5 percent in the last year. In Australia the real after-tax average wage grew by 0.6 percent over the last year. From year to year those growth rates are likely to fluctuate but in the last year New Zealand’s has grown 2.5 percent and Australia’s by 0.6 percent.

Hon Annette King: Has he been told that thousands of children are now going hungry each day, and charitable organisations are struggling with the demand, with one organisation saying that poverty in New Zealand is a hidden shame; if so, why are people worse off, rather than better off, after 2½ years of a National Government?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I will make two points. First of all, through the recession the Government has protected the most vulnerable. We have ensured that both the core benefit rates and the child payment rates have been increased for inflation and for GST. Secondly, that member had 9 years to deal with that issue. If, after the expenditure of many billions of dollars extra, the situation is worse, then she should look at whether the kinds of solutions she put forward actually worked.

Hon Annette King: What does he say to a constituent in the Te Tai Tokerau electorate who told Kelvin Davis that she had to sell raffle tickets to pay for her power bill and that she is worse off under a National Government—has she not got the message from the Government that she is supposed to be better off?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would be fascinated to hear what Kelvin Davis said to her. Did he apologise for the 9 years under Labour, when that person might have been promised a job that turned out to be unsustainable, or she thought the Labour Government was going to increase her benefit rate and it never did?

Te Ururoa Flavell: Kia ora tātou. What impact has there been for low-income families as a result of the emissions trading scheme negotiations with the Māori Party, which halved the price increase of petrol and power?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Actually, it has been a very significant impact. As a result of those negotiations, the impact of the emissions trading scheme on households was halved. I understand that the Opposition intends to double it at the same time as it claims it wants to get the cost of living down. We also boosted the home insulation fund to insulate 8,000 homes of low-income New Zealanders to give them warmer houses and healthier lifestyles. Those were the results of the discussions between the Māori Party and the National Party.

Hon Annette King: What impact does he think the 7.1 percent increase year on year in food prices will have on struggling Kiwis?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Many Kiwis, particularly those on lower incomes, struggle every week to pay their bills. The fact is that overall inflation—as the overall increase in prices according to the official measures, even including GST—is around 5 percent. As I have pointed out to the member, real after-tax wages have risen by more than inflation. That is a fact.

John Boscawen: Supplementary question to the Minister of Finance—

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

Mr SPEAKER: I can understand what it is. The member should address his supplementary question to the Prime Minister, not the Minister of Finance.

John Boscawen: How much lower would the price of electricity and petrol have been if National had accepted the advice of the ACT Party and scrapped the emissions trading scheme totally, rather than doing a deal with the Māori Party in which the price rise in electricity was halved rather than being scrapped totally?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think it demonstrates just what a balanced and considered approach this Government takes. We did not take the advice of ACT to scrap the emissions trading scheme altogether; we did take some advice from the Māori Party that helped to reduce its cost. But the fact

is that in countries like Australia, where they do not have an emissions trading scheme, power prices are going up much faster than in New Zealand, because they are trying to achieve climate change policy with a mixture of bureaucratic whim and excessive regulation, so their consumers are suffering from much higher increases in electricity prices.

Mr SPEAKER: I take it the Minister does not have the figures that were asked for. The Prime Minister was asked how much lower prices would have been.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not know.

Mr SPEAKER: The Minister does not have those figures.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he understand that real average wages go up when high-income earners get massive tax cuts—$1,000 a week, in his case—and low-income workers lose their jobs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I do not understand that, because it is not true. But I am interested to know whether the Labour Party in Te Tai Tokerau is making promises to those voters that it knows it cannot pay for. My bet is that it certainly is. It will be promising to cut GST, promising to control power prices, and promising all sorts of stuff—

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

Earthquakes, Canterbury—Government Support for Recovery

2. AARON GILMORE (National) to the Minister of Finance: How is the Government supporting the earthquake recovery effort in Canterbury?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government, as we set out in the Budget, has set up a Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Fund. That fund amounts to $5.5 billion, and it has been pre-funded. By that I mean that the Government already has the cash, which it has borrowed in order to fund the rebuild of Christchurch. We believe that the fund demonstrates the determination of all of New Zealand to rebuild that city and gives the people of Christchurch comfort, even after the earthquake yesterday, that New Zealanders are with them.

