Questions And Answers July 14

by Desk Editor on Thursday, July 14, 2011 — 5:59 PM

Press Release – Office of the Clerk

1. SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister of Finance : What reports has he received on the economy?





1. SIMON BRIDGES (National—Tauranga) to the Minister of Finance: What reports has he received on the economy?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): More good news: Statistics New Zealand confirmed today that the economy grew by 0.8 percent in the March 2011 quarter. This means that the economy has now grown in seven of the last eight quarters. GDP growth has been 1.5 percent in the year to 31 March, despite the devastating Canterbury earthquake. It is a tribute to the resilience of New Zealanders that through that difficult period they have nevertheless moved to increase the wealth of this country. Today’s figures show that the recovery is under way, and the pace of growth is picking up.

Simon Bridges: What factors drove today’s GDP figures?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Quite surprisingly, manufacturing was up by 3.6 percent in the March quarter—the biggest single contributor. I have to say that this is very encouraging in a job-rich part of the economy that took a hammering under the previous Labour Government’s big-taxing, bigspending policies.

Simon Bridges: How is the Government’s economic programme supporting growth?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government is backing aspirational and enterprising Kiwis in every possible way it can. The Government is getting its own house in order with a programme that gets us back to surplus, and it brought in a range of policies that rebalances the economy from the excessive consumption and property speculation under the previous Government to a focus on savings, investment, exports, and growth over the next 4 or 5 years.

Simon Bridges: What kinds of policies could put that positive growth outlook at risk?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We know what kinds of policies put it at risk, because they are the policies that did so much damage to our economy in the last 10 years: increasing spending, increasing taxes, bad regulation, anti-enterprise, and growing government instead of growing the economy.

Cost of Living—Reports

2. Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the cost of living?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I have seen a report 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 and their family, because everyone’s circumstances are different. However, the facts are that the main benefits 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 over the last 3 years it has increased significantly faster than the cost of living. The after-tax average wage has increased 7.1 percent over the last year compared with inflation of 4.5 percent. So although many New Zealand families feel they are under pressure with rising prices, the outlook for them is reasonably positive.

Hon Annette King: In light of reports that prices are going up rapidly, what immediate relief is the Government providing for the rising costs of basic necessities—power, rent, phone, food— which have gone up, while according to Major Pam Waugh from the Salvation Army, who was speaking on the radio this morning, a lot of people’s incomes have stayed the same or reduced?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Government will continue to focus on protecting the vulnerable, particularly through the difficult times we have had, and on policies that will raise incomes. I agree with the major: I think the main pressure on families is that they have had relatively low income growth through the recessionary period. The fact has become clear today that the economy is beginning to grow and develop some momentum, and that gives hope that if we stick to the policies we have, people can expect to see higher incomes in the near future.

Hon Annette King: In light of the Minister’s answer about low income growth, is the Government now prepared to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The National Government has increased the minimum wage in each of the last 2 years since it has been the Government. At the current rate of increase it will not be too long before the minimum wage is $15.

Hon Annette King: Why did the Government say on television last night that relief was being provided to hard-pressed New Zealanders because the average income earner is getting back around $3 a week in accident compensation levy reductions, when the reductions will not apply until April next year—9 months away? Relief is needed now.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: One of the reasons ordinary families have been under pressure is that the last Labour Government did such a shocking job of managing the accident compensation scheme that levies had to be put up. Many families will be looking forward to the $600 million reduction in accident compensation levies, from which they will all benefit.

Hon Annette King: Does he recall National in Opposition demanding that the then Labour Government do something to reduce petrol prices; if so, can he tell the House what National, now in Government, will do to reduce petrol prices now they have reached their highest level ever?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The National Government did do something about high petrol prices: we halved the impact of the emissions trading system. I understand that Labour is promising to double that impact again, plus some. The decrease in accident compensation levies will also benefit people who are buying petrol. We are taking action to reduce the cost of living after 10 years when it grew relentlessly under the Labour Government.

