Questions to Ministers
PAUL GOLDSMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance: What will be the main focus of the Government’s Budget on 24 May?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): The Government has a comprehensive economic programme for this term. Our main priorities are responsibly managing the Government’s finances, building a more productive and competitive economy, delivering better public services, and rebuilding Christchurch. The Budget on 24 May will focus on further implementing that programme, where we are making substantial progress.
Paul Goldsmith: Why is responsibly managing the Government’s finances, and particularly getting back to a Budget surplus by 2014-15, one of the Government’s priorities?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Through the recession we decided it was appropriate to continue to borrow to protect New Zealanders from the sharp edges of that recession. The result of that has been that Government debt has risen from $8 billion in 2008 to $50 billion today, and on the current forecast will reach $75 billion before it stops rising. And the only way we can stop it rising is to achieve a surplus, which the Government wants to achieve by 2014-15.
Paul Goldsmith: How fast has Government spending and debt increased in recent years?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Between 2000 and 2009 Crown expenditure jumped by more than 80 percent, from $35 billion to $64 billion. On top of that we have had the expense of the earthquakes. I gave the House before the figures for our public debt. The Government will continue to take considered and balanced decisions to close our Budget deficit and stop the rapid rise in public debt.
Hon David Parker: Did he really call his pre-Budget speech today “sticking to a plan that’s working”? And if so, was it always his plan to have a stagnant economy, a $1 billion hole in tax revenue, a zero Budget, a rising current account deficit, and record numbers of New Zealanders moving to Australia?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: The Prime Minister did give that speech today, and I must say the audience were very grateful that it was not a Labour politician giving that speech, because they know what a mess Labour left this economy in when it enjoyed 10 years of benign economic conditions.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: When will he inform the country that provisional tax estimates are proving in reality to be seriously down, and that this is one more reason his forward surplus forecasts are now based on pure “hope-ism”?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I cannot confirm that. In fact, the softest bit of the tax forecast has been the GST take, and at least one of the reasons GST is a bit lower than expected is people are saving more and being careful with their spending, and that is what they expect the Government to do.
Paul Goldsmith: What reports has he seen on alternative approaches to managing the economy?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I have seen reports of alternative approaches that involve, almost without exception, borrowing more money, spending more on programmes that do not work, increasing taxes, and imposing significant extra costs on businesses. They came from the same party where one of its economic spokesmen said yesterday that the last 30 years of economic policy in New Zealand had been a mistake; for about half of that, his party was in Government.
Hon John Banks—Donations to Member’s Political Campaigns
2.DAVID SHEARER (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: What assurances, if any, has he directly received from Hon John Banks regarding donations he received for his political campaigns and when did he receive those assurances?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): On Saturday my chief of staff spoke with the Hon John Banks and sought an assurance from him that he had fully complied with the requirements of the Local Electoral Act in respect of donations. Mr Banks gave his assurance during the phone call and stated that he was not aware that Mr Dotcom had made the donation to his mayoral campaign.
David Shearer: Why did he accept John Banks’ word without personally speaking to him?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Because the standard practice is when my chief of staff speaks to someone, they speak to me.
David Shearer: Over a cup of tea, indeed. Does he stand by his statement—[Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I would like to hear the question, if no one else does. Could we have a bit more order, please.
David Shearer: Does he stand by his statement: “There is quite a wide definition of ethics … The test I have to apply is the law.”, and if so, is he intending to rewrite the Cabinet Manual?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: In answer to the first part, yes.
David Shearer: Does he stand by another of his statements: “The issue has never been one of legality as much as ethics. The criminal code is the bare minimum standards for society. For MPs we expect behaviour well beyond that.”, and if so, how is he applying that standard to John Banks?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Yes. The test is whether the Minister correctly applied and did everything in accordance with the law. I have received an assurance he did.