Aaron Gilmore: Will yesterday’s earthquakes delay the recovery effort?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. Although there may be some hold-ups in the next week or two as the damage is reassessed, the fact is that what is required to rebuild Christchurch has not changed— that is, the demolition and rebuilding of the central business district and significant decisions about land use in the suburbs, as well as the repairing of thousands of houses. Much of that effort, and the planning that goes with it, can continue regardless of the earthquake yesterday.

Aaron Gilmore: Will yesterday’s earthquakes increase the Government’s earthquake costs?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is not entirely clear yet. The picture seems to be that there has been more damage in the central business district, where extensive demolition was already occurring, and pretty severe liquefaction in the eastern suburbs, where there is already significant damage. As we speak, both the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, and Ministers and the Prime Minister, are surveying the damage, and pretty quickly we will have an assessment of whether there are significantly more costs.

Aaron Gilmore: How will the Earthquake Commission treat yesterday’s earthquakes?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Earthquake Commission has publicly stated that it will treat it as a new event, and we would expect there will be further claims on top of, I think, already in excess of 400,000 claims since September last year. The Earthquake Commission had reinsurance put in place from 1 June, so this earthquake is covered by its reinsurance arrangements.

State-owned Assets, Sales—Shares

3. Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that his plan to sell public assets would give “New Zealanders a fantastic opportunity to invest in this country’s future”?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes. The mixed-ownership model introduced by the previous Labour Government for Air New Zealand is

one example of the opportunity many New Zealanders have taken. There are now many thousands of New Zealand investors who lost money in collapsed finance companies telling us they want better investment options.

Hon David Cunliffe: In that case, is he aware that his Budget supplement to the investment statement says that the Crown would forgo only $200 million in dividends per year by selling $6.8 billion worth of assets, which works out to a dividend return of 3 percent per year—less than people can get in the bank—or does he think that the real forgone dividends would be larger than those described in the Budget?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, as we have discussed in this House, if we look at the dividend flow that came from the State-owned enterprises under the previous Government, and when we exclude the special dividends mostly paid by Meridian Energy, we see that those flows were less than $100 million per year for Mighty River Power, Solid Energy, and Genesis Energy. When we add Meridian’s special dividends, it puts the number up, on average, to about $300 million a year. So, as Treasury says in the Budget documents, the mixed-ownership model is likely to be about fiscally neutral for the Government.

Hon David Cunliffe: Does the Prime Minister realise that if we take him at his word, and impute dividend flows of only $100 million a year, then he is making the problem of the return to shareholders worse, and that the return would, in fact, be only about 1.5 percent; in that case, is he not relying on things like future electricity price increases to bring those assets up to something close to the $6.8 billion sale price he has forecast?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. This Government has been working hard to improve the governance and performance of the State-owned enterprises. Actually, the big question here is whether Labour will go into the election promising to buy them back—

Mr SPEAKER: No, what Labour might promise is not actually the responsibility of the Prime Minister.

Hon David Cunliffe: In light of that answer, has he read the Budget documents that state: “there is little evidence to suggest that privatisation would significantly improve the financial performance of many of the SOE companies.”, and that “significant participation by foreign investors would be essential to achieve the Government’s overall objectives”; if he has read those, can he confirm what those objectives are, and why foreign ownership is essential to achieve them?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I presume that the member is quoting from Treasury and in both cases we disagree with its views, which, I think, is a very healthy thing. The Government’s objectives are better performance for the companies, better investment opportunities for New Zealand, and reduction in our need to borrow billions of dollars in volatile overseas financial markets. We would rather pay dividends to New Zealanders than interest to foreign lenders. Clearly, that member would prefer to do the opposite.

Hon David Cunliffe: I seek leave to table the Minister’s executive summary where he signs off—

Mr SPEAKER: The member knows we do not seek leave to table Budget documents.

John Boscawen: What is the point of the Government owning Landcorp as a public asset?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: It does not yield a strong flow of dividends—that is for sure. I think the return on assets for Landcorp is about 1 percent. But the Government’s continued ownership means it has a greater ability to deal with Treaty of Waitangi claims and various other complications around contested ownership of coastal land, reserve land, and potential Treaty settlement land.