Hon Annette King: Did he read the report in the Dominion Post today about a middle-income earner who said her weekly food bill is estimated to have increased by $100—that is, to buy the same food she was buying a year ago—and that this has definitely affected her family; if so, is the only response from National at this time that accident compensation levies will be reduced at some time in the future?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. I did see the story, and I admire the mother for the careful and focused way in which she is contributing to the community in bringing up those children. We really want to support her. In addition to the reduction in accident compensation levies, we have maintained interest rates at the lowest level in 45 years. That family has enjoyed the benefit of tax cuts, and we have put together economic policies that give her now some hope that she can look forward to a higher income over the next 3 or 4 years.

Rahui Katene: Is the Minister aware that in a recent Otago University study into food insecurity involving a survey of 19,000 people researchers found that people who are food insecure had a significant—90 percent—increase in risk of higher levels of distress; if so, in light of rising household and fuel costs, when will he implement positive policies that enhance food security for

thousands of at-risk households, such as Māori Party policies to eliminate GST from healthy foods and to increase funding for Māra Kai?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Māori Party, in discussions with the Government, offers a range of fairly constructive suggestions about how to achieve the ends we all want to achieve, which is to protect the most vulnerable through tough times. As the economy lifts, the country will have more choices about how to spread the benefits of growth, but our immediate priority is to achieve a growing economy so that we have some of those choices. In countries where the Government’s books are not under control and debt is out of control, everyone is suffering from large income cuts.

Hon Annette King: In light of the reports from social agencies on hardship facing New Zealanders, will he now believe social agencies that are providing food parcels at record numbers when they say that many low-income New Zealanders cannot cope with the rising cost of living, forcing them to cut back on the food they eat or to seek handouts to be able to feed their families?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We work closely with social agencies all the time. They have worked with the Government very constructively over, for instance, the Community Response Fund, in which we allocated tens of millions of dollars of extra funding in order to help those agencies with the growing demand caused by the recession. What they want and what we want, though, is to look forward to the opportunity for rising incomes for those families. Taxing more and spending more will not deliver those families higher incomes.

Capital Gains Tax—Annual Revenue for Next 5 years

3. JOHN BOSCAWEN (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Finance: How much money would a capital gains tax raise in each year for the next five years?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): A capital gains tax will not raise money for each of the next 5 years, because, given its complexity, it probably cannot start until 1 April 2014. Based on Treasury’s modelling, a 15 percent capital gains tax that does not apply to existing assets would raise about $1.3 billion in total over 5 financial years. If the policy is applied to assets people already own, it might raise about $2.3 billion in total over 5 financial years—that is, by 2019.

John Boscawen: How does the revenue from a capital gains tax compare with the cost of spending promises that have been bandied about, such as making the first $5,000 of income taxfree, removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables, and restoring the research and development tax credits?

Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How does one hypothetical thing compare with something for which the Minister has no responsibility? It cannot possibly be a valid question.

Mr SPEAKER: I was thinking along very similar lines. The only thing that stopped me from interrupting the member is that he did not attribute policies to any particular party, and as long as the Minister, when answering, does not attribute policies to any other party, I am prepared to let it go. The Minister has heard what I have said, that he is not responsible for any other party’s policies, but he can comment on hypothetical situations regarding policies as long as he does attribute them to another political party.

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I understand that a $5,000 tax-free threshold would cost about $1.3 billion a year, and that is just one of the policies the member listed. But if we stick just to that one, a 15 percent capital gains tax would cover the cost of that particular policy by 2024. In the 12 years up until then the capital gains tax would not cover the cost of just that policy, let alone the others.

Hon Trevor Mallard: Does he stand by this statement: “the right thing to do would be to have a comprehensive capital gains tax.”, which was said by him this week?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: I was referring to the fact that any number of people who are putting forward a theoretically ideal tax position advocate a comprehensive capital gains tax. No one in New Zealand—not even Labour—has indicated that that is what they are going to do. In any case more taxing and more spending will grow the Government, but it will be bad for the economy.