David Shearer: Does the fact that grossly unethical behaviour took place in a mayoral election make the perpetrator acceptable as a Minister in his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no ministerial responsibility for that.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Prime Minister is the only person with ministerial responsibility for which Ministers are in his Government. For him to say he has no ministerial responsibility for John Banks being a Minister is absolutely wrong, and he should not mislead the Parliament.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: In fact, that is not what the Prime Minister said: he had no responsibility for the matter that the Leader of the Opposition raised in relation to a mayoral election. On that point, the point of order is not upheld.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Has the Prime Minister asked John Banks why there are serious discrepancies between Kim Dotcom’s version of events and Mr Banks’ own version; if not, why not?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and if I could borrow the member’s sign, it would be most appreciated.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. How does that answer the question when he is allowed to finish off that way, because if we in any way incur such behaviour—particularly from that recluse from Merrill Lynch, given its disgraceful international record—then we are criticised by the Speaker. We can have one rule for everybody in this House, which is what the whole issue is about when it comes to ethics and standards, about which he claimed to be the paragon.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member lost ground in the manner in which he raised his point of order—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Well, what about him?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I am on my feet. Quite clearly, the Prime Minister has responsibility for confidence in his Ministers. In relation to matters pertaining to a mayoral election, he has no responsibility.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think both members have asked questions as to whether someone who has shown a low level of ethics in a mayoral election should be eligible to be a Minister in that Cabinet. That is the question. John Key has clearly said that he has, but he can be questioned on that.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Well, the member is asserting a certain level of ethics upon which the Speaker—it is not his role to judge on that matter. If the member wants to ask questions of the Prime Minister in relation to confidence, that is how he should direct the questions, and not make assertions about a level of ethics.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. There is growing concern in this House, from some of us, in respect of such a ruling. He was not asked about ethics. He was asked, has he spoken to Mr Banks about the serious discrepancies between his story and that of Kim Dotcom? So why are you imputing into this debate anything other than that which he was asked, as the Prime Minister, to answer in this House? Simply, it is beyond reason that a Prime Minister would not have asked such a question in the first place.
Hon Anne Tolley: Actually, accepting what the honourable member has just said, I heard the Prime Minister very clearly say “No”.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: That was not my point, with respect. My point to you, as Speaker, was: why were you imputing ethics into the question, when no such issue was raised in the question in the first place? I invite that member to listen, for a change.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: With regard to the supplementary question, the Prime Minister was asked whether he could confirm something. His simple response was “No”, and in that respect he answered the question.
David Shearer: For how long is he prepared to allow John Banks to remain a Minister while he is being investigated by the police for electoral fraud?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: For as long as he enjoys my confidence.
David Shearer: Does he find it credible that one of his Ministers cannot remember a private helicopter ride to the largest mansion in Auckland, and is it acceptable that someone with such poor memory should be a Minister in his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I have no ministerial responsibility for the first part.
Immigration—Deterrents to Illegal Immigration
3.DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) to the Minister of Immigration: What changes has the Government announced to deter mass arrivals of illegal immigrants and people smugglers from targeting New Zealand?
Hon NATHAN GUY (Minister of Immigration): Yesterday I introduced the Immigration Amendment Bill, which provides a range of measures to deter potential mass arrivals of illegal immigrants and people-smuggling to New Zealand. Key changes include mandatory detention of a mass arrival for an initial period of up to 6 months, a 3-year temporary visa, and an additional review before residence is granted. People granted residence can sponsor only immediate family members, not extended family members. We know that New Zealand has been a target of such operations in recent years. We want to prevent people-smuggling ventures by making New Zealand a less desirable target.
David Bennett: What is the need for the changes proposed?
Hon NATHAN GUY: An attempt to illegally arrive in New Zealand by sea would be very dangerous, and would put the lives of those involved at great risk. We want to discourage anyone from taking that risk. We also want to send a clear message that New Zealand is not an easy target for people-smugglers and their customers. New Zealand also remains committed to fulfilling its international good-citizen obligation by accepting refugees through a refugee quota of 750 per annum.
Hon John Banks—Donations to Member’s Political Campaigns
4.METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green) to the Prime Minister: What advice, if any, has he received on Hon John Banks’ alleged actions regarding donations from Kim Dotcom?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Mr Banks has advised my office that he has fully complied with the requirements of the Local Electoral Act 2001 in respect of donations.
Metiria Turei: Given this case involves a prima facie case of electoral fraud by a Minister of the Crown, why is the Prime Minister relying on the second-hand view, to him, of the accused Minister, rather than considered advice, including legal advice, about those allegations?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Legal advice is not required; what is required is that a Minister enjoys my confidence. I have sought an assurance from the Minister that he did everything in accordance with the law. He has given me that assurance, as he has to the New Zealand public, and I accept it.