John Boscawen: Does he agree that New Zealanders would have an even more fantastic opportunity to invest in the country’s future if the Government simply sold State-owned enterprises outright; if not, why not?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We think that, as one would expect from a considered and balanced Government, the mixed-ownership model represents a good balance between a better opportunity for New Zealanders to invest on the one hand—better than the $8.5 billion they lost in finance

companies over the last 4 or 5 years—and a sense of security on the part of New Zealanders that the Government still has majority ownership on the other.

Criminal Justice System—Pilot Scheme for Court Audiovisual Links

4. KANWALJIT SINGH BAKSHI (National) to the Minister of Corrections: What progress has been made in using technology to improve public safety and reduce costs in the criminal justice system?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Corrections): I am very pleased to report that a 6-month pilot programme to test audiovisual links between Auckland District Court and Mt Eden Corrections Facility has been a resounding success. The audiovisual pilot was a joint project between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Corrections, which followed the passing of the Courts (Remote Participation) Act by this Government. An audiovisual link means that prisoners do not have to leave prison to appear in court on administrative matters, such as suppression hearings and bail applications. It improves public safety and reduces cost to the taxpayer. This pilot resulted in 695 cases being heard by an audiovisual link, and a further 362 cases have subsequently been heard. It is another success for the department.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi: What are the next steps towards the wider implementation of audiovisual technology?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: A review of the pilot programme found that it has improved safety for the public, judges, and court and corrections staff who may be at risk from violent prisoners. During the pilot, 24 percent of the audiovisual link appearances were for prisoners with escape alerts. The audiovisual link technology is now being expanded to include Waikeria Prison, with corresponding links to the Hamilton and Manukau district courts. It is estimated that by 2014 some of New Zealand’s biggest courts could each have up to 2,000 audiovisual link appearances by remand prisoners every year. This represents a big contribution to community safety and significant savings to the criminal justice sector.

Jobs—Prime Minister’s Statements

5. Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement “each of us can do something that could save someone’s job, create a new job for another person or help someone else find a new job as soon as possible”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport): on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes

Hon David Parker: Does the Prime Minister accept that his Minister of Transport, Minister Joyce, was plainly wrong in saying that blocking Hillside and Hutt railway workshops from even tendering for the manufacture of rolling stock and instead purchasing rolling stock from overseas would not put jobs at risk?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. The Prime Minister has spoken with the Minister of Transport and the Minister has informed him that KiwiRail has never been stopped from bidding for any of the projects that the member mentions.

Hon David Parker: Does the Prime Minister think that successful Asian, USA, and Australian economies are wrong to use Government procurement to achieve outcomes that support businesses in their countries; if not, why did his Government not do it in respect of rolling stock?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I point out that the member was part of a previous Government that also saw fit to have an international tender for rolling stock and under its watch the Korean trains were built in Korea. It is important, when New Zealand is a trading nation, that we trade with other countries and we allow them to bid for our projects in the same way that we have the opportunity to export to their countries.

Clare Curran: Is he aware of any analysis done by the Government of the lost income, GST, and extra cost of benefit caused by his Government’s decision to lay off New Zealand

manufacturers of rolling stock in favour of jobs in other countries; if so, can he make that analysis available?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I reject the member’s assertion. It is for KiwiRail to determine the best mix of resources it needs to try to turn-round its operations. It is an organisation of some 4,000 staff, it needs to be turned-round successfully, and it is very challenging to do so. We need it to be able to make sensible business decisions, and we need to stop asking KiwiRail to do something that we would ask of no other New Zealand company.

Clare Curran: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I asked whether he is aware of any analysis done by the Government.

Mr SPEAKER: I think the Minister’s answer indicated it was not the Government’s role to do that analysis, because it was not the Government making the decision. It was my understanding of the Minister’s answer that he was arguing that KiwiRail has to be left to make its own decisions. I cannot judge that answer, and I cannot insist on the Minister answering further, because it appears the Government was not involved.