John Boscawen: Does he agree that the real problem is politicians promising to spend money they do not have, and inventing new taxes to pay for their promises?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: That might be a problem. I think the real issues for the economy are to get our people and our capital into productive investment, and the Government has over the last three Budgets taken some very big strides to improve the prospect that New Zealanders can have higher incomes. We have done that by controlling spending and reducing taxes, because increasing spending and increasing taxes got us into this trouble in the first place.

Hon Trevor Mallard: When the Minister said: “the right thing to do would be to have a comprehensive capital gains tax.”, did he mean that he thinks that that tax should include taxing the family home?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: No. The member is up to his usual tricks. Labour members have quoted the IMF, the OECD, and Treasury, and when those organisations advocate a capital gains tax they mean a comprehensive capital gains tax on all assets. I understand that no one in New Zealand is advocating actually doing that.

State-owned Assets, Sales—Ownership of Shares

Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri): My question is to the Prime Minister—

Mr SPEAKER: I say to the member’s own front-bench colleagues that I want to hear the Hon Clayton Cosgrove.

4. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) to the Prime Minister: Further to his answer to Oral Question No 10 yesterday, what evidence does he have for disagreeing with Treasury’s finding that “significant participation by foreign investors will be essential to achieve the Government’s overall objectives” if the Government’s privatisation plan goes ahead?

Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) on behalf of the Prime Minister: The evidence is the Government’s policy position, as has been clearly outlined—that is, that the Government will retain 51 percent ownership, and Kiwi mums and dads will be at the front of the queue. That member will know that often the Government does not take Treasury advice, and in this case we have not taken Treasury advice, because it has different objectives from those of the National Government.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: What evidence does he have that so-called Kiwi mums and dads will be able to afford to buy shares in energy companies and Air New Zealand, not including shares purchased indirectly through the likes of KiwiSaver, ACC, or other entities?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: There is accumulating evidence for that. The fact is that Kiwis are saving more than they have for 20 years, so, clearly, they have decided they can save money. They are looking for something reasonable in which to invest those savings. The other piece of evidence is that the economy is growing surprisingly fast and Kiwis have a better opportunity now than they thought, to look forward to higher incomes, which will give them the opportunity to boost their savings and invest where it will earn them a satisfactory return.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Can he provide the House with an estimate of the proportion of New Zealanders who will own shares in our energy companies should his planned privatisation go ahead?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As the Government moves to the mixed-ownership model that is modelled on the Air New Zealand one, which was set up by the previous Labour Government, we expect that the same Kiwi mums and dads who currently own shares in Air New Zealand, as permitted by the previous Labour Government, might also like to own shares in a Governmentowned energy company.

Chris Tremain: What indications has he seen that New Zealand investors are keen to participate in a mixed-ownership model?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: As we discussed in the House yesterday, there has been an indication from recent Grey Power meetings that the Prime Minister has attended, where people who lost $8.5 billion in finance company crashes—which the Opposition does not seem to care about—are showing real interest in being able to invest their savings in shares that will give them a reasonable return. Many New Zealanders will have a good opportunity because interest rates are at 45-year lows, they have just had the benefit of lower taxes, and their savings rates are the highest in 20 years. That means an unprecedented level of interest from New Zealanders in investment.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Given that Treasury has said that the “NZX is already heavy in energy stocks”, what evidence does he have that the State-owned energy companies will be an attractive proposition for Kiwi mums and dads, given that weighting?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, they will be an attractive proposition because they will be 51 percent owned by the Government. Kiwis will be at the front of the queue with the best opportunity to buy these shares should it go ahead. The Government will be able to pay dividends to good honest New Zealand mums and dads rather than following the Labour policy, which is to pay large interest bills to foreigners.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: How can he be so confident of widespread New Zealand ownership when a spokesperson for his Minister of Finance said yesterday that work on maximising Kiwi ownership of State-owned enterprises is still at an early stage, and will he halt the sale of Stateowned assets if he is not certain and cannot confirm widespread Kiwi ownership?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Opposition cannot have it both ways. On one day those members criticise the Government for going too fast on mixed-ownership models—

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The issue is self-evident. I ask the Minister to address the question.