Metiria Turei: Has the Prime Minister received advice on the Cabinet Manual provision that requires Ministers not only to comply with the law but also “to behave in a way that upholds, and is seen to uphold, the highest ethical standards.”, or is it his view that that applies only when he does not rely on that Minister as a coalition partner?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: To the latter part of the question, no. To the first part of the question, no, but the Cabinet Office has provided me with advice regarding ministerial and prime ministerial responsibility of the House of Representatives.
Metiria Turei: When the Prime Minister said: “I expect high standards from my Ministers,” in relation to Phil Heatley’s financial impropriety, was he applying a legal test or the test of the highest ethical standards as set out in the Cabinet Manual?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: A legal test.
Metiria Turei: Is the Hon John Banks subject to a lesser ethical standard than other Ministers like Phil Heatley because John Banks and the ACT Party are needed to prop up his Government?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, and no.
Metiria Turei: Is it the case that the Prime Minister is standing by John Banks because he genuinely believes that it is OK for a Minister of the Crown to fiddle with the semantics over electoral fraud allegations, or is it because his hold over the House is so tenuous that he cannot afford to do what is right?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No, it is because I have sought an assurance that the Minister did everything in accordance with the law.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: You sought an assurance from Nick Smith.
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: Well, I guess there is one difference between this side of the House and that side of the House: we actually have a chief of staff; you do not. Moving that right along, I sought an assurance that the Minister had upheld the law—a law passed in 2001 by Labour, a law that Labour did not bother changing when it changed the Electoral Finance Act. So it is OK as long as you are in accordance with the law.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave to table the Green Party member’s bill the Local Electoral (Finance) Amendment Bill, which would bring the campaign financing rules into alignment—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: What is the status of that bill?
Metiria Turei: It is a member’s bill.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It has not been drawn? Right, so leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There is.
Metiria Turei: I seek leave for the member’s bill the Local Electoral (Finance) Amendment Bill to be introduced forthwith, and for it to be set down for first reading as members’ order of the day No. 1 on the next members’ day.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There is.
David Shearer: Is he satisfied that John Banks has answered media questions about donations with the fullness and frankness he expects of his Ministers?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: I am satisfied that the Minister has given me an assurance, which is the test, that he has done everything in accordance with the law.
Hon David Parker: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question was whether the Prime Minister was satisfied that the Minister had answered media questions with the fullness and frankness he expects, and the Prime Minister did not address that question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Prime Minister did answer the question. I am satisfied that the Prime Minister actually answered the question.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you give us an indication from your understanding, seeing as you are satisfied, whether or not he indicated that he was satisfied?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No, I am—
Hon Trevor Mallard: No. So you do not understand, either—good.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! I do understand.
Hon John Banks—Lobbying on Behalf of Donor
5.GRANT ROBERTSON (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for Land Information: On what date did Hon John Banks lobby him on behalf of the application of Kim Dotcom to purchase property in Coatesville, and how did Mr Banks communicate this lobbying?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Land Information): Around the middle of last year, by phone.
Grant Robertson: Did he keep a written record of Mr Banks’ lobbying on behalf of Mr Dotcom, and if not, does he not think this would have been a transparent thing to do?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: No.
Grant Robertson: Why did he initially take a different view on Mr Dotcom’s character to own the Coatesville property, and was this related in any way to the lobbying by John Banks?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I took the original view because that was the advice of the Overseas Investment Office—that Ministers should approve it. As the member will know, the process is then for Ministers to seek further information—clarify some things that we needed to—and in the end there was only one decision taken, and that was to decline the application.
Grant Robertson: Were any of the matters Mr Banks brought to his attention in his lobbying relevant to his initial decision?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: No.
Grant Robertson: Did Mr Banks indicate the nature of his relationship with Mr Dotcom when he lobbied on his behalf, including whether or not there had been any political donations made by Mr Dotcom to Mr Banks?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Mr Banks said that Kim Dotcom had been a good friend to Auckland City and had paid for a very large fireworks display. He made no further comment.