Clare Curran: Why was no analysis done by the Government of the relative cost and benefits of supporting rail engineering jobs compared with the $35 million in subsidies in this year’s Budget for new irrigation schemes?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: In answer to the first part of the question, again it is important to point out that KiwiRail is a company that has been charged with turning-round its performance and actually performing well for all the 4,000-odd staff who work for that organisation. We do not expect any other company or organisation in the country to maintain the exact same workforce and the exact same roles for ever and a day. It would be great if we could do that, but we do not do that. They have to have the ability to adapt and make changes, and that is no different from any other organisation in this country.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why is it appropriate to use regulatory methods to favour Telecom with regard to ultra-fast broadband and to favour Sky City with regard to tourism jobs but not to add up how much tax the Government is losing and the benefits it will be paying by giving Chinese workers Kiwi jobs?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I reject about four assertions in that member’s question.

Broadband, Ultra-fast—Benefits for Education

6. LOUISE UPSTON (National—Taupō) to the Minister for Communications and

Information Technology: What benefits will ultra-fast broadband services bring to education in New Zealand?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): Ultrafast broadband to schools will transform the education system, making New Zealand school networks among the most wired in the world. It will enable schools to significantly enhance teaching practices, improve student engagement, and lift achievement. More than a third of all State and State-integrated schools will be fibre-ready by the end of this year, with all State and Stateintegrated schools given a broadband boost by 2016. This technology means that students anywhere in New Zealand can have instant access to the best teachers and online resources from anywhere in the world, and this Government is proud of its investment in this network for education.

Louise Upston: What services will schools receive under the Government’s broadband policies?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Ninety-seven percent of schools will receive ultra-fast fibre, enabling speeds of 100 or more megabits per second. The remaining 3 percent of schools, in the most remote locations, will receive a high-speed wireless or satellite connection. The Government is investing an additional $150 million to prepare the sector for the roll-out. This includes $28 million to pay for the drop costs to get fibre from the street into school buildings. The Ministry of Education School Network Upgrade Project is progressively upgrading the internal networks of State and Stateintegrated schools in readiness for fibre.

Clare Curran: What formal analysis has been carried out on the extra cost of delivering broadband under the separate procurement activity and remote schools rural initiative to the 361 schools not covered by his existing urban and rural broadband fibre schemes?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The rural broadband request for information looked at that issue and came up with the fact that around $15 million would adequately cover both of those parts. As I have said to the member previously, we are confident that the additional schools between the urban and zone 4 footprints, plus the remote schools, will be successfully linked using that extra $15 million.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Why is it proposed to charge those schools that receive the 100 megabit connections four times the amount of the other schools, when there is no extra cost to Telecom to turn the tap on full?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Again, I am sorry; I have no idea where the member is coming from. I can tell the member that neither does he. I think somebody handed him a question at the last minute.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. One issue was the nature of the answer. Secondly, you know, but I am not sure that that member does, that members cannot be required to ask questions on behalf of others in the way that was implied there.

Mr SPEAKER: Certainly, the last part of the member’s point of order had some merit to it; no member should imply that. But, obviously, when a member makes an assertion in a question in the way that the member did about costs, a Minister can dispute that. The Minister is entitled to do that, but perhaps should do it in a slightly less provocative way.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I can tell the member that the schools are getting a particularly good deal for broadband in schools. I will give him two examples. Firstly, the school upgrades—the School Network Upgrade Project upgrades—are being paid for in partnership with the Crown. The Crown is paying 80 percent of that cost. Also, the drop costs are being paid for centrally, as well. There will be some cost to schools for their regular, ongoing reception of data and for data going out, but it is very inexpensive compared with a commercial alternative.

Clare Curran: I seek leave to table a letter dated 27 May from the Hon Steven Joyce to InternetNZ, Federated Farmers, and the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand, explaining the procurement activity for 303 schools and for the 58 schools that will be part of the remote schools rural initiative.

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.

Budget 2011—Vote Health Allocation

7. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Health: Is it correct that there is a $156 million gap between the amount the Ministry of Health has advised was necessary to meet population and demographic growth in Vote Health for 2011/12 and the amount of new spending allocated for Vote Health in the 2011 Budget?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): It is correct, as the Ministry of Health advised, that to meet costs and demographic pressure the Health vote would need $576 million to be available. As my Budget press statement of 19 May said—and I have made it clear at every opportunity— funding of $855 million was made available, which was made up of $420 million of new money and $165 million of reprioritised, unallocated, and unspent money.