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been raised, and members should not add their contributions just from the sidelines. It is never helpful to start answering a question by climbing into the questioner, unless the question is absolutely highly provocative. I am not sure I would put that question in that particular category. I invite the Hon Clayton Cosgrove to repeat his question, because it is not a good approach to start answering a question by talking about problems with another political party.

Hon Clayton Cosgrove: How can he be so confident of widespread New Zealand ownership, when a spokesperson for his Minister of Finance said yesterday that work on maximising Kiwi ownership of State-owned enterprises is still at an early stage, and will he halt the sale of State assets if he is not certain of widespread Kiwi ownership?

Hon BILL ENGLISH: We are confident because New Zealanders have put behind them a wasted decade of debt and property speculation. They are now looking forward to higher savings, bigger exports, a more productive economy, and good income growth. We believe that that is an environment where they will view this kind of investment opportunity positively.

Energy Companies—Lignite

5. Dr KENNEDY GRAHAM (Green) to the Acting Minister of Energy and Resources: Does she agree with the Prime Minister, who said “companies like Solid Energy are growth companies and we want them to expand in areas like lignite conversion”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for the Environment) on behalf of the Acting Minister of

Energy and Resources: Yes, but also she agrees with the statement by the Prime Minister that Solid Energy would need to comply with the environmental controls of both the Resource Management Act and the Climate Change Response Act.

Dr Kennedy Graham: So when Ministers Smith and Carter expect the Advisory Group on Green Growth to advise how we can transition to a low-carbon economy, does she regard Solid Energy’s estimated annual carbon emissions of 10 million to 20 million tonnes from the lignite

project—on top of our current 70 million tonnes—to be an opportunity or a threat to such a transition?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first thing is that the Solid Energy proposal is for quite a small briquette plant. If we put that briquette plant into context, we see that over the last year 14,000 megawatts of new renewable energy capacity has been consented. The briquette plant in energy terms is about one-thirtieth of that.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Is the Acting Minister aware of her mistake during question time on 18 May, when she said that coal mining was not eligible for free emissions trading scheme credits, and does she now recognise that downstream processing of lignite into other products is eligible, so extracting coal would be indirectly subsidised by free credits?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Climate Change Response Act provides for an allocation for particular industries that are competitiveness exposed. The Minister for the Environment would have to make a decision as to whether those tests would be met. There is currently no application, so it is quite premature to speculate on whether they would be eligible.

Dr Kennedy Graham: How does the Acting Minister reconcile the statement made by Minister English that the Government would look favourably at helping fund Solid Energy’s multimilliondollar lignite projects in Southland as long as they were commercially and environmentally robust with the statement made by Minister Smith that “the world spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year subsidising fossil fuels and pollution. If we are serious about addressing climate change in the most efficient way, we need to be discussing a phase out of such support.”?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member takes the Minister of Finance’s comments quite out of context. They did not refer to any subsidy for Solid Energy, but rather people’s making a choice to invest in that company. In terms of the broader question of New Zealand’s “clean, green” brand and the use of lignite, I draw to the attention of the House that New Zealand’s use of lignite per capita is less than one-fiftieth of Australia’s, less than one thirty-sixth of Germany’s, and less than onesixteenth of Canada’s—that is, New Zealand’s use of lignite resource is very small even on a per capita basis.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Even if it is one-fiftieth per capita of Australia’s, to which of the following national interests, none the less, does she think the 3 billion or so cubic metres of overburden—which the lignite project will bequeath to Southland scenery above ground—will contribute the most: our tourist industry, our agricultural land, our “clean, green” brand export leverage, or our UN reputation as a fast follower?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The briquette plant that is being proposed in Southland for the use of lignite is a substantially more efficient way of using that lignite resource than is currently taking place, where generally the lignite is being quite inefficiently burnt in a number of industrial establishments. I think where the Government differs from the Green Party is that the Green Party takes a view that New Zealand has to be purer than pure, and that we will not take any advantage of New Zealand’s energy resources. It would simply much rather import over 5 billion litres a year of fossil fuels from offshore rather than using some of our own resources.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Will the Acting Minister ascertain from the Minister for Economic Development whether the Ministry of Economic Development is, as reported, an associate member of the Coal Association, and if it is, whether the Ministry of Economic Development will either withdraw or join the Wind Energy Association, the Solar Industries Association, the Aotearoa Wave and Tidal Association, and the Bioenergy Association?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I am not sure it is the responsibility of the Government which energy associations or organisations particular people are members of. I think we are a society that values freedom of association and values people being members of the organisations that they choose.