Grant Robertson: Was he aware that Mr Banks told Mr Dotcom that Maurice Williamson and Mr Banks were “good friends”, and why does he think Mr Banks would mention their friendship as a relevant factor?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: How does the Minister explain the chronology whereby the fireworks display and the cheques and the thankyou were 6 months apart, or was Mr Banks clairvoyant as to what was likely to happen on that occasion?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I do not think I have any responsibility for that question whatsoever.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In the previous answer he put at issue why Mr Banks had talked to him about this patron of Auckland who had arrived from overseas. At the time he mentioned that, there was the question or discrepancy that I have previously referred to between the cheques and the fireworks display, which were about 6 months apart. Surely the Minister can see the discrepancy in that, and that is why I am asking that question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Minister raised the matter of the fireworks display in his reply. It does not go any further with supplementary questions. It departs from the principal question in the way that the member asked the question. Would the member like to restate the question so that I get an understanding of it.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Since when has it been the case that you cannot widen a question if the Minister puts at issue a certain subject, which he did, which was the fireworks display? Why are you saying we have got to go back to the principal question for the parameters, when that is a new ruling?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is not intended to be. That is why I have asked the member to restate the supplementary question, so that I might gauge it again.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If the Minister thinks that Mr Banks at all points of conversation and engagement with him was acting with integrity, why is there such a gap between the fireworks display, which was one of the issues Mr Banks said was the reason for Dotcom being a big supporter of Auckland, and the cheques and the thankyou note, which came 6 months later?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: That has nothing to do with my responsibility—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I accept the Minister’s response.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I do not know what he means by the cheques. I do not even know what cheques he is referring to. [Interruption]
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
Grant Robertson: Noting that the Coatesville property is in the Helensville electorate, did the Minister have any letters of support or other representations from the local MP on behalf of Mr Dotcom?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: No.
Alcohol Law Reform—Community Involvement in Local Policies
6.Dr JACKIE BLUE (National) to the Minister of Justice: How will the Alcohol Reform Bill provide for better community involvement in managing alcohol?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice): This Government is serious about letting communities have more say in managing alcohol. The Alcohol Reform Bill means local communities will be able to create local alcohol policies through local territorial authorities. Communities will also have more say in licensing decisions. Communities will be able to restrict and extend maximum opening hours; impose one-way doors, which means that patrons who leave premises will not be able to return within a specified time; make sure alcohol outlets are not open near schools or churches; say no to more licences in their areas; and impose conditions on licensed premises.
Dr Jackie Blue: What is the Government proposing in relation to the alcohol purchasing age?
Hon JUDITH COLLINS: The Government has been clear from the start that a vote on the alcohol purchasing age would be a conscience vote. All members in this House will have three options. One is a split purchase age restricting the off-licence purchase age to 20 and retaining the on-licence purchase age at 18. There are also two Supplementary Order Papers that I am aware of, one providing for both the on-licence and off-licence purchasing age to be set at 20, and the other for the purchase age for both to be kept at the current age of 18. We are listening to the public of New Zealand and we are hoping to strike a balance between minimising harm and trusting responsible New Zealanders to make their own decisions about alcohol.
Schools, Charter—Criteria for Establishment
7.Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) to the Associate Minister of Education: What progress has he made on setting the criteria for establishing charter schools?
Hon JOHN BANKS (Associate Minister of Education): We have made very good progress, and this initiative is well overdue—well overdue—for the 20 percent of young people at school without any hope. We have established a working group to provide advice on the—[Interruption] We have established a working group to provide advice on the New Zealand model of charter schools, including criteria for their establishment. In fact, the group is meeting as we speak to discuss criteria for New Zealand. It will then make recommendations to Ministers, and the first recommendations on charter schools are expected shortly.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Do the criteria for selection include availability of funding for the schools from the bidder; if so, does it make any difference whether that funding is applied to the school or to the member’s political party?
Hon JOHN BANKS: Charter schools will encourage underperforming students to leave and keep those students’ funding, as they have in the United States. The design of our policy will learn from the mistakes and successes of overseas charter schools. A wide variety of enthusiastic and promising operators have approached my office. It is critical, in direct answer to this question, that there will be a working group. We will establish an arm’s-length body—an arm’s-length body—to approve schools. Approving new charter schools will not be my responsibility, and certainly will not be the responsibility of the Labour Party or the unions that do not believe in looking after the kids that are falling through the cracks.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the Minister give the House an assurance that the arm’s-length body he is referring to will not be his campaign committee, which he used to launder funds in his campaign?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The supplementary question, in the form that the member has given it, is out of order because it asserts something that is the member’s opinion and as yet is not proved.