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have taken your advice very carefully about the framing of questions that are straightforward and that ask for a specific answer. We know that normally you do not insist on a yes or no answer. In this particular case, I cannot tell from the answer the Minister gave whether he was affirming what was said in the question or denying it. I am not sure what we can do.

Mr SPEAKER: The member is better than that. The Minister must correct me if I am wrong here, but I heard the Minister say that the answer was essentially yes. If I am wrong on that, then the Minister had better correct it.

Grant Robertson: In light of that answer, why did he state in his media release dated 19 May that an additional $585 million had been allocated for Vote Health when in fact $165 million of that was not additional funding but recycled money from the rest of the health budget?

Hon TONY RYALL: Because that money is available for new initiatives. I cannot understand the issue. It is quite clearly set out in the press statement of 19 May.

Dr Paul Hutchison: What is the total amount of new resource that has been invested in Vote Health over the last 3 years?

Hon TONY RYALL: Despite the world’s worst economic recession in 70 years and the enormous effects of the Christchurch earthquakes, this Government has invested over $1.5 billion of new money into health. This has been part of the reason why the Government has been able to lift elective surgery to record levels, speed up access to cancer treatment, reduce waiting times at emergency departments, and lift immunisation rates for 2-year-olds to record levels.

Grant Robertson: What reasons does he have to disagree with the Whanganui District Health Board chair, Kate Joblin, when she told the Wanganui Chronicle after the Budget that “We will receive a small increase of funding over the previous year, but this is unlikely to keep pace with [inflation].”?

Hon TONY RYALL: I have not seen that quote, but I know that in the last three Budgets the Whanganui District Health Board has increased its funding by $20 million. The board is providing more elective surgery, better treatment for its patients, better immunisation, and is delivering results for the people of Whanganui.

Grant Robertson: What specific programmes will be discontinued as a result of the reduction in funding of $38.1 million for public health purchasing that was announced in the Budget?

Hon TONY RYALL: In respect of the public health’s $38 million, more than half of those savings come from water subsidy decisions announced earlier this year, but there have been savings. There have been savings in advertising from the merger of the Auckland city councils, from shifting vaccine procurement to Pharmac, and from the low uptake of some vaccines. We are on track to spending $449 million on public health this year, and we are budgeting to spend $453 million on public health next year.

Skycity—Licence Criteria

8. KEVIN HAGUE (Green) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on Breakfast yesterday that “we’re constantly changing aquaculture laws, or fishing laws, or whatever it might be. I mean in the case of Sky City, that particular licence is site specific”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, Parliament regularly changes legislation, and, yes, the particular licence is site specific.

Kevin Hague: Where does the Prime Minister draw the line on altering legislation to suit business interests at the expense of wider society?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I think the Prime Minister would reject the second part of that question completely. This is a very big opportunity for New Zealand. The New Zealand International Convention Centre will be a major boost to the New Zealand economy, attracting 33,000 convention delegates and pumping an additional $90 million of international visitor spending into the economy each year. Once completed, it will employ around 800 people, and it will employ around a thousand people during construction. Those are very good things for New Zealand.

Kevin Hague: Given that it appears there is no line—

Mr SPEAKER: The member should not make that sort of statement.

Kevin Hague: That did appear to be the answer.

Mr SPEAKER: The member should just ask the question.

Kevin Hague: Have the Prime Minister, his Ministers, or their advisers discussed changes to the regulatory framework for gambling with any other gambling providers?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am not aware of any discussions. What I can say in relation to this matter is that negotiations are ongoing, and the Government has ruled some things out. It has ruled out providing additional casino licences to Skycity, allowing Skycity to have an internet gambling licence, reducing the age of entry to casinos, or allowing gambling in the new convention centre. All those things have been ruled out. The Government is considering allowing Skycity to increase the number of gaming tables and machines at its Auckland casino.

Kevin Hague: Has the Government not effectively agreed to all Skycity’s demands by accepting its tender for the convention centre, which the company has made very clear is contingent on all of its demands being met?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No. The negotiations continue, and I draw the member’s attention to two press releases released in the weekend. One is from the Prime Minister, headed “Convention centre development moves ahead”, and the other is from the Hon David Carter, entitled “Discussions underway on International Convention Centre”.