Dr Kennedy Graham: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question related to the associate membership not of individuals or organisations, but of a Government department.

Mr SPEAKER: I invite the member to repeat his question.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Will the Acting Minister ascertain from the Minister for Economic Development, whose ministry is responsible for her portfolio, whether the Ministry of Economic Development is, as reported, an associate member of the Coal Association, and if it is, whether his ministry—the Ministry of Economic Development—will either withdraw or join the Wind Energy Association, the Solar Industries Association, the Aotearoa Wave and Tidal Association, and the Bioenergy Association?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Speaking as one who is standing in for the Acting Minister, I say that I am sure that she would be happy to have a discussion with the Minister of Economic Development, but I really emphasise that organisations should be free to associate with those they choose.

Dr Kennedy Graham: Given that the Ministry of Economic Development is paying the Coal Association to lobby the Ministry for the Environment on the emissions trading scheme, should the Ministry for the Environment, in balancing economic opportunity with environmental responsibility, pay the Wind Energy Association and Bioenergy Association to lobby the Ministry of Economic Development?

Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I ask the member to note that the Government funds quite extensively the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, and it has views on such issues. There is a wide range of views. Wearing my other hat, as Minister for Climate Change Issues, and also being responsible for climate policy, I have had absolutely no lobbying from the Coal Association in the last 12 months about any aspect of climate change policy.

Dr Kennedy Graham: I seek leave to table a document pertaining to an exchange of correspondence between the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Acting Minister, on the issue of emissions trading scheme credits and coalmining, that makes it clear that downstream what we would call indirect subsidising can take place.

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

Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations—Pharmac

6. Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister of Trade: What parts or functions of Pharmac does he consider to be tradable in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations?

Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) on behalf of the Minister of Trade: I note that in a recent speech the Minister of Trade said explicitly that we are not about to negotiate our public health system in any trade negotiation. The fundamentals of Pharmac are not up for negotiation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Hon Maryan Street: How does he intend to protect the interests of sick New Zealanders against the demands of pharmaceutical companies in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations?

Hon PETER DUNNE: The Government’s position is quite clear: the fundamentals are not up for negotiation. The Government accepts that the role of Pharmac has been a constructive one—I think there is bipartisan agreement about that—and we are not seeking any changes to the Pharmac model in these negotiations or in any other discussions.

Hon Maryan Street: In light of that answer, what risks are currently presented to Pharmac and its structures and functions by the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations?

Hon PETER DUNNE: I am not in a position to give the member a categorical answer on that, because I am answering on behalf of the Minister, but the point is that the New Zealand Government’s position is that it is not about to enter into any diminution of the fundamentals of the Pharmac model—

Hon Members: Take it off the table.

Hon PETER DUNNE: —in any discussions that are taking place. If I can respond to the interjection, there is a negotiating process under way. The negotiators actually carry out the negotiation; one does not put things on or off the table before the process even starts.

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Maryan Street. [Interruption] I want to hear the Hon Maryan Street.

Hon Maryan Street: Does he consider the concessions that Australia made in the Australia – United States Free Trade Agreement to allow representatives of the pharmaceutical industry more say over domestic decisions and processes to be an acceptable trade-off in the case of Pharmac?

Hon PETER DUNNE: What I said was that the Government’s position is that the fundamental aspects of the Pharmac model are not up for negotiation. I think that is the best answer to the member’s question.

Hon Maryan Street: How can New Zealanders believe his statement on 3 July that “the public health system is not up for negotiation”, if he is not prepared to take Pharmac off the negotiating table?

Hon PETER DUNNE: As I said, there is a negotiating process under way, the Minister is an extremely experienced negotiator, and he has been through this on many, many occasions. The best way of doing these things is to actually let the negotiations take their course, bearing in mind the Government’s fundamental position that Pharmac is not up for trade.