Hon Trevor Mallard: OK. I’ll have another go, if you like.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I think you have used up that supplementary question, but you have other supplementary questions.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I will have another go. When he refused to talk to Kim Dotcom earlier this year, did Mr Dotcom want to talk to him about charter schools, and why did he say that he did not know him?
Hon JOHN BANKS: I have talked to a lot of people about charter schools, because far too many of our young people are out of school, out of work, and out of luck. This Labour Opposition is staying in Opposition because 20 percent of kids up and down the country at school today need this Government and the coalition to put in place an opportunity for them, their future, and the dignity of work.
Hon Trevor Mallard: Is it correct that he is trying to place a charter school inside the Skycity convention complex so that his cronies stop getting bad publicity about kids being left in cars?
Hon JOHN BANKS: I want to pick up the member’s question about laundering money and cronies. His crony the Labour Party Mayor of Auckland laundered $490,000 through a secret trust into his campaign.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am having difficulty hearing. Please can we have some order.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Are you and your advisers going to sit there while that allegation is made about an act that is illegal—alleging corruption on the part of the mayor of the biggest city in this country—or are you going to do something?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is not up to the Speaker to judge the validity of allegations that are flying around this House. My sole role here is to try to keep some process about asking questions about ministerial responsibility. It is not my responsibility to assert whether allegations made are correct or otherwise.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I seek leave to table the electoral return of John Banks for the last general election, which shows a very large payment from a trust.
Hon Member: It’s already in public.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is some time since that was tabled; I am not sure whether it is still public. The member is seeking leave to table a document. If any member is not happy they can oppose it. Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There is.
Hon Trevor Mallard: If Skycity or Mr Dotcom had approached him with an offer to facilitate a charter school, would he remember, or does the poor recall he has shown of the Skycity and Dotcom donations apply?
Hon JOHN BANKS: Anyone approaching me to set up a charter school is referred to the working party and on to the ministry. A separate, arm’s-length organisation will be in charge of choosing charter schools, not the Minister and not the Government.
Overseas Investment Rules—Coastal Marine Space
8.STEFFAN BROWNING (Green) to the Minister for Land Information: Do overseas owned companies need Overseas Investment Office approval to exclusively occupy coastal marine space?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (Minister for Land Information): No. When the overseas investment regime was reviewed by the Labour Government in 2003-04, it agreed that the overseas investment regime should not apply to aquaculture. Also, as coastal permits are not interests in land, the transfer of a coastal permit to an overseas-owned company is not an overseas investment in sensitive land.
Steffan Browning: Why is aquaculture not covered by the Overseas Investment Act when it involves overseas ownership, sensitive land, and an exclusive occupation of space?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I believe I answered that: a review was conducted by the Labour Government in 2003-04, and that Government agreed not to include aquaculture in the regime.
Steffan Browning: Considering that the majority overseas-owned New Zealand King Salmon’s plans for nine new farms would exclude New Zealanders from 200 hectares of iconic protected marine space, produce nutrient waste equivalent to half a million people, and more than half the profits and half the salmon can be expected to go offshore, is the Minister going to look at reviewing the Act so that New Zealanders will be able to maintain that space?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think I made it very clear in my answers to the primary question and the supplementary question to it that this issue is not covered by the Overseas Investment Act and it is not part of my portfolio. The member is asking questions about coastal marine space and the right to occupy it, which has nothing to do with my portfolio responsibilities.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: And that is how the member should answer the question.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I did.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Yes; OK.
Metiria Turei: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The question, although containing quite a bit of information, actually asked whether the Minister will consider reviewing the law. The Minister has not answered that question, which was the question asked.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: The Minister has responded that that is not within his portfolio.
Steffan Browning: Given that the Overseas Investment Office does deal with sensitive land and the foreshore and seabed is included in that—albeit that it is marine space in terms of what the Minister has answered to date—and given the fact that New Zealand King Salmon, 51 percent owned by the Malaysian Tiong family, has needed Overseas Investment Office consent for its land-based operations, including freshwater salmon hatcheries, what difference does the Minister draw between a freshwater situation and the iconic marine waters of the Marlborough Sounds?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: A Crown Law opinion was sought by the Labour Government back in the 2003-04 period, which indicated that indeed the exclusive right to occupy coastal marine space was not involving sensitive land, and therefore I have to say to the member that it is not part of Land Information’s responsibility.