Kevin Hague: What will the Gambling Commission’s role be in governance negotiations with Skycity over its demands for changes to the regulatory framework for gambling?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Discussions in relation to the convention centre are continuing. If there were to be any changes in regard to legislation—for example, in relation to the commission the member mentioned—they would be brought before Parliament for Parliament to decide on.

Kevin Hague: What economic study has there been or will there be into the downstream negative effects on society of the increase in the opportunity to gamble that Skycity is demanding?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: There are a number of studies on gambling harm. Of course, the Government is very concerned to ensure that gambling harm is minimised. We have a problem gambling levy in place that raises around $20 million a year to fund services such as front-line counselling, including dedicated services for particular communities, including the Asian community and Māori and Pasifika. The Government will keep a careful eye on Skycity, as it always does, to ensure Skycity upholds its part of any bargain in terms of continuing harm minimisation work. But the Government is certainly keener on controlled, regulated gambling rather than gambling occurring all over our communities.

Sue Kedgley: How many meetings has the Prime Minister or his Ministers, such as Minister Joyce, had with Skycity representatives or their lobbyist Mark Unsworth to discuss the proposed law changes to the Gambling Act?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I cannot answer that question, except with regard to the Minister of Transport. I can confirm he has had no meetings with Skycity!

Sue Kedgley: I seek leave to table my Lobbying Disclosure Bill, which would require lobbyists to disclose how many meetings they have with Ministers or MPs to discuss changes they are seeking to legislation.

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

Chris Hipkins: How can his Government justify changing tax, labour, and gambling laws to benefit the film and gambling industries, when it will not lift a finger to save jobs at a railway workshop, it will not lift a finger to save TVNZ jobs at Avalon, and it will not lift a finger to save jobs at Industrial Research Ltd in Lower Hutt, or is it only the large corporates, whose profits largely go offshore, that this Government is interested in helping?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No, that is not the case. The Government is involved in encouraging all sorts of new economic development, and that is what it is seeking to do. But, as the Prime Minister said in answer to a previous question, it is not the role of the Government to fix the workforces of companies around the country. It is the job of companies to determine the appropriate mix of their workforces at the time. I point out to the member that a previous Government was involved in

making law changes to create one of New Zealand’s biggest corporates, a company called Fonterra, so there are definitely some precedents to this case.

Job Creation—Prime Minister’s Statements

9. JACINDA ARDERN (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement that “it is New Zealanders … that create new jobs and opportunities – not the Government”?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes, I stand by the full statement, which states: “ultimately it is New Zealanders, through their own entrepreneurial efforts and business decisions, that create new jobs and opportunities – not the Government.”

Jacinda Ardern: If the Government is not responsible for creating jobs, why did it hold the Job Summit in 2009 and establish “a rolling maul” of initiatives like Job Ops, Community Max, and the cycleway?

Hon TONY RYALL: Because this Government is focused on improvements within the economy in order to create the platform on which business and New Zealanders can invest and grow jobs.

Jacinda Ardern: When will one of the three improvements to the economy he named on 7 June, including national standards, early childhood education, and interest rates, help people looking for work in Northland, where unemployment is almost 10 percent?

Hon TONY RYALL: One of the key incentives for New Zealanders to invest is low interest rates, which, together with low taxes, leave money in the pockets of the people for whom we are looking to create jobs into the future.

Jacinda Ardern: How will his welfare reforms help young job seekers like Daniel Alker and Tawhai Tapene to find work, as he implied on The Nation last week?

Hon TONY RYALL: Because incentives matter, and we want to make sure there are incentives for New Zealand businesses to invest in growing and creating jobs. That means low interest rates, low taxes, low bureaucracy, and a Government committed to that sort of future.

Jacinda Ardern: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. My question was quite a specific reference to how welfare reform would help job seekers. The Minister spoke primarily about incentives. That was not my question at all. My question asked how welfare reform would help those already seeking work.

Mr SPEAKER: The member’s question was not exactly that, at all. The member went on to name some people on a television show, which inevitably left more licence for a Minister in answering the question. The Minister’s answer could apply equally to welfare reforms. Incentives in welfare, I imagine, are perfectly legitimate ways of changing behaviour.

Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group Report—Government Response

10. KATRINA SHANKS (National) to the Minister of Housing: What recent announcement has he made about the Government’s response to the Housing Shareholders’ Advisory Group report?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): Today I announced $40 million for the next financial year to grow the volume of social housing provided by the community sector. One of the main things the sector has told us is that the current funding framework is too prescriptive, inflexible, and uncertain. This funding consolidates all the previous social housing funds, plus additional money, to create one new flexible fund. It will help both smaller niche providers with specialised services, and urban and rural iwi and other providers wanting to substantially grow their housing portfolios.

Katrina Shanks: How will this funding be administered?

Hon PHIL HEATLEY: The advisory group also recommended that funding of third-sector social housing providers be independent of Housing New Zealand, and that a new organisation be created to develop the social housing sector. Today I also announced the establishment from July of

the social housing unit, which is a semi-autonomous body within the Department of Building and Housing. This unit will be responsible for engaging with the sector, and entering into contracts with the Crown’s contribution of land, surplus State houses, or cash to grow the quantum of social housing in New Zealand. It will also monitor those providers. We know that the community housing sector is ready, willing, and able to provide more social housing, along with the Government, and we want to work with it.

Employment Legislation, Changes—Prime Minister’s Statements

11. DARIEN FENTON (Labour) to the Prime Minister: Does he stand by his statement on proposed labour law changes “we are not talking dramatic changes”?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister of Transport) on behalf of the Prime Minister: Yes.

Darien Fenton: Will he rule out reintroducing a youth minimum wage; if not, why does he think a wage cut would not be a dramatic change for hard-working young people?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: No decisions have been made as to what the package will be at this point, and there have been no announcements, so the member will just have to wait and see.

Darien Fenton: Will he rule out making changes to collective bargaining that would allow bargaining agents, such as a human relations manager or even someone from Black Power, to charge workers for negotiating non-union agreements, or does he think that would not be a dramatic change?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The Prime Minister would stress that the Government is looking at practical, incremental changes. No decisions have been made and there have been no announcements, so the member will just have to wait and see.

Darien Fenton: Does he agree with his Minister of Finance that having a 30 percent wage differential with Australia is a competitive advantage; if so, is it his intention to return to past failed National Party policies that drove down wages and productivity in New Zealand?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The response has to be that the past failed policies the member refers to could be only in relation to the previous Labour Government, which put the tradable sector of the New Zealand economy into recession for 4 years before the global financial crisis. This Government is putting in place the policy objectives to achieve faster economic growth, and we are doing so successfully. Members opposite will see that and they will just have to sit and watch.

Power Prices—What’s My Number Campaign

12. JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Acting Minister of Energy and

Resources: What recent initiatives has the Government undertaken to help New Zealanders control the cost of their power bills?

Hon HEKIA PARATA (Acting Minister of Energy and Resources): There are a number of initiatives led by this Government to increase competition and drive down costs to New Zealand householders. The What’s My Number campaign, which was launched a fortnight ago by the Electricity Authority, has had an enthusiastic response, with over 146,000 visits to its website. In a few quick minutes the website tells consumers the estimated potential savings available to them by switching electricity retailers, and users can then link to Consumer New Zealand’s Consumer Powerswitch website to organise a switch.

Jonathan Young: What reports has the Minister received on the savings that consumers can make by switching?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: The average saving per customer, as a result of switching, is estimated to be $150 per year. In some instances, the savings by switching can be as much as $600. The average number of switches per month now sits at around 30,000. Under this Government the time it takes to implement a switch has reduced from 8 days in 2008 to just under 4 days currently. I am delighted to see that so many New Zealanders are using this tool to actively manage their household costs, and to encourage electricity retailers to offer better deals.

Hon David Parker: Is the Minister aware that average electricity prices have continued to increase, rather than decrease, following the Commerce Commission’s investigation report released on 21 May 2009, which found evidence of substantial overcharging and uncompetitive prices?

Hon HEKIA PARATA: In the just over 2 years since National came to office, prices have risen by less than 14 percent, and that includes the effect of the emissions trading scheme. During the 9 interminable years under the previous Labour Government, average residential electricity prices went up by a massive 72 percent.


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