Crime, Organised—Police Operations Targeting Drugs

7. PAUL QUINN (National) to the Minister of Police: What reports has she received of efforts by the Police to combat organised crime and drug dealing?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): I am very pleased to report to the House that the police have successfully executed another major operation that targeted organised criminals and the drug trade. As a result of a year-long operation called Operation Hunter, 25 people are facing more than 180 charges for drug dealing and related criminal activity in the lower North Island. Police have also recovered $130,000 worth of cash, and six vehicles that are together valued at around $150,000. A separate multi-agency operation in the Western Bay of Plenty has also netted 25 arrests for drug and firearms offences and stolen property. Disrupting the trade in misery and drugs is a big priority for this Government, and I commend the police for demonstrating that crime does not pay.

Paul Quinn: What updates has she received on the value of criminal assets that have been confiscated by the police?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The latest figures show that at the end of June the police held restraining orders over an estimated $38.5 million worth of ill-gotten assets. Since this Government passed the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act in December 2009, the police have confiscated thousands of dollars worth of cash, property, cars, motorbikes, boats, and other luxury items. Police are also holding a further $8.5 million worth of assets that have been seized under other legislation. The message to criminals is very clear: the Government and the police will use every tool at their disposal to prevent criminals profiting from their trade in misery.

Health Care—First Specialist Assessments

8. GRANT ROBERTSON (Labour—Wellington Central) to the Minister of Health: What progress has been made in achieving first specialist assessment for patients referred from general practitioners in the last two years?

Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): Great progress. Advice from the Ministry of Health shows that over the past 2 calendar years over 60,000 extra patients have received a first specialist assessment. More people are being seen sooner, and significantly fewer people are waiting longer than 6 months to see a specialist.

Grant Robertson: Is the Auditor-General wrong then when she said that in the last 2 years up to 15 percent of people were not being seen within the 6-month deadline for first specialist assessment?

Hon TONY RYALL: The number of people waiting for over 6 months for their first specialist assessment is lower than when that party left office.

Grant Robertson: Does he stand by his statement in this House in February that his Government will not fix the problems of waiting times by sending people a letter saying they have been culled from the waiting list, in light of a letter I have, dated 12 June 2011, to 3-year-old Joshua Stevens from Palmerston North, telling him that he had been cut from the list of those waiting for a specialist assessment?

Hon TONY RYALL: Without having the full details of that letter, I cannot comment. But I say that that pales in significance to the 30,000 people who were culled off waiting lists when that party was in Government.

Michael Woodhouse: What has been the history in the delivery of first specialist assessments over the last decade, and why are they important to patients?

Hon TONY RYALL: First specialist assessments are often the gateway to improved surgery or to getting surgery in the public health service. Under the previous Government, the number of people getting to see a hospital specialist went backwards because it did not keep up with population growth. There has been a remarkable increase under this Government: over the last two calendar years 60,000 extra patients have seen a hospital specialist. More people are being assessed for important issues like respiratory pain, heart trouble, and abdominal trouble.

Grant Robertson: Does he stand by his statement in this House that his Government will not fix the problems of waiting times by sending people a letter saying that they have been culled from the waiting list, in light of this letter, dated 4 July, to a Wellingtonian, cutting him from the waiting list to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist?

Hon TONY RYALL: My experience of Opposition members is that one has to check the facts of the letters they table, and it is always interesting. But none of that compares to the 30,000 people who were culled off waiting lists under the previous Government. Under this Government, 60,000 extra people get to see a hospital specialist—400 extra New Zealanders a week—

Grant Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I did ask whether the Minister stood by the statement. I guess I could interpret he was saying yes, but I could not really get that from the answer, and then it was sort of going on into nothing. So if he could answer the question, that would be helpful.

Hon Shane Jones: The void!

Mr SPEAKER: The Hon Shane Jones can see further than that. It is difficult when a Minister starts out by saying: “The problem with another party is something.”, or however the Minister started his reply. It is not a very helpful way to start an answer. He could have indicated whether he does stand by his statement. Because of the nature of the question, clearly it is very difficult for the Minister to answer questions relating to specific cases. But I will ask the Minister, please, not to commence an answer by saying that the question has a problem—unless the question is highly provocative. That one was not unduly provocative.