Steffan Browning: What will be the limits or restrictions on the exclusive occupation of our iconic coastal marine space by foreign-owned companies under this Government?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: I am just terribly reluctant to keep answering questions that are not part of my portfolio. I do not know anything about that right to occupy marine space. It is covered by other Ministers, and the member should ask those Ministers.
9.Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First) to the Prime Minister: Does he have confidence in all of his Ministers; if so why?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): Yes, because they are hard-working and they are working hard to bring about a brighter future for all New Zealanders.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: In respect of the Hon John Banks—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us about Owen Glenn.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: I beg your pardon?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us about Owen Glenn.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Tell us about you, shall we?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member is asking a question of the Prime Minister—
Rt Hon Winston Peters: And he is being rude and interrupting, and your job is to stop him so I can ask the question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: That will equally apply to any member who implies that the Chair is not doing his job. The member should ask his question and get on with his business.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: Thank you very much—and when I get a bit of peace and quiet I will. In respect of the Hon John Banks, is he holding Mr Banks to a different standard from the one he would hold a Minister from his own party to, as numerous experienced commentators have alleged?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
Rt Hon Winston Peters: If he has confidence in the Minister for Land Information, does that mean that he is holding him to a different standard from Nick Smith, Pansy Wong, and Richard Worth, all of whom were deemed guilty of wrongfully using their influence?
Rt Hon JOHN KEY: No.
10.JONATHAN YOUNG (National—New Plymouth) to the Minister for Communications and Information Technology: What progress has the Government made on its policy of delivering faster broadband for New Zealand?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for Communications and Information Technology): A well-connected society is an essential component of economic growth, so I was pleased to recently announce the Government’s preferred providers for the final Rural Broadband Initiative contracts, worth $14.4 million. The contracts provide for 193 provincial schools, 183 rural public libraries, 37 rural hospitals, and 10 health centres to receive fibre connections. In addition, 57 remote schools will be upgraded to faster broadband, using wireless technology capable of speeds of at least 10 megabits per second, which will enable these schools to participate in the Network for Learning.
Jonathan Young: What are the latest regions to begin work on their ultra-fast broadband roll-outs?
Hon AMY ADAMS: I recently visited New Plymouth and Timaru to mark the start of the construction of the ultra-fast broadband network in each of those areas. The build in Timaru is due to be finished by March 2015, making the town one of New Zealand’s first places to experience the potential economic and social benefits of a fully functional ultra-fast broadband network. New Plymouth has also begun the roll-out of ultra-fast broadband, which will involve over 265 kilometres of fibre laid along the city’s roads.
State Housing, Auckland—Tāmaki Transformation Programme
11.HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the Minister of Housing: What assurances can he give that there will be no requirement for any existing tenant in any State house to move out of the area as a result of the Tamaki Transformation Programme for the Glen Innes redevelopment, which involves reducing the number of Housing New Zealand – owned houses from 156 to 78?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY (Minister of Housing): I am advised by Housing New Zealand Corporation that it will work with all tenants affected by the redevelopment to find them suitable State housing in areas they wish to live, where possible. So far, 68 tenants have actually decided to move early, and 55 have already been relocated, having been offered a number of alternative State houses to choose from, which they are pleased with. I am also advised that a number of tenants wanted to move out of the area completely, they wanted to do that, and the corporation is assisting them with that.
Hone Harawira: Can the Minister tell the House why the Government has broken assurances given to the Glen Innes community by chairman Pat Snedden in 2008 and Minister Pita Sharples in 2011 that there will be no requirement for any existing tenant in any State house to move out of the area, and that there will be no reduction in State houses as a result of the Tāmaki Transformation Programme?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: I am not responsible for what was said in 2008 before I was Minister and before we were the Government. Things have changed. We no longer house criminal gangs in old, cold, mouldy State houses on half-acre sections, where they have three empty bedrooms. In terms of the Hon Pita Sharples, he is working very closely with the local community and has helped people who have wanted to remain in the area to remain in the area, and where people have wanted to shift out of the area, he has helped them to get State houses out of the area. Minister Sharples has been very constructive and we very much appreciate his work, as does the local community.
Hone Harawira: Is it Government policy to force low-income families out of Glen Innes by making them pay market rates rather than income-related rents that they can afford, and how does forcing people out of their homes and selling off the land to wealthy property developers fit with Government assurances that every New Zealand family should have warm, high-quality housing?
Hon PHIL HEATLEY: To the first part of the question, no. To the second part of the question, can I reiterate that we no longer house criminal gangs in old, cold, mouldy State houses on half-acre sections where three bedrooms are empty. Where that is occurring, we are making the changes, including in Tāmaki.
Hone Harawira: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. That is the second time he has mentioned gangs and old, mouldy homes in respect of Glen Innes. That was not the question at all; it is how does forcing—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! That is not a point of order. The member should resume his seat. That is simply not a point of order.
Hone Harawira: Could I put it this way, then—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Are you seeking a further point of order?
Hone Harawira: I am. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could you ask the Minister to answer the question about how forcing people out of their home and selling off the land to wealthy property developers fits with Government assurances that every New Zealand family should have warm, high-quality housing? He did not answer the question.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I believe he did.
Medical Equipment, Subsidised—Glucose Testing
12.Hon MARYAN STREET (Labour) to the Minister of Health: What reports has he received concerning Pharmac’s provisional sole supplier contract with Pharmaco to provide new blood glucose meters for the 120,000 -plus diabetics who use them?
Hon TONY RYALL (Minister of Health): I have received regular reports from Pharmac, the media, and others. The latest is that Pharmac is considering the results of an extensive consultation process and is in ongoing discussions with consumers, clinicians, and suppliers. No final decisions have been made. Managing diabetes is a very personal matter, and it understands people’s concern about any change—as there was in 2005 when Pharmac, controversially, limited the supply of subsidised testing-strips for some people with diabetes.
Hon Maryan Street: Does he believe that there is a difference between Pharmac contracting a sole supplier for a pharmaceutical that has known effects on known symptoms and contracting a sole supplier for a medical device, without consumer testing, that is used to help diabetics manage their chronic illness?
Hon TONY RYALL: The device has been tested. There has been a process through which that happened, and Pharmac decided that that was its preferred device. Having said that, one of the issues that the member alludes to is the uncertainty, sometimes, with regard to sole supply. One of the benefits of the agreement that Pharmac tentatively has with the supplier is that the supplier will maintain an inventory of 4 months’ stock in the country during this process. Currently, there is no requirement on any of the multiple suppliers to have that sort of stock in the country.
Hon Maryan Street: Does he intend to get Pharmac to reconsider its provisional arrangement with Pharmaco?
Hon TONY RYALL: Pharmac is currently considering the results of quite a lengthy consultation period. It is in ongoing discussions with consumers, clinicians, and suppliers. I think we should let that process carry on to its ultimate conclusion.
Hon Maryan Street: Has he seen a submission from Diabetes Auckland, which says: “Sole supply for a life dependent medical device is dangerous, particularly in the instance of quality issues, civil emergencies and recall of strips or meters and the delays that occur around shipping and transport … Further, we note that no New Zealand pilot of the proposed meter with users has yet been conducted. This should be a pre-requisite.”, and if so, has this submission affected his view of Pharmac’s provisional contract?
Hon TONY RYALL: There have been a number of submissions. Many are opposed; some are in favour. What is quite clear is that Pharmac wants to make sure that it can do the best that it can for people with diabetes. But we are in a situation where there is limited funding in the health budget, and we must make sure that every dollar gets the best value for all patients. We had similar concerns in 2005 when, under the previous Government, subsidised testing-strips were restricted. There were claims that there would be widespread concern from people with diabetes. As we have seen subsequently, we have managed our way through that.
Hon Maryan Street: I seek leave to table the submission from Diabetes Auckland to which I have just referred.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that purpose. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There appears not. Leave is granted. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
Hon Maryan Street: I further seek leave to table this message from Joel, an 11-year-old diabetic who came from New Plymouth today to attend a protest about Pharmac’s proposed contract. I seek leave to table this message.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: It is not in the normal form of messages that we would table in this House, but I will put it to the House. Is there anyone opposed to that course of action? There is. [Interruption] Order! I am on my feet.