Grant Robertson: Does he stand by his statement in this House that his Government will not fix the problems of waiting times by sending people a letter saying they have been culled from the waiting list, in light of the case of a woman from Wellington who had already been given an appointment time to see a gastroenterologist, only to receive a letter last week telling her that she had been cut from the waiting list?

Hon TONY RYALL: Of course we stand by that statement, because this Government is making sure that more people are getting appointments. But I say that we have learnt from members opposite that until we check the full details of what they table, they should never necessarily be relied upon.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a letter from MidCentral District Health Board, dated 12 June 2011, to Joshua Stevens, which tells him he has been cut from the waiting list.

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.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House—

Hon Dr Nick Smith: Have you got people’s permission?

Grant Robertson: Of course I have—

Mr SPEAKER: A point of order has been called.

Grant Robertson: I seek leave of the House to table a letter from the Capital and Coast District Health Board, dated 4 July 2011, that culls a patient from the waiting list for an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

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

Hon Annette King: Is he aware that people waiting for first specialist assessments were not counted until Labour became the Government, because the National Government refused to count them in the 1990s?

Hon TONY RYALL: I am not in a position to confirm that. But I can confirm that under ministerial instruction 30,000 people were culled off hospital waiting lists under the previous Government, many of whom had been promised an operation.

Venture Capital—Establishment of Fund

9. Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National—Hunua) to the Acting Minister for Economic

Development: What recent developments have there been that will boost New Zealand companies’ access to growth-enhancing capital?

Hon DAVID CARTER (Acting Minister for Economic Development): Last night I was delighted to launch a new venture capital fund called Movac Fund 3. This fund is specifically aimed at young New Zealand technology companies that show significant growth potential. The Government also demonstrates its commitment to these companies by backing the fund through the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund. The Government is proving that it believes that these companies can expand to be good in New Zealand and then take on the world.

Dr Paul Hutchison: Why does the Government provide funding for the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund?

Hon DAVID CARTER: That is a very good question. The key to economic growth is to allow these companies to have access to capital. In that way we can increase substantially the amount of innovation in New Zealand. This Government’s commitment of funding to the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, with a $40 million underwrite last year, very much achieved these aims. The New Zealand Venture Investment Fund has now invested in over 100 young technology companies. An interesting study just received showed that those companies have an average revenue, per employee, of $240,000, which is hugely more productive than most New Zealand companies.

Positive Ageing Strategy—Elder Abuse Prevention

10. Hon STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister for Senior Citizens: What progress has been made on the Positive Ageing Strategy to ensure service delivery for elder abuse prevention to ensure safety for up to 50,000 vulnerable older New Zealanders living in their own homes?

Hon CRAIG FOSS (Minister for Senior Citizens): The Positive Ageing Strategy aims to build a society where people can age positively, where older people are highly valued, and where they are recognised as an integral part of families and communities. Good progress has been made in this area and in a number of areas, including Link Age, an online resource produced to promote

intergenerational understanding and respect through older people volunteering in schools. I believe that this is one of the best ways to change negative attitudes to ageing, and to reduce elder abuse and neglect. More examples of progress are available on the Positive Ageing website.

Hon Steve Chadwick: Why are there eight regions in New Zealand where older New Zealanders have no access to the provision of an elder abuse prevention network programme?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: Service delivery components are the responsibility of the whole community, including police, family, whānau, and district health boards. Those services, of course, are across the whole country.

Hon Steve Chadwick: What advice has he given to the Minister for Social Development and Employment since his briefing to the Social Services Committee on 15 June where he said, and then reported on 16 June “I wholeheartedly support anything that is done to turn this around.”; and why have those eight regions not got a contract?

Hon CRAIG FOSS: I repeat my earlier answer: delivery mechanism components are the responsibility of all of the community, including Aged Concern, district health boards, police, family, and whānau.

Broadband, Ultra-fast—Hamilton

11. TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West) to the Minister for Communications and

Information Technology: How will the commencement of ultra-fast broadband deployment in Hamilton help economic growth?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): This morning I was privileged to be in Hamilton as the first fibre was laid, beginning the roll-out to deliver ultra-fast broadband to 163,000 premises across Hamilton, Tauranga, Whanganui, New Plymouth, Hāwera, and Tokoroa. This is one of the key parts of the Government’s economic growth plan. Internet speeds of 100 megabits per second and more will revolutionise the way in which businesses operate. For example, Stainless Design this morning stated that it was looking forward to increasing the productivity of its design processes by digitally transferring files to clients immediately for review and approval. Benefits will accrue to schools, connecting students to resources around the globe, and medical specialists will be available in more places through technologies such as high definition videoconferencing.

Tim Macindoe: When will these users benefit from the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband?

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: The roll-out will occur in this area over 5 years, with priority users connected by the end of 2015. The roll-out in the central North Island is being conducted by Transfield Services, which has said it will need to hire about 350 to 450 new staff, 150 of which will be technical staff, for its contracts in the central North Island and Canterbury. Telecommunications competition will be increased, with wholesale prices as low as half of the current price for business services. Residential customers will enjoy a vastly improved service for the price they currently pay or less. The Government is once again delivering on its plan for economic growth with this transformative telecommunications infrastructure.

Veterans—Assistance for Attending Commemorations

12. Hon RICK BARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Defence: Does he stand by his statement in relation to the treatment and care of New Zealand veterans who attended commemorations in Crete that “We need to do better for the future … I am concerned about this and I guess as a nation we do owe them an apology”?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP (Minister of Defence): I am and was concerned that we need to properly respect our veterans. It is clear that the $2,000 was not sufficient, and we will be doing better in the future for the 70th anniversary commemorations. I apologise to the Crete veterans that I did not achieve the level of support that the public and they would have reasonably expected.

Hon Rick Barker: Will the Minister confirm that at the beginning of this year a New Zealand Air Force aircraft was scheduled to take the veterans to Crete, providing them with similar commemorations to those provided by the Australians to their veterans, and can the Minister explain why this plan was shelved, leaving our own veterans to make their own way to Crete and to fend for themselves, unlike their Australian comrades, who were treated with appropriate care and respect?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I was advised that that was the original plan, but of course the earthquake occurred, and there was a huge deployment of the New Zealand Defence Force assisting in Christchurch. Of course, we have a much higher level of tempo operations than was previously the case. It would be fair to say that the Government collectively has learnt from this experience, and will be doing better in the future.

Hon Rick Barker: Does he believe that if Australia hosted its Crete veterans to a luncheon following a national war memorial service for the Battle of Crete in the Australian Parliament, the veterans would be served a meal that befits their status in the community, or a meal such as was served to our veterans here in the Grand Hall that consisted of soup, bread rolls, sausage rolls cut in half, tomato sauce, and a lamington for dessert? Why does he believe that half a sausage roll is appropriate?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I know that the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs has deep respect for the veteran community. I am aware of the many events that she attends; of course, the event was hosted here. She is, in fact, leading the planning of World War II commemorations for the future, and she will be reporting to Cabinet in September of this year going forward.

Hon Rick Barker: Will the Minister defer on the retrospective payments to our veterans who went to Crete, or will the Minister take a leadership position by making a meaningful apology to the veterans, and reimbursing those who travelled for reasonable costs they incurred; if not, why not?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I am discussing this issue with my Cabinet colleagues. There are some challenges around retrospectivity, but it is a matter I am discussing with Cabinet colleagues.

Hon Rick Barker: With the Minister’s renewed enthusiasm for the concerns of veterans, will the Minister lobby the Government for a response to the Law Commission report on support for veterans—now a year overdue—to fix the fact that veterans are being supported less well than ordinary Kiwis who have access to accident compensation, and when will the vets get some action from the Government on this vital issue?

Hon Dr WAYNE MAPP: I know that the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs is actually dealing with this issue.


Content Sourced from
Original url

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: